My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 26

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 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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