In November after an assembly given to Yrs 10 and 12 a total of 31 students collected application forms to be considered for a place on the Ten Tors teams.
A parents’ meeting was held in November with a Saturday training session scheduled for January. Our final numbers attending in January being 31 students.
During the Saturday training session, students spent a long time learning such things as how to read a map; using a compass; taking a bearing; finding out how many strides it took to walk 100 metres; how to put up (and take down tents); first aid; nutrition and cooking on a Trangia. Following the training session a night hike ensued for students to start putting into practice their new map reading and compass techniques. One student asked why we had allocated four hours to walk a short distance of 9.9 kms. Sally Pinner, one of our trainers, told him that it would take that long by the time they had got themselves organised; got lost a few times and found the right path, especially as the weather was not good. We all tramped across very muddy fields – Mr Pitcher’s dog accompanied us. Having just had his hair cut and been for a wash (the dog, not Mr Pitcher), it looked as if he would be heading back there again rather quickly! Our four teams were led by Mr Pitcher, Mrs Ellis, Ben Trout, Mike Kent, Sally Pinner and Mrs Delport.
Our first day hike took place out at Stourhead on a cold but reasonably pleasant day. It was a walk designed to test not only stamina but again map reading and compass skills. There is one particularly horrible hill to climb – but apart from that, on a good day, there are some fabulous views to be had. There is a particularly poignant memorial to an aircraft which came down in the woods near to Stourhead during the last war. Students were divided into four teams – 2 x 45 mile and 2 x 35 miles being led by Mr Sturdee, Mrs Ellis, Mr Alsop, Miss Nattrass, Mrs Delport, Ben Trout and Mike Kent with Mr and Mrs Ruck and Sally Pinner supporting. Unfortunately the normal way out of Stourhead to start the walk was blocked and before they had even started were faced with a challenge. The same challenge faced those walking in the opposite direction on their return to Stourhead. A good effort was made by all the teams with good times recorded for the walks.
The second of our day hikes took place on the Marlborough Downs again in a cold but reasonably pleasant day. This walk was much more challenging from a hill point of view and navigation was not so easy. The teams this time were led by Mr Pitcher, Mrs Delport, Ben Trout and Mike Kent with Mr and Mrs Ruck in support. Again good times were recorded for the teams and although tired, the teams put in a good performance.
Now came the difficult part – choosing those to be offered a place on the Dartmoor training in preparation for final selection of the teams. For those of you who don’t know Ben and Mike are both scout leaders who have a wealth of experience with leading walking groups – Ben has undertaken the Ten Tors 45 mile route once and 55 mile route twice. He was “poached” from West Wilts Scouts where he was training Ten Tors teams to lead the walking and route planning for St Augustines. Something he has now done since 1999. Mike as a fellow scout who grew up amongst the lovely countryside of Dartmoor joined the team of leaders in 2008. Ben and Mike gathered all the comments from all the walkers throughout the three walks and the Saturday training session and after consideration selected the students to participate in the Dartmoor training. All but one student accepted the Challenge and the final names are:
35 mile team – Josh Burton, Thomas Gardner, Warwick Gatland, Jack Jarvis, Daniel Lowe, Niamh Massaccesi and Lily Ward.
45 mile team – Rebecca Addley, Patrick Bates, Luke Duncan, Niall Ellis, Archie Freeman, Jack Jarvis, Tom Mabon and Stephen Roberts.
The students as in previous weeks, attended route planning sessions to look at and consider the best way from the start to finish points.
We all travelled down to the Bundu Campsite at Sourton, near Okehampton arriving at 10.00 pm; the students were then shown how to put up the Mess Tent and the staff sleeping tent. Finally they were allocated their own tent to put up and then in to the Mess Tent for a final look and consideration of their route for Saturday. Students eventually made their way to bed at about 12 midnight – a very direct group of people. Staff accompanying students being Mr Alsop, Miss Nattrass, Ollie Wickham (a former student of the College and participant of the Ten Tors challenge, Mike and Sally.
Saturday morning arrived early with Sally waking everyone up at 6.00 am – Mr Alsop did a good impression of terrifying us all as he lit the water heater and tried to imitate a dragon breathing fire! Breakfast of porridge and bacon sandwiches were provided for staff and students alike to give them a good start to the day. By 8.00 am all of us were in the minibus on our way to Okehampton Camp to begin our walk. Ben had set the route and given us our first taste of climbing one of the highest Tors on Dartmoor – we think it was deliberately challenging as he did not have to walk it as he was in France ski-ing. He did think of us though and gave us an easier walk on Sunday. The 45 mile team walked with Ollie and Miss Nattrass, whilst Mike strode out (and at 6ft 5ins definitely had the longest stride) with the 35 mile team. It was a cold day but at various points the sun decided to shine on us all and gave us a real sense of how wild and unwelcoming Dartmoor can be. Mr Alsop and Sally were on support for the weekend so although they started walking with us they returned to the campsite to wash up breakfast and get things ready for our return. Mike was kind to us and didn’t make us carry our tents to give us a chance to get used to walking the difficult terrain with a rucksack. The day gave us plenty of opportunities to try out our new found skills of map reading and compass work, as well as learning how to pace ourselves both with the physical walking and with our food and water intake. We all recorded excellent times as follows:
The 35 mile team walked 23.2 km, calling at High Wilhays, Dinger Tor, Great Kneeset Tor, Okement Hill and back to Okehampton. We were due back in at 3.51 pm but arrived at 2.45 pm.
The 45 mile team walked 31.1 km, calling at High Wilhays, Dinger Tor Chat Tor, Great Kneeset, Okement Hill, Oke Tor and back to Okehampton Camp. We were due back in at 6.39 pm arriving at 5.30 pm.
On our return to the campsite we worked on our route plan for the next day and cooked our dinner. Some of us climbed very wearily into our beds at 6.30 pm, knowing we had done a good job.
Sunday brought us a wake up call by Sally who told us we couldn’t use the temporary toilet as it was overflowing – lovely at 5.00 am!! New challenges awaited us as, although the walk was neither so high nor so long, we were battered for most of the day by a northerly wind which was bitterly cold. The good news again was that we didn’t have to carry our tents and with the frost on the ground we would be less likely to walk into a bog!!
The 35 mile team walked 17.1 km. We started at Four Winds (Great Mis) car park calling at Ingra Tor, Leeden Tor, Black Tor, Peat Cot, South Hessary Tor, North Hessary Tor back to the car park. We were due back in at 2.03 pm arriving at 12.52 pm.
The 45 mile team walked 21.4 km; we were due back in at 3.24 pm arriving at 2.05 pm. We also started at Four Winds (Great Mis) car park but called in to Leeden Tor, Black Tor, Crazywell Pool, Lower Hartor, Peat Cot, South Hessary Tor and North Hessary Tor before returning to the car park.
During the day Mr Alsop and Sally returned to the campsite to break camp and get everything ready for loading on to the trailer. They returned in time to see the 35 mile team come over the top of a hill to start the descent to the car park.
It was decided that the 35 mile team should rest in the minibus and wait for the 45 mile team to return as they were due in about 1½ behind us. Mike and Sally returned to the campsite to take down the big tents and load the trailer. They then returned and we started our long journey home – very tired, but happy with our performance.
Thank you to FoSTA for providing the team with 3 new high quality tents. They were amazing.