A Short Walk on the Dartmoor Borders
There are some delightful short rambles on the Dartmoor borders, which tend to get neglected by the hardier moor walker. Last week, on a very hot day, we walked from Haytor. But instead of heading out on to the Moor we went downhill into the paths and lanes of the Dartmoor borderlands. I give below the route we took. You might enjoy it too.
The walk starts at the Haytor Lower Car Park, map reference SX766772, halfway between Bovey Tracey and Widecombe. The route is 5.4 miles and there is 1,024 feet of climb, though this is spread out across the walk. The ramble is mostly on paths and quiet lanes with just a bit of open moorland at the end. There are pubs at Haytor Vale and Ilsington, and there are toilets at the start of the ramble. Watch out for traffic on the lane sections. Suggested Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer OL28 Dartmoor. As always you do the walk at your own risk!
1. Facing the road, leave the car park and turn right down the road, passing the Moorland House Hotel on your right – a regular visitor in the 1930s was Agatha Christie. Take the next turning on the right, then turn left down a lane signposted “Haytor Vale”. Continue down the hill for 250 yards. Just by a house called “Day’s Folly”, two paths go off to the left. Take the lower footpath. After a few yards, behind the rear of some cottages, the path veers to the left and becomes narrower. At the next junction turn right downhill into woodland.
2. This is a most pleasant wooded stretch of the walk. Notice the remains of the old iron mine as you go. This operated from the 1850s to about 1910. Nature has recaptured most of the old workings.. At the next path junction, keep right (signposted bridlepath Smallacombe Farm) down through a delightful woodland dell. After a hundred yards, the path crosses a brook and continues downhill. Ignore all paths to left. Pass through two gates above Smallacombe, and continue in the same direction (path signposted Middlecott). Follow the obvious path through three fields until a gate leads out on to a country lane.
3. Turn left up the steep lane for 200 yards. Then right at the next junction. Continue downhill for a half mile. As you go notice the restored lime kiln in the hedge on the left. Turn right downhill at the next lane junction. At the foot of the hill, after a quarter mile, where the lane veers to the left, take the rough track on your right as it climbs up through the woods. At the top, turn right into the village of Ilsington, then, passing the old forge, right again. Notice the unusual lych gate into the churchyard, surmounted by what used to be the Ilsington village schoolroom – it is said that the room collapsed one day when someone slammed the gate too hard! Ilsington was the birth parish, in 1586, of the dramatist John Ford.
4. Just after, turn right again into Honeywell Lane. Follow this for a half mile. At the next junction take the second right lane, keeping to the right hand side of Ilsington’s Wesleyan Chapel, built in 1852 and with some fine views from its little churchyard. Keep on this lane as it climbs steadily uphill and winds to the right. Half a mile of walking brings you to Birchhanger crossroads. Turn right here uphill (signposted Haytor). After a quarter mile the lane goes downhill. Just afterwards a track goes off to the left, signposted as a “bridleway to the moor”. Take this. It dips down to the waters of the River Lemon, now spanned by a stone clam bridge erected recently to the memory of Hilda Mary Taylor “a lover of Dartmoor”. Cross here and follow the path uphill until you reach open moorland.
5. Climb the moorland hill in front of you. After roughly two hundred yards, you reach a rough path heading to the right (northwards). Follow this until it reaches the Haytor road and the start of the ramble is once again in sight (about three quarters of a mile). The path can become overgrown in the summer months, so make sure you are keeping roughly parallel to the wall and enclosures down to your right. Keep well above the wall to avoid some tiring Dartmoor bogs! Enjoy the Walk!