Showing posts from 2011

Happy Boxing Day!

Ahhh, Boxing Day! Its better than Christmas Day, isn't it? For us, getting out on the Moor and stretching the legs is as good as Christmas. We wanted to collect Dartmoor Chris' 3 day boxes from the Combestone area, and we also has a route planned around the Happy Valley and Water Hill.
The 3 day boxes were still on site, and judging by the wear around the sites, they've been visited frequently during the holiday weekend. I express my surprise that they are still on site, since 10 figure grid references and clues in the public domain normally suggest: box thief. The stamps were 'old school' Christmas stamps - hand cut classic festive designs, with separate message and location stamps. Really nice.
The Happy Valley, South of the Warren House Inn (pictured) was damp and breezy, but we hid down here until the fog on Water Hill and Assycombe Hill cleared. Which it did in time. We had success finding boxes too. By the time we approached Caroline Farm, the full panorama…

When the going gets tough...

...the tough head for Dartmoor's boundaries. Thus avoiding the worst of the weather and Winter's shortest days. WITC retreated to the valley of the Becka Brook for our latest walk. Beginning close to the brook's head at Hemsworthy Gate, we walked North passing the Seven Lords Lands cairn, Emsworthy Rocks and Smallacombe.
The fog was coming and going. We could catch fleeting glimpses of Haytor Rocks, and as it cleared, we also spotted the figures atop it's summit and imagined their excitement to finally enjoy the view. We scraped through the wet bracken on the Northern slopes of Black Hill, and descended an ancient Byway to Leighon, before crossing the Becka Brook and took the footpath towards Southcott. A Winnie the Pooh fan obviously lives round here, since we passed a house named "Where the Woozle Wasn't"!
At Hayne Cross we climbed back up to the moor at Hayne Down. This hill of outcrops, logan stones and Bowermans Nose. We always have success findi…

Full grid references: The end?

A quote from the latest catalogue update: "It is with regret that I announce a change to the way the update is presented. I will no longer give anything more than a 6 figure grid with a clue unless expressly told by the ownerof the box to give anything different to this. If anyone wants their information already in the catalogue updating in this way please let me know and I will pass this on to Silvia Moore."
It appears that the letterbox thief receives the updates. Who could possibly consider entering more than 6 figure grid references once it becomes clear that only more detailed clues go missing?? Take, for example, the case of 'Christmas Around Kings Tor'. In November's catalogue update, clues for this 10 box Christmas walk were released with 8 and 10 figure grid references. A month later - with still 3 weeks to go till Christmas - they've all been stolen.
So, that is surely the beginning of the end for letterboxes with full grids. Our new Dakota 10 GPS…

A simple riddle

Its construction kept the Yelverton to Princetown railway line operational for 2 years until 1956 It is less than twice the height of the world's tallest living tree It is the 63rd highest structure in the UK

Can you guess what it is yet?

We braved the strong Westerly wind and headed up to North Hessary to search a small number of letterboxes, of which we only found three. None on our list were new boxes, so I guess we shouldn't be surprised, on such a visible, popular and accessible Tor.
It is a unique peak in the Park. Dartmoor author Eric Hemery notes how the hill bridges the high ground of Northern and Southern Dartmoor, and this provides a tremendous view in all directions. From Shell Top in the South, Rippon Tor to the East and High Willhays to the North. As well as a huge expanse of Cornwall to the West. It was for this reason that the BBC selected North Hessary Tor as the location for the TV Mast, although TV is no longer its main broadcasting purpose. PS: Thanks Wikiped…


The latest walk of ours - a beautiful walk - was a loop of Teignhead Farm. Starting at the end of the road at Fernworthy, and taking the 20 minute amble through the plantation to Langridge Gate. The wind was much lighter than it was on our last visit here. As we neared the open moor, we glimpsed deer on the side-tracks, and through the trees, and were able to stop and watch them graze.
Upon reaching the gate, we set off South for Grey Wethers, before climbing up to Sittaford Tor. As we ascended, the morning mist cleared and the sun shone warmly. On the summit of Sittaford we sat and rested. On the hillside opposite, we saw a group already stomping up to Quintin's Man. They were to be the only other people we saw all day. WITC was heading in a different direction though. Winneys Down was our destination, and our success letterboxing here meant our plan to extend the walk West to Kit Rocks was scrapped on the spot. Instead, it was North next to Quintins Man and Manga Hill.

