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.

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

okehampton-common-2

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

dinger-tor-1
Up at Dinger Tor

dinger-tor-2
At Dinger Tor – wet, windy, cold and misty

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

pool-at-high-willhay
A pool close to High Willhays

ian-and-tony-at-high-willhay
Ian and Tony at High Willhays, the highest point on Dartmoor (and south England) at 621 metres.

high-willhay
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.

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

meldon-dam
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 …….

Pebble art on Dartmoor

I recently wrote about the phenomenon of pebble art on the beaches of the Isles of Scilly – see here. It now seems to be a growing trend on Dartmoor too.

High Willhays 14
Here is an example – High Willhays on Monday

High Willhays NYD 2011Here is High Willhays on New Year’s Day 2011 – only four pebbles compared to the impressive ten on Monday – will that ever be surpassed?

If the trend continues High Willhays will soon be 622 metres high!

A walk to High Willhays

I went for a walk yesterday with a friend up to High Willhays – the highest point on Dartmoor. It was around a 7 mile walk and took 4 hours including a lunch stop and included a climb of about 340 metres.

High Willhays 12
We started at the car park by Meldon Reservoir and then walked along the southern boundary of the reservoir, up the West Okement River, through the ancient oak wood called Black-a-tor Copse, on to Sandy Ford, then up to Fordsland Ledge, up to High Willhays, on to Yes Tor and then back down to Meldon via Okehampton Common and Longstone Hill. It is one of my favourite walks on Dartmoor – here are a few photographs from the day.

High Willhays 1Melton Reservoir from the dam

High Willhays 2Down to the viaduct from the dam

High Willhays 3By the West Okement looking up to Black Tor

High Willhays 4Into Black-a-tor Copse one of three of Dartmoor’s high altitude oak woods (see here and here for more details).

High Willhays 5Emerging from the other side

High Willhays 6At Fordsland Ledge looking south along the West Okement River with Lint’s Tor on the left

High Willhays 7Approaching High Willhays – the little rock on the left with the cairn on it. High Willhays is something of an optical illusion – wherever  you stand and look at it on Dartmoor there always appears to be a tor which is higher than it! However it is the highest point at 621m.

High Willhays 8At the summit – with Yes Tor behind (looking taller)

High Willhays 9Up to Yes Tor (619m)

High Willhays 10At the trig point on Yes Tor looking back to High Willhays

High Willhays 11Back down to Meldon Reservoir with Sourton Tor above the end of the water

High Dartmoor at its best – highly recommended

 

A very cold night and day

As part of our 10 Tors training, The National Trust Wild Tribe and Torquay Boys Grammar School teams, camped near Foggintor on Saturday night and then spent Sunday walking across the moor back to Okehampton camp.

It was so cold putting up tents on Saturday at dusk …. everyone was in their tents and sleeping bags by 8pm. It was one of those night when it seemed that you were awake all night – sleep seemed a luxury which was just out of reach. I was warm most of the night but when the wind got up and battered the tent you could feel a cold breath of air fill the tent and pivot the temperature towards the uncomfortable. I think everyone had similar experiences but fortunately nothing worse.

Foggintor
The first team had left camp by 6.30am and all were on their way by 7. We left camp at dawn in the shadow of the derelict mining building

BreakfastNext stop was Fox Tor Cafe for breakfast – a perk of the job if you are check pointing teams. From here we dropped off two of the team at Holming Beam to shadow various teams along their route.

Tavy CleaveNear Lane end – where we met a couple of teams – out of the wind with a glorious view over to Ger Tor and Tavy Cleave

We then made a detour back to Holming Beam to collect one of our 55ers who had fallen waist deep into a bog – it wasn’t a day for ‘bog falling’ as the wind chill on the high moor kept the temperature close to or below zero all day. Emergency plans worked perfectly – tents were erected, hot drinkers were made and our two ‘shadowers’ brought the now warmed up 55er back from Rough Tor.

Yes Tor
We now had a bit of time on our hands to we climbed Sourton Tor and got incredible views across to High Willhays, Yes Tor and West Mill Tor (note the peri-glacial ‘Thufur’ bumps in the foreground – I have written about these before – see here)

Check pointingThen out to Oke Tor from Rowtor (minibuses left at Okehampton Camp!!) – Pete, Mark and Tony scanning the horizon, checking texts and phoning teams – I just take the pictures ….

East MillThe sun beaming through the clouds over East Mill Tor (in the fore ground) with High Willhays in the distance

Winter TorAfter completing our  appointments with our teams we headed back to Rowtor – the sunlight catching the hillside above Cullever Steps – with Winter Tor on the right, Higher Tor in the middle and the start of Belstone Tor on the left.

Sunset-2

Back at Rowtor the sun was getting ready to set – we weren’t quite done yet as two teams were still ‘practicing’ their navigation skills …. best done in February rather than May but it meant they were a bit late back – all part of the fun and no harm done.

Well done to all the teams, leaders and helpers – it was a challenging couple of days thanks to the weather but that to be honest is all part of the 10 Tors’ tale. Wonder what weather we will get the next time we are out?