Wednesday, May 10

Dartmoor Tors 5/5/23 - Bonehill Rocks, Bell Tor, Chinkwell Tor and Honeybag Tor

 Now where was I before I went off on that last post ...

The area around Haytor Rocks, as I've said previously, is one I've tended to avoid. But with low visitors around, and poor weather this was a good time to explore further.

After a little mapwork, a quick recce of car parking spots, and some on-line camping map access (Note:Haytor Rocks phone reception was dire for my usually good network) I had a few options to play with.

Ignoring the more mainstream choices (nope - I'm not saying where they are - do your own leg work matey) I parked up at Bonehill Rocks car park (730 774)

Pack loaded from the car boot for an overnighter, with plenty of water onboard I explored the rock outcrop before descending to cross the road and work my way up around the east side of Bell Tor (730 788) and up onto Chinkwell Tor (729 782)

With the wind continuing to blow strongly, and rain intermittent enough to demand full waterproofs, I mooched around for a while mentally marking potential wildcamp spots. 

But oh that bloody wind. Howling unceasingly from the south west.

Blow you bugger blow - and did it just!

A steep descent from Chinkwell Tor, and then back up to Honeybag Tor (728 786) 

Signs of a recent fire outbreak on the vegetation to the left of the path. Heather now gone for the bees and their summertime honey making?

It took a good 15 minutes to find a spot sheltered enough from the full force of the wind, but there are quite a few choices here. 

Tent up, coffee on, watch the world go by.

Honeybag Tor

Occasionally I would explore the Tor surroundings, but I regretted not going back to Chinkwell Tor.

The views on offer were better, even if the wind protection was a little more elusive.

..not the greatest panorama

Mostly it rained. Occasionally a bee would wander past the tent (hence the Tor's name?) 

The main highlight of the day was watching a farmer in the field across in the valley herding sheep between fields using the customary tradition of sheepdog ... and a volvo estate. 

Well that was a first - you know the weather is poor when the local farmer prefers to use the family 4x4 rather than their trusty  tractor or quad bike.


A quiet night. The sheltered spot worked well avoiding the sleep interruption that comes with gusting wind conditions. The frequent rain showers were just the background song of nature after so many years of camping.

The following morning, as expected, I returned to the car through thick raincloud, yesterday's clear route gone, requiring compass work to stay on track.

Through the murk I spotted my vehicle, solitary in the car park, in such filthy weather.

Not the greatest tor I've ever spent a night on, but a pleasant experience, bedding down my gear for my next trip.

And as I travelled back home, I realised that this area offers a real advantage with a quicker travel time and readier access, rather than the lengthy trip I normally take to the Okehampton or Tavistock to access Dartmoor.

Definitely one to ponder for the future.

Sometime soon.

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Dartmoor Wildcamping Access

It was clear that during this trip Dartmoor's weather was just not going to be playing nicely. That's the problem with having to book holiday leave so many weeks in advance.

In theory I potentially had a few days free for wildcamping. 

In practise the weather forecast was highly erratic, and had been for most of the week.

And those who know Dartmoor understand how just how unpleasant that can get at times.

But it seemed a pity to bring all the gear without bedding it down ready for the rest of 2023. 

Last visit had been a night's wildcamp on Rippon Tor

All of which has diverted my attention away from my planned trip report to reflect on the recent shitshow over access rights for Dartmoor wildcamping.

For, you see. Rippon Tor, according to the DNPA Access map. is now 'off-limits', and it would be an offence to wildcamp there.


From local Dartmoor contacts I spoke to on this trip, the wildcamping 'ban' enforcement was viewed as being unenforceable on the ground, and hence effectively being ignored. 

Particularly by those experienced wildcampers who understand the ethos and how to carry it out on the ground.

Having been involved in an earlier campaign for wildcamping access back in 2008 most of the arguments I'd worked over years ago in much detail. And now, as then, it was clear that without considerable political support, and money, little would change.

[Archives about that campaign can be found here - but here was the final outcome:

"23 June 2008/We received a petition asking:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to legalise wild camping in England and Wales."

Details of Petition:
"Currently without the landowners concent it is illegal to wild camp on the moors, mountains, National Parks and MOD land. It is time to give people the same rights as those given North of the Border in Scotland to allow them to wild camp in these places without threat of legal action."

The Government's response
This Government appreciates the potential benefits of wild camping in England and its attractiveness to campers who already have the opportunity to camp in the wild in Scotland.

The Land Reform Act in Scotland allows for wild camping, but the land issues and the legislation in England are somewhat different. The introduction of wild camping in England would be a controversial issue, which would require both significant consultation and legislative change.

