Monday, June 27

 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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