I’m lying in a cave on Dartmoor.
This was unexpected…
I planned to walk to Yes Tor for sunset, a cheeky bivvy and a beautiful sunrise the following morning…
My BBC Weather app told me it was 16-18 degrees all night, clear and dry.
The BBC Weather app lied…
I set off from Wincanton and headed for the moors.
The traffic had been awful (bank holiday) but I was optimistic as always and arrived at the Meldon Reservoir Car Park at around 2015, grabbed my rucksack and headed for Yes Tor. I know this part of the moor well, having walked it quite a few times over my hiking career thus far!
That being said, I also knew I was pressed for time…
Zig zag up the contour lines is the advice given to all when you start walking, with good reason, but I obviously ignored this, in my usual Kate-like way.
“I need to get to the Trig Point on Yes Tor before sunset!!”
Anyway, up I plodded to Yes Tor, making it for sunset (phew) and got some beautiful photos of my favourite part of the moors.
With no further ado, I made a cup of tea (always required), got my Alpkit Hunka out, as well as my sleeping bag and mat before settling in for the night… I made sure that I had some shelter in case the wind picked up, and chose a spot behind what can only be described as a granite slab lean-to!
It was so clear, but there was a reasonably strong wind. I stuck my camera out of my bivvy bag and managed to snap a few photos of the stars, which I was very happy about, and it was a beautiful night!
What’s that rustling?
Did someone escape from the prison?
Is it a hellhound? As I began to prepare for my timely demise, I realised it was actually just a curious sheep!
The sky lit up brightly over towards North Hessary Tor and the South Moors. I called a friend and asked him to double check, he confirmed the weather for Meldon that evening was clear and bright until around 0400, when it was due to rain. he said perhaps it was a torch, or an escaped convict (thanks, Rich!).
The flashes grew closer together and I realised then that they were actually lightning. I though I’d move in to my granite lean-to, partly in case it rained, partly as it faced the South Moors and I’d get a better view of the storms.
Of course the wind was southwesterly and so in actual fact, within the hour, I had a spectacular view of the thunderstorm…
Because I was in it…
I’ve never been so grateful for a cave. Most storms I’ve been in haven’t lasted very long, so I figured I’d not be in there too long, I was sure it would blow over quickly (those strong winds) and I’d be back outdoors in no time.
How wrong I was!
The storm circled Yes Tor and High Willhays for a good few hours, during which time I got no sleep. Thankfully, I always have the right kit with me for every weather eventuality and so I stayed safe, warm and dry.
I was grateful for my cave, even if I did feel a little like Gollum!
I lay there in my bivvy bag, with thunder making the whole floor move beneath me, lightning flashing around me (and even striking Yes Tor at one point) reading blog posts – here – a friend had told me about. I love thunderstorms, but being in the middle of the storm clouds for 4 hours was unnerving to say the last, and I was grateful for the distraction and humour that these provided!
Eventually, at around 0430 the clouds lifted, I could see the transmitter at North Hessary Tor again. I was still awake and had no intention of sleeping at that time in the morning, so I packed everything away, made another tea, had some food and set off for High Willhays.
The skies were so beautiful, and it was hard to believe there had been a storm just an hour or two earlier, though I could see it off in the distance, headed for North Devon.
From High Willhays, I continued across to Dinger Tor, before heading back on myself to Black Tor, down to the river and the famous Black A Tor Copse.
I love these creepy, mystical, high altitude woodlands on Dartmoor.
Wistman’s Wood, I think is the most famous, but Black A Tor is right next to the river and so I think it’s just magical.
The cloud began to set in, I headed back up to Black Tor and walked towards Meldon Reservoir again, bog hopping as I went. I think Dartmoor is the only place I know to be boggier the further uphill you walk!
The cloud set in thick and fast, and before long I was reminded why it’s important to always know where you’re headed, where you’ve come from and, most importantly, how to use a map and compass.
I made it back to Meldon Reservoir after a few soggy feet moments in the bogs and I’ll let the picture speak for itself..
What a difference 12 hours makes.
Obviously, I knew what to take with me on to the moors and I was very well prepared kit-wise.
If you’re headed for Dartmoor, always make sure you’re ready for any eventuality, as the weather can change rapidly on the moors.
And always, always have a map & compass on hand (and know how to use them).