Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography: Blog https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog en-us (C) Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography (Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) Sun, 01 Aug 2021 11:16:00 GMT Sun, 01 Aug 2021 11:16:00 GMT https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/img/s/v-12/u843994871-o294114777-50.jpg Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography: Blog https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog 120 103 My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 48 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/8/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-48 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

 

Not a training blog, but my final one before I set off, in less than 48 hours!

The overriding challenge is to raise funds for the Dartmoor search and rescue team Tavistock to enable them to urgently purchase a replacement operations van at a cost of £50,000.

My target is to try and raise the remaining £20,000 to complete the Recue 50 campaign.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

To those who have donated so generously over the last nine months, a massive thank you.

To the facebook groups that have allowed me to advertise my challenge on their pages another massive thank you.

To those media outlets that have featured my challenge a massive thank you.

Without you this just wouldn’t be happening.

To those yet to donate/sponsor, please have a think about supporting this charitable cause, many people have the team to thank for helping and saving them from their predicaments both on and off the moor.

Training has been done.

Planning has been done.

Food preparation has been done.

Bag weight final checks have been done.

Just sitting around waiting for Monday!

I thought I would share my last thoughts before the off and provide some “rules” and guidelines albeit self-imposed, around the criteria of the hike.

But first some stats. I do love a good stat!

The challenge

  • To raise £20,000 to support the Dartmoor search and rescue team Tavistock urgently purchase a new operations vehicle costing £50,000 to replace their current failing vehicle.
  • To visit every tor plus some rocks marked on the OS OL28 Dartmoor map.
  • 162 tors and 10 “rocks” such as Haytor rocks.
  • 390 km planned, following some last-minute adjustments. May be more, but unlikely less!
  • 14 days planned.
  • 147 planned walking hours.
  • 33 kilos start bag weight, shedding 1 kilo a day in food.
  • Going solo.
  • Totally self-supported for the full non-stop hike. That’s all kit plus all food.

Training

  • Over a period of 9 months
  • 4.8 Million steps (combined walking and step-up training
  • Some weight training!
  • Step-ups and weights in garage for 25 weeks
  • Walking local lanes in lockdown
  • Day hikes across Dartmoor building up to 30km a day carrying 32 kilos.
  • Start body weight in November, 13 stone and 5 pounds
  • Current body weight, 12 stone and 6 pounds
  • Expected weight following challenge, 11 stone and 3 pounds

The challenge guidelines

Like every challenge there needs to be some basic “rules” or guidelines against which the challenge can be measured as a success. In this case there are also a few additional criteria/caveats that need to be applied.

  • Not to accept any support in terms of reducing carrying bag weight
  • Not to accept any substantial food parcels or drop offs during the challenge that would be deemed sufficient to avoid the challenge being terminated.
  • Not to take any guidance or support in reaching the locations as marked on the OS OL28 Dartmoor map. (Exceptions, if people happen to bump into me to identify a specific outcrop deemed a tor location not specified on the OS map.) Such as Aish tor where the map may suggest the location as the cairn and not the specific tor outcrop.
  • Tors to be visited (not necessarily climbed to the top!) will be as marked or indicated on the OS map OL28.
  • Where tors are located on private land, get as close as is reasonably possible allowing the daily km’s planned to be maintained.
  • To get as reasonably close to a tor where health and safety override the sensible achievement of reaching a tor.
  • Overnight camping is “wild camping” providing it can be achieved in the designated “purple zone”. Where this is not possible a camp site will need to be used. There is one exception.
  • Camping areas are left with “no trace” in line with Dartmoor National Park camping principles.
  • Accumulated rubbish can be deposed of on route providing the disposal point is a legitimate and safe way to do so. Otherwise, it will be carried to the end of the challenge. Nothing will be left on the Dartmoor.
  • Adhering to the published country code.

Tor’s exceptions (10 private land, 2 safety issues)

  • Chub Tor             – private land. Nearest point, West Devon Way track passing in front of tor.
  • Bell Tor               – private land. Nearest point, Bell corner car park.
  • Coombe Tor        – Private land. Nearest point, road at Waye Barton.
  • East Tor              – Private land. Nearest point, Granite Way path.
  • Raven Tor           – Private land. Nearest point (Lydford), road (West Devon Way) opposite tor. National Trust have advised unlikely to be suitable walking with full pack at height of season with one way system in place).
  • Brimhill Tor
  • Kents Tor
  • Fox Tor (Peter Tavy)
  • High Tor              – All private land. Nearest point, road between Cudliptown and Peter Tavy facing each tor.
  • Vixen Tor            – Private land. Nearest point, boundary wall passing tor.
  • Raven Tor           – Safety issue. Deemed too risky to scramble to tor with full packed weight. Nearest point, track through Lustleigh Cleave                                    below tor.
  • Hockingston Tor – Safety issue. Deemed too risky to scramble over rocks and landslips to tor with full packed weight. Nearest point, Dr                                         Brlackell’s Drive path above the tor.
  • Bracken tor        - Now confirmed this is the name of the youth hostel and not a tor so will not be visiting the area.
  • Crownhill tor      - Now established it is actually not on the OL28 map so will not be visiting

Rocks/Quarries to visit (7 rocks, 2 quarries)

  • Welstor rocks
  • Haytor rocks
  • Greator rocks
  • Blackingstone rocks
  • Helltor rocks
  • Kestor rocks
  • Frenchbeer rocks
  • Foggintor quarry
  • Sweltor quarry

Final adjustments

  • Start point now Beatland corner at 7am. Moving Chub tor from day 1 to day 14 allows removing 6km of unnecessary distance reducing 31km to 25km on day 1 when maximum weight is being carried.
  • One official camp site must be used as no wild camping site could be identified in the “purple zone” forcing decision. This allowed remaining challenge route to be satisfactorily maintained for distance, wild camping spots and water sources.
  • Finish point remains Clearbrook but now likely to be later and around 7pm.

 

So, with all that in place, how am I feeling with just one day to go?

I think I have completed a reasonable amount of training however until I actually undertake the challenge, I’ll never be satisfied if it is enough.

The bag weight is always going to be an issue and not helped that I’m 3 kilo’s over my preferred start weight. Having tried really hard to get this down and taking everything into account it’s the best I can do! The one factor that I hadn’t realised, and this may be useful to anyone doing similar, is when adding up the weight of snacks and food bags etc is they provide you with the contents weight. This means the packaging weight is not included. In my case that adds an astonishing 2 kilos to the weight. That’s just the foil bags of the dehydrated food, wrappers of pepperoni etc and the tins of sardines I’m taking. Who would ever believe that!

Wild camping, I’ve overcome my concerns on certain “personal” requirements and the water filter I purchased is performing well. No tummy issues so far. I’m hoping my last purchase of a pillow will help the sleeping that has currently eluded me on the training days.

I have a “camping routine” but yet to fully test it in wet weather! That should prove interesting as the tent, despite being pretty good and a two-man version, is small and it’s a large bag to fit in plus myself if I have to unload inside.

 

Food, well, that turned out to be a big challenge in its self. 16 kilos worth. Made up of dehydrated light weight food bags plus day snacks. Not the most enterprising menu but hopefully one to keep the protein and calorie count high enough to get me round. Peanut butter, pepperoni and beef sticks, sardine and snack bars will be a fine test to repeat over fourteen days. Luckily the main meals are a little more interesting washed down with a coffee at the start and end of the day.

Technology presented some interesting debates. What and how much should you take over fourteen days? GPS and SOS capability is a given, not just for my safety but also for others knowing I have the means to shout for help if required. It also lets donors and supporters track me live, just to make sure I don’t wander into a shop or pub! Don’t expect a speedy walk, this will be a steady plod. Battery packs and recharging capability, electronics will run out of power so another must, but this stuff weighs heavy!

Maps and compasses, haven’t forgot those. Two of each and marked up with the route to take.

I’ve kept clothing down to a minimum but can’t skimp on water proof gear. You have to be prepared for everything and anything which means every combination of clothing must be considered. Hopefully I now have a waterproof pair of boots, jacket and trousers!

If you wear glasses or contact lenses it’s surprising how much more that will add to carrying space and weight. Lenses, normal glasses, reading glasses, spare glasses and sun glasses. 300 plus grams, it’s all additional weight I could do without!

So, I think I have thought of everything, time will tell if I have over or under packed and if my choice in technology, food and camping gear have been good choices. That will be another story on my return!

 

So, how do I feel right now as I type?

Nervous, confident, realistic, full of expectation, some self-doubt, some excitement but definitely going into this with my eyes wide open.

I am ready to go and hope my body will stand up to the test. Some may wonder what all the fuss is about, but rest assured, for me this is a massive challenge.

I’ve never wild camped until this challenge, I’ve never carried any thing like the weight I’m carrying, I’ve never walked anything like the distance on consecutive days before and certainly never been out more than a couple of days at a time.

Having spent most of my career driving the motor ways and sitting behind a desk this will with out doubt test my physical and mental strength, plus my ability to navigate across the moor in any conditions thrown at me.

Starting this probably 20 years late at nearly 62 some may say and have jokingly suggested I’m nuts! They may turn out to be right!

I’ve never realised how comfortable my comfort zone is and now I’m about to step way outside it.

So, is this a challenge for me? You bet your last pound it is!

Am I ready, yes, I’m ready, and now we’re about to find out!

Thanks again to everyone who has supported, your donations and those I have met and yet to meet will get me through this. Let’s hope I do you proud and can give a good chunk of money to the search and rescue team Tavistock to purchase that critically needed new operations vehicle.

It would be great to meet everyone at some point to say thank you face to face. Maybe an informal chat or presentation somewhere in Tavistock to share the experience if interest is there?

See you at Clearbrook in two weeks.

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/8/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-48 Sun, 01 Aug 2021 11:16:02 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 47 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/7/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-47 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training walk 35 – Return to Pork Hill car park!

Well, after an unscheduled week break for a variety of reasons, one being a leaking roof! I’m back on the moor.

A gentle stroll of 16 km around some familiar tors, if you can say carrying 30 kilos gentle! Familiar ground to a lot of people I suspect. Just checking to see what the impact of having a week off is before I throw myself back into another 30km attempt.

Starting from Pork Hill car park cross the road and veer left on a track to walk around the base of Cox tor. Follow the track until you reach the road, the easy option is to follow the road just before it turns into Higher Godsworthy. At that point turn right and follow the track parallel to the boundary wall. Keep going until you have Roos tor directly on your right, on your left you should see a footpath sign pointing across the field system.

Follow the sign and exit on the other side of the field. You’ll then be immediately faced with a stream, depending on weather depends on how full and fast this is. Today it was pretty full but at the right point, just need to look around, it remains easy to get across.

Once across with White tor ahead, simply pick your route up the hill until you reach the footpath that has Stephen’s Grave on it.

On the map there are two clear features you could follow. One is the footpath that continues to Stephen’s grave, the other is the stream to the right. Both will get you onto the track.

As I didn’t want to double back, I followed the stream.  It’s not a particularly difficult slope but again, with a heavy pack it still tested the lungs!

Following the path and with the field system on your right continue until you reach a point just beyond the end of the field system, for no other reason that to make it easy dropping down to the corner wall of the last field.

There’s a couple of streams that converge in this area and a fair bit of mining activity to negotiate, nothing too difficult. From here an opportunity to test my internal compass. How close can I get to the cairn at the brow of the hill? The answer was really close but the final act of landing on it was thwarted by a herd of cows. It almost looked like they were lined up like one of those duck shoots you get at a fair. Stood there all looking at me as I got closer. OK, close enough, you win, I’ll veer right and head off for Roos tor.

Really nothing exciting to mention walking to Roos tor, or the three Staple tors for that matter. Apart from, what fantastic views you get from each of them. Another area to return to with the camera after the challenge for some real photography!

Dropping down to Merrivale pick up the footpath that leads you all the way around to Vixen tor and onto the base of Pew tor. Met some more really nice people here, who again were happy to support my challenge. The people I continue to meet and the support they offer continues to amaze me, utterly brilliant.

Past Pew tor cottage, still on the path, drop down to the road, turn right and follow it to a road junction that has a track leading up to Pew tor at 45 degrees to the road, you can follow it to the top of the tor if the mood takes you but I wanted to ensure the distance I mapped was actually achieved today. It wasn’t that massive after all.

Turn right and follow the road passed Oakley cottage on your left. A further, approximately 250 meters there is a track that heads of ahead of you at roughly “2 o’clock”. I stayed to the left of the stream and continued following the track. You will come to a point where the stream branches left. Keeping relatively close to the boundary wall cross the stream branching left and continue pretty much in a straight line. On the map it is the double dotted line / track and not the footpath. This takes you over Barn Hill and back to the car park. You may also notice a short row of stones on your approach to the car park, not on the map, I am assured it is a stone row.

The weather was interesting, warm, sunny and muggy at the start making it a very sticky walk all the way to Roos tor, a ten-minute light shower threatened to clear the air but failed miserably!

Some great cloud formations and more sunny warm periods.

At Pew tor though it started to rain, just another light short shower I convinced myself.

One hour later, very wet as I failed to accept this was sticking around, I was almost back to the car. And, what a surprise, just as I approached the car it stopped and the sun came out again.

As a reference to just how warm it was, in about ten minutes my wet trousers where already practicably dry.

So, how did this short and simple revisit go, not bad but I was surprised just how quickly the body accustomed itself to walking without a heavy bag. Something to consider the week before I go, maybe some short distances carrying the weight as a little reminder of what’s to come!

 

Stats Day One

16 km distance

5 Hours duration

Average trip speed 3.0 km per hour

Average walking speed 5.2 km per hour

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/7/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-47 Tue, 13 Jul 2021 19:22:12 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 46 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/7/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-46 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training walk 34 – 2 day Belstone Loop and first wild camp

So, with 4 weeks to go I thought it was about time to take the plunge and complete my first wild camp ever. Just as well go for it big time and camp at, what is possibly the toughest one to get to? Maybe I should have done this earlier but the truth is I had a training plan that was deferred by covid, better late than never I guess!

I wanted to test my stamina, and boy this was truly a work out. I was aiming for 25 km on day one and around 27 km on day two. With the route planned there was going to be some punishing terrain to cover as well as some easier tracks. Starting at the Belstone car park a walk through the village and keeping right passed a small chapel we’re heading for Watchet Hill. Continue until you reach a gate leading onto the moor access land, there is also a house on your immediate right called “Watchett” surprisingly. The village is a cracking example of a Dartmoor village and no surprise it is very popular. It has it all, some small shops, pubs, church and a green providing stunning views up to Cosdon Hill and surrounding area. On a warm sunny day there is no better place to spend the day.

Through the gate and take a track left, there are a couple of tracks, I take the one leading to the flag pole which provides a clear track up to Belstone tor. Yes, I had checked this time there was no firing so no surprises when I saw no flag up the pole! If you have never been to this area Belstone tor looks like it’s split into two. You reach the first outcrop and think you’re there and typical of many tors on the moor, you find the real top of the tor another hundred meters on and still higher.

Don’t feel too down hearted because when you reach the top the views are amazing. You have a huge panoramic of the area and in good visibility you can see for miles. It’s a great tor to visit without any doubt.

There is quite a bit packed into this area and continuing roughly South you soon reach the Irishman’s wall. There is an interesting article on Legendary Dartmoor to find out more https://www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/irish_wall.htm

A little further on and you’re on top of Higher tor, strange really as it’s lower than Belstone! There is a clear path between Belstone tor and the next target Oke tor. The terrain is easy walking and in summer can get busy. Due to the relatively easy walking with tracks, military paths and in places easy moorland you can cover quite a distance without massive effort.

Reaching Oke tor take some time to look around, this is another tor worthy of your time. Sat on the hill it towers above the East Okement on one side and the river Taw on the other. Another impressive tor. A quick water stop, but today there’s not too much to see as the mist and fog keeps rolling in then clearing and rolling back in again. When the sunny intervals did appear, there were some terrific views to be had.

Sunny spells, that reminds me, like a chump I charged up the GPS the night before only to find when I took it out the bag it was dead flat! Oh bugger!

Good job I have the Garmin as a second device, you know the saying, two is one and one is none! Anyway, there’s always an upside. Now’s the chance to put the solar panel to a real field test. For those interested I tried some that were no good at all and then spotted this one with some interesting reviews, like it even charges in cloudy weather. Not a commission-based view, just me passing on my findings! Strange name, it’s called the Big Blue 2.

It comes with four clips to place on the back of the pack, sits perfectly on my Osprey bag. All set up and I could see via the ammeter it started to draw power and start charging the unit. I’ll check in a couple of hours.

Ready to move on I headed for Winter tor and then Scarry tor, both accessible by following a military path most of the way. Back down to Gulliver steps and following another track up toward Rowtor. There was a good number of tents by the field system, which I later found out was a group of teacher/parent led school children out for a Dartmoor experience. Got to take my hat off to them, giving up their time to educate the next walking generation, great stuff.


Rowtor is not difficult to reach, just a smallish incline from the track. Oh, the bag weight, nearly forgot!

This was a two day and overnighter walk, I packed everything I would need for the two weeks plus a bit more. I wanted to test a sleeping bag liner, highly rated they said. I wondered if the liner and thermals would be enough to keep me warm overnight. It could remove one kilo of sleeping bag weight which would be great. That meant for this trip a total of 32 kilos, I know, completely nuts, and I would agree on this occasion. Four weeks to get the weight right!

West Mill tor is navigationally straight forward but it is steep and took a few mini stops to reach the top. Yes, it took a bit out of me, but all good training, isn’t it?

A small group of youngsters were sat at the top probably wondering what all the difficulty was about as I clambered up the hill, they were heading for Yes tor and clearly enjoying it despite the mist.

Next West Mill tor, I decided to follow a track and pick up the path below. The mist was down now and the sunny spells were long gone. A bearing was required, I was aiming just to the left of the intersection of two paths, follow the road to that point and then drop down to a boundary stone just above New Bridge.

First glance couldn’t spot the intersection, I have to be close, walking a few meters right and crossing the path, another check. There it was, bending to the right which is why I couldn’t spot it right away, that felt good picking that out in the mist.

Pretty much a straight line to the boundary stone and down to the bridge. I tried this in an attempt to cut off the bending path, don’t bother! It’s a clumsy stretch, boggy, full of clitter (Curtery Clitter should have given it away!) and time consuming as the direction takes you into what looks like an old quarry area before you reach the bridge.


No matter, I’m at the bridge and starring up the hill to East Mill tor. A fleeting visit this time, get to the top and turn round to descend. This time sticking to the path, a little bit longer but so much easier to walk.

Yes tor is the next target, previously I have taken a straight line but this is not surprisingly quite tough on the ground and again very time consuming picking your route and jumping between tracks.

This time I’m trying the military path from New Bridge, right at the bridge, stick to the path and next left, up the hill and right at the next path junction, then left at the next path junction. This is then a long haul following the path all the way to the top between Yes and High Willhays tors. I’ll decide on the day on my challenge which route to take but certainly in fog the path option provides an almost fail-safe route to Yes tor.


Yes tor, in the mist. Time for lunch and give the body a rest. Sat on the floor against the bag it was so quiet, almost eery, but great! No one around, just me listening to the birds and the wind blowing through.

Time to check the solar panel. Wow, now considering the GPS was flat and no more than an hour of sunny intermittent spells, the rest of the time in mist, panel had delivered 48% of charge into the GPS. I thought that was pretty amazing, just as the review had said, it will charge in the most demanding of conditions. I’ll leave it charging and see how much it will take and how long.

As most will know High Willhays is a short distance via a connecting track and reaching the highest point on the moor takes no time at all. I wanted to be at Fur tor before seven in the evening so didn’t hang around, walking past and heading straight for Dinger tor.

More mist and safety says a bearing is required as there was nothing to see in front of me. It’s funny, could be just me, how your internal compass puts you at odds with the compass bearing. Called being disorientated obviously!

Put your trust in the map and compass I kept brain washing myself with. I’ve previously paid the price walking on instinct in the fog so, compass bearing it is no matter what it feels like.

Half way to Dinger tor and the mist lifted for a while, of course the bearing is accurate, Dinger tor dead ahead.

As I approached, I saw a large group walking toward Dinger tor, then realised it was a school party. I mentioned earlier how great it is that teachers/parents are willing to give up their time to get children out on the moors walking. They were totally buzzing and loving it, three days and two nights camping. What a great experience for them.

Even better, one of the teachers was following my progress, what more could I ask for!

After a good chat I started off toward Kneeset Nose, Great Kneeset followed by Little Kneeset before reaching the base of Fur tor towering above me.

Getting to Kneeset Nose wasn’t difficult, had to detour around some cows that wouldn’t move off the track, who do they think they are!

The climb to Great Kneeset was challenging, a long slow climb up the hill, at least I was low on water meaning the weight was reduce a fair bit. I was aiming to refill at Fur tor ford. A tent at the top, I had planned a brief stop here and as I approached a chap popped out. We had a great chat and had a laugh about putting my progress on a big screen, you had to be there to appreciate the humour!

Getting to Little Kneeset was a much more messy affair, no obvious track, just tuft and hole hopping, down to the Black Ridge Brook, it was getting a bit wet and boggy now. Thankfully I spotted a sheep track following the brook, ahead I noticed sheep crossing the brook, they appeared to do it very easily. I headed for that spot and no surprise, sheep are not going to struggle, a nice easy step across via some nice big boulders.

Up to Little Kneeset and down the other side to Fur ford, much easier walking for this stretch. Now out with the Geo filter for a real field test and see if my nervous stomach will cope. There and half litres of water filtered, it worked just as advertised, a bit of effort pushing the filter element into the container and to separate to repeat the process but not too bad.

Just the climb to the top of Fur tor left. Head down I tried not to think of the steep hill in front of me. It was so much easier following the boundary posts from Cut Hill. It was slow and needed a few stops, the added weight of the filtered water for meals and drinking water the following day made a huge difference in weight. Three and a half kilos were very noticeable!

Made it, the top of Fur tor the hard way, and I felt every step, not the last section of challenge after nine hours and twenty-four km walking you want.

Not a full stat as the Garmin has a smaller break down on detail.

 

Now just the issue of my first ever wild camp!

Another new bit of kit to try out. I’ve used a pocket rocket for some time but now decided I’ll upgrade to the same model but with an electronic ignition to make it easier, using matches as an emergency backup.

It became very quickly clear I needed to change the way I pack my bag. Everything out to get what I needed and then repack, if it had been raining, I may have been in trouble!

One thing I do know is my tent, easy to put up and quick, five minutes max and all set to go.

When I arrived, I was the only one there, brilliant I thought, the place to myself. Surely that would be unusual based on the FB posts I have read, being selfish I hoped no else would turn up!

The dehydrated food I packed was great, a very long way from what I remember experiencing many years ago. It actually tasted really good.

Ah, a cup of coffee, I have allowed myself the luxury of a coffee with dinner and breakfast, after that water all the way. I may take a flavouring with me next time, water does get a little boring after several hours and on this day three litres of water.

Fed and watered I knew the following day was going to be a tough one so tidied up, everything in the tent and bedded in at 8:30. I know sounds ridiculous but I was actually done for the day! Hmm, an hour later and struggling to get comfortable, I need a pillow, I need a mattress! Footsteps, someone else had turned up. Well, it is a free world, but why set up so close to me? It’s like cars in a car park, you park in the middle of nowhere and someone ignores all that space and parks beside you. Why?

At least they settled quickly and were very quiet so fair play.

Another hour, more people, only this time not so quiet. When it did fall silent, me still struggling to get comfortable, snoring! Noooo, I’m being brainwashed, once tuned in that’s it, it just won’t go away.

I’ve got a lot of adjusting to do clearly.

Despite being desperate to sleep I managed to snooze a couple of hours but nothing more. Not the experience I was hoping for and would make day two very interesting.

Waking at 5:30 in the morning I decided to get up and take a look at the weather. What a spectacular view toward Kneeset. Rolling mist in the valley with the sun already starting rise burning it off. For a while I stood there taking it in and snapping away, I could have stayed for hours, it was simply magical and the overnight irritations disappeared.

Time for breakfast and see how quickly I could break camp.

Answer, not that quickly but I did get walking by 7am which was my latest target time to be on the move so no disaster.

 

Day Two, the loop back to Belstone.

The sun was already rising and feeling pretty warm for such an early hour. Visibility was great and took the time pressure off regarding any map reading away from Fur tor. My second visit to Fur tor, all the challenge, fear and mystery now banished from my head. I’ll be back and next time with my camera.

The plan was to drop off the tor and follow the MOD posts across Cut Hill, through the North West passage, down to Cut Hill water and stream. Then turn left over the East Dart River then right and follow the posts toward Sittaford tor.

Having done this route before I knew what to expect, I hasn’t changed. I would say the first section down to Cut Hill water is not particularly difficult if you follow the “sort of track” between the posts. A few awkward spots but with care straightforward. Following the posts left and heading for Cut Hill stream is a little bit more difficult, the track is not quite as clear and some tuft hopping is needed along with negotiating some big holes in the ground. Approaching the stream, it does get a bit boggy but again with care and looking ahead you can get through reasonably well. There are a few spots where the holes and grass are deep and tall enough that if you go wrong, you could be in a hole with the grass in your face! Did I land in one, surely not, but how else would I know? I’ll keep you guessing on that one.

Turn right at the end of the line of posts and following the posts heading away from you. Interestingly the East Dart River, ahead of you, wasn’t that difficult to cross if you take a short time to locate a good crossing point.

Just keep following the posts until they veer off up the hill left toward Quintin’s Man, at this point take a bearing to Sittaford tor and it’s a straight line walk to the top.

This is not easy going by any means, high grass and tufts with deep holes, all traps just waiting for the clumsy walker to enter and snap their ankles. It is very slow, enormously sapping on the legs and every step has to be carefully placed to avoid injury.

Add that with an area full of cows and you have the potential for a very challenging bit of walking. After some hours on what felt like an eternity walking from Fur tor to Sittaford tor the latter finally came into view, and about time. On top of a tired start due to poor sleep this long section took a lot out of me, feeling exhausted I had to take a break and get that weight off my shoulders for a while, water and snack break included at no extra charge!

Wow, it felt good to sit and stare with the bag on the ground. Looking back, I consoled myself that I had walked a pretty good distance and what was probably a very respectable time. I could see a farmer herding a large herd of cows down onto the moor. Thanks goodness I got through before that happened, it would have made trying to detour around the cows almost impossible.

Conscious of time, break over I took the diagonal path from Sittaford to Long Ridge skirting Fernworthy reservoir. A surprisingly long section of track and path, I must have crossed Whitehorse Leat without even realising such was my desire to get to Kestor rocks, the next target. A couple of smaller stops and the route skirting the forest was straight forward albeit another long section of the days plan. Follow the forest all the way round to a gate that opens to a wide path ahead which is clearly visible. There are other tracks but take what looks from a distance a lawned grass track/path, this will take you all the way above the Three Boys standing stone, not to its position but you get to a crossroads of tracks and the stone is visible on the right.

I decided to turn left and a few meters further on turn right on a track all the way to Kestor rocks. Another break required.

Overall, I think at this point I was doing pretty well all things considered. The bag is always heavy but I was managing it, legs were tired but still moving, body was aching a bit and the head managing to control unwanted thoughts popping up and trying to avoid answering the question, why the hell am I doing this?

Had a chat with a really nice lad who was genuinely interested in the challenge while I took a break. I probably looked worse than I felt!

Time was moving on so on the move again, this time down to the North Teign, time to filter some more water, I was drinking a lot today as the weather although starting off warm and humid was now cloudy and humid. I needed to replace a lot of water as the heat took charge with little or no breeze. I was on my way to drinking four litres by the time I finished.

A quick walk up to Scorhill tor, an abrupt turn around and on my way to Rival tor via the Scorhill stone circle. Walking through the middle a choice of tracks to take. It wasn’t until later I realised, I hadn’t approached Rival tor from this direction before, I had taken the path higher up. It came as no surprise when the track I chose turned into a narrow track and not the one I expected. A group of horse riders rode passed just below and decided if they are on a track toward Rival tor it would be good for me, so I followed it!

It did get me back on the expected track but then I tried to be clever and short cut the path for a more direct route to the tor. I never learn. A cow trodden path made it very uneven and difficult before I turned uphill and straight into overgrown gorse and bracken. This was getting frustrating now. How can I be so stupid just to satisfy my curiosity?

 

Finally, I made it to the top and could clearly see the route back to the “main” track.

Next target Shilstone tor via Kennets Hill. If only I could make it to the top of Kennets hill I knew there was an easy path to get me onto Throwleigh Common, then a short detour around the gorse and streams in the area and I could drop down to the tor. Simples!

Only getting to the top of Kennets Hill wasn’t a stroll in the park. A wide track that started up the hill soon disappeared and once again I was struggling through gorse and bracken picking up the odd track. Another time-consuming section that sapped more energy from the legs. I really couldn’t expend any more energy tramping through this stuff.

Checking the map when home, I do that a lot, it turned out despite the challenge of getting to the top I had landed bang on the top of Kennet Hill at the point I joined the clear path across the hill from West to East. Just the easier walk down the other side. Shilstone tor, at last, another break required, it’s a great spot to sit back against the tor and gaze over the immediate area.

I could now start to feel like I was finally making progress and from a map/distance perspective didn’t seem too far from the finish. It wasn’t going to feel like that.

From Shilstone there are two options to get on the path next to the river Taw leading back to Belstone. One, head for Cosdon hill and down the other side or two, follow the road to Stickle path. It had been quite a day already so exploring a route over Cosdon hill was not a good choice today and actually works out longer than following the road. Stick to plan A then, the road it is.

Apart from being a very long road there was nothing of any great interest for me, head down and totally focussed on getting to Sticklepath.

Once reaching Sticklepath the road crosses the river, there is a footpath sign pointing left just before the bridge. Take this path and follow the signs to Skaigh. To reach Belstone simply continue on the path, you can’t really go too far wrong.

 

Into the woods and follow the path along the river. Stopping briefly, a family crossed over the footbridge asking if I was OK, I guess I must have looked shattered, they appeared a little concerned!

Having convinced them I was good to go and just taking a breather we parted and I carried on, over the next footbridge and now on the right-hand side of the river.

This time however, rather than pass back over the river I decided to stay on the right and follow the path all the way to Belstone, it’s clear and mostly easy to walk. A short steep section but generally not too bad. Follow it in to the green at Belstone just below the pub, I was glad to get there, oh look a bench, a final stop and some water before I go up to the road and back to the car.

 

Nearly forgot, how did the solar panel do? Incredibly well in my view. With hardly any direct sunlight and in mostly mist and fog it charged the GPS unit in about six hours, I think that is impressive as it virtually guarantees the ability to charge devices. I’ll continue testing as it could mean I can reduce the weight further by leaving the battery packs behind.

And the sleeping bag liner? Well, it certainly added a good deal of warmth to the sleeping bag but I would say it falls short of doing away with the bag all together. Not enough to keep you warm overnight with just the liner and thermals. Looks like I’ll be taking the sleeping bag then.

 

Done, and I was!

Now for the moment of truth, despite feeling tired I wasn’t down and out, so just how well had I done considering the terrain and challenges of the day.

29 km in ten hours and forty minutes with an average walking speed of 4 km per hour. Blimey, I’ll take that any day. That means I would probably have made the thirty kilometres in around or under eleven hours. With a bag weight of roughly thirty to thirty-two kilos over the weekend I ‘m pretty happy with that.

Just need to keep that up over fourteen days!

Now to start planning the next training day!

 

Stats Day One

24 km distance

9 Hours duration

Average trip speed 2.5 km per hour

Average walking speed 4km per hour

 

Stats Day Two

29 km distance

10 Hours 40 minutes duration

Average trip speed 2.5 km per hour

Average walking speed 4km per hour

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/7/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-46 Sun, 04 Jul 2021 15:04:08 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 45 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-45 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 33 – Clearbrook Loop

So, I managed to smash out those blues and deliver the best performance so far on my last training walk, can I repeat it or was it just a flash in the pan?

As is becoming the case, many areas are being repeated to enable loops to be created with the distance required. So today was part the actual challenge route plus some open moor and roads/lanes to complete a target distance of 27km from and back to Clearbrook.

 

First target point, Hawk’s tor.

On the challenge itself I will be walking from Yelverton along the West Devon Way until I reach an exit point onto the road toward Shaugh Prior. What I don’t want to do is walk up to Clearbrook from Hoo Meavy, across the moor and back down to the road, just using unnecessary energy. So, walking down from Clearbrook to pick up the West Devon Way puts me where I want to be on this walk.

A walk down to Hoo Meavy takes me to the bridge over the river Meavy surprisingly. Just before the bridge on your right there is a new style and finger post pointing across a field, usually with horses in it. This has in the past been covered up and partially blocked so it’s great to see the creation of the Dartmoor Way properly reinstate this piece of footpath.

It’s a straight walk through a few fields, over a couple of styles when the path gets close to the river and out through a gate onto a road that goes to Goodameavy.

Take a right turn under the bridge and immediate left. This is the point where you leave the path and follow the road.

Heading up a reasonable slope to Leighbeer the road goes over the tunnel below on the disused railway and then heads down toward Shaugh bridge. If you haven’t been in this area, why not?

It is a typically stunning area of river and woodland with plenty of tracks and paths to follow. It also has the well-known Dewerstone rock, popular with rock climbers who can often be seen climbing, practising or training there.

But we haven’t got time to stop and stare, there’s a schedule to keep!

Over the river and follow the road. Avoiding any right turns going up the hill or other footpaths, the road will take you straight through Shaugh Prior. If you want a coffee stop there’s a bench in the church yard, just thought I would mention it!

The road up to Shaugh Prior is steep and it takes an effort to keep going. This is a “day one” section so I will have a full packed weight and the hill seems to go on for a long time!

Just for today I decided to leave Shaugh Prior via Brag Lane, curious to see if this could be any easier than continuing to follow the road. No is the answer, it just carried on up hill to add to the strain. I’ll take the more direct road to Beatland corner on the day I think.

Once at the “T” junction a simple route 45 degrees across the moor terrain to Hawk’s tor. There’s plenty of tracks to follow to get you there. It’s a small tor but an interesting one and has some fantastic views back down the valley and out to Plymouth on a clear day. There are some pretty good tracks in this area and worth a wander.

With the clay pits on your left, find a track and follow the boundary of the clay pits around roughly 400 meters and Collard tor will appear in front of you. In my view this is a pretty unimpressive tor and resembles not much more than a pile of rocks and clitter with remains of a quarry just below and to the right of the tor. It does however like Hawk’s tor have some pretty impressive views.

Now find a track leading toward Wotter below, as you approach Collard tor the path is pretty much directly opposite and found by walking straight through the clitter. Don’t worry if you miss it, you can easily descend the hill into the village. Once in the village turn left and follow the road down to the main road, turn left and continue to follow the road. There is a footpath on the left about 500 meters ahead and a nice little walk off the road if you prefer, however, I wanted the quickest route to Blackalder tor so simply follow the road until you reach a bus stop shelter on the left side of the road. A track leads away up hill just after the shelter and on your left. Walk to the top turn immediate left for 100 meters and Blackalder tor is on your right. Hidden mostly be bracken and trees it’s more impressive than first appears and better viewed early spring.

From here retrace steps back to the road and safely cross to the other side and continue along the verge or the footpath just the other side of the barrier (recommended!). Keep going until you reach a wide junction and the road leading toward Hemerdon, cross over and continue until you see a car park area. Close by on the right is Whitehill tor. A better view can be obtained by walking up and around away from the road. It looks pretty well hidden by trees from the road.

Past Whitehill and keep following the road until you reach a gate and a footpath sign pointing right across the fields. Following the direction of the signs and you’ll pass a house ruin on your left as you swing right over a wall you will approach Crownhill tor on your left.

Now, in my opinion, this really doesn’t look much like a tor at all and wonder why it has been given a title with tor in it!

Mostly buried under the earth and grass it resembles more a hill than a tor, but it’s on the map so must be visited. Well, actually is it on the map? Border line I would say, it effectively is on the overlap between two different OS maps so technically I could leave it off the list. However, as it is so close, I decided to leave it in, especially as it occurs on the day one route.

Rook tor next and this is a fair distance away. Retrace your steps back to the road, I do hate retracing steps, it seems such a waste of energy but as there is little choice the quicker it’s done the better!

Cross the road and directly opposite there is a footpath sign at Tolchmoor Gate, that directs you along a really nice footpath running parallel with the road, why wouldn’t you use it?

Follow this to Quick bridge turn left and look for a new iron “kissing gate” on your right about ten meters down the path. Follow this all the way through Newpark Wood and Sheraleers Wood until you come to an open field in Heathfield Down. Keep left until you reach the road opposite and turn left.

The nice thing walking in this direction is the path is all down hill making it easy to take time to enjoy the woods. The open area is another popular spot for dog walkers and families to walk.

