With 47,000 hectares
of public access land, Dartmoor has plenty to offer outdoor enthusiasts, and is
featured in a new book of walks produced by Plymouth University students, staff
and partners. Moor to Sea without the Car includes Dartmoor walks
illustrated with paintings, photographs, poetry and maps.
BA (Hons) Marketing
student Heather Harding shares her insight into ‘letterboxing’, the
19th-century version of geocaching, which began at Cranmere Pool on north
Dartmoor, whilst BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing student Hannah Stamp
depicts the bleakness of the Princetown circular route: “The cruel moorland winds
blow through, blanketing the hills, the hones, the tors, and the chug of the
old abandoned railway.”
The book also gives
plenty of safety information, a guide to essential kit (for example, OS map,
compass and boots) as well as a difficulty and experience grading for each
walk. If you’re not ready for Dartmoor, you can always start with one of the
circuits closer to home such as Royal William Yard or from Cremyll to Mount
Finding solitude on
Dartmoor can be a welcome break after weeks of socials, seminars and packed
lecture halls. Biomedical Science graduate Andy Dent recalls a night he camped
on the Two Moors Way.
“The morning seemed to
come like the flick of a light switch, my tent instantly illuminated by
I was greeted by my first proper view from the ridge. The fog and fading light
which had masked its beauty the night before were replaced by clear air and
Andy first visited
Dartmoor at the age of 15 with the Scouts, and when he returned to Plymouth to
do his degree, he couldn’t wait to get back out there with a friend who’d been
on the same Scout trip with him.
“To me Dartmoor is a
special place because it can provide a feeling of remoteness without having to
travel for miles into the depths of Wales or the Scottish Highlands,” says
Andy. “Although often described as ‘bleak’ it has many changing colours and
hardy fauna and flora that flourish there.
“If you want to get
started on Dartmoor, just go for it, but don’t be complacent about safety. Find
someone more experienced to go with or join the Adventure and Expo club. Take
plenty of food and a flask of tea to pick yourself up, and have a few ‘escape plans’
so that if it stops being fun you can cut your trip short.”
Camping for one or two
nights on Dartmoor is fine as long as you don’t pitch your tent on farmland,
enclosed moorland, flood plains or archaeological sites.
Find a map of camping areas at www.dartmoor.gov.uk
3. Mountain biking
“Plymouth and the surrounding area boasts some of the UK’s best riding”,
says Tim Blackman of the University’s cycling club. “Just 30 minutes of riding
from campus and you’re into Dartmoor, where there’s an endless amount of track
waiting to be discovered.” If you don’t have your own bike you can hire one
from Rockets and Rascals, run by former Plymouth University student, Steve Toze.
“Plymouth is great for cycling,” says Steve. “You can ride traffic-free
along National Cycle Route 27 to Dartmoor.”
The multi-user trail is signposted, and there’s a 5km off-road loop
en-route known as the Plym Ridge ride.
Find cycling maps: www.sustrans.org.uk/ncn/map/route/dartmoor-way
4. Climbing and bouldering
Professor Iain Stewart, director of the Sustainable Earth Institute at Plymouth University, explains the appeal of Dartmoor’s famous tors (rocky peaks): “Their coarse granite reveals their antiquity – their chunky crystals, like miniature time capsules, root back three hundred million years to a journey that began from plutonic depths several miles down.”
The Dewerstone, Hound Tor and Leigh Tor are popular with climbers, whilst other areas offer thrilling opportunities for bouldering (without ropes or harnesses). Both can be undertaken with Plymouth University’s Adventure and Expo club, and beginners are welcome, says club secretary Jack Porteous: “Anyone can join. We can start people on a climbing wall or they can come out to the Dewerstone. There’s not that much to it really, as long as you have the right attitude.”