Hike for Headway

Hike for Headway

Back in October, Wolferstans needed a challenge for a big end-of-year push for our Charity of the Year, Headway Plymouth, fundraising. That's where our Hike for Headway planning began for Craig Butler and Jack Harvey.

The duo decided to set themselves the challenge of hiking the equivalent of half a marathon across Dartmoor in December. The challenge didn't stop at just that, as both Craig and Jack accepted various additional fundraising challenges during their hike, from their colleagues.

From donning Wolf ears and tutus, eating crickets and dancing the YMCA, the duo were ready to take on the challenges in a bid to raise as much as they could for Headway Plymouth.

Read Craig's blog post below to find out how they got on...

Hike for Headway – the Dartmoor North-South (Or Two Men Wandering Around in the Mist)

Jack (my onetime trainee), is a frighteningly young, fit and “outdoors-y” sort of chap. He had a plan to walk the Dartmoor North-South route over two days from Okehampton to Ivybridge. Being 52, and rarely venturing off tarmac, I foolishly agreed...

Jack said that we would “wild camp” overnight. I smiled and nodded. Then, at the end of last week, I checked the weather forecast and immediately realised the insanity of his idea. The temperature was not going to rise over one degree centigrade all weekend – much colder at night. He had the kit and the gumption (he likes a challenge). I like warm beer in warm country hotels.

So, early confession, we didn’t “wild camp” – we went to a nice gastro pub/hotel in the centre of Dartmoor and drank some warm beer in front of a fire. But the rest of the story is one of “man vs nature” and gnarly challenges.

We set off at 10am on Saturday morning. We chatted breezily as we strolled onto the moor at Belstone. The conversation immediately halted as, only about two miles in, we started our first climb to the top of Oak Tor. The gradient was vicious as was the two degree wind that howled into our faces.

We rested soon after to video ourselves dancing to YMCA, as you do on the moor (Challenge #1 provided by our colleagues completed).

Within a few more miles we were on the high moor, skirting the military danger zone and using the red and white poles demarcating the exclusion area to navigate. I figured that, if I was going to die, it would be a romantic Captain Oats style death and not being shot by a short-sighted squaddie.

Past Flat Tor, over Rough Tor and on to Beardsdown Tors. The plateau of the mid moor is a vast tract of, what we used to refer to as, “knee high knacker grass” and peat bogs. The going was hard and, frankly, squelchy.

We found a pool in a valley. The brutal wind dropped, the sun peeped out momentarily and Jack decided that it was a good time for Challenge #2. He casually stripped down to his swimmers and jumped in the three foot deep water.

It was the bravest (and possibly most foolish) thing I have ever seen. Jack was out of the water in three nano seconds, throwing himself to the floor and pumping out 50 press-ups (apparently, it’s a Bear Grylls thing that makes you look ridiculous, but swiftly warms you up).

Five miles later, we arrived at the pub on the cusp of darkness and grabbed a pint without delay. The evening was an effort in drinking a few more pints, eating an enormous festive burger and retiring at 10pm. 17 miles done, about 13 to go.

Over a large breakfast we joked about how the next day’s route to Ivybridge - a collection of well-trodden “military roads” would lead to the fabulously well marked “Abbot’s Way”. A walk in the proverbial “national” park if you will.

We left the pub bang on 9am with the intention of meeting some of our Personal Injury team in Ivybridge at 1pm for a beer and a carvery. Time would be marginally tight, but confidence was high.

Kings Tor was an immediate, hearty and slightly bilious climb after the cooked breakfast. We sighted the next Tor that lead to the first obvious path. Before we knew it, we were on South Hessary Tor and the path was laid out before us. A plan had come together.

We walked on. After a while, I commented on how incredibly close to Burrator Reservoir we seemed to be. We checked the map. We had been on the wrong Tor and, it followed, the wrong path – heading due south and not south east – a good mile off course.

We found a “cut across” and re-joined the right path. Seemingly on the correct route, at last, we ambled past the right-hand side Nun’s Cross Farm and I reminisced at length about being 18 and camping there during an annual Ten Tors Challenge.

About thirty minutes later (and after some head scratching) we realised that we should have ambled past the left side of Nun’s Cross farm to be on the clearly marked path to Ivybridge. We were now quite lost and on the wrong side of the ever widening River Erme. It was close to midday and, by our reckoning, we were about eight or nine miles from Ivybridge.

Back to basics, we took out our smartphones (!), fired up the compass and walked on a south-east bearing towards Ivybridge – no paths, just all the rubbish that the moor could throw at us.

Senses of humour waned…

I suggested that we needed to do some more challenges before the light failed. Jack glared at me and then patiently videoed me complete Challenge #3, eating a handful of roasted crickets (they taste like slightly bad chicken) and then off we went again – contact having been made with the outside word to tell them we were running a “tad late”.

After another hour or so of knee high knacker squelching, we were descending off the moor towards the hamlet of Harford and civilisation. Through the moor gate, through a herd of cows and on to the final two, tarmacked, miles.

We donned out our tutus and Wolferstans wolf ears and tails (Challenge #4 - tick) and strode purposefully onwards. The final kick in the wolf’s tail was a six inch deep flood along about thirty metres of that tarmacked road, ten minutes from the very end.

The lovely Liz Makin had been sent on a rescue mission to pick us up - three miles from Ivybridge - where others had been waiting patiently for well over an hour.

Our good Samaritan had brought us bananas, crisps and a big smile to see us home. We got to the pub and hour and three quarters late. As we entered, the barman welcomed us by saying that the bar (indeed the whole pub) was closing in ten minutes.

It was a sad sight to see two, fully grown, exhausted, men in tutus and wolf ears beg for a pint of Doombar.

As a firm, we have raised well over £1,600 so far for our Charity of the Year. We are delighted that our Hike for Headway has helped raise a percentage of that. If you would like to donate to our fundraising page, we would be very grateful.

Jack wants to do something similar on the moor next year. I have agreed... as long as it’s in July!

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