The morning promised a great deal. The fog that had shrouded Princetown overnight had retreated above North Hessary Tor, and only the television mast was obscured from view. All signs were for a good day.
We rose early, and had plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast in the Fox Tor Cafe. It was pretty busy for seven-thirty. I looked around and wondered if any of the other diners were likely candidates for today’s shenanigans; The Burrator Perambulation in aid of Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team Plymouth.
Richard Flint and I had signed up the Sunday before, and were keen to complete the challenge of not only visiting the ten tors where checkpoints were placed, but include the other eleven lesser known tors along the way. Having dutifully completed our route card, as requested, we were confident that we would avoid the published cut off time of 3pm at Cramber Tor, and be successful.
We arrived at the Quarry car park about 8:30am, signed in, paid our entrance fee, changed into our walking boots, and checked our gear before the start at nine. There was no great fanfare, a member of the Search and Rescue team called us together, said good luck, and we were on our way.
Almost immediately, as we all shuffled in a line up to Claig Tor, sitting above the car park, it was obvious that we were going to trail behind. As we veered off the path to visit the tor, everyone else sped on, either oblivious, or displaying disinterest, to the first tor of the day.
We bagged Claig, and continued along the disused railway, towards the forestry below Peek Hill. There were more encouraging signs that the weather was improving, with the sun breaking through.
We caught up with the other participants when a stile was encountered, but no sooner were we back in the group, Rich had, well, let’s just say, some business to attend to in the woods, and they disappeared out of sight for most of the day.
We followed the bright orange flags that aided our way through the forest, and came out below Peek Hill. Instead of heading straight up, we went right, around the hill, to find Lowery Tor.
The bracken was dying off, and less of a problem compared to when I was last here, and the climb up to Peek Hill and the first checkpoint was simple, with good views of Leather and Lower Leather Tor.
We had reached a couple of other stragglers here, on their way to Sharpitor, but we were intent on bagging them properly rather than simply just visit the checkpoints.
When the others made a beeline for Leather Tor, we opted to bag Lower Leather first and we fell further behind. No matter, it had all been taken into account in the master plan!
When we reached Leather Tor, the guide flag had already been taken down, but we could still see plenty of Search and Rescue about, sweeping up the back markers, or I should say, “us”.
I stood at the bottom of Leather Tor whilst Rich, it being his first visit, scrambled to the summit to bag it properly. Whilst I waited patiently, I noticed a member of Search and Rescue marching towards me.
“Morning” he said cheerfully; “Everything OK?”
“Yes, no problem. We’re bagging all the Tors, and I’m just waiting for my mate to come back down.” I replied.
He looked concerned, and went on to tell us that we were last, by a long margin, and the only ones actually doing all twenty. He was also worried that we wouldn’t meet the cut off time at Cramber Tor, but when I mentioned it was 3pm, he wasn’t actually aware that was the time published.
Rich joined us and we started to move in the direction of Black Tor. As we did so, we were met by more of the Search and Rescue Team, and once again we were told we were well behind the rest and that we were the only ones doing every tor. I, once again, mentioned that we may be last, but we were well on target for the cut off at Cramber Tor. Something was telling us that they had anticipated an early finish today, and it somewhat irked us that we were being hurried along.
We stepped up the pace to the next checkpoint at Black Tor. The two stewards here were waiting patiently in the sun, and whilst I took the chance to grab some food from my rucksack, they happily talked to Rich about winter walking in the Highlands. If they were as wary of our experience and capabilites out here as the previous chaps, I think it would have quashed any doubts.
We dropped down to the River Meavy, and crossed via a conveniently placed narrow sheet of iron, courtesy of the local farmer, no doubt.
By the time we had reached Hart Tor, we could see other participants on the path near South Hessary and also contouring the hill towards Cramber. According to our route card, we were about half an hour ahead of schedule! No problems!
We reached South Hessary just as the last party were leaving. We were met by Ken Ringwood, author of the Tor Bagging book “Dartmoor’s Tors and Rocks“, who checked us in. He also let us know we were last and enquired as to whether we were happy with that, which, of course, we were.
We also found out that the cut-off time at Cramber was a bit of a mix up. Those who were emailed the itinerary out, which was us, were told 3pm, but everyone else had been informed it was 1:30pm! The earlier concerns for our pace became clear now, but, that said, we had plenty of time in hand, and so we had some lunch behind the tor, out of the breeze.
Whilst rough terrain, it didn’t take long for us to reach the check point at Cramber Tor. We actually made it a good hour and ten minutes before the cut off point, which, had we missed it, would have seen us directed back to the Quarry car park without visiting the remaining tors.
But we had the all clear and it was onwards to Crazy Well Pool and the second half of the challenge.