The morning of the day before departure, I noticed a picture on Social Meeja of Mr Evans' perfectly packed bag leaning nonchalantly against his front door. It was probably time to think about some Adventure food shopping. And so it came to pass, later that day, listening to the Nine o'clock News I start the hunt for my backpacking kit. Much later, around about the Shipping Forecast, the situation looks like this:
CLICK ON ANY OF THE PICTURES TO MAKE THEM EXTRAVAGANTLY BEAUTIFUL! HERE'S A TIP: IF YOU 'RIGHT-CLICK' ON THEM & OPEN THEM UP IN A NEW WINDOW, YOU CAN 'LEFT-CLICK' ON THEM AGAIN TO MAKE THEM BIGLY HUGE!
Rubbing sleep from my eyes, I open the front door to my perky chauffeur, stow what I think I need for five days adventuring into the back of Robin's Reliant, and slide into a blissful sleep.
We sweep majestically west-by-southwest and in the matter of a moment find ourselves placed way back in time. Stone walls, tall straggly wind-torn hedges, thatched roofs and crows dancing in the gusts overhead. A perfectly serviceable pub is bypassed and we start the 'long walk in.' We pass Alan Rayner's wheels parked outside his holiday cottage.
The Moor comes as a complete surprise as we leave the wooded dingle of the Shires. We are suddenly miles from anywhere! I have an uneasy feeling that I may actually enjoy this jaunt, despite the inevitable ghastly walking nonsense.
We avoid some suspicious sheep, marked up in cobalt blue.
Spending a while slipping into his fetish legware, Robin tip-toes daintily through a mighty river, and then we strike out across the mires. The circling curmudgeon of crows mock us, evidently not expecting to see us ever again.
The porters have been and gone, having set up the stealth shelters. As Grizzly Bears cannot see the colour brown, I select the Trailstar. Robin chooses the safety of a front door, unaware of a bear's formidable tunneling skills.
First light brings with it an eerie silence. The world is hard and sparkly white. Robin's shelter is empty. Abandoned.
After spending a dreadful night shivering in a ditch, watching the bears paw through his sleeping quarters by the light of the full moon, the poor wretch makes it back in time for the kitchen staff to rustle up a decent kedgeree. I spy a Jamie Oliver cookbook in their cupboards. A few pots of Darjeeling later and we are climbing up into the interior.
This morning I'm told our only concern is the pride of panthers resident hereabouts. I fondle the Opinel knife in my trouser pocket reassuringly and decide to stick to the ridge so I can see the blighters coming.
We arrive at the abandoned nuclear shelter atop the cheerfully named Hangingstone Hill. My guide relates a harrowing tale: Fifty years or so ago all the trees hereabouts were atomised in one blinding nuclear flash, laced with acids from Porton Down. Robin takes another radiation tablet. Just to be sure.
In this part of the Range, the sheep are marked with either red or blue litmus paint. A quick chemistry lesson for you; The red sheep are trained to roll around in the mire and if they turn blue the moor is not safe for human habitation, as the soil is now too alkaline. The blue sheep roll about testing for acidity. Turn red and it is still unsafe for human life.
Forty years ago, at the start of the test, no one remembered to record which sheep were marked red and which blue. Consequently no one is allowed out on the moor until someone comes up with a better plan. In the meantime the army is tasked with keeping herds of radioactive bears and panthers down to acceptable levels. However, no one knows how many of the creatures there were before the start of the cull or how many there are now. All the while we make bullets, shells and very big guns so the factories and the army are kept busy.
Before the nuclear tests Dartmoor was famous for its indigenous fruit farms. Unfortunately, the native pear trees had a nasty habit of wandering off and so the owner of Teignhead Farm built a huge stone wall so he could hang on to his precious pear. Sadly all that remains of the farm since the A-bomb tests is the wall and a few broken fragments of the farm buildings.
Robin stands forlornly on the remains of a noble clapper bridge that once held Autumnal fairs and crushed plums & cherries parties. They say the river ran a deep damson for days after.
Below, we witness the last remnants of the Corrugated Iron Age. The trees stand sentinel to its passing.
Next are two photographs of all that remains of the North Moor's Entertainment Hub; two circles of foundation stone - the last fragments of a Multiplex Cinema & Shopping Experience. It's said that at night it's possible to hear the screams of motorists lost in the one-way system.
But enough of this gloom. We arrive just as the porters leave, to find a freshly prepared encampment. Robin decides to decorate the entrance of his shelter with cloves of garlic and a sprig of Rosemary to ward off the bears, blissfully unaware that they are the bears' garnish of choice for long pig.
To be continued...
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