Strenuous, 32.2 km / 20 miles, 747 m total ascent
This walk does not enter any of the Military Firing Ranges.
Route Special Concerns:
This walk is very tough… to put it more clearly it took myself (along with Dartmoor Guide Paul Rendell) two separate walks to complete the entire thing due to the lack of daylight (it was autumn) and the effort required. Both walks were undertaken in less than ideal visibility but with an early start I reckon it could be completed within a day. I should stress that because of completing this route in two sections, the distance and mileage might be incorrect, in fact they probably are; I have tried to remove the walk in and back to the car park on one of the walks but it is all an estimation at present. The northern section for me was 11.5 miles and the southern 10.9, so 20 miles seems about right unless someone else’s GPS says otherwise! I feel that it’s best if I merge parts of both walks into one, visiting all of the boundstones and some other nearby items. You can make up your own mind (energy dependent!) about visiting other items!
In parts the terrain is, to be blunt, horrible, especially on Brown Heath, and although a compass bearing shouldn’t (depending on the weather) be necessary a GPS is a must because these boundstones are typically tiny and getting to that 10-figure NGR is crucial in finding each one. A compass is still encouraged to be brought with you anyway just in case, with of course a map. It is easily a strenuous route and like me you may wish to do it in two separate loops as apart from the boundstones Harford and Ugborough Moors abound in historical artefacts with many sites to see. For this reason I have refrained from including lots of items en route as this will otherwise become a crammed route and it is the boundstones and 365 items that most people are keen to visit on this walk, right? By all means use the green highlighted link at the end of the walk to view other items within the immediate 1km squares. This route is definitely not wheelchair or pushchair friendly, and the southern section is more accessible and the stones more obvious.
This walk does not enter any of the Military Firing Ranges.
The starting point is at the well-frequented car park at Harford Moor Gate. Sadly, at the time of writing in May 2021, this car park remains closed, but it is hoped that it will reopen making this route possible once again. It is a modest car park but is one of the only ones on the South Moor making it popular so get here early to avoid disappointment. There are no pubs in the area but you will most likely pass through Ivybridge on your drive to this spot. You will bag a lot of Dartefacts on this walk – let’s see your tally jump up the leaderboard!
- Leave Harford Moor Gate keeping the wall to your right at first before entering a prehistoric settlement, just before crossing Butter Brook at its ford. You will need to now head up to the Redlake Tramway (aka Puffing Billy Track) heading southward. En route you will pass a marker stone for the Two Moors Way, but ignore this and stay on the track until you are directly above Prowse’s Rock (stone 1) which you will pay a visit to. This is the first of the boundary stones and is actually a natural boulder, with on its surface the letters ‘U’ and ‘H’ carved onto it. You can probably guess what these signify!
- Leave Prowse’s Rock in a north-easterly, crossing the tramway to reach stones 2-5 (including 3 A). Interestingly, it would seem that 2 and 5 are both recumbent, which is not uncommon on this parish boundary line. Stones 6-8 are on the summit of Western Beacon, a 365 square that contains numerous cairns, a quarry on its south face and a magnificent vista of the South Hams.
- Take the track northward to pass by stones 9-11, which are obvious. At Black Pool, in the col, there is stone 12, but this appears to be a flat, nondescript rock. Stones 13-16 are very obvious between Black Pool and Butterdon Hill, and the first of these is known as the ‘Longstone’.
- Stones 17-19 look to be cairns as opposed to actual physical boundary stones, and all three are on Butterdon Hill, a great place to enjoy the views and bag a trig while you’re there. At stone 19, which is one of those flat stones in the cairn circle no doubt, you will follow the path of the stone row due north towards a huge cairn in line with Hangershell Rock. The Rock is well worth a visit as it is close by but this will see you leave the parish boundary for a short while before returning.
- Stones 20-26 are all within this stone row, the second-longest on Dartmoor, but this does make it difficult to decipher what is a boundstone and what is just another stone. Stone 27 is quite special and is better-known as Hobajohn’s Cross – yes, the incised cross acts as a boundary stone as well as being a part of the aforementioned stone row!
- You will pass stone 28 before coming to stone 29 which is beside the standing stone called ‘The Longstone’, and this is on Piles Hill so you can tick-off another square for 365. Piles Hill has an abundance of buried cairns which might be worth investigating if you’ve got the time.