On open access land wild camping is prohibited under Schedule 2 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which lists all restricted activities. Therefore, new Regulations would be required to exclude wild camping as a restricted activity. Any change to the current rules on wild camping in National Parks and Ministry of Defence land would require new primary legislation.

The Government has no plans to allocate the necessary resources to consider proposals for such legislation at present, and is concentrating on following up the successful introduction of 750,000 hectares of open access land with new legislation on access to the coast in the 
Marine Bill, which is currently going through Parliament." 

[By the way - No idea whatever happened to that last point]]

My personal response to that was blogged at the time - and to be honest it remains an approach I would take today if I feel the desire to do so.


Coming up to date....

The post covid camping/party madness on Dartmoor (and across the UK) definitely didn't help build support for 'proper' wildcamping access. As I recall some areas of Scotland suffered clampdowns on existing access rights as a result.

Meanwhile DNPA has been drawn into an expensive legal battle that I personally think they are unlikely to win, using limited funds that they really cannot afford to spend, with likely cut backs elsewhere as a result. 

But to stand by is also not a good alternative - they are buggered whichever way they turn.

On the plus side its exposed the machinations of one particularly rich and powerful landowner. Well what a shocker!

More positively it has shown the strong community support from other Dartmoor landowners across the area, especially on the military ranges.

Peversely researching this trip I've spent more time poring over the detail of the DNPA Camping Map than I have ever in the past. With the result that I've now spotted some hidden gems in isolated areas, places where before I would never have even considered camping.

When I look in the mirror these days I  see that devilish glint starting to look back at me. 

It seems to say ...

'You know exactly who is responsible for the infamous court action.

You know precise area of empty moorland that they regard as so vital to protect.

Looks like a fun - lets go visit - I feel a wildcamp a coming on'

So that all worked out wonderfully then!  

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Dartmoor Tors 5/5/23 - Brent Tor & Church

Often, whilst I was high on Dartmoor's western tops, I could see a distant church sat alone on a hill. 

Intrigued, a little research showed it to be St Michael de Rupe, an iconic 12th century church perched on top of Brent Tor (470 804) near Mary Tavy. 

Iconic is right - a pretty unique sight..... and site.

Annoyingly it is also just off the OS Dartmoor Explorer map, so some on-line detective work was required to identify the precise location, but it is amazingly easy to access. 

A small car park at the foot of the tor leads through a stile, meanders around the tor base and up onto the tor itself. 

A quick look around the inside of the church. A wander around the site to take in the excellent views, and back to the car.

A 10-15 minute walk, and excellent views.

The car park is quite small, and clearly a hot spot for car thefts - so beware. On the plus side there is a set of public toilets there - always welcome when travelling around.

Some fun facts

1. It is the highest church on Dartmoor.

2. The car park visitor information board suggests that all the high-up churches on Dartmoor are called St Michaels. (A noticeable example being the one at Princetown)

3. But there may be a more ancient reason to do with the St Michael's Ley Line.

Whatever the reason, it is a remarkable place to visit. 

To wonder at the effort involved to construct such a solid building in such an inhospitable location. 

And to have it still standing nearly 900 years later.

Only churchyard I've ever visited where the crosses are supported by stakes & tension wires - must be a great place in a gale.

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Bodmin Moor Circular 3/5/23 - Showery Tor, Brown Willy, Little Rough Tor, Rough Tor

A visit to Bodmin Moor has been long on my list of Things-To-Do. 

(Very long apparently - my OS Bodmin map is dated 2002)

I was spending some nights camping at the Eden project YHA site. 

Glamp, not wild. 

I quite enjoyed the luxuries of a woodstove, DAB radio, and watching the English Channel from high on a hill, surrounded by birdsong, without the noise of traffic/aircraft/DIYers etc.

Then, later in the week, Dartmoor wildcamping, weather dependant.

So with variable weather each day picking a reasonable day for a daysack circular on Bodmin felt to be the right call.

A word of caution - getting to the car park nearest to the track to Rough Tor is quite simple. 

Unless you are a Satnav device.

In which case every back lane between Bodmin & Camelford seems to be neccessary. 

On the return trip I followed Roughtor Road straight back to Camelford before I let the Satnav have any sort of say.

I parked up at Rough Tor car park (GR 138 819) Despite sunny dry conditions the wind was howling from the south-east, gusting to a chilly 40mph. Made for an interesting approach up the well trodden track to Showery Tor (149 813)

Admiring the distinctive rockwork the track led southwards and then sout east contouring around the south of Rough Tor.

River crossing (From Brown Willy looking at Rough Tor)

Warning - although it seems possible to head for the easier ridge to the north of Brown Willy, keep to the track, heading for the De Lank River crossing (153 805) to the right of the fieldwall. Based on the solid construction of the fencing and walls I saw on the route the local landowner has clearly had enough of walkers wandering off at all angles, likely damaging fencing/releasing stock as they go. So play by the rules here please.

