All posts by Dartefact

Dartefact is the online name for me, Rob. 'Dartefacts' is the website and project where I record, share, exhibit my artwork; photography, paintings, drawings, printmaking.. All within the subject of exploring the brooding moorland landscape of Dartmooor and the many artefacts to be found there..

Blog: Camp-a-Month

February 2019.

I wisely (therefore obviously by pure luck) decided to hold off camping in February until the very end of the month. Well, as this month started with snow storms and cars abandoned in drifts it was a ‘no-brainer’. Perhaps one day I will expand my Dartmoor camping repertoire to shivering in the snow, but these days by ‘Scottish’ winter-mountaineering adventures are well behind me. No, for me this is what I want:

(and yes, that vague smudge just above my head is the moon.. I am in direct celestial alignment with the moon and Buttern Hill Stone Circle!)

I parked at the small ‘car park’ (2-3 cars only)  just below Shilstone Tor and quickly made my way up the track, heading north west and made my way around to the ‘spur’ of Kennon Hill. Halfway up the slope I met an adder, black diamonds running down his back (but it was just too hot to get the camera out!) I soon came close to Blackaton Brook and put my head down until I was at the flat top of the spur. I continued westwards now until I was on the northern flank of Kennon Hill and then made my way up towards the top of this hill. At the ‘summit’ (pile of stones) I turned due south-west(ish) and headed down towards Ruelake Pit, just clipping the edge of Kennon Hill Settlement. I usually pay a visit to this small, ruinous ‘village’ but today I wanted to ‘tick-off’ the Gidleigh Parish Stones nearby, so without pausing I continued on down to Ruelake Pit.

I soon found myself at the east-west(ish) track above the pit and quickly spied the ‘GP’ inscription on a rock. Success!

I continued westwards and soon found the second stone by a swift flowing stream (leat?)

I had a short break here and ate some chocolate and felt quite pleased with myself. I thought this would be a good time to have a brew so unpacked my cooking stuff.. and to my dismay I discovered I had forgotten a lighter for my stove?! Utter rookie, schoolboy error! What an idiot!!! I now had a ton of food I couldn’t cook, a load of useless camping cooking equipment to carry and only 500ml of fresh water – with no method of boiling stream water! I called myself a few names. Thing is I always used to rely on my MSR stoves’ in-built pietzo lighter, and then I always take with me a back-up fire-steel as well as an MSR independent pietzo lighter. But, with moving things around at home I had neglected to return the fire-steel or my MSR lighter back to my kit.. and so here I was, miles from anywhere with no way of lighting a stove!! I even have a list of camping essentials that I ‘always’ use to check that I have everything – but this time I just ‘winged it’. Utterly stupid of me. Something to learn from.. but I decided that I had enough snacks and I wasn’t going to starve and I would just have to conserve my 500ml of water for the one night. I suspected that if the weather held (as the forecast suggested) I would need more water if I was going to go for a long walk the next day. So I immediately decided that tomorrow would be a short, direct walk back to the car. I was quite disappointed.

I then took the north eastern slope of a nameless hill (I will call it Gallaven Hill), following the Gallaven Brook below down to my night’s destination – a little place I have previously named ‘Tea-tree’. As I was walking down to my camping spot I surprised two Stags! They bolted towards the Wallabrook and I was too slow with my camera.

I quickly set up camp.

What I adore about tea-tree is that it is right in the middle of the moors but is such a secluded and sheltered place with some trees, which make it quite unusual compared to the bleakness of the surrounding moorland. It’s lovely to visit on a hot day for some shade (and a mug of tea!) but due to the sheltering slope it did get dark and cold rather sooner than I would have liked.

Once set-up I decided to take a walk and headed off to Rippator (or Rival Tor, the choice is yours – I think it is the only tor on the moors where the Ordnance Survey have given two names) and then I walked over to the Wallabrook. I managed to find a few really nice camping sites that I suspect will be visited and used very soon (mental note to self: don’t forget the stove lighter next time!). I also spotted the two stags again, this time on the horizon:

With the sun glowing onto Kestor Rock in the distance I reluctantly turned back towards the now totally in shade ‘tea-tree’ campsite and my cold snacks dinner!

It was a cold night but fortunately I had brought 2 (yes 2!!) sleeping bags. After my shivering experience in January I wasn’t taking any chances! Fortunately it was warmer than I expected and my therm-a-rest held out for longer than last camp. This is another camping issue I have to solve.. my thermarest keeps deflating and I have found two holes (something very sharp went clean through both sides) but despite putting on patches it still clearly deflates.

