Friday, December 30, 2011

Best friends' handmade gift exchange

This Christmas, my bessie mate Alison decided that, as we are both even more skint than usual, we weren't allowed to buy each other pressies.  But one hand made gift was allowed. 

I went up to visit her today, so of course being a total Last Minute Lucy, I've been frantically trying to get her gift made over the past few days.

It took me a while to work out what to make...I was going to go with jewellery, but she makes infinitely better jewellery than I do (as you'll see shortly ;) ), so in the end I decided on a small handbound journal / sketchbook as she is a cracking watercolourist.  
And here it is.  My first longstitch bound book.  The binding is far from perfectly even, but hey, that's how you can tell it's handmade!

It's heavy watercolour paper with a real leather wrap and a ribbon closure.  

I actually finished it last night with a plain black cover.  But this morning - I must have been dreaming of Portlandia - I had an inescapable urge to put a bird (or three) (there's another one round the back) on it. 

So I got the spray paint and stencils out and added the birds on a wire....and I'm glad I did as they finish it off nicely.

Happy to report that the bessie approved :)

So - what did she make for me??  The world's cleverest ring, that's what!
There it is, the copper ring in the box, topped with the lovely red lampwork glass bead (made by the bessie herself)

But what makes it super clever is that you can swap the topper around for any of the other four beads, as the ring has a tiny screw set into it, and each of the topper beads encases a tiny nut:


And here's what the ring looks like on (please excuse big splodges of spray paint on my fingers!  They are from the "put a bird on it" frenzy this morning with the journal!)

All in all a most successful gift exchange!  Handmade gifts are better than shop bought ones any day.

Thanks again for the ring bww, I love it!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

My Secret Santa ROCKS!

As I write this post, it's late in the evening of Christmas Day.  We've all eaten FAR too much, of course, and opened tons of fantabulous pressies.

I hope that anyone reading this had a wonderful day just like we did.

Especially my Secret Santa from Carmen's Christmas swap - who has spoilt me rotten!

Not only did whoever-it-is send a lovely, high quality sketchbook (perfect timing as I've just filled up my previous art journal, and haven't gotten round to buying or making a new one yet), a Cadbury's Wish chocolate (I looooooove those!) and a big pack full of fantastic papers and ephemera for arting up.

But she (pretty sure all the participants were shes) also carved me some fantastic little Christmas tree stamps, and - and this was the part of the gift that made me squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee the loudest - she made me the MOST gorgeous little quilted bag for my journalling pens (seen above modelling my Copic airbrush plus all my most used pens).  This bag is beyond impeccable in its construction - I WISH I could sew like that! - and I love it to bits!

Thank you SO much Santa - one little confession, though.  I set up a movement activated security camera last night by our tree, and, well, you're not so secret any more!  Nice moves ;)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Scratching out a rainbow bird, or two, or three

This is my latest entry for the Artistic Licence CJ - and the inspirational artist this month is Nikki Monaghan.

Now, I have to admit I had never heard of her before embarking on this circle journal, but I do like her bold, colourful style.

As other entrants in the CJ had already largely covered off her recurrent motifs of patchwork trees and boats:

I decided to choose a slightly less typical "Monaghan" as my inspiration, this one is called "Bird 3":

I love how the bright colours pop against the black background, and I figured even with my distinct lack of drawing skillz, I could probably manage a simple birdie.

I was going to paint the bird or birds first, and then paint all around it in black - but then my creative director (otherwise known as my other half, Jay, who always has the best ideas) said, why not do it like we used to do at school - with coloured wax crayons under black, and then you scratch off the top layer.


Trouble was, I really couldn't get the wax on wax thing working for I experimented a bit with various materials I had to hand, and ended up with a method that seemed to work pretty well.

So just in case any of you would like to try something similar, here's a bit of a step by step.

Step 1 - lay down some lovely BRIGHT colours fairly randomly onto white smooth or glossy cardstock.  I used spray paints, but anything that dries flat and permanent would work well - like alcohol inks/markers for example.

Step 2 - not pictured.  Spray a coat of clear acrylic varnish over the colours to help protect them from the scratchy scratchy bit later on

Step 3 - scribble all over with wax crayon.  As you can see, it doesn't make a good enough top coat to use as is, but it's an important step as it will allow us to lift off our black layer later.  I've used a dark blue crayon here rather than black, as I'm going to be covering it over anyway, and I couldn't find my black crayon :)

Step 4 - cover the wax crayon layer with a thin coat of black gesso if you have it, or black acrylic paint if not.

Step 5 - once the gesso is completely dry, sketch out your design - in my case - 2 birds - in pencil

Step 6 - using a sharp tool of some sort - mine is a stainless steel burnisher used in jewellery making, but anything similar would do - eg the pointy end of a small pair of scissors - scrape off the wax and gesso layers to reveal the colourful paint beneath.  Ahhhhhh.  Purty :)

Leave some of the black showing in places, as this adds to the "woodcut" look

Step 7 - add another coat of clear sealant or matt varnish when you're done

And that's pretty much it.

Here are my birds (I added a third on a whim part way through to balance the composition):

And you can see my finished piece using them, along with some embossed copper leaves, at the top of this blog post.

It was fun to do something in a different style and devise a new twist on an old technique.  If any of you lot do give it a go, please comment with a link so I can some and have a peek.

I'm famous! :) :) :)

There I am, look, in my Canucks jersey (it's my white one, hence it's #17 Kesler, in case you were wondering), and, ummmm, green shorts and bare feet - standard winter wear round here :)

I am immensely proud to have been immortalised in Carol Browne's annual lego advent - I positively squeeeeed when I settled in to read today's episode, and the realisation slowly dawned that the jersey wearer was meeeee, and then again later on in the post when we all (including the cats, and Dave the gnome) sit down to do some art journalling.

Pity Will & Kate couldn't stick around to join in too :)

Thanks Carol, this really made my day :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Don't upset the balance....

And so, with this quick and simple page, that's my baby Moleskine all filled up!

I was kind of hoping it would last till the end of the year so it could be my 2011 journal - but I guess I got a bit ahead of myself :)

Here it is all bursting at the seams, it's been a good little companion to me over the past 11 months:

But anyway, back to the page in hand.

