Gail Fursdon’s All the Tors Challenge

Recent Champion, Gail, completed All the Tors raising money for charity. She’s kindly agreed to publish her diary and story for you to read. Enter Gail:

My target was to raise £10 per tor in sponsorship for the new Widecombe in the Moor Community Hall. I have just passed this target With 40 years in age on Emma I decided to walk in blocks of tors over the coming weeks with the aim to complete the challenge by the end of the year. I started the challenge on August 19th 2019 from Wind Tor overlooking the Widecombe valley. I walked on 28 days sometimes alone sometimes with others in the community and enjoyed them all. The feeling of well being and confidence grew with each walk. Roll on the next challenge!

Gail’s 119 Tors diary

19th August 2019 – Tor 1
Embarked on the challenge with Miles to Wind Tor on a sunny day to take a picture overlooking the Widecombe valley. It seemed fitting to start here as all the funds I raise will go the new Widecombe Community Hall which is in the planning process at present but the majority of the parish wish it to go ahead.

24th August 2019 – Tors 2-4
Decided to join in a guided walk during the walking festival on Dartmoor to Great Trowlesworthy Tor and Hen Tor – David was my walking buddy. The weather was sunny, walking easy, information interesting and views enabled me to see many of the other Tors I would be visiting. I had the cheek to ask if I could visit Little Trowlesworthy Tor on our return leg of the walk and the guide not only agreed but took ALL the group!

4th September 2019 – Tors 5-10
Having done some homework on circular routes I could take, I chose an easy to follow path from Two bridges along the ridge to Crockern, Littaford, Longaford, Higher White and Lower White Tors then dropped into the Cherry Brook valley across the other side to Arch Tor then back along the road to Two Bridges. The weather started bright but chilly but deteriorated into rain and sog.

7th September 2019 – Tors 11-17
Another windy but sunny day took me from Princetown to South Hessary, Cramber, Leather, Ingra, Leeden, Black and Hart Tors. After the trig point the route on to Cramber was difficult to find over the ridge among the bog. On down to the Devonport leat to follow it to the aqueduct was interesting, into the Meavy river valley and up the other side. I skirted around the trees and climbed Leather Tor then set off via the car park and the ice cream van (best ice cream I’d had for ages, treated myself to a double scoop!). Followed the main footpath until it crossed the old railway track then took that to Ingra Tor. An easy walk to Leeden Tor where a young gentleman hiker agreed to take a picture for me. On again cross country and back across the road to Black Tor then along the stone row and up to Hart Tor where a lady walker took my picture and finally back to Princetown.

8th September 2019 – Tors 18-20
Taking advantage of the weather and a free afternoon – just prior to fund raising at Widecombe Fair – I did a quick visit to Hollow, North Hessary and Rundlestone Tors. Managed some wonderful panoramic pictures from North Hessary Tor.

13th September 2019 – Tors 21-28
With our big fund-raising silent auction coming up I needed to do some more Tors to up the total since Widecombe Fair so Down, Combeshead, Higher Hartor, Lower Hartor, Legis, Gutter, Eastern and Sheeps Tor came next. From Norsworthy Bridge the steep climb to Down Tor, picture taken by a lady walking her dogs on her daily walk, on to Combeshead Tor with great views of Burrator reservoir and Sheeps Tor. It was very wet under foot between Higher Hartor and Lower Hartor and the flies were terrible. The river Plym was not passable so it was on to Ditsworthy Warren by the stone row and along the riverbank and onto Legis Tor for lunch – so beautifully quiet! On to Gutter Tor via the trig point and then Eastern Tor which is what I call a “sprinkle tor”. From now on it was a route march up to Sheeps Tor, head down and keep going singing marching songs to myself! Once there the views to Plymouth and Princetown were well worth it.