Up onto Brown Willy (158 799) the highest point on Bodmin, and indeed Cornwall. 

Brown Willy

Out of the wind it was a nice enough spot to stop for some sandwiches. But, as I later discovered, Rough Tor is an easier walk, with more to offer.

Lunch over. 

Hat blown off. 

Hat retrieved. 


A feature of the day it seemed.

Descending the northern slope of Brown Willy to the river crossing, and then back up to the saddle between Showery & Little Rough Tor. There are alternatives but to be honest a good track is always welcome, and clitter can be a swine to work through. Take the easy path here.

West over Little Rough Tor (146 809), then onto Rough Tor (143 80-8) 

Rough Tor

This  is definitely the most interesting of the group, particularly the memorial plaque.

Rough Tor memorial

Rough Tor

Rough Tor

A bit more gazing around, then straight down and back to the car park.

I took about 1 hour 30 min of actually walking covering around 4 miles.

A word of warning:
For the less experienced access to these tors seems especially simple once one steps out of that nice warm car.

The distance to the tors looks like an easy walk for the day tripper unused to moorland conditions or steepish ascents. 

Pleasant enough on a clear summer day, but an area where it is easy to wander off track in poor/foggy conditions. 

Back at the car park one local told me of their neighbour, who knew the area, and was caught unexpectedly in sudden moorland fog, whilst dog walking. They ended up calling out the Mountain Rescue Services who advised staying put so that they could be walked back to the car park. Much easier than playing hunt the walker in fog.

On this quiet day I counted around 20 people. About a quarter of them wearing basic indoor clothing. With one person in denim cut off shorts and a vest t-shirt. My friendly observation on the wind strength/chill factor went, like the wind itself, straight over their head. The fact I was wearing a Paramo smock top as I came back from the route should have been their clue. 

Not the first time I've seen that blank smile of polite disinterest. 

Oh well. I'll keep on explaining, sometimes it sinks in. And some learn the lesson in their own sweet way.

Never a sign of a map, food or even refreshment. After all it was a clear dry day. What could go wrong?

So take a map and compass. And some warm, better still waterproof, clothing. Please.

Bodmin Moor was an interesting place to tick off. But I had no sense of that wilderness feeling that Dartmoor offers.

Ticked off. 

Unlikely to repeat.

But a trap for the unready.

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Tuesday, May 9

DAY 5 Sat 9/7/22 Rippon Tour and avoiding the Haytor madness

  Typical Dartmoor, the sun had arrived, but with a vengeance.

Clearly not a day for long distance pack humping, especially considering the water load that would be neccessary.


Some meandering around checking likely spots eventually led me over to Widecombe in the Moor to follow the road leading up onto Haytor Rocks (760 774).


In the past this has been an area that I've always avoided like the plague. Especially during the summer months. 

Haytor always seems to be teeming with day trippers, and with that comes the problems of noise, late night partying & an increased risk of theft from any cars left unattended overnight.

So not my natural first choice.


But after speaking with a couple of local people it felt like parking & overnighting away from the main honey spots might work. And to be honest it was just too uncomfortable to carry on cruising around in a hot car.


I decided to keep it simple using the car park at GR 742 761, and following the distinct ascent up onto Rippon Tor (746 755). That way I could visually check on the car if needed, and definitely hear any alarm going off.

(No idea what I would do then, but the logic made some sort of sense)


Sad, but a realistic consideration when wildcamping in remoter places for any period of time, when using private transport, 

Rippon Tor       

Spot the tent? Click the picture to find me.         

And there I sat into late evening. 

Watching the masses below, soaking up the sun, in a light breeze, enjoying the peace and quiet from on high. A opportunistic wildcamp pitch, but well rewarded.



Just a couple of issues.


The ponies here are highly inquisitive, remaining so until the early hours of the morning.

I don't mind sharing, but their wariness of people had clearly disappeared. Too much cadging snacks in Haytor car park I guess - there is a similar issue here in the New Forest each summer.


And the ticks. 


Oh the ticks.


After years of avoiding these little buggers I managed to pick up 5 in one evening! Whilst wearing long trousers and socks. 

I even sat for several minutes watching a group of them work their way up a sun hot rock, ready to launch onto any unwary passerby.


Overall - an excellent view, but not a tor I'd wildcamp on again. Too much wildlife out to get me it seemed.

But I did get plenty of opportunity to look over nearby tors,and tracks, for some interesting ideas for the future.


Another trip over. My wildcamping approach, selecting gear/food/water out of a car boot will not be for everyone. 

But it continues to be working well, giving me access to a variety of areas, without restricting myself to water sources. 

