Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Review of the year

365 days.  8760 hours.  525,600 minutes.  2014 has finally reached it's conclusion.  Time to reflect on what has been another year on Dartmoor, letterboxing.  Last Winter's storms gave way for a long settled Summer, and a dry Autumn which enabled long and enjoyable days on the Moor.  Perfect for photography too!

This year has marked the passing of several well known letterboxers.  These include Derek Newman who sadly passed away in October.  Derek famously married his partner Caroline Atchley at the remote Keble Martin Chapel in 1990, after they met whilst letterboxing.  In November, letterboxer Mary Restell died tragically in a diving accident in Gloucestershire.  An accident that left her husband Roy serious injured, but he is recovering.

On the Moor we have bid farewell this year to the poles and power lines that stretched across Walkhampton Common to Princetown.  This year also saw the removal of Dartmoor's smallest cross.  As the legacy of Bill Northmore: Hand Hill Cross was cemented to a prominent rock overlooking Fox Tor Mire.  Unfortunately it was presumed snapped off and lost in November.  Letterbox clues will never be the same again.

The theft of people's property remains a constant threat to this great hobby and the world of Dartmoor letterboxing still grapples to deal with the Dartmoor Letterbox Thief (DLT).  The disappearing boxes result in suspicion and loss of trust in fellow boxer.  Note to all letterbox thieves out there: One day you will be found and face justice - theft is a crime.  Thieves will never succeed wiping out Dartmoor letterboxing.

My 2014 in review:

Number of letterbox walks completed: 18

Number of letterboxes found: 249.  Leaving the grand total found at 15140 stamps.

Letterboxes sited: I've sited 13.  Of which 12 were subsequently recovered.  One missing, presumed stolen.

Distance walked:  Unknown.  Without GPS has meant that I can merely speculate about the distance I have covered.

Most successful walk/Most enjoyable days letterboxing:  In terms of boxes, it'll be the walk from Fernworthy to Cut Hill and back in the footsteps of letterbox pioneer James Perrott.  In terms of number of boxes found, and as a complete day's walk this was by far the successful and enjoyable for me this year.  Cut Hill makes such a fantastic target for a long walk on a sunny day.  I highly recommend it.

Least successful walk:  Littaford Tor January 2014.  Horrendous weather.  Horrendous clues (when you don't have a GPS!).

This year I have fallen completely for the social media outlet that is Twitter, which has opened up opportunities to support the future of letterboxing.  Interesting and exciting links have been made this way and I look forward to making more.  Follow me there @

My WITC blog, incredibly, is about to enter a 5th year of existence and I'm as keen as ever to continue posting.  Two letterbox series have already been prepared for siting in the next 12 months.

Happy New Year to all my blog readers.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

This week: Part 2

The second objective during my short stay on Dartmoor was to bring in my Parliament of owls series.  Sited back in May, this set of 7 stamps around Longaford was due for removal.  One of the boxes - the final one of the set - had disappeared, presumed stolen back in October.  However the rest of the set were all on site, with just one stamp off it's backing.  

More than 50 letterboxers have found the series, based on the visitors books, which makes me happy.  Thanks for everyone's support.

This week: Part 1

I had two objectives for this week when the opportunity arose to spend a couple of days on the moor.  One was to do some Christmas walks.  Finding a festive series or two provides a perfect end to the letterboxing year.  Of course, it wouldn't be complete without freezing cold fingers, exchanging Christmas wishes in visitors books and a hail storm.

So I headed up to Cox Tor first to find a few boxes.  It was rumoured that snow would fall in Devon on the morning of my walk.  As is customary, hail fell instead where I was.  After Cox Tor, it was on to Aish Tor.  The oft overlooked rockpile on the River Dart's East bank.  From up here I was able to spy Bench Tor, where last Christmas I had my own letterbox walk sited.  This year, I have chosen not to site a Christmas series.  Though I have other plans instead...

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Dear Santa...

I decided to pass on the shopping frenzy that is Black Friday, now universally recognised for the supermarket scrums. Yet we are about to meet the internet equivalent: 'Cyber Monday'  The year's biggest online shopping day, with just over 3 weeks till Christmas. WITC considers what deserves to be on the list to Santa this year...

