Meldon Reservoir, Yes Tor, High Willhays, Black-A-Tor Copse and a dip in the West Okement.
7 miles (ish)
Yesterday we decided we needed a Dartmoor fix. I'd seen a photo of Black-A-Tor Copse SX566 890 on Instagram and thought it'd be a lovely place to take my camera. The weather forecast gave only a 10% chance of rain so we diligently packed our wet weather gear, extra layers and some sandwiches and looked at the trusty OS map.
To our delight we discovered that it lies to the the West of Yes Tor and High Willhays beside the West Okement River, providing us with a delightful circular route encompassing the two highest peaks on the Moor (which many classify as mountains).
Yes Tor is 619 metres above sea level and High Willhays is 621 making them the highest summits South of the Peak District.
Parking at Meldon Reservoir SX561 918 (a pay and display carpark) we headed out of the carpark and turned left along the footpath towards the Dam.
Meldon Dam blocks the West Okement River, creating a large reservoir to its south west (upstream) side. The reservoir supplies water to north and west Devon, and is used for trout fishing.
The dam is a concrete gravity structure 50.9m high, with a span of 201m. Construction began in 1970 in response to increasing demand for domestic water supply.
Meldon Dam is now owned and operated by South West Water. It generates some 9kW of hydroelectricity, which is used for instrumentation functions inside the dam.
Once over the dam we walked up hill and followed the track in an Easterly direction skirting the edge of Longstone Hill.
Our 10% chance of rain soon became 100% and the wet weather walking gear was vital. It didn't dampen anyone's spirits, indeed the children seemed to be happier in the rain than they had been on the warmer days out in the summer.
We continued along the path as it turned South and then East up the hill towards our first summit Yes Tor.
It is worth mentioning here that this walk is in parts of the Okehampton firing range and it is worth checking the government website for firing times before you walk. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dartmoor-firing-programme
The range is marked by red and white posts on the Moor.
As we ascended the rain clouds seemed to hang over our destination and were beginning to clear the higher we got, however just as we approached Yes Tor the weather came rolling in once more from Okehampton and we were seemingly chased by ominous dark clouds.
It was a long uphill slog and the ground was sodden but we weren't deterred.
Just as we reached the top of Yes Tor the heavens opened and so we took refuge under some rocks.
This is a great time to point out that though we'd all been fairly warm on our ascent we all got cold very quickly whilst sheltering from the rain and I can not iterate enough the importance of carrying extra layers and gloves.
We put on our spare jumpers and pulled our coats about us as we ate our sandwiches huddled together beneath our granite shelter.
Once lunch had been gratefully consumed and the rain had eased slightly we decided to continue on towards High Willhays. We were now surrounded by clouds giving us the perfect opportunity to teach our eldest (who is hoping to achieve her Bronze Duke Of Edinburgh award) some highly important lessons in using a compass.
High Willhays is just South of Yes Tor and there is a very clear track leading up to it.
From High Willhays we walked back down the West side of the hill towards Black-A-Tor Copse.
This descent was fairly steep, we were aiming for the Southerly most point of the trees, skirting the edge of the wood, meaning that a substantial amount of Bouldering was required.
The Woodland lies next to the West Okement River and the ground here was particularly wet.
Our eldest wasn't looking where she was going and ended up kneed deep in a bog, to our great amusement and bless her, she took it with good grace.
Black-A-Tor Copse is one of the best examples of high altitude oak woodland in Britain. The lichens and mosses that drape the trees are nationally important and grow here in this unique clean air woodland.
It has an ethereal feel about the place as though someone has dropped the elven forests of Middle Earth here in Devon. The trees are gnarled and stunted growing through the moss covered boulders, which gives the woodland its magical appearance.
We stopped here a while and I decided that it was still just about warm enough for me to take an Autumn dip in the West Okement.
The water was bracing and though my family think I'm bonkers I found it most pleasant.
Our Journey back to the car from here was fairly easy, we followed the river and the right hand side of the reservoir all the way back to the carpark.
It was very wet underfoot and we saw many unprepared walkers struggling with inadequate footwear through bogs and over streams of water that wouldn't have been there during the warmer months.
Always be prepared. 😊
All in all we had a very pleasant day and everyone agreed that it had been really enjoyable despite the rainy weather.