Length: Choice of a 5-mile walk or a 10-mile walk
Start point: Parking area at ‘Okehampton Moor’ (SX596 922) where the military ring road splits.
Basic route: (Blue route: 10-mile route) Over Row Tor (SX 593 916) and West Mill Tor (SX 587 909) up to Yes Tor (SX 580 902) and on to High Willhays (SX 580 894) before dropping to Dinger Tor (SX 586 881) and onto Cranmere Pool (SX 602 858). Return via Ted Hughes memorial (SX 609 864) in the Taw valley and the east side of the military ring road. (Red route: 5-mile deviation) By turning off early at Dinger Tor and returning along the military track northwards back to the car park taking in the Target Railway (SX 593 910) remains on the way.
Some rough tracks as well as open moorland to cross. In poor visibility, especially on the Cranmere Pool section of this walk, a map and compass is essential. There are also a number of streams and bogs to cross on the 10-mile route. It is important to note that this walk enters the Okehampton Military Firing Range – it is essential to check the firing times and not to undertake this walk when live firing is taking place on the Okehampton Firing Range. Equally the 10-mile route crosses some of the most difficult terrain that Dartmoor has to offer. The ground is invariably very wet at most times of the year so expect wet feet!
Map: Dartmoor OS OL 28 North Sheet
This Walk has been kindly provided by Moorland Guides
Leave your car at the parking area (SX 596 922) where there are the barriers, which drop down to block to tracks when firing, is taking place. This is where the military ring road splits. From here walk south west to the nearby Row Tor (SX 593 916) and then onto West Mill (SX 587 909) with its avenue of rocks on the summit of the tor. From here you have a good view down and up to the impressive Yes Tor (SX 580 902) high above you. From West Mill Tor up to Yes Tor it is barely a kilometre but it is rather a long slog with a rather small bog (SX 584 904) at the foot of the hill as you cross the small stream. It isn’t difficult to pick your way through it in wet conditions.
Once you arrive at the summit of Yes Tor a (SX 580 902) at over 2,000 feet above sea level the views make the effort worthwhile. On a clear day the whole of North Devon is laid out before you with glimpses of the sea near Bude on the North Cornwall coast. Yes Tor is the highest actual Tor on Dartmoor although High Willhays is marginally higher but not strictly speaking a Tor.
The track from Yes to High Willhays (SX 580 894) is an easy one to follow as it heads south; giving the false impression that High Willhays is lower in altitude. There are a number of outcrops at High Willhays but the one to take your triumphant photograph at is the outcrop with the cairn perched on top. From here you have a fine view of the higher tors of the North Moor with a 360° panorama and a spectacular vista over the West Okement valley below you to the west.
The route continues south and east as it bends slightly to the left going downhill over the heather covered slopes, following a track to Dinger Tor (SX 586 881), with its military vehicle turning area next to the tor itself.
It is here that the 10-mile and 5-mile routes part. If you wish to return to the cars along the 5-mile route at this point you simply head northwards along the military track, passing High Willhays and Yes Tor high above you. Once you reach West Mill Tor on your left look over to the right across the grass to the small building which houses the restored military target railway engine (SX 593 910). There is also the target railway line leading in a loop from the shed and back again – a relic of a bygone military age, painstakingly restored and preserved by enthusiasts.
The route then simply heads north towards Row Tor when you come across the military track again where you turn right and follow it back to your car at the barriers and junction of the military ring road.
For those continuing with the 10-mile route from Dinger Tor, you head south east to cross the stream at the ruins of a substantial tinner’s hut (SX 590 877). The ground here can be a bit wet but not difficult to cross.
Continue up the rising ground ahead of you to the southeast and drop to cross the stream of Vergyland Combe at SX 595 869. If you follow the stream downhill to where there is another stream joining it from the left (SX 595 867) an east way to locate the often elusive Cranmere Pool (SX 602 858) is to simply follow the stream, sticking on the left bank, all the way up to the large depression where Cranmere Pool b letter box is located. There is a well trodden path in the grass to follow as you go higher up the stream, especially as you pass the access points to the stream from Okerton Court over to your left from where people often approach Cranmere Pool.
The letterbox at the pool has been here in various forms since a Dartmoor guide who brought ramblers to this remote place established it over a century ago.
After a well-earned rest at the letterbox your route now takes you easterly towards Hangingstone Hill (SX 617 861). You can see the hill in clear weather with its distinctive square hut on the summit. Walk over the peat hags towards the Hangingstone direction, crossing some really wet and boggy ground as you approach the headwaters of the Rivers Taw and East Dart.
As the ground starts to drop away from you left and right into the river valleys you are at a point, which many feel, is the centre of Devon. 100 metres to your left is the River Taw, which eventually flows out through Barnstaple on the North Devon coast, whereas on your right you are looking down the River (East) Dart, which eventually flows out to the sea at Dartmouth on the south coast.
Turn to the north and leftwards and follow the taw valley with the young stream on your right. The valley soon opens out and evidence of significant tinworks and ‘streaming’ exist. Ahead of you and down in the river valley at SX 609 864 is a solitary and very large tinner’s mound the size of a house. On the summit of this mount is a large granite slab carves with the name of Ted Hughes, a former Poet Laureate and acquaintance of the Prince of Wales who granted permission for this monument. c
From here continue northwards along a path, which frequent visitors to the monument, are unwittingly establishing, and which leads you across the moor to join the military vehicle track. Turn left along the track and follow it to OP15 d, (SX 602 877) one of the military observations posts situated on the junction when you reach the military ring road. You might find a few vehicles parked next to the building, left by motorists who are prepared to brave the rugged state of the ring road! The building affords splendid shelter in bad weather and is maintained by the military especially for that purpose as a useful shelter in such a remote spot. The return journey back to your car will be along the ring road, in itself an easy route to follow but also affording some lovely views of the north moor while being able to maintain a reasonable pace. Whether you turn to the right and return to your car via the east route or turn left to follow the westerly route is entirely up to you. The distance is the same and takes just a bit over an hour at a brisk stroll. If you wish to take a look at the Target Railway at SX 593 910 e then choose the left, westerly, route and you can make a small detour across the grass to view the complex before reaching your car.