Monday, 7th November 2011

There are a few places on the moor that WITC has never been before. Obviously, we haven't set foot on ever square inch of every square mile - that'd be impossible - but every grid square has been covered, except one. Until today.
Standon Hill. We were keen to visit before, but had neither time or clues to justify the trip to the peak. Today was different, and with live firing not due to close Willsworthy range until tomorrow, we took our chance.
There aren't too many letterboxes to be found on Standon Hill, but there is plenty of potential. The views to the South and West are tremendous, and as you circumnavigate the Hill North and West, the grand Tavy Cleave awaits. WITC has not hid their love of this valley, and to view it from the unfamiliar East bank was extraordinary.
The mist descended during the afternoon, as the chill wind of the weekend had dropped. In fact, our walk was cut short by the lack of visibility. 7 miles covered, 12 boxes found.

Sunday, 6th November 2011

We could only spare the afternoon this Sunday, but since walking conditions were perfect, We headed for the Newleycombe Valley, out to Older Bridge, returning via Crazywell Pool. A PDSA charity walk has been sited in a loop of the valley, but we extended the route to cover more of the Northern bank exploring the hillsides between Drivage Bottom and the Devonport Leat Aquaduct. Parking among the crowds at Norsworthy Bridge close to the shores of Burrator Reservoir, it was in warm sunshine that we set off. The PDSA walks never fail to disappoint, and all stamps were present and correct today. We were making great progress on the route, but then made the error of deviating over Cramber Tor to Raddick Hill. Here we had far less success, and found ourselves rapidly running out of daylight. Sunset is at just 4.45pm at the moment, which feels unseasonably early!
Indeed, Summer was on our minds when we studied Burrator water levels from the road on the drive in.…

Saturday, 5th November 2011

"A keen Northerly wind" was forecasted, and that is exactly what we experienced on today's walk. Starting at Blackaton Cross near Cadover Bridge, we headed due East passing Hexton Tor, Shell Top and Broadall Gulf. Our destination was the Upper river Yealm. The Upper Yealm valley is usually deserted of people, but the tinners workings, Steps and Rocks provide ample interest and subject matter for letterboxes.
As Dartmoor's rivers go, the Yealm is a pretty minor affair. Its only 12 miles long, which is short compared to the other source to sea rivers such as the Erme (17 miles), Plym (20 miles) and Teign (32 miles).

Recent rainfall has made the catchment area boggy again. The Redlake walk of the last post was notable by how dry the moor was becoming after a long Summer, but today WITC was suddenly regretting not proofing the walking boots more recently. Our climb out of the valley was proceded to the summit trig of Pen Ridge, or the un-named hill top North of Bro…

Off the beaten track

Last week, WITC followed an indistinct sheep path to the great Dartmoor Alp that is Redlake Tip. A manmade heap of china clay spoil from the early 20th century.
Approaching the works from the South West, you are faced with piles of masonry and ironwork. Signs of a Dartmoor industry which was typically hard work and short lived. As far a historical landmarks go, this is quite a prominent one.
The weather was mild and sunny. Though it was blowing a gale at home, WITC was pleasantly surprised that the wind was not compass bearing inhibitive on the moor.
We found a few letterboxes along the way. To be exact, we found 36 - every one on our list, plus a few extra! Whilst we had no first-in-books, it did go to show that we should visit this area more often, and proved that the box thief is not in control yet!

Battle Plans Part III - Any clearer?

So the Defence Ministry came up with the goods. A CD-ROM jam-packed with plans, maps, summaries and annexes. There was a lot of background information provided. Dartmoor for Dummies. A thorough introduction to the National Park, and what the armed forces do there.
We read the whole thing. Some two years after the ring road closed, just what exactly are they going to do next? And when? The main difference between this year's IRMP and last year's edition is the budget allowances provide more information on timescales. We've discovered the following:
During the financial year of 2012, the budget has been put in place to carry out the following action:
To combine Watern Oke flagpole and a 'look out'. Presumably the huts and flagpole which currently are a hundred metres or more apart, will meet up in 2012. Walkham Spur flagpole is to be relocated, a 'look out' constructed and access works to take place on slopes near Fuges Post and Walkham Head.
Three flagpole…

