Excellent preparation for the 1633 Challenge
Final Ten Tors training weekend
Our last Ten Tors training weekend was hit by Storm Erik. The yellow warnings of strong winds with a 90+% chance of rain for this weekend stirred a sense of déjà vu. But the Met Office refused to give it a name. Having been out in it and experienced it, Ten Tors Manager Colonel Bill Sharpe calls it ‘Storm Erikson’.
The warnings provoked a quick re-think of our plans. It was decided to reduce the length and remoteness of Saturday’s routes by starting the Middle Fifth team at Two Bridges rather than Postbridge.
As the youngsters enjoyed the early delights of the Beardown Tors and the safe crossing of the Cowsic River at the Holming Beam footbridge, the Lower Sixth teams strode out boldly on their original route. Braddon Lake above Archerton, although not quite fulfilling the expectations of its name, was nonetheless very wet making for tiresome going en route to Higher White Tor. Detouring via Lower White Tor and Brown’s House to follow the faint paths through to Rough Tor was a wise decision to avoid any dangers of the now strongly flowing West Dart River before striking out for White Barrow and finally heading south towards the overnight stop still some considerable distance away.
Meanwhile the Middle Fifth teams, having luxuriated in the early pleasant walk up Beardown and beyond, entered the no man’s land of the aptly named Black Dunghill. Its southern side offers the difficult choice between fighting through man-eating tussocks or wading through unnerving bog, some areas more quaking than others as discovered by a number of walkers. Fortunately the strong, cold wind, whilst chilling, also had the effect of drying out sodden trousers. Despite marking the end of the horrors of the Black Dunghill traverse, Little Mis Tor is a strange and bleak place at the best of times. On Saturday it was made even more so with a strengthening wind bearing thick cold cloud.
Teams continued south from Fourwinds through the industrialised quarrying landscape of King’s Tor, Foggintor, Ingra Tor and Leeden Tor to the shapely but now almost invisible Sharpitor, shrouded in cloud and swept by gale force winds; not a place to linger. From here, a descent south westwards towards Burrator Reservoir provided some respite from the elements. A tranquil leat-side footpath lead through the forest to the southern half of Yennadon Down before a saunter down lanes and along footpaths led, via Meavy and the hugely tempting Royal Oak Inn, to a crossing of Wigford Down and final approaches to the overnight campsite at Dewerstone Cottage. Teams were fortunate to arrive, and get their tents up, before the rain did. Most had prepared and eaten their evening meals and snuggled into their sleeping bags as the wind increased and the showers turned to serious and organised rain.
The staff’s evening review of the first day’s training was positive, but the worsening weather forecast mandated a re-calibration of plans for Sunday. With even stronger winds and continuous rain forecast it was decided to shorten routes with two finish options. And so to bed to await the morrow.
Flapping canvas saluted the dawn with the close-by River Meavy swollen by rain water and now with much higher levels. It was clear that the already revised plans for the day would need to be revisited aain; this was confirmed by reports from a drive along the Moretonhampsted-Princetown-Tavistock road. Rather than just up sticks and head for home, teams were set off on a lower level walk across Yelverton Common, Roborough Down then down through Horrabridge to follow footpaths on to Tavistock. The coach was called forward early to meet teams there and its slightly late arrival allowed an opportunity for survival shelters to be deployed as protection against the by now heavy rain.
This was a challenging weekend and all who took part are to be congratulated on completing it. Pupils’ perseverance was impressive and there was an improved display of navigation, campcraft and team work. This was excellent preparation for the 1633 Challenge in three weeks’ time, which will see these attributes and skills put to the test as teams move unescorted around a number of manned check points with a wild camp on the high moor very much the same as the Ten Tors Challenge itself.
Many thanks to the following staff and volunteers without whose assistance training would not be possible: Dr Bawn, Mrs Hughes, Mr Hawkins, Mr Clark, Mrs Clark, Mr Broughton, Mr Jackson, Mr Lines, Mrs Lines, Miss Morley, Mrs Sail, Mrs Cosford, Mr Vercoe, Mr Marshall, Mr Saunders, Mr Mimpriss, Mr Pugh, Mr Porter, Mr Purser and Mr Dhruev.