Showing posts from 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 C…

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...

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 …

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.

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 …

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 cyc…

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 bearin…


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 an…

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.  The…

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…

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.

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…

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, passin…

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!

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…

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.…

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 s…

Powering down

Say farewell bearing fans!  
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 undergrou…

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 fe…