Car(e) free Dartmoor
Visitors to south Devon, particularly those from Europe, are frequently taken aback at the lack of public transport into and around the beautiful Dartmoor National Park. Even if you’re staying in one of the so-called “gateway” towns like Ashburton or Bovey Tracey, it’s not possible to get up to the moor without hiring a taxi or walking for miles on roads before you get to proper moorland scenery. But there are ways for visitors to Totnes to enjoy Dartmoor without a car. Here’s a few of them:
From Totnes you can get the excellent Stagecoach Gold bus to Ivybridge or South Brent (runs every half hour and even hourly on a Sunday). From both of these towns the walks onto the moor are on footpaths — and if you’re a confident walker able to read a map and compass you can walk from one to the other via some fabulous Dartmoor scenery.
Ivybridge lies on the lovely river Erme and you can follow the river upstream from the town centre through beautiful woodland, then cut across to the picturesque hamlet of Harford and onto the open moor at Harford Moor Gate. The energetic can walk from here all the way to Piles Copse, one of the three areas of ancient woodland on Dartmoor and an idyllic spot for a picnic. The Two Moors Way runs along the ridge above, and you can follow it back into town passing prehistoric stone rows and with magnificent moorland views.
In South Brent you can follow footpaths up the equally lovely river Avon valley, via Lutton and Didworthy, then walk up the bridlepath to Corringdon Ball and the Glazebrook valley where there are many prehistoric remains and great high moor scenery. Return on footpaths via Aishridge and Aish.
On Saturdays between May and September, you can take advantage of the Haytor Hoppa which drives across the moor taking in sights such as Hay Tor, Widecombe and Hound Tor. Take the train to Newton Abbot and pick the bus up there. You can hop off at one place and hop on again at another, thus enjoying a linear walk or two, and eventually returning to Newton Abbot train station. There are four buses and day and the timetable can be found here.
If you’re used to camping and carrying your own equipment, you can take advantage of the fact that Dartmoor is the only national park in the country that allows wild camping. Take a small tent and pitch it at least 100m from a road or house and the moor is your oyster (with the exception of a few areas – see link below). You can walk from Ivybridge to Okehampton or follow the Two Moors Way from Ivybridge on a more easterly route, finishing somewhere like Chagford. It goes without saying that you need a compass, a map and the ability to navigate before you venture out onto these high moorland routes! Information on wild camping can be found here. Buses can take you from Okehampton or Chagford back to Exeter and from there by train back to Totnes.
If you’re not comfortable with negotiating your own route or you’d like the benefit of a guide who can introduce you to the hidden delights and history of Dartmoor, contact Dartmoor Walks and Rides This Way. Based in Ashburton, which is served by the regular 88 bus from Totnes, I can meet you at the bus stop and take you for a half-day or full-day exploration of the moor either on foot or on an electric bike. But I’m afraid the 88 bus doesn’t run on Sundays…..