- Stone 30 is a recumbent stone lying just beside a grassy track, within a patch of reeds. You might be delighted to find that stones 31-37 all reside just west of the Redlake Tramway and are easily spotted and visited. Look out for that inscription on stone 31! They are few and far between.
- This is perhaps the point where the stones become a bit more difficult to find, but don’t panic, you shouldn’t encounter too many problems. Stones 38-44 are all east of Sharp Tor, although its nearby cairn is more prominent and higher. Stones 45-53 are all quite small but are located in a straight line. You may stumble upon an inspection point or two between the stones: these were used to check for blockages within the china clay works’ slurry pipe. Mr Richard Hansford Worth ordered the construction of the tramway (which I have mentioned countless times now) and this follows a more direct course between Redlake in the north and Cantrel in the south. The pipe, which in parts breaches the surface, follows the contours sloping downhill to the south so that gravity pulled the china clay downhill to Cantrel.
- Cross the tramway to find recumbent stone 54, and thence stone 55 which has an OS benchmark cut into its face.
- Stones 56-58 are all a little bit elusive. There are tiny fragments of granite at these locations but none are surely ‘boundstone-worthy’? Perhaps the Leftlake China Clay Works’ scar disturbed or completely removed these stones? It is unclear but Leftlake is a most wonderful lunch spot!
- Warning! This is where things become difficult, and this is where the walk becomes strenuous – the ground between here and the finish is tussocky and the route from stones 59-62 is no exception. Tread carefully.
- At stone 62 (which has another lovely inscription) there is a concrete bridge for the pipeline and soon you will cross the tramway to visit stones 63-65 and once again for the last time to bag all of those between here and Hook Lake.
- Stones 66-70 lie in deep tussock and this can make finding the stones more of a challenge than tolerating the terrain itself! Persevere and it can be done, but don’t expect huge monoliths; indeed these markers are neglected and barely protrude from the ground.
- Cross Hook Lake where the location of stone 71 is supposed to be, only it has not been located and it is easy to see why because this is some of the worst tussock grass on South Dartmoor. (Update: Steve Grigg has located, close by, a natural boulder that is most likely the marker in question.)
- The next step is to ascend taking in stones 72-84 over the notorious Brown Heath. This will be slow-going, but on a clear day you are rewarded with good outlooks across the Erme valley. Stone 78 is a recumbent post and took me a while to find, so use the photo and NGR to accurately locate it.
- You should feel a sense of excitement as you crest the hill, knowing you only have a few more stones left. After crossing a grassy track it really is just stones 85 and 86 remaining. The former of these is significant as it is incised, bearing ‘U’ and ‘H’ – this is known as the Outer U Stone. The final stone is known as the W Stone.
- Follow the course of the Red Brook downstream, basking in the accomplishment, to reach the lower ford, but do not cross it, keep to the left bank track which curves left to run alongside the Erme valley stone row – the longest in the world! This will lead you to Erme Pound, a magnificent ruin of dilapidated granite walls adjacent to the River Erme that is a 365 item.
- The route should be a joy now as not only are you progressing southward but you can explore the valley in greater detail if you wish. You will need to cross Hook Lake again at its foot, sticking to the left bank of the Erme before you eventually branch off to the left to ascend the slope to the Quickbeam Hill W Settlement, consisting of a few well-preserved hut circles.
- It is hoped that if you climb a bit higher to the east-south-east you can espy the spoil heap at Leftlake, which is the next checkpoint where you were extremely close to earlier. Turn right onto the tramway and enjoy the good-going surface, passing below Three Barrows as you head southward.
- You could just head back to the car now on the track from Piles Hill to Harford Moor Gate, but it would be missing out on the stupendous viewpoint at Sharp Tor. As you emerge from beneath the huge eminence of Three Barrows, where a track leading down from it joins the tramway from the left by a square fenced-off enclosure, fork right onto a path that will take you to the conspicuous cairn on the skyline. From here head down to Sharp Tor and marvel at the exposure atop the valley.
- From the tor head south to Piles Gate and cross Piles Brook. It is simple now, the next point of interest is the car park… whoopee, hurrah! You’ve completed (in however many stages) a truly classic enthusiasts’ walk that few Dartmoor explorers can tick-off their repertoire. At home after rewarding yourself do remember to revisit Dartefacts to tick-off all of those new items.