Showing posts from 2015

Summer reflections

The first snow of Autumn fell on Dartmoor today.  Snow has fallen in 7 of the last 11 Novembers. Perhaps the month should be renamed 'Snovember'.  The dusting of the white stuff has made me reflect on the Summer of 2015, when my relationship, and perhaps many people's relationship with Dartmoor and Letterboxing seems to have changed.
The last walk I recall completing was around Eylesbarrow.  Finding several letterboxes on the slopes of the hill, and in the valley near the bronze age Drizzlecombe menhir.  Taking some time to explore the ruins and remnants of the old tin mine which closed in the 1850s - roughly when James Perrott established his Cranmere Pool letterbox.  Human impact on the moor is long lasting.  Even when the memories fade, the legacy remains.  Set in stone.  A monument to past glory.  Bronze age Britons vanish.  Tin mines are exhausted of their ore and the miners leave.  The landscape they leave behind has changed irretrievably.

The confirmation of my Hom…

Access all areas

Despite the gloomy weather forecast, I found myself on Dartmoor on Saturday afternoon, packed and ready for a letterbox walk around Windy Post and Pew Tor.  I haven't walked these parts in many years.  A new set of letterboxes has been sited here, and my time away had generated a long list of clues to search for.  I parked in the car park just below Little Staple Tor, aiming directly for Feather Tor and the peaks beyond.  
The going underfoot was far tougher than I remember.  The grass and gorse were very deep in places and the lack of grazing livestock is clearly having an effect on the landscape.  On the southern side of Barn Hill, Spring's swaling, still very obvious, successfully cleared the undergrowth.  The wide pathways through the gorse were eroded and muddy, in an area which receives more than it's fair share of walkers.  It made me think about access to the moor, after all - to my East - remained Dartmoor's most sensitive, well-known and long running issues - …

Away day

Back in March I said I hoped to return to Bodmin Moor after a day's (successful) letterboxing around Cornwall highest peak, Brown Willy.  A while ago, the opportunity arose to check out the area again, this time in the company of a regular visitor.  A seasoned geocaching and letterboxing pro in the form of Steve B.  Steve lives just off the moor, and often walks these paths.  With prepared lists, plenty of local tales, and knowledge of hidden letterboxes, this day was sure to exceed March's Bodmin Moor letterbox haul of 1!

Parking up in light mist at the village of Minions, it was a surreal start to what would be a great day's letterboxing.  I'd never been to this 'Warner branded' settlement before, and I haven't letterboxed with anyone in years.  First stop was Tregarrick Tor.  I was quickly reminded of how much this place has in common with Dartmoor - bogs and streams to cross on our path.  Steve pointed out the Poldark filming location.  The track to Tre…

Firm favourite

I think I have found a new favourite place on the moor!  Come to think of it, I have many favourites, but this one, not previously among them, has possibly just edged it.  I hadn't previously considered Rippon Tor to be a regular peak to visit.  Situated beyond a wall in a 'forbidden zone' for Dartmoor Letterboxes, I felt little desire to make the trek.  That said, I've always appreciated the Tor: A recognisable landmark to the East, with a summit trig point that features in clues up and down the moor.

My most recent walk took me to the area around Bag Tor (another forbidden tor) and Saddle Tor - so I took the chance in the sunshine to wander up to Rippon and see what I could see.  And, wow, what a view! Rippon Tor is quite high, relative to the surrounding peaks.  At 473 metres, it looks down on a vast swathe of Devon.  Off to the South, cargo vessels in the channel could be seen.  Lyme Bay to the East was visible, as were the hills of Exmoor.  The Dartmoor skyline wa…


In my July 2015 post: "New clues: A walk of snipe", I included a warning, namely
"Please, please use common sense as you walk around between 4 and 6.  The dry season does not make the terrain any easier!  The pools around Rattlebrook Head and Lyd Head are deep, but can be very easily circumnavigated.  You have been warned!" In hindsight, I realised that these words weren't that in-keeping with clue releases of mine or others, so I thought I would just provide a short explanation.  In two previous series, including last year's 'Depths of Winter' boxes I have read comments written in my visitors books, critical of the soggy route that the walk took.  I didn't take offence at the comments, but was left feeling that they were, perhaps, a little unnecessary.  In both previous occasions, as in my most recent series, the wet ground in question could very easily be circumnavigated.  Dartmoor is inherently wet underfoot.  The Dartmoor we know and love is …

