LETTERBOXING - DARTMOOR    In it’s most basic form, a letterbox is a small sealed container hidden on the moor, commonly containing an ink stamp, a pad of paper and sometimes a small mascot. The finder of the box makes a mark in their records using the ink stamp and leaves a mark and date in the pad as evidence of having found it, then puts it back. The rules are that simple, but the form, whereabouts and clues to find them are as varied as there are many – with thousands to be found.   The ‘100 club’ is open to anyone who has found over 100 letterboxes on Dartmoor, they publish a catalogue of clues annually which helps to keep this 150-year-old hobby alive and mysterious.  The hunting of letterboxes is a pursuit that’s part hike, part puzzle, and part collection, which are three of our favourite things.

LETTERBOXING - DARTMOOR

In it’s most basic form, a letterbox is a small sealed container hidden on the moor, commonly containing an ink stamp, a pad of paper and sometimes a small mascot. The finder of the box makes a mark in their records using the ink stamp and leaves a mark and date in the pad as evidence of having found it, then puts it back. The rules are that simple, but the form, whereabouts and clues to find them are as varied as there are many – with thousands to be found. 

The ‘100 club’ is open to anyone who has found over 100 letterboxes on Dartmoor, they publish a catalogue of clues annually which helps to keep this 150-year-old hobby alive and mysterious.

The hunting of letterboxes is a pursuit that’s part hike, part puzzle, and part collection, which are three of our favourite things.

   RIVER SWIMMING    The rivers Frome and Avon offer a number of locations for wild swimming. The first to mention is at Farleigh Hungerford. The Farleigh and District Swimming Club was founded in 1932 and is believed to be the oldest swimming club in the world. Membership is required, but you can pay each time you visit (£1.50) until you reach the full membership cost of £15 per year. For this you get accessible parking, toilets and changing rooms.  Tellisford is a couple of miles upstream from Farleigh and is often quieter. This can be due to access as it’s about a mile from the nearest parking (top of Vaggs Hill) to the river itself. It’s worth taking the time to visit the mill that spans the river, restored by the residents of the village in 2007, which now powers those homes with hydroelectric energy.  Warleigh Weir in Claverton is approximately 4 miles out of Bath, where the River Avon and the Kennet and Avon Canal run parallel. It’s best reached by the towpath, on foot or by bike. Whilst it’s often the most popular wild swimming spot due to it’s proximity to Bath, the riverside field is ample and there is always plenty of room for large groups. 

RIVER SWIMMING

The rivers Frome and Avon offer a number of locations for wild swimming. The first to mention is at Farleigh Hungerford. The Farleigh and District Swimming Club was founded in 1932 and is believed to be the oldest swimming club in the world. Membership is required, but you can pay each time you visit (£1.50) until you reach the full membership cost of £15 per year. For this you get accessible parking, toilets and changing rooms.

Tellisford is a couple of miles upstream from Farleigh and is often quieter. This can be due to access as it’s about a mile from the nearest parking (top of Vaggs Hill) to the river itself. It’s worth taking the time to visit the mill that spans the river, restored by the residents of the village in 2007, which now powers those homes with hydroelectric energy.

Warleigh Weir in Claverton is approximately 4 miles out of Bath, where the River Avon and the Kennet and Avon Canal run parallel. It’s best reached by the towpath, on foot or by bike. Whilst it’s often the most popular wild swimming spot due to it’s proximity to Bath, the riverside field is ample and there is always plenty of room for large groups. 

   SUSTRANS TUNNELS - BATH    On the route of the disused Somerset and Dorset railway, now run the longest walking and cycling tunnels in the UK.  The Greenway Two Tunnels  opened in 2013 and connect the valley at Midford to Bath’s Oldfield Park . The tunnels run consecutively at 1.7km and 0.8km long and are open only to walkers and cyclists to enjoy. It’s a surreal experience to pass through these tunnels - the initial intrigue as you leave the leafy green avenues and enter the open mouth of the tunnel soon becomes actually quite disconcerting the further into the hillside you get. The lighting is dim and sporadic, and as the temperature drops to slightly below comfortable, faint classical music begins to play from hidden speakers. It takes longer than you think to walk 1.7km, take a coat, and a friend.