Now we head uphill from Robert’s break past Middle Rook and on to West Rook Gate. The weather not mentioned so far had been pretty reasonable, cloudy with a cooling breeze to start but with sunny intervals. It was when those sunny intervals came out the temperature seemed to rise making it very warm and humid, there was plenty of water being drunk!

The hill to West Rook Gate is pretty steep and long. Our speed felt pretty good up to now and with a focused push it wasn’t too long before we reached the gate entrance to the moor.  The rocks the other side of the gate were fortunately covered in shade, the perfect spot for lunch before we launched ourselves up the hill to Penn Beacon.

It looks a long way up does Penn Beacon! I found in the past walking to the right roughly half way between West and East Rook gate there is a very clear path left that turns into a track. Following this takes you all the way up the hill to the top, but it is a long haul with a full pack, so required a few mini stops. Just before we set off up the hill, can’t remember why I actually checked the GPS. Just out of curiosity you understand. At that point we had been walking with an average trip speed of 3.6 km per hour and walking average of 5.4 km per hour, wow, that’s amazing and clearly the best timing to date. That said I also knew that average would be cut down to size over the second half of the route.

Penn Beacon and it felt like the top of the world, water break required and took advantage of some of the time we had acquired. Incidentally, the path followed and confirmed on the map when back home, took us directly over the point marked on the map of Rook tor. I know, Rook tor is further down and where the disused quarry sits! The next target Shell Top has a clear path leading to it and despite going down and then up, the hill is not difficult to walk.

Trowlesworthy tors next, a straight line looked very tempting as the terrain wasn’t too badly affected by large grass tufts and holes. I also knew the streams in that area can make the area extremely boggy and difficult to pass. Despite the recent heavy rain, we took the gamble. Hmm, it wasn’t a complete disaster but it was very wet and some places very boggy. Very carefully picking our way around and sometimes through the wet stuff it was clear a route around would have been better and if the weather had been worse surely would have been safer. As it was, knowing what to expect we made some conscious decisions and made our way through. Testing the ground, very spongy, would it take mine and the bag weight? I think so, go for it but don’t stand still. It was almost fun bog hopping but I wouldn’t do it on my own, just in case.


Up to the Trowlesworthy tors and the walk from West Rook Gate was starting to tell on the legs a bit. A quick water break and onward down to the leat, over the footbridge and past Trowlesworthy Warren House. The path winds itself down to the road with the Plym on your right all the way to Cadover Bridge. Possibly one of the most visited places on the moor, take a visit and you’ll see what I mean.

In terms of route, it’s all very straight forward now as we turn right over Cadover bridge and then take the next left into a car park with fishing lakes on the right. We’re heading for Dewerstone Rock, there are tracks along the way so just pick one and handrail the boundary wall on the left. There are a couple of outcrops, not marked on the map (I think they are named and most likely listed in the Tors of Dartmoor) that are worth having a look at. Overlooking the valley below where the Plym continues its way to the sea there are some excellent views as well as the opportunity to get some great pictures.

Skirting Wigford Down the Dewerstone comes into sight and provides another spectacular position. It’s worth taking some time out here to take it all in. On a warm sunny day, you could spend hours there. But we’re still on a mission and half an eye on our time, Anton checked his fancy techy watch that told us we were still keeping an average trip time of 3.1 km per hour, and walking an average of around 5 km per hour, still very happy with that.

The next target was Goodameavy. We needed to reach the road by Furzmoor but also needed to avoid what I knew was a boggy area in the last quarter between the Dewerstone and Furzmoor. Picking up tracks as we found them, there was no straight single track we could see, we started ok but really should have gone the long way round. The really smart move would have been to continue North until we intersected a clear path but we decided to follow the wall and then divert North to manoeuvre around the boggy section. We just didn’t divert wide enough, yep, you guessed it, our second round of bog hopping commenced.

Adding more time on and reducing the averages we finally made it to the road. From here at least we shouldn’t go wrong. Follow the road down to Lower Goodameavy, it’s a pretty steep bit of road and plays havoc on the knees (if you’re over a certain age!), to a bridge over the road at the “T” junction.

Here there are three choices, you can turn right over the style and follow the footpath to Hoo Meavy and up to Clearbrook, or, go under the bridge and turn left to pick up the dismantled railway track, or, you can go under the bridge and turn right following the road back.

As it turned out we took the third option which was probably, particularly at the end of the day, the steepest and most challenging of them. Skirting Leighbeer Plantations it’s a steep road to the top and turns from steep to a small upward incline until you reach the bridge over the leat overlooking Clearbrook. At last, we were at the top and a simple stroll down the hill to the car was all that was left.

 

Now this in terms of performance it was an interesting day. A very energetic start maintaining a really good speed and keeping the stopping and breaks to a minimum. We saw no one most of the day which also reduced “talking” time. We lost time climbing the hills and bog hopping but still felt we made good progress, recovering some time on the roads.

So, how did we do?

The challenge was to deliver at least 27km and aim to deliver an average trip time of 3 km per hour.

Well, the evidence was as clear as the smile on my face, what a day. The last walk was no fluke after all as we clocked up 32 km in just over ten and a quarter hours.

This challenge is suddenly starting to look like it can be done. Now let’s see if this can be maintain this form across harder terrain and worsening weather. The final test.

Stats,

Total distance 32. km

Total trip time 10 hours 15 mins duration

Average trip time 3.1 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.7 km per hour

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-45 Wed, 30 Jun 2021 12:30:51 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 44 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-44 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 32 – Postbridge revisited Loop

There is no doubt, I had to banish those blues from the last training walk. It was a real struggle and only just kept inside some measure of walking stats that would get me round a full day on the challenge. This has to change!

The weather forecast was a little mixed and basically could deliver anything. Driving to Postbridge it was cloudy and misty on the hills so I was expecting to get wet and need to use bearings periodically. However, on arrival the weather had cleared a fair bit, the temperature was a little chilly to start but actually, perfect walking weather.

Just gaiters and jacket required.

All I had to do now was gear up and get my head straight! Due to the weather, I wasn’t expecting to see too many people and decided to try and stick to some kind of strict schedule and timing regime that would be required on the challenge itself. Me, not talking to anyone, what are the chances of that happening!

So, start outside the East Dart pub/hotel and pick up the path just to the right sign posted to Lydford house. This is a very easy path to walk and surprised more people don’t try it, you can’t go wrong on this section, straight ahead and there is only one track. Reaching Lydford house does present two options though, and depending where you want to end up you need to look for two different finger posts.

As you approach Lydford house a clear and obvious post marked bridal way points to the left through a gate. Take this if you want to short cut the path and go via Lower Merripit and come out on a road leading to Runnage farm, basically this keeps you off the main road running through Postbridge. You’ll ultimately end up at the same point but means some road walking is still required.

I want to go to Pizwell using the footpath. Initially it looks like you have to walk through the garden of the house which may make most people think they should tale the bridal path left! However, carry on straight ahead on your right there is a post labelled footpath that points dead ahead, you actually walk around the house to the right. 

This drops down toward the river and keeps going ahead with no deviations so you shouldn’t go wrong on this stretch. For reassurance, there is a small post about two feet high on the path with a new yellow arrow pointing the way. Continue to follow the path until you approach an open field, just before the opening there is another post pointing the way to avoid any possible left turn mistakes.

Once in the field you may be forgiven to hesitate as it suddenly becomes a little less clear (in my view). The post indicates straight on, the map shows a left turn and there are some gates you may think are part of the route.

A bit of micro navigation will reveal the mapped marked path follows the field boundary left and then swings right to a gate at the far end. Today the whole corner was occupied by a herd of cows and their young all sat down! I wasn’t going to disturb them.

Without any confirmation post signs I took a diagonal across the field to the far gate, it must be the right way. Through the gate and then it all came back to me, you enter an area with gates all over the place on your left and right, luckily these all have little round markers indicating no walking access to the field. I remember this because in the past I took a wrong turn into one of the fields without noticing the round markers, they are a bit old and faded.

With this confirmation I continued along the path, there is now only one direction to go. Continue until you reach a stream running across the path, another reminder from the past I was in the right place. This often gets flooded across the path and looks more like a ford, there is also a footbridge marked on the map but couldn’t see it on the ground.


Cross over the stream and continue on, you will then reach another post on your right. This provides an option to turn right toward Beliver although the path looks a little obscure, I haven’t tried this route yet. It also clearly indicates directions back to Postbridge and onto Pizwell farm. Another hundred meters or so and a further post confirms your route into and through the farm. A clue you’re almost there is a rather large tractor tyre propped up against the wall on your right. A short walk and you are walking through the farm with its typical old and character filled buildings.

Keeping left follow what becomes a road and stream on your right to a bridge, facing you across the road is Runnage farm. This is the point you reach if you take the option mentioned earlier via Lower Merripit. It’s a lovely spot for a picnic or in my case a quick water break.


The next target point is Soussons farm through the woods. There is a marked footpath on the map, look carefully for the small post low to the ground with its yellow arrow. Roughly ten meters on your left it points diagonally toward the wood, look for a gate which also has a round yellow badge with the arrow on it pointing you through the wood.

Woods can be difficult areas to navigate with roads, tracks all over the place, the one we need is a straight line all the way to Soussons. So, keep walking in a straight line and don’t be tempted to deviate! There are three forestry roads/tracks you will cross on the way, when you exit the woods to cross these a sign post is clear pointing you forward, across the road and a further post points you through the trees. Again, keep the faith, a couple of posts are now partially hidden by the trees but they are there.

At Soussons farm go through a gate into what is effectively a court yard area I would say and take the immediate gate on your left. There is a further post with very clear signage on directions. Take your pick!

My original route was via Challacombe and onto Headland Warren Farm, but in my own unfocused approach decided I knew better and went into auto mode and took a left up the hill back through some of the woods and toward Vitifer mine leat.

Again, fairly well marked but keep your eyes open for posts for directions, there is one point on the path at Gold Dagger Tin mine, if you’re unfamiliar, where a post only points toward Challacombe and Headland Warren which could be confusing as they are in opposite directions to where you would be standing looking at the post. Ignore this one and turn left, you will then see a much more meaningful sign post giving much better information.

Keep walking straight ahead, out of the trees and through the water running down the path, looks very brown due to the minerals I guess, and around the old tin workings. A little warning, if you stray off the path be really careful, the place is full of old mine shaft openings and sunken holes, most of the really dangerous ones are fenced off but care should be taken.

Follow the track into the open and uphill. Bennetts’s cross will eventually come into sight, head up to the road and the cross.

This route and section in my view is really pleasant with lots to keep you occupied. It would take roughly a couple of hours so a round trip is a good mornings or afternoons walk and achievable by most people.

So, two hours in and the weather was great for walking. Cloudy with some sunny spells keeping the temperature cool but not the rain the forecast suggested may turn up. Head and body were in the right place and the bag weight, well, heavy but not causing any problems yet.

The next section is pretty straight forward, opposite the car park there is a track, not marked in any way but it is visible and clearly marked on the map. It wanders around the contours and forms part of the Two Moors Way. Stay on the track and follow it all the way across the open section of the moor. About half way there is a very prominent standing stone and stone row that’s worth a look along with a hut circle and a cairn according to the map. Didn’t go looking on this occasion.

Stay on the track and keep the Metherall Brook on your left until you reach a corner of a wall with two trees right on the corner.

At this point I dropped down to the road and left toward Fernworthy reservoir, this was another water stop and a quick rest on the benches. Also, time for a quick check on my intended route. Oops I’ve done it again (there’s a song in there somewhere), auto mode, wasn’t meant to be by the reservoir. I was meant to continue on the Two Moors Way heading for Yardworthy! This time I needed to back track, no matter, it would add back in some distance I clipped off earlier.

I’ve never walked this section so needed to make sure I stayed on course. Walking back along the road continue to a down hill section until you reach the entrance to Yardworthy farm. Follow the road and track past the house on the right and through the gate. The direction of the post is a little off by the gate, you need to drop right and follow the field edge around to a further gate and continue ahead.

The path takes you down to the South Teign river. Over a style just before you drop down to the river, here there are what looks like two paths, one straight ahead and one slightly left. The one ahead looks the more used so I took that one that dropped to what looks like a ford with some stepping stones good enough to cross the river. Beware, this is not the right place to cross the river!

Use the path, but on close inspection of the map the path actually goes left to a “proper” footbridge. It’s a full-blown wooden bridge and offers easy access across the river.

Luckily for me I stopped at the river for lunch and during my break a couple of hikers crossed the river with ease drawing attention to the bridge. Who knows, would I have crossed the ford and continued up the wrong field? I guess we’ll never know now!

Anyway, over the bridge and up the other side. I took a quick picture of the hill, they never do justice to the slope, it wasn’t insignificant and took a couple of my mini breaks to get to the top. From here the path to Teignworthy was clear and easy to follow and then on toward Great Fenchbeer. Through some sheep pen gates placed across the path and out onto the road turning left up onto the open moor.

To add back in some distance, I decided to visit the following, Middle tor, Frenchbeer tor, Thornworthy tor and Kestor rock. All straight forward to walk around. If you ever wondered about walking between Frenchbeer and Thornworthy tors there is a gate that provides access after crossing a stream feeding the South Teign river. Follow a direct line between them, drop to the river and it’s in front of you. It gets very boggy when wet due to what looks like an area where cows congregate.

After bumping into another very nice person and putting the world right on the pandemic at Kestor rock the next section in terms of walking is very straight forward, but boy is it a long and arduous section of the walk. Good only for getting distance clocked up (if you’ve been there a few times before) it’s head down and just keep going.

First to the Three Boys standing stone, straight on and handrail the forest, over a style and Long Ridge. At this point I stopped for a snack top up and debated if I follow the original route to Grey Weathers stone circles or deviate up to Sittaford. As I was probably a bit short on distance and wanted to get around 27km in I decided to deviate up the hill.

 

Following the track down toward a stream another herd of cows were split across the path, only this time there was a huge bull with them. This was going to get interesting.

The cows scattered which was convenient, but the bull still on the track kept walking toward me as I continued walking toward him. Swaggering toward me, mouth streaming with saliva we were about 25 meters apart. Looked like I was taking a large detour, then he stopped looked me in the eye and turned away down the hill.

No idea why, but I didn’t feel particularly threatened but I was glad he moved first, no I wouldn’t have got any closer to confront him. Would have taken me down far too easy if he had the inclination!

Up the long hill to Sittaford and then follow the wall back down and right on the path to the stone circles.

The weather was still the same, cloudy, cool with the occasional sunny break through and still good for walking. Me, I was still feeling pretty good, I felt like I was walking well and at a good speed when moving. I could be onto something here and still no need for painkillers for the heels yet.

The final walk in was a continuation of the very long section from Kestor rock and by the time I was passing the beehive on the right lower down close to the river, mentally it suddenly started to get difficult to keep going. Determined not to take pain killers for my heels the head was down and kept going one step at a time.

Over a style, through some more cows, why on earth do they always sit themselves on and across the footpaths? Luckily again they dispersed ahead of me clearing the way with Hartland tor in sight.


 

The weather by now had finally decided to turn, a heavy mist started to drop across the hills bring some light rain on and off.

Just need to keep going and I should avoid getting too wet.

Down the hill from Hartland tor to the river and follow the track around the fields toward Postbridge bridge. With the car very close I was just starting to feel the day creeping up on me. One last shift of the bag, onto the road and left back to the car.

Done, that felt like a really good day’s walk. Now for the stats, I really wanted to be around 27km. I’d been walking for nine and a half hours so if I had been any where near 3km per hour then in theory I should be close to 28km.

Time to check!

Boom, back in the game, wow, 30.5 km. Now that is what I call a great result, the first time carrying 30 kilos and hit the challenge daily target of 30km per day. Yep, the aches and pains suddenly disappeared as I quietly congratulated myself. I needed to dispel the doldrums of the previous walk and this was just the response I needed.

Happy, you bet!

Stats,

Total distance 30.5 km

Total trip time 9.5 hours duration

Average trip time 3.1 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.9 km per hour

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-44 Sun, 27 Jun 2021 13:54:37 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 43 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-43 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 31 – Norsworthy Car Park Loop

There couldn’t have been a bigger contrast between two training days.

Once again joined by Anton to make sure I was getting the time and distance in!

Getting out of the car despite the forecast suggesting it was going to be a cooler day the air felt decidedly warm as I bagged up and got ready to set off.

Down tor first, I’ve talked a lot about this tor in previous blogs and with the sun out I think this is potentially one of the best tors to sit at the top and absorb the view. Nothing has changed my mind and the views remain very special.

Walking up was surprisingly warm and tiring today for some reason. Maybe it was the hill to the top and came straight at the beginning of the walk before the legs were warmed up. By the time we reached the top I was already starting to overheat so a very early quick water break was required.

A little easier was the walk across to Combshead tor. Never really noticed before but there is a false sense of achievement just before you reach the tor itself. Just as you reach the brow of the hill it looks like the tor is in front of you but as you get closer it quickly becomes apparent it’s an outcrop and the tor is a few hundred meters further on.

Combshead tor also has some excellent views although we didn’t on this occasion climb to the top and take them in. Not quite as good as Down tor in my view but pretty good offering a different perspective. It also sits above Cuckoo rock where the first cuckoo is alleged to be heard each year. It’s not where I heard the first cuckoo and this year there seems to be a significant number of them in the area. They’ve been very vocal and frequent.

Eylesbarrow is the next target point and because it’s not visible positive points from which to take a bearing would be required for those not familiar with the area. So, first point is slightly back tracking to the stone circle and stone row between Comshead and Down to and to the East, this is clearly marked on the map.

Walking to the end of the stone row a bearing to the edge of the girt to your right. This is very clear on the map and the ground. The start of the girt is distinctive and has a sharp drop so finding the end point is not difficult unlike some others. From here a bearing to Eylesbarrow and you’re done.

Having said all of that, I’ve walked this a few times now and established a fairly fixed route up the hill. Providing visibility is good enough (if not the above approach would be used) walk to the stone row and half way along look toward the gert, there is a very identifiable muddy wide track leading out of the gert on the far side, probably made by many cattle passing through over a few years. Find a cattle track, there are a couple if you have a keen eye and head toward it. You will on arrival see a clear route down, across and out of the gert, but beware, due to the geographic nature of this area in wet weather it will become very boggy and full of water. While it can still be passed just watch out where you place your feet. What looks like solid ground will easily suck your feet into feet of bog and water!

But, today is a dry day and getting across the void was straight forward.

Looking up the hill there are a couple of clearings, easy to spot I think as they are simply big green areas amongst the bracken and clitter in the area. Again, there are some clear cattle tracks if you survey the area and look closely, easier outside the summer months as the vegetation growth makes it a little more difficult to spot. Picking your way along the tracks, using my motto, find a track and follow the poo, you will reach what looks like an old boundary wall made up of an earth and grass ridge peppered with granite.

Follow this all the way up the hill and as you approach over the brow of the hill Eylesbarrow will welcome you dead ahead.

In the fog a straight-line bearing is likely to be required and from experience this is achievable but will involve of slowly picking your way through the vegetation to keep a straight line to reach the top. Not an enjoyable approach but will get you there.

A clear confirmation of arrival is the piece of iron work stuck in the top of a block of granite.

The Hartor tors next.

A couple of a ways to get there in terms of qualified bearings/position. Make your way to the disused tin mine workings and the associated building ruins, this involves navigating around the spoil heaps and almost impossible to take a straight line. Not difficult to do, just wandering around the spoils until you drop down to the path.

Or, you could take a more easterly direction reach the path and walk west to reach the same point mentioned above.

This “point” should be easily identified as it is where two paths meet, with the building ruins by the side of the path. In any fog this should provide a positive position to make it to Higher Hartor tor. It’s not far and easy to reach along a track and quickly comes into view as you approach.

Had a chat with a very nice couple, probably didn’t do the stats much good but it was great to swap a couple of stories and canvas my challenge!

Lower Hartor tor is close and set just below and toward the Plym river. We reached this quickly and took a snack break.

So far reasonably good, but for what ever reason I wasn’t feeling the Dartmoor love on this trip. Can’t explain it but I just seemed to be struggling more than usual, oh well, just got to keep going!

Rather than go back up to the path and drop back down to Plym Ford we decided to go straight for the ford. The terrain was ok but if the weather was bad or had been wet this is not a route I would recommend. Take the extra few hundred meters back onto the path, it is so much easier!

Crossing the Plym ford at this time wasn’t difficult with the water levels really low, lower than I was expecting.

 

Over the river and now heading for Calveslake. I quite like this tor, probably underrated but it does have some fabulous open views back across the Plym, with the sun out it’s usually a quite place to sit and contemplate the world.

Previously I had approached from Great Gnat’s Head, from there cattle tracks are visible down to the tor that cuts across the Abbot’s Way, I’ll come back to the Abbot’s Way!

Approaching from the ford it was a slightly more difficult challenge as there didn’t appear to be any obvious visible or half descent tracks to choose from. Pretty unusual as I tend to find at least one to follow. This meant a slow and careful picking our way through the grass tufts, trying to avoid deep holes between them while looking for an easier option.

In hindsight it would have been easier to follow the Abbot’s Way and then drop across but you know me, too daft to think of the obvious when your head is down and in auto walk mode!

There is a small stream feeding the Plym to cross, which needs some care, it’s not hugely difficult but not straight forward with a full pack. Then just a short walk up the hill.

Now to go back up to reach the Abbot’s Way to walk to Broad rock, a rock I have never located. The Abbot’s Way, hmm, I was sure when I was last in the area there was a very visible path, but as it seems, not on this occasion. I took a bearing and a direction plus the distance. The idea was to walk the bearing and pace it out, that should drop us right on the track/path.

Attempt one, paces reached but nothing remotely looking like the Abbot’s Way path. After some deliberation I decided that with such a big pack my steps were shorter than I would normally walk, plus we crossed a large, let’s say ditch that would have skewed the paces a bit.

Some applied logic and decided a further one hundred meters were required to reach the path.

Paces reached and still no sign of any distinguishable path, ok, I was now really beginning to doubt my navigating, not something I need just before a huge challenge!

Rather than waste time I decided, not to cheat, but to take the sensible action. A quick look on the GPS, after all that’s the point of a safety net, isn’t it?

Well, knock me sideways, on checking, incredibly we were absolutely bang on the Abbot’s Way, unbelievable, but not without a little bit of logical luck! In a fog I may well have back tracked to the ford and followed the track from there on a bearing.

But the point is, just because it’s clearly marked on the map, don’t expect it to appear on the ground.

With a bearing now to Broad Rock, we went on our merry way, but with me still pondering why that section caused so much of a problem, despite ultimately getting it right.

On reaching the area of Broad rock I can see why I have never found it, it’s totally underwhelming.

Another couple of chats to canvass the challenge with some more very supportive people. A group were discussing Braid rock which made it easy for us to locate but have to say without a GPS I doubt if I would have found it. Now I have I probably won’t bother again!

 

The next target was the Erme head to allow us to go on the hunt for the line of boundary stones finishing at a trig point above Shavercombe tor. I know from several attempts these are particularly difficult to land on, being only a foot tall and buried in the tall grass they hide themselves really well.

Following a bearing and picking our way between a multitude of tracks and skipping over the grass tufts we finally located the first boundary stone, that in its self was pretty good. Now the next one.

At this point there appeared to be a pretty well-defined track and could be seen to provide a route all the way toward the trig point.

Again, measuring and pacing we followed the track. I also remember the next stone was in amongst the grass tufts so on reaching the number of paces started looking left. Nothing, still adjusting pacing due to bag weight walked a bit further while scanning our left side. Bingo, just visible about twenty meters off the track was the next stone. This was more like it.

After that the decision to forget the remaining stones and head straight for the trig point following this now visible track come path.

Half way along this long stretch, time for lunch. The walk across this terrain was taking its toll, wet and spongy it was leg sapping for me at least. Anton appeared to be doing pretty well though which made me feel even worse!

Made all the worse when we checked and realised, we were already two hours behind the target schedule. Blimey, I was really feeling it today, just can’t get into any rhythm and starting to feel every kilometre.

Lunch over and the trudging started again. Finally, we reached the trig point, the good news at least was the path led straight up to the trig point, now we once again have a very positive bearing point.

 

At this point time was really starting to tick away so some sensible decisions had to be made. Shavercombe was dropped from the route and we diverted away from Hen tor to pull back some time. While we approached Hen tor, we just cut it short and turned toward the Trowlesworthy tors aiming to keep high and above the streams.

The Trowlesworthy’s seemed to take an age to get there, a real signal I was feeling the heat on this trip, normally this section would be a breeze for me.

Anyway, we headed for Lower Trowlesworthy, again to try and save a bit more time and then down across the leat to the Plym. Last time I was able to very carefully cross the Plym, but that was with nothing like the bag weight I had this time.

We found a spot most likely to offer the nearest chance of getting across, Anton with his stick got across pretty well. Me on the other hand, well, it was like slow motion with careful choreographed balancing in between. Let’s just say I got across, but I was impressed with my ability to pose and balance while finding my footing on some tricky rocks and boulders.

 

Some how unless we have a really dry spell, I can’t see me getting across the Plym on the challenge which will mean a sizeable detour via Cadover bridge to make Legis tor, our next target.

Once across the river a slow walk up the hill to Legis tor, a quick water break and straight on toward Gutter tor. While this is a straight but longish path, it is very easy to walk and despite my struggling made good time to reach the trig point.

 

A short walk and over the style and we were on Gutter tor, walking round to the right and down to the path toward the small car park below.

Time was still beating us and frankly for the first time I just wanted to get back to the car. I was done!

Eastern tor was the next victim for the chop so along the path, past the car park area and up to the leat past the “Scout hut” also used by the Army.

Following the leat was relatively straight forward all the way to the right-side edge of Roughtor plantation. A final water stop before the last push back to the car. What was really nice while resting was some horses and their fouls decided to walk down to the stream just meters away for a drink, why I didn’t get the phone out and grab a video clip I’ll never know. It was a special moment.

Pressing on, my body was willing me to reach the car. Following the footpath around the edge of the plantation, downhill into Deancombe and crossing the Narrator brook. As mentioned previously, the area by the stone footbridge is a really nice place to stop, particularly if it is hot as it offers plenty of shade.

But not today, pressing onward there was a sudden last surge of energy to reach the car!

The path is easy to walk and follow and it wasn’t too long before we arrived back at the car park. Boot opened and the bag dumped in it, wow, it felt cracking to get the bag off my shoulders, bliss!

Now for the pending but expected disappointment of the stats.

Stats,

Total distance 24 km

Total trip time 9.5 hours duration

Average trip time 2.5 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.3 km per hour

Actually, it wasn’t too bad after all, taking out the slightly longer stops taken, we ended up being roughly four kilometres behind the target schedule which is roughly about ninety minutes in time. That would account for the dip in the overall average trip speed. With an average moving speed of 4.3 kilometres per hour, I’ll take that considering how I felt most of the way round.

So, the moral of todays trip and story is, cut down the stop times and I could probably make the schedule I’ve set myself, keeping 30 km per day a real possibility.

Let’s see how I fair on the next training day, plenty to think about still!

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-43 Sun, 27 Jun 2021 13:12:02 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 42 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-42 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 30 – Dartmoor Inn Loop

There are some days you wake up and think, do I really want to do this today?

Today was one of those days, knowing what was coming and listening to the rain pour down while eating breakfast, I could have easily stayed at home and deferred to another day!

A quick mail update, wow, another three donations providing a good jump forward in the overall figure.

Well, that’s it then, I just have to get my self out there and get on with it. It’s no longer just about me anymore!

The planned route was just shy of 25 km and with the weather forecast of 90% rain most of the day with a growing wind, this should be a suitable test.

The layby just past the Dartmoor Inn this time had plenty of space. The weather on the way out was very variable as I sat in the car pondering if I should gear up with a full set of waterproofs ready for the forecasted onslaught of weather.

Enough, stop trying to delay the inevitable, gear up, bag on and go!

 

Walking up a small section of the road back toward Tavistock and opposite a farm shop there is a track big enough for a car that leads you up to and through a gate and past a car park on the right. The moor sits right in front of you, Brat tor with Widgery Cross towering above you, taunting you to test your stamina on the climb up the hill.

Today however, I’m walking the track toward Arms tor but turning left just before you reach the end of the wall on your left, a style, probably one of the better built ones gets you over the wall and the finger post directs you diagonally across the field to the left corner of the field. Again, if you are wary of cows check before you climb, very often this filed is full of them!

Once at the other side go through the gate and immediately turn right and go through another gate back onto the open access land.

You can if you want to avoid any cows continue to the stream and turn left following the wall and the stream (don’t cross the stream) until you reach the same gate mentioned above.

Right in front of you is some sort of covered area, not sure what it is, I guess someone will know. Turn left and follow a well defined and easy to walk path. This does split just as you approach Great Nodden, I walked up and over the hill previously so this time I decided to veer left and follow the path that skirted around the bottom left of the hill.

The weather at this point was frustrating really, not the down pour forecast but enough rain to get you wet without waterproofs on. My new leggings ready for a good test rustled as I approached a herd of cows looking up wondering what the rustling (no not the stealing kind of rustling!) was all about! Not interested they carried on walking away from me eating as they went, ideal.

The path is very clear for a fair distance but then changes between Coombe and Lake Down to a grass track, this veers left and heads for Sourton tors. With good visibility just head for the top of the hill. In poor weather a bearing where the stone/gravel path runs out to Sourton is advisable.

Following the now grass track you cross a sort of gert or long extended ditch heading down the hill, once over this a straight line to the top is straight forward.

By now the rain had increased, the mist was dropping in and the wind was picking up. Nearly every time I visit Sourton tors the weather is poor, today was no exception. At least the wind wasn’t blowing me over this time. A quick water break and snack before I went head on to Branscombe’s Loaf at the top of Corn Ridge. As the weather was very indecisive at this point, I took a bearing as a safety net, the mist intermittently hiding the hill like it was playing hide and seek!

Gren tor next, I had thought there was a track of some sort between the “Loaf” and Gren tor, clearly mistaken, a stomp across the grass tufts and other vegetation was the only way forward. Gren tor in sight and a track appeared heading toward the river Lyd. Clearly cows are not entirely daft, the wide boggy area and the start of the river wouldn’t be easy or even possible to cross as their track took a right angle right and followed the river all the way to the stone path leading toward Great Links tor. A short piece of the path walked take a left and Gren tor is done.

The weather still not improving meant a quick bearing check and straight onto Hunt tor, a tor I know has some shelter for a water and snack top up.

Once on the right bearing it is relatively straight forward, follow the long “ditch” for about two hundred meters, cross over and look for a track, there is one there and if you find it, along with a bearing check you will drop directly onto Hunt tor. It also looked like the military where out navigating as I spotted the yellow flag marker, which is what I believe they use.

At this point things are going pretty well, not sure if the weather is a distraction but body and bag weight were coping well.
Next target, the Dunna Goat tors. You need to aim for the gravel path that sits in direct line of sight with Great Links tor and about four hundred meters away. No tracks as such to follow so find the best sheep track and follow it. You’ll reach a bank, which just below it has in wet weather a very boggy area so pick out the best way around it to try and keep your feet dry! Up onto the path turn right and look out for a track, about one hundred meters to your left. Follow the path as it winds around until you see Bleak house on the left and roughly one hundred meters in front. Find the best tracks and start climbing up the hill at roughly forty-five degrees until you see the Dunna Goats tors. Then just walk until you reach them!

Nothing to difficult so far and certainly nothing unsurprising or threatening to share.

The next target is Chat tor, (which, unlike I thought previously I had bagged all the tors) was in fact the last tor I needed to visit before claiming I had visited every tor!

It’s not huge and at a certain angle looks like a miniature Branscombe’s Loaf! There is a bit more to it than that so could be worth a revisit.

From here a simple job of bagging a line of tors overlooking or close to Tavy Cleave (not the ones directly looking into the cleave which are not marked on the map and could easily confuse the novice!)

Sharp tor, Hare tor Ger tor and Nat tor.

Reaching Sharp tor is definitely easier from Chat tor rather than approaching from Doe tor with the huge hill to climb. The wind was gusting a bit now and with the legs beginning to feel a bit tired, walking across the rocks to get around the side of the tor had to done with care. What is impressive though are the views from each of the tors and the walk between them, on a bright sunny day they would be far reaching from all directions.

Reaching Nat tor from Ger tor wasn’t particularly exciting, rather than drop West and find a stretch without rocks all over the place I kept a straight line. This meant a slow and time-consuming picking my way through what often look like grass bumps but in fact had stones and rocks close under the surface along with those exposed rocks. Very tedious, would have been better to add a few more minutes and divert around them.


None the less I arrived at Nat tor and decided another break was required! The rain almost looked like it may be finally clearing but still frustratingly stayed wet enough to prevent removing the waterproofs. Although it was still grey, at least there were little signs of any mist dropping and now providing a nice view toward Willsworthy.

Willsworthy camp was the next target point. A descent stretch and easy to reach following the leat, crossing the footbridge at Willsworthy Brook, up the hill to the firing range. At the end of the firing range on the left and when you cross a concrete section of the path bridging a part of the Wheal Jewell Leat take a ninety degree turn right and follow the path toward Willsworthy camp. Here you reach what appears to be a corner of a boundary wall, to the right a path heads out toward Doe tor and continues to follow the wall. After a few hundred yards there is a building on the left at the end of the field system, continue on the path around the side of the building. Reach two gates, the left is the access gate, you need to follow the path dead ahead in order to reach a further gate to exit the fenced area. Don’t lose faith, you don’t see the second gate until you almost reach it but it is there.

This now allows you to go up the hill to Doe tor. I’ve only been here a couple of times but it is a tor I have on my list to revisit, with many others in that area. It could be one of the most densely populated areas with accessible tors?

Regardless, they all have plenty to offer in many different ways and a great area to bag a good number in a single day.

On to Brat tor and crossing the Doe tor brook. Currently the water levels are pretty low making the crossing very easy on this trip, however, I think even if the levels were higher crossing with care could still be achieved, just find the right spot.

Once over the brook the climb up to Brat tor is sizable with a full pack. At this stage on other days, I would normally be beginning to slow down and struggle a bit, but today, maybe as it was a lot cooler, I seamed to still have a decent amount of energy and the bag weight while still heavy wasn’t causing me a massive amount of pain. Just a couple of “mini stops”.

Finally, the last ascent completed, the wind appeared to have picked up again, it was very windy as I walked over the top and around Widgery Cross. Now this is a place for a good view, you can see for miles on a good day.

So, all that’s left is to walk down that big hill, cross the river, either by the footbridge or stepping stones and follow the track back to the car.

Overall, I actually felt I had walked pretty well despite the weather and keeping those dreadful waterproofs on all day. By the way, how did those new waterproof trousers perform? Spot on, I know it’s only one outing but they kept me completely dry, the first pair to do what the marketing says. Plenty of beading and where they did “wet out” the rain didn’t run through to the inside. It’ll be interesting to see how they perform in torrential rain over a few walks.

While I still expect to feel tired and ache a bit, I still felt I could walk on if required. So, the question is, how far and long would I need to continue based on today’s performance.

Stats,

Total distance 26 km

Total trip time 8.5 hours duration

Average trip time 3.1 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.7 km per hour

 

Wow, I was sort of expecting around 26 km but what really surprised me was the average trip times. Really didn’t think I would get over 3 km per hour or maintain the moving average speed. This was more aligned to carrying 2.4 kilos!

I’m definitely and absolutely delighted with that result and could see myself hitting 30km a day at this rate. Confidence took a huge leap forward so let’s hope the next set of walks can be achieved in similar fashion.

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-42 Tue, 22 Jun 2021 21:13:30 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 41 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-41 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 29 – Combestone Tor Loop

This training walk was gearing up to possibly the most challenging so far, so was likely to be more about covering the distance rather than the time and averages. Dartmeet to Lucky tor and up to Sharp tor was going to hammer the stats!

 

Once again, Anton (must like the punishment of walking with me!) shared the walk and ensured I didn’t skip the hard bits. It’s very tempting sometimes to cut a corner off, but that will only be fooling myself!

Combestone tor car park was todays starting point with our first target point Dartmeet bridge.

There are two ways you can descend from Combestone tor using footpaths marked on the map.

  1. Turn right out of the car park and walk about twenty meters on the road to a footpath on your right. This is a very visible path and looks like it has recently been improved with a layer of stone and gravel, so walking this is very easy.

Follow this through a couple of gates and continue without turning off via Ash House. It’s a then a walk through an open grass area until you reach Dartmeet. But beware, you need to cross the river using stepping stones, if the weather is bad or heavy rain fall you will not be able to cross on the stepping stones. They disappear under water, completely!

  1. This is the route we took, Using the same starting path point continue to you reach the gate. Go through the gate and cross a small stream and then look for a footpath immediately left, the post does say footpath to Huccaby.

