Walk 3004 - printer friendly version
Yes Tor, Cranmere Pool and Amicombe Hill Walk
Author - Jake Robertson
Length - 12.5 miles / 20.3 km
Ascent - 2210 feet / 670 metres
Grade - mod/hard
Start - OS grid reference SX561917
Lat 50.707079 + Long -4.0393299
Postcode EX20 4LU (approx. location only)
This is a tough walk around the West Okement River that takes you over the highest summits and some of the roughest and remotest parts of Dartmoor. Pick a dry day and allow about 6-8 hours, in mist and rain this would be a real challenge and test of navigation skills Note that the walk passes through the Okehapmton Firing Range, ensure you check firing times well beforehand.
Park at Meldon Dam car park (Grid ref. SK561917), drop down the track and cross the dam wall. Go left through a gate and begin climbing immediately, there are many paths climbing up the slope to the cairn and military post on the 412m top of Longstone Hill. There is a stunning view ahead to Yes Tor, appearing as a towering conical peak. A track heads south west towards prominent Black Tor and after a short way veer left, cross the head of a minor valley and aim directly towards Yes Tor's summit, picking your way through the clitter on the numerous paths. The summit is marked by a trig point and military post.
Yes Tor is an impeccable summit, commanding a superb view over Devon to Exmoor and also into Dartmoor and it's grand tor and beautiful shape give it every reason to feel cheated by High Willhays that it is only the second highest on the moor. The temptation to linger here is strong but you must resist and make the quick walk to High Willhays, at 2037ft the highest summit on Dartmoor and in Southern England. A large cairn on a small tor marks the top but after Yes Tor it is a bit of disappointment and the views into the remote heart of the moor will soon lure you on.
Your target is the t-junction of tracks (Grid ref. SX588888) just north of Dinger Tor to the south east, reached after a rough half mile descent. Go straight on at the junction (ie-right if approached from Dinger Tor), dropping down to the head of Black-a-ven Brook at a hairpin bend. In good weather a short cut can be made here, climb above the brook and follow a faint path south east picking up a track near the 530m contour (Grid ref. SX594884). In mist it is much safer to keep with the track to a crossroads and turn right. Either way, you'll end up on Okement Hill by the observation box. It may be some surprise to see cars parked here for on non-firing day the public is allowed to use some of military roads in the North Moor. However, don't be fooled, it doesn't make the last 1 ½ miles to Cranmere Pool any easier!
Keep right with the track, descending slightly until a grassy track on the right forks off onto the ridge to the lovely pool of Ockerton Court. Cranmere Pool lies less than a mile away to the south but it is not easy to see and I would recommend using a compass even in clear weather. It's a very rough and energy sapping walk through tussocks and bogs to the famous pool, now just a grassy hollow with a small letter box containing a visitors' book and ink stamp. I've always found this spot slightly disappointing, being in a hollow the views and wilderness aspect are hidden and it may be worth heading south towards the 584m spot height (Grid ref. SX603845). This is the true heart of the North Moor, a flat boggy plateau over 1800ft high and over four miles from the nearest public road cradled by the heights of Hangingstone Hill and Black Hill. In any weather, it's a magical place.
Head now to Black Ridge, identified by its peat hags and reached after more slow walking avoiding the worst of the bogs. In bad weather it is advisable that you set a compass bearing at Cranmere Pool and head directly to Black Ridge instead. From Black Ridge descend to a shallow col and climb up to the small tor on the top of Great Kneeset. There is a fantastic view south of Fur Tor and Cut Hill and north down the deep West Okement Valley. A path picks its way down through the tussocks before dropping steeply down to a delightfully secluded col at the foot of Amicombe Hill (Grid ref. SX578857). Cross the col and begin the long drag up Amicombe Hill. There are many paths up the slope causing some confusion. Ideally head uphill veering right slightly to gain the ridge on which a path goes north to the undistinguished summit at 585m, quite a disappointment for such a grand looking hill. The military post on Kitty Tor is slightly lower but a much nicer top and there are grand views over to Yes Tor and into the moor. Great Links Tor looks most striking away to the west.
Progress along the ridge descending above Lyd Head to the tor of Branscombe's Loaf. Descend down a broad spur to Shelstone Tor (Grid ref. SX557898), which gives a nice view of the Black-a-tor Copse, one of the three remaining primeval oak woods on Dartmoor, then go north down into the West Okement Valley at Vellake Corner. Walk by the river to the footbridge and join a track on the left which skirts the north side of Meldon Reservoir bringing you back to the dam wall and the car.