First camp and swim of the year: Swelltor and Wellsfoot Island

Starting a new year is always a good opportunity to reflect on the previous year and make plans for the next. Last year certainly had some highlights, what with moving into our new house and getting married, but there was less outdoor adventure than I would prefer. This year, the plan is to get out and do more camping and swimming.

For January, we nearly failed at the first hurdle. Sarah had been nursing an injured foot which is stopping her running and the weather forecast for the only day in the entire month we could get out for a wild camp was looking atrocious – cold temperatures and heavy rain all afternoon and evening. In the end, we decided on an easy to access location on Dartmoor after a pub lunch allowing us to sulk damp in the tent with snacks rather than needing to cook anything on the stove in the rain.

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Nocturnal Adventures on Dartmoor with the Ranger Ralph Club

Ranger Ralph Membership Pack

One of the benefits of moving to Taunton is that Dartmoor, previously far enough that visits needed to be overnight, is now near enough, not just for day trips, but to ‘pop to’ for a few hours. This has finally allowed me our 5-year old to join the Dartmoor Ranger Ralph Club, and on Wednesday in the late afternoon we headed to Hound Tor for her first session – ‘nocturnal adventures’.

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Making the outdoors accessible for people with different abilities

Disabled rambers on specially designed Mountain Trikes at Langsett reservoir

At the moment (touch wood) my Multiple Sclerosis does not really stop me getting out and enjoying the outdoors too much. Beyond the additional fatigue that follows a weekend outdoors, some balance issues as I tire during a hike and some interesting nerve buzzing when ascending a hill (and post river swims), the outdoors is still accessible to me. Positivity is really important when you have an degenerative disease, but it is sometimes really hard to shake the pangs of fear that my future MIGHT* involve significant reduced mobility and the impact the resulting loss of outdoor time would have to my physical and mental well-being. Because of this, the accessibility of the outdoors for people with different abilities (both as a place and the activities within it) is increasing a topic I am interested in (albeit with currently zero knowledge or experience).

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Outdoor First Aid at Powermills Bunkhouse on Dartmoor run by First Aid 4 Life

First aid scenarios on Dartmoor

Last weekend myself and Sarah once again made the (now very familiar) journey from Bristol to Dartmoor. Rather than the usual mix of hiking, camping, tor bagging and outdoor swimming (and beer) our trips to Dartmoor usually involved however, this trip was a little different – we were attending a two day course in Outdoor First Aid, run by First Aid 4 Life, at Powdermills near Princetown.

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Exploring the roof top of Devon (Tor and ‘365’ bagging) and a Halloween wild camp on Rowtor

Unnamed outcrop of East Mill Tor, Dartmoor

With a surprisingly promising weather forecast, we (myself and @PascallSarah@moorlandwalker decided to spend the day doing diy) decided to take advantage of a mild autumnal day and headed to the car park above Cullever Steps with the intention of exploring the rooftop of Devon – the highest point of Devon (and indeed the south of England).

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Revisiting the waterfalls of Afon Mellte and Afon Nedd Fechan in Brecon Beacons

Warming up with a coffee after swimming in Sgwd Gwladus's plunge pool

With my move to Dartmoor happening in a few weeks time, it seemed sensible to take advantage of temporarily living in Bristol to pop into Wales for a hike. On Saturday, Sarah (@PascallSarah) and I left a foggy Bristol (the view was non existent from the old Severn bridge) heading towards the surprising near Brecon Beacons to walk one of my favourite walks in ‘waterfall country’.

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Pesky Prowtytown Rocks and a wild camp on Great Mis Tor [Dartmoor Trip – Part 5]

Sunrise from bivvy on Great Mis Tor, Dartmoor

Feeling suitable reinvigorated from the cider and scampi at the aptly named The Tors pub after my hellish descent to Ivy Tor (part 4), I retreated to Fox Tor Café in Princetown to plan my next move (and charge my phone!). I wanted a pub dinner for my last night on the moor, and the Dartmoor Inn in Merrivale seemed an obvious choice. Previously, the inn’s owners have been happy for customers to leave cars in their car park overnight and I quite fancied a night on Great Mis Tor, which towers over the pub. As I had a few hours to kill, I would also have time to finally track down the illusive Prowtytown Rocks, accessible from a car park just down the road from the pub. First though, I had more immediate concerns… I stank. It is perhaps testament to the quality and professionalism of the staff at the Fox Tor Café that no one had mentioned it, but I was definitely omitting an odour. Before dinner at the pub, I needed a bath.

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Exploring West of Princetown and Foggintor wild camp [Dartmoor Trip – Part 3]

Having a bath in Foggintor Quarry

It has might have been four months since the last installment of my trip report of a week on Dartmoor (and six months since the actual trip!), but some of the excitement, joy and pleasure from the trip still remains despite the subsequent months of ‘indoor time’ (albeit topped up with two subsequent weekends on Dartmoor). In the last part, Paul and I had returned to the Fox Tor café for refreshments after an enjoyable wild camp on Lower Hartor Tor…

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Exploring Tors to East & South of Princetown and a wild camp on Lower Hartor Tor [Dartmoor Trip – Part 2]

Prince Hall Rocks looking towards Sorrell-Buck Rocks (South) and Prince Hall

I sat on a bench outside the Fox Tor Café enjoying the last of my coffee in the morning sunshine. Breakfast had been eaten and it was almost time to set off with Paul (@paulgbuck) on a ‘bagging’ odyssey. The planned route was my first concoction since I decided to copy Paul and visit (or ‘bag’) every single Tor and notable rock (and a few hills) in Dartmoor National Park – 425 at the last count. I had taken my OS map, drawn on (in pencil) each one to the east and south of Princetown, then played join the dots – the result was a 20 mile route with 19 of them to ‘bag’ (as an aside, Paul has written a brilliant article for Active Dartmoor on The Art of Tor Bagging)

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From orange survival bag to hooped bivvy: falling in love with bivvying

Sunrise on Great Mis Tor, Dartmoor

I couldn’t possibly sleep. The full moon we had watched rise from beyond the sea was making its steady progress across the sky, lighting up the cliff top around me.  I was surprisingly comfortable in my plastic orange survival bag with the breeze gently gusting across my face and Gareth’s last minute warning about adders, as he zipped himself up in his hooped bivvy-tent, had quickly faded from my mind, replaced by the intoxicating thrill of being part of the outdoors.

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