This one's in response to the latest prompt over at A Year In The Life Of An Art Journal, the one challenge site I have managed to keep up with pretty much all year, as I really enjoy their 3-part prompts that you can take in pretty much any direction you choose.

THE SONG: Fuckin' Perfect by Pink
Written Lyrics HERE
PRODUCT/TECHNIQUE: Pink Paint Dripped like Blood

I started thinking about the concept of "pretty" - and would I want to be prettier than I am (not difficult lol) - and then got stuck on the "pretty pretty please" in the song lyrics, and thinking about asking/begging the universe to make me prettier/thinner/richer/have more talent/have more stuff.....

And then I thought about the concept of balance ..... how if the left hand gives, the right hand takes away .... and I realised I didn't want any of that extra stuff enough to give up any of the great things I already have in my life.

So my "pretty pretty please" ended up as a request to the universe to leave my perfect life just as it is.

Funny where these prompts end up taking you :)

The construction of the page was quick and easy - spray paint in two shades of pink over some scrapbook paper with a faint Oriental text on it.  Stamped yin-yang symbols.  A picture of a perfectly balanced scale (must have been tricky getting it so spot on that those balls didn't roll off!) added to drive the point home.  And then the title drawn with a yellow Posca paint pen and outlined with a thin black Pitt pen.  And the journalling written in with the same Pitt pen.  and we're done.

It's way simpler than most of my pages but it doesn't seem to need anything else adding to it.

AJED : 105 / 365

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My pages for the tallest handmade book....

...are all finished and ready to be sent to Oregon (a place I've always wanted to visit, but my pages will have to go there on my behalf)

I look forward to seeing them in the finished book, some time next year. 

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, a clickety click on the logo below will explain everything:

It's been simultaneously liberating, and difficult, to work completely without a brief or a theme - I'm so used to doing themed circle journals, that being told I can do absolutely anything I want left me a little rabbit-in-the-headlights to start with.

So I started with imagery and themes that I'm very familiar with, things that are very "me", like a slightly darker, more grungy re-work of my Don't Blink canvas:

And this page using my favourite orca stamp (which I've blogged already but here it is for completeness)

Next I found a great headline in one of my old, old books (this one's from the late 1800s) - "Ventriloquism, and how to acquire the art"- and paired this with an image of some rather creepy puppets for the page at the top of this post.

And finally, some fun with layers of image transfers and texture and a creepy plague doctor:

I think that these four are fairly representative of my usual style, and the kinds of imagery and colours I respond to, which is what I was aiming for.

Now to pop them in the post...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

So is there one L in Vermilion, or two in Vermillion?

Rock CJ time again - and this month it's Clare's colour themed journal.

We are each to choose a rock band or song with a colour in the name, and make something with that colour dominant, that will fit in a little 5" square clear plastic pocket.

My go to favourite-song-with-a-colour-in-it is usually Pearl Jam's Black.  But I've already done a layout based on that song in another colour themed journal some time ago - plus I've done Pearl Jam to death so far in this current rock CJ (here and here) - and it's about time another band got a look in!

So I've chosen Vermilion by Slipknot - such a brilliant, haunting song.  I just wish they'd learn how to spell!  I'm convinced it's vermillion with 2 L's - maybe it's an American/British thing like color and colour and center and centre....?

This is what my entry looks closed up.  One of the key lines from the song is written on the front in silver ink using a dip pen.  You'll notice that my sewing machine REALLY didn't like the spraypainted cardstock - it is a tad sticky and kept getting stuck on the feeders, but I've decided I actually like the super messy look - in some places it has just carved chunks out of the cardboard - I think it adds to the crazed serial killer vibes more than beautiful neat stitching ever could :)  (that's my justification and I'm sticking to it!)

And here it is opened out:

Not the best photo as there was too much glare from the lights above, but you get the general idea.  You can see Corey's mask better in the close up at the top of this page.  The zipper on the mouth is decoupaged up on foam pads, and the edge of the picture has been airbrushed over in black to give the picture a smoother transition into the background.

She isn't real!  I can't make her real!

And here's the back, including my sign in info:

That's pretty much it.

I hope the CJ owner likes it and doesn't think it's too dark or grisly.

And I hope nobody else further down the line wanted the colour red, better think of a reserve colour ladies :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My cheer-me-up playlist

It's been too long since I last played in the Green Pepper Press Crusades - but Michelle knows that she can always count on me to join in with the music related challenges, I can never resist :)

Can't believe this is Crusade #57 - I fondly remember number one!

A simple brief then - name and shame the list of songs you can't stop yourself belting out in the car, in the bath, pottering around the kitchen - the ones that lift your spirits every. single. time.

So here's my list - my playlist of pure joy :)

I think I'm going to burn this little lot onto a CD for the car - then if I'm ever feeling a little down, I know I have handy a 100% guaranteed way to cheer myself up :)

(Please don't judge me on McFly and the show tunes!)

AJED : 104/365

Friday, November 11, 2011

Brrrring on the bllllling!

Well this pushed me a little out of my comfort zone :D

But that's why circle journals are fun!

This is my latest entry in the Project Runway CJ - and the theme for this journal was the drag queen challenge.

Now this doesn't mean that we had to make a page about an actual drag queen (although my punk rock princess does look a teeny bit butch!) - but that we had to roll out the bright colours and, most importantly, the BLING.

Eeeek, I really don't do bling :)

But as soon as I started thinking jewels..... jewellery....PIERCINGS!  I was back on home turf, yay!

So I found a photo online of a rather prim and proper young lady, and proceeded to re-invent her complete with a punk rawk makeover, with tattoos and piercings galore, and that rather fetching hair style.  Quite an improvement if you ask me :)

There is so much on the page that is super shiny or glittery, it was virtually impossible to take a photo of.

For example the "punk rock bling" title is actually on extra reflective mirror film, and the purple stripes (which are actually straight and parallel to the edge in real life, honest) are shiny too:

So please do use your imaginations to fill in all the glare :)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Timecachers by Glenn R Petrucci - a book review and a giveaway too!

Sometimes in life, you just get lucky.... and I think that it's only fair that in those situations, you pass on the luck.