By increasing my flexibility in this way it means I continue to enjoy something that over the last three decades I've come to understand is an essential part of my make up.


 Long may it continue.

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DAY 4 Fri 8/7/22 Support The Warren House Inn

 A lazy start, still trying to work out the weekend weather possibilities.

My return route crossed over Scarey Tor (607 924) 

To quote the ever excellent "Dartmoor Tors Compendium" by Josephine M Collingwood - "Scarey Tor is not at all alarming"

I'd say this remains one of the definitive reference works for those wildcamping on Dartmoor, or just looking for choice spots to visit, as I've recommended before.

A year later and I'm still finding it an essential help for trip plans. I can't think of a higher recommendation than that.

Today was becoming increasingly hot & sunny. 

In fact too hot for anything strenuous -  so I decided to use one of my bug-out spots behind the Warren House Inn (673 809).

A lazy day feel to it - so a chance to get a pint and a meal. 

My night's sleeping quarters nearby, one that I've so regularly used I've lost count of the number of nights I've used it. An accessible location, offering an quick bad weather/lie-up refuge, safe from the worst elements whilst I weather watch. And it offers good road access to other parts of the moor with minimal foot traffic interrupting my peace and quiet.

So for once I could take in the view, rather than the more usual raincloud/Dartmoor mist.

(BTW: when I visited The Warren House was having very tough trading conditions, with the post covid/Brexit impact. The tourist coaches, typically from abroad, had dwindled to few a week. For a pub without any all mains connections the impact of diesel price rises was a hard hit being totally reliant on diesel fuel for power, lighting and cooking.

If you do pass by, drop in for a drink - its future is looking increasingly difficult and these type of establishments need our support.

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DAY 3 (PM) Thu 7/7/22 Winter Tor, Higher Tor & Belstone Tor

During the afternoon I spent a little time exploring some of the military roads crossing the Okehampton Army range.

I can 'do' the long walk ins & steep ascents, but these days I prefer to use my brain rather than my brawn.

If there is a way to cut out the footslogging - then I'll take it. 

I've discovered that it is wildcamping element that appeals most to me. 

(Although every so often I think about another long multi day walking trip to enjoy that satisfaction of covering the distance once again. I was 50 then, perhaps a similar challenge for next year when I hit State Retirement Age.

Oh no- I forgot that particular goal post got moved back courtesy of HM Gov - The Swine)

By the afternoon ever playful Dartmoor was offering up sunshine with a hint that the wind was dropping.

I decided to park up at GR 601 919 at the north western edge of East Okement Farm. 

A rough track down the the stream, crossing Cullever Steps and then a clear track southwards onto Winter Tor (610 915), along the ridge to Higher Tor (612 917), and eventually onto  Belstone Tor (614 920) on Belstone Common.

Again a sheltered spot, the wind now west/north west - clearly the weather was on the change (Little did I know!)

Belstone Tor

A scenic spot, mildly popular with the hardier Okehampton locals, out on the saunter on an increasinly pleasant evening, but  quieting as the day drew to its end.

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DAY 3 (AM) Thu 7/7/22 Arms Tor, Brat Tor & Widgery Cross

 Another cloudy and windy day. 

A slow start to the day as I waited for the cloud to blow away. Whats the point in a panoramic view if you spend your time in Dartmoor mist? Sometimes a little wait is all that is required.

Back to the car via Arms Tor (540 862),  Brat Tor (539 855) and the highly distinctive landmark of Widgery Cross (537 857)

A steepish descent to Noddden Gate and following a path to the west of the stream - the first track on this route that was less than clear and wide.

Car boot reloaded - off to the next spot.

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DAY 2 Wed 6/7/22 Great Links & Little Links Tors

 Predictably normal Dartmoor weather had resumed.

I walked back to the car through low mist, using compass and map to finr Gutter Tor, and the short hop back to my car.

Onto the next spot.

I parked up at the Fox & Hounds (525 867) on the Tavistovck/Plymouht Rd. I popped in for a meal, and a polite word with the landlord to check it was ok to park up for the night. 

This pub is well recommended - always friendly to walkers and backpackers.

Making my way up the track to Nodden Gate and onto the open moor, I headed northwards passing Great Nodden to my right.The Westerly wind was unremitting all the way, but the track was clear and well made. I stopped to stock up on water for the evening (549 881) Taking a moment to shelter out of the wind, and take in the views to the west


and my destination for the night

Great Links Tor (550 867)

The pathway was good enough to drive along all the way from the pub to just below the tor top.

Which made for a plodding slog really, as the continuous wind had by now become very very irritating.

I found a sheltered spot available to my eyes. Fantastic views, but not a spot to stand around for long when the wind is blowing from the West.

