A group of 12 of us set off on Friday morning, arriving at a campsite in Dartmoor in the afternoon. The first couple of days were acclimatisation days. On Saturday we went out for a walk with a couple of teachers to practice our compass work and navigation skills. After lunch we drove into Dartmoor town, past the prison and looked around the visitor’s centre to gain information for our group work about ‘Human Influences On Dartmoor Throughout The Ages’. That evening we had a barbeque and prepared for the four days ahead.
On Sunday we were driven to our starting point and we set off. There were lots of wild horses wandering around but we couldn’t see much more wildlife in the mist. We were going along well until we reached a split in the path where we got a bit confused, so three others went a little ahead and checked one route by taking a bearing but it was wrong so we carried on straight. I was the photographer so I took lots of pictures of the stone ruins and other points of human influence as we walked along. We reached a stream that we needed to cross and met a different D of E group there, so we waited for them to cross before carrying on. Adam went first but the rocks were quite loose and he dropped his bag into the stream and it got very wet. There was another disaster when I wanted to take a picture of a windmill and realised I’d lost my camera. Katherine, Diya and I ran back a short way down the hill and luckily I found it, but then we had to climb back up to the others. Amazingly, we reached the first checkpoint on time after trudging up a marshy hill and soaking our boots. We were happy to fill up our water bottles and have a short rest because it was getting very hot.
We carried on walking and stopped for lunch later, on the top of a hill with a great view. We topped up our sun cream because by then the mist had gone and it was really sunny. The route on day one was fairly easy and enjoyable. We met a couple of the teachers again at a checkpoint near to the old tin mines and then kept walking. We lay in the sun for a short while on a hill before meeting two other teachers by a rock and we headed down to set up our wild camp. It was about half past five when we put up our tents next to Black Ford and then started cooking our dinner on a meths stove. It was quite warm so we ate outside and then washed up our plates in the stream before going inside our tents, although it was hard to get to sleep after discovering a dead sheep right outside our tent.
On Monday we had packed up and eaten breakfast by seven so we set off again, over the moorland. We got quite lost early on trying to find a wall, which was on the map but not actually there at all. Eventually we found the large lake next to some old clay works and got back on track. From then on it was hard work as we kept sinking in the wet and muddy marsh and we had to leap from one lump of dry grass to another to try and avoid getting our boots any wetter. We got through the moorland eventually and out of Dartmoor then carried on walking. We reached the top of a large hill and waded through spiky plants until we could see the reservoir and we made our way down. It was late afternoon when we arrived at the checkpoint by the reservoir and topped up water and used the proper toilet. I realised I was very sunburnt, so I covered myself in sun cream and had to put on a fleece to cover my red arms despite the boiling temperature! We made our way through a village and then walked along the river. We realised we’d taken a wrong turn so we planned to re-join the route after crossing some stepping-stones and corrected ourselves quite quickly. There was a short stretch of road leading to our camp but it seemed to go on forever. We arrived and went to sleep almost immediately after putting up the tents and cooking some tasty hot rice.
When we woke up on Tuesday there were swarms of flies, which filled the tent as soon as we zipped it open. We packed up quickly and set off by seven. The third day was the least enjoyable with frequent showers, mist and lots of hills. We started off in the morning with our waterproofs and woolly hats, as we climbed the first Tor. Later on at the top of another Tor we saw the other group from our school but waited for them to go ahead before we carried on. A while later, we saw a couple of teachers, from a different school, and they filled our water bottles then headed off. We made our way down to the valley and crossed a bridge when the mist suddenly came over and so we could no longer see. We decided to wait there and let it clear, but it started to rain heavily so we changed our minds and headed up the hill. The mist was so thick we couldn’t see the valley or anything else once we reached the top and the path disappeared. We set our compasses for Manga Rock, the next point and started walking in that direction. We decided that three people should go a little way ahead and the others wait until we whistled. We kept checking the compass and counted our steps to work out how far we’d come. The weather was worsening and we weren’t sure if it was the right direction. Some of the group wanted to use the emergency phone but we tried to stay positive and we encouraged each other so we carried on. The ground was very uneven and there were lots of holes, which we kept falling into. Finally, we reached the rock and we could see the Tors we needed to get to in the distance. We took bearings then carried on walking until we stopped by a wall that gave us a bit of shelter from the rain and strong wind, where we ate lunch.
We walked on, more confident that we were on the right track because the mist had lifted slightly and we were able to see certain checkpoints. We walked past the stone ruins and hut circle on the top of a Tor, but we weren’t sure where to turn off and head down to the valley so we left the path and went down too early.
Luckily the teachers were waiting at a checkpoint below and spotted Katherine’s neon yellow rucksack cover. We found them and they helped us to find out where we were and we reached the checkpoint by the stream. We then had to go through a village and carried on a bit further to our second wild camp at Gulliver’s Steps. It was so windy when we arrived that it took all of us to put up one tent at a time so that they didn’t blow away. Katherine and I started cooking and ate our dinner outside, while the others stayed in their tents because it was freezing cold and really wet.
We got up at about six in the morning and started our last day of walking. We found quite a lot of army debris around the campsite and on our route, which was very close to the army’s shooting range. We began to follow our planned route but the track was closed because there was shooting and we saw a large army truck drive past with lots of soldiers. We had to turn back and use a different path to get back on route. Later on we found ourselves in the middle of an army camp and there were hundreds of soldiers asleep in tents all around us, so we crept quietly past. We had to climb some more hills and I took some pictures of the wild horses we passed. We reached the reservoir quite early, at about 10:30, as it started to rain. We had a short break and saw the teachers before setting off again for the last leg. I had hurt my ankle which was quite painful but we carried on at a slower pace. We sat down in a field for a rest but had to get up quickly when we saw people on horses coming towards us, who were herding cows into a field further up. Eventually we found the river Lyd in Lydford and knew that we had just about reached the end. It was such a relief to see the school minibuses and the teachers waiting for us at the end. We arrived just past lunchtime and evaluated our expedition with our assessor. We were all happy that we passed, and it felt so good to get on to the bus and sit down!