My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 18

April 24, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

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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