Ride 60 (walk and lead): Dartmoor Day Two: Safely Through the Danger Zone

Saturday, 8th August, Okehampton Camp to Brentor, 15.76 miles.

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The sun rise this morning is as beautiful as the setting sun last evening.

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I can already tell it is going to be a blisteringly hot day today and I make the early decision to get off the moor as soon as possible to avoid getting roasted.

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We leave Caroline’s heading SW across the moor.  Leaving the road, we track along the boundary wall that runs beside the edge of the Camp as George had suggested.  There is plenty of evidence of military action with spent cartridges littering the ground all around but George had reassured me that all activity ceases during August because everyone is away on holiday.  Here is Tommy looking strangely like a real military horse.

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We continue to follow the wall heading towards Meldon Quarry.

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As the wall runs around to the right, we carry on ahead and follow the track down to the West Okement River before turning right to follow the path of the river towards the Viaduct.

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I am planning to leave the moor here at Meldon Reservoir but I have to study the map carefully to see where we can meet the road by the car park that leads to the Granite Way, a disused railway track that will get us down to Lydford and offer us some shade along this leafy, level lane.  This is a popular area for outdoor pursuits and we pass some canoeists out on a training session.

We follow a bridlepath that I can see on the map but not very clear on the ground, hoping to cross the river where a footbridge is marked.  When we get there, there is no footbridge to be seen, only stepping-stones that are mostly submerged.  I clamber aboard Tommy hoping to get a dry ride across and direct him to the water’s edge but he’s having none of it!  The only way I’m going to get him across this one, it seems, is to lead him.  I undo his lead rope that I have tied around his neck so he has more freedom to pick his way across and encourage him to follow me.  I make it over a few stepping-stones but the middle is quite deep and very bouldery and I know I am going to get my feet wet on this one.  No matter, we get across, and through the gate the other side we head up the bridle track to the top of the hill where it meets the road.  We’ve made it.

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I know the rest of the day will be relatively straightforward and am pleased to have this lane to follow instead of navigating our way across open moorland.  I only have a small bottle of water which I know would be totally inadequate out there on the moor on a hot day like today.  The shade from the trees lining the lane is a very welcome relief and I decide to hop onto Tommy for a couple of miles to see how his back copes with me on board.  I don’t even bother to use his reins, just attach the other end of the lead rope to his halter to make some makeshift reins and let him amble down the lane.

The Granite Way takes us within yards of the A 30, and on down, past Sourton Church.

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and over the Viaduct at Lake.

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until the lane comes to an abrupt end at Lydford.  Here we head through the village, down the hill and across the bridge at the top of the Gorge.  Opposite the entrance to the waterfall, I follow the track that leads us back onto the edge of the moor and turning sharply right, head towards Brentor which suddenly comes into view on the far distant horizon.

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which gets closer as we approach the village of Brentor.

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Sophy, our host for a couple of days here has texted me some instructions to find her, but I don’t need the red towel over the railings to tell us we have arrived because I remember where the Chapel is from our visit last year on pilgrimage with Richard.  Nevertheless, it is a welcome sight and we put Tommy in the paddock straight away before Sophy decides to get to work lighting a bonfire.  She has been waiting for the right conditions when the wind is not blowing in the direction of her neighbours garden and that is right now.  She asks me if Tommy will be bothered by a fire in his field and I reassure her he will be far too busy eating to notice much.

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We are going to be spending our last rest stop here with Sophy before we get home and I know it is going to be very special.

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