Event Weekend: 7-8 May 2016
Well this was it! After all the training, now was the time to put it into practice for real.
This blog will mostly be staff led because once the team left on Saturday morning, we had no contact with them until they crossed the finish line on Sunday.
Ben, Sally and Harry Jarvis packed the rucksacks into the already half full trailer then saying goodbye to Harry left school to pick up Mike and make their way down to Okehampton Camp on Dartmoor.
When they arrived, the camping ground was already overflowing with teams setting up their “home” for the next few days. Our spot was chosen – an area which had few other teams on it, close to the entrance to the Parade Ground (and not too close to a line of Portaloos).
In total there were 406 teams and their “camp followers” to accommodate – meaning that in a fairly small site there were approximately 3500 people.
Ben, Mike and Sally then set up our Mess Tent, the Staff Tent and got all the equipment established in the kitchen/dining area ready for the team’s arrival.
The team, with Mr Alsop driving the minibus, left school at about 4.30 pm and arrived in Okehampton for dinner at about 7.00 pm. We all then went up to the Camp to set up our individual tents. It was great that both Rebecca Addley and Harry Jarvis from the 45 mile team were able to accompany us to the Moor and help in the preparations.
A word has to go to Lily who as our reserve must have found the weekend particularly hard, but she participated in the preparations; had all her kit ready – just in case; and was a wonderful help to us over the weekend.
After a fairly early night we were woken at 6.00 am to start the final preparations. After breakfast we nervously waited as Ben, Mike and Sally went up to one of the buildings to find out what route we had been allotted. We were given route I with the letter P meaning that would be our position on the team progress board to be displayed in the Stat (Statistics) Shed during the course of the weekend. Each team member was also allocated a letter which ran alphabetically from Josh being “A” to Niamh being “F”. These letters are used to identify any member of the team who “falls out” (if a team member is unable to continue they will be transported back to camp and handed back into the care of their Team Manager and will be identified as a “fall out”. Out came our Dartmoor map and the process of route planning began.
The board shown below is one which Ben has devised. It contains a large map of Dartmoor which the Army gives out to the teams on which he places magnets holding string in place to map out the route. On each magnet the expected arrival time is written and underneath the time the team actually arrives. The small orange and white magnet shows us moving along (or the place Ben and Mike expect us to be at any time during the weekend). For the first time teams were given locations which they had to go through on their route so the yellow magnets are the Tors and the white magnets show where the teams had to go via. The areas outlined on the map are bird nesting sites which have to be avoided if possible.
At 9.00 am Ben, Mike and Sally made their way back up to one of the buildings to get all the paperwork – Control Card, wristbands, team numbers for rucksack and tent, rubbish bags, sealed bag for one mobile phone, token for a pasty when the route is completed and the tracker. The tracker can identify where a team is at any time but for most of the weekend they are only used to check a team through each Tor. Towards the end of the route, electronics takes over and each tracker can be monitored on a large screen in the Stats Shed which gives Team Managers etc time to get themselves in position before the team crosses the finish line. Sally was also given a time for the team to go through scrutineering – this is where a scrutineer will check every item in each team members’ rucksack.
We were booked into scrutineering for 12 noon so Ben and Mike went through all our kit. Unfortunately when we went up to scrutineering we did not have enough survival bags or the correct type of wound dressing, so Mr Alsop went into Okehampton to collect the right kit. From scrutineering we went to the other side of the Stat Shed to have our briefing. We were again taken through how to use the Tracker. Ben meantime, had gathered all the correct equipment and had taken it back through scrutineering which we passed. Mr Alsop decided to go off for a walk with Jacob so they went for the afternoon whilst for the rest of us the next thing was lunch. Sally had promised that as she hadn’t made us a cooked breakfast she would cook one of her children’s favourite lunchtime snacks – Cheese Dreams. These comprised making a cheese sandwich, dunking it in beaten egg and then slowly frying it. The end result was lovely with melted cheese in the middle and a golden crispy outside. Crisps, cake and fruit were also on the menu.
So to work – the afternoon was spent almost entirely route planning to ensure the team had the best possible route and were clear on that route. During the afternoon we also watched the helicopters moving about. Two helicopters came over with guns slung from their undercarriage – they were trying to find the best way to drop them onto the field ready for use at the start of the event.
Finally with our route planning done, we had some free time to play and rest before dinner and an early night.
Our team was in bed by about 9.00 pm and the whole camp was quiet by about 10.00 pm. 5.00 am didn’t seem far away.