18th September 2019 – Tors 29-36
Yet another lovely day with a brand-new area to discover right up to the edge of the Okehampton firing range. Brat, Arms, Little Links, Great Links, Green, Kitty, Hunt and Gren Tors. From the car park near the Dartmoor Inn quick march over the steppingstones and on up and up to the Widgery Cross on Brat Tor. A good path on to Arms Tor and easy enough walking (no bracken) on to Little Links and Great Links. A couple picnicking on Great Links took my picture beside the trig point. Down into the valley beside the Bleak House ruin and up to Green Tor covered with squaddies (having their lunch I think) and quickly on to Kitty Tor for my lunch with some inquisitive Dartmoor foals and less interested mares. Following the man-made tracks back, as the re-wetting project was working well in the area, I managed to find a dry enough path up to Hunt Tor and then on to Arms Tor via lots of purposely laid granite slabs. The trek back to the car beside the Great Nodden was unusual but fascinating walking.

21st September 2019 – Tors 37-43
First tentative community walk saw Hookney, Shapley, King and Hameldown Tors bagged in the high winds with a communal lunch at Grimspound to follow. (Yvette, Chris, Dylan, Ivy and Sarah plus dog. Miles and Lee joined at Grimspound). Lee joined me for the afternoon and we walked Huccaby, Combstone and Aish Tors (Aish being another sprinkle Tor) all close enough to a road to enable Lee to join in bagging Tors.

28th September 2019 – Tors 44-46
Miles and I decided to walk a few Tors near home together so did Birch, Laughter and Bellever Tors in the cold blustery wind and completed our walk just before the heavens opened and it rained for a couple of days straight.

2nd October 2019 – Tors 47-56
The sun was shining again so I headed off to Little Miss, Great Miss, Roos, Great Staple, Cox, Middle Staple and Little Staple Tors. I dropped the car at the park just below the last tor and Miles dropped me at the bottom of the track to Little Miss Tor. Powered on up the track, to get warm, passed a couple with a dog on the way, visited the blocky Little Miss Tor and on to Great Miss Tor to see the red flag flying (Merrivale firing day). Passed the boundary stone on the way to Roos Tor and another on the way to the very recognisable Great Staple Tor. Good walking on reasonably dry grassy tracks, no bracken and only sheep and cattle for company – bliss. On again past the small lake and up to Cox Tor for lunch, found a sheltered granite seat with a great view and listened to the distant booms of the artillery in Merrivale firing range. Took 4 pictures from the trig point N, S, E & W then set off for Middle Staple Tor and continued to descend to Little Staple Tor and the car. Having completed the set earlier than I thought I moved to the Pork Hill car park and indulged in another ice cream (yum) and set off to bag Heckwood, Pew and Feather Tors. Along the way snapping Vixen Tor from Whitchurch Common, watching the Able’s dealing with the ponies from the drift, taking pictures of Pew Tor triangulation point, the bullseye stone and the Boundary Stone_SS_No.2 (309 m). 10 tors altogether best day yet!

4th October 2019 – Tors 57-61
Trying to catch a few tors that don’t fit with any in a long circular walk I did Boulters and White Tors together and a single Lynch Tor. I parked up in the quarry park on Smeardon Down and while I was changing started chatting to the couple with a dog that I had met on the track to Little Miss. They were down visiting family and wanted to know all about my challenge. On and up then to Boulters Tor, half in and half out of the moor. The narrow neck of common on the way to White Tor was full of Galloway cows and calves, quite intimidating even for me as all eyes followed me the entire time I was passing them and only when I moved on to the next stretch of truly open common did they decide I was not a threat! The sward structure fascinated me but not sure what caused it. Large amounts of stone strewn about and also many signs of man’s occupation. Back to the car (cows had moved on phew) and onto new car park at the end of the road near Bagga tor. With the weather looking progressively more threatening and the winds getting up a quick charge up to the top of Lynch Tor over all the terraces of loose stone to catch a photo and see the flagpole minus flag!

