A return to Dartmoor and the Erme Plains, but taking a slightly different route inspired by the Dartmoor Cicerone Guide by John Earle. This route heads up the Erme Valley to Erme Pits, then back via Yealm Valley. Ample camping opportunities can be found pretty much everywhere, be it up on the isolate moor or in any of the valleys – we camped on the Erme River near the old tinners huts below Stall Moor, however the upper Erme would be even more splendid and wonderfully remote. The return is via Yealm valley, but for extra fun, you could also come back over Stalldown Barrow (shown in green on the map below).
- Getting there: The start is at New Waste – there are a few places you can fit a car on the narrow road from Tor to New Waste. You may find more straightforward spots in some of the small villages to the southwest, just be aware you might have to tack on a couple miles to the journey!
- Distance: 14.3km (8.9 miles)
- Height Gain: 374m (1227 ft)
- Recommended map: OS Explorer OL28
We were a bit late getting Dartmoor having been sidetracked by an amazing tea experience at Comins Tea House in Dorset (more on that later). The sun was already low in the sky when we finally parked up, booted up, and headed off up the track towards the River Erme. (Note: there is a water treatment works at New Waste that is not accessible to the public, however it’s easy enough to skirt around it, and there is an obvious footpath to the right of the entrance that is clearly used for this purpose.)
The track ends near some Tinner’s huts and becomes a rough path. By that point it was properly dark – this wasn’t one of those days for a picturesque wild camping sunset! This would be a functional pitch, and we managed to find a flat enough spot – not as easy as you’d think. It seems the previous history of Dartmoor tin workings have left its mark on this area, largely in the form of lots of hard rocky lumps and uneven ground! We managed, though – never underestimate the importance of having a good head torch. (If you’re interested, you can check out my full wild camping kit list for all the essentials).
It was a short walk but a long day of travelling and we were both super excited to get the tent up and embark on one of our favourite wild camping meals: tent tacos! A conniption was almost had when I realised I’d forgotten to pack the Jetboil pot support (that basically lets you use a frying pan on the Jetboil). Fortunately we used our brains to rig up something suitable, and tacos were had! It was pretty epic…
- Campstove fajitas with peppers and mushrooms
- Chocolomo – an insanely delicious Mexican stew made with some game that I’d acquired in the Lake District last summer and had been storing in my freezer for a special occasion. I dehydrated the stew for easy transport – it was amazing! Recipe via Hank Shaw.
- Refried black beans – one of my specials from the ESW shop
- Garnishes: Avocado, feta, radishes, and Trailblazer Hot Sauce
The only people we encountered the whole trip were a couple who walked by in the morning, also carrying big packs. Apparently they had camped nearby and we passed them en route to our spot (“I told you I could hear voices!”). You couldn’t fault the weather – it felt like summertime in autumn.
From our camp we headed further down the river and up to The Dancers Stone Circle, a spot where I’ve previously camped. This stone circle marks the terminus of the Erme Stone Row, the longest stone row on Dartmoor at around 3.3km, and a handy guidepost for continuing the walk.
This part of the Erme Plains has a wonderfully wild feel with numerous artefacts poised to spark the imagination about what life must have been like on Dartmoor in previous centuries. The most dominant feature is Erme Pound, easily visible across the River Erme (assuming you have good visibility of course, always questionable in dartmoor!).
Taking a tip from John Earle in the Cicerone guide, we had our minds set on finding Grant’s Pot, a curious-sounding artefact near Erme head.
“Grant’s Pot is a small underground cavern, discovered in 1953 by the Senior Scouts of the 4th Teignmouth Group. It was intended immediately to set up a letterbox at this spot, but this was not done until June 1972 when the box, dedicated to all who love the moor, was placed by senior pupils of Dawlish Secondary School.”
This area is dominated by the vast remains of medieval tin pits, the perfect place to stash a letterbox (or something else). It also made the task harder than we expected.
Try as we may, Grant’s Pot eluded us. In hindsight we should have looked up pictures to at least get a hint of what we were looking for. I had pictured a large “tunnel” but from what I’ve seen since, it’s barely a hole, surrounded by tussock and easy to miss.
Thwarted by Grant’s Pot, we instead stopped for lunch and tea. I made tacos (filled with chilli non carne this time)…
….while Andrew made tea with his new tea pot for a most delightful tea in nature moment that I hope will become a tradition!
We had originally planned to come back via Stalldown Barrow but having exhausted ourselves and the time on the infernal Grant’s Pot, we decided to shortcut back along the Yealm valley. Just a couple of good reasons to come back to this magical part of Dartmoor – no doubt there’s lots more to discover that I don’t even know about!
In the meantime, here are a few more pictures (mostly starring the Lucky dog, plus some interesting lichen and more of that glorious Dartmoor landscape):
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* One more thing: This guide should be used in conjunction with the appropriate OS map. Do not attempt this route without a map, compass, and the skills to use them. And as always, remember to leave no trace.