Friday, 31 August 2018

Not the walk I'd intended...

...but the walk that I needed. Yes.

I was relieved to be back on Dartmoor turf. Climbing over High Down towards Brat Tor.  I have been here too often of late and there are numerous other places I need to go, but I had hopes of visiting the Rattlebrook, Dunnagoats and Green Tor this time around.  The weather forecast was in my favour, and I was hopeful the early mist would clear and a good day's Boxing would be had.

Not far from the car, I remembered that I hadn't checked my emails for any late arrivals of clues in this area. I logged on from my smartphone and was stunned by some terrible news.

Early in August the Letterboxing world was rocked by the death of Godfrey Swinscow. Aged 99, Godfrey had had a good life. He would, of course - to quote a forum contributor - be disappointed not to have made it to the 100 Club.  The sad news that stood out from my email on this particular morning was the death of Godfrey's wife Anne - author of the books I blogged about in May this year. Just 2 weeks since Godfrey's passing, this was so tragic.

I was in a daze. I'd come out here -as per usual - to clear my head, but was now feeling confused and upset. I just kept on walking.  Here I was, ascending the col between Brat and Arms Tor, when the rain came. 

Thoughts of clues and original walk plans had gone.  What was I to do. My head was more than full now. I had to go to Cranmere Pool! It seemed the obvious thing to do! In memoriam? Out of respect? To seek some solace? To report this latest sad news? I don't really know why. It certainly wasn't Letterboxing weather, and this certainly isn't the best route to Cranmere. Perhaps for my own mind, I simply needed to return to the original Dartmoor Letterbox.

I knew the way, but adjusted my map anyway. Over Rattlebrook Hill and Chat Tor, skirting Amicombe Hill before the climb up to the Okehampton Range plateau - Great Knesset and the slog over Black Ridge. Then on to the head of the West Okement and 'The Pool'.

Driving rain and low cloud soaked me to the skin. The deep wet grass, tussocks and water filled peat ponds atop Black Ridge did little to lighten my mood either. I found three boxes by chance. But I was focused on my target.

I reached Cranmere in time to witness a couple of walkers rushing away in the direction of OP15. They didn't see me approach as their hoods were up and they were attentively watching where they stepped.

Amazingly on this wet day I was the 6th visitor to write in the book.  I wrote in my route, the weather and a short tribute to Godfrey and Anne.

I didn't hang around. It was almost 3pm and I needed to get home.

As I packed up to leave, contemplating the damp stomp ahead, my luck changed and the rain subsided. By the time I reached Black Ridge, the mist had lifted, and as I approached Great Kneeset, the clouds disappeared and the views in all directions were inspiring.  The sunshine even made an appearance.

I continued on obvious paths over Amicombe Hill, over Green Tor to Bleak House. I took a moment to wander the ruined building: Trying and failing to imagine a lifetime spent in a remote and cold dwelling.  It took 40 minutes  from here to walk the last few kilometers to the car, from where I reflected on my day, and considered my achievement. Not thinking of a day's Letterboxing missed, but of friends remembered. Rest in peace God and Anne.