I spent seven days this Easter on Dartmoor – seven glorious sunny days.
I never thought I could have said that with my previous experience of this often wet and windy but beautiful moorland landscape.
The first five days were with the Sea Cadets where my friend John Kelly was running a DofE Expedition on the moor. I was along as Mountain Leader safety and to help train the Gold training team.
John also had a Silver team under training, another Silver team under assessment and another Gold team under assessment – Quite a busy 5 days it turned out.
The first day was all about training for me as the Gold team were under my wing all day. We focussed on key map and compass skills so that the next day they could navigate under remote supervision safely.
Early on the first day my friend Dave Lewis managed to pull a muscle in one of his legs and had to retire early on from the walk that day. It was serious enough stop him from getting back on the hills for a few days and I insisted he put his feet up – to which I received no arguments (I needed Dave fit for another course straight after this one).
The evening of the first night was spent indoors learning all about route cards. Thankfully we were located at the Langstone Manor campsite near Tavistock where they have excellent facilities and allowed us to take over their dining area to run the classes.
Day two saw some of the teams starting out at the beautiful hump backed bridge over the West Dart river near the Dartmoor Training centre. Never one to miss a photo opportunity I soon had them lined up for a quick shoot.
I spent the day monitoring these teams remotely, only meeting up with them occasionally.
At the end of the day the descent off the moor was pretty steep but very beautiful. The footpath that took them off the moor into the village of Michelcombe was very hard to locate so after a little bit of map revision with the teams we were all soon rapidly making our way downhill.
The campsites were varied from the relative luxury of Langstone Manor, to the basic beauty of camping in a field of new born lambs and finally the remote camping of a high moorland copse.
I really enjoy these trips as I get to wander the hills on my own and getting to sit back and relax while waiting for teams to appear. I have to try and anticipate where the teams will be at any given time and observe them from a distance or from time to time wander down to meet them.
As the teams I was observing were all under training I was able to spend some time with them at some of these rest spots making sure they knew exactly where they were and offering them advice when needed.
Near the end of the day on the Thursday one of the cadets (Jess) tripped and strained a muscle in her leg. As this was very near the end of the day I called all the teams in from the surrounding area and revised their walk to head off the moor on an easier path.
We really took our time so that every one including Jess managed to walk off the moor and arrive back at the minibuses together.
For those doing the Silver award this was the end of the expedition and after a de-brief they boarded a minibus to take them back to London.
Those doing the Gold assessment and training had to do one more day so it was back to Langstone Manor campsite for one more night and a final days trekking the next day.
I did not manage to get everyone in one group picture but got these two in the end. The top picture is off the Silver teams and the gold training team.
The bottom picture is off the Gold assessment team prior to them heading off on their last days trek alongside some of the staff monitoring them.
My final picture is of my hammock stand I had brought along for the week. I like tents but why sleep on the floor when you can hammock 🙂
I put together a short video of the trip.
The last two days of the week were spent on another course training up some Sea Cadet instructors to become outdoor pursuits instructors on the Basic Expedition Leader Award. That post will follow shortly.
Will I ever get so many sunny days on Dartmoor again I have no idea but I will certainly remember this trip because of it.