Walk: East to West (two days)
Length: This walk traverses the whole of Dartmoor from the Haytor car park Information Centre on the east side all the way across to Lydford Castle in the west. The route is split into two days with a break halfway at Bellever Car Park. The length of the walk is a total of 23 miles split into 11 miles on the first day and 12 on the second. Start point: Car Park at Haytor National Park Information Centre (SX 765 771) where there are facilities and local tourist information, as well as plenty of parking. The halfway point at Bellever (SX 655 771) also has basic facilities, parking and a toilet, similar to the end of the second day at Lydford (SX 509 847) by the Castle and Castle Inn pub. Basic route: From Haytor Car Park (SX 765 771) up and over Haytor Quarries (SX 759 774) in a northwesterly direction to Hound Tor, (SX 74273 79014) Hameldown (SX 712 807) and Grimspound (SX 700 808). Then south-westerly to Bellever (SX 658 773) via Challacombe (SX 693 795). On the second day the route is predominantly northwesterly all day from Bellever to Powder Mills (SX 628 773) and over the open moors to cross the West Dart and on to Wilsworthy Firing Ranges and Lydford village (SX 509 847). Terrain: The route on the first day lies outside of the firing ranges so can be undertaken at any time. On the second day, however, the walker will pass through the Merrivale and Wilsworthy firing ranges so it is essential to check Military firing times either online at www.dartmoor-ranges.co.uk or by phone on 0800 458 4868. Firing times are also broadcast every morning on BBC Radio Devon. The route on the second day will cross some of the more remote areas of Dartmoor so knowledge of using a map and compass is essential as is also wearing suitable footwear and taking proper waterproof clothing. Crossing of a number of rivers is necessary on the second day. Some of these can rise quite quickly in wet weather so check the forecast before undertaking this section. The route also crosses quite arduous ground sometimes in quite deep grass, which can be tiring. There are also a few steep climbs so quite an ambitious day’s walk.
Map: Dartmoor OS OL 28 both the North and South Sheets.
This walk was kindly provided by Moorland Guides
Leave the Haytor Information Centre car park (SX 765 771) and take the grassy wide path across the road to the quarries (SX 759 774). As you look uphill towards Haytor itself the path is over to the right and only goes uphill very gently. It is worth taking a detour through the gate into the quarry and through the site past the flooded areas and exit out the other side over the stile. George Templer opened the quarries in about 1819. He was a local entrepreneur who also was also responsible for the building of the Tramway in 1820. The quarries here lasted right up to 1858 in production but were closed due to cheaper Cornish granite. Once you exit the quarry area and climb the stile the cutting you are in is loaded which whortleberries in the summer season. Continue out and down beside a long spoil heap leading from the quarry. If you stick to the left side going downhill and around the end of the rubble heap this will lead you to the granite tramway a with its fanged rails. Follow the tramway across the ancient tinners’ cutting over an embankment to a junction of the route (SX 757 777). At this junction there are the remains of the granite rails and ‘points’ system to change the direction of the horse hauled trucks. Turn left and follow the level line of the horse drawl tramway and into a shallow cutting. One you exit from the cutting look over to the right towards a low area of rocks known as Smallacombe Rocks (SX 754 782). Take one of the paths to Smallacombe Rocks, passing by some well-preserved hut circles as you approach the rock piles. There are wide sweeping views away to the north and west from her, and over to Hound Tor (SX 742 790) in the distance which is our next destination.
Continue past Smallacombe Rocks and down a steep and well-worn narrow path. This leads you down into the valley to a lovely clapper bridge (SX 752 787) in the woods over the Becca Brook, a tributary of the River Bovey. Cross the brook and carry on up the steep path with the woods on your right. It’s quite a haul to the top as you emerge out of a pedestrian gateway near to Greator Rocks (SX 749 788).
If you walk in April then the ground over to the left is awash with bluebells making the whole hillside a glorious colour.
