Day walks – Stourhead
Our first day walk took place at Stourhead on the 5 February 2017. We met at 8.30 am ready to start. The Yr 12 (45 milers) were due to walk approximately 27 km, whilst the Yr 10 (35 milers) a mere 22 km.
There were seven participants from Yr 12 and eight from Yr 10. This was the first time we had to put into practise for a whole day, the instruction we had been given on our classroom training session.
The staff accompanying us were Ben Trout, Mr Alsop, Mr Steer and Harry Jarvis – a former St Augustine’s student. Although they kept us on the straight and narrow, they let us get on with the business of navigation, only giving gentle hints if we seemed to be going too far on the wrong path.
One of the worst parts of the route is going down the slope from Long Knoll. The Yr 10’s approached it from the opposite direction to the Yr 12’s and we are unsure which is the most difficult route. Both year groups felt they had the toughest challenge!
We completed our walk in an acceptable time and with everyone in good spirits. We all learnt a lot during the day as each member of the team had to take a turn in navigation. It is with regret that we don’t have any photographs, at the moment, to share, although we are sure there will be some added at a later date.
Day walks – Cheddar
Two weeks later we put back on our walking boots to take a ‘stroll’ around Cheddar. We met at 8.00 am and started our walk at 8.20 am.
We were again accompanied by the same staff but on this occasion Mr Alsop and Harry walked with the Yr 10’s whilst Ben and Mr Steer accompanied the Yr 12’s. Sally Pinner and her husband, Ray, were on back up this week so on occasion, the Yr 10’s met up with them. One of their roles was to take photos of us all working hard. Unfortunately, due to a technical problem, none of the photos were saved on to the camera so again we are looking for any photos which may have been taken. Their other role was to take note of our timings which meant that we had to phone in at each checkpoint stating our team, checkpoint number and time of arrival.
Although the walk was supposed to be shorter it was much harder, having more hills and steeper ascents. For this walk the Yr 12’s were given a route of 26 km and the Yr 10’s 20 km.
The weather started out fairly good, but by the end of the day it was extremely cold and wet – a good introduction to Dartmoor! Harry, who undertook the Ten Tors training last year told us that the ground we had walked over was also very similar to that on Dartmoor.
The Yr 10 finished their walk at 15.46 only 14 minutes later than expected, at the end of which Mr Alsop bought all of us a hot chocolate which was very welcome. Unfortunately by the time the Yr 12 walkers came in the cafes had just closed, however parents were already in the car park to whisk them home. They completed their walk at 17.42 which was only 1 minute later than expected!!
Our next challenge – DARTMOOR!
Dartmoor – the 1st weekend
On Wednesday, 1 March 2017 we brought our rucksacks to school ready for loading onto the trailer. One student was overheard to say “it’s real now”. We took down to Dartmoor five Yr 12 students and eight Yr 10 students. This weekend we were accompanied by Ben, Erica who is in the Army Reserves working for the Ten Tors organisation; she has opted to help us with our training and Ollie who is a Captain in the Army and was a previous St Augustine’s students who completed the Ten Tors challenge some years ago. Mr Alsop and Sally were our “support team” for the weekend.
We left school at 4.00 pm on Friday afternoon and after stopping for something to eat at Exeter services made our way on to a very miserable Dartmoor arriving at 7.30 pm. Ben was already on the camp site and had started getting our the Mess Tent which we had to put up before setting up our own homes for the weekend.
Once the camp was set up we went into the Mess Tent for hot chocolate, biscuits and to continue with our route planning. At 10.00 pm we went to bed.
5.00 am came round very quickly with Sally telling us it was time to get up. We crawled out of our warm sleeping bags to a chilly Saturday morning. Our first job was to pack up all our kit – including our tents – ready for our rucksacks to be packed onto the trailer. Then it was in to the Mess Tent where Sally had cooked porridge and bacon sandwiches with hot drinks available.
We were all ready to go by about 7.10 am so it was in to the minibus for our first foray onto Dartmoor. Ollie was walking with the 45 milers and Ben the 35 miles, who were joined by Erica part way through the day.
On arriving at Okehampton camp the sun was shining but a very cold wind was blowing. We were all kitted up ready to go and started up the hill towards our start point. Mr Alsop and Sally joined us for the first part of our walk (in the end they walked 12 km!!)
For the first part of our walk we climbed steadily up to High Willhays then on to Dinger Tor where we parted company – the 45 milers going on to Chat Tor whilst the 35 milers made their way to Great Kneeset Tor.
The weather quickly went downhill and we were walking, for a lot of the day in a combination of sleet and hailstones, with a biting wind in our faces.
We eventually made it back to Okehampton Camp, pretty tired and very wet. It was then back to our campsite to put up our tents, make our dinner and collapse into bed.
Unfortunately on our return to the camp site, the ground was so wet we had to choose very carefully where our tents should be located – one tent ended up with water inside it and two members of the 35 team decided to move their tent when it was partially erected. Not a great idea in the wind!