About a month ago, I happened across an online write up of a newly published novel that sounded right up my street.... I'm a geocacher, and I love both historical- and science-fiction.  So what's not to love about (gross over generalisation coming up.....) a story about time travelling cachers who visit the old Wild West?

This was the press release I had stumbled across, it was certainly enough to make me want to read the book:

It was breakthrough technology, but where would it lead them?

When Adam Hill of Overhill Engineering accepted the assignment to test the innovative device, he knew the project would be exciting, but this was far beyond his team’s expectations. A handheld navigation device with the ability to provide precise location information anywhere on earth—or anywhere in the universe—without the need of a supporting satellite system! “We’ve discovered some interesting anomalies that may actually enhance the unit’s functionality,” said Dr. Odan, the enigmatic inventor of the LANav device. “We need engineers who are familiar with hardware and software testing, as well as an aptitude for outdoor activities, such as backpacking, orienteering, and survival skills. They will also need practical knowledge of early American history.” As avid outdoorsmen and geocachers, Adam’s team was well suited to the project. Field testing the device would require them to travel to the remote mountains of northwest Georgia, where wilderness skills would understandably be required. But what possible need for knowledge of early American history could there be? They soon discover the device has the capability to lead them not only to any destination—but to any time—in this case May, 1838, the beginning of the Cherokee Indian Removal.

So off I skipped to, to find that they only have a Kindle version available :(  Boo!  I'm one of those strange old fashioned people who prefers to read actual books made of actual paper.

Then, as I said, I struck lucky!  I was able to make contact with the author, who generously sent me a review copy of the book, signed no less, so I was able to read it after all - hooooray!

And read it I did.  In fact, devour might be a better word.  I loved this book!

Now, I'm not sure how thoroughly I can review it without giving away too much of the plot.  But suffice to say that it ticked all my boxes:

  • there was lots of detail - I love detail!  both technical / jargon detail about the fictitious GPS-like invention that's central to the plot, and also historical detail about the time period in which the bulk of the book is set, and the daily lives of the Cherokee.
  • I really got to know - and care about - the characters.  In fact I had a good weep at one point when something not so good happens to one of them.  And that's always a good sign as it shows that the characters and story are completely believeable.
  • the insight the novel gave me relating to the major historical event that the story revolves around - the Cherokee Indian Removal of 1838 - was absolutely fascinating.
  • it was really refreshing to read a time travel story that wasn't obsessed with the whole paradox aspect, and the consequences for the future of making the tiniest change in the past.
  • I liked the way that the main characters in the book were able to split up to go and have their own adventures, so that the storyline could cut from one to the other.  It kept everything moving along at a perfect pace.
  • it's a long book - large format and 600 pages - but it was quick and easy to read.  If anything I wish it was a little longer as the ending felt almost unexpectedly sudden.  
  • you certainly don't need to be a geocacher to enjoy this novel, not at all - but the added twist of seeing my geeky hobby mentioned in print was fun for me
  • and it was left wide open for a sequel - and I am SO keen to read more!

But anyway, you don't have to take my word for it, as I said I'd pass on the luck, didn't I?

So I'm going to send this book, autographed by the author, on to another lucky UK reader.

All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning it is leave a comment on this blog post.

I will use a random number generator to choose the winner in one week - so that will be on Monday November 14th.  Please make sure I have a way to contact you if you win (eg. email address, a link to your own blog, your geocaching name if you cache, etc).

And please note, the draw is open to UK residents only.

Good luck!


It's now November 14th - so I'm announcing the winner!

*drumroll please..........*

The random number generator chose number 3:

And the third commenter was Ally - so congratulations Ally!

I will be in touch to get your postal address, and will pop the book in the post ASAP

Friday, November 04, 2011 do you really need 5 different bottles of shampoo???

A quick "just because" art journal page tonight, in honour of a fab gig I went to on Wednesday night.

AJED : 102/365

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fancy being in the Guinness Book of Records???

....that is of course depending on the book of records having a section for tallest handmade book.....

but regardless, please check out the Tallest Handmade Book In The World project over at the Altered Bits blog - and I'm sure you'll be as excited as I am about the whole thing, and hopefully want to join in

We are each to make 4 pages (well, I'm sure you can make more if you get the urge, but I'm just aiming for the 4 at least to start with)

I've finished off my first page today, using my favourite Haida orca image (this is one of the orcas I have tattooed on my back, and the wonderful Michelle Ward was kind enough to hand carve me a stamp to match, lucky me!!)

I'm not sure yet what's going on the other three pages....I'm not going to bother trying to connect them in theme as they could well end up separated in the final book depending on how the signatures are made up.

But I want all the pages to be very "me" - so I'm thinking stone angels and skulls in the mix somewhere....

Can't wait to see the final book - here's hoping it gets to ceiling height! :D

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Halloween!

An art journal page just for the fun of it this month, no soul searching or deep and meaningful journalling, just a little spookiness for Halloween.

This is my response to a recent prompt on A Year In The Life Of An Art Journal:

THE PROMPT: Eye opener
THE SONG: Why are we sleeping - Soft Machine
Written Lyrics HERE

I loved the lyrics to the chosen song, and in particular I found this verse fascinating, if rather creepy:

people are watching - people who stare - waiting for something that's already there

That part, along with the mention of a mask, made me think of one of my own occasional nightmares, masked white faces with eyes like dark pools, just staring at me silently.  shudder!  :D

So, a halloween page it had to be.

Other than the alcohol ink for the blood dripping from his eyes, everything else on here was spray painted so it all came together quickly.

Just looking at the page is freaking me out a little, I think I'll close my art journal and put it away ....

AJED : 100/365

(Although I have clearly fallen well short of art journalling EVERY day this year - I'm chuffed to hit day 100 with this page!)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The in between is mine....

I love it when two of my passions collide - in this case it's my "art" (I'm still not brave enough to drop the air quotes :) ) and my music

This is my entry in this month's "Rock Resurrected" circle journal - the book is Kate's and her theme is song lyrics.

Kate has asked for our entries to be done in 'art journal style'.  I'm not sure if this is quite what she had in mind, but this mix of collage, stencils and stamped lettering in the background is very typical of a page out of my own journal, so it's definitely art journal style for me.

