Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Stannon Tor

The 'foxy' series took us out to the Beehive Hut just off the East Dart recently, and we welcomed the opportunity to return to Stannon Tor and the Sheepfold.

The sheepfold is an astonishing structure. Though there are a few sheepfolds on the moor, the sheepfold below Stannon - otherwise known as the Scotch Sheepfold - is notable by it's sheer scale. It was built in the early 19th century and designed to be a sheep pen, with an occupied house also contained within its walls.
We had extended our walk to Fernworthy, and were impressed by our own fitness to complete the 11 mile route.

WITC did the walk on a busy day, with 3 other letterboxers in the area. With the weather fine and 43 boxes found, it was smiles all round.

Friday, 13 August 2010

A right Royal disappointment

WITC have visited Royal Hill once before. It was on a windy day back in 1992 and we were doing an guided walk - not letterboxing. It was one of our first experiences of hiking on the moor. The trip up to Crock of Gold from Tor Royal was quickly forgotten but for whatever reason we never, ever went back.
Till now.

Its a big area of central Dartmoor close to Princetown yet it seems a little neglected and unappealing to a letterboxer. The terrain is tough, and the area is featureless. These qualities are hardly unique on Dartmoor, and so we headed off in a positive frame of mind. Though our list of boxes to find was short, we were confident we would find plenty purely by chance. The route took us from Peat Cot past Whiteworks towards the Swincombe Intake Works and up to Royal Hill's summit. Then past Crock of Gold and down to Cholake Head, returning via Strane Head.
Our day resulted in just 10 boxes found, with the majority unfound for a very long time. At least the scenery brought back nice memories from the early 90s, and the 360 views are impressive.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010


We were on a mission. A seemingly impossible mission. To seek out and retrieve an old letterbox of ours. Its been sited a while. About 9 years in all. In which time we had revisited it once, about 5 years ago.

Its not a big or particularly advanced stamp. But it is our property and responsibility and it was well overdue a recall.

Sited on Greator Rocks, close to Hound Tor's medieval village, we saved it for a quiet day to search in peace without the Summer holiday masses. Unfortunately the bracken was very high and the tree we had sited the box 3 paces from was as short now as it was when we sited the box. At least it was still standing!

In a crevice, plugged between rocks, our clue read. These were days before our GPS. Magnetic Deviation meant our bearings would all be about 1 or 2 degrees higher now.

We found the rocks, and behind some firmly pressed vegetation at waist height our box lay. It remained in good condition despite the bitter winters, baking summers, possibly a wildfire or two, the crowds that passed by and somehow the faithful pill pot kept all of it out.

Mission: possible.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Crossing Great Grimpen Mire

Our most recent letterbox walk took us to the widest, deepest, most notorious marsh on the moor. A bog which encompasses the River Strane and River Swincombe and numerous other streams.

Fox Tor Mire is believed to have been the inspiration for the Great Grimpen Mire in 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' and it's boggy depths have been rumoured to be responsible for taking lives of livestock, unwary tourists and escaped prisoners.

WITC have never crossed the Mire by the path or bridge marked on some OS maps, though we heard stories of guides who led the way, since the track is not straight and probably not that well travelled. Our route took us on a large loop of the Mire instead, heading downstream from Whiteworks, across the Swincombe and up to Mount Misery Cross. Then down to Fox Tor and Childes Tomb and returning to the car park via Goldsmiths Cross and Sunshine Corner, just skirting the Mire to the South and West.

The crosses make ideal destinations to stop and pause. As with so much on Dartmoor, they are things of legend and belief.
Whilst no one knows the origin or true purpose of any of these crosses.
They have been re-erected, repaired and - in the case of Goldsmiths Cross - discovered, re-erected and dedicated to its discoverer.
Another successful letterbox walk. 29 boxes found.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Roof Of Devon

Last week WITC returned to the highest ground in Southern England. The weather was typical for our visits up here. We choose our days to be still, dry and sunny (As a lot of people do).

Yet we suffer the same consequences every time. Flies, haze and crowds. We have yet to enjoy the solitude of Yes Tor's summit to ourselves, or see Exmoor, or the North coast of Devon, or of Wales, which is said to be seen from up here. The flies which feast on the remnants of hundreds of lunches taken on High Willhays are equally unwelcome.

These high peaks are most impressive when approached from the North. Distinctly visible from Great Torrington, it explains our disappointment at the views - or lack of them from the summit.

WITC endeavours to be more adventurous next time we plot a walk up to High Willhays and will consider rain, fog, snow, night-time or gales as potential weather conditions. Lets see...

Still, the views down to the West Okement and across to Cosdon are unmatched whatever the conditions.