On the return journey I had to go past Merrivale and as the weather had improved, I decided to bag Hucken and King’s Tor. Decided to go along the Yellowmead track but a digger was working on it so ended walking along the footpath from Princetown and old railway track to do King’s Tor – taking a picture proved difficult because of the high wind, I couldn’t keep the camera still, and then Hucken Tor. HALFWAY.

6th October 2019 – Tors 62-71
Having never walked the high moor I enlisted my friend, David, to walk with me. We parked up on the Okehampton range just north of Rowtor. First stop West Mill Tor on a very windy day. On to Yes Tor, nearly got blown off the trig point, along the ridge of High Willhays to drop down through the bog to Dinger Tor. Quick regroup, drink and choc bar and on to Lints Tor picking our way and jumping from wet tuft to wet tuft but we made it as did another party coming at it from a different angle. Back the way we came to Dinger to catch the army made track to East Mill Tor complete with evidence of army-built structures on and around the tor. Scamble down the side towards the track that leads to Oke Tor and climb the other side of the East Okement river valley up to the tor and army huts. Having made great time on the army tracks we persuaded ourselves to walk 4 more tors, Winter, Higher with its block type structure (over the Irishman’s wall to), Bellstone and the tenth of the day Scarey Tor near the War Department marker stone before heading back to the car around East Okement Farm.

12th October 2019 – Tors 72-73
Set off with high hopes but they we soon dashed. From Two Bridges a slippery walk up by the Cowsic river to Beardown Farm, along the leat and out onto common and up to Beardown Tor, a very spread out tor on the eastern edge of Merrivale firing range. On to Lyford Tor with ease. Trying to get to Devil’s Tor lived up to its name. The molinia grass was very tuft and tall with bog or deep ruts full of water between. Realising I would not make it home before dark if I continued, I dropped down to the leat and followed it back to Beardown Farm. Only two today ☹

October 13th 2019 – Tors 74-76
Decided to try a few nearer home Leigh, Luckey and Hockinston Tors on Spitchwick Common. On the short footpath to Leigh Tor I met a Woodland Trust volunteer and learnt how to propagate crab apples, very interesting then on to Bel Tor corner car park and around Rowbrook Farm to Luckey Tor. Found myself in the bracken and gorse head height not much fun but found the tor. Thought that was bad but Hockinston Tor was far worse. Fell over in the gorse got my foot stuck in roots the top of the bushes had covered over my head and I was being attacked by bugs and ticks ugh! Had to laugh and rough it out but found the tor, took the photo, came home had a wonderful long hot shower and put all my cloths and gear through the washing machine or a good brush and clean up. Not a trip to be repeated.

October 15th 2019 – Tors 77-78
A few hours to spare to catch Black and Shipley Tors from Shipley Bridge car park. Visited Hunters Stone on the way to Black Tor while watching the rain showers power in across the moor. Dropped down to the bridge across the River Avon and started the climb up to Shipley Tor. Looking back got a lovely picture of a rainbow over the Avon Dam and great views of Dockwell Ridge. Shipley Tor is another half in and half out tor with a wall running to the middle of it with a nature reserve behind.

October 19th 2019 – Tors 79-83
With my gaining confidence I chose to complete the high moor alone. Steeperton the first tor of the day lived up to its name, it was a steep climb but great to be high enough to look back at the tors from my last walk in the Okehampton firing range. Following tracks and jumping from rock to rock in the fords on the Steeperton Brook I passed below Hound Tor went to the Stone Circle below and before visiting Little Hound Tor. Back along the ridge to Hound Tor and on again to Wild Tor. Cross country now to Watern Tor dropping into the Walla Brook river valley, finding a place to jump the river and up to the most beautifully formed tor of all, in my opinion! Definitely one to revisit. I dropped back into the Watern Coombe took a bit of time to find a way across the reed filled bog on up to Hangingstone Hill to catch the track back to the car. Exhilarating walk and such a sense of achievement 😊

October 20th 2019 – Tor 84
Brother and sister in law Paul & Jan, joined Miles and me for Sunday lunch at The Tors Inn, Belstone before we a set off to Ivy Tor. A much more testing walk than we expected but despite walking with a stick Jan and the rest of us made it and returned by the higher route to the village.

