Tuesday, 31 December 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 2013.  More to come in 2014.

8.  Do the Ancient Dartmoor Perambulation walk.  NOT DONE!  I've got my sights set on the South West Coast Path now...

9.  Finally, to continue blogging my Dartmoor Letterboxing adventures.  DONE!

Happy 2014 everyone!!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

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.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Wooded walks

In the last two weeks, I've been to two tors with two great views into two beautiful wooded valleys. 

Close to Ashbury Tor, looking North
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.
Heading West from Fatherford

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 one box.  I left with a haul of 4 stamps.
View down Bench Tor with Sharp Tor in distance

On a very different, and also the more recent route, the trees belonged to the Devon WIldlife trust's Dart Valley Nature Reserve and the view was from Bench Tor.  This is a predominantly oak woodland on famously steep slopes dropping to the fast flowing, paddling favourite river.

Track around Venford Reservoir
Bench Tor is a ridge - a prominatary - into the river valley, with incredible views in every direction.  Sitting atop the furthest outcrop, I was able to watch other walkers explore Mel Tor opposite, no more than 500 metres away, yet so completely out of reach.  Letterboxing is tough on Bench Tor, and although we had a few on our list to find, we found more Geocaches than boxes on the tor.

I returned to the car via Venford Reservoir.  One of Dartmoor's oldest reservoirs set in a small plantation of evergreen Spruce.  A tranquil spot on a weekday afternoon.  But certainly no letterboxes.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

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 skyline of Northern Dartmoor a bold silhouette.

To Dinger Tor next, and the security of the military track.  If darkness fell, at least I had a handrail to follow home.
It was at Dinger Tor that I met the only other person out on the moor.  A non letterboxer, heading in the direction of Fur Tor.  A risky proposition for 4pm in Autumn.

As the sun continued to set, I scooped up the last of the Heights set from Bog Hill, passing the Okehampton Parish Bound-stone pictured.

9 miles walked and 13 boxes (plus our own 6) found.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

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 mornings.  Frosted grass crunching underfoot.  It is the end of Summer, but it is the beginning of another great letterboxing season.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

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 walking, I could explore the valley and tors untroubled.  Apart from the set I was searching for, there were no surprise finds, bar a couple of very obvious geocaches...  Are these getting easier to find??

The tally for the day was 4 miles and 9 letterboxes, which was satisfying enough.  Its been 2 months since my last letterbox walk, and I felt out of practice.  I need to work on my fitness!  Which reminds me: I still have a Heights of Summer series out.  With Scottish hill snow forecast for later this week, Summer seems but a distant memory and this set is looking overdue for retrieval!  Thanks for everyone's updates on this set.  All are on site and in good condition according to the most recent report.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

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, 8 August 2013

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.  Though the contents were waterlogged, we are pleased to remove a litterbox from the moor.  There were two short letterbox walks sited between Knattaborough and Oke Tor, and since time was on our side, the pair of them were duly ticked off.  7.2 miles, and 29 stamps.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

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.

Friday, 19 July 2013

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 below it's cairn, in what little shade could be found.  The cairn on High Willhays appears to have grown since my last visit...  

After eating, it was a descent to the Red-a-ven Brook - the highest water-course on the moor.  Cotton grass hardly swayed in the hot, stillness of the blanket bog at Red-a-ven Head.  We rejoined the military track close to the ruin of Observation Post (OP)2.  Of the 22 Military Observation Posts built in the Okehampton range, only 7 remain intact.  OP2, now demolished, recognisable only by pieces of wall, and a barely visible grassy former access track.

The sweltering walk back to the car used up the last of my 1.5 litres of drinking water, and a very welcome refreshment stop in Okehampton was called for!

Sunday, 30 June 2013

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 www.devonstamps.co.uk.  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!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

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 busiest Summer days.

