Dartmeet, Down Ridge and lots of stepping stones

This walk was my first one back in Devon after the Lake District holiday, the map below looks a bit scruffy and too be honest the walk is a bit of that. I didn’t start out on the best foot, forgetting to take my walking boots, however my Merrells did me just fine, showing how dry it has been in Devon for the previous 4 or 5 weeks. Alongside being rammed with things to see, there are about 25 in this walk, and if I’d made better time around the route I might have added on Sharp Tor at the end as well to add on more. There is also a bonus section at the start of this post, with a quick visit to the Dartmoor 365 square of Hembury Castle, I needed this one ticked off and figured I would stop off on my way out to see the castle for the first time. So along with the 2 Dartmoor 365 squares on the actual walk, I was down to around 13 squares left at the end of today. Now on arrival at Hembury Castle i wasn’t expecting too much and the information board talked of mounds, iron age forts from as far back as 500BC plus a Norman motte and bailey castle in the 1100s. However it also mentioned one of the few spots to see the High Brown Fritillary, one of our most rare butterflies, and as luck would have it I found one, a real treat to see a butterfly that only seems to have a foothold in Devon and North Lancashire/South Cumbria areas.

As for the main walk well I walked lots of these parts before with a fair bit that I haven’t. I had never crossed the stepping stones at Babeny before and walked the path to Brimpts Farm, nor I had I seen the Down Ridge Stone Circle, and I hadn’t seen either of the other two sets of stepping stones either. With all the sights on offer I seem to be dawdling on the walk, taking about 7 hours to get around for some reason, however the weather was warm so there was no need to rush. In fact there were plenty of people out on this day, with people at Dartmeet, Hexworthy Bridge and climbers on Luckey Tor at the end. A fine area to walk in which gives you lots of options to just do smaller loops of the walk I’ve done, as there are clearly 3 of those on the map below if you fancy a shorter walk.

Start – Bel Tor parking

Route – (Hembury Castle prior to driving to the starting point of the walk) Coffin StoneDartmeet BridgeBadgers HoltClan TorSpitchwick Common TorWalla Brook Clapper and Babeny Stepping stonesStone Park Tor – Brimpts Rocks – Brimpts Farm – Huccaby – Hexworthy Bridge – Hexworthy – Down Ridge Stone CircleDown RidgeSkir Ford CrossHooten Wheels – Holne Moor – Blowing Houses – Week Ford Stepping StonesDartmeet Stepping Stones – Dartmeet Bridge – River Dart – Little Vag Tor – Vag Hill TorLuckey Tor – Rowbrook – Bel Tor parking

Distance – 11 miles    Start time – 9.50am   Time taken – 7hrs  Highest Point – Down Ridge 429metres

