Dartmoor: sun & rain

I’ve gained a couple of new badges for my camp blanket. First, there was this one:

gg anglia

This one came in the post from Laura at Look Wider – You Could Miss Something, nearly two weeks ago and I haven’t had the time to even acknowledge that it’s arrived – it’s here and it’s on my blanket and thank you, Laura!

The other badge that’s appeared recently is this one:

ggswe walking

This is because I went on a Leisure Walking Weekend on Dartmoor. GGSWE now do walking badges because they won’t be outdone by LaSER (London and South East Region) who started producing badges in 2014.

laser walking

SWE and LaSER run quite a few walking weekends together. Both have a few active walking members but when they’re running training weekends, it’s more efficient – and more sociable – to make it a joint event. And yes, I was there that weekend when they first produced the fateful badges.

So, last weekend I went walking on Dartmoor. I’ve only done that once before, on the Level 2 training course when we took things easy because we were learning.
There were six of us – Ruth, Anne and Sandra are all qualified MLs in at least their sixties and Alice is preparing for her ML assessment. Hardened walkers, the lot of them. And then there was me and Steph, slightly less hardened walkers. Anne was renewing her Girlguiding Level 3 qualification and that meant she needed a Level 3 walk for her logbook. The walk was accordingly planned and it seemed Steph and I were to be included. We’re not Level 3 standard and we know it, but “you’re young!”

Actually, it was ok. We were out for leisure, not records, and we kept up a leisurely pace, with a lot of stopping to identify sphagnum moss and tiny blue and white flowers, to look for stone rows that just weren’t there and to argue over navigation. I think they took the navigation too seriously. When bearings are taken and pacing is done and features are identified to get to a ruin on a hillside that seems blatantly obvious from the tor we’re standing on, either they’re blind to obvious ruins or there’s some deeper meaning behind such intense navigation.




It was hot, far too hot for waterproofs when it started raining. Not real rain, but the sort of wet you get in a heavy mist, only without the heavy mist. The sort of wet that soaks your hair but evaporates off skin. The sort of wet that soaks grass which in turns soaks through your boots and makes your feet damp. And the sort of wet that means you don’t notice you’re getting sunburnt at the same time.

We walked through Wistman’s Wood, “one of only three remote high-altitude oakwoods on Dartmoor”. It didn’t feel especially high-altitude but it was interesting and there was a cow pretending to be stuck in the clitter and I’m so glad I didn’t know until a week later that it’s home to a large population of adders. We crossed seven tors off the list and I took a selfie at each for my Senior Section Centenary challenge.

It was just an hour too long. By the time we were heading down from the final tor, my brain decided “now we’re going back to the car” and thus got annoyed when it was another hour. My feet were getting tired and it was frustrating to be so nearly back and yet not nearly back at all.

On Sunday it rained. I’m a fair weather walker. I do this because I enjoy it and I do not enjoy being rained on. It’s not fun to have water pouring off your hood and water sloshing in your boots, which are still damp from yesterday. It’s not fun having so much water on your glasses that you’re better off taking them off. It’s not fun navigating across a moor in a cloud.


However, it stopped by lunchtime. I still took shelter in a “dining room” on Combshead Tor and we all did when the heavens opened just as we decided we would move on. Waterproofs, which had been packed away over lunch, were quickly pulled out again and I was delighted to discover that the rain had gone straight through one of the MLs’ waterproof coat and soaked her t-shirt – am I actually better equipped than someone with a Mountain Leader qualification?

Again, it was an hour too long. As we started the homeward leg of our journey, my feet started to get tired and then to hurt. Soon it hurt to stand still and soon after that, standing still began to make me feel violently sick. But we must still stop regularly to look at plants and discuss whether the country is Level 2 or Level 3 and at what stage it becomes Extreme – which we’d been discussing all weekend. I couldn’t stop. I could keep walking, keep limping later on, but I couldn’t stop unless there was a boulder to sit on.

I’m invited to come and leisure-walk on the Level 2 training course in the autumn and I think I’d like to, but I think I’d like a little more say in the walks this time. That said, I was surprised at how well I coped with routes planned and executed by hardcore walkers and particularly surprised how much I enjoyed Saturday’s walk when it looked so tough on the map. I think I’d like to come back and cross off a few more tors.

Saturday – We started at the bottom in Two Bridges, went up the east side of the river and then back down the west.
Sunday – We started at the top right, on the road and then some idiot cut off the bottom part of the walk when they took the photo of the map.


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