Great Knoutberry and Blea Moor


Another walk from Dent to Ribblehead, this time on the eastern side of the train line.


Following the road up from Dent station I joined the Pennine Bridleway as it follows the contours of Great Knoutberry.  Leaving the track I followed a fence up towards the trig point, from which all three peaks can be seen – visibility was good if a little hazy.  Curlew were disturbed on the way up, although I don’t think it was only me as there was a large bird hovering above.  As well as the trig point at the top there is a also a nice wind shelter; a section of wall with stones protruding as benches on either side.

Great Knoutberry Hill trig point The Three Peaks from Great Knoutberry Hill

Navigation was so easy as to verge on boring but I still almost followed the wrong fence down from the summit.  The correct fence is also the Cumbria/Yorkshire border.  Eventually I met the track at Aysgarth Moss which was a cross roads of bridleways; the west-east track being an old drovers road between dales.  I took the north-south route around Wold Fell which is a restricted byway, although given the more stringent restrictions on the surrounding routes I’m not sure how you could make the most of it.  This is a fine track and I would like to revisit it on a mountain bike.  There were lots of wheatears which were curious but seemed to find rabbits’ burrows a useful shelter when I got too close.

Bridleway Bridleway

The track meets a road for a few hundred metres before continuing around Blea Moor.  I stopped for lunch at the first gate and was visited by a curious weasel – it looked at me as if I was sitting in its way.  After a couple of laps of what is presumably a well-trodden route, followed by discrete surveillance from a patch of reeds the weasel disappeared.  Very quick and difficult to photograph but a lovely moment.


Although following bridleways was easy it had become a little dull so I decided to change my plan and head up to the summit of Blea Moor.  This involved more fence-following and lots of bog-dodging.  A vehicle had been driven over here recently – probably to repair the fence judging by the old rusted sections and new posts and wire – which made tracks to follow.  At the most difficult section I thought I was going to have to use the fence as a bridge but instead found a reasonably clear crossing.  I saw a couple of traps and wondered if they were for the weasel…perhaps it had been threatening the grouse population.  I only saw a couple of grouse, maybe after the 12th most of them have gone.

Trap found on hillside Trig point on Blea Moor

A fence junction was near the trig point of Blea Moor – there are air shafts near but out of sight, over the railway tunnel.  The best way down seemed to be to follow yet another fence – one now fully in Yorkshire.  A bit of bog-dodging was required, and eventually I met the path which follows the railway.  This was the first time I had seen other walkers since I left Dent station.

Trig point on Blea Moor Towards Pen-y-ghent from Blea Moor Ribblehead viaduct

I saw the 3.42 pm train come and go, so was happy that I had a couple of hours before the next one to spend in the Station Inn.  A better back garden is hard to imagine.

Ribblehead viaduct from the pub map of route

9.7 miles, 1,657 ft climbed
Great Knoutberry Hill, 672 m; Marilyn, Hump, Hewitt, Nuttall,
Bleh Moor, 535 m; Hump, Dewey



My late night arrival was rather mysterious.  Ennerdale youth hostel is up a one-way forest track, so this looked right.

Track approaching Ennerdale YHA

Saturday morning and the weather was as forecast.  But still better visibility than in the dark.  It’s a lovely hostel; small, out of the way…although we did have some early morning callers after tea bags…

Ennerdale YHA Pillar from Ennerdale YHA


We walked along the track towards Black Sail YHA; great spot, I remember camping near here twenty years ago on a Duke of Ed expedition.  Almost a bothy.  Then it was up Scarth Gap Pass and on to Hay Stacks.

Pillar from Ennerdale Fly Agaric Black Sail Hut Tea break heading up to Scarth Gap Pass Heading up to Scarth Gap Pass Tea break heading up to Scarth Gap Pass Scarth Gap Pass


Fast moving clouds meant that the rain and the views came and went (the rain mostly the former, the views the latter).  It was windy and wet on top, so we had a very quick lunch before heading back down via a couple of tarns, one of them Wainwright’s ‘Innominate’.

