Dartmoor prepare line is again after 50 years – right here’s what to do and see alongside the route | Rail journey


Many are the legends of misplaced walkers tricked by swirling mists, pixies or ghosts on the northern fringe of Dartmoor, considered one of Devon’s extra remoted corners. Within the 18th century, when stage coaches rattled over tough tracks, it was a harsh and harmful place to journey. There may be nonetheless a way of remoteness – that is the place the Atlantic winds arrive unhindered, and it’s directly bleak and bracing, dramatic and drear. However should you haven’t acquired wheels, it has been tougher to achieve in current instances than it was for generations previous.

That’s set to vary on 20 November, when the Dartmoor Line will reopen virtually 50 years after it was axed. Now native customers and employees, in addition to walkers and climbers, cyclists and campers, will be capable to journey from anyplace within the UK, by way of Exeter, and attain the highest of Dartmoor simply and with out driving. The £40.5 million line, the primary to be reinstated as a part of the Division for Transport’s “Restoring your Railway” initiative, is a big nationwide second in addition to nice information for the tourism-reliant south-west.

Okehampton station
The brand new line to Okehampton station (pictured), described by one campaigner as an “oasis in a rail desert”. {Photograph}: Antony Christie

Stations at Ivybridge and Totnes have opened up the east and south moor. The brand new line to Okehampton – described by one campaigner as an “oasis in a rail desert” – may very well be a boon for the north moor in addition to components of Cornwall. It is going to additionally take some visitors off the customarily jammed A30.

Locals campaigned for the reopening for greater than 20 years, working alongside councillors, railway consultants and Nice Western Railway, even working three particular “protest” trains from Okehampton to Paddington, Stratford-upon-Avon and Weymouth to power the federal government’s hand.

When it opened in October 1871, the 15.5-mile line from Exeter was the preliminary stage in a collection of two main railway extensions that continued west to Launceston in Cornwall and, in 1890, right down to Tavistock and Plymouth by way of the Tamar valley. Although not scheduled to shut as a part of the preliminary Beeching cuts of the Nineteen Sixties, the final common prepare ran again in 1972. A Sunday service operated in the summertime months from the late Nineteen Nineties however the line was largely for transporting – satirically sufficient – railway ballast from Meldon Quarry.

West Devonians are nonetheless calling for a restoration of the whole route right down to Plymouth, their case strengthened in 2014 when a storm destroyed the GWR tracks at Dawlish. For now, although, we’ll need to make do with the brand new line, which is able to make the journey from Exeter to Okehampton in 40 minutes with a single cease on the tiny bishopric of Crediton alongside the way in which. Trains will run each two hours (hourly from 2022).

The Museum of Dartmoor Life in Okehampton
The Museum of Dartmoor Life in Okehampton. {Photograph}: Greg Balfour Evans/Alamy

Usually missed, Okehampton is a likable sufficient market city that’s residence to the Museum of Dartmoor Life, retelling the area’s historical past from the Mesolithic to post-industrial instances, and a very good YHA hostel that occupies an outdated railway items shed. Over the winter, its Victorian station might be refurbished, the cafe restored, and there are plans for a Dartmoor national park customer centre subsequent 12 months.

With the city centre simply 20 minutes’ stroll from the northern border of Dartmoor nationwide park, Okehampton is pitching itself because the “gateway to the moor” and is more likely to be a preferred base for these setting off on walks. Simply west of the city is Meldon Viaduct, a preferred place to begin ascents of High Willhays and Yes Tor, the very best factors on Dartmoor.

Twelve miles southeast lies Chagford, a full of life former stannary (tin-mining) city contained in the nationwide park. Arts and crafts studios, vegan cafes and jazz nights make it a type of Totnes of the highest of the moor, and there are many cottages and inns providing B&B. It’s a good, however nice, stroll and the 178 bus runs as soon as each day (besides Sundays) between Okehampton and Chagford. There are pretty woods and riverside footpaths across the city.

