Saturday, October 16, 2004

Wednesday - September 22, 2004
"We Bid Farewell to the Wonderful Moor"

After packing our 3 vehicles with our gear, The Baker's Dozen left our cottages at lengthen Manor Holiday Park.

Those &*%$@! Hedgerows!

Our first stop of the day was the gift shop of the Dartmoor Prison. Chris had asked Hugh if he would be interested in a quick look at the Prison, since Hugh is a corrections officer in NY. While they went off, the rest of us entered the gift shop and asked for their letterboxes. We were able to stamp into 9 more boxes, bringing our final Dartmoor total to 191. We hope to come back in several years to get our Dartmoor 300 patch, since we are so close to the 200 already. This experience has been one that the Baker's Dozen will long remember. Some of the Dozen have already prefaced their remarks with "when we come back next time . . . " They have been putting pressure on Sue to let us return in 2 years, but she feels that 3 years will be more realistic. Next trip I think we will remain in Dartmoor for the entire week, without a 3 day stay in London.


Our next stop for the day was the picture postcard village of Widdecomb on the Moor. With it's central green dominated by a beautiful old church, this hamlet seems to be placed back in time hundreds of years. It also must be a very large tourist stop, as the parking areas were filled with all of the latest and greatest touring buses. We decided to take an hour here to do some souvenir shopping that we had put off all week in favor of letterboxing and pubs! Several of the group stopped at a little cart that sold homemade icecream topped off with a dollop of clotted cream, a Devon well known favorite.

This rainbow was our last glimpse of the Moor

Back in the vehicles again, we headed towards Stonehenge, which would be our next destination. As we left the moor, the clouds and showers moved in - almost a mirror of our feelings for it seemed the further away for Dartmoor we drove, the more heartsick we became. The moor had entered our hearts and leaving was not an easy thing. Our group never got tired of the beautiful pastoral scenes that we would encounter around every bend in those narrow roads. The wonderful new friends that we had made while letterboxing here, who filled our days with memories - Louise and Chris Donovan; Andy Wilkes; Steve/Spannerman, Ali, Bethany and Saul Fanstone; Tony & Silvia Moore and Anne & Godfrey Swinscow. The sheep, with their many colors denoting ownership by specific farmers; the wild Dartmoor ponies that were not quite that wild; and the pubs, which became our gathering place in the evenings to enjoy a pint or two of a local beer, while reliving the finds and adventures of the day. This was truly a magical place.

Last minute directions to London

Once we arrived at the Stonehenge parking lot, Louise and Chris said goodbye. The group posed for a final set of pictures with the Donovans, several of us consulted a map to find the best way into London and Chris and Louise were off but with a promise to visit us soon in the US again on their next trip to Boston. In such a short time, they have become like family to Sue and I and probably others in the group. Secretly [no longer now!] I had told Sue that I would love to fix Louise up with our youngest son, Steve . . . . but talk about a long distance relationship!

Chris and I share the same passion for letterboxing, as well as the interest in the important task of documenting the oral history of this pastime before more of these first generation letterboxers pass on. We were both amazed that no one had yet sat down with Godfrey Swinscow to record the history and his wonderful anectdotes of letterboxing that are stored only in his head. I asked God that night in Princetown if anyone had ever recorded his knowledge of the moor along with his hundreds of stories. He told me that there was an American woman who had written him several years before for that very purpose but God hadn't heard anything from her in years.


After our visit to Stonehenge and a quick lunch at the picnic tables by the parking lot, we headed to London. The closer to London we got, the more hectic the traffic became! The only saving grace was that the roads now were standard widths and we didn't have to deal with hedgerows and stone walls on both sides of a narrow, one car width lane!

We arrived at our London hotel, Country Inns & Suites in the Kensington section of London. Quite ironic since we had traveled over 3500 miles from Kensington, CT to Kensington, UK. After the check-in process, which could not have gotten any wilder since the lobby area was quite small and there were 13 of us, travel weary and laden with luggage! The bellman did his best transporting the luggage to the proper floors but it took part of an evening to sort out whose luggage was where! Many said their rooms were very small but Sue & I didn't utter a word - for some reason, we had lucked out with a very nice room which proved to be an asset for the group later on. Later we discovered that as tour directors, we were upgraded to a larger room - this would come in handy later on this week!