Great Links Tor

After a coffee I decided to explore Little Links Tor (545 869) - another tick on my Tors-To-Visit List

Little Links Tor

I spotted a well sheltered wildcamp spot here on the northern side - one for the future possibly?

A quiet night, except for the sound of continual wind buffeting.

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DAY 1 Tue 5/7/22 - Gutter Tor, Legis Tor & a hidden gem - a Dartmoor Waterfall

 A hidden gem

A quick return trip to take advantage of the excellent weather forecast.

And the knowledge that this would be my last trip for a while, as after this trip I would be straight into taking on a new position. 
Bugger - back in employment again. 

I parked up at the ever popular car park at 578 673. Usually it feels like a potential hot spot for car thefts but today the place was full of military personnel on training manoeuvres, so car tampering was definitely not going to be happening here this visit.

Loading my pack up from the car boot, I selected enough for a 1 night trip.

Making my way past Gutter Tor (579 669) I was entertained by military training as I headed for Ditsworthy Warren House, following the track to the east today's objective was to find the hidden waterfall I'd visited on a previous trip.

Good clear tracks all the way. Along the way I passed one of Dartmoor's regular reminder of previous inhabitants - the cairn at Giants Basin.

Eventually crossing the River Plym I followed one of the feeder streams eventually finding the waterfall (595 660) - as always well hidden deep in a cleft of the hillside. Using the stream as a guideline is definitely the key here.

Its in there somewhere!

After spending some time enjoying the uncharacteristic sunshine, I picked a track contouring the hillside and back to the the DW House, and then up to Legis Tor (570 655) to pitch for the evening.

Not a very impressive tor TBH. And very few camping spots out of NW wind here.

Legis Tor

Unusually for moorland camping, but quite entertainingly, my late evening was interrupted by Royal Marine officer letting me know that the Tor had been selected as a check-in point for a night exercise.

For the next couple of hours my light sleep would be interrupted by the sound of heavy boot, and a rattle of Serial Number..Name..Sah - as the marines arrived in the dark from all directions, trying to find the hidden checkpoint.

After the first few I found it simpler to quietly tell the tired squaddie where the officer was hiding, so I can get back to dozing.

An interesting entertainment!

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Wednesday, June 29

Dartmoor Tors - Free spreadsheet resource - Trip planning 

My List of Tors spreadsheet, mentioned below, is free to download and use here.

I'm always on the lookout for solid reference material when planning my Dartmoor wildcamping trips. 

If you ignore the well meaning, but slightly twee, 'short walks with a dog\pram\kids' type of offering, there are remarkably few books.

I've been tromping the moors over 20+ years, covering the established tracks, the majority of the higher Tors, and a wide variety of one-off locations.

Prior to my recent trip I transferred the data from three dog-eared maps and finally added them to a pristine OS28 map. All clean and uncreased. That didn't last long once out.

A by product of this is that I now have two of the old maps pinned on a wall, marked with bright felt tips showing all my past routes & wildcamp locations. Now I just stand back and can see, at a glance, where I've been, and more importantly those areas I've yet to explore.

Its also is useful in marking those areas of unwelcoming terrain to be avoided - the south western border path alongside Fernworthy Forest still springs painfully to mind.

Wildcamping in itself is my enjoyment. But I often I feel I'm letting myself down by having no other objective except that night's camp.

Probably my most enjoyable trip was an unsupported walk from Ivybridge rail station, northwards to Okehampton, and then returning via a different route - the 50 miles at 50 trip. (For those interested the trip report can be found via the blog Archive Material Search box for April 2009 - box on the right)

One of the enjoyments of that was having a series of objectives in mind, and covering the moorland between them, sometimes in the less visited places.

But recent trips have been a bit of a make-it-up-as-I-go-along approach.

If I lived nearer perhaps the Dartmoor 365 approach would work, but its a little too much effort for what I'm really after.

Last year I picked up a copy of the Dartmoor Tors Compendium by Josephine M Collingwood. Normally coffee table books are not my thing, but this book is an exception. It lists the majority of Tors, giving real detail about each tor and what can be seen around it. 

For me, the true value is in the excellent photos - great for deciding which tors rate a visit, and a good indication of the potential for wildcamping spots.

And that was it, or so I thought, one of the rarer quality reference works on Dartmoor Tors.

I slung it in the car boot on my next trip, and by the end of that I found myself increasingly referring to it when deciding on my next location. (When you live far from Dartmoor you have to become highly selective about where to spend your limited time)

This year I took another look at the book, creating a spreadsheet of the Tors, their location, height and (most importantly) the arbiter score Collingwood gives for each tor. Purely subjective on her part, but mindful of the scope of Tors she covers, probably better than many other opinions. I've used free location mapping tools in the past, so feeding in the spreadsheet co-ordinates I've now graphical maps for Tor locations via rank, such as this below, for those scoring 8-10.

