Archive for the ‘Dartmoor’ Category

Wet, Wet, Wet   12 comments

I think I’ve mentioned before on the blog about a day I spent in the Arans in my University days (1983 I think). It was the worst day I’ve ever spent in the hills. hours of heavy, pitiless rain and winds on a high exposed ridge. We got soaked to the skin and were likely hypothermic by the end. It has lived with me longer than many other days from that era. Since then I’ve had some pretty wet days in the hills but nothing have ever come to close to that one. Until last Saturday.

TJS had an open day and interview at Exeter University and we had plans for an overnight and then a days walking on Dartmoor to make a weekend of it. A bad forecast for Sunday put pay to that but Saturday looked ok. Rain in the morning but brightening up at lunchtime, so I thought I go for a solo walk while he was doing his stuff.

I planned a route from Belstone near Okehampton as it was close to the A30 so I could maximise my walking time. It was pretty grim when I set off but I thought it was worth a go as it was due to clear. Once up on the fells it was horrid. Driving heavy rain and strong winds. I pressed on as it was due to clear.

Along the edges of Belstone and Oke Tors and the rain got heavier. I pressed on as it was due to clear.

You can see the pattern emerging here. It was frankly atrocious and any sensible person would have turned around and gone back. I found a sheltered spot and had a bite to eat. I thought about turning back and then stubborn bloody-mindedness set in. I decided that seeing as I was already wet I may as well try to finish the route as a kind of endurance test. I pressed on as it might clear.

In the sheltered spots it wasn’t too bad and it had a wild and stormy atmosphere. On Steeperton Tor the wind was amazing. I was lucky there was an army shelter I could hide behind for a few minutes. I pressed on even though it seemed unlikely to clear. As I traversed around the Hound Tors it actually stopped raining cleared a bit and there was even some blue sky. I even managed a couple of photos.

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Then its started raining again. This time with a real vengeance. It did that to me on that Arans day. A flash of blue sky preceded heavy rain. I pressed on, it was definitely not going to clear. I walked past the Stone Circle on Little Hound Tor and managed another photo.

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The climb up to and over Cosdon Beacon was one of the longest I can remember. I managed to extract some perverse enjoyment out of the first half of the day but this stretch really tested my resolve, not that I had much choice. There was water everywhere although my feet were the only part of me that was dry (thank heavens I put gaiters on). I got off the hill as quickly as I could and headed down into the valley of the River Taw. Once off the mountains and in the deep dark woods, yes, you guessed it, the rain stopped, the skies cleared and the sun came out! Sometimes I think the weather has a malevolent, malicious streak

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At least the walk by the river was quite pleasant if muddy and I could emerge from my waterproofs

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When I reached the car every part of me (other than my feet) was sopping wet, right down to my pants. Luckily we’d planned to go out for some food on the way home so I had a change of clothes. It would have been a very uncomfortable drive home if not. A good leg stretcher at 10 miles, I still have wet stuff drying out around the house

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I’m now in the rare position of being fully up to date with blog. I’m off to France for some skiing next week so blog silence for a week or so while enjoy the snow in the Alps

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A Review of 2017   18 comments

I’ve read quite a few blog post in the past few days reviewing other peoples 2017 exploits. I enjoyed them so much I thought I’d do the same. Good excuse to look back through my photos and remember what we got up to. At my age I need help remembering stuff!.

Acutely conscious of the modern trend for these awful “round robin” letters you get at Xmas (we get one of these smugograms every year) I tried to select photos that bring back a particular memory for me so its more a personal, family introspection on outdoorsy stuff, than a blow by blow account of the year. As its based on my photo collection if I didn’t photograph it, it ain’t here!

January

We started the year off in Tenerife and New Years Day was spent on this rather splendid beach (the earlier part of the day was in the mountains but I cocked up the photos from that part of the day!)

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Returning to the British winter, a walk along the Cats Back in the Black Mountains with TBF, memorable for a cloud inversion after a very wet morning. A reminder that despite our travels we are lucky to have some stunning scenery on our doorstep

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A solo day out in the Brecon Beacons, the first snowy walk near to home and pretty much the only one with significant snow during the early part of the year (made up for it at the end)

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A glorious day out in the Black Mountains with TJS and a cooked breakfast on a cold Table Mountain. I like this photo though as it has Mynydd Troed in centre shot, my very first mountain climbed when I was about 10

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And my usual skiing trip (only a weekend this year) to finish off the month. Snow was a bit rubbish but we had a laugh nonetheless

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February

Another solo day on Fan Fawr in the Brecon Beacons. I remember this day for a very mild Friday afternoon (16C) and snow in the mountains 18 hours later

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A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill

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March

The first weekend of the month is always spent in Scotland with friends of long standing. A new location at Bridge of Orchy and a two out of three days were magnificent winter days. The walk along this ridge high above Rannoch Moor on the first day was superb

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Me and TJS also managed a cheeky backpack into the Black Mountains. Straight from work on the Friday for a one nighter in my new tent. Need to do more of these this year

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2017 is the year I rediscovered cycling – mainly to help my knee and also to be less of a lazy layabout during the week. The Hardman – a VERY keen and VERY fit cyclist caught wind and insisted we meet up in the Peak for a trip along a couple of the old railway trails. A cracking sunny day and I survived cycling with the Hardman!

