I don’t mind admitting I am somewhat of a ‘Techno Freak’ and love gizmos and gadgets especially when it comes to maps, GPS and Dartmoor. Now the company I work for has kindly given all their managers Blackberry phones for which you can get endless fun applications but they are afraid we will be visiting dubious websites and downloading a myriad of disgusting images. In order to prevent such scurrilous behaviour they have locked the phone so as it’s impossible to download anything except company emails. My wife on the other hand has her own personal iPhone on which are numerous applications and utilities of which I turned into the green-eyed monster. So, I decided to invest in my own personal iPhone on which I can have as many fun things as I want. Question; so what has that to do with Dartmoor? Answer; moor than you might think!
Before going into what is available for these modern phones I would just like to share a thought. When I first began seriously walking Dartmoor some 20 odd years ago I had to ensure that I took a map, compass, camera, cam recorder, mobile phone, note pad and pen amongst other things. Today all I have to take is my iPhone which has all the above and more – amazing how technology has advanced. Imagine showing one of the old Dartmoor guides like James Perrott these utilities, he would probably think them ‘work of the Devil isself‘.
Ok, so let’s bring Dartmoor screaming into the 21st century. As mentioned above, my company has blocked all apps for the Blackberry so I can only speak for iPhones and iPads. Sadly I got my iPhone 3Gs just before the 4s came out which is a much improved model and will have to wait another 3 years before changing. So far the only weak point of the 3Gs is the poor quality of the pictures the camera takes so I still need a digital camera (the 4s is far superior for photography).
As a demonstration I will run through a theoretical trip to Dartmoor and all the applications that could be used throughout the venture (all of which were downloaded from the iTunes store – see link opposite):
1) Before leaving you could check the weather forecast on Weather Pro, this will give me a five day forecast which includes temperature, wind speed and direction, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, sunset and sunrise times, satellite and radar maps – Cost £2.99.
2) If you wanted to check the traffic situation en-route I would use the RAC Traffic app which will alert to any incidents and delays along the way – Cost Free.
3) Should you want to know what events are happening on Dartmoor, where to eat or stay, things to do or where to shop I would consult the Dartmoor National Park Guide app – Cost £1.49.
4) Once on the moor and needing to navigate you could fuse the Outdoors GB app on which I have loaded the OS 1:25,000 map. This is integrated with a GPS system, compass, location finder with six figure OS co-ordinates, altimeter, route recorder, speed and distance indicator plus a host of other features. Ah yes, but what if there is no phone signal? Simple, it doesn’t need one to work and if the WiFi is switched off the phone battery will last for about 10 hours – Cost £4.99 plus £9.99 for the map of Dartmoor.
5) Rainfall and Dartmoor go together like strawberries and cream and it is not always evident that a good soaking is on its way but with the RainAlarm app there will be no surprises as it gives plenty of warning. The only problem with it is as yet it won’t say from which direction its coming – Cost Free
6) Still on a weather theme, maybe a barometer would be helpful, in that case you can get the Barometer app which uses your GPS location to display the local pressure on a analog dial face – Cost 69p
7) If distances, areas or perimeters are your bag then the Measure Map app is a must. Using Google maps it will allow you to calculate the above with precision accuracy in virtually any measurement ie; metres, feet, acres, hectares, miles, kilometres etc. – Cost 69p.
8) Perhaps you want to know and monitor your fitness levels in which case the Walkmeter app is ideal. It will monitor the distance you have covered, in what time, your heart rate and then display the results in graphic form – Cost £2.99
9) On dark nights with clear skies it is nice to know what stars and constellations are where which can also aid navigation and the ideal app for this is GoSkyWatch. Simply point the phone at the sky and the map will tell you exactly what stars etc are where, it’s a virtual planetarium – Cost Free.
10) One thing Dartmoor is not lacking is birdlife and if you spot one that you cannot identify then the Bird Guide Britain app will do it for you. With photographs, song and call recordings and information on 288 native birds plus the ability to log sightings it must be a twitchers dream – Cost £6.99
11) No matter what the season nature provides food for free and Dartmoor is no exception so if you want a guide of what to pick and suggestions of how to cook it then the Wild Food Year Book is a must – Cost £4.99.
12) Should you ever have or come across an accident or person in distress then the St. John Ambulance First Aid app is a guide to cover most eventualities that even covers adder bites – Cost Free.
13) Another useful app for emergencies is the Emergency Assistance UK app which will plot your position via GPS and then show the locations and phone numbers of the nearest hospitals and police stations – Cost Free
14) Maybe you are lost on the moor and need survive, don’t worry you can get the SAS Survival app which should take you through most scenarios – Cost Free.
15) Suppose you stayed out on the moor longer than expected and find yourself walking in the dark without a torch, no problem use the Torch® app. It turns your phone into a bright LED torch with also an option for strobe effect – Cost Free
16) Want to go in search of the Dartmoor piskies and know where to find them? Just download William Crossing’s book ‘Tales of the Dartmoor Pixies’ – Cost £2.49
17) After a long days walk it’s always nice to have a pint or two and the Good Beer Guide App will direct you in the right direction whatever your tastes – Cost £4.99.
18) If there is a phone signal you can also use Google Earth and Google Maps not to mention Google Search – cost Free
19) If at any time you need to take notes, shoot some video footage or take a crappy picture (better with the newer model) then all these utilities are on the phone – Cost Free
20) There should never be any need to listen to music whilst on the moor as nature has kindly provided that but should the need arise you can listen to your downloads free on the phone and even radio – Cost Free
21) Last but not least providing you have a signal you can phone or text your nearest and dearest to tell them you have just conquered the north face of High Willhays, only don’t do it when I am around your phone might end up over the south face of High Willhays – Cost as contracted.
So with all the above loaded on your iPhone or iPad there should be a lot less to carry in your rucksack and all for the bargain price of £40.03. To put this into perspective an OS Memory Map computer programme would cost £66 and a half decent GPS system £100 never mind the phone etc. Ok, to be honest some of the above apps have been listed with tongue in cheek but most I have used on the moor at various times and it’s worth remembering that the majority are just not Dartmoor specific and can be used anywhere. I am certain there are hoards of useful apps that I have not yet come across that would be really useful on Dartmoor Days just as I am sure there will be new ones coming along.
PLEASE NOTE: having extolled the numerous virtues of iPhones and apps there are three essentials that you will also need. Firstly a good cover/case for the phone, there is a lot of hard granite on Dartmoor which has the tendency to smash any delicate object dropped on it. Secondly, if you are going any distance into the moor still take a map and compass (which you are capable of using) just in case of flat batteries, damage etc to your phone.