Monday, 31 December 2012

New Year's Resolutions


New Year's Eve has always been a time for looking back to the past, and more importantly, forward to the coming year.

Most people fail in adhering to their stated New Year's resolutions. Studies have shown specifically, 22% fail after one week, 40% after one month, 50% after three months, 60% after six months, and 81% after twenty-four months
So let me try: Here are my 2013 New Year resolutions.

1.  Drink more water. I'm useless at staying hydrated, and the benefits of drinking plenty of fluids are well known. Drinking when out on Dartmoor even when its cold and raining is something I simply don't do 

2.  One of my New Year's resolutions is to not sit at the computer as much. I'll try to stand and type as well.

3.  Eat more local. I am ashamed to say I have eaten at just two Dartmoor Eateries, and supped at just one Dartmoor Inn in the last 12 months. Shame! Though as a vegetarian, I'd welcome any recommended spots to eat!

4.  Get out on the Moor more often. I have spent less time on Dartmoor in the past year than at any point in the last 5 years. Time for that trend to stop.

5.  A gathering at Fur Tor (North) this New Years Day appears cancelled – almost certainly a victim of the torrential rainfall coming at the end of one of the wettest years on record. The more distant and lofty peaks, outcrops and points must feature higher up my walk schedule, after my most recent jaunts have tended to be within spitting disance of the car.

6.  Decide on my actual letterboxing name: WITC or whoisthechallenger? Or Who is the challenger.

7.  Keep siting some nice boxes. I would like to site 4 more sets this year.

8.  Do the Ancient Dartmoor Perambulation walk (http://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Dartmoor's+Ancient+Boundary+Perambulation). I need a challenge this year. Its a pity that the Kirkpatrick website is down, cause I'd love to add my name to their list of Perambulation completers.

9.  Finally, and as the blog 'counter' reveals the number of hits on my blog has overtaken the number of boxes I've ever found, I vow to continue blogging my Dartmoor Letterboxing adventures.

Thats all! I'm off to countdown to midnight now. Wishing everyone a happy and peaceful new 2013. May your letterboxes be easy to find and your routes be kind underfoot.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Happy holidays!


I'll start by saying that I hope that all my blog readers had an enjoyable and peaceful Christmas.  

Boxing Day is a day we usually set aside for a day letterboxing on the moors.  Unfortunately, this year, our Boxing Day plans were someone dampened by the weather.  With yet more rainfall and strong winds piling in from the Atlantic, we had to make do with a stroll down the River Dart between New Bridge and Holne, watching the canoeists and marvel at the force of a mighty river in spate.


Heres hoping that the new year will bring us drier weather, and happy days on the high moor.  Happy holidays everyone!


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

New clues: Christmas 2012 letterbox walk



Whoisthechallenger's Christmas walk has now been sited in the Leedon Tor/Ingra Tor area.  It will be on site until the end of January 2013.  Mayan apocolypse dependant...

No.1
Contains visitors book.

No.2

No.3

No.4
Contains visitors book.

No.5

No.6

No.7
Contains visitors book.

The Christmas walk has now been removed from the Moor.  New series to follow in 2013.

Missing boxes will not be replaced.  Please hide the boxes well, and ensure the pot lids are secure - some of the stamps are single potted.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Ingra Tor and the Princetown Branch Line


It has been some time since we've walked around Ingra Tor. This diminutive peak looks up to far loftier places such as Harford Moor Gate and Two Bridges. Yet at just 339 metres, this lowly spot is perfect for short Winter days, when the weather could turn bad suddenly.  Yet perched far above the Walkham valley, Ingra Tor's position feels airy and dramatic.


And so with less than perfect weather forecast, WITC set their sights on Ingra Tor and Leedon Tor last weekend. Though foggy at the Devon coast, the sun was shining at Goadstone Pond, with little sign of cloud or rain (or snow!). In fact, it wasn't so cold either, and the hat and gloves remained in the bag.


Below us the crowds, on bikes or walking dogs streamed up and down the old track bed of the Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway. This railway provided regular transport links between Princetown and Yelverton between 1883 and 1952 for passengers and freight. Seven trains per day made the return journey in 1952, though none on Sundays.

