Trip Number: 13650A
Price: $2,625 (11-14)
$3,125 (or fewer)
Staff: Deirdre Butler
- Explore the depths of Dartmoor National Park
- Experience 4000-year-old standing stones at your fingertips
- Learn about the ancient craft of saddle-making with a Master Saddler
- All on-trip transportation, lodging, entrance fees and gratuities, and most meals
- British friends will join us for walks and hearty conversation in traditional
Photo: Deirdre Butler
Dartmoor National Park provided many of the stunning locations for the filming
of Spielberg's 2012 blockbuster, War Horse. This largely remote and inaccessible
location also inspired Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes adventure, The Hound
of the Baskervilles. A wild and lonely setting, Dartmoor is steeped in history
with evidence of habitation from 4,000 to 2,600 years ago (Bronze Age) with
stone circles and standing stones to later mining of tin and granite. The rolling
moorland and hills topped by tors -- contortions of granite on the summits --
are flanked by wooded valleys, twisting, narrow lanes and grey farmhouses with
their patchwork of green fields.
Sir Francis Drake -- the sea captain, privateer, navigator who was born outside
Tavistock, Devon -- was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I in April 1581 and was
the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe in the Golden Hind. Drake became
Mayor of Plymouth in September 1581 and four years later, under Drake's watch
an Act of Parliament, was given royal assent to allow fresh water from Dartmoor
to be brought to Plymouth. In 1590 construction started on a leat (in-ground
aqueduct) of 17.5 miles that was 6-feet wide and 2-feet deep, which was finished
about one year later.
From our base on the edge of Dartmoor, we will hike sections of Drake’s
leat, visit Drake’s country estate, Buckland Abbey, experience remote
sections of Dartmoor, and explore less traveled paths known only to locals and
Dartmoor ponies. At the end of the day, we will enjoy the relaxed companionship
to be found in traditional English pubs. A visit to Devon would not be complete
without experiencing its Devonshire Cream Teas. There is evidence that clotted
cream, the essential ingredient, was being made by the monks of Tavistock Abbey
in the early 1300s.
Local ramblers will accompany us on several walks sharing their knowledge and
personal experiences of life in rural England. Our coach will transport us to
trail-heads and bring us back to our hotel where we will be based for the duration
of this trip. On occasion we will use public transportation. The following is
our planned itinerary, but it could change due to weather conditions or other
circumstances beyond our control.
Plan to spend the night before our trip in the market town of Tavistock, in
south Devon. We'll meet for an hour or so before dinner to talk about our trip
and daily schedule, and then adjourn for a no-host dinner and a chance to get
Photo: Deirdre Butler
Day 1: Our trip officially begins after breakfast with a day
hike of 5.5 miles encompassing the moors surrounding Burrator Reservoir. The
growing population of Plymouth and increasing demands on the fresh water supply
led to the creation of Burrator Reservoir in 1891 -- 300 hundred years after
the construction of Drake’s leat. Flooding of this valley resulted in
loss of sections of Drake’s leat but parts feeding water to the reservoir
are still working today. Pending a clear day, views from the top of Sheeps Tor
are spectacular. Our reward for our first day of hiking is a scrumptious Devonshire
Cream Tea accompanied by a talk on saddle-making. Tonight you are free to relax,
stroll through the market town and, if you are still hungry, have dinner on
Day 2: Homeland Defense: At the beginning of WWII, an airfield
(RAF Harrowbeer) was constructed adjacent to the village of Yelverton as a fighter
station for the air defense of Devonport Dockyard and the Western Approaches.
The layout of the airfield is still visible under the grass and the protective
bunkers are still in place. Our 7.5-mile hike follows parallel sections of Drake’s
leat and Devonport leat, the latter constructed in the 1790s to bring fresh
water to the expanding dockyards at Devonport. We will enjoy our sack lunch
along the way and build up an appetite for dinner at a former stage-coach inn
Photo: Deirdre Butler
Day 3: Drake’s Drum: Our destination today is Buckland
Abbey, former country home and estate of Sir Francis Drake. Buckland was originally
a Cistercian abbey founded in 1278 A.D. It remained an abbey until the Dissolution
of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII in 1541. Buckland became a National Trust
property in 1948. Among its collection of fine art and period costumes Buckland
Abbey is home to "Drake’s Drum" which Drake had with him when
circumnavigating the world. We’ll sample another Cream Tea in the Abbey’s
café followed by a stroll through the extensive kitchen gardens and woodlands.