For my song I have chosen the wonderful "I Am Mine" by Pearl Jam.  The central message of the song is that you and only you are in control of, and responsible for, your own mind and your own life.  Something we all need to be reminded of from time to time.

I stamped the full text of the first two verses in the background, and picked out the following lines for prominence:

I know I was born
and I know that I'll die
The in between is mine
I am mine

I really enjoyed pulling this page together, in my element with my spray paints and my stamps and my stencils.  A fun way to spend an afternoon off work.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Inspired by a grand master

It's been a little while since I last posted anything I've made on my blog, but it's CJ time-of-the-month again, so expect a few posts over the next week or two.

This is my entry in this month's Project Runway journal - the theme of this one is "art from art" - make a page inspired by a favourite painting or other artwork....

I chose a piece called 'Canyon' by Robert Rauschenberg (1959):

I love pretty much everything this man ever produced, but I particularly like the earthy palette of this one, and the raven gave me the idea of making my interpretation with a nod to my favourite place in the world - beautiful British Columbia.

My raven is a Haida first nations bird, and it has a couple of inukshuk to keep it company.

I thoroughly enjoyed layering on the different shades and textures of paint to pull this all together.  In some places I have followed the original quite closely, in others I've gone off and done my own thing.

I'd like to recreate this on canvas for myself one day.....I'll add it to my seemingly endless to-do list :)

Friday, October 07, 2011

Geocaching Adventures Part 9 – February – April 2011

I’ll warn you now, this will be a long one!! I did actually start writing this post in May - it’s now October! I genuinely don’t expect ANYONE to read this through to the end, it’s waaaay too long. But I have this borderline-OCD need to document every cache we’ve ever found, so, here goes….

(I’d advise you to just skim through and look at the photos :), that’s much easier, to be honest)

Talking of photos – there may well be spoiler pics in here, so if you’re local to me, please proceed with caution (unless you are Slogger007 who has already found everything :D)

So – February was coooold! I’m not a great fan of being outdoors in the cold when I could be at home with the radiators on full, wrapped up in my slanket:

Accordingly, our grand total of caches found this month, was three! But at least all three were exciting – two were in the city of romance – Paris (during Valentine’s week no less), and the third, back home, was our first ever First To Find!

I have no photos of the first cache I’m afraid – #241 TB Hôtel at Disneyland – as I found it all on my own in pitch darkness at the end of a VERY long day in the theme park – it involved a long walk up to the car park and back that would have been a trudge too far for the already exhausted boys – so I sent them back to the hotel with Jay while I went off to deposit a couple of travel bugs that we had been saving for this trip, a Minnie Mouse bug and a Roman coin that wanted to make its way to Rome.

Ironically, having brought it over to the continent especially to get it that little bit closer to Italy, the Roman coin was picked up a couple of days later by a cacher from Kent, and then brought straight back to England :|  The cool twist to the tale was that the very next person who retrieved it (in Kent), was the granddad of the little boy whose travel bug it is (who lives miles away in Hampshire) – small world!

The only other cache we found in Paris (2 finds in 4 days is a pretty poor show – but we had such a packed itinerary for our trip that lots of geocaching wasn’t really squeeze-in-able) was a virtual, #242 Who Is She?, in the Jardin Des Tuileries near the Louvres.

Now, I must confess, we didn’t actually have a GPS with us that day, and I can’t use my phone to access data abroad, but I remembered from the cache page that all you had to do was have your photo taken with a particular statue, and I thought I remembered what it looked like….so…..we went and had our piccie taken (along with my phone in random compass mode to pass as a GPS) with the statue, and then walked on….and then realised it was completely the wrong statue when we saw the RIGHT statue further along…so we had our photo taken with THAT one as well :)  At least we got there in the end.

Hey Jay, which way is the cache??
We got home from our Paris trip very late on February 18th, and when we woke the next morning we ached all over from the huge amount of walking we’d done over the four days, so the LAST thing we wanted to do was go out caching. But then we got an email notification of a new cache. About a minute away from home. And we needed a FTF (first to find) to satisfy one of our Project Zero goals. So that was it – the race was on!

And we only just made it – hot on our heels chasing us across the fields on the way to #243 1st Stratton Scouts I could see a familiar looking young lady and her children – it turned out to be local caching team Toolaroola, it was nice to meet them at the cache (they got to it less than a minute after we did, close but no cigar :) :P ).

There was an unactivated scouting geocoin in the cache as FTF prize, which was very much appreciated – that would be a nice one to launch over on Brownsea Island (location of Lord Baden-Powell’s first scout camps) in Dorset, if we get back out there next summer.

March was a much brighter month, weather wise, the start of what turned into a lovely sunny Spring.

Our first caches for the month were a fab little multi, and nearby traditional, in and around the pretty (and apparently, duck infested) village of Bishopstone, not too far from Swindon. We found the trad - #244 Rabbit Round – first as we passed it while we were gathering clues for the other cache.

It was actually out in the open – hanging in its bag from a tree very visibly some 50 feet or so from ground zero. I guess that someone had found it lying around, assumed it had been mislaid, and had hung it up in the tree conspicuously in case its owner came looking for it. With the help of the co-ordinates, the cache description and the hint, we were able to replace it where we think it belongs, and we were on our way.

The countryside out here was gorgeous. Although perhaps dangerous – we did find evidence of ….da da dummmmm….. a murdered rastafarian!

OK, MAYBE it was sheep dreadlocks and bones, not human ones….. but we did also find the murder weapon! <--- You can imagine that we were a little dubious checking the contents of the hanging black bag….we had flashbacks to that movie Se7en :D

Having found Rabbit Round and all the clues for the multi, it was back to the village, and to the final co-ords for #245 A Bishopstone Folly. This one got one of our favourite points, thanks to the great walk, amazing views along the way, and the pretty little village. And we saw lots of purty baby lambs – awwwwwww.

I do wish someone else would go and find the cache soon, though, we dropped a geocoin in there and it’s been sitting there unloved for over five months now :( It’s an X Files themed coin – maybe Mulder and Scully will track it down and move it along?  (STOP PRESS, I’ve just re-checked the cache page and it seems that someone did finally visit the cache a couple of weeks ago – the first visitors in 6 months! – so the geocoin is back in circulation, hooray!)

