A Meetup on Dartmoor

A number of fellow members of the Trek-lite forum agreed to meet up over the weekend of 25/26 February on Dartmoor, and I tagged along. To make it worth my while, as I was by far the one who lived furthest away, I decided to tack a couple of days on the end too. It didn’t really work out quite as planned…

Getting to Devon worked well though. A reasonably priced through ticket all the way to Whimple, where Mole was going to pick me up. I got there about an hour early, and met with Tom for a drink in the pub. Even better these were free (I still haven’t entirely worked out why).

Tom and I were gassing away like we’d known each other for years (yes, the usual topics of backpacking trips and gear), when Mole appeared as if by magic. We piled into his car for the drive up onto the Moor.

I’ve never liked the B3212 way onto the eastern side of Dartmoor – it twists and turns and for someone with a delicate stomach when travelling, it doesn’t make for a comfortable ride unless I’m driving myself and can dictate the pace! I was feeling a bit green when we parked up at the Warren House Inn, the official meeting point for the Meetup.

Tom, Mole and I headed inside and started work on the bar, whilst also sizing up what we’d order from the food menu when the last member of the first night party turned up.

Chris duly arrived and they all went for pies, while I went for the “dirty sausage”.

Finally, after a couple of drinks and some food we were ready to head to camp – a spot Mole knew just along the road, and far enough off of it to be in the official camping zone.

It was a good test of the new headtorch too. The patch of ground we were aiming for wasn’t quite as flat as I’d have liked, and I had to position the tent carefully between the cairns of horseshit.

A frosty night, but the new inner kept me warm enough.

The next morning we were away early enough to grab breakfast from Postbridge Stores while we waited for James to arrive. The pasty was so good, that I went in the shop again and got another one for lunch.

With Rafe messaging to say he’d be late due to working late, we set off in the hope that he’d intercept us as we were taking the long way around.

Our route lay along the East Dart which we’d follow all the way from Postbridge to East Dart Falls. Rafe would hopefully take the shorter route over the tors to cut the corner off.

The terrain also helped slow us down, with the going becoming rockier and boggier as the East Dart valley narrowed.

We had a good rest at the falls to allow Rafe to catch-up, but with no sign of him, it then occurred to us that if he’d got there before us he wouldn’t know whether we were ahead or behind.

So we decided to push onto Rough Tor. First up the East Dart to Sandy Hole Pass.

Then we threw a left at “Dead Horse Rocks” (Broada Stones) to head along Cowflop Bottom, which would point us in the direction of Rough Tor. It was a bit soft underfoot, requiring a bit of jinking about, but we made it.

On Rough Tor, we encountered not only several groups out training for the Ten Tors, but also Rafe. Yes he’d got ahead of us. Here I disposed of my second pasty, before we headed off on a push westwards.

The plan was to make for White Tor, and camp there if it was ok, or if not to retreat to a more sheltered spot below Great Mis Tor.

First the walk over to Devil’s Tor where we congregated around the Beardown Man standing stone.

Then we stayed high to get around to Conies Down Tor, a personal favourite lesser-visited tor.

A short break here, then we struck westwards to ford the Walkham below Cocks Hill. Then it was the seemingly never ending walk past White Barrow and onto White Tor.

…via the standing stone of course.

We clambered over White Tor to the western, and today sheltered, side and looked around for pitches. There was a fair amount of shrugging when it was put to the group to decide whether we wanted to stop here or try somewhere else. Personally, it felt a bit more exposed than I’d have liked for the quality of ground we were getting, but we decided to stay by default, through no one voicing a strong enough view to go elsewhere!

Mole and Chris took themselves away to south of the main outcrop, while the other 4 of us grabbed the western side – James and I near the top, Tom a little way further down, and Rafe lowest of all.

There was a bit of milling about as the sun sunk low in the sky, but ultimately I found it too cold standing there, and retired to watch the sunset from my tent. The others that hadn’t also already done so didn’t take long to follow once the sun was gone. This wasn’t a night for standing around chatting – it was a night for getting and staying warm.

Personally, I love “nights in” like this, although admittedly they’re not that social. I enjoyed just lying there with hot drinks and dinner, watching a film and chilling out. The new tent inner gave enough space to do this whilst also trapping just enough heat.

Even though the wind was pressing strongly at times on one of the rear corners, everything held up, and didn’t really affect the inner either.


A new day dawned and it was a slow getaway. The plan was to head east over Great Mis Tor, back to the cars – right into the teeth of the easterly wind, which was absolutely bitter.

I fell behind almost immediately as we crossed the bog on Langstone Moor, and although the others happily waited for me, I knew I was struggling.

I wasn’t sure I could take an entire half day of walking straight into the bitterly cold wind, which was really affecting my asthma and slowing me further. So I decided to call it here.

The others departed to try to find a crossing of the Walkham (good luck with that), while I turned my face to the South West and the exact same bailout walk I did over Roos Tor and Great Staple Tor this time last year!

As before, Paul rescued me at Merrivale. He’d been due to come out for a camp with me the following night anyway, but now he suggested we grab Sunday lunch in Moretonhampsted. So we drove to the Union Inn and there I had one of the best Sunday lunches I’ve ever had. So good in fact that I booked there and then for when I’m back down this way in a few weeks time with my wife and some friends.

Lunch done, and feeling like I wouldn’t need to eat for several days, we headed back to Paul’s. Paul was working next day, Monday, so I headed out solo for a day walk from Okehampton, unencumbered by my big pack. Although it was just as cold as the day before, I could make this up as I went along – it was largely about staying out of Paul’s way for a few hours.

I headed up onto the moor, after a stop for breakfast at Okehampton station, the easy way – following the road up to the military training camp, and continuing with the tracks. A nice easy walk. The idea was that I might go and pick off some tors and rocks I’d not done before, largely obscure ones, if I felt like it.

It was all pleasant enough until I got to Hart Tor where the wind started to bite. So I had a good long sit in the lee of the tor before moving on. I stayed with the tracks up to East Mill Tor, and made myself at least walk over all of its considerable extent. A further sit in the only patch of shelter I could find – wedged in between a couple of outcrops.

The wind was still biting cold, and any enthusiasm I may have still had for probing further south, was by now gone. I opted for an easy return along the tracks, trying to at least take different tracks where possible.

Back at the station, I popped into the buffet again for a cream tea.

Then it was the return walk alongside the river back to Paul’s.


Somewhere on this trip I seem to have left my mojo, cowering from the cold wind. This happened last year too, and has further reinforced that I really don’t like being out in extreme cold. I’m really not a winter backpacker – I don’t enjoy it and just see it as an ordeal. I only do it under the notion that I should be getting out all year around. I think the time has come to embrace the fact that winter temperatures and me are not good friends, and I could use the time more profitably doing something that’s less of an ordeal.

It’s supposed to be fun after all.

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