Showing posts from 2016

Northern exposure Part 2

Some Letterbox walks simply don't go as planned.  Take my latest, for example.  It has taken three attempts to complete my circuit of the 'track-formerly-know-as-the-Ring-Road', South of Okehampton Camp.  On each occasion I have parked at Hart Tor and the adjacent Observation Post.  I was time-bound on my first outing, and I only made it to Deep Ford.  My second attempt was thwarted by poor weather, Mist gave way to drizzle which gave way to heavy rain.  I barely made it to East Mill Tor.
Yesterday, however, on a cold, crisp morning, I tried again...

Storm Angus, which struck the previous day was still running off the moor.  Water levels were high, but not extraordinary.  Deep Ford was not impassable.  Indeed, I saw some members of the public in a Land Rover ignore the warning signs, and drive around the military track negotiating this watery crossing of the East Okement with minimal concern.
I was determined to reach the highest point of the former Ring Road.  Observation…

Northern exposure Part 1

It has occurred that I haven't walked much since my declaration of love for Dartmoor Letterboxing in the Summer.  I sought to rectify this recently, with a commitment to visit some wild spots before the days became too short.  Walkham Head has become quite fashionable since the hobby of Dartmoor 365'ing has become a 'thing'.  John Hayward's 1991 book: 'Dartmoor 365' encouraged the exploration of each of Dartmoor's 365 square miles, providing a highlight, an item, a landmark or a story for every one.  The Dartmoor 365ing hobby has spawned a popular Facebook group.  It has also an associated game operated by Dartefacts.  Walkham Head Peat Pass is considered the only real highlight of grid square 57 81.  Indeed, there isn't too much else here.  Or is there??

Boots on, and Baggator bound, I made the familiar journey to west Dartmoor on a bright and breezy day.  I had many boxes to find on a circular walk out to Tavy Hole, and returning via Standon Hill. …


I was delighted to see that, earlier this month, my blog passed 50000 page views.  A significant milestone in the life of an insignificant collection of ramblings!  Many thanks to everyone who reads my blog, and for taking an interest in Dartmoor Letterboxing.  My blog was always a bit of a self indulgence: an opportunity to form a record for my future self, as well as sharing my experiences and journeys with the World.  It has helped me to remain motivated, and keen to explore more that the park has to offer.  In the cases of the MOD plans and Mires project, it has provided a platform to share my findings.  
The blog is also a bit of a legacy for the 'The Upland Trotters', a family personal stamp which might - at some later date - make a reappearance in the Dartmoor's Letterbox visitor books...
I put this idea out there inspired by another recent momentous milestone in the lives of our family.  Last week my wife gave birth to a happy and healthy baby boy!  Our first chil…

Devil makes work for idle hands 3

I see that 'Ken's Cairn' keeps growing!  Black Lane (North), near Lynch Tor

May or may not be my own work...

See also:

Devil makes work for idle hands

Devil makes work for idle hands 2

Sort it out!

I returned from my latest walk (around Broad Falls and Heap O'Sinners) and lay my bag down.  I reached down deep in the rucksack to pluck out some the rubbish I'd gathered off the Moor during my day (#2minutelitterpick). I suddenly paused to consider what I'd been carrying all day that hadn't been used, or indeed touched.  It was then that I decided to have a proper sort out of my walking gear.
I carry a Macpac 20 litre rucksack.  It celebrates it's 9th birthday this year, but continues to serve me very well.  Only when siting a large number of boxes does my much bigger Lowe Alpine sack get a rare airing.  A meagre 20 litres focuses the mind.  I know I must carry the essentials.  For me, this includes a whistle, survival bag and first aid kit.  Though I pray I never need to use these in an emergency.  This is my fifth survival bag, but all predecessors have simply perished and corroded in their alternate roles as sit mat, snow sledge or simply as a flat rucksack b…

Up North....

I regularly visit Meldon Reservoir.  Its proximity to the A30 makes it a convenient stopover to refresh on my frequent drives up country in recent years.  The narrow lane from Okehampton thick with Summer growth leads to a National Park car park and the smashing views around the reservoir here - an easily accessible and home to a unique island nature reserve.

My walk was to take me up the West Okement, with views North and West towards Cornwall. I had to dig deep in the family archives to find clues to justify a walk up here.  Yet I was keen to explore the hills above the - now well worn - trails around Meldon.

The weather was terrific.  Hardly a breath of wind.  My mind wandered, considering the path closure on the Western side of the reservoir.  A different circular route was required today.  I would head out to Snipers Gully, Fishcombe Water and Black Tor, returning via Longstone Hill.

