Belstone Tor and 9 Maidens
Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?
Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.
Dust if you must, but the world’s out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.
Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.
On the Saturday before our walk I had a gig (I'm in a local band) and Richard had decided to come along to support us, so Sunday morning when we both woke bleary eyed and one of us slightly worse for wear, we weren't up to our usual standard of prepped and ready for Dartmoor. However the weather looked promising and the thought of staying at home made my heart sink, so we did a mad dash scramble to pack the bags, make the sandwiches and plan a route.
Luckily we already had a few in mind and so I chose the one with an opportunity for swimming of course.
Belstone village, 9 maidens stone circle, Belstone Tor, Higher Tor, Oke Tor, Steeperton Tor and then down into the basin for a swim in the river Taw.
Belstone village is beautiful, with some records suggesting a settlement here dating from around 11000bc and variations on the name occur in the early Domesday records including Belestana (1166).
It is a really great starting point for walks on the North Moor, with an ample car park and a pub for a congratulatory pint on your return.
We parked in the cark park EX10 1RB ( SX 621 938)
Our journey took us onto the Tarka Trail foot path through the village and past the South West Water facilities to Watchet Hill, cutting South to 9 Maidens stone circle which is sometimes known as Seven Brothers and is actually a Bronze Age cairn circle or kerbed cairn which comprises of sixteen (some say 17) stones.
There are slightly differing versions of the legend related to the dancing stones. However most versions of the story agree that the nine dancers be they male or female are cursed to dance every noon as punishment for dancing on the sabbath (of course the Bronze Age pre dates Christianity unless it was the Jewish sabbath perhaps 🤭)
From the Cairn circle we walked South up the hill to Belstone Tor.
Belstone Tor consists of several large rocky outcrops and provides stunning views of the surrounding hills and a glorious bird's-eye perspective of the Taw and basin like plateau through which it flows.
From there we continued onto Higher Tor and South to Oke Tor both of which provide perfect photo opportunities.
We continued on the track down Steeperton gorge to Kackmine Ford
This was where we decided to have our lunch which though remote, proved surprisingly busy with several fellow hikers passing by as we ate beside the pretty little stream.
The next part of our journey looked daunting. Steeperton Tor is impressive when viewed from the opposite valley. The climb to its summit is incredibly steep from the Northern end and we had decided we would climb up at the Ford.
It was a bit of a slog up the Tor but surprisingly less strenuous than I'd anticipated and the view from the summit was worth every slow, steady step.
Once we'd finished looking down across the basin from Steeperton Tor we chose to descend into the valley North and down to the river Taw.
The river meanders slowly through the valley creating perfect places to swim in the bends. There were various pools where the water was slow, deep and the river bed sandy. Ideal conditions for wild swimming enthusiasts and so remote and quiet that bathing suits were optional.
Once we'd dragged our youngest from our pool of choice we headed back to the well trod path that leads directly back to Belstone.
Our route was about 8 miles and fairly easy going. This was one of my favourite walks so far this year.