• Start: South Zeal car park, SX652934
  • End: South Zeal car park, SX652934
  • Country: England
  • County: Devon
  • Type: Beach
  • Nearest pub: Oxenham Arms, Café and Kings Arms Public
  • Ordnance Survey: Ordnance Survey OL28
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Choose a clear day to enjoy the panoramic views and allow plenty of time for exploring ancient monuments on this demanding but rewarding walk from South Zeal

A relaxing Dartmoor walk for Mothers Day

Choose a clear day to enjoy the panoramic views and allow plenty of time for exploring ancient monuments on this demanding but rewarding walk from South Zeal

Words and photos: Robert Hesketh

Distance: 12.5km (7 miles)
Time: 4 hours Exertion: Demanding
Start: South Zeal car park, SX652934.
Terrain: Mostly open moor: map and compass essential. Wet after rain in places. One long ascent and descent.Maps: Ordnance Survey OL28 or Landranger 191Child/dog friendly? Suitable for accompanied older children and dogs on leads.
Refreshments: Oxenham Arms, Caf and Kings Arms Public
Transport: Good range bus services, 0871 200223,

The Walk:
1 Turn right up the lane from South Zeals car park. Fork right at Oakfield by the smithy. Walk on to the old A30. Cross and walk ahead on Bridlepath to the Moor. After 170m, cut out a dogleg in the track by using the short-cut Path. When the track forks, stay right. Press on uphill, signed Moor, at the next path junction and continue uphill at the next two forks. Go through a gate and up the old drove lane. Keep following the main track to the open moor.
Then keep left twice, in both cases uphill on the stony track. (NB Do not divert south up Cosdon Beacon). The track now runs parallel to a disused leat, and in time levels out and then descends to cross Lady Brook by a shallow ford. Sheep have created several minor paths.

2 Sick to the main path, which uses slightly higher ground at a little distance from Lady Brook and follows the edge of a shallow tin streaming gully, then approximately follows the contour along a reave (a long hummock which was once a field boundary). You should be using your Ordnance Survey map here, but beware: it confidently shows a bridleway to Little Hound Tor but this is not evident as a path on the ground! Check your direction with a compass. With White Hill on your left, continue downhill to a ford.

3 Dont cross the ford, but head south-east through the heather, passing two hut circles, then gaining height steadily and veering away from the brook and its gulley. Gradually swing from south-east to south and press on until you meet the path linking Hound Tor with Little Hound Tor. Turn left along it. The stone circle lies just to the east of the track, 400m south of Little Hound Tor. White Moor Stone, a Forest boundary marker incised DC and TP (Duchy of Cornwall and Throwleigh Parish), lies another 150m south-east of the circle.

4 Walk up to Little Hound Tor and follow the clear path ahead to Cosdon Beacon (550m/1815ft). This is one of Dartmoors finest viewpoints: a magnificent array of Dartmoor tors stand south and west. North and east, the rolling hills of mid-Devon lead on to Exmoor.

5 Turn east at Cosdon Beacons triangulation pillar, which is perched on top of a massive prehistoric cairn (or heap of stones)and follow the path down to the triple stone row. At least 76 stone rows survive on Dartmoor, compared with eighteen stone circles. The rows range from a few metres in length to over three kilometres (two miles). Stone rows and circles probably date from the Bronze Age, but perhaps even earlier. Their exact purpose is unknown.

6 The upper end of the triple row is well preserved. A peat track cuts through the middle of the row, and the stones actually extend for a further 60m, but most of them are hidden below the turf. Take the peat track, heading north-east.
When this track forks, keep left and follow on downhill between dry stone walls. This sunken track is wet after rain.
Bear right at the next path junction and walk downhill. Continue downhill at the sign A30 at Prospect. Walk on, retracing your steps to Hillfield and thence to the car park.
To visit South Zeal, walk through the car park and bear right. Turn left along the main street the old coaching road between Exeter and Launceston to the Oxenham Arms, a handsome granite and thatch building. Said to have been built in the 12th century by lay monks, it was licensed in 1477. Later, it was rebuilt as the dower house of the Burgoynes and then the Oxenhams. The snug contains a granite menhir, perhaps 5,000 years old. There are many other features, including oak doors and beams and original flagstones.
Continue along the street to visit the Post Office/caf. A little further on is the Kings Arms. Granite rubble and cob with roughcast walls and a thatched roof, it dates from the 16th century.

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