Dartmoor in September a Wild Camping Trip 2012/02/10

Dartmoor in September is a mixture of light yellows, dull greys and intense blues. The end of the warmer months makes this an intriguing place to be at this time of year. I love the area all year round but it’s in this month that I visit here most. One of my fellow instructors was along for the trip with me. Ed and I tested out some gear and completed an old and trusted route starting and ending in Belstone.


Our first pitch for the night would be on Belstone Common which would be a short walk up to the top of the common. However the fog began encircling us almost immediately as we stepped off the tarmac and onto the moorland heather. It’s very surreal being on a moor in the fog, the world seems to shrink to a circumference of 20 metres and you are the only living things on Earth. The whole atmosphere adds to the sense of adventure that I love to get from being outdoors.  In short it's good to deal with the unexpected. The fog brought with it the inevitable misty rain, so no photos from this section.

Slow progress up towards the trig point on the common and with it a decision whether to press on or pitch close by, the latter won. A semi flattish area was eventually found and Ed and I began the arduous task of assembling the tents in the saturating mist. If this sounds a bit lame then it was pitch black too...

Terra Nova Laser Comp 1

This was my first time with the new Terra Nova Laser Competition 1. As a ‘logical’ male I did not read the instructions. This meant I struggled to get the fly taut and positioning the tent into the wind proved easier said than done. Hands getting slower and slower with the cold and wet, my longing for a shelter increasing. Once it was completed I was impressed with how little it moved in the wind and the silicon treatment on the flysheet makes the water runoff effortlessly. However this isn’t a review of the tent.

Dinner was ration packs and fruit jelly. The fog persisted all the way through until the next day so consequently still no photos from this section. Mornings on the trail are what make being outdoors for me. With all your equipment packed and donned liberation soon follows. Setting off towards Fenworthy Forest along a string of linked Tors the weather picked up and cleared, exposing a damp dramatic Dartmoor.

Bog Trotting

Lunch was eaten by a fast flowing stream close to our final goal for night two. Making our way down towards Fenworthy I knew we had to cross boggy ground, as two years ago it was the place I almost got stuck. I felt sure history would not repeat itself. Instead this time I managed to almost get swallowed whole by the moors. Still Dartmoor in September is a wonderful time to visit.

Nothing is quite like having cold gloomy bog water accelerate up to your face; the feeling of sinking is stomach turning as you are unsure of how far you are going in. The whole process from taking that fateful step, being almost submerged in bog water to stripping off wet clothes and worrying about my camera seemed to only last milliseconds.

Bring a spare set of clothing and if you get wet make sure you change straight away. Your warmth will get taken away faster in wet clothes than in dry. Walking poles come in handy for probing the ground before hand but sometimes you can just be unlucky.

Bog Advice

If you know you are walking over boggy ground there are a few things you can do before hand to make sure you are prepared. Firstly make sure all your spare clothes are in waterproof stuff bags to protect them. Secondly unclip and loosen your rucksack hip belt and give a bit of slack to the shoulder straps. This enables you to quickly roll out of the pack and climb on it if you fall into a large bog. From a survival point of view you can also have your bushcraft knife and firesteel attached securely to you, if the worse happens and you cannot get your rucksack back you will still have your firelighting and survival equipment on you. This is perhaps overkill for Dartmoor in September.

After all that Ed and I started back on the trail towards our nights camping spot. The quick dry trousers certainly helped as by the time we were there I was bone dry. Tomorrow would be the start of heading back to civilisation, something I always have second thoughts about.

- Sunny

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