Last weekend S and I decided to go wild camping in Dartmoor – despite it only being up the road I’ve never been before. We headed up on Friday the 13th (Ohhh spooky!) because this was my last day working my normal 9 – 5 job!
After making such a huge decision, and making a radical change in my I felt like I could really do with a few days away from technology and out of the house – even better, out of Cornwall.
Nothing against technology, my house or Cornwall – I love all those things, but I needed a break in between my normal life, as I transitioned into self-employment. What better way than a weekend in wild camping in Dartmoor?
Wild camping was on my summer bucket list, and I knew I wanted to rough it when we explore Scotland, but we figured it was best that we did a trial run somewhere a bit closer to home.
We feared (*I feared) we might get all the way to the Highlands and realise something terribly wrong with our tent (which we browsed for online for hours until we found What Camping Tent for tent reviews in 2016) or our equipment wasn’t good enough. Although we knew wild camping in Dartmoor couldn’t truly prepare us for a week wild camping in Scotland, our short two-night trip would be the perfect way to take our tent, tactical self defense flashlight, sleeping bags and hiking boots for a worthwhile test run.
Situated in the south west of England, right in the very heart of Devon, Dartmoor is a landscape of stunning views, awe-inspiring granite tors, deep wooded valleys with fast flowing rivers, and rugged, wide open spaces.
Firstly, I’d recommend that you have a good pair of walking boots and a decent pair of breathable socks. There is so much uneven ground and bogs when walking the moors in Dartmoor!
My shoes are crafted from waterproof leather and suede with a waterproof membrane for extra weather protection. They are by far, the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. The contoured heel lock holds your foot in place while the cushioned footbed offers all-day comfort.
Women’s Wanderer WP hiking boots from Keen and hiking socks from SmartWool
On the first day, we headed to Fernworthy Dam & Reservoir – a granite-faced concrete dam and lake in Fernworthy Forest, near Chagford. There was parking for £1 when we arrived but there were clear signs instructing fires and camping were strictly prohibited.
We moved on and found somewhere to set up camp, cook some food and catch a few Z’s.
The next day, we woke up and headed towards Princetown to walk around the area, and eventually find somewhere else to pitch the tent. We arrived at the North Hessary Tor and followed the circular track that we found on OS maps, towards to Foggintor Quarry
Parallel to a field of cows, there is a beaten track overlooking Princetown. We followed this path, passed some ponies, until we arrived at Foggintor Quarry. I’d been swooning over pictures on Google, and it lived up to my expectations.
Foggintor Quarry is located on a flat and desolate part of Dartmoor in the heart of a landscape scattered with granite boulders and old industrial ruins. The quarry is an outdoor lake swimming spot suitable for dip, swim and skinny dipping but it was definitely too cold, even for me!
Wild camping in Dartmoor
There were a few spots that were suitable for us to pitch a tent, so that’s exactly what we did.
To go wild camping in Dartmoor, your tent must be lightweight and discreet – basically, don’t use a family tent! You should also pitch your tent at least 100m from a road and it should not be visible from the roadside or residential properties.
It’s also not strictly true that you can legally wild camp in Dartmoor anywhere you want!
Camping for one or two nights on the open land on Dartmoor is perfectly acceptable provided that you choose your spot sensibly and don’t pitch your tent on farmland, on moorland enclosed by walls, on flood plains or on archaeological sites. Please note that camping is not permitted on Cadover, Haytor, Holne Moor, Roborough and Spitchwick commons.
You should also follow four (common sense) rules:
Take all litter home.
Guard against risk of fire.
Ensure you do not pollute streams or rivers.
Avoid disturbing wildlife particularly during the moorland lambing and bird breeding season, from 1 March to 31 July
To respect these rules, we decided to take our hobo camping stove and trekking kettle from Kelly Kettle. The kettle is lightweight, compact, durable and works in extreme weather, to boil water and cook at the same time!
Using only a handful of fuel such as sticks, Pine cones, Birch bark, dry grass, etc. The kettle boiled within a couple of minutes and was a great way to cook without leaving any mess or having a large fire.
