Thursday, July 22, 2010

A to Z Year : June 4th – July 15th : the letters L, M and N

A bumper A-Z Year blog post this time around, as I have three letters to do at once....
As you will discover, one of these letters was a big fat FAIL, but we did enough in the other two, I think, to take up the slack. 

To kickstart L fortnight, we paid a visit to Lacock Abbey, near Calne, Wilts.  This is a wonderful place to visit, and to photograph, and in fact it is of particular interest to photographers, being the location of the first ever print to be taken from a photographic negative. 

This little piece of history was both taken and developed in Lacock Village, and it is on display there in a small photography museum.  Aptly it is called "latticed window":

Harry Potter fanatics will recognise some of the scenes in the photo-montage below, as Lacock was extensively used as a location in the first two Potter movies: 

We were a little bemused by the lump of sugar on the nose of the scapegoat statue in the great hall.  I googled it when I got home - apparently a mischievous student placed the original sugarlump there back in 1919, and the tradition has been observed ever since - nice touch :)
The following day, we went Letterboxing. Or, at least, hybrid-letterboxing.

Letterboxes are very much like geocaches, in as much as they are waterproof containers hidden in remote locations for people to find, but they are found with maps and clues, not with a GPSr, and as such they pre-date geocaching by over a century.

As well as the standard log book, they also contain a rubber stamp, with which letterboxers can stamp their personal journal as a record of their visit.

Being a keen rubber stamper, then, you can imagine I have a particular interest in letterboxes – and their geocaching equivalent, the letterbox-hybrid geocache, which is found via GPS co-ordinates or a combination of co-ordinates and clues, but does contain the required rubber stamp. And L-fortnight seemed like a perfect excuse to go out and look for one.

Connor was at his dad’s, and I didn’t know when he would want picking up, so we couldn’t go too far afield - that made our decision for us, as there are only two letterbox-hybrids within 10 miles of Swindon, and they are both up on the Marlborough Downs. So the Downs it was (never sure why they are called Downs when they are high Up?)

It was a gorgeous day, and we had fun wading through the flowers to get up to the cache location (don't worry, we were on a public footpath, not that you can see it that clearly on the pictures, we weren't just randomly barging through some poor farmer's crops)

can you even spot Reece? :)
Gorgeous view from up top:

not sure who that posh house belongs to...
Sadly, when we found the cache, its stamp and inkpad had gone missing :( I was especially miffed about this as it was apparently a First Nations style one, and as most of you can probably tell from my blog header (and my back), I’m very fond of First Nations artwork. So – all in – although we got the Letterbox icon for our profile – this was just like finding a normal geocache. Boo. Luckily the log book was still there, and a very cute Canadian Cacher book it was too:

Even more sadly, when the owner of the cache went up to replace the stamp and inkpad a couple of days later, the entire cache had gone – along with another 8 or 9 from the same series - there is no way that non geocachers could have innocently stumbled across so many of the caches over just a few days, so it looks like this series was deliberately sabotaged by a fellow cacher – or at least somebody using the website to obtain co-ordinates – and that’s just rotten :(

Now that our local letterbox-hybrid geocache count was down to one (and that one was proving very hard to reach as there are currently road works being carried out in the layby which is the only sensible nearby parking spot – we’ll get it one day though) – I decided we should do our bit and hide our own. And that’s exactly what we did a little later in the L fortnight. It’s here, should you wish to find it, it’s had some really positive logs so far :)

During this fortnight I also made a necklace for my pal Leanne as I was due to see her the following week in Dublin. She lives down in Cornwall, which of course is surfing country, and is a biiiiiig Peal Jam fan, so I thought that this line of lyrics from Amongst The Waves was appropriate.

Gratuitous Pearl Jam video:

the boys walking up onto Red Down
The following Saturday, we tackled our longest caching streak in a single day – finding 12 in an afternoon, on a 4.5 mile walk on the Red Down near Highworth. It was another lovely day.

And then on the Sunday, we went all out on the L front, and took a trip to see the Lions of Longleat.  I have to admit, I love Longleat, I wish we could go there more often, but it's not cheap!  I got our tickets this time using Tesco tokens, but had we paid cash it would have cost us £82 to get in - ouch!