There are loads of astonishing 2015 calendars available at the moment including this one by the Ordnance Survey. Reduced to £5.29, and only available through their website.  Ordnance Survey shop

I love a gadget, and surely they don't get more gadgety than global positioning. The GPSmap 62sc, a Garmin with added 21st century stuff. Things like a 5 megapixel camera and internet connectivity.
On sale at Handtec at £227.88

If, like me, you are preparing for another very chilly letterboxing season, it was exciting to discover a revolutionary new type of handwarmer. It can be charged through the main or by USB port, and provides up to 6 hours of warmth. At £29.99, the Hot Rox isn't cheap, but it might be the only handwarmer you'll ever need.

As I have a particular fondness for the magnificent scenery of Tavy Cleave, I'll be hoping for a photographic print of the Dartmoor valley.  One from The Green Lanes Shimmer aka landscape photographer Rachel Birch perhaps:  This large signed and mounted print is available at £22.09. thegreenlanesshimmer 

For the outdoorsy people in our lives, a couple of suggestions:

What about a personalised map jigsaw? Select one of 5 map styles, including 'circa 1805' or current OS Landranger, pick a postcode to centre on, and create a unique 400-piece puzzle for your loved one  to complete this Christmas.  (Remember: Princetown's postcode is PL20 6SS!)
Reduced to £23.79 at dash4it

Plus one for the kids: The Two Blondes have written a new childrens book 'The Dartmoor Christmas Tree', beautifully illustrated by Ali Marshall. If you haven't heard of the authors, the Two Blondes are the pair behind Nominee for the TGO Outdoor Blog of the year 2014.
The book is available at for £6.99

Happy shopping everyone!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Tuesday, November 12th 2014

A set of 12 cat stamps in the Lyd Valley was my target for my last trip to the moor.  After years of searching for and finding letterbox stamps dedicated to dogs, it was unusual, but not at all unwelcome to spend the day searching for a series of cats.  

The weather was showery, but not cold.  The wind was forecast to be strong, but was not bearing inhibitive.  I parked at Nodden gate, as the farmers were bringing sheep off the moor near the (now very closed) Dartmoor Inn, and car entry was a no-no.  The track, for your information, behind the Fox and Hounds pub has become rutted and must be treated with care when driving.

The boxes were relatively easy to find, and followed the well known path up the river, then back further up he hillside, taking in all the features along the way.  Autumn sunshine lent the scene a warm glow, and eventually, even Great Links appeared from out of the gloom too.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Creepy goings on

Happy Halloween!

In the darkness, a noise.  A shuffling.  Silence again.  Suddenly shadows moved and scurried to one side, then the other..  Then to the boot of the car, which I closed and then locked.

After my longest separation from the moor of the year, by the end of October, I was raring to go.  Clock change weekend of course means the Letterbox Meet at Lee Moor.  Although I was eager to attend (I missed April's Meet) last minute work commitments inevitably prevented this again.

However I was able to complete a short route around Top Tor and Pil Tor.  A few word-of-mouth series have been sited here in the past few months, yet the area is frequently overlooked in favour of higher, more distant spots.  Parking at Hemsworthy Cross, and heading straight for the summit of Top Tor, I wasn't surprised to see several day-trippers resting leaward side of the outcrops, keeping out of the chill wind.  The views were breathtaking in all directions, particularly up the Webbern valley between Hameldown and Chinkwell Tor.  Banks of cloud send short showers in from the West, but as I descended to Hollow Tor and the lesser visited Tunhill Rocks, the sun started to shine, warming the scene.  By the time I reached the cairn at Whitaburrow, a warm Autumn glow was in full effect.

Boxes were being found thick and fast.  I met the Stamping Staggs and compared notes (not clues!).  The area's proximity to the car parks belies its boxing opportunities.  Poor Emily had clearly been a victim of the letterbox thief before, and prepared her new letterbox for the worst.

12 boxes found, and a truly enjoyable return to the moor for Autumn.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Tour of Britain 2014

I own a bicycle, but I'm not the most committed cycle nut.  I really enjoyed the cycling events I saw at London 2012, and the Tour de France coverage on TV this year was incredible.  So when I won a Twitter competition run by Dartmoor National Park, to join them on their open top bus at Haytor for the Tour of Britain this year, I was ecstatic!

