John Howell says it's a surprising walk
Mist and mystery on the moor
By Jo Bishop
As part of BBC Radio Devon's 25th anniversary celebrations listener John Howell recommends this moorland walk from Okehampton.
As Devon area chairman of the Ramblers’ Association John Howell knows dozens of fine walks around the county, but his particular favourites are on Dartmoor.
He's been walking the moor all his life – a passion started as a babe in arms when his parents would carry him in his pram out to Cranmere Pool, having caught the train from Exeter to Okehampton Station.
Fatherford Railway Viaduct dates from the 1870s
A more modern feat of engineering is the A30 dual-carriageway bridge, while the ford, stepping stones and a wooden footbridge complete the five crossings of the river at this point.
John recounts a quote from Eric Hemery's book High Dartmoor where he describes the valley as "a stretch of cleave river as beautiful as any on Dartmoor".
Keep left, via a footbridge, over a small tributary stream and follow the path to a gap in the moss-covered stone wall. Take care on the sometimes slippery stones alongside the river – John lost his footing at one point and slid right in to the chilly water, which shows even experienced walkers can come a cropper.
John recounted the legend which says the stones, which in fact number more than nine, were people who danced on the Sabbath and were turned to stone. It is said that in the right atmospheric conditions the stones still dance.
From the stone circle drop back down hill slightly, to the lower of two tracks, heading up the side of the valley. You follow this wide clearly defined stony track to the valley head.
You pass an MOD sign shortly before the track turns right and crosses both the East Okement and Black-a-ven Brook. Ahead there is a boundary stone, marking the Okehampton-Belstone parish boundary at Cullever Steps (Grid Ref: SX 606 920).
From here you follow the track right and then around to the left uphill, until it meets the tarmac military road.
John's original plan was to make for Rowtor (Grid Ref: SX 593 916), which offers fine views across to Exmoor and Bodmin Moor. With visibility down to a few yards, we decided to alter our plans and follow the military road right, back to the Okehampton training camp.
The waterfall cascades into a deep pool
Should you press on to Rowtor, descend on the west side and join a track running north towards Anthony Stile, which will bring you to the edge of the camp. Turn right to follow Moor Brook to the cattle grid at Moor Gate.
Our route direct along the military road also took us to the cattle grid. Go through the gate alongside the grid and pass the camp entrance, bearing round to the right on the tarmac lane. As you begin to descend a cross can be seen on the left – this is Fitz Well, about which John had another legend.
"It's said that a couple confused by pixies came across the well, drank the water, which then broke the spell and they had the cross erected to express their thanks. It is also said that on Easter Sunday if you drink the water you will meet the love of your life."
Today's young lovers will have to try more conventional means as the well is covered over for health and safety reasons.
Continue downhill along the road and where it turns ninety degrees left, at what is known as Klondyke Corner, you leave the tarmac to your right for a footpath. There are two field gates on this corner, each with footpaths, you want the left one which descends steeply downhill across a field with views towards Okehampton below.
The path turns right at the field edge and then shortly left to cross the A30 over a large downward sloping footbridge. Turn left and then descend right down a lane, which brings you back to the car park.
This is the very route John’s parents would have used to carry him up on to moor all those years ago.
"I have really been walking on the moors all my life and I think that's why it has always been a passion and interest," he said.
As someone for whom Dartmoor walking was also a part of my early childhood, I know just what he means.
last updated: 29/07/2008 at 10:35
John's Okehampton Walk
Start/finish grid reference: SX 591 944
Map: Dartmoor OS Explorer Map sheet OL28
The moor walkers' car park is just beyond the railway station. Follow signs from the town centre.
Distance: 6 to 7 miles circular route.
Duration: Allow 3 hours.
Terrain: Footpaths, open moor, tracks and tarmac lane.
Additional information: If you complete this walk in full you will cross open moorland terrain.
You will need proper clothing and equipment, including map and compass, which you should be competent to use. You should also carry food and drink.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Beach life - a guide to Devon's coastline