Hay Stacks Outdoor Lads on Hay Stacks Buttermere from Hay stacks Heading towards the Innominate Tarn on Hay Stacks Innominate Tarn on Hay Stacks

Strong winds drove the rain straight into our eyes, and new streams appeared on the hillsides as the water found its own way down.  The ground levelled out as we approached Black Sail.  We walked amongst the drumlins that had appeared as little lumps earlier, but now they were significant mounds and seemed rather mystical.

Eventually there was a very welcome drying room, tea, showers, dinner, and fireworks.  The wind and rain were worse on Sunday, so after cleaning the hostel we headed home.

Sparkler and wine Ennerdale YHA Haystacks beer



Route of walk to Hay Stacks, Ennerdale

9.5 miles, 1750 ft/533 m climbed

Hay Stacks; Dewey, Wainwright, 597 m/1959 ft

Dartmoor 2014

22-26/06/14 – First camping outing in the van.
An overnight trip with bivvy on North Dartmoor to High Willhays.

Tarp over van

I found a great car park in Belstone, plenty of space and no signs prohibiting overnight parking.   Left the van about 6 pm and squashed bivvy bag, sleeping bag and mat into my rucksack, along with a bit of food, water, a can of Hobgoblin and a hip flask, and headed out of the village on a bit of the Tarka Trail.  Followed tracks (farm, or MOD, or both) around East Okement Farm (which took me across ‘Irishman’s Wall’, could still see the remains of it) through New Bridge and up to Yes Tor.   Amaing views, the sun was lowish and sending rays through the clouds.   I could see as far as the north Devon coast.

View north from Yes Tor Trig point on Yes Tor Cairn on High Willhays

Went on to High Willhays, not as nice bivvy spots as at the Tor but I dislike back-tracking.  Later I spied some other people on the tor (how very dare they!) and I was quite happy alone.  The sun poked through the clouds a bit before it went down as a red disc.  I found a great sleeping spot which was sheltered under an over-hanging rock, but not needed this evening.  Settled down in a little less sheltered position in order to see the sun coming up.  It was almost cold; dry and still.  I had my thermarest inside the bivvy bag and it was a bit of a squeeze.  I woke a few times in the night, it was never particularly dark, I could see lots of stars in a blue/grey sky.  Woke a bit before 4 am to find a crescent moon and summoned the energy to take few pictures.  I finally got up with the sun respectably high in the sky, which felt like about 9 am but turned out to be about half six.


High Willhays; 621 m, Marilyn, Hewitt, County Top

Yes Tor; 619 m, Nuttall


Early morning on Yes Tor

Next morning I walked off-path to pick up a track near Dinger Tor, then followed it to Okement Hill and on to Hangingstone Hill; no gibbet, but a military hut at the top.  To the west is the source of the East Dart, the West Okement and Taw.  There is a letterbox marked on the map and I didn’t know what these were at the time, so I tried to find it to find out.  The area is marked as marsh, but it was very dry.  Even so, it became impossibly tussocky, with lots of soft mud.  Very glad of the walking poles.  In places there were 5 ft drops where the water had worn through the peat, definitely a place to watch your step.

I retreated back to the track and headed north.  Crossed the Taw next to the dead sheep your mother warned you about – I’d taken some water further up so was lucky on this occasion.  I followed the path to Oke Tor; a great spot, flat sheep-cropped grass at the top and some shelter from the stones.  I started to meet a few other people now.  Followed the Taw back to Belstone and the waiting van.

river Taw Oke Tor Oke Tor

Hangingstone Hill; 603 m, Dewey



van and tarp in princetown

Camped at the Plume of Feathers pub for a couple of nights.  There is a new visitors centre in an old hotel where Arthur Conan Doyle stayed when researching and writing The Hound of the Baskervilles.  They had a small exhibition including some letters that he had written at the time.  In this hot and sunny weather it was hard to imagine the mists that he talked of, but I know this isn’t typical.  Bought a copy with accompanying notes to read over the next few days, and as it turned out, to inspire some walking.