Battle plans Part II

Following on from our post 'Battle Plans' (29/09/2010), we've requested the latest Integrated Rural Management Plan via a Freedom Of Information request. This appears to be the only way to discover just what the Ministry Of Defence have planned for the moor.
A year ago, we were informed of potential development to MOD property, the relocations of flagpoles and observation posts. There were adjustments outlined as to land use, including increased use of tracked vehicles to reflect training needs of the military in Afghanistan.
The MOD were also due to invest in new environmental projects. This would undoubtedly appeal to the Prince of Wales, especially since the MOD needs to renegotiate a licence to train on Duchy property. A current 21 year licence with the Duchy expires in 2012. The above email arrived this week. It could be the most boring outcome ever, but maybe, just maybe, there will some interesting news to bring you from this new IRMP. More as we get it.


Last month, on the River Lyd an environmental disaster was averted. A leaky cooling system at the Ambrosia Creamery at Lifton spilt a serious amount of oil into the river. The Lyd is an important tributary of the River Tamar, which is a spawning ground for Salmon, Sea Trout and Brown Trout. The Environment Agency were alerted to the incident by a member of the public who noticed an oily sheen on the water and a strong odour in the area. A swift response involving booms and skimmers to remove the oil was successful and an agency spokesman has said there have been no fish deaths or lasting damage to the environment. Well done to them for their efforts.With this story in mind, we went searching for boxes (and fish) up the Lyd on our most recent walk.Starting at the car park behind the Dartmoor Inn, and taking the true left bank of the river upstream to Tigers Marsh and at Lyd Head turning North to Corn Ridge. Our search for fish was unsuccessful. It is far easier spotting trout in…

Devil makes work for idle hands

The work of others. Location: Manga Cairn.

Dartmoor in Bloom

We returned to the South West from our Three Peaks achievements to find large swathes of Dartmoor draped in the late Summer blanket of pink and purple heather.
The heather which is currently in flower is one reason that the National Park Authority believe the moor is an area of International importance. Such is the size and scale of habitat which sees heather thrive here. Three species of the heather are found on the moor - Common, Bell and Cross-Leaved. It is certainly true that the perfect habitat for the heather is on the heathland of the Northern Atlantic - think Western France, Ireland, the New Forest and Dartmoor.
Its a wonderful time to be on the moor, with the gorse in flower, and the smells of late summer in the air. Soon the leaves will be turning the whortles will no longer be for the picking, and it'll be time to put the heating on!

Always up for a challenge!

After escaping Dartmoor for a while, WITC, amongst others, have just returned from completing the national Three Peaks Challenge. The mission was to reach the summits of Scotland's, England's and Wales' highest mountains in the quickest time possible without breaking speed limits!
For those who need the reminder - the three peaks are Ben Nevis (1344 metres), Scafell Pike (978 metres) and Snowdon (1085 metres). In total, thats about 10000 feet of ascent. Of course, the mountains are only half the story. There is 23 miles of walking, some walking and navigating at night, bad (foggy, windy, damp) weather, tricky river crossings (Dartmoor prepares you for these!) not to mention the 500 miles of driving between car parks.
Nothing can prepare you for the lack of sleep, the hurting and hunger that kicks in on these little 6 hour road journeys. Its a Challenge alright. Four began the challenge. Three completed it, with one forced to withdraw through injury. Scafell Pike was by far t…

Rough and tough

It was noted from the forum of that one contributor was struggling to find letterboxes on Ger Tor. It was with this in our minds that we set out into Tavy Cleave to discover the truth.
Tavy Cleave is a unique area on the Moor. Here the slopes are steeper, the terrain is harder, the river runs faster, the vegetation is thicker. Its as close to 'mountainous' as Dartmoor could possibly claim. Though the West Okement Valley is a close second.
We can confirm that there are letterboxes on Ger Tor! Sure, there aren't many, and you stumble across them easily. The moss, and general greenery benefits from the South facing slope, so it runs rampant in the sunshine and rain. This made for an interesting traverse of the slope as we headed upstream towards Tavy Cleave Tors. Surely someone can come up with a better name for these outcrops. They don't feature on the map, and yet these impressive granite outposts deserve a good name. The path to the Rat…

Yellowmead Farm

Yellowmead Farm looks like it is undergoing a major overhaul. Since going up for sale in April 2009, it's subsequent purchase and renovation works have caught the attention of the National Park Authority and of the authors of
The new owners have dug a service trench alongside the farm track leading from the B3357 Two Bridges to Tavistock road. This was dug without permission and has left a lot of boulders displaced. reports that restoration work of the land surface has been agreed after negotiations between land owner and the DNPA. Our photo suggests that the yellow in the farm is a mere facade, The entire property which at time of sale "required complete renovation", is retaining most of it's external walls for now at least...

