Wednesday, April 22

Dartmoor Five Day Walkabout: Sat April 18th

I awoke early to the rattling of the flysheet and realised the relatively sheltered spot chosen the previous evening was now receiving the full force of the wind which has totally changed direction. Lifting the flysheet I could see a typical Dartmoor dawn - low mist. A lie in was in order, to await the promised good weather courtesy of the early morning Radio Devon weather forecast.

A late start then, moving westwards along Abbots Way. I saw nobody until the broken ground of Erme Pits (GR 624 668) There I spent a few minutes on this murky Saturday morning chatting with a couple of guys out on an ornithological survey, and a cadet leader on his way to pick up that day's batch of Ten Tors trainees further along the trail. A chance to ask about the strange bird call I had heard after dusk the previous evening. Some sort of water loving bird based on its circuit of the nearby lake, but flying around after dusk?

Onto Princetown for the delights of a cream tea, and a flushing lavatory. Bliss can be so simply attained some days.

(Princetown & it's unmistakeable mast- a constant companion during most of my trip)

Princetown, as expected, was busy. Not helped by a charity jailbreak that the local radio had advised started earlier that morning, but also a separate charity event which seemed to have something to do with very large containers being carried bungeed to rucksacks. Looked very uncomfortable.
Over refreshments I made my plans for the next day or so. I’d been recommended a visit to Wistman's Wood (GR 612 774), as a likely camp spot. Which meant an inevitable trudge along the main road to Two Bridges. But glad to be turning my back on the crowds, already starting to intrude on my good mood, I set off down the road at a smart pace.
The wood was a typical Dartmoor "ancient woodland" i.e. twisted oak and not a flat piece of ground to be seen. Onwards then up the valley, taking on water at the weir crossing spot (GR 607 780)


The intent being to spend the night below one of the Tors on the horizon above. Definitely not Beardown Tor (GR 604 774) which seemed to have more people than rocks on this later Saturday afternoon.

Instead I picked a secluded pitch in the shadow of Lydford Tor (GR 598 782) stunning views eastwards towards Princetown, and the occasional sight of descending walkers clearing the area.
(Lydford Tor)

The sweat from lugging the 3.5 litres of water (3.5 kg) had hardly cleared from my brow when I heard nearby voices. Around the corner of the Tor was a group of scouts, training, as I later discovered, for the Ten Tors event in May. I said hello, so they knew I was nearby and wouldn't spook them during the hours of darkness. Despite their offer to pop by later for a chat (camp fire sing-song?) I retired to my solitary spot for some seclusion.

Well that lasted about an hour before a second group arrived, this time to pitch on my side of the Tor, about 25 m away. Bang went any thoughts I may have had of having the Tor to myself tonight stuck between two groups of around twenty teenagers.
Honestly folks - Dartmoor is a great big place. Why pick on little old me?

I’d deliberately chosen April to avoid the Ten Tors mass invasion. Unfortunately I’d not reckoned with the preparation that comes beforehand.
(Well I thought I was well hidden)
Note to self.
Avoid camping anywhere near Princetown in future, Its facilities and road network make it a focus for groups somewhat unacquainted with the mores and accepted practice of wildcamping.

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Comments:
Nice report John. I keep thinking its time to go back to Dartmoor — when I do I shall certainly use you are reference!
 
Great stuff John, I was considering a return to Dartmoor for a backpack. Good information too about the teen trainers, what an awful thing to happen - I'll give Princetown a wide berth for the nights!.
 
Sound like its time for a mid year Dartmoor get together chaps?
 
I feel sorry for you with 2 lots of teenagers. Up at angle tarn in lakes the other week, there were 2 other tents, but you wouldn't have know they were there. but its an effort to get up to 650m with camping gear, so you need to be determined to get some solitude
 
2 tents. I counted 14 at Angle Tarn a few years ago, but I was too knackered to move on at the time. Later I found a nice little spot with a great valley view a stones throw from the tarn which I'll be using next time I pass that way
 
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