We wrapped up, made a flask of tea and took in the view, snuggled up in sleeping bags that have a comfort rating of -4, and on a pair of self-inflating mats c/o Planet Campingfor extra comfort.
We had the most incredible weekend, and well why wouldn’t we, waking up to a view like this:
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Probably seems a little excessive to have a bucket list specifically for summer, am I right? Perhaps. I’m pretty sure that’m having a quarter life crisis – I’ve quit my job to go freelance (more on that soon), I’ve decided sleep is for the weak, and I’ve changed my diet.
I don’t think I’ve completely lost it yet, but it’s important to note, these changes aren’t because I’m unhappy – these changes are because I’m scared. I’m totally scared I’m going to wake up one day and I’m going to have realised I’ve wasted my life. That’s why I’m focusing on living, and not putting my career on the back burner.
These aren’t all overly exciting goals, but to me, it’s really important. So here is a list of what I’m hoping to achieve by the end of this summer. I’ll let you in on a secret – it isn’t to get a promotion or to get a pay rise.
Climb Ben Nevis
You may have read my post recently about what an incredible time I had climbing Mount Snowdon last month. This was a real eye-opening weekend for me, because although I appreciate natural beauty and personally think mountains are gorgeous – I’d never actually visited one in the flesh and I had seriously under estimated the scenery.
We climbed Mount Snowdon (you’ll notice I’m using the word CLIMB here), it was super icy, and at least the last 1 – 2 hours we were on our hands and knee, wading though the snow and using our upper body strength to drag ourselves up the mountain. I knew this was going to be challenging; “why don’t you go in the summer?” I heard so many people ask. But the snowy slopes is what I was dreaming of, so this wasn’t an option.
I’m digressing.. reaching the summit then ascending the mountain in 45mph winds gave me such a rush, and an even better feeling once I’d had a shower and snuggled up by the fire, knowing I’d conquered the mountain and that’s why my legs were aching. Jesus, I make it sound like I climbed Everest – and this is exactly why I’m now infatuated with mountains.
If you’re hoping to tour a small country like England or Wales this year, then there are plenty of ways to do it. Of course, each of them packs a punch above their weight when it comes to things to see. The landscapes, cultural heritage and amazing architecture will keep you going for months. You’ll need to do some research and strip your tour itinerary down to those places you most want to see. Pick just one or two places per day, so you can really get a flavour of what’s on offer.
There are many ways to travel the UK. Trains, planes and automobiles tend to be the most popular choices. The UK also has some of the best cycle routes on offer too. Other choices include sailing the coastline, narrow boating the canals, and walking. The best UK holidays combine all these different ways, but they may take a little bit of organising!
Another way to see the very best of the country is to take a helicopter tour. Fly over some of the best estates and stadiums. Sam from Pleasure Flights Ltd says “Guided tours are often a good way to get a new perspective on places you are interested in. Visit our website for more information”. An aerial view certainly can offer you an experience of a lifetime.
Of course, heading out on your own with little more than a map is exciting, especially if you are touring somewhere like England. Hire a campervan and pootle along one of the country roads until you find a tea room or pub. Without a doubt, you will see some of the most beautiful landscapes this country has to offer. Head to the coast for some wild surf in Cornwall, or look for dinosaur bones along the south coast.
Canal boats are a very slow-paced, relaxing and romantic way to travel. You can see some great tow paths that wind through old industrial areas, or wildlife-rich fenland. These routes are also the backbone of much of the best cycle routes too. Take your bike with you and head out into the countryside to find those hidden gems like windmills and castle ruins.
What England and Wales both have in common is castles. If you fancy notching up a few towers and great halls, why not plan a route that stops off at one or two? There are plenty to choose from, although many are now little more than piles of rubble. There are also some incredible country estates to visit. The cheapest way to explore these places is to become a National Trust member.
Wherever you head to in the UK, you can be sure of finding some real gems. Whether you love landscapes or architecture, you can’t find anything better than what is home grown in the UK. With a tradition of live music, theatre and the arts, you will also have plenty to do in the evenings during your tour. You might need to wrap up warm and bring a brolly, but you definitely won’t be disappointed!