Carry on along the grass path towards Hound Tor (SX 742 790) ahead of you. You drop down into a depression where you will locate the ruins of the famous and long-abandoned Hound Tor Mediaeval Village b (SX 746 787), well worth a while exploring the buildings and grain drying kilns.
Our route carries on up to the tor and through the centre of it with the high rocks either side of our path. As we crest the top of the slop our view ahead over to the northwest shows Hameldown, which is the long hill that we are going to be crossing in an hour or so.
Continue downhill towards the car park at Swallerton Gate junction (SX 739 791) where you might be lucky to find the regular refreshment stop open for a welcome break. Carry on along the deceptively busy narrow lane from Swallerton gate with its pretty cottage, formerly the Hound Tor Inn on your left. Don’t be tempted to fork right here, but carry on the main lane in the direction of Jay’s Grave (SX 732 799) c only ten minutes walk away. The little grave is on your left by a gateway in the trees. There will no doubt be flowers and small gifts left on the grave of Kitty Jay a local girl reputed to have been a suicide buried at the lonely spot. Go through the gate beside the grave and into a footpath the follows a wall on your left with the woods on your right. The views over to the left open up and down the vale into Widecombe. After a while you reach a point where, at the time of writing, there is located a gigantic wooden chair sculpture (SX 723 800) – subject of much planning consent discussion, but in 2009 / 2010 it remains here, but for how long?
The footpath ends as you come to a gateway (SX 720 802) at the junction of the tarmac road leading left towards Widecombe. If you turn left here and them almost immediately right through a gateway signposted as a footpath and bridleway that leads up to Hameldown ridge. As you enter the gate just look along the fence to your left to a small boundary stone, dedicated to William Pitt the Prime Minister, one of a number of dedicated boundary stones in the area of the moor.
Our path now goes over the wall and trees on the right (SX 717 803) and follows up the wide bridlepath towards the great mass of Hameldown – our high-point for today at about 1,500 feet above sea level.. On your way to the top of the rise you can take a very short diversion to your let to view the RAF Memorial (SX 712 807) to the crew of an aircraft, which crashed here during the last war. Don’t be tempted to turn left southwards here but continue back over to your original path, which leads you over Hameldown ridge into the dip towards Grimspound d (SX 700 808) ahead of you. A visit and break here is well worth the time to explore the walls and hut circles contained within – ancient relics of inhabitants thousands of years ago.
You now have a new wide view over to the west in the direction of Princetown and the high mast at North Hessary with the prison nestling at its base.
Our track is now downhill following the well-made granite pathway beside the little stream to the road (SX 697 808) where we cross over and follow the footpath down to the right of Headland Warren Farm (SX 693 811). We enter the farm enclosures through a signposted gate and past the front of the farmhouse to the cattle grid exit for cars. The footpath turns right before the cattle grid and goes through a gateway and heads due south towards Challacombe ancient village and settlement. The path here follows the bottom of the valley, with evidence of tin mining gullies up to our lefts as well as old field systems as we enter the small settlement of Challacombe (SX 693 795). The footpath passes by the houses and through a gate across open fields and farmland towards Soussons Farm (SX 683 790). There is a temptation to head off right as you start to climb through the fields but the farm is clear over to your left and the path goes past the buildings and up the farm lane to the tarmac road (SX 682 786). Turn right up the slope to the oddly-names Ephraim’s Pinch e (SX 677 785) with the trees on your right. Here the tarmac road swings sharp right but you go straight ahead down the rough trackway to the ford below Pizwell Farm (SX 667 784). Cross the stream up to the farm buildings and turn left along the footpath leading to Postbridge.
As you drop down into the dip by the stream you leave the path and head downstream to the gateway of Dury Farm but still follow the stream all the way downhill to the road by Bellever Bridge (SX 658 773) and the woods. There are the ruins of the large and ancient clapper bridge here beside the new road bridge. Simply either turn right to go to the car park in the woods via the road or alternatively take the footpath beside the clapper bridge and go into the woods to reach today’s destination at the car park (SX 655 771).
