Sunday, 19 June 2016

The Comeback Kid

I haven't been Letterboxing in a long while.  I haven't blogged for some time either - although I did apologise in advance for this.  To say that I am 'out the groove' is something of an understatement!  It was a windy day late in March last time my map and compass were used.  I cannot remember the last time that I actually plotted a route, printed out clues and donned my walking boots.

So, with studies concluded, gardening taking a back seat for a day, and the weather in my favour, I decided to make an overdue return to the Moor.  Filing through my charity walks, purchased in March, I settled on one which would make an interesting, productive day on the Moor.  The Crohns & Colitus UK Charity walk from Norsworthy Bridge up to Hingston Hill and Down Tor.  I doubted my fitness because although at work I am on my feet all day, I don't walk huge distances.  Perhaps a few diversions from the charity walk could be planned, but 3-and-a-half miles sounded fine to me!  

A few years back, I'd have thought nothing of 3-and-a-half miles.  I say a few: I walked the 27 mile OATS walk in under 7 hours over 20 years ago now!  Each of my letterbox walks since 2014 have been comfortably below 10 miles.  I'd love to believe I could recover my hill fitness.  I see it as my goal now.  To get back on Dartmoor more often, walking a bit more, and reforming a relationship with my favourite place on earth.

What happened to this bond with Dartmoor?  This place so special to me.  I've really missed it.  To me, as with many people, Dartmoor is my escape.  My antithesis to the stresses and strains of everyday life.  In the past 18 months, I've had a few of these.  A close friend advised me to simplify my life.  This wasn't easy.  My wife is expecting our first child.  Work isn't getting any easier.  If the advice meant: take control of the things I could control, then getting back on Dartmoor regularly would be how i'd interpret it.

Norsworthy Bridge car park was closed when I got there.  A fishing competition was underway at Burrator, so I parked up in the Arboretum car park.  I took a short cut through the mixed plantation to join the track near the Middleworth Farm ruins.  In typical Saturday style, the reservoir seemed alive with dog walkers, runners, cyclists.  The speeding motorcyclists on the Princetown road were audible as ever, even from this distance.  It did not take long though to leave the noise behind, as the walk took me out to Combshead Tor and Cuckoo Rock.

I found myself resting regularly and often.  I've never been one to break unnecessarily when Letterboxing.  Yet, here I was, desperate to refind my groove.  To clear my mind, and rekindle the enjoyment of being on the Moor.  I wandered off the trail up Newleycombe Lake towards Drivage Bottom.  The going underfoot was tough.  I found unexpected boxes, and explored mine workings I doubt I'd seen before.  The lush valley was remote, narrow, winding, and symbolised the experience - the Dartmoor - I sought.  At one box, a young foal, within sight of it's mother, guarded the site.  Watching me as I stamped up, it nibbled on my walking boots, moving me along.  I returned to the reservoir late in the day, tired, but partly restored after a great day of Letterboxing.  It'll take a few more walks like this to feel fully revitalised, yet I know that this will happen.  25 boxes found today, which means I've passed the 15,300 mark at long last!

I am the comeback kid!