Two days on Dartmoor

I’ve just spent two days up on Dartmoor helping to train our 10 Tors teams (Torquay Boys Grammar School and National Trust’s Wild Tribe). You could hardly have picked two more contrasting days weather wise! Saturday was cold, very misty and drizzly / rainy. Sunday was much warmer and the sun came out. Here are a few pictures from the weekend. This was our penultimate training walk before the event in May so the purpose was to get lots of miles into our teams’ legs, as a result we have been all over the place. No pictures from Saturday morning ….. too foggy.

Still plenty of snow around even at relatively low levels

And here is Hare Tor behind the Willsworthy Range – looks almost like a scene from the Highlands

Still raining but clearing up – Kings Tor from Four Winds


And then to our wild camping site behind Foggintor Quarry – Great Staple Tor in the background (middle) with Roos Tor to the right and Cox Tor to the left. Not a bad spot – very wet ground though – had to pick a camping spot carefully.

Sunday by contrast was glorious – here is the East Dart Valley from Postbridge

The clapper bridge a Postbridge – had to wait a while for it to be people free.

Looking across to Fox Tor with the infamous mire in the middle distance

The Devonport Leat near Whiteworks

Another view across to Fox Tor and its mire with Whiteworks in the foreground

Despite the Saturday weather a brilliant weekend, well organised, a big thank you to all the volunteers for checkpointing and congratulations to the young people for putting in the miles.

This is what 10 Tors is all about

As I said in my blog yesterday – 10 Tors is a life changing experience for the young people involved – see here. Today the post below appeared on Facebook – this is why all of us involved with 10 Tors do it!

What more could you want.

National Trust Wild Tribe were one person short a couple of week’s ago and we took this person on after he had been rejected by his Institution as being incapable of completing the 55 mile course.

He came in with the Wild Tribe 2 hours before the team that rejected him.

Tony’s pep talks are powerful and young people are brilliant.


Our 10 Tors Christmas Walk

Yesterday was our last 10 Tors  training walk of the year – not a long walk just around 4 hours which culminated in our traditional Christmas lunch in the car park below Great Staple Tor.

Earlier in the day we had been over to Fice’s Well to checkpoint our 45 and 55 mile teams. As the morning progressed the wind picked up and it was bitterly cold.

A horse shoe on a granite wall on the way down from Great Mis Tor

great-mis-tor-posterI used this photo in my blog yesterday – I’ve had a play in Photoshop and I quite like this version too.

xmas-pastyIn total there were nearly 80 of us out yesterday and at the end of the walk we had warm pasties, warm mince pies and hot ‘mulled’ fruit juice. A feat of hard, work, timing and improvisation – thanks Karrie

xmas-treeWe even had a Christmas tree!

vixen-torLooking down from the car park is Vixen Tor – one of the very few on Dartmoor you can’t visit.

pew-torAnd looking across to the west is Pew Tor with a herd of galloway grazing the Common below


Mist and mizzle at the top of Dartmoor

Yesterday I was up on high Dartmoor as part of our 10 Tors training – we had around 60 young people and a dozen adult helpers. It was the kind of day that unless you had to go out onto the moors you probably wouldn’t have. The visibility was pretty poor, there was either constant mizzle  or wind driven rain. It was a day for navigating via a compass and not using landmarks. All in all a good day for practicing various 10 Tors skills and testing your clothing and equipment.

On Okehampton Common looking into the Red-a-ven brook


Between West Mill Tor and Rowtor (which were invisible in the mist) back down to Anthony Stile

Up at Dinger Tor

At Dinger Tor – wet, windy, cold and misty

A Cladonia lichen brightens up the day – close to High Willhays

A pool close to High Willhays

Ian and Tony at High Willhays, the highest point on Dartmoor (and south England) at 621 metres.

Various teams of walkers pass through High Willhays

On the right hand side of this picture you can see a single individual on top of the Cairn – rather oddly and worryingly he appeared out of the mist wearing a pair of trainers and a non waterproof coat carrying a supermarket carrier bag and asked us which Tor he was at, stating that he didn’t have a map! We told him he was at High Willhays and he seemed very pleased to have found it. He then sat on the cairn for 30 minutes – he must have got soaked. We asked if he wanted help getting back but he said he knew the back and was fine ……. One walk away from disaster.

