A Mini Adventure on Dartmoor following Moor Otter Trail
Dartmoor makes me slightly nervous. It’s quite big, a bit bleak and a little scary when the fog descends. I remember being in the Cadets, hiking across the vast open expanse of moorland near Okehampton, trying to map read and getting wet feet! I’ve been back a number of times during a pre-children rock climbing phase, but I don’t really know my way around many areas.
I see other people’s pictures and posts of gurgling rivers, pretty bridges and beautiful views and think I really need to be a bit braver. Well I haven’t really been yet, but following the Moor Otter Trail is certainly a good start to finding our way to some new areas of Dartmoor.
A Short Hike up to Haytor
Moor Otter Trail
The Moor Otter Trail is a great arts project that is raising awareness and money for the protection of the Dartmoor ecosystem and helping to fund the Junior Rangers programme in the South West.
Otters have slowly been returning to Dartmoor and are becoming more established. They are hard to spot in real life, but fortunately these works of art are much easier to find.
The otters are a great way to help navigate Dartmoor, but even once the project has finished the little route that we took would be just as worthwhile for a day trip.
Where Can The Otters Be Found ?
There are 100 otters dotted around Dartmoor and a few in nearby towns such as Newton Aboot and Totnes. They stand about 3 feet high on a plinth and each one has been beautifully painted by a local artist. You will find them at tourist attractions, pubs, cafes and hotels – most of then are accessible without having to pay any entrance fee or feeling obliged to buy anything. There is a Moor Otter Trail map and booklet you can pick up in the visitor centres or download one. Each has a name and number to record. If you want you can try collecting as many as you can with the chance of a prize if you identify 20 or more.
Coming from the Exeter direction we headed for Bovey Tracey. Sat nav helpfully at the ready. The first stop was the Devon Guild of Craftsmen (free parking) where we found our first otter to great excitement. There was also the chance to have a look around the lovely art and crafts on display. This was a new place for us us, it was very calm with a cafe on site as well.
Our second stop was The House of Marbles which was a lot busier. My girls had been before with Grandma but this was also a first for me. What a great attraction – also free with free parking! Not surprisingly there are many types of marbles on display, vintage toys and lots of lovely things to buy. It’s surprising child friendly with only a few “don’t touch” moments needed!
We really enjoyed watching the free glass blowing demonstrations, amazing how they can make such delicate and intricate ornaments. There’s also marble runs to entertain, a play area and cafe.
Result – 2 more otters ticked off! We loved the blue umbrellas and tiny Mary Poppins on Bumbershoot.
Our mini adventure next took us to Parke Estate. This is a National Trust owned site. A huge area of land on the edge of Dartmoor with the River Bovey running through the middle. Perfect for walking, cycling, there’s also an orienteering course to download and of course the all important tea room.
Despite being a NT member for many years I had never heard of this before. Free parking for NT members. We will be back to have a good look around.
Tick – 2 more otters (in the main house)!
Back in the car (this was a whistle stop tour!) to another new place for me (and one to go back to!) just up the road from Parke. A delightful farm shop and tea room called Ullacombe Farm. There was a lovely play park and one of my favourite otters – the spotty one!
Finally a diversion to a pub before my main plan for the afternoon – the short hike up to Haytor. The girls couldn’t remember being taken as toddlers. At least now they can make it all the way under their own steam. We climbed right to the top (no health and safety signs or don’t climb rules – horray!) It was very windy but with amazing views.
Back in the Dartmoor Visitor Centre we found our last otter of the day just as it was closing at 5pm.
“It’s a short hike up the hill to Haytor is perfect for all ages. Climbing to the top is entirely optional!”
The View from Haytor looking South East
Given more time, our trip around Bovey Tracey and Haytor would certainly have been a full day out. It really should have included a cream tea as well, there were enough chances!
In fact we were on the way to Tiverton for a night camping and then caneoing the next day. We had a lovely time on the River Tamar. Our trip took off from Cotehele Quay (a wonderful National Trust location just across the border into Cornwall). You can read about our canoeing trip on my post about Tamar Trails.
So in summary if you are looking for an enjoyable day out or something to add onto a trip to Dartmoor then this is a really great idea. The competition to record 20 otters is open until 19th September (so I am assuming that it when the trail closes) and you can bid online for the otters 4th October.
Have you spotted any otters and if so which was your favourite?