Sunday 7th March 2010
Whenever I think I've seen all the major attractions on Dartmoor, I'll discover a site that's managed to slip under my radar. 'Kiss in the Ring' is one such site - a remote stone circle that I read about recently for the first time. As soon as I read the words "possibly more remote than White Moor", I was determined to see it!
There's a convenient area for parking just through the first gate at the New Waste facility.
Despite the beautifully clear sky, the wind was overwhelming. As soon as I stepped out of the car, I was being buffeted from all sides. Nevertheless, the sunshine lifted my spirits, and I headed out up the track-way to the north.
This isn't necessarily the easiest route to the circle, but I also wanted to take in a stone row along the way.
After emerging from the tree-lined lane, Dartmoor opened up to the right. I struck out across the moor, ascending in a north-easterly direction.
Heading up at that angle towards the summit of the hill, it's impossible to miss The Cornwood Maidens - a fantastic stone row that was hugely more impressive than I'd been anticipating. Some of these stones are approaching 6ft in height. They command a stunning location, and the views out to the north from the end of the row are breathtaking.
From the end of the row, the land drops away, and the River Erme can be seen to the north east. This is a good landmark, as the stone circle lies due north of the Maidens and to the west of the river on a slight rise.
Heading downhill, the wind dropped away slightly and the ground became very rough under foot. This part of the journey was a real slog. The path was obstructed by a gully, the occasional boggy patch, and the Bledge Brook - a stream cutting a deep gully a in a roughly east/west direction. This was easy enough to cross, but I can't vouch for it in poorer weather.
The surrounding scenery on this part of the moor is spectacular. "Bleak" doesn't begin to do it justice - there's a real sense of raw nature out here. The views are sweeping, wide panoramas, with barely a sign of man to be seen.
Dropping down towards the river, the scenery became more varied. Flat areas next to the watercourse support a few scattered trees, and the river winds off enticingly, cutting through higher ground to either side. Dartmoor ponies could frequently be seen grazing along the banks.
This was about 90 minutes into the walk. I stopped for lunch before ascending the last slope up towards the slight plateaux where the stone circle could be found.
It's not too hard to find. The landscape is flat, but it does nestle close to the ground and I imagine it would be possible to miss it if you weren't reasonably sure of your location. My advice for anyone seeking it out would be to stick to the high ground.
Kiss in the Ring was well worth the effort. Truly remote, and splendid in its ruinous isolation, it retains enough character to make it a magical little site.
Additionally, Dartmoor's longest stone row can also be seen winding slowly away from the stone circle.
The wind had died off and the sky was still clear, but despite the temptation to linger, I was aware that the day was drawing to a close and I was probably two hours away from the car. Rather than retracing my steps, I decided that there was a good chance an alternate route would be easier under foot. I was aware that a track-way led down from a nearby weir on the River Erme, and it was only a question of how navigable the land alongside the river would prove to be. I decided to risk it, and headed south-east, plotting a course to intersect with the river. Once next to it, the ground proved mostly firm - although the occasional bog required some back-tracking to circumvent.
This was definitely an easier route than the rough ground on the outward journey. The scenery was also very different. Following the river through a gulley, tree-lined slopes emerged on the opposite bank - gnarly and full of character.
Eventually, the weir came into view - the first real sign of civilisation for over three hours.
The track-way offered firm footing for the remainder of the journey, and I arrived back at the car just in time for sunset, weary but refreshed - and keen to make a return visit in the summer.
The round trip took a total of four hours. This includes walking time, time spent at the monuments, and time spent eating. I didn't see another soul for the duration of this trip. I highly recommend this walk, but I would strongly advise that sensible precautions are taken: check the weather forecast, and make sure you know how to find your way around the moor. Being caught out here in adverse weather could well prove dangerous.