Foxtor Mires, Princetown, Dartmoor National Park

Foxtor Mires, Princetown, Dartmoor National Park

There are some places on Dartmoor that are best avoided. Raybarrow Pool by Cosdon Hill on the north moor is a dangerous place. Down on the edge of the National Park's south plateau, Foxtor Mires is another. Said to have been the inspiration for Grimpen Mire in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 'The Hound of the Baskervilles', Foxtor Mires is a large area of bog, waterbelly moorland and streams set within a natural amphitheatre below the high ground of Ter Hill, Fox Tor and Crane Hill. There are some fine crosses, cairns and cists on good, solid land just south of the mires so it's well worth visiting. We just wouldn't recommend trying to cross it.

We've positioned Foxtor Mires on Google maps so zoom in on the 'Satellite' setting to see its location. Pull and push around that satellite imagery on your screen and you'll see why it's such an intimidating place.

To visit, head for the many small car parking areas off the road that runs between Princetown and Whiteworks. Follow one of the good paths to Nun's or Siward's Cross and Nun's Cross Farm. From there, walk along the side of the leat until you come to a farm wall that runs east above the mire. Grass tracks extend on either side of the wall over to Ter Hill. The terrain is good. You have to cross a couple of small streams. Alternatively, just follow the leat from the Whiteworks area and you'll come to the aforementioned farm wall from the opposite direction.

Again, we wouldn't recommend crossing the mires. That said, there are routes which, roughly speaking, follow the paths marked on both the Ordnance Survey Explorer OL28 'Dartmoor' map and the Harvey British Mountain Map 'Dartmoor' map. There's a narrow wood 'bridge' that spans the main stream south of Whiteworks and this is key to a safe crossing. Start from Whiteworks. Wander down to the edge of the works. You pass through a set of gateposts. A noticeable track curls south west. The 'bridge' is located on a bend in the stream. The Ordnance Survey map is pretty accurate. You can also just about see it on Google's satellite mapping. Getting there, however, is difficult. Having spent years walking and photographing Dartmoor, we've never found a solid path north of the stream and 'bridge'. Our preferred route has been to follow the shape of the path on the Ordnance Survey and Harvey maps. Go too far and you're in a horrible area where it's like walking on jelly. Once over the 'bridge', we'd suggest you follow a good path that runs up to Goldsmith's Cross. For this path, head for a mound just south of the 'bridge' and continue south until the path curves up to Goldsmith's Cross which is clearly visible ahead of you. The path marked on the Ordnance Survey map crosses a stretch of boggy ground with tall grass. It's unpleasant until you're a fair distance from the stream. Once you hit the 360 contour line on the Ordnance Survey map, it's easy stuff. Unless you can't help yourself, avoid.

Points of interest south of the mire include Goldsmith's Cross, a cairn circle and cist and Childe's Tomb. On the rise of moorland are the remains of Foxtor Farm and Fox Tor. Note the old Buckfast to Tavistock Monastic Route passes through here. There are more crosses up on Mount Misery and Ter Hill to the east and over at Nun's of Siward's Cross to the west. A path of sorts also climbs to Black Lane Peat Pass and the south plateau. This is marked on the Ordnance Survey map. To us, it feels like the most remote part of Dartmoor. If you're heading this way, detour to Duck's Pool.