Saturday, 27 November 2010

White? Out.

So Winter has arrived unusually early this year. WITC has retreated to the snow-free coasts, and will be back on the Moor just as soon as the snow thaws. Which, if the Met Office is right, may take a week or more. Bugger.

Thursday, 18 November 2010


We were almost caught out this week by the rapidly shortening days. We were so engrossed in our route, we lost track of time, and suddenly we were thinking about where the torch was packed in our rucksacks. Its never been used to navigate our way off the moor. Only caves, Grants Pot a couple of weeks ago, and rabbit-like holes under rocks have required its use in the past.

It was hat and glove chilly out there. Wrapped up, we set off from the car park below Shilstone Tor and on up to Throwleigh Common and Raybarrow Pool.

After relative success around Bert Grattons Hut, we squelched (very wet underfoot this week) to
the summit of Kennon Hill. This is a staggering viewpoint for a not-so-lofty peak. You can follow the River Teign from near source, down past Castle Drogo and away to the South. To the North and West, Cosdon, Steeperton and Hangingstone Hill are the high Dartmoor skyline.

We descended to the bolted-on hill on which sits a granite outcrop with many names. Rippator, Rifle Tor or Rival Tor. Plenty of good letterboxing is always had here. It was here where time flew by, and the darkening skies failed to jolt us.

Our route back to the car was straight forward enough. Avoiding Whitemoor Marsh and then following Forder Brook down to the road. 22 boxes found.

Monday, 15 November 2010


Sticking the stamps in our scrapbook
from our latest walk, WITC paused to consider the unquestionable routines which we follow each walk.

As with all routines, in the cold light of day, they seem bizarre and unnecessary. But, we've always done them, so they remain! Clues will not be read (aloud or otherwise) within sight of the car park. For obvious reasons: Its too early in the day to gather a tail.

Upon discovering a box, a rock or other dry seat should be found, so as to ensure that we will not disturb the box surrounds or cause unnecessary erosion (this 'wear' is a giveaway to any other letterboxer!)

The book is always stamped first. That is, after inspecting who the previous visitor was and try to ascertain the date of their visit.

Ink colour. Everyone knows that ink colour is important - right? Personalities are always stamped in purple and red. 1st in books are always stamped in gold. A Dartmoor Lane: Pink. Edgemoors: Blue. Mickey Mouse stamps: Brown...

Double check when you re-site the box that its hidden better than when it was found. This usually involves an additional cover stone, proceeded by a handful of dead grass shoved in the hole.

Treat other walkers with suspicion. "Hi there - lovely day!" we say. 'Please carry on, I'm just wandering round in circles for fun', we think.

The day's stamp numbers are never counted before the semi-formal ceremony at the dining room table on our return home.

This is normally toasted with an alcoholic beverage of some sort. That is a routine we enjoy.

Friday, 12 November 2010

A burning issue

Forget the heavy rain falling and the gale force winds. Our letterbox walks are becoming more and more affected by fire, or more importantly, the after effects of fire. We are still several months from swaling season - the time when commoners can legally burn the moorland to improve grazing, and WITC has said before that we support responsible swaling. Recent seasons have been notable by the number of out-of-control fires. Burning in strong winds, without adequate facilities to fight the flames.

Then there is arson. Idiots flicking cigarettes out of car windows. Then there is the amount of litter on the moor causing ignition. We are finding more and more damaged letterboxes due to fire, like the one photographed here on the slopes of Leedon Tor (which we obviously removed as a 'litterbox'). WITC is also seeing more and more land struggling to recover from being burned. What we need are fire-proof boxes - ammo cans, for example. It makes even more of a case to carry letterbox repair kits.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Southern comfort

This week WITC rolled up their sleeves, put their heads down and stomped into the wilderness of the Southern moor.

Starting at Gutter Tor and aiming for Plym Head to start. Our one and only encounter with a badger on Dartmoor was in this area - at Evilcombe - but many years ago. On this occasion, we weren't that lucky. The hunt was out, and the hounds were inadvertently rounding the scattered grazing sheep up into a huge flock which was then hurried from the Plym valley to the Erme.

At Plym Head, having failed to find the rain guage, we turned for Green Hill and Blacklane Brook. Its a barren land of long grass and big skies. And few letterboxes. We bypassed Ducks Pool and went West to Philpotts cave, and crossed Blacklane Brook, where WITC once camped out for a night.

Grants Pot. This curious little overgrown cave/adit entrance - home to one of Dartmoor's first letterboxes. We dared ourselves to go in this time, but the dripping water and pitch darkness meant we chickened out at the entrance.

From here, its a leisurely stroll over the hill and down to Erme Pits. This is almost as remote as the South Moor gets. One can only picture how this area would have been in centuries past. A colossal eyesore, probably. Now, green mounds and scattered rockfaces and boulders round the rough edges.

We followed the Abbots Way back to Plym Ford and then the Eylesbarrow track back to Gutter Tor car park. 12 miles covered, which in these short days made us happy. 25 boxes found.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The 'Meet'

Whoisthechallenger was there. Were you?

The 62nd bi-annual meet returned to Lee Moor last weekend. The crowds piled in to the village hall to avoid the drizzle. Charity walks, stamps and magazines traded places over tables along with stories and laughter.

It was great to see so many familiar and not-so-familiar faces. There is an air of celebrity about finally meeting the holder of a personal stamp. An image which may dominate weekend letterbox trips, and subsequent walk-talk.

We have stocked up on charity walks in great places to explore in the coming months. West Mill Tor, Cramber Tor, Longaford Tor - to name just three. We stared longingly at the outdoor equipment, and read with intrigue about a new website coming this Winter called Dartmoor Online. Brought to us by, amongst others, Dartmoor experts: Tom Greeves and Elizabeth Stanbrook. Its a subscription based quarterly update. With news, reviews and suchlike. Its launch page is at