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Old School Gardener

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Day five on our Tor Challenge involved heading out towards Princetown once more. Our start point was a small car park near to one of the tors we would be visiting and which is also home to a tall TV mast- north Hessary. A little cloudier than previous days but still dry and warm, so it looked like it was going to be a pleasant afternoon walk. and what’s more, we were aiming to cover 6 tors, which would bring us within reach of a total of 20 for the week.

As we set off we noticed an elderly couple just heading off in the same direction as us – towards Hollow Tor, and from here to the fairly indistinct Rundlestone Tor.

Hollow Tor

Hollow Tor

From there it was short walk long a road to the TV station and tor at north Hessary, the mast of which you can see for miles around, but which despite many years visiting the area I had never got close to. The mast is an impressive, albeit man- made intrusion in the landscape. The tor itself is rather tangled with the mast and surrounding walls and fencing, but is nevertheless and distinctive shape. I also found a small plastic box containing a stamp and notebook (see picture at the head of this article), an effort by a couple of local youngsters to place a ‘post box’ for visitors to leave a message and read those put by earlier visitors. It was a modern-day example of the Dartmoor Post Boxes, I suppose an earlier form of ‘Geocaching':

‘A small pot (the letterbox) containing a stamp and visitors’ book is hidden on the moor, and a clue is written to lead others to its position. Clues may be as simple as a map reference and list of compass bearings, or may be more cryptic.

When a letterbox is found, the letterboxer takes a copy of the stamp, as well as leaving their own personal print in the visitors’ book.

Letterboxing began on Dartmoor but is now popular in areas all over the world.’ (source: Dartmoor letterboxing.org)

Travellers from Muenster, Germany logged into the 'post box' on north Hessary

Travellers from Muenster, Germany logged into the ‘post box’ on north Hessary

Taking a bearing to our next tor, ‘Foggintor’, we set off, but a little wary, because we had a walk guide which suggested that Foggintor was in fact an old quarry and one which you come across suddenly – beware 100 foot drops! We trudged down and then up bracken-strewn valley sides, heading for a group of rocks on the horizon which the bearing suggested was our target. We reached the edge of what looked like an old quarry but somehow the map and what we saw weren’t the same; where were we?

We pressed on thinking the rocks in front were what we were looking for and then looked back – in the distance and to the left of the route we’d taken, was an obvious old quarry with some apparently deep sides. We’d obviously not been accurate in our bearings and missed the quarry (I was sort of relieved, given the look of it). This is a ‘tor no more’, as the quarrying seems to have removed all evidence of the sort of rocks or peak that we’d come to expect.

Foggintor- quarrying has removed the tor?

Foggintor- quarry has removed what was there?

 So, we were actually standing next to our fourth tor target of the walk, Swelltor, also an old quarry, but with a more discernible peak and tor like appearance.

Swelltor- more quarrying

Swelltor- more quarrying

 From here it was a simple, fairly level walk across moor to our final target of the day, King’s Tor, which had some remarkable rock piles- see the pictures below.

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The views from King’s Tor were also good, though a mist lay over the horizon so we couldn’t see as far as had been possible earlier in the week. We looked across the valley to Yellowmeade Farm, which gave us our target for the return walk to the car. This looked to be straight, fairly short walk, but the map and walk guide advised that it would be marshy ground, so wer were prepared for wet feet! But apart from a few soggy areas, the lack of any heavy rain for a week seemed to dry out the peaty conditions underfoot, so it was more a case of hopping form grassy clump to grassy clump than wading through water!

So that was it, we got back to the car only to arrive at the exact moment the elderly coupe we’d seen early did too! They were over for the weekend from Somerset and were looking for letterboxes and had apparently found quite a few.

The day had brought 6 more tors (well nearly if you count our skirting of the tor no more) and we looked forwards to our last day, when we would climb an old favourite and bring our tally up to 20 tors.

Old School Gardener

tropical backdrop

Old School Gardener

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Day Four involved a figure of eight walk with a starting pont at the cross over of the 8. This was still a relatively short walk and would enable us to visit four tors; Leather Tor, Sharpitor, Leeden Tor and Ingra Tor. Our start point was a car park between Yelverton and Princetown, so once more we returned to southern Dartmoor.

 

Sharpitor

Sharpitor

We were again blessed with bright sunshine. From our start it was a bit of a puff walk up the northern slope of Sharpitor, a tor with lots of broken boulders and some interesting features.

Leather Tor

Leather Tor

From here it was a short walk across to the more impressive ‘peak’ of Leather Tor, which looked rather more like a mountain climb than was eventually required, but it was nonetheless great to clamber over rocks and stretch the tendons! After a short walk back to the car around the edge of Peek Hill, we paused for refreshments. Off again, this time we headed to the north and Leeden Tor, though our reliance on map reading and not the bearings we had planned proved to take us off the most direct route.

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Having rechecked our bearings and double checked our map we set off for Ingra Tor, a very interesting, longish rock formation with some interesting shapes and wonderful views to the southern moor and small farms. I think this was one of my favourite tors and I took a souvenir piece of granite from it for a paperweight.

Ingra Tor - one of my favourites

Ingra Tor – one of my favourites

Four more tors completed, taking our tally to 13 for the four days. The weather was holding and it looked like we would easily exceed our challenge of climbing 10. Day five brought some interesting new angles on the tors, including one that no longer exists!

Old School Gardener

telephone box greenhouse mull

What a lovely idea for using a redundant ‘phone box- greenhouse on the Isle of Mull, Scotland.

