By: Blonde Two

Pony White RidgeIf you read yesterday’s post you will know that so far, my story of Monday’s walk has left the Two Blondes in a rather nervous state at Grey Wethers stone circles, high on Dartmoor in rapidly fading light.  Grey Wethers is actually only five kilometres from Postbridge where we had left the car but the terrain across had been awful with lots of bog skirting and it was clear that we would not be able to walk back on a straight bearing (something that is kind of a necessity when you can’t see).

I was in charge of navigation, as this was my final training opportunity for my WGL night navigation reassessment (tonight!).  I elected for a different route home which was  a bit of a risky strategy as the ground could have turned out to be even worse, but it did mean that we could follow the edge of Fernworthy Forest South for most of the way.  Neither of us particularly wanted to be near the forest in the dark.  What looks like a friendly green patch on the map looks much more forbidding as it gets dark and as we cut across to it, the trees got bigger and darker and quite cross looking.

As it turned out, there was quite a big stream gully across our route which we crossed about 250m away from the forest before it got too steep.  It was at this stream crossing point that we agreed to put our head torches on.  This is a tricky moment in a night navigation because it means that you are finally acknowledging the fact that you are walking in the dark and also that you lose any depth of vision that you previously had.  It was the right decision however, as the stream, although small, was deep and surrounded by a lot of wobbly surfaces.  We were so relieved to be across that we stopped and ate our sandwiches on the far side.

I am not sure whether it was the calories or the fact that now it was dark, we couldn’t do anything about it, but our nerves calmed at this point.  We agreed in a Two Blondes unspoken way that we would keep the same distance from the forest edge and walked on a bearing until we reached a wall – this took some time but it was peaceful.  Apart from the ponies, we had the moor to ourselves and for the first time ever, I was using the stars to navigate (set a bearing, see which star is in the right direction and follow it).  I am pleased to say that it wasn’t “the second star on the right”because otherwise we might have had to walk “straight on til morning”!

Once at the wall it was a case of some careful micro navigation to pinpoint our exact spot and then another bearing to the road.  Which, as roads often seem to do in the dark, crept up on us a bit.  I don’t often blow my own trumpet (although I do carry a whistle) but this practice in particular has given my bags more confidence about my ability to get a group down off the moors in the dark should the need ever arise.  Huge thanks to Blonde One who has spent a lot more time out in the dark recently than she needed to.