The Ted Hughes stone (Photos: Pat Trout)
Ted Hughes Memorial Walk
We go on the trail of the Ted Hughes Memorial Stone, which is at a remote spot on northern Dartmoor.
Before he died, the Poet Laureate Ted Hughes requested that a granite stone be engraved with his name and placed at his favourite spot on Dartmoor.
Hughes, who moved to North Devon in 1961, died from cancer in 1998. In accordance with his wishes, a slab of Dartmoor granite was duly inscribed and sited near the rising of the Taw, Dart, East Okement and Teign rivers.
The stone was airlifted into place in 2001, following special permission from the landowners, the Duchy of Cornwall. English Nature and the Dartmoor National Park Authority also gave permission.
However, the exact location remained a secret - until 2003, when it was discovered. The walk to the stone covers some of the military firing ranges, so you should check firing times before setting off.
Rainbow over Steeperton (Pat Trout)
An ordnance survey map and compass are also essential, together with sturdy footwear and appropriate clothing. And let someone know you are embarking on this walk.
The walk starts at Belstone. Take the lane heading south and leftwards past the old stocks on Belstone Green. After half a mile, this passes through a gate on to the open moorland and becomes a track heading roughly south.
This track runs for over a mile through the great natural amphitheatre of Taw Marsh. Ahead is the prominent and conical Steeperton Tor, crowned by military huts.
When the track peters out follow the Taw (now a tumbling brook) to the right (west) of Steeperton Tor. The path climbs steeply on the right hand side of the Taw.
After a climb up through the spectacular Steeperton Gorge, a ford is reached close to the old and disused Knack Mine.
Cross the ford here and take the military track, which climbs diagonally to the south.
After half a mile and soon after passing a military observation post, a track goes off to the right. This descends steeply to the west back to the River Taw, which should be crossed once more.
The river at Steeperton
Continue uphill for 200 yards to avoid the flat marsh on your left (south). Then turn sharply left along the solid edge of the marsh and still heading south.
Eventually the bank edges close back to the main channel of the river and becomes steep with boulders clinging to the hillside.
On the opposite bank is a grassy mound, probably once the spoil heap of medieval tinners, and the Ted Hughes Monument is on its top.
Cross the Taw very carefully, as there are hidden holes and deep pools.
Return back to Belstone the same way, or if you are feeling adventurous and have stout footwear return right down the River Taw – though it can be boggy after rain.
This moorland walk gives a taste of the wild Dartmoor that Ted Hughes knew and loved.
If visibility deteriorates while you are out keep within sight of the Taw as you head downstream and it will take you back to Belstone.
For more about the memorial stone, and its precise location, click onto the Legendary Dartmoor link on this page.
last updated: 04/02/2008 at 14:24
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