My biggest Dartmoor challenge EVER - Blog 39

June 15, 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 27 – Burrator Loop in reverse plus some!

There are some routes that happen to be easy to pull together and extend if required. The Burrator loop is one of those and to mix it up a bit do it in reverse which surprisingly provides a different view point and challenge in places.

Tracking the weather forecast and my scheduled walks I was lucky to avoid the heat over the weekend and hoped for a cooler spell on the Monday. Nope, I soon found out the temperature was once again, set to soar over the twenties. This was apparently confirmed on the final leg of the walk when I bumped into Paul walking his dog, who informed me the top temperature had reached twenty-five degrees on the moor!

I can tell you I felt every degree of it!

The target for the day was a minimum of 20 km but really wanted to start hitting the high twenty km’s to give my self any chance of dragging 30 kilos over 30 km. That meant adding in some distance to the original reversed route.

Technically I suppose you could call this the Meavy loop as that’s where I started, just by the school. The first thing that became very clear when I parked at 9:30am was it was going to be a little warm, the car was already reading twenty-two degrees!

It was also a laboured start, knowing how I struggle with heat it took a while to get out of the house and drive to the moor. I’m hoping once on the moor the daily ritual of waking, eating, breaking camp and walking will become a bit easier. At least I won’t have the home comforts to break away from each day!

Off I went then, down the road and around to the very narrow bridge over the river Meavy, it was very tempting to wade through the ford already. Reaching the bridge, a large truck passed and decided the bridge was just too narrow to get over and started his twelve-point turn to turn around. “I’ve never been this way before” he defeatedly advised. At least he managed to turn which I thought in itself was pretty good going.

Once completed I was able to cross the bridge and head for Merchants cross and take a left along a track toward Yeo Farm. The path had changed from my very first visit here and now diverts around the farm rather than going through it. Just after you reach the farm you need to pay attention to the route as it is very easy to veer off right and end up in the wrong direction. The path actually veers left, you would hardly believe it was the path until a few meters forward where you pick up a post sign directing you through Burrator wood.

Walking through Burrator wood is still as lovely as ever, I’ve never seen anyone else walking there which makes it very peaceful with lots of bird song. Over a few styles and into the fields leading to a farm building. Now here, if you’re walking away from Sheepstor it is clearly marked however in reverse, it may be just me, the footpath sign direction seems a little confused. You guessed it, I followed a path that was marked but not the intended path! As I was looking to add distance and not remove it, I wasn’t concerned and happy when I reached the road and found I was at the Sheepstor village boundary sign. Taking a right along the road put me back on course allowing a left turn up the road before reaching the church leading to the footpath that walks you around the base of Sheeps tor.

It’s a surprisingly long way around the base of the tor but an easy route to walk and follow. Very conscious of the temperature it was all about making the distance and less about the time and number of stops. Time for a water stop, the first of many today. This is where I also had a nice chat to Jan and Ann who were down on holiday, what a week to visit Dartmoor! It’s a big tor with spectacular views and brought into scale as I watched them ascend. They suddenly looked very small as they got closer to the top.

From here the next target point was the tip/edge of Rough tor plantation and a track turning left down toward Deancombe and Norsworthy car park. Another very nice path to follow, be careful descending down to the river crossing as the path is stony and gritty which is very easy to slip on due to the steepish descent. Once down to the river it’s a lovely place to stop for a while, but I was heading for the car park in the shade to have lunch by the river. Surprisingly not that busy, I guess the heat was too hot for most.

Lunch over, I was really tempted to paddle my very hot feet but decided I would probably end up spending far too much time there and wreck any chance of doing a distance. Onward to Down tor, I’ve mentioned this one before and I still love the area leading up to the tor and the tor itself for the varied terrain and the views to be had.

What really made it this time on the way up was a couple sat in their deckchairs with umbrellas up to keep the sun off. It really did look like a scene from a film clip. With the backdrop of Down tor, the sunshine and the green trees and surroundings, it looked idyllic. A chat with Ed and his partner was on the cards as I passed!

What was also brilliant was both couples donated at the end of the day which really made my day after a long hot and tiring walk as it turned out! Not to put any pressure on anyone else of course.

I’m always amazed and truly grateful for the support that is often given after bumping into people and chatting about the challenge. I really do appreciate it, thank you.

 

A few mini stops later and a clamber over some rocks and Down tor was “captured”! Now to head for the stone circle and row. I was hoping that once I climbed up onto the open moor some sort of breeze would make life a little more comfortable. Afraid not, while a breeze came and went it helped but it remained very hot and I was sweating the water out almost as fast as I was drinking it.

