Walk: North Moor Wilderness
Length: Choice of a 5-mile walk or a 10-mile walk Start point: Car Park at Baggator gate Lane End, Wilsworthy 4km Northeast of Peter Tavy (SX 620 536) Basic route: (Blue route: Just short of 10-miles) Up towards Lynch Tor and follow the peat cutters’ track to the River Tavy. Then up to Fur Tor and east to Cut Hill. Return via the source of the River Tavy to Lynch Tor and back to Baggator Gate. (Red route: 5-mile deviation) By turning off early at the River Tavy and by following it south to where the 10-mile route crosses it from the east. Then return to Baggator Gate along the 10-mile return route. Both of these routes lie within the Merrivale and Okehampton firing ranges so can only be undertaken on days when there is no live firing on those military ranges. Details of the firing times and days of firing can be obtained on the Internet at www.dartmoor-ranges.co.uk (and simply click on ‘firing notice’) or alternatively on the phone at 0800 4584868. The 10-mile route takes in some of the remotest parts of Dartmoor so is not to be undertaken lightly or without the proper clothing and equipment. Despite there being lots of features on this walk, in both good as well as in poor visibility a map and compass are essential especially on the 10-mile section east of Lynch Tor. It will also be necessary to cross the River Tavy as well as a number of its tributaries on the 10-mile route. Therefore it is advisable only to undertake this route when the rivers are low. The 10-mile route is one of the most arduous in these series due to the difficult terrain. It is for that reason that it has been left at just short of the usual 10-miles, but will take just as long to complete. The 5-mile route doesn’t involve any river crossings.
Map: Dartmoor OS OL 28 North Sheet.
This walk was kindly provided by Moorland Guides
Park at the car park at Baggator Gate 4 km Northeast of Peter Tavy (SX 620 536). There is enough parking for about 4 cars at the gate but do ensure you do not block any of the farm tracks leading in various directions from here.
Nearby there is the Firing Range hut at the gateway onto the moors (SX 551 803) where there is a range notice board and a member of range staff when live firing is taking place. Ensure that no valuables are left in your vehicle and, as always, leave details of your route and estimated time of return with someone. Be aware that much of this route is out of signal for many of the mobile phone services, especially in the Tavy valley.
From your car walk along the main rough stony track to the range hut (SX 551 803). This rough track follows the line of the ancient Lych Way from Bellever to Lydford Church used for the carriage of bodies for burial from the moorland parishes. Go through the gateway by the range hut and out onto the open moors along the tapering drift lane used for bringing livestock off of the moors in times gone by. In the middle of the drift lane there is a noticeable footpath following a deep gully. It begins to swing to the left as you approach Lynch Tor (SX 565 807) high up ahead of you and instead of climbing the sloped of Lynch Tor you simply follow this peat cutter’s pathway a as it crosses the moors northwards across the slopes of Lynch Tor. The path is quite deep and very distinct as it climbs gently up and to the north of Lynch Tor. You will see ahead and to the left of you, a line of red and white posts marking the boundary of the Wilsworthy Firing Range. Be sure not to venture across this line of poles if there is firing on that range.
Your path then contours around the hill leading out onto the open moors. There are a few cairns marking the route of the track until it doubles back on itself. In the distance to the Northeast you will see Fur Tor (SX 587 831) far away in the centre of the north moor. This is the destination of the 10-mile route. If you look to the right of Fur Tor you will see a flagpole about a kilometre away; head for the flagpole (SX 576 819). The ground can by a bit wet in this location and the grass is quite long. Once you reach the flag pole start heading slightly to the right of Fur Tor and drop into the valley of the River Tavy at Tavy Hole b (SX 580 819). When you drop down you will loose sight of Fur Tor so if you are doing the 10-mile route make a mental note of which is the most accurate way up the hillside once you have crossed the stream of the River Tavy. Down by the river there are some pretty waterfalls (SX 580 818) and a good site for a picnic. This is where those on the 5-mile route leave the main route and head upstream to the right and follow the banks of the Tavy for about a kilometre to a point (SX 585 812 ) where the 10-mile route crosses the river on its return from Fur Tor. Once the 5-mile route reaches this point it simply follows the return journey of the 10-mile route.
