I’ve never been to Stonehenge, I have driven the A303 a multitude of times on trips to the West Country. My reason for never visiting is the location. A busy noisy holiday traffic route only a short distance away, fences keeping people from doing harm to the stones.
Coach loads of people arriving by the hour on sunny weekends. An amazing icon but the location is all man-made wrong. Dartmoor on the other hand is addressing that issue for me and very well too.
Postbridge Dartmoor Devon
The village of Postbridge is a popular starting point for walks on the moors, a well equipped shop and Post Office, toilets and a large visitor centre. A generous sized car park operating on a pay and display system. More parking info here.
I had looked at my OS Explorer Map of Dartmoor and had seen The Grey Wethers stone circles clearly marked. My route would be almost grid north on the map, taking me close to Sittaford Tor, to the west of Fernworthy Forest; itself a popular walking destination.
I left the busy car park, serious walkers, tourists and families heading off on their own adventures and I picked up the path I needed, just across the bridge over the East Dart River.
The path follows the East Dart River for 2 km and as I walked the sound of flowing water was never far away in the valley bottom, the sky threatened rain but other than fleeting drizzle my walk was dry.
Sittaford Tor Ahead
After walking for several kilometres I arrived at Sittaford Tor, not the most well-known or scenic of tors but the views alone are worth the climb to the summit. My linear route to Sittaford Tor was on the whole dry and easy to follow. Of course I had my map with me but a simple compass bearing worked fine.
The clouds provided a great backdrop, sky blues, slab greys, fleeting sunbeams, moody blues and inky blacks. I only had to stand still for 5 minutes to see four seasons in the sky. This is Dartmoor, always pack your waterproofs just in case those brooding skies pick their moment.
The wild heather was in flower, the fleeting sunbeams choosing to illuminate vast patches of tiny bright flowers at random, like a child’s game chasing the light. Something as tiny as a flower on a heather can hold its own in the beauty pageant that is Dartmoor.
After an enjoyable walk through the heather and granite I reached the summit of Sittaford Tor. I sat upon the granite and had a look at the map, The Grey Wethers Stone Circles were just a few hundred metres to the east but out of view. Easily missed without a map.
The wind whistled but not artillery shells, the map told me that I wasn’t that far from one of Dartmoor’s MOD live firing ranges. Had time allowed a walk to Fernworthy Reservoir from the tor is a modest trip. Dave my 6 month old border collie explored the rocks, smelling the view as canines do. He loves life up here too.
Gates and fences corral livestock but stiles allow walkers easy passage onwards. The dry-stone walls are a work of art, marked on OS Explorer Maps to aid navigation. I walked east from Sittaford in search of the stone circles, having not seen photos before.
The Grey Wethers Stone Circles
Walking down from Sittaford Tor I soon saw the stone circles, north and south of each other. I was alone, except for my faithful border collie and wanted some time to get a feel for the location. Like I did when walking around Chanctonbury Ring on the South Downs of West Sussex.
You can’t connect with somewhere if it’s too busy with modern life, or you are engrossed in your smartphone. Look up, look up.
Stone circles, standing stones, spiritual places; they all make me want to talk to long-lost friends and family. Perhaps a modern house has too many interruptions and that is why I seem to wait until absolutely alone in the middle of a moor.
I am sure I am not the only person that chats to the stones, certainly our ancestors with very little distractions would have had a very close connection with the elements. I didn’t know the history here beforehand, so I walked the stones with an open mind. Seemed a friendly place in 2015, that’s for sure.
The prehistoric stones are all between 1 and 1.4 metres in height and the circles were restored in 1909. Both circles have 30 stones and they are within 2 degrees of being on an exact north to south alignment.
This could be my new location to get back in touch with nature, not a long hike and certainly a hike that can be undertaken in most seasons; observe the changing of the landscape as the year passes.
I took lots of photos at different angles, the only people I saw were several hundred metres away on their way to Fernworthy Reservoir, I had the stones to myself, well just me and my border collie. He sniffs the air and enjoys the locations and hears sounds on the wind.
From the stone circles back to Postbridge is a straight line but I took a slight deviation and walked over White Ridge back to Hartland Tor. I certainly would recommend this walk if you are new to Dartmoor but not new to hiking.
Sittaford Tor and Hartland Tor offer lovely views over the surrounding landscape without being too challenging a walk from Postbridge. Always leave plenty of time to be off the moor before darkness unless fully prepared. The paths though well-defined in places do occasionally descend into wet bog.
From Hartland Tor it was a short walk back along the banks of the East Dart River to Postbridge, where the car park was almost empty but the village shop was still open for a snack or cream tea.
Route: Postbridge to The Grey Wethers Stone Circles and back
Download Map of Route
Distance: 7.46 miles (12 km)
Postbridge path: OS Grid Ref: SX 64821 78951
Hartland Tor: OS Grid Ref: SX 64001 80053
Sittaford Tor: OS Grid Ref: SX 63321 83046
The Grey Wethers Stone Circles: OS Grid Ref: SX 63884 83138
White Ridge: OS Grid Ref: SX 64691 81846