The Guy Who Walks The Moors

Shell Top

Jun 5, 2019

Last weekend I took a walk which ended up being rather longer then I intended.

From Quick Bridge I took the fast way onto the moors – up along the forestry track, heading for Penn Beacon. It’s been a while since I walked this way and I remembered how impressive the avenues of gloomy conifers were, bringing enjoyment to what’s a pretty dusty track. But now tracts of them have been felled, leaving open wasteland and a much lighter walk.

On upwards, with cuckoos calling regularly and then, suddenly, two swallows flashing past – the first I’ve seen this year and a sure sign that Summer’s nearly here.

Through the weirdly beautiful landscape of the alien looking china-clay pits, with lakes a perfect, chalky blue, rippling in the wind and flashing the sunshine about, and finally onto the open moor. A change of plan, and I headed straight for Shell Top, which meant that the uphill walking continued, through triple springs and the remains of settlements until, 1200 feet and 40 minutes after leaving the car, it stopped. Its worth it though, because the views in all directions are fabulous – particularly looking south over the claypits, and Plymouth Sound. And skylarks singing constantly above.

So, on to Penn Beacon, and cross country towards High House Waste mediaeval settlement – one of my favourite places on the whole of the South Moor, and not well known. Not having a map with me, and just walking towards the shimmer of Bluebells still showing in Dendle’s Waste, I stumbled upon a bronze age settlement – eight or ten huts in a clear enclosure. The main entrance to the outer wall was clear, and several huts still clearly had entrances facing away from the prevailing wind. All coated in bilberries and grass – a very special place, and one I decided to visit again.

On again, remembering why walking as the crow flies through gorse is often a bad and prickly affair, to arrive at Dendle’s and a fabulous display of bluebells beneath the trees. Its great to be able to wander through these, so thanks that this area was not planted with conifers as was originally planned after World War II – I believe the Dartmoor Preservation Society now hold and manage this area.

Finally, south west to the stunning Ford Brook (I really must spend a day here) and across to leave the Moor at West Rook Gate, returning to the car along the permissive paths through Newpark Wood – a beautiful, early evening finish to a great afternoon out.

I returned sooner than expected, with a great overnight forecast two days later. So, up from East Rook Gate in the early evening to the settlement and I set up the tent inside the enclosure, trying to decide if I felt spooked or not. A quick meal then up past Penn Beacon to Shell Top to catch a late sunset – the views of two days ago were made even more special by the light gradually fading away.

Back to the tent, and settle in for the night – very aware that people had lived here thousands of years before – that felt very special. Their lives in this place must have been very different from my experience of their home. For one thing, they wouldn’t have had access to the mug of cold sauvignon blanc I’d carried up as a bedtime treat…

Up at 8 the next morning, to perfect weather and views over the South Hams. Coffee, pack-up, stroll back to the car. A great couple of days in a lovely corner of the moor – never far from a road, but feeling remote, ancient and beautiful.

May 2019


  1. What a lovely trip out with so many stimulating and interesting sights and sounds. It’s a rich place and your relationship to it comes through well in your blog. Thanks.

  2. Fantastic blog! This is a part of the moors I have never explored!
    Inspired to get out there sometime soon.


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