A VIP ticket for the top car park, and a prime view at the summit of this King of the Mountain stage were on offer.  The 170km Devon section of this week long cycle event had several climbs, but this one was the headliner.  Thousands of spectators had walked, cycled or driven up to the moor to watch.  The route passed through Widecombe, Ponsworthy, Dartmeet, Two Bridges, Merrivale and Tavistock.  Then North to Lydford, Okehampton, and East back towards Exeter.  The NPA were understandably delighted by the turnout, and the weather.  Sir Bradley Wiggins, Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish were just three of a stellar line up of professional cyclists on the tour.  True - the build up, cyclists and race cars passed by within 20 minutes, but it made an exciting and unusual day out on the moor.

It was incredible to see the peloton speed up the hill, still chatting to each other as they cycled.  Massive congratulations to all the competitors.  If you haven't seen the Tour on the moor, then hope that it will return again soon.  It seems that the Rugby World Cup matches in Exeter in 2015 will prevent the event returning to the county next year.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

A short cut?

It has been years since I last went to Cut Hill, and I'd urge you to make the effort to get out there too.  Summer is the optimum time to visit this remote spot at the centre of the Northern moor.  The planned route involved going in from a different direction, not from the usual Postbridge or Baggator car parks, but from Fernworthy Reservoir.  I'd calculated that this was the closest car park to home within striking distance of the Hill.
I took a few choice paths in Fernworthy Forest to emerge on the slopes of Tom's Hill, taking the 'digger' path over Sittaford Tor and over to Statts House.  In the distance I could make out 2 diggers around Flat Tor Pool.  A surprise, since the August work was only due on the Summer Hill plateau.  I was too far away to see exactly what they were doing though.  I descended to Kit Steps and leapt the East Dart at the confluence with Cut Hill Stream.  Here, the letterboxing began.

My clue list was long.  With not many distant bearings utilised, it was a test of my memory of Cut Hill's landmarks and artefacts: including the pipe, cable, outcrop, rain gauge, guide stones and blocks.  This is a big hill, and I had about 6 hours to scour it.  One landmark I hadn't seen since its discovery was the Cut Hill stone row.  Dr Tom Greeves discovered Dartmoor's highest row up here in 2010.  

The Hill was very quiet today, and I saw just one other person all day (even the diggers were silent).  The walk took me down to Cut Lane Stream, and around to Foresters House.  Underfoot, the grass was long, and damp, and it made for treacherous walking at times.  With 3 hours till Sunset I found myself at Lamerton Lane considering the best way back.  My clues were all for Cut Hill, so I packed up my clues, map and compass and headed down to the Teign valley, following the course down to the confluence below Sittaford.  Another ascent over this Tor, and I was a short walk back to the forest.  Stopping to take some pictures of Grey Wethers in the warm dusk light.  The paths in Fernworthy are not as plentiful as the newest OS map suggests.  Which is a touch frustrating, in that options are limited, though it could be seen to be safer this way, with less chance of getting lost.

A cracking day all in all.  The views from Cut Hill's summit stretch from St Austell to the Blackdown Hills, with both coasts visible at Torbay and Tintagel.  A tricky, under-used route though from Fernworthy, but one for the intrepid.  About 15 miles walked, and 26 boxes found.  

Thursday, 7 August 2014


On the North-East corner of the Moor, nestled at the base of Meldon Hill is Chagford.  A neat and historic stannary town.  My most recent venture to the moor was here - enjoying the comfort of the Globe Inn to spend a night in the town.  Though I was in Chagford for explorations rather than letterboxing...

St Michael's Churchyard in Chagford is the resting place for the grandfather and founder of Dartmoor Letterboxing - James Perrott.  He died in May 1885, aged 81 in the town he called home.  Chagford parish's website records that the church was dedicated to St Michael the Archangel by Bishop Branscombe (of fellow Dartmoor landmark Branscombe's Loaf fame), who in 1261 was Bishop of Exeter.

James Perrott was a famous Dartmoor Guide, and is credited with taking amongst others, Charles Dickens on the route out to Cranmere Pool via Fernworthy.  Besides walking, Perrott was also a keen angler.

