Autumn...Dartmoor...walking boots...rucksack...Fox Tor Cafe...hot chocolate... hope you are all ready and up for it again this year.
But first I needed to sort out all my gear and this year my attention has turned to walking poles.
Are any of you a fan of the walking pole?
I have used them occasionally but have been suffering from the usual malaise of False Economy. They looked good enough in a sale a few years ago, £12 a pair. Bargain. Except they rattle and wobble at will, collapse on a whim and the handles are uncomfortable, so they are generally more trouble than they are worth to take out.
It was Offspringette who reminded me about Pacer Poles because I had borrowed one of hers while I was in New Zealand. Pacer Poles come in pairs, a right and a left-handed one, so my little southpaw used one and I used the other and I was very impressed. Unlike Nordic walking poles, or the Nordic technique (which I have messed about with but never quite taken to), UK physiotherapist Heather Rhodes has designed a set of poles with an ergonomic hand rest that apparently aids posture and walking efficiency and I could certainly feel the difference as I tramped around South Island. The key seems to be to un-hunch your top half... to keep your shoulders back and arms in line with your trunk, pushing off with your palms from the hand rests alongside as you walk, and the more I did it the more comfortable it became. I had no idea, while I was in New Zealand, that Offspringette had ordered her set from Heather in the Lake District here in the UK so, in for a penny etc I have invested in mine this week.
They hadn't arrived in time for this week's Dartmoor trek but I have just done my Tamar Valley circuit using them today and ye gods, I was shooting up the hills so I can't wait to take them out on the moors.
I've done something else a bit rash this week too.
I do love a good Ordnance Survey map, it might even be the one thing I can thank A Level Geography for. So, despite the fact we have umpteen of this particular one going back decades, I have bought the latest Dartmoor map with the code to download a digital edition to my phone and iPad. It won't replace map and compass but it will also give me a GPS location whilst walking and if we are out in unknown territory I decided this might come in handy and would be a good safety feature. You can never take anything for granted up on Dartmoor including the fact that a sunny day can instantly turn into blanket fog.
Bookhound and I will be out and about on Dartmoor a lot this winter with the dogs, but I am also walking out once a week with a good friend. We have agreed we would both like to get to know some new-to-us bits of the moor, and with the added bonus of a good stride out, but this week we limbered up with the more familiar old railway line route out of Princetown and around King's Tor. If you are heading towards Dartmoor at any time and think a reasonably flat walk would be nice but where on earth to start (a bit like us in the Lake District) then this one should be top of the list. Park in Princetown's main car park (£1 for 3 hrs, £2 all day), boot up and head from the car park out onto the Granite Way (the path is well marked in black dashes on the map and very easy to find) and within minutes you feel as if you are miles from anywhere and soon you are.
(Click on the map and it should enlarge)
At Swelltor Quarries we cut across and then walked the big railway loop around the base of King's Tor..
The views are stunning from the minute you set off and get better and better...
Vixen Tor comes into view...
and then the disused quarry at Merrivale where the stone for the old London Bridge came from...
and then this wonderful view of the old school ground at Foggintor..
Now known as Four Winds, and the school Christmas tree planted in 1924 still just visible among the trees. But look, not a house or cottage in sight, imagine how far the children had to walk and in winter too. Built in 1914 and closed in 1936 the school had fifty-five pupils attending from the surrounding mining community in its day.
And just imagine seeing all this from an old steam train.
Think how popular that would be now and how sad to have lost it back in the 1960s.
We've decided that if only Princetown could get itself a quality outdoor store it could become a real hub for Dartmoor walking. Instead, a defunct modern craft centre with studios that never really got off the ground and rows of empty shops. If the prison closes (which we heard was on the cards) then perhaps the re-investment will happen because the town is in a superb location with Dartmoor and nothing else for miles on every side.
Gloriously sunny but with a brisk, eye-watering wind, we walked about six miles in two hours...which gave us a nice hour for soup and hot chocolate (we suddenly felt virtuous and blanked out the cake) in the Fox Tor Cafe.
Boots and rucksacks at the ready for next week everyone.
Meanwhile, how's the walking going over your way...
Any nice routes to share...
Do you have a Fox Tor Cafe of your own...