SUSTRANS TUNNELS - BATH

On the route of the disused Somerset and Dorset railway, now run the longest walking and cycling tunnels in the UK. The Greenway Two Tunnels opened in 2013 and connect the valley at Midford to Bath’s Oldfield Park . The tunnels run consecutively at 1.7km and 0.8km long and are open only to walkers and cyclists to enjoy. It’s a surreal experience to pass through these tunnels - the initial intrigue as you leave the leafy green avenues and enter the open mouth of the tunnel soon becomes actually quite disconcerting the further into the hillside you get. The lighting is dim and sporadic, and as the temperature drops to slightly below comfortable, faint classical music begins to play from hidden speakers. It takes longer than you think to walk 1.7km, take a coat, and a friend.

   CLAVERTON DOWN & BATH SKYLINE - BATH    The  Bath Skyline Walk  is a 6-mile circular trail that takes you through a variety of landscapes, all with the intention of showing off the panoramic views of the city of Bath. As a world heritage site, the history and Georgian architecture are what most visitors come to see, and there is no better way to view it than from the hillsides that surround the city. The Skyline walk is at it’s best in May and June when the meadows of Bathwick and Claverton Down are just starting to celebrate the oncoming summer. The buttercups which pepper the grass with abundance, leave the path clear, as if encouraging you to find your way. The ground comes alive with the gentle movement of dragonflies, grasshoppers and beetles, not to mention ancient ant hills, and if you’re lucky (and quiet enough) you might see deer, who have been known to graze this land too.

CLAVERTON DOWN & BATH SKYLINE - BATH

The Bath Skyline Walk is a 6-mile circular trail that takes you through a variety of landscapes, all with the intention of showing off the panoramic views of the city of Bath. As a world heritage site, the history and Georgian architecture are what most visitors come to see, and there is no better way to view it than from the hillsides that surround the city. The Skyline walk is at it’s best in May and June when the meadows of Bathwick and Claverton Down are just starting to celebrate the oncoming summer. The buttercups which pepper the grass with abundance, leave the path clear, as if encouraging you to find your way. The ground comes alive with the gentle movement of dragonflies, grasshoppers and beetles, not to mention ancient ant hills, and if you’re lucky (and quiet enough) you might see deer, who have been known to graze this land too.

   BAT CONSERVATION - MONKTON FARLEIGH    The mines beneath Monkton Farleigh are the perfect habitat for bats. 13 of the UK’s 17 species have been recorded roosting here. In 2013 a single male Geoffroy’s bat, a European mainland bat was sighted - a species which has only been spotted once before in this country.   The best time to see bats is at dawn and dusk, between April and September when they are out of hibernation and raising their young. They are can be spotted all along the Avon Valley, especially Pipistrelle bats which typically fly 5-10 metres above ground and at the edges of water, using echolocation to hunt for moths and water dwelling insects. There are a number of groups who run guided bat walks around Browns Folly and Monkton Farleigh - contact  Avon Bat Group  or  Avon Wildlife Trust  for details.

BAT CONSERVATION - MONKTON FARLEIGH

The mines beneath Monkton Farleigh are the perfect habitat for bats. 13 of the UK’s 17 species have been recorded roosting here. In 2013 a single male Geoffroy’s bat, a European mainland bat was sighted - a species which has only been spotted once before in this country. 

The best time to see bats is at dawn and dusk, between April and September when they are out of hibernation and raising their young. They are can be spotted all along the Avon Valley, especially Pipistrelle bats which typically fly 5-10 metres above ground and at the edges of water, using echolocation to hunt for moths and water dwelling insects. There are a number of groups who run guided bat walks around Browns Folly and Monkton Farleigh - contact Avon Bat Group or Avon Wildlife Trust for details.

   GOLDEN CAP - JURASSIC COAST    Golden Cap is a cliff that stands at 191 metres and is the highest point along the south coast of England. Its distinctive golden colour comes from greensand rock and can be seen from a great distance along the Jurassic Coast in either direction. This stretch of cliff clearly shows the rock formations that map 185 million years of the earth’s history. Because of this, it holds particular importance to geologists and amateur fossil hunters alike.