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And we finally managed a meet up in the Berwyns with Uncle Fester after a few aborted attempts

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April

More cycling and solo trip through the Brecon Beacons on the “Gap” route. Cycling to over 600m was a first for me and I started to feel that I almost, might, actually enjoy cycling.

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Easter and a major backpacking trip with TJS to the Cairngorms. The weather was wild and windy but we had a couple of superb wild camps and TJS bagged his first Scottish 4000 footer

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I even coaxed TJF out for a bike ride along the Brecon and Usk canal

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May Day weekend was mostly in April. Mixed weather but we had a fine gaggle of friends on a hike around Greendale, taking in Buckbarrow and Seatallan

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May

No finer way to celebrate a birthday than a lunchtime hike. This one was on one of my local hills, Bryn Arw with TBF

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Followed by a weekend away in Cornwall. It almost felt tropical on the white sands just north of Padstow on one of our walks

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Whitsun weekend was spent with our good friends in Silverdale. The Sunday was a real winner with a long but easy stroll and a fantastic pub lunch. Weather was mixed the rest of the time but great company, many laughs and a chance to relax

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June

A different walk from the usual mountains. One of the small hills that overlook Gloucester and across to the Cotswolds. Not something I’d do every day but a nice change

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One of the highlights of the year was the long-planned backpacking trip with the kids into the Howgills. Despite poor weather we gave it a go and it was a huge success. The kids really enjoyed the adventure and I’m hoping they have caught the wild camping bug

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July

After the backpack trip I was out of action for a few weeks recuperating and resting after a minor knee op. Didn’t affect my water based fun though, a nice albeit far too long trip down the river Wye

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By the end of July I was back in the hills again (the knee op has been a great success I’m pleased to say). A fine evening stroll with TBF and TJS on Ysgyryd Fawr (we even took a cheeky cold beer to drink on the top)

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Another “local walk for local people” – this time Garway Hill where we reached the top, saw this nasty storm approaching and raced it back to the car. We won.

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Late July brings the annual camping trip to Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula. We packed in lots of walks and beach fun in a very mixed few days of weather. My abiding memory though was this game of Kubb which was huge fun with both adults and kids alike taking it far too seriously and larking about in equal measure. A happy afternoon

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August

The big family trip of the year, a rail trip around some of Europe’s finest cities. An real change from our usual outdoor camping trips and it was real success. We all took took to the city life rather well you might say. One of my best ever holidays. A few photos that made me smile

One of the many fountains in Paris (we called this one the fountain of throttled fish)

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A monster thunderstorm in Turin

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My favourite seafront walk in Venice

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The Colloseum in Rome – of course

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Schloss Belvedere in Vienna (courtesy of an unplanned extra couple of hours from a very late train)

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The thermal baths in Budapest – “like taking a bath in a wedding cake”

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A stroll along the Spree river in Berlin on a sunny Sunday afternoon

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And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne

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September

Back to earth with a bump. A few days after the heat and sun of Europe we were walking in the Black Mountains in driving rain and cold winds!

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But there was still enough warm weather left for a round of the hills near the Talybont Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons

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October

A walk with friends in the Roaches on the dreariest day of the year (when everywhere else was sunny – I’m not bitter)

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More evidence of my new found cycling passion (probably too strong a word). A ride around the tracks of the New Forest while TJS took a look around Southampton University

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And why settle for one trip to see major cities when you can do it twice. As a special treat for TJS 18th Birthday we spent a week in Barcelona. Probably my favourite city but despite all its famous sights, this little known hill and its view overlooking the city was my favourite spot

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November

After sunshine comes the reality of winter. A couple of cold but beautiful days. One in the Black Mountains on the Sugar Loaf and Crug Mawr

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And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain

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A delayed birthday treat weekend for TBF saw us in Padstow for a couple of nice meals and walks along the Cornish coast and Dartmoor

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December

And last into the proper depths of winter. The first snows saw me and TJS head into the highest peaks of the Black Mountains

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The day after saw the biggest dump of snow I’ve seen in my own backyard for many a year. Walks around my village in deep snow under crisp blue skies were wonderful