As we followed the line of the railway gently uphill, the clouds rolled in. With regular diversions for letterboxes, our route took us on a loop of Ingra Tor and up the Yes Tor Brook towards North Hessary. It was about this point on our walk that the rain started to fall.

But we were satisfied with the day's progress and turning for home, we were blessed with some late sunshine.  8 miles travelled and 14 boxes found. 


Sunday, 25 November 2012

Floody hell

The West country is suffering after recent rains, videos uploaded to Youtube (removed Apr 2013) showed surface water flowing down Station Road in Bovey Tracey after several days - perhaps weeks - of excessive rain.  More than 5 inches of rain has fallen on Dartmoor in the past 4 days - according to Dartcom.

One Youtube video shows a Land Rover heading towards, and returning from, the swollen River Bovey passing a crowd of onlookers gathered outside letterboxer's favourite - The Dolphin Hotel - late last night.

The weather this past week has been bad enough to keep WITC away, and we are still to site our Christmas walk.  More news to follow.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Christmas shopping

There are 42 sleeps till Santa, but we are still shopping for gear.

A new compass was the first thing on our list.  On Dartmoor days when the temperature was anything less than 'hot', a large bubble appeared inside the capsule of our old Silva Expedition 54, which was not just irritating, but bearing inhibitive too.  Fair play to the thing - it was well over a decade old and is well used and abused.  It's replacement is shiny, and certainly performs in lower temperatures!

We have been looking at other Winter bargains too.  The waterproof and grippy Regatta Mid X-LT boots at Gaynor Sports in Ambleside are reduced to clear:  Were £75, now £19.99.   www.gaynors.co.uk

Trespass's knitted Thinsulate gloves from Play.com.  £2 off, so now just £4.99.  www.play.com

"Engineered for optimal moisture management during stop-and-go activities", the Arc'teryx phase AR thermal long sleeve top seems purpose made for letterboxing in Winter.  And Kountry Kit in Tavistock have it at the most competitive price.  £46.  shop.kountrykit.com

Dry feet are a bonus this time of year, and containing both Coolmax (for dry feet) and insect repellent,  Bugsox do the trick.  These socks are discounted by 35% at Above & Beyond.  www.aboveandbeyond.co.uk

And while you're there, update your OS Explorer map.  £5.59 with free delivery is considerably cheaper than WHSmith or Millets...  www.aboveandbeyond.co.uk

The WITC Christmas Walk should be sited in the next week or so - weather dependant!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Flag up: The Mires Project

Something caught our eye on our last walk between Sandy Hole Pass and Lade Hill.  Small flags fluttering in the breeze, on the slopes beneath Statts House.



This is the Dartmoor Mires Project in action again.  Part of the same National Park Authority/Environment Agency/Exeter University collaboration reported previously at Flat Tor Pool.  This area of Winneys Down is now covered in unnaturally shaped ponds and these little boundary flags.  The marks on the moor are obvious.  The digger tracks on Winneys Down are still visible more than a year after the work was completed.

This attempt at re-wetting Dartmoor slopes has been described by the Dartmoor Society, and Dr Tom Greeves as interfering with pristine landscape, the expenditure of thousands of pounds unnecessarily  and the subsequent hazard to humans and wildlife.  The Environment Agency highlights the benefits of peat bog creation: namely providing a carbon sink, improving water quality and increased biodiversity.

Two 'Youtube' videos exist, with both sides of the argument explained.  I'd love to hear some opinions.

The case FOR: c/o Dartmoor National Park Authority

And then AGAINST: The Dartmoor Society

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Just checking!


