Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Beans, Beans, lentils, beans and beans

"About 10 minutes I recon...
"...Though I always say 10 minutes even if it's more. People get really annoyed at me", says Frank with a sly smile as we sip tea at the bottom of the slope leading up to Sittaford Tor. 

Earlier on, we'd trekked through some damp forest, we'd climbed Bellever Tor and then searched unsuccessfully for a Cairn and Cist, the latter of which we were not familiar with.

We'd hiked across to Postbridge, crossed the clapper bridge and then been drawn by the call of Dartmoor's best Jail Ale. 

We couldn't really justify ale from a miles covered point of view, but if you've been fortunate enough to taste Jail Ale before then you'll understand that really you don't need an excuse! If you haven't tasted one yet, then I suggest you try to, even if it means a long journey to Dartmoor. A couple of pints [in the cosy Warren House Inn] later - having found out that a Cist is a burial ground - we made a tipsy exit onto the moor north of the B3212.

We head along the exposed moorland towards our destination atop Sittaford Tor, passing what we assume is a few groups of Duke of Edinburgh school kids. We find the thinnest section of bog to cross, though there are moments of unexpected foot dunking. All in good spirits though, you can't help but laugh, whether looking on or whether you are the unlucky one to have done it. I slip and stack it once following Anthony, both of us experiencing that desperate feeling when your balance goes past the tipping point, at which a heavy rucksack just takes over, assisting your unrelenting progress towards an unstable and wet floor.

Climbing away from the bog we spend what feels like an age on a false flat, heading up to Sittaford Tor. With the darkness coming in, we are eager to set up camp and get some beans, beans, lentils, beans and beans on the stove. Once the tent is set up, I do the classic and sit in the entrance putting our veggie concoction together and manage to get some lovely if slightly blurred shots of the moon through the mist. It was superbly bright!

Despite being at 538 metres, I have to say Sittaford is one of the least inspiring areas of high exposed rock on Dartmoor to be given the 'Tor' title - yet for the Tors' own lack of beauty, it remains a fantastic place to enjoy the surrounding views, particularly on a crisp February morning in the half light, when the stone walls and less exposed features of the baron moor are highlighted by a light dusting of snow.

'I've seen the moor as normal and seen it fully snow covered," Frank says as he looks around, "but never like this! It's a whole different place".

We are in that unfortunate position where we want to enjoy the views, but having just got out of the tents we are required to pack up quick sharp and get moving for the sakes of our own health and well being. The temperature is definitely in the minus' and having camped the previous night as well and having waded through the bogs yesterday, there are many clothing items on the wrong side of damp.

I decide to take an alternative route this morning, following the ridge slightly South West of the tor, before swinging East back towards the main trail, crossing the low ground/valley floor/bog and ending up east of the river, to then continue directly south, back into Postbridge and then on to Bellever. 

Back to the car and back to London. Shame! An awesome weekend. Next time, we all intend to cover more miles, but there is plenty of time for that. I definately know that after two very cold nights, I am going to be sorting myself out with a new sleeping bag and mat for the next trip. Not very nice being cold is it?! 


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