Showing posts from 2013

2013 resolutions - the results

As the sun sets on another year, it must be time to review how I got on with the resolutions I set myself a exactly 12 months ago...
1.  Drink more water.  DONE!  I was even bought a shiny Sigg water bottle this year!
2.  One of my New Year's resolutions is to not sit at the computer as much. DONE!  I have a 'smart phone' now, rendering my laptop almost superfluous.
3.  Eat more local.  NOT DONE!  Well and truly missed on this one.  
4.  Get out on the Moor more often.  NOT DONE!  It pains me to consider that I have only completed 10 letterbox walks this year, and I'm only edging slowly to the end of a stamp album. 
5.  Distant and lofty peaks, outcrops and points must feature higher up my walk schedule.  DONE!  More than one trip up to High Willhays, treks out to Flat Tor and Lints Tor too.
6.  Decide on my actual letterboxing name: DONE!  whoisthechallenger.  There.
7.  Keep siting some nice boxes. NOT DONE!  Nice boxes, but not enough sited.  Just 2 new series in 201…

New clues: Christmas walk 2013

Merry Christmas to all my blog readers!


Santa Claws!
Merry Christmas

This series has now been removed from the moor.

Wooded walks

In the last two weeks, I've been to two tors with two great views into two beautiful wooded valleys. 
Since August, experts have been quoted in the media preparing us for dramatic Autumnal scenes in our woods and forests.  A bumper season or 'mast year' for forest fruits, promised the Forestry Commision.  The dry, calm Summer was also set to provide us with intense colours in the tree leaves in a show unmatched in years.
And so it was with great anticipation that WITC headed up into the trees.
Ashbury Tor overlooks the West Okement just before the river leaves the National Park, and turns to thread through Okehampton.  The scattered outcrops don't hide many boxes, but make an interesting diversion from the normal routes in the area.  I parked at Fatherford Viaduct, and never strayed too far from the noise of the A30.  This was a route with a specific target, and I had no time to cross the adjoining East Hill.  I met Richard Barry (Barry Bogwalker) whilst searching for…

From the top, down.

As promised, the Summer set - the Heights of Summer - needed retrieving.  The weather on Tuesday was superb.  The early cloud drifted off, and the sunshine warmed the moor up.  Following in our August footsteps, I stomped up to Yes Tor, High Willhays and Fordsland Ledge, but instead, descended South to Lints Tor.  Its been ages since I've been here.  The last time, it had been a long return trip up the river from Meldon boxing the true left bank on the way up, right on the way down.

Lints Tor is a prominent and reconisable rock pile.  Its the iconic peak in the centre of the valley.  Many breaks have been taken in the shelter its sheer walls provided.  On my list was a selection of boxes called Clapping Over Dartmoor, and I was keen to find the set.

From Lints I paced off to Brim Brook.  I had to hurry up as the light was beginning to fail.  I say fail, but the late afternoon light was actually getting more dramatic.  The sky turned purple, red, the hillsides below turned orange. …

The end of Summer

Next week, I'll be back on the moor to bring in my Heights of Summer series from the High Willhays area.  If you haven't already, its your last chance to collect the set (New clues - Heights of Summer, July 2013).  It seems an age since the height of Summer.  The October letterbox Meet on clock change day appeared well attended, and theres a heap of new charity walks sited.  Meanwhile the October weather seemed typically Autumnal.  The Environment Agency tell us it was the eighth wettest October since records began in the South West, with about double the average rainfall, and high river levels reported during the latter half of the month.

