Sunday, April 26

Dartmoor Five Day Walkabout: Tue April 21st

Day 5, and one with a sad tinge to it.

The previous evening I’d balanced the amount of remaining food, or more importantly the strong likelihood of the final gas canister giving out mid cook, against my distance away from the railway station. I’d really enjoyed the trip so far, particularly the extended & uninterrupted nights of wildcamping. True I could possibly slip in one more night, but I’d be surviving on hard tack ration of dried biscuits & cold water. Not a problem per se, but with the station being a little over 10 miles further south it felt like time to roll things up and saviour the good times, rather than push things over into the discomfort zone at the end.

Once more I’d been woken, around 4.15 am, by the cold air seeping into my sleeping set-up. Definitely time to update the bag once I returned home. Breakfast once again was enjoyed under blue skies & strong sunlight. Finally, with a little reluctance, I packed away the dry tent for the final time on this outing.

Once again I followed the tracks on the ground, the OS Dartmoor map being, as usual, of little practical use for path finding, but essential for identifying the topology. Following Skir Gut (GR 648 707) southwards I headed for Naker's Hill (GR 644 692) and then contoured around the valley marshland towards Green Hill (GR 635 678) As I skirted the hillside the distinctive shape of Red Lake's spoil hill was outlined against the horizon. Once again it was back to scanning ahead for animal tracks amongst the moorland vegetation pointing in the general direction I wanted. From Red Lake it was once more very familiar ground, travelling south along the old tramway.

Mindful of the rail journey time I drove myself harder than usual, with the result that on the compacted trail I felt the return of the foot soreness from the previous day. Along with it there was a tugging feeling above my left ankle. Not so much a worry, but definitely a feeling of increasing discomfort.

Part way along the track I paused for a custard cream/water break by a set of old mine works and its small lake. Sheltered from the light breeze I truly savoured the hot sunshine (22 deg C) for longer than I intended as I mentally marked the area (GR 647 634) as another potential wild camp spot to return to one day.

But with journey's end calling it was up and stiffly at-em, finally reaching Ivybridge Station just in time to see the rear of a train leaving. No matter. I had the place to myself for a gear & clothing tidy up. With all my water now used up any improvement in personal hygiene was not an option - my fellow rail travellers would just have to hold their noses.

I spent the next hour or so hiding out of sight of the poorly sited CCTV to have a crafty fag. What a silly rule to impose a 'No Smoking' rule at these remote open air stations, especially those where I usually find myself as the sole inhabitant. And what a stark reminder of my return to civilised society - hiding behind the bike sheds at my age!

As I waited for the next train I checked my stats for the day. I’d covered the last 11.5 miles at an average of 3.3 mph despite the niggling feet problems - a sign of my fast recovering level of fitness after 5 days of movement.

Once again the Plymouth-Exeter rail service lacked any food/refreshment facility, but otherwise I was fortunate on the rail connections and back home by early evening.

During the rail journey I realised my sense of time had become very relaxed. I gazed out of the window as the countryside passed by, listening to a BBC detective drama on my MP3 player. As it finished I realised that not only had I been totally immersed in the story, but my sense of time length, and that ever pressing sense of urgency, was no longer present. The play was only 45 minutes long, but it could have been a couple of hours as far as I was concerned.

What bliss - it was a very sun tanned & contented man who finally arrived home that evening. And today, despite five days of being back in the home routine, that sense of relaxation remains.

The sore feet disappeared after a rest day from distance walking. The nagging ankle problem has proved more of a concern as it seems I have triggered an old running injury leading to an inflamed tendon in my ankle. Since my return I've been out daily for shorter walks than usual but wearing my trail shoes. The boots seeming to reinforce the problem at present. But a little more of this gentler exercise to relieve the immediate symptom before I start some regular stretching exercises to strengthen the affected area.

My usual round-up of stats and lessons will be in the next piece.

Suffice to say - what a successful start for 2009 wildcamping trips (and was I truly on Dartmoor for 5 days without a hint of rain - surely not!)


Thanks, John, inspirational. I must go to Dartmoor some time.
Really interesting set of posts. An area some distance from my part of the world but good to find out more about the place.
Its well worth the trip, despite looking like a pretty dismal place as you drive through on the few roads
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