Planning for the next few years is now a case of working my way down the list of those higher ranked tors, ideally joining them up into somewhat random routes, as and when the feeling takes me.

If you want to know more about the mapping tools - leave a comment and I'll get back to you.

The book is highly recommended as both a reference work, and an insight into the appeal of each Tor. 

And a lot easier to consume than William Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor, however important his seminal work remains.

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Monday, June 27

Dartmoor Wildcamping Trip 14-19 June 2022 - Washup

Lessons learnt & tips

1. During trip preparation I marked all my dry bags with a Sharpie permanant marker. No more rooting around for the right bag that fits the kit. Simple idea. Huge benefit.

2. On a similar cheap & easy idea, I've started to use basic supermarket ziplock plastic bags to keep key kit together. e.g. External recharger & various connecting cables all in one bag, marked accordingly (so many different types required nowadays!) 

Again - easy to keep all the things together and quicker to locate.

It always amazes me as to how I can sit in a tent, put something down, and then not find it 5 minutes later.

3. Sleeping bag - my Mountain Equipment XT350 was an expensive 3 season bag but increasingly I have cold feet. I understand the need for some physical activity before getting into the bag, but it feels as if the down has disappeared. And increasingly I'm having to wear thick socks to get my feet warm.

Looking back over this blog I see that I highly rated the bag originally, so something appears to have changed.

Between trips the bag is always stored uncompressed, so it's not that.

Post trip I discussed this with a military friend, used to sleeping bags\poor conditions. He suggested that the more expensive bags use a finer down, so it needs to be 'livened up' more than 'shaking out before use' can help.

It's now being dry cleaned to see if this reinvigorates the down.

Next trip I'll also be taking my old (and very small packing) Vango Venom 225. Its only 2/3 season, but I may need to try it as a comparison. I've also a largely unused goretex bivvi bag to take along as an alternative to try just in case.

Otherwise - it's a new bag. And I really don't want to spend hours researching Warmth v Pack Down size v Weight all over again. Especially as actually getting my hands on a physical item in the (few and increasingly rare) outdoor outlets is becoming increasingly harder.

For the cost and usage I've had from the ME bag I really expect more from it.

The jury is out.

4. Pitching tent each time I'm always looking for the entrance porch side to ensure the wind\pitch is correct. And occasionally the tent starts to go up back to front.

Once the tent was dried I've used a silver coloured Sharpie to mark up the entrance side more clearly to see if it helps. I don't like marking up my gear, but as I'm the only one who ever uses it, and its clear all of it gets used until worn out, personalising it like this isn't an issue.

Let's see how it works.

5. Skylarks.

Dartmoor in a nutshell. Didn't realise how much I'd missed their song. 

For the first couple of days I rarely used my MP3\headphones. 

The birdsong was too beautiful to miss. 

 DAY 5 Sat 18/6/22

A quiet night, even the wind had dropped.

Today's forecast was for a change in the weather, but it was unclear quite when, so I was happily surprised to emerge from the tent into another clear and sunny day.

But as I took in the view of Tavistock over breakfast, the temparature inversion so beautifully laid out below me, it raised questions.

Was this a warm day, heating up, or colder air moving in?

Whilst the day decided what face it would show I packed up early and worked back down to the car, and headed off. I fancied exploring a new area around Hound Tor (GR 742 789) NW of Widecombe.

As a neared Princetown a grim omen -  a pony lay unmoving & stiff at the side of the road (my second equine corpse this year) Being near to the town I'd assumed it would have already been called in by an early morning worker in the town.

I paused in Widecombe for a quick revisit, its probably 15 years since I last came through. Little in the village seemed to have changed. All a bit too 'chocolate box' appeal for me, but the biggest surprise was the amount of closed businesses. I'd guess many choosing to remain closed until the high tourist season. The tourism pattern post Covid is still re-establishing itself, so it seems.

As I wandered over to the church a nasty surprise waited. Thick Dartmoor mist rolling down the valley, shrouding the tops from view. And it looked serious.

Back in the car I started to head onwards to Hound Tor, but reaching the tops the raincloud degraded visibility even more. It was clear that the weather had decided its mood then. At least hereabouts.

A change of plan. With the west side of the moor looking so appealing earlier I rolled the dice, deciding to return back and hope for a westerly wind to clear the tops.

I stopped in the woodland car park near the Dartmoor Visitor Centre at Postbridge. Walking back along the road, to check out the latest Dartmoor books, in the Centre, it seemed the cloud had followed me, as light rain started to fall. So weather from the east today then - not looking good.

