Sunday, 31 October 2010

The OMM is on

Its difficult to letterbox discreetly when the moor is so busy! This weekend the international, highly regarded event, the Original Mountain Marathon comes to Devon, and hundreds of groups of runners are criss-crossing the moor.
This was the scene at one checkpoint. Runners converging from all directions. WITC sat stamping up a letterbox feeling slightly exposed... Some 3000 runners were expected to take part on 8 different routes. Some Elite routes involved the distance of two marathons over two days whilst carrying all camping equipment and food!

Congratulations to all the competitors.

Monday, 25 October 2010


Is it Autumn? Or has Winter arrived? Autumn officially started on September 23rd (Autumn Equinox). British Summertime officially ends at 2am on Sunday, October 31st (see you at the meet!). Although Winter doesn't start until December 22nd. Last year, November was wet and warm, and December freezing cold.

What season is it? Look out the window. Yesterday, hail and thunder kept WITC at home.

On a recent walk, it was the Autumn colours which were very much in evidence. Hen Tor and the Trowlesworthys were bathed in warm light, though the air temperature was distinctly chilly.

The weather forecast suggests that the next month will be unsettled but milder than average. Spring, anyone?

Thursday, 21 October 2010


Congratulations to Ron's Ramblers on their discovery of a new granite cross on Great Nodden.

The cross has been removed from the moor temporarily. It will then have a new base created, and will be returned and re-erected in the place it was discovered.

At last - a decent close-by bearing on the slopes of Great Nodden!

However, will this one vanish from our psyche just as quickly? Thus joining the ranks alongside the cross discovered on Gutter Tor last year, and the Touchstone Millenium Menhir.

Stuff it, I'm getting a stamp made for it already!

Monday, 18 October 2010

If I owned a tor...

Ah, If I owned a Dartmoor tor.... I stand on top, survey my land and.. well, thats about all I could do with it.

I could stick a Vixen Tor style fence round the thing and hammer in a No Entry sign.
I could dismantle it and sell it for profit piece by piece. However I think the Duchy of Cornwall might have something to say about these suggestions. Personally I'd be happy just to sit and stare at it feeling the immense responsibility of a billion tonnes of back garden.
So could you if you want to splash out on Headland Warren Farm near Postbridge (pictured). Birch Tor is incorporated in the property. Estate Agent Jackson, Stops and Staff call the Farm, on the market at a knock-down £675,000, a "unique moorland paradise". You get a lot for your money too: 2 adjoining 2 bedroomed self-catering cottages, Vitifer Mine and Bennetts Cross, stables and nearly 600 acres of land,a thatched home, newly refurbished throughout, and a whole load of history. Since it was previously advertised at £800,000, WITC will hang on to it's cash a little longer, wait for them to drop further then haggle furiously.

I will get my tor.

Saturday, 16 October 2010


It all started for us with a trip to the Swincombe valley a few months ago. One of WITC stumbled upon an incribed stone on the hillside and found no mention of it on the map. The incription was of the letters DPA in an oval. It looked modern in design. Cue head scratching all round. Was it a memorial? Was it to do with Dartmoor Prison? The Dartmoor Park Authority?

An internet search at home later that day provided answers. Dartmoor Preservation Association. A charity that is dedicated to the protection of artefacts, access rights and Dartmoor's heritage. Also of the promotion of considered development and a close relationship with Dartmoor National Park Authority.

Why does this charity have a boundary stone near the River Swincombe? It turns out that they own this land. They purchased it from South West Water in 1985 after plans to build a reservoir in the valley fell through. They actually have 10 boundary stones which border the 50 acres they possess.

Interestingly, the DPA also own the summit area of Sharpitor (again surrounded by DPA boundary stones) and High House Waste near the River Yealm.
It is clear from evidence provided by Tim Sandles' excellent 'Legendary Dartmoor' website that the DPA supported the Ring Road closure. We were curious as to whether the DPA supported letterboxing. So it was coincidental that on the next walk WITC did, we found in one pot a leaflet advertising membership. With respect to Tim's arguments, we generally support their policies and will carefully consider membership.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Saturday, October 9th 2010

If you don't recognise this tor, you are forgiven. It was the only glimpse that WITC had of the destination of our walk today.

Suffice to say it was a shorter route than expected, and only 11 boxes were found. There were no crowds and at least it was mild.

We walked out on the sheltered side of the ridge and the sunshine attempted to make an appearance in the far distance on the opposite side of the river, but was gone almost instantly. We made a beeline back to the car once we had reached a point where we gave up in near gale force winds and zero visibility.

It was at this stage that we met the only other person we saw today. A Dartmoor Ranger out repairing gates. Even he gave up around midday. Although he was probably just returning to Princetown for lunch.
The tor above is Great Mis Tor. An appropriate name as it happens.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Thursday, October 7th 2010

As predicted, the weather was poor. As we drove up towards Cold East Cross from Ashburton, it was clear that the cloud was low and a stiff wind was blowing. Regular bearing Rippon Tor was not visible, and the temperature was low.

