I threw my rucksack in the boot and sat in the car with a sense of increasing urgency. It was 3:45 and the first signs of sunset were beginning to appear. A decision as to what to do next was needed straight away. A final weather check showed no change in the forecast, and so the die was cast…
Just under 10 minutes later I was parked up in Princetown in the spot closest to my destination for the evening, but still within what I’d regard as the built-up area, and hence as safe as anywhere a place to leave the car overnight.
I rapidly transferred stuff from my daysack to my larger overnight pack, made myself check properly that I had everything, and then headed west towards the increasingly colourful sky.
I was soon on the good track that I’d walked home on the day before, striding out with both a sense of confidence in where I was going and haste in my desire to get there whilst I had the light. As I walked, a palette of yellows and oranges played out on the horizon.
Ahead of me I saw a couple out for a late afternoon stroll reach a point where they decided to turn back for the night, passing me soon after. There could be little doubt what I was up to stepping out at such a pace at this time of the day.
Foggin Tor, on my right passed and soon Swell Tor on my left and then I was leaving the track and climbing up to King’s Tor. I headed straight for the flat areas next to the main rock structures to choose the best spot – I wanted to be in with a chance of sunrise, if there was one to be had, and also to take as much shelter as possible from the wind that was to be expected in the morning.
I put Matilda up, arranging her so that the door faced south east – the direction of sunrise, and then as darkness came down like a heavy curtain, rushed to throw on additional layers of clothing. Millions of stars were visible, indicating a clear, and hence cold, night ahead.
A few lights played across the distant moor, with the usual scare when it seemed one was coming right for me, perspective skewed by the darkness.
As this had only been planned as a single night, with a relatively short and simple walk-in and out, I hadn’t been obsessive about weight or spartan-ness. A few luxuries were needed to see me through a long winter night.
It was really cold, so I slipped into my sleeping bag (I was beginning to wish I’d brought my winter bag), for a bit of banter on social media, a read of a Kindle book and then a film on my tablet, before I turned in for the night.
The usual array of strange noises played around the tent as I lay there before going to sleep: the normal panics about local creatures eating bits of the shelter – at one point it felt like a mouse was crawling around under the inner. Then I was out.
It was dark when I woke, the tent flapping in the first gusts of the approaching storm, allowing me both a lie-in and being up in time to see sunrise. And a spectacular one it was too. It was as if the sky was making up for the lack of colour over recent days. I spent a few minutes capturing it and then got on with packing up, darting out periodically to add a new photo to the collection.
Eventually, I was packed and set off with first a detour down the hillside to visit Little King’s Tor. I opted to leave a visit to Hucken Tor and Longash Tor for another time, as I had a long drive ahead of me. The wind was picking up by the minute and angry clouds begun to bear down on me as I retraced my steps back to Princetown.
Princetown was coming to life as I arrived, dumped my stuff in the car and then drove the short distance to the Fox Tor Café. I was barely in the car before the heavens descended. Only ten minutes to kill before it opened, which wasn’t too bad. I dived inside, filled my face and then reluctantly headed back to the car for the drive home.
Sheep lay in the road, as if trying to block my progress and prevent me leaving. The moor darkened over as the approaching storm scoured the tors, and faded into the distance in the rear view mirror.