I sheltered in the Centre, chatting with the knowledgeable staff I'd met on a previous visit, picking up more local information about quieter camping locations, away from the hordes, and listening to the post Covid tourist\idiotcampers issues - still a problem.

Moving back to Princetown it was clear my gamble had failed with increasing amounts of cloud and rain. I picked up a morning newspaper before sheltering in the Fox's Tor Cafe, weather watching, to see if this would blow over, and work out my next move. Bumping into Jim from Ice Warrior I reported the dead pony, which happily was being dealt with.

The cafe was a pleasant delay. But after a few coffees it was (by now) lunchtime and clearly the day's visibility conditions were set for dour. 

No complaints - I'd had an amazing run of good conditions and the weekend forecast was always looking less than positive. I knew before starting my trip to Dartmoor that this would be the likely decision point to cut this trip short.

The biggest concern was an increasing wind. I've a couple of bolt holes for wildcamping during really bad conditions. Somewhere with easy access.

Being a Saturday, I went for the less obvious spot, one I'd regularly used.

As I neared the Warren House Inn the rain came in with a vengance. I hid in the pub with a hot meal and a pint. (Bloody tourist!) 

The place sounded busy, but the reality was otherwise. The helpful barman finding me a quiet corner, happy for the trade. Another victim of the post Covid situation. Fewer visitors & increasing costs (the pub's off the grid and relies on diesel for its electricity)

(I was told that, on some Saturdays, the bar barely takes enough to cover the staffing costs, essential to meet the erratic tourist trade. As I'd only seen one coach party during the whole trip (at the Postbridge honeypot spot) clearly this is a major concern for such businesses reliant on a limited trading period to see them through the winter months)

Hopefully my spend helped a little, although it seems that Dartmoor, and its relationship with tourism, is undergoing a major shift at the present. Some of the shop closures, of the smaller/out of the way businesses, back in Tavistock, started to make more sense now.

Eventually I couldn't put things off any longer. 

Back to the car, waterproofs on, with minimal kit  - the rest of the day to be passed hiding behind the cairn above the pub (GR if you want to find it, look it up - it's my hidey hole) 

 A brief break in the weather

Even in bad weather the sky can clear here to show the surrounding views. But today it was wet, windy and increasingly cold.

That night I hit the sleeping bag very early. Perversely, after the excessive heat of the previous day, I lay there wearing a merino base layer and two pairs of socks trying to warm up after many hours of inactivity. Pinned inside the tent by the hammering rain, drowning out the small transisor radio by my side, and tent flysheet banging as winds gusted around 35mph.

Sometime in the evening I heard occasional thunder, always a concern of mine when on the tops. But I know my Akto, so it was a case of hunker down and sit it out.

Time to head home tomorrow. The trip had been a much needed renewal of connection with Dartmoor, but home events now demanded urgent access to laptop & wi-fi internet, so it was a very early start the following day heading back.

A bit of a bum note to leave on, but plenty of good memories and ideas for my next return.

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Sunday, June 26

 DAY 4 Fri 17/6/22

Today was going to be a right bugger.

All the week the media had been forecasting that Friday was going to be the hottest day of the year so far. 

And not just hot.

Heat of a near biblical strength. 

Weather warnings issued. 

Apocalyptic conditions - run down to your cellar and hide if you don't want to turn crispy.


So it was warming up quite nicely as I started my day returning to the car.

Aiming for the Long Stone (GR 660 856) standing proudly on the gentle slope leading away from Kestor Rock.

Cutting back into Fernworthy Forest I eventually picked up the yesterday's clear track, which proved no more exciting than it had the first time around. At least it was all downhill, and I ony had to dodge one forestry artic arriving to start picking up logs. 

(There seems to be a lot of logging work taking place in the woods at present)

As I drove away, I considered today's plan. Clearly the increasing sun & heat meant long walks with a backpack wouldn't be A Good Idea. 

I headed for the glorious bolt hole of Fox's Tor Cafe in Princetown to 'freshen up' & decide on a strategy.

(BTW This eatery is highly recommended. Good food, good prices and friendly staff)

After a few days of camp food it was strangely exciting to saviour the taste of the salad garnish as I tucked into a cheese baguette. It's often the simple pleasures in life.....

I decided a simple approach for a wild camp would be the solution to the heat. I spent a few hours researching possible spots for today, or perhaps the future

I'd noted the road running alongside the cafe eventually ending at Whiteworks (GR 613 710)

The road was good, and safe parking available, but the area around Whiteworks was reflecting heat back like a cauldron. Probably a great sheltered spot during bad weather, but today - not an option despite the availability of readily accessible water. Plus I was a little wary of the water content so near to the abandoned mineworks.

