By: Blonde Two
Day one of our Blonde DofE Diamond Challenge was always going to be the most challenging. Starting at Rowtor which is fairly north on the North Moor, unless you walk into Okehampton, you are likely to be setting off into what can only be described as wilderness. Except for the army tracks that is, these are hard on the feet but make for what should be fairly easy navigation. There is a caveat here, it is easy to become ‘track-led’ here and find yourself at the wrong ford or on the wrong hill. It doesn’t matter really because as long as you keep heading south, sooner or later you will find yourself in what truly feels like the middle of nowhere.
Which was fine for us because Blonde One was navigating and doing a very good job of it. She was also doing a very good job of finding bogs for us to splodge/stagger/slide and most other verbs beginning with ‘s’ through. The proposed hail at Hangingstone Hill didn’t materialise but neither, for a while, did the Peat Pass. We found it eventually and the memorial commemorating its maker. We also found a lot of wind (in the sky!) it was tricky to find sheltered spots in which to stop so we didn’t much, and just kept plodding on through our bogs.
We went down from Hangingstone, past Quintin’s Man. Here one would expect a standing stone like Beardown Man or Loughtor Man, but there is only a lonely cairn and two rather box-like army huts. We huddled behind one of these for a quick lunch but it was chilly and once I had got the idea that there might be someone hiding inside one of them, I was keen to move on.
After a little Blonde scramble over two streams we reached Sittaford Tor, from which we set off across a particular bouncy bit of ground to find an East Dart crossing point at Sandy Hole Pass. We could see neither Sand, Hole nor below-gaiter-level crossing point there and ended up wandering down the East Dart and crossing (me rather inelegantly) at the waterfall. Crossing at the East Dart Waterfall is more sensible than it sounds as there are some big, bridge-shaped slabs there. Our river wander was also a chance to see a rather beautiful section of the East Dart (see our second children’s book ‘Dart the River’ if you want to find out more).
Once the river was safely crossed (and a celebratory cuppa drunk) it was a long slog up over Higher White Tor and down to the road near to Powder Mills.
For me it was one of those expedition days that you enjoy more after the event. My bag, although not much heavier than my day bag, seemed to affect my balance more than it should have done and the terrain took its toll. Still, I have heard big strong blokes say how tricky they find walking across North Dartmoor, and no matter how hard it seemed, the views and the wilderness were definitely worth it!