Today, WITC followed in our footsteps in order to check our Rangale of deer series. Sited in April, the set has been on the moor during one of the wettest Summers on record, and we were conscious how many of the main stamps (if not the books) were not double-potted, risking damage if any moisture got in. Conditions under foot were ‘spongy’, and we were forced to walk upstream to Kit Rocks in order to cross the East Dart.
We walked our series in reverse, in the hope of gathering information of the previous boxes through visitor book comments.  We were aware of at least one box in trouble, and were keen to check that they were all on site, and dry.  Today’s forecast of sunshine was the only motivation we needed to get out there.  Firing in Okehampton Military Range would not affect us.
The Rangale clues have been visible, and accessible via this blog, and we were curious about who had visited the stamps also.  Numbers varied between individual boxes, but we have had approximately 25 letterboxers complete the set, and that is pleasing.
Unfortunately, Broad Marsh and Lade Hill boxes were water damaged.  In both cases we removed them from the moor.  Our original blog post has been amended accordingly.  We will probably now take the entire set off the moor in early 2013.  I guess we have learnt lessons in stamp manufacturing, and box construction.  To their credit, the actual rubber Tanda Stamps have remained in one piece, so they are a ‘recommend’.  Find them at www.TandaStamps.com.
All the other boxes and stamps are in reasonable or good condition, which delights us.  We hope to site our Christmas walk in the next 4-6 weeks.   
More details to follow!

Overall, including a diversion to Braddon Tor and Kit Rocks, 13.4 miles walked, and 9 other boxes found.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Battle Plans Part IV












(Planning Application 0501/12, Cramber Training Area, Dartmoor National Park Authority)

As promised in last year's Integrated Rural Management Plan (see post Battle Plans III - Any clearer?), the MOD have submitted a planning application to continue using the Cramber Tor area (highlighted above) as a 'dry' military training area.  The news of the application can be found on the Dartmoor National Park Authority website.  The DNPA reports that the area "has had a number of temporary consents since the 1980s for military training. This time the MOD want a permanent planning permission" (www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/planning/cramber-tor).

Reading through the application (as I have) it appears that, by and large, the MOD will continue to use the area in the same way it always has.  The last consultation (back in 2002) produced the following guidelines for training in the Cramber area:
1.  Use to continue until 3 January 2013, but with a review, to consider the results of monitoring and the changing needs of the armed forces, in the first half of 2008. 
2.  No training to take place on Sundays, public holidays and during the month of August. 
3.  A strategy for monitoring the impact of military use on the area, utilising the existing baseline data, shall be submitted for approval by the Authority within three months of the date of the decision letter. An annual monitoring report shall be submitted to the Authority. 
4.  No digging or wiring, within the areas defined on the plan attached to this letter, avoidance of heather areas and full reinstatement of the ground after any exercise. All such operations to be monitored as part of the strategy referred to above. 
5.  No tracked vehicles to use the area and no wheeled vehicles other than landrovers (excluding the one tonne variant) to use the area. Such use to be confined to the existing track through the area, with entry to it only from the western end, via Burrator Forest, and no entry or exit at the eastern end via the Whiteworks road. The MOD, through Standing Orders, to ensure the minimum possible use by vehicles. 
6.  Tenting in excess of four tents to be confined to the agreed tented camp areas (defined on the plan attached to the decision letter). Such use to avoid areas of heather and to be no closer than 20m from any area of identified archaeological significance. 
7.  Standing Orders to ensure that, as far as possible, the risk of fires is minimised, and to ban the use of pyrotechnics at times of high fire risk (a method of identifying such times to be agreed through the Military Working Party). 
8.  A strategy for controlling accidental fires, together with any necessary restoration measures, to be submitted for approval by the Authority within one month of the date of the decision letter. 
9.  Helicopters not to be used on Saturdays, except in emergencies. 
10. . The use of blanks and pyrotechnics to be restricted to no more than 12 Saturdays in the year and no more than two Saturdays in any one month. 
11. . Whenever avoidable no individual groups of greater than 35 personnel shall use the area between 1 March and 15 July in any year. 
12.  No works to take place within 100m of any watercourse.  
13.  Any controlled waste produced as a result of training exercises shall be properly disposed of off-site. 
14.  All possible measures to mitigate any effects of the use of the area for training, shall be implemented in accordance with arrangements agreed with the Authority.
(Planning Application 0501/12, Executive Summary, Dartmoor National Park Authority)

Dry training, the MOD insist, must happen on the South Moor, as opposed to one of the North Moor Ranges because of the distance from Plymouth, and the city's military bases.  In order to maximise training time without the requirement for troops to camp out.

