years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
Well the day finally arrived. No more excuses. Time to put our feet where generous supporters’ money was and tackle the wilds of Dartmoor National Park. Knowing just how inclement and downright hostile the moors can be, the team was understandably rather nervous. Despite getting sorted with all the right kit from survival bags and fluorescent jackets, to sun cream and t-shirts, most team members knew - in their hearts - that they had not found the time for all that training that they had planned months before, when the idea of a team challenge was first dreamt up!
Five members from the Cornwall office, including lovely volunteer Kayleigh Williams and her partner Rob Habbeshaw and Gill’s partner Chris Berry, set off from Liskeard at 7am to meet up with Nicky, James and Chris Vyvyan-Robinson at Harford (just outside Ivybridge). Obviously someone must have done something right or our many well-wishers’ prayers had been answered because, although cloudy, visibility was pretty good, which is not normal for Dartmoor, more usually known for its swirling mist and rain. Ghost stories abound and many a hardened army training corps has learned respect for the landscape the hard way!
A spring in our step, the bears, cats and dogs in our hearts
With a spring in our step and the bears, cats and dogs in our hearts, we were off. At first, the going was easy and everyone was in high spirits as we followed the ‘Two Moors Way’. We were slightly lulled into a false sense of security because, after lunch, the nice easy path petered out and the story became rather different …
Navigating the ‘babies heads’ and skirting round the treacherous mires was really hard going and with soggy and sore feet, and aching hips, we plodded on. Thankfully, James’ navigation was spot on and we were relieved to finally get sight of our sanctuary for the night near Two Bridges from on top of one of the moor’s beautiful tors. Unfortunately it still looked rather far away but, after walking for eiight and half hours, a hobbling crew finally made it at 5.30 pm and were greeted by the friendly faces of fellow staff member Eileen and her husband, Jim. Poor Eileen had been prevented from taking part by a dental infection but the sight of a lit log-burner and a boiling kettle at the Bunkhouse made us all very grateful that they had accompanied us as ground crew!
After collapsing in front of the fire for a bit, we headed to the pub for beer and food. No late night though, at 8.30pm we were heading back exhausted and ready for bed.
It was with dread that Sunday morning came and we all compared our aches and pains and blisters but after breakfast we were off again and climbing up on to the moors. This time the weather was unbelievably wonderful – great visibility, clear blue skies and the moors looking spectacular, covered in tiny lambs and very pregnant wild ponies. Morale was definitely boosted as we headed for the normally closed area of the army’s firing ranges. Luckily no mortars being launched today! After the wilds of the uplands, we descended gradually through gorgeous scenery, including woodland and across rivers on stepping-stones, with hedgerows bursting with blossom and wild flowers. Young Chris (Nicky’s son) skipped along, closely followed by his new best friend Kandi (Gill’s collie), who spent a joyous weekend running at least twice the distance and diving for stones in every river we came across. Bringing up the rear was Gill, for safety reasons of course!?! At Sunday’s lunch, we were joined by two confident Shetland ponies … if only they were a bit bigger …
Sun beaten and very tired the team of eight finally made it into the beautiful village of Lydford and the finish line, predictably in a pub, where we enjoyed well earned pints. Brilliant!
A huge thanks from our intrepid team (Nicky, James, Chris, Gill, Chris, Sue, Kayleigh, Rob, Eileen and Jim) to everyone who kept us going with their wonderful sponsorship. There is still time to add to our fund for the animals please click on our justgiving link below: