The second day dawned, although in the dark woods I was not entirely sure the sun had actually risen! My first task was to get breakfast (an apple, some hot oats and a cup of coffee) and then go and find somewhere that I could get a mobile telephone signal. As I walked out onto the moor from the forest edge, the horizontal rain hit me. So much for the English summer! I decided to walk to the village of Postbridge, which was some 2 hours hike away. I reckoned that there must be mobile coverage there, so this would be my best bet to be able to send a message to home indicating that I was ok.
It was wonderful walking in the rain and rediscovering my map reading skills. It took me nigh on exactly 2 hours to get to Postbridge via the wonderful prehistoric stone circles called the Grey Wethers. These are two circles here with stones up to 1.5 metres high and around 30 or so stones in each circle. They are beautiful to view in any weather, and if you are into talking to stones and general musing about yourself, this is the place to sit for a while meditate and connect to the ancestors and yourself! I had recently lost a very good friend of mine and here was my opportunity to chant his name and honour his life in my own way, rather than being ‘led’ by an officiator of services that we tend to do. I wanted to find out more about the ancient walkways and settlements that existed on Dartmoor, so the next few weeks would prove to be a real eye opening experience for me as I wandered about the moor, and as we will learn almost an obsession in finding and ‘clearing’ ancient paths occupied my waking and non waking moments.
The small village of Postbridge indeed had a weak telephone signal near the village hall, enough for me to send my ‘x’ (kiss) to home. That was it, short, sharp and sweet with no expectation of an answer back or a salutation of any kind. The temptation to open my emails was massive, but I had promised myself that I would not do that under any circumstance, so I just switch off the phone and walked back through the rain to ‘home’ in the woods.
Now I started in earnest to build my shelter. There was plenty of wood fall on the ground close to me, so the process of gathering stocks of suitable wood was relatively easy. I was so pleased I had brought some gardening gloves to protect my hands, and a fantastic collapsible saw that did all the hard work when fine-tuning the branches to fit my shelter frame. Within about 4 hours the job was done and just some side protection and covering with moss made my 5 star accommodation complete! I have to say I was very pleased with the result, as it was roomy enough for my equipment, well hidden from any likelihood of being discovered and thus a great ‘base’ to operate from. As the evening started to draw in I went up to the forest edge to view the moor at sunset. Sunset? I had no chance of seeing that through the clouds and rain, but at least I saw a massive red deer with antlers bolting up one of the firebreaks. Little did I know, but he and I would have some pretty amazing encounters in the days to come.
And so, with my shelter complete and some fine tuning around my campsite (I built a small table and a clothes line to dry my kit), I started to settle into my time alone. I started to be governed by the light of the day, so when it got light I got up, and when it got dark I went to sleep. It seemed the animals did pretty much the same except for the nocturnal ones. Most nights I would wake up to hear snuffling and shuffling close by – could it be a badger or a fox I thought? Sometimes I would hear the whooshing sound of a bird flying through the trees, perhaps an owl of a nightjar? One thing for sure was that I was very aware of the sounds at night and, to a certain extent, early on they made my heart go up a beat or two, as not knowing is often worse than knowing what was ‘out there’. As I ‘acclimatised’ into my time on the moor, I began to recognise the sight and sound of returning animals and even call them names. I was slowly but surely becoming more attuned to nature, and it to me.
In the next blog I will tell you about the first real problem I encountered and a general ‘shift’ away from what I describe as my ‘normal’ living to one of being totally happy with my lot despite hunger, cold and fear!