TLDR: A planned week on a wet and windy Dartmoor had me testing some new kit, making an unplanned detour or two, ponies, a “lost” dog, a cupcake, a bucket list tick, yummy food and three very wet and windy nights as the weather and unplanned delays change my plans.
30 miles walked with a total ascent of 3749 feet over 3 days
Day 1: Monday 26th October 2020
With the summer rush at the end of the first COVID-19 lockdown long on and Autumn well under way, I took a few days off to return to Dartmoor with a plan to walk from Ivybridge to Oakhampton following much of the course of the Two Moors Way. I also wanted to test some new 3 season kit in what I was sure would be some typical five-seasons-in-one-day Dartmoor weather.
I am a big advocate of public transport, so rather than drive to the Moor and leave my car somewhere I got the train to Ivybridge. Like with most of the towns and villages around the edge of the moor, the walk up from the centre of Ivybridge to Hartford Moor is an assent of around 500 feet in the first mile and then another 1,000 feet in the next 7 miles. By walking directly from the station, you give the first 400 feet of road walking a miss passing the original start to the Two Moors Way close the the park marker at the top of this post.
Like my last visit prior to lockdown, I arrived late morning. My goal for this trip was to be pitched up by the first Clapper Bridge on the Two Moors Way some 8.5 miles from my start point before night fell.
Again, like my last trip it started as a bright day as I followed the Two Moors Way. On this trip I was trying out some new lightweight kit but I still managed to start out with a total weight of 16kg (35lb) for the planned 4 day trip which, while within 20% of my body weight, it was above what I had hoped and over the ideal limit for my pack. I will post reviews of the kit separately and add links here but the main new elements were:
- Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 pack
- Dan Durston X-Mid1P tent
- Rab Mythic Ultra 180 sleeping bag
- Esbit solid fuel stove
- Home made hotbag
First stop was a windy Hangershell Rock and a sit down for a snack. The bright morning faded as the clouds were starting to thicken up and darken but I have never let a bit of rain stop me enjoying my time on the moor.
Carrying on along the very well defined path it was clear there had been a fair bit of rain, and given my knowledge of the path ahead of me towards the end of the day made me glad I’d chosen to wear boots and gaiters and that if things got really bad my waterproof socks would prove handy. The path so far had been fairly mud free and solid underfoot as the track is an old roadway.What you see on the left is not a leet, it’s that same old roadway a couple of miles after Hangershell Rock with water laying 2-3″ deep for a good mile or so. At this point I really did think I should have packed a wetsuit. Mebe next time eh?
As I came to the end of the path i arrived at what I really think of as the moor proper: Tussocks of grass, bogs, animal poo and the merest hint of a path to follow after a “2MW” stone marker. From this point I had to start checking my map a little to make sure I was still on the right path. By now there was just an hour or so to sunset and the sky was turning grey. Goodbye Mr. Blue Sky.
I planned to camp in a valley cut by the River Avon a few hundred yards from where it falls into the Avon Reservoir. At this point, I should point out that “avon” is a corruption of the Welsh word “afon” meaning “river” so by referring to the Avon as “River Avon” it’s a bit daft as it means “River River”. Welcome to English language 101 :).
With the light fading fast as it was the first weekday after the clocks went back, and after a pretty steep and slippery decent into the valley, I found a flat spot to pitch for the night. As the valley is sheltered from all but the worst winds I was able to pitch facing the river so after food I was able to listen to the somewhat fast flowing river swollen by the recent rains below me.The rain started in earnest during the night but the X-Mid proved it was not only easy to pitch but also watertight even with the roof vents open to help keep condensation to a minimum. Lookout for a separate write-up on the tent, it’s fast becoming my default for any trip.
With the Mariposa’s pocket arrangement I was not carrying my usual 2 litres of water in bottle pockets each side of my pack. I was testing a new regime where I have 1-2 litres in a bladder in my pack with added electrolytes to drink via a demand valve and 1 litre in a Nalgene bottle in pack side pocket for my dinner and breakfast needs. On this trip I know I would not have to worry too much about keeping the Nalgene bottle full so I’d already saved 1kg/2.2lb from my original pack weight. This regime served me very well for the week and meant I would not need haul water all day as I find a litre is enough water for dinner and breakfast with at least one cup of tea.
On the subject of dinner, I was testing an Esbit solid fuel stove this trip. It’s a very simple pocket sized folding stove that uses solid fuel tablets. At £15 or less it is around 10% of the cost of my Jetboil and combined with a 500ml pot and enough fuel for 5 nights the total weight was just over 500g.
Getting set up to cook I hit a problem. My (until now) trusty Turboflame lighter let me down. I filled and tested it before leaving home however it appears to have a leak as it had zero gas so it was time to break out the UCO storm matches. One match soon had the tablets burning and the water heating for tonight’s Butternut Squash and Sweetcorn stew. Whilst my Jetboil would have a litre of water boiling in a couple of minutes, the Esbit takes an amazing 8 whole minutes to get the water hot enough for my meal and a cuppa. That’s an outrageously long 6 whole minutes longer to heat half the water. Reality check time, I didn’t need a whole litre, and saving 6 minutes? Really?
Behind the pot, the wind shield is also a hotbag. It’s made of garage door insulation which if you’ve never seen it, it is like metallic bubble-wrap. I used silver duct tape to tape the edges and some Velcro to seal a fold over top flap. It is great as a windshield and once the water is boiled, it keeps my food hot whilst waiting for it to fully rehydrate ready for eating. A separate post will be appearing with a how-to.
I settled in for the night with a couple of movies played back on my phone. Bliss.
Continue to Day 2…