After quickly unpacking our clothes, several of us decided to turn in the vehicles that evening so as to avoid the morning rush and the new congestion fee that was in effect here. In order to help alleviate some of the traffic in London proper, the government had instituted in the spring a $10 per day charge for any vehicle driving within the heart of the city during the prime hours of 7am to 6pm. Alexis, Dave and I left the hotel with our trusty navigators: Hugh, Rubaduc and Sue. We entered the maelstom of traffic - as bad as New York City but everyone was on the wrong side of the road! One way street, beeping cars, crossing pedestrians - it was like a cab driver's nightmare and here we were, in the thick of things, already suffering from culture shock! Talk about extremes! The quiet of the moor to the hustle and bustle of one of the busiest cities in the world.

Two and a half hours later we dropped the cars off at the rental location - which was only a little over 2 miles away from our hotel! The traffic of commuters and getting lost, coupled with the maze of one way streets and darkness turned what we thought would be a twenty minute jaunt int a two and a half hour ordeal. The six of us took our first tube [subway] ride back to the hotel, where we went out for a quick, late evening meal and a well-deserved night's sleep.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Big Ben

We started the day off early and visited the Tower of London, The British Museum - including the fantastic Mummy exhibition and the Rosetta Stone, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Parliament building, The London Eye, Buckingham Palace and several of the city's many parks with a multitude of flowers still in bloom.

An English garden

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Friday, September 24 through
Saturday, September 25, 2004

The London Eye

We visited Kensington Palace, the former home of Prince Charles, Princess Diana and their sons. After the hour long tour, we headed through Hyde Park to visit the world renown statue of Peter Pan and the newly dedicated Princess Diana Memorial Fountain and Walkway.

Our next stop was the London Eye - the huge, multi-story Ferris wheel built in 2000 to celebrate the new millennium. This continues to be one of London's hottest tourist sights. Sue & I then visited the Salvatore Dali exhibition which also included some of Picasso's works. A long time enthusiast of Dali, it was great fun to witness many of his bronze statues, etching, watercolors, oil paintings and an unusual collection of Daum crystal articles designed by the mustachioed one.

Security was well in view during our London visit

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at the Hard Rock Cafe, Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Museum of Natural History. While waiting for the girls to come out of the gift shop of the Natural History Museum, Dave told me that the American designer of the huge Venetian hand-blown chandelier that served as the focal point in the entrance of this museum was Dale Chihuly, an artist who had spent time with Dave's father at an artists colony many years ago and whom Dave had personally met.

The Baker's Dozen celebrated their last night together in a great Italian restaurant called Lorenzo's, located just a few blocks away from our hotel. Several of us had already eaten here on Wednesday night after the rental car return incident and enjoyed the personality of the manager. It was a night of laughter and remembering.

Harrod's at night

Saturday morning found us at Harrod's Department Store. The beautiful art deco designed lamps on the first floor were worth the trip alone. Sue and I purchased a great Dartmoor cottage-shaped tea pot as a remembrance of this special week in a wonderful location. We then headed back to the hotel to be picked up by private vans for our trip to the airport and home.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


As I reflect back it seems like this trip was a wonderful dream through which we all passed. Time out on the beautiful moors, where around every corner we turned brought forth another piece of this country's patchwork quilt of farms, fields, hills and tors. The friendliness of its people, who soon became good friends - like Spannerman and his family and Andy Wilkes - people who gave up 2 days of their precious time to show some crazy Yanks around the moors. The one common denominator, of course, was our love for letterboxing. The pubs - where we all congregated after a tiring day of scouring the tors in search of letterboxing treasure, where stories were shared and friendships deepened. And friends like Chris and Louise Donovan, who Sue & I feel have become part of our family.

