Getting bogged down - Wild Camping on Dartmoor
I gave myself a day of rest (well it was more unpacking, washing and re-packing!) after my Mountain Leader training course before we set off on the 3hr drive to Postbridge which was to be the start of our 2 day walk, and wild camp, on Dartmoor.
(Detail from my Garmin Edge 605 - via Garmin Connect)
After arriving at Postbridge and sorting our kit we headed off on North Westerly path that follows the East Dart River before heading up onto Broad Down. Our aim was to head on a NW course across Dartmoor until we reached the area around High Willhays which would be our campsite for the night.
The first hour or so was fairly good going, with fairly decent weather and solid ground underfoot, but this soon changed when we crossed into the Okehampton range area towards Flat Tor. The ground became increasingly boggy and although it wasn't raining (yet) walking over this slowed us down to around 1mph!
By the time we'd made our way up onto Cut Hill (604m) the weather had started to deteriorate and we decided to revise our campsite for the night and head to the slightly nearer Lints Tor (496m). This however meant finding a path across Cut Coombe Water onto Little Kneeset (516m) and then across Black Ridge Brook and up onto Great Kneeset (568m).
Picking your way across any bog/boggy ground is dangerous at the best of times and if (like Donna) you haven't done much walking in this sort of terrain before it can be fairly daunting, especially when one wrong step can leave you up to your knee in wet boggy mud that is incredibly difficult to pull your foot out from!
From the summit of Great Kneeset we could see across the fairly steep gully around Kneeset Nose and decided to pick our way across Brim Brook before heading up the slope that would take us to Lints Tor and hopefully a flat spot for the tent!
The summit of the Tor itself is a fairly impressive collection of rocks that jut upwards around 8m and, luckily for us, there were a few decent sites for pitching the tent!
Other than the views and the sound of some ponies in the valley below there was nothing around us for miles but the serenity was slightly marred by the fairly obvious "evidence" that someone else had camped (or at least stopped for a period of time) before us. Now if you "have to go" then that fine, but there are right ways and wrong ways and it really annoys me that people who take the time and effort to visit places like this have such obviou disregard for them...
Anyway, back to the camping! The Alpkit tent was put up quickly as the sky had started to look fairly ominous and with not a great deal else to do we arranged our kit and started to cook some food before settling down for the night.
I'd like to say that the day dawned clear and bright - but this is Dartmoor so of course it was grey and wet, visibility was around 10m which started to give me some concerns about navigation for the day's walking; the skills learnt on my recent Mountain Leader training course would be put to the test sooner than I'd expected!
The rain overnight (at sometimes very heavy) had stopped but would have made the already boggy ground even more saturated and dangerous so I decided that another look at the map was needed and a change to our planned route back to Postbridge.
So we decided to take a slightly more direct route than we'd originally planned and headed due West from our campsite, aiming for the double-track military path that runs from Okement Hill (566m) across to Hanginstone Hill (604m).
When the path loomed in front of us from the the drizzle and fog I have to admit that I was happy to see a decent path again - the prospect of hours of bog wasn't filling me with glee.
We made good time on the path and up onto Hangingstone Hill and from there we followed a fairly decent track onto Whitehorse Hill (601m) and then to Quintin's Man (552m). From here we took a bearing and headed across to the boundary junction just before the North Teign River which we would have to cross before finding the bridleway that leads due South back to Postbridge.
It was somewhere here that a mixture of complacency and relief (that we were on a main, easy path) kicked in and we ended up with a slightly more interesting walk back than we had planned, or the map suggested!
We followed the path until it started to fork and rise uphill slightly and more importantly led to the river that should have been on our right, being on our left.
This is a great example of how you should not blindly trust the map, but look at the surroundings and ensure that you are seeing the detail that is shown on the map - and that it is in the right place in relation to where you should be!
The track led us back to the field boundaries surrounding Broad Down and we hand-railed these to bring us down to the track that we'd walked up on the day before which led back down to Postbridge, and the car!
The 2 day walk showed me a number of things;
- the importance of packing exactly what you need, for the situation you are likely to find yourself in
- having a back-up plan in case the route you choose is not viable or the weather changes your plans for you!
- paying attention to your surrounding and reading both the map and the detail around you
All in all we both enjoyed the walk, even the bog and rain, and if nothing else it was a good excuse to test out some more advanced navigational techniques.