Sunday, October 22, 2006

A questionable cache...

'Tis but a short?! walk from the Red House Country Hotel in the Peak District to the Stanton Enclosure geo-cache. At least according to my new way of finding caches, somehow on a 2D Map, the hills are less of an issue!

The walk starting with a footpath down by the side of the hotel, continues across a rusty railway line occasionaly frequented by harumphing steam trains, takes you towards a set of green fields in front of Darley Bridge. I started a little late and my first mistake was to decide against an early lunch at the pub at the muddy exit to the fields. It is amazing how muddy a herd of cows can make the exit to a field.

Following my trusty GPS enabled Personal Navigation Device (PND), I was taken past an Industrial site, on the left apparently still working, on the right mounds of disturbed soil, being used by children on bikes and marked as "Contaminated Land Unsuitable for Recreational Use". Clearly the human units have not yet grasped the fundamental tenets of the things they would call "Conservation" and "Safety". Found at the very edge of a National Park called the Peak District, it is interesting how the parks boundaries bend inwards to accomodate this blot on the landscape.

Walking a little further I approached the cache from the same direction that many other GPS directed hunters had done before me, namely the "wrong" direction. It was here I made my second mistake. My "you can't get there from here" alert did not trigger effectively until I had reached the point where I couldn't! There had been a clear track up the steep hillside until then, where had it gone? I was faced by what looked like a stone built escarpment built into the hillside to block my path. So I struck off to the left, to find a place where I could clamber up it. On top of the escarpment?! I found a track up the side of the hill, which took me away from the cache. I followed it some way until I decided to strike out into the 4 foot high ferns, to make my own path back to the cache, my third mistake. Had I continued some 200 yards I predict I would have found the proper path back to the cache.

I eventually found the conventional path, having forced myself through the ferns. It felt like miles but was measured in a few 100 metres on the PND. The path went right past the cache location. The cache was in an old stone built enclosure, I started hunting for the cache on and around the enclosure, when my conservation alert did trigger very solidly! I started noting upturned stones with the moss underneath, the tops of the recently disturbed wall with no lichen or moss, cache hunters before me had started the slow but sure destruction of this enclosure. At this point I stopped my search and decided that I would submit an archive request to the fellows at on my return.

With a mixture of pride and sorrow I started my journey home. As I had left my rain gear at the bottom of the "you can't get there from here" hill. I decided to head straight back down the hill toward it, my final mistake! The journey while steep was relatively safe as the heather and ferns were very forgiving and also made a soft cushion that protected my knee on the journey down. I was approaching the area that I thought was the escarpment keeping a sharp?! eye out for the track that was atop it, when I found a secondary escarpment! The manner by which I found it consisted of a violent spin to my right, with a flailing left arm and my right arm hanging onto my PND for dear life. The protective heather and ferns had protected my eyes from seeing a 1.5 metre drop off this secondary "escarpment". Happily they re-asserted their more positive protective qualities as I landed on them in a heap! Nothing but my pride was bruised, and I continued down the hillside mentally berating myself.

Back tracking, I amused myself by selecting which of the pubs I would stop at for lunch, remember that first mistake? Having chosen and arrived at the Square and Compass I met the publican who was happy to estol the virtues of his liquid refreshments then told me that lunch stopped at 2pm, and no amount of pleading on my part would persuade him to part with even a slice of bread, let alone toasted! So my lunch consisted of a pint and a packet of crips and nuts. Not that I am bitter, but I would not be moved to recommend the pub to hungry hikers. Though to be fair he did open the back door to the pub garden so I could sit outside. (I have to say though if you haven't already click on the link to the pubs website it is something else! I suspect it was developed by one of the younger locals for a free pint!)

The walk back to the Hotel was uneventful.

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