The days are notably shorter, and the first frosts are forecast.  Its a time for thermals on the moor, and good waterproofs too.  Dicey river crossings, low cloud and tricky bearings.  Dark green of heather, dark grey skies.  Windswept car parks devoid of visitors.  Steamed up windows on Fox Tor Cafe.  Then there'll be the cold, crisp m…

The upper River Meavy

WITC spotted a recent gap in the weather to complete a word-of-mouth letterbox walk around Black Tor and Hart Tor between Burrator and Princetown.  The last couple of months of searching for a new house have been very stressful, and it was unbelievably good to get out on the moors, blowing away the cobwebs, and relaxing.
The four-mile stroll took in Black Tor Blowing House and the old rifle range.  The last time I walked here, I was adopted by a particularly yappy and friendly Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  He bounded over to me from out of nowhere, frequently barking and sticking loyally to my side.  After spending the proceeding 2 hours attempting to find his owners, I decided he must have been alone on the moor sometime, wrapped up my walk, returned to the car and drove him to the nearest Animal Shelter.  I understand that he was reunited with his owners the next day.  The benefits of animal chipping right there!
No such drama this time around.  With scarcely any other people out wa…

Go West!

WITC is moving back to the Westcountry!  Although I am Devonian at heart, I am delighted to report that in September I'm moving to Redruth, over the river in Cornwall.

I've started a new job in Falmouth, and I'm very much looking forward to spending more time with family in the region, and also to spend more free time on the Moors.
Redruth is of course the capital of Clotted Cream, and cornish mining - hometown to Kristin Scott-Thomas and Pirate FM.  Redruth and Okehampton are just 75 minutes apart on the A30, so I expect many more North moor walks to come in the future.
Until the mortgage completes on my new house in the middle of the month, I am forced to couch-surf and enjoy the company of my adopted housemates, reflecting on the remainder of the Cornish Summer, the price of pasties, and the complexity of the housebuying process these days...

Thursday, 8th August 2013

The Belstone ridge is - if letterboxing forums are to be believed - a fantastic area for successful boxing.  Certainly, there are many places to hide them.  The ridge from Oke Tor north to Tors End see outcrops and subject matter galore.  As WITC prepared for our walk, it became clear there were lots on our list to find.  It has been several years since we have explored the West side of Belstone Ridge, and two old boxes of ours needed to be retrieved.  

We parked amongst the dozens of Army Cadets who were resting in the sunshine at Cullever Steps car park.  As we descended to the river, and on to Scarey Tor, it became clear that it was only the MOD cadets making the moor feel busy today.

Successfully retrieving our box from the North end of the ridge, close to Nine Maidens, WITC then again tried and failed to find the original Belstone letterbox - registered box number 28.  
Continuing down the ridge, past Higher and Winter Tors, there was another box of ours successfully brought in.…

New clues: The Heights of Summer

A series of boxes on and around the 'Roof of Devon' - the ridge with the county's highest peaks crowning it.   Yes Tor Road(Contains visitors book) 

Yes Tor

Fordsland Ledge
High Willhays(Contains visitors book) 
Datum D
Redaven head (Contains visitors book)
All boxes have been removed from the moor.

Hitting the highs

It has been a blisteringly hot week, with record temperatures across the South of England.  Dartcom suggests that thermometers peaked at 26.1 degrees on Dartmoor last weekend.  With little, or no wind, it made for a hot, hot, hot walk up to the roof of Devon.

WITC was not alone of course, and there were many people looking to enjoy the sunshine, the views and the opportunity to look down on most of the Nation.

Our route started close to the Target Railway below West Mill Tor.  As I was not driving my car (yes, I had permission!!), I was pleased that the MOD had at least resurfaced this stretch of metalled track.  Smooth (yet un-melted) tarmac to the top.  From here a walk along the gravel paths and trails led me up to Yes Tor.  Appreciating the breeze from on high, I had boxes to search for on this ridge, and then headed over to Fordsland Ledge.  The West Okement valley stretched out before us - the view never fails to impress.  Turning for the highest spot of all, and lunch just bel…

Devon Stamps review

Following February's surprise news about Tanda Stamps' closure, I was forced to look elsewhere for the creation of this year's new stamps.  Following the design and submission of 2 new series, I have been very impressed by the service provided by  They provided advice about my stamps before they took payment.  They warned me about a potential delay to manufacture them, though it only took them 8 days in total, which is very reasonable.  It is a pity the largest size sheet they can create is A5, but on this occasion, this suited my stamp request.  Also, at £22 plus P&P per A5 sheet, it is a bit pricey.  As the picture shows, the rubber is self adhesive, backed with the coloured sheet, and overall, I'm very happy.