It’s not completely obvious at first but I can assure you it is there. We’re heading for Weak Ford so continue to follow the track all the way to the river. Stay alert as while the track is visible it is possible to drift off it!

At the ford you need to cross the stepping stones, a number of large, flat topped and evenly spaced boulders. Now that is what I call a decent stepping stone crossing. What I don’t know is if you can cross them in bad or heavy rain conditions. They may well go under water like those further upstream.

It’s then a simple case of following the track to Huccaby House.

Keep ahead straight and pass through another gate next to the house taking you across the fields. It was full of cows on this walk so if you’re not happy with cows you will need to turn left and take the road to Dartmeet bridge!

Follow the marker posts until you reach one of my favourites, a stony path down to the disused quarry area. You’re then faced with four gates! Three have round “stickers” that say no access, the fourth has one pointing the way. It’s obvious unless you are me and look at everything apart from the blinding obvious, I spotted the right way eventually, it had a style of course which for anyone else would be the dead giveaway!

Down through the fields heading for a house on your left and follow the path sign by the side of the house to the road.

You could turn right at the house before reaching the road and take a look at the stepping stones there, which is the end of the first option.

Well, that’s made it to Dartmeet bridge. A big description for about a 30 minute walk!

 

As you cross Dartmeet bridge take the path on the far-right hand side as you cross over and veer left to a gate, this is the start of the path that will take you all the way to Lucky tor. It’s very popular for camping and you’ll see why if you ever visit.

Now, a small but polite warning. While this route to reach Lucky tor is achievable it should be done with great care. It is sort of split into three sections. The path starts off with a really nice gentle stroll along the river bank and through the trees, don’t be fooled! The next section is a boulder scramble in places and negotiating exposed tree roots plus if raining or after rain the river levels may fill the holes and become very slippery. The last section is an easy track to follow along the river again, through the trees until you reach an opening. The impressive Lucky tor should present itself to you on your left.

Phew, made it! Hope that doesn’t put you off too much.

Break stop, I think we deserved it. There were times with a full bag weight scrambling was a bit of a test!

 

The next target point was Sharp tor. Towering 360 meters above the river that’s a climb of roughly 160 meters in just under a kilometre distance.  Between a one in four and one in five hill I think it works out at, which is pretty sizable. Made more challenging as the climb takes in woods and boulders from Lucky tor until you break through the tree line into the bracken, which is now high and thick bracken, down to a stream bed and up the tough side of Sharp tor.

Definitely time for a quick water stop! But what’s that, llamas on the tor?

I’ve heard of this “therapeutic” activity but never witnessed it. Have to say it was an odd sight at the top of Sharp tor. The couple leading the walk and own the llamas were really nice and engaging and were clearly delivering a great experience as their guests were thoroughly enjoying it. Something different and a great way to experience Dartmoor.

A quick snack as they walked away down the hill and checked our next target point.

A good easy stretch next with unbelievable views down into and across the Dart valley. Dropping down from Sharp tor to the road on your right follow the boundary wall off to your right until you reach a metalled path. On your left behind you by the car park is Bell tor and as you follow the path up on your right is Mel tor. While Mel tor is accessible and provides a fine set of outcrops looking over the valley, Bell tor is set in a field which is private land so afraid no access here to climb it.

The path is known as Dr Blackalls Drive and runs parallel with the river to Aish tor. You can find out more about the drive at this link https://www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/blackalls_drive.htm

I would agree with the sentiment of building the drive with its superb views of the Dart.

Aish tor on the other hand is far from spectacular in my view. Found it simply enough from knowledge from a previous walk but appears to be little more than a pile of stones to mark the spot. I guess we’ll need to wait another hundred years and plenty of erosion before we see anything like a tor of a description that matches our understanding of a tor.

From Aish tor back down onto the path to the road, cross the road and next left through a small parking area to Leigh tor. A little more impressive and surrounded by trees and bracken. A favourite place for camping judging by the marks of camp fires in the area. A path then heads away from the tor and downhill, not a difficult path to follow to another road below along the river Dart. Which also strangely comes out right beside Spitchwick Manor, familiar if you read the link above.

From here cross the road and continue following a section of the Two Moors Way next to the river, this is a beautiful spot and attracts a lot of visitors. Just like the next point at New bridge just a few hundred meters further along the river.

If inclined to visit, there is a sizable car park there and usually an ice cream van. Temptation can be cruel on a hot day as we looked at each other tempted by the draw of a nice cold ice cream. But, believe it or not, I stood fast on my schedule and “diet” for the challenge and resisted. Possibly the toughest decision of the day! Not really sure if I was too mean and stopped Anton enjoying one, but I did give him the option!

The next section in effect followed the Two Moors Way, first into Holne, then into Scorriton, which also followed a very stony bridal way down a longish hill only to find we turned a corner and had to walk back up the hill to the hamlet of Scoriton. Following the road would have been so much easier!

From Scoriton there is then a very long stretch starting with a very easy metalled road, turning into a path to a ford over Snowdon Brook. Another great place for a picnic.

Oh, by the way, if you go looking for the finger post at Scoriton to pick up the Two Moors Way, walk past the benches/memorial on your left, turn immediate left, and dive into the hedge to reveal the post. It’s very well hidden by the overgrown hedge, take a pair of clippers with you, it may help someone following on behind you!

Still following the Two Moors Way position yourself above Ludgate and then find a track to walk straight up the hill to land on Pupers Hill. It has the main outcrop an “inner” smaller one (the first one you come across) and an outer one.

From here there is a visible track that then takes you to Snowden. There is a reasonable size cairn there as a marker but not much else. Continue along the track to Ryder’s Hill.

There’s a little more of interest here, a boundary stone, a trig point and Petre’s bound stone. It also offers a commanding three sixty view point.

Not far from making it back to Combestone car park but I have to say the legs and shoulders were beginning to feel the day. Walking felt like it was slowing down a bit so I was really hoping the final distance would be over twenty-five kilometres. At this point a group of walkers approached as we surveyed the area. As one not to miss an opportunity for a break and a chat, I was a little surprised when they announced they knew who I was. How come I thought, obvious really as I’m posting myself all over Facebook at the moment. But it was still great to know they were reading the blogs and following my progress!

The next and final section was to loop around left of Holne ridge and pick up the track to the restored Horn’s cross and back to the car park. Now here’s the thing, we could have followed the boundary stones to the top of the stream feeding the O Brook and take a right for the restored cross. This was the intention however, visibility was good and we didn’t need a bearing, did we. We spotted a track that headed off in the right direction but slowly veered off to the left, unknowingly easy to the unsuspecting or those that were aimlessly walking without checking the real direction of travel!

Passing Sandy Way Path which was expected there was nothing at that point to raise any real suspicion of a deviation. However, the further we went the more we were “sandwiched between the two streams into the O Brook, now the alarm went off, the brakes on to consolidate.

Actually, it wasn’t that bad, we had gone a couple hundred meters to the left and hadn’t dropped past the head of the stream on the right. As adding distance on the training walks is never an issue it wasn’t a problem.  Additionally, there didn’t appear to be any really visible track beyond the one we took anyway.

The punishment, a slow, hard twenty minute picking our way through some horrible grass tufts, deep holes and a couple of, what is best describe as a “mini gert”.

 

Having now spotted a clear sheep track through the bracken and across to an open area, dropping down to the car park was much easier. We didn’t bother to go all the way across to the cross as this was now the end of the walk and really didn’t serve any particular purpose.

Made it!

Overall, it was a pretty good and varied walk. Lanes, tracks, open moor, villages, streams, stepping stones and bridges. Some very level easy walking, some very steep and leg sapping climbing, some very tricky and very time-consuming boulder hopping. All culminating in a tired but still functioning body!

Time to hold my breath, have I achieved a longer distance and time but kept within my target stats?

 

Stats,

Total distance 27 km

Total trip time 10.5 hours duration

Average trip time 2.5 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.3 km per hour

 

Hmm, I’m pretty happy with that considering the amount of stop/talking time added in, the terrain which I knew would slow the averages down. So, to be within an hour and a half (easily could remove an hour for chatting) and 0.4 km per hour of moving time average., I would call that a positive result.

Now to drive home and see if England can deliver the goods in the Euro’s.

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-41 Sun, 20 Jun 2021 19:00:31 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 40 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-40 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 28 – Hemsworthy Gate car park Loop

Time is running out to reach that critical requirement to walk 30 kilometres carrying 30 kilos! This is the last week to cover twenty-five kilometres and then take it to the next distance to try and hit thirty kilometres, then some overnight camps just to finish the training programme before the “off”!

I mapped out a twenty five kilometre route but also hoped that if I diverted a bit I might get closer to thirty. The day didn’t start well! Driving to the moor I may well have picked up a ticket as I drove along the road and overtaking a vehicle spotted a mobile traffic camera. I’m hoping I saw it in time to ensure I was not over the limit, didn’t think so but you can never tell!

I then turned off at Ashburton heading for Widecombe and then promptly missed the turning at the top of the moor and being forced to go via Buckland on the Moor. Good job the windows were closed, you may have heard me some miles off shouting at myself!

Having arrived and set out realised I hadn’t set the GPS units for the walk, back to the car, set the GPS and start again. Blimey, I wasn’t in the best of moods once I actually got going. I hope the day improves!

Starting at Hemsworthy car park my first target was Top tor and then across to Pil tor. The last time I was in this area I remembered heading onto Welstor rocks from Top tor and ending up crashing through the bracken and gorse to pick up a path, lesson learned and now look to walk away from Pil tor where a track is much easier to see and follow.

To head for Welstor rocks it’s pretty much a straight line walk to Blackslade ford so why the heck did I think it was a good idea to see if I could find another access point across the fields just before Whittaburrow. That crazy start just keeps giving!

Oh well, I’m in the area now and established a boundary wall basically runs from the ford all the way down to Blackslade farm with no accessible gates. I thought I saw one of those round walker badges/signs but turned out to be one of them indicating private land and don’t enter.

Let’s take twenty minutes out of the schedule to look around.

It is quite a nice area walking below Tunhill rocks following the tracks and gives a very different perspective to the area, well worth a revisit.

Back to walking and following the wall all the way back to where I should have been and veer left not right this time. The path will now take you down to the Blackslades ford. At last, back on the page! Let’s hope I have all the mess ups out of my system and I can get on with training.

From the ford there is a dirt track/metalled road that takes you up to the road leading to Cold East car park. Just dropping back about ten meters from a small layby there is a track that provides a straight line all the way to Buckland Beacon where the famous “Ten Commandment” stones are located. Take a left and over a style and head for the outcrop for Welstor rocks. The one marked on the OS map at least.

A fair bit of time had passed and really hadn’t covered the ground I expected but it was very hot and muggy so a break was definitely necessary. There was no sign of the weather changing so lots of water breaks were to become the action of the day.

Rippon tor next, surely, I can’t get this wrong, on a day when anything appeared possible. It’s a very long stretch of walking without claiming any tors, there will be many sections like this on the challenge. The long hill up to Rippon tor provides way too much time to think. There also seems to be a system with the gates on the way up. Part way up there is a gate on the left, if it’s open go through it and continue following the wall. When this is open the gate further up on the side you start walking on is locked, meaning you have to climb over it. It also works in reverse.

Not realising this immediately I stayed on the same side and had to climb over the locked gates, a double gate tied together. Needless energy spent on such a hot day.

By the time I reached Rippon tor I needed another break, water and some shade. I had the water but appears others had the same idea and the best shaded areas had already been taken. Hmm, a rest in the sun then.

Now this you do need to know.

Getting to Bag tor is easiest by dropping down from Rippon tor North, North East and finding a gate to walk through then following the wall. My previous visit I stayed inside the wall and it worked absolutely fine. Trouble is since my last visit and this walk the farmer has installed brand new fencing, with barbed wire at the top, along the whole of the wall and prevents crossing over at a broken piece of wall.

That meant climbing over two difficult wired-up gates and over and back on a wall dividing them. It’s possible but annoying and uses more energy that I don’t want to give up easily!

Take the easy option.

Eventually reaching the trees a left ninety degree turn down the hill following a very visible and easy track brings you to the stream near Bagtor cottages. You could get wet feet crossing this if you’re unlucky but with the dry weather again it was a simple crossing. A short walk up the track and you’re at Bag tor, another water stop and still not much shade around. Feels like it’s getting warmer every hour and definitely humid and sticky!

A straight line to Haytor rocks through the car park and up the hill through the middle of the rocks. I received some odd and condemning looks as I went through the car park, especially when then saw me head straight up the hill. I guess they were probably thinking what a nut job carrying that weight in this heat!  I have to say, that hill feels as steep as it looks. None the less, a well-earned breather was taken at the top.

At this point an unwitting detour from the plan as I decided to take a look at Haytor quarry rather than head for Saddle tor. It’s been a while since my last visit and on a bright sunny day it really is an idyllic place to visit and rest in the shade, yep, I finally found some shade.

I was also very surprised to see lots of tadpoles in the water, I thought they would have turned into frogs by June. Clearly not.


Back out into the sun, Holwell tor, Smallacombe rocks and Hole rock where easy to reach and tick off.

Next, down the steep hill into the valley and cross Becka Brook. It’s amazing how quickly the terrain changes between the weather patterns. A couple of weeks ago the paths were running like streams, now, totally dried out and solid underfoot. Another lovely place to explore if you have the time. Now up the other side and head for Greator rocks. This was a tough climb with the weight and the heat, it took a lot longer than anticipated and I was very happy when I reached the top.

You may find this interesting? If you want to walk from Greator rocks to East Lodge, I only recently found this, the best way is to follow the path to Greator rocks from the Becka Brook, stay to the right of the rocks and when you reach the end of the outcrop take a left turn and find a path that leads to a style to your right. The path is very visible. This style replaces the access point fifty meters to the right on the same wall.

Climb over the style and follow the wall up the hill to the original access point, the gate.

You can then follow a path (looks like a mowed grass path) through the fields where a number of “horse jumps” have been created to a gate at East Lodge and onto the road. It saves a lot of time walking around the field and coming back on the road.

Turning left and over a cattle grid turn immediate right and follow a path that tracks the boundary wall on your right. Reaching the corner there is a track that pulls away from the wall and leads to Honeybag tor. Don’t follow the tracks by the wall, you’ll end up in trouble especially when it’s wet! It’s then a pretty straight walk to Honeybag tor.

At this point and about seven hours walking the heat was getting the better of me, feeling very hot, shoulders aching and feet hurting I decided to make a push for Honeybag tor and find a rock providing shade and sit under it for half an hour, just to cool off and have a final break before heading toward the car.

I think the sheep had the same idea, not wanting to push them out, just fortunate they are skittish with people so very politely moved on and left the shade under a big rock overhang all for me.

It was very pleasant sitting there looking over the view in a gentle breeze with the sun still blazing down. I took advantage of the full thirty minutes before I pushed on.

Chinkwell tor was the last slope to climb before heading down hill past Bell tor and Bonehill rocks. Just a slight incline up and across back to Top tor and back to the car.

Typically, at Top tor the weather suddenly decided to considerably cool down as it clouded over a bit and the breeze picked up. I suspect ready for those predicted thunder storms, that actually never materialised. Pity it didn’t do that a bit earlier in the day.

 

The day did get better from the chaotic start but the heat really challenged my fitness levels and the body. Overall, I guess I should be pleased with the outcome, there’s a pattern developing here which probably means I could be walking anything up to eleven hours a day. An early start will be crucial on the challenge if I’m going to avoid some late camp spot arrivals!

 

Stats,

Total distance 25 km

Total trip time 9 hours duration

Average trip time 2.7 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.7 km per hour

 

]]>
(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity Dartmoor Dartmoor magazine Dartmoor national park Devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue Tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-40 Thu, 17 Jun 2021 20:07:29 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 39 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-39 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 27 – Burrator Loop in reverse plus some!

There are some routes that happen to be easy to pull together and extend if required. The Burrator loop is one of those and to mix it up a bit do it in reverse which surprisingly provides a different view point and challenge in places.

Tracking the weather forecast and my scheduled walks I was lucky to avoid the heat over the weekend and hoped for a cooler spell on the Monday. Nope, I soon found out the temperature was once again, set to soar over the twenties. This was apparently confirmed on the final leg of the walk when I bumped into Paul walking his dog, who informed me the top temperature had reached twenty-five degrees on the moor!

I can tell you I felt every degree of it!

The target for the day was a minimum of 20 km but really wanted to start hitting the high twenty km’s to give my self any chance of dragging 30 kilos over 30 km. That meant adding in some distance to the original reversed route.

Technically I suppose you could call this the Meavy loop as that’s where I started, just by the school. The first thing that became very clear when I parked at 9:30am was it was going to be a little warm, the car was already reading twenty-two degrees!

It was also a laboured start, knowing how I struggle with heat it took a while to get out of the house and drive to the moor. I’m hoping once on the moor the daily ritual of waking, eating, breaking camp and walking will become a bit easier. At least I won’t have the home comforts to break away from each day!

Off I went then, down the road and around to the very narrow bridge over the river Meavy, it was very tempting to wade through the ford already. Reaching the bridge, a large truck passed and decided the bridge was just too narrow to get over and started his twelve-point turn to turn around. “I’ve never been this way before” he defeatedly advised. At least he managed to turn which I thought in itself was pretty good going.

Once completed I was able to cross the bridge and head for Merchants cross and take a left along a track toward Yeo Farm. The path had changed from my very first visit here and now diverts around the farm rather than going through it. Just after you reach the farm you need to pay attention to the route as it is very easy to veer off right and end up in the wrong direction. The path actually veers left, you would hardly believe it was the path until a few meters forward where you pick up a post sign directing you through Burrator wood.

Walking through Burrator wood is still as lovely as ever, I’ve never seen anyone else walking there which makes it very peaceful with lots of bird song. Over a few styles and into the fields leading to a farm building. Now here, if you’re walking away from Sheepstor it is clearly marked however in reverse, it may be just me, the footpath sign direction seems a little confused. You guessed it, I followed a path that was marked but not the intended path! As I was looking to add distance and not remove it, I wasn’t concerned and happy when I reached the road and found I was at the Sheepstor village boundary sign. Taking a right along the road put me back on course allowing a left turn up the road before reaching the church leading to the footpath that walks you around the base of Sheeps tor.

It’s a surprisingly long way around the base of the tor but an easy route to walk and follow. Very conscious of the temperature it was all about making the distance and less about the time and number of stops. Time for a water stop, the first of many today. This is where I also had a nice chat to Jan and Ann who were down on holiday, what a week to visit Dartmoor! It’s a big tor with spectacular views and brought into scale as I watched them ascend. They suddenly looked very small as they got closer to the top.

From here the next target point was the tip/edge of Rough tor plantation and a track turning left down toward Deancombe and Norsworthy car park. Another very nice path to follow, be careful descending down to the river crossing as the path is stony and gritty which is very easy to slip on due to the steepish descent. Once down to the river it’s a lovely place to stop for a while, but I was heading for the car park in the shade to have lunch by the river. Surprisingly not that busy, I guess the heat was too hot for most.

Lunch over, I was really tempted to paddle my very hot feet but decided I would probably end up spending far too much time there and wreck any chance of doing a distance. Onward to Down tor, I’ve mentioned this one before and I still love the area leading up to the tor and the tor itself for the varied terrain and the views to be had.

What really made it this time on the way up was a couple sat in their deckchairs with umbrellas up to keep the sun off. It really did look like a scene from a film clip. With the backdrop of Down tor, the sunshine and the green trees and surroundings, it looked idyllic. A chat with Ed and his partner was on the cards as I passed!

What was also brilliant was both couples donated at the end of the day which really made my day after a long hot and tiring walk as it turned out! Not to put any pressure on anyone else of course.

I’m always amazed and truly grateful for the support that is often given after bumping into people and chatting about the challenge. I really do appreciate it, thank you.

 

A few mini stops later and a clamber over some rocks and Down tor was “captured”! Now to head for the stone circle and row. I was hoping that once I climbed up onto the open moor some sort of breeze would make life a little more comfortable. Afraid not, while a breeze came and went it helped but it remained very hot and I was sweating the water out almost as fast as I was drinking it.

Over a litre gone already, far more than I have after needed in the past. At this point heat aside, I was still moving pretty well considering the heat. At least it felt like it, shoulders, well they are always going to feel the strain but were holding up ok, feet were going well and the bag weight wasn’t too bad.

Across to the stone circle and row. What struck me at this point was the number of cows across the ridge. They seemed to be everywhere, also, there appeared to be a large number of very young calves. This was also true regarding horses. No idea why but definitely more than I have recently seen. What became very frustrating as I progressed, they all seemed to want to straddle the paths I was following resulting in some very wide births around them. While they didn’t appear to be too bothered about my presence, I’m guessing it was just too hot to care, I wasn’t going to take any chances, just in case.

Several detours around several different groups of cows and horses with young I followed the path right across the ridge and to the point where Devonport leat appears to make its first appearance onto the open moor. There is also an old ruin hut which is interesting. Following the leat toward Older Bridge and not far from the leat source a cross sits on the side of the hill, this doesn’t appear to be marked on the map which I find a little odd.

Another group of cows and I was forced to swap sides of the leat, why can’t they stay in the same place or at least cover a smaller area, they’re all over the place! A little further on an unusual sight, a tractor slowly trundling along. As it got closer and keeping my reputation of being nosey, I found out they were on their way to do some leat dredging.

The next target was the trig point across from Cramber tor. I have done this area a few times and decided to test my instinct. Could I cross the leat and pick a point to walk uphill to reach the trig point? Well, first footbridge choice was a no go. On approach cows again were congregating, this time a couple of adults and half a dozen calves. It did cross my mind to try and walk around them to the footbridge but it became an obvious no when I saw the calves were sat and stood around it. Just to convince me, another cow decided to investigate and for the first time gave several warning “moos” and approached with an attitude it meant business, clearly protecting the young.

That’ll be the next footbridge then.

Located and crossed I took my intuitive direction and zig zagged up the hill avoiding more cows and horses with their young. I was feeling fairly confident I would be close to the trig point as I approached the brow of the hill. It remains out of sight until almost on top of it. One last adjustment and blow me, there it was, directly in front of me. It’s little victories like this that take your mind momentarily away from the heat and ailments! I was pretty happy for a few minutes!

Cramber tor was an easy walk following a clear track and presented no issues in reaching. There was also a very visible track leading to Hart tor once the Hart tor Brook was negotiated. Due to the weather the area normally wet was already drying out again making it easy to reach the brook ready for crossing. Water levels also very low again crossing it didn’t prove to be too difficult and quickly made it to the “marble” with its little grass hat on. Up the short hill and Hart tor was in the bag.

Next, over to Black tor. I know there are a couple of places that have a steel girder of some sort to cross but never plotted these so headed toward what looked like a ford, or at least where the cattle crossed. Blimey, here we go again, another couple of groups of cows scattered all over the place. Divert required.

Luckily as everything was so dry getting down to the Meavy wasn’t difficult and a quick scout around a suitable crossing point was located and completed.

Just a short up hill walk to Black tor for a water break, now over two litres down the hatch!

Now a long stretch to reach Sharpitor, walking up toward the road and around the edge of Stanlake plantation and a straight line up to the tor. It’s not hugely difficult, but the day is getting on and the legs were showing the first signs of tiredness so it felt worse than it probably was. Peek Hill next and what looked odd to me was the height between Sharpitor and Peek Hill, they’re the same height on the map but walking between them Peek Hill seems to be higher extending that long stretch of a walk from Black tor.

 

Once there, as I mentioned previously the view down the valley and into Burrator are pretty spectacular. I defy anyone to walk there and not stop to take in the view. Of course, I stopped for a break!

Getting close to finish now and not much of the three litres of water I packed left either. Walking across to the wall of Peek Hill plantation a steepish drop following another stony path, easy to follow but some care required to avoid slipping.

Now I’m getting really close and started to wonder if I would make my target of twenty-five kilometres. A welcome stroll through the plantation which was now cooler in the trees toward Burrator Lodge and the dam where I dropped down from the track to the road.

I was getting tired now, I think largely due to the heat, but under the circumstances I didn’t feel too bad and still had some walking left in me. Just the path from Burrator down to Meavy and I was done. Still warm but cooler this was a nice final downhill stretch to reach the car and dump the bag unceremoniously into the boot of the car!

 

Overall, I felt pretty good, I was hoping for twenty-five kilometres which meant I would need a further ninety minutes to reach thirty kilometres, the distance required each day. Which on this occasion I would have been able to complete.

Stats,

Total distance 25 km

Total trip time 9 hours duration

Average trip time 2.7 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.6 km per hour

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-39 Tue, 15 Jun 2021 17:59:07 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 38 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-38 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.


Training day 25 – Two Bridges Loop Take Two

Following my school boy error, the previous trip I made sure there was no firing at Merrivale today before I set out to complete the route I should have done previously!

This time however I had the company of Anton, I usually do these alone, probably best that way usually. Means no one can here me groaning under the weight! But at least this way I had validation that I am actually on the moor training!

As it happened it made a real nice change to have someone to walk with and a welcome distraction from the aches and ailments I usually focus on.

The weather forecast was grim again with fog forecast until around mid to late afternoon so again it would provide a good day for navigation testing.

Once again, the walk started in full waterproof gear, it was difficult to establish just how wet it was or would be. Fog without the misty wet rain, misty wet drizzle or both with rain.

The familiar route up to Crockern tor and the almost straight line out to Brown’s House ruin was straight forward but due to the thick fog/mist it was necessary to take a bearing between each of the tors. This proved to be a wise choice as our “intuitive assumption” at Littaford could have sent us forty-five degrees away from Langaford tor, our next target.

Chatting as we went the time went pretty quickly and we soon reached Browns House ruin for the first snack. There was nothing to see until that point but there were suddenly signs the fog may be thinning and even lifting as Rough tor came and went into view.

Bagging up the easy track down to the West Dart river was completed where we faced the first of our river crossings of the day. Water levels were surprisingly low I thought providing some easy boulders above the water liner to step across. Now for the big slope the other side.

I gave the health warning to Anton that I would be slow up the hill with likely a couple of mini stops on the way, just to set the expectation!

As always, I always think of the worse and try to deliver the best! It didn’t seem too long before we were at the top, I felt pretty reasonable to be fair. Maybe the company made it easier?

The fog was definitely lifting at this point and the line of boundary posts could be seen right to the edge of the hill with Crow tor to our left. The fog was still rolling in and out so bearings were the action of the day. What could be worse than heading off and the fog drops leaving you stranded regarding direction. That would be just embarrassing!

The fog remained “thin” making Crow tor, crossing the stream and up to Bearsdown tor comfortable to navigate.

Taking advantage of the improved visibility we pushed on to Lydford tor and down toward the Cowsic at Broad Hole. Again, water levels were surprisingly low making the crossing quite simple. Across the other side which is usually incredibly boggy and wet, although being wet, was by comparison to earlier walks pretty good to walk around.

It was reaching lunch time now and a decision was required to break before or after we climbed the hill to Conies Down tor. There were no “ego’s” on this trip it was all about getting us both round the route, so, we decided to climb the hill and lunch at the top.

Just as well really, as we reached Conies Down tor and found a place out of the wind the fog dropped in without notice. Suddenly everything had disappeared again. Perfect Dartmoor weather, the sort that can catch the unsuspecting out in a big way if not careful.

During lunch I think it must have rolled in, lifted and rolled in at least three times.

 

Lunch over and time to move out. The weather was now heavy mist, I say mist because it was about fifty meters visibility and a heavy wet drizzle with the mist. Back on with all the gear then.

At this point the power of the mind was put to the test. When we had a clear slot looking across the valley we could see Devil’s tor, our next target. However, now the mist was down a bearing was most definitely required.

The thing was, the bearing appeared to be pointing far further North than I remember seeing the tor. Time to put our thoughts to one side and trust the compass. I have done this before so had a rough idea of direction from Conies Down to take. As we got lower the mist thinned and I could see the river below. The bearing was pointing across the river at a point where a large boulder was placed, a useful marker.

 

The idea was to drop to the boulder, cross the river and use the bearing to walk a straight line across the hill to the Beardown Man standing stone. This wouldn’t become visible on a clear day until you breach the top of the hill. Walking up the hill and maintaining the angle we walked and adjusted our line with the expectation of seeing the stone right in front of us.

Well, I can tell you, I felt really good when we came up over the top of the hill, the mist/fog was still lifting, and the standing stood was there bang on the bearing we had taken. If the mist had been down and we were solely on the bearing it was a great comfort to know on this occasion we would have fallen over the standing stone.

It was great when the weather cleared, albeit for a limited window, a chance to get the leggings off. I hate wearing leggings! Devil’s tor in hindsight isn’t that impressive for me. If it wasn’t for the standing stone it would struggle to be any attraction in my view. Just a useful marker on the landscape!

Anyway, taking advantage of the clear spell we marched onto and back to Rough tor to complete the loop. Whether it was the company or the training at this stage I was feeling reasonably good. I guess the walk to Rough tor can vary as there are no distinguishable tracks so each time you cross it can be on a slightly different line. This time we seemed to have a pretty easy route across.

Oh, and time to give the water filter its first test. With a dodgy stomach I have great hopes that this filter will deal with any bug or virus that may be out there! I'll let you know.

 

It was now a simple task of back tracking the earlier route, apart from the weather that on reaching Brown’s House ruin on the way back the fog decided to pay another visit, and this time it was heavy!

Back to the map and compass!

Lower White tor, Higher White tor were duly ticked off and bang on course. Longaford appeared, now this is a big tor and we knew we had to walk around the whole thing and somehow position ourselves right in the middle of the tor the other side we arrived on. Simple! One snag, even when we were right next to it we could barely see the whole of the tor.

When I arrived home, I was very curious to see how accurately we had achieved this, the answer, not perfect. However, when we headed to Littaford we sensed we were heading off the ridge so we needed to find a path leading left to pick up what is in effect the main visible track back to Littaford.

By the time we reached Littaford our ongoing “logical” adjustments meant we had reached Littaford exactly where we had expected and needed to. Great news!

 

Now here something very odd and not very clever happened. A clear bearing was taken between Littaford and Crockern tor. A bearing from Littaford to Crockern duly captured in the same way as the others. Off we went, compass in hand following the bearing. Through the “outcrops” and on. It should have been a straight line, no change to the compass or what we thought our direction.

Concentration had clearly “cracked”. As we moved forward the sense, we were dropping off the hill became apparent. Then the mist starting clearing, we were looking down toward Two Bridges rather than Parsons Cottage. Turning, we could now clearly see Crockern tor about one hundred meters left!

I still have no idea how we were tracking a bearing that started on line and fell off the hill! I’m going back to retrace with the same bearing to try and work it out!!

The only good thing was, when taking the bearing, because of the fog, I had also accounted for any deviation and if we went too far left or right, we would encounter a wall and could easily reposition. A fail safe that kept us ultimately on track but I’m still none the wiser why we dropped right so far!

Now on the point of finishing and a little wet we tried finding the “chair” at Crockern tor, failed, I got bored looking and we dropped down to the car.

Overall, apart from the last embarrassing hiccup the day had gone really well with navigation and walking with a full pack. We totted up 20 km which was fine and felt pretty good at the end so I’ll take that. What I need to account for though, the average trip time is averaging less at approximately 2.7 km per hour which means the weight is currently having an impact and could add one and a half extra hours each day. I'll need to monitor this.

 

Anton still thinks I mad though!

Thanks for the company Anton and the extra pictures of me! Makes a much easier day and takes the mind off the weight and aching feet!

 

Stats,

Total distance 20 km

Total trip time 7.5 hours duration

Average trip time 2.6 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.4 km per hour

 

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor devon landscape magazine national park photography https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-38 Sun, 13 Jun 2021 21:27:38 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 37 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-37 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 25 – Two Bridges Loop

As it happens this turned out to be a rather less interesting and shorter day than expected. This is the last week before I am intending to up the distance to a minimum of 25km carrying the 30 kilos on the march to making a full 30km in a single day.

Starting at a layby by Parsons’s cottage the first section on the face of it shouldn’t be too taxing. Over the style up the short hill to Crockern tor and a straight line all the way to Brown’s house ruins.

On arrival the mist was already rolling in and out across the moor, but at least Crockern tor was still visible. It felt a bit cold in the damp breeze when I got out of the car so made an early decision to put the full waterproof gear on to avoid being caught out by the ongoing wet misty stuff and getting wet.

By the time I kited up and locked the car Crockern tor had totally disappeared in the fog/mist. Looks like the number one Dartmoor devil had played his card, the devils mist!

Some styles also present some interesting challenges to climb over, this one looked straight forward but every time I swing over the top it seems the bag wants to drop me over the other side in a very unceremoniously way! The I noticed I could have gone through the gate, doh!

Anyway, up the hill to Crockern tor, a compass bearing just to be sure of my line, straight can easily go of course when you have 50 meters visibility and absolutely no reference point.

At least it will challenge my navigation skills as this fog/mist looks set to hang around all day.

On a sunny day the map and compass stay in the bag, it’s a very simple route to undertake. Just follow those big lumps of rock and walk between them. On a foggy day it’s a bearing from and to every tor, get that right and despite the fact you see nothing until you practically fall over them, it remains pretty straight forward.

All the way out to Lower White tor and looking toward Brown’s house ruin the mist was a little, less thick, which just about gave visibility of Brown’s House ruin. Picking up tracks down the hill it wasn’t too long before I was settled in amongst the ruins taking a snack break, largely before I started up the hill to Rough tor.

The mist still thick and rolling the hill on the opposite bank of the West Dart river rotated between visible, slightly visible and totally lost in the mist. The good thing was the path leading to the river and up the other side is pretty clear and easy to follow.

Water levels don’t appear to be massively high at the moment so finding a crossing point proved easier than expected and I quickly crossed over. Now that long rather steep hill to Rough tor. Head down and a deep breath, bag pumped up onto the shoulders as high as it would go, 45 degree lean and away I went. Small steps maintain a momentum proved for me to be the best way forward, but a couple of mini stops were still needed.

It wasn’t until I got within fifty meters that Rough tor came into sight and provided confirmation of my school boy error that had crossed my mind as I snacked at Brown’s House ruin. Were they firing in Merrivale?

Well, a whopping red flag blowing horizontal in the wind provided the answer, of course they were and I would have known if I had looked it up. Stupid boy!

Never mind, plan B, whatever that was. Always have a plan B I say, better make one up quick then! As I closed in to the hut, I realised the shutters were down and looking through the window there was someone sat inside! I think it give them a bit of a jump!

I never realised these were manned when firing was taking place. A nice chap inside and a chat later, yep, they are, for the duration of the firing. Clearly, they command a good position to scan the area ensuring no one strolls into the zone. But not today, you couldn’t see “Jack”. He asked where I was heading and had to explain it was where I was heading but not now. Firing had been delayed due to the weather and he wasn’t sure if it would take place at all but as it was still not confirmed, the zone, remained off limits.

After exchanging pleasantries and “stay safe” we parted company as I headed for Crow tor following the boundary posts that were not visible but did lie in a line on a reasonably well-defined track. Easy enough to follow as some of the mist thinned out the further down the bank and closer to the river I got.

Over the river close to Foxholes I decided to stop for lunch part way up the other side. Now some may think this would be strange. It’s not an everyday occurrence the fog drops to this level and I happen to be out walking in it. So just sitting there enveloped in a thick fog/mist drifting in and out, looking and listening, you get a very solitary and almost spooky feeling.

Generally, if you experience something in a relatively controlled way, when you come to experience it in some more challenging conditions it appears, less scarry. Almost conditioning yourself to the environment to help remove any sudden occurrence of fear and preventing your mind and fear taking over.

These are after all training walks, so every different experience I can get will help remove any doubt or fear, that’s the theory.

It reminded me of the first time I went out in the fog and became misplaced, suddenly the realisation and momentary fear took over. It's very scarry if you don’t realise what’s occurring and get a grip of it. Luckily then the fog lifted just enough to allow me to position myself and sort it out, but it was a real and valuable lesson. I would recommend everyone trying it, under a controlled environment of course.

Hard to believe the bag in the picture is a total weight of 30 kilos! Everything I need from toothpaste to fourteen days food, from spare socks to GPS. How do such small weight items create such a weight?

Oh yes, plan B, what is it?

Rather than go to Bearsdown tors and drop into Two Bridges I decided, as I have never gone to Holming Beam, I would track the boundary posts and head in that direction. The mist was still thick on the top of the hills and each consecutive post was lost in the mist. A great opportunity to see if I could successfully navigate the line of posts on a bearing. The answer was yes which was good!

Although due to the visibility I couldn’t tell which post was the last and when they did a 90 degree right turn. What I did know, if I kept a straight line, I would hit a boundary wall that would lead to a corner with a right angle turn to the right following the Cowsic river.

I guess I could have worked out the last flag if I measured and paced it but wanted to go with a certain amount of known logic, map referencing and intuition.