Tonight we have dinner at a 16th century free-house -- a 30-minute walk from
Day 4: Domesday Settlements: Today our 7-mile hike starts
in the small village of Mary Tavy mentioned in the Domesday Book entry of 1086.
We take a combination of quiet country lanes, ancient footpaths and moorland
trails passing remnants of lead, tin and copper mining from the 17th century.
Tonight we dine in a charming 15th century pub in the small village of Peter
Tavy -- mentioned as a separate settlement in the Domesday Book.
Photo: Deirdre Butler
Day 5: A Taste of the Two Moors Way: An intact 13th century
clapper bridge built to enable pack horses to cross the East Dart River at the
hamlet of Postbridge is the start point for our 8.5-mile hike in to the heart
of Dartmoor. Our trail follows the watershed of the East Dart and North Teign
rivers passing many hut circles and stone circles before we head east into Fernworthy
Forest. We join the route for the Two Moors Way on our homeward stretch toward
a pub serving travelers since the middle of the 18th century where we too will
Day 6: Dartmoor Crosses: In the lee of Black Tor, we pass
a Bronze Age stone row and cross the River Meavy by an old aqueduct diverting
water to Devonport Leat. Our cross-country route follows the leat passing Crazywell
Cross and onto Siward’s or Nun’s Cross, the largest and oldest recorded
cross on Dartmoor most likely erected during the time of Edward the Confessor’s
reign (1042-1066 A.D.). Passing evidence of former tin mining activities our
6-mile hike ends at Gutter Tor where we are picked up and taken to a 15th-century
pub named after the oak tree, reputedly some 800 years old, on the village green.
Photo: Deirdre Butler
Day 7: Forts & Castles of Plymouth Sound: Our 6.5-mile
walk today starts with a short ferry ride from the Barbican in Plymouth where,
in 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers finally departed for the New World aboard the Mayflower.
An important naval port for many centuries, Plymouth has a selection of defenses
to protect its port dating from the Bronze Age, through the 1650s to the 19th
century. Our circular hike takes in these historical monuments as well as splendid
views of Plymouth Sound. A selection of restaurants and pubs along the waterfront
and the cobbled streets of the Barbican present a variety of choices for dinner
on our own.
Day 8: A Dartmoor Export: London Bridge, formerly of London,
England and now of Lake Havasu City, AZ, was taken piecemeal to Merrivale Quarry
to be trimmed before being transported and re-assembled in the USA. Close by
the quarry, evidence of Bronze Age activity can be seen in the menhir (standing
stone), stone rows and stones circles. With the quarry behind us our 5.5-mile
hike today takes us through the secluded Walkham valley to Sampford Spiney and
onto Horrabridge where we will enjoy a home-made Devonshire Cream Tea -- what
a treat! The evening is free for you to enjoy on your own -- have an early night
in preparation for tomorrow’s open moorland adventure.
Day 9: Ancient Woodlands: Wistman’s Wood, consisting
mainly of stunted pedunculate oaks, is a rare example of the ancient high-level
woodlands of Dartmoor. It is mentioned in records dating from 1620 and is now
a Site of Special Scientific Interest. We take a detour from our route to visit
the source of the Devonport Leat before continuing our 8-mile hike, which includes
The Lich Way, used in the 13th century by local residents to transport their
dead for burial at Lydford parish church. The word "lich" has its
origins in Old English meaning "body." At the end of our hike, our
coach will transfer us to an old coaching house (inn) serving its customers
Photo: Deirdre Butler
Day 10: Our 4-mile hike today follows the River Walkham to
its confluence with the River Tavy, aptly named Double Waters. In the 1800s
this area was mined for copper. We’ll see an intact chimney but otherwise
nature has thoroughly reclaimed this picturesque valley, which is densely wooded
with oak, hazel and hawthorn trees. Returning to our hotel, we have time to
relax before our farewell dinner after which we’ll be joined by the acclaimed
Tamar Valley Male Voice Choir singing songs both old and new -- a grand finale
to our trip.
Day 11: Our coach will arrive in the morning after breakfast
to transport us to Plymouth where we will say goodbye after our moorland adventures
and immersion in the rich history of Devon.