So it was for lunch that it was deemed appropriate to descend to the Teign Valley and the Anglers Rest public house.  The peaceful atmosphere on the deck at the waters edge is phenomenal. Watching Brown trout and dippers darting by.  En route, we passed the tented Castle Drogo.  I had never really considered how visible Castle Drogo was from all over the Eastern moor until this giant white wrap was placed over it in December. The Western Morning News call it the biggest tent in the world, and that if all the scaffolding poles were put end to end, they'd stretch 60 miles!  Despite being damaged by the Winter storms, the wrapping will stay in place till mid 2015, until the renovation work is complete.  I look forward to the grand unveil next year.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

This numbers game

After last week's walk, I was thumbing through the stamps collected.  That I'd found as many as I had was pleasing for a few reasons.  Since stashing the GPS away last Winter, I had noticed a considerable decline in my success rates on walks, and Tuesday reversed this trend.  I'm also planning a trip to Cut Hill - where stumbling on unexpected letterboxes is expected - and the pace and efficiency required at the box site requires practise.  Also, my scrapbooks have big pages - I need at least 15 stamps to fill a page!

Yet there is the important question of motivation.

To some letterboxers, 'boxing is about the healthy walk, the fresh air, the landscape all around, the chance encounters.  Take a camera; Take a dog; Take your time.  The letterboxing provides a little je ne c'est quoi, a bonus, an extra.  To be on Dartmoor is enjoyable enough.  Why not select the boxes, and the places you enjoy visiting and finding?   If you find it - great - if not, never mind.  There'll still be plenty more boxes on the moor next time.  You'll never find them all anyway!  What with the price of petrol, there's also no reason to be criss-crossing the moor every weekend. 

To others, the letterboxing is the purpose.  There is always time for 'one more box'.  Even if there isn't time.  Maybe its competitive - between friends and family.  It could be about being first in book, completing the series, or being 'seen'.  To some its about ensuring maximum return of stamps from limited time on the moor.  Letterboxing is, of course, highly addictive, and the thought of passing potential letterbox sites unsearched is absurd.  There is the next badge to aim for: with just another 100/1000/10,000 stamps to go!  Aim high!  There is no such thing as bad weather: only the wrong clothing, and besides, if you go in the rain, you'll have the whole moor to yourself, and won't have to worry about being 'watched' by grockles at Combestone Tor. And when sunset forces you off, why not take a torch, and pack clues for the 'roadies' on the route home.  (Or was that just me?!?)

Which brings me on to which camp I sit in.  I have flitted between both groups at various times recently.  I get withdrawal symptoms when I am away from Dartmoor, not from letterboxing.  However, I miss letterboxing terribly when I'm on the moor without clues.  I would probably count myself among the first group at the moment.  During the past 2 years, I started leaving The Upland Trotter personal at home, and carried only the whoisthechallenger stamp instead, so I cannot be sure how many stamps I have actually found.  Who am I actually counting for?  Who counts anyway?

Above everything else, it's about personal choice.  The reasons for letterboxing can be so varied and individual. 

Letterboxing, eh?  This Victorian pastime.  This means to an end.  This numbers game.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Weather permitting

Surely one of the greatest joys of Summer is the warm sunshine lasting late into the day, concluding with spectacular sunsets and mild nights.

Today was forecast to be one of these days, with the risk of some mid afternoon showers.  So it was the longest walk yet for me this year.  I'm building up to a pilgrimage to Cut Hill, and I needed to test myself.  I haven't been walking as often or as far as I'd hoped at new year.

I parked up at Four Winds car park - the former site of Foggintor School - and started the day by completing a small letterbox series around Over Tor, Church Rock and Little Mis Tor.  It must be at least a decade or so since I've been here.  The Merrivale military range was closed today, and guns were audible beyond Roos Tor.  Thankfully I hadn't planned to go too far North, but instead to cross over the main road and complete a different set of letterboxes around Kings Tor, Swell Tor and North Hessary.

At lunch, sat on the bank of the Longash Brook below Merrivale Menhir as I was, the clouds built up, the wind strengthened, and the rain began to fall.  I was not put off, and layered up I rounded Kings Tor to Little Kings and Hucken Tors.  A particularly sharp shower forced me under the bridge for shelter.  After exploring the area around the corbel stones and climbing over Swell Tor quarries, I followed the old railway track around to Foggintor and, between boxes, I took some time out to watch the climbers and abseilers enjoying the steep drops on offer.  The military are responsible, I understand, for the large quantity of metal gear affixed to the lips of the deep quarry.