GOLDEN CAP - JURASSIC COAST

Golden Cap is a cliff that stands at 191 metres and is the highest point along the south coast of England. Its distinctive golden colour comes from greensand rock and can be seen from a great distance along the Jurassic Coast in either direction. This stretch of cliff clearly shows the rock formations that map 185 million years of the earth’s history. Because of this, it holds particular importance to geologists and amateur fossil hunters alike.

   BROWNS FOLLY HAUNTING - BATH    The area of woodland on the steep hillside to the east of Bath is home to Browns Folly, a Grade II listed tower built in 1845. The tower itself is not open to the public although is worth a visit for the views over the valleys towards Bath. The area around the folly is known locally as Sally in the Woods. There is no singular account as to where this name originates from, although the area is widely reported to be haunted. It is said that no birds sing in the woods and the road that runs through is an accident blackspot with many incidents remaining unexplained.  One version of Sally claims that a young girl dressed in white was hit by a car whilst running out of the woods into the road. Another tells of a young woman being held prisoner in Browns Folly. But the only story with any historical accuracy tells of a woman by the name of Sally living in a hut in the woods after the death of her husband in the late 18th century. A resident of the nearby Warleigh Manor once wrote of this woman: ‘Her smoke-dried hut was like an awful cave to us children, and her thin shrill sepulchral voice still rings in my ears.’ 

BROWNS FOLLY HAUNTING - BATH

The area of woodland on the steep hillside to the east of Bath is home to Browns Folly, a Grade II listed tower built in 1845. The tower itself is not open to the public although is worth a visit for the views over the valleys towards Bath. The area around the folly is known locally as Sally in the Woods. There is no singular account as to where this name originates from, although the area is widely reported to be haunted. It is said that no birds sing in the woods and the road that runs through is an accident blackspot with many incidents remaining unexplained.

One version of Sally claims that a young girl dressed in white was hit by a car whilst running out of the woods into the road. Another tells of a young woman being held prisoner in Browns Folly. But the only story with any historical accuracy tells of a woman by the name of Sally living in a hut in the woods after the death of her husband in the late 18th century. A resident of the nearby Warleigh Manor once wrote of this woman: ‘Her smoke-dried hut was like an awful cave to us children, and her thin shrill sepulchral voice still rings in my ears.’ 

   MINES & BUNKERS -   MONKTON FARLEIGH     The area under and between Monkton Farleigh and Box is riddled with quarries, mines and bunkers. You cannot safely gain access to this subterranean world, but spotting evidence of them above ground can be just as fun. The Farleigh Down Tunnel runs for roughly a mile linking a former ammunition depot with the mainland railway. A conveyor belt ran the full length of the tunnel transporting shells into and out of the mines.   The nearby Box mine was a limestone quarry until 1970, although it was taken over by the MOD in the early 20th Century and used as a giant air intake for the underground bunker next door, Burlington.   The Burlington bunker, which lies beneath the village of Corsham, is the UK’s biggest underground complex and was conceived in the 1950’s as the emergency government relocation site in the event of nuclear war. Burlington was fit to house 4,000 ministers and civil servants and included facilities such as a medical centre with examination rooms, a dental surgery, a bakery and alaunderette. Though it was never used, it remains one of the MODs best kept secrets and no member of the public has ever been inside.

MINES & BUNKERS - MONKTON FARLEIGH

The area under and between Monkton Farleigh and Box is riddled with quarries, mines and bunkers. You cannot safely gain access to this subterranean world, but spotting evidence of them above ground can be just as fun. The Farleigh Down Tunnel runs for roughly a mile linking a former ammunition depot with the mainland railway. A conveyor belt ran the full length of the tunnel transporting shells into and out of the mines. 

The nearby Box mine was a limestone quarry until 1970, although it was taken over by the MOD in the early 20th Century and used as a giant air intake for the underground bunker next door, Burlington. 

The Burlington bunker, which lies beneath the village of Corsham, is the UK’s biggest underground complex and was conceived in the 1950’s as the emergency government relocation site in the event of nuclear war. Burlington was fit to house 4,000 ministers and civil servants and included facilities such as a medical centre with examination rooms, a dental surgery, a bakery and alaunderette. Though it was never used, it remains one of the MODs best kept secrets and no member of the public has ever been inside.