WON05- The Safety Pit

Location: Foggintor Quarry

  • Date: Thursday 2nd February
  • OSGrid: SX566735 (E256689, N073590)
  • Travel: 45 minute drive + 5 minute hike
  • Style: Tents

Introduction

You couldn’t describe last Thursday evening as the perfect night to go camping. It’s early February and the winds were howling. The people on the news were debating on whether or not to classify this latest weather system as an official storm- storm Doris. But Doris wouldn’t deter the Wild One Nighter team.

The original plan was to stay near the Ten Commandments Stone on Dartmoor, near Ashburton, but due to the more than breezy conditions, we felt such an exposed area wouldn’t be sensible. We’ll save this one for another night. A man down this week, Paul was celebrating a recent promotion, Stu and I decided to camp in Foggintor Quarry. Foggintor Quarry used to be a tor, then it was a quarry. Opening around 1800, the tor part was removed and subsequent material was used in the construction of Dartmoor prison and other parts of Princetown. Work finished in 1906. We wanted to camp there, thinking that the high cliff sides would provide a bit of shelter.

morning-2
Foggintor by the light of the early morning – a haven of tranquillity in the storm

The Diary

So off we popped! Stu had lovingly prepared some chilli but this didn’t take anything away from our detour to Tesco. A couple of pastries, some for now, some for pudding and a pair of croissants for breakfast and the all and the all important chocolate frijj milkshake later, we were on our way. We headed up on to the Moors and as Tavistock approached, the heavens opened. Huge droplets of rain danced on the roads, bouncing up only to fall down a second time. Conditions weren’t idyllic.

road

I suppose many would be put off at this point and I’m certain there’s a few who would think us a little crazy to keep going. But you never really know what’s going to happen. I remember as a child completing a Ten Tors camps, where it continuously rained all day, all night and I woke up in a puddle. It was an awful experience, but now I look back with fond memories. The really great thing about doing this, I believe, is that even if it’s truly awful, the worst night you can imagine, it’s only ever a handful of uncomfortable hours. Then you’re left with the experience to laugh about in the future. In a way, the more ridiculous then conditions, the more memorable the experience. So it’s fair to say, we were pretty excited for this one.

torch
‘Stealth’ mode

We found the lane leading to the quarry and if you were following all the rules, then yes, we should have left it in the car park. But it was pretty wet and windy, so we drove down the lane. Obviously we didn’t want to be caught so we went into stealth mode. With the headlights off, we inconspicuously waved a torched around to guide the way. We thought we were hilarious. Hilarious that is, until Stu’s WON-mobile started to grind across a number of small boulders located on the uneven path. It probably would have been quicker to walk in all honesty.

lights
Quarry ruins make gorgeous silhouettes in the low light

Finally, we arrived just outside of the quarry. The sky appeared to be clearing and luck may well be on our side. Leaving the bags behind, for went for a quick scout of the area. Foggintor Quarry is a beautiful area and a perfect place for a camp- even on a cold wet February evening. There are a number of large flat areas to pitch tents and with high sheltering sides and the obvious allure of having a quick dip in the quarry lake, it’s easy to see why this would be a popular spot. This is wild camping though, don’t leave your rubbish laying around.

rubbish
Please don’t leave your litter. We found a few ‘packages’ like this. Not cool.

Just as we found the perfect spot for us, the sky came cascading down once again. Sprinting back, we dived into the car to shelter from the passing rain. We got a little bit wet but nothing too bad. After about 10 minutes or so, the weather cleared and we trekked out, this time with all our equipment. Tents up- you think we’d be getting faster but there’s always something to go slightly wrong. This week I was borrowing Paul’s tent and had failed to take proper notes when he had previously put it up. Attempting it in dark and wind made it a little tricky. We ended with a little pole with no apparent use, but the tent didn’t fall down so it was a success nonetheless. I filled it with a sleeping bag, inside a double sleeping bag. There was no way I was going to be cold tonight.

cosy
Joe’s double-bagging policy keeps kit costs down and temperatures up!

Time for some food and Stu’s chilli was great. Now a firm believer that heating your meal is so much better than having to cook something like pasta. In a couple of minutes, we had warm food in our bellies. The rain was holding back and for a moment we even had the delight of seeing some stars. The crescent moon was illuminating the lake and creating a halo around the surrounding quarry walls. Right then, it was a great place to be.

It was getting a little chilly and it felt like bedtime was calling. After zipping up the tents, no more than 10 minutes could have past before the rain fell once more. I felt all cosy, tucked up in my many many sleeping bags, listening to the intensifying pitta-patter of the rain on canvas. It was a good night sleep.

Morning came and a beautiful morning it was. We packed up and headed off. After a little bit of dramatic posing from Stu we were on our way. Back down the treacherous track once more, only almost grinding out this time, we were on our way back to work. Smiles on our faces all the way.

pose

The Verdict

Joe. I felt it was necessary to mention the weather a lot in this post, firstly because it would be un-British of my not to, and secondly, there is no way on the drive towards the Moors we thought we would get away with such good conditions. We were dry setting up the tents, eating our food and packing down in the morning. The whole time it was actually very pleasant. I guess the moral I am aiming for here is not to give up at the first hurdle. It would have been far too easy to go home during the appalling rain at first, but after persevering it turned out to be a brilliant camp. You’ve just got to go for it and see what happens. It might just be great!

Stu. I’m so glad we changed the plan and came here instead this week. The quarry is an any-season winnner. In a storm it’s a perfect port, in the summer – a wild playground. I can’t wait to come back here with a bbq and my swimming stuff! Also, on a personal note- I slept better than I have on any other WON so far this week – I finally remembered to try some earplugs!

Top tips from the trip

Don’t be put off by the weather

Take your rubbish home. No excuses, if your bring it, take it.

If you drive a ridiculously low slung car, leave it on the tarmac!


3 thoughts on “WON05- The Safety Pit

  1. Always fancied a camp at Foggintor but I’m slightly concerned that it gets too busy with other wild campers (I am one for solitude). Is it usually quiet mid week? Great post by the way, I’ve camped at Whiteworks near Princetown and experienced the same issue with people leaving rubbish behind, in fact I’ve driven home with a bin bag of other peoples refuse before now!

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    1. I would imagine off season you’ll be the only one there, if you’re going mid week. We went on a Thursday and did see a single soul. Less likely to be alone come the summer though. Let us know how it goes if you do go there!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for info. I shall most likely be going out of season to avoid any neighbours in that case! I’ll be doing a wild camp at the end of this month but am looking to visit the Sittaford tor area and visit the recently discovered stone circle. I’ll definitely pay a visit to Foggintor before the year is out though. Thanks again 🙂

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