Showing posts from 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…

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!

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.4 Contains visitors book.
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.

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 no…

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.

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.
Trespass's knitted Thinsulate gloves from  £2 off, so now just £4.99.
"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 hav…

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…

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 co…

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" (

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 mo…

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.

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…

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 Dart…

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.

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 Summe…


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

Grid Reference Signs help walkers

Make it happen DNPA!

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 DartDeleted
Cowflop BottomDeleted
Flat TorDeleted
Broad MarshDeleted
Sandy Hole PassDeleted
Lade HillDeleted
Stannon TorDeleted
Hartland TorDeleted
These boxes have been removed from the moor now.

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…

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." All change! Ten Tors Facebook page
"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, …

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 w…

WITC Unveiled


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 h…

Coming soon...

who IS the challenger? The truth. 21 April 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, 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 befo…

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 ( 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 b…