Chelmsford YHA Group


The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group

June 2016

Motorway Madness

Leather Tor, Dartmoor

We don’t go west very often and on the M4 heading for Bristol we remembered why. By the time we arrived in Steps Bridge we all had the symptoms of motorway madness and the name Doug had become a 4 letter word.

Luckily, a team of sherpas was available to carry stuff up the hill for us, because Blythswood is a tree house in the canopy, built in the 1930s with locally available materials... wood. For me it was retro hostelling, a refreshing change from the new corporate YHA furnishings, with homely battered armchairs beside a log burning stove, and a library of books by authors with green credentials, George Monbiot, Caroline Lucas, and John Seymour. below us was a sea of wild garlic which enabled me to be self sufficient but which had to be triple wrapped for transportation back to London for the freezer.

The decision about Saturday’s walk was almost unanimous. We set off to drive to Princetown for a classic route involving some of the best features of Dartmoor. Unfortunately we left the hostel just as a large number of cyclists were climbing the hill, so for several miles travelling in convoy was particularly challenging. Fergus rose to the occasion and I became symptomatic again, this time with carsickness.

Initially the walk seemed an unpromising route along a track, but arriving at the granite quarries I had to admit that the scenery was spectacular and as good as the landscapes of the North. Ponies and primroses added interest, as did the Devonport Leat, a channel to supply fresh water down to the naval base at Plymouth. Doug and Jonathan fitted comfortably into a cairn and cist (a burial tomb) and Jonathan appeared so settled as to found his final resting place.  Most of us enjoyed scrambling over the tors, but John Maton held back, possibly remembering his traumatic experiences on the Aonach Eagach, many years ago. Although not high, the tors are interesting small ridges offering a sufficient challenge for most of us.

We arrived back at Princetown just in time for tea, by dint of Cressida wedging herself in the entrance to the teashop 5 minutes before closing time. She persuaded them to stay open for excellent cream teas.

On Sunday morning the weather was less promising and voters were split as to whether to do Dave’s epic mini Scotland walk over Yes Tor or Cressida’s pretty one. Dave’s party did indeed encounter mists and face navigational challenges, but seemed to relish these.  We found our own tor, Hell Tor which we had to brace ourselves, literally, to climb. After that it was easy headlessly crossing Mardon Down (where the cross was also Headless...) and strolling along the Teign amongst the last of the wild daffodils.

In the evening we played musical easy chairs to the accompaniment of John singing wishfully about going to Barbados to see his (mystery) girlfriend.

That just left the Monday when we scattered in different directions. Three cars parked at the church in Powderham and walked towards Topsham, where we took the ferry at the cost of one pound eighteen pence, which gave the grumpy ferryman something to grumble about. In order to obtain the right money for the return journey we had to go to the pub, thereby missing the dry part of the day, and necessitating walking home in the rain. The advantage of this was that Ali and Dave had a chance to test their new cagoules before our trip to the Faroes.

We hope Doug had a happy birthday... we certainly enjoyed it. Shame he lost another year though... which he can’t go back for...



The Fergus Extension

After our Monday walk from Powderham, Fergus was overcome by the urge to complete just a little bit more coast path:

“My walk to Dawlish Warren was somewhat road bound and it was only here that I could get to the coast side of the railway. Much more interesting was the walk to Dawlish where repairs of the storm damage were evidenced by new concrete. Climbed up at the far end to take in the view by which time I had been going for well over 2 hours. Ate lots of chocolate and came back on the train.”


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