Letterboxing – What is Letterboxing?

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When a long-time Geocacher explains Geocaching they often say “It’s like letterboxing.” I know when I first heard of Geocaching that’s exactly what I heard. I immediately said “oh ok. And what is letterboxing?” :)

So I decided to write a little post explaining what letterboxing is. But first, a disclaimer. I am not a letterboxer (or whatever they call themselves.) I’ve never done it, although I may try it soon. My knowledge of the hobby is derived entirely from reading about it online from letterboxing.org (I THINK that’s the official site) atlasquest.com (Seems to be an unofficial site that works together with letterboxing.com and even contains some of the hints for the letterboxes) and of course Wikipedia.

So what is Letterboxing and how does it relate to Geocaching?

The hobby actually started in 1854 in Dartmoor, England with a bottle placed by James Perrott. I was going to attempt to explain the details, but admittedly I became confused myself. lol Just know that it began in 1854, but it has changed drastically from then until now.

I knew that Letterboxing was similar to Geocaching, but I had no idea just HOW similar it is. It is so similar that it’s obvious Geocaching basically copied the entire concept, just making a few changes.
Congratulations, you just went Letterboxing :) Of course there are more details than that, but from what I’ve read that is the gist of it.Just think of everything you know about Geocaching. Now, get rid of the GPS and get a rubber stamp, ink pad and a big notepad. Now imagine the cache pages (online) are much more specific in regards to the location of the cache (which is why you don’t need the GPS.) Now imagine each cache also contains a stamp (just like the one you own.) You pick up that stamp and stamp it on your ink pad and stamp your notepad. Then You take your personal stamp (not the one in the cache) and you stamp the log sheet.

 

The popularity doesn’t seem to be anywhere close to that of Geocaching. You can see the letterboxes in your area on the

Letterboxing

letterboxing website. Although many Geocachers refer to letterboxing when explaining geocaching, it seems to me that Goecaching has actually increased the popularity of letterboxing, not the other way around.

So there you have it. Maybe you already knew this… maybe you know more than me about it (VERY likely.) But if not I hope that helps with your understanding. So next time someone mentions letterboxing you’ll know exactly what it is.

  1. Jerenemas
    Jerenemas11-11-2010

    Hello Josh,

    The proper letterboxing website is:
    http://www.letterboxingondartmoor.co.uk/

    There is no official organisation that provides for the Letterboxers like geocaching. This is 100 Club. They provide the clues to find stamps on Dartmoor and give regular updates.

    I am an original letterboxer. I live in the Netherlands, but have been a Dartmoor letterboxer for over 15 years now. On my holidays I enjoy hunting for letterboxes. I found aroud 250 now.

    THis is what s on Wikipedia on the history:The origin of letterboxing can be traced to Dartmoor, Devon, England in 1854. William Crossing in his Guide to Dartmoor states that a well known Dartmoor guide (James Perrott) placed a bottle for visitors’ cards at Cranmere Pool on the northern moor in 1854. From this hikers on the moors began to leave a letter or postcard inside a box along the trail (sometimes addressed to themselves, sometimes a friend or relative)—hence the name “letterboxing”. The next person to discover the site would collect the postcards and post them. In 1938 a plaque and letterbox in Crossing’s memory were placed at Duck’s Pool on southern Dartmoor.[1][2][3]

    The first Dartmoor letterboxes were so remote and well-hidden that only the most determined walkers would find them, allowing weeks to pass before the letter made its way home. Until the 1970s there were no more than a dozen such sites around the moor, usually in the most inaccessible locations. Increasingly, however, letterboxes have been located in relatively accessible sites and today there are thousands of letterboxes, many within easy walking distance of the road. As a result, the tradition of leaving a letter or postcard in the box has been forgotten.

    Today there is a club called the “100 Club”, membership of which is open to anyone who has found at least 100 letterboxes on Dartmoor. Clues to the locations of letterboxes are published by the “100 Club” in an annual catalogue. Some letterboxes however remain “word of mouth” and the clues to their location can only be obtained from the person who placed the box. Some clues may also be found in other letterboxes or on the Internet, but this is more commonly for letterboxes in places other than Dartmoor, where no “100 Club” or catalogue exist.[4]

    Letterboxing has become a popular sport, with thousands of walkers gathering for ‘box-hunts’ and while in some areas of Dartmoor it is particularly popular amongst children, some of the more difficult to find boxes and tougher terrain are better suited to more experienced adults.

    Letterboxes can now be found in other areas of the United Kingdom including the North York Moors and have spread all over the world. The Scottish artist Alec Finlay has placed letterboxes with rubber stamp circle poems at locations around the world, including Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

    Interest in letterboxing in the U.S. is generally considered to have started with a feature article in the Smithsonian Magazine in April 1998. Much of the terminology below is associated with letterboxing in the US and would be unfamiliar to UK letterboxers. The growing popularity of the somewhat similar activity of geocaching during the 2000s has increased interest in letterboxing as well. Clues to American letterboxes are commonly published on several different websites.

    The rest is very interesting as well on wikipedia. You can see the similarity and difference between letterboxing and geocaching.

    I vote for more hibrid letterboxes as well as personal stamps for geocachers! This would make the logbooks much more interesting to read and to keep!

    Kind greetings
    Corry geoname: Jerenemas

  2. jane
    jane11-12-2010

    I was a letterboxer before I became a geocacher. My one and only letterbox is now surrounded by caches so it is too late for me to make it into a hybrid! I often find letterboxes while out caching and found one last weekend while at an event just by chance.

  3. AmboGuy
    AmboGuy11-12-2010

    THIS IS HOW I UNDERSTAND LETTERBOXING.
    The “letterboxer” hangs out of the car window with a baseball bat. The letterboxer’s assistant” (driver) gets the letterboxer as close to a rural mailbox as possible while the letterboxer smashes the s h i r t out of it.

    The sport is declining however because some random letterboxes placed aparently have a steel post filled with cement, sneakily this post actually goes through the letterbox to the lid, thus causing some serious limb injuries to the letterboxer (and rightfully so if you own a rural mailbox you have replaced 10 times)

  4. CC
    CC11-29-2010

    Just read about Letterbox’s on your blog this week. Happened upon a letterbox this weekend while out geocaching. What are the odds. At least I knew what it was. Thanks for the information.

  5. Kelt
    Kelt12-02-2010

    having grown up near Dartmoor I found a few letterboxes in my youth. The 100 club is certainly the most organised way to find letterboxes, but the most entertaining way is to engage a suspect letterboxer in conversation over malty beverages and elicit information regarding the whereabouts of the elusive letterboxes that they have found.
    Sometimes letterboxes move and must be found again and again in different locations. Sadly this requires more interrogation, generally necessitating more adult malted beverages and sometimes even a roaring wood fire for encouragement.
    Bottom line though: grid references, landmarks and compass bearings, paces and distances spun together into a narrative of directions leading to the treasure of a rubber stamp.. FUN!

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