Following the handing in of our dissertations a fellow course mate and myself felt we needed a breath of fresh air following what must have been a solid three weeks of 16-hour days revolving around either Seismic data or Micropaleontology.
After a few late night cups of tea and last minute route planning we were set. Although the plan was to wake at sunrise and head up to Burrator Reservoir, we inevitably woke at 1030- shamefully living up to the student lifestyle.
It really is great having Dartmoor only a 20minute drive from Plymouth and its quite alarming how many people spend 3 years studying at Plymouth without realising it or even setting foot on the place!
Our route took us from Burrator Reservoir (Edge of Dartmoor), then up onto the moor to Princetown and carrying on North towards the MOD practice area.
The weather on the first day’s walking was exceptional, with only a few spells of drizzle, but otherwise sunshine all the way. Despite the fantastic weather, covering ground on Dartmoor always proves to be a bit of a challenge, with numerous tufts of moorland grasses acting as the perfect ankle breakers and consistent bogginess to every step you take.
As soon as you set foot on Dartmoor, you’ll realise the place is littered with man made channels known as ‘Leats’ which directly translates to ‘water channel’ from old English. They also provide a fantastic way of navigating around Dartmoor and gaining your bearings due to the fact that they follow the lie of the land and provide a great route to follow.
After a good 5 hours walking and 20kms covered, we set up camp a few miles North of Princetown although we knew full well the weather was taking a turn for the worse. We weren’t quite ready for the howling NE’s, freezing rain and the trademark Dartmoor ‘pea soup fog’ that greeted us in the morning. After a frantic 10minutes of packing the tent and other bits of kit we got moving. Before embarking we decided we’d try and make the trip ‘GPS free’ and calculate a list of bearings for the whole trip without any electronic navigation aids. Walking in fog is very much like walking in the dark, providing a bewildering sense of disorientation, especially on Dartmoor baron landscape.
We passed back through Princetown, witnessing numerous groups of tired looking Duke of Edinburgh candidates queuing outside one of the Cafés,
promptly followed by seeing a teacher heading out from one of the B&B’s looking extremely well nourished, no doubt on his way to pick up a group of half frozen students!
Heading up to South Hessary we were greeted by horizontal blizzards coupled with fog, making conditions even more testing for the return trip- if a little invigorating. After a few more hours stomping across the moors, amazed at how different the weather was compared to the previous day’s relatively balmy temperature. We reached the car and back to Plymouth and back to our next assignment but not before a few beers in the Student Union Bar of course! I hope the pictures have done the trip justice.
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