The forecast was for showers, the route, if you could walk in a straight line, probably was 35 miles, in reality, on the ground it was nearer 42.
It took our team on a figure of eight, crossing the centre of the north moor not once (which is gruelling enough), but twice. At 5.00am on Saturday morning we were woken to a frost, the sound of a distant cuckoo and ‘Chariots of Fire’ over the PA system. The smell and sounds of cooking gradually replacing the silence of the night. It started to feel very real now and nerves began to kick in. Last minute kit checks, weather forecast, check maps, compass, waterproofs, a few team photos and we began the long procession up to the start. We said our goodbyes to our young team and watched as they disappeared up to the start. 2400 young people lined up on the ridge, a very impressive sight. Then the welcome address, a prayer, some motivational words, a round of gunfire and they were off down the hill. A helicopter flypast, some parachutes dropping in, but it was all about those amazing children. They were on their own, nothing we could do but sit back and wait … and drink coffee … lots of coffee.
Towards the end of Saturday you start to get an idea of where they’ll make it to spend the night. The team were aiming for Standon Farm, if they made it there after a long days walking they would be in a good place to get themselves home on Sunday. And they made it. As team managers you can do nothing except hope and wish for the best for the team and we were not to be disappointed.
Sunday was all about the finish. Parents, teachers, team managers and supporters all gather in their thousands at the finish line, binoculars trained on the saddle by Row Tor and the track coming down from West Mill. “What colour shirts will they be wearing?” “will they be carrying a flag?” “what time did they reach their last tor?” these are questions everyone is asking.
At 12.40pm we got notice that our team is coming down off Cosdon Hill. “How long will it take them to get here?” Debates ensue … an hour? 90 minutes? No matter … they’ve done it and they’re on their way in to the finish line.
Soon enough a line of six pink t-shirts wearily emerged on the horizon. They picked up the school flag, crossed the final stream and filed onto the track leading to the finish line. It was emotional. Mums and dads want a hug, team managers try to conceal the tears of pride welling up, team members beaming, exhausted, overwhelmed, just wanting to get that rucksack and boots off.
No one can ever take that achievement away from Bella, Harrison, Bridget, Toby, Sophie and Joseph. We are all immensely proud of them. Mention should also go to Sam, Archie, Patrick and James, who also completed 35 mile and 55 mile challenges. Well done every one of you.
Mr Mitch Kingsland, Shebbear Ten Tors Team Manager