The annual Ten Tors challenge takes place on Dartmoor this coming weekend, kicking off on Saturday 10th May. Organisers promise it'll be tougher than ever - and that's not just thanks to the wet weather forecast.
The challenge, now in its 54th year, is one of the biggest outdoors adventure events for young people in Britain. Around 2400 yoof aged between 14 and 19 will take part, with a further 300 youngsters with physical or educational needs participating in the parallel Jubilee Challenge event.
It's a simple idea, but for the average teen the Ten Tors would probably be a major undertaking. Teams of young people yomp around a course taking in various checkpints over 35, 45 or 55 miles (age depending) on some of the wettest and highest ground in southern England. They must be self reliant in navigation and carry all their own food and camping gear for a night out on the moor.
The majority of teams are from schools and youth groups from Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire, plus scores of scout groups, sports and ramblers teams and Armed Forces cadet units.
Most will have trained hard for the Ten Tors, not just to make sure they are fit enough to walk up to 40 miles in one day across Dartmoor, but also to ensure they've gelled as a group and have a clue about navigating.
Sounds like good fun. It is also one of the biggest multi-agency, tri service civil contingency exercises in Britain, run by more than nine hundred military personnel - almost all of them Reservists - from all three branches of the Armed Forces, and led by the Army’s 43 (Wessex) Brigade. They've even got a couple of Sea King helicopters on hand to help shuttle stuff around and pick up any injured kids.
But this year the challenge will be even harder, according to organisers, with new routes for the first time in more than 30 years aimed at 'improving resilience and enhancing safety'.
Brigadier Piers Hankinson MBE, Director of Ten Tors and Commander of 43 (Wessex) Brigade, said:
'The Policy Committee and I have implemented changes to reduce the need for participants to cross certain water obstacles and to walk along busy public roads. We have also reduced the dependency of the event on helicopters (for obvious weather implications) and so the location of Safety Control Points have moved closer to road heads rather than on top of the Tors, Check Points remain on the Tors. I believe these changes will not compromise the original aims of the event; to develop teamwork and practice navigation. If anything the Challenge will be more demanding, with the experience and appreciation of a high moorland location and the associated weather conditions of a challenging environment.'
Ten Tors 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 help boost the local economic benefits, and to help those taking part to appreciate and understand Dartmoor’s unique qualities.
Kevin Bishop, Chief Executive, DNPA said:
'Dartmoor is a special place and Ten Tors is a special event. We wish those participating all the best and sincerely hope that the thousands who have been involved in training and the actual event will have developed a passion for the National Park and help us to sustain its special qualities for future generations to enjoy.'