Back down at Meldon Reservoir (look how low the water level is) you can see the mist and rain on the high moor

Looking down over the dam

routeHere’s the route I took yesterday starting at the car park at Meldon reservoir – it is around 10.5 miles in length and on a day with good visibility is a great high Dartmoor walk. If you do decide to do it  – please wear good walking boots, waterproof clothing and take a map and compass …….

A view from Dartmoor into Cornwall

Whitchurch Common is on the western edge of Dartmoor – it is on the top of the hill before the land plunges down to Tavistock and beyond. There is a large car park on the Common below Cox Tor and it contains a plaque which details the panorama in front of you.

Plaque - west Devon-CornwallYou can zoom in on the plaque to read the writing (i.e. double click on the image)

To help you I will transcribe the words / locations. From left to right (or if you prefer from south to north) it reads:-

Staddon Heights, Plymouth Hoe, Mount Edgecumbe, Roborough Down, Plaster Down, Tamar Bridge, Saltash, Whitchurch Common, Tamar Valley, Whitchurch Down, (Lands End 80 miles), Gunnislake, (Tamar Valley), Kit Hill, Caradon Hill, Kilmar Tor, Tavistock, Brown Willy, Launceston, Ramsdown, Brent Tor.

Panorama - west Devon-Cornwall
Here is a panorama of the view – you can double click the image to enlarge it – it includes all the places on the plaque and also includes Cox Tor on the extreme right.

Quite a view and worth a visit if your are in the area

Tony and Mark – 40 years of 10 Tors

Without the people who train and manage the young people and teams 10 Tors wouldn’t happen – most of these people are volunteers who give huge amounts of their time. Tony and Mark are two such people.

Tony and Mark
Tony Owen with Mark Whitehall in the background.

Tony and Mark both went to Torquay Boys Grammar School and were in the same year. They both did 10 Tors and were in the same team 40 years ago.

Young Tony
Here is a photo of Tony (on the left) training for 10 Tors 40 years ago

Young Mark
Here is Mark (on the left) on the same walk.

After leaving school both got involved with helping with 10 Tors as volunteers. Tony Owen has helped TBGS for over 13 years and for the last seven years has also helped the National Trust’s Wild Tribe Teams. I first met Mark when I used to help with Maynard School’s 10 Tors teams. He has helped them for around a decade and this year he came and volunteered for the National Trust’s Wild Tribe Teams.

10 Tors only has a future if we can find people to volunteer and get trained up as Moorland Leaders – the most likely candidates for this are those people who did 10 Tors when they were youngsters.

Having completed 10 Tors yourself however is not a prerequisite – having a love of Dartmoor, walking, along with a willingness to pass on your skills, get wet and cold is.

WT 55 3
When the National Trust’s Wild Tribe team completed their walk this year it meant that Tony has personally trained fifty 45 and 55 mile teams – all fifty of those teams arrived with all six participants – that is 300 young people and some record.


10 Tors from a Team Manager’s perspective

Preparing young people to take part in 10 Tors starts in September and by the time the actual event arrives our team members have been out on the moor 9 times for around 12 days of walking which includes 3 overnight wild camps. At the beginning of the training we are taking out around 50-60 young people overseen by 5 Moorland leaders and up to 10 adult walking volunteers, some of whom we are training to become Moorland Leaders.

Our training walk on the 6th February this year……

Whilst the actual 10 Tors Challenge starts on the Saturday morning the support teams (Team Managers, staff and volunteers) arrive at Okehampton Camp on the Thursday before to set up base camp.


The National Trust supplies a large marquee which we can use as a waterproof base – a team of NT volunteers from the Plym Valley erect the tent which is ‘owned’ by the Castle Drogo / Teign Valley team

TentsWe are put up seven 6 person tents to house the 6 Teams on Friday night along ‘the Breakfast Crew’ (more about them later).

My colleagues from the Thursday will expect me to clarify my role this year …. I got home from the Isles of Scilly at 10.30 Wednesday evening and had to then do my washing and collect the 2016 Ten Tors ‘Hoodies’ before going up to the Camp – I got there at 12.30 just as the last tent was completed ….. sorry guys…. Once the tents are up we can all go home and prepare our own rucksacks and make sure all the logistics for the coming weekend are in place.

