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?