Dartmoor: Not Quite as Forecast

Last weekend was the first trip to Dartmoor of the year, as a combination of illness and uninspiring forecasts made me decide to forego the now traditional Dartmoor New Year. Consequently I was itching to get out to camp somewhere I didn’t have to hide, both overnighters so far this year having been in lowly Essex.

I arrived at Paul’s midday Thursday, dumped the car and headed up onto the moor by way of the East Okement and the Tarka Trail. Not having come this way before, it proved to be a pleasant way up onto the moor. Continue reading “Dartmoor: Not Quite as Forecast”

The Quest for a Furthest South

Just as I arrived at Paul’s, he had the news on and a general election had been called. I took this as an omen that there could be no better time to lose myself for 3-4 days in the middle of nowhere. Continue reading “The Quest for a Furthest South”

Another New Year on Dartmoor – Part 5: A Night at a Favourite Tor

Cath was safely dumped at Exeter St Davids, Jim was heading home, and Paul and I had a camp planned. The mission was twofold: a camp at a favourite tor, and a return to pick off a rock formation that eluded me last time I was in the area. Continue reading “Another New Year on Dartmoor – Part 5: A Night at a Favourite Tor”

Another New Year on Dartmoor – Part 3: Familiar Ground

The New Year started with a massive dilemma Continue reading “Another New Year on Dartmoor – Part 3: Familiar Ground”

Another New Year on Dartmoor – Part 2: The Far West

No day’s walking on Dartmoor is complete without a visit to the Fox Tor Cafe, and especially so when you’re staying next door. Being on winter opening hours, it didn’t open until 10am and Cath and I were first in the queue at the front door for when it opened. Looking through the window we could see Paul and Jim at the back door also occupying position 1. They opened up and all 4 of us headed straight to the counter to order. A leisurely breakfast was had, but our route had been decided in advance and it wasn’t far to go. Continue reading “Another New Year on Dartmoor – Part 2: The Far West”

A Different Coast to Coast – Part 4: The Bottom Bit

Ivybridge to Wembury: 15 miles, 1 day

The half day did us both good in topping up the tanks ready for the final stretch of the walk. I don’t think either of us had particularly high hopes for this final day’s walk, but personally I can pretty much steel myself for anything with the knowledge that a single day walk lies between me and the finish line. All we were really concerned with was how long it would take and what time we’d get our curry back in Okehampton. Continue reading “A Different Coast to Coast – Part 4: The Bottom Bit”

A Different Coast to Coast – Part 3: Dartmoor

Drewsteignton to Ivybridge – 38 miles, 2½ days

Paul’s feet seemed to have got a second wind, and he was back in the lead as we climbed up out of Drewsteignton onto the Castle Drogo estate. Familiar territory now, and I’d visited all of these tors earlier in the year, so it wasn’t a long visit. We dropped down onto the path that runs by Sharp Tor, spent a few moments there and then carried on to Hunter’s Tor. We had brief notions of a detour to the cafe for breakfast, but the few metres ascent in the wrong direction lost out to the idea of seeking sustenance in Chagford instead. And so we continued. Continue reading “A Different Coast to Coast – Part 3: Dartmoor”

A Different Coast to Coast – Part 2: The Middle Bit

Knowstone to Drewsteignton, 29 miles, 2 days

As is always the case on a long distance walk, a night spent in a proper bed and the body filled with a proper breakfast gives you a bit of a spring in your step. And so it was as we started out for day 3, tempered only by the knowledge that the next bit of the DC2C is generally considered to be “the boring bit”, not worth doing and even suggested in some quarters to be worthy of skipping altogether. But that would remove completely any element of challenge in the project. And so we ploughed on, minds refreshed to give us the best chance of getting through a couple of days of underwhelming walking. It came with a few surprises though… Continue reading “A Different Coast to Coast – Part 2: The Middle Bit”

