Whatever The Weather
Having survived our first trip together on Dartmoor I planned many more excursions over the late summer and early autumn. I wasn’t always fortunate with the weather and on occasion mother nature would remind us that she was very much in control.
A plan was hatched in autumn to hike about 11 miles from Princetown to Gutter Tor and back, along a rough track. Not the type of landscape that needed a compass as the path was well rutted but the kind of landscape that showed the weather forecast in real-time.
As puppy and I walked under a chilly blue sky the distant hills of Bodmin Moor, far to our west revealed a line of dark cloud. Slowly but unfalteringly this weather front taunted us. Never moving close, never drifting away. Like a giant black jellyfish watching our every footstep, our change of direction.
Optimistic sunbeams illuminated the landscape in all directions, lush green Devonian fields were selected by nature and highlighted in blazing beams of light. The green hues over-saturated the surrounding subliminal autumnal browns.
As the miles drifted by underfoot and under paw, the weather drifted by overhead. The wind became noticeable, tugging at my hat and Dave skulked lower towards the ground. His ears pressed flat against his head for protection, ripples appeared on his black silky fur.
Mother Nature was about to remind us of her fury and ferociousness. Seems ironic to think that by my side was a descendant of a wild wolf, a reputation for being wild and ferocious yet it was the mystical force of nature that would unleash upon one man and his passive dog.
The once distant inky black clouds had by now approached and located us, Dave hunkered lower and cut a straight path, on a mission of utmost importance to outrun the impossible. I tugged my Tilley hat down for protection and rechecked the zip on my waterproof coat.
Within what seemed like only a matter of seconds at the time, the wind whipped up into a frenzied assault on our senses; with an ice cold biting edge, zips and fur were brutally tugged and tussled with. Nature was trying to find a way in, testing our defences; my human coat and Dave’s canine fur.
The sky was black, our distant views to beautiful Bodmin had vanished as quick as the magician hides the lady. A malevolent storm was upon us and there were nothing but a few derelict walls of Eylesbarrow tin mine to shelter behind.
Dave looked at me in surprise and panic as the first hailstone bounced off his nose with an icy ping. He hadn’t seen the iced marble approaching from thousands of feet above his head. With pin point accuracy this frozen raindrop had struck and bounced off of Dave’s sensitive snout.
With barely seconds to respond to this outrage the next hailstone inflicted a ping on Dave’s nose, followed by another and another. The perfect storm had found Dave’s perfect day and made it less so.
I had found shelter, if such a thing existed on autumnal Dartmoor, behind an industrial stone wall, constructed circa 1830s and was calling Dave above the roar of the wind. The green of the boggy moor became white with ice as far as my limited visibility allowed.
Dave was quite literally running around in wide circles trying to find shelter from the endless reign of ice being thrown his way. With a dawning realisation it occurred to me that Dave was unlikely to have ever experienced hailstones as an 8 week old puppy in Dorset and this was the first winter storm since.
After what seemed a lifetime of calling his name, above the howling ice storm, he ran over to where I was sheltering and I grabbed his harness and pulled him under my coat lining as best as possible. His soft brown eyes looked up to me, thoroughly miserable as he reflected on the punishing torment smited upon his nose.
I looked to him as if to say “It wasn’t me Mister, don’t you look at me with those brown ‘your fault’ eyes!’ The storm abated and the wind dropped to a chilly gale, from the previous freezing maelstrom. Dave had experienced his first, though not last, experience of a Dartmoor hailstorm.
The wild moorland is the perfect location to experience the true meaning of awesome. Dave and I over the months would enjoy many more scenes that would make both of us stop and contemplate and be thankful for the gift of life.
The height of winter meant the moors were too dangerous for most and not wanting to push our luck we retreated to walks along some of Devon and Cornwall’s finest beaches. Whitsand Bay, Watergate Bay, Croyde, Saunton Sands.
The relative warmth of the winter sea in South West England seemed a bonus as far as puppy was concerned. With hardly any tourists to clog up the car parks, we had miles of sandy beaches to ourselves. Plus of course the stunning South West Coast Path with lighthouses and hidden coves.
A paradise for a dog that has had a taste of wild hiking at a young age. Next on the agenda was mastering the art of climbing high up on the many granite tors that dominate this magnificent landscape.