Old School Gardener

WP_20140903_018This was the big one. Day three of our Tor Challenge was billed as an all dayer, packed lunch required. Travelling to the northern edge of Dartmoor at Meldon, near Okehampton, we headed for the reservoir, a beautiful site in itself and the starting point for our day’s walk.

 

It was a long trudge around Longstone Hill and then across valleys and into the (today quiet) firing range, towards Black Down. From  here we followed increasingly rugged and harder-to- see paths to the foot of West Mill Tor. A short, steep ascent was rewarded with a tremendous view on another beautifully sunny day. From  here we could see our ultimate objectives- High Willhays (the highest  point in Devon and southern England) and Yes Tor, slightly lower. It was also from here that we made our first spotting of…….a nude walker! At least that’s what it looked like as a well-tanned male torso was seen stepping out boldly towards the slopes of Yes Tor. Having got over the ‘shock’ of this sight we made our way down to a wide, well trodden path that would take us up to the ridge between the two tors we were left with.

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This was steady walking, remembering to pick up a stone or two en route to add to the cairn atop High Willhays. It was here that we saw our nude friend once more, striding out but also rather aimlessly- was he looking for someone to show off to? (we didn’t get close enough to see if he had reason to show off…). Or was he following us? He seemed to be close to our route across to Yes Tor and even waved at me and said ‘Hi’ just after I snapped a picture to prove our point….

Back to Nature- 1

Back to Nature- 1

Back to Nature- 2....

Back to Nature- 2….

After a packed lunch atop Yes Tor, admiring the distant views and chatting to fellow walkers, we saw some low clouds forming to the south and so decided to pick our way back to Black Down the quick route down the slopes, but also a rather wetter one through boggy ground. So, that’s nine Tors done, how many more could we add?

Would Day Four live up to this latest experience?

Old School Gardener

Purple and Yellow tunnel sociedad argentina de horticultura

via Sociedad Argentina de Horticultura

Old School Gardener

The view in the morning - looking towards Tavistock from the car park near Merrivale

The view in the morning – looking towards Tavistock from the car park near Merrivale

Having seen off the rain and mist on the first day of our ‘Tor Challenge’, we started day two with bright sunshine- you could see across the moor for miles. Today’s plan was to do two walks with a break for lunch at a well-known pub (the ‘Dartmoor Inn’ at Merrivale). The morning began with a couple of hours walk close to where we were on day one, but the contrast in weather couldn’t have been starker.

Having parked up at the pub we set off following the road back towards Tavistock and then headed inland (having taken a bearing first) ascending and crossing the rounded crest of Barn hill to the first of the targets, Feather Tor, an unassuming tor from it’s approach, but with some interesting rock formations (and a rare Dartmoor tree!).

From here it was a short, but steep walk up to a much more expansive tor, Heckwood. It affords a view that is truly breathtaking and I think this, on reflection, was one of my favourite tors on our challenge. The walk back to the pub involved finding a stream and following this past Vixen tor (which is a striking formation, but unfortunately not accessible to the public), and involved some boggy ground, but nothing too uncomfortable despite the previous day’s rain.

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Lunch was a perfect combination of  ‘Pannini and Pint’, after which we drove to our afternoon walk- north of Tavisotck, near Lydford this time and involving one tor I’d walked a good few years back, Brat Tor with the famous stone Widgery Cross at its summit. This was quite a climb, but again, a combination of walking poles, good boots and light clothing made it only partly puffing!

The cross was erected to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887. It measures 12 feet 8 inches (3.86 metres) tall and 4 feet 4 inches (1.32 metres) across the arms. The shaft is 2 feet 1 inch (0.64 metres) square and is made of 10 layers of roughly cut granite blocks, topped off with a pointed rock. The blocks are of differing sizes, which interlock with each other to make the structure more secure. It was erected at the expense of William Widgery, the well-known local artist, and bears the inscription: ‘W. Widgery, Fecit, Jubilee, V.R.’

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From here we walked across a valley to Arms Tor (not sure if it’s called that because it has two distinctive blocks that look like arms?), which stands about 6 metres higher than Brat Tor at 457 metres.

From here, in the warm afternoon sunshine, we made our way back to the bridge and stepping stones over the River Lyd where I recorded a short video to capture the magical sound of the rippling water…..

The end of a marvellous second day and meanign we had already completed 6 tors in our Tor Challenge! Day three was to prove a bit of an eye opener in several ways…..

Old School Gardener

food sharing cupboard holland free

A great idea for dealing with food gluts- a free food sharing cupboard! This Dutch example reminds me of the growth in mini, free libraries in redundant phone boxes around the UK, and in some ways, sadly, Food Banks. Maybe this is another use for an old Telphone box in your area, or perhaps you can put up a ‘cupboard’? I could certainly have stocked one with cucumbers and courgettes this summer!

Old School Gardener

Originally posted on One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?:

ID-10038665Last week was World Water Week, an annual gathering, starting in 1991, to focus on the globe’s water issues. This year’s event, hosted and organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), had the theme water and energy. One of the main outcomes of the events was a plea to the energy and agricultural industry to reduce waste and improve water use efficiencies ahead of UN climate talks taking place in Lima, Peru in December and in Paris next year. In particular World Water Week focused on the critical role of water in climate change, in human health and in energy and food production – the majority of the world’s freshwater withdrawals going to power and food production, and manufacturing in Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China and South Africa. The agricultural sector will be key, therefore, in addressing future water resource scarcities.

A commonly cited statistic is that we…

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