Wayward Wanderers Walking Group

Wonson-Gidleigh-Shilley Pool-Throwleigh

April 12, 2010, prb, Comments: 1

Perfect weather; lovely walk

Wonson is a little known and well hidden hamlet of maybe 10 dwellings - but, surprisingly, it has a pub, the Northmore Arms.  The suggestion is that its raison d'etre is to do with the Mariners Way, thought to pass close by, although there is no certainty about that.  The hamlet also accommodates Throwleigh Village Hall, even though the centre of Throwleigh village is a mile to the north. 

Two car-loads met at the phone box just west of the pub, looking forward to a walk that matched the lovely weather we had been blessed with.  Nothing's that straightforward, though - the leader snapped a bootlace as he was tying up his boots!  That little difficulty was, however, quickly overcome by the expedient by giving that boot two laces, one short holding the bottom 3 pairs of cleats tight; the longer part of the original lace tying the upper cleats together.  It worked fine, but it is not expected that the twin-bow style will catch on! 

Our walk started in a southerly direction down the lane to Providence Place.  There we took a track off to the right by some cottages.  This led us downhill to join another lane at Coombe, where we crossed a gurgling brook lined with a dazzling display of daffodils. 

A further short stretch of lane followed, but soon we struck off up a track to the right, past Gidleigh Mill, where we paused to admire the sensitively converted farm buildings and their adjoining lake - a pretty picture indeed. 

 The track led us upwards and shortly we emerged opposite a clapboard bungalow on the edge of Gidleigh village.  A turn right led us to the church and, adjacent to that, the well-tended walled garden of the castle ruin. 

This is said to be the smallest castle on Dartmoor, and with a footprint of just 22ft by 13ft, albeit on 2 levels, it is certainly small.  However, it is not, actually, a castle, but a fortified manor house built around 1300.

We turned north at Gidleigh, taking a field path that led gently downward to boggy ground in the vicinity of Moortown Brook, where a slight diversion offered views of the chapel ruins nearby.  Our route meandered up through unkempt and broken ground on the north side of the brook but very shortly we joined a lane leading north to the cluster of buildings at Moortown.  Here we crossed a cattle grid and onto the moor, but we quickly  left it again as we deviated right off the lane and onto a track.  This led us past a number of bungalows, cottages and smallholdings, meandering around to Forder Brook, which we crossed by a small stone bridge.

Having crossed over we emerged on an area of wide grassy moorland verge, and a stretch of moorland fringe all acknowledged as one of the most beautiful spots around.  Wide sheep-cropped grass studded with coconut-scented flowering gorse bushes flanked the lane.  Behind these ran the babbling Forder Brook and its tributaries, all sheltered by gnarled and mossy stunted moorland trees.  

All in all I think this is a spot to which many of the group will return at other times. 

As we followed the lane it climbed slowly and soon the terrain opened out.  As we breasted the crest of the slope the wide expanse of the open moor came into view.  We climbed gradually as we neaded north, pausing to spot Castle Drogo on the slope of the Teign valley away to the east, and shortly left the lane to the left making for Shilstone Tor.  Here we took a short break for some photos, including this one towards Haytor,........

.......to admire the still unsullied footwear of Mr Shiny-Boots, and to share Tricia's chocolate handouts.

Refreshed, we set off across the open moorland, gently climbing across the slope in a north-westerly direction, through patches of gorse and heather.  This stretch was punctuated by the leader's second mishap of the afternoon, when his walking pole fell apart - and had to be put in his rucksack for future maintenance.  Notwithstanding its loss, the walk continued, and soon we came over the brow and started the steep descent down the side of the Blackaton Brook valley. 

Once the brook came into view we set about selecting a suitable crossing point.  In all members of the group selected three different crossing points, all to the west of Shilley Pool.  On the other side of the stream we took a photo of the expanse of wide slightly-sloping rock forming the stream bed at the pool, .....

......and then set off uphill, following close to the stone wall that marks the edge of the open moor.

After about 900 metres of this we turned to the east and started our descent off the moor along a zig-zag stony track.  This eventually joined the South Zeal road just south of Ramsley Hill, but just before the junction some of the group befriended this horse......

We turned south along the road, and the least interesting part of the route.   Even here though, there were changing open views across the valley to the east, and occasional points of interest to pick up on the slopes leading up to the moor on the other side of us. 

In all we followed the lane for nearly 2km, but eventually, and close to Throwleigh, we left it.  Here we took a very varied footpath route across fields, bog and paddock that, after we had warily skirted some highland cattle......

........and some shetland ponies, and got our boots severely claggy, led us directly into Throwleigh churchyard.  Here some paused to look inside the church, while others just admired the show of daffodils among the headstones.........

Once all had explored their fill, though, we regrouped  and headed uphill out of the village.  Part way up the slope we took off to the left and onto a long straight green lane, Deave Lane, over 1km long, that led us directly back to Wonson.  Again Drogo could be picked up from time to time through the trees lining the lane as we made our way along it. 

All appeared to enjoy this walk including, mishaps apart, the leader.  We covered 7.3 miles and climbed just short of 300m, not therefore unduly arduous.  The track has been uploaded to GPSies.com.  A link to this is below:


Comments: 1

Sara-Jane and Tony
April 18, 2010

Lovely walk Peter, thanks very much!

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