A weakness for bleakness August 2013

"There are some good things to be said about walking. Not many, but some. Walking takes longer, for example, than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed. I have a friend who's always in a hurry; he never gets anywhere. Walking makes the world much bigger and thus more interesting. You have time to observe the details. The utopian technologists foresee a future for us in which distance is annihilated. … To be everywhere at once is to be nowhere forever, if you ask me." - Edward Abbey

We went West, to Tavistock, and the looming mass of Dartmoor. A place steeped in mystery, legend and the British Army's training grounds. The Hound of the Baskervilles & live firing ranges. Our quixotic quest to trek the high points on the moor began at sunrise with bleary eyes and heavy heads evidence of over-enthusiasm for the local brewery. It would be a long day...

A warm welcome in Belstone.



Gateway to the Northern Moor

The Tors are the curiously weathered outcrops that top much of the high ground. Both the glory of the moor and the key to its geology: the visible signs of the vast granite batholith that underpins the whole ecosystem of grassland and boggy fen.

With dark clouds gathering we crossed into the live firing area.

The landscape gradually changed. Cotton-grass heralded the beginning of the blanket bog the moor is infamous for, whilst in the distance High Willhays, 'The Roof of Devon', loomed like a breaching whale.

The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way Where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say. - J.R.R.Tolkein

Hangingstone Hill (603m)

Dotted around the moor are a number of 'Peat Paths' providing firmer passage through the mire. Pillars commemorate the labours of those who made them.

The Peat Path

Ahead lay an endless sea of grass



Queen of the Moor

Fur Tor: Queen of the Moor and our furthest point. Right at the centre of The northern moor and some ten miles from the car with the boggy watershed of Cranmere Pool between us and terra firma it was a bad time for the cloud to drop and the rain to fall. As such it was pretty much inevitable...

After an eternity of ploughing through bog in pouring rain with no visibility the sun burst through, illuminating our final objective: the ridge connecting High Willhays & Yes Tor. It was a spell-binding moment of beauty and relief.

The Roof of Devon

High Willhays (621m)


Yes Tor (619m)

Two happy men

With the light fading we wearily turned for home, pausing briefly to bask in the glorious sunset bathing the West in golden light. It was a special end to the day. Even in the bleakest of places there is beauty to be found and the satisfaction of a hard job well done.


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  • photistry

    Great story. I love the subtitle: weakness for bleakness. The images, along with your excellent commentary, really made me feel like I was along for the hike. Which, by the way, I'm curious as to how long it took you?

  • clive_norton

    Hi @photistry it really was bleak but beautiful. A hard, long day but utterly worth the effort - took us about 10 hours altogether if memory serves, although time always feels a little elastic when you're adrift on a sea of grass!

  • photistry

    @clive_norton...elasticity of time, awesome.


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