We are lucky here in South Devon. Right on our doorstep, we have this large expanse of wilderness that gives birth to rivers, soaks up carbon emissions and offers visitors the chance to reconnect with their past. It also helps people to engage with the present, in a way that seems increasingly difficult, especially in the metropolis. I know this because of the number of my Wild Running clients, who come here from London, Swansea, Glasgow and beyond, in search of something else.
But Dartmoor National Park is so much more than a tourist attraction. I see it as a kind of canvas, on which anyone can project their deeper thoughts, fears and dreams. OK so it’s not really wild in the sense of the Scottish Highlands or Alaska. But if you believe that wildness is a state-of-mind, which is inherent in all of us, then you’re probably not in the business of comparing landscapes. Neither am I. Much better to see the contrast in a seamless blur, as though looking from a train but actually being in it.
Ever since I moved to Totnes five years ago, fresh from the mayhem of a large South American city, I have wanted to embed myself in the combes, forest floors and granite tors of this magnificent living, breathing relic. In Buenos Airies, I realised that it is possible to feel alienated, even among three million other people. On Dartmoor I can run all day and bivouac beneath the stars, yet somehow never feel alone. Surely this is what it means to feel connected.
But getting connected is more than just experiencing something for yourself. It is about sharing that experience with others.
Something I like about running, be it trail running, fell running, wild running, call it what you will. Is that it seems to attract people from all backgrounds, creeds and sensibilities. You could call it one big tribe. Although it goes without saying that everyone has their own motivations, inspirations, and aspirations. Our scattered individuality seems all the more wonderful and colourful, when it is shared.
Although I’ve never been to Glastonbury, I have been to many other festivals, most of which have had music as their centrepiece. So I’ve seen and experienced the magic they inspire. Festivals have the cathartic capacity to transform lives and remain the focal memory of people’s summers. A big unifying force.
The gestation for Something Wild, probably began while running across the Alps in the 2012 Transalpine race. Every evening for eight days, after running a marathon over Alpine passes, the runners shared a huge communal meal while hearing other people’s tales. It was a fantastic experience.
After meeting Dave Chamberlain, a PT instructor, runner and dad from Ashburton, we both felt excited about the possibility of working together on such as a project. Dave had just returned to his roots having lived in Sydney for ten years.
Something Wild will be our tribute to trail running and our celebration of Dartmoor.
We aim to make it a family friendly event, so we’ll be offering children’s activities throughout Saturday, such as forest school, capture the flag and foraging workshops, as well as children’s races.
The River Dart Country Park offers the perfect location, situated near the gateway to the National Park just five minutes from the A38 which links Plymouth to Exeter and beyond.
The weekend kicks off with a film night, showcasing inspiring adventures and environmental campaigners. Cross Atlantic rower and RNLI dive rescue instructor Dave Whiddon will talk about his strange third man experience, during his 60 day Atlantic row and the long term side effects of eating high energy, dehydrated foods.
On the Saturday, we’ve got some expert speakers from the world of adventure, running and conservation lined up.
Meanwhile internationally renowned author and Devon dad Adharanand Finn will speaking about his time in Japan, the subject of his book Way of the Runner.
The steep climb up from Dartmeet to the hill’s crest overlooking Yartor, has been known to break even the hardest of Tour de France cyclists. So it’s fitting that those who enter the marathon should at least get a taste of this stretch, although they’ll only be crossing the tarmac. They will also run past bronze and iron age settlements, quarries and manmade waymarks, forged by prisoners, crest granite tors, past logan stones, clapper bridges and find their way through a plantation.
We consider Dartmoor to be the perfect place for physical endeavour and endurance. Once a year, every May, Dartmoor is home to the largest outdoor youth participation activity in the UK. The Ten Tors has been going for fifty years. Annually 2,000 teenagers are attracted to the physical challenge, teamwork and just plain unknown. A heady concoction for a teenager.
As a running guide now happy to have moved in to Dartmoor National Park, I get to see clients who travel from all over the UK and sometimes from abroad, to come and see the moor. Some of them were former Ten Torers, returning for a nostalgic glimpse at their yester year. We hope that some of the people at this year’s festival, young and old, will still be coming back in ten year’s time.
Now that trail running is becoming recognised as one of the new growth sports in the UK, I thought it would be appropriate to focus this on our great big peaty lung, which sucks in south western clouds and carbon and spews out rivers as if it invented them. What better way to celebrate the birth place of so many life forces, that has given rise to mill towns, estuaries and even cities, in the shape of the Plym, the Avon, the Dart and the Teign.
Something Wild is a recognition of the gravitational pull of this granite landmass and the spring well of rivers. The Wild Dart Swim, which takes place in August will be our celebration of the river. While the Something Wild Festival will be our celebration of the land.
Review by: Ceri Rees from ‘Wild Running’.
You can find out more about the Something Wild Festival here: