Deans in Wales – Climbing Cnicht

Back in the middle of May (yes, I’m still behind) we went to see Josh Groban in concert in Cardiff. We decided to take in a couple of mountains whilst we were there. Unfortunately the week before I had a tooth removed and the thing didn’t heal properly. I was in a lot of pain but thanks to some strong painkillers I made it through the concert. Boy, Josh Groban can sing.

The next day we were supposed to be heading to Snowdonia to  do our first mountain, my first mountain ever – Cnicht. I was feeling so poorly with my wretched tooth (or tooth hole ;p)  that we were on the verge of going home. However, I managed to get an appointment at an emergency dentist. He managed to cover the tooth hole to protect it and within a couple of hours the paid had reduced by around 75%! We drove up to Snowdonia and I don’t remember much about it as I slept pretty much all the way. It did me good though as the next day I was refreshed, almost completely out of pain and ready for some walking!

We had stayed at the YHA Pen-y-Pass that night. Having never stayed in a hostel before we were a bit surprised to find ourselves in a tiny room with bunk-beds but it was clean and in a stunning location. Below are a couple of shots in the vicinity of the hostel taken the night we arrived.

Pen y Pass YHA
Looking up at the mighty Snowdon was pretty spectacular. Continue reading

Sourton Tours & The Granite Way

I am a bit behind with our blog posts at the moment. We did this Sourton Tors walk nearly a month ago and have done two Dartmoor walks and a mountain in Wales since! I have a bit of a cold this weekend and so am snuggled in bed writing this whilst Simon cooks tonight’s dinner (step by step instructions on how to make roast potatoes have had to be given).

Anyway, back to what was our longest walk to date – Sourton Tors to Meldon Reservoir and back along the Granite Way.

It was a beautifully sunny afternoon when we did this walk. We parked in the free car park opposite “the most unusual pub in Britain” (the Highway Man).

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There is a path that runs down the right hand side of the parish church and on to the moor.

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Belston, Higher Tor and The Nine Maidens

They said it would be hotter than Spain last weekend. At times it was and we certainly tried to make the most of it. Simon’s parents came to stay for the weekend and his dad, being a super keen walker, decided to come with us on our Saturday ramble. As the weather was promising to be bright and clear we decided to do a proper ‘moor’ walk starting from the highest village in Dartmoor – Belston. And yes, this is the walk we originally planned to do on the day that Simon forgot his shoes a couple of weeks ago.

We arrived in Belston at 9am and, as per our instructions, parked in the free car park opposite the Village Hall. We walked by the old stocks and stray dog pound and came out next to the common where several ponies were nibbling the grass.

Belston Stocks

Dartmoor Ponies

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Okehampton – When You Forget Your Shoes

When we visited Lydford Gorge a few weeks ago we picked up a new book of Dartmoor walks in the gift shop. Last Saturday we set out to do a walk on Belston and the high moor but on the way Simon realised he had forgotten his walking shoes. It’s a bit like the time he forgot to put the pasta in a pasta bake but I’ll save that story for another time. Fortunately, on the next page of the book, we found an easy walk around Okehampton that he could do in his normal shoes. We parked just off the main street and proceeded to the start point in Simmons Park.

Simmons Park Okehampton

The park sits alongside the East Okement River and has ornamental gardens, several water fountains and a Swiss style chalet.

Crossing the river on a small footbridge towards the end of the park, we passed a children’s play area and a couple of playing fields before crossing a wooden bridge across an old mill leat. We turned right through the gate on to the Ball Hill path and walked beneath the trees for several minutes.

Ball Hill Okehampton

We emerged at the railway viaduct which crosses the river near the A30, the place where we started our very first Devon walk after we moved in the winter.

We decided to carry on and see what difference the spring was making to the area since the last time we visited. The leaves were definitely greener and the stepping stones by the side of the river were much drier.

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We doubled back on ourselves and picked up the walk route again at the viaduct. It led through a lovely open meadow and into Tramline Woods. The path then follows a set of steep steps up to Okehampton Station which has a tea room and a museum. Heading right out of the station car park, we picked up the granite way for a hundred metres or so before crossing a road and descending into a woody valley down towards Okehampton Castle. The Granite Way runs right down to the Meldon viaduct and then on to Lydford and we intend to walk it at some point.