On the second day of the walk you start at the car park (SX 655 771) where you concluded yesterday’s walk.
From the car park in the woods come out into the roadway (SX 655 773) and turn left in order to keep left and pass in front of the Bellever Youth Hostel on the right hand side. Carry on up the lane to the start of the ancient and deep lane of the Lych Way ahead of you (SX 653 773) – the route that corpses were taken from the east of the moorland area to Lydford Church for burial hundreds of years ago before burials were authorised at Widecombe Church. Our route for the day now follows that ancient Lych Way; also know as ‘the way of the dead’. Ascend the deep and steep rough pathway to the gateway at the top of the lane (SX 651 772). From here on, the map shows the land as a forest but the path continues through newly-cleared ground with the stumps of trees all around. Having gone through the gate the path goes to the right uphill and around a left bend (SX 650 773) as it continues uphill through the recently felled ground. We come out and across the forestry road that is used by the large Forestry Commission timber lorries and you cross the lane way (SX 646 772) and over an area of open moorland. There a lovely views to the left up to Bellever Tor here, keep an eye out for the deer that roam the forest and moors hereabouts.
Continue straight ahead as the track goes downhill with the forest on the right and then into the forest on both sides (SX 643 772). Keep a look out for a right turn, signposted by a wooden post, which is sometimes lying on the ground! Turn right here (SX 639 772) for the new route of the Lych Way and to the main Postbridge Road. If you miss the right turn you simply come out on the main road but further down the hill nearer to Cherry Brook Bridge. The new route has been put into place to avoid the marshes near the Cherry Brook stream.
As you come out of the forest area and cross the road you go through a pedestrian gateway (SX 637 776) and onto the well trod path as it goes downhill towards the marshes. Fortunately there are wooden walkway boards here to help you through the soft bits and uphill to the other side where the path bends to the left and southwesterly (SX 635 778). The route now carries on to the gateway (SX 629 775) that takes you into the enclosures of Powdermills Gunpowder factory site f. The factory was built in 1844 for the production of gunpowder for the quarrying and mining industry on the moors. By 1867 and the development of dynamite the industry declined quickly. The ruins are an interesting feature well worth a deviation to explore. The track takes you downhill to a little clapper bridge (SX 628 773) over the brook and up to the solitary chimney stack where, at its rear, the path leaves the enclosure and goes out onto the open moorland again (SX 626 773). The way can be boggy here in wet weather but if you head for the high pyramid-shaped tor ahead of you the path is not too bad. The route takes you towards the tor called Longaford (SX 615 777) and over a stile (SX 618 776) in the granite wall and up to the tor. The views to the west and into the West Dart valley open up with Wistman’s Wood stretching out below you in the valley. We now continue down diagonally rightwards to the river where the Devonport Leat is taken off the main river at a purpose-built weir g (SX 608 779). It is possible to cross at the weir when the river is not in spate, otherwise go upstream to find suitable large boulders to cross.
Once you are one the west bank the path continues uphill westerly (SX 604 780) with a big depression on your right. Avoid dropping into the lower ground on the north to the right because it is quite wet there, but instead stick to the path as it crests the ridge in front of Lydford Tor (SX 599 780) on your right and continues westerly to a gateway (SX 593 783) in the wall. The Lych Way now goes slightly upstream to Broad Hole (SX 591 786) where there is an easy ford to get across. Carry on over the stream of the Cowsick and uphill on the distinct pathway (SX 585 788) with the little babbling Connies Down water below you on your left. Our path goes over the ridge and drops into the valley of the Walkham River and crosses near to where the Prison Leat is taken off the stream near a small bridge (SX 574 791). The pathway is well defined and carries on up the next hill where, at the crest, it forks right (SX 565 793) and north westerly, eventually following a wall on your left which leads you all the way to Baggator Gate h and the Army Range hut (SX 551 803). Go through the gate and along the rough vehicle track with the small Bagga Tor on the right. As you reach the end of the rough track there is a gate on your left (SX 546 805) where vehicles go through onto the tarmac lane, simply carry straight on and do not go through the gateway. Follow the wall on the left downhill and into another deep and tree lines ancient track way leading you down to the rear of Brousentor Farm (SX 545 807) on your left. The lane carries on down a concreted track to a gate (SX 544 809). Go through the gate and bear left away from the concrete track. Do not enter the field system on the left but carry straight on and cross over the small brook and follow it downhill into the trees where you will find it is quite a clear ancient track (SX 543 811) all the way downhill around the edges of the fiends and under the trees. This track leads you to the stepping-stones i (SX 540 811) over the River Tavy in Coffin Wood. The wood is so called because it is believed that shrouded bodies carried on packhorses were transferred to coffins here for their final journey to Lydford Church. If you prefer there is a choice of routes here, you could carry on over the stepping stones and up to Higher Wilsworthy farm but the route through the fields can be a bit confusing so it is suggested that you simply turn right and follow the Tavy upstream to the big wooden footbridge (SX 539 815) and cross over there and into the main laneway which leads you, without any confusion, up to Higher Wilsworthy farm (SX 535 817).
Go past the farm and out onto the tarmac road where you turn left and go downhill to a sharp right, then left hand bend with an old ruined building beside the road on the right just before you cross the small stream. Here you turn right (SX 533 816) onto a footpath into the trees and go up the rough lane to the end where thee is a stile you climb over on the left without going through the gate ahead of you (SX 532 818). The path goes into the woods but soon comes out into a field, which you cross. You then go through two more fields over the stiles (SX 530 822) until you come out onto the open moors (SX 529 823) with a view ahead of you up to the Wilsworthy Firing Ranges. There is a big wall on your right around the old fields of the ruined Yelowmead Farm. Ignore the farm track coming out of the gate but carry on northwards along the footpath through the heather as it takes you uphill and to a stile and bridge over the old mine leat (SX 526 829). The path then carries on to the firing range building and crosses the tarmac lane used for the army lorries (SX 525 832). Cross over the laneway and start going downhill with a depression on your left and the lane leads you downhill to the wall with the trees to the gateway (SX 520 839) near the new Wilsworthy Army Camp nestling low and out of site behind the walls j. Go through the gate down the tarmac lane to the main A386 Tavistock to Okehampton Road (SX 518 841). Turn right and northwards, keeping to the grass verge on the other side of the road as you pass Higher Beardon farm on your left (SX 518 842). The road is really fast here so do take care. However, once you have passed Beardon Farm you simply fork left leaving the road after only 200 meters. Look on your left and you will see a ‘Take off’ stone k (SX 518 843) used as a turning point for leaving the extra horse you hired to pull your horse drawn wagon up the steep hill in years gone by. Fork left and down the lane where it turns left (SX 518 843) and into a farmyard complex with lots of ruined old farm implements. You fork right (SX 517 844), to the right of a hedge by a poorly visible wooden finger post to carry on downhill on the Lych Way (SX 516 845). Don’t fork left into a gated yard. Follow the wall on your left as you go down the old laneway to the very bottom and through a field, over a couple of stiles (SX 515 845) and into the woods. The path follows beside the river here to a bridge and a pedestrian gateway. Cross the bridge (SX 514 846) and up past the front door of a desolate cottage to the cottage vehicle laneway. The laneway takes you uphill and under the old railway viaduct (SX 513 847) to a small crossroads junction (SX 514 849) of tracks. Turn left and make your way past a terrace of houses into Silver Street and the main road (SX 511 849) in Lydford. Carry straight on to the end of the day’s walk at the Castle Inn car park (SX 509 847) beside Lydford castle itself. Refreshments at the Castle Inn are not a compulsory celebration at the end of two great day’s walking, crossing Dartmoor from east to west!