Ever since I first visited Dartmoor on my motorbike, back in 1990 I was always fascinated by the tall TV transmitter visible for miles and miles around. For the residents of Princetown this monument to modern communication has stood looming over the town since the mast and TV transmitter station came into operation on 7 August 1956.
Princetown TV Mast
A look on my trusty OS Explorer Map of Dartmoor showed a path running north-west from Princetown to Great Mis Tor, seemed to me like the basis of a great circular walk, with some stunning views. A date was set, I parked in the centre of Princetown close to the Dartmoor National Park visitor centre.
I walked away from the centre of town, alongside the Dartmoor Brewery and Fire Station, it was dry and the sun was attempting to shine a light.
Dartmoor Brewery is England’s highest brewery situated some 1,465ft above sea level.
Within a few minutes hike of the town centre the steep climb up North Hessary Tor beckoned ahead, suburban townscape meets moorland landscape in the blink of an eye. Dartmoor very much creeps right up to the doorsteps of Princetown.
A word of warning to the casual visitor, don’t expect clear winter days like this all the time. At 1465 feet above sea level this part of Devon regularly sees snow and ice. I have walked here on crystal clear days in winter, only to be sheltering from heavy hail and driving snow an hour later.
It sounds contradictory but I do have a fascination with industry and wilderness coexisting in harmony; my interest comes from the strength in both; nature with its lightning, gale force winds, dangerous ice build up, bleaching summer sun. Industrial; with its over-engineered structures, weather-beaten cables, power-line crackle.
Guy ropes criss-cross the landscape keeping the TV mast straight and true, vast concrete anchors seek to keep the status quo. An Ordnance Survey trig point marks 517 metres above the sea, visible in the distance at Plymouth.
Great Mis Tor, Dartmoor
From North Hessary Tor, the route to Great Mis Tor is very much a straight line and uneventful, except for a road crossing at Rundlestone. Great Mis Tor is situated at the south western edge of the Merrivale MOD firing range. At the time of my walk the range was open to the public.
The north moor is vast, a very different landscape from southern Dartmoor; seems bleaker, harsher and certainly sparsely populated. From Great Mis Tor I looked north-east and saw nothing but moorland and bleak tors; stunning.
As far as the eye could see, nothing but open moorland. Fantastic.
Patches of moss and bog were ever-present and walking a line as straight as these fence posts was an impossibility; just meandering through Dartmoor as I do. Dave is a good indication of wet ground ahead as I hear him squelching long before I catch up. He’s a very accomplished canine hiker these days.
The surrounding Merrivale Firing Range has revealed unexploded munitions from WW2, with a serious incident in 1995 injuring several children.
Warning signals; red flags by day and red lamps by night, indicate that live firing is taking place, within the Dartmoor live firing range boundaries. Great Mis Tor sits some 538 m / 1765 ft above sea level, meaning that in winter the wind cuts right through you. None of that lazy wind I sometimes mention, it was bitterly cold!
Dave and I paid our respects to the Tor, it would have been rude to walk up to the granite and not say hello but engage in a chat about the world and its friend, no you’re OK today. I took a few photos, Dave huddled out of the wind as I grabbed a quick energy restoring bar of chocolate.
Kings Tor Merrivale
With lead grey sky overhead and rain ever visible over the moors of Cornwall to my west, it was time to head back to Princetown. I descended Great Mis Tor via the hard vehicle track to just north of Kings Tor. For the return trip I took the railway, well I would have done had the line from Princetown to Yelverton not closed in 1956. I may be waiting some time for the 16:30 to Yelverton.
I followed the track bed as it circled Kings Tor and then headed east towards Princetown; it made a change to be walking on level ground that didn’t move underfoot. A pleasant way to end this circular Dartmoor walk.
Route: Princetown to Great Mis Tor and back.
Distance: 9.15 miles (14.7 km)
Princetown car park: OS Grid Ref: SX 58917 73524
North Hessary Tor: OS Grid Ref: SX 57865 74232
Rundlestone: OS Grid Ref: SX 57417 74974
Great Mis Tor: OS Grid Ref: SX 56282 76912
Track Great Mis Tor: OS Grid Ref: SX 56285 75439
Kings Tor Old Railway: OS Grid Ref: SX 55932 73939
Yelverton to Princetown Trackbed: OS Grid Ref: SX 57595 73129