Health dependant, I'm hoping to back these stamps and have the first set sited in mid July.  Standby for more news!

All quiet

Its the start of Summer.  Peak season.  Yet WITC asks just one question.

Where is everyone?

Letterbox forums are quiet.   We have had two very quiet consecutive Meets.  Commoners are complaining about stock levels decreasing, and scrub levels increasing, restricting access to on the moor.

The National Park Management Plan on the DNPA website currently reports that visitor numbers are falling.  "Falling tourist numbers, particularly in serviced accommodation (hotels, b&bs, etc) are leading to reduced employment."

One of the joys of Dartmoor is the ability to escape the crowds even on the busiest Bank Holiday, and walk all day without seeing another soul.  Haytor car park will still be busy, as will Burrator and Postbridge.  These 'honeypot' sites on the moor have been developed by the National Park Authority, benefiting from investment in services and maintenance.

Images such as the one above of Yes Tor appear positively impossible to replicate, even on the busi…

Hemerdon Tungsten Mine & Crownhill Down

WITC notes news breaking just South of Dartmoor this week:  Australian mining firm Wolf Minerals have confirmed they have successfully secured funding to start work on the £130 million Tungsten project at Hemerdon Mine.  The mine lies close to  Dartmoor Zoo, South of Crownhill Tor and Lee Moor.  Though the story is hardly a surprise, and even the relief road has been completed in expectation of this news.  
The villagers of Hemerdon have also been waiting a long time for this news. Wolf Minerals first stated their intentions nearly 30 years ago! The village lies in an area of Devon - a region of Britain - with a long history of mining. Hemerdon Tungsten Mine originally opened in the early 20th century, and after closing after WW2, the area was subject to further exploratory work in the 1950s and 1980s.
The mine is now expected to commence extraction of tin and tungsten in 2015. Demand for tungsten  is rising, and supplies are becoming limited to more and more difficult locations, m…

Ten Tors & Jubilee Challenge 2013

Its that time of the year again!  Ten Tors 2013 takes place this weekend.

Please take care using your camp stoves now!  This after the recent headline:
100 firefighters attend massive blaze near Chat Tor.  Ten Tor's Director Brigadier Piers Hankinson has concluded that the fire risk is 'Red' despite this week's rain.  The green shoots are yet to appear, leaving tinder dry dead grass moor-wide.

This weekend we should also consider the 300-or-so participants of the Jubilee Challenge.  Celebrating it's 35th anniversary this year, the Jubilee Challenge is open to teenagers with physical or educational disabilities.  Entrants take on one of 4 routes of between 7.5 miles and 15 miles across North Dartmoor over a single day, dealing with the same pressure and conditions as the Ten Tor'ers.

This is a truly incredible event: offering a test for groups and individuals who face challenges every day of their lives.  The objectives of the Jubilee Challenge are to develop pe…

The good, the bad, and the downright nonsensical!

I love a challenge, but as I sit here, planning my next walk, my mind has drifted to the tricky letterbox clues.  The bearings of 132.25 degrees, the 'tucked back and to left' sites, the visible, and 'not-quite-visible'  '2nd highest holly'.  The 'logan-type', 'Africa-shaped' rocks.  The catalogue is chocked full with imaginatively descriptive and more unconventional clues.

A genuine clue taken from the catalogue a few years back reads, in it's entirety: "FREEDOM ??? ???  On a knife edge.  Check out an old site."  We're all in favour of getting back to basics, without GPS and all, but give us a clue!

