HISTORY OF LETTERBOXING
Letterboxing is a recreational hobby that individuals or families / small groups of people can participate in, it involves walking across Dartmoor using clues and grid references taken from a Letterbox Catalogue. Navigational Skills are tested as well as determination. Letterboxers put out the boxes on the moor themselves.
These boxes will contain a rubber stamp and visitor’s book. When finding the box an impression of the rubber stamp is taken using an inkpad and stamped onto either a book or postcard. The visitor then either signs the visitor’s book, or use their own personal stamp.
The hobby is very enjoyable and presents a challenge in stamina and navigational skills, but more importantly intensive reading of books on Dartmoor (to help crack some of the more difficult clues), leads to an in depth knowledge of the Geology, Archaeology and History of the moor. Children are encouraged to take up walking rather than TV watching, and learn to respect the moor and to preserve it for future generations.
Letterboxing started on Dartmoor in the middle of the 19th century. In 1854 a Chagford guide called James Perrott set up the first letterbox at Cranmere Pool on North Dartmoor, originally it was just a cairn (small pile of rocks,) the idea was for a walker to leave a message there for the next walker to collect and so on. Later other boxes were established at Taw Marsh (1894), Ducks Pool (1938), Fur Tor (1951), and Crow Tor (1962). These boxes are deep into the moor and still represent a challenge.
People from all walks of life go Letterboxing, they spread from Cornwall to Scotland, and even to the USA, Holland, Germany and New Zealand. Their occupations are varied and include doctors, the clergy, servicemen, barristers and Dartmoor farmers and residents.
There is no official committee that organises the hobby, but an informal Letterbox 100 club exists. To be a member and receive the badges and membership card a Letterboxer has to visit 100 boxes on the moor, and have visual proof of them.
In brief, Letterboxing is a healthy, very enjoyable recreational hobby, while at the same time it is educational and teaches the walker to appreciate the special, sensitive beauty of Dartmoor, and to instil the desire to protect it for future generations.
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