Early April found me back in one of my favourite locations – on Dartmoor. I was told recently by a friend that you need to say ‘on Dartmoor’ and not ‘in Dartmoor’ – seemingly that is something else entirely 🙂
Dartmoor can be a very tough place to learn about the art of navigation but if you can crack it there then most other places will seem like a walk in the park in comparison.
This was the second of four weekends that we are running as part of the Basic Expedition Leader (BEL) award for our Sea Cadet instructors.
On the Friday night we stayed at Oakhampton Army camp on the northern edge of the moor and then camped out on the Saturday night.
Each student had to give a ten minute presentation on a given outdoor pursuits subject and also a five minute ‘on the hoof’ presentation while out navigating. We managed to do a few of the presentations on the Saturday morning before striking out onto the moor.
I was working with my good friend Graham Brockwell over the weekend so we split the students into two teams. My team headed up onto Yes Tor to work on our map and compass skills.
While up there we spotted the local hunt lower down on the moor. While watching them a Royal Navy Rescue helicopter came in below us and landed at Oakhampton Army camp. I always love being up high and seeing aircraft flying about below me.
It was soon time to come down of the Tor to navigate along the tracks in the valleys. The BEL qualification is a lowland award and the students have to show a high degree of accuracy while navigating on clearly marked paths.
After a few more presentations we found the old artillery range. The metal rails you can see in the picture on the bottom left were for the carriage that held a large target for the artillery to shoot at.
Camp on the Saturday night was quite high up but very near to a road where we had our minibus parked.
The students soon were sorted out both fed and rested 🙂
The last of the presentations were run that evening. It was still very bright but very windy. In this class Carol was doing a quiz on map symbols that involved a little artistic licence.
Once it got dark Graham and myself took everyone on a hike without torches onto one of the Tors. The skies were very clear and as everyone’s eyesight had adjusted to the dark the views of the stars were exceptional. There was a slight level of light pollution around the edges of Dartmoor but looking straight up was crystal clear.
This weekend I had to sleep in a tent (contemplated the hammock stand but it was just a tad too windy) but it was surprisingly comfy I have to admit – the two roll mats helped!!
Cooking on the moor can be difficult with the wind but Dave soon found himself the perfect niche to get out of the wind to brew up.
The wind was really helpful though with drying the tents off quickly. It was just the undersides that needed drying so as long as you held on tightly to it, it was soon dry.
Now Graham managed this on his own as he is a bit of a pro however some of the student instructors (I did say some) needed to get a bit of teamwork going to get everything packed away without being blown away.
The Sunday morning was to be a short affair as we had a long drive back towards London. It was still a bit windy but brilliantly clear making the navigation slightly easier.
To begin with we did some compass work and were soon off.
Along the way it was time to run a scenario – a first aid scenario.
It is quite common for someone to trip on the moor and pull a muscle or twist an ankle. I asked Jack to quickly lie down, set the scene for the students and set them to it.
The scenario was that Jack had hurt his leg, bad enough to find it very difficult to walk but not a broken bone. The students were briefed that the minibus was nearby (it was) and that as they had enough people in the team they could treat Jacks injuries and rig a seat to carry him out.
Jack was helped over to the side of a collapsed building for shelter to be treated to get him out of the strong wind.
In the picture above you can see the students placing their hands on the ground. This was to show them how cold the ground gets very quickly and the importance of protecting Jack from the cold ground.
Once he was comfy a seat was rigged from a survival bag and slowly (everyone taking turns) Jack was transported about 100 metres or so off the moor.
Dave got his bothy bag out for some of the guys who had never used one before to try out. This bit of kit is brilliant in an emergency to treat a casualty out of the wind or more commonly as a mobile shelter to each your lunch out of the wind.
To finish some of us jumped into the minibus back to the camp while others enjoyed a nice walk down off the moor.
The whole weekend on Dartmoor was lovely in terms of the weather and the traffic on the A303 on the trip home ran really smooth – not often you can say that.