A Different Coast to Coast – Part 1: Exmoor

Lynmouth to Knowstone – 27 miles, 2 days

The rain started just as we got to Lynmouth, banishing the hopes that had arisen that the forecast didn’t seem to be playing out. We stepped onto the beach to take the obligatory start photo and then turned our faces southward and into the rain. Before we got going in earnest I popped into a shop that had what seemed like the only cash machine in Lynmouth, needing to top up after the unexpected expense of a taxi from Barnstaple. With no more cash machines forecast for several days, lack of cash was a serious risk to the pub crawl. I asked the machine for £100, it gave me £80 and then promptly shut up shop. Yes I’d cleared the whole village out of cash, and I left hastily before the woman waiting to use the machine realised this. Continue reading “A Different Coast to Coast – Part 1: Exmoor”

The Weather Window

The forecast seemed OK and diaries were lining up like soldiers on parade, so I headed down to the Moor on the Friday to squeeze in a solo walk and camp before the Saturday meetup. Parking in Lydford, the plan was to do a walk linking up two patches of unbagged tors – 5 on Sourton Common and 3 immediately east of Lydford. This meant I’d do the vast majority of the walk on the Friday, leaving only a short walk out to the car on Saturday morning. At least that was the plan… Continue reading “The Weather Window”

A Nemesis and the Noble and Ancient Art of Tor-sitting

Looking down from Lynch Tor, I see the valley spread below, lush, green and beckoning us onward. Legs tired, water running low, and still a fair way to walk. The map shows a well-defined path leading down a valley between two ridges, and seeing the same on the ground we take it. Some way down the path, the next turn per the map just isn’t there and so we improvise. In a rapidly escalating instance of muddled thinking we try to fight our way down through the fields where the path should be. Cows block our route – my 11 year old companion is frightened of the lumbering beasts which are many times his size. Field boundaries on the so-called path have no crossing points and we are eventually coralled in the corner of one field by the bovine hoard.

My water is exhausted, the demands of liquid to lubricate the brain to navigate our way out of this fix having taken their toll. I have to broach the boy’s supplies, or we won’t get out of this mess. Miraculously, his Camelbak is still well-topped up – the boy is a camel himself. We battle back through the field to a recognised path and my brain now better oiled scrutinizes the map once more. Suddenly it comes to me what has happened – we wanted a path heading down into the valley with a ridge to the right, and seeing one we took it. Unfortunately, it was one ridge too early. We’re in the wrong valley. White Tor, now correctly identified as such, looks down on us seemingly mocking our derisory efforts to find our way off the moor. A decision is made to correct the situation by climbing the Tor. We stumble our way up as the sky begins to weary of supporting the sun. We barely pause at the top before we head down, finding the security of the path very quickly. But it’s the path to Cudlipptown we’ve hit and we find ourselves on a road there soon after. A slow sunset trudge along the lanes to Peter Tavy and the campsite ensues. Darkness is closing in and mountain rescue are close to being called as we make it back to the camp site. My several calls and texts back to base have either gone ignored or undelivered. Hot sweet tea is the order of the day as I try to make sense of what happened. Blame is set fair and square on the Harvey’s Dartmoor map for not showing field boundaries. Of course, whilst the lack of detail just when we needed it didn’t help, the real fault is in not reading the terrain, not judging distances properly, and simply seeing what I expected to see. Even so, I’ve never used a Harvey’s map for critical navigation since. And that evil Dartmoor, lying there looking so innocent, but really just lying in wait to catch you out…

That of course was a tale from my first foray into walking on Dartmoor in 2008. Things have changed since then. For one, I’ve done a lot more hillwalking, I’ve developed better skills, and gained more confidence. I’ve also been back to the Moor (you may have noticed), and the old fear of the place has long since vanished. Dartmoor is not the evil malicious trap that I perhaps once thought it is. Sure, what looks like a benign rolling landscape can catch you out if you are foolhardy, or if it’s in one of it’s dark moods, but it’s not lying there with the express intent to ambush me.

A few recent walks have taken me close to White Tor, but it has remained a disturbing memory of the past. Today though is time to confront my nemesis…

Continue reading “A Nemesis and the Noble and Ancient Art of Tor-sitting”