Day 3’s curtailed walked route of 13.2km with 404 mtrs of ascent and 405 mtrs of descent. (Click for full-sized map)
Day three was planned to be an easy day. It was designed as a day to recover from the previous day’s Northern Moor crossing. It included a lot of track walking as well as some slack as I knew that I would finally be getting to pop into Crockern Farm to meet up with fellow Bloggers!
The elevation profile for Day 3’s walk.
Topmost of my mind was the flying visit. I’m not naturally a social person, so I was a little anxious about the visit. But in the end things worked out well with Catherine and Roger proving to be impeccable hosts.
Crockern Farm was supposed to be the headline of Day 3, but alas, it had been overtaken by events…
Day three was the first time I have ever had to cut a walk short in the 5 years I have been doing it. Such decisions are never taken lightly, but the winds and poor weather finally got the better of me.
At the time I had felt quite guilty about the decision, but since then I have come to realise that it was the right one to make. Had I not made it, I could have quite easily ended up on the wrong end of a rescue operation on the Northern Moors.
I must apologise in advance for the quality of this post’s photos, however, the weather was not being conducive to the taking of these!
Anyways, I’ll let the pictures do their thing…
I awake to the sounds of rain. As with Day 2, I immediately pack the sleeping bag and down jacket into their respective dry bags to keep them away from any moisture.
Day 3’s view out of the tent!
Time for breakfast! The warm muesli goes down particularly well on this cold morning!
As with previous camp-spots I leave the ground in a pristine condition. If you look bottom left, you can see the hole in the ground that ended up in the vestibule of my tent. A quick inspection reveals that it does run fairly deep, which adds to my suspicions that I had accidentally camped on a burrow of some sort!
Today’s initial plan is to handrail West Dart Southward to get me to Crockern Farm and then ultimately to the B3357 road. But before I start the handrail I need to climb the hill to my left to find the track that will take me in that direction.
As expected, the terrain I had to traverse to get to the hill was exceedingly boggy. My dry socks didn’t make it past the 5 minute mark! Note to self, must replace leaky Salomon boots…
It doesn’t take long before I locate the trail Southward. Navigationally speaking, today would be a fairly relaxed one as most of the walk would be on trails.
The track is very slippery due to the wet grass and mud. The winds are also quite strong but are not in quite the same league as the winds I would encounter later on…
Looks like this day’s weather is going to be non-stop rain. However, my thoughts aren’t about the weather, instead I’m thinking about the up and coming rendezvous with Catherine and Roger over at Crockern Farm. This is a big departure for me, as I don’t normally meet up with people on my walks!
To the right are Wistman’s Woods. These woods are very similar to those at Piles Copse and Black-a-Tor Copse. It is hard to believe that Dartmoor was once completely covered by the Oak trees that make up this wood.
Through the rain and fog I can now make out some trees and what looks like farm buildings in the far distance.
I soon get to the first boundary wall. These are handy features when following long tracks as they enable one to precisely gauge one’s progress on the map.
Before I cross the wall I take this photo of the signage for Wistman’s Wood. Like all the other Oak woods on Dartmoor this one is classified as a Nature Reserve.
On crossing the wall, I have to stop my walk to tie up a boot lace that had undone itself. I guess the wet laces from the previous day had worked their way loose. However, when I turn around to look at the gate…
I’m rather surprised to see a group of young hikers heading off the Moors. They were right behind me and I didn’t even know they were there! Observation skills null-point! I look at the kit they are carrying and it looks exceedingly bulky and heavy. My rucksack is half the size and has equipment and food for 5 days – I’m not sure what they are carrying!
I’m soon back on the trail. I work my way to the front of the other hikers, but it was kind of disconcerting to know that they were right behind me!
It doesn’t take long before I spot the outer buildings for Crockern Farm. I’m now a little anxious as I’m not really a social animal. I guess my introverted nature puts paid to that!
I pop into Crockern Farm where I meet up with Roger and Catherine for the first time. I had always intended to pop in during one of my walks, but the nearby terrain makes it relatively difficult to put a decent North to South Dartmoor plan together. We swap many stories and I get to look around their excellent abode. The work they have put in over the years is certainly paying off! If you want to read more about their adventures pop over to their Crockern Farm Blog!
Roger manages to snap a picture of Catherine and I – proof that I do socialise occasionally! Having someone else take a picture always results in a better photo. Given that these are rare for me, I take advantage of it and use a cropped version for my blog portrait!