I did stop at the car park (GR 602 708) to stretch my legs and look around. A strong cooling breeze was blowing up from the west spilling over the edge of the ridge, a clear track led down heading off to Crazy Well Pool (GR 582 705) As I was pondering this a couple of cars arrived, and out popped some youngsters (well everyone looks like a youngster to me these days!)

The lads had the same idea as myself, ridge camping for the night. Add in the large amount of inquisitive cattle (and their oh so friendly ticks) I decided this spot was was blown. I chatted with the lads about the area, and Crazy Well in particular. As anticipated they confirmed it would likely be full of daytrippers out for a cooling dip during the day, or party animals for the night, given the forecast weather.

Yet another to mentally note for the future.

Back to Princetown I followed the Tavistock road eyeing up the tor tops looking for something quiet, away from the road noise, but easy enough to reach. 

But before that, a check of the circular road around Burrator Reservoir. I had one eye on a easy access to Sheeps Tor (GR 566 683) Again, the increasing amount of hot day\tourist activity deterred me for today. Leaving a car overnight in such a popular spot, on a hot weekend, was probably not a good idea.

Some of the stream sites\tors near the B3212 road I'd previously overnighted. And I certainly didn't want to be too near the usual walker's routes to Kings Tor, always a popular short walk for the Princetown visitors.

It was getting hotter. Time to hit the tops for some breeze. I eventually found a small area of off road parking near Leeden Tor (GR 563 718) 

[A few years ago I'd realised all my wildcamp planning centred around the availability of water, or the need to pack it in in over distance.

 It sounds so obvious looking back, but I had a simple epiphany one day and decided, when travelling in via car, rather than train, I'd load up the boot with bottled water, thereby introducing greater flexibility into potential route choices.

This had paid off very well indeed.

I've never had any problems with filtering water from the streams, and especially enjoy waterside camping, but its usually at the cost of a decent view in the evening. 

For some reason water has this annoying habit of mainly being found at the bottom of a valley! Although, in the past, I've used a spring on the slopes of High Willhays, and the start of the River Swincombe draining off Down Ridge  the cost is usually a lack of the all important panoramic view.

And, as I get older, I do so saviour that view.

(At this rate I'll be reserving a regular spot on the old folk's bench, staring far out to sea for most of the day - well perhaps not yet)]

As you'd expect the pack was feeling a little heavy as I searched for any sort of track up to the Tor. Being late afternoon by now I'd erred on the side of caution and loaded 2 platypus bladders giving me 4 litres, so plenty of fluid. (I once made 3 litres of water last 24hrs on a long Lake District route, mostly along superb, but hot, ridge routes, the few water sources full of sheep cooling off to avoid the heat)

In fact it felt too heavy. (Post trip I measured a "2 litre" platypus bladder only to find it holds 2.75 litres - well that explained the weight)

Every day is a school day with backpacking. Its something I enjoy so much about it, constantly refining the systems seeking an equilibrium with kit v weight v comfort. And as I'm now well past sixty, that balance is a careful one. Now more reliant on experience and cunning ploys. Less on the once readily accessible strength and vigour that would have easily soaked it all up twenty years ago.

I reached the eastern rock stack, talking out loud to myself as I read off the grid reference to more finely locate my position. 

Alone on the tor top. 

Eer, not quite, as a face popped unexpectedly from behind the minimal shade of the rock stack, having heard my voice chuntering away.

I apologised, remarking that he'd overheard a conversation with someone whose opinion and character I liked and trusted. lol

We chatted a while before I headed towards the west of the tor top towards the steady cooling breeze blowing from Tavistock direction. The top itself is quite rough and littered with large rocks hidden amongst uneven ground, so there were limited pitches. And none with shade, so I made the best of what was available part way between the two stacks.

             Littern Tor

But even with the breeze it was too hot up there. I spent much of the rest of the day hiding in what little shade was offered by the eastern tor stack. Early evening I noticed a disturbance amongst the cows lower down the slopes near the road and spotted a couple heading for the tor. They must have seen my chiselled profile & headed for the prime viewpoint overlooking the ridge edge beyond the western tor stack. Great views, but a bugger if the wind got up. And that was the last I heard from them.

Apart from the trip I mistakenly scheduled around the time of Ten Tors training expeditions, I've never seen quite so many wildcampers out and about on the tops. 

Possibly it was the weather (although the guy from Day 2 near Yes Tor was clearly, like myself, a regular wildcamper)

But it remains unclear as to whether the post covid outdoor activity explosion has led to a sustained increase in the number of people now wildcamping. There's room enough for all who know how to follow the Wildcamping Code, but if it continues my choice of future locations may require a bit more effort on my part, looking for those more solitary locations. 

I bedded down early that night, the heat had sapped my energy. Tomorrow's forecast was highly suspicious, and would determine the rest of the weekend's activity.

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