MELDON RESERVOIR TO HIGH WILLHAYS VIA A ROUNDABOUT ROUTE
START POINT: MELDON RES GRID REFERENCE: 562917

John Skinner had planned a route from Meldon Reservoir going upto the Moors via Okehampton Station but F&M restrictions put paid to that and he had to rejig the walk to avoid restricted areas.

Undaunted, 16 ramblers gathered at the start point on Wednesday 8th Aug at 10 AM for John's succinct briefing on the 'easy' way up to High Willhays and Yes Tor from the reservoir.

At just over 620 m HighWillhays wins the highest point on the moor from Yes Tor by a mere 2to 3 metres.  

 

In reality we walked getting on for 10.5 miles to reach Yes Tor and only 1.5 miles to descend again to the car park.  

The outline of the route we eventually took is shown above. It is only a rough guide and this outline should be used in conjunction with the description of the walk and a 1:25000 OS map of the region such as the leisure map no 28 of Dartmoor.

We left the car park by the steps to the right of the toilet, reached the road and turned left to walk the few yards to the reservoir dam.

We crossed the dam, turned sharp left and descended flights of very steep steps to take us down to the base of the dam and the West Okement River which sources the reservoir.

The steps were narrow and care was taken to avoid slipping on one, it was a long way down.

 

Once at the base of the dam we followed the river down the valley, gradually moving away from it, for a few hundred yards until we came to a stream which we needed to cross via stones.

Having all successfully negotiated the stream, the Red-a-Ven brook, we turned right and more or less followed the brook upstream for less that half a mile.

The brook descends steeply from the high moors above and we were walking hard uphill. Soon we swung to the left on a bearing of 030 degrees and headed up a steep grassy area towards the higher moors.

Off to our left we could see a dry stone wall and we ended up walking close to this wall on the moorland side. There were still notices at many paths in to the enclosed area warning us off.

As we approached the top of the hill, just below Black Down we swung right and headed on a bearing of about 012 degrees across a narrow unfenced road and then started climbing up again towards Row Tor.

 

At the summit of this Row Tor we stopped for a morning drink and admired the view. Yes Tor could be seen a few hundred feet above us, only a mile or so away.

After the break we headed off away from Yes Tor, on a bearing of 060 degrees, losing plenty of height which we had worked to hard to make.

In the distance we could see an enclosed area with a copse known as East Okement Farm.

 

The going was quite wet in places and we had a couple of small brooks to navigate before we swung down to cross a bridge over the river.

In the picture we can see the leader offering a helping hand to one of the group, crossing one of the brooks. To maintain anonymity we shall refer to him as Mr Smith.

Ahead of us and to our right we could see the faint outline of Irishman's Wall stretching straight up and over Belstone Tors.

 

We didn't climb up to the top of Belstone's Tor but found a rough track which looped up to a ridge above us.

Once on this wide ridge we turned right and followed it along to a Tor in the distance. We soon reached this Tor, called Oke Tor with the Belstone Valley immediately to our left. Oke Tor is a long narrow Tor with good views from the top.

 

We continued our way south, climbing slowly until we were just west of Steeperton Tor. Had we continued along the track we were on we have crossed the river at Knack Mine.

Opposite Steeperton Tor we veered to the right and made our way upto an observation post on the local high ground. This point was also our lunch point and we had walked about 5.5 miles in getting to lunch.

After lunch we continued on dropping slowly until we reach an unfenced road.

 

Instead of crossing the road we turned onto it and walked along it for about a mile, at times the road climbed very steeply, very unusual for John to offer us a section of road walking when there was rough and difficult moor all round it.

We followed the road as it meandered its way round and climbed steeply up to another OP.

The road began to drop down, we followed it for a short distance and then left the road and continued on a bearing of about 280 degrees straight into a very tussocky and difficult area with no defined path.

Difficult it was, wet it was too but at least it was downhill. It seemed to be getting wetter as we dropped down to a very reedy area.

It was in fact a marshy area with a stream running through it.

At least two of us managed to sink into the bog almost upto the knees as we tried to cross this very wet area.

 

We all made it relatively unscathed apart from boots full of water. We climbed a steep incline, just beyond the brook and headed north west and up towards Dinger Tor.

The visibility was excellent and in the distance, north west of us we could see the highest point on Dartmoor about a mile away and up above us.

The going up was easy, much easier than the wet tussocky area we had been walking shortly before.

John had told us we would be taking the easy route up and so it was proving to be.

 

High Willhays sits at over 2000 ft and it is a slight anti climax in that it is only a relatively small granite outcrop with a pile of stones on top.

It did however give us a wonderful 360 degree panorama.

We stopped here for afternoon refreshments and also to pick out the many Tors scattered round to test our local knowledge of the moor.

 

After the break we walked along the ridge north for less than half a mile to Yes Tor, a few feet lower than High Willhays, but a much more impressive Tor with large granite outcrops.

Looking west from the Tor we could see where we were going next, a steep descent west then north west down to the Meldon Reservoir.

The descent was steep but not particularly difficult and it was not until we crossed a down that we could actually see the reservoir.

The steepest section of this descent was ahead of us as we dropped down to the reservoir road below us. Once down on the track we followed it to the reservoir dam, re-crossed the dam track and returned up to the large car park once again.

John had been correct we did take the 'easy' way up and had see a large section of the northern moor in the process.

For me, it filled in yet another gap in my areas walked on the moor, it all helps to get the moor into perspective.  

Thanks to John for putting on this excellent, varied terrain moorland walk to take us to the highest points on the moor. In so doing he had also demonstrated that he can navigate his way round the moor without Sophie's assistance.

Finally came the 30 mile drive across the moors and back to Plymouth.