Over a litre gone already, far more than I have after needed in the past. At this point heat aside, I was still moving pretty well considering the heat. At least it felt like it, shoulders, well they are always going to feel the strain but were holding up ok, feet were going well and the bag weight wasn’t too bad.

Across to the stone circle and row. What struck me at this point was the number of cows across the ridge. They seemed to be everywhere, also, there appeared to be a large number of very young calves. This was also true regarding horses. No idea why but definitely more than I have recently seen. What became very frustrating as I progressed, they all seemed to want to straddle the paths I was following resulting in some very wide births around them. While they didn’t appear to be too bothered about my presence, I’m guessing it was just too hot to care, I wasn’t going to take any chances, just in case.

Several detours around several different groups of cows and horses with young I followed the path right across the ridge and to the point where Devonport leat appears to make its first appearance onto the open moor. There is also an old ruin hut which is interesting. Following the leat toward Older Bridge and not far from the leat source a cross sits on the side of the hill, this doesn’t appear to be marked on the map which I find a little odd.

Another group of cows and I was forced to swap sides of the leat, why can’t they stay in the same place or at least cover a smaller area, they’re all over the place! A little further on an unusual sight, a tractor slowly trundling along. As it got closer and keeping my reputation of being nosey, I found out they were on their way to do some leat dredging.

The next target was the trig point across from Cramber tor. I have done this area a few times and decided to test my instinct. Could I cross the leat and pick a point to walk uphill to reach the trig point? Well, first footbridge choice was a no go. On approach cows again were congregating, this time a couple of adults and half a dozen calves. It did cross my mind to try and walk around them to the footbridge but it became an obvious no when I saw the calves were sat and stood around it. Just to convince me, another cow decided to investigate and for the first time gave several warning “moos” and approached with an attitude it meant business, clearly protecting the young.

That’ll be the next footbridge then.

Located and crossed I took my intuitive direction and zig zagged up the hill avoiding more cows and horses with their young. I was feeling fairly confident I would be close to the trig point as I approached the brow of the hill. It remains out of sight until almost on top of it. One last adjustment and blow me, there it was, directly in front of me. It’s little victories like this that take your mind momentarily away from the heat and ailments! I was pretty happy for a few minutes!

Cramber tor was an easy walk following a clear track and presented no issues in reaching. There was also a very visible track leading to Hart tor once the Hart tor Brook was negotiated. Due to the weather the area normally wet was already drying out again making it easy to reach the brook ready for crossing. Water levels also very low again crossing it didn’t prove to be too difficult and quickly made it to the “marble” with its little grass hat on. Up the short hill and Hart tor was in the bag.

Next, over to Black tor. I know there are a couple of places that have a steel girder of some sort to cross but never plotted these so headed toward what looked like a ford, or at least where the cattle crossed. Blimey, here we go again, another couple of groups of cows scattered all over the place. Divert required.

Luckily as everything was so dry getting down to the Meavy wasn’t difficult and a quick scout around a suitable crossing point was located and completed.

Just a short up hill walk to Black tor for a water break, now over two litres down the hatch!

Now a long stretch to reach Sharpitor, walking up toward the road and around the edge of Stanlake plantation and a straight line up to the tor. It’s not hugely difficult, but the day is getting on and the legs were showing the first signs of tiredness so it felt worse than it probably was. Peek Hill next and what looked odd to me was the height between Sharpitor and Peek Hill, they’re the same height on the map but walking between them Peek Hill seems to be higher extending that long stretch of a walk from Black tor.

 

Once there, as I mentioned previously the view down the valley and into Burrator are pretty spectacular. I defy anyone to walk there and not stop to take in the view. Of course, I stopped for a break!

Getting close to finish now and not much of the three litres of water I packed left either. Walking across to the wall of Peek Hill plantation a steepish drop following another stony path, easy to follow but some care required to avoid slipping.

Now I’m getting really close and started to wonder if I would make my target of twenty-five kilometres. A welcome stroll through the plantation which was now cooler in the trees toward Burrator Lodge and the dam where I dropped down from the track to the road.

I was getting tired now, I think largely due to the heat, but under the circumstances I didn’t feel too bad and still had some walking left in me. Just the path from Burrator down to Meavy and I was done. Still warm but cooler this was a nice final downhill stretch to reach the car and dump the bag unceremoniously into the boot of the car!

 

Overall, I felt pretty good, I was hoping for twenty-five kilometres which meant I would need a further ninety minutes to reach thirty kilometres, the distance required each day. Which on this occasion I would have been able to complete.

Stats,

Total distance 25 km

Total trip time 9 hours duration

Average trip time 2.7 km per hour

Average moving speed 4.6 km per hour

 


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