The Quest for Hen Tor

Hen Tor was the one tor that had somehow evaded a visit. I have been in close proximity several times, but it always seemed just a little out of the way. So, I dedicated a walk solely to the purpose of reaching it.

Hen Tor from Hentor Brook

As I studied my map to plan the best route, I began to see why it remained so elusive. The direct route involved crossing the River Plym, after heavy rainfall this was not something I wished to rely on. I do not mind some testy terrain but safety when lone walking is a number one. Fast moving rivers are lethal, so that was struck off.

Alternatively, there was the route over the hill ridge. From previous experience, I knew a large area of the higher ground was likely to be holding the recent rainfall, feeding it gradually into the various brook heads. Whilst this spongy quality of the land does something to reduce flooding downstream, I doubted the viability and pleasure of strolling through stodge.

There was another possible route I had noticed but there was no car park. I could chance parking roadside somewhere, but this would mean road walking before I even reached moorland. Did I want this?

I lay in bed, matter unresolved, trying to persuade my mind to settle on a different location altogether. Wilfulness was not letting go of Hen Tor. I think I grew bored of the argument and fell asleep.

I woke to “Why not park at Cadover Bridge?”. The thought caught my attention, I had not considered this. I was subsequently spurred out of bed to check the map. I avoided this place like the plague on warm weather days, far too peopley for me. But it was October. Referring to the map, this route was further than I had walked of late and had the potential to become ‘interesting’, but equally – it could work!

My first guide was the River Plym. Walking upstream along its bank with a scattering of ponies in the shrubbery soothed my expectations, it was enough to just be here. There was wild beauty everywhere accompanied by the melody of the river. My senses reached out for more as I breathed in the space.

Lost in the magic, spotting familiar sights across the River, reviving memories of previous ventures. I sighted my goal. The small triangle shaped blob in the centre where the sky meets the land was Hen Tor.

“Oh wow, that really seems like a long way!”, was the thought that broke the mood. I knew how far it was from the map, and distances on the moor were not always what they seemed. After all the fuss with routes there was a certain tenacity to cover the distance. I predicted two features of my route that could call game over, both water crossings. I was curious as to the first, named Spanish Lake, resembling a brook on the map but imagination creates a different image, I was, if nothing else, going to reach this natural water way and see for myself.

I switched from the river to an old china clay leat, which I would follow for the next section of my walk. I met a couple of sheep crossing the next footbridge. Despite being sheep, they reminded me of the fairy tale of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. The skittish way they crossed one after the other, made me smile. Whilst my heart was set on reaching my destination, these special unforeseen moments along the way are what brings the journey to life. Something which can be applied more generally to being.

Spanish Lake was reasonably true to its name on higher ground. I spied the sunlight bouncing off the settled water slowly oozing into the ground. My decision to have avoided the ridge route was hereby justified. I tick-tacked the saturated ground lower down until I reached the more solid gully, following the flow of water until I found a suitable place to cross. One down!

I was closing in on my destination now.

I left the leat behind crossing trackless moor aiming directly for my goal. Hentor Brook proved shallow enough to pass with ease and I began to believe I was going to make it.

Until…

Clitter! A field size area of ankle breaking, rescue inducing clitter. My heart sank, I had thought wet ground would call a halt to things but to be at the foot of ‘The Tor’ but prevented from going further was gutting.

To walk around to the left would mean descending the hill only to climb back up several hundreds of metres along with no clear indication of where these loose granite boulders thinned and become passable. To my right – marsh! I considered it could get ‘sinkier’ the higher up I got, and I was not sure of how much clitter was disguised in the reeds. But it had to be worth a shot. Afterall, water had been accommodating so far.

As my feet found solid dry ground tor side of all the obstacles, the sun shone as if in celebration of the achievement. I had made it to Hen tor!

I perched on an outcrop of the tor, like one of my beloved crows surveying the view. It was breath-taking. It was freedom. I had visited every tor I could see far into the distance. This one had completed the gap in a giant dot to dot. There was a familiarity that only comes with a sense of home. Time spent on this land is marked in my heart.

Unlike a crow, I could not fly back over the boggy ground that brought me here but there was no rush. I poured another cuppa and savoured the moment, still captivated by the views.

Returning over the marsh proved slightly more challenging. As I paused on a slab of granite to check my direction, tiny bubbles of air escaped to the surface from beneath the rock. Curious yet concerned, I vouched to keep moving, finding relief when once again I stood on solid ground.

My feet now knew the way back, leaving my eyes at liberty to explore my surroundings without intention. I walked back soaking up every wonder, like a child, content and intrigued by what exists in their immediate world.

Walking solo creates a certain intimacy with the land, space, and elements of nature. The connection is not a passive admiration but rather a relationship. It is interactive and will transform you if you let it. Similarly to how I read the land to navigate my path, the land seems to have wisdom to read me. It inspires me to be the best I can be, without speaking a word. It challenges me, so I know where to find my inner strength and resilience. It calms my soul with a sense of belonging and fills my heart with love. I cannot name what causes such magic, I just know, with a smile of certainty, that it is, and it does.

As dusk pulled in, I could feel the surrender of the day. I sat by the river absorbing the tranquillity of just being.

Paradise!

2 thoughts on “The Quest for Hen Tor

  1. Christine Longley October 28, 2020 — 5:36 pm

    I felt quite emotional after reading this. Your joy and the peace you feel truly comes through your words and pictures. You certainly stood up to the challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

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