If we face a future without GPS to assist us (or at least the 10 figure grid references), decent bearings will make all the difference.  Wherever possible, siting a letterbox on a calm day helps.  For when a clues states "(Windy)" at the end, its very hard to know how to act on the moor.  You can either only search on a…

Theft from a charity

Surely there can be no lower, no more despicable crime than stealing from a charity.  In Plymouth last month, a news story appeared of thieves who smashed their way into the Jennycliff Cafe, overlooking Plymouth Sound, during the night.  They caused hundreds of pounds worth of damage, and stole the till float, as well as 3 charity pots belonging to the Devon Air Ambulance, the British Heart Foundation and St Lukes Hospice.
The vandals remain at large, and when caught, will face criminal prosecution and a stern sentence - though I'm sure even this won't be enough.  Charities depend on donations and public support and the sick crooks who help themselves to the charitable gains are simply the dregs of society.  (Full story here)
Transfer this to Dartmoor, and the charitable funds raised by charity walks.  For many letterboxers, these routes provide enjoyable and successful letterboxing days.  For most boxers, it was through completing these routes and finding these boxes that got…

Battle Plans Part V

It has been 18 months since we saw published Ministry of Defence plans for their military ranges on Northern Dartmoor.  You'll remember (from post "Battle Plans Part III - Any clearer?") that during the 2012 financial year, the MOD had accounted for a series of actions to take place including:

- Removing 3 flagpoles in the Okehampton Training area, with Yes Tor being a priority for removal.
- Combining Watern Oke Flagpole with a 'look-out'.
- Walkham Spur flagpole to be relocated, with a 'look out' constructed and access works to take place on slopes near Fuges Post and Walkham Head.

Well, the wait continues, even as we approach the Summer of 2013.  The MOD's Integrated Rural Management Plan did say that work would require the amendment of the local by-laws in order for the work to take place.  The original 1980 by-law for Okehampton Training Area, for instance, listed the precise locations for flagpoles.

I have now received communication from National Par…

Roving the Ring Road

Returning to the South West for a rare, second consecutive weekend, whoisthechallenger went North to complete an attractive little charity walk around West and East Mill Tors.  The 11 box walk was sited in order raise funds for the Plymouth branch of the PDSA.  The 'Birds Eye View Of Dartmoor' series is the sixth and latest installment of this group's Charity walks, and their stamps and clues are always reliable.

We parked at Row Tor in bright sunshine, and were delighted to find that the wind was not bracing, nor was it bearing inhibitive.  All the boxes were within paces of the metalled army tracks, some of which formed the 'Okehampton Ring Road'.  This was looping track from Row Tor out to OP15 on Okement Hill.  The track was often rutted and pot-holed, with a couple of deep fords thrown in, but at least the Western (ford-free) half of the track was negotiable with a 2 wheel drive car.  On September 18th 2009 the track was closed to all public traffic.

The trac…

Tuesday, April 2nd 2013

I can now confirm that the Rangale of deer set is off the moor.  Please delete your clues now.  I was delighted to discover that all the boxes were on site, and stampable.  I've had my fill of the East Dart valley for a while though...

Monday, April 1st 2013

A Bank Holiday off work and the sun shining, whoisthechallenger needed no further excuse to get out on the moors.  After purchasing a couple of charity walks at the meet, it was to Brat Tor and Arms Tor that we headed.  The car park wasn't exactly overflowing.  The Ten-Tor trainees were out in force though.  As the route took us up the River Lyd, we were fortunately sheltered from the chilly Easterly wind.  Early Spring is the best time to walk the Lyd valley - no bracken.

Boxes were generally on site, and for the first time in a long time, the moor was dry underfoot.  Circling Smallacombe Rocks, and heading up to Arms Tor, we suddenly found ourselves exposed to the full force of the wind.  Dartcom suggested winds peaked at 26 knots this afternoon - though I suspect their instruments are not as exposed as Widgery Cross.
Retreating back to river level, splashing across the Lyd and back to the car on High Down, WITC is pleased with the 8.5 miles covered, and the 38 box haul too.

The 67th meet

Whoisthechallenger was the Meet at Lee Moor today and was delighted to see such a healthy turnout!  With at least a dozen charity walks for sale (all doing brisk trade by the looks of things), and the mix of other traders and stalls, the village was positively buzzing even when I stopped by mid morning.  A sign of the times is perhaps the average price being charged for a set of clues has dropped to £2.50.  Credit crunch indeed!

Having invested in a selection of charity walks, we look forward to some interesting walks in the East Mill Tor, Brat Tor and Black Down areas.  This looks like an interesting Spring and Summer!

Rack 'em up!