The experience at Cranmere Pool was unforgettable. To be there on its 150th anniversary and our 30th wedding anniversary made it all the more special. The first sight of the top of this box as we sludged our way through the bog was a most memorable moment. To see that concrete structure rising above the swamp was like a port in a storm; a beacon of accomplishment for all who venture out into this most desolate and deserted part of the moors. We all forgot the wet feet and tired bodies once that structure appeared in our view!

The most important part of the trip was to have Sue by my side; selflessly giving up a 30th anniversary trip to Italy to allow me to follow my dream to visit Cranmere on its 150th. A truly wonderful wife and friend.

As we left Dartmoor on our way to London, we passed another tor and noticed one of the largest rainbows any of us had ever witnessed. It was unnecessary to look for the pot of gold at its end - as we had already found it! Dartmoor was in our blood now and we all were counting the days until our return.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

And finally . . . . The Baker's Dozen!

The dynamics of this group will probably never be achieved again. Where one would excel in a given area, another would contribute in a completely different vein. We started out as strangers and friends, but ended up as family. As of this writing, 11 of the 13 will return on the upcoming trip in 2006.

The Baker's Dozen proved that you could vacation with 13 totally different individuals and still achieve the harmony and teamwork in which we all excelled. Sue & I would like to thank each and every one of our fellow travelers for their individual contributions:

Sewsobizzy/Judy: for her efficiency in preparing the food list, her wonderful Swedish egg coffee that I looked forward to every morning in Dartmoor, and the Pepsi bottle that she bought on eBay from France and transported 3500 miles in which she placed a lit candle so Sue & I could dine by candlelight on our 30th anniversary. Thanks also for the wonderful pictures you furnished us - many of which are located in this very travelogue.

Rubaduc: for her constant suggestions, encouragement, her levelheadedness and for being the first in our group to not only find a Dartmoor letterbox but was a First Finder! We also were touched by her genenerous offer to purchase Spannerman's walking stick for me as a remembrance of our Cranmere trip. The chemistry between the Duck and Andy Wilkes was a joy to behold and a laugh a minute. And finally, for being the master navigator who single-handedly got us back to the car rental office during that nightmare trip on our first night in London!

Chapuline/Geri: for her wonderful gift to the group of our Baker's Dozen tshirts, which we all proudly wore several times during this trip and for the twinkle in her eyes that always seemed to be there.

Butterfly: for her young spirit and enthusiasm, the positive energy, the wonderful scarves that she distributed to each of us that first morning at the cottages before we left and her ability to hike and hike and hike.

Lobsta Lady/Bonnie: for her knowledge of different travels and explanations of the stone circles and her positive energy. Bonnie also was responsible for many of the wonderful pictures that are shown on this webpage. How many times that week did I say, "Bonnie, look at that picture!" "Bonnie, did you get that horse?" "Bonnie, can you see that tor formation?"

Rustypuff/Kim: for her knowledge of nature, flora and fauna and her answers to any environmental question we had along the way.

CSCM/Chris: for his organization and help to the group with the proper registration numbers to many boxes that most of us missed and didn't properly record.

Alexis/Lex: for her knowledge of London, the bus and tube schedules and for teaching us how to decode a tube map. We thank Lex for being our advocate-in-waiting whenever we needed one along the way!

Hugh: for being the letterboxing magnet! Once Hugh was in the zone, no one was better when it came to finding boxes. His dry sense of humor proved to be an important asset to the group.

Dave: for being a best friend, counsel and companion. We so enjoyed our evenings together as we rehashed the days events with you and Dee in London, as we laughed until our sides hurt! It was truly "brilliant!"

Deanne: for just being Deanne! How many nights Sue and I would lie in bed and laugh until we were silly at your remarks at dinner and your general outlook on life. Sue and I treasure this developing friendship with you and Dave and are so thrilled you asked to be included on this trip at the Poe Gathering in MA - even after the trip was closed. I speak for the group when I say this trip would not have been as much fun without you and Dave in attendance!

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