Length: Choice of a 5-mile walk or 10-mile walk Start point: Car Park at the western end of Venford Reservoir (SX 685 712) where there are facilities and a local tourist information notice board, as well as plenty of parking. Basic route: (Blue route: 10-miles) Southwest Horns Cross and Hooten Wheals mine ruins, the west to Skir Gut and up to Ryders Hill before heading southwards towards Huntingdon Warren. Return north via Pupers Hill and Snowdon then via Hapstead Ford to Venford. (Red route: 5-mile deviation) By turning off early in the gully leading up from the O Brook and turning left following the line of boundary stones up to Ryders Hill. Once at Ryders Hill you then turn left and eastwards to Hapstead Ford and join the return route of the 10-mile walk. Both of these routes lie outside of the firing ranges so can be undertaken at any time of the year. However, a crossing of a number of small rivers is necessary on the 10-mile route. Some of these can rise quite quickly in wet weather so check the forecast before undertaking the 10-mile section. The routes also cross quite arduous ground sometimes in quite deep grass, which can be tiring. There are also a few steep climbs so quite an ambitious walk. Both routes take in some of the most remote parts of southern Dartmoor so are 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. Map: Dartmoor OS OL 28 South Sheet.
This walk was kindly provided by Moorland Guides
Park at the western end of Venford reservoir. (SX 685 712) During the late summer and early autumn of 2008 the Water Authority are undertaking some significant maintenance work at the dam, building a large safety overflow to control the dam at times of high rain fall. From the car park walk uphill across the grassy slope following parallel with the road on your left to a point where the Holne Moor Leat ends and flows into a drain underground. Cross the road towards the open moors and follow a well-trodden path uphill with the dam lower down on your left. There are some sections deep in low lying gorse but you soon arrive at a grassy clearing and a hut circle (SX 678 709) overlooking the reservoir.
From here you head westerly towards a double stone row (SX 674 710) and then onto Horns Cross a (SX 669 710) with views of Combestone Tor down on your right by the road. From Horns Cross you can look west over the O Brook valley towards Hooten Wheals mine workings. It would be a difficult route to walk straight there so it would be sensible to consider contouring around the end of the valley to the left. Go uphill along the very clear track then branch right and contour around the end of a first gully (SX 666 707) and onto the second one (SX 661 706). When you reach the second gully coming up from the river you meet a footpath also coming up from your right in the valley and crossing you to the left uphill towards Ryders Hill.
It is at this crossroads that the 5-mile route turns left and goes uphill following the line of boundary stones all the way to Ryders Hill (SX 659 690 ) through Wellaby Gulf (SX 659 700). For those on the 5-mile route, at Ryders Hill you turn left and eastwards following the line of boundary stones into the valley of the River Mardle and down to Hapstead Ford (SX 670 692 ) where you meet the 10-mile route on its return journey back to Venford.
However, for those on the 10-mile route you simply carry on at the crossroads of the track at the top of the gullies (SX 661 706) to continue contouring around to Hooten Wheals mine ruins b and the large demolished foundations of a rectangular building (SX 655 708) and wheel pits and shafts.
It might be wise not to venture into the shaft pits. They were capped by wood and corrugated iron many years ago and the wood is rotting so they might be unstable – well, ‘this guide’ has never had the courage to go down into the pits and jump up and down in them!
From Hooten Wheals on a clear day there are fine views over towards Exeter and east Devon.
From the mine workings head west into the gullies of Skir Gut (SX 647 706 ) – very deep open mine gullies where you turn left and follow the mining gullies up to their head at a big pond (SX 647 702 ) where they abruptly end.
At the pond you can’t actually see the top of Ryders Hill to the southeast but head towards the top of the hill in the distance to the southeast. You might well see a hug granite boulder lying at the foot of the steep slopes, make your way through the tortuously long grass to this boulder and you come across quite a good path leading off to the left around the hill (SX 654 696 ). It’s worth turning left to follow it for some respite in the long grass. This track leads you to the crossroads junction (SX 659 697 ) where the 5-mile walk route comes up the hill from your left. At this point turn right and uphill along the wide path following the Boundary Stones with ‘H’ (Holne Parish) on them. This path leads you right up to the top the Ryders Hill c and the Triangulation Point, another Boundary Stone as well as Petre’s Bound Stone (SX 659 690 ).
It is here that the 5-mile walkers branch off eastwards to Hapstead Ford but the 10-mile route heads southwest. If the weather is fine you can see the pyramid shaped spoil heap of the tip at Red Lake (SX 464 670 ) in the distance. Simply head slightly to the left of this heap and drop down to the valley of the River Avon.
As you get towards the river keep a watch out for the boggy ground on your right, simply keep left and higher as you head down towards the river. You will reach the river near the ruins of a tinner’s building (SX 654 669). At the ruin turn left and follow the riverside path downstream. You soon reach a tree on the riverbank, at the base of which is the ruin of a vermin trap d.
Continue downstream with the river on your right, and eventually you pass a fine granite clapper bridge (SX 657 661) before continuing down the river to find a rather odd and out of place newly built wall with Huntingdon Cross (SX 664 662) beside it. Here the route goes back up to the north by following left up the Western Wella Brook. About 300 metres upstream on the eastern side are the remains of a small building which is known as Keble Martin’s Church e (SX 666 666). The small ruins are in fact a chapel, which was built in 1909 by Keble Martin and his companions, the 6-figure grid reference being a good reason to build a church here!
From here follow the stream uphill to Huntingdon Farm ruins on your left (SX 665 669). Cross the stream and head north easterly to Pupers Hill (SX 672 673) with its distinctive ‘B’ carved into the rock. From here a short decent and up again to the north west leads you to the summit of Snowdon f (SX 668 683) with views ahead and to the left of Ryders where we were a few hours ago on our walk.
From Snowdon continue slightly to the right of north and down into the valley of the River Mardle to Hapstead Ford (SX 670 692) where you meet the 5-mile route which has come down to join you from the valley on the left.
Hampstead Ford is very distinct with its large ‘H’ stone beside the track and river here.
From here we head across the Mardle north easterly and rise the hill ahead of you. There are a number of paths going through the gorse and heather but if you head for the middle of the high ground ahead you are on the right course. This will eventually lead you to cross a good track known as the Sandy Way (SX 679 696) There are views ahead now that you have crested the hill, down to Venford Reservoir and the end of the walk.
It is easier to go to the right on the Sandy Way a short distance to a fork in the track. Fork left and this takes you downhill towards Venford and down to the leat which you cross. Look downhill and aim for the road to the right of the reservoir using a few of the paths and dry leats to find your way downhill to the road (SX 679 696). At the road simply turn left and walk over the dam to return to the car park and the end of the walk.