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You are in: Devon > Places > Walks > Making "me time" on the moor

Sheila takes in the views

Sheila takes in the moorland views

Making "me time" on the moor

As part of BBC Radio Devon's 25th anniversary celebrations, listener Sheila Coates takes us on her favourite walk from Princetown, on Dartmoor.

Sheila Coates' favourite walk starts literally from the front door of her Princetown home. It's a view she's totally familiar with, having lived in the village all her life.

Indeed, she was born in the house next door – which is still her parents' home – and she lives in the house that was her grandmother's.

But though the view may be familiar, it's only in recent years that Sheila feels she has really begun to make the most of the landscape on her doorstep.

Sheila and Peter

Back home with Sheila and Peter

In her letter suggesting the walk, she wrote: "Living in Princetown, I have the moor just out over our back garden. And when I can, I go for some short walks and quite a few long walks.

"Five years ago my husband Peter had a bad stroke. During the warmer months Peter comes with me on his scooter – it gives him fresh air and he can also view the beautiful scenery around here.

"When I go on my own I just look around and forget about everything, if you see what I mean – me time.

"I never really appreciated living on Dartmoor until Peter's stroke. But now I look at it in a different way."

From the main car park in the village the walk heads past the High Moorland Visitor Centre – certainly worth a look – and turns right up Plymouth Hill towards Yelverton.

Pass through the gate alongside the cattle grid and shortly bear right along a track on the open moor.


Ponies and tors - a classic Dartmoor view

This links to the former Princetown to Yelverton railway line and the walk is an easy to follow elevated route with panoramic views opening up across Sheepstor, Ingra Tor, Burrator and towards Plymouth Sound and Caradon Hill.

The railway was built in 1823 mainly to serve the granite quarries. It closed in 1956 - Sheila was too small to remember the trains running, but her grandfather was an engine stoker and her mother used to catch the train to Yelverton.

"If they brought it back now, it would be a lovely route for holiday-makers and locals as well," she said.

Dominating the view to the right stands North Hessary Tor, an imposing 517 metres, with its transmitter mast some 198 metres higher again.

"Good old North Hessary Tor," said Sheila. "It's a real landmark. If you can see the mast you're OK, if you can't you're in trouble."

The route passes through Johnson's Cutting – Sheila recalled tales of the train being cut off in bad weather, and in the days before snow ploughs, it could be stranded for hours on end.

The transmitter at North Hessary Tor

The transmitter at North Hessary Tor

We walked for about a mile and a half along the line, where the views really open up, drinking in the remoteness and the far off tors to the sound of a skylark overhead. Aware of time pressing, we then turned to basically retrace our steps to the village.

You can though follow the track on to Foggintor Quarry, once one of the largest quarries on the moor. Quarrying here stopped in 1938 but there's plenty of evidence of its impact and it's worth a careful look if you want to step into our industrial past.

Reaching the edge of Princetown again, we took a left hand fork through a fenced path into what's known as Station Road.

Sheila pointed out local landmarks – the field on the left being the home of the village fair, the new fire station on the right, the old Police Station café on the left where Sheila used to work, and the new post office.

What is undoubtedly Princetown's most infamous landmark - Dartmoor Prison - is a short stroll to the left.

We left the grim grey walls behind and headed back to the comfort of Sheila's lounge to catch up again with Peter.

Since his stroke, he's more inclined to get out and explore.

"It's wonderful," he said. "I go on my scooter with Sheila from the house. Also we put a small scooter in the back of the car and I can get even further. Before, I used to drive a car and that was about it. Now I find it very good fun going out on the moor."

last updated: 07/05/2008 at 15:23
created: 07/05/2008

You are in: Devon > Places > Walks > Making "me time" on the moor

Sheila's Princetown walk

Start/finish grid reference: SX 585 735
How to get to the start: Princetown is off the B3212 between Tavistock and Ashburton. There are moorland bus links.
Distance: 3 miles, or 5 miles to Foggintor Quarry and back.
Duration: 1.5 to 2.5 hours.
Terrain: Former railway line. Possible wheelchair/pushchair access.
Additional information: There are toilets, public houses, information centre and shops in the village.

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