Back on site on Friday by 10 am to complete ‘registration’, pick up the trackers, get the Teams to a Safety Briefing and take the 35 milers through ‘Scrutineering’ where their kit and clothing is checked with a fine tooth comb for suitability.

Scrutineering in one of the large hangers. It was all very slick this year and we were all done and dusted by 3.30pm

Merlin 1During the afternoon the Royal Navy Merlins transported the artillery pieces to the start

The Merlins are new helicopters for the 10 Tors event are are very powerful – they carried out a safety check to determine how they could safely access the landing area – this was best done on Friday before the public arrived. I suspect that the initial plans were subsequently amended …..

Hoodies 2The event hoodies are then given out – provided by the National Trust for all team members along with the Team Managers and support volunteers


Here are some of our 55 mile team relaxing before we all head down to Betty Cottles – a pub / restaurant near Meldon where we eat and have the traditional thank you speeches.

TT volunteersSome of the volunteers who make it all happen relaxing with a beer

Breakfast crewThis is the ‘Breakfast Crew’ who have just been given their pinnies by Karrie Tulley. The Breakfast Crew consist of some of last year’s 55 mile teams – their role is to get up at 4am on Saturday morning to prepare a cooked breakfast for all of this year’s participants. Once they have done that job and seen the start of the event they come back to camp and take down all of the 6 people tents. They were fantastic this year. Without their help the rest of us would have been dead on our feet by Saturday lunchtime!

The startAt 630 on Saturday morning we leave base camp and head for the start – the artillery canons fire at 7am and the Challenge is underway

Behind youAccompanied by two Royal Navy Merlins – flying quite high!

The start 2And they are off

BreakfastAfter the start we head back to base camp for our breakfast – ably and enthusiastically cooked by Dennis Brewer

Pete DaviesSaturday is now quite a relaxing day especially when the sun shines – this is Pete Davies, the National Trust’s Area Ranger in the Plym Valley who is our Deputy Team Manager and a very experienced Moorland Leader

Much of Saturday is spent checking on individual teams progress in the Big Ops Hanger – the trackers provided to each team give an accurate 10 minute update on exact position.

Roy's graph 2
This information enables Dr Roy Colvile, the TBGS Team Manager (and Physics Teacher) to construct a graph which will predict the arrival time for each team – impressive and pretty accurate.

Roy's graph 1

Distance from the finish Naismith corrected!

The TorsSome of us then popped over to Belstone to the Tors Inn for a meal and then back to the TriBar on camp for a beer. Whilst having a beer on Camp I met the 2 Blondes Walking who write an excellent Dartmoor walking blog – previously they had kept themselves anonymous but now thanks to a ‘deal’ with the Ordnance Survey we now know who they are! They referred to me as the ‘photography blogger’!

What happened on the Sunday is captured in yesterday’s blog – see here.

It is fantastic when a plan comes together!

And even better when the company is so good.

10 Tors 2016 – congratulations and respect

Another amazing 10 Tors weekend has come and gone. Here are some photographs of the teams that I have helped train and manage finishing their weekend of walking.

WT 35 4This is the National Trust Wild Tribe 35 mile Team approaching the finish

Wild Tribe 35 2It is just after 9am on Sunday morning – they are the 3rd team in overall (out of 400) just 12 minutes behind the first team Torquay Scouts

Wild Tribe 35 3
What an achievement – congratulations to all involved

Wild Tribe 45 1
Here come the National Trust Wild Tribe 45 mile team – it is around 10am – they are the third 45 mile team in!

Wild Tribe 45 2
Taking the ‘Wild’ theme very seriously – from zebras to apes, penguins, frogs and …. I’m not sure what the 5th right is?

Wild Tribe 45 3
Absolutely brilliant

WT 55 1
Here comes the National Trust Wild Tribe 55 mile team – in at 11.45am – the 3rd 55 mile team in! A theme has emerged …

WT 55 2
Still smiling after all those miles

WT 55 3
A team photo at the finish with Tony Owen who has helped the National Trust and the young people make this happen

WT 55 4
I managed to get to their medal ceremony. In previous years we have been waiting for our 55 mile teams to come in at 4pm and even 5pm! To get in before midday is an awesome achievement.

WT 55 5
A photograph of the 55 milers at 6.15am on Saturday – just before we all head to the start – do I see apprehension as well as excitement?

