Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Panthers, Bears & Moor! Part I

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:


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.
War, eh?

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...
posted from Bloggeroid


  1. That's better. Brightened up my breakfast (6:45am) before setting off down the country with the caravan to try and subdue my obsession for ticking off Marilyns. You did well to rescue photos from anything to do with Picasa. I once lost the whole multi-years lot on my blog with that organisation and had to hire help to get them back which we did more by fluke than skill.

    1. "subdue my obsession for ticking off Marilyns"
      Never, ever tick off a Marilyn, Conrad. They are sexy, gorgeous girls. Encourage them with tit-bits of foie gras and glasses of bubbles. You'll thank me.

      Yes. The Picasa move to Google Photos. God Knows how I'm going to sort this. It seems impossible to link to the online pictures in Google Photos, so I had to resort to typing this all out on my Nokia keyboard and smartphone set-up and Bloggeroid, using the pictures from the phone. It was ghastly and painstakingly slow. I have yet to master Google's new wunderkind. And, like you, I think I have lost ALL my pictures I posted using Google's own Blogger.

      I've been chewing my desk in frustration for the last day or so.

  2. That makes much more sense with the photos all present and correct. Kinda...

    1. You've always been my sort of gal, Gayle.

      Not all the pictures made it across, sadly. Robin's fetish trousers, springs to mind - an image that will now remain indelibly printed on my frontal lobe for the rest of the day...

  3. Replies
    1. Fairy tale? Would Robin lie to me?
      It's all true! I checked on Wikipedia!

  4. Alan after reading this wonderful piece my daughter wants to know what drugs were you taking :-)

    1. Ah, the intoxication of fresh air, Sir, plus the fizz of a far higher than normal dose of Sieverts.
      You can't beat Sieverts, Sir - The world goes mad for them.

  5. Dear Alan
    having spent 19 years training young people to get round the Ten Tors event I fully concur with your description! and recognise every point mentioned. What you didnt mention was did you have to shelter from 'incoming shells? or avoiding stepping on anything remotely metallic! or you were surrounded and captured or ambushed by the resident corp of soldiers there to protect the remains of the nuclear antiquities? [as we were once!!] must have been their day off to drink cider?
    Looks like a good trip, nice description of Dartmoor
    Ian Booth, [Somerset]

    1. Hi Ian.
      We met whole squadrons of Ten Tor Trainees on Good Friday, which happily was a day of glorious weather. They were marshalled by very smiley minders, who looked like they Knew What They Were Doing. I hope the weather stays kind for the event for them.

      There were signs dotted at the edge of the Ranges reminding the reader that there could well be things lying about that would kill you - rather like roller-skates on stairs. I resisted the temptation to examine the stuff half buried labeled 'ynamite.'

  6. Replies
    1. But did you get it with Mr Rayner sitting upon it in his party frock, Sir?

  7. Has Robin got the trousers in Green or Red?

    1. You have me at a loss.
      Are you enquiring about his fetish legwear (in an oiled & shiny rubber) or his night time jim-jams?
      You really should ask the gentleman himself. Or his batman who laid out the clothes for him.

  8. What a great tractor - a Field Marshall, no less, built in Gainsborough (home to a distinguished branch of the Elpus dynasty). It's a six litre single cylinder diesel 2 stroke. Started with a twist of smouldering paper poked into the cylinder and a brave man on the cranking handle.

    Ah, they don't make 'em like that any more.

    As for Dartmoor - well, there are gloomier places I suppose, but none that I can readily call to mind.

    1. The wanderer has returned!
      I do hope Miss W took you in hand for that unfortunate incident in the tea room, Sir. And how was your minge cobbler?

      Dartmoor, yes. Half the time it is a place of extraordinary remoteness and simple beauty. But it does have to be said that the other half of the time it is an extraordinarily remote rain-swept bog.
      We did see a lizard, though. Well Robin saw more of him than I, but he appeared to be a perky little thing.

      That Field Marshall sounds a complete and utter bounder, Sir! No upstanding officer should ask enlisted men to stick smouldering torches into orifices.

  9. I have it on good authority that Bear Ass the bandit roams those contours. I see you spotted my Field Marshall single cylinder diesel with accompanying belt drive.

    1. Ass Bandits, Sir?
      I'll have you know that this is a family blog!


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