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Published: February 4th 2010
it's my mum!
how long had i waited to see this gorgeous face!?
Can you even imagine how excited I was to see my 'mum' after being without her for almost 8 months?! Sometimes I would have day dreams about stepping off the plane in Bristol and seeing her excited face! I can't tell you HOW ECSTATIC I was to see her!
Well, that moment finally came after counting down the days to November 2nd. We exited the Bristol airport immigration gates around 6pm and there she was, camera ready, dressed as British as possible (she totally fit in, well, i don't know about the bright white tennis shoes), waiting to give us big hugs! She had flown to Bristol by way of Minneapolis and Amsterdam and had arrived around 2pm. She had been anxiously waiting awhile. But knowing my friendly midwestern mother, she had talked to loads of people already in the airport. Of course after our greetings we had to stand and excitedly recount every last detail of both of our journeys to get there. This was only the beginning for Tages who sometimes can't handle this familial slowness. Tages shifted from foot to foot with her heavy backpack, patiently waiting to leave while listening to all of the painfully detailed details
of the journey that she just made and didn't need to hear all over again. She finally (firmly) told us that we needed to get a move on with the rental car b/c it was her who would be driving A. on the right hand side of the car/road B. driving in the dark C. driving in an unfamiliar city D. getting us (chatty cathy's) to our hotel that night.
Renting a car was quite interesting. This was the first time Tages had driven a vehicle in 8 months and also the first time to ever drive British style. There was quite a bit of swearing on the road and with each S-bomb or F-bomb, I would wince knowing my mother was in the backseat. Oooh. sorry mom. The country roads in Dartmoor were sometimes single lanes with low visibility because of the dense hedges, they were magical looking but scary to drive on.I designated myself as map reader because I could endure the abuse in the front and didn't want to subject my mom to it. Tages demands the navigator be on her toes. And that I was. Especially after we knicked a parked car in Bristol the next
oh boy, here we go..
let the swearing begin...
day. Oooooppppsss, sorry EuroCar!
If you don't already know, one of my family's hobbies is letterboxing. We have been letterboxing in the U.S. since 2006. Letterboxing is a sort of treasure hunt involving clues from specific websites on the internet, hand carving rubber stamps and homemade logbooks to record your finds. It's been gaining popularity in the states since the late 90's. We all have our own hand carved stamps that we use when going out to find a letterbox. Once you find a letterbox, you take the handcarved stamp inside their box and stamp it into your logbook like a passport recording all of your finds. And you stamp your personal stamp into their logbook that's inside their box to show them that you were there. There are tons in the US in all types of places like parking lots, national parks, graveyards, forests, and maybe even one in your backyard (usually hidden in a well sealed camouflaged tupperware)! Letterboxing originated in Dartmoor, England in 1854 thus the reason for our trip to Dartmoor. Going to Dartmoor is something most letterboxers only dream about, it's like a pilgrimage to where it all began. There are always murmurs amongst letterboxers
mom trying out the navigator role in the passenger seat
that was probably the last time mom saw the front seat.
saying you just turn over a rock in Dartmoor and there is a letterbox.
Well, it turned out to be a little harder than that. There could be many reasons why we weren't as successful as we hoped; the harsh weather, our timing, letterboxing losing popularity in England or maybe we just weren't prepared enough but we didn't find that many outstanding letterboxes. It was true that at the more popular Tors, there were letterboxes under every rock but they weren't exactly what we had hoped for. They were mostly in bad shape because it was little kids who planted them and the stamps were store bought, not handcarved. We realized that we are a little spoiled in the U.S. because people usually put a lot of work into their handcarved stamp, clever clues and interesting hiding places. And we laughed about it but were a little disappointed that the best letterboxes we found were planted by Americans vacationing in England. 😞
Nevertheless, we still had a blast exploring Dartmoor and we did find quite a few letterboxes. It's always fun to have "international" finds! And it was really interesting finding out more about the history of our favorite past
first problem on the road
we made it to the bridge but first we have to pull over, find some british pounds, nope..only atm bills... we need change, go talk to the bridge operator who of course instantly became friends with mom and they chatted it up awhile. mom is already loving being back in england!
time. Even better than the letterboxing was the actual place. Dartmoor is a very special, beautiful and mysterious place that we would highly recommend for anyone to check out. It's truly amazing. I would go back in a heartbeat!