The economic conditions clearly are not helping - high petrol prices and cost of living make trips to the moor a luxury for some.  Whilst this was meant to bring about a boom in UK holidays - the 'Stay-cations', perhaps Dartmoor is not attracting big crowds.  Maybe the National Park's intentions to attract a younger, more diverse visitors is a long term plan.

Historically, Dartmoor is a popular National Park.  The OS Explorer Map OL28 featured in the top 10 best selling maps regularly.  Maybe other parks are attracting bigger crowds, seeking bigger things.  Let us hope that the National Park Authority have the right ideas and the clout to turn the situation around.

Dartmoor National Park Management Plan: http://www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/337536/Draft-NPMP-for-consultation-May-2013.pdf

Yes Tor image: Source: The Dartmoor Quiz Book.  Barber, Chips; 1990.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

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.

Crownhill Down looking South and North, towards Penn Beacon 
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, mainly in China. The rare metal's unique properties make it essential in the manufacture of everything from cruise missiles to drill bits.  Estimates stand that approximately 3500 tonnes of tungsten could be extracted in the next 2 decades from the Hemerdon Ball site.

The planning permission sought by the mining company included the following elements:

• an open pit of eventual dimensions 36 ha in area by 200m in depth
• a plant area of 29.4ha
• tipping of approximately 100 million tonnes of mining waste over 175 ha of Crownhill Down

Thats nearly 2 sq km of spoil heap on the open moorland.  Such a shame considering the wealth of historic monuments and ancient artifacts in the area.  Hut circles, boundary stones and field systems.  There may not be many letterboxes (although a visit just before the last Meet confirms there are some), but it is a shame, and a concern, that lacking National Park protection will cost us this open space.


Thursday, 9 May 2013

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 personal skills such as self reliance, personal responsibility and leadership, whilst also providing expedition skills, improved fitness and a tremendous sense of achievement.

So lets hope for good weather, no injuries and a successful event for all concerned - in both the Ten Tors and Jubilee Challenge.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The good, the bad, and the downright nonsensical!

Lone skyward pointing rock 000° 

Cow in line with trees 200°

Rock that looks like honeycomb filled acorn hat on it's side 300°

Gate not in wall 100°
Isolated stile 360°    

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 similarly windy day yourself, or, perhaps, stand on one leg, or shake violently whilst taking bearings - attempting to replicate the owner's experience.

Other terms I suggest banning from clues include "Irregular shaped boulder" - which suggests that other rocks are formed neatly by something other than nature.  "Lichen covered" - As this fails to narrow down any search on Dartmoor, which, by and large, is entirely lichen covered.  And finally, anything ending in "-ish".  Roundish, for example.  Leftish, rightish, smallish, pointyish.  If it be described - don't describe it!

Rant over.  Back to my walk planning.  I'm hoping to be back on the moor in mid May.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

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 them into letterboxing.  The bi-annual meets always see plenty of stalls selling these walks for a variety of good causes.  A charity walk would typically raise many hundreds of pounds, and it takes time, effort and dedication not to mention charity money to make, prepare, site and maintain such a series for a couple of seasons.

Consider then the mentality, the utter, sheer mindless and loathsome behaviour of some deranged scumbag who steals charity walk stamps or boxes from the moor.  This doesn't happen by chance.  This is someone who has the clue sheet, has donned their walking boots, and set out to remove someone else's property, sited in good faith - sited for a purpose.  Be it greed, selfishness, ignorance, bloody mindedness, or something else - it is inexcusable.  I really hope they see justice one day.  I am confident they will.

