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!