We had come down to Devon for the Easter weekend and for me that meant the opportunity to do some walking on Dartmoor and tick off a mountain for March. I knew I would not have time to take in any walks more than a few hours long, so I bought the Dartmoor edition of the Crimson Short Walks and went from that – it turned out to be an excellent guide.
It took me about 35 minutes to drive from our bed and breakfast in Teignmouth to the Dartmoor National Park car park on the B3387 opposite Haytor Rocks. It could not have been more convenient and while it is a free car park, the suggested donation of £1 per car seems more than reasonable to me. It had turned into a bitterly cold afternoon, even without taking into account the icy wind which was blowing ferociously across the moor, so I was wearing my Mountain Equipment Fitzroy jacket on top of my Rab fleece and base layer, my North Face gloves with the fingers which still allow me to use a smart phone, and my Mountain Equipment beenie hat. I also had my map, compass, snacks and water, and a Gortex bivi bag. I was ready for whatever Dartmoor wanted to throw at me.
Off to my left as I looked ahead from the car park were Haytor Rocks, rising at 457m above Haytor Down. My route was not actually going to take me to them, but I decided I would add them on to the end of my hike. Instead I started off between two granite boulders and followed a broad, grassy path which ran slightly uphill and headed towards spoil heaps. The ground was mostly dry and firm. I reached a flat area at the base of the highest heap, could see traces of a granite tramway on the level ground ahead right, and went to the left along a bank to the left of a gully, through a small wooden gate in a wire fence, and then along the narrow path to the disused Haytor Quarry which contains two hidden ponds.
It really is a lovely and fascinating location, and I spent some time looking for bolts and rings in the rocks. Some history is useful here because it relates to the rest of my hike – quarrying began in 1820 under the ownership of George Templar, when granite from Haytor was the cheapest on Dartmoor. It was used in work at the British Museum and for the arches of London Bridge. The granite was transported from the quarry to the head of the Stover Canal by way of a tramway, itself made from granite to form flanged rails, and the continuation of my trek took me out of the quarry and across the moor to meet that tramway at right angles.
I turned right to follow the tramway across the open moor and had some brilliant views of Creator Rocks and Hound Tor,
which I would be encountering up close the next day. The tramway curved right to reach a junction, marked by a stone commemorating Templar, and I followed the branchline back to the spoil heaps. I did not head back to the car park, and wandered off to my right towards Haytor Rocks,
enjoying the solitude I had had for the whole of my hike. Now I had the Rocks to myself. The wind seemed to be blowing ever more fiercely as I began to scramble over them, gradually making my way to the top as I kept myself low to give the wind as little as possible to blow against.
It was well worth the climb, and in all it had taken me around an hour to explore this part of Haytor. You can see the rest of my photos from the afternoon here.