With a lack of daylight in the Winter I soon have to depart Crockern Farm and head back out into the wilds!
I’m now headed Southward on a well made track. The plan is to intercept the B3357 road where I will hang a left Eastward.
There we go! The gate to the main road.
I had checked this road out on Google Maps to make sure it was safe enough to walk on after some rather hair raising experiences on my first Lake District walk with regard to fast moving traffic. This area nececitates a road walk from here, either East or West to enable one to proceed onwards – it’s one of the reasons why my earlier plans have avoided the area.
Although the sighting lines down the road are not too good, there is plenty of free space to my right to avoid any incoming traffic.
The sight lines do eventually open up to reveal the extent of my journey. I’m going to be walking for approximately 1.5 km down this road.
I soon get to a tree-line (not on the map!) where I spot a sign which I presume is the one to the Prince Hall Hotel. This is the turn off I need to head Southward toward the start of Royal Hill. The road walk had been completed much faster than anticipated, but deep down I knew why… I was being propelled along by some exceedingly strong winds. This worried me somewhat as I knew that most of today’s journey would be into those same winds but at a much higher elevation…
As I get nearer to the sign, it does confirm that it is indeed the sign to the Prince Hall Hotel. Time to get off the road and head Southward.
To my right are water logged fields. The winds coming in from this direction are ferociously strong. This does not bode well for the rest of the journey.
Most of the road that I’m following to the hotel is waterlogged. I guess that this road was never designed for the volume of rain that we have been getting this year.
It isn’t long before I get eyes on the Hotel itself. The plan is to hang a left around it. This track should ultimately take me to a bridge crossing the West Dart River alongside the Dartmoor Training Centre.
The track/road is well made which aids progress. Just a case of following it to a bridge – what could go wrong?! 🙂
As I follow the track, I can’t help thinking what today’s walk would have been like with good weather? But alas…
Finally, I get my eyes on the Dartmoor Training Centre and the bridge across the West Dart!
The Dartmoor Training Centre looks completely deserted right now. I guess they will be ramping up toward May ready for the annual 10 Tors competition.
The view NorthWestward up the West Dart River.
Once I cross the bridge I have to pop through this gate. It’s then a case of heading SouthEastward up an unmarked hill to around 351 mtrs elevation. The winds will be more or less right behind me for this leg which will help propel me up the hill.
As I climb higher the winds are perceptibly picking up. Whilst I’m currently enjoying their assistance up the hill, I know it will be a different story once I have to turn into them.
The views off to my left are pretty good despite the dire weather.
Guess which way I’m going? Yup, it’s mud all the way!
As I climb up through the mud, I know that I will soon be getting to a ford point across the Rue Lake Stream. I’m not looking forward to the Ford as these always involve having to take off one’s boots and then having to go through the hassles of drying one’s feet off before putting everything back on. A ford, can easily add an additional stationary 10 minutes to a walk.
I’m now on a short downhill leg which should take me directly to the ford.
There it is! At this point I resign myself to having to get ready for the inevitable ford.
However, when I get there I notice a crude stone bridge off to the left!!!! Excellent news! Once again, it’s a feature that is not on the Ordnance Survey map. I sometimes wonder about their recent quality or lack of it. I guess they can’t afford to send survey teams out as often these days?
I’m now on the climb again. I’m looking for the signs of a cross road as I will need to hang a right Southward. I know that if I start heading downhill, I would have gone too far.
In the distance I spot a sign post! Excellent – I now have my turn point!
Here I have turned Southward to begin my climb of the 351 mtr hill. The winds are racing from right to left here. I’m finding it genuinely difficult to keep my balance. I find that I’m having to walk at an angle as the winds are so strong that the rain drops actually hurt when they impact my face. I’m now thinking that if it is like this going across the winds, what’s it going to be like when I start having to walk into them?
I soon get to the top of the hill. It’s now a short jaunt downwards which should take me to a boundary. Once through the boundary the dreaded walk Westwards will begin…
Down below is the boundary and the gate that I will need to go through.
I don’t really know it at this point, but my kit has wetted out. I guess that three days of rain is enough to overcome Gortex Pro. Since this walk I have often thought about this and I can’t help thinking that a plastic poncho would be far more effective, cheaper and lighter! One would get a material that genuinely doesn’t let in any water, plus the design would have plenty ventilation. It could be me, but I can’t help thinking that a lot of these breathable fabrics are simply a marketing con.
