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  • Writer's pictureJodie Newton

A love of Dartmoor

Updated: Jun 14, 2020

"Between the North and the South Hams (for that is the ancient name) there lieth a chain of hills, consisting of a black earth, both rocky and heathy, called by a borrowed name of its bareness, Dartmoor." (Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor 1912)

My family and I visited Dartmoor when I was a child, we lived only a short distance from the edge of the Moor in a village on the River Teign. We would drive up to Haytor near Bovey Tracey and walk from the car park to the quarry or climb the rock. Occasionally we'd go a little further to Spitchwick, Hound Tor or Manaton but I don't remember going much further afield. It was always a treat, a day out with a picnic and maybe an ice cream van on the way home.

It wasn't until I started dating my husband Richard in 2000 that I fully appreciated it for the beautiful, rugged, stark and utterly mesmerising place it is.

As a boy Richards family took up letterboxing.

The Dartmoor National park website describes it thus; The activity of Letterboxing originated on Dartmoor – it was started 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.

From this hikers on the moors began to leave a letter or postcard inside a box along the trail, hence the name "letterboxing". The next person to discover the site would collect the postcards and post them.

Letterboxing combines orienteering with treasure hunting and puzzle solving. These days the clues and grid references lead hikers to a sealed box usually containing a rubber stamp, a note pad and a pen. You collect the stamp on your own postcard (which you bring with you) and leave a message stating when you found the box in the notepad, before carefully replacing the box for the next person. Richards family were there all year round, come rain or shine and subsequently through his active involvement in Scouting he took part in and eventually trained others to do the Ten Tors challenge. Hiking 35,45 and 55 miles over the Moor in a weekend. He learned to read an ordinance survey map and use a compass, something I recommend anyone who plans to visit the Moor do. The fog comes down quickly thanks to, as some locals will have you believe "The Pixies", and it is just as easy to lose your bearings on a clear day.

Our first few dates were spent walking to his favourite spots and for this I am eternally grateful. His enthusiasm and passion were catching.

Jump forward 20+ years Richard and I have three children of our own and our favourite thing to do as a family is get out the map, the books, plan a route, pack some lunch and a raincoat (you should never visit the National park without a raincoat even if it's 30°+), a lot of water and head for Dartmoor.

So whats the purpose of my blog?

Well as some of you know, I love to take a lot of photos (instagram #mumondartmoor) whilst we're exploring and post them on social media. I like to research the archaeology we find and the legends surrounding the area.

I've had several requests for details on where we go, how to get there and even a suggestion that I write book.

There are many books on Dartmoor, indeed I own quite a few and so I decided I probably wouldn't do that area justice. This blog will be my place to collect together all our Family memories of Dartmoor, the interesting things I discover in my research and hopefully provide anyone who chances upon it some information, ideas and the confidence to go somewhere they've not tried before.

Welcome to "Mum on Dartmoor".


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