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The start of the Xmas holidays is marked with an annual get together of my University friends and their families. Always great fun but this year we could climb the hills in snow (rather than wet rain) and play at snowballs

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Finally coming full circle with a return to the Canary Islands to spend Xmas in Lanzarote and Xmas Day sunning ourselves on the beach

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Well I enjoyed looking through my photos, choosing a few and reliving a great year. Hope you enjoyed it too. All the best for 2018 🙂

A Dartmoor Stroll   10 comments

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The Jones family mantra is do nice stuff rather than have nice stuff when it comes to Birthday’s etc. Past couple of years we’ve gone for holidays and trips away in lieu of pressies and much the better for it. As a birthday treat me and TBF leave the kids behind and take a trip to Cornwall. It’s the perfect combination of hill and coastal walking together with a chance to get dressed up (barely in my case) and have a nice meal. We pick November for TBF as it’s always a low time of year between holidays and cheers us up.

We took in what seems to have become a routine now, lunch in the excellent Cafe on the Green in Widecombe on Dartmoor followed by an afternoon walk. We’ve been lucky so far and had a couple of fabulous walks and this time was even better, a clear still sunny day in November, a real slice of luck. As always I took inspiration from Steve over at Treks and Tors and a recent walk he did near Burrator Reservoir. We didn’t have time for the full walk as November days are short but it is another superb area and we had a cracking walk

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It took a bit of aimless wandering in the forest before we found the access onto open ground. The autumn light on the bare trees was stunning

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It’s a pretty steep climb up on to Sheeps Tor but the views back across the reservoir to Leather Tor and Sharpitor made things a little easier to cope with

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The Dartmoor ponies welcomed us up on to the top

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TBF was enjoying seeing the views through new glasses, she’s gone all varifocal

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The panorama from the top is stunning. As its near the outer edge you can see down to the coast at Plymouth and across to Bodmin Moor and Cornwall as well as back towards the expanse and tors of Dartmoor itself

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We pressed on as we reckoned we could take in a route back along the other side of the valley over Combshead Tor and Down Tor

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There were some very soggy patches and a good deal of bashing through the dwindling bracken.

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The brown autumn colours in the low sun were sublime

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We stopped for a brew on Combshead Tor while we still had sunlight to keep us warm

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I love the way the sun picks out the features in the rocks and the contrast in views looking straight into the sun

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The sun dipped behind the clouds and there was an instant drop in temperature so we packed up quickly and pressed on

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There is an impressive stone circle and stone row but it was half in shadow and sun and almost impossible to take a decent photo

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Down Tor was a fine summit and we’d have lingered had darkness not been creeping, or indeed racing in

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The setting sun was playing nicely with the clouds as we walked quickly back to the car

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Thanks to Steve, a great idea for a walk and a fine start to our weekend away

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Off to Padstow, checked into our B&B and out for a fine meal, slightly sullied by the fact it was still and cloudless on the walk down and blowing a gale and hammering it down when we walked back. Fickle British weather!

Storm Clouds over Dartmoor   12 comments

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My Birthday treat was a weekend away in Cornwall for some fine dining, walking and wave based fun in Cornwall. A heavy cold put paid to entering the water so plans were amended slightly but we kicked off as before (for TBF’s birthday weekend) with a fine lunch at the Cafe on the Green in Widecombe in the Moor and a walk on Dartmoor. Thanks to the writings of the excellent blog over at Treks and Tors I have an endless list of very fine walks on Dartmoor to experience and this one was based on one of the more recent posts. Its a great blog and well worth checking out.

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The forecast had looked promising with mention of sunshine and “isolated” showers. From up on Dartmoor they were a lot more than isolated! We had a Tor-tour planned and first was Rippon Tor. The views across to Haytor, Dartmoors most famous tor derw us onwards

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First we passed over Saddle Tor, appropriately populated with wild ponies

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All the while the storm clouds gathered, thunder rumbled and lightning flashed

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Haytor was always a favourite spot when I was a kid. We spent many family holidays up at Westward Ho! (only place name in the UK with an exclamation mark) and often came down to Dartmoor for a day out. I always insisted we come up here so I could climb to the top

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I love granite tors with their weathered shapes and weird formations

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Haytor looked especially dramatic today backed by dark storm clouds. I rekindled childhood memories by climbing to the top but decided not to linger, feeling rather like a lightning rod on the exposed summit

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As we passed Haytor quarry in bright sunlight the dark clouds provided an amazing contrast

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The clouds all around were bubbling and boiling and we seemed to be just yards from a soaking

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We found a fine sheltered spot on Smallacombe Rocks for a cuppa and a slice of cake. We didn’t hang around as our luck was running out and spots of rain were in the air

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We walked over one of Dartmoors numerous and very quaint clapper bridges over the Becka Brook

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And then up towards and past Greator rocks.