After Dartmoor, we drove West heading to Cornwall and the Coast. We had some great times, delicious food, great beer and saw beautiful places and crazy roundabouts. Mom got to experience "backpacking" with us as our new travel partner for a week. Well, it was the most luxurious "backpacking" we did on the whole trip. 😊 Mom did get to experience staying in a hostel for the first time and to see both ends of the spectrum. We stayed in a super nice eco hostel in Moretonhampstead that was very comfortable and clean. On the other hand, we stayed in a "surfer" hostel in St. Ives where someone drank straight out of my mom's milk carton, toilets were clogged and showers cost money. That was fun! 😊 We didn't get bed bugs so it was all good!
Saying goodbye was very difficult. We dropped mom off at her B & B in Bristol on the 9th of November where she would
the washington hotel in bristol
thanks for paying for our hotel mom! wow, we only have to share a bathroom with each other!!!
spend the night and take a taxi early the next morning to the airport. We had to get back to London on a Megabus that night to fly out of England the next day. We parted at a gas station with many tears not knowing when we would see each other again. We even passed her B & B again on the megabus headed out of Bristol, Tages and I had our faces pressed against the windows thinking we might see her eating a Sunday Carvery at the nearby Pub but it was empty. She made it home safe and we made it to London, as well. I missed her already.
For more info on Letterboxing you can check out the websites of www.letterboxing.org and www.atlasquest.com.
For some addtional history see below courtesy of atlasquest.org:
History of Letterboxing: Dartmoor
Letterboxing started in Dartmoor, located in the southwest corner of England.
The year was 1854, and a Victorian guide named James Perrott placed a bottle in the wildest, most inaccessible area on Dartmoor, England, along the banks of Cranmere Pool. In it, he included his calling card so future visitors could contact him and leave
now, with tages and i being on the road so much and in all sorts of places...finding ourselves in this swanky hotel only meant one thing...reaping the benefits of free things in the room. mom was prepared. she gave us a small lecture about it in the room. i still made off pretty well with shampoos, soaps and sugars! heehee
their own calling cards. Little did anyone know, this small act would be become the hobby we now know as letterboxing.
A hike to Cranmere Pool in 1854 was anything but a simple walk in the woods. This area regularly receives over 100 inches of rain each year, and the peat acts as a sponge making travel through the soft, wet ground a severe challenge. The easiest access point required a nine mile, one-way hike through this difficult terrain, and the low, undistinguished profile of Cranmere Pool meant that hikers could easily miss the pool even if they found themselves within a few hundred feet of it. Those who made it to Cranmere Pool were justifiably proud of their accomplishment and recorded their accomplishment by including their own calling cards in the bottle. Needless to say, not many people picked up James Perrott's calling cards in those early years.
In 1888, a small tin box replaced the original bottle. Visitors left self-addressed postcards and the next person to visit the letterbox (except if it was a same-day visitor) would retrieve the postcards and mail them back from their hometown.
By April 1905, another upgrade was in order—particularly
wow. free stuff.
i've got my eye on you.
a means by which the increasing number of visitors could record their attendance. For the first time, it included a logbook, and a zinc box replaced the tin box.
The first suggestion for a rubber stamp appeared in the logbook on July 22, 1907 by John H. Strother who wrote, "Reached the pool at 7.10pm, misty day with cool breeze, and would suggest that a rubber stamp, something like the post office stamps for postmarking letters or rubber stamp for putting the address at the top of a piece of notepaper be provided and kept here. If this were done it would be proof that cards posted had really come from Cranmere." The letterbox finally reached the point as we largely know it today as a box containing a logbook and a rubber stamp.