Weather – Nice sunshine to start, then clouding over

© Crown copyright 2022 Ordnance Survey FL 2022 SF
Hembury Castle info board, the parking for this was reasonably close, just a pull off section of dirt from the road to the north of the castle. A 5 minute walk and I was here.
The mounded section which would have been the motte and bailey part of the Norman castle
The ditch around the outskirts of the castle
A treat to see a high brown fritillary at Hembury Castle
To the parking spot near to Yar Tor. That’s Sharp Tor over there, the plan was that would be my last tor before getting back to the car. First I’m heading down to Dartmeet
Passing by the Coffin Stone, where coffins would be rested on the uphill walk from Dartmeet to burial in Widecombe In the Moor
Dartmeet Bridge and a few people climbing on the clapper which is in front of it, river levels were low meaning the sets of stepping stones on this walk should be very passable
Badgers Holt outcrop as I follow the path behind the café of the same name
And the second part of the outcrop, the cottage is just in the trees back there
The East Dart river making its way towards Dartmeet Bridge and the point where it meets the West Dart. There was lots of gorse in flower here and it smelt fantastic
Clan Tor outcrops sit on the lower slopes of Yar Tor
Spitchwick Common Tor, always better to visit this one when the bracken is down
About 50 metres from Spitchwick Common Tor is the clapper bridge over the Walla Brook, you need to do an out and back to this clapper to get on the right side of the brook to cross Babeny Stepping Stones, however it give a chance to visit the tor as well so its no hardship
Once you reach Babeny Stepping Stones, turn right and head over the stile to see Stone Park Tor, which is within 100 metres of the stile
An Orange Tip butterfly near Stone Park Tor
Babeny Stepping Stones, an easy crossing today, on the opposite bank on your right hand side as you walk along the bank are Brimpts Rocks, think these are named by the Tors of Dartmoor team, not on my list though
I sat by the river for a coffee before carrying on to Brimpts farm, here is a lovely little information shed and display dedicated to Dartmoor tin mining. Its brilliant and despite running behind already I spent a good 10 or 15 minutes reading some of the info in there
Carrying on along the track I reached the road, the B3357, then turned left here to go down to Hexworthy
Firstly passing St Raphael’s Church, inside it explains that the place was used for worship and as a school, hence the quills in the inkwells on the pews.
St Raphael’s
Hexworthy Bridge, this is now the West Dart River passing under it
Jolly Lane Cottage is a D365 spot that I’ve been to before but not got a proper photo of, again when passing someone was cleaning the windows as I walked past, so either I’m unlucky with my timing or they are keen on sparkling glass here
The Forest Inn behind the Hexworthy memorial
Heading up on to Down Ridge now, again the gorse was thick and smelling superb here. I’m looking at Vag Hill in the centre of the picture with Yar Tor to the left. Sharp Tor is peeking up above Vag Hill
Down Ridge Stone Circle, only about 4 or 5 stones remain standing, others are flat, but the views are brilliant from here into the centre of Dartmoor
Crossing the top of Down Ridge, tussocky
Skir Ford Cross, Skir Hill is back right with Ryders Hill up to the left, between me and there is Hooten Wheels where I’m heading next
The O Brook runs away along the valley into the distance. The mine at Hooten Wheels is to my right and behind me. I’ll be walking along the hillside on the right in a moment when I’ve had a look around
What’s left of the mine buildings here, you can see the rounded crane holders down there, nature taking back lots of this area now.
After walking from Hooten Wheels towards Combestone Tor, I crossed straight over the road and followed this path below Combestone Tor. The Dart Valley is straight ahead and more stepping stones to cross
Looking at the rocks on the hillside ahead, there seems to a gathering of outcrops which could be considered an outcrop, but no one lists this batch. More here than at Clan Tor before I’d say. Still I’m on a path heading into those trees down there which is where the West Dart is
First is the blowing houses, named Beara House and the Mill in the Dartmoor 365 book, not too much left here to be honest, and it was a bit away from the Week Ford Stepping Stones
Week Ford Stepping Stones, the blowing houses are near those tall trees top middle of the picture
After climbing along a path away from Week Ford I passed near to St Rachael’s church again before turning across fields towards Dartmeet Bridge, passing through a field of cows with calves, quietly I might add, I first reached Dartmeet Stepping Stones
And a short distance away Dartmeet Bridge again, I didn’t linger here instead heading downstream alongside the River Dart as the two separate parts had now merged
Little Vag Tor is beside the path, not on my list, there’s more of it uphill from this part, I headed that way anyway to get to Vag Hill Tor itself, which is on my list
A silhouetted Combestone Tor across the Dart Valley
Vag Hill Tor
I headed back steeply downhill through the trees to reach the path beside the River Dart, plenty of spots to stop here and have a brew
Luckey Tor, you only realise the size of this one when you have people in shot to give it perspective. A group of climbers starting out at the base
Climbing away above Luckey Tor, I got views across to Mel Tor and along the Dart Valley
More gorse and the perfumed smell, Rowbrook farmhouse is below, or Jan Coo’s house in the D365
And finally back to the start, lots of stops and breaks for juice and tea had meant I was behind time at the end so I skipped out Sharp Tor. Still its an easy one to include in other walks. It was good to be back on Dartmoor and I was pleased with how dry it was underfoot so that should mean the centre of Dartmoor will be good for walking over the next few months as well.

8 thoughts on “Dartmeet, Down Ridge and lots of stepping stones

  1. Those outcrops above/opposite Week Ford are on our to-do list and are awaiting verification. I’ve provisionally called them ‘Week Ford Rocks’. Just after I visited the ground was swaled.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s a fair bit there, some of the bigger boulders are clustered together. It reminded me of Clan Tor nearby tbh Max, but with a bit more to it. And yes with the swaling it has made it easier to see

      Like

  2. It may look “scruffy” on the map but that looks like a great walk, as you say, packed with interesting stuff. Not quite sure why, childlike fascination I guess, but love stepping stones and clapper bridges.

    Like

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