In the past 2 months, two charity walks have been stolen from the moor.  The Dartmoor Homestead Walk, sited around Row Tor in October last year, raising funds for Devon Air Ambulance, and the restoration of Poltimore House in Exeter.  And then last week, the Dartmoor Occupations Walk, only sited around Sourton Tors this Spring, was also stolen.  These sets were sited by the same letterboxer, for the same good causes.  Whilst theft of individual charity walk boxes is unfortunately not unusual, entire walks disappearing is a new and desperate event.  If you have any information on the thefts, you can email the owner of both walks - Pat (aka 'Jemima') at pat-read@o2.co.uk.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

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 Park Head Ranger, Robert Steemson, on the matter of MOD plans.  He says, in respect to the IRMP: "We are presently jointly looking at the potential removal and movement of flag poles etc. At the same time at a National level MOD are looking across all of their training areas to amend and update by-laws. It is anticipated that the work being done locally will fit in to the National review."

Mr Steemson adds: "The DNPA does not have the authority to amend the by-laws however we do through the Dartmoor Working Party and Dartmoor Steering Group have a good relationship to look after Dartmoor." Indeed, this responsibility for Dartmoor is demonstrated using Cramber Tor's recent agreement: "The change of use at Cramber Tor reflect only the continuing use of this land for 40 years (in the same format that they have used it for the last 30 years) not the permanent permission as MOD requested. The DNPA does not know what the MOD intentions are for the future and if anything changes they would need to re-apply for permission."

The MOD amends the by-laws, and judging by the lengthy pending list, and slow pace of the review process, (Byelaws in need of review available here I think we can safely assume this might be another year or two...

This will inevitably push back all other planned MOD projects such as the reconstruction of a working target railway at West Mill Tor (pictured), originally scheduled for this year.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

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 track has since been re-surfaced - with a fine gravel where the tarmac has failed, and the old arguments regarding the Ring Road closure will again be debated.  Whoisthechallenger always wondered if the MOD would let the track return to nature, or maintain it for it's own benefit.

The charity walk was being completed by several other letterboxers, and whoisthechallenger met up with the Colville Cobblers en route too.  Over the day, 7.5 miles were covered with 14 boxes found.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

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, 1 April 2013

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.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

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!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

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!

Sunday, 24 February 2013


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...

Dead oak tree painted by artist Henry Brudenell-Bruce (creator
of the Widecombe 'Giant Chair') in grounds of Delamere House
near Cornwood, to highlight the threat posed by Ramorum disease.
Image: Johnculf.co.uk
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 felling of the trees, before they can produce spores.  The movement of the disease around the country has been ceaseless.  Initially limited to Devon, Cornwall and Wales, cases in Japanese larch trees were reported in the South East of England for the first time last September, and Scotland reported it's first cases earlier this month.

The Forestry Commission have stated that it is likely more Ramorum disease will be reported in Dartmoor woodlands - in fact there have been 4 new cases reported in 2013 so far - and it is likely more woodland will succumb to the infection, potentially infecting beech, birch and sweet chestnut trees.

Timber from infected trees can be used, but can only be processed and transported under tight restrictions.  There is no risk to human or animal health from the infection, but the Forestry Commission have the following advise to help minimise the rish of spreading the infection:

- Keep to marked paths, forest roads and hard footpaths
- Remove mud and soil from footwear after leaving woodland
- Keep dogs on short leads
- Not removing cuttings or other plant material from woodland
- Keep away from felling operations, and obey all safety notices

Common sense perhaps, but if letterboxers can do their bit to protect the forests of Dartmoor, it must surely be a good thing.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

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 :(
Good day for a walk, bad day for a walk.  You decide.

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 Pottery.  Powdermills is the home and workplace of potter Joss Hibbs.  You can read Joss's blog at the following link:  http://www.powdermillspottery.com/acatalog/Joss__Blog.html

On our most recent trip to Dartmoor found Dartcom, and the surrounding moor under several inches of snow.  We should have seen it coming...

Saturday, 26 January 2013

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!

Friday, 18 January 2013

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...

Thursday, 3 January 2013

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 the West Dartmoor town.  Estate agent Fine & Country's brochure is here.

Whether you'll have any say, as owner, in the plans for the re-opening of the Plymouth to Tavistock railway line is another matter!  http://www.devon.gov.uk