I was surrounded by iconic Dartmoor features. The Slipper Stones, Fordsland Ledge, Black-a-tor Cop…

Down South...

The car park at Harford Moor is not one I've visited much.  Certainly not in recent years.  The narrow lane from Ivybridge thick with Summer growth lead me to a rutted but refreshed parking area. No self-serve gate of old, but a cattle grid.  The National Park interpretation board remains intact.  This despite Harford Parish Council arson worries voiced prior to its installation 2 years ago.

My walk was to take me up the River Erme, with views South and West towards Plymouth.  Not far away from here is the topical village of Sparkwell, currently making headlines for the zoo's missing Lynx.  I had other cats to find though, amongst a host of boxes on a short route out to Sharp Tor and back.

The weather was terrific.  Perhaps a bit blowy, but not enough to prevent bearings.  My mind wandered off, considering possible walks which might bypass the New Waste closure.  Perhaps from Harford Moor Gate, I could descend to the River and cross at Piles Copse.

I passed the Money Pit, Pil…

The Comeback Kid

I haven't been Letterboxing in a long while.  I haven't blogged for some time either - although I did apologise in advance for this.  To say that I am 'out the groove' is something of an understatement!  It was a windy day late in March last time my map and compass were used.  I cannot remember the last time that I actually plotted a route, printed out clues and donned my walking boots.
So, with studies concluded, gardening taking a back seat for a day, and the weather in my favour, I decided to make an overdue return to the Moor.  Filing through my charity walks, purchased in March, I settled on one which would make an interesting, productive day on the Moor.  The Crohns & Colitus UK Charity walk from Norsworthy Bridge up to Hingston Hill and Down Tor.  I doubted my fitness because although at work I am on my feet all day, I don't walk huge distances.  Perhaps a few diversions from the charity walk could be planned, but 3-and-a-half miles sounded fine to me!  

Battle Plans: Part VII - Ceasefire?

Every year, normally in November, a formal meeting takes place of the Dartmoor Steering Group.  This collective of stakeholders discuss the military involvement within the National Park.  Participants include the National Park Authority, Natural England, English Heritage, the Duchy of Cornwall, Dartmoor Commoners Council and various parties from within the Ministry of Defence (MOD).  I have blogged regularly about their progress since the release of an Integrated Rural Management Plan (IRMP) in which the MOD indicated their approach to maintaining the ranges over a 10 year period 2010 to 2020 (available here).  In 2010, intentions were made to - amongst many other things - limit the visual impact of the military by:
- Removing 3 flagpoles in the Okehampton Training area, with Yes Tor being a priority for removal, along with Blackdown.  Roos Tor flagpole in the Merrivale range would be removed too.
- Combining Watern Oke Flagpole with a 'look-out'.

- Relocating Walkham Spur flagp…

A new plan for Dartmoor's forests

April Fools Day was the last of the 28 day consultation period for Dartmoor's new Forest Plan.  'The what?', you may ask.  The Forestry Commission are defining their long term vision for Dartmoor's forests including Bellever, Fernworthy, Soussons and Brimpts.  These four plantations account for about 1.5% of the total National Park area.  Their plan sets out how the woods will be managed for the next decade or so.

Felling, thinning, restocking, species composition, protection of artifacts, public access and recreation, are all covered by the forest plan.  So what have the Forestry Commission (FC) got in store?

Their proposals seek to maintain the Public Forest Estate in line with current forestry policy... blah blah blah... Yawn.

The two key changes that I noted from the Plan are:
1. Up to 10% of the FC's wooded area to become permanent open space through forest clearance. These cleared patches include the high profile Fernworthy forest skyline distantly visible fro…


Betwixtmas : The period of time between Christmas and New Year

This Winter has been poor so far, hasn't it?  If this is what 'climate change' has in store for Great Britain's bleakest months from now on, it is high time someone should arrange a mid season break for the hobby.  In spite of my extra curricular activity, I have been aching to venture out on the Moors again.  Yet, I have found just one single day in the last 3 months that suits both my plans and those of Mother Nature.  It was before the current snow fall, and after the rains stopped.  It was obvious when I arrived that I was in the eye of a storm, or that I was interrupting something.

Tis the season, although it seems ages ago, for Christmas walks!  There were many word-of-mouth letterbox series sited for this year, but I was as yet to search for any.  I intended to make the most of my day and seek out 3 such sets. The first stop was at the village of Belstone.  A short trek down the ridge to Taw Marsh, a…