By this time, the mess tent was under almost 5 cms of mud and we all set about emptying it and move it over to a gravelled area.
By about 9.30 pm we had all finished eating, looked at our route plans for the following day and collapsed in bed.
Sunday dawned, although dark the sun did come through. Unfortunately it didn’t last long and the weather deteriorated very quickly. Most of our kit was still wet from the day before and this made everything so much heavier to carry and unpleasant to put on. Although we had put some of our kit to dry in the heated shower block.
We consoled ourselves that at least the walk wasn’t so long!
We started our walk at Four Winds (Great Mis) car park. We all headed out to Leeden Tor and then on to Black Tor where once again we separated with the 45 milers going on to Crazywell Pool and the 35 milers to Peat Cot.
Once again the weather made it difficult walking and during the day, the wind and rain got steadily worse.
We were so relieved when the minibus was spotted at the car park, where a warm welcome and cake awaited us.
Back we went to the camp site to get the remaining tents and all the equipment packed away in the trailer. Imagine our surprise and horror when we got back to find the mess tent had blown away!
A very kind man who had a caravan had seen the tent start to blow away and had caught it, tying it to a fence and then rescued various other bits of our equipment. Unfortunately the tent was completely ruined with broken poles and split canvas, as was the staff tent.
Dartmoor – the 2nd weekend
After our terrible time during the first weekend we were all looking forward to much better weather – if only!
Setting off at 4.45 pm with Claire and Harry we arrived at Horrabridge at about 8.05 pm – straight into the village to pick up fish and chips. Then it was off to find Ben, Sally and the campsite. We arrived and started putting up the tents in the dry, but this quickly turned to drizzle.
Once we were all settled into our tents with our gear ready for the next morning it was in to the mess tent for hot chocolate, for those that wanted it, and biscuits. We then settled down to continue with our route planning for the following day.
Unfortunately on this occasion we only had Ben and Harry as walkers with the two teams so after we went to bed, Ben, Harry and Sally looked at options to ensure our safety and to amend the various routes.
5.00 am on Saturday, our tents were given a little shake and we were told it was time to get up. At least this morning it was only packing up our kit and then into the mess tent where Sally and Claire had prepared porridge and bacon sandwiches.
It was finally agreed that Harry would walk with the 45 mile team and Ben would follow on the same route with the 35 mile team. Sally would then meet us near to Legis Tor where she and Harry would walk with us back to the car park. Ben would meanwhile take the 45 mile team on another, longer route before making their way back to the minibus.
All would have gone well had not the fog come down. We thought that after the first weekend’s weather, nothing could be worse, but we were wrong. At least it gave us the opportunity of learning how to walk in fog.
The 45 mile team were just in front of the 35 mile team until they took a wrong turn and then fell back quite a long way.
Ben was contacted and we were told to head west, downhill to a river. A couple of members of the team felt we should go north and then announced that the compasses were broken!! After another phone call to Ben he told us to wait until he and the 35 mile team had caught up with us and we would then continue our walk together. Harry had managed to also contact Claire and she then put a tracker on to Harry’s phone and watch so everyone knew where we all were.
Eventually we all found each other – in fact Ben and the 35 mile team were only a two minute walk from the 45 mile team, but due to the fog, it had not been possible to see them.
Ben contacted Sally and asked for an update on distance still to be walked back to the car park and the decision was taken that both teams would be taken off the moor at the point Sally was due to start walking. By this time it was nearly 5.00 pm and we gratefully got into the warm, dry minibus to go back to the campsite
Back “home” it was time to put up the tents, make dinner, into the mess tent for a debriefing and plan tomorrow’s route.
Sunday at 5.00 am came round very quickly and Sally shaking on our tents wishing us a “good morning” was perhaps not what we wanted to hear, especially as we had to cook our own breakfast.
We were pretty efficient with getting ourselves organised, which is a good thing for on the Challenge weekend we have to get going as early as possible.
Unfortunately the rain and fog started once more as we got into the minibus to go to our start point. However it did eventually clear up and for most of the late morning and afternoon it was dry, although not sunny – hopefully we will see the sun at some point, especially as both Sophie in Yr 12 and Sally assured us that Dartmoor is beautiful when the sun is shining!
Once more we had to change our route and the 35 mile team followed Harry and 45 mile team. As it was much clearer this presented less of a problem. It was agreed that the 45 mile team would wait for the 35 mile team at Sheeps Tor where Sally would be waiting to walk the 35 mile team back down to the minibus whilst the 45 mile team with Ben and Harry would extend their walk and meet the minibus at a different point.
From the top of Sheeps Tor there is a fantastic view and each team could be viewed coming up towards the Tor from at least 1 km away. On a clear day it is possible to see Wales!
Once we were all safely back on the minibus and cakes being handed around, it was back to the camp site to pack up and start our journey home.
What will our next weekend have in store? Sun perhaps?
Written by Mrs Sally Pinner