That all worked out pretty well and everything I expected to come across duly appeared. Along the river are two footbridges, what I didn’t know was what sort of footbridges, were they granite slabs or a full-blown bridge? And, would I even see them in the mist. If I were to stick to the “keep out of the MOD zone” approach I needed to make the first bridge as the second ventured into the zone. I would use it if I really needed to!

Now, the question of, would I have seen it with no one around can’t be answered. I hope so, but what got my attention first was someone in a high viz jacket spending some time reading something. I thought he may be lost until I saw a second person. Clearly, they weren’t lost, they were doing water checks and levels and obviously knew exactly where they were. As they were next to the bridge it didn’t take much to spot it.

Moving along the wall, luckily, I found the point to get over the boundary wall allowing me to reach the bridge. A right flimsy wooden fence that made climbing over “messy” with the weight of the bag. A quick chat about what they were doing, I’m nosey like that, and then up the hill to Holming Beam. I have to say I was a little surprised by the hill, it was a lot steeper than I had given it credit for.

 

I could hear the droning of machinery or something a fair distance away so I knew I was in the right direction. Reaching the top, I was welcomed by two excitable dogs that ran out from the large shed/out building. I also noticed the red flag was missing from the flag pole. Guess what that could mean?

The two chaps inside popped out and approached as if they knew me, how odd. You must be the bloke wandering around the edge of the zone then! How on earth do they know that?

Seems like they all have a radio chat going on between the flag positions as the chap at Rough tor apparently gave them a heads up I may be coming over in that direction and look out for me. Well, I guess that’s kind of reassuring and very proactive. I did tell him roughly what my plan B would be.

The slightly annoying thing was the firing had been postponed due to the weather and I probably could have made plan A in hind sight. Oh well, I’ll just have to defer that to another day. Another weird thing was the mist thinned out along the tree/wall line but thickened up again when I reached the main road.

What I did get told in the conversation that I didn’t previously know is Wilsworthy is the only one that can, if required fire on a Monday as the other two are on Duchy land where Wilsworthy is on MOD owned land. Plus, Okehampton has a longer summer break than the others from last two weeks of July to the second week of September, apparently. I’ll keep an eye on the times to see.

Not far left to go now, the long walk down the road to the main road to Two Bridges and left up over the hill back to the car at Parson’s cottage. The last concern of the day with the mist still heavy was how safe would it be walking along the main road back to the car.

Last short stop before the car on the bridge at Two Bridges, the hotel is there somewhere. Maybe you have better eyesight than me?

While I did have a bright lime green cover over the roll mat for some visibility the only other add on was to fix my head torch to the back of the bag and leave it on full power. Hopefully that would shine bright enough to be seen before any cars were almost on top of me.

It obviously worked well enough as I’m sat writing this account!

 

Once I realised the original route was off, I knew it would be a shorter trip and wasn’t expecting much in terms of distance and time. What did surprise me was my averages held up, apart from total trip time, extended by having those chats I suspect.

The average of all trips so far remains just over 3 km per hour while my moving average across all terrains and bag weights is holding at 4.8, that’s between 4.5 and 5 km per hour.

So, the challenge is, less stopping and chatting, maintain my average walking speed and I could make my 30 km per day carrying 30 kilo. Now that would be an epic result.

Just need to do more back-to-back trips and extend the number of consecutive days!

 

I may yet pull this off!

Stats,

Total distance 15 km

Total trip time 6 hours duration

Average trip time 2.6 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.8 km per hour

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-37 Thu, 10 Jun 2021 19:28:47 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 36 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-36 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 24 – Cox Tor Loop

The second consecutive walk with 30 kilos to establish what the impact would be with potentially tired legs from the previous day!

The target distance was a minimum of 20 km to get a reasonable comparison with a start and finish point of Pork Hill car park below Cox tor.

I wasn’t intending to walk up to the top of Cox tor this time but around the base to get some distance in. So, heading off in a North Westerly direction along a path that was just about visible, also marked on the map, until I reached the road at Coxtor. I was looking to head toward Youlditch and down to Harragrove via the bridle path between the fields.

First oversight! I spotted the bridal path entrance and headed for it. What I was a little careless with was the fact there are a few “paths” you could follow and unfortunately, I turned a little too early.

It was odd because I have done this section before and as I entered the bridle path something didn’t line up. I thought of turning back and repositioning as it wasn’t far back but decided as I needed the distance I would carry on and see how quickly I could identify and reposition to get back on track.

 

Following the road around to the right, the general direction I needed to go, I compared the actual road direction, turns and elevations with the map and soon identified where I had dropped off the moor onto the road.

I had actually taken the early turn and headed to Headlands. Not a major issue just added a bit of distance. It wasn’t long before I passed Harragrove and spotted the familiar footpath on the right just after the farm buildings. This led me through the field systems to a path junction marked by a post sign below Cox tor and above Great Combe tor.

It could be easily confusing if you’re looking for Great Combe tor as there is an outcrop of rock on your right as you approach the sign post. You could easily think that was Great Combe tor, that is until you reach the post sign that points down hill to your left and fits nicely with the map!

Great Combe tor is then a couple of fields away and following the path soon comes into sight. It was then I realised I had been here before but approached from Peter Tavy.

At this time of year, the Hawthorn is out in its full glory, and what a sight it delivers, absolutely stunning with the view extending out across the valley.

The path continues down the steep side of the valley into Peter Tavy, with its twists and turns it makes a really nice route to follow. Following the Colly Brook and over the footbridge and turn right into the centre of Peter Tavy. This is also a lovely area to explore with lots to see, if you’re lucky you may find the bench available to sit and grab a coffee! Continue through up toward the church and take the footpath left toward the pub, some might prefer this to the bench!

It’s a reasonably long path that will come to a gate with Longtimber tor on your left but you have to leave the path, slightly double back on yourself and turn right in the field to reach it. It’s definitely worth a visit, a lovely spot and a place to swim if that’s your thing!

Some quick snaps, a water break and back on the track over the footbridge to Whitestone and the church. There are four tors in this area however all fall in private land so the challenge criteria of getting as close as possible means taking the footpath that runs parallel with the river Tavy through the fields. I have often thought of walking this so decided to make this the preferred route.

Up through the graveyard and follow the rather new looking sign posts, easy to follow which is good. Past a Chy, through a field with some horses and into a field full of cows. Oops, this will be interesting, double checking at this point, the only bit that provided some possible doubt on the direction, I confirmed I had to walk straight past them.

As I tucked as close to the hedge as possible and tried to sneak across the field the obvious happened. They spotted me! Showing a little too much interest in my view. Now, I’m not exactly afraid of cows but some of the recent publicity around them meant giving them a degree of respect and space. A little tricky when they seem bent on heading straight for you mooing for all they’re worth. Time to quicken the pace, only I couldn’t see the exit point. Heck, had I really gone into the wrong field?

At this point they were trotting and getting quicker heading for me as I scanned the hedge for the exit. I could see what looked like half a style on the top of the wall/hedge before I realised the access to it was protruding stones built into the wall. Phew, not a moment too soon as I climbed the five stone steps and scrambled over. Glancing back, it looked like there was a whole herd convention going on, everyone of them had trotted over to see what the fuss was about, personally, didn’t care, I was off over and across the next field!

The next few fields looked like the styles were up and over walls and with a full pack I decided to take the easier option and take the bridal path past Midlands connecting up with the road to Horndon. From here it’s down to the river Tavy following the road to the right that turns into a metaled path all the way down to the river and over a decent size bridge. Another great stopping place when the sun is out.

Once across the bridge there are two options, follow the metaled path up to the left to the road or take a right along the marked footpath to the road.

I’ve done the left turn so this time took the right footpath. Nice and easy although some may say a little steep but just brings you out onto the road closer to Cudliptown that happens to be the next check point.

Take a left here following the road uphill and look out for the first footpath on the right, it’s not completely obvious so make sure you get a rough idea of distance up the road or you could miss it. This goes up the side of the valley through fields and pops out just to the left of Boulters tor. It looks a little confused to me with not much shape and looks more like a pile of rocks. Apparently not granite as in South moor as I was advised by a geography teacher there!

Without a full pack the next section is pretty straight forward following the visible path to Stephen’s grave up to White tor and onto the standing stone just inside the MOD firing zone.

With the weather still very warm and sunny Roos tor is easily visible and almost a straight-line walk. You can make out a track all the way up rather than walk across the tufts. It’s still a fairly arduous walk up hill. Great Staple tor is very close and only takes a few minutes to walk across between the two great stacks. A very impressive tor. Time was ticking on and I really wanted to try and get 21 km at the average 3 km per hour trip time. A quick break as the climb had got the heart pumping and off again.

Down to the water hole between Great Staple tor and Cox tor, only surprisingly it had all dried out again following the water deluge we had recently. Next a simple job of picking out the faint trail around the base of Cox tor before heading back to the car.

It is a little surprising how long it takes to walk around the base of Cox tor. It’s not until to do it you realise how big an area Cox tor and its hill covers. It’s also very rocky on the lower West side which I’m sure has a lower Cox tor in there somewhere, I’m sure someone will put me straight.

Overall, I felt like I had walked reasonably well despite the last 45 minutes around Cox tor causing the feet to ache and the shoulder to burn a bit. Now to check to see if I had done as well as I think I might have!

 

Stats,

Total distance 23 km

Total trip time 7.7 hours duration

Average trip time 3 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.8 km per hour

 

Defiantly pleased with that, a couple more 20 km walks and I may be ready to plan the next distance of 25km. Let’s see how next week pans out.

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-36 Thu, 10 Jun 2021 15:55:51 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 35 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-35 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.


Training day 23 – Burrator Loop

Second consecutive day with the 30-kilo buddy on my back! My passage to a successful 14-day challenge.

This was going to be a test, after a tiring day yesterday I was hoping to cover at least 20 km and I was expecting this to be a long old day.

The weather was warm already on arrival at Burrator reservoir with a gentle breeze. Anyone who knows me will be aware that me and heat do not mix well. Which may not bode well for August!

First target was Peek Hill, so up the hill to the left bank of the road facing the reservoir and onto one of the tracks that lead into the woods. Don’t stop at the first track as I did and blindly follow it before realising, I needed to go up to the second track, the one I really wanted. Not the best start, but at least I realised pretty quickly!

I did however spot the new mobile mast that has recently been built. From what I’ve heard I thought it would look worse than it did. OK, so it’s not ideal but unless you walk that path it is pretty well hidden and the unit holding the kit and power is cladded in wood that will tone down after a few months. It could have been a lot worse!

Following the track and then the leat into Peek Hill plantation and out the other side is a pleasant walk. The minute you exit the trees there is a track on the left that handrails the boundary wall to the brow of the hill. At the corner a sharp right will take you to the top of Peek Hill. It has fantastic views over Burrator. With the weather set to be bright, sunny and warm it was the perfect picture, and time for an early water stop.

Sharpitor and Leather tor are both impressive and easy to reach from Peek Hill and naturally didn’t take long to reach both.

Dropping down the hill from Sharpitor and following the boundary wall of Stanlake plantation I was on my way to the Devonport Leat and the point it crosses the river Meavy using the aqueduct. Up the steep Raddick hill to continue following the leat.

But not before having a snack at the foot of the aqueduct in preparation for the climb. Yep, the bag weight already making itself known across the shoulders. Legs at this point were tired from the previous day but doing ok, shoulders though, burning! Just saying in case you think I have this in the bag and finding it easy!

The idea was to follow the leat past the location of Crazy Well pool and locate the furthest restored cross, on the right-hand side of the leat and the footpath. The visibility was excellent so a careful scan of the distant area it wasn’t difficult to spot the cross. It was small but visible.

Crossing the leat on one of the many footbridges I continued to follow the leat with a view to lining up with the cross and taking a 90 degree drop to Newlycombe Lake to find a crossing point. I was walking further up to the head of the lake/river as trying to cross below the field systems previously was very difficult, particularly in wet weather. I needed to be sure I could get across the river as any detours would add way too much time on the day of the challenge.

Two things that actually made it a bit easier. A herd of cows were flanking the leat with some stood in it cooling their feet I assumed. Not usually an issue however I noticed a number of young calf’s and not wanting to chance it decided to drop down the hill a fair bit earlier than I originally anticipated.

This meant I skirted around the considerable tin mine workings in the area and saved having to negotiate around the large craters.

Using my personal logic of follow the track and the poo and it’ll take you where you need to go, I followed a track down to Newlycombe Lake. The last few meters included a sharp short drop of a bank but nothing horrific. A quick scout either direction and a narrow, the only narrow area I could find, presented itself for an easy crossing. This I decided would also be easy to cross even if the water levels were high. Good news.

Time for lunch before I headed up the steep hill and tufts of grass toward Down tor. Sat out of the breeze and hearing nothing other than the river babbling past with the birds singing I could have sat there for some time lazing in the sun. Only problem, I had a mission to complete, get 30 kilos around 20 km and try to maintain my average timings.

Off up the hill, and yep, it proved to be a hill. I was hoping for an easier and quicker climb than I got. Following more cattle tracks it seemed to take an age to get off the contour and start gaining height to try and make an easy flat walk to Down tor. By the time I made it to anything like level ground I was almost at Down tor.

From previous blogs you will know I love Down tor as it has fantastic views and the with the lower outcrops provides some stunning landscape images for the decerning photographer! I also bumped into some visitors from the Isle of White and had a great interesting chat. That with snack stop meant I probably spent to much down time again, a common practice that will have to stop on the challenge, but it was a beautiful day so what the heck!

Down to Norsworthy bridge and immediate left at the car park to pick up the path flanking Middleworth plantation heading toward Deancombe. A sharp right over the Narrator brook using the footbridge, don’t go straight on toward Cuckoo rock, and up the hill to the corner of Roughtor plantation. At the corner swing right and follow the wall until you reach a gate at the foot of Sheepstor on your left and the plantation on your right. This was a welcome break out of the sun and chance for another water break and to cool off.

Continuing on, the route was easy to follow and not difficult under foot, just a small degree of care when walking over some of the rocks and stones that appear from time to time. All the way round, there is a post directing you to Sheepstor village so you don’t turn off too early, to a gate to a road that you take left to enter the village.

Another chance to get the bag off my shoulders and time out by the church. The weather was still warm for me, for most probably just nice, and the legs were starting to tire again with the shoulders still straining and pulling.

From Sheepstor village the next target was the Merchants cross. Go left from the church take the next road immediate right and just round the bend take the sign posted footpath past the farm building. This takes you through some fields, Burrator woods, past Yeo farm, down a track to the cross. I haven’t walked that route for some time and forgotten how nice it is wandering down through the woods. With no else around it was very quiet.

Down the hill and over the narrow bridge into Meavy, it’s easier to walk over the bridge than it is to drive! Its quite a steep midpoint enough to make you slow down if you’re driving to avoid scrapping the side of your car. If you want to cool your feet than wading through the ford is always an option.

Keeping right the final leg is a footpath through a field and a track that follows the river Meavy which in effect is the overflow and the water from the reservoir plus some brooks that feed into it. I guess it’s the Meavy because if you look at the map, at the very back end of the reservoir the Meavy flows in, so I guess the dam was essentially built across the river.

The path is relatively straight and easy to walk but going up hill back to the old toilet block that still stands but not in use now. Through the gate at the top and back to the car.

 

Overall, I made 21.5 km which was the target distance but it took me an extra hour to complete it dropping the average times down more than all previous walks. I guess the bag weight is having a real impact. At the least the average moving time was reasonable but all those “mini stops” had built up along with a couple of extended chats. I’m definitely going to need to keep an eye on the time and stopping frequency on the next walk.

It was a tough day and I’m not afraid to admit it. Plenty to do if I’m going to achieve this without a food drop. As I still need to cover 30km with a full load I’m starting to feel I could run out of time. Hopefully the next attempt will be a little better.

 

Stats,

Total distance 21.5 km

Total trip time 8.00 hours duration

Average trip time 2.6 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.5 km per hour

 

 

]]>
(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-35 Sun, 06 Jun 2021 21:42:02 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 34 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-34 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 22 – Princetown Loop

Time to up the pressure. First trip with 30 kilos wasn’t bad but it wasn’t brilliant either with the average walking stats just about holding up against the minimum required of 3km per hour trip time and average walking speed of 4.5km per hour.

I decided to make two back-to-back walks to see how big an impact two consecutive days would have. With a lighter weight (around 24 kilos) it didn’t seem to have a massive impact however it’s amazing how much a difference 6 kilos can have. I was preparing for some pain!

The route this time had a few challenges with terrain but on the whole, it was generally steady walking.

First target from parking at Princetown was North Hessary tor. Picking up the path behind the brewery and following it past some nearby houses the sign posted direction soon brings you out at the foot of the hill with the tor and the landmark mast at the top.

It’s roughly a 1 in 5 hill so while not massively steep it’s enough to get the heart pumping straight out of the blocks.

This was a steady climb with a few “mini stops” by that I mean a 30 second breather to catch my breath and juggle the weight. Yep, you will be surprised how much those straps can cut into the shoulders even after such a short distance. There was going to be a lot of mini stops!

The weather although not brilliant was good for walking. A cloudy start with a breeze blowing keeping the temperature cool but not too cold.

A quick nose around the ongoing work on the mast, I hope they put it back the way it was when they started, there are some very deep tractor tracks and churned up ground, I assume from the vehicles delivering and moving gear around.

Hollow tor is visible from here with some faint looking sheep tracks leading off in that direction. Picking the tracks carefully over the tufted grass and some wet areas it wasn’t long before I reached Hollow tor. On a good day it’s worth taking some time to look around, there are some terrific views. A quick spin round and it didn’t take long to get back to Rundlestone tor. Not a spectacular tor but as it’s close to Hollow tor it still provides an excellent viewing point.

It’s then only a matter of meters to reach the path connecting the mast station to the main road, which you then cross to pick up a path leading all the way up to Great Miss tor. Unlike the track starting at the old school house remains car park, this path goes past some old buildings and then straight onto the grass rather than a stoney path to the top. Personally, I prefer the grass underfoot.

It’s a reasonable distance but not difficult to walk so just a matter of time before you get to the top.

Great Miss id impressive by its size alone and spreads itself across the top of the hill. You could spend some time looking around and admiring the view but today it wasn’t that good a weather to sit around and wanted to stay on mission. A quick water break and an early snack before I headed down the hill to Little Miss tor, which I quite like taking photos of. It’s not far from Great Miss so the area is great for exploring.

From here a direct line walk to a “skirt” and a stream source running into the Walkham before handrailing the wall to the main road just above Merrivale. It’s not difficult terrain and I’d far rather do that than walk on the stones!

Following the road right and just before the bridge there is a footpath taking you left past Hillside and heading for Longash. I would recommend taking a walk on this path, it’s a cracking route and provides some stunning views on both sides up the hill toward King tor and across the valley to Vixen tor. It also takes you right under Hucken tor which just happened to be my next target.

Now the problem having half an eye on the surroundings and the other half on the “mission” plus being interested in photography means it’s far too easy to be distracted. Especially when many of the fields and moor are covered in bluebells.

You have to stop as you may not get another chance, even if it’s on the phone camera! As the weather was improving a bit and the sun was now breaking through the bluebells looked stunning, and in the hawthorn and you have scenery to die for!

I was aiming to stop for lunch at Swelltor, so after far too long taking pictures, I quickly headed up over King’s tor and across to Swelltor. It was still breezy so I sank myself into a ditch for cover and tucked into what would become lunch for 14 days on my challenge. Definitely not gourmet food, sardines, peanut butter and some pecan nuts. I sure know how to live!

A quick detour to tick off Foggintor quarry and I was heading toward Princetown on the old railway track. At this point the 30 kilos were really starting to let my body know it was there. It wasn’t getting any lighter, and the shoulders would certainly bear testament to that! About two thirds of the way round and I could feel the fatigue setting in already and the pace definitely felt like it was slowing.

Dropping off the path in order to cross back over the main road at Devils Bridge meant a ten-minute trudge through the grass tufts which slowed me down even further.

From here there is a pretty good visible path taking you to Hart tor and past some old firing range artefacts. No time to explore today though as I continued to climb up to Hart tor.

Not hanging around I could easily see Cramber tor and a clear path to it. Mini stops were becoming more frequent and adding to the “stop” time which was now becoming an issue as I couldn’t seem to get any real big distance covered without stopping as the bag weight was really impacting. For the first time I could feel my legs taking the strain, too early to let me down surely.

Hart tor brook lies between the two tors and surprisingly isn’t that easy to cross unless you find one of the old rusty metal strips bridging the stream. Clearly, I hadn’t, I was too high up the brook but managed to find a place I could step across. Generally, head for the single large boulder by the brook and cross in that area.

The climb to Cramber tor seemed to take some effort on this occasion, can only be weight related as its never caused any issues previously. It’s a small tor but its position does give some reasonable views and ais an easy tor to find. It gets used quite a bit for navigational practice I believe.

The next stop is the trig point to the East and luckily this is a straight and simple walk, neither does it take that long to reach it.

The good ting of heading off from the trig point if you’re looking to reach South Hessary tor is a direct line of walking takes you around to the right of the couple of head points of the Hart tor brook, which can be messy in or after wet weather.

The slight down side, it’s more grass and tufts with no easily visible tracks or cattle tracks to follow, not a massive problem but it just slows you down. The sun was out now and was warming up, I’m not good in the heat, never have been so the combined impact of tired legs, bag weight, heat plus still over an hour left, meant I was starting to hurt!

It was good to finally reach South Hessary tor and onto the, “walk of doom track” as labelled by me. This time though, I was really more than happy to trudge back on it. South Hessary in my view is a great tor to photograph and has some great views over the open moor so well worth a visit. After a quick snack I headed toward Princetown dragging my feet as I went, yep, there were times when I was literally scuffing my feet. I know, not good and probably shouldn’t own up to it.

At this point going through the gate and into Princetown just couldn’t come soon enough. I definitely felt like I had done some training, I just hoped that when I looked at the GPS it would tell me I had done a reasonable distance in a reasonable time. Past the shops and visitor centre and to the car, bag in the boot and half sitting in the boot with it. Boy, it was good to get the bag off for the day!

 

Now for the moment of truth. How well had I done?

20.8 km (12.5 miles), ok the distance was roughly what I expected, I definitely didn’t want to do less.

My average walking speed time was a surprise, I really didn’t think I had maintained any real sort of speed over the day. I was happy with that, so far so good.

Overall trip average speed did take a dip though, just under my target 3 km per hour. No doubt this was due to the increasing number of “mini stops” I was making. The bad was definitely feeling heavy across the day.

While I made 20km, I did feel tired. To make the other 10 km required on each day of the challenge, could I have made it?

Probably because I would have to, but it would have been tough and taken longer than it should.

 

Conclusion, I can make 20km with 30 kilos on my back, but it was a tough walk. More training required but running out of time!

Stats,

Total distance 20.8 km

Total trip time 7.00 hours duration

Average trip time 2.9 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.7 km per hour

 

]]>
(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-34 Sun, 06 Jun 2021 19:05:04 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 33 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-33 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 21 – Fernworthy Loop

Well, we’re starting to crack out the training walks now and it’s time to increase the pressure!

Time to up the weight to a full 30 kilos and see how the body copes, but to start with I did reduce the distance just to play safe rather than kill myself in the first attempt.

In terms of a route, this is a pretty achievable one and takes in the perimeter of Fernworthy reservoir and forest, starting and finishing at Bennetts Cross just down the road from the Warren Inn pub.

 

First target was to pick up the Two Moors Way opposite the car park, it’s not marked so you need to look carefully to avoid missing it. Once spotted it’s obvious!

It’s generally not too bad to follow but the section to the standing stone and stone row isn’t very enjoyable to walk and with a fully loaded bag those stones were being felt.

The standing stone and row is pretty impressive though and a good example of both. I resisted the temptation to dance around them like Billy Connelly did when he visited a stone circle I think in Scotland? (if you remember him!)

The weather was already warm and anyone else would be saying it was a fantastic day, which it was of course, I just had a rather large weight on my back and it was already making itself known. This could be a tough day.

Anyway, continuing to follow the Two Moors Way to the road and a left turn left me walking toward Fernworthy reservoir where I had already decided to find a bench and take a break overlooking the water. It was so nice just to sit there, watch and listen with hardly a sole around, which didn’t help because I stayed there far too long.

Down and over the stream running away from the dam, which was still in full overflow. A few pics and up the hill to Thornworthy tor, always seems to take a while to reach the top for some reason but the views are worth it.

No time to stop here today with the next target the Three Boys standing stone, still no idea why Three Boys. From here simply a case of following the forest boundary around to the point facing Magna Hill. No big deal here other than I turned and took the first track left. Knowing it would take me to the gate at the North tip of the forest I wasn’t too bothered. I should have been as it took me a little bit further left than I would have liked and needed to pick my way through the grass tufts to get back on the main track. Oh well!

By now I was starting my own personal battle with the bag weight and short frequent stops were occurring. The weather was still beautiful which didn’t help and any chance of strolling round enjoying the day started to disappear.

I made it round to the point overlooking Teignhead farm and decided to stop for lunch out of the growing breeze. It was another lovely spot to sit and watch the ponies running around and contemplate if I should detour to take in Magna Rock. Never been there yet and will one day. This day I decided to stick to plan A, a decision I was later going to applaud myself for.

After lunch a simple route to follow the forest boundary to Assycombe Hill. Just a small matter of two rather large valleys to drop into and up the other side. They don’t look too bad on the map but the sides are steep and very deceiving.

Funny enough, although I was noticeably slowing down in the heat, I made good time but can’t deny I needed a rest when I reached the top. I was getting close to finishing but the distance still required to cover was enough, at this point I was really happy I decided to ditch Magna Rock on this trip.

To finish off I wanted to see if I could navigate an easy route over Water Hill. There was a pretty good track up to it but coming down the other side wasn’t so easy. In fact I couldn’t find any kind of path resulting in a slow walk picking through the gorse and vegetation to try and pick up the Two Moors Way back to Bennetts Cross. It wasn’t that easy, and after a bit of messing around and adding unwanted distance I finally linked up with the path. I was definitely feeling the pain now and every step back to the car was painfully felt. This had been a real challenge for the first trip out with a full bag weight and the decision to start with a reduced distance of 20km was a good and sensible one.

When I finally reached the car, I was having serious doubts about carrying 30 kilos for 30km for the first few days of the challenge. I was also a bit disappointed I had only walked 18.5 km, but at least the averages were just about holding. I’ll have to take that for now.

I’ll need to plan a few more training walks before I make a decision. The jury is back in residence on that issue!

 

Stats,

Total distance 18.5 km

Total trip time 6.30 hours duration

Average trip time 2.9 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.7 km per hour

 

]]>
(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/6/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-33 Thu, 03 Jun 2021 20:35:18 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 32 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-32 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 20 – Hexworthy Loop Revisited

Following the previous days walking in the inclement weather the forecast predicted worse to come on this third consecutive day. Driving across the moor to Hexworthy it was already delivering. Driving rain and high winds. I sat in the car by Huccaby House next to the river and contemplated the next ten hours of walking.

It must have been fifteen minutes before I convinced myself to get out and get on with it!

Waterproofs had dried out overnight so I was at least starting dry, it wouldn’t last!

Walking toward Dartmeet and past a church on the right, a sign outside saying everyone welcome. I could do with that about half way around when I want to stop for lunch! A little further on there is a footpath on the right, never really taken much notice of this but decided to use it to avoid the main road for a change. Through the fields and down to the river, pretty easy going across the fields and down a stoney track. I know, stoney tracks, I hate them, but it didn’t last for long.

At the start of the path there is a sign saying the stepping stones are not passable when it’s raining. Very accurate as I approached the river, not a stone in sight. Completely covered by many inches of water and totally impassable, actually totally invisible.

So, turning left at the river and through a gate between the houses and over the bridge into Badgers Holt.

The last trip out I followed the river and took a very sharp climb up the hill on the far side of Yar tor to pick up the footpath toward Rogues Roost. This time I wanted to try and find the path that followed the contours which in theory would make the ascent easier. I found most of it with a small climb toward the end of the path to reach the gate at the top. There was no way I was stopping here for a break today. Unbelievable weather!

Down across the fields and over that very slippery bridge, across some more very saturated fields and out onto the road. Trying to hop between dry patches of ground today was going to be almost impossible, plus I wanted to really bash the boots today and really find out if they were in fact capable of keeping my feet dry as Meindl claim. So, no water avoidance tactics, I’m just walking through everything today.

Up through Babeny Farm where they were moving their horses between the barns, “you’ve picked a great day to walk” was the passing comment as I walked up the hill.  I made some sort of response trying to sound excited about being on the moor. Actually, it was probably bonkers!

From the last trip I knew the stepping stones across the East Dart was not happening so decided to stay high and trek across Riddon Ridge, well, just below following the sheep tracks along the contours. Even at the lower level the wind was playing with me buffeting me around like I was a toy. Water was running down the hill all over the place like rivers, I can’t remember seeing so much water running off. From surface water running inches deep to pits and holes full of water, everywhere. No point trying to avoid it, what the hell, just walk straight through it. And still more was pouring down, it was relentless, and I had hardly started the day!

No coffee stops so far, there was just no cover from the weather. I headed straight for Belliver bridge as the nearest crossing point. In the forest there was some sort of cover so decided it was likely to be the only place I could shelter to have an early lunch. Apart from the legs already being wet through the rest of me was staying dry but it did feel very nippy. Twenty minutes was about as long as I could sit before I was getting too cold to stay any longer, so bagged up I continued toward Laughter tor past Laughter Hole Farm. I noticed as I passed, I probably could have sheltered in one of the open buildings, one to remember if I ever need it again.

Although the wind and rain was making its presence known it was pretty sheltered walking up through the forest. This became even more evident as I stepped out onto the open moor again. It was like a huge welcome hug from the wind as it wrapped around me and stopped me in my tracks. It was one welcome I could have done without!

More head down and walking into a head wind to the path junction, looking right a few meters away was a well-known standing stone and stone row just before you reach Laughter tor. That was my route, up over Laughter tor and follow a track full of water down the other side toward Belliver tor.

It hasn’t changed from my last visit! Still very impressive, if the forest wasn’t there it would have massive and commanding views across all directions.

The wind at the top was proving difficult to stand and stare so forced to carry on down the other side, water flowing everywhere still, and I was still just walking trough everything. If my feet stayed dry after this then Meindl will get a huge tick in the box.

 

Through the boundary wall and at the next path junction turning left along a bridal path, this skirts all those stone circles, rows and cists in the area. I haven’t explored those for a very long time so will need to revisit, I remember there is quite a bit there.

Following the path, which is sign posted to Poweder Mills if you’re on the right path, will bring you to the road where on the opposite side is a gate marked with a footpath sign toward Powder Mills. I clipped off Ash tor today as I had covered that previously.

Knowing the terrain ahead of me I took advantage of possibly the last sheltered area of the day and took an early coffee break before crossing the road to Powder Mills.

The start of the path is very clear and has been created to assist walking through what was a very very boggy area and difficult to walk when very wet. It’s a good idea and gets you about a third of the way when it stops and you need to make sure you stay on the path, although tis is not that clear. For once my directional choice was good and as I approached up over the hill I was directly in front of the gate. Result!

Powder Mills is another area worthy of a few hours to stroll around, make a note!

The exit back onto the access land is the same point at the end of a clear path but this time I headed up toward Longaford tor. With a day pack its not that difficult and once at the top you get some great views, well you would if it wasn’t raining so hard. It’s also a bit weird, if you walk from Two Bridges Littaford and Longaford look very clear and separated, but walking in the reverse direction there appears to be a mix of outcrops that to me at least appear to merge. Suddenly that don’t appear to be so clear cut.

After Littaford there is another route I wanted to check out. Staying left on the way to Crockern tor and at the boundary wall surrounding a “private” field system there should be a gate that skirts the fields taking you to Cherrybrrok hotel where a style gets you over the wall next to the road. Finding the gate all the signs were this was a point to follow but the gate was padlocked. Not sure if this was meant to be locked or not but it was the only way to pick up the path, had no choice but to climb over it.

The good news, skirting the fields it did take me to the exit point and style I was looking for. It meant I could stay off the road.

Across Muddylake again, it was significantly wetter than a few days ago. No change in the weather, still blowing like a beast with plenty of rain. There were signs though the rain may ease off as some lighter cloud was finally being blown in. Still walking straight lines through all kinds of water depths and muck the boots were still holding up. I had dropped my left foot into a hole where the water went over the top of my boot momentarily so it was a bit damp. Quick lesson, gaiters obviously would be a good idea. Gaiters on the boots were taking a water hammering, the ultimate test perhaps.

Just before the road there is a stream to cross, this was more like a river now and I had overlooked how challenging that might be to cross. Luckily there is one spot where the width is narrow enough to step across the grass tufts projecting into the water. The ford was a couple of feet deep.

Down through Prince Hall past the training centre and some shelter by the gate with a big wall and tree cover. My final stop for the day.

Following the path out onto the moor again and down to Swincombe, still very windy but easy to walk, the rain suddenly eased and, was that the sun trying to peep through?

The Swincombe river was very high and flowing very fast, as always, the substantial bridge is a very welcome crossing point. Over the road and following the path sign. Making sure I stayed higher on the hill this time reaching the gate to get to the road was straight forward.

Oh, what was that I felt? Nothing, just more pouring rain. It wasn’t clearing after all.

Down the road past the Forest Inn and back to the car.

That felt like a real challenge. I think the wind was worse than the day before and a lot more rain. I can’t deny the weather had taken some toll but it was still a good feeling to know I had completed the day, albeit in a slightly automatic mind set way!

It had been a good three day test I think with sun, wind and rain and I felt like I had done pretty well overall. The jacket had done a great job, dry everywhere apart from the edges of the sleeves where water seeps in from the hands and around the neck area. The boots, well, they really had taken a bashing water wise. I had effectively been walking through water all day, running water, puddles, deep water areas and streams. My feet were very slightly damp but even then, I’m not sure it was water ingress. They really had stood up to the test, long may it continue.

Water proof trousers, hmm, I guess you get what you pay for and these were just not up to the challenge in any way. Looks like Arcteryx trousers, if they are as good as the jacket then problem sorted!

All in all, very happy with the outcome, I think I can say I have truly tested myself over the three days and come through it pretty well.

Three-day total 92km, 55.2 miles

 

Now to plan the next test.

Repack the bag, add in the food weight and see if I can complete a full day without my shoulders and legs collapsing under the weight!

 

Dartmoor 0 - Chris Bunney 3

Stats,

Total distance 27.5 km

Total trip time 9.0 hours duration

Average trip time 3.0 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.6 km per hour

 

]]>
(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-32 Mon, 24 May 2021 16:57:34 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 31 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-31 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 19 – Manaton Loop Revisited

I’ve mentioned before that it is inevitable that parts of the moor will get revisited in order to create circular routes to maintain a decent distance. Manaton is one such starting place, it also happens to be a good central spot to explore a fair bit of the moor.

This route is extended and also captures some of the areas previously dropped off from the last walk!

Once again, I head off from the car park with the church on the left following the steep road down to Foxworthy bridge. It’s actually a challenge going down the hill, it’s pretty steep and the knees do take some impact. As always, I think going down hill is often worse than going up!

Keep your eyes open for the slightly hidden access point to the path to the bridge which ultimately leads you into Lustleigh Cleave.

This whole area either side of the river Bovey is a beautiful area to explore. You can easily spend many days exploring the it.

Once into the cleave simply follow the footpath to Hammerslake. If you follow it all the way it winds through the hill past Raven’s tor and brings you around to an exit point onto a road near Waye Farm, if you continue to follow the path around the boundary wall you will find Hammerslake, a house with a path to the road, which I’m unsure if it is private or not. Continue on and you’ll reach a cluster of rocks and tors among them Sharpitor, the only one marked on the OS map in that cluster.

There’s a lot to investigate.

Still continue to follow the path and you will come across Harton Chest. Not sure why the name, maybe I’ll check it out one day.

Despite having taken the route above previously I walked past and below Raven tor, this one is very difficult to actually get to from above or below. I’ve got close from the path below but with a full pack which will be day two of my challenge it will be one of those tors with the “safety” caveat applied.

About fifteen minutes later there is a footpath post, one directs you down toward the river and the other to continue to Hammerslake. However. There is also a track that leads directly up. My curiosity once again taking over I decided to check it out and establish if it would save a long return walk and back from Hammerslake. It’s a short sharp climb and brought me out very close to Harton’s Chest. It was so much easier to walk onto Sharpitor and back to pick up the path to Hunter’s tor. I’ve decided this will now be my route on the day!


Did I mention the weather?

The forecast wasn’t great and it was living up to it. The minute I got out of the car the rain was coming down and the wind was blowing hard. By the time I reached the ridge of the cleave it was pouring down and the wind was, well, huge. It must have been gusting around 50 mph or maybe even more. Walking in a straight line was impossible and at times the head wind was bringing me to a standstill.

I desperately wanted to get off the top and down into the section of road and lane walking. From Hunters tor an easy path down past Peck Farm to the road, past Barnecourt and onto Barne Cross. It was still blowing hard down through the lanes and the rain was still torrential, filling some sections of the road with water for several meters. But not as bad as the top of the cleave.

From here while on a sunny day it would be really nice walking through the lanes to Bovey Cross, skirting round North Bovey, past Bovey Castle to Week Cross, then to Hele Cross and onto Canna Park. The walking was repetitive with my head down to cut through the wind and stop the rain dripping down my neck as it drove horizontal into my face.

Even the cows had the sense to abandon their continual grazing and huddled together in the field under cover of the tress and protected by the wall. Bar one who was determined to carry on, sounds familiar as I was the only person around walking it seemed!

West Combe was the next target, walked before so I knew what was coming. A long walk from Canna Park up what seemed a very steep track leading out onto the open moor and a track eventually up to Hookney tor. With the weather appearing to get worse rather than better this was going to be one of the hardest sections to walk today.

It was also around lunch time and I needed some shelter to stop. There was no way sitting in the open today was going to work or be anything like comfortable.

As I approached West Combe the farmer was out moving his cows around, with the weather even they were having trouble. I waited for several minutes while they attempted to round them up and move from one field to another. The cows were having none of it so they gave up and let me pass before they gave it another try.

Though the gate and onto the path, there are houses tucked away along the hill so the path is reasonable and good enough to take a Land Rover. Even better, half way up the track there was an old decaying barn with enough shelter to get out of the wind and rain. I won’t say try to dry off, this wasn’t going to happen. A wet and soggy lunch, and time to check out how well the kit was coping.

This was my first trip out with my new Arcteryx, it replaced my previous ten-year-old jacket that finally succumbed to the elements. Yep, it was doing a great job, totally dry where it was zipped up preventing the rain getting in.

New Meindl Bhutan boots to replace the previous four-year-old boots that had been walked to the point of wearing out. Interesting that my feet felt like they could be wet but decided it was probably the cold that was most likely so currently gave them the thumbs up but will monitor their performance.

Berghaus leggings, well, they were cheap by comparison to the other items and despite their marketing claim, “guaranteed to keep you dry”, from the waist down to my ankles were just proper wet. They really were not coping at all well. The only possibly good thing was they helped keep me warmer than without them but small consolation. Research required as a decent pair for my challenge will be essential.

Lunch over, kit back on and the trek up to the open moor, I was bracing myself for what was going to hit me.

And it did!

The minute I popped out onto the moor the wind hit me like a brick wall, it was ridiculous. Blowing, gusting and swirling, it was coming from all angles making walking up a challenging hill even harder, at times impossible.

If I had leant any further into the wind I would have been on my hands and knees, it really was that bad. There were times when I just couldn’t walk forward and decided to stop and walk between the gusts. Even that was a challenge as the wind started to blow me backward. It was a very long and hard walk to the top.

Hookney tor didn’t come soon enough and surprisingly there was no one else to be seen! Just the one nut job on the moor today then. Down into Grimspound where I hoped for some sort of shelter from the wind. Nope, it was blowing straight through the valley.

Following the tracks laid down by the cattle and head down still leaning into the wind, step by step I slowly marched on to Natsworthy Manor.

I was getting tired and decided to take a break. At the path/road junction there is an area that drops into a “mini valley” and offered a small amount of relief from the wind and rain, yep, it was still dumping it down. The trees creaking and cracking in the wind it sounded like they could come down anytime, a short stop then before I got too chilly and hit by a falling branch!

Across the road and onto the path leading to Jay’s grave, onward to Hound tor and down to Greator rocks. By now the wind was getting a bit tiresome but still no escape while on the open moor. Every where I went the cows, sheep and horses all had the sense to hunker down and shelter from the wind and rain. I winder what they thought as I struggle past them to my next target point. Always wondered just how much they do think!

Down to Becka Brook and at this point I looked up toward Smallacombe rocks and Hole rock, my next target point. I never really appreciated how big the hill was. Toward the end of a tiring battle against the wind this looked a tough climb.

Across the river and through what is a lovely area, even in the rain, where lots of cows had assembled. Not surprising really, they had the sense to drop low and shelter.

I have to say the climb up looking from Greator rocks looked worse than it actually was. OK, it wasn’t a stroll, but to my surprise, it wasn’t hugely difficult and it wasn’t long before I was at the top and exposed to yet more wind and rain.

At this point I was hugely tempted to follow my previous route and head over Black Hill and follow the road down back to Manaton. Where would the fun be in that? So, I took a bearing this time to ensure I headed off in the right direction, the rain blotted out most of any view of Haytor rocks.

Picked up the Templer Way and followed it to the car park skirting past the quarry on the right.

It was now a simple job of following the road back to Manaton. Because this was so simple and should cause no issues at all, I just followed the road. Concentration broken and a sharp moment of doubt threw itself at my brain!

Hang on I don’t remember that house (it was actually North Lodge), for a moment I went into a moment of serious doubt. I must be on the right road, there’s only one route in, but then, I don’t remember this. The map reference looked right but for some reason I couldn’t reconcile it.

 

I always say to myself, trust in the map and compass. I continued along the road trying to recognise the smallest details to convince my self I was right. It just seemed that Black Hill was so far round, but then I spotted a familiar land mark, a bridal path that eventually if taken would take you back to the river below Hole rock and a little further on a cattle grid.

Of course, I knew where I was!

Lesson, when you’re getting tired you need to concentrate and stay focused even more than normal, I will certainly remember North Lodge now that’s for sure.

From here it now was a simple task of following the road, albeit a sharp hill down that killed my knees and feet at this point. Over Beckaford bridge, through Freeland and on to Manaton.

 

Done, and I was!

Day two of the three-day consecutive walk. The weather was harsh but a taster of what Dartmoor has to offer and it felt like it had taken an age to complete. It wasn’t util I looked at the stats on the GPS I realised I had actually done really well. I drove home feeling damp but satisfied I had conquered!

Dartmoor 0 - Chris Bunney 2

Stats,

Total distance 32.5 km

Total trip time 9.5 hours duration

Average trip time 3.4 km per hour

Average moving speed 4 km per hour

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-31 Mon, 24 May 2021 16:55:24 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 30 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-30 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 18 – Chagford Loop

This was day one of three consecutive training walks as the next stage of testing if the body is able to cope with back-to-back walking days. OK, so I need to do fourteen in total but at least this was a start! Starting from and finishing at Chagford, this I think was going to be a tough test with some significant hills and slopes to climb. I was also aiming to walk a good thirty kilometres.

With the narrow streets of Chagford I decided, unusually for me, that I should park in the car park, and pay! £3 all day wasn’t that bad really.

Leaving the car park, I headed through the main street and down to the river Teign, a sharp hill which I wasn’t sure if it was worse walking down or up. Following the road around to the right and over a narrow and old looking bridge, it certainly wasn’t built for cars. Taking the next left the road suddenly took a very steep incline on the way to Murchington. In fact, there is a couple of really tough hills to reach it, a very small place that you soon walk through.

From there it’s a simple route to follow the road to Gidleigh, again while a really nice road/lane to walk it has some punishing hills to walk. At the top of the hill approaching Gidleigh continue past the turning on the right where the phone box is and look for a bridle path on the left.

This takes you into North Park and looking for Gidleigh Tor.

Be careful not to take the wrong right turn otherwise you’ll end up in a bit of private land, I’ve done it before and stumbled across an old Scimitar car. Haven’t seen one for a long time.

You should continue until to reach a clearing. There is a forestry route off left and a footpath just to the right (at about one o’clock), plus a wide path to your actual right. To reach the tor it’s the actual right turn and wide path you need. The footpath at approx. one o’clock as you approach is the one you’ll need to descend to the river.

Gidleigh tor I think is quite impressive as it looks over the valley and has some impressive views. It’s a reasonable distance up the path so don’t give up too early!

Backtrack to the footpath now on your right that takes you down through the woods to the river, keep going until you reach a footbridge. The bridge is very obvious so you shouldn’t miss it. It’s a nice spot and on this occasion the river was very full and flowing fast. From here I’m heading out onto the open moor to reach Scorhill tor.

It’s a steep climb out of the valley and I confess with the pack I did need to take a couple of mini breathers! At the top when reaching the road turn right and follow it all the way onto the moor. It seems a longish stretch but look out for a very impressive stone circle on your right before you reach Batworthy.

While the terrain is pretty easy to Batworthy corner and the North Teign river the ground was very wet and soggy which made it a little bit more awkward than usual. There’s plenty to investigate around this area, some very good stone rows, cairns, boundary stones, stone circles and clapper bridges. You could spend a fair bit of time here!

Anyway, being on a bit of a time mission I headed around the corner to Scorhill tor. It was getting a bit windy, not blustery but enough to need shelter to have a coffee stop.

The last time I was in this area I tried to follow the Wellabrook on the South side and found it totally impossible due to the saturated ground. This time expecting the same I tried the North side. I was really surprised, despite the rain it did seem possible to take a straight line route to Rippator (Rival) tor. Yeh, possible but quite slow going as I got further into the “level” it became very boggy and ended up tuft hopping. Another day it may have been fun but not today, next time I’ll stick to the path and take a sharp left as I get closer.

Now, on route to Watern tor there appears to be a choice of potential paths that take you in different directions. I ended up catching up a large group of guided led walkers that ultimately headed off toward Hound tor, should I follow or break off and take my own route?

We all filtered across Gartavan Ford and that’s where I decided to hang left. I wanted a positive marker so decided to head for the boundary stone. An easy one to spot in good visibility from which I took a sharp right down the hill to pick up a path that headed clearly to the river and up to Watern tor. I followed that one!

It’s another relatively easy route to the tor but it does mean you climb up the steep side, which is OK, just a bit steep!

I have also tried to take a direct line between Rippator and Watern, to see how possible it is if I had to navigate a straight line in the fog. My advice, don’t do it! It is very hard going, very boggy, you have to cross the Gallaven and Wella brooks and you could end up in real trouble if the weather is poor. It’s just not worth the risk in my view.

On approaching Watern tor you still need to cross the Wella Brook but there are a lot easier places to cross just below the tor and much safer too.

The wind was still an issue and with no one at the tor finding a sheltered spot for lunch wasn’t difficult.

Wild tor is not far away, just drop back down to the river and cross back in the same place, up a sharp bank and head across the open moor to Wild tor. There are some terrific views in this area, while the wind was blowing a bit the sun was out and it was perfect walking weather. Not wanting to hang around too long I started looking for Hound tor.

Now, things got a bit weird at this point. I should have been able to pick Hound tor out with ease, but I just couldn’t spot it. It’s a while I looked for it from Wild tor and expected to find a sizable tor. There’s one, I thought, so I started out for it. Then something stopped me in my tracks along the lines of, this just doesn’t fit!

There’s a hut on this tor and I remembered a discussion in the Facebook Dartmoor 365 group, Steeperton has a hut on it! Blimey, that’s a bit of an oversight. I still couldn’t see Hound tor, how odd. OK, map and compass out, bearing secured, direction set. This felt better and fitted with my overall direction that needed to go over Kennon Hill. Oh, and there was Hound tor, almost buried and hidden by the grass and earth. Really not that visible, I didn’t think, maybe it’s just me. But it does bring to the fore the need to be aware of your position, in this case and some may argue, I had an instinctive feeling I was heading in the wrong direction, went back the short distance and re-established my direction.

I was sort of glad to reach Hound tor and get that “blip” out of my system. I was going to continue to Little Hound tor but wondered if a straight line over Kennon Hill is possible. I’ve always walked round it in the past thinking it was way too boggy. It wouldn’t drop much of the route so decided to go over the hill.

Dropping off Hound tor I walked straight into a herd of cows, here we go, too late to change direction. All close together there was nothing else for it, pretend I was a farmer! With clapping hands and some weird noises, I managed to slot my way passed them.

It was surprisingly easy, wet, yes and spongy in places but not difficult. A longish walk to get to Throwleigh common, yes, but nothing difficult. I was happy with that and would make it easier on the actual challenge to take a straight line.

Shilston tor next and another coffee spot, I felt like I needed it! Still needing to get out of the wind I found a nice sheltered spot looking back toward Chagford, there was some fantastic views and I could have spent a long time just soaking it up. I also spotted where Ensworthy was, I’ve seen a lot of bluebell posts about it and now know where it is. Just thought I would mention that!

From Shilston tor it was a simple lane walk back to Chagford through some incredibly nice lanes and villages. Shilston, Throwleigh, Wonson, Providence Place, Blackaton Copse, Murchington and back through Chaford to the car park. Being sheltered from the wind in the lanes and the sun now out in full beam it was a really pleasant walk back to the car.

A very good day overall and a route I guess a lot of people have walked, although maybe not quite the extended one I completed?

Day two and three however would be very different if the weather forecast was to deliver on its promise!

 

Stats,

Total distance 32 km

Total trip time 10.5 hours duration

Average trip time 3.1 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.8 km per hour

 

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-30 Mon, 24 May 2021 16:30:36 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 29 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-29 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 17 – Hexworthy Loop

A parking spot next to the river opposite Huccaby house was todays start point. I was looking to walk roughly 30km to make up for yesterday’s shortfall!

To get warmed up and started I decided to follow the road into Dartmeet carpark to take the path around the contours of Yar tor. Weird thing of the day, a flipping peacock jumped off a fence and started parading in front of me. Not what you expect to see on the moor. Eventually I got passed and continued along the river, nice and easy despite being very wet.

After 30 minutes I thought, I had better get to the top of the hill to head to Sherwell. I’d left it late to gain height as I followed the wall up, it was steep and wet, it was a bit of a struggle. Why do I always make life difficult for myself?

What I hadn’t realised at the top, there was a gate marked as the footpath through the fields, always good to find something new. So, I followed that down to the stream to a footbridge leading to the road. Just as well I grabbed the rail. The wooden floor of the bridge was sopping wet and slippery like an ice rink. I almost went flying. That would have been the end of the walk before I really got started!

Anyway, onto the road and left to Babeny where the riding stables are. I could see someone practising what looked like dressage. It’s a surprisingly longish slope up to the access gate, so head down and tried not to stop.

From there it’s an easy path to follow down to the East Dart river where I was expecting to cross using the stepping stones. Now, at this point, rather stupidly I hadn’t really considered the stones may not be passable.

As I stood on the first stone I pondered for a while, could I actually make the steps, or more like jumps. I chickened out, with my sense of balance and the bag with the capacity to lurch and send me swimming I decided not to risk it. But then, surely, I could make the gaps? Back for another look, hmm, really not sure about this. The second and third stone were very pointy and would require stepping on and instantly jumping off to the flat fourth stone. It was the gap that got me thinking again, it was more than just a leg stretch. I then looked further across and saw the river rolling over two of the flatter stones two thirds in.

OK, after long deliberation, common sense hit me and I decided, being on my own, the risk was too great. Plan B required. Luckily Belliver bridge although it put some distance on to go up and back, it could have been worse. The bridge it is then.

Lunch on one of the picnic tables, there was no one else there when I sat down. Next stop Laughter tor. The rain was threatening all morning but stopped for a while so decided to continue without wearing water proofs. Less than 50 meters walked and then it tipped down, typical. On with the gear and set off up the path past Laughter Hole farm to the tor. A bit disappointing really, looks a bit flat and hidden into the side of the slope.

Round the corner was a totally different tor, Belliver tor, a mighty impressive one at that. If the weather had been better, I may have looked around. Time was also a factor and I needed to get moving. Following the path down in a Easterly direction and passing through the boundary wall I turned left to follow a path to the main road. Crossing this put me on the path to Powder Mills allowing me to take a straight line up to Ash tor.

From there, rather than drop back down to the path I took a straight line on top of the hill and headed for the corner of the boundary wall, a simple job of walking left along the wall to reach the gate on the path through the mills. Another location that will need more time for some decent images one day.

Through the fields of Powder Mills and out the other side. Following the path for about half of it I veered of left through the gorse to track through some open space taking me just to the right of Littaford tor. It looks very different from this angle of approach. A simple path to follow onto Crockern to and down to the road by Parson’s cottage.

I wasn’t sure if I could get through the wall further up the road to pick up the path to cross Muddylake, so a short piece of road walking to ensure I found the gate. I’ve always wondered how accessible it is to walk across Muddylake and today I was about to find out.

Despite the rain and the soggy ground, it was surprisingly easy to cross the expanse to reach the other main road to Dartmeet. A river close to the far end of the path was a final hurdle to overcome, the passing point should have been a small ford, but with all the rain it was rather full. Sometime wandering up and down to find a suitable crossing point and I was on my way.

Back a short distance on the road and across the cattle grid into Prince Hall hotel. The footpath through the grounds takes you down to the West Dart river, fortunately there is a substantial bridge across the river so no repeat of the East Dart stepping stones challenge. This is a beautiful spot, especially by the bridge, take a look one day.

Staying on the path through the gate onto the open moor again. Now here’s an interesting bit of detail. Coming from the direction explained and following the path you will eventually come to a crossroads of paths, with a wooden post stuck in the ground. Now I’m pretty sure looking at a GPS fix this is not where it is indicated on the map (I will revisit and confirm) so you have to be alert depending on the direction you wish to take. I know for a fact the path indicated on the map heading for the field system around the Swincombe intake is not where the path is on the ground! Just letting you know!

Anyway, following the track away from Prince Hall and continuing straight ahead will take you down to a path that looks like an old lane and onto the Swincombe river bridge. So, while the technical positioning may be in question you shouldn’t miss the river crossing by the bridge.

As you come off the bridge look for a way post ahead of you that takes you up over the hill and down back into Hexworthy. At the end of the day with tired legs and feet that last steep downhill road to Huccaby house is a real, well, bugger! Which is all forgotten when you reach the car.

 

With the varied terrain and diversion required I was happy to make just short of 30km, I had enough in the tank to do another few kilometre. More downtime this trip, I think mainly due to map reading and some extended chats around Belliver bridge. It would be rude to ignore people when they speak to you after all. It also sets out potentially the worse case scenario with regard to distance versus time.

As this was the second consecutive day, I felt pretty good and was happy to get the body through the next test. Next week, three consecutive days, need to ramp it up a bit!

 

Stats,

Total distance 28.5 km

Total trip time 9.7 hours duration

Average trip time 2.9 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.8 km per hour

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-29 Sun, 16 May 2021 18:53:33 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 28 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-28 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 16 – Another start from Manaton but this time taking in Lustleigh Cleave.

There are many ways you can enter the cleave but for my challenge purposes I only need to get to the tors so the easy road approach and entry via Foxworthy bridge. It was clear to see what an impact the last few days rain has had when you look over the bridge and seen how much higher the river levels are. A significant increase and faster flowing rivers.

Simply pick up the path and follow it through the cleave. Now depending on what you want to visit depends on which path you take. The main path that is sign posted to Hammerslake along the way, will take you through the very middle just above the river. To reach Sharp tor you can then turn left up the hill, which is about half way along the whole of the cleave.

However, about half way and where there was a sign post indicated straight ahead there was a path that went left and straight up the hill. Surely that would get me to Sharp tor quicker? I’ll need to investigate.

Well, it actually popped out just left of Harton’s Chest. This meant almost a kilometre to reach Sharp tor. It was still easier this route in then following the path all the way round!

There are also some amazing views across the valley to the moor opposite. At this time of year the blue bells look fantastic.

From Sharp tor to Hunter’s tor is nice and easy, just follow the track, just keep your wits about you as it is possible to wander off the track if you’re not paying attention. I did try to nail Raven’s tor from the path. It’s very tricky coming up from the river but just as difficult dropping down the path. This will be one of those tors under the “caveat” of safety, meaning get as close as possible.

From Hunter’s tor go through the gate and follow the sign posted footpath, it is very easy to drop down and back onto the road. They used to have pigs at Peck’s farm, must have gone to market as no sign of then on this trip!

As mentioned before there will be a reasonable amount of lane walking to connect some of the tors up so the next section involved just that. Not hugely exciting but does throw up the odd nice spot such as North Bovey by the river on the West side of the village. Despite the rain I found a bit of shelter and had lunch. I really need to start cutting lunch stop time down, getting a little too comfy sat down eating, sipping coffee and watching the world go by!

Lunch over and up the long steep hill to Canna Park. From here continue to follow the road to Jay’s grave. Got to say, this was a big piece of road to walk and because of that was a real challenge to stay focused just to keep walking, not a lot to occupy the mind!

More road until Hound tor car park and a quick water break.

Over the tor and down to Greator rocks. The weather was now starting to close in with the rocks coming and going in and out of sight with the mist.

The down to Becka Brook, with all the rain it wasn’t surprising to see the water running down the hill sides filling up every hole and divot in the path on its way to the river. The paths were already looking like rivers themselves; this is only the start of some water dropping back onto the moor!

From previous experience I know the climb up to Hole rock is a bit steepish, made a bit more challenging as I zig zagged up the hill to break up the steepness and avoid the building water runoff.

Made it to the top and at this point the mist had really dropped. Haytor rocks, nowhere to be seen, in fact I couldn’t see very much at all.


From Hole rock I was going to head toward the quarry, but this is where my sense of curiosity clipped a few kilometres off the total route distance. I spotted a wide path and without taking a bearing wasn’t sure where it actually went. I also have another confession, because I’m in an area where you can’t really get lost, I decided to just follow the path.


Now for some reason, I do this quite a bit when my curiosity is triggered, I just felt I should have been travelling further East so adjusted my direction. I recognised the area of trees I walked through from when I took my summer hill leaders exam and knew one of the paths in front of me led to the tramway and then the car park.

But I wasn’t going to take a bearing now, I just wandered along the path to see where it took me. Ultimately, I would hit the road below, so this would have been my safety check.

And so, it did, but not where I was originally planning.

In short, I had crossed over Black Hill and dropped down to the road close to the cattle grid. A quick check on the map and I was happy I was at the junction of the bridal path and the road. In fact, I had pretty much followed the dotted line indicated on the map over Black Hill. Something confirmed when I loaded and checked the route from the GPS, they have their uses!

 

From there, back on the road and all the way back to Manaton, all very straight forward with no issues surprisingly. There’s a couple of nice spots along the wat, Beckaford and New bridges are nice little coffee stops if you feel the need. Freeland is a nice little village that looks just like you would expect a Dartmoor village to look like, plus the pub.

 

This was day one of my first back-to-back walks and despite chopping off five kilometres from the original intention to hit 30 kilometres I felt good and could have continued so satisfied myself with the days walking.

 

Stats,

Total distance 25km

Total trip time 7.7 hours duration

Average trip time 3.2 km per hour

Average moving speed 5 km per hour

 

A good day and went home happy.

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-28 Sat, 15 May 2021 16:59:35 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 27 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-27 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 15 – Manaton Loop

Surely today had to be better than the previous Friday?

It proved to be a bit tricky to get a reasonable loop from Manaton so what I ended up with was a modest 25km.

I managed to get some of the route across the “moor” but a fair bit resulted in connecting these areas up by walking roads and lanes. This will also be very similar to the challenge as some of the tors are separated by private land.

So, off out of the car park and turn right along the first road heading toward Barracott, left toward Heatree Activity Centre. Nothing particularly difficult.

The follow the road down to Heathercombe. This is a lovely little spot with the road going straight through a section of The Two Moors Way. The last time I was there they were replacing the thatch roof, a great craft to watch as the roof is created out of rush! But make the most of any break as what comes next will test the best of legs.

The first target tor of the day was a revisit to King tor, but this means a long steep walk up the Heathercombe break. The wind was once again kicking off and would be around for the rest of the day. With a full-on head wind plus the stiff steep climb this was a tough ask. It was slow, tiring and my pace must have dropped the average by 50%. It was good training for sure.

On leaving King tor the wind was really picking up and the usual buffeting started. Just had to try and get into some sort of momentum and keep going. It was at that point I saw two people, what looked like, they were spending a lot of time looking at a map. I wondered if they needed any assistance so cautiously went across to ask if they were ok.

At that point I realised it was Robert Steemson and his work colleague Tim. Of course, they weren’t lost or needed help. They could probably give me a few lessons if anything. We had a great chat and catch up as we knew each other from DofE days when I used to do it. Doing some erosion surveys in the area I left them to it and headed off to Hookney tor.

From here it’s a simple task of following the path across to Shapley tor, another tor visited on another walk. Then back to Hookney, down into the valley and through Grimspound before facing that head wind up to Hameldown tor. This is a pretty good area for anyone new to the moor as there is a lot of interest in a small compact area.

On a very pleasant day the walk across Hemel Down would be very enjoyable, but that wind. It remains the key factor and impact of the day.

As you drop off the hill on the left as you hit the first section of boundary wall there is a track that leads to a gate with a marked footpath. This leads all the way down through the fields and into Widecombe. A short rest bite from the wind.

A short stop on the bench in the middle of the village and then to face that long steep road that takes you in line with Top tor. A left turn across the grass passed Bonehill rocks and across to Bell tor. There is a track, looks more like a sheep track but is clear and allows a straight line to be walked to Bell tor.

Chinkwell and Honeybag tors follow. For those not aware make sure you don’t short change yourself at Honeybag tor. When you think you have made it, continue a bit further, there is another outcrop a bit further on!

From Honeybag tor there are a number of tracks leading away to reach Houndtor Down, but don’t take the one that handrails the boundary wall, you’ll end up in a boggy mess! Once you reach the road turn left and over the cattle grid. A few meters further on the right there is a gate with a footpath leading across the field, take this and hang left to avoid walking on the road. Take some time to look back across the valley at Haytor in the distance and all the surrounding tors, a great view.

At the end of this path, you come back onto the open access land again with Greator rocks in front of you and Hound tor to your left.  Another great area to explore.

Just a simple job now of dropping down from Hound tor to the road and following it to Great Hound tor YHA and then onward and back to Manaton church car park. Remember to put you pound in their collection box for parking!

 

In terms of stats, I remained within my average tolerances. Average trip speed 3km per hour and average walking speed of 4.7km per hour. Considering the wind and some of the hills I faced on the route I’m pretty pleased with that. It was a hard nine hours to get 25km, this meant the wind had probably added in more stopping time. I guess to get the full 30km in for the day I could have kept going for another hour.

 

All in all, a satisfactory walk.

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-27 Wed, 12 May 2021 21:18:29 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 26 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-26 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 14 – Brisworthy Plantation Loop

Gearing up for today’s walk was met by the military piling out of their trucks to do some navigation and fighting play in the car park. It also crossed my mind this was the thirteenth walk with any decent weight on my back. Hopefully it won’t be unlucky thirteen!

This was always going to be a tough walk today, basically because of the terrain I had selected to walk, largely to make up around 32km trip distance. Crane Hill, Ducks Pool, Ter Hill, Nakers Hill, the last as it turned out was very aptly named.

So, off I walked heading for the first target tor, Legis tor via the stone circle above Brisworthy farm. Not sure if this has ever been reinstated but it looks a very clear and good example of a stone circle, and it’s pretty big too. Down to Legis Lake and over at the ford where the cows clearly pass regularly based on the churned-up ground either side of the ford. Legis tor is then just a short climb up the hill. I have to say, I never realised how quickly you could get to Legis tor as until I started mapping these training walks, I have never approached it from Brisworthy plantation. It’s also a great area to explore.

Gutter tor next following the well-marked path that is visible between Legis tor and the trig point on top of the hill. It’s a reasonable distance and has a small sharp hill just before you pop out onto the top at the trig point. Gutter tor is a short hop over the style. Cows are starting to suddenly appear along the routes recently and this was no exception. About half way a herd split across the path with one rather large cow that had decided to plonk itself smack bang across the width of the path. Somehow, they always look so much bigger when sat down!

At this point and not sure why, the predicted slow start wasn’t shifting. Everything was an effort and getting momentum was proving to be really difficult. I wasn’t going to carve out any extra distance to get around this brute! In a slightly grumpy mood, I decided to head right for it and take my chances. The herd did what it does, stand up and stare at you as the cow in the path eyeballed me as if to challenge my nerve.

Here's a pic of one earlier in the walk but just as big!

To be honest I don’t think either of us give a damn, I got closer and the herd carried on grazing, the cow on the path just looked at me and I walked past within inches. What is the problem with cows I grunted to myself as I carried on toward the trig point?

Gutter tor hadn’t change since my last visit and was quickly left behind as I dropped down the other side and headed to Ditsworthy house. Still feeling like I should have stayed in bed I sat on a rock in the morning sun for the first coffee break hoping it would snap me out of this strange mood I was stuck in! Oh brother, I have the water but where’s the coffee. That did nothing for the mood!

Desperately trying to stay positive I focused on the next leg, up to Eastern tor and follow the path through Drizzle Combe and up to the Eylesbarrow tin mine remains. Followed the path to Plym Ford and then up onto the anticipated long, slow and challenging open moor.

Now, from a terrain point of view one explanation covers the whole area really. Lots of tufty grass heads, lots of holes between them (I found a lot of those with my feet), no paths to follow, no cattle tracks to follow, very spongy ground with surprisingly some still very wet areas in places and almost nothing to navigate between. Why did I choose this? it was definitely going to test both the physical and mental resolve today, particularly as the day became more and more stubborn and was just not going to turn into the positive day like the previous walk. I guess I need to prepare myself for tough days, I’m bound to get some, maybe that’s why I chose to test myself in emptiness!

The route across this open land, Plym ford to Gnats Head, I’ve been here before and went for this as a positive bearing point to Ducks Pool. A good chance to test the navigation skills. Anything over a few kilometres is always a challenge to hit a target within a meter or so. Pacing and the compass landed me on the right-hand side of the “pool” and half way along the length of it. I was happy with that although I always ask myself would I have missed it in the fog? On this occasion possibly not. Plym head was next, I always find this a bit tricky as it’s difficult to pin point precisely the head on the ground to that marked on the map for purposes of taking the next bearing.

Everything still looked very dry and I needed to walk around the perimeter of the pool to get my next bearing fix from the William Crossing memorial stone. I wonder, it does look incredibly dry, and there did appear to be a track of sorts across the middle. I’m never likely to get another chance, lets walk right across the middle! It was spongy and a bit wet in the middle, but I made it, a very rare occasion that perhaps not many can say they have done.

Next the marker post at Black Lane. In bad weather this approach would have been a complete disaster, however as visibility was very good and I couldn’t be absolute on my position at the Plym head I decided to take a bearing and expect to deviate up to one hundred meters South from the post. I knew that as I approached, I would be able to sight it. As I picked my way across the terrain my pacing took me within the expected tolerance and sure enough it was easily visible. So, based on the decision I guess I could say that was a result! Another day would definitely mean a more precise approach.

Back to Crane Hill and from there I was going to visit Fox tor. Taking into account the way the day was going and I didn’t need to get there as the overall planned route I decided to stop at the girt and then head back up to Caters Beam, across Naker Hill to the highest point and then back to the cross on Ter Hill.

For some reason I decided at the top of the hill to see if my instinctive sense of direction had any value, doesn’t normally! I set the map out and picked what I thought should take a straight line to the cross closest to Ter hill highest point. At this point I was wandering around where I felt like it to some extent so couldn’t pace anything out without a precise point on the map. Rest assured everyone. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone or try it in any other weather conditions than perfect visibility.

After about twenty minutes I was beginning to wonder just how good an idea this was. Undeterred I continued to trust in my sense of direction. Minutes later up popped the top of a cross, clearing the top of the hill there it was, the cross. Absolutely brilliant I thought as I congratulated myself, that was to be the best part of the day!

By now I really had more than enough on the open moor, it was time to get off this torture, I mean challenge! Time to head for the Swincombe footbridge. My original route was to just drop straight down the hill to the road and onto the bridge. I was too tempted to what looked like a farmer’s quad bike track following the contour that passed over the top of Deep Swincombe. Of course, that meant I entered into the settlement area and a couple of fields to navigate. This wouldn’t normally be an issue but feeling tired now, crashing through the gorse and over the styles just seemed like unnecessary effort. The good news though, it brought me out right at the bridge. At last, six hours in and I should be able to make up some time on what should be easier terrain on the journey back to the car. Ah the car, for a second, I wished I had parked it closer!

A quick water break, ok don’t remind me I forgot the coffee. I was still annoyed at that small oversight.

Whiteworks and Nuns cross, a long but pleasant walk over the hills on a very easy to follow path, what could be easier. I guess when you’re having a “bad” day everything is amplified, I was for the first time really beginning to hurt, it felt like someone was pulling on my bag, the strength in my legs were deserting me, I was slowing down. I kept repeating, just one foot in front of the other, as long as I do that I’ll get there!

At last, Whiteworks came into sight as I went over the last hill. It also seemed to be quite wet around the Strane river area. Last time I was here it was very difficult to get through the very boggy area, thank goodness today was dry. Up the road, over the hill to Nuns Cross and for my last stop. It was actually nice out of the breeze and in the evening sun. I allowed myself ten minutes to try and recover a bit before the last push to the car. Lying on the ground I could have easily lost myself in thought for an hour. But I just wanted to get this done now. From the cross following the boundary stones up the hill to Eyelsbarrow and from there following the, I assume boundary stones all the way back to the Scout hut.

A farmer passed a couple of times on his quad bike checking on the cattle I guess, he looked across and acknowledged, what I would have given for a lift down the hill. But of course, I couldn’t and didn’t. Not that he would have done unless I was in serious need.

I had planned to follow the road back to Ringmore cottage, but tarmac, hmm, that really wasn’t going to help the feet. I took a path I’ve not used before to the right of Gutter tor. It’s one of many that criss cross that area. This one basically took a diagonal close to Nattor over the hill back to the plantation. I was happy to take that corner off today.

The cows were on the move again, I was still in no mood to go round them. This time it was the cows who scattered as I walked right through the middle of them, nothing was going to add any distance between me and the car.

Plantation in sight, what a sight for sore eyes, the sense of finishing for only the second time lifted the spirits. Through the gate and a whole lad of lambs jumping about, I stood a watched for a minute and then finished off walking down to the car.

Made it!

 

This had been a tough day. The good news was I kept going (I had to of course) and much to my surprise when I checked the GPS I had walked 32.5km in ten and a half hours with an average trip speed of 33.1km per hour and a walking average speed of 4.7km per hour.

Considering how tough the day had felt plus the terrain I was pretty happy with this, maybe it wasn’t quite so bad after all. Maybe it’s all about getting the head right. Plenty to take away and consider as I pan the next walk.

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-26 Sat, 08 May 2021 13:45:48 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 25 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-25 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 13 – Meldon Reservoir Loop

What on earth made me think I could park for free at a “hotspot” location on the moor? What was I thinking? It was too late of course to change my mind. I would have lost far too much time finding somewhere else. £2 for all day, well to be fair that’s pretty damn reasonable, as a fumbled through the car trying to find any cash at all. It may seem odd to most but because of Covid I haven’t used cash for over a year or at this point been in a shop so the idea of using money was a bit of a shocker.

Found some, the only and last £2 I had. What a relief!

Positioning myself to pick up the path to cross the footbridge was the first obstacle, the gate was padlocked. I later found out why, the footbridge apparently had been vandalised. What does go through people’s heads when they do stuff like that?

Right, over the damn and follow a path that eventually picked up the path that would have come across the footbridge. I needed to get to the top of the hill on Black Down 436 meters up in just over a distance of one kilometre, I make that almost a 1 in 2 climb! So early in the walk and not really warmed up I can tell you it felt like a 1 in 2 hill!

Looking across to my right I could see Yes tor towering above me despite already being pretty high up. I was visiting Yes tor but the route I planned meant I had a lot to do before I looped back around.

As I was so close, I decided to revisit “Bracken tor”, that disputed area with allegedly no tor. So, I went and claimed it. Just like an old-fashioned prospector! So, if anyone decides there is a tor there, I can say I found and labelled it first. It was also time for an early coffee, just to let the body recover after that strenuous start.

Row tor and West Mill tor next. The sun was out but the wind was picking up and it still had a very cold nip to it. Luckily nothing like as bad as Monday. Having said that there appeared to be a ring of rain clouds circling that threatened to dump some rain. It did try for about five minutes and fell as hail momentarily suggesting it was still cold. I decided to see if this would die out and left the waterproofs in the bag this time. It came to nothing. Row tor was easily bagged along with West Mill with a little more effort climbing the steeper side. As with many of the tors in this area most of them give some incredible views. I tried to grab some phone shots as I went, I couldn’t waste too much time if I was to cover 32 kilometres.

On a previous walk I thought I had been to Steeperton tor but looking across to my next tor I realised it was East Mill tor I had visited. A simple job of walking down to one of the military paths to the ford bridge and up the side to East Mill tor. Which, has three outcrops across a rounded hill. Of course, I went to the highest point on the middle.

The wind was cold and breezy so decided to drop to lower ground for lunch before I headed off for Yes tor. I decided to go for the direct route and avoid back tracking on the paths and then swinging round between Yes tor and High Willheys. It may have been quicker but it was a good old climb. It also crossed terrain that looked like it would get very wet eventually with some potential boggy areas.