The planning application submitted includes this information:


The proposal currently being considered by DNPA for [Cramber Training Area] to be used for dry military training will continue to adhere to these conditions except for:· Condition 5 – It is suggested that reference to ‘landrover’ is removed as this is make specific and replaced with ‘vehicle weighing less than 2 tonnes with four wheeled drive capability.’· Condition 11 - The MOD would like to increase the number of personnel in a group to 50 in line with DNPA Recreation and Access strategy 2011 – 2017.
(Planning Application 0501/12, Executive Summary, Dartmoor National Park Authority)

In our experience, we have only seen blue waterproof clad Marines and Cadets wandering around the Cramber area, and I was keen to find out what they were intending to do in a dry military training area.  The DNPA report states that such an area allows for "walking, map work, laying wires for communication purposes, digging trenches, camping, military manoeuvres with troops including use of pyrotechnics, non explosive devices, and occasional use of helicopters"  (www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/planning/cramber-tor).  The planning application specifies the percentage of military time is dedicated to each activity.


(Planning Application 0501/12, Application for Planning Permission, Dartmoor National Park Authority) 


I couldn't help but wonder:  51% of their time walking... 5% crawling.. 4% digging and 9% hiding?  Isn't that letterboxing?!?

The Ministry of Defence held a public exhibition in Princetown yesterday, but if you weren't there, you can still view the whole application via the Dartmoor National Park website (search the planning application number: 0501/12).  All comments must be received by the Case Officer by 12th October 2012.

References: 
Dartmoor National Park News.  Accessed via: http://www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk, 26/09/12

Cramber Training Area map and drawing; Defence Infrastructure Organisation, Ministry of Defence. Accessed via: http://www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/planning/pl-devcontrol/pl-planning-application/application_register). 26/09/12

Executive Summary of the Major Development Test and Non-statutory Environmental Statement for Continuation of Military Training on Cramber Training Area, Dartmoor; Defence Infrastructure Organisation, Ministry of Defence. Accessed via: http://www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/planning/pl-devcontrol/pl-planning-application/application_register). 26/09/12

Major Development Test and Non-statutory Environmental Statement for Continuation of Military Training on Cramber Training Area, Dartmoor; Defence Infrastructure Organisation, Ministry of Defence. Accessed via: http://www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/planning/pl-devcontrol/pl-planning-application/application_register. 26/09/12

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Haytor Rocks

As we were close to the East side of the Moor, and with time to spare, we took advantage of the recent settled weather and took a short hike around Haytor Rocks and Bagtor Down.  We even indulged in the guilty pleasure of scrambling to the summit of Low Man via the steps and iron handrail on it's South-East side.

We typically would have avoided the area on a weekend, but were surprised to see just a handful of climbers roped up and picking routes up the Haytor massif opposite, and few others.

We've always enjoyed exploring the area around the Haytor Quarries, and across the road around the headwaters of the Lemon.  We found the Boxes were on site, and receiving regular visits.

With just 5 miles covered and 12 boxes found, we can't wait to spend a little longer on the moor in mid October.  Reports are suggesting that our box Rangale of Deer - Broad Down is in need of attention.  So a few walks on the North moor beckon.


Saturday, 25 August 2012

Running up that hill

This August has just been about one thing for WITC: the Olympic Games.  We were very fortunate enough to have  tickets for many different events, so we criss-crossed the UK, from Weymouth to Essex to Central London, Cardiff and Olympic Park at Stratford.  We had an amazing time, watching great sports action and soaking up the incredible atmosphere.

It was a shame when the whole show ended on the night of the 12th.  And what a marvellous closing ceremony it was!  We were delighted to discover therefore that two British Olympians - cyclists Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish - will be in action on Dartmoor in September.  The Tour of Britain event arrives in Devon on its penultimate leg on September 15th. Cyclists from around the world will converge on the county on a 106 mile route from Barnstaple to Dartmouth, via Merrivale Hill (pictured) on the Tavistock to Two Bridges road.

