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.

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.

 

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?

Preparing for a cold night out on the moor

I’m getting ready for our first overnight 10 Tors camp this evening on Dartmoor. It is going to be a cold night (-3 degrees with a windchill of -8 degrees) so it is best not to forget anything important (I always forget something….).

10 Tors gear

My 55 litre rucksack will contain, tent, sleeping mat, 3 season sleeping bag, food for tonight, Jetboil, spoon, mug and chamomile teabags, water container, 2 Dartmoor maps, head torch and spare battery, lighter, all team’s routes, first aid kit, whistle, 2 survival bags, a mat, ’10 Tors Green Card’, waterproof bags, waterproof phone case, camera, phone, note book and pen, all staff/team leader contact details,  compass, waterproof lined gloves, warm hat, overtrousers and a book to read (still working out which one – probably going to be Raptor – see here.

I think it is going to be a five layer evening too – marino wool long sleeved base layer, lightweight fleece, heavyweight fleece, down filled gillet (doubles as a pillow) and waterproof coat, along with gaiters and walking boots.

And of course my wallet with my breakfast vouchers for the Fox Tor Cafe in the morning where we need to rustle up a couple of people for our (National Trust Wild Tribe) 55 mile team as well as have the legendary cooked breakfast.

Have I remembered everything and perhaps more importantly will all the young people out with us tonight remember everything too …..