So far as one grid square-wonders go, it is very difficult to match Buckland Beacon. Even if you find no boxes, it is a fantastic viewpoint, whilst still generally avoiding the worst of the weather. Fortunately within a couple of hours of walking, the cloud lifted and the sun started to shine. It is well known that this area is popular with Ashburton's dog walkers, but WITC was surprised to meet a group of Geological Surveyors out here. Clipboards and pens out checking out the rocks. They still showed more curiousity in letterboxing than your typical member of the public.

We sheltered against the main bulk of the Beacon for a break. On the leeward side we had a great view of last Saturday's destination: the great ridge of Hameldown. On the summit here, the Ten Commandment Stones appeared to have undergone restoration. On the rock above the 1935 Silver Jubilee gathering is commemorated. Fires have been lit here for many historically significant purposes since at least the 16th century.

The return walk to the car was made substantially easier by the recent scrub clearance on the opposite side of the wall to the beacon. 3 miles and 11 boxes found.

Our week of walks might come to an abrupt end now. October's usually fickle weather has been kind to us so far and hopefully we'll get one more route in this weekend.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Wednesday, October 6th 2010

Have you been to Bellever recently? The Forestry Commision are in charge here. The village is neat and tidy and the YHA looks substantial and organised. Pay & Display car parking, 'Explore Bellever Forest' leaflets to take away, waymarked trails... it appears they trying very hard to create a real attraction in the centre of Dartmoor.

On the whole, it appears a successful operation. The East Dart River at this point looks amazing as it passes beneath the 1-and-a-half bridges, and Bellever Tor - a short stroll from the car park - enjoys one of the best 360 panoramas in the National Park.

It was this area we wandered today. Beginning the route at Bellever village Pay & Display car park, and winding South to Dunnabridge Pound and Judges Chair, then North to Riddon Ridge, with Laughter and Bellever Tors between. 10 miles and 20 boxes found. It is certainly not a frequently letterboxed area with some boxes absent of visitors for a year or so.

Our route involved more than it's fare share of gravel plantation tracks. Upon which we met more than their fare share of day walkers. WITC stopped on one of these tracks to survey the view over the village and beyond to the site of last Saturday's letterbox walk: Hameldown.

The stronger Southerly wind is picking up, and the weather forecast suggests our week of walks might hit the buffers before long. Hopefully we will be out again tomorrow for a short walk at least. A one-square-wonder.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Monday, October 4th 2010

Our week of letterboxing continued today with a trip up the Avon Valley around Dockwell Ridge, Shipley Tor and Brockhill.

With an early start at Cross Furzes, WITC enjoyed the magnificent sunrise for the first few kilometres of the Abbots Way to Water Oke Corner, where we paused to look back at the site of Saturday's walk at Hameldown, and then walked on to Brockhill Stream. The water ran high after the past few days bad weather. The Avon Dam Reservoir was at capacity, and the water piled over the dam.

We walked down the paved track to the bridge below Black Tor meeting many day trippers making the most of the great weather. Then we left the convoy and up to Shipley Tor. The temperature and the bracken were high and we were relieved to finally reach the summit of Dockwell Ridge.

The walk on the East side of this ridge is in stark contrast to that of the West. Rolling, lonely hillsides descending to plantations and farmland were our company for the second half of the day. Finally retreating from the Moor across Lambsdown, and pausing at the Dean Burn Clapper to appreciate the atmosphere and history of the wooded glen.

With about 10 miles covered and 25 boxes found, it was a highly successful day, and fingers crossed that this week will continue in the same way.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Saturday, October 2nd 2010

After yesterday's torrential rainfall, we took full advantage of the good weather on the moors today. We'd had plans to visit Hameldown for some time, and finally had the chance to go.

Starting at Firth Bridge, only slightly concerned about the patchy mist we set off towards Hookney Tor and then Grimspound. We shared the lay by with a few other walkers, but it seemed the foggy start had made many hesitate.
Up to the trig point on Hameldown and down the ridge passing Broad, Single, Two Burrows and up to the summit of Hameldown Beacon to enjoy the sunshine which had descended on the day.
Following the line of the Beech Hedge down before crossing the ridge and turning North near Old House Boundary Stone. We stopped to help a sheep stuck in a narrow trench atthe head of the valley below Broad Burrow and then continued on to Blue Jug and Grey Wether and the swollen Webbern River. The moors were sodden after the recent rains. The Rivers Plym and Dart which we had passed in the car first thing, had water lapping their high banks.
After a less than successful jaunt around the two colourful boundary stones, we ventured on to King Tor where even less success was endured, when we ran out of cluesheet and returned to the car. 18 found today, with 12 miles covered. All together, a satisfactory result.