Penn Beacon & Shell Top

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The fine weather has continued to grace us over the last few weeks and it has been fantastic to be able to make the most of it. I’m not particularly a fair weather walker, I am very happy walking in all weathers and actually feel that Dartmoor is at its best during inclement weather. However when the sun is shining I love nothing more than being perched on top of a tor, in the middle of nowhere enjoying the peace, quiet and a cup of tea!

Blacka BrookThis week I decided to revisit a couple of tors I last did around ten years ago, Penn Beacon and Shell Top. These tors are clearly visible from all areas around Plymouth and east Cornwall and in fact are visible from about 20 miles offshore and can be seen as you sail into Plymouth. Previously I have tackled these two from Ditsworthy Warren via Hen Tor or from Cornwood. This time I thought I would park at the Trowlesworthy car park that I’d used for my winter trip to Trowlesworthy a few months ago.

Track along the top of the clay pits toward Penn Beacon & Shell TopI parked my car in the car park (SX570631) and followed the track past ‘Big Pond’ continuing as it curled up and around finally levelling out and leading south east. The track skirts along the top edge of one of the huge china clay pits at Cholwich. For the most part, as you drive around this area you can’t see the clay pits. The only real evidence are the large sculpted spoil heaps that punctuate the landscape around here. However as you climb Shell Top on the NW side of the pits, it soon becomes evident just how much damage has been done by the mining. The pits are a massive white scar blot on the landscape and it’s hard to see how this area could ever return to its former beauty. In fact with the new Drakelands Tungsten Mine at Hemerdon also carving up the ground in this area I think it’s safe to say that unfortunately, this little corner of the Moor will never recover.

Penn Beacon SummitAfter 2km the track turned left toward the summit and promptly disappeared. There in front of me was a large steep slope. Now the hard work began. I have a love hate relationship with hills. Climbing them can be brutal on Dartmoor, especially on uneven ground. But once you reach the summit it’s normally worth the toil. From the track it was about 800m to the summit. I took my time working my way through the clitter and heather and eventually the summit cairn came into view and I was rewarded with spectacular and clear views. From up there was I was able to see all of Plymouth, Plymouth Sound, out into the channel and down well into Cornwall.

China Clay works scarring the landscapeTime for a cuppa. I love nothing more than slipping off my pack and sitting with a good view and a cuppa. Recently I’ve been lucky to have had some really amazing views when I’ve stopped for a break and this had to be right up there on that list. Once I’d rested for a little I decided it was time to hack up the shallow slope toward Shell Top about 1km away. The summit of Shell Top has a small cairn of granite rocks, which in fact I used a photo of as the banner for the old Dartmoorwalker site. There isn’t much else up on Shell Top so I stopped for a few photographs before deciding to make my way back down to the car way below me.

Wonky!Initially I followed a rough track down the eastern slope of Shell Top heading for Great Trowlesworthy tor before taking an intersecting track which lead me back down to the track I had followed up from the car. En route I found myself in amongst a large heard (100+) of Dartmoor cows. They were a proper rag-tag motley crew of belted Galloways, Highlanders and various other breeds. I don’t think they were used to seeing people as they gave me a wide berth as I made my way through them.

Hitting the track it was a straight forward walk back down to the car park which was now stacked full of cars and families enjoying the weather up there. It was a lovely walk, just short of 9.5km with about 300m of ascent….. Certainly a work out for the quads anyway!

 

Walk Summary

Distance
Ranges
Bogs
Difficulty
This walk is 9.5km / 5.8mi
No part of this route crosses into any military ranges
There is boggy ground on the eastern slope of Shell Top when the weather has been wet
Easy…. but with some steep climbing at times.

Route

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Photos from this walk