Walking on Dartmoor a few weeks ago for the first time in years brought back memories. Not only of the regular weekend walks with my father, exploring every tor, valley, abandoned church and mossy copse, but one of the activities we took part in while up there: letterboxing. The aforementioned site has an explanation of the basic concept. We only became aware of it one day while walking near Hound Tor and noticed someone stumbling around with a piece of paper in one hand and a compass in the other. Finally he found what he was looking for – a small metal box hidden in a rocky crevice. Once we realised what it was all about we became hooked. From then on pretty much every trip involved detours to find one or two boxes, honing both our navigational skills and the knowledge of the moors and their history needed to solve the clues. We made our own stamp, and eventually put out our own box, the Steeperton Strongbox – a monster wood and metal construction made by my dad. It stayed out for over a year until someone failed to put the lid back on properly and the rain got in, completely soaking the visitors’ book until all the ink ran.
Another box, “50-50” was placed in a new location for a short period – the two months that separated my mother and father’s 50th birthdays. We still have the guest book from that one, filled with stamps and comments from fellow ramblers.
Apparently the idea has spread to other parts of the world too, including the USA, but for me it will always be associated with the rugged national park half an hour’s drive west of my parents’ house.