Several weeks ago my friend and Charlie decided that we would go for a long walk. From North to South Dartmoor to be precise. Charlie had recently dislocated her shoulder and I was 7 week post operation, we both had itchy feet.
So a few days before the winter equinox and the shortest day of the year we decided that 31 miles over the sometimes harsh and rugged terrain of Dartmoor would be our cup of tea. We picked nearly the shortest day of the year, and after a week of heavy rain, we knew the bogs would be errrm….interesting.
We slept overnight in Charlies van close to the start and awoke to a clear and beautiful moon. After gobbling our porridge and sacking up we hit the first stretch, an unknown path that lead up onto the Cosdon Beacon. The walk in our heads was split into 3.
- The first half of the North Moor, through the firing areas (or around them if they’re firing). We suspected this would be the hardest Navigation of the day, although it turned out that once the sun had risen and the threatening rain clouds had disappeared the Nav was surprisingly simple and straight forward, no bogs thrashing at all! We where blessed with a beautiful moon, sunrise and then cool but dry weather.
2. The dreaded road section. 6 and a bit miles of yomping down tar mac was not our idea of fun. At around 12 miles we hit Postbridge a little weary. This was our first proper stop to refuel, use the toilets and have a nice sit down. After an hour of smashing knees, and hopeful corners we arrives at Two Bridges for another quick sit down and the moral boost of turning the map onto the second sheet. We where then on the last straight into Princetown. From Princetowns grey and slightly depressing feel we headed back out onto open moor and started section 3!
3. The third leg was split into three sections, an easy straight bomb down a huge track, a hopefully easy path with some compass work, a straight gravel highway all the way into Ivybridge to finish. This was not the case. We quickly bombed down past South Hessary to Nun’s Cross where we enjoyed our last proper rest as the sun went down, that was the last of the type 1 fun. Little did we know the mist was to descend and the next 8 km would take 4 hours of bog thrashing and not really knowing where we were!
Soon after Nuns cross the path petered out into nothing but vaguely trampled grass. It didn’t help that visibility dropped to around 10 paces…
4 hours later, several conversations about where the hell we where and pacing all 8km on a bearing (Charlie compass, me counting), I had counted to 72, 80 times. Our last hope was to pop out on the gravel highway of the 2 Moors Way. We paced, we walked….nothing. We paced another 100m, still nothing. We gave one last attempt and luckily 50m later we popped out onto gravel and gave a huge sigh of relief!
All was not over…we still had 9 miles to go! We enjoyed the gravel…for a bit…before it became monotonous, hard and painful. At around 26 miles I think we both hit a wall. I phoned Ivan to come and pick us up in 70 minutes…my stomach had had enough…my eyelids wanted to be closed. We marched on, albeit at a much slower pace. The bogs, mist, pacing and mileage had taken it’s toll. But just before 11pm we popped out at the top of Ivybridge to a much awaited car pick up! And we had done it…2 semi invalids, no training, a lot of good luck, a bit of bad!
We’re going back in the summer to find out what the hell happened in the middle, on our second attempt of the North to South Dartmoor in a day!
Highly recommended, although not to be taken lightly!