In May 2017 I set off to Belstone, a small hamlet on the northern fringes of Dartmoor National Park, for a walk and an overnight wild camp. Dartmoor is unique in England in that it is legal to camp on a lot of the land. You can check exact locations where it’s permitted to camp here. Note also that North Dartmoor contains several firing ranges and you should check the firing schedule before setting off. You can do that here.
After parking at the small car park in Belstone, I headed up the steep hill that leads to the moor, then alongside the wall that marks the boundary of a farm. Soon I was on open moorland with the views opening up ahead. After a while I crossed over a bridge and made my way west, originally intending to head to Yes Tor and High Willhays. Unfortunately I made a navigational error on the myriad of paths that criss cross this area and ended up on the wrong side of Black-a-ven brook, which didn’t look crossable where I found myself in the shadow of East Mill Tor. As it was already late in the afternoon (I had set off late from home), I decided to find a spot to pitch my Hilleberg Soulo, in the end pitching in the shadow of East Mill Tor and just relax for the rest of the afternoon.
Although the weather was fine and dry, it was very windy and I was grateful to get into the tent and get out of it. I got into the tent in strong sunshine, but by the time I’d inflated my mat, and rolled out my sleeping bag it was getting darker. I decided to get the kettle on whilst it was still dry and made a drink and had some food. Soon it was indeed pouring with rain, something of a feature of camps on Dartmoor, and I spent the rest of the afternoon sheltering from the weather somewhat grateful for my mistake on the paths. It finally stopped raining around midnight and I was soon asleep.
I woke early in the morning to a beautiful sunrise. It was clear it was going to be a nice day. So I opened the map and worked out a route back to the car whilst I ate my freeze dried breakfast of oats and sultanas (which actually wasn’t too bad).
In the end I decided to head off east instead of my original planned route, over to Steeperton Tor, then work my way back to Belstone via Oke Tor and Belstone Tor. This would be a modest but pleasant walk and would mean I’d still get home at a reasonable time. I set off, initially on a road that I imagine is used by the military, and passed what I can only assume to be firing positions given the number of shell cases on the floor, which I left well alone.
I worked my way across to Steeperton Tor, and headed down the path into Steeperton Gorge. I stopped at the river to filter some water and enjoy a cup of tea in the sun, which was by now quite warm.
Once I’d had my tea, I headed off back towards Oke Tor and then back to my car at Belstone. If you are new to wild camping I thoroughly recommend Dartmoor as a first choice destination. It’s difficult to get lost, there aren’t any real dangers to speak of, and you don’t have to be up and out of your tent at first light. All in all this was a very enjoyable overnight trip.
I used the excellent Harvey Maps British mountain map of Dartmoor for this trip.