We took way too many pictures, but here's a flavour of the day:

Plus, of course, we got lost in the maze:

And here is another shot of the headlining lions  (we also saw sea lions and an African lowland gorilla):

After Longleat, we took a short detour on the way home to do one nearby geocache that sounded really interesting, plus it was at an L word :)  St Leonards Old Church, to be precise.

I do love me some pretty ruins, and this gorgeous old church didn't disappoint.  Connor was pretty chuffed with the huuuuge ammo can cache too :)  Especially as it contained some CDs amongst the swag, one of which was by one of his favourite bands - McFly - so he snapped that up!

And last but not least for L are two things that I have managed to lose the photos of, because I am a twit :) (they were on my old phone, which I gave to my middle son when I got a new phone, and forgot to take the photos off it first, and he promptly deleted them all, doh!)

First of all, Connor and Reece spent all morning making the most amazing spaceships out of Lego.  They really were cool, but you will have to use your imagination.

And lastly, I went on one of my lunchtime lone geocaching expeditions, to find a cache placed exactly upon the second line of longitude, by local cachers the Lydford Locators.   Phew!  That's a lot of Ls :)

And that just about wraps up the letter L, on to M fortnight.....

On our first M Saturday, we went on a trek to mysterious Woodchester Mansion, utilising our freshly purchased National Trust family membership. This place is truly amazing, you have to walk through the woods for just over a mile to get to the house itself, but there are all sorts of interesting ruins and things to see in the grounds too. Plus the valley that the mansion is set in, has THE BEST echo. One of those proper ones where you can have a conversation with yourself. Brilliant :)

The whole area is supposed to be haunted, not least with the spirits of the American servicemen who tragically drowned in one of the property’s large lakes when the bridge they were driving a tank over (during some sort of practice manoeuvres) collapsed – and also many have claimed to see the manifestation of an angel who apparently tried to warn of this tragedy before it happened. Others say that the whole angel story was simply made up by a local author who was trying to drum up interest in his book about the mansion in order to sell the movie rights. We certainly didn’t see any ghosts or angels – but the whole place does have a very spooky feel to it.

The house itself was never finished, it looks mainly done from the outside, but inside it has no floors/ceilings, so it is one big empty shell.  The information board outside hams it up by asking “In 1870, why did a group of the finest craftsmen in Europe suddenly and mysteriously abandon one of the most ambitious building projects in Victorian England?”

The answer isn’t really all that mysterious – the money ran out – and you don’t tend to find that “the finest craftsmen” hang around for long when they’re not getting paid :)  It all adds to the mystique though.

As do the truly monstrous gargoyles around the building, very very cool:

It was just by the mansion that I got all excited and thought I had found a millipede, but apparently it isn't one (not enough legs, bah):

The following day, we decided to use our NT membership once more and go to see some Roman mosaics at Chedworth Roman Villa:

This place is so cool!  And without the push from the A-Z Year we might not have gone, so once again, thank you Nicole!  The year has been SO MUCH FUN becuase of A-Z, and we have discovered so many things we might never otherwise have found.

We thought we were just going to go there, see the mosaics, leave.  But there was so much else there to see and do.  There were gladiators re-enacting their battles, displays of weaponry and armour, and sword and spear training for the kids, a Roman surgeon demonstrating his medical techniques (all I can say is ouch!), arts and crafts, all sorts of stuff going on.

There was also a Victorian museum displaying Roman artefacts found at the site prior to the main excavation in more recent times, and their often amusing guesses at what some of the finds were, compared to what the current archaeologists think (which might be just as amusing to future experts I guess!)

And we bought some real (or at least a convincing replica of) Roman money in the shop.

All in all a great day out. We also went on the hunt afterwards for giant Roman molluscs (snails to you and me), as apparently they had them shipped over in the olden days from Rome as they were a delicacy, and their descendants still live in the woods around the villa. But we didn’t find any, probably as it was such a sunny day. We did find a geocache though :)

A couple of days later, Jay and I managed to escape from the kids for a couple of days (thank you to Michelle and Tracy for babysitting, we owe you one! or several!), and followed the music to Dublin. My favourite band, Pearl Jam, was playing there, and we based a 2-day city break around the gig. It was great! I love Dublin, I worked there 4 days a week, for 18 months back in the 90s, and I’ve been hankering to go back ever since.