Expect road closures and cheering crowds if you are walking this way that weekend.  Perhaps it was fortunate we completed our route up the Walkham valley this past week then.  Up to Dead Lake and Cocks Hill via the Staple Tors.  With a brisk wind to push us along, the slopes did not hold us back.  And like a true King of the mountain (ahem), whoisthechallenger found 29 boxes on the 13 mile day.    Next week the Paralympics start, and we are hoping to witness more great sport and intense competition.  Come on Team GB!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Uncle Ab

Concluding our July focus on Dartmoor houses, today's walk included a visit to the remains of a pit pony residence near the head of Middle Brook: Uncle Abs House.  

Our walk took us from Shipley Bridge up the Zeal Tor Tramroad to Petres Pits, and on up to Eastern Whittaburrow.  Affectionately known as the Sub, due to its resemblance to a surfacing submarine with a conning tower.  At 472 metres, EWB is one of the highest points on the South moor, and provides impressive views across the South Hams.

WITC met fellow letterboxers 'Slow Going' and 'Cornish Lady'.  They helped kick start the box finding, which up to this point had been tough, thanks to iffy weather and the LBT.  From Eastern Whittaburrow to Western Whittaburrow, with Petres Cross affixed in it's cairn.  

We descended from here to Quickbeam Hill, Knattaburrow, and Middle Brook.  Pausing to look around Uncle Abs House.  The shell of this property stood as late as the 1950's, as a photo on the Dartmoor archive shows here.  Today, just a solitary corner remains upright, alongside the ruined foundations.  A geocache is hidden among the ruins, but letterboxes keep their distance.

The house used to be split level, with the ground floor used to store the horses for nearby pit work, and the first floor for the staff.

A quick crossing of the hill to Bala Brook, and we found ourselves just a short stroll around Brent Moor from the Avon Dam track and Shipley Bridge.

8 miles walked.  15 boxes found.

Monday, 23 July 2012

A sneaky peek

WITC notes with interest the sale of another iconic Dartmoor house:  Pew Tor Cottage, near Merrivale.  This 6-bedroomed property has a unique situation amongst small Dartmoor properties, in that it is surrounded by access land (and probably letterboxes) right up to it's four boundaries.  High hedges provide the residents with seclusion, and the proximity from the top of the Pew Tor prevents prying eyes.  So the brochure attached to the property listing (accessible via Rightmove: here) gives a rare glimpse into the home and gardens.


The sales information suggests that the house was built in the late 18th century, with many original character features.  It has an acre of land including an ornamental pond and - although it needs upgrading - a swimming pool too.

The square shaped, wooded family retreat is on the market now for £675,000 from Tavistock agent Ward and Chowan.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Rain stopped play

Whoisthechallenger took a stroll up the Plym this past week.  With high hopes and even higher gaiters, we splashed our way out of the Gutter Tor car park towards Ditsworthy Warren.  The house, which featured in last year's Oscar-nominated Spielberg epic 'War Horse' looked decidedly moody under leaden skies.


The recent rains on Dartmoor again has hit the headlines with the Yealm sparking a Severe Flood Warning on Friday 6th July.  River levels in Yealmpton rose more than 6 feet higher than normal for this time of year.  The Plym was also on high alert.  The Youtube video below was filmed during the morning of July 7th at the confluence of Blackaton Brook and River Plym above Cadover Bridge.  The OP of the video: 'Bikiniboy' states that levels had dropped 2.5ft before he arrived on location.

In keeping with the exceptional conditions, our walk came to an abrupt halt at Whittenknowles Rocks because our path to Drizzlecombe and beyond was underwater.

Lets hope Summer arrives soon!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Genius!

WITC has spotted a fantastic idea being used in another National Park, and wonders why it took so long!  Our only question is, why wouldn't this work on Dartmoor?

The idea comes from the Mountainsafe Partnership in Snowdonia who have installed small blue discs on gates and stiles in the National Park to assist lost walkers, assisting them to locate themselves on the map.  Only 6 figure references mind, from the image provided.

