I’m still in disbelief that I actually did this. I’m as surprised as you are!
I’ve been wanting to improve my log book and start working towards achieving my hillwalking qualifications… my main issue has been confidence.
We all know how easy it is to listen to our imposter syndrome, so I’ve found trusting my navigational skills really hard. Which is why I decided to go solo.
By going on my own, my imposter syndrome couldn’t tell me I didn’t do well… if I made it to camp and then back to my car all by myself I decided then I could have the faith that I know what I’m doing!
You’ll be pleased to hear the trip has done my confidence the world of good and I’m so pleased I did it!
I parked at Meldon reservoir car park as this was close to the part of the moors I was going to hike on… there’s nothing worse than a long and boring walk to get to where you actually want to hike.
I had actually planned to park in Postbridge, but turns out the army were doing practice shooting/firing in Merrivale (that section of Dartmoor), so I decided that for my naviagation to have some proper practice it would be best to not be dodging bullets at the same time. They were also shooting in Willsworthy so I was limited to Okehampton but this actually worked out best as this was a shorter drive from home for me…. and again, no dodging bullets.
So I left my little car in Meldon and proceeded to climb up Black Down hill to enter the moor.
Two river crossings later (well technically streams, but rivers sound more dramatic), and I was up and into the depths of Dartmoor National Park.
My first tor was Row tor, although a brief minor navigational error almost took me to West Mill Tor (essentially I was too eager and took the first path on the right and not the second, but it was quickly resolved in a couple of minutes when I realised things weren’t matching up).
Because I wanted to do lots of tors in one day (not sure why as that equalled climbing of hills), I then tried to bag all the tors in that vicinity.
So I went up to East Mill tor
Down and then up to Oke tor, where on the way up I had to become a cow whisperer to squeeze past a big herd of cows and their calves (I have to admit this had my heart beating quite a bit as cows scare me a bit– unless they are a Highland Cow, in which case they are big fluffy softies).
Then I discovered why Steeperton is called STEEPerton tor. The ol’ leg muscles worked hard up here. I stopped here for my sandwich stopped and admired the view. It was great being able to see the hills that I had climbed that day in the distance– always a great feeling.
On the way to Wild tor I may or may not have totally stacked it and taken a tumble. Thankfully no injuries were accrued.
Then as I was starting to feel tired, I took the long way to Dinger tor along the track so I didn’t have to walk through tufty marshy grass. It was at this point (about 4pm) I started getting a bit lonely. I’d barely seen any human beings whilst out, and I was starting to get a little tired of my own company and not being able to share memories with anyone. But at Dinger, I realised I was pretty much in a straight line to my home for the night.
I camped at Yes tor, which to get to I hiked up over High Willhays (also appropriately named, in fact, I think it is the highest tor on Dartmoor?)
I was relieved to find a windproof spot at Yes tor or else I would’ve kept walking to find somewhere more sheltered. So once the tent was up, my boots were swiftly swapped for flip flops while I had a meal in a bag for one… a lovely Dolmio pasta to which I added tomato sauce. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that it went down a treat after having walked over 24 km that day.
As the evening drew in I read my book The Big Sky, enjoyed a good ol’ Thatchers cider and bar of Galaxy chocolate (some luxuries that I had packed for this very occasion) and tried to stay awake to catch the sunset.
After being tucked up and having just got warm, after about 5 minutes I of course then needed a wee – Grandma bladder- so I had to escape the sleeping bag, remove the fluffy socks, put the flip flops on, and stumble a few meters from the tent to do my thing. It was a little surprising when a sheep came grunting round the corner mid-stream, but I’m pleased I saw the sheep so that when I awoke to the noises later in the night I could rest easy that it was just a sheep and not the Dartmoor beast.
The next day I awoke feeling rather refreshed and ready to start the new day. There was the gentlest breeze and the sun was already up (although some cool colours still lingered in the sky whilst I packed up). When I have wild camped previously it has been with Ten Tors which has always meant getting up and on the move before the crack of dawn so it was rather peacful.
I then wiggled my way down the slopes of Yes tor, jumped over the only boggy ground I had found all trip and then proceeded up to West Mill tor. I wanted to make sure I climbed a tor before I headed home and this one was ready and waiting right next door.
To head off the moors a different way to the way I arrived for some variety, I escaped the Moor via Longistone hill which offered some fantastic views of the tors I had adventured up on this trip. But I have to say I was ready to wave it goodbye and find some civilisation again.
So, I did indeed make it back to my little car and prove to myself that I am capable of navigating well, being totally independant, and can survive 24 hours totally alone without totally losing all sense of sanity…
I think solo trips are now more on my cards that they had previously been, although I think they’ll be a bit more luxurious than this trip. I think days on the Moors or in the hills require some good company to share some great memories with but I’m so glad I did this and I would 100% do it again, just I would rather do it with someone else. But, my trip did complete it’s purpose of restoring faith in my navigation skills as I completed my route and made it home safely. And, I avoided being shot at by the army. Mission success!
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