The boundary gate. Once through, things are going to get interesting as I head Westward…
The going Westward is just as bad as I had anticipated it would be. I consul myself with the fact that I will soon be on a well made track.
I start to pick up the first signs of the track. Navigation is now very easy. Just keep heading West until I run out of track!
However, this part of the track is very rocky and muddy, which adds to the difficulty that the weather is already presenting.
I soon get to the track ‘proper’ as marked my the streamlet of water. I had planned today’s route to be an easy on-the-track day to give me a rest from the previous day’s cross country excursion of the Northern Moors. However, as things would pan out, today’s walk was by far the most difficult…
The winds down this track are extreme. I found it very difficult to make any forward progress at all. Breathing was also made difficult by the wind speed. I had found that the best way to move forwards was to push myself for around 10 tiring paces, then turn around in a braced position with my back to the wind so as to catch my breath and recover ready for the next stint. Progress in this manner was exceedingly tiring and slow.
Although this section is only 3km long, it is the longest 3km I have ever had to do! The photos make the terrain look so benign, I wish I had taken some video footage to show the true nature of the winds that I was facing.
After what seems like an age I start to get a view on the treeline at the end of the track. I can’t wait for this section to be over with.
I soon pass BullPark Farm. I take a 10 minute rest to drink some hot coffee and take on some food. My mind is now thinking about the latter part of this hike across the Northern Moors where I will be more exposed and at much higher elevations. It is at this point that I start seriously questioning whether to cut the walk short as I know that once I commit to the Northern Moors, it will be very difficult to extract myself.
I now hang a right to take me toward Bachelor’s Hall. The plan is to head there, then take a left along the Dartmoor Way which should take me to Princetown. I know that if the walk is to be cut short, it has to be done at Princetown, as it will be difficult to call out my safety number after that point. I consciously decide to leave the final decision until I reach Princetown, though I know that subconsciously I have already made that decision…
Off to Bachelor’s Hall!
Up ahead on the right I can just make out the hall. This marks the navigation point where I need to hang a left Westwards toward Princetown.
Parts of the track are exceedingly muddy and slippery. On more than one occasion I find myself landing on my hands as my feet disappear off behind me!
It’s a difficult decision to cut a walk short. Even though I haven’t officially made it, I’m already starting to feel guilty about the inevitable result…
I know that I’m now nearly at the road leading to Princetown. It will soon be make or break time!
I soon make it onto the road and the Eastern outskirts of Princetown. The plan is to proceed through Princetown to its Western Extremities where I will stop off to make the decision.
I soon pass through the main town square which I recognise from previous walks. As I go by the many pubs and I can’t help but thinking that I’m on the wrong side of their doors!
I am now at the Western extremity of Princetown. The choice is a simple one. I either commit to the rest of the walk with no chance of opting out, or I decide to cut it short here and now. I pondered this question for a while. One part of me was trying to convince me that things would be fine on the Northern Moors and that if things were to go wrong I could simply pitch camp until the bad weather passed. The other part of me was reminding me how difficult the walk along the well made track had been. Doing the same thing cross-country amongst the tussocks and at a higher elevation, would probably not be a good idea. In the end I put in the call for my brother to come and pick me up. After the conversation, I felt genuinely relieved.
As I’m waiting for my lift I start to get cold. It is at that point that I notice that I’m actually wet from head to toe. In a bid to win the heat battle I take out the down jacket even though it is raining – not something that is normally advised. On most occasions this jacket has the effect of providing instant warmth, but alas, not this time. To help stave off the cold further, I elect to keep sipping hot coffee at regular intervals from my nearly full flask. This does seem to work. With my cold and wet condition I come to the dawning realisation that I have probably made the right decision. Staying warm is a fundamental part of Winter hiking. Without this ability, things start to err toward the side of danger. It looks like the decision to end the walk early probably saved me from getting into trouble later on.
The emergency plan didn’t quite go as smoothly as anticipated. There were two issues….
Firstly, I had found that the phone had switched itself on in the rucksack and was down to its last reserves of battery. This is why I prefer phones with removable batteries. I think I will have to get a sim card for my old Blackberry and use that one exclusively for hiking.
The other other issue was that my new phone did not have my safety number’s phone number in it! Doh! Luckily, I have two brothers, both of which live fairly close, so I just phoned the other one!
I’d like to thank Richard for the speedy pickup and apologise for any mess I might have left in his car 🙂
That’s it for this walk.