By: Blonde Two
Two blondes out again. Weather grim. 6.30 pm start at Hemsworthy Gate – hopefully it is Hemsworthy Gate but to be honest if it wasn’t for the cattle grid, we would probably have driven straight past and be in Widecombe by now. Which come to think of it would be a much more socially acceptable way to spend a Wednesday evening. Two Blondes Drinking, has a ring to it. Two blondes drinking by the fire looking at lycra clad bottoms sounds even better but that is a story to be shared another day!
Out of the pub Blondes and back to the moors. Visibility non-existent. Rain – sideways (is there any other type of rain on Dartmoor?) Cloud level – in our faces, in fact I am rapidly becoming a cloud myself. Giggling – plentiful (possibly the only way to cope with this ridiculous situation).
It takes a while to struggle into waterproofs and boots, speed not aided by the shall we/shan’t we waterproof trousers debate. New gaiters easier to put on than the old ones (see Blonde Kit) and I am looking forward to confusing cars with the shine-in-the-dark stripes. For once the maps have been prepared before setting off. Route card limited to a scribbled list of two tors and an estimated time on the kitchen table at home. What could possibly go wrong? Two blondes, a dark, wet moor and a propensity to fall over (me).
Set off towards Top Tor on a compass bearing, well if I am honest, we are on two slightly different compass bearings but we are unlikely to venture beyond sudden gripping of arm distance of each other tonight. Pacing to judge distance. For those of you not in the know, it takes us between 62 and 69 double paces to walk 100m. Harder to tell how many paces it takes me to stagger 100m which is closer to reality but Mrs Blonde 1 seems to be walking with a more upright posture. Top Tor appears quite quickly but the daylight is really gone now. We are in denial I think and both put compass to map pretending that we can still see. A decision is eventually made to switch the torches on. Wet hats and head torches – who says that you can’t be attractive in your 40s? Even with red light filters, the surrounding features immediately disappear. We both start joking at once, a sure sign of discomfort. Bearings set once more and then, this time, compared and reset until they match. Still the nagging feeling that we could both be wrong but as we are about to head away from the road in the general direction of Blackslade Mire, this is a thought that we keep to ourselves as the squelching starts again.
As it turns out, we are not wrong and Pil Tor plus scary sheep loom up exactly when we expect them to. My blonde bladder picks this moment to announce its fullness but this is not weather for arse exposure so I don’t even mention it. Pil Tor is blocky and spread out – quite an organised tor compared to some but we can only see the section of it directly in front of us and the eyes of the scary sheep to the side. There is no describing Dartmoor in the dark and mist, it is the most eery of experiences, light behaves strangely you can see nothing without it, not even where you are putting your feet. I have to make a concerted effort not to think about anything except the navigation so the map is out again pretty quickly.
The creepiness is getting to both of us now so we reverse the bearing and start our return. The correct procedure in this situation would be to leapfrog. Not on all fours, you understand, that would be reckless. Leap frogging is also not, as far as I know, a euphemism for any strange public practices. It involves Blonde 1 walking in a given direction for a set distance as Blonde 2 checks that they are walking on the right bearing, Blonde 1 then walks past Blonde 2 etc (you can also do this with red hair) I have and it was fun. Leapfrogging however is no good if you are too scared to look over your shoulder because of the 4000 year old ghosts crowding in behind you. Best done in the company of strong men with deep, reassuring voices or in broad daylight as a practice exercise for kids.
Top Tor is further away than it was a few minutes ago and when we get there Blonde 1 can’t see it at all because her glasses have been completely obscured by the rain. A decision is made to make for the road and follow it along back to the car park. A car is soon spotted and possibly confused by the combination of one red and one white head torch approaching from an odd direction. Despite stopping twice on the way to say “we should be there by now”, the road jumps out at us and we welcome it like an old friend. That isn’t just a figure of speech, we actually do talk to the road, it is a lot more friendly then those ghosts who are sloping off back to Pil Tor looking disappointed (well I presume they are but I still haven’t turned my head to check).
Back at the car, we thrill at our adventure, navigational skill and bravery. We remind ourselves that other, lesser women are back home washing up. I make a mental note not to come near this part of the moor in daylight for a while so that I don’t notice how small the triangle we have just walked really is. In my head, the Two Blondes have just hiked miles in the darkness, the map will tell you a different story!