Letterboxing is perhaps the slowest growing hobby of all time. Forty years would pass from when that first letterbox was planted by James Perrott until a second one made its way into letterboxing history at Belstone Tor. Another 44 years would pass before a third letterbox was planted at Ducks Pool. After 122 years, fifteen letterboxes dotted Dartmoor.
In 1976, Tom Gant created
a guide map pinpointing the fifteen letterboxes in existence, at which point letterboxing began to boom in a big way. The number of letterboxes tripled the next year and in the 1980s grew into the thousands. Letterboxing became a full-fledged hobby in its own right, and letterboxers who wanted to distinguish themselves started to create descriptive names for themselves and personal stamps to mark the letterboxes they found.
Unfortunately, this wild west of letterboxing did not work out very well. Letterboxers started pulling apart historic rock walls, painting graffiti marking the location of letterboxes, and so forth, and Dartmoor National Park wanted to crack down by removing all but the Cranmere Pool and Ducks Pool letterboxes, both of which at this point had permanent structures to house the contents.
This is when another man, Godfrey Swinscow—affectionately known as God—swooped in and rescued letterboxing from extinction. He met with officials from Dartmoor concerned about the impact of letterboxing, wined and dined them, and hammered out a code of conduct still in use to this day:
Cranmere Pool Letterbox
The Cranmere Pool letterbox, as it stands today
1. Boxes should not be sited in any kind of antiquity,
mom is loving her british food at racks for dinner
i think it was still breathing...i had to look over mom's shoulder the whole time to keep my food down. just kidding. (not really)
in or near stonerows, circles, cists, cairns, buildings, walls, ruins, peatcutters' or tinners' huts, etc.
2. Boxes should not be sited in any potentially dangerous situations where injuries could be caused.
3. Boxes should not be sited as a fixture. Cement or any other building material is not to be used.
As the number of letterboxes exploded on Dartmoor, a loose confederation of letterboxers formed the 100 Club—formed when there were just 100 letterboxes on the moor!—to recognize the achievements of those who found at least 100 letterboxes. The official clue book is only for members of the 100 Club, but other than that, it's largely a club that does not exist. There are no meetings, no committees, and no membership fees. Godfrey was once called, in a Tavistock Times article, the 'unofficial president of a club that doesn't exist.' As of March 2006, this non-existent club had nearly 14,000 members!
Letterboxing stayed a mostly Dartmoor-only tradition until April of 1998 when the Smithsonian magazine published a small article in the United States about this oddly British hobby found on the moors of southwest England. Many people read the article and loved this treasure hunt
calling dad back in minnesota
so, dad didn't want to come. it was all just too british for him. we missed him anyways.
concept wishing it was a bit closer to home. A few readers, however, found each other through means of the relatively new Internet and decided to take matters into their own hands by hiding letterboxes for each other in the United States.
Through this effort, Letterboxing North America (LbNA) was born. By 2001, over a thousand letterboxes spotted the United States covering all 50 states. Letterboxers traveling to international locations started to plant letterboxes around the globe from Aruba to Zimbabwe.
Atlas Quest made its debut a few years later in 2004. Ryan Carpenter, an unemployed software engineer, started with the idea of allowing letterboxers to create a virtual online logbook to show off all one's finds and plants. Things often do not turn out as planned, and he ended up creating the city search making it easier than ever to find clues for letterboxes from around the world.
Atlas Quest has continued to grow supporting message boards and alternative letterbox types such as postals, cooties, and virtuals into the website you see today while LbNA has largely stuck to its roots by focusing on the support of traditional, post-Smithsonian letterboxes.
James Perrott never could have
that's a towel warmer in the bathroom
i love england. are you kidding me? a towel warmer? genius!
guessed his small act would evolve into a rubber stamp addiction among adventurists from around the globe 150 years later. What will happen with letterboxing in the next 150 years?
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