Decades on Dartmoor - Matt Hoey
For over two decades Dartmoor has been both my Heaven and my Hell. As a young 17 year old recruit, straight out of school, I spent many a cold, wet night navigating through the driving, sideways rain to meet the requirements of the Royal Marines basic training syllabus. From the vertical cliffs of Foggin Tor, to the remoteness of Great Kneeset Tor, Dartmoor was an intimidating, menacing place for as young lad from a South coast fishing town. Many a night were spent shivering, looking into the dark, waiting for a notional enemy to arrive.
Breaking the ice at Foggin Tor.
It’s no secret that training on Dartmoor and its similarities to the rugged terrain of The Falklands Islands is part of the reason that The Royal Marines were so successful in the 1982 conflict.
The boggy undergrowth and “babies’ heads” prove testing for both your ankles and the water proofing of your boots. As a proven training ground, Dartmoor is of the highest order; with its difficult navigation and unrelenting weather, it can be a truly formidable enemy in its own right.
Training on Dartmoor, 2005.
In more recent years, the Moor has provided me with a place to enjoy family outings, long walks and wild swims. I have even started a small business utilising the moor for its climbing crags and gorge walks. The Moor never stops giving and still after 20 years, I am finding new areas and having new experiences.
Whether you’re a walker, climber, cyclist or swimmer; Dartmoor has something for everyone. From baron, remote wildersness, to lush green valleys, there are adventures aplenty. You don’t have to be a navigation guru, as much of the moor is covered in marked paths, tracks and bridleways. On a good day, you can see your whole route and, if you’re lucky, the weather systems approaching, before they hit.
For families like mine, every weekend can bring a new adventure and venue. From easy access locations, such as Hound Tor, or The Dewerstone, to more hard to reach areas locations like Ingra Tor, or Dartmoor’s highest point at High Wilhays, the highest point in the South West of England. Just by being on our doorstep, Dartmoor facilitates family adventures, lazy Sunday strolls and overnight camps.
There is, of course the added attratcion of the wildlife and cattle that roam free. Seeing cows, sheep and horses stood in the road just never gets old. Spring time on the Moor is a fresh, crisp, sunny affair, which delivers great scenery, great weather and an abundance of flora and fauna. But come back in January and it’s a seriously different matter. Cold, wet and at times, down right unpleasant.
- Matt Hoey