Monday, 21 November 2016

Northern exposure Part 2

Some Letterbox walks simply don't go as planned.  Take my latest, for example.  It has taken three attempts to complete my circuit of the 'track-formerly-know-as-the-Ring-Road', South of Okehampton Camp.  On each occasion I have parked at Hart Tor and the adjacent Observation Post.  I was time-bound on my first outing, and I only made it to Deep Ford.  My second attempt was thwarted by poor weather, Mist gave way to drizzle which gave way to heavy rain.  I barely made it to East Mill Tor.

Yesterday, however, on a cold, crisp morning, I tried again...

3rd time lucky...
Storm Angus, which struck the previous day was still running off the moor.  Water levels were high, but not extraordinary.  Deep Ford was not impassable.  Indeed, I saw some members of the public in a Land Rover ignore the warning signs, and drive around the military track negotiating this watery crossing of the East Okement with minimal concern.

I was determined to reach the highest point of the former Ring Road.  Observation Post (or OP) 15. I recall learning about this fabled spot through the visitor's book of the Letterbox in the Warren House Inn, way back in the early 1990s.  As novice Letterboxers, the family were eager to reach Cranmere Pool via the quickest and shortest path possible.  Parking at OP15 provided this path.  Today, it is over 3 miles on foot (unless you own a Land Rover and ignore rules) to reach this remote spot.  I had a number of Letterboxes to find up on the plateau.  However, it was other man-made objects which surprised and disappointed me on this occasion.

I am well used to finding abandoned (non-explosive) Military debris within all the ranges on the Moor.  Yet, never before have I seen it on such a scale as I did yesterday.  I counted 4 empty flare casings and 3 heaps of empty cartridge shells and clips on Okement Hill alone. 

I believe that before leaving a range, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) range wardens expect visiting army units to clear up and care for the environment.  I am aware that there has been no live firing in Okehampton range for over a week. Who knows how long this stuff has been out there!  In light of the advice of military notices everywhere ("DANGER Do not touch any military debris.  It may explode and kill you"), I didn't pack it up and remove it myself.  I tutted and left it behind.  In hindsight, I should have recorded the 10 figure grid reference and reported them to the Defence Infrastucture Organisation.  Its worth noting that the Dartmoor National Park Authority advice is to report finds of suspicious military material to the Devon & Cornwall Police non-emergency line.  The DNPA website lists the old Police number (switched off in September 2012), but the new number is 101, which works from mobile phones too.

I hope that MOD cutbacks are not impacting on their obligations to protect and care for Dartmoor's rugged, beautiful environment.  Perhaps, we'll see learn how tight the budget is in the latest minutes of the Dartmoor Steering Group.  This MOD focused party had their annual meeting at Okehampton Camp last Wednesday, and the meeting minutes are yet to be posted online as per their own rules. Rules, as we have learnt, are there to be broken.  Aren't they?

The sunshine faded away early.  The temperature plummeted, and I descended beside the Black-a-ven Brook and New Bridge, completed my circuit, and headed for home.  Mission achieved, and 21 boxes found.

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