Daniel Groves

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And Relax

Published: 27 January 2017 · Tags: dartmoor, backpacking

A short cake-eating micro-adventure on Dartmoor

We were starting to get frustrated now; struggling to find some ground that wasn’t frozen and wasn’t filled with granite turned out to be harder than expected, but we’d manage. After some cursing at the quickly growing collection of bent pegs we managed to get the four tents we had pitched, and I settled down for a questionable dinner quickly heated through in the JetBoil before Gerben, Samanta and I enjoyed a round of hot chocolates and headed off to join Ben and Ellie in their tee-pee where their titanium log-stove was burning away.

 alt: Tents in Haytor Quarry Friday night
Tents in Haytor Quarry friday night.

This idea for a mini-adventure had started just a couple of days before with a quick post to the Dartmor and Exmoor Wild Camping Facebook page:

Hey everyone. I’m heading down this weekend – plan is to wild camp in Haytor Quarry Friday night and then grab some breakfast in the infamous Fox Tor Cafe to come up with a proper plan for a Saturday night camp and walk over breakfast. If anyone wants to join me I’ll probably be parking up about 9ish as I’ve got to travel down from Bristol, but the more the merrier! Anyone else fancy coming along?

The next morning started early — you tend to find that the photographers on trips like this are the last to bed and the first to rise as the light the light is at it’s best at dusk and dawn. Samanta and I were up before sunrise finding our angle to shoot in what turned out to be rather dull and cloudy conditions.

 alt: Ben and Ellie's teepee shortly after dawn
Ben and Ellie’s teepee shortly after dawn, Saturday morning.

An hour later we’d all gathered in the tee-pee again, enjoying the warmth of the stove in the morning before we packed down and headed back out. Having not eaten anything by 10am we weren’t feeling like the most energetic of people and so all piled back into the cars and headed straight for the newly reopened Fox Tor Café — a personal favourite on Dartmoor.

Sat down next to the fire inside we each ordered a breakfast our our choice, which I quickly followed with two slices of cake (they’re normally sold out of the Lime & Blueberry but it’s amazing). We spent the next few hours chatting anything from backpacking to mountain bikes through to movies and books while we waited for Samanta’s partner — Josh — to navigate the traffic and closed roads to join us for day two.

 alt: Moss growing on the rocks alongside the River Tavy.
Moss growing on the rocks alongside the River Tavy.

A little later Ben and Ellie headed home shortly before the rest of us made our way over to Tavy Cleave. We started heading up with Samanta and Josh following the main path while Gerben and I decided to head straight up the river, creating a more interesting path on which to give ourselves a little bit of a challenge. Even so, as we approached the camping site we weren’t far behind Samanta and Josh.

 alt: Gerben navigating the slippery and icy rocks on the river in Tavy Cleave.
Gerben navigating the slippery and icy rocks on the river in Tavy Cleave.

As night set in Samanta and I spent a short amount of time shooting before we all grabbed some food before Josh and Samanta turned in for the night. Gerben and I sat up late into the night discussing various adventure plans before heading off on a short night navigation exercise, getting back shortly before the rain was forecast to start.

 alt: Tavy Cleave waterfalls Saturday evening
Tavy Cleave waterfalls Saturday evening, the focus was intentionally placed on the motion in the foreground water.

Sat in the entrance of our tents we were waiting for the rain to start, signalling the time to turn in for the night. Much to our surprise the complete opposite occurred — the clouds cleared and the skies opened up to reveal a bright starlit sky. At this point I sprang into action grabbing the camera and tripod I’d packed away less than an hour before and pulling them back out to shoot some of the scenes I enjoy shooting the most.

The next hour was spent rushing around with the camera trying to capture as many images as possible. A clear night sky has to be my favourite conditions to shoot in so I wanted to take advantage of this rare occasion of being somewhere with little light pollution and such clear skies.

 alt: Tents pitched under a clear sky in Tavy Cleave Saturday night.
Tents pitched under a clear sky in Tavy Cleave Saturday night.

As I woke the next morning the rain was pattering away on the roof of the tent. I love the sound of falling rain against the thin outer layer of nylon on a tent, but it’s precisely what you don’t want when you’ll soon packing away. My normal habit these days is to leave the JetBoil ready to go for the morning, so pulling on my down jacket I unzipped the tent door and with a twist and a click it roared into life.

Most of my adventures involve some kind of a slog. Big, heavy, packs and long distances to more remote areas of the moor — or even halfway across Europe. Weekends like this one are few and far between, but sometimes they make a nice change from the pain of pushing yourself to the limit.

 alt: 25-minute exposure of Gerben's and my tent in Tavy Cleave.
25-minute exposure of Gerben’s and my tent in Tavy Cleave.