Last month I wrote my first Dartmoor Blog – my trip to the Cranmere Pool Letterbox. Yesterday I visited the other famous letterbox at Duck’s Pool, but that wasn’t the main reason for my trek into Dartmoor’s South Moor. As many of you will know, I’ve set myself the task of placing a major series of caches on Dartmoor and it was time I got on with it. But for me, caching is so much more than finding and placing caches. Dartmoor is such a wonderful location and I am happy to use caching to try to attract more visitors to enjoy what I am privileged to wake up to, every single day.
For any Dartmoor trek, the first problem is what to wear. The forecast for Devon was 9C, but I knew better than that. On the moor it is always 2 or 3 degrees colder (altitude alone) and given a wind chill factor of 5 or 6 degrees, the reality would be about zero! So I chose full thermals and did not regret it. Paramo waterproof trousers and two layers of Paramo tops was everything else I needed, plus my trusted Muck Boots (neoprene wellies), gloves, hat and scarf. So many query why I wear Muck Boots instead of normal boots, but after well over 100mm of rain in the last week, I knew how wet the moor would be, and I can easily walk 10 miles in them.
My route was to go via Fox Tor and the best parking is by the Devonport Leat just up from Whiteworks. The leat was flowing fast and clear after all the rain, but it is so interesting to note the features built into it. A narrow bridge to allow the rabbits to cross (Dartmoor was famous for its warrening) and a sheep leap to allow the sheep to cross! This route to Fox Tor avoids the Fox Tor Mire – also known as the Great Grimpen Mire in The Hounds of the Baskervilles. One reason to go via Fox Tor was to check on the Fox Tor hybrid. A cache for which I was FTF in 2011 but has had a checkered history since. Unfortunately I couldn’t find it, so it may have vanished once again! Another reason to visit Fox Tor was another photo opportunity with Toby’s Tor Hopper. I acquired this TB about a year ago and it’s aim is to be photographed on top of every Dartmoor Tor. So far I have taken him to about 50 tors, with a photo on top of each!
I had with me about 9 new caches. I didn’t intend to place them all but I had to carry a variety of sizes as I didn’t know where each could be placed. Most think that placing caches on Dartmoor is easy – it is not. In reality there are few hides. You have to avoid the dry stone walls, the hut circles and all the other protected monuments. Much of Dartmoor is just grass, with no decent hides, and most of the tors already have caches on them. I wanted to take a 5 litre cache and had to take a bigger rucksack to get it in. However, I couldn’t find a suitable hide around Fox Tor, but did manage to conceal a 2 litre box. I did eventually manage to hide the 5 litre cache, and it needs a very big hide, but I’m not telling you where.
On my last trip in this area I found a very unusual item. A huge rain gauge! We have one in our front garden which gets emptied and the contents recorded every day. I have no idea how often this one gets emptied but it has to be huge to take all the water. Last time when I first found it, it was too heavy to lift, but it has since been emptied and is now half full. I guess that they just bring some scales and weigh it, otherwise they would need an enormous measure.
Not only was I out to place caches, but to find a couple as well. These were originally puzzle caches which I had solved, but for which the final coordinates have now been published. One of these is on Naker’s Hill which is a huge expanse of nothing but grass. It is totally featureless and very difficult to walk in a straight line, as there is nothing to set your course for. As I was walking across here it occurred to me that there probably wasn’t another human being within 2 miles of me! What a scary thought, and very few places in England where that could be true. This is truly a wilderness!
Another task was to check on my Place a Remote Dartmoor Cache Challenge cache. The idea of this challenge cache was to encourage others to place remote caches on Dartmoor. However, the silly Groundspeak rules don’t allow you to set a challenge of placing caches, so there had to be another criteria to allow you to find them. How stupid. This cache is over 4km from the nearest road and was in good condition.
My return trip took me back to another of my caches, that at Duck’s Pool. This was the second of the famous letterboxes to be placed on Dartmoor after Cranmere Pool. It was first placed in 1938 as a memorial to the famous Dartmoor author, William Crossing, who died in 1928. Not so well known as Cranmere Pool, but a great spot to aim for nonetheless. All the guidebooks tell you that there is no pool at Duck’s Pool, but that is rubbish. There has always been a pool here on my visits and yesterday there was a pair of Mallards on it – so ducks’ pool indeed!
Duck’s Pool is still nearly 3 miles from my starting point but you can walk in almost a straight line to Nunn’s Cross Farm, where you can pick up the Devonport Leat to return to the parking spot. In all I walked just over 9 miles, but it took me over 7 hours to do it, achieving an average speed of just 1.25 mph. The reason it took so long was that I placed a number of caches. As mentioned earlier, the main difficulty is finding a suitable hide. And I am not looking to hide micros. I normally aim to use a minimum size of 450ml but for this series I am hoping to use boxes up to 900ml, 2l and 5l and managed to place all of those sizes yesterday. Coordinates are taken with 2 GPSrs, one a single reading, the other averaged over a minute. I then walk away a couple of hundred metres and return to repeat. Once at home I manually average the 4 readings to get the coordinates that will be published.
So a very successful and enjoyable day, and this time I am pleased to say, that unlike my trip to Cranmere Pool, all objectives were achieved.