I HATE Dartmoor," said Steve the Plumber, standing with his hands on his hips, looking out over rolling golden moorland and a Meldon reservoir lit by dappled autumn sunlight. "I mean, look at it. What a dump."
He was being ironic, because the moor looked magnificent on Sunday, after the morning mist and drizzle had burned off.
The car park at Meldon Reservoir was the meeting place for a very grand occasion indeed, the 800th hash run to have been organised by the Haldon Hash House Harriers, or H4 for short.
To celebrate the momentous occasion we were being lifted out of our comfort zones and plonked at Meldon, just outside Okehampton and a kind of a gateway to the less-explored northern side of Dartmoor.
There were to be four separate hashes on trails laid by some of our most distinguished trail-layers, adding up to a total just short of 20 tough miles.
What could possibly go wrong?
There was good news, though. This being hashing, there were pub stops built into the route, and we began with a fry-up breakfast in the damp and gusty car park.
Walkers came and went on their way for a day on the moor, looking slightly aghast at the motley collection of runners of all ages, shapes and sizes, wearing a motley collection of ill-matching running kit.
Suitably fortified, we headed off across the dam following the first flour trail, only to find a 'back check' mark sending us back the way we came.
It set the pattern for the day, really, with clever and well thought-out routes sending up back and forth across the countryside in search of the next blob of flour.
The first hash was short and sweet. People fell over in fields and picked themselves up again. One veteran stopped to pick himself some blackberries for elevenses.
We emerged in the lanes and plodded our way up to the doorway of the Highwayman pub at Sourton, quite the strangest pub I have ever visited.
Half of the pub is done out as the below-decks area of some kind of warship of the 18th century, and the other half boasts stone grottos packed with stuffed animals.
Someone said they were 'revived' roadkill.
The entrance to the pub is via the red leather-studded interior of the old Launceston to Tavistock horse-drawn coach.
The landlady still proudly displays a Babycham Pub of the Year certificate dating from 1978. It is a remarkable place and I have no idea why I have never been there before.
The second hash took us up the steep hill past Sourton church and on to the open moor, where the 'hares' had gone back to mark the way with chalk on the rock after the moorland sheep had eaten their earlier flour trail.
They were adamant that their chalk marks would be enough to show us the way. There were seven of us attempting the 'long' route, and we were soon lost, even if we fanned out seven wide to try to find the chalk marks. We had already found our way back to the 'short' route by the time the slightly irate hare found us.
We made our way back along a cycle trail that used to be a railway, then through some muddy fields and over a rickety stile which I fell off.
Mrs H went headlong after stumbling in a big hole in the ground and landed on her bad knee. There were several holiday words.
We found ourselves climbing up through a magnificent archway of trees, growing up from either side of the road and meeting in the middle in a grand arch that would have graced any cathedral on earth.
Hashing, or generally running just for the simple fun of running, shows you things you just wouldn't see otherwise.
At the far end of the cathedral arch was the Fox and Hounds, the next pub stop, and while it wasn't as eccentric as the Highwayman, it was every bit as welcome.
The third hash started uphill again, out of the back of the pub and out again on to the open moor.
In fact it was almost entirely uphill, as we wound our way up and up and up into the swirling mist where the sun hadn't yet reached. Skylarks leapt loudly from their nests beside the path. Cattle and sheep watched us trundle by.
There was a stop, this time in a deep cutting in the trail where one of our hashers had managed to drive his van and was dispensing soup and rolls.
These were welcome, as the temperature fell, the wind picked up and visibility dropped to just a few metres. Voices from ahead and above indicated the next checkpoint, 600 metres up, marking the end of hash three and the start of hash four.
"How far is this one?" we asked. "Five more miles," came the reply. Then, sensing our fatigue, " but it's all downhill!"
And so it was, pelting down to the bottom edge of the chilly mist and out into the warm late afternoon sunshine,
We clambered up to Brat Tor, where rocky Widgery Cross looks down towards Lydford, then down the other side, our toes jammed painfully into the front of our shoes by the descent and our battered knees screaming.
The Castle Inn was the finishing point, and we eased our creaking joints into the seats outside the front door and quaffed some well-deserved fine ales.
Well, the non-drivers did, anyway.
Because it was the 800th, and we all had our commemorative T-shirts on, there were announcements and awards afterwards, and thank yous and calls for those who had transgressed during the day to explain themselves.
Despite falling and getting lost, we hadn't behaved sufficiently badly to earn a dressing-down, and we live to hash another day.