If you are following the main 10-mile walk you simply cross the Tavy at one of the many fording spots with large boulders and climb the hillside ahead of you until you get a view again of Fur Tor. It’s best to aim to the right of Fur Tor in the distance because of the wet ground ahead and to the left of you as you contour around the Fur Tor Brook (SX 583 823). You are now approaching the most remote of Dartmoor Tors with a wonderful sense of isolation. As you approach the main outcrop c of the tor take a few minutes to locate the letterbox hidden in the large cleft in the tor (SX 587 830).
The views from here are spectacular to the north but are certainly surpassed by the views of Cut Hill (SX 598 827), which you can see over to the east on the other side of Fur Tor. You might feel isolated at Fur Tor but Cut Hill is the most remote spot on Dartmoor and will take another half an hour to reach. The route to Cut Hill basically contours around the hillside with a slope off to your left. The terrain is tortuous and covered in peat cuttings and numerous bogs, which you have to zigzag to get through. The sense of achievement upon reaching Cut Hill d is certainly worth the effort and if you walk up to the very top of the hill and stand aloft the highest of the peat hags you will achieve what must be one of the best views on the moors. Dartmoor is spread out before you through 360°. On a fine day you can see the clay tips of St Austell down in Cornwall to the west and towards the east you might glimpse Portland Bill in Dorset! But the nearby tors of the moor are set out in all directions. To the north you have High Willhays, the highest point in southern England, to the south views as far at Riders Hill and Three Barrows on the south moor can be enjoyed in clear weather.
In the huge depression of Cut Hill there are a number of flat stones, the one in the middle of the depression is faintly carved with the word “JEW” and is knows as the ‘Jew Stone’. Nobody quite knows why it bears this inscription.
Once you have finished at Cut Hill head south towards the start of the Peat Cutting known as the North West Passage.
The is a granite post (SX 597 825) with a bronze plaque on with an inscription about the crossing being made by Frank Phillpotts for the use of hunting and cattlemen to cross the moors. From here the route really becomes very arduous with long grass and wet underfoot. We now head south to the headwaters of the River Tavy. You can see the route clearly as it drops down into the top of the valley ahead of you and slips down into the depression ahead (SX 595 819).
Drop down into the start of the valley to locate the spring from which the Tavy flows, it is easier to cross the valley and walk down following parallel to the Tavy on your left. There are a few narrow sheep tracks here, which might be of some help in negotiating the longs grass.
The route follows down the valley and around a right bend where there is a tinner’s hut (SX 593 814) marked on the map but very difficult to locate. A second hut (SX 589 813) is also marked on the map but equally difficult to find. The river turns to the right; up ahead of you in the distance is the hill leading up to Lynch Tor. It is this hill that you are aiming for as you continue down the river. Looking to your left you will see a stream coming down from the left from the South Tavy Head (SX 588 811). After the junction of this small tributary you walk ahead and cross the Tavy. Don’t continue around to the right too far or you will simply drop downhill loosing valuable height. Cross the Tavy through the deep rushes. There is a good marker to look out for and this is a sandy bank on the other side of the river. Head for the sandy bank (SX 586 812) and there are some useful boulders for crossing the stream here. This is where the 5-mile route has come up the stream to join us from Tavy Hole.
You will have lost the view of Lynch Tor but simply carry on heading for the top of the hill and over the crest to regain the view in the distant west towards Lynch Tor. As you cross the deep grass you find a few paths that are very welcome after the difficulties of the long vegetation. Make towards the right of Lynch Tor, a small outcrop on the hillside ahead of you with a flagpole on top. This is actually the cairn on the top of the hill as the true tor itself is just over the ridge. As you head to the right of the flagpole and cairn you will begin to see a granite post (SX 586 805) at the foot of the slope leading up to Lynch Tor. Aim for that post and then up to the cairn and nearby tor e.
The views to the west open up again and Fur Tor behind you seems a very long way away, and your legs no doubt will be telling the tale too!
Visit the nearby Tor (SX 564 807) and then drop down into the drift lane which leads you back onto the peat cutter’s track and to the gate at Baggator range hut. A short walk leads you to your vehicle. The nearby Baggator outcrop (SX 547 805) affords some lovely views down into the valley beyond and is worth a small diversion at the end of the walk. I am sure that those who have bravely completed the longer route will agree that it did seem significantly further than 10-miles!
Places: Mary Tavy