The Widecombe way

WITC was up on Rowden and Wind Tor recently, enjoying the sunshine. We've tended to see the area has always been seen as a bit of a letterboxing backwater, with boxes frequently missing and within earshot of the sunbathing car drivers on the road verges below.
We were pleasantly surprised to find almost all boxes on site and several unexpected finds too. On the slopes of Wind Tor we were also afforded a grand view into the East Webbern valley. Here are found many hamlets, farmsteads and the quaint village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor. A popular tourist destination, with a particular big draw being The Cathedral of the Moor, also known as St Pancras church (pictured), which is the unusually large church for such a small village. We did not take the chance to check out if the church's own letterbox is still on site! Apparently it is located in the South Transept.
We did return home with 8.94 more miles (thanks GPS!) under our belts and 29 boxes found.

A new addition

At long last, WITC took the plunge and purchased a new GPS. A brand new shiny Garmin Dakota 10. Sure, there are bigger and better things out there, with mapping and stuff, but this is more than adequate for us, and it was a bargain £90 on eBay.
Out on it's inaugural walk (above), and we are really very impressed. Clear display, good battery life, accurate and good satelite locks. Recommend.

More boundaries

WITC took a recent stroll up to Haytor Down, Black Down and Holwell Tor. It is another area more frequented by dog walkers and day trippers than letterboxers. Its a walk with a contrast of ankle breaking scree slopes and big quarry drops, and large expanses of gorse and heather, criss crossed with a myriad of sheep tracks.
Set amongst the vegetation, hiding from immediate view, is a long line of boundary stones bearing inscriptions and the letters DS. These letters stand for the Duke of Somerset, and marked the boundary of the 11th Duke's estate.
Our walk took us from the top of the ridge to the walls of Yarner Wood, and we appreciated the shelter of the trees here when the heavy rain showers rolled in. We had chosen this route carefully to avoid the really busy, hot and sunny days, but hadn't planned on having to dodge rain as well as the crowds. The views between the showers are stunning looking East over Devon, and West towards the a particularly dramatic area of Dartmoo…

Down, but not out

Contrary to popular belief, we are still letterboxing. We are just finding the fickle weather itself, a Challenger.
This weekend, our walk took us out to Down Ridge from Sherberton Farm, near Hexworthy.
As we trudged our way up towards Ter Hill, we turned to watch the fog and low cloud which has held up our routes of recent, suddenly lift, as though it were just waiting for us. The entire panorama revealed itself before us, from South Hessary to Rippon Tor. Even the sun came out, and in Deep Swincombe, the North Westerly wind wasn't in evidence. Forced to shed our waterproofs and warm head gear, it could almost have been Summer! The whole route was no more than just 3 or 4 miles, after we chose the shorter letterbox walk instead of a planned longer trek 'up North'. On this walk, we discovered two first-in-books, which were particularly pleasing, and almost everything we searched for was on site and in good condition. If you believe some stories, we are bucking the trend…

Friday, 8th April 2011

Back to the South Moor for a letterbox walk and another property to consider (post lottery win!)
As you drive towards Harford from the West, after passing through the picturesque village of Cornwood, you pass a particularly manicured area of parkland. On the right, and out of sight of the road is the impressive Manor of Blachford.
If you've ever been to Langcombe Head between the Rivers Plym and Yealm, or to Broad Rock near Erme Pits, then you have walked on the ancient boundary of this property. The BB inscription on their rocks standing for Blachford Bounds.
It is an impressive estate, with a fascinating history and long list of former residents, from the Prior of Plympton (14th Century), to the barons and MPs of the Rogers family (look them up). The current owner has completely refurbished the near 18000 sq ft mansion, and revamped the entire estate's land.
Savills estate agents have it advertised asking for offers over £8 million.…