Reece's chosen toy
The following day, we didn’t have much spare time for caching, but long enough to pop out and investigate a recent cache that sounded interesting for the boys – a cuddly toy hotel / swap shop hidden by local team Newman’s Mad House. They might be growing up fast, but both our lads still have a soft spot for soft toys, so I knew they’d enjoy the opportunity to pick out a new one each. Of course that meant they had to choose two they were prepared to part with, which Connor found difficult!

On the way to the cache, we found another, hidden by the same team called, appropriately, On The Way. This was our cache # 246.  And #247 was the Cuddly Toy Hotel itself.

Connor's choice
This was certainly no disappointment for the boys – a huuuuge big box, which they thoroughly enjoyed sifting through for some time, deciding which new toys to take home in exchange for the little horse and mouse they dropped off. In the end they settled on a very brightly coloured tartan sheep, and Flik the ant from the Bug’s Life movie.

Lacock Abbey
yes, the meerkat is a cache!
The following Saturday, March 19th, was one of those rare, rare days – a child free one! Connor was at his dad’s all day and overnight, and Reece was having his birthday party at his mum’s house. So Jay and I planned a full day’s caching followed by a trip out to Basingstoke for ice hockey. Just the two of us. Fab :)

and so is the stick....
We chose a series based around one of my favourite places – the lovely National Trust-owned village of Lacock – as we figured it might be a bit much for the boys (over 6 miles with some steep hills to struggle up – and trust me it was a struggle for me, I went maroon!).

this one was really clever!
This was a wonderful series, with a good variation of really clever hides to keep the interest up (close your eyes if you don't want to see the spoiler pics), and, save for a rather boring road-side segment in the middle (which apparently replaced a much nicer part of the series, but had to be re-routed as the original trail passed too close to Camilla Parker-Bowles’ house), lots of lovely countryside to walk through.

as was this one
I won’t link to all the caches – the first one was 1. Lacock Wandering, you can find the rest from there. 

I’m pleased to report we did find all 20, so this series took us from cache #248 up to cache #268.  (Yes, I know that doesn’t quite add up, but that’s because we also found an unrelated cache, #251 Bowden Hill – a nice big ammo can no less – along the way).

After we completed the series, we headed back into the village for a celebratory ice cream.  While there, we found a prior DNF - #269 Communicazione Rosso.  This is one we had spent aaaaaages looking for on a previous visit to Lacock, to no avail, but this time we found it easily (so easily, that Jay wandered off muttering "I'm SURE that wasn't there last time, grumble grumble"  :)  ) – so that made a total of 22 caches found on the day – our personal best!  Which we haven’t yet surpassed.

at the end of the Lacock series
I gave my poor tired legs a few days rest after Lacock, and didn’t find another cache until the next Friday.  It was a lovely sunny day, and I was in jeans as usual for a casual Friday (I don’t really fancy caching in work gear) so I was glad of the opportunity to escape the office for an hour and find a cache or two. 

I wasn’t really all that fussed where I went so picked a couple of nearby caches almost at random, and was pleasantly surprised when they turned out to be much more interesting than I thought they would be!  Not that I thought they would be UNinteresting – but I figured they would be fairly standard small-item-of-tupperware-in-a-tree types. 

looking up the lock flight to the bridge
Instead, the first cache #270 Siddington Old Pub Run, took me on a lovely walk (once I had figured out how to find the start of the footpath!) past some very friendly horses, and a lovely old church.  And the second #271 Siddington Lock Flight, was just brilliant!  It was located at the lock flight from a long disused canal system….instead of water here now, there are just grass and weeds.  It is a brilliant location for a cache.  Here is the rather gushing log entry I left on the website:

You’ll have to excuse me for a moment, I feel one of my “THIS is why I LOVE geocaching!” rants coming on ….

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this cache today, all I really wanted, to be honest, was to get away from my desk and out into the sunshine for a bit, so anything on top of that would be a bonus.

So, having done zero research before setting out, I was blown away by just how cool the location for this cache actually was.

Now admittedly, I have a bit of a thing for old crumbling buildings and structures, so maybe others might not share my view, but for me, this was an absolute gem of a setting.

So, yes, back to why I love geocaching….it’s the way it pools all the local knowledge of where all the cool places are… I’ve worked just a stone’s throw from this flight of locks for a few years now, but had no idea it was there. There’s no way I would have found it in a guide book, and it’s very unlikely to have come up in general conversation with friends and workmates (unless of course they were geocachers :) ). It needed to be highlighted by someone who knew it was there.

In the three years we have been caching, we have found cool places like this all over the country, and for that, I am eternally grateful to this hobby.

I wish I had had one of our signature items on me today, as this cache certainly deserved one, but with it being an impromptu trip out I was empty handed. I can give a favourite point instead though, which the cache owner will probably prefer anyway :)

Anyway – back to the cache hunt itself – it was quickly found once I remembered to think in 3 dimensions, doh (I was looking at the correct co-ordinates but the wrong elevation). Like the other Siddington cache it was a quick spot and easily retrieved. Took nothing, left nothing, thank you.

I had a good explore of the lock system before heading back to the office. Great stuff.

I hope to add some photos to this log when I get home this evening if they turn out ok (my phone camera isn’t up to much unfortunately)

Thanks again for bringing me to this place.

The following day, we didn’t find any caches, but we did do our level best to hide one.   A bit of a long story, this one, we found a fab multi cache – Hey Toots - up on Selsley Common near Stroud, last summer.  We really enjoyed both locations the cache takes you to – a topograph close to a neolithic long barrow where you did your clue gathering, and the cliffs at ground zero.  The cache itself was in very poor repair, however, the container was smashed and all the contents were soaked through.  We contacted the cache owner offering to adopt the cache as he had ignored a number of needs maintenance logs, but there was no response, and eventually the cache was archived by the local reviewer.

We loved the original so much, that we re-hid a new cache in the same spot, and re-listed it, crediting the original cache.  Rather stupidly, I didn’t check the MAGIC map for any landowner issues, as I usually would do, as I figured I was only replacing the previously archived cache exactly as it was – so if it had permission before it would still stand.