October 21st 2019 – Tors 85-90
The big one – Fur Tor. Simon had kindly agreed to join me on this walk to Flat and Fur Tors. We set off nice and early from Postbridge and met the re wetting tracked buggy and the workforce on the way to Flat Tor. The cloud base was low when we started but did begin to lift as forecast so we carried on along the North West Passage via Cut Hill to Fur Tor passing several of Phillpotts crossing stone markers. Having followed the boundary markers for the Okehampton range just at the change from NW TO W in direction we veered off to Fur Tor. Once there it looked like a dragon’s head peeping over the top of the tor to me. We retraced out steps to Flat Tor and having made such good time and the cloud cover had really lifted decided to plod on and catch a few more tors. Rough Tor next having followed the marker posts south then we struck off west to Devil’s Tor (at last). We walked to Crow Tor thinking we would start to head back to Postbridge that way but as it was only twenty past two we couldn’t resist bagging Conies Down Tor to make the round 90! We managed to jump across he Cowsic on our way to scrambling up to the tor for a well-earned tea break. Striking off at a slightly different angle we encountered a wider section of the Cowsic, Simon could jump I couldn’t. Bright idea I would paddle across in my seal skins. Great idea executed badly, I knocked my walking shoes off the boulder I had launched off and had to chase them down the river. Safely secure on my feet on the other side I was well impressed that my feet had remained dry throughout, not so my gloves, trousers and coat cuffs! Trudge on we did along the Lych Way back to Powdermills and on to Postbridge arriving back at 6.30pm euphoric but tired.

23rd October 2019 – Tors 91-92
Back to Gutter tor car park prepared this time to cross the River Plym to bag Calveslake and Shavercombe Tors. Taking a direct route to Eylesbarrow Tin Mine passing several PCWW 1917 marker – Plymouth Corporation Water Works marker for Burrator Reservoir, I continued on until the Plym Ford, strapped heavy duty bin liners on each leg and crossed the river. The walk along the valley and leap across the leat to climb directly to Calveslake Tor went easily and was a beautiful place with a view for lunch. I tracked my way across the Giants Hill following the contours of the land, crossed the Shavercombe Brook successfully and arrived at Shavercombe Tor. The return journey was through the old field system below Hentor Warren to the footbridge over the leat and ford below Ditsworthy Warren. Out came the bin liners to cross the river (not so watertight this time!) and on back to the car park via Edward’s Path.

24th October 2019 – Tors 93-97
Miles walked with me but drove to all the odd car parks we had to find. First to park near Scorhill Farm. Easy walk to Scorhill Tor with the North Teign Valley behind. On again passing the Scorhill Stone Circle then skirting the mire made from Gallaven Brook and Walla Brook to Rival Tor approaching from the northern side. A trifle windy but wonderful to look back over the tors I had walked alone on the high moor. Back track to the car and move on to Shilstone Tor to examine all the stone splitting works that must nearly have removed the tor. Lastly to Batworthy Corner to walk past the Long Stone CP, GP, DC to Thornworthy Tor. Again, very boggy on the lower approach but turning drier and into more boulders until the top bit of the tor where views of Fernworthy Reservoir and Kestor Rock were to be had. On the way to Middle Tor we encountered rainbow haloed South Devon cattle. On our return we passed Kestor Rock.

