Without realising

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

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Without realising

Post by trekkernod »

I have been wanting to write this for years. Since my planned walk for today has been, upset, by the actions of others, today seemed as good a day as any.
I started letterboxing without realising I had. At my senior school I joined the A.T.C. (Air Training Corps), and during 1973-4 we had a long weekend camp at Okehampton Battle Camp.
One of the activities for the weekend was a hike on Dartmoor. The exact location has been blurred with the passage of time. However, I do remember sitting by the side of a dusty track as an army lorry drove up to deliver our lunch. This consisted of small amounts of said dust and moor grass incorporated into curly-edged sandwiches.
Whilst we were sat eating, I remember someone brought us a 'Book' to sign and a rubber stamp. Back then, I did not have the inclination to take a copy of the stamp. Today I would have bitten their hand off the get at the inky piece of treasure.

I did not encounter 'letterboxing' again for a few more years. I remember visiting Cuckoo Rock with my youngest brother, probably in the very early 80's. This time I took a copy of the stamp, but, over time, I have misplaced/lost it.

My 'real' introduction to letterboxing came when I joined my brother, the infamous 'Dennis the Menace' on a letterbox hike. My initiation took place in the Western Beacon area on 23rd February 1985. We collected stamps called; The Beast / Main Head / Surprise Box / Dartmoor Flora / Hobajon's Cross / Wacka Tor / Old Hill / Uncle Ab's House / Three Barrows / Mabel The Mini etc.
I was hooked, not just with the collecting aspect but what my brother had introduced me to. A freedom, a place free from the monotony of everyday living, a place to escape to. I shall forever be indebted to Dennis for introducing me to the wonders of Dartmoor.
We had many enjoyable 'letterboxing' days / hikes over the years. There was none of this getting 50 boxes in one grid square. Back then, we had to walk a long way, usually with heavy backpacks, just to get one new box. Each letterbox collected was truly earned.
We often would camp out in areas, over a weekend, to save having to catch buses to and from the moor each time. Some of these camps were really memorable, in ways that I shall not mention here, but those of you who know Dennis, will know what I mean.
Camping out was a whole new experience for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the heightened instincts brought on by being in a tent, in the middle of the moors, in the black of night. Good memories.
My first 'solo' outing was on a day when the brother failed to get the bus. So I decided to walk out on my own. Not being completely confident with a map and compass, I wondered why the boxes on Shavercombe Tor were not found when following the clues. After a thorough search of the tor I eventually found a box. Not at all what I expected - a Hen Tor box? I soon realised my error and sat down and studied the map to understand where I went wrong. I did not leave the tor until I felt confident to continue. A valuable lesson learnt. I remember writing a poem of that day, something that I continue to do when something inspires me.
In the decades that followed, my brother's health deteriorated, and other walking friends found new interests. I found myself walking alone more often and missing the company of others.
I began to take an interest in the Boundary Stones on Dartmoor and included them in my walks. This interest has, in recent years, taken up a lot of my time and curtailed my excursions to the moor.
I often reflect on the 'old days' of letterboxing. I remember at one Meet in Princetown a group of 5 or 8 of us trekked up to North Hessary Tor, in the dark, just to get a 'new' box.
I miss the 'banter' of the meet, the mickey takes and the good humoured 'one-upmanship'. I miss the camping out at meet weekend, and the brother's 'end-of-meet' entertainment. I miss the atmosphere that being in Princetown added to the meet.
I do like to try and help promote letterboxing. Recently I had some of the best letterboxing days that I have had in a long while. I assisted a group of American letterboxers on their trips to Dartmoor. I hadn't been letterboxing with such a large group since probably the late 80's early 90's. Some great days were had with some truly amazing friends.
Today, with WOM clues traded as currency, and modern letterboxes bearing hardly a resemblance to earlier 'boxes. I wonder where the hobby is headed. I used to love stopping at a letterbox for lunch and reading through the dry, well kept, Visitors' Book. Today, Visitors Books are less inviting to pick up, the smell of sodden, rotting paper acting as a good deterrent.
I still get the same enjoyment from letterboxing, each find still gives a good sense of achievement, especially when you have to work for that find.
The beauty and vastness of Dartmoor will always call me, and, for as long as I am able, will answer that call.
Last edited by trekkernod on Sat May 23, 2015 8:37 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by Sowerby Streaker »

Thanks for a very interesting and informative read - glad you had the time to sit down and write it. xx
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Post by The Sly Fox »

That was a fun read. Isn't it odd that such a hobby (which sounds weird when first heard of) is so addictive?
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Post by Moortrekkers »

A very good read thankyou, I do miss being in the pub with Dennis, and all the others that used to use the Plume as a second home!
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Post by Nik - KOTM »

I can remember that trek to North Hessary for that stamp almost like is only yesterday... and not 20 odd years ago
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Re: Without realising

Post by Maomoor »

Great write up, thanks.
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