The Dartmoor National Park covers an area of 953 square kilometres and according to the latest STEAM report some 2.4 million people visit each year. Many of these people come to the park with little or no knowledge of the area but want to enjoy the numerous aspects that Dartmoor has to offer. It is fair to say that to some people who are not acquainted with the moor it can be a daunting prospect to explore its vast expanses. To overcome this problem the Dartmoor National Park traditionally provided a range of guided walks in order that those wishing to could safely enjoy all that Dartmoor has to offer. These walks were led by fully qualified guides who each had an extensive knowledge of every facet of the moor. Over the years countless people had taken the opportunity to participate in such walks which led to an enhanced experience of their visits.
Unfortunately in 2012 the Dartmoor National Park Authority was faced with drastic budget cuts and in order to recoup some of this deficit decided to stop providing their programme of guided walks. This meant that many visitors would no longer be able to visit and learn about Dartmoor under expert guidance which would be a great loss to many. Fortunately a group of guides who previously led the former National Park’s walks decided to continue this valuable service under the auspices of ‘Moorland Guides‘.
A guided walk exploring Dartmoor’s industrial past with a Moorland Guide
The co-ordinator of ‘Moorland Guides’ is Simon Dell MBE who himself is a noted Dartmoor author and experienced guide and he explains below how and why the group came into being:
“Moorland Guides is a newly created small co-operative of existing and qualified guides who, for many years, have been working with the Dartmoor National Park Authority in providing and leading guided walks and also supporting the educational programme by guiding school groups from both this country and abroad.
Over the past year along with the austerity measures imposed by central government many organisations have had to review their work and rationalise their manpower and services. The Dartmoor National Park has not been immune from that challenging situation and has had to make some very difficult decisions to move forward into a future with a much reduced income.
One of the various ways identified to reduce expenditure by the Authority was to look closely at the provision of the guided walk service. To that end, from 1st April 2012 the Authority stopped providing the existing public guided walks programme and also relinquished the international student guided walks involvement. They retained responsibility for the educational walks service for UK schools and colleges although Moorland Guides are now receiving approached by these schools groups as well.
Rather than look at this is a negative way it actually provided a great opportunity for the guides themselves to look at the guided walk programme and take it forward as a private entity. It gives us, the guides, the chance to really expand the variety of walks available and to listen to our clients and customers and provide a new and innovative programme of walks aimed at all abilities and groups.
The guides have become a small ‘co-operative’ and consists of many of the qualified guides who had previously been engaged in the work of the Dartmoor National Park as well as a number who have joined the ranks of Moorland Guides since its launch.. We will also take on the international student guiding as well as providing guides to the National Park to help with their retained responsibility of leading guided walks and educational visits for UK schools, which is what we have done for years.
So it’s really a win-win situation. The Dartmoor National Park Authority reduces its expenditure regarding the guided walks, the public still have the opportunity to enjoy walks, schools retain the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful qualities of Dartmoor and international visiting students are still able to come and visit this special area. Nobody loses out and the guides are delighted that we can still do what we do best in an area of outstanding beauty and interest!
The guides will still be properly qualified, insured and trained. They will have their moorland first aid qualifications and CRB checks so nothing changes from when we engaged solely with the National Park. As you see their website at www.moorlandguides.co.uk develop you will no doubt notice that our guided walk programme will also extend to beyond Dartmoor itself, our guides also work on Exmoor, Lundy Island, The Jurassic Coast and even as far as Hadrian’s Wall ! We chose “Moorland Guides” as a name because it did not give the impression of being restricted only to Dartmoor, and the logo is that of the Tormentil flower which grows on moorland.“
School Children enjoying Dartmoor with ‘Moorland Guides‘
A ‘Moorland Guides‘ visitor’s walk
The ‘Moorland Guides‘ portfolio of Dartmoor walks ranges far and wide across Dartmoor and are tailored to every level varying from easy to strenuous. In addition there are night navigation and GPS mapping skills workshops along with various themed walks. As Simon mentioned above, it is not only Dartmoor where the ‘Moorland Guides‘ lead their walks as many other nationwide locations are catered for. For much more information visit the ‘Moorland Guides‘ website where you can meet the guides, see the calendar of upcoming walks and much more, simply click the banner below:
On a personal note, when I first started walking Dartmoor it was normally on my own and I can remember at times the feelings of trepidation when faced with the remote and wild parts of its landscape. In hindsight all that could have been avoided if I had made use of the guided walks in order to gain some confidence. Additionally, in those early days I blindly walked by countless features of interest that with the benefit of a guide would have been fully explained.
It is a well known fact that the average visitor to Dartmoor ventures no further that 400 metres from a car park which will give very little or no insight into what wonders lie beyond. So if you are visiting the moor this year get a proper taste of what ‘real’ Dartmoor looks like and go on a ‘Moorland Guides‘ walk – I know I will!