My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 24

May 06, 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 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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