A strange weekend on Dartmoor

Last weekend I was on Dartmoor.It was my first opportunity to do a bit of walking and wild camping since early June.

I parked at Belstone and was soon on the moor. Although there had been some rain, it was starting to clear as I walked towards Taw Marsh. The ford over the River Taw was a bit higher than normal so I used my waders to cross. The great thing about Taw Marsh is there are plenty of places to camp.

I selected a nice spot just off the track to pitch my tent. The only drawback was that there were a lot of cows with calves grazing. I don’t mind cows but calves tend to be a bit inquisitive. Fortunately, the ones near me moved off around dusk.

The next day I was packed in good time. I followed the path up to Small Brook, skirting around more cows and their offspring. From Small Brook I cut up to a path and then cross-country up to the ridge leading to Hound Tor.

Instead of going up Wild Tor, I used a path skirting its slopes keeping clear of Gallaven Mire before crossing Walla Brook and climbing up Wattern Tor. As I crossed the brook, it  started to rain, so it was on with the waterproofs.

From Wattern Tor, I tramped along the wet path to the large cairn marked on the OS map. By this time, the rain had virtually stopped but there were heavy showers circling around.

From the cairn, I made my way down to a dry stone wall and stile and then along the path which leads to Teignhead Farm. I’m not sure why this path isn’t marked on the map as it’s very clear. It was very wet underfoot, and boggy in places.

It was nearing lunchtime by the time I reached the ruins of the farm. I crossed the clapper bridge and climbed to the edge of Fernworthy Forest. To the North, it looked like another heavy shower was approaching, so I sheltered in the trees to take lunch.

In the end, it didn’t rain much. The path to South Teign Head was extremely boggy and wet.

However, my destination wasn’t very far and soon I had arrived at my intended camping spot. This is a lovely secluded place, well sheltered from winds, but with a nice flat, if slightly sloping, spot to camp.

After putting up the tent, I collected some water. Just as I got inside, it started to rain. Perfect timing! It must have rained for about an hour or so. I spent a lazy afternoon and evening in the tent, luxuriating in my peaceful surroundings.

This is where it all went horribly wrong! About 11:30, I woke up to some distant voices. Then there was the sound of a generator. Bang on midnight, all hell let loose. There was the deafening sound of some electro dub rave music. When I say deafening, it was unbelievably loud. I remember reading on a forum about Fernworthy Reservoir being used as a site for illegal rave parties.

If I had taken a powerful head torch I would have packed up and gone somewhere else but I only had a Petzl E+Lite. The rest of the night was spent with one ear jammed against my pillow and a finger jammed in the other ear to try to block out the noise. As you can imagine, it was a pretty horrible night.

They were still going full blast when I got up for breakfast. It was quite surreal to be eating accompanied by deafening music. I packed as soon as I could and headed up towards the Grey Wethers to get away from the “music” as quickly as possible.

Evan at the stone circle, the music was loud! As I dropped down into the valley the noise abated. However, as I climbed Manga Hill on the other side, I could still hear it. It only finally disappeared when I was above Hew Down. What a night!

As I climbed up to Wattern Tor, the weather started to improve. However, I was half inclined to go home, as my trip had been thoroughly spoilt by the noise.

From Wattern Tor, I decided to go back to Taw Marsh via Metheral Hill. By this time, the weather was beginning to brighten.

It was bright sunshine by the time I was down at Taw Marsh and my mood was beginning to improve. After a quick bite to eat, I was back at the car in Belstone. After a chat with my wife, I decided to go back to the ford at Taw Marsh to camp and have a quiet afternoon to relax.

The only disadvantage of an early camp at the ford was that several families were out for a Sunday walk, but after the trauma of the previous night, it was nice to chill out for a while. Mercifully, I had a restful night. The next morning, I had a leisurely breakfast. I was visited by some cows and their calves, but they kept their distance. It was only a short distance back to the car and home.


11 thoughts on “A strange weekend on Dartmoor”

  1. Weird! I had a strange experience with a group doing a lot of of loud late-night and early-morning chanting at Loch an Eilean. It certainly takes the magic out of connecting with nature. Glad you managed to enjoy the rest of the trip.

    1. Nothing like this has happened to me before. I guess it’s a risk at weekends in these sorts of places. Not the sort of thing you factor into your planning!

  2. Does “a nice flat, if slightly sloping,” lean towards flat or sloping? Sorry you had a noisy night. Not nice after exercising!

  3. That sounds like a total nightmare. Is nowhere safe? Had a night on The Nab in the Hope Valley nearly spoilt by a huge party turning up at 11pm just 40ft from me – lights, noise, shouting. I’m afraid my temper snapped and with a loud “For f**ks sake!” they decided this wasn’t the place for them. Lucky break, and a blissfully silent and awe-inspiring dawn was had. 🙂

    1. I’m afraid lack of consideration for others and selfishness has become a blight in society. In some ways worse is the amount of litter just chucked away. The most disgusting thing I’ve come across was some human excrement on one of the rocks on Wild Tor with toilet paper on top of it.

  4. I hate any human noise once I’m trying to settle down – either in a tent or in a bed. It really upsets, far more than it should, and for reasons I don’t understand. It makes me anxious as my brain whirs. This becomes far worse when I’m somewhere where there should be absolute silence other than natural stuff. You clearly experienced a horrendous night, and on such a much needed trip. 😐

  5. I heard this music a few years back…can’t recall exactly where I was camping but it was coming from Fernworthy. Fortunately the wind direction meant only it was only just audible but it was still going the next day. I think a few of them have beeen stopped by police in the past…

  6. I’m in catch-up mode, Sir.
    Even as a youth I remember noise on Dartmoor at weekends – either from the military or Duke of Edinburgh groups. It does rather screw you’re well earned weekend.
    However the wind and clean air the following day hopefully made up for the lack of sleep and irritation.

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