Friday, 11 September 2020

Dartmoor Walk - Lakehead Hill

With Carolyn taking a week off from work in the Bank Holiday week of my birthday and Will home for a few more weeks before he starts working in Torbay in his final year at Medical School, I jumped at the opportunity for us all to get out onto Dartmoor and some further exploration of some of the amazing ancient sites that litter the National Park.

This time we were heading to Postbridge, favourite stop for holiday visitors to the region and the moor and giving its name to the ancient clapper bridge spanning the East Dart River.

Postbridge shown on the map was the start point of our walk across Dartmoor

However  as amazing as the clapper bridge is, this time it simply marked the start of our seven mile walk across the moor heading first to another favourite haunt of locals and visitors, Bellever Woods further along the river and a spot we regularly took the boys to with other friends when they were younger.

The ViewRanger OS Map recorded the route we walked as we made our way between the various sites shown and circled with pictures in the post.

Carolyn and Will enjoying the fresh air of Dartmoor as we began our walk up from Postbridge to Bellever, looking forward to stopping for lunch

Walking along the Dart to Bellever with plenty of fresh air in the lungs soon fired up an appetite for lunch and so we found a suitable bench amid the trees to fortify ourselves before heading out from the trees towards the higher ground of the lower slopes of Laughter Tor where we planned to find the double stone row indicated on the map

Bellever is a popular stop in the summer for families enjoying a day out on the moor, sadly spoilt this year as large groups of not very considerate visitors decided to trash the place, wild camping, starting open fires and leaving heaps of litter, forcing Park Rangers and Police to close the area for a few weeks, to clean up. No problems thankfully when we visited!

Feeling fortified after a lunch stop we followed the path up and out of the trees towards Laughter Tor

As the path started to climb up from Bellever, the trees started to thin out as we followed the valley of the East Dart

With some food on board we were eager to get going as this was quite a walk we had planned with plenty of climbs over broken ground and hopefully plenty of ancient ruins in the landscape to spot as we progressed.

As you leave the tree line the views open up over the eastern moor with the heather and gorse in full bloom at this time of year

'The road goes ever on' 

As the path climbed higher, the top of Laughter Tor hove in to sight on our right

The tors on Dartmoor are amazing sites standing out on the hill tops with their bare rocky outcrops and make excellent reference points when monitoring progress along the route.

Not only that but the views across the moor can be stunning and reward the climb.

On reaching the slopes of Laughter Tor we discovered an amazing double stone row with several large standing stones nearby.
Just along the lower slope of Laughter Tor we discovered the Neolithic/Bronze Age double stone row nestled among the heather, with standing stones beyond.

When looking at these monuments you can't help wondering, why?, Why here? Why like this? And what was its significance to the folks who heaved these rocks around and placed them just so. 

Just a bit further along the track lay this poor little chap, not a mouse but a common shrew. These little chaps only live about twelve months, give or take the odd kestrel or owl, but are fierce little rodents, hence Shakespeare's reference in 'Taming of the Shrew'.

Our walk from the base of Laughter Tor took us down to the road near Dunnabridge Pound Farm and entailed a circuitous route skirting a large area of boggy ground, with Dartmoor bogs notorious and worth avoiding if possible, just read 'Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles' if you doubt me.

All creatures great and small along the way, as we came upon these Dartmoor ponies, mare and foal making the best of the rough pasture.

Once around the bog we climbed to the top of Bellever Tor and the views towards Postbridge were stunning as seen in the picture below as we followed the path down before heading to the open ground to the left of the treeline in the valley below and climbing Lakehead Hill over which numerous neolithic remains were indicated on the map.

Three quarters of the way into our walk and we were feeling it in the legs as we crested Bellever Tor and followed the path down on the final leg. We were headed to the open ground to the left which leads up to Lakehead Hill and its neolithic sites.

Sure enough the map proved spot on as we soon started to see numerous standing stones, remains of stone circle huts and stone rows indicating a lot of people must have been living in the area two to three thousand years previously.

On the climb up Lakehead Hill we started to enter an area full of cairns and hut circles as well as yet more stone rows

Then just as we were about to descend to the road where we had parked the car we were rewarded with the final highlight of the walk which was an amazing burial cist set amid its own stone circle and with a stone row leading to it.

It didn't appear that large, which made me think it might have been for a woman or a child, as similar sites have indicated.

Again, I never fail to be moved by the age of these monuments and thinking about the people that built them.

The highlight of the walk came right at the end as we turned the path and discovered this amazing cist set amid a stone circle and row.

If you are interested in more information about this walk you can follow the links below and Carolyn and I hope to squeeze in some more before the weather makes moor walking a bit less desirable.

Plenty of things to come on JJ's as I have another book to review, sloops and scratch built 64-gun ships and my third rates of renown are built and rigged. More anon



  1. G'Day Jonathan, great photos of your family walk across Dartmoor, love the scenery. I never realised the common shrew only had a 12 month life span, half that of a pet mouse. Cheers Greg

    1. Hi Greg, thanks mate, glad you enjoyed the read.

      Yes a fascinating little critter, the Common Shrew. Fierce as a tiger when cornered, but with such a short time to live, always on the go, hunting bugs and creating other shrews, before time is called with the final bell on an often short frenetic existence. A bit like life really!!