We caught glimpses of the castle through the trees but were disappointed that there were no bluebells in the wood as the book said there would be in the spring. Perhaps it is still a bit too early.

Okehampton Castle

At the end of the wood we crossed the bridge at Lovers Meet to take a closer look at the castle which is looked after by English Heritage.

Okehampton Castle

The walk then runs from Lovers Meet along the bank of the river, passed the old work house site and back into the centre of Okehampton. There is an ornamental water pump and a ‘cell door’ from the old workhouse displayed along the way.

Overall this was a very easy walk but still very pretty pleasant none the less. In total it took us about 2 hours at a fairly slow pace.

Lydford Gorge – A Little Weekend Adventure

Last Saturday we went to Lydford Gorge just outside of Okehampton. I had wanted to go there for a while but decided to wait until the spring when all the footpaths are fully open. Saying that, when we arrived we were advised that part of one path (under the road bridge after the Devil’s Cauldron) was closed due to a tree fall.

I’m not sure what we thought we would see, we knew there was a waterfall and a few steep climbs, but it far surpassed our expectations.

The route around the gorge is one way for safety reasons but more on that later. We started on the upper path with views through the trees down to the river below.

There were a lot of steps here and we found parts of the ground underfoot quite slippery. As with many places on Dartmoor, water seemed to seep from every crevice and many trees were green and moss covered.

There were several steams which crossed the path and lots of evidence of fallen trees – the aftermath of a very stormy winter.

We eventually reached the half-way point and began to hear the roar of the White Lady waterfall.

After crossing a wooden bridge we had two route options to choose from to get down the gorge; long & easy or short & steep. Obviously we went for short & steep! This turned out to be a zigzag path that resembled a queuing rail at a theme park. We caught little glimpses of the waterfall on the way down but it only came into full view when we emerged out of the trees at the bottom.

The path underfoot became extremely interesting from here on in! The bank was mostly rock, which rose and fell as it followed the contours of the river. At times there were steps with iron hand rails on one side and a drop to the water below on the other! The narrow path on this section would make passing people coming in the other direction quite dangerous and we really began to understand why it was one way.

We then reached the Tunnel Falls – a series of large potholes caused by erosion. The path here became a wooden walkway.

After more scrambling, through a tunnel and up and down more hair-raising steps you emerge in a lovely flat ‘rest area’.

The water here is calm and the path is flat and easy. We soon realised that we didn’t have much time for a rest though. Immediately up ahead was the Devil’s Cauldron. The gorge narrows and the walls run wild with green moss.

The first part of the path to the Cauldron is metal and fenced in on the gorge side but after passing through a tiny gate you are on your own! The steps down are under a jutting out rock which has a handrail on one side and nothing but fresh air on the other. The noise is much more intense here and the air becomes wet and misty. The Devil’s Cauldron itself is a very large pool into which the river forcefully flows. The water here has the appearance of boiling which is probably what inspired the name!

We carefully climbed back up and came out near the high road bridge.

Due to the closure of this section we made our way back to the car park, stopping at the visitor centre to buy another book of local walks on the way.

We both really enjoyed this varied and interesting walk and will no doubt be spending much time here in the future.

 

Sticklepath to Belston – Part of the Tarka Trail

“The Tarka Trail is 180 miles long and follows in the footsteps of the character Tarka the Otter from Henry Williamson’s famous novel. The Trail splits into 2 loops centred at Barnstaple and is a great way to explore the world class environment of North Devon’s UNESCO Biosphere that stretches from Dartmoor to Lundy and Exmoor to Hartland.”Tarka Trail Circular Routes

When last staying with Simon’s parents we spotted their copy of Tarka the Otter and decided to borrow it. Whilst the descriptions of the Devonshire countryside are beautiful, it is quite a laborious read. The most exciting thing we took away from the book was learning that in Devon Hedgehogs can also known as vuzz-pegs! Very sweet and appropriate!

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