From the latest update:
The 67th Letterbox Meet will be held on Easter Sunday, 31st March 2013  at Lee Moor Village Hall from 10am to 4.30pm. See you there!


A story which might have been missed last year concerns the humble larch.  The hardy, lofty, deciduous conifer tree which can be found throughout the UK, including the woodlands of Dartmoor.  A cash crop especially valued for its extremely hard wood.  You may recall the sudden and substantial clearances of trees within Burrator, or at Canonteign Woods, or at Cann Woods in the Plym Valley back in 2011.  Restocking of these forests is complete, but the cause was Ramorum Disease (Phytophtora Ramorum) - a fungus like infection that kills trees and shrubs, and the spread of the infection continues...
The infection was first discovered in the UK in 2002, and boosted by wet Summers and strong winds has since leapt species from Viburnum and Rhododendron to Bilberry and Japanese Larch.  It is estimated that the plantation surrounding Burrator Reservoir is 10% Japanese Larch.  
The disease is spread by spores that develop on infected plants, and the only known means of control is systematic fe…

The camera doesn't lie

I live a long way from Dartmoor.  Too far.  The Solent shoreline typically receives a mild, occasionally blowy mix of settled weather.  Very much unlike the frequent wet and windy assortment experienced in the South West.  Portsmouth is neither South West nor South East.  We are almost halfway along the South coast, and forecasts rarely accurately describe our location well :(

Our climate is even less like the cold, misty and often stormy offerings provided on the moors.  Metoffice forecasts for Princetown are hit and miss.  Therefore I am often very thankful for an up-to-date view of Dartmoor conditions.  A veritable eye in the Dartmoor sky: Dartcam.

Dartcam is operated by Dartcom - a weather satellite and ground sensing equipment manufacturer located at Powdermills near Two Bridges.  The old 19th century gunpowder factory buildings accommodate numerous other operations including a Team building and outdoor pursuit organiser, a £15 per night bunkhouse and the famous Powdermills Pott…

Going, going, gone!

These 2 panoramic images are of the same view looking North from Goadstone Pond on the B3212.  Taken 2 days apart (Thursday 24th, and Saturday 26th January 2013) during the recent thaw.

Its been over a month since Christmas, so it was high time that the WITC Christmas walk was brought in.  I can confirm that the walk is now off Dartmoor - please delete your clues for this walk.  Many thanks for all your support with this Festive series.  I was delighted to find all the boxes on site, and just 2 of the stamps loose from their backing, but certainly not un-stampable.

Apologies to all those who got their feet wet on the splash across Walkhampton Common between boxes 5 and 6.  I had no idea the area got that wet, and I wasn't going to 'wade' back across the common to resite it!

Snow go

Photo c/o Jonathan Gisbon
Whoischallenger is preparing to spend some time down on Dartmoor next week.  Our Christmas walk is in need of removing, and we have plenty of letterbox walks to do.  One certainty though, as long as the weather remains icy and snowy, we won't we camping.  Not like the travelling community who have just taken over the car park at Cadover Bridge near Shaugh Prior (pictured above).  The National Park Authority have applied for a court order to have the 50 or so travellers removed.
Hope the snow is gone by next week though.  The forecast isn't great though...

Advance to Go (and collect $200)

Santa brought us an incredible and unique present this Christmas.  A personalised Monopoly board with the property squares filled by Dartmoor tors, towns and landmarks!  With the Moor's combination of railway stations, water works and hotels, there is no shortage of sites perfect to convert to Monopoly sites.

The "fast-dealing property trading game" has resulted in some great purchases of des-res's in perfect locations, but WITC notes another real life property worthy of a Dartmoor monopoly board:  Tavistock Railway Station.  With a price-tag of at least £1.25 million, this is worthy of the Mayfair square.  It is a truly stunning site to own though.  Grade II listed, with 3 five-star holiday cottages, this is more than a house - it is a business opportunity.
You might have seen the property on TV, when then the current sellers developed it on Channel 4's show 'Property Snakes and Ladders' in 2008.  Beautifully decorated, and in a spectacular position in …