Location: Buckland Beacon
- Date: Thursday 9th February
- OSGrid: SX734730 (E273459, N073054)
- Travel: 45 minute drive + 15 minute hike
- Style: Tents
There are believed to be 89 fire beacons in Devon, although none of them signal that Gondor calls for aid. These are high points on the landscape that would’ve been home to large fires which are lit when enemies are near. Dartmoor is a natural place for many of these beacons, with its high exposed Tors giving clear line of sight for a chain of beacons, hence why there are believed to be 89 in Devon in use from the Romans to Napoleon.
Buckland Beacon is one of these fire beacons, but also a beacon of another sort. In the early 1900s a local man so overcome with piety commissioned a local artist to engrave large granite stones on the Tor with the Ten Commandments. Being a thrifty man he even added an eleventh commandment when the stones were complete but still had room for more. (read on to find out what!)
It was with this promise of a great view and an unusual feature that the Wild One Nighters set out for camp this week!
Joe had other commitments this week, so it was left to Stu and Paul to fly the WON flag. That’s not a problem, except that Joe’s talent and interest in photography was sorely missed last time; this week was a real test as to whether Stu and Paul could take enough high-quality photos to document the night without Joe’s help. We’ll leave you to decide how well we did!
By the time Thursday evening rolled around, neither of us were feeling particularly energetic or enthusiastic about the night ahead; it had been a long week, and Stu was limping a little from an poorly judged hangover cure gone wrong that involved leaping into the ocean the previous Sunday! So after changing our plans last week, and seeking the shelter of Foggintor Quarry during Storm Doris, the close proximity of Buckland Beacon to a handy road made it an appealing option.
It was surprising how quickly being out on the moor woke us up though. Not in a “I’m so cold I might die” way either. It was genuinely refreshing and restorative to be out in nature. There have been lots of reports recently about how camping at the weekend can help reset your body clock and make you feel better overall. It’s not hard to believe them after last night, though I would argue it isn’t restricted to the weekends!
We arrived at Buckland Beacon pretty quickly and left our bags tucked between some rocks to start looking for the Ten Commandments Stones. Considering we only had a rough idea of where they were it didn’t take long to (literally) stumble upon them. The stones are large, and best viewed at night, luckily for us! The shadows cast by the engraved letters made the stones far easier to read by torchlight than in the daylight the next morning. It’s not hard to imagine hikers strolling past these impressive stones completely oblivious in daytime.
As you can see, the carved stones are pretty well weathered, and the commandments themselves area bit wordy, so for your information, we’ve sort of paraphrased the ten commandments into hash-taggable nuggets for your social convenience:
- #rememberthesabbath / #keepitholy.
- …see trip tips at the bottom…
With the stones located it was on to find a sleeping spot. The topography of the Beacon is such that the approach from the North is generally pretty flat, and makes an ideal ground on which to pitch a tent, however, it also offers no protection whatsoever from winds blowing off the higher tors to the north. The ground to the south of the Beacon by contract is steep and rocky, but far more sheltered from the wind. The Tor itself was very exposed, but hinted at some great views for the morning. Stu spent a long time looking for a spot he could set up a bivvy for the ultimate sunrise, but all the locations seemed precarious at best. After a little experimenting, he decided to join me in a tent next to the Tor and to simply climb the rocks in the morning for the view!
Now that we were set up it was time to cook some food and get ready for bed! We were both tired heading into this one and were happy to get an early night and a good night’s sleep, showing that camping midweek doesn’t have to be a high-energy adventure all the time.
The wind overnight was very chilly, and there was a constant light rain / snow (?!) through the night. As a result, we both woke up with one side of the tent covered in a thin layer of ice , which cracked and fell away as slackened the guy lines and removed the pegs in the morning.
We woke up and packed up with time for a few beauty shots before heading back to the car and our Quorn Sausages for breakfast. All in all, a very easy, and very much worth it, Wild One Night!
Paul: A nice relaxed one this week, but no less cool with the added features on the Tor. A little bit of shelter makes a lot of difference so choose your spots carefully and then this one comes highly recommended.
Stu: I really needed a chilled out evening this week. Buckland Beacon turned out to be another very accessible camp, and although it was pretty misty whilst we were there, it hinted at some spectacular views, so pick a calm, crisp night, and you’re on to a winner 🙂
Top Ten Five Commandments from the trip
Thou shalt bring ear plugs (seriously we say this every week!)
Thou shalt use grass to clean pots in a pinch
Thou shalt not be put off camping simply because one is tiered
Thou shalt be careful to orient your tent (and feet) into the wind
Thou shalt camp more!
…(11) – Love one another (Deuteronomy 4 vv 2 6 – 8)
Don’t forget to Like us on Facebook to get next week’s report ahead of the curve, and see the bonus photos from this week!