But no – it turns out that the common in its entirety is an SSSI – a site of special scientific interest – and so geocaches cannot be placed there without express permission.  And any permission granted to the old cache did not apply to my new one (I wish the owner had just let us adopt the old one!  it would have saved so much hassle!)

So – the long and the short of it is, Jay went back to the common and retrieved the cache, which is now sitting on the side in my living room while I try to get the appropriate permission granted.  Wish me luck!  I hope we can get it sorted, as it’s such a great location.

That’s March wrapped up – April next….

On the 2nd, we went on the hunt not so much for a cache – but for what was inside it.  Although the cache did turn out to be an excellent one, which was a bonus. 

Ever since Connor and I started geocaching back in early 2008, I’ve been aware of two Wombles-themed travel bugs which are roaming around the South West – each carrying half of the co-ordinates to the signature cache of a local team called, unsurprisingly, the Wombles.  (or, as Reece calls them, litter monkeys lol).  I always hoped that we would come across one or the other of the travel bugs by chance, and at that point I thought we could then step up our efforts to find the other.
The “by chance” thing wasn’t working out so well for us, though, so when a friend pointed out on Facebook that she had just dropped off the Westings womble in cache #272 The Coombes, we decided to pop out there and discover it quick before someone moved it on. 

I was glad we did find the time to go after this one cache on an otherwise busy day as it was a great walk with fantastic views, and a good sized cache to find too.  And we didn’t get there a moment too soon, as just as we left the cache site, another geocacher was approaching – and checking his log later on that day, I saw that he did take the womble!  I’d say we got those westings co-ordinates with 10 minutes tops to spare.

A few days later, Jay and I were in Cheltenham on a pleasant Thursday evening for a comedy gig – Tim Vine – he was very very VERY funny!  We got to the town hall, where the gig was happening, way too early (I know!  That’s not like me at all!  I’m usually late for EVERYTHING), so we fired up the GPS on my phone to see if there were any caches nearby.   

There were actually quite a few, and we found two before the show, and one more after.  These were #273 ArtyParty5, #274 Neptune The Mystic and #275 ArtyParty3.  They were all set close to sculptures / fountains.  We usually do very little in the way of urban caching, but it is fun to use geocaching as a kind of tour guide to bring you to interesting things in a town centre, and these caches worked well for that purpose – and did a very good job of entertaining us while we were waiting for our gig to start.

Next up was another casual Friday lunchtime foray – and another First To Find - #276 Michaels Mission 1 (although it was actually a cache that had been moved a bit and given a new GC number rather than a brand new one, and so there were already names in the log book which confused me…) . 

And that evening Connor and I even went caching after work – which is unusual – but we had a jolly good reason to scoot over to West Swindon to find a cache that usually we wouldn’t have bothered with (you know the type, thrown in a bush on an ugly housing estate) – our #277.   I’m not going to bother linking the cache page as it’s not one I’d recommend.    The reason we bothered to go after an urban park and grab?  The Northings womble travel bug was in there!!!  Can you believe our luck?  We tracked them both down within a week!

So that was us fully equipped to go looking for #278 the Wombles Signature Cache.  Which we did the very next day!  We had a bit of an adventure getting there, here’s our log:

well, we had fun with this one :)

we heard about this cache when we first joined the hobby back in 2008, and have been hoping to come across the co-ordinate carrying wombles by chance ever since, but it wasn't eventually we decided to make the effort to specifically target caches containing the trackable wombles, and as of yesterday we successfully tracked down both parts of the location.

woohoo! I thought it would be plain sailing from here.....nope....wroooong :)

I put the final co-ordinates into our GPS this morning as waypoint name "womble", and the (closest) recommended parking spot as waypoint "wompark" - and then loaded this cache onto the GPS so we would have the description etc

We drove over, parked up at wompark, and set our compass pointing to womble. This took us all the way through the woods, across a residential area, and to a HUGE busy road - this can't be right???

It turns out that the main parking spot for this cache also has the waypoint name womble, and had over-written my manually entered destination, so we had actually just walked from one parking spot to the other, oops!

Trouble was, I didn't have the real co-ordinates written down! Thankfully though I had them entered as a private note on the geocaching website, and managed eventually with rather poor signal to track them down using the internet on my phone - phew!!

We then walked back past our car - doh! to find that the final location was very close to where we had started :D

It then took us a while to locate the actual cache - you'd think something that size would be easier to spot :) :) :) - but we got there in the end! and had the pleasure of meeting Mr Womble and his family too, which was really nice, having had many an email from him over the past couple of years confirming virtual cache finds and the like.

Thanks for hosting this fab cache, it was a real adventure :) (especially crossing the stream over the log bridge - eek! wasn't expecting to have to go quite so "mission impossible" on a terrain 2, but I'm glad to report I didn't fall in :) )

I don’t think we got any photos of me crossing that stream by walking over a very wobbly log – I didn’t enjoy that one little bit!  I like standing on firm, solid ground, me.

The kids loved the cache itself – a GIANT ammo can filled with really good quality swag.  I liked discovering the Blorenges’ mahoooooosive geocoin, and meeting Mr Womble, whose garden backs onto the woods, and who was presumably alerted to our presence by my screams of terror as I traversed the wobbly log :D

All in all, I’m kind of glad we got our waypoints muddled up as we got to see a lot more of the pretty woodland than we otherwise would have done.

Cake series - a game of pooh sticks before we set off
Straight after finding the Wombles cache, near Chippenham, we jumped back onto the M4 and headed out towards Hungerford, where we had promised the kids they would find cake!   Many cakes in fact, starting with #279 Cake 1 – Battenberg J

The cake series, hidden by the locally notorious (in a nice way J ) Cache and Cake Club, consists of 19 caches (although we skipped the last two due to failing light as we didn’t start out until after 4pm) over 3.5 miles, around the village of Eastbury, Berks. 

the boys chose chocolate cake
They are all good sized caches (not one micro – yay!) with decent swaps, and all are very straightforward finds so this would be a very good series to do with little ones who like LOTS of caches to find and a good chance of being able to spot them themselves.  For us, we would probably have preferred a bit more of a challenge, as we like the trickier hides, and it felt like there were almost TOO many caches – you could barely get up to a good pace before it was time to stop for another!  But that said, we did thoroughly enjoy our late afternoon stroll, the countryside was lovely and the boys enjoyed doing lots of swapping. 