There are plenty of fixtures for grid reference discs to be attached to on Dartmoor: stiles, posts, etc.  Its not exactly detracting from the scenery, and it will assist lost walkers, ten tor'ers, whilst also encouraging other moor users to use maps and compasses (and other GPS).

What do you think?  Click the link below to read the news story on grough.co.uk.

Grid Reference Signs help walkers

Make it happen DNPA!

Monday, 11 June 2012

New clues: A rangale of deer


I'm proud to release my latest clues: A rangale of deer.  A rangale is a collective noun meaning a rabble or mob.  This rangale are all located in the East Dart valley between Postbridge and Kit Steps.  It can be completed in a circular walk with one river crossing.  Please take care after heavy rain!  

Broad Down   Deleted


East Dart   Deleted

Cowflop Bottom  Deleted

Flat Tor  Deleted

Broad Marsh  Deleted

Sandy Hole Pass  Deleted

Lade Hill     Deleted

Stannon Tor   Deleted

Hartland Tor  Deleted

These boxes have been removed from the moor now.  whoisthechallenger@rocketmail.com

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Feeling Wist-ful


The impending heatwave this week inspired whoisthechallenger to return to the moors.  We had a short route planned up to Longaford Tor via Wistmans Wood.  The ground was much firmer under-foot than the last time we were out on Dartmoor.


Deep within Wistmans Wood is a small fenced off area preserved since the mid 60s to allow us all to see how the wood may have looked in the past.  Our recollections of the Wistmans Wood just 15-20 years ago are of fire-beaters stacked at the corners, and very few tracks into the undergrowth.


Wistmans Wood is synonymous with an impenetrable woodland of stunted oak trees and damp moss covered caves and boulders.  But the copse is changing rapidly, with the trees no longer stunted, but growing.  Erosion caused by grazing animals and by the sheer numbers of human visitors are taking their toll on the undergrowth.  Its listing as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a National Nature Reserve, and featuring in so many 'official' guides to Dartmoor have left Wistmans Wood slightly exposed.



Black-a-tor Copse in the West Okement Valley looks set to receive a full fence surround to protect it (at MOD expense).  Piles Copse, the third major area of ancient woodland on the Moor, has been blooming for several years, and certainly lacks the accessibility and attention of it's more Northerly counterparts.


Still its location is stunning, and provides subject material for tons of letterboxes in the region.  Our walk passed  the forest and up to Longaford, returning down the ridge passing Littaford, Little Bee and Crockern Tors, before returning for well earned drink at Two Bridges Hotel, and the car.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Ten Tors 2012


This weekend sees the 52nd annual Ten Tors event on Dartmoor. Here is the latest:

"Pasty stealing fox hampers Ten Tors training with camp attacks"
Cheeky so-and-sos... and a fox.  Story: Thisisplymouth

"From 2012 onwards only teams from the South West of England will be able to take part, due to the high numbers of entrants."

"River conditions are currently acceptable, but higher than average. Moor walking conditions are wet and spongy."
Ten Tor's Secetary comments on Moor conditions: Training notices.  Mmmm... spongy...

"For five decades Ten Tors has remained a National Flagship whose reputation as the foremost endeavour for youth development is firmly established and the Army is committed to its future."
Brigadier Piers Hankinson, Ten Tors Director, says this isn't the last Ten Tors:  Ten Tors brochure

"Leave gates as you find them; if in doubt, close gates on Dartmoor.
Leave no litter; take all tins, bottles and paper home"
- Taken from the Ten Tors code, Aide Memoire for teams: the 'Green Card'.  Its in the rules!!

"The annual Ten Tors Challenge takes place on Saturday and Sunday and will see 2,400 youngsters attempting routes. In all, 1,000 military and civilian personnel will be on duty over the Ten Tors weekend. The armed forces also supply support equipment and vehicles to make the event possible, including two Sea King Mk 4 helicopters from 848 Naval Air Commando Squadron based at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset."
A potentially crowded weekend in-store: grough.co.uk

"Not all those who wander are lost"
J.R.R. Tolkien

Good luck to all participants!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Saved for a rainy day


"Flood warnings as downpours hit UK".  "A month's rainfall due in one day".  "The wettest day of 2012".  We had been warned...  