Then it was back to Four Winds.  I estimate the walk was about 9 miles in length.  I found 33 boxes which is a new personal record since my GPS was switched off!  Bring on Cut Hill!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

New clues - A parliament of owls

A series of boxes sited on the popular ridge from Two Bridges to Higher White Tor.  These boxes will be on site until the end of November 2014.

Crockern Tor    (Contains visitors book)

Lydford Gaol   


Ashburton   (Contains visitors book)



A parliament of owls   (Contains visitors book)

This series has now been removed from the moor.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

White Tor

Between the rain showers, I grabbed the opportunity to complete a charity letterbox walk sited for the 'People's Dispensary for Sick Animals' around White Tor on the western fringe of Dartmoor.  I parked up at the quarry car park on Smeardon Down, and climbed to Boulters Tor.  The gorse is beginning to flower, and the bracken is growing fast. Another few weeks and this area is deep in the stuff.  

As well as the flora, the rocks around here are distinct too.  Boulters Tor, White Tor, Brent Tor, and other western outcrops around here are not of granite.  They are basalt, the result of lava flows during the Devonian period, some 400 million years ago, when this area of Britain was under the sea.  The rocks are black and far more angular than granite.

Stephens Grave was on my route, although this area is devoid of letterboxes.  This lonely spot is the supposed burial site of John Stephens of Peter Tavy. As someone who committed suicide in the 18th century, he was not allowed to be buried on hallowed ground, but instead was buried at a crossroads, far away from the parish church, to confuse the spirit should it feel like a wander. Witnesses claim to have seen his ghost, sitting as though lost, on the grave.

White Tor is an entertaining place to letterbox.  Lots of outcrops, and opportunity for bearings.  It never ceases to disappoint.  One bearing seems to be missing though - the white flagpole.  The base remains, but it appears the pole has been cut down.  There was no indication of this happening in MOD plans that I have read.

After completing the loop of the tor, I descended to Wedlake and the Colly Brook to trace back to the car.  A fantastic day and 19 boxes found.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Littaford and Longaford

My latest walk was on the popular and fascinating ridge above the West Dart River.  Parking at Two Bridges, close to the hotel of the same name.  First stop was Wistmans Wood.  The famous nature reserve wearing the Spring cloak of lush green leaves. Demonstrating Summer weather is almost here, but also that the forest is healthy.  Natural England, who own Devon's oldest woodland, say Wistmans Wood has doubled in size in the past 100 years.  It still, thankfully, retains the ethereal feel familiar with Dartmoor's high altitude oak woodland.

Next, I headed North to the take-off point for Devonport Leat and the boundaries of Longaford Newtake.  I passed the lesser-known Little Whiten Tor, and climbed up to Lower White Tor.  On July 4th, 1939, Fairey Battle K9391, a single engined RAF bomber on exercise crashed up here (Info credit due to Clyde North Aeronautical Preservation Group.) Some of the wreckage remains embedded on the slopes.

I returned to the car down the ridge, passing Higher White Tor and Longaford Tor.  Cuckoos were audible on both sides of the ridge - from Wistmans Wood and the trees surrounding Powdermills.  It is unknown if they were ones tagged in the British Trust for Ornithology/DNPA project to learn more about these elusive and increasingly rare birds.

I had a few letterboxes to find around Littaford Tor and Little Bee Tor.  It then was the long descent back to the car for well earned refreshment.  11 boxes found.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Heavy plant crossing

The below sign was spotted last weekend attached to the gate between Beardown and Lydford Tors.  It seems that August - the firing free month - and the season of all things North Moor, will not mean freedom to Summer Hill, North of Cowsic Head.  The sign is not clear of exactly what they will be doing to the "high plateau", but the mires project is all about re-wetting the moor, and the creation of pools and peat barriers.  

The Dartmoor Mires Project would be grateful if you would avoid approaching the area around 596 808 when work is taking place.  So get out there now while you have a chance!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Risk to New Waste car parking

I have sent the following letter to Alison Kohler, Director at Dartmoor National Park Authority via her direct email address -  Feel free to copy and send it yourself.  I believe that losing access to New Waste car park is easily comparable to losing parking at OP15 on the Okehampton Military road and should it not be put at risk.  I for one don't fancy the epic walk to Bledge Brook from the Cornwood Inn and back!  More news as I get it!

