Sunday, 22 January 2012

Hampshire letterboxing

Thanks to TH&S, WITC has had another far flung adventure.  Escaping Dartmoor for a day trip to the New Forest National Park in Hampshire.

A letterbox walk has been sited on an interesting little route through the trees from Bolderwood car park.  Bolderwood appears to be a major draw to the National Park.  Here are all the facilities you'd expect at a large car park, as well as a deer sanctuary and deer viewing platform.

Whilst today we saw no deer from the platform, we did spot them in the forest itself.  Bolderwood could be a New Forest equivalent of Dartmoor's Fingle Bridge.

Letterboxing amongst the trees had the benefit of seclusion from prying eyes, and ample box hiding opportunities, such as the fallen tree (pictured) with pot hidden within.  A variation on the 'plugged in
 tree roots' approach.

On a dull weekday, we almost had the plantation to ourselves.  We were passed by a horse and cart (pictured) and there were several dog-walkers and cyclists in the vicinity, but with the number of tracks and paths, it was a long way from crowded.  The letterbox walk has had a large number of visitors in the past 6 months, some well known, and some lesser known, local, boxers. 

To the regular hill walker, the New Forest has a very different feel to Dartmoor.  No breathtaking views here, and the highest point of the park is only 125 metres above sea level.  No sound of silence here either: It is nearly impossible to escape the noise of traffic on the major roads that criss-cross the park.                                                                                                                                                           

That said, it makes for a navigational challenge, and a very enjoyable day out in a new environment.  WITC hopes to be back boxing in the New Forest soon.                                                                                                                                     

Friday, 13 January 2012

That morning

A recent dawn walk, a piece of news, and a rock. WITC is suddenly feeling rather poetic...

In Westminster Abbey in London, the South Transept has a new feature. The Abbey corner recognises an array of talented artists, poets, authors and actors such as William Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens and Sir Laurence Olivier. 

Last month, the name of Ted Hughes, former Poet Laureate and adopted Devon celebrity, was installed on the floor of memorial slabs. Set beside that of his mentor and fellow literary great TS Eliot.

Ted Hughes lived in North Tawton for 30 years and was appointed Poet Laureate in 1984. He was a enthusiastic countryman and is regarded as a nature poet. On his Kirkstone Green slate memorial in Westminster, designed and created by Devon based craftsman, is a line from one of Hughes' River Poems - 'That Morning'.

So we found the end of our journey
So we stood alive in the river of light
Among the creatures of light, creatures of light

And so it was on that morning that WITC left the car park near Row Tor for the head of the Taw River. It was clear, a bit chilly, with a steady Westerly wind. The former Ring Road firmly closed, but making a firm surface on which to walk out to OP15.

With a few diversions for boxes and meetings, WITC made it to the watershed between the Rivers Taw and East Dart. One destined for the Bristol Channel to the North, whilst the other South and the English Channel. Hardly a Continental Divide, but on a wetter day, it is possible to splash from one to the other and thus link ocean with ocean without getting your feet dry.
In 1977, Hughes paid tribute at a memorial service to Henry Williamson on the subject of Tarka the Otter. A fabulous story set, in part, on Dartmoor. Tarka travels from the shore of the Atlantic near Barnstaple up the Torridge and West Okement River to Cranmere, and descending the Taw to the sea.

It is fitting then that the Ted Hughes memorial stone is sited at the head of the Taw. Standing on a high piece of East bank, its a remote and beautiful spot. It reads "Ted Hughes OM" [His Commonwealth Realm recognition, the Order of Merit] "1930 - 1998".

From here, it is a straight forward walk downstream to meet the old ring road opposite Steeperton Tor and returning to the car.  That morning became a great day.