Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Easter must be near!

So Easter Sunday Morning 2008 was great, I awoke in my Akto after a good day of sunshine on the Saturday which had propelled my walking buddies, Backpackbrewer Dave and Chairman Bill, and myself quite nicely through much of Southern Dartmoor, to find snow all around.

We then carried on through a mix of sleet, wind and then just plain ordinary hard hitting rain throughout the day.

Two years down the line and I looked out of my bedroom window this morning to see large chunks of snow floating past, this gave way to strong winds which in turn drove them past and eventually turned them to sleet. It got to around 3pm before I had to just bite the bullet and step out into a rather wintery scene in Princetown. No lying snow, but the wind was strong and the hailstones were hard!

Having made the effort to get outside, I embarked upon some site reviews for naviagtion training that I use on a regular basis. Dartmoor navigation is not as difficult as people think, or at least I dont think, Dartmoor navigation is a difficult as people think; if you see what I mean. But to give folk confidence, it really, really does help if the features they are tasked to find are actually on the ground ;-) So that was my task for today, navigate to and from know points that should be there, and in fairness to ordnance survey - they were.

It's just that the hail kept comming; dark bands of it approaching in a turbulent cold front. I didnt mind too much but I have to say that the spaniel started to complain after about and hour or so of this. Back home for tea and cakes then - obviously.

It was at this point, I thought - blimey Easter must be near.


Ten Tors

It was 1986, and we were as fit as a fit thing that had just come out of a gymnasium... Six of us were about to take part in the Ten Tors Challenge on behalf of our RAF unit. As young airmen we felt it important to beat every other airman, or RAF team, taking part. The resultant being that would run from tor to tor; unfortunately it was often the wrong tor! This in turn made our 55 mile event something closer to 75 - or at least that is how I imagined it. It was a horrendous year for the event with rain, spate rivers and tents cart wheeling across Okehampton Camp.

1987 saw me as a new team leader for the RAF Locking team, we successfully completed the 55 mile challenge but all I can remember was my mum and dad being there at the finish line. I can’t remember who was in my team or where we went - nothing! Why is that? I wish I could, I really do.

Again the youngsters are preparing for the Ten Tors challenge, as they do annually, although now without regular servicemen taking part. The pride and sense of adventure is still there, very much alive and beating in the hearts of every schoolboy / girl or cadet that steps forward onto the moor, or should I have said 'The Moor' - Dartmoor. This year is an anniversary for celebration of Ten Tors, the first year it was run from Denbury Camp for the Army to use as an exercise but since 1960 it has been open to others to enjoy.

So 50 years on from its beginnings ten tors will see 400 hundred teams of youngsters crossing the moor again in May. The main contingent of youngsters will be made up of schools and cadet units from the original 7 counties of Wessex, many of which from my own beloved Devon. Alongside this event also runs the Jubilee Challenge, which allows youngsters with disabilities the opportunity to take part in an expedition event of their own; if you are a grown man, and you don’t want people to see you cry with tears of joy, then you had better stay away from this event... It is the most wonderful outdoor challenge I have ever witnessed, I can’t watch it again, because I cry.

I have the good fortune to be a scrutineer for the Ten Tors event these days, and as such I am also invited to attend the RAF Ten Tors training weekend as part of the their safety team. There are no airmen taking part, it is a training weekend for cadets from three different Air Training Corps (ATC) wings, putting together 25 teams to take part in ten tors.

The spirit of adventure and expedition is absolutely key to the leadership development of our youngsters, it allows them to cut back to a bare minimum, without playstations and DVDs, and explore themselves and their peers capabilities.

"There is more in you than you think"

This is the motto of Gordonstoun School, founded by Kurt Hahn who created Outward Bound. A belief that expedition was at the heart of self understanding through experiential education was the central pillar of his teachings.

The sense of adventure doesn't just rest with youngsters of course, many of us want to learn and to grow with 'outdoor experience'; why else would we be writing these blogs and packing our bags with the minimum requirement to walk the moors / hills / mountains. Putting on your walking boots is like the donning of a cloak, it transforms and transports us to freedom, and maybe, just perhaps - our youth.

Dartmoor has provided the backdrop for this fantastic opportunity for fifty years now, Ten Tors is more than just a walking event with a few blisters: It is the formation of our future leaders, it bonds boys and girls with the outdoor environment and teaches them a sense of self worth and achievement that they will never attain shopping in Plymouth, or on a playstation at home.

So why can’t I remember anything about the1987 Ten Tors? Oh well.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Time to return to blogging

Well any time is as good to return as today...

Wet, wet, wet! So a brief walk out on the moor clearly demonstrated that even in torrents of rain you can have fun... If you're a spaniel that is; the dog thoroughly enjoyed himself, while I was regarding my 10 year old Paramo Alta and thinking: blimey this stuff is good! 10 years, dog bites, gorse, mud and hours upon hours of use. of course I do clean it from time to time, but it is as waterproof as the day it was new.

I think I'll put a chicken in the oven now ;-)