SPRING CAMPING ON DARTMOOR

It was all down to autocorrect. While letting family know we were heading for the coast with our canoe, Susannah’s phone managed to turn the word Cornwall into ordeal. Pausing for a moment to consider it was not only Easter holiday week, but the sun was out, we took this uncanny digital portent, packed a couple of large rucksacks, and headed up onto the moor.

After sharing the path for a while with a Ten Tors team setting out, fully laden, for an overnight training session, we were soon on our own, the sky a pale Swedish flag blue over the appropriate yellow of great swathes of dead winter grass.

Working through Black-a-tor Copse, along the edge of West Okement River.

Black-a-tor Copse is one of three high altitude oak woodlands on the moor, the best known probably being Wistman’s Wood near the top of the West Dart valley. I can’t help thinking of Lord of the Rings, whenever we wend our way between the contorted trunks, wobbling from boulder to boulder, the entire tree and granite scene smothered in luxuriant green lichen and moss. Twenty different bird species have been recorded nesting in this wood, including ring ouzels and redstart, so we stuck close to the low edge of the West Okement River as we passed.

The upper West Okement River valley, with Black-a-tor Copse on the left, and Lints Tor just visible up ahead.

It was never our intention to walk far before pitching camp – we’d started out late in the day, and our packs contained quite a bit of photographic kit. So when the shoulder and waist straps started to dig in, we dropped them by the side of a busy feeder stream and considered our options. We could stay where we were, head on for Fur Tor deep in the moor, or take an intermediate option and saunter up onto nearby Lints Tor.   The middle way it was.

Crossing that busy feeder stream.

Seen from the southern end of the High Willhays ridge, Lints Tor always manages to look like a Norman castle to me, a modest tower sat on its motte below, guarding the valley route into the central moor. It doesn’t look much less artificial up close, although only that small metamorphic keep still stands, most of the curtain walls having tumbled long before William and his land-hungry mercenaries turned up on our shores. We placed our little tipi on a patch of level grass amongst the resultant granite clitter, and soon had a kettle on the boil nearby.

Our campsite.

 

It’s a curious tor. At 496m it actually sits quite high by Dartmoor standards, a fair way above the more famous Hay Tor to the south for example. But with Fordsland Ledge, Dinger Tor, Great Kneeset and Kitty Tor, lifting yet higher on all sides, Lints Tor is a little like Haystacks in the Lake District, a great place to view the bigger beasts lounging nearby.

Lints Tor.

One of our aims, and a main reason for choosing this elevated spot over a valley campsite, was to photograph the sun rising beyond our tent next morning. Thick cloud and mist put paid to any of those plans, but didn’t interfere with an equally spectacular moonrise. As the heat of this fine April day vanished, to be replaced by a surprisingly chill northerly breeze, this satellite, almost full, soared into the air over the tor to join Mercury, Mars and an impressively bright Jupiter.

All ablaze.

 

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