Take the class outside
Geographer, teacher and GetOutside Champion, Alan Parkinson, explores why our kids should be learning outside every day.
If you’re looking for a family fun day out in the Dartmoor National Park, then why not try out one of the most unique activities the area has to offer – letterboxing. Similar to orienteering, it’s something which you can do either on your own or with your family. It’s also a great way to explore and discover more about the local area. Here’s everything you need to know about letterboxing…
The first recorded letterboxing activity was back in 1854, when a local man called James Perrott placed a glass bottle at Cranmere Pool. He then encouraged visitors and local residents to go and find the bottle and leave a note within it as a record of what they did, a mark of achievement for managing such a difficult walk. It proved to be so popular that by the early 1900’s the glass bottle was full and was replaced by a tin box with a visitor’s book inside.
In 1938 Duck’s Pool got a structure too, giving people a second place to visit and hundreds more followed in the years afterwards.
Today, there are hundreds of letterboxes across Dartmoor National Park. They are not traditional looking letterboxes but more small containers which each have within them a stamp for you to mark on your own records and a visitor book for you to record your name in.
If you manage to visit over 100 letterboxes, there is an exclusive club which can join – the 100 club! The club has even been extended to include dogs – if your four-legged friends have also completed 100 letterboxes! You can also join with letterbox meetings. They take place on the clock change weekends in March and October and are an opportunity to talk to others who love letterboxing. Just don’t forget to take your records with you to share your achievements.
You can either follow clues, which you’ll find on sites such as dartmoor letterboxing or just go searching for letterboxes while on your adventures. Remember that the Dartmoor National Park can be a challenging terrain, so make sure you are wearing appropriate clothing and take with you food, a map and a compass. You’ll also need to take an ink pad, to use with the stamp, and a notebook or record book which you can stamp into.
It’s really important to remember to take care when letterboxing and respect the Dartmoor National Park. You have the right to walk on common ground and you’ll find that clearly marked out on our Ordnance Survey maps of the area. It’s important to be aware that there can be military activity in the north of Dartmoor where firing can take place. Be sure to check when firing is scheduled and do not enter the area at the time.
It’s also important to check the weather forecast before you head out as it can change quickly and also be sure to keep dogs on a lead at all times.