Saturday, 14 August 2010


My daughter, Sandie, and I went on to Dartmoor today to cycle a little known track. It is the Drover's Trail and it connects Hexworthy with Princetown via Swincombe. It is only 4 miles long but it connects to the wider range of trails that come out of Princetown. This section is technically reasonably demanding and can only be done on a mountain bike

This trail is in the middle of Dartmoor and although there are lots of holiday visitors locally, we see only a few hardened walkers. We stop and chat to one couple who are letterboxing. This is a hobby peculiar to Dartmoor. It is a form of orienteering where people search for letterboxes that contain stamps and are hidden under rocks. The club that organise it give clues. As Dartmoor is 400 square miles containing thousands of rocks, it is challenging. It is also popular.

Dartmoor today is open moorland but it has not always been the case. It used to be farmed extensively during the summer by stone age people and there are numerous remains of their lives that can still be seen. There are many stone circles, stone rows and tin workings still visible on the moor. Our ride is on an old drover's trail which is still visible.

At Swincombe, there is a ford and remains of some buildings. One looks as if it could have been a toll house. There are remains of two houses nearby that look more like crofts in Scotland than West Country dwellings. The trail here is a real challenge due to the large stones and waterlogged ground

A challenging day ride is to start near my home in Ivybridge, cycle along tarmac lanes to Buckfastleigh, Holne and Hexworthy where the Drover's Trail starts. Before reaching Princetown, turn off onto the Jobber's Trail and wind your way on off road tracks to Cadover Bridge. The last stretch to Ivybridge is mostly downhill. The distance is 45 miles but it is quite tough with the hills and the off road bit in the middle.

There are always interesting aspects of nature to see on Dartmoor and I quite liked this fungus growing out of an old tree stump near to Shipley Bridge


  1. Hi Graham, lots of cool action photos and nice tour you've made! Tomorrow we'll be taking the ferry to denmark - my last country!!! Had lots of tail wind here in sweden, but also some rain.
    x Dagmar

  2. Dear Graham,
    We are a family of five (3 boys aged 16, 13 and 9) touring Devon this summer and considering using the "drover's trail" as a bypass between Hexworthy and Princetown, weather - and moor dryness - permitting.
    We are ready to dismount and push our bikes at least on part of the way but, as we carry a significant load (15 kgs each), we are a bit afraid of reckless livestock, impassable grids or sharp stoned paths.
    Would you recommend the bypass or the - more busy ! - B3357 ?
    Thank you very much for your answer !
    Kind regards

    1. Hi Nicolas. I have not cycled this route recently but I don't think that it has changed from when I last cycled it. It is shown as a bridleway on the OS map. Much of it is grass and the rest are stones of varying quality. Waymarking is very poor. It should only be done with good visibility when you can see Princetown mast as this is the only visible waymark to follow after crossing Swincombe River. The B3357 is busy during the holiday season but is used by lots of cyclists. I have never experienced a problem with animals on Dartmoor but it is important you do not feed the ponies. For a touring cyclist, it is a challenging route but can be done if dry weather with good visibility. I hope that this helps