The full solo walk into the wilds of Northern Dartmoor! Red is planned and Blue is Actual. The walk covered 46.6 km which is around 29 miles. Although the trip was over three days, it started late on Saturday and ended early on Monday resulting in around only two days on the moor. That equates to around 15 miles a day, most of which was cross country with an 18kg load. During the walk I ascended 1454 mtrs and descended 1410 mtrs!
This would be my first walk in the parts of Dartmoor owned by the Army. As such, I had to make sure that they were not live firing on the days I would be there!
I really enjoyed this walk, because unlike many other walks (such as in Wales), once one gets onto the Moor proper, there are no trails, it is just pure unadulterated wilderness! I’m not sure of any other areas in England that are large enough and wild enough to put one in such situations.
In many ways I wished I had a lot longer to explore – but alas, all I had to play with was a Bank-Holiday weekend.
The one standout of the walk was my fitness. It was on a whole new level compared to my previous walks. Hills seemed to be climbed a lot faster and with fewer rest stops – in fact some hills didn’t require any rests at all! This aspect of my fitness really added to the overall enjoyment of the walk.
As usual I have taken a small selection of images from my Facebook Journal to tell the story. On with Day 1!!!
Day 1 – 13.9 km with 652 mtrs ascent and 301 mtrs descent
Rather bizarrely, my walk starts through a golf course on the outskirts of Okehampton!
The Meldon Reservoir Dam. My route goes over this. However, due to a wrong turning I’m on the wrong side of the valley. Rather than try to correct this I decide to head straight for the dam on this side.
I start the climb up my first hill called Longstone Hill. This is the view back toward the Meldon Reservoir.
The route up Longstone Hill is well marked by tracks, so didn’t provide any navigation issues. What did surprise me is how much my fitness had come on. I can only attribute this to my new exercise regime where 4 days a week I haul around 20kg in books in my old rucksack for approx 3.5 km at a speed of 7kph. I should add that when I’m out hiking I don’t rush about at anywhere near this speed! I’d miss the scenery otherwise!
I make it to the top of Longstone hill at an elevation of 412 mtrs. In the distance can be seen an Army warning mast – presumably for flying red flags and showing red lights when they are conducting live firings.
I now eyeball Yes Tor – the highest in Dartmoor at 619 mtrs. It is my next destination!
On my way up to Yes Tor I take this photo of the surrounding countryside. The views and the weather were gorgeous and the contributory cause of my ear to ear grin!
I approach the top of Yes Tor and I’m quite surprised by the positioning of the Trig point – it’s mounted directly on the rock forming the Tor!
I start the final climb up to the trig point. The winds are extremely strong here, though luckily for me not quite in the same league that I encountered on my last Black Mountains walk.
Wooot!!!! I make it to the top of Yes Tor! Finally, I have bagged Dartmoor’s highest Tor!
This photo shows quite aptly how much elevation I had climbed – in this case 619 mtrs worth!
The one thing that detracts from walking the Army ranges is that practically nearly every Tor has some kind of Army kit on it. In Yes Tor’s case there is a communications antenna, flag pole and what looks like some accommodation. I personally think that these items spoil the Tors.
A final look down towards the way I came!
My next destination is High Willhays Tor. Luckily for me there is a track to take me straight there!
As I get nearer to High Willhays I spot the rather distinctive Cairn like structure on it.
The next destination is Dinger Tor. There is no real visual cue from here and no tracks, so out pops the compass to send me in the right direction! This would be my first cross country jaunt of this walk.
I think I spot what looks like a boulder in the distance. From my map I think it is an item marked as ‘B’ Rock. But as it was to turn out, it was actually Dinger Tor looking exceedingly small from this distance!
I get to Dinger Tor which is confirmed both by its size (it is a lot bigger than it looks here) and by the track that terminates alongside it. From here on in, there would be no more tracks until I started to exit the Moor again. I was now entering true wilderness country!
I’m now headed cross country on a Compass bearing which should take me to a catchment feature called Brim Brook. I used a navigation technique called ‘Offsetting’ where one deliberately dials in a bearing error so that one arrives at a catchment feature on a known side of the target location. In my case the target location is where Brim Brook runs into the West Okement stream in a place known as Kneeset Nose. The idea of the offset is that when one arrives at the stream, one knows which way to turn to get to the target feature! I will have to write a few articles on Navigation to explain more fully! 🙂
The going cross country is quite tough due to the grass tussocks and the underlying bog. However, eventually I run into Brim Brook. I know from my deliberate compass error that I need to hang a left here and follow the stream until it meets the West Okement Stream.
And right on cue I find the join point otherwise known as Kneeset Nose. I don’t know if it is that I get easily impressed, but I got quite a buzz from my navigation techniques actually paying off and working! It shows that since taking up hiking I have learnt something! 🙂
Despite the late start to the day I make it to my camp spot at Kneeset Nose with plenty of time to spare and casually set about making camp. I love the thrill of setting up camp, out in the middle of nowhere!
The view from my abode!
As with every camp I make, I fill up all three water bottles from my travel tap. This takes a while but ensures an adequate amount of water for camp use.
This is the view back to my tent from my bottle filling location. In many respects this is the perfect camp with water on tap! Unlike camp spots on a hill I do not have to worry about water consumption!
Now that I have water I start up the Trangia 27 stove. Here it is lit, but meths flames are normally invisible. I normally wave my hand across the top of the stove to check whether it lit properly. I like Trangia’s because there are no moving parts (nothing can go wrong), one can keep track of fuel usage (hard to do with gas canisters) and they are completely silent unlike their gas brethren. Plus as an added bonus, they come with built in windshield and all the items one would need to cook practically anything!
And today’s main meal is Spaghetti Bolognese! Here is the freeze dried meal before reconstitution!
Of all my camping spots, I rate this one the perfect camp! Great access to nearby water, fairly flat land and miles from anywhere!
My main meal is ready and it’s delicious! 🙂
As most hikers know, every now and then you have to dig a latrine. Dartmoor is a pain in this regard. Firstly the long grasses make it difficult to dig and secondly the barren nature of the Moors mean that there is little cover!
Back in the tent ready for sleep. This is the Vestibule area outside of the inner tent. It was one of the main reasons I bought an Akto Tent – having the space to store kit outside of the main sleeping compartment!
I don’t know if it is just me, but the insides of my tent are a great study into organised chaos! This is the head end. I had chosen to bring my 4 season sleeping bag, which for this particular night was overkill!
Boots off and enjoying a lie down!
Day 1’s camp location at Kneeset Nose by Brim Brook. The walk is through an Army training area – hence the warning on the map!