My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 25

May 08, 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 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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