I visited the prison museum, a mind-boggling array of pieces and text in no particular order.  The personality of ‘the curator’ was closely felt.  They had an old bike that was claimed to have belonged to one Mr MacKie.

I set off for a walk at 4pm but it was still hot.  I saw one other person, a guy on a mountain bike going the other way.  There’s a bridleway straight out of the campsite to South Hessary Tor, which then takes a straight line to Nun’s Cross, and a nice if deserted-looking farmhouse.

nun's cross, dartmoor devon leat, dartmoor devon leat, dartmoor

Then over the Devonport Leat and across a bit of the Abbot’s Way before heading to Fox Tor, past another cross.  This is a great viewpoint and overlooks Foxton Mires, which became the Grimpen Mire for Holmes.  Downhill to Childe’s tomb (familiar from a Seth Lakeman song) and then a bit of compass use to aim for some Cists which were marked on the map but I had no idea what they were – I found some circular patches which must have been them.

fox tor, dartmoor childe's tomb, dartmoor

To get back I had to cross the Swincomb River, which flows into the West Dart.  I spotted an animal crossing and waded through in my boots – it was actually quite pleasant.  Again the poles were useful.  A bit of a slow tramp up a tussocky and featureless field to eventually come out onto a road back to Princetown, in time to watch the sun setting behind North Hessary Tor.  Returned to the campsite after 10 pm: they never close.

spider, dartmoor sunset, dartmoor princetown, dartmoor

South Hessary Tor; 454 m, Tump



Left Princetown and drove north east via Postbridge to Bennetts’s Cross.

Bridge at Postbridge, Devon Old bridge at Postbridge, Devon

Took a path south towards Soussons Down Wood, then around the edge of Challacombe Down.  An old village is marked on the map, visible was a wall including some massive stones, and ridges in the ground.  Later on I saw that these extended around the hill, and there is a field system marked, which looked like terraces.  Followed a road south for a mile to Blackaton Cross, then a bridleway uphill to meet the Two Moors Way.  This was a nice viewpoint, of other tors, craggy hilltops and crazily steep roads.

Wall at Challacombe Down, Dartmoor Bonehill Down, Dartmoor

Then I took the Two Moors Way north, over Hamel Down.  It connects a number of cairns and barrows, which are marked with a stone each with what looked like ‘DC 1853′.  From Hameldown Tor (529 m) it is downhill fairly steeply, during which the settlement of Grimspound comes into view, the inspiration for Holmes’ hideout on the moor.

grimspound01 Grimspound, Dartmoor View from Hookney Tor, Dartmoor Hookney Tor, Dartmoor

Up once more to Hookney Tor, then back to the van to head towards Buckfastleigh.



After being slightly lost I followed a campsite sign and ended up at Beara Farm, which was delightful.  The other campers seemed fairly resident, either in vans in varying states of repair or teepee-shaped canvas tents full of children.  The very friendly farmer called John pointed out the way to the River Dart if I fancied a swim, which I thought was mad but did in fact take a quick dip in lieu of a shower.  It looked calm but the current was respectable and it was of course freezing.

river dart van_buckfastleigh01

The following day the rain came, and I had a cycle around the place mainly because I had brought my bike and thought I ought to use it!  Got to Buckfast Abbey which was busy with coach trippers.  The Abbey Church was odd, being clean and new yet traditional ‘church’ in style…the money required to rebuild it must have been considerable.  The only place open in the town was The Seed cafe, which turned out to be staffed by a guy from the campsite who had cycled there in bare feet.  A very nice cafe/shop although the anti-vax stuff was a little scary.

The rain stopped by the evening, my last before heading home.  The Buckfastleigh to Totnes train line is on the other side of the river…a steam train is just puffing past.  Holmes and Watson could be on it, on their way to Baskerville Hall.