TBGS 35B 1
The National Trust Wild Tribe teams work and train hand in glove with Torquay Boys Grammar School. Without the support, encouragement and very hard work of Dr Roy Colville and the school generally, the NT couldn’t do 10 Tors. Here come the TBGS 35 mile A team approaching the finish.

TBGS 35B 2
Another amazing performance – in before 1pm. Sorry I missed the TBGS 35 mile B team as I was at the medal ceremony for the 55ers.

TBGS 45 1
Here come the TBGS 45 mile team – there are girls in the Sixth Form at TBGS and two of who are in this team – team in at 10.30am – a very impressive performance

For those of us who manage 10 Tors Teams the ‘weekend’ starts on Thursday and finishes on Sunday – I will tell some of the other stories of the entire weekend over the coming days in this blog.

Finally, huge congratulations to all the participants, thanks to the team of TBGS staff and volunteers, thanks to the staff and volunteers from the National Trust team on Dartmoor and thanks to the Army for organising it -it was very slick and well organised.

From Scilly to Dartmoor – gigs to Tors

I’ve been really lucky!

I have been involved with two of the largest mass participation outdoor sporting events in the south west. Last week I competed in the Isles of Scilly World Gig Rowing Championships (see here, here and here) and today I’m off to the 2016 Ten Tors Challenge event.

I’m the Team Manager for the National Trust on Dartmoor (I’m now a volunteer but was previously the NT’s General Manager on the Moor). We have three teams – 35, 45 and 55 milers. We have been training for the last nine months with Torquay Boys Grammar School preparing 18 young people for the challenge. Yesterday teams of staff and volunteers from the NT and TBGS prepared the base camp (there was even a cuckoo urging everyone on). Today we have a day of briefing and preparation. The main event starts at 7am on Saturday morning.

Training has been tough this year – we have been out torrential amber warning rain and winds – see here and cold nights – see here. The teams are therefore ready to go and amazingly the weather forecast looks very good i.e. not raining and cold. Yippee.

TT pass
I collected my car pass from Okehampton Camp today after having collected the teams and volunteers ‘event’ hoodies.

Wild Tribe 55
Here is National Trust Wild Tribe 55 mile last year mid event with the Brigadier and a helicopter! How cool is that.

10 Tors 24-Jan 1
Sunset during a training walk – what a time to be on the moor

10 Tors is brilliant for young people – it teaches them two sets of life skills:-

  1. A love of the outdoors, nature and landscapes – it gets them away from their ‘screens’ for while.
  2. It also gives them fitness, grit and determination, teaches them teamwork and encourages leadership and achievement.

Just what the National Trust is trying to encourage by its support of the Wild Network.

Thank you Torquay Boys Grammar School (and Dr. Roy Colvile and Tony Owen in particular) without you the National Trust couldn’t do 10 Tors.

Icy night camping followed by whinchat, wheatear and cuckoo

We wild camped on Saturday night at Dick’s Well behind Brat Tor.

Dick's Well 1
We set up our tents in bright sunlight before our 10 Tors teams arrived later in the evening

Dick's Well 2
As darkness fell the moon rose – close by Jupiter shone brightly.

Dick's Well 4
It was a still but cold night – in the morning the tents were covered in frost

Dick's Well 3
This is my walking boot which was inside my tent all night – crusted with ice – thank goodness for my 3 season Rab sleeping bag!

Dick's Well 5
In the morning we walk back to Nodden Gate – the sun was shining again. Beside the River Lyd is this lovely matrix of habitats, moorland, gorse and small shrubs – a softly re-wilded landscape

Patches of gorse are great habitat for the whinchat – we saw a couple of birds on our walk back (this rather blurry photo was taken on the Islesof Scilly last year)

WheatearThere had also been a large fall of wheatear overnight. The previous day there had been a couple of birds – Sunday morning they were  everywhere. It is great to see and experience migration in action – it is such an exciting time of the year.


Later in the morning we walked from the Willsworthy Ranges around to Lane End and saw a couple of cuckoos – our first birds of the year. The first bird we saw was a female who performed her characteristic bubbly call. Moments later a male arrived and sang the classic cuck – coo call. Both birds were being chased around by a carrion crow – cuckoos in flight can look very like a bird of prey and I suspect the crow thought they were sparrowhawks and wanted rid of them in case they predated its nest. (This photo was taken last year in Northamptonshire by my  friend Steve Brayshaw.)