WITC headed up the East Dart on a mission, yet only in search of a handful of boxes.  The forecast of blustery showers, and an optimistic nature meant that we were confident everything would be fine.  We weren't alone judging by a bustling Postbridge car park.  We set off up the true left bank, passing 

Hartland Tor, the sheepfold, the turn and the beehive hut.  We gained height quickly on the slopes of Lade Hill.  This ascent brought back memories of the O.A.T.S. walks we completed over a decade ago.  Some 15 miles into that marathon trail, it never failed to slow participants to a crawl.

On the summit, we turned East, and returned to the riverside at Sandy Hole Pass, before rounding Broad Marsh and crossing the slightly swollen East Dart river at Kit Steps.  


We climbed up to Flat Tor to survey the damage from recent works to Flat Tor Pan.  The Dartmoor Mires project has fenced off areas here in the name of conservation and research.  Their work is controversial because they have removed pieces of metal from a 1960's plane crash site.  Some argue that this metalwork is just another piece of Dartmoor's rich mix of archaeology, and should remain in situ, whilst those responsible for the work say it is necessary to remove it.

After splashing past the gates, fences, and land rover tracks, we passed over Broad Down and Braddon Tor and descended to Drift Lane and the familiar walk back to Postbridge.

Yes, the weather was kinder than had been predicted.  The hail showers and rain halted us in our paths at times, but the visibility was good, and it blew some cobwebs away.  Which was nice.  Hopefully the work at Flat Tor Pan will be completed quickly, and restoration will be thorough and swift.  I suspect more conflict is likely though.



Saturday, 21 April 2012

WITC Unveiled

Hello.

My name is Ian and I am whoisthechallenger.

Who are you?  

Ian Barber.  I am the youngest, and the most active of the Dartmoor letterboxers known as The Upland Trotters.

What was this WITC thing all about?

I wanted to do so much more than just post occasional thoughts on a forum, and rued the lack of a decent UK letterboxing blog.  I thought I would create my own blog, but since the ramblings and views would be my own, and not those of my parents, I decided to do the whole thing anonymously.  Although I initially intended the blog would be more edgy and provocative, I came to the conclusion that I would be found out and it would not help me or the 'Uptrots'.  

I also guessed it would have more intrigue and appeal if I wrote it under a pseudonym.  I remember a witty,  anonymous letterboxing newsletter (not created by us) being circulated within a small circle of letterboxers several years ago , and I simply hoped to recreate just a bit of the mystery.  I'm not the big headed prat that some have suggested :D

The Upland Trotters personal stamp features 2 hillwalking characters.  My father is depicted out in front striding away, whilst my Mother is left exasperated further down the hill.  I was removed from the stamp in 1997 after leaving home.  Whilst mum fell out of love with letterboxing some years ago, my father regularly joined me on the walks detailed in this blog.  The final box we found together was the relationship box sited for The Upland Trotters near Pigs House in May 2011 ("Down, but not out" - May 2011).  My father sadly passed away, very suddenly, in June 2011, but I wanted to continue my blog in his honour.  I came to the decision that WITC would be more than an online letterboxing diary, and become my letterboxing identity.

I took the name whoisthechallenger from the book 'Yes Man' by author and presenter Danny Wallace.  WITC is the nemesis of the book's hero, but you'll have to read the hilarious book to find out who Danny's challenger was!

Why are you telling us all this now?

It was 21 years ago today that The Upland Trotters started letterboxing.  April 21st is therefore an important date in our calendar.  Also, my cover was blown, my identity was no longer secret.  It was only a matter of time before everyone discovered the truth.

So what is the future for whoisthechallenger?

This blog will carry on.  I will now letterbox as whoisthechallenger.  Please keep an eye out for my new personal stamp!  For those who have passed their WOM boxes on to The Upland Trotters, please forgive me/us!  My clues will be released next week - keep reading my blog for more details!  The Upland Trotters will also live on - mainly in spirit and perhaps on special occasions.

