Walking Dartmoor for charity

Discover what it's like to be a novice hiking across Dartmoor with this guest blog from Chloe Menage of Vertical Leap

Each year, we as a company aim to take on a physical challenge for charity. Last year, members of the team took part in an organised 40 mile walk across the South Downs, but this time round we fancied striking out on our own.

The challenge: 20 miles across rugged Dartmoor.

We were originally intending to walk 15 miles, all in aid of a great cause – Mind. For some reason though, after the first practice walk (which I didn’t attend) the guys decided 15 was far too easy, and increased it to 20. I cried a little, but then concluded that it still didn’t sound too bad to me - certainly easier than 40 miles. Of course, I’ve never actually been to Dartmoor before…

Calling out for a hero

We are lucky enough to have Dave Colgate on the Vertical Leap team; in addition to being great at digital marketing, he is also pretty handy with a compass. In his spare time he is a Duke of Edinburgh instructor, Gold National Navigation Award Scheme holder and Basic Expedition Leader Award holder – so there was no one more fit to organise an expedition of this kind.

Dave has lots of experience planning these sorts of hikes, and took his role as chief organiser very seriously. In addition to making sure we as a team were prepared, he also had to plan our route. It was essential that we could manage the trek in one day, with appropriate stop-off points along the way, and of course it had to finish at a pub!

Dave said: “When I was planning the walk there were three things I wanted to make sure we covered; the route, the equipment and the safety. So I designed the route using some mapping software combined with OS maps in the 1:25,000 scale and sent these with the route plan to Mountain Rescue – just in case!”

Dave made sure we all had kit lists and were aware of just what we were undertaking. He then organised some volunteers from our friends and family to act as support drivers, as it turned out these guys came in handy.

Training for our adventure

Some of us were experienced walkers and physically pretty fit, some of us had existing injuries and some of us had done no walking before; we were very much a mixed bag. Personally I have done a bit of distance walking, but not recently and nothing of this scale; I’m also pretty out of shape.

Dave understood that we all needed to get in some training together, and not only for our physical fitness. He explained: “I created three practice routes which were more local, so we could mould as a team, assess everyone’s pace, check equipment and start working together in preparation for our 20 mile Dartmoor challenge!”

Challenges of the ‘moor

Ideally you always recce the area or route you’re walking in beforehand – it makes life a lot easier!

Unfortunately we couldn’t do that and so we arrived in Dartmoor early on a Saturday morning in October, to find things weren’t quite as we expected. Dave said: “During the first four hours we had to make our way through extremely thick fog with ten metre visibility.

“This meant the GPS was out for grid reference fixes and the trusty map and compass were used to micro navigate our way from point to point. I also used pacing and timing along with checking features on the map as we walked, all made more challenging by the thick fog.”

It made for slow going, and Dartmoor wasn’t finished with us yet: “The other challenge we discovered were water crossings and paths – Dartmoor being Dartmoor the routes marked on the map aren’t always as clear as you might expect on the ground!

“This made the walk more challenging but our trusty map and compass along with regular position checking got us to where we needed to go.”

Once the fog lifted, we were able to enjoy the absolutely breath-taking views of Dartmoor – and it also made Dave’s job much easier – we could see where we were going! Dave was able to navigate using the tricky terrain, matching contours on the map to the hills that we could see.

Unexpected obstacles

The last challenge we faced was the Dartmoor cow population. During the second half of the walk we were approaching a large herd when one individual, a rather large cow, started trotting towards us making a lot of noise. Deciding that this was not one to argue with, we backtracked! However, a few minutes later it turned out it was actually interested in the cows in the field opposite and not us.

Two of us dropped out just after lunchtime, due to a swollen knee and sore feet, having walked around 13 miles. Thankfully our support drivers were nearby and thanks to Dave’s careful planning we were able to make our way safely back to the cars. Meanwhile the rest of the group battled cows and climbed a tor, before arriving at the pub just after 6pm. Overall the team managed a rather nice 19.6 miles, raising over £1,400 for charity!

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