27th October 2019 – Tors 98-101
Off on my own again to scoop up some singleton tors. First to Sharp Tor parking at Peek Moor Gate walking up past Spurrell’s Cross to join the Two Moors Way across Glasscombe Ball, past many boundary stones and then the cairn. Watched a couple of farmers with quads checking their cattle and sheep while back tracking to the car. Second stop to park having wiggled my way up the lanes to a dead end at East Rook Gate. Walking to the Rook Tor it was difficult to pinpoint as it is another “sprinkle tor”. Interesting view towards the china clay works. Next to park just west of Wotter and walk up to Hawks Tor past boundary stone with an H. Further on is the Hawks Tor Rock Shelter which allows for children’s imagination to run wild as it was when I was there. On to Collards Tor overlooking more china clay works.

4th November 2019 – Tor 102
I walked early to Fox Tor from Princetown via Nuns Cross Farm encountering a farmer on horseback checking his livestock. I got back to Nuns Cross just in time to meet up with my U3A walking group and join them for the last part of their walk and lunch at The Plume of Feathers

6th November 2019 – Tors 103 -105
I had kept these tors to walk with my niece, Becky, who was visiting from South Africa, at her request to be part of the challenge. From Postbridge we walked to Hartland Tor in the sog and on to The Sheepfold. Both of us fascinated by the workmanship and scale of the project all those years ago. An easy step on to Stannon Tor. We slowly descended until we were following the main track heading to The Grey Wethers Stone Circle and then on again to Sittaford Tor where we had a snack before a steady walk and talk all the way back.

13th November 2019 – Tors 106-111
Last major walk with Rob Steemson giving loads of information about what we are looking at! Ger, Hare, Chat, Sharp, Doe and Nat. We parked at Lanehead crossed the mine leat and headed up Ger Tor. Rob took the pictures Ger Tor with Tavy Cleave behind. On to Hare Tor then Chat Tor which has a very similar stone formation as Watern Tor. On to another Sharp Tor. Down the steep screen face and past the WD 16 War Department No16 stone and the cairn and cist on the way to Doe Tor. Back to catch Nat Tor by the corner of the mine leat and on to Lanehead and the car just in time for lunch while we watch the rain!

17th November 2019 – Tors 112-114
Meldon Reservoir to start the walk with Miles to Black, Shelstone and Sourton Tors. Steady long climb up Longstone Hill to the track for Black Tor. The cloud base was rising and falling and visibility was variable, thank heavens for my OS map app. We dropped down to the West Okement river following it past the island water treatment and on to the weir where we cross and then climbed up to Shelstone Tor. On the approach it looks like an enormous tortoise is climbing the tor too! We stayed above the spring water on our way to Sourton Tor as the cloud cover lowered. We made the trig point and tor with just enough visibility to take pictures before our treks back down to the car park.

28th November 2019 – Tor 115
My Thursday morning Widecombe walking group (just Jenny, Di and Treble the dog) agreed to go to Bench Tor with me from Venford Reservoir.

30th November 2019 – Tor 116
After several aborted attempts, due to weather condition, to walk to Mel Tor with some of the youngest (under 5s) members of the parish I gave up and invited my grandchildren Dylan and Ivy, with their mum Yvette to come and record this tor. It may have been the incentive of hot chocolate and cakes that made them brave the wind and showers!

30th December 2019 – Tors 117-119
What a wonderful sunny day for our Community walk to celebrate the money raised for our Widecombe Community Hall (£1,260 + and counting) with mulled wine and mince pies. Tors left to visit Sharp, Yar and Corndon Tor. All on my home common, Spitchwick Common setting off from Bel Tor Corner car park at 10am and joined by 43 others from the parish and a plentiful number of dogs!

As an incentive to the numerous under 10s I brought chocolate gold coins to be awarded each time a child climbed a tor – just had enough phew! Very windy on Sharp Tor, more sheltered in the cairn on Yar Tor. On the next leg everyone helped collect recyclable glasses, flasks of mulled wine, fruit juices, mince pies and jam tarts from our car strategically parked on our route just below the Cave Penny Cross. Up to Cordon Tor to celebrate tor 119 while I was over-looking my home and farm. Job done!!