Dear Mrs Kohler,

I write to you regarding the impending closure of car parking facilities at New Waste, North East of Cornwood (SX 625 612). I understand that discussions between the DNPA and the landowner are ongoing. However, whilst the right of way will remain in place, the current agreement to use the public car park ceases on 24 June 2014.

I believe that this move is not simply inconvenient to car owners, but represents yet another blow for those who wish to gain access to Dartmoor. One must only look at the closure of the Okehampton Military road, the restrictions on the shoreline of Meldon Reservoir, and all the access lanes that are falling into disrepair. For these reasons, it is vital that vehicle access is retained. The nearest alternative car parking is in Cornwood, over a mile away. As a regular Moor user myself, I cannot overstate the importance of the New Waste car park. It opens up the moor around the upper Yealm river, Stall Down and the West bank of the Erme to all moor users for enjoyment and relaxation.

As Director of Conservation and Communities with responsibility for access and recreation on Dartmoor, I urge you, and the DNPA land managers and decision makers to support and maintain car parking at New Waste and prevent its use being restricted.  Please can you also reassure me that retaining vehicle access to the moor remains of high importance to the National Park Authority.

Yours sincerely


Friday, 18 April 2014

Good Friday

Happy Easter to all my blog readers!

It was a joy to have a bank holiday off work, and with the sun shining, I set off for Frenchbeer Rock and a letterbox walk over to the River Teign and Manga Rock.  

The Three Boys longstone was my first destination.  Considered by William Crossing to be one of three support stones in a cromlech resembling Spinsters Rock.  This has been proven not to be the case.  

I had a few stamps to find close to Fernworthy Forest next.  Past Thornworthy Corner, close to the edge of the forest, a letterboxer had sited a memorial box for Di Hall-Say, who sadly passed away in 2006.  Under blue skies, in warm sunshine, and without a breath of wind, on a day like today, it'd be tough to find a better place to site the remembrance box.  The wall around the plantation led me North, and then when it turned West, I continued North to Stone Tor and Stonetor Gate, suddenly aware of something: I had not seen another soul all day - not even any training Ten Tor'ers.  This was a bit of a surprise since this was a public holiday.  There were plenty of sun seekers at Stone Tor - almost all were common lizards, such as the one pictured.  Manga Rails next, and since the Dartmoor Rangers replaced the rails across the Teign in 1991, two have disappeared.  Possibly in the latest Winter storms.  It did make for a tricky crossing, and I urge the Rangers to replace them again soon - please!

A loop of Manga Rock for a few boxes, and then I returned to the car via Kes Tor and Middle Tor.  It was at Middle Tor that I carried out my good deed of the day.  Middle Tor letterbox (stamp pictured) celebrates its 30th birthday this year and was registered in the catalogue as box number 1259.  Not one of the originals, but an early one nevertheless.  The box was in it's cave on the East side of the tor - box broken, and full of water, stamp in pieces, book turned to pulp.  I dried it out the best I could, confirmed it's identity and brought it home.  I intend to renovate it and re-establish it later this year.  If you know its owner, or its history, please let me know!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

King of the hill

My weekend walk took me to the far East of the moor. To Shapley Tor, King Tor and Grimspound.  The fog that hung low over Cornwall and the Western moor combined with gusty South-Westerlies seemed to lift as I passed Okehampton. The Challacombe Valley also appeared to be benefiting from being in the moor's weather shadow.

The route I'd planned began around the head of the East Bovey river.  The landscape were scarred by closely cut firebreaks and charred heather - evidence of recent swaling activity, over now for another year.  Next was the slog up and over Shapley Tor.  A spot of unsuccessful boxing here - primarily due to distant bearings being impossible.  I was forced to retreat to the line of the newtake wall to head South and avoid the pelting rain that had finally made an appearance.  The target now was the East Vitifer Mine below King Tor.  This interesting little mine last saw activity in 1913 when it employed 6 miners, albeit only in surface level works.  The warning signs around the area refer to the deep pits worked between 1845 and 1876.  It was never particularly successful as a tin mine.  The current owner of the mine has recently been in trouble with Teignbridge Council for not maintaining the fence around the one of the pits.

