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  • Writer's pictureJodie Newton

Boys on Dartmoor, Sandy Hole Pass Backpacking Expedition

Written by Owen aged 9

Camped at Sandy Hole, East Dart, Dartmoor

I was so excited when dad told me we were going to camp on Dartmoor.

I have wanted to go backpacking for a while and I’m big enough now, to be able to carry my own bedding, water and coat.

My bag ws pretty heavy

Mum says that there are specific laws about wild camping and you should check the National Park website before you go. You can not camp in a vehicle! You can not take a family sized tent and camp in large groups.

You have to stay in specific areas marked on the wild camping map. You’re not allowed to light fires, including BBQ’s.

You have to be a certain distance from the road.

We Parked at Postbridge car park SX 646 788 and used the footpath to the left hand side of the visitor centre and toilets.

It was really hot so we stopped every now and then at the plank bridges to dip our sun hats in the water.

We kept following the track until we got to Braddon Lake SX 636 797 and a gate.

Here we had a short steep climb up to a stone wall which we kept on our right heading North West.

Cow cooling off

At the top of the hill were lots of shouty sheep and some cows, one of which was stood in a small pond trying to keep cool.

This footpath lead us straight to the East Dart waterfalls which are very pretty, I’ve have swam in them on another walk I did with mum and dad. They’re beautiful and deep in places, lovely for a day trip.

From there we followed the river North West for about five minutes to Sandy Hole SX 623 812. It's on a bend in the river, you can’t miss it. We decided to camp on a nice flat patch of grass near by.

Dad and I put up our tent, it’s a 3 man Vango Nova Geo 300, fairly light weight for dad to carry and easy to assemble.

Setting up the Tent

It was lovely and cosy with my roll mat and Therma rest.

After setting up the tent we got into our swim wear and walked up to the North end of Sandy Hole Pass.

Walking down the East Dart

Here we got in the river and walked down it’s length finding various places to play and swim. The rocks at the bottom were slippy and I was glad I had my water shoes on. When we got to the “Sandy Hole” swim spot we found it to be a bit deep and the sides sheer and slippy for climbing out. I was out of my depth so dad said it was safer if we swam in the spot nearer out tent. On the way we found a small waterfall which was like sitting in a natural hot tub. As I sat there cooling off in the bubbly water a large military helicopter flew low over our heads, it was brilliant and very loud.

Sitting in a natural jacuizzi in the river

Near our tent was a ten meter stretch in a bend of the river that was deep enough to jump into from the bank. We played here for a while jumping in and swimming under the water which had been naturally warmed by the sun and kept its heat thanks to the peat which surrounds it, before getting out to make dinner.

Sandy Hole Cleave

We have a Coleman multi fuel stove and used this to heat some water to cook our noodles and hot dogs. We also had some sticky toffee puddings for desert which fit in the titanium cooking pot perfectly. It was delicious and after dinner I did the washing up in the river.

After eating we decided to explore and went for another little walk to find letterboxes and an old tinners hut.

Medieval Tinners Hut

We watched the sun set from the top of the hill before heading back to the tent to play UNO, read and got into to bed.

The next morning we made porridge and had another swim, but the water was much cooler and we didn’t stay in long before deciding to strike camp and start heading home.

When we packed up we made sure we left our little camping spot as we found it, picking up all our litter and taking it with us.

How a campsite should look when you've packed up to leave. No litter and no scorch marks!

Dad asked if I’d like to walk back to the car in a different route to the way we’d come in and I said yes please. I like to see lots of different places on the Moors.

We walked on the opposite side of the river following it back down to the East Dart waterfall. We followed a dry Leat round the spur of the hill dropping down to cross Winney Down Brook SX 633 821 and followed the path NE through a gate in the wall to a bend in the river and a stream SX 638 813 travelling up stream to see Beehive Hut.

Beehive huts date back to the medieval period as this was the busiest time for tin streaming on the moor. They weren’t for housing bees but probably used as small shelters.

When we got there, a herd of Dartmoor ponies were grazing nearby and a foal was stood in the remains of the hut. I didn’t touch them or go near them as they can bite and kick so I left them alone and dad took some photos.

The Beehive Hut Shelter and the Ponies

The Bridleway that is marked on our map is no longer in use and the path from here is now further up the hill so be careful if you decide to come this way. The new course of bridleway is on the top of the ridge and runs directly South from SX 641 811 ish to Hartland Tor. We followed the track as it sloped down steeply to a gate in the trees and back to the road. We crossed a bridge and headed for the car.

I had an absolutely brilliant adventure with my dad.

love Owen.

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