In September, I will be leaving Northamptonshire and moving south west to be nearer to Dartmoor National Park.
My passion for Dartmoor, a forgotten childhood flame, was rekindled back in 2011 on a walking weekend with friends. At first we kept it casual but, after discovering Tor bagging, things soon started to get serious. Dartmoor has seduced me, with her stunning scenery, her magical tors and her unpredictable weather.
The problem is I live so far away from her – at least four and a half hours by car. Almost every National Park and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in England and Wales is nearer to where I live than Dartmoor. Yet my heart had chosen and our goodbyes, a quiet lingering last touch of granite, were getting harder and harder at the end of each visit.
I cannot properly put into words how she makes me feel – believe me I have tried! There is something about the unique combination of ancient rock formations, millenniums of history and the varied terrain (from beak desolate moor to enchanting tree-lined river valleys) that energises me, yet makes me feel relaxed, happy and at peace.
Wild camp on Lynch Tor
She also makes me feel alive – whether it is basking on a sun-kissed Tor, warming up after a swim in an ice-cold stream, or waking up in my bivvy to fog and drizzle. I am lucky that my Multiple Sclerosis does not currently restrict my enjoyment too much, but the clock is ticking. In the future I may be much more restricted so, in the meantime, I should be savoring every moment I can spend in her company.
Whilst spending every moment with my love would be fantastic, there is the small matter of paying the bills. Thankful my work is easily transportable – ultimately I just need a laptop and an internet connection (and my physio would probably also say a proper desk and decent chair!). It is a pretty exciting thought that in a few weeks I will be able to grab my pack after work, spend a night on Dartmoor, grab a swim in a river and be back at my desk for the start of the next morning!
Such a major move is a catalyst for change – not least with this blog. I ‘founded’ this blog back in March 2008 after being inspired to share countryside walks after discovering a fantastic collection of shared walks on a website (sadly I have no record of the web address). Over time the focus has evolved, but it still mostly remains my outdoor diary – a place to document my trips and adventures outdoors (or complain when there have not been any!).
Whilst I still intend to write about what I get up to, I am hoping that spending more time outdoors will lead to more general posts about the wonders of the outdoors (not just Dartmoor – the nearby coasts, moors, countryside and hills of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall will also feature), how I enjoying them and the kit I use. All in the hope I can do my small part to help and inspire other people to enjoy the outdoors and Dartmoor.
Me, Paul and Neil on Pew Tor (photo by Kate – @divescidiva)
I do still want to share individual routes online though, but rather than post all of them on this blog I want to look at improving Social Hiking to make it better for sharing routes. The site already collates photos and other media, and combines them with a route on a map, but it needs to do better at editing, sharing and re-playing before it can replace my write ups longer term.
It was humbling that so many of my friends (new and old) visited me in Northamptonshire to walk around the local forest and countryside. I am hoping that, despite being less centrally located, I will have the chance to share my love and passion for Dartmoor with visiting friends. Being nearer a National Park also opens up possibilities for meetups with Social Hikers – something to explore when I am settled!
Sheltering from the snow on Dartmoor
As a warm up to the move, initially to the outskirts of Bristol and then later in the month to Okehampton, I will be heading to Dartmoor to enjoy the bank holiday weekend hiking, camping and swimming with Sarah and Paul, followed by a few days the following week with Colin. I also have some kit to test out in the field including a Target Dry Element jacket, a pair of aptly named Dartmoor hiking shoes from Grisport, a Sunix Ultra-Bright 120 head torch and the 2015 variant of the Vango Banshee 200 tent. You can follow me live throughout on Social Hiking and on Twitter, or just get in touch and wish me luck.