Jay went for Pavlova
And of course we got a lot more smileys than we would usually pick up in a day (18 including the Wombles cache), and it was fun playing pooh sticks in the little river by the parking spot.  Oh, and by #292 Cake 14 – Pavlova we saw 2 large deer jump over a fence about 3 feet in front of us!  Which was amazing!  So all in all – a very enjoyable series.

Kendal mint cake for me
We got properly into the cake theme too - we each posed on the way round for a photo with the cache that represented our favourite cake – and then when we got home (well, actually the next day as we got home rather late), we celebrated with a rather yummy butterfly cake (with sparkly edible glitter, no less!) from Morrisons – yum J  That presumably cancelled out all the good work we had done walking 3.5 miles in the first place!  Oops!

Connor was at his dad’s the next day (10th April – Ethan’s 21st birthday! Wow, that makes me feel old), so Reece was playing with (a different) Ethan from up the street.  It was a lovely sunny day, and at around 3pm we started to get the caching urge again, so looked for something we could do not too far from home.  We found a multi-cache in Shrivenham that had a few favourite points and rave reviews - #296 The Fallen Idol, so that was the one we went after – and young Ethan from up the road tagged along. 

it was a gorgeous sunny day
We never did see the concrete scarecrow mentioned in the cache description, sadly, although having read it again I am now assuming it was near waypoint one (which just looked like a big field to me!) , not at the final which was what we were expecting (hence we didn’t make a point to look for it at waypoint one).  Our baffling inability to spot a pair of huge concrete legs aside, we LOVED this multi (and “favourited” it accordingly).  Both the waypoint mini-caches (containing onward co-ordinates) were ingenious and the final hiding spot (an old rusty boat) was very cool indeed.  Sadly I believe this cache has since been archived, a real pity :(

Young Ethan from up the road thoroughly enjoyed his first “geo catching” (that’s what he calls it) experience.  So much so that when I asked if anyone wanted to do another, he shouted “YES! YES! YES!” J

The next closest was called Boats Long Gone (our #297) – so called because the canal here has fallen into disuse and I imagine it is indeed a long time since it carried a boat.  This was a nice big cache that the boys enjoyed rifling through, and more importantly, there was a rope swing which they happily played on for ages. 

This was one of those perfect afternoons where you just mull about in the great outdoors for a few hours, have fun, and forget about all your troubles for a while.  Thank you geocaching!

Fast forward to the following Friday, and there had been some more new caches published in Cirencester – in beautiful Cirencester Park - which, to be honest I was a bit surprised at as I’ve been trying (and failing) to get permission from the Bathurst Estate for over a year to hide caches in the park (which is privately owned but open to the public between 8am and 5pm with a ton of restrictions), with no luck, and it turns out these new caches have been put in there without permission and have been published!  But that’s life…. 

I love it in the park anyway so was happy to take in a couple of caches there, I didn’t actually realise until I got to them that one was still unfound (2 days after publication!) – so I got my third FTF!  Woohoo! 

The caches were #298 Michaels Mission 4 (I got second to find on this one) and #299 Michaels Mission 5 (my FTF). 

I’m guessing that the chap (or chapess) who has hidden these is a fairly new cacher and hasn’t quite gotten the hang of everything yet as these weren’t the best containers and the co-ordinates were a way off, but don’t let that put you off trying to find them as whatever the caches themselves are lacking, the surrounding grounds more than make up for! 

There is still loads of Cirencester Park left “uncached” (it’s 8km x 5km in size altogether) – there are numerous even nicer spots further in that would make wonderful cache locations.  I’d LOVE to place some in there myself, but I can’t quite bring myself to do it without permission, even now knowing that they would likely be published without any problems, especially since I have written to the estate office twice expressly promising that I wouldn’t do so and would wait to hear from them.   I just wish they would get back to me!  (I’ve tried phoning too and I just get promised a call back that never comes…..ah well)

Look – isn’t it gorgeous (not my photo) :

And there are various cool follies and structures dotted about.   Lovely place.

On my way back to the office after finding MMs 4 and 5, I had a quick look at the final cache in the little series – called Michael Over and Out.  This one is so close to my office I can actually see Ground Zero from our back window!  But I had to DNF it.  Or rather DNA (Did Not Attempt) it.  It involves paddling across a river which has very steep banks, and I was actually more worried about getting stuck down there unable to climb back out, than about arriving back at work soaked from the knees down!  I’ll have to come back one day with wellies and a ladder J

So that brought the Chaos Crew to 299 caches – and we wanted to do something memorable for #300.  So what better than to tackle my nemesis - #300 (yes, that means we finally found it!) 802.11g . 

I first DNF’d this little pest of a cache back in June last year.  I went back twice more, once with Connor once with Jay, with no luck.  A string of further DNFs followed mine and after a while the owner confirmed that a waypoint had gone missing, which explained things.  I then had another look at the new co-ordinates (gathered via unusual means, which luckily I was able to figure out straight away thanks to my background working with computers and networks), but still couldn’t find anything.

I then gave up for a few months – I had planned to give it yet another go with Hannah from the QCs over Christmas, but that didn’t happen in the end, and I guess I just got used to ignoring it! 

But – for #300 – it was worth another try.  And, do you know what?  We found the bloody thing SO easily this time!!  Typical! :)

So glad to have that one crossed off my list.

Later on that day, Jay, Reece and I (Connor was at his dad’s) headed out towards Wootton Basset to tackle a circular walk out to Bincknoll Castle hillfort and back.  Once again, the weather was perfect for a hike (overall it was the most amazing, and dry, April I can remember), and this was a wonderful walk. 

There were a number of caches to find along the way – we started at #301 Salthrop Farm North, made our way to the impressive hillfort itself (passing a few others on the way) where we found #304 Bincknoll Castle, then past #305 Quidhampton Wood to #306 Bassett Down Gorge .