Every area of Dartmoor has its personal character. The north and northwestern moors usually really feel extra open and uncovered, and whereas there’s loads of good strolling, the uplands may be Baskerville-level boggy. The presence of the MoD and its firing ranges is usually a ache if warfare video games coincide together with your deliberate go to – however they’re not that frequent and often army exercise is restricted to considered one of three areas (firing and different army workouts are flagged up upfront online.

A serious upside is that Dartmoor is the one space in England that at the moment explicitly permits wild tenting. For home vacationers eager to cut back their carbon footprint, a prepare ticket and a tent are all they should escape to the wilds of the far north.

The most effective choices for walks and rides from the brand new line

Wild camping on Dartmoor, the only area in England that explicitly permits it
Wild tenting on Dartmoor, the one space in England that explicitly permits it {Photograph}: John Ryan/Alamy

Round stroll from Okehampton
From Okehampton observe the street to the Battle Camp – simply contained in the moor – to do a preferred round five- or six-mile stroll round West Mill Tor, Rowtor, Scarey Tor and Tors Finish, returning by way of the quaint Tors Inn at Belstone.

Granite Manner
The primarily traffic-free 11-mile Granite Way cycle route runs between the station and Lydford. You may hire bikes and e-bikes at Granite Way Cycles on Klondyke Road.

Two summits
The ten-mile climb from both Okehampton or Meldon Viaduct as much as the 2 highest factors on Dartmoor – High Willhays and Yes Tor – is simple sufficient as long as it’s not lashing down. The identify of Excessive Willhays, recorded as “Excessive Willies” and “Excessive Willows” in some outdated paperwork, would possibly de derived from Welsh “gwylfa” for “watching place” – suggesting it might need been a lookout for beacon fires. Its summit shouldn’t be of the dramatic, pointed form however at 621 metres above sea stage, it’s typically wind-lashed and moist.

Okehampton to Buckfastleigh

The steam-operated South Devon Railway at Buckfastleigh station.
The steam-operated South Devon Railway at Buckfastleigh station. {Photograph}: Ben Birchall/PA

It’s a serious-sounding 26 miles between these two small cities, however the terrain is assorted and infrequently robust going, and there are glorious locations to camp en route, together with beside the Grimspound stone hut circles or within the woodlands and gorse patches on the japanese slope of Hameldown. This final is an impressive humpback hill with nice views in all instructions. Buckfastleigh is served by the touristy South Devon Railway, which hyperlinks up with Totnes for mainline trains.

Cross Dartmoor
The 37-mile West Devon Way between Okehampton and Plymouth is an effective choice for individuals who come by bus or prepare: every of the eight phases begins and stops at a bus cease.

Two Moors Manner
Passing smack-bang between Okehampton and Crediton, the Two Moors Way includes a 10-mile “stroll in” or a taxi. The 102-mile coast-to-coast footpath, from Lynton in north Devon to Wembury close to Plymouth, spans Exmoor and Dartmoor; extremely runners can full the journey in a single day. Sustrans’ 99-mile Coast to Coast route, between Ilfracombe and Plymouth, is the equal for cyclists.

Loop the loop
The 95-mile Dartmoor Way, which passes by way of Okehampton, loops around the park on lanes and minor roads, superb for biking and e-bikes. It may be used for day journeys or for a full five-to-seven day vacation. A parallel 108-mile route is utilized by walkers.

Be aware on navigating
Massive areas of Dartmoor are featureless, mists are frequent and sudden, and there are morasses throughout. The double-sided Ordnance Survey OL28 map covers virtually the whole lot of the nationwide park at 1: 25,000 scale, superb for walkers

BMC XT40, a single 1:40,000 scale map displaying the entire of Dartmoor, is appropriate for common planning or simple, brief walks on well-used paths.

Tickets from Exeter to Okehampton price £8 return, for data and tickets go to Dartmoorline.com