Dartmoor: Belstone to Okement Hill

Awoke early but in no mood to stir from my tent. As suspected yesterday, I had definitely made an error of judgement in thinking that summer had arrived and the one season sleeping bag would suffice, and it made for an uncomfortable night. Outside, the clag had descended on Princetown, but rather than bemoan the lack of a view, I took it positively, and saw it as an opportunity to practice some navigation.

After breakfast in the Fox Tor Cafe, I packed up the tent and headed for the north moor. Part of the remit today was to scout for some suitable wild camping spots for a weekend in June with Marcus and a couple of his mates. As it turned out, nothing jumped out at me, maybe I was being too fussy searching for that idyllic sheltered flat grassy area nestled by a babbling brook and perched high at the base of a towering granite tor whilst facing an eastern sunrise!

Steeperton and Oke from Higher Tor
Steeperton and Oke from Higher Tor

Belstone is a secure place to park for a lengthy stay. Five minutes through the pretty village and you have reached a gate to the open moor. Almost immediately, you are climbing to the ridge of Belstone Common and Belstone Tor, with it’s stunning vistas of both the Taw and East Okement Valleys either side. Well, on a clear day, that would certainly be the case; today, visibility was low and rain hampered my progress.

I stopped at Oke Tor for a brew. the ground would have been suitable for a tent had it not been for the sheep and cow shit everywhere. Obviously this was a favourite shelter for the livestock.

A brew at Oke Tor
A brew at Oke Tor

Crossing Steeperton Brook, ascended south on an obvious track that headed for Hangingstone Hill. Before then, I turned right descending to a ford where I recrossed the brook to climb up Okement Hill.

The last time I was on Okement Hill, I was curious about the sealed track, and wondered if it was tarmac all the way. It would be an ideal place to get to if you were short on time but wanted to get out into the most remote areas of the moor. I decided to follow it back through the valley to East Okement Farm. Despite some serious pot holes, the military road appeared navigable for a standard car, up until it forded the river. Then it would have needed something a little larger. Still, I’ve seen minibuses up on Okement Hill so it is possible to get there, but I’ll not risk it with the Ford Fiesta!

From the farm, I crossed the river and took the track passed the ford at Cullever Steps, an uncomplicated route all the way into Belstone and a change of clothes.

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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