After a long spell of sunny spring weather, the 11 May turned damp, and the mist was very low. However, a hardy seventeen members and friends walked from the car park near Emsworthy Mine (on the Haytor to Widecombe Road) through the Devon Wildlife Trust Emsworthy Nature Reserve, across Holwell Lawn to Hound Tor and its medieval village, then over the Becka Brook, past two Ilsington/Manaton boundary stones and up to Smallacombe Rocks, returning along a stretch of the Haytor granite tramway, Emsworthy Rocks and Saddle Tor and back to the cars.


Route of the walk

Map image from Garmin Basecamp, used with permission.


In Emsworthy we saw the barn and remains of the longhouse (much altered in the 18th century).  Coffee break was in a delightful spot by the river and the ruins of Howell Cottage.


Section of Haytor granite tramway, in the mist!

Section of Haytor granite tramway, in the mist! Photo: Sharon McQuillan


The bluebells as we walked through the woods and onto the Hound Tor road were looking and smelling lovely.    This was good, because the spectacular display at Holwell Lawn, although there, was invisible in the mist.   Visibility from there was no better, and Val led the group in the wrong direction around Hound Tor; who would have thought such a well known place as the medieval village would be difficult to find? Thanks to John and Peter for helping get us back on track. Sharon saved the route on her GPS, and the map shows quite clearly where there was an unplanned detour.
Lunch on Smallacombe Rocks was a little later than planned, but relatively dry, although still without the expected spectacular views.  After lunch we walked through the prehistoric settlement on Smallacombe – where Bill for pointed out an impressive round house.  Then down to the tramway – where Sharon took this atmospheric photo – and back to the cars.


Bluebells at Holwell Lawn. Photo: Derek Collins


The return was straightforward, partly because once found the tramway is easy to follow at least part of the way, but also because Val had saved GPS points which were very useful when visibility was under 50 metres most of the time.

We heard a cuckoo, or perhaps two, a few willow warblers and stonechats.  Also, a real rarity on Dartmoor in 2017, a calling curlew.
The bluebells will be on show for another couple of weeks, and Holwell Lawn in particular is worth a visit if the sun is out.