Thank you for reading my blog.

WITC/Ian

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Coming soon...

who IS the challenger?
The truth.
21 April 2012

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Sunday, March 25th 2012 - Part 2

After the Meet, WITC headed off to Owley.  We had a short afternoon stroll around Beacon Rocks, Crebers Rock and Lud Brook.  Starting and finishing at Peek Moor Gate, we were last here back in May 2010 when the rain was falling and cloud hung low.  This time, the weather was hot, and several people were sunning themselves whilst sheltering from the wind on Ugborough Beacon's summit, whilst ponies stood quietly in the Lud Brook to drink and cool down.
 












It was only a 5 mile meander, and just 10 boxes found, but the sunburn is feeling better today, and we are proud of out weekend.  We remembered the camera too, so photos follow...

Sunday, March 25th 2012 - Part 1

Welcome back to EEMOO!

The Spring Meet was as busy as ever when WITC stopped by this morning.  Obviously the early visit before a day in the hills was everyone elses plan too.  Blank postcards were purchased, a free copy of Dartmoor Active magazine was gathered, and a few one day stamps were collected.

From a few brief conversations with the charity walk sellers, business was brisk, and WITC helped out where they could.  We now have walks in areas to interest us over the coming season:  Sourton Tors, Hartor Tors and Cosdon to name but a few.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Saturday, 24th March 2012

WITC has been left red faced after todays walk out to Nakers Hill.  This was after two important things were left behind by accident.


Firstly, a camera, and as WITC is still yet to wake up to the world of Smartphones, and our mobile phone doesn't have a camera, no pictures from today folks!  Sorry!  We also forgot sunscreen.  We should have known.  It wasn't quite the warmth of Summer out there, but it was still wall-to-wall sunshine.  Mind you, visibility was far from perfect.  Perhaps the camera wasn't missed after all...

We began in the small hamlet of Michelcombe, and we used the public bridleway to access the moor close to Gibby Combe.  It was a sweaty climb up the Mardle River to Hapstead Ford and on up to Ryders Hill.  At Ryders Hill summit, we rested for lunch.  Here we greeted the assortment of walkers, day trippers and ten tor'ers who passed by.  It was then a relaxing, unrushed afternoon in the Avon valley, around Aune Head, Little Aune and Nakers Hill before returning as the shadows lengthened at the end of the day via Snowdon.  In absence of photos, here is a selection of todays stamps (including Mo's relationship box in the middle!), and Google Earth provides a slightly more distant view. 10 miles and 24 stamps collected.

Tomorrow is the Meet, and WITC will be there to purchase the new catalogue and a few charity walks too.  Hopefully, if the sunburn allows us, we'll continue this weekend of walks too.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Friday, 23rd March 2012

We looked out the window at home early this morning to see a thick mist, and we were understandably disappointed.  Our next hope was there would be a temperature inversion. The extraordinary phenomenon where temperatures after a cold still night, rise faster on higher ground than lower down.  It usually results in a 'sea of mist' effect, where you tend to drive from thick mist into bright sunshine at Dartmoor's boundaries.  

We ran for the computer, eagerly logging on to Dartcam (www.dartcom.co.uk) for a live weather image from Powder Mills.  Alas, it was thick mist.  No temperature inversion today... 

By late morning, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and only the smoke of various swales obscured the view.  Indeed the smoke added to a general haze which, by the end of the day led to an amazing sunset.

A late start was called for, so we packed the boxing gear slowly, and drove to Yar Tor and Corndon.  Our route took us from Rogues Roost, South, maintaining a low contour below Yar Tor, before climbing up to and over the tor and West to the Cave-Penny memorial cross.  We rounded Corndon Tor, taking a few minutes to enjoy the view looking to Ryders Hill past Sharp Tor (pictured).  This before heading North to the cairns and the ankle-breaking clitters and thick gorse of Cathanger Rock.  We stopped by Little Boy boundary stone (pictured).  From here, it was just a short descent to Rogues Roost and back to the car. 

7 miles and 22 boxes found.