The Army is leading an invasion of Dartmoor tomorrow, where up to 6000 people are expected for the annual Ten Tors Challenge, one of the UK's largest and most gruelling outdoor events for young people, and for the associated Jubilee Challenge.
In all 2400 youngsters aged between 14 and 19 will do the Ten Tors, with a further 300 young people with physical or educational needs taking part in the Jubilee Challenge on the same weekend. Together with around 1000 military personnel and civilian volunteers needed to make things run smoothly, and many spectators, that's a lot of boots on the ground - as an army type might say.
Most of the teams taking part are from schools and youth groups in Southwest England, including scores of scout groups, sports and ramblers teams and Armed Forces cadet units.
Over two days between Saturday 11 May and Sunday 12 teens taking on the Ten Tors will trudge unaided over 35, 45 or 55 miles of some of the toughest, highest and most remote ground in Southern England. Without any help from adults they must navigate for themselves, and carry all their food, water, bedding, tents and other essentials for an overnight camp on the moor.
Since the first Ten Tors was held in 1960 more than 250,000 people have gone through this rite of passage. Some might be permanently put off hills by the experience, but for many it's the springboard for a lifetime of outdoor fun.
'For more than five decades Ten Tors has been a National Flagship event, whose reputation as our foremost endeavour for Youth Development is firmly established and the Army, supported by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, is committed to its future' said Brigadier Piers Hankinson, Director of Ten Tors and Commander of 43 (Wessex) Brigade.
'I consider Ten Tors to be integral to the strong relationship that exists between the civilian community and its Armed Forces in the South West, and Ten Tors demonstrates the aims of the Covenant in action. Over the years, clothing, equipment and regulations will have changed, but the underlying challenge of walking unaided over the forbidding Dartmoor terrain to visit 'ten tors' remains as demanding today as it has ever been.'
'Over the years clothing & equipment have changed, but the underlying challenge remains as demanding today as it has ever been'
'Without exception, all organisations involved with Youth Development continue to be supportive of the event because Ten Tors literally changes lives for the better; helping to shape the values, attitudes and fitness of thousands of young people for their benefit and the benefit of society.'
'I remain extremely grateful to the Dartmoor National Park Authority, the emergency services, Dartmoor Rescue Group, Devon Air Ambulance Service and Red Cross and to all the many other voluntary organisations and individuals, too many to mention, for their continued assistance with the safe conduct of the Ten Tors Challenge. Safety remains our primary responsibility; with the support of all of these organisations, Ten Tors is a much safer event.'
'Good luck to the participants and I look forward to meeting you in Okehampton Camp or on Dartmoor.'
Most participants will have been training for months, say organisers. And with safety being paramount Team Managers are also required to attend a briefing which focuses on the extremes of the Dartmoor climate and their responsibility to ensure that their teams have the right equipment. Further briefings and kit checks are carried out on the day before the start of Ten Tors by military adventurous training experts and members of the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Group.
The Armed Forces also provide support equipment and vehicles for the event, including two Sea King Mk 4 helicopters from 848 Naval Air Commando Squadron based at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset. These will be on hand throughout the event, weather permitting, to assist with the movement of equipment and to respond rapidly if anyone gets hurt in the back of beyond.
But it's not all about endurance, safety and logistics.
As well as pushing themselves participants are also encouraged to develop respect and appreciation for the landscape, cultural heritage and wildlife of Dartmoor.
Event organisers work closely with the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA), landowners and commoners to minimise the environmental impact of the event and the associated training, to maximise the local economic benefits of Ten Tors, and to help those taking part to appreciate and understand Dartmoor's special qualities.
Kevin Bishop, DNPA Chief Executive, said:
'Ten Tors and the associated Jubilee Challenge are part of the Dartmoor calendar. They provide a unique opportunity for young people to experience the special qualities of the National Park and, we hope, to develop a passion for the National Park. We are pleased to work in partnership with the military, Commoners and other agencies to help make the event a success.'
Eagle-eyed readers might spot a certain similarity between this year's quotes from both the Brigadier and the Chief Exec and those from last year. But presumably if it ain't broke then don't fix it - much like the Ten Tors itself perhaps, which has now been running successfully for more than half a century.