Not sure if the wind had picked up a bit more or if I was just higher but it was starting to gust a bit so headed across to High Willheys. Considering this is the highest point on the moor it was almost disappointing how easy it was to get there.

These tors always had a strange fear as the “Big North Dartmoor”, but actually I was beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about. I can se why so many people love to go there.

The next visit was Dinger tor and again due to the good visibility an easy one to head for. Strangely, there didn’t seem to be any easy identifiable track leading to it so ended up tuft hopping most of the way. Again, another area that once the wet returns could be quite tricky to negotiate what I would expect to become some large boggy areas.

My next tor just happened to be the last tor on the OS map that I have never visited so this was going to be quite a big moment in some ways. I was looking for Lints tor and initially nothing really stuck out. I had in my mind this was a big tor on a big hill, no idea why. So, there was only one thig to do, take a bearing of course!

There it was, almost camouflaged against the backdrop of the West Okement river and its deep cutting valley. It looked sort of small really. I did however need a river crossing, one that fed into the West Okement. This also meant it dropped relatively steeply before crossing the water and then back up the other side. Hitting it head on would be a struggle.

Wandering down carefully navigating around a herd of cows it was clear this area would get incredibly wet and still was in some areas despite the incredible dry spell we were enjoying. The river or stream fortunately was easy to get across. Up an initially very steep twenty-five meters and then follow a path. Remember my rule, find a track and follow the pooh, well I did and it took me round the contour and gradually up the hill around the back of the tor. This was all together much more manageable than the steep head on attack idea.

As my final tor to “bag” it was a relatively small tor but it has some very odd shapes to it, which, I think made it a worthy tor to tackle and visit to compete every tor on the moor.

It was the perfect place to stop for a coffee, over looking the valley and just taking in the view, and what a view. It included a free seat to watch the farmers herding up the cows the old traditional way on horseback. I think one of them was curious why I was sat there just watching as he rode up to me to say hello! Apparently, there were two bullocks in the herd that shouldn’t have been on the moor so they had to get the lot back to the farm, separate them out and then take the rest back out on the moor. Good luck with that I thought!


Coffee, relaxation and entertainment completed it was time to drop down from Lints tor cross the stream and head across the side of the valley beneath High Willheys and Yes tor to reach Black tor. The dry ground once again making this a lot easier. When I come to do this on my challenge, I can put money on it that this walk across the valley side will not be as dry or as easy.

I hadn’t realised on previous visits how big and spread-out Black tor was. There are some great rock forms and it has some fantastic views across, up and down the valley. I could spend a lot of time there with my camera. But, the camera on the phone will have to do!


The next challenge is to see how far around I need to go just in case I can’t cross the West Okement river below Black tor and the small nature reserve area. I have crossed before so it is possible but as always weather may dictate. Walking across the contour I was looking for an easy way down, well, that clearly didn’t exist so a slow careful drop down a pretty steep valley side until I hit the track leading to the footbridge. With any rule of thumb, if you walk down into a valley the chances are you’ll need to walk up out of it. Boy, did that apply here! Another one hundred meter plus climb in less than two hundred meters distance. A short sharp leg sapping climb to Shelstone tor, at least it was all done in ten minutes.

Just the long slow climb back to revisit Sourton tors, drop right to pick up the bridal path and the road back into the car park. I did succumb to the view and took a last short break to take on some water while I watched the ponies with their fouls wander around the area. They couldn’t have been more than a couple of days old. A gentle breeze, the evening sun and some scenery to die for. Magical.

 

Overall, I think this could go down as one of my best training days so far. Just over 32km in ten hours with an average trip time of 3.3km per hour and walking speed average of 4.7km per hour.

As this was over some tough hills and picking my way through some open moorland, I was really happy with this. Plus, the fact I felt pretty good when I got back to the car. Let’s hope for some more days like this!

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-25 Sat, 08 May 2021 13:04:10 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 24 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-24 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 12 – Lydford Loop

Well, the weather was definitely in for a change today, wind and rain in the forecast so let’s see just how accurate it will be.

Based on the weather report I decided to split the walk into two sections, one across the open moor and the second back along the Granite Way. Largely to try and get some cover against the rain before it arrived.

I usually park in the layby just by the Dartmoor Inn pub and opposite a farm shop. Only this time I was too late and beaten by a camper van. Next best option was drive in toward Lydford where I found a layby just by the start of the Granite Way.

All bagged up and full water proofs as the weather looked like it may deliver the rain very early, I headed back up the road toward the moor. The wind was already very noticeable. Up the footpath, through the car park and across the ford ready to face the steep hill up to Brat tor.

Looked like the weather forecast was going to be accurate unfortunately. As I headed up the short and sharp side of Brat tor the wind started to have its fun. Swirling around it took me and my bag to the left, to the right, stopped me with a head on wind but never gave me the advantage of a tail wind to get up the hill.

It was hard enough getting up the hill with the bag weight but the wind was making this a real effort. With at least four “mini” stops to take a breath I finally made it to the top. Only I couldn’t stand there long as the wind was gusting so hard, I probably would have been blown back down again. Just about kept still long enough to take a snap shot on the phone.

As Arms tor was just across the way and approached by a well-defined path, I added that one in before I headed off to Little Links tor and up to Great Links tor. This walk was no doubt going to be all about the wind. The amount of effort expended to reach Great Links tor was just ridiculous. Even my trusty legs were finding it difficult.

Time for an early coffee stop, I surely must deserve that after such a struggle to reach the top. No one in sight, that is apart from one other person coming toward me. Turns out it was a chap called Tim from the North Dartmoor team, had a nice chat before he had to move on. Pity we didn’t have more time to chat, would have been really interesting.

The Dunna Goat tors and Bleak House normally wouldn’t give any trouble at all reaching them but this wind, side wind, head wind, side wind, head wind, you get the idea. It was swirling and gusting all over the place. In fact, so much was it gusting I decided to implement my own made up three pace rule. That is, with this kind of wind my feet could land anywhere within three paces of where I expected to plant my foot in any direction so I needed to scan the immediate area to ensure I didn’t end up in a hole or falling over any rocks.

Green tor wasn’t too difficult to walk up the small distance of the hill and then onto Kitty tor. The decision to keep all the water proof gear on was a good one as the wind apart from its strength was very nippy so the extra layer was helping me stay warm. The grey clouds weren’t just drifting, they were racing by and while it still hadn’t actually rained it looked like it could at any time.

More buffeting from side to side and leaning left and right at forty-five degrees into the wind wasn’t the most efficient walking style, but it was the only way I prevent myself from being blown over.

The ground to Kitty tor was full and covered of dried out bog material and like many parts of the moor is just waiting for the rain to drop and soak it all in. That would make walking this section very different, very wet and very boggy. I dare say my next visit here will be very different.

Hunt tor next. The last time I went between Kitty tor and Hunt tor I did it in reverse and a track to reach Kitty tor is very visible and relatively easy to follow and walk. However looking back toward Hunt tor it’s not that obvious. I also noticed a track marked by wooden posts and not having followed these before decided to see where they would take me.

Turns out, it’s an easy track to follow and maybe easier than going across the grass tufts. Slight down side, it puts on a bit more distance as it adds in a right angle to the original track I walked previously. I think if there was any fog it would also be a good bet as the posts would help keep you on the track.

There is a section where it clearly gets incredibly boggy as there are a number of wooden flat bridges laid out. As I got to the middle of them there was still a big expanse of boggy area full of water and it looked pretty deep so no hanging around there with the wind. Would not want to end up being blown of the bridge and into the water at any cost.

This led me out onto a gravel path with Hunt tor on my right, a bit further down this path a right turn, picking my way through some tufts and I was arriving at Hunt tor. Now to find a sheltered spot amongst the rocks to have some lunch. I’ve been here before on a less windy day and knew just the spot!

Dropping down from Hunt tor heading back toward the gravel path you have to pass Gren, nice to have an easy tor to bag. The wind was still gusting and blowing very hard so despite my hatred for gravel and stony paths I was actually glad to get onto a path with some space around it. Didn’t stop me from being blown all over the pace but it was easier to manage where I put my feet!

Stourton tors were now in my sights but if I thought the wind was harsh now, I had a surprise waiting for me at the top!

Apart from Corn Ridge it was the highest and most exposed part in the area and boy did it cop the wind. I reached the top and as I walked between the two highest outcrops the wind hit me smack in the face. It was enough to take my breath away and sent me spinning, jumping and balancing on the clitter around me to avoid going flat on my face. I must have looked a right plonker!

Priority was to get out of the clitter, just in case I did go over. The wind here felt like double the strength to everywhere else. Then it happened, another gust grabbed my bag, spun me sideways and I was over, luckily onto the softer grass, which I had taken into account and prepared for!

The real serious point though, is you really have to concentrate and predict your next potential move or error to avoid what could have been a nasty accident. I was lucky, I made a good choice to get to the grass area but took my eye off the ball. Another lesson and note to self.

Walking down the hill wasn’t much easier, strange that you may think. Sometimes you can go too fast and the wind now behind me was literally pushing me down the hill into a run and I was really struggling to stop. I’m not sure if I was laughing so much because it was just crazy or hysterical laughter because I almost lost control! I decided to go to ground for a few minutes and wait for a break in the gusts and make a dash for the lower path and into a bridal path sheltered both sides by boundary field walls.

A little better but this was now like a wind tunnel. There was just no escaping this dreadful wind.

Finally, some rest bite, the cover was starting to protect from the wind but then the rain started. At the road junction at the end of the path and the road to the reservoir car park there was an access point to the Granite Way. At least one part of the plan worked, reached the Granite Way before it rained!

 

From here there isn’t much to interest any reader really. It was a long way back to Lydford, it rained and rained all the way back, in the wider sections the wind still tried to dictate which direction I walked and the creaking and snapping sounds of the trees sounded like something was going to drop at any point.

It was a very long walk back and I felt every meter of it!

It was good to reach the car eventually and it was, believe it or not, a very good training walk to tackle weather other than dry, cold and sunny. Plus, much to my surprise, having walked just shy of twenty-four kilometres my average trip speed was 3.5km per hour with a walking speed of 5.1km per hour in just under seven hours. That made up for being blown to bits and very wet and soggy!

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-24 Thu, 06 May 2021 20:15:11 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 23 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-23 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 11 – Yelverton Rock Loop

Roughly half of this loop was going to take in a section of my challenge walk, the other half made up to complete a circular walk back to the car.

Starting point, Roborough Rock at Yelverton. The expectation is this should be roughly 30km and take my usual 10 hours to complete.

As with a few sections of the challenge it will involve tracks and road to navigate around private land and fields. Sometimes there is just no other way to get around to the target points.

First up would be Chub Tor, or at least as close to it as I could get. One caveat during the challenge is there are roughly a dozen tors on private land and it will not be possible to get right on top of them. So, the longest and closest route around them has been planned. Sort of compensating for not being able to access them by adding some distance to make me feel better!

Crossing the road from Roborough Rock and over a footbridge brings you immediately onto the West Devon Way. A few hundred meters and a left downward turn toward Elford Town Farm sets you up for a long and easy walk all the way down to Hoo Meavey.

Nothing difficult here, you think, but for kissing gates at two points along the path. Make sure your bag is not too “fat” as you’ll never get around the space provided! It’s a good job one of the bars were missing so my tent fitted nicely into the gap while I breathed in and just squeezed through the swinging gate!

It’s also not far before you reach the point at which access to Chub Tor appears, but you need to know what you are looking for. You need to be aware this is on private land, which also means I can’t actually get on this tor to bag it. So, respecting the fact it’s on private land a snap of the access point and time to move on.

Callisham tor next, after a fairly long steep hill up from Hoo Meavey follow the road left and look for a footpath taking you across the fields to Callisham tor. Again, not difficult to get to however, another tor inaccessible to climb as it is fenced off. Clearly due to safety reasons as this is what looks like an old quarry site and not a good idea to start crawling all over it!

Still being forced to follow the roads it’s a straight forward walk to Ringmore cottage, down into Sheepstor village and follow the footpath up to the top of Sheeps tor. Once on the path on the West side you have a choice, you can walk around the foot of the tor and approach from the long but less steep slope on the East side or you can attack it from the West and head straight up the hill. It’s a lot quicker but takes some effort to climb it in my view.

Apart from that getting to the top there are very few issues to contend with. Once at the top, take some time to take in the views. They are quite literally stunning.

After nosing around for a while, drop down the West side and follow the leat to the “scout hut”. At this point the sky went very grey and the temperature suddenly dropped. I could feel the change in temperature on my face as the hail started to pour down. Just a brief shower or will it last? I carried on and eventually decided I was getting too wet and went for the full water proofs. Yep, you guessed it, 5 minutes later it was all over. Despite that it still looked threatening over the hill so kept them on and kept walking toward Eylesbarrow.

Now why I have never noticed this before I don’t know as I trudged up one of those flipping horrible stony paths again. On the left a set of boundary stones or water board markers, nothing marked on the map so assume the latter. Anyway, there was a clear line of a path, or clearing between the grass and gorse all the way up following the stones. Brilliant, this makes walking a whole lot more comfortable.

So far, all very straight forward and simple to follow and nothing too exciting to mention. Well, at the top as I prepared to head down and across to Down tor via the stone row it did decide to throw another weather wobbly with another session of hail stones. More prolonged this time so I was glad I kept the water proofs on. It all felt very weird with a strange sort of colour to the sky, the hail settling on the ground, the temperature dropping. It almost, dare I say, felt a little bit like Christmas!!

The next leg was also pretty straight forward. A bearing to the right of the girt and follow the tracks to the stone row and onward to Down tor.

Everything was going pretty well, bag weight was manageable, feet or rather the heels were holding up and the legs were feeling very strong at this point.

Oh, did I mention the cows?

So far, I have hardly seen many cows during walks and training walks but in the last two trips I’ve had to negotiate them. This time about thirty all on the move like a migrating herd of Wilderbeast. The younger ones jumping and frolicking about which is for me at least a sign to keep an eye on them!

We both had the same target point it seemed and they were moving quickly as I took a slightly wide birth and speeding up to try and get to the stone row before them.

All good as they seemed not to notice me and then almost like an alarm bell went off, they all stopped looked up at me and just stood there starring. Then starting moving on mass toward me, hmm, what to do?

Keep walking I thought, so I did and managed to get ahead by roughly a hundred meters. Past the stone row as they seemed to be speeding up behind me. Ah stop panicking I told myself, it’s only a herd of cows for goodness sake, I cautiously turned my back on them and quickly went down the hill to Down tor.

Looking back, they clearly were happy getting past the stone row to eat the grass between Down tor and Combshead tor as that’s where they stayed. Like I said, what’s the problem!

I’m now heading down to Norsworthy bridge car park where I stopped for coffee sat on the floor. I got some strange looks by people driving by. There was no one there surprisingly as the now rain continued to fall. Then up the stone and gravel path past Leather tor bridge and all the way out to a left turn past the cross and up to Devonport leat. The progress continued to be good with no issues as I dropped down the steep side of Raddick Hill following the aqueduct up the other side swinging left and skirting the Stanlake plantation to reach Sharpitor.

At this point the distance and weight started to show signs of impact. Walking up to Sharpitor and across to Peek Hill I suddenly started to feel tired. At this point I must have been walking around eight hours so roughly twenty-five kilometres. I guess I was entitled to feel a little jaded so Peek Hill would be my last coffee stop before the finish. It was a great place to sip coffee and look out over Burrator. With the light dripping across the landscape, it looked fantastic. It would have made the perfect finish to the day. But no, I had parked at Yelverton!

Dropping down to the road wrapping around Burrator was a simple task of hanging right and handrailing the wall down the slope and then following the road to the dam itself. From here just past the old toilet block take a left down the footpath. Instead of going straight ahead turn back on yourself and follow the path as it winds down to a lower path. This is the one to follow all the way to Meavy, with the occasional jumping and ducking over and under fallen trees across the path.

Walking through Meavy it was great to see the pub with some life as people were sat outside enjoying the end of the sunny day sipping their drinks.

 

Now just the simple job of walking from Meavy to Yelverton to pick up the car. Now, I’ve driven this road countless times and I’ve never really noticed how long this road actually is. I had also overlooked the fact that it drops a fair height down to a river and then up the other side. It was, at the end of the day, a bit of a final challenge to keep focused and moving as the last push to get up the hill and into Yelverton and finish the last few hundred meters across Roborough Down to the waiting car.

 

The good thing at least, I had covered a total of 34km over ten hours with an average trip speed of 3.3km per hour and an average walking speed of 4.9km per hour. I was tired I can’t deny and ready to get home but with the satisfaction I had probably clocked up my best training distance versus time so far.

I was happy!

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-23 Tue, 04 May 2021 15:22:35 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 22 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-22 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

 

Training day 10 – Cadover Bridge Loop

This walk should be a relatively straight forward walk and more about endurance than anything else. It does have an area with five tors in it, which are all reasonably close to each other but beyond that there is plenty of distance to cover to the next ones.

From Cadover Bridge I came out of the car park and headed toward the bridge. Just before it I turned up the road and continued until reaching a footpath sign directing you through the clay pits. This ultimately takes you to Hawkes’s tor. It’s an easy walk on tarmac to the path and turns into pretty much a clay/gravel path. On the challenge day I’ll be approaching from Shaugh Prior so won’t be taking this part of the walk.

Hawkes’s tor is small but looks good looking up at it from the hill below, it also has some pretty good views down toward the Shaugh bridge direction.

From here a simple path takes you to Collard tor, this is not so impressive and really looks nothing more than a pile of rocks. I sometimes wonder how this is marked on the map with much more impressive ones being left off!

 

Now on the challenge itself, to get some to some of the tors there is the need to walk on connecting roads to pick up a path or moor access point to visit them. Blackalder is one such tor, so following the road out of Lee Moor keep going until you reach a bus shelter and then shoot up the hill to your left, back on yourself on the track and it sits directly above you on your right. A great outcrop but it is covered by trees so not a huge view from here.

Back down to the road and continue to follow until you pass Whitehill tor on the right. There is a path that takes you below it if you want to explore all the way round it but there is plenty of access to it from the road side. This gives great views over the clay pit workings if that’s your sort of scenery!

Back onto the road and not far on the right is a footpath leading you across the fields up to Crownhill tor. Apart from the views, this in my view is not very interesting. From the front it looks ok but the back of the tor disappears into the hill.

Depending when you visit Crownhill tor you may need encounter a field of cows and sheep. Now sheep will never cause an issue, they’re quite happy running away from you. However, having read a few articles on cows chasing people I suddenly became a little more aware of my surroundings. A herd of “black” cows and a heard of Belted Galloways. If I was to get to Crownhill tor, I would need to walk through this lot twice, there and back!

Not normally worried by them my mind did slightly change when the nearest cow suddenly stood up, ears pricked forward in a very bolt upright position. Yep, looked like it may just want to have some fun at my expense. What made it worse is every other cow in turn started to stand up and started to walk rather briskly toward me.

I started walking a lot quicker, just in case you understand. That’s when the Belted Galloways decided to join in. Blimey, it seemed like the whole lot of them were interested in tagging on behind me. I did check my bag later just to see if I had a sign on it saying follow me!

Made it to the gate and promptly shut it behind me as they started to lose interest. Getting back was just as interesting although they had dispersed a bit and didn’t show quite the same level of interest, much to my relief.

Apart from that it was an easy tor to visit!

Now for a bit of a long walk. Back at the road and crossing over there is a footpath that runs parallel with the road through some woodland taking you to a car park at Heathfield Down. It is actually a very pleasant walk and saves walking on the road which is what I thought I needed to do, so a good find, I think. It is also part of a long stretch to Rook tor.

Following the road up through Roberts Brake and on through the bridal path up to West Rook Gate. It’s a steepish hill and with a full bag I did make a couple of “mini” stops until I reached the gate to stop for lunch before the next climb to Penn Beacon. I’ve done this before and a direct line walk up I think is pretty steep.

It didn’t disappoint, the wind had picked up again and blowing in from the right, it was more frustrating really as it caught the bag throwing me off balance several times as I put my head down to make the climb up the hill.

At this point at the top of Penn Beacon the wind was strong again and it felt very chilly so not hanging around I continued along a very visible path to Shell Top. From there I continued to the next trig point.

I have to say that while nothing extraordinary happened and navigationally there were no challenges between Crownhill tor and the trig point beyond Shell Top, it was a very long walk without bagging much in the way of tors.

On the challenge I may actually be thankful of that!

For those familiar with the area, you will be very aware there isn’t anything too difficult to drop down to Hen tor and across to the two Trowlesworthy tors. What I did notice was how spongy every was in that area. Not sopping wet but dried out bog material, which when it gets wet will provide a considerable challenge to pick a route through what would be tuft grass, bracken and some extensive boggy areas. The whole area was just waiting for the rain to deliver that challenge to any unsuspecting walker.

However, on this walk nothing more than hopping through the grass and over a couple of very low streams, Hentor Brook and Spanish Lakes.

All that remained now was to take a route back to Trowlesworthy house over the footbridge of the leat and follow the road back to the car park.

It was a mixed day on how I was doing really. I had a really good start and covered some good distance in some good time, which made me feel really good. Then the climb from the road up the hill past Rook tor, Shell Top to the trig seemed to take it out of me, almost like the moor was letting me know I’m not going to get this all my own way! The last section back to the car just seemed, well, I nearly said boring, but I guess more like just a plod!

There are a number of days that will be very similar to this walk, so it was a good walk to help decide how I’ll need to set my head to overcome some very long walking spells of “just plodding” and stepping out the distance.

That said I went a bit further than expected with a little detour along the way and covered 24.7 km with an average trip speed of 3.5 km per hour including stops and an average walking speed of 4.7 km per hour.

So, in hindsight I guess I did better than I thought with walking times just above my current averages. But it didn’t feel like it overall!

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-22 Thu, 29 Apr 2021 19:28:14 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 21 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-21 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

 

Training day 9 – Harford Church Loop

This was going to be an interesting walk for two reasons. The first because the terrain wasn’t going to be too difficult but it involved a couple of stretches that were long and likely to test my staying power. The second because one section was across a piece of the moor that I hadn’t really navigated in any detail.

 

Today’s starting point was Harford church which meant the first job was to walk up the hill to get on the moor, then a simple job of following the track up to a path just below the two moors way. On any other day this probably would have been relatively straight forward, a case of head down and stomping up the hill. Only today Dartmoor decided to throw one of its elements straight in my face, what felt like 30 to 40 mph gusting winds.

It seemed it was blowing right down the hill. From the moment I got out the car it felt chilly and extremely windy making the walk up the hill hugely more difficult and time consuming then it should have been.

Hunched forward at 45 degrees I slowly, step by step made my way to the top. It must have been bad as the cyclist that set off just before me seemed to be going slower than me! Plus, a runner ahead looked like they were on a tread mill and going nowhere!

It wasn’t much better taking a 90 degree turn left toward Sharp tor, I could feel the wind taking my bag from left to right and forcing me to adjust my pacing to avoid being blown over.


 

Passed Piles Hill and onward to Sharp tor, this took far too much time and energy. I was glad to make it to Sharp tor and decided I had earned an early coffee stop. Just needed to find somewhere out of the wind!

Bagged up and ready to continue I headed East toward Ball Gate. All I had to do was make sure I stayed between the Glaze head and the hill at Hickley plain. I knew there was what track made by a farmer’s quad bike, so walking roughly a straight line I also knew I would cross it at some point. This would make getting the Ball Gate pretty easy.

At Ball Gate I stumbled across Bob Martin who saw me coming down the hill and said he knew who I was, “there’s only one person I know wearing red with a pack that size” he replied as I greeted him. Fantastic, someone is actually following my progress. What a boost!

After a chat I continued along the footpath toward Bela Brook and along the road to Shipley car park. There were a few cars and the coffee van but quite I thought. Up the road toward the Avon Dam, which I thought was definitely quiet, the river was also incredibly low from the last time I saw it. You could almost wade through the water to the other side it was so low.

At the bridge half way up, a sharp left turn up the start of a path and then a sheep track to the top of the hill to Black tor. By now or at least at this spot the wind had dropped a bit, it was the perfect spot for lunch! The sun was out, it was so deafly quiet with just the birds and some sheep to be heard. I could have easily stayed there for a couple of hours soaking up the view.

Now I haven’t worked out why yet but whenever I descend from Black tor, I always seem to drop down from the back of the tor in the Hunters stone direction and then have to follow a track back to pick up the way I climbed up. Four times I’ve done that, you would think I should have worked it out by now!

Back to and just over the bridge, a right turn to take a path/track to Shipley tor. In the summer this can be very overgrown so my own rule is, if you want to navigate amongst the bracken and gorse, find a track and follow the poo! That’s right, this works every time for me. I reckon if anyone/thing knows how to get through that mess sheep do. So, I followed the poo and ended up almost at Shipley tor bar a couple of adjustments.

Along the path I also saw my first Adder snake of the year slithering across the top of the dead bracken plus a couple of lizards darting between the undergrowth. Way too quick for me by the time I took my phone out to snap a couple of pics!

Now the next target is Puper’s Hill. This turned out to be very long, timely and basically a slog. Where there are long “legs” I try to find points where I can take a positive bearing, just in case the fog is down. The area is thick with gorse so getting a direct line is not really an option.

So, in steps, first follow the wall from Shipley tor to the first gate in the wall, take a bearing to Dockwell Ridge and pick your way through the gorse. Again, there are tracks that will meander their way to the top! Next a bearing to Grippers Hill, there is a cairn at the top so a positive bearing can be achieved. However, if you walk North you will come across the Abbott’s Way. I then turned right and followed it to a large boundary stone. Taking a bearing to the ford points you in the direction of a track which turns into more of a path after a couple hundred meters, just follow this all the way to the next ford/stream.

Worst case scenario, which is what I did to see how it would work is follow a path that practically handrails the boundary walls on the right until you reach the Two Moors Way path.

At this point turn left up the hill until you cross a distinctive path up to Puper’s Hill.

Now while this worked reasonably well in good weather it would be very interesting if it would work as well in really bad weather or fog!

 

I’m now picking my way through boulders and gorse down to the river ford across the Western Wella Brook and heading around Huntingdon Warren and down to the clapper bridge over the river Avon.

The weather in the valley without the wind was really nice and sunny making it very tempting to break at the clapper bridge. But not today, I had a deadline of ten hours so up that very steep hill following the Two Moors Way. Boy, it’s a tough old hill to get up with a decent weight on your back, but surprisingly, I seemed to get to the top with some degree of ease. Sometimes I even impress myself!

Once I’m on the Two Moors Way navigation is essentially zero, just follow the metalled path. On, and on, and on, you get the idea. This is mid blowing and serves as a great test to see if the mental stamina can keep me going. Head down, one step in front of the other and repeat for two hours, urgh!

Honestly, if a cyclist had passed me on the track, I’m pretty sure I may have knocked them off and nicked their bike to get a ride back!

The path was easy to follow but really hard on the feet. I had anticipated this and have to admit I succumbed to taking a couple of pain killers to get me back over the last couple of hours. They really worked a treat and walking became so much easier again. Still mighty boring though!

I bumped into the last people I would see, Simon and his friend (sorry, I think Bob but shamefully forgot his name!) and had a chat about the challenge. They seemed mighty impressed which translates to me thinking, what the heck am I doing?!

As I approached the intersection of paths near Spurrell’s cross above Harford Gate the evening had turned into a glorious sunny evening with a light breeze, with nobody around it was beautifully quiet and deserved a last coffee break before I headed for the gate and down the hill to the car. That was it, another training day completed with some interesting and varied things to overcome. Overall, I finished the day feeling really good, legs held up extremely well and the bag weight although still a bit heavy was becoming very manageable. I could have even gone a bit further if required!

Distance, a total of 32km in ten hours with an average overall speed including stops of 3km per hour and a moving average of 5km per hour. So, times, distance and bag weight all coming together. Not a bad day after only nine training walks on the moor with a 40lb pack!

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-21 Thu, 29 Apr 2021 18:15:33 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 20 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/a A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

 

Training day 8 – Another Postbridge Loop

It’s already starting to get a little tricky picking new routes that enable a circular of 30km and cover some of the route the challenge will take! So today, I take a small section and add in some distance for good measure.

Following the footpath at Postbridge on the East side of the bridge through the fields to river is a nice easy start. Up to Hartland tor and then pretty much a straight line all the way to Sittaford tor. There was virtually no one around and Sittaford quickly becomes visible on the horizon.

But, have you ever started walking toward something and despite being able to see it, it never seems to get any closer. The walk just goes on forever! Roughly one and a half hours I think, enough to send you slightly, well start talking to yourself. That’s never going to make any sense!

It was broken up briefly bumping into a couple on the other side of the track and chatting about their night on the moor and my challenge. Nice to see some visitors down enjoying the moor.

Anyway, after what seemed like an eternity I arrived, blowing a right wind I huddled behind the wall and took an early coffee break. Good decision!

Then down to the Grey Weathers circles and left over the wall to follow the boundary of Fernworthy forest all the way round to the Three Boys standing stone. A bit odd as there is only one, maybe the other boys ran off. The walk to the standing stone was another relatively straight forward walk but by the look of the ground, in wet weather I would say this area gets pretty saturated and could be difficult to walk?

Then a group of four tors/rocks. Kestor rocks, Middle tor, Frenchbeer tor and Thornworthy tor. I my view, all easy to access if you come across from Fernworthy car park and all very interesting and pretty substantial tors. Great views and formations to photograph!

Frenchbeer was a good place to stop for lunch and this time I had remembered to put that extra water in!

I tried the beef hotpot at home and that I thought was pretty good so the beef stroganoff and rice had its work cut out to match it.

It probably helps to put the right amount of water in the bag, I ended up with a bit of a soup! It worked though, had a reasonable taste but thought the rice could have absorbed a little more water to soften it up. Maybe leave for a little more than twenty minutes I had left it. The good thing is, they do stay hot until you finish them, and putting them into a handmade warmer made from radiator reflective foil it will work very well at the end of a cold and wet day. I’m going to call out Robin Moon here, great advice on the warmer!

Now it’s time to drop down to Fernworthy reservoir and out through the car park. Now I was convinced I knew where I was going, until I crossed the footbridge and headed up toward the car park for the road. I really don’t remember the path taking so long to get to the picnic area and was on the verge of turning round. Gut instinct said it had to be in front of me, how on earth can you have any doubt just outside a car park! Luckily, I carried on and around the corner was the car park of course, with a rather large coffee wagon with the biggest generator! Not sure about the environmental impact it was having.


 

Past the Metherall Brook I picked up the Two Moors Way, to the stone row, it seemed a long old slog up to it. It’s a pretty good stone row and just for a second the Billy Connelly antics of dancing around a stone circle went through my head! I was very tempted to show now and again I can get just a little bit silly! But not naked. Be warned, there may be a future video clip having a slightly nutty moment!

Now, while I was heading for the road I wasn’t too bothered about where I came out. I was a little surprised though to be so far down the road. Roughly in the middle of Bennet’s Cross and the Dartmoor Inn pub. I knew that as I identified the track leading down to the Vitifer mine leat. Regardless of the route I knew I would hit the water at some point and need to turn right!

From here it was a easy walk to Sousan’s Farm, on a track with more blooming stones all over the place. I wouldn’t mind if they were the Dartmoor type but they look like those builder stones to create paths and roads and I just find them horrible to walk on. Moan over!

 

A right turn at the farm and through the woods until I popped out on the road leading to Runnage Farm. At this point I was going to take the footpath through Pizwell to Postbridge but thought I may be a bit short on distance so followed the road to the main road through Postbridge back to the car. I even found a boundary stone with my initials on it, I think I'll check a few records, just in case I own some of the moor!

I was aiming for around 25km so was pretty pleased when I checked the GPS and saw 26.5km. Once again, the last hour saw some strange walking techniques as the heel became very needy again. Not sure how this will play out right now but as long as I can get the daily distance in and be good enough for the following day, I’ll take that for now.

 

What remains good news are my average speeds. Average over the day with stopping 2.9km, average walking speed 5km and a max of 7km, all over 9 hours of walking.

I love a good stat!

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/a Tue, 27 Apr 2021 21:08:29 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 19 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-19 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 7 – Belstone Loop

It’s time to invade the North! Well, start from Belstone at least.

There were a few things I needed to investigate during this training walk. How accessible Steeperton tor is from Oke tor, can I camp at Oke tor and does Bracken tor exist?

As it is also starting to move into the “more open wild” side of the moor I was expecting this to be a bit of a test with a decent bag weight. I also wanted to test out a dehydrated food bag so wanted to keep the distance around 25km to accommodate the time to cook the food.

Finally, half the route today is not from the challenge route to form a loop back to Belstone and not needed on the challenge itself.

 

I have been here before but couldn’t recall if I actually attempted Steeperton, I don’t think so, we’ll find out. The weather had a real haze to it and it looked like it could turn to a low-level mist or fog so bearings were taken along the route just in case it suddenly dropped. While it also remained fairly sunny through the haze there was a pretty strong chilling wind which made for interesting walking at times.

Starting at the car park it was a straight forward walk to the access the moor at Watchet Hill and then onto Belstone tor. Apart from the extensive rocks lying around and being careful not to trip and do any damage it was a simple climb up, over the Irishman’s wall and onto Higher tor. Winter tor is close by but that will be bagged on the way back.

The walk out to Oke tor is via a track and is very easy to follow and walk with very flat terrain. It also looked reasonable for camping although the East side was the best side if camping by the tor, and weather permitting!

Steeperton is relatively close and most of the way depending on your approach is by a track and metalled path, I assume one of the many used by the military. Now this is where my memory comes into question! The path I had in my head didn’t equate to what I was following so quickly came to the conclusion I was thinking probably of the path to East Mill tor and New Bridge. I could see the path continued to a point where it would eventually cross the river but this looked a fair distance away. Decision time, do I follow the path and then cut back up the slope or do I find a suitable point to drop down the valley side, cross the river and scale the hill.

As the weather and visibility was pretty good now, I decided to take the challenge and scale the hill. A sharp drop into the valley and down to the river, this was something like a 1 in 3 drop and I was quickly realising with a full pack this may not be a good option. The river was low but I think could still be crossed at the point I found if the levels were higher which just left getting up the other side.

At this point I started to work out why it may be OK today, but on the challenge, it would potentially pose a risk. The first fifty meters appeared to be almost vertical and required a precarious scramble to reach a point where I could stand up (more like lean forward) and start walking toward the top. The sheep in between their grazing looked up at me as an intruder and probably wondered what the heck I was doing. I’ve often wondered how sheep think, or don’t, they were probably wondering what was in my head as I took several breathers to reach the top! It took a while and some effort; this wouldn’t be a good choice in poor or wet weather. Longer may be quicker in this case.

It was blowing hard at the top and at this point I realised why my bag weight appeared to be very manageable. I had thought I may have turned a corner and things were suddenly getting better, but a school boy error revealed I had left the extra water for weight at home so was carrying two kilos less than I should have been! So, now needing to slightly ration the water I did have I was unable to test out a food bag for lunch. Flipping good job I took a back up of sandwiches just in case the stove didn’t work. Genius move!

 

To ensure there was a route up and down Steeperton I decided to take the long slope route down and pick up the track back to the river crossing made up of stepping stones across the ford. That pretty much put me on track all the way back to Oke tor. It will add some distance and time to that day’s walking on the challenge but safety must take priority, I guess. Unless the weather is really good and allow the short cut I tried.

Arriving back at Oke tor the military were checking recruits in and out during a navigation exercise. It gave me some comfort that a few of them appeared to be finding it a challenge. Or was that just me wishful thinking!

Winter tor is just off the hill from before Belstone tor and easy to get to. A simple walk following a stony track to the bottom of the hill and across to Scary tor, nothing scary at all about it.

A good chat with some lovely ladies from a rambling club, a spot of lunch and back on the trail!

Down to Gulliver Steps and up over the hill to Row tor, nothing too difficult, just a drag up the hill following more stony paths. The stones on these paths were now starting to have an impact on my heels again. Apart from tuft hopping which is just as awkward the paths were the obvious choice, but boy was I getting tired of rolling my boots over loose stones.

Along the way I spotted some small concrete “boxes”, interesting, they could be used for food drops I thought?

The weather was slightly improving with the haze disappearing but the wind was still gusting and a bit annoying. A straight a simple direct line across a stream, a path and up the side of Eastern Mill tor. Hmm, couldn’t see a better way but it was an effort to get to the top. Just a matter now of getting down the other side and heading toward Moorgate cottage via Black Down. It may have been easier to back track down the side I ascended and used the track. No, I went for the awkward option and took a slow decent through stones, boulders and holes being careful not to snap my ankles until I reached yet another track full of those damn stones!

