It’s all coming together! After successfully completing their Bronze and Silver Awards, followed by months of training on both Exmoor, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor. The team have successfully completed their Gold practice and are so ready for their Gold expedition on Exmoor at the of the month. The practice expedition involved three days and two nights on Dartmoor and a chance to test all the skills they had learnt over the past three years.
On the first day, as slightly apprehensive team packed up the minibus with kit and equipment and set off for ‘sunny’ Dartmoor. To ease the nerves and as they were staying where day 1 started they were allowed to pitch the tents before setting off (it greatly relieved all anxiety, knowing they were coming back to tents). It was challenging in the wind, but the rain stayed away and the students coped amazingly well, and showed the many practices and training had certainly paid off. Before long all tents were up, and then it was off for the first walk (carrying all there kit, less the tents!). The team had planned a nice meander through the Dartmoor countryside cross-country route to Postbridge. They had to negotiate the local livestock (with wonderful photo ops for gorgeous cows and calves) as well as knee-high ferns and interesting gate combinations! Map reading skills were practiced to incredibly good standard throughout, and the team worked well together, ending up in Postbridge in time for some fine tuning of day 2 route plan and an evening trek back around to the campsite.
On day two there was a much more relaxed start, and after lots of prepping of kit eating breakfast the team was on their way again. Today the rain would be a constant companion, but the students again did a brilliant job! The first port of call was the visitor centre at Postbridge and a quick lesson about the Bronze Age on Dartmoor. The group followed the route they had taken the previous day, so that they started with some familiar terrain. Then it was time to head high – to Bellever Tor. Although they navigated a relatively easy route, the weather was a challenge. The rain was almost horizontal at the top of the Tor, but all agreed that the views were worth it.
After a quick map check, the team was off again – this time to Bellever YHA and off round by Ridden Ridge and across the moors and back through the wonderful Dartmoor countryside, finally navigating back to the campsite (which according to the team was the most challenging navigation of the expedition!). Again, they did amazingly well – working well as a team and navigating their way around a wet and windy moorland. After 8 hours and 8+ miles on foot a group of orange rucksacks made their way to camp. Without any hesitation they shared out the tasks for the evening – showering and cooking. Before long all were warm, dry and well fed, with just a few snippets of chatter and lamps lighting up the tents.
The last day was bright! Tents were taken down in the sunshine (always helpful!), the kit was packed up, and the last breakfast was eaten. (Everyone also made sure that they got some last puppy cuddles from the five gorgeous border collies before leaving the campsite!). The final trek led them out to Wistman’s Wood, finishing at Two Bridges Hotel. They were all fascinated by the history of one of the oldest oak woodlands in the country and enjoyed what was a slightly dryer day and a relatively easy end to the practice expedition. A debrief was had at Fox Tor Cafe in Princetown, before heading to the visitor centre to learn about search and rescue, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and Dartmoor wildlife.
The Gold Team have proved themselves to be fit and ready for their final expedition. They tackled unfamiliar moorland terrain and lots of rain, but remained cheerful and friendly throughout. They worked well together and all showed that they had learned from all of their training. They looked out for each other and coped fantastically with three exhausting days out in the wilds of Dartmoor. They truly are Team Awesome!!
Such an inspirational team, three years in the making and now only a couple weeks off finishing an epic challenge….Gold Expedition, 4 days, 3nights across Exmoor as a self sufficient team.