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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