Dartmoor Wild Camp 2022

Dartmoor Wild Camp 2022

After a two year hiatus courtesy of everyone's favourite virus, the annual wild camp was back this year! The kit was prepped, the tents were packed, and bright and early on the Saturday morning we rammed our large rucksacks into our cars and set off down the M5, bound for Belstone in northern Dartmoor. At the car park, we rejoined forces to distribute the kit. All of the group kit had made it to Dartmoor, and only one member had left all their food at home, so overall a huge success! It was also here that we were introduced to an iconic item that would proceed to define the trip - Sam Boston's Bumble branded sun hat. Need I say more?

After an extensive but far from unexpected amount of club faff, we were off! We climbed up through the village onto Belstone Common and, after a bit of Dartmoor bushwacking courtesy of my top quality nav (sorry guys!) we were well on our way. At Winter Tor, Ollie brought out the homemade baked goods, filling my little heart with pure joy. And after a brief moment of jeopardy, in which the Bumble hat was nearly tragically blown away on the aptly named Windy Oak Ridge, we stomped on to our lunch spot at Knack Mine Ford, where we got our first taste of Dartmoor River water, served hot and fresh for our enjoyment. There were mixed feelings about the reliability of my water purification tablets but, as far as I'm aware, no one came away from the trip with any tasty water-borne diseases, so I think we're in the clear.

An important element of any walking trip is the social aspect, and for a trip with so much time spent on the move this was especially true. It was a pleasure to catch up with everyone in the group as we walked, and with such a small group of 12 we had a nice friendly, relaxed vibe going which was wonderful to see. As we trekked further and further into the heart of Dartmoor, the scenery got more and more wild, and as we roamed out towards Great Kneeset (a quite pleasant yet immensely underwhelming sad lump of grass in the north moor), the paths ran out. The quintessential Dartmoor elephant grass yomping experience had begun. With so many bogs to hop and holes to (not!) twist our ankles in, progress was slow, but a good bearing kept us out of the dreaded Jackman's Bottom (hehehe) and soon Kneeset was reached.

Every trip has a low point where the energy levels drop off, and for us it came whilst trudging across the rough ground from Great Kneeset to Lints Tor. Upon arrival, most of us just collapsed for a rest in the sunshine, tired from a day of lugging our heavy rucksacks. A few of us were more active though, some choosing to partake in a spot of somewhat sketchy something-maybe-a-bit-like-bouldering which for legal reasons I had nothing to do with! The late afternoon sun really was lovely - we couldn't have chosen a better weekend for the trip - but eventually we had to push on, for it was almost time to set up camp.

For future reference, for anyone going walking on Dartmoor, there's a patch of grass next to Sandy Ford which is a literal god send, the Queen of camping pitches. Seriously, this 5-star hotel of a pitch was verging on fresh turf, and was large enough for a small village - it was virtually a camp site. For any new wild campers, I'm afraid this is as good as it gets, next time you'll probably end up stuck sleeping with a hard lump of elephant grass wedged right in your spine! We split up into our groups and soon the tents were assembled and cooking dinner commenced. Most of us opted for camping classics, based heavily around pasta, rice and couscous, but few of us were more adventurous. A special mention goes out to JJ for frying up some beef burgers on his jetboil, and having the confidence to eat them too! 

After dinner, it was time for the evening activities. Having made myself comfortable, I was perfectly content with a chill evening eating digestives, but our group of keen beans had other ideas, and we decided to scale the western side of death valley to watch the sunset at Kitty Tor - a wonderful experience all round! A fringe group of even keener beans, their desire to put one leg in front of the other still unsatiated, were hungry for more, so we yomped over to Great Links Tor, climbing to the top to admire the views as the last of the spring light faded away. A solid effort all round, and a great end to the day.

Back at camp, Ollie was thrilled not to have to call mountain rescue on us, and we teamed up for a 45 minute epic mission to make a cup of tea on my shitty gas cooker. A spot of stargazing ensued, as well as a professional night time photoshoot coordinated by Ashraf, which resulted in some of the stunning images showcased below. Spirits were high, and a warm buzz filled our little camp spot, but March nights are cold and eventually we withdrew to the warmth of our sleeping bags, the gentle trickle of the West Okement River lulling (some of) us to sleep.

We were up bright and early the next day, some of us having had better sleep than others. The main goal for today was to go to the top of High Willhayes, the highest point on Dartmoor and indeed the south of England. After a spot of breakfast and taking the tents down, we loaded up our packs and began our assault of the ridge, and before we knew it we had reached the top and were taking in the views. There were more great views to be had at Yes Tor, High Willhays's more impressive neighbour! On a clear day you can see Saunton Sands in North Devon from here - I'm not sure we could quite see this far but we certainly had a pretty panoramic outlook over north Dartmoor.

From Yes Tor, all that remained was enjoy a a gentle plod back down the army roads to Belstone where our cars, and more importantly, The Tors Inn pub awaited us. At this point there was nothing left to do but enjoy a cool pint (alcoholic or otherwise) whilst lazing in the sun, before collecting up the kit, piling back into our cars and heading home to Bath, for a much needed shower!

An absolutely massive thank you has to go out to Jojo, JJ and Claire for driving - the trip literally couldn't have run without you guys! Thanks to future walking secs Ollie and Adam for helping me out on the ground. And thanks to everyone for coming along - this trip was a pleasure to organise!


Josh Nicholas

Walking Sec 21-22