Until recently, I'd never heard of Ten Tors, so I decided to take the 7 hour journey down to Dartmoor to see what it was all about.
To say I was amazed, not only by the sheer numbers of youngsters taking part in the Ten Tors Challenge - attempting to walk 35, 45 or 55 miles across Dartmoor, but also by the amount of schools, academies, colleges, scouts, air cadets and other organisations from across the South West region. A testament to the dedication and enterprising spirit displayed by the teenagers. Their medals for completing this rough terrain challenge were well deserved.
Organised by the Army, specifically Headquarters South West, from its Moor Group Headquarters at Okehampton Camp, Ten Tors is assisted by the Royal Navy (with manpower and helicopters), the Royal Air Force and the Dartmoor Rescue Group; between them they oversee the youngsters and ensure that no one comes to lasting harm. The servicemen and civilians made the organisation and execution of Ten Tors appear so easy.
The Ten Tors Challenge takes place in the weekend following the May public holiday and the Friday was devoted to excited - and perhaps slightly apprehensive - teenagers, busy registering and discovering which route they would be taking as they hike to ten nominated tors and check points. 7.00 am on a dry, windy and cold Saturday morning saw 400 teams of six teenagers on the hillside awaiting the cannon to signal the start of their Challenge.
After waving off the teams, many parents and visitors then left the hillside to walk down to the start of the Jubilee Challenge, which is a trekking expedition on northern Dartmoor designed specifically for young people with special needs, both physical and educational. Celebrating its 40th year, the Jubilee Challenge has developed into a popular event. Close to 400 youngsters took part on this one day event, from a choice of 4 routes from 7.8 to 15 miles, best suited to their age and capabilities.
I expect the sight of hundreds of parents, teachers and well wishers on a Dartmoor hillside by the finishing line, on a warm Sunday morning, must have been a welcome sight as the Ten Tors teams came jubilantly over the hill - blisters and all. Some of the teams of 6 youngsters carried their school banner and a few even arrived at the finish in fancy dress!
After handing in their tracker devices and being congratulated by their families, the teenagers headed off (with quite a few limping) to receive their well deserved medals.
Attending the team leader meeting, Colonel James Coote DSO OBE congratulated members of his team and awarded volunteers medals for long service to Ten Tors and Dartmoor. He said how proud he was to be part of Ten Tors and that the challenge was a life changing event for many of the youngsters taking part, teaching them responsibility, team work, dedication and committment, and would be an event they would remember for many years to come. Although currently available for young people in the South West region, Colonel Coote said he welcomes feedback and would also like to hear from people in other UK regions as to whether they would welcome a Ten Tors Challenge for their students.
To gain an insight into how valuable the Ten Tors Challenge is, I chatted to a student who took part last year, a parent, a head teacher and a member of the Air Cadets
Mrs Sammy Crook, Head of Tiveton High School:
Sammy Crook told me she had three teams taking part, two hiking 35 miles and one team hiking 45 miles, and as an addition to the curriculum, totally supports Ten Tors. She said that her students don't miss many lessons other than some Fridays as most of the preparation and training takes part at the weekends and shows the students commitment. Sammy added that the experience, life skills, confidence and independence far exceeds the blisters on their feet!
Parent of a student at Heathfield Community School, Taunton
A proud dad told me his son was taking part in the 35 mile Ten Tor Challenge and had already spent an overnighter on Dartmoor and 4 one days on Exmoor as part of his training. He said he felt missing lessons was not good but as his son picks up school work quickly it hasn't been a problem and felt the challenge gave the youngsters a sense of responsibility. Whilst training they are hand-held by teachers and team leaders but once on the Ten Tors Challenge the team was on its own making its own decisions. His younger son was keen to take part when he's older.
Our thanks for your feedback on the Ten Tors Challenge 2017.
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