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.