Adventures in Letter Writing No. 64: Long Live #PostboxSaturday!

I very nearly deleted the original tweet about starting #PostboxSaturday because I don’t know if it happens to anyone else but do you ever press “tweet” and suddenly think “Hmm, not sure how that is going to make me look, in truth?” But I’m so glad I didn’t. What an unexpected and wonderful time it’s been.

I’ve always loved the romance of a postbox but a postbox in a rural or remote or picturesque setting really does pull on my heart strings. Perhaps it’s the result of reading Rosamund Pilcher novels, or years spent on trips to the mountains, or working in the outdoors, and of course the backdrop of always writing letters that collided to make #PostboxSaturday, but it’s just the loveliest feeling being transported off to a little red postbox some place else. Maybe even more so these days.

The final topple into postbox heaven was really because of a tweet by The Postal Museum back in May when they asked what the picture was on the front of a postcard. There were three options. A: Pillar box in the Lake District. B: Edinburgh Castle. C: Portrait of actress Lily Elsie.

Jokingly I replied “A, but if not do you have any photos of pillar boxes in the Lake District?” It wasn’t A but they sent a link to a whole catalogue of photos in the Lake District by photographer Tom White which even if you weren’t that into mountains or postboxes you couldn’t fail to see the aesthetic beauty of them. As Tom himself says “I spend a lot of time in the Lakes, making three or four trips a year, and have always found something strangely romantic about the post boxes nestled into the mountainous and rural landscape. It also often strikes me how even in the age of the Internet, the humble letter still plays a very important part in society, especially for more remote communities.” It made me wonder about other parts of the British Isles too like Wales or Scotland or the Yorkshire Dales or Cornwall or really any pretty chocolate box village or location you could think of.

There is a Letter Box Study Group that I’d heard of years ago, and a while back during another attempt to get fit I used the brilliant Dracos Postbox Locator developed by Matthew Somerville, to locate and photograph all the postboxes in our town of Swanage. As it was I only got round half of them which included being mocked by some builders (what was that thing Helen Mirren always wished she’d said to people more often?) but it felt like postbox orienteering (if that were a thing). Dracos is just the cleverest invention. I must write and ask him how he did it. Just enter a postcode and have a play. You will not be disappointed.

So anyway, Postbox Saturday was born and people in picturesque places received letters and messages from me kindly asking if they would mind sharing a postbox photo or two. It’s been wonderful! I always wished I’d got a photo of the one I posted a handwritten application form in (it was the 1990s) from Buckden in the Yorkshire Dales, only because I can still vividly remember thinking “I hope this arrives” as I dropped it in. We were on holiday there the summer after finishing university. That postbox has always felt poignant after getting the job and living here ever since. A simple Google search of “postboxes Buckden” led to correspondence with Yorkenthwaite Farm, days of delicious Granola and a new member! And also the possibility of some photos of pretty Wharfedale postboxes.

The amazing photographer Sarah Parry in Snowdonia has completely raised the profile of #PostboxSaturday with her stunning photos which whisk me off to Welsh Wales in a heartbeat every time she’s shared them for me.

I discovered there’s #PostboxChallenge in Winchester too and Sian Rowland’s @pillar_box_red on Instagram, and the Martin Parr Foundation have a photographic project of the remote postboxes of Scotland and others have shared photos from their archives from all over the UK and beyond. The journalist Harry Wallop is even seeking out all 150 odd Edward VIII postboxes! Not only has it been a real education, but 1) it’s such a lovely escape from all the worry, and 2) I feel totally reassured I’m not alone in my love of a red postbox.

The next challenge will be to post a letter in each of them…


Click HERE to listen to an interview about #PostboxSaturday on BBC Radio Lincolnshire.

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