A FORMER army officer has retired from his prominent role with the annual Ten Tors hiking and camping challenge across Dartmoor.

Lt Col Tony Clark’s 50 years of service organising the schools’ event has been officially recognised with an award named after him to be presented annually to the person who has contributed the most to its success.

The event gives youngsters a chance to test themselves against the sometimes extreme weather, the tough terrain and to learn leadership and teamwork skills – all the attributes Tony values as an army officer.

An army spokesman said: “The success of an event this size relies heavily on volunteers and local knowledge. Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Tony Clark has been involved for 50 years and the Director Ten Tors Advisor for over three decades.

“Stepping down from the role, he was honoured with an award to be presented annually to the "champion enabler," the person who has contributed the most. Tony will become the archivist, capturing the "glories and joys" of the event that has been a major part of his life, continuing to share his passion that is the "spirit of Ten Tors".

However, Tony says he will not be retiring from public life and his love of Dartmoor means he remains chairman of the Dartmoor Trust – an organisation created 19 years ago. It supports practical projects benefiting the national park through grant aid.

Lt Col Tony Clark's (left) heart remains with Dartmoor, despite retiring from the Ten Tors  Challenge.
Lt Col Tony Clark's (left) heart remains with Dartmoor, despite retiring from the Ten Tors Challenge. (MOD)

The former commanding officer of the Fourth Parachute Regiment said: “There always comes a time for everyone when an era has to come to an end and I’ve been so lucky that I have been involved in such an amazing event that benefits so many. Taking part in Ten Tors is an important building block in youngsters’ lives, especially recently reinstating resilience after the trauma of covid.

“I like to think young people become ambassadors for the event and for Dartmoor. I was even luckier to have been brought up in where Ten Tors is staged and it is where I have served at the army camp. Although some don’t like the military on Dartmoor where we train, we bring together the multitude of users on the moor by working with farmers, landowners and students to look after the people and environment.”

He and his wife Helen live near Okehampton where they brought up their two children: “My heart and my world remain here. I have lived the spirit of adventure with the Army and like to instil it in the youngsters of the Ten Tors Challenge. So many of them come back and do it again. After the blisters and exhaustion have gone, they are left with memories of a sense of achievement. Then know the spirit of the moor has struck deep.

“It‘s been a shining light of engaging youngsters with the great outdoors, teaching them to respect the countryside and the people who live and enjoy it. It’s been successful, whatever the weather, too hot or too cold and wet.”