My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 32

May 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 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

 


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