 

I was now starting to look for Bracken tor, luckily, I had a quick chat with someone close to Gunnery Lodge, otherwise I may have missed the road that was tucked in behind the junction over a cattle grid. I could have wasted a lot of time had I missed it!

It was easier to spot the road than it was Bracken tor! Spent some time criss crossing the hill and only found a small number of rocks that would never surely attract the title of “tor”. Some quick investigation work from the FB Dartmoor 365 group and the consensus is, there is no Bracken tor and the reference on the OS map is associated to the youth hostel. It sort of makes sense as there appears no marked point or outcrop distinguishable to a tor and the letter “B” sits right next to the red triangle of the hostel.

Oh, what a tragedy, that means I can knock it off my list and save up to an hour. Now that was worth the effort to confirm its existence!

From this point it is relatively easy walking (unless your feet are dropping off!) following a track North/West of the East Hill and down to the Tarka Trail by the river. Follow the river all the way to the second footbridge before crossing it and heading up the hill to join a track back to Belstone.

Just a cautious note following the river, it does split around half way and you need to hang left to follow the path. No idea where the right fork goes at this point. But, be careful half way along the footpath, there is a section where boulder hopping is required and a small section where you need to negotiate a 45-degree slab of rock. It’s doable but care is required. You have been warned!

It’s a bit of a hill to join the path back to Bestone but guess you youngsters and anyone with a day pack would manage comfortably! Then back to the car park and a pat on the back!

An interesting day for lots of reasons and again met some really nice people who were genuinely interested in the challenge.

I’m always happy to explain!

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-19 Tue, 27 Apr 2021 21:02:53 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 18 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-18 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

 

Training Walk 6 – Two Bridges loop via Hemeldown

The target to walk between 25 and 30km per walk still holds with a bag containing everything I need apart from the food weight at this part of the training journey. It’s starting to expose some of the challenges I still face, like the impact on my feet, shoulder burn and the small issue of another 15kgs of food to fit in the bag! There’s still a lot to think about.

First target is Pizwell farm, and for some reason always presents an annoying challenge to get there. There are a few bridal paths along the way, and yes you guessed it, I was thinking ahead and wandered left instead of straight on! Oh dear. Despite that I knew where I was going to pop out on the road to Runnage farm plus I wouldn’t have had a nice chat with a very nice lady who lives in one of the houses along the way. Thank goodness her cat decided to use the gate post as a scratching post rather than my leg!

Now the purists may say I need to get a grip on my navigating, but, it’s currently all about the distance and the time the bag is on my back at the moment, to build up walking stamina so as long as I go roughly in the right direction and get to the target points, plus get the distance and time in, I’m reasonably relaxed about it. Navigational needs will become more apparent as I head out onto the open moor, then I agree and will be taking the navigation very seriously.

Onward to Littlecott farm and up a bridal path leading me straight up to Hemel Down. This is very familiar territory where I picked up part of the Two Moors Way, along which I bumped into some more great people to have a chat with. I think they believe I may be a little nuts doing this but gave me some very enthusiastic support for the challenge and the cause. I really do get a buzz out of meeting people and the support they all offer.

King tor is the next target, the paths are so much easier to see this time of year so deviated right to a marked boundary stone and up to the tor. There are some fantastic views from here and the tor is not bad to photograph either. The other reason for this approach was I wanted to check out if there was a direct route to Shapley tor. A cattle trail was clear to follow toward the stream directly below the tor but it became very quickly clear there was no easy access across. So, follow the stream up the hill to the head and cut across to the boundary wall that contained a style, just short of the Two Moors Way as it meandered down toward West Coombe. From there a simple case of following the wall and hanging left to spot Shapley tor.

The obvious in hindsight would be to track to Hookney tor and skip across to Shapley because if you get too close to the stream head point you will get incredibly stuck in a whole nightmare of bog mess. Luckily due to the extended dry period I could get through it but definitely don’t want to go anywhere near it on the challenge.

Now because I drifted off to go to King tor it meant I left Hemeldown tor out. So, the penalty of exploring was I had to go back to Hookney down and up past Grimspound to Hemeldown and back to Hookney. What a waste of effort and energy!

Trying not to fret too much I picked up the Two Moors way again and headed off to Birch tor. Now that’s an interesting tor spread about with some great rock shapes, as well as a commanding view down the valley. You can even see the Warren House pub! A quick coffee break to rest the feet and shoulders and off to Bennet’s Cross.

From here the next target is Stannon tor and gets a bit interesting. I’ve covered this area when taking out DofE groups. There are a few tracks that can be used but in poor weather there are also plenty of very wet and boggy areas. This is where training walks deliver. In what can be uncertain areas with little to go on I always approach the walking as if I was in thick fog, which means I navigate a direct line and look for handrails where possible.

 

From Bennet’s Cross there are some very distinct paths to get started on and then head straight for the forest around the right of Water Hill. Follow the forest wall to a gate and take a very distinctive track left to a junction, also very clear. Take a right turn to another boundary wall with a style in it. From here it would need a bearing to navigate around the valley and stream to a cairn from which a bearing to Stannon tor can be achieved. If you overshoot you should end up at the sheepfold!

From Stannon tor it’s an easy walk back to Hartland and follow the footpath back to Postbridge.

The weather will play a critical role on the challenge itself and I’m very aware that so far, all my training walks have been in fabulous weather. It could all be very different!

The good news isI completed 30.4 km, that's 18.4 miles with a walking speed of 4.7km per hour. Converted with a lot of stopping on top to give an average over the day of 3km per hour.

Don't mind admitting I was starting to hurt a bit at the end and glad to be back at the car!

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-18 Sat, 24 Apr 2021 19:39:35 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 17 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-17 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 5 – Princetown loop

A slightly later start today at around 9:45 am, I really should try and get up earlier. It did raise a slight doubt, would I get around quick enough. The route was actually 27km on the planner but time allowing and my need to hit every tor on route probably means it could be up to 30km.

The terrain and route approach to the tors were largely, straight forward. Comfortable is a relative term, overall, feet were tired at the end as were my shoulders but considering I’m packing roughly 42 pound in the pack I think it is inevitable I’m going to feel it, particularly after only 5 training days!

 

So, Princetown out to South Hessary along what I call the walk of doom, mainly because it’s such a long track if you follow the whole thing. Sharp right over the open moor and tufts, across a small stream to Hart tor. Normally this direct bearing would take you through some very wet and boggy areas but with such a dry spell everywhere was bone dry. I could hear the grass crunching under my feet as I tramped my way across.

Another straight line to Devil’s bridge to cross the main road and up to the old railway track. A small climb but even at this stage the bag weight was acting up like a petulant child, nagging at my shoulders letting me know it was still there. Another walk of doom following the track all the way to Foggintor quarry, I think walk of doom because there are no navigation distractions and you’re just head down following the track. OK the views are great but I have one thing on my mind today, get the distance and time in!

Foggintor, tick, wasn’t going to do this originally but what the heck, it’s so close.

Onward to Swelltor, simple case of following the track up to the quarry, just as impressive as the previous one, maybe a touch better with its two-tier layer of quarrying?

Swelltor to King’s tor is another simple track and not far away, so easy to quickly bag another! From here this was quite interesting because it wasn’t until recently I found where Hucken tor actually was. As a result, I discovered you can reach it by walking from King’s tor to the outcrop just below across a couple of fields and into the area of Hucken tor. The best thing is, this also allows you to drop down onto the footpath that takes you down to Merrivale. Very handy if you’re looking to make up a circular walk.

 

From Merrivale a simple task of taking the first footpath once over the bridge and left to head toward Vixen tor. Not opening any debate here, but following the wall is the closest I can get to this one. Again, more straight forward walking to Heckwood tor where I met some youngsters (well anyone younger than me now are going to be youngsters despite them actually being “young adults”!). Had a good chat and later found they had made a donation, brilliant. Pew tor and Feather tor followed and then to the car park at Pork Hill. Which was really busy along with the obligatory ice cream van of course. No, I didn’t before you ask.

It was still a glorious day and I felt like I was doing a reasonable speed, although it will never feel easy, that’s the nature of a challenge, I guess. Up to the top of Cox tor, now that is a stiff climb I think, took a couple of breathers on the way but still got there without any major issues.

Roos tor and the Staple tors were quickly “captured” and then the decision regarding Great Mis tor. Do I cross the river Walkham? Well, I have tried a couple of times and I really don’t believe, particularly with a full bag weight, it would be responsible or safe to try. So, down to Merrivale again over the bridge up the hill and across to Little Mis and Great Mis tors. Now that took it out of me.

We’re now roughly seven hours in and the feet and shoulders are starting to ask for a break! Suddenly I felt like I had hit the wall for a while. A quick water and snack break just to ensure I was topped up for the final push.

Avoiding the main path from Great Mis I hung left and followed the track hand railing the wall all the way down to the road. Again, this area can get incredibly wet but the dry weather meant it was totally dried out. The only thing I had to negotiate were two nutty sheep, that, which ever way I went were determined to stay ahead of me bleating most of the way down before they finally decided to make a run back past me when they ran out of track. How on earth do their brains work!

Cross the main road at Rundlestone and up the road/track to North Hessary radio mast.

A quick right turn and walk to tick off Rundlestone and Hollow tors and then head up back to North Hessary.

Time for some useless information. I installed the telephony system in the BBC building many years ago when I worked for BT. Apparently, I did such a good job they wrote a letter to the chairman. Ah, those were the days when effort and quality work was recognised!! That’s it no more self-indulgence.

Looking around the outside they must be doing some maintenance work as there appears to be a chair lift connected near to the top of the mast. That’s some lift to work in the morning. Looking at the size of it, the wires it travels on and the height it will reach I’m glad I don’t have to use it!

At this point I could feel myself slowing down. The left heel was also starting to literally become a pain in the foot again despite taking a couple of pain killers to see me home over the last couple of hours. While not too bad, it seems a visit to the Doc’s could ultimately be the only option, we’ll see.

 

At last, and nearly nine hours of walking I was almost back to the car, just down the hill and into Princetown. The mood lifted as I reached the bottom of the hill during a chat with a lovely gent, I was happy to spend a few minutes chatting and take advantage of the breather! Another great and pleasant surprise he also made a donation. It really is great when this happens and they drop a note when donating saying where they met me. Putting faces to donations brings the whole challenge to life.

Round the corner and back to the car.

Making sure I turned off the GPS devices I checked that I had clocked up 9.5 hours and 31km. That fits nicely in with what will be my schedule on the challenge, I just need to add in the food weight and repeat for fourteen consecutive days!

Blimey, I’ll pat myself on the back for the day and think about the challenge later, convincing myself that after only five thirty km walks training, I was actually doing pretty well.

Aren’t I?

I’ll settle for it today.

 

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-17 Sat, 24 Apr 2021 18:02:20 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 16 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-16 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 4 – Norsworthy Bridge loop

Today compared to the last outing should be a much more casual walk with the weather forecast to be so much better apart from rain coming in around five o’clock.

 

I had mapped out a slightly shorter route of thirty kilometres which in reality probably means it could be anything between twenty-five to thirty-five kilometres!

Setting off from Norsworthy bridge around nine in the morning which was a relatively late start. Pack on, it felt heavy today and I could still feel the effects from the previous walk of forty kms. The walk up to Down tor is normally easy however this morning I felt sluggish and found it difficult to get into any stride.

With a couple of stops along the slope I reached the top.

It was what Dartmoor does best when the sun shines, delivers glorious views. It was very still and no one about, just the sound of the sheep in the background and the birds flittering about singing in the morning sun. It would be rude not to stop to enjoy a very special moment, priceless.

Despite such a fabulous start to the day you can very easily lose track of time so being conscious of this I headed across to Combshead tor. A nice easy straight-line walk, perfect to enjoy the fine weather and almost utter silence.

The next stop was Eylesbarrow. I was contemplating a direct line of sight approach but as always with half a mind on what I would do if the mist was down, I decided to do a little navigation exercise to physical features where a positive bearing could be taken if required. So, first point was the stone row, or more precisely the cairn at the end of the stone row. Followed by the end of the girt leading away from Combshead tor, from that point a bearing to Eylesbarrow.

The most interesting of the three bearings was the last one as Eylesbarrow is not visible from the girt so I felt happy my bearing delivered me within a couple of meters of the marker.

Then onto Higher Hartor tor. In clear visibility it was difficult to walk a bearing as Hartor is clearly visible and the temptation to head straight for it, well, just too much to resist! I did meet a couple of small groups along the way to sell the virtues of the search and rescue team and not so subtle sell my challenge to them! Lower Hartor is just a short drop further down the hill. As expected, the route was not providing any unexpected concerns so off to cross the Plym at Plym Ford.

As with many other rivers the dry spell had significantly lowered both the height and the flow so crossing was very easy. Calveslake was an easy walk to reach and a good point for a lunch stop. No one around, the sun was still out with a gentle breeze. Very relaxing!

The next stop is Shavercombe tor and there are potentially two routes to be taken. First you could navigate around the tributaries to the Plym, go back along part of the Abbots Way and then toward the head of the Langcombe Brook, followed by the boundary stone then the trig point and then down the left side of the Shavercombe Brook. This way it keeps you above any boggy ground and crossing the brooks, the down side is that it adds a fair bit of walking and time to the day.

Alternatively, you can walk a near straight line. Well, on this day with the ground being so dry a direct line was very achievable. However, if the weather is poor and following a number of days rain the direct route would prove very boggy and challenging to navigate through and likely take more time than walking across the top of the moor.

So basically, either route will do but is totally weather dependent.

Hen tor and onto the Trowlsworthy’s, didn’t deliver any surprises, apart that is from the gun fire and smoke everywhere! The military were out and training, you could hear the commands being shouted out, firing and smoke bombs being set off. Common in the area apparently but I’ve never seen an exercise undertaken like that before, just soldiers undertaking navigation previously.

 

The only real challenge of the day was going to be crossing the Plym again on my way to Legis tor. I did find a place by the pillow mounds. A very cumbersome and not very eloquent stepping and sliding across the rocks, must have been a sight for sore eyes but I was determined not to take a second Dartmoor Dunk!

Legis tor was just a walk up the hill, where I happened to bump into one of the Army team setting up a comms point. A very interesting chat about the comms and my challenge, which at the end he surprised me a bit by saying he wouldn’t do what I’m doing. Fourteen days fully self-supported with a bag weight of nearing thirty-five kgs. I wasn’t sure to be inspired by his comments or confirm my insanity! Either way he was impressed which was good enough for me.

Not wanting to appear tired or weak at that point I walked off looking more like Robo Cop giving the impression I was ready for anything! Trouble was, there was about two kilometres before I got out of sight and take a deep breath and collapse for a breather!

Gutter tor, a timely coffee stop and watch the exercises unfold in front of me. Just as the weather went very dark and started to rain, perfect! On with the wet gear and a short walk over to Eastern tor.

 

At this point I suddenly became aware of my left heel, a sharp pain was starting to make itself felt, having had this in my right heel many years ago I knew exactly what it was and it wasn’t good news.

The common name is “policeman’s foot”, I guess because they used to get the condition by walking the beat years ago. If you’ve had it you know it gets very painful and will eventually stop you walking unless you get it treated or unusually it disappears.

With that now playing on my mind I decided to track across toward Sheepstor via the scout hut and follow the leat to the edge of Roughtor plantation, take the footpath down to Narrator brook and follow the path back to the car park.

Apart from the last hour this was a relatively straight forward day taking nine hours, longer than anticipated due to the heel and stopping to chat along the way! Just about retained a three km per hour average speed and covered twenty-five km so not too bad under the circumstances.

I’ll take that!

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-16 Thu, 15 Apr 2021 15:23:33 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 15 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-15 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

 

Training day 3 – Two Bridges Loop to Fur tor

The forecast for the day was very mixed so anything could happen!

Parking in a layby right next to a footpath I quickly made it up the hill to Crockern tor, I’ve always wanted to find the “chair” but today I was on a mission and potentially time was a critical factor. At that point the weather decided to make it’s first change, dark cloud and big, heavy raindrops started to fall. It wasn’t a difficult decision to get the full wet weather gear on.

Littaford and Longaford on a nice day is a very pleasant stroll but today Dartmoor looked like it was going to play weather games as the rain turned to hail. With a head wind this was starting to feel like a free acupuncture session!

No time to hang about, I wanted to get the best start I could and headed straight for Higher and Lower White tors and down to Brown’s House ruin. I must have looked a sad lonely figure leaning into the wind walking against the hail which then turned to snow as I crossed the horizon between the tors.

With the relatively dry weather I was quite surprised on how wet it was under foot, although the approach to Brown’s House has been significantly wetter in the past.

I’m not sure why, perhaps being pre-occupied by the weather and the need to move forward, the pack felt surprisingly light! Have I turned a corner in carrying the weight? I also made that point in record time, under an hour.

Feeling good about progress despite the weather I headed straight to Rough tor, simple path to the river and crossed with no issues. Although the levels were pretty low. The hill the other side is a slog and suddenly the bag weight reminded me it was still there. I’ve done this section a few times now so knew what to expect, it doesn’t make it easier though.

Next, for me at least a killer circular. Crow tor, Bearsdown, Lydford, Connies Down, Devils tors and back to Rough tor.

The route to Crow tor is, well as you would expect, trudging across open moor terrain but not significantly difficult. Again, the river crossing with the levels low was nice and easy. I always try to speculate what it would be like in full flow, just in case, but here I think even then it would be good to cross with care. Another hill and bit of a slog up and across to the Bearsdown tors. Which one to pick to say I’ve hit the tor? Well, I guess the only one that would remove all doubt is the one with the flag pole on it, so that was the one I made for.

The quick trip across to Lyford tor was nice and easy plus the snow and hail had disappeared, just dull cloud at this point. On a good day this area is a fantastic place to wander around, generally straight forward to move between the tors and offers some stunning views.

From Lyford I chose to handrail the wall down the hill toward the river and join the footpath at the gate to move North and head for Connies Down tor. At river level this could be a bit tricky. There’s a lot of wet down there with the water run off into the river and where the Cowsic and Connies Down waters meet so care needs to be taken getting across.

Now the shortest route is always my first choice but, with taking safety and terrain into account. So straight up the side of the Cowsic valley and straight line it to Connies Down. It’s a tough short sharp climb but with a couple of stops on the hill it saves a bit of time circumnavigating the hill.

Now at this point I have to be honest I had a slight panic moment, gun fire and it seemed really close! I was well into MOD firing range territory and had a sudden attack of doubt. Did I get the firing times right and should I be anywhere near Connies Down? Fortunately, there was a phone signal and a quick check confirmed it was only Willsworthy firing that day. It could have really changed my plans for the day! Anyway, the weather took a turn for the better and decided lunch looking down the valley would be a good idea and a quick video update stating at that point everything was going very well.

So, onward and down the steep valley side of the Cowsic and up the other side to Devil’s tor, and that’s when it happened. The river here can be crossed with care so I took a bit of time looking for the best place to cross.

Here we go, a “bum” slide down to the river, a foot on a small stone and step across two large boulders, nothing too difficult. It was here my bag decided to give me a lesson on “respecting your bag weight”!

That innocuous little stone that looked so solid decided to move, not much but enough to turn my body and shift the weight in my bag. It was too late to change as my body weight was already committed. Trying to right myself the bag weight took me and yep ended up sat in the river.

This could generate a lot of discussion around safety however I think my risk assessment and plan to cross was about right. When I did go in, there were no other rocks around to hit, the water was slow flowing at that point and was only a foot deep. So, the resulting damage was more to my ego than anything else, none the less a valuable lesson learned and why planning trips can be so useful.

What made it worse, there were a number of ponies the other side and the minute I went in they all seemed to “winnie” as if they were laughing at me. Maybe they were, I must have looked a right clown!

 

Soaking wet down one side and boots full of water I clambered up the other side of the valley, it seemed to take ages as I dissected how on earth, I allowed myself to fall int the river, my first “Dartmoor dunking”. It was a good job I had full wet weather gear on as this seemed to minimise my soaking quite a bit.

Devil’s tor, easily identifiable by the large standing stone just off the tor greeted me at the top of the hill. I felt good for a split second as the walk down and up the valleys sides didn’t excite me!

Devil’s tor to Rough tor to complete the circular. This was surprisingly arduous and very wet and boggy so a straight line isn’t that easy. That said with boots full of water it made little difference so a straight line and a lot of muttering was the way forward.

Now for a section I had done once before so knew what was coming. I decided to follow the flag poles to Flat tor and on to Fur tor which navigationally is really easy, well at least in good visibility. The terrain is not that bad but just very tiring, tedious and gets leg sapping after a while. But it did get me to Fur tor without any further incident. Fur tor is always a fairly significant point, partly due to its remoteness but also on this trip it was just over half way. Just need to get to Sittaford and the worst is over.

The route to Sittaford, hmm, flag poles played their part again until they hit the “corner”, roughly below Quintin’s Man and then a straight line to the tor. I’ll save you the details but basically this is an awful route in and I need to see if I can find something a little less time consuming and tedious!

If the weather closes in the going between Devil’s tor via Fur tor to Sittaford will test the best of anyone and will take considerable time so here’s hoping for some decent weather on that day.

 

The weather was definitely getting better now and was turning into a really nice evening so getting down to Postbridge should be easy and pleasant. Through Grey Wethers stone circles, follow the path and head up to Hartland tor for a coffee break, for the first time that day it felt perfect! I was still doing pretty well with the bag weight, drying out and the sun was out. A short time to stop, stare and listen. Could have spent ages just sat there.

At this point I did start to wonder how far I had travelled precisely; I could work it out I guess but it was the time that suddenly became a point of interest. Eight pm, walking for some ten hours, so an average of three km per hour was 30km already. I still had to get through Postbridge and back to Two Bridges.

 

Best get going! Down into Postbridge, across the bridge and follow the road to a footpath into the Powder Mills. Ash tor was easy to find but a bit further up on the hill than I had expected. Back on the path through the Powder Mills and take the path up to Littaford. It was then I hit the “wall”. It seemed a long trudge through the Powder Mills and up the other side to Littaford, the light was starting to go and I was starting to hurt for the first time. It took longer than expected to get to this point now eleven hours in.

Now, here’s the thing, when you approach a tor from a different angle everything looks rather different. I didn’t recognise it as Littaford, but it had to be! I wasn’t in the mood now for mistakes now and light was really starting to fade so yes, I took the lazy option and did a GPS check. It was Littaford.

Just a straight line back to Crockern tor and I was home and dry. By the time I reached Crockern it was almost dark and probably should have taken the torch out, but with just a couple hundred yards down the hill I carefully picked my way along the ground and made it safely back to the car.

I’ll be honest, I did feel a bit of relief I made it back despite it taking an extra hour than I expected as a worse case time. I also noticed I had clocked up a shade under 40km in just over twelve hours of walking, it would be interesting to analyse the route details when I get home.

Job done, proof I could walk for over twelve hours with a bag weight of roughly twenty-one kilograms and get back in pretty good shape. If I was told how the day would unfold before I started, I would have bitten your hand off for that result!

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-15 Thu, 15 Apr 2021 13:24:04 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 14 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-14

A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

Training day 2 -Lane End loop

If it wasn’t for Raven’s tor in Lydford gorge I could probably save a lot of time and effort! But it is and I need to walk from Nat tor to Raven tor and back to Bagga tor and there is just no easy way of doing it.

So, training walk two will take a section of my challenge to investigate and add a piece in to make circular from Lane End car park. There were a few tracks and paths that would be useful to know if they exist and are good to walk.

First check was straight up to the leat above the car park and follow it until the fields, through the fields and across the small stream. Some easy to follow tracks up to the rifle range of Wilsworthy, but horrible loose stone to walk on, these paths play havoc on my feet!

At the end of the rifle range follow the track left which turns into the Lich Way, apart from a map check nothing difficult.

At this point simply follow the footpath/bridle paths all the way along the Lich Way which will take you straight to Bagga tor. It’s worth taking your time between the range and reaching Bagga tor as there are some really stunning views across to Tavy Cleeve and all the surrounding tors. But don’t forget to look where you are treading, those very loose stony paths are an accident waiting to happen to the unsuspecting! Follow a short connecting piece of road at Higher Willsworthy before picking up the track again down to the river at Standon Steps. Again, some really nice scenery along the way.

From Standon Steps you need to pay attention as there didn’t appear to be many way points and it’s very easy to wander off the track. Stay right and hang onto the river rather than walk across any fields uphill!

Eventually a way point does direct you up to Bagga tor but another one of those horrible stony paths makes it an uncomfortable walk up the hill.

Lunch at Bagga tor with some incredible views and photo opportunities before heading straight up the hill to Lynch tor. Depending on your level of fitness this could be a challenging slope, with 21 kgs on my back I didn’t find the long walk to the top particularly easy! Very often you bump into people at the top of tors and although it was pretty quiet, I did manage to explain my challenge to the unsuspecting!

Not wishing to disturb them too long I set off toward White tor and then bumped into some more unsuspecting victims, I mean walkers! Some great stories to be told and still walking the wilds at eighty I was told, now that’s impressive. I think I need to catch up again to find out some more!

Now for the first, let’s call it a small lapse of concentration as I turned away and started walking. Now this wasn’t a navigational exercise, more an endurance challenge to get fit with bag weight on my back, and I will often just “walk free” see where I end up and then relocate for fun!

So, my aim was without using the map or compass was to see if I could land on the junction around White Barrow, turn right to the standing stone and on to White tor. Trouble was, I overshot, then something in my head suggested at a cairn I take a break and then see if I can spot the standing stone. Interesting when I looked back at the map on software, I went to Cocks Hill, but no sign of a cairn marked on the map where I sat at that point! Neither could I see the standing stone, which was strange as I think being up higher should have spotted it. One for another day, time to relocate.

Knowing roughly where I was, I headed toward Great Miss tor and the head of Dead Lake which I could make out. As I swung right looking toward White tor the standing stone came into view, an easy walk then up to White tor, back on track. Oh, and yes, if visibility was poor, I would have taken a bearing to the field system and handrailed to the tor!

From there easy walking past Stephen’s grave, up to Boulters tor and the footpath down to Cudliptown. If it’s wet that path can be a real mess, just saying. Following the road, I took the bridal path down to the river and up to Horndon. Another fun stone packed route, just love them!

An easy walk up to Zoar, sounds like a sci fi title “The village of Zoar”! Left to the Wheel Jewel reservoir and a careful check to make sure I took the right path to the main road. Continue on the path once over the road down to the road and old railway bridge.

From here it becomes very east to follow the road and on an obvious bend veer right onto the footpath. Simply stay on and follow the path all the way back onto the open moor below the firing range. Making sure you go straight ahead will bring you back up to the range itself and from that point it was just a matter of back tracking to the car park.

I didn’t get round to checking if you could walk the leat all the way round but a farmer on the look out for a reported sheep in the leat assured me there was a path. Don’t think they found any sheep so someone was having a laugh or reporting the wrong position possibly.

Overall, it was a tiring day but I felt satisfied I had completed a good day refining my challenge route. Over nine hours, thirty-one kilometres and 21 kilograms in my bag. I was getting in some sort of shape.

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor devon Featured landscape Photo photography ramblers rescue search https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-14 Sat, 10 Apr 2021 15:54:42 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 13 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-13

A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

 

Only 115 days left before I set off on my Biggest Dartmoor Challenge Ever.

So, having said I would trigger phase 2 of my training what I really meant I was going to jump straight into phase 3.

What a shocker and a wakeup call!

I think I have just realised how much I need to train and get moor fit with a pack on my back for 14 days. Ouch!

So, the target was to walk approximately 30km with a minimum of 20kg’s on my back, just to start to get a feel of the challenge ahead. Well, I walked 27km, basically because I forgot about going to Nat Tor and inadvertently cut it short. I was a bit hacked off when I realised, I hadn’t made the full 30km, oh well, there’s always another day. Oh, and I weighed the bag when I got back at 21kg’s so at least that was in the right area.

Lydford car park opposite the pub was my starting point, looked like the pub was busy getting things ready for some limited re-opening on the 12th April. Suited and booted with an extra layer, felt rather nippy, I swung the bag on. Wow that felt heavier than I expected. It had pretty much everything weight wise in it apart from food for 14 days so knew it would be around 20kg’s. Feels very different doing step-ups with that weight versus walking out with it, but it still felt heavy. Not a good sign, but at least it was a training exercise!

Up through the village, I must have looked like a turtle bent double trying to get the pack balanced, to the Granite Way. I was going to say a steady walk out to Sourton but on reflection I think it was harder to walk on the path than it was across the grass and tufts of the open moor. Maybe I just had more distractions out on the moor.

Anyway, the place seemed deserted, almost eerie. I passed one family of three, their daughter learning to ride her bike. Good job she was in control because I didn’t feel I was capable of shifting out the way too quickly.

With a lot of fidgeting and talking to myself I arrived at Sourton, I actually didn’t feel that bad once I had got into a rhythm which did surprise me a bit.

We all know that not all tors are identified on the OS map so why in anyone’s name did they decide to put East tor on it? I haven’t precisely located it yet but I do know it is not far from the Granit Way path just short of Sourton. The trouble is I have to drop down from Sourton tor to bag it and then back up again, the shortest route.

So, for the first time I’m heading from the village up the West side to the top. And then the weather turned, ominous dark grey clouds. There was no escaping this one, a straight line to the top. It didn’t take long to realise this was going to be a tough bit. Anyway, the tors were in sight as the hail started to drop, looking behind it was only going to get worse so headed for shelter. Only then I discovered I was only half way up, what sort of trickery is this? Well, I may have used a slightly different set of words in my head!

The side got steeper and the weather worse, I was determined to reach the top for coffee. Hail, then snow/sleet too late for leggings just need to reach the top. Pushing past a dozen ponies, who actually couldn’t care less, ignored me and carried on grazing. Of course, they’ve seen it all before.

Made it, huddled under an overhanging rock, shuffled around to avoid dripping water down my neck and poured my coffee. I deserved it; it was a tough short climb. Then it all stopped and the mist rolled in, as it does, everything disappeared. Walking from memory with a little reference to the map I was now in full navigation mode and getting ready to walk on a bearing.

Then about thirty minutes later it all disappeared and returned to cold and overcast. OK it was a long coffee stop, paid off though didn’t it!

Gren tor was next and other than walking on an initial bearing and the usual tracks and tufts was pretty uneventful. I will confess though; I’ve never nailed the logan stone and there is a small out crop that could confuse you. Maybe I’ll pay more attention next time just to say I nailed it. Hunt tor is just a bit further on, same thing, other stones around, so you could get easily confused. I have been there before so knew what to expect so it wasn’t an issue. Both these may be difficult in a thick fog if you’re not careful.

Steng-a-tor, ah yes that tor overlooking the impressive West Oekment river. Try it from the North or the West and you are sure to run into trouble unless we are in the middle of a heat wave. Last visit was a pain staking, very wet and boggy attempt from the North. Water over the boots and thoroughly unpleasant.

So, I decided to attack from the South taking in Kitty tor first and following the track down. So much better but still a bit boggy on the final approaches. But there are some fantastic view points from here, some might say worth a soggy boot.

Back to Kitty tor with the very distinguishable huts and flag pole then a straight line to Green tor. You may be mistaken looking at the map as there appears no indication the area is boggy. I can assure you it is relatively flat and holds a lot of water. Nothing to scary but something to be aware of, don’t get caught out!

A quick hop down to bleak house, and boy was it looking bleak today. Across the river, there’s a few places for a relatively safe and easy means to cross and up to Dunna Goat tors. From there a simple straight line to the Links tors, these are among my favourites. In the right light they are so dramatic looking and have some superb views. Go take a look, you won’t regret it.

Arms and Brat tors are within easy walking distance once you have negotiated the rocky slope from Links tor. This could so easily be a place where a nothing accident turns into a call out for the rescue team. One wrong foot and your ankle could quickly be in trouble, or worse.

Brat tor is quite impressive and distinctive with Widgery Cross perched at the top. Anyone unsure of their location who can see the cross will soon re-orientate themselves, almost as good as the North Hessary tor mast.

I’ve never been to Doe tor and was unsure of the river crossing. With careful picking between the rocks down from Brat tor head straight for Doe tor, there is a couple of large boulders in the river that make an easy crossing, that was good to know!

Now I’m not sure why I didn’t take in Chat tor on the day but decided to go straight up the side of Hare tor. My word, that takes a bit of effort. I may have to change my order slightly on my challenge and head to Doe, Chat, Sharp, Hare and Ger tor to avoid that horrible direct route to Sharp and Hare tors, the direct route will use up a lot of energy.

Anyway, today I headed from Hare tor across and through the firing range, never done that before either and wasn’t entirely sure if I was supposed to. The fact a security guard leaving one of the buildings ignored me I assumed it was ok, providing they weren’t firing of course!

Down to the corner of the access area and onto a footpath that took me to the main road, some fast traffic uses that so you need to leg it across quickly. No roadkill bunnies today!

Continue down a bridal path through a very nice field and wooded lined track toward the river. I decided to hang right at the small woodland area and cross the river Lyd over a wooden footbridge. Up past some houses, left and out onto the road by the memorial cross back into Lydford.

Never knew the bridal and footpath existed so another first. It’s great when you just wander around and come across these little gems.

Anyway, my first training walk completed. Overall, I think it went pretty well. I was surprised both at the beginning and the end. What appeared to be a heavy bag at the start but seemed to get used to it somewhat by the end, so happy with that.

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-13 Sat, 10 Apr 2021 12:40:26 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 12 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-12 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

 

So, next step in my planning for My Biggest Dartmoor Challenge Ever.

Food glorious food! How well do you eat when on the moor? Well, I'm going to need some pretty lightweight food over fourteen days so for the first time I'm going to test out dehydrated food.
 

I've scouted the google pages and decided on three companies, Summit to Eat, Outdoor Gear and Expedition Foods.

These appear to be the companies that sell main meals in bags of 1,000 calories with a variety of options and between them have sufficient choice for deserts.

Breakfasts are a little limited generally it seems but again between the three of the companies appear to give the best choice.

 

My choices are listed below along with the weight, calories and price

 

   

Grams

Kcal / Bag

Price/Bag

OutDoorGear

Porridge with Strawberries

207

1000

 £      8.49

         

OutDoorGear

Main Meal

169

1003

 £      8.49

Expedition Foods

Main Meal

169

1003

 £      8.99

Summit to Eat

Beef and Potato Stew

190

1005

 £      7.75

         

Summit to Eat

Chocolate Mousse with Granola & Cherry

97

400

 £      4.50

Summit to Eat

Custard Apple Crunch

87

424

 £      4.50

Expedition Foods

Chocolate Chip Biscuit Pudding

100

416

 £      6.99

OutDoorGear

Toffee pudding

200

550

 £      4.50

There's plenty of walking to do!

I’ve started with Out Door Gear first, for a few of reasons.

With cashback they work out pretty much the same price as Summit to Eat, so price per calories they are among the cheapest and best reviewed products.

The bag size packs a 1,000 plus calories per bag.

For the calorie count they come at the lightest weight.

If you are tight or have a principle for free shipping you do need to spend over £50 to get free shipping!

 

So, I now await the arrival before I put them to the taste test, all sounds tasty, the reviews are good but will they stand up to one of the fussiest eaters on the moor?

 

Spaghetti Bolognaise

Beef Stroganoff with rice

Chicken Tikka with rice

Beef and potato hotpot

Spaghetti carbonara

Porridge with strawberries

Sticky toffee pudding

Deserts are restricted from Out Door Gear so my next testing session is likely to be from Summit to Eat. Also, if the cashback percentage drops, they would then become the cheapest option for mains, although roughly 300 grams heavier to carry across the week. Doesn’t sound much but it all adds up!

So, depending on when it arrives, I maybe eating at home or if I’m lucky doing a test wild camp somewhere. Strangely, my first wild camp. I usually try to camp in a registered site or farmers field to minimise any camping impacts but this challenge will force me onto the open moor, so I’d better get on with it!

I’ll let you know if they make the minimum “Bunney” taste standards!

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-12 Tue, 06 Apr 2021 11:15:55 GMT
My Biggest Dartmoor Challenge EVER! Blog 11 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever-blog-11 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

 

And we’re back on the moor!

Phase 2 of my training plan has been triggered with the ability to get out and back on the moor.

Phase 1 was all about walking the local lanes and step-up training in the garage, now life gets a bit more interesting and visually stimulating.

With a day pack of around 5kg it’s time to get some 30 km plus walking in which I haven’t been able to do for some time.

Phase three will be to keep the 30km distance and get my bag weight up to 20kg followed by phase four of 30km plus with a fully loaded pack, currently standing at 35kg (70lb) for training purposes.

Parking just below Wind tor I took the road North of the tor into Widecombe, it’s a steep blighter and immediately felt it on the knees as I headed down the hill, not a good sign so early on. Through the village listening to the church bells ring, with surprisingly hardly anyone out and about, which is great for keeping my imposed social distance!

