Dartmoor Forest Perambulation Part Three: Runnage to Princetown

Foiled by the weather, a month ago, in our attempt to walk the Dartmoor Perambulation in three straight days, we returned, minus Simon and Cat, who had to work. We left Halwill Junction Base Camp early, making the hour journey to Runnage, driving into Dartmoor on a magical morning. With sunshine and mist, the colours were more akin to an African plain!

Day 3: early morning across Cator Common
Early morning across Cator Common

We set off from Runnage Farm at 7:30 am. The first section of the days perambulation saw us divert from the Walla Brook, thanks to no access. So it was over Cator Common to the small hamlet of Sherwell, where we rejoined the river.

Day 3: clapper bridge across the Walla Brook
Walla Brook CLapper Bridge

Soon after we passed a clapper bridge, we reached Boundary Mark #19: Walla Brook Foot (WALLEBROKESFOTE), where the river flows into the East Dart. The walk to Dartmeet was the best part of the day, seeing the gorse bushes along the river bank shrouded in cobwebs for as far as the eye can see.

Day 3: cobwebs on gorse
Cobwebs on gorse

We had a quick toilet break at Boundary Mark #20: Dartmeet (DERTAM USQUE DERTAM). Although it was now 9:50 am, there were few people around, and nothing was open to grab a cup of tea, so we carried on.

Day 3: over the hill towards Huccaby
Over the hill towards Huccaby

Pulling out of the valley, we ascended towards Huccaby, following a bridlepath down to Week Ford. By now the sun had really got his hat on, and it was obvious to all it was going to be a tough day.

Day 3: Week Ford Stepping Stones
Week Ford Stepping Stones

Week Ford is where we had to cross the West Dart, as it meanders east to meet up with the East, at Dartmeet. They are fine stepping stones, and on a calm day like today, no issue in crossing.

Day 3: Week Ford Stepping Stones
Week Ford Stepping Stones

We now reached Boundary Mark #21: O’Brook Foot (OKEBROKYSFOTE). We followed this brook up to Saddle Bridge, crossed the road, and then over rough ground up to Boundary Mark #22: Dry Lake Foot (DRYEWORKESFOTE). By the time we had reached Dry Lake Foot, at 11:47 am, we were all knackered! I called lunch and we took a break under some trees by the river.

The climb up from Saddle Bridge to Ryder’s Hill had taken longer than expected and the heatwave was taking its toll. We followed the water course to its source at Boundary Mark #23: Drylake Head (DRYEWORKESHEDE).

Day 3: Ryder's Hill
Ryder’s Hill
Day 3: checking the map for next stop; Snowdon
Checking the map for the next stop; Snowdon

We eventually arrived at Boundary Mark #24: Ryder’s Hill (BATTYSHULL) at 12:38pm. Hot as it was, we had a little respite in the knowledge that the next leg was fairly flat to Snowdon and then downhill to the River Avon. On our way, we visited Boundary Mark #25: Western Wellabrook Head (WESTER WELLABROKESHEDE), and rather than traverse through the old workings around this stream, we returned to the path over Snowdon and Puper’s Hill.

Looking from Snowdon, it was hard not to look at the task ahead from the River Avon, a stiff climb up to Eastern White Barrow. But first, we crossed over Puper’s Hill, had a quick break, then turned left to pick up the Two Moors Way down to the Avon. We rejoined the previous stream at Boundary Mark #26: Western Wellabrook Foot (WESTER WELLABROKESHOTE) where it trickled into the Avon.

It would have saved time to cross the Avon here, across Bishop’s Meads, and head straight south up the hill to our next mark, but the river was wide and deep enough for a soaking. Instead, we went east along its bank, with the Two Moors Way, to a Clapper Bridge that kept our feet dry.

Day 3: River Avon Clapper Bridge
River Avon Clapper Bridge

Thankfully, the climb wasn’t as bad as it looked from afar. The usual long grass, and ankle turning traps, but the ascent was gradual. We reached Boundary Mark #27: Eastern White Barrow (ESTER WHYTEBURGHE) by 3:06 pm.

Day 3: Eastern White Barrow
Eastern White Barrow
Day 3: Lynn on White Barrows
Lynn on Eastern White Barrow

By now, we were feeling better, the worst of the heat had gone, and we turned west, over Eastern White Barrow, and down to Boundary Mark #28: Redlake Foot (REDELAKESFOTE)

What a difference eight weeks makes! When I last reached Redlake Foot, on my recce, I was knee deep in water and mud. Now it was a breeze to follow the bank where Red Lake meets the River Erme. We continued up the bank, through Erme Pits, to Boundary Mark #29: Erme Head Ford (GRYMSGROVE).

Day 3: Erme Pits
Erme Pits
Day 3: walking to the River Plym.
Walking down to the Plym

From here, we strayed a little too north, but we climbed higher and got a better view of where our next goal lay. We eventually dropped down again, crossing the River Plym near some old tin workings, and made our way up to Boundary Mark #30: Eylesbarrow (ELYSBURGHE).

Day 3: Eylesbarrow

With the end in sight, Lynn and Paul changed into their beer legs, and raced off down the hill, passed Boundary Mark #31: Siward’s Cross (CRUCEM SYWARDI) and our final Boundary Mark #32: South Hessary Tor (YSFOTHER), with a sideways glance.

Siward's Cross
Siward’s Cross
Day 3: Finished, near Princetown
Finished, at Princetown

They were soon at the Plume of Feathers pub, in Princetown. Jude and I traipsed in 10 minutes behind them, at 7:30pm. Another twelve hour day!

Published by Moorland Walker

Paul is a backpacker, tor bagger, Bibbulmun Track End to Ender and West Ham supporter. He moved down from London to live in Okehampton in 2016, after realising he was spending most of his weekends on Dartmoor and it just made sense to make it permanent!

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