For anyone wishing to take up this most addictive (you have been warned) hobby, here are a few pointers to get you going, hopefully successfully.
At the outset you will need a book or plain cards on which to collect your stamp copies. A personal stamp with what you intend to call yourselves, or failing that a pen to sign and maybe write a comment in the visitors book in the box, and an ink pad. You will need a map of Dartmoor – the Explorer OL28 is most widely used.
If you intend to do a charity walk you will probably need a compass, and if it is possible to invest in a sighting compass, it will guarantee you the accuracy needed to make finding boxes easy. A GPS navigator will make box finding very easy, most clues come with a 10 fig. grid reference, but it is not the traditional way of collecting boxes. (A knowlege of using the map and compass is necessary if venturing very far on the moor)
Traditionally all letterboxers are expected to find the first 100 unaided. When you have done so you can present a list of the boxes you have found to the 100 club, and they will give you a membership number and a chance to buy the catalogue of clues, which will give you access to a lot of the boxes on the moor. There are many boxes on the moor that are called `word of mouth` boxes. These are exchanged between `boxers at their own discretion, but as you get to know more people they will probably put you on their list to receive their clues.
There are monthly Letterbox Meets at the Woodland Fort in Plymouth, and a weekly one at the Dolphin pub on a Wednesday at Bovey Tracy, and the two bi-annual Meets at clock change at Lee Moor. You can get to know, and get help and advice from other boxers here.
If you wish to start doing the charity walks - a great way to get used to letterboxing - you can find details on the forum of the ones that are current.
When you first venture out, go to the places that are popular as there may be a higher concentration of boxes there, for example:- Feather Tor, Pew Tor, Hay Tor, Saddle Tor, Brat Tor, Arms Tor etc. Look for rocks that stand out, that overhang and have space underneath to hide a box. Search in groups of rocks around lone trees, in banks in gullies. Boxes hidden under rocks and in holes often have smaller rocks placed in front of them. If there is a lone rock in a area with space underneath chances are it will have a box site.
What is REALLY important though is how you collect letterboxes. Always ensure that you put them back carefully, with lids placed on firmly, and hidden again well. A great deal of boxes are stolen, therefore leaving the box in plain show invites a thief to take it. Even if badly put away when you find it, then replace it better. Try to stamp up at the site, it is very easy to walk a few paces away to a more comfortable rock to sit on to do it, and then not be too sure from where it came originally.
If you are boxing with children please supervise them replacing the box, to ensure it is done correctly. Another boxer may collect the box just behind you, and they will notice wether or not you have taken care with it.
Letterboxing is an extremely efficient network and word will soon go around, so if your care with the box is good there will be far more chance of your getting other people`s WOM clues. In the visitor`s book there should be contact details to whom the box belongs , so if there is a problem with the box, it might be damaged, book wet or stamp missing, then communicate with the owner and let them know.
It is also a great way to get to know and to be known to other `boxers. Try to do as little damage as possible when looking for the box, often the signs of wear are a telltale sign that there is a box closeby, but then this also leads the way for the box thief. Most boxers will have tissue with them to dry out containers that are starting to take in water, treat all boxes as you would your own, and hopefully people will do the same for yours.
If you are lucky enough to find a box that no-one else has yet found, there will usually be a postcard in it, so please remember to stamp or write your details on it and send it back to the owner of the box.
Please bear in mind that when Dartmoor looks at its most benevolent, it can change in a matter of minutes, to a cold, dismal place with very little visibility, and become treacherous. There are obviously many things that would be advisable to take with you, but at the very least, waterproof and warm clothing, food or energy bars and plenty to drink are a necessity.
General letterboxing discussion.
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