Dartmoor Trails

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  • #1817

    When I started walking on Dartmoor a few years ago, I did so without being brought up in the area. I would set forth, with only my OS map for company, and head off into the depths of the moor.

    It soon became apparent to me that the OS map in question seemed to be largely a work of fiction. Green dashed lines on the map, which suggested a nice footpath, would in reality be at best a line of bog that was slighltly more waterlogged than the surrounding terrain. On the other hand, I would often encounter nice gravelly tracks, or springy turfed walkways that on the map were nowhere to be seen.

    This was slightly confusing, and not a little annoying when, yet again, I would follow a promising path only for it to wind up in a peaty sinkhole! Wouldn’t it be useful if, somewhere on this site, we could have some OS map snapshots, with good walking trails highlighted on them? Or even a store of MemoryMap overlays and/or waypoints ready for download?

    As an example, I’ve tried various ways to approach Fur Tor, and there is a very good trail starting at Postbridge, going up over Broadun Rocks, past The Waterfall and along Sandy Hole Pass. It gets less good from here to Cut Hill, but is still the best option, I think. Yet this route is absent from the map, except at the very start.

    Any thoughts, and especially tips on good routes would be most welcome.

    Avatar photoreb10

    I have a Dartmoor Mountain Map 1:40, 000 scale from the BMC.  It has the ancient trackways marked on it and some tors and hills that aren’t named on the OS map. It also has good information on the back like the geological makeup of the moor.

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    The Dartmoor OS map is a constant source of amusement to me and of amazement to our hotel guests who have not walked on Dartmoor before.  I tell them that most of the footpaths shown on the map don’t exist and that most of the footpaths that do exist are not shown on the map!  They also expect that where a bridleway crosses a river, there will be a bridge – how quaint!  I have walked all over the UK and there is nowhere else like Dartmoor, which for me makes it magic.

    Those of you who have completed my Walk on the Wild Side or Heads of the Rivers Trek series, will know that I completely ignore paths.  My route normally consists of straight lines drawn on the OS map with a compass bearing – and then I walk it!  I know that many people are not prepared to walk in that way, but it does wonders to improve your map and compass skills, especially if you don’t bother to look at your gps until you get close to a cache.

    For those of you who need to see a path, the best source of information is Google Earth, which shows every little track that exists, although mapping it onto an OS map is far from easy.  However, I do agree with MP that a source of accurate paths mapped onto an OS map would be useful.

    Avatar photodartymoor

    I use openstreetmap.org maps on my Garmin for walking. (I do carry an OS too, but only for emergencies).

    Sometimes OSM has far more accurate pathing (alhough by no means always), and if not, you can add paths yourself. When you edit with OSM, the satellite info is overlaid so it’s easy to draw paths accurately, and you can also import tracks from your gps and have them overlaid too.

    Talkie Toaster does mapsets drawn from OSM that load onto Garmins and many other makes of gps, as well as pc software like Basecamp.

    When I walk somewhere that has poor OSM mapping, I enjoy spending an hour or so improving it for others that come after. It’s quite an addictive sub-hobby to be done in a nice and warm seat with a cup of tea, once the hard walking’s done. And by doing so, I re-live the journey.

    And yes, all this is free. Totally. If it sounds interesting, take a look and get involved.

    (In defence of OS, I love them and find reading them inspiring. Also paths “drift” over the years, sometimes hugely, which may explain inaccuracies on old maps, and I don’t think OS update footpaths so often)

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    I’ve walked most of my life using OS maps and, like most others, considered them to be “the bible”.  However, I’ve been using GPSs for many years (years before I discovered geocaching) and the thing that struck me immediately, was just how inaccurate OS maps are.  There was no way of questioning their accuracy before, although you often had a feeling that they were wrong, but with a GPS you then knew they were wrong.  I download all my tracks from my GPS onto Memory Map and am still surprised at the OS errors I find.  Most notably is the completely inaccurate location of the crossing point of the Two Moors Ways with the B3212 and the positioning of the 2 car parks at Bennetts Cross – these are approx 200m wrong!  Also the Cairn Circle and Cist at Skir Hill (near my cache) are nearly 200m out on the OS map, which completely threw me on my first walk there, prior to placing the cache.  Also the crossing point of the Dartmoor Way and the bridleway running between Whiteworks and Sherberton is nearly 300m out!  I don’t think these are due to  “drift” but to really bad and lazy cartography.  This is particularly noticeable with the newer green rights of way, which are often wildly wrong, whereas the original little, black, dotted lines are often totally accurate.  However, I also really love OS maps and can spend hours pouring over them, so I can’t be too critical!

    Avatar photoreb10

    Eric Hemery’s Walking Dartmoors Ancient Tracks is a great book with 28 routes, with good descriptions and history of the tracks.  Great if you want to follow the tracks on the ground with the use of a map.  Not all are visible on the ground but you can follow the route.  I have done the North – South (Okehampton – Harford Moorgate) twice, its 27 miles and takes in the remote moor. Its a good two day walk and a great challenge.

    Avatar photoGoldenHaystack

    Thank you Dartymoor for pointing out the Talkie Toaster website. I was quite unaware that any map other than those provided by the American manufacturer could be loaded into my GPSr. I gave the loaded OSM maps a successful trial run last weekend around the lanes and footpaths of North Devon. So I look forward to using them when I can be back on the Dartmoor trails. GH.

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