Dartmoor Delights

Route: Circular Route from Dartmeet via Postbridge and Widecombe in the Moor, 27.05 miles

Dartmoor_-_Dartmeet_Circular_-_NO_ACCESS_PLANDartmoor kept us on our toes during our run across its vast moors and ionic tors. It shared many delights with us during our short time there. We arrived the night before and were treated to magnificent views across the park, unique dry stone walls and plenty of inquisitive Dartmoor ponies. Having not spent much time in Dartmoor, I had little knowledge of the terrain underfoot and was pleasantly surprised to see rolling heath and moorland with gritstone tors sitting proudly upon them.

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Pam recounted tales of wild camping trips she had had here and Duke of Edinburgh expeditions she had led as we drove the last few miles across the park to the YHA near Postbridge. She also reminded me of the Ten Tors event that takes place during May each year. This is an event purely for young people. Any school, scout or cadet force organisation in the South West of England can enter teams for this life changing event. The event tests every team member’s levels of grit and resilience as they complete a gruelling 35, 45 or 55 mile trek across 10 nominated Tors during two days whilst being completely self-sufficient in terms of food, water and shelter. Visit the Ten Tors website at http://www.tentors.org.uk/ for more information.

We woke up to heavy mist with hardly any visibility on the morning of our run. Driving to our start point proved tricky; the light from the headlights of oncoming cars was attenuated as it was absorbed and scattered by the thick blanket of water droplets. This gave me little time to react as we drove along the narrow roads so we were relieved to arrive safely at Dartmeet where we were to start our run.

With background radiation as our Scientific focus for the day, we set the background radiation detection meter running as we commenced the usual faff process that we go through before the start of each run. With water and food loaded, map in hand and radioactive meter at the ready, we were off! Well, at least for 700m until we hit the first of three sets of stepping stones that we encountered within the first three miles. Team work and some paddling ensured that we got across all the stepping stones without getting our shoes wet.

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We marvelled at the millions of dew-covered spider webs, draped over gorse bushes, and the bright red rowan berries lining our route. Our brains kicked into gear as we conversed about all the underlying physics principles at work. Tensile strength, angles of webs and Hooke’s Law could all be readily applied to these intricate and fascinating webs which surrounded us as we ventured across the moors. Stopping to take readings, time was slipping away and we could tell from the outset that we were going to take a little longer on this run than we had for the others. However, our spirits were high and we were enjoying the cool feeling of the surrounding mist on our skin; it was a relief from the humidity of the last run.

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A short while later we reached Postbridge where we met up with Pam’s parents. Grateful for the water and extra food that they had ready for us, we bought them a tea at the local shop and had a brief chat with the owner. He had built dry walls for the Dartmoor National Park for many years prior to taking on the shop and we had a fascinating conversation with him on the different styles of walls in the different National Parks. This was something that we had observed as we drove into the park. He informed us that in recent times, rock has been brought in by machinery. However, historically, the style of the walls and the size of fields was dependent on what could be sourced locally. Eager to get a few more miles under our belt before we stopped for lunch, we said our goodbyes and carried on off across the moors.

With some tricky navigation and plenty of prickly gorse to contend with, we were kept on our toes during the next three-mile section, testing our mood at times. However, with the sun starting to break through the mist and the Two Moors Way stretching out in front of us, we let our emotions drift through us and vocalised how we felt. This is the great thing about good teamwork. Pam and I have known each other for many years and know only too well that friendships are tested when the going is tough, not when the going is easy. As ever, our relationship was only strengthened by our adventures that day.

Passing numerous stone circles and old settlements, our minds tried to image how life must have been like for those who made this land their home in the distant past. Slowly climbing up onto the top of the moor, we looked over towards Bennett’s Cross and could just make out Pam’s folks patiently waiting for us at out next meeting point. Food and drink at the ready, we greeted them with big smiles before devouring their offerings and setting off across the Tors. We were ever conscious of time, keen to keep at good pace going for the next 5 miles. Reaching a vast stone circle, called Grimspound, we stopped for another background reading and photo, impressed by the scale of the structure.

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The presence of several cute Dartmoor ponies, their rich brown coats catching our eyes, only added to the atmosphere. A quick but very informative conversation about other worthwhile sites to visit in Dartmoor with two lovely visitors from Colorado, Barbara and Paul, before continuing on our way.

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With the church spire of Widecombe-in-the-Moor coming into view as the mist cleared to the east of us, we knew that we were approaching our next rendezvous point. We were treated to a very friendly welcome as Pam’s mum beckoned us over to a café and told us to order before they closed for the day. We staggered in to be met by beaming smiles and lots of words of encouragement from the team at Café on the Green. Slightly embarrassed, we ordered drinks and cakes for Pam’s folks and ourselves before savouring them outside.

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Eager not to stiffen up too much, the stop was short and we soon said a big thank you and goodbye before starting our final leg for the day. A few hundred metres down the road and we were stopped in our tracks by a friendly shout out from a man standing by a shop door.

“If you are who I think you are, you are late for school!”

We both looked around to see him smiling. Joining in with the joke we smiled back and replied.

“Yes, we are very late for school!”

We fought through our aches and pains as we dragged our bodies up the steep climb back onto the moor. As the mist swirled around us, we hatched a plan to jump into the cold waters of the East Dart River which was conveniently placed next to where I had parked the van. A few miles down the road and we had started our final descent. Trying to not get too excited, we trotted across the car park, before grabbing a towel and a change of clothes and throwing ourselves into the cool water. After a quick cool off, it was time to refuel and say our final goodbye to Pam’s parents. They had been a great source of mental and physical support all day and had helped make our Dartmoor experience a very pleasurable one!

 

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