Breakfast consisted of the remains of my snacks – salted peanuts, mixed fruit and nuts, some Cadbury’s choc and a pepperami! I broke camp very quickly determined to get back to the car and a possible breakfast in Chagford! Most importantly I was now going cold-turkey with the lack tea!!

I wandered back down Gallaven Brook and made notes on a couple more future campsite locations and then turned eastwards below Rival Tor and then turned northwards to get to Buttern Hill Stone Circle.

From there I headed up to the summit of Buttern Hill. I have visited the rocks, tethering ring and millstone at the top of this hill a few times but kept forgetting to take a photo of the millstone. The walk up there isn’t very steep, but the sun was burning down and even though it was early morning it was proving quite oppressive. I reached the top feeling quite heat-tired.

After this I strolled down Buttern Hill in the sunshine and a cool breeze met me halfway down the slope.

I was thinking of heading around the marsh.. but I have crossed it before and as the ground was so dry I thought it wouldn’t be too challenging (even with a rucksack still full of food!) – and fortunately I was right. I managed, with only a little difficulty, to get through the dry marsh and narrow streams of lower Throwleigh Common. It felt good to be leaving the higher moor as the heat was now blistering, even with a slight cool breeze – and I think even if I had more water I would have considered leaving the moors. Carrying a heavy pack, in that heat wouldn’t have been a lot of fun.

With some relief I got back to the ‘DartefactsMobile’, loaded up and headed into Chagford for that much needed cup of tea!

That’s No.2 of 2019’s ‘Camp-a-Month’ Challenge! I wonder what March will bring?

Blog: Snow Day 2019 #1

Perhaps I am being a bit optimistic when I label this Post ‘Snow Day #1’, but who knows?

I had a superb walk today (Weds 30 Jan 2019) from Norsworthy Bridge up to Down Tor, across to the Standing Stone, Cairn and Stone Row and back again.

Many, many wonderful opportunities for photography. It is so rare to get snow AND sunshine together with such interesting cloud formations on Dartmoor. I hope you enjoy this small collection.. (I took THOUSANDS!!)


Blog: Camp-a-Month

What happens at Jan Camp..

I have decided to camp on the moors once every month for the whole of 2019 (but avoiding the dreaded word ‘resolution’). Having not been camping or even solo camping for more years than I can remember perhaps going in January wasn’t the best time to ‘get back into it’. However Thursday 17th Jan was a bright, crisp day and I set off from Fernworthy Forest far-end car park around 11:30 am feeling very positive. I carried with me some gouache paints and a hardback A3 sketchbook with the intention of painting the dark and brooding north moorland.