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As we passed into Holwell Lawn we came across one of the most stunning displays of bluebells I’ve ever seen

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All across open hillside they carpeted the floor in a swathe of purple-blue. Its rare to be able to catch the real sense of colour in a photo. They never seem to be as dense through a lens as they are to the naked eye

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Here, that task was easy

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We pressed on for more tors over at Bonehill Rocks

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Leaving them behind we set off for our final tor, Top Tor

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We got a proper soaking in a heavy rain and hail shower that dusted the hills we’d walked on earlier in drifts of white while thunder rumbled and crackled around us. Short-lived, and sunny spells returned for the top and while we finished our fine 6.5 mile back to the car

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My second Dartmoor walk in the past year and its wonderful, packed with interesting stuff and a huge variety of landscapes. It deserves a full weekend or holiday all its own or a wild camp to appreciate its austere charms

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Satisfied and in need of a little luxury, we headed off to the Althea Library for our weekend stay, with same wonderful room and warm welcome as before

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I took a brief stroll around Padstow before our evening out to clear my head (I had a bit of dizzy spell when I arrived) and to enjoy Padstow without the the crowds when it reverts to a peaceful fishing village rather than a tourist fleshpot

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Ending the day with a fine curry at The Journeyman restaurant was the perfect finale to a fine first day of my Birthday treat 🙂

Funster Birthday Weekend – Dartmoor   6 comments

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Well a very belated birthday weekend anyway. Being the kind of people who like to do nice things rather than have nice things (well I like both but that’s not the point!), I gave TBF the option of a weekend away as her birthday treat. She jumped at the offer and we picked a weekend in November to cheer up that dreariest of months. We headed down on Friday in the hope of a pre-weekend walk. After stopping at the excellent Cafe on the Green in Widecombe on the Moor for a superb lunch and Cream Tea we headed out

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I’ve never walked on Dartmoor before so I needed a plan. Luckily I know a very fine Dartmoor inspired blog over at Treks and Tors and Steve gave me this route amongst many others.  An inspired recommendation.

We parked up in a surprisingly busy car park for a Friday in November that seemed to be threatening rain. There were dark skies everywhere but lots of blue to go with it as we pushed up to Cox Tor

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We used to visit Dartmoor on day trips from our holidays at Westward Ho! on the North Devon Coast. I was always fascinated by Granite Tors so I was well pleased to do a proper walk amongst them

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Despite looking like a wet one the weather was kind to us and we were bathed in plentiful sunshine for the afternoon, although it was perishingly cold

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After Cox Tor we traversed down and around to the back of Roos Tor so as to make a circuit

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Everyone associates the SW with coastline, beaches and resorts but Dartmoor is a truly wild and empty place. It could feel similar to any wild moorland upland area but it has a whole different charm. Apart from its bristling Granite outcrops it has rivers, farmland and green forested valleys as well a rich industrial heritage and ancient remains of civilisations long gone. Like I said when I first visited Bodmin Moor last year, its packed with interesting stuff and I was enjoying this first taster session

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It was already past three when we reached Roos and Staples Tors so the light was fading. The tors themselves made for wonderful outlines against the moody skies

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When the sun did come out it lit up the tors and the bracken in a most fetching manner

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I was fascinated by the shapes amongst the tumbles of rocks and had a few little scrambles about, far too cold for any more detailed exploration. This outcrop looks suspiciously like TBF

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There were views across to the Tamar estuary to Plymouth Sound and you could see the rail and road bridges in the distance

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The views across to Vixen Tor, Kings Tor and North Hessary Tor were very fine

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We decided to use up every last minute of daylight and extended the walk with an extra loop around and over Whitchurch Common following an old watercourse cut around the hillside. We reached a stone cross that seemed to be telling us the sun was setting and it was time to head back to car and go Padstow for some food!

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A splendid late afternoon stroll and a prelude for a cracking weekend outdoors in the South West

Our base in Padstow was the amazing Althea Library B&B. An absolute gem with a  standard of accommodation befitting a 5-star hotel but with all the comforts and welcome of a family home. Huge thanks to Jane and Geoff for looking after us and highly recommended for a stay in the area. Evening meal was in the equally amazing Prawn on the Lawn. A restaurant and a fishmonger all in one with an eclectic feel and enthusiastic friendly staff. All you get is seafood and its superb. Simple stuff, freshly cooked and we dined like kings/queens on tapas plates and Lobster washed down with a bottle of fizz. Well it was a birthday meal after all!

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