Miss Nattrass and Mrs Delport eventually arrived at about 10.30 pm having taken a “scenic” route from Trowbridge to Okehampton. Although they were initially refused admission to the site because they did not have a pass. Most of the staff went up to the main gate to get them in and help them with their bags etc.
On Saturday we didn’t need a wake up call at 5.00 am as over the loudspeakers came the haunting sound of “Chariots of Fire”, this was followed by other songs such as Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” and Queen’s “We Are the Champions” – very motivational. The music continued until we made our way up to the start line. The team packed up their sleeping kit, had breakfast, then it was rucksacks on, checked and adjusted; boots on, checked and re-laced as necessary.
At 6.15 am the team and all the supporters made our way up to the start line. The team were accompanied by Mike and Sally to the actual line, whilst Ben took the rest of the supporters to the bottom of the hill so that they could see the whole panorama of teams waiting to start. At 7.00 am the General gave a short speech, the Padre read the Ten Tors Prayer and then the gun was fired to signal the start.
The team was off – what were the team staff going to do with their day?
They all made their way across the moor to see the Jubilee Challenge start. This is an amazing event with young adults who have many different types of disability walking distances of up to 15 miles. Most were walking but being supported by carers; others were wheelchair bound; some with the gearing on recumbent type bikes at shoulder height and they were then able to move themselves along. Very inspiring.
Next came the Pony Leading Challenge with a Dartmoor pony being led and a team of six following. Although the Jubilee Challenge had started with a gun, this was not appropriate for the ponies so three buglers played instead. There was a pony and a handler for each team of six participants.
After breakfast, Mr Alsop took Miss Nattrass, Mrs Delport, Jacob, Rebecca, Harry and Lily off out for most of the day. Ben, Mike and Sally were not allowed to leave the Moor as there has to be a team leader on site at all times. They spent their day going up and down to the Stat Shed to be updated on progress. The Stat Shed is simply a large hangar with tables and benches inside and large screens round the wall which shows progress of teams. The screen are updated about every 10 minutes.
Everyone was back for dinner and Mike then suggested a night hike. So at about 8.45 pm, Ben, Mike, Mr Alsop, Jacob, Rebecca and Harry set off on a 7km walk. Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse and fog descended over the Moor. Sally was left in the tent to plot progress in case of any accident or emergency. It was interesting to see how walking by bearings actually worked and gave Ben and Mike the opportunity to hone their skill.
Back at base camp, discussion occurred as to why the team had stopped at Rough Tor, rather than continuing on to reach Whitebarrow but of course no answers are able to be found as no contact is permitted.
Sunday dawned and for those back at base camp, a tense day awaited. The team were slower than anticipated reaching Standon Farm and there was real concern that they would not make it back in by 5.00 pm, the cut off point.
When they did arrived home the leaders were talked through the reason for stopping. It seemed that Niamh had burst blisters and Josh was suffering very badly with blisters. On Sunday morning at Standon Farm Josh sought advice from the Medics. They said that Josh would not be able to finish the walk and they would get him rescued. However Josh said he wanted to finish the walk if possible.
So began the long trek home – a distance still of about 15 km. The team had discussed what needed to be done to finish in time and they all walked with that goal in mind.
For those waiting at base camp it was amazing seeing our team come down the hill (although this photo isn’t great, you can just about see the team in their yellow t-shirts).
The team looked tired, but amazing as they crossed the finish line at 4.26 pm – Josh limping and having to go straight up to the First Aid tent where his blisters were treated.
Lt Col Peter Bates –the main organiser of the event (and our Chair of Governors) was delighted to see them back and even helped Dan off with his waterproof trousers which he had difficulty with.
We all had a bit of a wait until the medals and certificate were presented, but definitely worth it!
Finally it was back to base camp for a celebratory cake, collecting of kit and hobbling back to cars for the journey home.
To finish I hope he won’t mind but a quote from a parent “It was a brilliant day and to see all the teams coming home was amazing, but then when St A’s came over the hill and the six of them came in over the finish their smiles of pain and real achievement was something that I will never forget.”
Josh, Tom, Warwick, Jack, Dan and Niamh you are amazing – many congratulations for this phenomenal achievement – you have made us all so proud.
Thanks to Sally Pinner for the write up.
Check out all the build up to this event below
Ten Tors 2016 Part 1 can be found here.
Ten Tors 2016 Part 2 can be found here.
Ten Tors 2016 Part 3 can be found here.
Ten Tors 2016 Part 4 can be found here.