Walking up the main forest track I quickly arrived at the forest gate overlooking Teignhead Farm (on Long Ridge). Turning right I then headed North to the gate that follows a reasonable moorland track up the hill immediately to the east of Manga Falls. I then dropped down to the junction where the Stonetor Brook and a new-take wall meet. Tricky bit here as I had to duck under some barbed wire but then it was a straight-forward stroll down through a vague path to Stonetor Cist and my campsite which was just beyond that ancient grave. I quickly pitched my tent and had a late lunch – fried bacon and badly fried eggs. I was testing out a new lightweight frying pan and although the bacon worked a treat the eggs just stuck to the pan (despite using olive oil). I have also made a mental note to cut bacon up into smaller more manageable pieces before camping – I try to keep cutlery down to a minimum and for years I have only taken a small cut-down spoon on my camping adventures – affectionately called ‘Stubby the Spoon’. I ‘acquired’ Stubby whilst staying in a Gite Bunk House in Corsica (on the GR20) and he has been a constant camp-companion ever since. I found him on the day of 9/11 – but as I was on a trail that day and had no access to the news I didn’t find out about the Twin Towers attack until the day after it had happened. I finally got to a winter resort hotel after a long day on the path and sat down to have an evening meal with all the other walkers, who were also totally oblivious to the attack on the World Trade Centre. After the hotel staff had served our dinner they turned on the news and quietly exited the room, leaving us to watch what at first we thought was some kind of disaster movie. Some people in the room, who could speak french gradually realised this wasn’t a movie – it was news – and the ripple of shock slowly went around the room. There was a sudden scramble for the hotel telephones. Back on Dartmoor I also discovered that my MSR stove self-igniter had failed (broken, rusty spring and looks like I even managed to melt it!?) Fortunately I always carry a spare MSR igniter (but made a mental note to pack a fire-steel as well in future). To finish off my meal I made a mug of tea, a cup-a-soup (tomato I think?) and opened up a can of mackerel fillets). A weird combination of foods I know – but I wasn’t used to carrying such a large pack and the temperature was already starting to fall – so I think my body responded by telling me to eat all my food. To avoid emptying my food stuff-sack I decided to wander back up to the stream/wall junction and hunt for a Bench Mark on that wall (Stonetor hill slope-side). No luck finding it and becoming increasingly colder (even wearing my ridiculously bulky Rab down jacket) I returned to camp (via a short climb up to the rock nearby that has ‘GP’ (for Gidleigh Parish) inscribed on it. I had decided to limit pack weight by not bringing a GPS or bigger camera and immediately regretted it as I was pretty sure that ‘Dartefact’ isn’t in my database. Back at camp I decided it was now evening meal time and so I ‘made’ a Wayfairer boil-in-the-bag ‘meatballs and pasta’. This is the first time I have used ‘pre-made’ camping meals – and I am a convert! A delicious meal, no messy mess-tins and plenty of hot water left over for a brew. For ‘afters’ I shoved down a trek-bar. It was now getting dark and I took some pics on my phone and compact camera. I then went to get into my sleeping bag (all clothes on plus that massive down jacket) when I discovered that my thermarest had deflated. I was certain I had blown it up.. so was now concerned that it had a leak. I blew it up again, got into my bag (with liner) and pulled the bivi bag (from Alpkit) I had purchased months ago but never used before. Sure enough, after around 20 mins the thermarest had definitely lost volume and I could feel cold ground on my hip and shoulder points. I blew it up again. That was not a comfortable night, the temperature rapidly dropped and when I got out of the bag later the ground and tent were sparkly-diamonds of white frost. Plus the thermarest had definitely failed and so I kept waking up and turning over as my hip had gotten cold and was numb due to pressing against the ground constantly. I will blow it up and put it in the bath to find the leak later. At some point during the night I think it must have clouded over as I awoke boiling hot and almost considered removing the down jacket. Popping outside I noticed all the frost had gone and mist had descended.

After a tough night, with poor sleep I awoke to a light misty drizzle. It took me ages to get into action, I was cold, tired and my brain was extra-slow at sorting out breakfast. The Wayfairer ‘beans, bacon, egg, sausage breakfast’ was an absolute treat though – I am totally sold on those now. I also made a mug of tea and used my Wildo mug, which is really easy to hold with gloves. I then got my waterproof kit on, reluctantly shedding my down jacket and started to pack my rucksack. I finally broke camp at 10am and headed downstream and around to the east, heading up a small brook and towards Fernworthy Forest. I was considering a longer walk but the rain and poor night’s sleep dissuaded me. I headed into the Forest at the gate facing Thornworthy Tor and decided as it was an easy forest track/road I would amble slowly back to the car. Some nice, misty, photographic trees on that walk back.

I popped down to the Reservoir edge for some more photo opportunities and wandered around the ruins of Fernworthy Farm for a short while.

I finally got back to the car around 11:30 am and decided I would make straight for a local cafe for a breakfast egg & sausage sandwich and a couple of cups of coffee before heading back to the relative warmth of suburbia. The first camp of the year has gone well. I have a few repairs to do with some of my kit but my old solar minor tent did very well and the new bivi bag provided a good extra defence against water and kept some warmth in I think. I do need to lighten my bag though – I think taking a couple pans was a luxury my back can no longer afford! Next time I am going to slim down the kit. I did take a small painting kit with me, but that needs slimming down too. I was hoping to get a painting in but darkness and cold prevented me on the first day and then with the rain the next day I was out of luck. I am wondering about using a tarp to protect me when painting outdoors – but that would only add to the weight – and I don’t think camping under just a tarp (and leaving my terra nova tent behind) would have been much fun last night!

Venford Reservoir

I had a rather lovely day stomping up Holne Ridge, Bench Marking. On the way back down Dad and I skirted Venford Reservoir. In the middle of the reservoir is a now submerged stone bridge.. with a Bench Mark on it! I have never seen the reservoir low enough to expose the bridge (unlike the one at Fernworthy) but maybe one day I will be able to find out if that B.M. is still there..