The gig itself was ace:

And I got to meet my online mate Leanne IRL for the first time, which was fab :)  I gave her her necklace, I hope she liked it!

For the rest of our time in Dublin, we mainly did geocaching and sightseeing. 

Of particular interest re the letter M we did a tour of Kilmainham Gaol museum, which was fascinating. I intend to do a proper blog post on our Dublin trip at some point, there will be more piccies to see then.

We also made the pilgrimage out to Bray on the train, to find a geocache of monumental importance – the very first cache ever hidden in Europe. It has been there since June 2000, just a couple of months after geocaching was born.  I don't think this is the original log book, though :)  It looks far too new and clean.

We had made sure that we were up to 99 finds before finding this one, so that this historically significant cache could mark our 100 finds milestone.

Sadly our trip to Ireland was soon over, and the next day I was back at work. Boo. One thing I really look forward to though during the working week is “dress down Friday”, as that’s the day I can wear jeans and trainers, and nip out during my lunchbreak and do a bit of geocaching.

On this particular Friday I looked for caches to do with the letter M (I sound like a Sesame Street puppet :) ) – and found two churchyard locations very close to my place of work – St. Margaret’s in Bagendon and St. Mary Magdalene in Baunton. Both churches were lovely, and it was a gorgeous sunny day to go exploring them, but the one in Baunton was my favourite of the two. It’s a Norman era church, and inside there was a stunning 14th century painting of St Christopher. It really was quite magnificent, and I’m not only saying that to get another M in :) My photo, taken on my phone, really doesn’t do it justice at all, or convey the scale of the painting, which was a good 15 feet tall.   More pics to come in a dedicated geocaching post....
For the second weekend in M, we didn’t do an awful lot to be honest. We were pretty tired after Dublin and a few heavy weekends in a row, so we just took it easy, visited relatives, did some geocaching. We did make at an effort at least to find some caches that were M related – one was called “Moo” , one was called “Barking Mad” and another was in Matson Park. Connor made a card for his dad too, with a cool pop up monster on it – it was brilliant and I’d love to show it to you, but the photo of it went the way of the pics of the lego spaceships, sadly :(  

During the following week, I put my car through its MOT, which cost a lot of money.  And I completed my Danse Macabre CJ layout.

And then we cheated slightly – we had wanted to go to a Medieval Fayre during M-fortnight, but the only one we could find anywhere in the South of England was on July 3rd – 2 days too late. So we took an executive decision and extended M-fortnight for an extra two days so that we could go. I hope that doesn’t get me kicked out of the A-Z club :)

The Medieval Fayre was a lot of fun! And close to Jay’s Mum’s too, so we stayed there the night, and picked up an extra M :)

We also went geocaching after the fayre and found some ancient burial mounds (that's us on top of one of them):

And we went for a walk on a military firing range (on the army's day off, thankfully)

It was a jolly good job that we squeezed in some extra Ms, as in N fortnight we did nada, nothing, nowt!  Well, nothing starting with N anyway.

It wasn’t for lack of trying, but we were so booked up with visits, Connor’s birthday party, and all sorts of other prior engagements, that we just didn’t have space to squeeze in any extra N related activities.

We did go to lunch one day in a pub called the Jolly Sailor, and Connor’s party was pirate themed, so I could maybe get a point for being nautical??? :) no? you’re a harsh audience :)

Don’t worry though – we’ve got right back on the wagon with the letter O, lots to tell you about next time….


Chicken Licken said...

Wow you did stacks for M!!! We are on L at the mo but we have had a few lean weeks too! x

ForgedinPaper said...

Wow great post. I last saw Chedworth when it was first discovered looking good. I used to live at Lyneham so have fond memories of your locality.

Nicole Maki said...

Wow. I'm speechless with the awesomeness of your A-Zing. Congrats on being an absolute star at this.

We kind of faltered on N as well and O is a complete bust. *sigh*

Never seen Pearl Jam but it looks like a fun time. Love your Danse Macabre CJ pages - you're so cool.

Sid said...

Your posts are Mega Sarah !! GC interests me but have not attempted it yet.