DARTMOOR’S unpredictable weather didn’t stop the 2,314 teenagers in teams from cadet forces, schools and scout groups taking part in the nation’s largest youth outdoor event – the Ten Tors and Jubilee Challenge.
Now in its seventh decade, the Ten Tors event is a South West tradition.
Over two days, teams of six teenagers, unaided and carrying all their own equipment, cover distances of 35, 45 or 55 miles.
They must choose their own route and navigate to checkpoints across the difficult, wild terrain of Dartmoor without the use of mobile phones or GPS.
Lieutenant Colonel Dominic Maxwell-Batten is one of the key military organisers.
He said: ‘This experience is always very humbling and an amazing challenge for those young people.
‘If anyone knows Dartmoor all the distances are really hard work and its just astonishing and so rewarding to see them come through after all their hard training.’
The Army run event, is heavily supported by the Navy, RAF, volunteers and civilian agencies including the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA).
Exercise WYVERN TOR is the umbrella event for the planning and coordination of the Ten Tors and Jubilee Challenge which provides essential operational effectiveness training – for soldiers in the British Army’s Headquarters South West.
There was a festival atmosphere on the day before the start with a new fringe event at Okehampton camp.
Alongside the tented village various performers, including Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalists the Soldiers of Swing, entertained the challengers who were in an electric mood.
Colonel Sir Jonathon Van-Tam, the UK’s former Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Honorary Colonel to the Army Cadet Force Medical Volunteers and 306 Hospital Support Regiment, started the event.
In his speech to the challengers, he said: ‘When you do extraordinary challenges like this, you learn things about yourself, and your teammates, that simply cannot be learned through ‘normal’ or everyday activities.
‘I can say from personal experience that the finest examples of courage to continue, determination, and teamwork are all found here in the UK Armed Forces; so, it is absolutely fitting that they have organised this event.’
Alongside the longstanding traditional event, hundreds of young people with special physical or educational needs took part in the Jubilee Challenge.
336 teenagers, supported by Officer Cadets from Exeter University Officers’ Training Corps, completed routes of up to 15-miles.
Sedgemoor Manor School, a specialist school for young people with a diagnosis of autism and associated complex needs, entered a team for the first time.
Nick Creaser, their team manager, said: ‘It’s been one of the most empowering things we’ve done.
‘To get them outside onto the hills, getting them walking with other competitors, has been a massive achievement.’
Warrant Officer Class One Mike Carron has been involved in the planning of the event for the last five years.
This was his last week of service after being in the Army for over three decades.
He said: ‘The one thing that keeps me going is the passion of the team managers, the volunteers give up their free time to give these teenagers a life changing opportunity.You thrive on their enthusiasm, so it’s very rewarding.
‘When people have a satisfying experience it’s nice to be part of a management team that’s made that happen. This has been a great way to end my career.’
The sun was still trying to shine through when the first group, a 35-mile team from Plymouth, crossed the finishing line.
Otto, from Devonport Highschool for Boys, said: ‘I’m very tired. This morning we slept through our alarm by 50 minutes. We started walking at six which is the earliest you can start.
‘We were supposed to wake up and cook breakfast, but we just had to have it on the go.
‘When we crossed the finish line it was a weird feeling that we had actually done it.
‘There were moments where it was just awful and there were moments that were brilliant. It was upand down, up and down!
- Out of the 386 teams to start the event, 360 finished – 93.3%
- Out of the 2,314 individuals to start the event, 2079 finished – 93.2%
- Jubilee Challenge: Out of the 336 individuals to start the event, 336 finished – 100%