Our trip begins in the town of Tavistock and ends in the city of Plymouth.
Getting to our starting point of Tavistock is the responsibility of each participant.
The leader will provide additional information to registered participants.
Accommodations and Food
We will be based in a comfy country hotel in a small market town on the edge
of Dartmoor for the duration of this trip. Rooms are double occupancy with same-gender
roommates arranged for those who are traveling solo. The trip price includes
all breakfasts, all cream teas and most dinners, many in historic pubs along
our way. Vegetarian options are available at most locations. Lunch supplies
can be purchased at local markets or sack lunches can be purchased from our
hotel. Drinks, including bottled water and soft drinks are not included in the
trip price with the exception of breakfast where coffee, tea and juices are
included. You may choose to purchase snacks to enjoy while hiking.
Photo: Deirdre Butler
This trip is designed for the moderate active hiker. The route will vary in
difficulty with walking distances between 4-8.5 miles and elevation gains up
to 600 feet. The terrain is varied, from quiet country lanes to uneven rocky
trails to grassy sheep paths to non-existent, as we forge across open moorland.
Some sections are steep and others will be boggy. Agility is needed to climb
stepladder stiles over stone walls and fences. As with all active trips you
will enjoy yourself much more if you are in good physical condition. If you
have any questions regarding your abilities, please contact the leader before
signing up for this trip. Throughout the trip there is the option to forego
the days’ hike and simply chill out at our hotel, to relax and explore
the town and marketplace.
Equipment and Clothing
We can expect warm weather (by British standards!) of 54F to 72F, though on
Dartmoor, elevation and the nearby coast can combine to produce wet and swiftly
changing weather -- including fog and wind. July, however, is generally one
of the driest months. Day packs are needed to carry food, water, an extra sweater,
rain-pants, and waterproof top. Hiking poles are encouraged. Casual, comfortable
clothing is key -- your leader will provide a detailed packing list prior to
- War Horse. Watch this Stephen Spielberg movie for previews of the
scenery on Dartmoor
- Sugden, John, Sir Francis Drake.
- Doyle, Conan A., The Hound of the Baskervilles.
- Dartmoor, Ordnance Survey Explorer Map – OL28
Photo: Deirdre Butler
Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink
– The Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge
We tend to think the availability of fresh water for drinking is a 21st century
issue. On this trip we will see first-hand the measures past generations took
to obtain this most precious commodity. Distribution via leats following the
contours of the land and apportioning by a 1-inch hole in granite blocks is
both ingenious and simple. Climate change however is taking a toll in the south
west of England with an environmental drought status being declared in April
2012 subsequent to two successive historic dry winters. We will discuss environmental
and conservation issues related to water -- an extensive topic -- arguably almost
anything and everything and everywhere in the world.
Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation
and sustainability of resources both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished
by volunteers, aided by a salaried staff, encouraging grassroots involvement.
Our outings seek to empower participants toward environmentally understanding
parallel concerns at home and abroad.
This trip requires a $200 per-person deposit. An additional payment of $300 per person is due six months prior to trip departure. International trip prices are subject to change and are based on double-occupancy or group accommodations as described above. Single rooms may not be available or may cost more than the listed price. If you have any questions regarding double occupancy, please contact the trip leader.
See the How to Apply for an Outing
section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the
trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing
up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing
approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical
Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on
the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to
the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and
notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
The Sierra Club accurately and fairly budgets and prices our trips. However, unforeseen costs such as devaluation of the dollar compared to other currencies and fuel surcharges assessed by our international providers may necessitate adjustment in trip price. We will make every effort to mitigate and absorb these fees. If a price increase is necessary, however, you will have 14 days after announcement to cancel without penalty.
Deirdre Butler refers to herself as a "local." She grew up hiking and horseback-riding in Dartmoor National Park and is excited to share her old home-country with you. Being surrounded by tangible evidence of human history and human endeavors over the millennia is awe-inspiring, as is seeing how nature, undisturbed and given time and space, is able to heal itself. Deirdre has trekked in the Himalayas, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, walked across England and enjoys backpacking in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. At home she barters her labor for organic vegetables on a local organic, community-supported farm and enjoys a bucolic life with her husband, dog, cats and chickens.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips