There was a gentle breeze under the sides of my raised Trailstar, Bess was asleep in her bed, wrapped up in two towels and a brook (Walla) bubbled away just a few metres from my camp.
My meths stove boiled my dinner, water spare for tea. Light music drifted from my phone and a light tap of rain struck my shelter. I was warm, comfortable and above all else relaxed! I felt not a single pang of loneliness, I guess walking all day alone with Bess as my sole companion helped dispel that. Not that I'd ever noticed that feeling prior to last camp. But then that was only the second time I'd camped with company.
I ate my meal and looked back on my day of walking wishing that my hiking was as enjoyable as this particular camp was. It's a bit frustrating, but I have had homesickness all my life so maybe it's just to be tolerated. As I posted on Facebook one slightly mentally tough day a month (Cheddar is nearer home and I am more relaxed leaving home a bit later than for Dartmoor) is a pretty good compromise when on the whole I'm bubbling about the walk after, the beauty of it, successfully navigating around and thoroughly enjoying the camp!
I left the tiny parking area and headed over Scorhill (noting a lovely flat area!) and the two clapper bridges past a wooded section and to Kestor Rock. The walking was easy going, this area is well walked and so tracks have formed that mean tussocks can be avoided! Though it was wet underfoot and my shoes were soon soaked but as the temperature was about 6c my feet were not cold. From the Rock I followed another path to Long Stone and then into Fenworthy Forest. I crossed the forest and popped out directly opposite my entrance using the map to ensure I stayed on course.
A cow welcomed Bess and I by a gate to leave the forest and reenter the Moor. We bypassed the cow and followed the contours around a small valley to Stannon Tor. I stopped here and tried to get a ham roll down me. It was on this more exposed section I noticed a breeze had picked up and it had cooled off a fraction. I checked my weather computer, an old Silva ADC Pro, the temp was still 6c but the 15+ mph breeze brought the wind chill down to 2c! Not exactly freezing. The sun was about, intermittently. It was a perfect day for walking.
A note here, I kept my date open, if the forecast had been on the bad side I'd have changed to another date. I'm quite happy to aim for good weather where possible and cross bad weather when it catches me out! So far so lucky.
The walking was a little tougher underfoot but mostly level apart from another small valley I dropped into and out up to Sittaford Tor.
A stile needs clambering over here then a very wet crossing to Stats House. Down to North Teign Head. This is an easy water crossing and on this route the only waterway that needs jumping across! This route is ideal in winter for its lack of rivers.
I then headed up to Whitehorse Hill. This is easy in good visibility (and offers fantastic views) but care is needed in mist. I did this in reverse in mist last winter using just map and compass. When relying on my map I like to try to picture / interpret what the map says the land will do en route. This way if the map says I should be going down and I'm not...
Hangingstone Hill was next. I met the first two walkers here. Wearing boots and gaiters! I make a habit of looking at peoples foot wear on the hill. From my (limited) observations boots far outweigh trail running shoes. I somehow feel fantastic being one of the few! Ok, I'm not planning on crossing a snow field at the moment...
Wild Tor was next then Hound Tor. Heading to Hound Tor the ground was very slick with mud and my right foot kept going, skidding out from under me! My bottom had nowhere to go, other than down! I had a soaked arse and right gloved hand. No one was around, so all was fine.
I was very near my planned camping spot.
Last winter in mist I took a wrong turn and ended up at Rippator. Despite the wrong turn I actually knew I did it very shortly after doing it, and knew where I was heading. I wanted Hound Tor that time and on a direct bearing from Rippator I crossed a green tussockless area and thought it would make a good camp spot.
From Hound Tor I retraced those steps, actually, not quite, and headed for that same area. But in the process lost my left leg at the head of Gallaven Brook. One minute my leg was there, the next it was in the brook! This part of the brook, being at the head of the valley was invisible with reeds abound. This is not something I normally miss. Again it was just me, so I extracted my leg, dignity intact and carried on.
A day later my thigh ached, two days later my ankle ached. On the second day later, if you follow me, the thigh was fine, so I expect the ankle to be fine imminently. Must have given both a jolt and not noticed at the time.
This section was the roughest of the walk. Normally tussocks don't worry me and these were nothing more than gentle but annoyed me today. When I got to the "camp" area it looked slopey. In a better frame of mind I'd have probably found a flattish bit. Getting water, whilst close by would have entailed more rough ground crossing. I simply wasn't in the mood. Primarily as when I started the walk I passed a perfect pitch at the base of scorhill right next to the brook! Frankly there was no competition! If I'd not seen this I'd have stayed put. But with a flat area by a brook, I was off. It was nearer the car, in fact I had to partly retrace my early section. Only difference was I went around the south west of Scorhill rather than over the top.
I saw a group of 6 walkers off in the distance and passed an elderly couple by the stone circle of Scorhill.
As this area is frequented by walkers due to easy access I'd only camp here in winter. Also, being a small 1km hill away from car escape would be easy in emergency. Arguably it's too close to the car, but for the next few months, I'll call it home and adjust my walk to finish there. I'm quite happy with familiarity.
This time, Chris, it really felt like home.
I checked and wrote down here the distance information...
Ave moving speed 4.7kph.
Camped 940m from car.
This was all I wrote down. It is about as much as I'd put in my note pad. It's begging the question if to leave note pad behind and use the app Writer on phone / Nexus 7.
This was unquestionably my most relaxed camp from the moment I arrived. In fact I think I enjoy the camping more than the walking, mentally, at that moment. Though I am a walker. I want to walk as far as is sensible / feasible / reasonable in a day prior to camp. I'm not interested in parking the car, walking two miles (plucked that figure) or so and camping.
I pitched the Trailstar a bit higher to try it with a gap around the bottom. It was cool and I was glad for the bivi. The height of the Trailstar was not the issue but the cool damp ambient temperature. I suspect I'd have been chilled without the microclimate the bivi produced. In the morning the cuben base of the bivi was damp as was the side of my sleeping bag. Though the down did not appear wet. I will add a bit more cord to my groundsheet and see if I can get it a fraction more away from the sides. I'm more than happy with a single skin shelter. And an open door!
I read more than I have on any previous camp, saw half of We Bought a Zoo. Both via my phone. I also played a little music. I find it soothing.
Two meals were eaten, LWWF.
I think I slept ok, it wasn't sound, but a full bladder didn't help. I tried to use the bottle but the water works shut up shop and no matter how I tried I failed to go in the evening. I don't think he liked the idea of the bottle. Either that or he was confused. Buggered if I was leaving the warmth of my sleeping bag. I finally managed to go at about 6 in the morning! That was a relief, I can tell you.
Breakfast was had, my usual porridge. This time I cleaned the pot by making my tea in it after. I warmed my meths and had no issues lighting it with my striker whilst lying on my tummy.
I packed everything away, it still seems to take about an hour to do this. That is steady, continuous packing, including taking shelter down, putting cooking stuff away and deflating air bed. Not in that order.
Once packed, I hefted the bag on my back, headed up Scorhill and was at the car in short order. A few army bods were at the top of the hill. So getting going was wise or passers by may have, well, passed by.
I'll aim to be back, time and weather permitting in December. This will still technically be autumn.
So this is now 7 wild camps. Over the coming months I'll revisit my camp kit list. But it's pretty comprehensive but not too excessive. I may be able to thin a bit here or there. My Satmap may get relegated on well known walks in favour of my phone and Nexus.
This was by far and away my most relaxing camp! Long may that last.
Until next time....
Kit list on YouTube. Bess list on pbase. Both links at top.