August: Reasons to be cheerful

August is a month to revel in, to enjoy and exploit on Dartmoor.  Bird breeding has ended, and this will delight Letterboxers who have been detered from certain areas of the moor by the authorities due to the nesting habits of some rare - and not so rare - Dartmoor birdlife.  Lambing season too has officially ended, and this will please the dog owners who can now ditch the short leads, and (responsibly) let their pups roam free - until next March at least.
The MOD are off for their annual month long break from training in the three Military Ranges. No live firing will take place during August, therefore no Range will be subject to day or night closure.  Therefore, no mistimed North moor letterbox walks!  Also, the days are still long - sunset at the end of the month is still around 8pm - perfect for distant North Moor jaunts.  Met Office data indicates August has, on average, the driest and warmest weather of the year in the South West.  Which after the dreary July we've just had…

New Clues: A walk of snipe

Here are my Summer Letterbox clues,  This is a series of Letterboxes around Woodcock Hill on Dartmoor's North West corner.  Snipe are any one of 25 wading birds, including Dartmoor residents, the curlew and woodcock.  A 'walk' is their collective noun, and this series recognises the birds and the long distance paths that cross the Moor.  The route is about 7 miles in length beginning and ending at Prewley Water Works.  Of course, your route can be extended, or walked in different sections.  Please, please use common sense as you walk around between 4 and 6.  The dry season does not make the terrain any easier!  The pools around Rattlebrook Head and Lyd Head are deep, but can be very easily circumnavigated.  You have been warned!






These boxes have been removed from the moor.

A rush around Rattlebrook

On the last day of June, reflecting on a very hectic month, I realised that my sole trip to the Moor this month was so fleeting, so brief, that I didn't even blog about it.  What better time to address this!

As time was short - I had to work an evening shift back in Truro - I rushed to the nearest point of Dartmoor by car.  Sourton Tors.  Boots already on and laced, I was eager to get walking.

The military firing was taking place, so my route was hemmed in to the North West corner.  The weather was fantastic,  if a little breezy.  Cotton grass flapped in the wind, as though held down against it's will.  A temporary army radio post at Sourton's trig actually required tethers to keep it on the ground.

My path took a steady climb up towards Great Links Tor, following the former Rattlebrook Peat Railway to the end of the line.  The line was completed in 1879, but alas the operation was never particularly profitable.  The tracks and sleepers were removed in the 1930s, and the bu…

Tranquility base

If the hustle and bustle of modern life is getting a bit much, and the stresses and strains of city living are weighing you down, read on.  If you feel like you need an escape, I think I've found the perfect place for you.  Obviously it is on Dartmoor!  I've found the national park is the perfect antithesis to everyday life.  It appears some talented architect agrees with me!

Riddon Brake is located at the northern end of Riddon Ridge, about half a mile from the village of Bellever and 2 miles from Postbridge.  It benefits from moorland views, almost 7 acres of land, a semi-wooded location, and open plan, timber construction.  A detached, 4-bedroomed, modern build with stables, workshop and paddocks to bring out the pioneer in you.

Stags Estate Agent of Totnes are advertising the property (Details here: which went on the market at the beginning of this month.  I expect this extraordinary £635,000 tranquil location to be snapped up, so book your viewing ap…

Battle plans Part VI

Many months have passed since we have heard about the Ministry of Defence plans for Dartmoor's military training ranges.  The latest news comes courtesy of the Dartmoor Steering Group.  This group works in partnership with the MOD to encourage mutually agreeable use of the moor by the armed forces.  Many important stakeholders are represented on this group, who meet annually: The National Park Authority,  Duchy of Cornwall and Dartmoor Commoners Council to name just three.  Their most recent meeting was in November 2014 at Okehampton Camp.  
Following their own guidelines, the Dartmoor Steering Group publish the minutes of their meetings on the internet, usually within just a few weeks.  Today, after I tweeted the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) for them, the minutes from November's meeting have finally been published online here: Dartmoor Steering Group minutes; November 2014
If you've been following my Battle Plans posts over the past 4 years, you will know ho…


