After studying the map and also my ever expanding grid of coloured squares on my Dartmoor 365 map I spotted three squares that could be bagged along with a couple of tors on a part of the moor I know well, the old Princetown railway line. I’d not been that way for several years so decided it would be a nice time to revisit. It was a nice easy walk, no real climbing, no bogs and a nice firm track for most of it.
I parked my car in the car park at Princetown (SX589734 / PL20 6QY). This used to be ‘free’ and donations were encouraged however these days it’s a pay and display so make sure you take coins with you! I followed the road past the fire station toward ‘Station Cottages’ for 100m before taking the track leading to the old Railway Line. Before the line was closed in 1956 there was a bustling station on this ground. There is still plenty of evidence of the railway as you walk along the path. As you join the path you walk past the last of the remaining buildings from the old Station and the fence on the right is supported by old welded rails and further along the track you find the remains of an old sanding bunker.
I followed the track as it wound out of Princetown and followed the contours of North Hessary Tor. After a few hundred metres I crossed one of several bridges along the route and decided to leave the track and explore a little. I have a little history with this bridge and have some photos (P1 & P2) taken back in 1984 of myself and a couple of old school friends at the bridge during one of our many walks which happened most weekends. Since they were taken there has been quite a lot of work undertaken to clean up the bridge and surrounding area as well as the construction of a parapet wall on the top of the bridge to protect walkers from falling off!
Following one of the many animal tracks for about 300m, I climbed up North Hessary Tor until it ended abruptly with a shear drop to the floor of Foggintor Quarry as I found myself stood on the edge of 100ft+ cliff. This area can be really dangerous and a high level of caution is advised if you are on top tops of the cliffs. There are lots of ground bolts in place in an attempt to hold together the crumbling granite walls getting too close to the edge is ill advised. Saying that, on a clear day the view across the quarry is spectacular. Foggintor was indeed once a proper Tor however from around 1785 it was extensively quarried as the quality of the granite was found to be superior to granite from other quarries on Dartmoor. Granite from Foggintor was used all over the United Kingdom 1
I made my way carefully down to the eastern edge of the quarry and crossed the old track-bed and headed to the small granite stack on the left of the facing hill. Although this isn’t marked on the map, I believe it to be the original Swell Tor and just beyond it lies the gigantic Swell Tor quarry. Stone from Swell Tor was used in the construction of the original London Bridge and allegedly Nelson’s Column. I worked my way NW from Swell Tor along the ridge toward King’s Tor and found a lovely spot on the north side where I just sat for a while, made a brew and enjoyed the lovely views out across Staple Tor and Merrivale.
After a while I made my way back down to the rail track and followed it back into Princetown and to my car. This wasn’t a challenging walk however it’s an interesting way to spend a few hours. It would be very easy to spend several hours exploring both quarries too if I had fancied. As it was I was just in the mood to drink tea and look at beautiful scenery.
RouteDownload my GPX file
Photos from this walk
North Hessary Tor
- Legendary Dartmoor, http://www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/foggintor.htm