I side-stepped this danger, and instead opted for the lung-busting climb to Kings Barrow.  I'd received some new clues the day previous to the walk, and was keen for a first-in-book opportunity.  Due to an oversight, one of these new clues also lacked a grid reference, and the owner of the boxes had pleaded for one to be obtained for his records.  I was happy to oblige.  I felt I needed to test my GPS batteries, sat idle in the bottom of my rucksack for months.

The clues took me up to Blue Jug - the boundstone on the slopes of Hameldown.  The cloud and fog were down and wind and rain steady.  Bearings were difficult, but not impossible.  Mission was achieved, but I knew it was time to return to the car.  Taking a compass bearing, I struck out for Grimspound.  I had a handful of boxes to find around Hookney Tor.  When I was done here, I wandered back to the car in the relative calm of Headland Warren girt.  A good day.  7 boxes found.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Powering down

Say farewell bearing fans!  

Hello pylon, what you knowing?  I've come to watch your power flowing
After much anticipation, these well known telegraph poles/pylons are being removed this Summer.  The 2.5 miles of 'YP' poles and high voltage electricity cable that cross Horn Hill, Leedon Tor and Walkhampton Common on their way up to Princetown are on their way down.  Western Power Distribution announced plans to do this way back in Winter 2011, but planning permission, sought from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was required.  The planning application duly passed last August (accessible here), and so it was just a matter of when not if.  The work will involve burying the cables under moorland below Peek Hill from where the cables currently exit the fields uphill to the cattle grid.  This 400 metre stretch will be fenced off, and will be for between 12 and 18 months.  The ugly cables will now go under the B3212 from the cattle grid all the way to Devils Bridge (close to where the power cable currently goes underground).  The 40 mph speed limit has just been halved, and will remain so until road works are completed.  Completion date is expected to be August 15th this year.

Princetown's power supply is secure for the future then!  Chances of finding boxes with bearings or paces on these poles are not.  Will we mourn the loss of overhead lines?  Probably not.  Based on National Park intentions, other undergrounding schemes are likely to follow across Dartmoor.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The best view on Dartmoor

In between decorating and waiting for furniture to be delivered, I grabbed a chance to get out on the moor.  I decided on Baggator for a trek up to Walkham Head and Fuges Post.  Although I'd planned a route out to Fur Tor, I had to admit defeat as I only had an afternoon to spare.

Surprisingly, there weren't many Ten Tor teams out training here.  The car park was empty.  The wind was steady but not too strong.  The climb up to Lynch Tor never fails to act as a warm up.  The walk over to the Walkham Head peat pass was predictably soggy underfoot.  On arrival, the heavens opened, with a hailstorm unwelcome.  I was aware that snow dusted these slopes yesterday morning, so counted my blessings that the clouds soon parted, and the sun was back out.  Over to Walkham Spur next.  One of the flagpoles that the Ministry of Defence intend to relocate and combine with lookout when the inevitable national byelaw review takes place.  With current public service cuts, this may still be a few years off.  

I have been out here many times in the past.  Whilst there are several places on the moor with impressive panoramic, intriguing or impressive vistas, I find this the best of all.  Sat at this rather lonely flagpole, I can see a great swathe of North moor, stretching from Hare Tor in the West, past Great Links and the Dunnagoats, Amicombe Hill, High Willhays, Great Kneeset and Fur Tor.  Dartmoor's highest, most remote and most wild land in one fine view.  My absolute favourite.

The return route took in Fuges Post, and the long walk down the Baggator Brook.  I decided to avoid the usual, well trodden path past the hut-at-the-gate below Lynch Tor.  Instead, I stuck close to the wall below Standon Hill.  Aware that access land was on the other side of the wall, I noticing the adit pictured and marvelled at how dry it was!

At WD29, I took my chance to dive through a gate and into the fields beyond.  Resorting to map reading this area, I found the track leading up to Brousentor Farm.  This metalled army track leads to the military operated Standon Farm.  I was soon able to rejoin the familiar path leading from Coffin Wood to Baggator, it was a short climb back to the car to complete an enjoyable afternoon on the moor.  

I am still 40-plus stamps away from a major letterboxing milestone - 15000 boxes.  I'd stand half a chance if I was able to attend the Meet next weekend, but I'll be back at work then.  Pity.