Rafter is the collective term for Turkey and Rafter is the name we decided to call our annual walk following Christmas and binging on Christmas Turkey, that and us being complete turkeys for wanting to spend three nights crossing Dartmoor during the first weekend of January, a walk covering 30’ish miles.
Our starting point was the Warren House Inn, a great watering hole, serving an excellent pint of Otter andequally good Indiana Bones – both (pardon the pun) were very ‘moor’ish! Settling in, in front of the fire whilst we waited for Ben, our thoughts turned to where we might camp up on that first night and most importantly, who was carrying the most kit – the award for the least carried went to Vodka Dave who had his little pink daypack, 2 season sleeping bag and one piece of warm kit – we joked that he’d have been better off with a couple of supermarket carrier bags!
Heading NW we climbed Water Hill, passing the Cairn, we quickly hit Fernworthy Forest and using this as our border we headed West/North West crossing White Ridge – the going was fine and given the recent rains, the ground not too bad though at one stage I did end up knee-deep in some very wet mud, we’d only been going an hour and I already had wet boots/socks and a wet backside!
Given we’d left the pub late we decided we’d camp up in this area and get some food inside before retiring for the night. We’d already pre-cooked our food and we were quickly enjoying Jon’s excellent beef in red wine stew along with several swigs of whiskey and apple brandy from the various hip flasks. The night sky was stunning though cloudy, the stars were incredibly bright and we all felt quite lucky to be there.
Setting off the next morning we quickly passed Grey Wethers Stone Circles and crossing Sittaford Tor, the sky was blue and we were all in high spirits, enjoying the great outdoors. Crossing the North Teign River, which was almost full to bursting, we were soon at Quintins Man Cairn which marks the start of the Okehampton Range Area. From here we headed north to Hangingston Hill and it was during this time the weather took a turn for the worse – a grey fog enveloped us and shortly after it started howling with rain.
Passing a stone memorial for Frank Philpotts we reached Hangingsston Hill and without stopping turned west into the driving wind, aiming for Great Kneeset in the far distance. The ground here was treacherous, boggy as hell and full of ‘babies-heads’ and with the wind in our faces we were a sombre lot as we slowly made our way across. Realising we were well behind on our route-card (and only about three-quarters of the way across) we made the decision to make a break for Fur Tor thus cutting out Gt Kneeset, Lints, Links, Rattlebrook Hill and Hare Tor.
Finding some dryish/flat ground on Little Kneeset we quickly erected our tents and got some food inside us – tonight’s menu being Chicken Dhansak cooked by yours truly and Mexican Beans and Chorizo cooked by Tug, both were excellent and very welcome. The weather by this time had really turned and following food, we climbed into our tents – a little after 4pm which is where we remained until the following morning – a long night indeed and our tents were battered throughout the night!
Having spent a good 17 hours in our sleeping bags, and not really having a chance to catch up with each other we made the decision to spend Saturday night in the Pub, in front of the fire drinking several pints of Otter!
So breaking camp early and the weather was lovely, but we had the pub fire at the back of our minds we cut short our trip and headed off the moor.
Black Hill went on for ever, the summit never appearing until the very last moment, the ground was completely waterlogged and was tough going. Eventually we were on much more familiar ground as we crossed Quintins and then Sittaford before dropping back down to the Warren House Inn where we quickly pitched our tents out of sight of the road and changed into our dry gear and headed straight for the pub.
That final night was probably our best night’s sleep no doubt due to being quite inebriated! One magical moment for me – waking up c 5am, needing a pee I exited the tent to find our three tents surrounded by Dartmoor ponies and sheep, was wonderful!