Letterboxing with Moor Care and Less Wear
What is letterboxing?
Letterboxing is a combination of orienteering and treasure hunting where predetermined clues are used to locate boxes placed on the moor by others. These boxes normally contain a visitors’ book and a rubber stamp.
On finding the box, hunters use the stamp to record the find in their own books or on a series of cards, and then mark the visitors’ book in the box with their own personal stamps.
When did letterboxing begin?
Letterboxing started on Dartmoor in 1854 when James Perrott of Chagford set up a small cairn at Cranmere Pool on north Dartmoor. Inside he put a glass jar where visitors who had ventured to the lonely, bleak spot could leave their visiting cards.
Further letterboxes were established at Taw Marsh (1894), Ducks Pool (1938) and Crow Tor (1962). To reach any of these locations was, and still is, a significant achievement.
The popularity of letterboxing has grown, particularly in the last 20 years and there are now a large number of boxes, many in relatively accessible locations close to roads and car parks.
Who goes letterboxing?
People of all ages and walks of life can go letterboxing and the activity often introduces children and young people to the joys of exploring Dartmoor. Letterboxing is a great way to improve navigation skills, is good for health and fitness and helps to instil an appreciation of the special qualities of Dartmoor.
What do you need to go letterboxing?
- Rubber stamp
- Ink pad and notebook or set of blank cards
Who organises letterboxing?
There is no official organisation controlling or regulating letterboxing on Dartmoor. However, an informal Letterbox 100 Club exists. To become a member you need to collect 100 letterbox stamps before joining.
The Letterbox 100 Club publishes a Catalogue of Dartmoor Letterboxes twice a year. This lists letterboxes alphabetically with their clues. The publication of the catalogue coincides with a ‘meet’ which is held on the Sundays when the clock changes in March and October. A monthly update showing new boxes, extinct boxes and other useful information is also published.
Who puts the letterboxes out?
Anyone can site a letterbox and letterboxes are usually hidden either singly or in groups around a common theme. Single letterboxes tend to stay on site for up to 5 years, while themed letterbox ‘walks’ remain in place for six months during which time the clues are sold to raise money for charity.
How do you find letterboxes?
Some letterboxes are fairly easy to find by following a set of straightforward clues, others with cryptic clues present more of a challenge! The charity letterbox ‘walks’ are great for first-timers. Most start close to car parks and it’s often possible to find all ten or so boxes in half a day.
How to get started
- Contact the Letterbox 100 Club for monthly updates and details of twice yearly meets (held on the Sunday of the clock change weekend)
- Try a charity ‘walk’ first
- Accompany an experienced letterboxer if possible
When looking for letterboxes please ensure that:
- you only search for letterboxes on land where there is public access but not on the new access land that became available under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 as the new access rights do not specifically cover letterboxing.
- you search for the letterboxes in a way that does not damage or disturb the land. Boxes are carefully hidden but you shouldn’t need to dig, lift rocks or remove stones from walls to find them.
- you avoid disturbing wildlife and stock – particularly during the lambing and ground-nesting bird season (1 March until 15 July) and do not search for letterboxes at the following sensitive sites during that time:- Cut Hill/Fur Tor area (GR 59 82, GR 58 83), Tavy Cleave (GR 55 83), Headland Warren (GR 68 81, GR 69 81) and the quarries at Swell Tor (GR 56 73).
If you become aware of birds hovering close by please move away.
- you replace the box carefully and leave it as you would hope to find it.
- if you find a box in need of attention, if it is saturated for instance, you contact the owner and/or the Letterbox 100 Club who will report the fact in their monthly update.
- you check live firing times (external link, opens new window)if you are intending to visit the military firing ranges on the northern moor.
Thinking about siting your own letterbox?
Please remember that a user, and National Park friendly letterbox is sited:
- on land where there is public access but not on the new access land that became available under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 unless you have the landowner’s permission;
- in a natural hole or cavity away from archaeologically and ecologically sensitive sites and ‘no-go’ areas (details of these are held at National Park Information centres) and is not cemented or in any other way permanently fixed in place;
- at a distance from other letterboxes.
Additionally please ensure:
- that the box contains a contact telephone number and/or address and is regularly maintained;
- that the box is not made out of an ammunition box or similar metal container;
- that you contact the National Park Authority two months in advance if you are planning to run a charity letterbox walk as there is an application system to ensure that walks of multiple boxes are sensitively sited and do not conflict with each other.
Let’s Go Letterboxing: A Beginners Guide by Janet Palmer - Orchard Publications.
Letterbox 100 Club
For general enquiries about letterboxing, catalogues and updates:
Tony Moore, Letterbox 100 Club, 25 Sanderspool Cross, South Brent, Devon. TQ10 9LR.
Tel: (01364) 73414
www.walk.to/letterboxing (external site, opens new window)
For media enquiries about letterboxing
Pat Clatworthy, Letterbox 100 Club, 1 Dryfield, Exminster, Exeter, EX6 8BJ
Tel: (01392) 832768
Dartmoor National Park Authority
For event approval or clarification on the guidance in this section:
Dartmoor National Park Authority, Parke, Bovey Tracey, Newton Abbot, Devon TQ13 9JQ
Tel: (01626) 832093
Fax: (01626) 834684