Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Dartmoor in Bloom

We returned to the South West from our Three Peaks achievements to find large swathes of Dartmoor draped in the late Summer blanket of pink and purple heather.

The heather which is currently in flower is one reason that the National Park Authority believe the moor is an area of International importance. Such is the size and scale of habitat which sees heather thrive here. Three species of the heather are found on the moor - Common, Bell and Cross-Leaved. It is certainly true that the perfect habitat for the heather is on the heathland of the Northern Atlantic - think Western France, Ireland, the New Forest and Dartmoor.

Its a wonderful time to be on the moor, with the gorse in flower, and the smells of late summer in the air. Soon the leaves will be turning the whortles will no longer be for the picking, and it'll be time to put the heating on!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Always up for a challenge!

After escaping Dartmoor for a while, WITC, amongst others, have just returned from completing the national Three Peaks Challenge. The mission was to reach the summits of Scotland's, England's and Wales' highest mountains in the quickest time possible without breaking speed limits!

For those who need the reminder - the three peaks are Ben Nevis (1344 metres), Scafell Pike (978 metres) and Snowdon (1085 metres). In total, thats about 10000 feet of ascent.
Of course, the mountains are only half the story. There is 23 miles of walking, some walking and navigating at night, bad (foggy, windy, damp) weather, tricky river crossings (Dartmoor prepares you for these!) not to mention the 500 miles of driving between car parks.

Nothing can prepare you for the lack of sleep, the hurting and hunger that kicks in on these little 6 hour road journeys.
Its a Challenge alright.
Four began the challenge. Three completed it, with one forced to withdraw through injury. Scafell Pike was by far the toughest, with the wettest feet, roughest terrain and requiring most navigation. Though Ben Nevis took longer than any of us predicted. We even broke into a jog on the descent of Snowdon to ensure we achieved a sub 27 hour time!

Total time taken: 26 hours and 57 minutes.

Total money raised for charities Macmillan Cancer Care and Teenage Cancer Trust: £1500

Images from top: Scafell Pike summit; Looking down on Glen Nevis; Early morning ascent of Lingmell en route to Scafell Pike; High river level on slopes of Snowdon.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Rough and tough

It was noted from the forum of Dartmoorletterboxing.org that one contributor was struggling to find letterboxes on Ger Tor. It was with this in our minds that we set out into Tavy Cleave to discover the truth.

Tavy Cleave is a unique area on the Moor. Here the slopes are steeper, the terrain is harder, the river runs faster, the vegetation is thicker. Its as close to 'mountainous' as Dartmoor could possibly claim. Though the West Okement Valley is a close second.

We can confirm that there are letterboxes on Ger Tor! Sure, there aren't many, and you stumble across them easily. The moss, and general greenery benefits from the South facing slope, so it runs rampant in the sunshine and rain. This made for an interesting traverse of the slope as we headed upstream towards Tavy Cleave Tors. Surely someone can come up with a better name for these outcrops. They don't feature on the map, and yet these impressive granite outposts deserve a good name. The path to the Rattlebrook was easier to navigate and as the valley leveled out, we could enjoy more success letterboxing in and around Watern Oke and the upper Tavy.

We turned around at Little Kneeset and returned via a higher path, passing Dead Lake and beneath Hare Tor before descending to Ger Tor's summit (and useful hut, see picture) to shelter from a rain shower.

A grand day out, with 27 boxes found in just under 14 miles. Perfect training for our next adventure...