It is 20 years next month since I started boxing, but this year is the first since 2003 that I’ve been to Dartmoor. I found this website by chance, have spent many happy hours reading others’ experiences and thought I’d join. Posting this seems like a good place to start.
It all began in 1991, when I did the Ten Tors 35 mile route with my school. For my birthday a couple of months later, an aunt who lives in Newton Abbot gave me John Hayward and Anne Swinscow’s 101 Dartmoor Letterboxes But Not How to Find Them! Five days later my dad dropped me and a friend at the Warren House Inn. It was in the cloud and with horizontal rain sheeting across the road (weather conditions I would come to recognise in time as particularly evocative of the moor). We splashed our way over the appropriately named Water Hill searching unsuccessfully as we went, through Fernworthy and up towards Whitehorse Hill. Wet and cold, we decided that we weren’t going to reach Cranmere that afternoon, and that the open moor would not be a good place to camp in that weather. We followed the wall round to Sittaford Tor, planning to camp in the plantation. It stopped raining, so we had another hunt about and found our first box (One of the Country Companion boxes in a large ammunition tin). Very exciting, but it felt like meagre reward for a long day.
The next day, we trudged on to Princetown (without finding any more boxes) and by coincidence into the Tuesday Tattle at the Devil’s Elbow. We were looked on with sympathy and possibly some concealed amusement by some very experienced boxers (I’m ashamed to say that I can’t remember their names) and with a bit of help from them I got to my 100 later in the year (my friend never came back after that first experience). I was – inevitably – hooked, and came down during the holidays whenever I could (I lived in Bristol, then was at university in London), pestering my parents to come with me until I got a driving licence.
But my visits petered out as work intervened. I dipped back in in 2002-03 when a friend had a holiday cottage west of Tavistock, but then did not visit again until my girlfriend suggested a few days on Dartmoor when I came down to meet her family for the first time in North Devon over the last new year. I’ve been reminded of how wonderful Dartmoor is: bleak, inhospitable, not nearly as featureless as it looks if you pay attention, and a fantastic way to escape from the stress of the real world. I’ve also rediscovered the pleasure at using map and compass to solve a clue and find a cunningly concealed letterbox or stumbling upon an unexpected one. I’m hooked all over again.
A brief description on how you were bitten by the letterbox bug
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