Gold Assessed Expedition to Dartmoor

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June 29th – July 4th 2013

After an uneventful trip down and a chance to visit the High Moorland Visitor Centre in Princetown, the two groups arrived at the base camp on the edge of the moor in good time to meet with their assessor prior to setting off the following day.  He was very pleased with their routes and preparation and everybody relaxed for the evening, some early nights being got in ready for the following four days.

Next morning dawned overcast with cloud on the hills.  However, when the groups were driven out to their start points, they discovered that they were up in the cloud cover, and visibility was down to less than 100 metres in places.  Time to get out the map, compass and remember the training!  The weather brightened during the course of the morning, and by lunch time visibility was fine. Both groups did well and were even early to some of their checkpoints – unheard of. Both groups were wild camping on night one, which meant they were camping on an area of the moor where there was no facilities of any kind – just a flat(ish) piece of ground. The fact that there were no distractions, no noise (except for wind, birds and the occasional sheep, cow or pony) and several sets of tired legs meant that early nights were the order of the day again and at least some of the participants were in their sleeping bags by 6 o’clock.

Day 2 dawned bright but slightly overcast again, but this soon cleared and both groups again continued to progress on their routes well and again both groups arrived in their respective camps at a reasonable time. For this night, both groups had chosen farm camp sites meaning they had a water tap, probably a toilet, but not much else. In actual fact one of the groups said they preferred where they had camped the night before out on the moor.

The forecast for Day 3 was not so good, with rain promised for later in the afternoon.  The rain started around lunch time and by the time the groups had reached camp at around 3:30pm, it was persistent rain, and quite windy as well.  Both groups had by chance chosen the same camp for this night which was a nice reunion for them as they had not seen each other since they were dropped by minibus on Day 1. It was also a good day for Ashley Stokes to celebrate his 17th birthday, helped by a chocolate cake taken in by the supervisors with special dispensation from the assessor to allow us to do it.  This was shared and enjoyed by all.

The last day was brighter and the visibility had improved again. Both groups set off at around 6:30am so as to finish at a reasonable time. As they were both camping at the same place they finished at the same place as the routes were similar.  The assessor met both groups during the last section of their routes to debrief them and stated to the leaders later that he had been very impressed by both all participants. Once Princetown was reached, ice creams were enjoyed by all!

Special mention must go to Nathan Eldridge who managed to break some small bones in his foot playing football a few days before starting his expedition. He was given the option of pulling out and completing his expedition the following year, and had even been advised by his doctor to do so but was determined to carry on and succeeded in finishing the whole four days. It just goes to show what determination can achieve – well done Nathan.

Paul Cole