One day, while I was poring over a map of dartmoor...

A brief description on how you were bitten by the letterbox bug

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Mad Dog

One day, while I was poring over a map of dartmoor...

#1 Post by Mad Dog » Sat Dec 08, 2007 10:07 am

I guess it must have been close to twenty years ago now; I was running the local Duke Of Edinburgh Award centre and spending most weekends scooting up to Wales for a spot of walking, but my attention had been drawn to the south west for once. I thought I'd take a good look at what walking there was to be had on Dartmoor.

My O/S 1:50000 was spread out on the bedroom floor and I slowly took in the contours, the river courses, the bridleways and the numerous geographical features. That was when I first noticed "letterbox", not just the one, but about three or four if my memory serves me correctly. Certainly Duckspool was one of them, and I set out to try to find out what on earth a letterbox was doing in the middle of Dartmoor.

Of course, we didn't all have Internet in our homes back then, so a trip to the local library was necessary. There, I found a handfull of books about the national park, but no mention whatsoever about "letterboxes". Challenged, I continued my search. And that's when I found an old, tattered copy of the letterbox catalogue, which of course explained everything, and the puzzle was solved.

This is where the story may have ended for many, but my interest piqued, I called apon one of my DofE friends and suggested a weekend on the moor to try out this ingenious sport. Carl was definitely keen and wrote to Mr Swinscoe about getting a copy of the latest catalogue. Considering the fact that we were supposed to have collected 100 stamps before we could get the catalogue, Carl did well to persuade Geofrey to oblige. I guess credit has to be given to Geofrey's charitable nature or Carl's persuasive abilities (or both).

We duly piled our camping gear into the back of Carl's car and sped down the A303, bound for Princetown, where we discovered the campsite behind the Plume Of Feathers, on what was to become the first of many trips we'd make in our quest for yet another rubberstamp in our little black books.

I remember so clearly, our first morning. We stowed the tent and headed out of Princetown, looking for a suitable spot to cook breakfast and contemplate the day ahead. We found a small car park by the side of the road, and as Carl set up the trangier stove and began cooking, I said something along the lines of "I'll just run up this tor and get the first letterbox". How deluded I was! The clues seemed so straightforward, I don't know what I expected. A book and a stamp sitting on top of a rock with a neon sign above? 20 minutes of wandering about scratching my head and revisiting the clue in the catalogue, and I was no better off whatsoever; just better educated into the true nature of Dartmoor Letterboxing.

Emptyhanded, I strolled back to the car and, humbled, faced Carl. We did find the letterbox, about an hour later, hidden cunningly under a huge rock, wiith a plastic bag stuffed down the hole in front of it and such was our induction into the world of Dartmoor Letterboxing.

We covered a lot of ground over the following two days. I remember being in the vicinity of Hound Tor and Little Hound Tor by day, and collecting the Princetown pubs' stamps by evening. Subsequent visits took us up to Cater's Beam and eventually out to Duckspool to the spot marked on my map that first drew me into this unusual fraternity. The 100 came and went and we even met a father and his daughters planting their own brand new box, called the Three Teddybears, and ours was the first stamp in their book, The Mad Dog Mailboxers.

Our last trip to Dartmoor was more than ten years ago, but a return is most definitely on the cards. In September I succumbed to pressure from my wife and we welcomed a new addition to the house, an eight week old Border Collie. He's five months old now and growing fast. His obedience training is going really well and we have an appointment with Dartmoor for next Autumn. All I need to do is visit the shops for a new map and compass, and set about getting the latest catalogue. Carl can be dug out of retirement and we'll be on our way.


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#2 Post by NUMBER 70 » Sat Dec 08, 2007 12:07 pm

Well welcome to the website .....what a first post
Now a Sustrans Volunteer Ranger Group Coordinator on the Trans Pennine Trail

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Crafty Jo
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#3 Post by Crafty Jo » Sat Dec 08, 2007 12:33 pm

Welcome from me to - there may well be a few more boxes than last time you were on the moors! :D

Mad Dog

#4 Post by Mad Dog » Sat Dec 08, 2007 1:16 pm

Thanks both. Very much looking forward to miles of walking with Dill, my dog (yes, that's him in my avatar).

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#5 Post by Fulchet » Sat Dec 08, 2007 7:06 pm

Welcome to the site and what a wonderful story
next target 2000 - hopefully some time in 2010 (ha, ha, make that 2013)

Nik - KOTM
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#6 Post by Nik - KOTM » Sun Dec 09, 2007 7:17 am

Loved the story and welcome to the site from me as well
Hope you and and your dog are a regular sight on the moor in the future
Nik 245 to go

Mad Dog

#7 Post by Mad Dog » Sun Dec 09, 2007 11:38 am

Nik - KOTM wrote:Loved the story and welcome to the site from me as well
Hope you and and your dog are a regular sight on the moor in the future
Well, it would be nice, but I can't guarantee that we're going to become regulars again, unless once or twice a year can be called regular. I live near Heathrow, so it's a bit of a trek for me to reach the moor.

First trip planned is not until next autumn when Dill is fully grown.


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#8 Post by The Sly Fox » Sun Dec 09, 2007 3:32 pm

Welcome to our gang Mad Dog :D

I, myself was in the wilderness for a while. But the addiction is back again.
This fox is the hunter, not the hunted !!
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#9 Post by Sharfbruton Shepards » Fri Sep 03, 2010 8:47 pm

Hi Mad Dog, welcome back to boxing, I know the feeling very well as I have just returned to it with my grandchildren and dog and the passion is still there, Pete.

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