I am simply thrilled with my latest purchase of a few Dartmoor Letterboxing antiquities. Namely, copies of Letterbox catalogues dating from Autumn 1985 to Spring 1991.  The 100 Club's official clue book - first published in May 1983 - was not quite the publication of more recent years.  
Firstly there is the old book's Latin subtitle: 'Ludus tantum est' roughly translated as 'Its only a game'. Godfrey Swinscow, the 100 club founder always considered Letterboxing to be just this.
Also, the clue for 'Watern Tor' - Registered as box number 1 with the 100 Club, and therefore not to be confused with Cranmere Pool, which is registered number 12 - is still listed in these earliest catalogues. 
The earliest copy I obtained is the 5th edition, printed on October 2nd 1985.  In this copy we are informed that Tigers Marsh letterbox (registered number 89) had been removed from the moor or lapsed into disrepair since the Spring.  Several of the first 100 registered bo…

Active Dartmoor article

The latest issue of Active Dartmoor magazine is out NOW.  Grab a copy, turn to page 18 and you'll find a segment on 'Getting Started in Letterboxing' written by me!
This came about after I was contacted by Jen - a co-owner of the magazine last year.  After a bit of consultation and numerous drafts and proof-reads I submitted the completed piece and I am thrilled with the finished article.  You can find the seasonal magazine at pubs, hotels, cafes, attractions and events on Dartmoor, or it is available to read online via the magazine website:

Spring Meet 2015

The 72nd Meet took place this past weekend.  It has been 37 years since Letterboxing's first Meet at the Forest Inn near Hexworthy.  A Dartmoor pub which has since closed, but up for sale for just a £1!

The bi-annual gathering now calls Lee Moor Village Hall home.  I did attend.  It was great to catch up with some familiar faces, and purchase the new catalogue.

The introduction to the new book of clues offers an update on Godfrey Swinscow - the 'father' of modern Letterboxing.  In the 1980s as the burgeoning hobby threatened to incur the wrath of the National Park, it was 'God' who stepped in and created the 100 club and the concept of registering boxes.  Godfrey - who celebrated his 96th birthday on Sunday - now resides in a Devon residential home with his wife, Anne.  He still has an interest in Letterboxing, albeit by only enjoying looking at stamps brought in by his visitors.  It was fantastic to hear how Godfrey is doing, as it has been so long since the last u…

The Getaway - Part III

My final far-flung Letterboxing excursion was to the closest National Park neighbour - Exmoor. Think of Exmoor and you may think of Lorna Doone or the Valley of the Rocks, Lynton & Lynmouth or perhaps Johnny Kingdom and the red deer.  I'd always considered Exmoor, away from the coastline to be characterised by tight valleys and grassy upland, far less rugged than Dartmoor.  I was keen to discover if my preconceptions were true.

I'd found two clues for boxes around Wood Barrow via Gamblenet.  This grassy hill sits to the West of the park, and the summit cairn straddles the Devon - Somerset border. It also is located on the Tarka Trail, an undefined long distance path that links the North coast with Dartmoor.  My walk up to Wood Barrow followed this trail from the main road at the Edgerley Stone - one of several uncut, local rocks intended to mark the 13th century boundary of the Royal Forest of Exmoor, but now marks the county line.  It is inscribed with 'F Isaac', …

The Getaway - Part II

With a week's annual leave, I put aside my studies for a while and made a long overdue visit to some friends in the North of England. This also provided me with an opportunity to attempt (again) Letterboxing in the Lake District. I've been here before.  I used to live in Keswick, in Northern Lakeland, and I have tried, unsuccessfully, on more than one occasion to find Letterboxes around here.  This time would surely be different.
There are now longer lists of boxes in the National Park, but to cast my net wider still, I approached some Letterboxers who had links to the Lake District.  Perhaps they had knowledge of existing Letterboxes.  One reply sounded perfect...  last confirmed on site 2-and-a-half years ago by the owner...  No more than a mile from the road...  Hidden with a bottle of beer...  Lets go!
This particular box belongs to 'The old man of the Moor' aka 86 year-old Ken of Tavistock.  He has been Dartmoor Letterboxing for many decades, but has visited fam…