Another wet and windy weekend with 10 Tors

I was up on the Moor over the weekend helping look after 9 teams of 10 Tors participants from the National Trust Wild Tribe and Torquay Boys Grammar School. Saturday saw some of the worst and most challenging conditions I have witnessed on Dartmoor – persistent driving rain, a strong wind and very poor visibility. As a  result – very few photographs …..

This is the Trig Point – on Ryders Hill – the highest point on the south moor – it was bleak and unpleasant on Saturday – Pete and I were on our way to Red Lake tip to check point 7 teams through


This is a photo of Red Lake tip taken in 2015 (it is the conical man made peak in the middle ground) – on Saturday we could only see it when we were 200m from it – a day of navigation by compass – which Pete did very expertly all day.


Here are a couple of our groups at Red Lake ……

We eventually saw all seven groups through by 5pm and then started on our 90 minute walk back to our O Brook campsite – all the teams were in camp by 7pm

This is the O Brook on a sunny day!


Sunday we were check pointing at various places – including Norsworthy Bridge – a much better day but still misty in places and very windy


This is Sharpitor where we ended our walks

Very challenging conditions – well done to all the young people who took part over the weekend – if you can walk and navigate in those conditions you have cracked it!

Dartmoor was character building over the weekend and undoubtedly the moor build some new characters.

A walk from Haytor

Whilst I like reading and writing about Dartmoor you can’t beat the experience of getting out into Dartmoor. Yesterday the annual 10 Tors cycle began again. We were out on the moor training the new prospective students how to read maps, navigate and walk on Dartmoor. We had six groups of students walking various routes from Haytor to Hound Tor and back.

route
This is the route I took – it is about 8km long and is a good introductory walk on Dartmoor – it does go up and down and requires walking boots, a compass, map and a coat but nevertheless is an achievable walk which visits a number of interesting places. It starts at the lower Haytor Car Park.

becca-brookThe Becca Brook below Holwell Tor with the recently installed new clapper bridge

greator-rocksGreator Rocks between Holwell Lawn and Houndtor Down

haytor-and-quarriesLooking back to Haytor with its quarries and Holwell Tor in the foreground

hound-torUp to Hound Tor – the Rowan or Mountain Ash trees were covered in their blood red berries

hound-tor-2The south west corner of Hound Tor

black-hillBack across the Becca Brook and up the slope to Black Hill with Haytor again in the background

black-hill-cairnThe Cairn on the summit of Black Hill with the Bovey Valley in the background.

tramwayPart of the ancient tramway on Haytor Down

haytor-quarryThe famous quarry to the northeast of Haytor itself

home-farm-cafeBack down to the car park for a cup of tea and a piece of flapjack with my old friends from Home Farm Cafe.

A very blustery day up on the moor yesterday but we missed out on the rain! I can recommend this walk if you want to recharge your batteries and burn a few calories. The area is rich in archaeology and moor itself is well managed by the Commoners and is  great for wildlife.

Perfect.

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.

Legends

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

Whinchat
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.

cuckoo-sb

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.)

 

 

 

Grey and cold but dry

The past weekend saw our penultimate training walk for this year’s 10 Tor’s Expedition. It was a cold and grey weekend but fortunately it stayed dry for both days. National Trust Wild Tribe had all our 35, 45 and 55 mile teams out with Torquay Boys Grammar School’s team – seven in total. Our role as moorland leaders for the groups is now to shadow and checkpoint them, i.e. we are not now walking directly with them we are keeping an eye on them to make sure all is well.

Hen Tor
My first task with Pete Davies was to check point Trig 492 in the south west of the moor on the edge of the National Trust’s Upper Plym Estate – a bleak, exposed and remote place. This involved a 1200 foot climb up from the Blackabrook across acres of tussocky Molinia grassland. We went via Little Trowlseworthy Tor pictured above with Hen Tor in the background. Luckily we weren’t there for long as all the groups were making good progress but we did have to bring down a team member who was unwell.

Pink granite
Here is a piece of ‘pink’ granite at Little Trowlesworthy Tor – rare and much sought over in the past  – the reason for the quarry there.

Wild campingWe wild camped near the O Brook not far from Combstone Tor – of course we missed the rugby ….. but we did survive the bitter night

Combestone TorCombestone Tor west of Venford Reservoir

Fox Tor Cafe

Next morning after seeing the teams off some of us had an early breakfast in the Fox Tor Cafe in Princetown – it was very busy at 8am – full of 10 Tors leaders and managers – there were 250 10 Tors teams out on the moor practicing over the weekend! (Those who were checking pointing first thing got a late breakfast once we had taken over their duties)

South Hessary 2
Heading up to South Hessary

South Hessary
where we met all our 45 and 55 mile teams.

Overall a very successful weekend – all the teams got some big miles into their legs and gained lots of confidence.