Out the other side and up the equally steep exit road heading for Hollow tor, weirdly it often feels easier climbing a hill rather than walking down it!

There’s a trio of tors here which will be good for morale on the challenge, bagging a few in one go. I also detoured slightly to have a look around Turnhill rocks, never been over there and worth a revisit with the camera one day. Pil tor then Top tor however these need to swap around in order as the next target is Welstor rock and taking a compass bearing line of site is far easier to depart from Pil tor, this avoids tramping through what will be a very over grown gorse area, slowing me down and getting a free acupuncture session on the way.

Once past Foyles settlement, which is very clear to see I continued down to the Blackslade ford following a clear and easy to walk path, just after the ford I turned right to follow what looked like a track but ended up walking through more gorse so following the path to the road is probably the sensible option. From that point it’s a very comfortable walk to Welstor rocks and those well known Ten Commandment stones. Always tempted to add an eleventh, thou shalt not fail!

The next tors, Rippon, Bag, Haytor rocks, Holwell, Saddle are very well known to a lot of people and are very easy to navigate around. Surprisingly again the area was not really busy so the message about crowds etc had definitely had an impact.

The hill up to Rippon tor is not hugely difficult but with a full pack will probably test the legs as it takes a while to get to the top. The route to Bag tor I think is really nice but don’t go over the open land below the tor as this is very time-consuming picking your way through the gorse, bracken and pits dotted all over the place. Drop down to the wall and hand rail it until a gap allows you to hand rail it the other side. Saves loads of time. Head to the trees ahead and turn left, you get great views of the small stream and Bag tor ahead.

Then just follow the tracks around the remaining tors drop down to the road again after Saddle tor and round to the Seven Lords Land cairn.

You can then either follow the road or walk on the “grass” on the way to Bell tor. Bell, Chinkwell and Honeybag tor are all easy to navigate and visit but Chinkwell does make you work for the glorious views you get when you get there!

Hound tor next, but there is no direct route, hand railing the wall was the obvious choice, so I did. Bad choice, even in the relatively dry spell this was not an area you want to walk through, wet, tuffty and boggy with no easy way through! Plan B, back track to higher ground and pick up a track that runs parallel with the wall all the way round to the road. Taking this route, you get a view on the left of the almost impassable if you followed the wall around. It was also very, very tempting to cross the field, a wide-open field and flat as you like, trouble is, it’s private land so a no go, just as well as the farmer was in there working!

Hound tor to Jay’s grave is simple and needs no advice or does the footpath from Jay’s grave to Natsworthy Manor, other than it’s a lovely path to walk with the sun shining through the trees at about five pm.

On the opposite side of the road there is a footpath that takes you up onto Hamel Down, I’ve never walked this section before so was very interested to see where it went, apart from the obvious, Hamel Down! I was heading initially to Hameldown tor however the track splits and knowing I was eventually turning South I took the left-hand track. This took me to Grey Wethers and the memorial stone, again, heard of it and surprisingly never walked past it, until now.

Continuing following the track I ended up at Broad Barrow which was fine as I was on the track back to the car I was ultimately heading for, just took off Hameldown tor. Now on familiar ground from days of leading silver Duke of Edinburgh teams it was a straight and easy walk back over the hill line back to Wind tor and a drop down to the waiting car.

Overall, in the sunshine and dry weather not a difficult day to navigate, a few hill challenges but an enjoyable days walk. What was even better, with a couple of small detours I clocked up 35 km, result!

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/4/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever-blog-11 Sat, 03 Apr 2021 13:20:45 GMT
My Biggest Dartmoor Challenge EVER! Blog 10 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/3/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever-blog-10 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

The Technology Puzzle

Technology is a wonderful thing when it works well and definitely has a place in everyone’s bag! So, what technology should you use and what are the impacts of using it?

Clearly this is a personal view and not intended to be an expert opinion, I’m certainly no expert!

You might argue that a paper map and a compass is technology, although in its basic form. Technology is used to produce the map and certainly to make the compass. A competent map reader (assuming sufficient visibility exists) could navigate the moor without a compass, I have completed a few day trips where I have specifically walked an unfamiliar part of the moor using only my eyes and map, and yes, made it home!

The compass however is essential in areas with low/no visibility or where the land is all but featureless. If you fancy a small challenge in a relatively safe area, try heading out past Penn Beacon, past Shell Top to the trig point beyond. Take a bearing to the first boundary stone on Langcombe Hill at roughly SX 615 655, and see how close you can navigate to it.

 

Unless you’re a homing pigeon I suspect you will soon find out that a compass and some micro navigating will be required. Two attempts resulting in the closest I achieved was 25 feet, which you may say is pretty good, but this stone is so small and well covered you need to nail it or fall over it to see it.

Another attempt beckons one day soon!

 

When you can feel you are close, as above, yet unable to see your target a GPS unit comes in very handy. It's also very comforting to know that in an emergency to get you out of a sticky spot the reassurance of your precise positioning is a click of a button away. As well as navigate you to safety if required.

I tend to use mine for confirmation when orienteering between stone circles, cists, etc as often these are just not visible as they are marked on the map.

So, with my challenge ahead it’s time to upgrade from my Etrex 30, which has served me well for positioning purposes but is a bit old and slow now. As the saying goes for kit, two is one and one is none! In other words, have a backup. I’m not going to debate the pros and cons of units out there other than to say I opted for the Active 20 (nope, not flogging it, just an opinion).

What I like about it, very responsive satellite capture, very responsive moving around the display, very easy to use with a big screen, pretty good battery life and charging. Two weeks in and I’m liking it very much.

What is not so good about it, I bought a spare battery however removing the battery from the unit I find is really not easy so a fast battery change is not going to happen if you need it. It’s relatively heavy, likely down to the robust build and battery size. No live tracking (to share on line) or SOS capability and you have to pay to use the planning software.

It seems no one device will deliver everything in one unit so overall based on its design, it’s a bit pricey but does a great job.

 

Now we come to the backup. To cover all bases and requirements I need SOS satellite capability with live online tracking. Step up the Garmin GPSmap 66i. This is another very capable device with similar attributes to the Active 20. It’s an all-button device which I actually like with a slightly smaller screen, well built and very responsive. Battery life appears to be pretty good however it is integral to the unit so needs to be recharged in situ.

Unfortunately, you do need to subscribe to a bit of a pricey satellite subscription but this is unavoidable for any unit if you use the Iridium Satellite system. I’m yet to set this up to test it.

So, map and compass (two each), GPS for navigation, GPS for backup and emergency SOS I am totally confident I can navigate and extract myself off the moor under the majority of circumstances. Where I physically can’t I have two communication via the SOS capability. Sorted.

 

Oh, there is one slight fly in the ointment!

All this technology required energy to work so working out a usage plan will also be just as critical over the fourteen days.

I can take some alkaline batteries for the Etrex as the basic turn on and track my progress locally and leave in the bag. I can also take some battery packs for the rechargeable lithiums which will last for about eight days but this won’t cover the whole trip.

Also, batteries have weight, quite a bit when you add it to the GPS units which currently are on their way to a kilogram!

Almost sounds crazy but for any responsible long-distance hiker that could be in and out of signal surely, it’s the right thing to do, isn’t it?

They are good fun to play around with though.

A kilogram of weight, hmm…. I may have to rethink. Trouble is, as a project manager, risk and mitigation plus fall back plans are second nature, it’s hard to do it any other way!

Jury’s out on solar panels to recharge batteries, tried one, not very good but still investigating.

 

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/3/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever-blog-10 Thu, 18 Mar 2021 21:33:04 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 9 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/3/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-9 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock visit the link below. Thank you for your support.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

Target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle.

A 400 km hike across 170 tors and rocks on the Dartmoor OS OL28 map raising funds to replace their failing operations vehicle.

 

With so many tors spread out it would be nice to get a few close together, good for moral! Between Peter Tavy and Horndon is just the place as you follow the river Tavy upstream, surely this should be nice and relatively quick?

Not completely easy to park at Peter Tavy but manged to find a spot just before entering the centre of the village. I don’t think I blocked anyone! The first target tor is Longtimber Tor, what a great name for a tor.

Walking into Peter Tavy and finding the first turning you could easily miss the bridle path leading to the tor or you might even get seduced by the opportunity of a cool refreshing pint in the pub! Luckily (that of course is a matter of opinion), due to the covid guidelines the pub was closed when I went past. Phew, the day may have been over before it started!

Anyway, after about ten minutes and a sharp turn into a field and down to the river Longtimber Tor had been “bagged”. But don’t just bag it and run, this is a stunning piece of the moor and so close to the village. In fact, the area of the river soon took all attention away from the tor and focused on the huge gorge like far side of the river and the joining of the brook and the river. It was like a smaller version of the gorge in the Hobbit, where the two kings are carved from the rock or one of those (wait for the fanatical response and correcting me!)! There is also a very deep area for wild swimming.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best of days and although dry it was cloudy and drizzly when I arrived. That didn’t stop me trying to get a few pics though. Oh, I seriously don’t recommend trying to get to the centre of the river for the sake of a picture, insurance may not cover a camera dropped in the water, oh dear! I will definitely return, it really is a little magical spot.

Pull myself together I thought, before I was mesmerised and forget what the day was about, I had more to find.

Back on the path and over a bridge. Now at this point a short scramble across to High Tor and Fox Tor looked easy, oh no it wasn’t! First of all, it lies on private property so legally no access, dam, foiled again. Secondly, a quick sneaky peak and it looked impossible to find a route in so after ten minutes and the attendance of a South West Water van I decided to quietly slip away!

Now what? Brimhill Tor and Kents Tor from the other end, maybe? A bit deflated and a day where walking felt a bit of a chore, I guess we all get them from time to time, I took the easy route and followed the road around and detoured to Kingset Down to the reservoir. For some reason I had no idea how close to Horndon it was. Lunch on the down in the fogy rain, which of course stopped when I finished, typical.

Through Horndon and left to pick up the bridle path down to Horndon bridge, another lovely spot, but not as good as Longtimber by the river! Now somewhere around here there should be some point of access to Brimhill Tor, could I find it, nope, although a way in by the leat looked possible.

At this point and still noting these were also on private land I whimped out and basically couldn’t be arsed to go and investigate. I know, light weight, where’s my sense of adventure? Another day I promise.

I must have been having a bad day as even the path up the other side to the road had me puffing a bit. What is wrong with me today!

The road back through Cuddliptown should be and was very easy and full of, well, nothing exciting really. Tried to spot the tors from the road but no chance due to the line of woodland tracking the river. But a pleasant finish to this little but disappointing loop in terms of bagging tors but I did find a little magical spot. Clearly not a secret I suspect.

Home for tea and a little research, yep definitely on private land but appears the best attempt if at all is to tackle High Tor and Fox Tor from one end by the Hydroelectric station, still pumping out electricity, and Brimhill Tor and Kents Tor from the other end by Horndon bridge. With the permission of the land owner of course.

Next time, the monster in the closet, Fur Tor!

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity Dartmoor Dartmoor magazine Dartmoor national park Devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue Tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/3/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-9 Thu, 11 Mar 2021 11:54:34 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 8 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/3/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-8 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock the sponsor/donate page is now live. Thank you for your support

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

The target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle. A huge target, this is a huge walk and needs a big target!

 

On this excursion I decided to take a more leisurely stroll to visit a couple of tors I haven’t been to before and just check they were not likely to present any particular issues.

With just a few hours spare this shouldn’t be too big an ask so decided to park in the car park on the hill after driving through Dartmeet. A quick stomp up to Yar Tor, which due to the views is possibly becoming one of my “easy access” favourites. Always seems to have ponies up there that luckily mind their own business while eating a snack! Yep, it’s that early coffee stop I have become addicted to.

A quick whiz across to Corndon Tor and dropping down to the road leading into Ponsworthy, all very familiar but still a nice route. Onward into Leusdon which has some interesting buildings, need to revisit when I have more time to explore.

On the lookout for Blackadon Tor which looking at the map should be directly behind the church, (line of site that is) however no luck so it’s obviously another one covered by trees. Walking down a steep road you need to look out for a footpath on the left as it can be easily missed.

Following the track passing through a gate into a nature reserve which was a surprise. There the track continues uphill around to the left to a clearing. The tor is not immediately obvious but there was a circle of stones, interesting, but no mystery as it had been clearly laid out by someone, or was there a more mysterious explanation?

As suspected the tor was largely obscured by trees but was a reasonable size if you walk around the perimeter to investigate.

Lunch stop, why not! It was a very hot day so shelter was required, unfortunately a small herd of ponies had the same idea so the tree I decided to sit under became the “goto” spot for shade. They clearly also had a taste for my cheese and pickle sandwiches and were so tempted I was pushed off my stone seat.

Maybe that was the purpose of the stone circle? So, I sat in the middle and finished my lunch, getting very hot, but now undisturbed by the ponies. Maybe it did have some mystical power, or maybe they just got bored with me.

From the tor all the way to Lower Spitchwick Lodge was a straight forward but steep walk down hill, but what a fantastic route for scenery. You have to try it, it reminded me of walking through the hills of Austria, absolutely beautiful (in my view!)

The footpath to Leigh Tor looked easy enough but guess who missed it! I actually turned off up a track too early. Luckily it followed a boundary wall to the top and joined with the path at the top so no drama this time. Really didn’t want to back track what was a reasonably steep walk up.

Leigh Tor is pretty big I think but again has a good bit of shrub and trees covering it but definitely worth checking out. What was sad to see was the ever-increasing signs of wild camping and fire pits which did spoil the look a bit. I guess it’s just too easy to camp there with a car park less than 25 metres from the tor!

Aish Tor next before walking Dr Blackalls Drive. Now this was disappointing, not much in the way of granite outcrop at all and actually not that easy to find the high point. When you do there is a small pile of rocks assembled to indicate you found it, which was helpful. Yes, I did check the GPS just to make sure!

A coffee stop overlooking the river Dart part way along, have to say, you get stunning views of the valley and river, could sit for hours gazing into the valley. Oh, how tempting was it to try and conquer Hockingston Tor from the path. Hmm, a quick look at the watch and at the very steep valley side covered in bracken and gorse, plus knowing where it is situated, maybe not today.

Past Mel Tor, a revisit another day there with the camera with the right light conditions I think, and back to the car.

OK, not the most gruelling walk but one with a few surprises and some glorious scenery. I’m pretty sure I’ll do it again just because it is such a lovely walk to fill in a few hours, three and a half to be precise.

Next time, The Tavy Five from Peter Tavy

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/3/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-8 Wed, 03 Mar 2021 10:00:47 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 7 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/2/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-7 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock the sponsor/donate page is now live. Thank you for your support

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

The target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle. A huge target, this is a huge walk and needs a big target!

So, here we go, as promised captured below are the "treats for targets" and if we make it to the £20,000 someone is in for a real treat!

Sponsored by the Two Bridges Hotel and Chris Bunney Photography

plus supported by the Dartmoor search and rescue team Tavistock, Dartmoor's Daughter and Simon Dell I think you'll agree that's a great way to say a huge thank you to all those who have and will support the challenge.

The draw when we hit the targets will take place soon after the challenge, likely to be at the Bedford Hotel (TBC). There is a small issue around a licence to draw when it is connected to a justgiving page, so at worse I will set up a draw with a nominal ticket price. More on that later when I get the details ironed out.

In the mean time have a browse and help to spread the word as far and wide as possible to help reach that rather large target!

Target Activity
£20,000
1 person + one guest
Two Bridges Hotel - Two night B&B 
Packed lunch for one day
Intro to navigation
Intro to landscape photography
Walk part of the challenge route
Devon Cream tea at Two Bridges
Personal portrait session plus 3 digital images
One Framed print of one of Dartmoor tors
   
£15,000
1 person
“DSRT Tavistock Mountain Rescue Experience”
Devon Cream tea at Bedford Hotel
Personal portrait session plus 3 digital images
Photograph digital images with DS&RT
One HD premium metallic print of Haytor Rocks
   
£10,000
4 people
“DSRT Tavistock Mountain Rescue Experience”
Intro to navigation
Intro to landscape photography
Walk part of the challenge route
HD digital file of one of Dartmoor tors
Devon Cream tea at Two Bridges Hotel
   
£5,000
4 people
Intro to navigation
Intro to landscape photography
Walk part of the challenge route
HD digital file of one of Dartmoor tors
Devon Cream tea at Two Bridges Hotel
   
£2,500
5 people
Intro to landscape photography
HD digital file of one of Dartmoor tors
   
£2,000
1 person each
Bronze age discovery walk with Simon Dell
Walking with Dartmoor's Daughter (voucher)
   
£1,500
5 people
HD digital file of one of Dartmoor tors

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography love dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/2/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-7 Sat, 20 Feb 2021 17:42:43 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 6 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/2/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-6 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock the sponsor/donate page is now live. Thank you for your support

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

The target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle. A huge target, this is a huge walk and needs a big target!

Time to find out if hell really is at Heltor rock! (via Blackingstone rock)

My starting point would be Mardon Down at the marked carpark on the map (also free, yippee!). As is my preference where possible I like to set a circular route, well, foiled again as this was another one of those that pretty much ended up with one way in and one way out! In hindsight, I’m not sure why I didn’t bother walking to the top of the Mardon Down to visit the giants grave. I know, I’ll do it on the way back, yeh, like that happened!

OK, let’s get started. This route just like parts of “my five-grand walk” is going to be all in the country lanes. That’s the yellow roads in case you’re wondering!

Turning left out of the car park skirting around the edge of the down you head slightly uphill where you will be immediately rewarded by fantastic views across the valley and into Moretonhampstead, you can’t miss it. A brief stop and the obligatory gaze to say you did it and onward to Doccombe cross and Cosick cross.

Now, you should start to realise that there is nearly always an early coffee stop! Today though, very few good stopping points so over a gate and just inside a field out of the sun for a cuppa. Pick the right spot and you’ll sit looking across the valley with Doccombe and Coombe farm in your sights. Stunning scenery.

On the road again heading toward Blackinstone Rock, apart from the undulating road nothing to really talk about until you reach the rock.

Not been before? Then you need to take the right-hand road to a fairly hidden track up to the rock. The map has one of those blue star things on it indicating a good view point. Climb part of the rock to a man-made staircase to the heavens! (you decide if this spoils it but I guess for safety reasons it was built for easier access) The view is truly magnificent which includes my first sighting of Heltor rock in the distance.

Having had my fill of scenery I continued to Heltor rock along the winding and very hilly road (it certainly warranted those two black arrows on the road!), popping into fields to look back getting a different perspective of Blackinstone. At this point I’m starting to think of what is likely to be a very long excursion off the moor just to pick up Heltor, boy it better be worth it.

Another steep climb up the road and there it stood in front of me, like a ceremonial slab, waiting for the next walking victim to venture up to the alter!

Skirting right at the road junction with the rock in front be careful not to walk past another fairly well-hidden short track up to the top. OK so the views from the top are equally impressive as that other boulder 30 minutes back up the road!

What was really annoying though, someone had left a bottle of drink and a sandwich pack almost untouched at the top. You don’t think the Devil came up from hell and took them as a living sacrifice, do you?

I took a couple of quick pics and didn’t stop for lunch, just in case!

So, does it live up to its name, well, it was a hell of a walk to get there and there was that hardly touched lunch. There’s also a legend that apparently King Arthur and the Devil had nothing better to do one day so they started slinging rocks at each other that ultimately created Blackingstone and Heltor rocks. Now I know Arthur could pull the sword from the stone but looking at the size of those boulders he would have needed a body like the Hulk to toss a few of those bad boys around! Luckily William Crossing tells the story a little better!

The route back was nothing more than backtracking and uneventful however I did take a slight deviation and walked down to Pepperdon Farm, why would I do that? To get an idea of the terrain from the moor to Heltor rock of course.

I shouldn’t have bothered, what I saw is probably the longest stretch of my route without bagging a tor. From Hunters Tor on the top of Lustleigh Cleeve to Pepperdon was a very significant distance and altitude to conquer. I’d rather look at the stunning view than think of walking across it.

This was not going to be easy or much fun, sometimes it’s better not to know what you’re up against. Maybe I could play the exception card and claim that Heltor is just a rock and could be left out? Surely no one would blame me!

Next time – Blackadon Tor and Leigh Tor, they sound safe enough!

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/2/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-6 Sat, 20 Feb 2021 17:16:38 GMT
My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 5 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/2/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-5 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock the sponsor/donate page is now live. Thank you for your support

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

The target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle. A huge target, this is a huge walk and needs a big target!

 

Will Luckey Tor really be lucky?

My last attempt to tackle Luckey Tor could be regarded as a success as at least I found it, albeit a bit of a scramble approaching it from above the valley of the Dart. Possibly not the best way.

So, the following day I decided to park at Dartmeet car park and do something I very rarely do, I actually paid for parking! Only the third time in the year! Tight or frugal, I’ll leave you to decide.

I also wanted to see if I could retrieve my map left there the previous day, what are the odds it will still be there I wonder.

From the car park I stayed left of the river and started following the track veering off left uphill through a gate.

The path and terrain started off really easy and was very pleasant, the sun was shining and it stayed like that for a good while so nothing other than a very nice walk along the river to describe.

Not long after feeling rather chilled things started to change, not massively, but the easy path turned into some boulder hopping. In dry weather this wouldn’t be much of a problem but if wet and slippery then some caution would be required.

A couple of slightly more tricky sets of rocks to navigate and the path intermittently returned to that nice gentle stroll. Although I would say this was not a stroll in the park neither was it particularly difficult however I was still looking to reach the tor some forty minutes later!

It wasn’t long before Luckey Tor had once again been conquered, a nice open area lays out in front of it next to the river. A lovely spot for a coffee break or lunch. Coffee sounds good!

Unfortunately, that is where my luck ran out that day as rather unsurprisingly, my map was nowhere in sight. At least it had a reasonable amount of use, but £10 for a new one still hurts just the same.

Coffee mugs away and onward to Hockingston Tor, never been there so a new one to “bag”.

This time the terrain was somewhat more challenging. Again, while the route was achievable, it was more challenging than that leading to Luckey Tor.

It wasn’t really very exciting or very enjoyable to be honest, lots of rocks, a couple of land slips which all added to the challenge along with at some points more than one route to choose from.

There were a couple of pleasant intervals, a lovely small waterfall and a large flat outcrop of rock pushing out into the middle of the river. The later looked like it would be easily covered in wet weather when the river would run high.

Eventually after a couple of “bum” slides across the land slips, be careful here, I nearly ended up in the river which would have been embarrassing especially as there were children playing on the opposite side, how on earther did they get there? I happened to stumble across what looked like Hockingston Tor. A total of one hour and 30 minutes from the carpark!

Strange though as the map looks like it is part way up the valley side not just to the left of the river bank. So, the inevitable scramble bout twenty metres up the side of the valley and there it was. Mostly hidden by trees and the rock covered in moss so very difficult to get a good clean look at it in the summer, and a tor that could be easily missed. Definitely easily forgotten, and questionable if it was worth the effort.

If it wasn’t on my list to visit on my planned route I would most certainly not go back!

Lunch break this time to get over the overwhelming sense of disappointment before retracing my steps back to Dartmeet. Another one hour and thirty minutes of pure, hmm, let me see, trudging back, I guess.

Got to say, these two will not fill me with excitement during my challenge but they have to be done!

Next time, Heltor rock, is this really Hell?

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor devon landscape magazine national park photography https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/2/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever---blog-5 Fri, 05 Feb 2021 17:30:30 GMT
My Biggest Dartmoor Challenge EVER - blog 4 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/1/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever-blog-4 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock the sponsor/donate page is now live. Thank you for your support

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

So…… the planning begins. With all good plans you need a purpose, a target, an outcome and at least one benefit.

The purpose - To help raise £50,000 for the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team Tavistock to purchase a replacement operations vehicle.

The challenge - Visit all the marked tors and some “rocks” (total 170) on the Ordinance Survey map OS28, that’s walking 400km!

The target - Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle. A huge target, this is a huge walk and needs a big target!

The Outcome - That’s easy, to complete the walk and raise £20,000

The benefit - Keeping the search and rescue team operational to continue saving lives and help people on and off the moor.

Time to start taking a closer look at this monster of a walk! Over the coming months I will select sections of the route and look at the challenge in a little more detail. If you have the opportunity why wouldn’t you.

First up Yar Tor, Corndon Tor, Bell Tor, Luckey Tor and Hockingston Tor.

I’ve set foot on a lot of the tors over the years but having identified all on the map I realised there are a good number I haven’t visited. I also like to try and create circular walks; I find it really difficult to reach a place and then just back track to the car! Following the lanes can also be very interesting at times, there is some lovely walking between the villages and hamlets.

My starting point for the day took me through Dartmeet to a parking spot half way up the steep hill on the way to Bell Tor corner. Why I parked there I have no idea, it was a very hot day and at the end of the walk having to go that extra distance down the hill was, well, just stupid really. An early albeit small lesson learned!

Yar Tor is an easy target, a straight line from the car to the top and took about 10 minutes. There’s a lot of it so if you go take the time to look around. There is a sizable cairn but suspect some human intervention based on the spiral layout of the stones that now draw you to the middle. Because of the commanding views, you guessed it, an early coffee stop. With no one around apart from ponies it was very relaxing.

Corndon Tor is visible across the road and offers similar views. Depending on your direction you may pass by a memorial close to the road.

Dropping down to the road Ponsworthy is the next stop, a little place but nice. I always find it amusing as cars spin round the corner heading for Dartmeet, there is a gully in the road to allow water to flow and yep you guessed it, they all misjudge it and rattle the spoilers as they cross it. They really should take more care!

Onward to Leusdon, another small hamlet overlooking Blackadon Down which has a nature reserve just below it and above the river Webburn. It’s also where Blackadon Tor sits but that’s for another day. Spinning around right the road took me across Leusdon Down and heading passed Uppercott farm back toward Bell Tor corner. A steep section to focus the mind! Strange, there always seem to be a herd of cows around the top, they always look at me as if I’m some sort of “nutter”. Surprisingly that’s where you will find Bell Tor, unfortunately this one lies in private land so there is no public access, unless you dress up as a sheep!

Now this is where it got interesting. From Bell Tor corner, I walked through the car park and followed the wall toward Sharp Tor. The idea was to follow the road and track to Rowbrook, pick up a track through the grounds and drop down to Luckey Tor. Not a chance. First of all, there is no public track through the Rowbrook anymore so the only choice was to follow the boundary wall all the way around to the other side. While it started out really boggy and banging my head on what seemed like every low branch it opened up giving an easy walk three quarters the way round.

Then the fun started. I was going to find the stream and follow it down to the tor. It was like the “land of the giants”, google it if your younger than forty! The bracken must have been seven foot high with very few tracks through it, ridiculous and a setback.

No option but to smash my way through until I got to the tree line, which to be fair, with a cautious approach wasn’t too bad. After forty-five minutes I finally found Luckey Tor, which didn’t feel that lucky at that point. I also forgot my map! What made it worse someone (I’ll protect the innocent here!) took a picture of the tor just after I left with my map in it! Talk about rubbing it in.

At this point Hockingston was abandoned for another day! Forty-five minutes later I was back at the top. With a slow walk around Sharp Tor, couldn’t be bothered to go over the top, I followed the track and road back to the car.

It all started so easy and what appeared to be very accessible tors on the Dart turned out to be, well, not so easy!

Next time, Luckey Tor from Dartmeet and to get my map back, plus onward to Hockingston.
 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor devon landscape magazine national park photography https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/1/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever-blog-4 Sat, 30 Jan 2021 15:18:09 GMT
My Biggest Dartmoor Challenge EVER - blog 3 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/1/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever-blog-3 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock the sponsor/donate page is now live. Thank you for your support

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever

So…… the planning begins.

With all good plans you need a purpose, a target, an outcome and at least one benefit.

The purpose

To help raise £50,000 for the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team Tavistock to purchase a replacement operations vehicle.

The challenge

Visit all the marked tors and some “rocks” (total 170) on the Ordinance Survey map OS28, that’s walking 400km!

The target

Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle. A huge target, this is a huge walk and needs a big target!

The Outcome

That’s easy, to complete the walk and raise £20,000

The benefit

Keeping the search and rescue team operational to continue saving lives and help people on and off the moor.

 

Well, I have a route, that took longer to create than I thought. Hope that’s not an omen of things to come, everything takes longer than expected. Not sure I could cope with more than 14 days and even that might prove to be a step too far! Time will tell.

Now to start thinking about what else I need. Mobile for emergencies if required, I’m hoping not, but I need to keep it charged so battery packs or solar chargers? Oh dear more research. What food do I take for fourteen days? that’s going to be a lot of weight. I’m guessing up to 30kg but that sounds horribly heavy.

Drinking water, now this is one area that does send shivers down the spine. At the moment my potential camping spots are not too close to rivers, surprisingly, so one of those “special” water filter things will be needed. I hope they work really well as I don’t have the hardiest of stomachs. This could be a challenge for me.

What about if I get into trouble and no signal, as I’ll be on my own, I’m really thinking I should have a personal locator beacon. Help at the press of a button if you get into serious trouble. A bit pricy at a couple hundred pound but I guess better that than end up in trouble with no help in the middle of nowhere.

Blimey, I haven’t even got to the basics yet. I wonder if I’m over thinking it.

For those that hike and camp on Dartmoor frequently you’ll probably be thinking providing you take care and have the right gear it’ll be fine. What you haven’t taken into account is I’ll be walking consecutive days further than ever before, wild camping for the first time, very aware of de-risking as much as possible. So yes, I’m probably being over cautious but let’s face it, it’s not the place to go unprepared! I’m suddenly starting to feel like a 61 year old!

OK, less of the mundane, I’ll do a full kit list later plus all those necessary gadgets to ensure safety for fourteen days.

Distance per day, now that’s an interesting one. Twenty years ago I would be clocking up 45km per day no sweat, but guess what, the head says I can still do that, unfortunately the body has a bit more to say about it. Actually, quite a bit more! Having tracked recent walking with my GPS (ah, another must have gadget for me!) it seems I have an average for the day of 3km per hour… ish. Well, I do like a good coffee break and admire the view when I stop for lunch!

Maybe I should rethink my tactics and try eating and drinking more on the go rather than stopping. That’s it then, an enjoyable and steady 30km per day, that’s still 10 hours walking a day though. Maybe a bit more training can improve that.

Right, with a back pack full of all the required essentials and weighing in at 30kg’s, what! That’s got to be stripped back, I’ll never carry it let alone finish the route.  I could do what they do in the artic and pull a sledge behind me, ok stupid idea. Back to the packing plan, something has to go, actually quite a bit. Blimey, this is getting a bit tricky already.

At least I already have some decent weather gear providing it doesn’t leak between now and next year. Can I name drop? Ah well, my Arterix jacket was a great purchase, I know it was expensive but is a dream fit and stayed waterproof for almost 10 years! You do get what you pay for I guess. Don’t forget my boots, yes I love those too, Meindl Bhutan, sounds just the business, built for walking.

Side-track moment – Gortex guaranteed waterproof boots leak! There, I’ve said it. I won’t say too much but three pairs handed back before I got the right ones, enough said!

Enough of this, back to the more interesting stuff.

Next time, boots on the ground, I start checking out the route in the field. Maybe a training programme?

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor devon landscape magazine national park photography https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/1/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever-blog-3 Sat, 23 Jan 2021 18:00:05 GMT
My Biggest Dartmoor Challenge EVER..... Blog 2 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/1/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever-blog-2 A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock the sponsor/donate page is now live. Thank you for your support

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever


So…… the planning begins.

With all good plans you need a purpose, a target, an outcome and at least one benefit.

The purpose

To help raise £50,000 for the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team Tavistock to purchase a replacement operations vehicle.

The challenge

Visit all the marked tors and some “rocks” (total 170) on the Ordinance Survey map OS28, that’s walking 400km!

The target

Raise £20,000 to help fund the new operations vehicle. A huge target, this is a huge walk and needs a big target!

The Outcome

That’s easy, to complete the walk and raise £20,000

The benefit

Keeping the search and rescue team operational to continue saving lives and help people on and off the moor.

 

I think you’ll agree a worthy cause to undertake my biggest challenge.

Now it may appear straight forward just marking up the tors but after several hours looking at every square on both sides of the map I was finding them all over the place! The worst part, I needed to keep repeating the process in case I missed any. This wasn’t going to be a couple of hours.

The more well-known tors were easy to find and soon I was up to 120 plus tors identified, but they kept popping up and with a little help from the good folk on the Dartmoor 365 Facebook group I kept finding more. Oh dear, they are mounting up!

OK I think I have them all, 164 tagged, crikey, a few more than I had anticipated. Now how on earth do I get the most effective and manageable route to link them up?

What was immediately clear is there are rocks and tors and some with tor in the name but referred to as rocks. So, what do I include? Well, a little bit of walking licence here, the more well-known like Haytor rocks and Helltor rocks will be visited but others will not. But rest assured everyone that is a named tor like Fox Tor will be visited.

Now to link them up.

This is going to take some time. It’s clear this will not be done solely on the moors alone as the tors are positioned on all extremes of the map. It will cover roads, lanes, tracks and open moor to reach all of these.

I’m going to need a really big incentive to keep me focused for a years’ worth of planning and be sure I get myself in top hiking condition in preparation for this.

I know, I’ll tell everyone what I’m planning to do, start communicating that I’m raising funds for charity and then I can’t back out! Hmm… that’ll work won’t it?

I pondered for weeks on a route and finally I have one, I better not find any more tors!

Rather than a circular there appears no option but to zig zag up the East side of Dartmoor and down the West side, no particular reason for East first other than the furthest outlying point is Heltor rocks and to get it out of the way as soon as possible. You’ll understand when I talk about that later!

I hope my body and boots are strong enough to tackle this.

Next time – It’s not just all about the walking!

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/1/my-biggest-dartmoor-challenge-ever-blog-2 Tue, 12 Jan 2021 11:56:13 GMT
My Biggest Dartmoor Challenge EVER..... Blog 1 https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2020/9/my-five-grand-walk-blog-1 My Biggest Dartmoor Challenge EVER..... Blog 1

A big challenge deserves a big target, if you would like to support the Dartmoor Search and Rescue team Tavistock the sponsor/donate page is now live. Thank you for your support

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever
 

I know where to start but how do I start and what on earth made me think I can do it! So many things I want to do but need to prioritise and start putting plans down and into action.

Question: What made me decide to do it?   Do what?

Walk (hike if you want it to sound more exciting!) all the tors marked on the Ordinance Survey OL28 map in a single journey, on my own carrying all my supplies. That’s 162 tors, 8 “rocks” and 400 km in fourteen or less days (most likely 14 days then).

Well, it started as a modest 60 tors in 60 hours at 60. It’s got a kind of nice ring to it don’t you think.

Oh there’s a few others things to throw in here. I wanted to do something to help a charity so I joined the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team Tavistock supporters club. As I’m spending more time on Dartmoor, rather selfishly, I thought I might need them one day and paying it forward would be a great idea! If I never need them it would fulfil the brief completely.

Anyway, since getting an insight to the work the team does, I have a real respect for their total commitment (all volunteers) which has really changed my mind set to help as much as possible.

Oh, another “throw in”, I’m looking to do this as a sponsored event with all monies raised going directly to the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team at Tavistock (details to follow).

I started to like the idea and went about picking 60 tors to walk in the summer of 2020 (mention 2020 just in case you read this in a later year, obviously). But then some virus turned up, suddenly all bets were off and doing this at 60 clearly wasn’t going to happen!

Plan B was required, hmm…. what could I do? At least I have plenty of time to think about it. I know, I’ll put the full Dartmoor map on the table and identify all the tors on it and walk them. Can’t be that hard surely!

A plan was hatched, challenge number one, put a sticker on every tor and plot a circular route around what has turned out to be a 399 km circular walk. One pair of boots should make it round!

The plan now is to tackle this in 2021 so, follow me along my journey over the next 7 months as I plan and eventually start to walk my biggest Dartmoor challenge ever. 400 km, what I have set myself up for!

Oh, why the title I hear you ask.

I’ve definitely never walked that far self-supported or otherwise, so it’s the biggest for sure. Neither have I attempted to raise funds to the tune of £20,000 before so another, biggest tick in the box.

The Dartmoor bit is easy, it’s on Dartmoor!

Challenge, again simple, both the physical walk and the huge figure as a target makes it together a massive challenge.

Ever, quite simply, never done anything like it before so currently the biggest challenge ever!

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mybiggestdartmoorchallengeever
Next time – the real planning begins!

 

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(Chris Bunney Devon Wedding Photography) charity dartmoor dartmoor magazine dartmoor national park devon landscape landscape photography Love Dartmoor photography ramblers search & rescue tavistock the great outdoors walking https://www.bunneyphotography.co.uk/blog/2020/9/my-five-grand-walk-blog-1 Sun, 13 Sep 2020 20:53:45 GMT