It’s hard to explain quite how striking the gorge is – the best spot to see it from is inside Quidhampton Wood up at the hillfort end (where we went by mistake on our way to the eponymously named cache, not realising we would end up on the wrong side of the gorge – we were so glad we made the slight detour though as it’s just an amazing piece of natural landscaping.  I couldn’t get a decent photo of it, you kind of just have to be there.  One minute there’s nothing there, and a few feet further along there’s this huge 50 foot hole in the ground! 

A brave person has put a rope swing right beside the gorge – you can just see Reece swinging on it in the picture above - I’d hate to be the person who was on it when the rope snapped!

And the hillfort (and burial mound alongside) is also well worth a visit.  The views from the top are amazing.  It overlooks a lovely green valley where apparently they used to hold jousting competitions back in the day (there was a medieval castle on the site too).  The atmosphere there is so rich with history, it would be a fascinating place to just sit and contemplate (preferably without kids running around being noisy!).  In fact, that’s exactly what I did – ommmmmm J

After the fort cache we walked down into the valley and back into the woods at the bottom, where we went on to find two more caches in gorgeous surroundings.  You’re always guaranteed great locations with RoobyDoo’s caches.

All in all, a great walk and a perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Three days later, it was my birthday, yay! 

So that meant a day off work for me, and for Jay too so that he could help me celebrate / commiserate (not sure which is more appropriate at the grand old age of *whispers* 44) .  No kiddies today again – so we could tackle a longer series.  As it was my birthday I got to choose, and I plumped for the Coleshill and Coxwell Circuit – or CCC (not to be confused with the aforementioned Cache and Cake Club, who have nothing to do with this series!). 

The CCC series is a 7 mile circular walk of 16 caches (plus a bonus) that starts at a hillfort – so I was bound to like it, I do have a thing for hillforts – then travels through some lovely woodland and out across farmland to the village of Coleshill in Oxfordshire, which was where they trained “Churchill’s Secret Army” of spies during the war – and then back via Great Coxwell and the 14th century great barn that you may remember from my previous geocaching round up post as we found the “Agricultural Cathedral” virtual cache there back in January.

You can read more about the series on the description page for the first cache - #307 The CCC #1 Badbury Hillfort .

The hillfort is unlike every other hillfort we have visited (and there have been many!), as instead of the usual exposed grassy hill, it is actually within a wooded area and covered in trees, and, at this time of year anyway, a beautiful carpet of bluebells!  They were stunning.   The area all around it was interesting too, with a maze of trails for mountain biking which were also fun to explore on foot (no cyclists there today). 

A few caches into the CCC series, we took a slight detour to find #309 Clumping Around (Oxfordshire) – a Wombles cache, they of the giant ammo box and wobbly log J  Close to this cache we spotted this fab tree – it looked like he was sticking his tongue out at us J

About halfway through the series, in the village of Coleshill, we stopped for (a delicious!) lunch at the Radnor Arms – one of the Famous Grouse’s “Famous 100” pubs.  We picked up the leaflet in there with details of the other 99 – I’d like to try and visit some of them.  After lunch we solved a couple of clues for a puzzle/multi cache that started out from the pub – RoobyDoo’s “The Best Ale?” – unfortunately the final co-ordinates turned out to be well out of our way, and we didn’t have time to go and collect the cache, so we set that aside as something to do another day and carried on with the CCC series.

We remembered a good mile PAST Coleshill that we were supposed to collect some information in the village to enable us to find the series’s final bonus cache – doh!  That’s another one we’ll have to go back for another day.

At least we did find all 16 caches on the series proper – taking us up to a total of 323 found - and we had a really great walk in the process.  I was REALLY tired by the end – good work out! 

We weren’t too tired, though, to find one more cache on the way home – only a layby park and grab, but with a fantastic view – this was #324 The Golden Ridge, which we passed on our way home. 

The following Saturday was yet another gloriously sunny day, and we decided to head out and tackle a fun-looking puzzle cache at a local lake, that we’ve had on our to do list for ages, #325  Liden Lagoon . 

The cache requires you to take a nice stroll the whole way around the lake, collecting clues from benches with poetic inscriptions, and then solve a fairly complex but not difficult word puzzle to get the co-ordinates.  It was just the right level of difficulty for the boys, they were able to pretty much work it all out for themselves, which they really enjoyed.  There were lots of nettles around the final approach to the cache, so I was sent in alone, being the only one not in shorts on this hot hot day - and the blooming things managed to sting even through jeans - ouch!  Never mind, at least I found it J

The Liden Lagoon cache took us a while, but everyone was still up for more, so we went after another puzzle cache (I know, we hardly ever do these as most of them out there are waaaaay too difficult for us!, but today we did two! Go us!) - #326 Between the Stiles

To find the location for this one, you had to find a number of geocaching-related words in a wordsearch, and then the remaining letters spelled out the co-ords.  It was really good fun!  Even more fun for the boys was an excellent park close to the cache, where we all played in the sunshine for ages.  It was another one of those perfect afternoons. 

So perfect, in fact, that when we noticed another cache nearby that we wanted to add to our tally, the boys couldn’t be lured away from the perfect park.  So Jay and I left them playing and went and picked up the almost last cache of the day on our own.  This was #327 Medbourne Springs.  I’ve got to say, the kids missed out, as not only was it a lovely little walk (once we had figured out how to get onto the right path) with quite spectacular views, but we also got to meet some friendly horses at GZ.  And it was also fun to see the M4 from high above it, a very different viewpoint onto a road I drive along often.

We weren’t planning on picking up any more caches today, but realised that we were going to walk right past one on the way back to the car - #328 Church Micro 1109 – All Saints – Lyddington – so we duly found it - a tricky little nano.  The church looked gorgeous in the early evening sunlight, it was a pity it was locked as I would have liked to take a look inside.

On the Sunday it was time for #329, another Swindon Soiree event  – and this time there was an Easter egg hunt - fun!  The venue was a pub overlooking Peatmoor Lagoon in West Swindon, and our hosts the Middleleaze Moles had really outdone themselves this time, hiding a huge number of temporary film tub micros around the lake, one for each child attending.  The kids had to track down their own film tub from the co-ordinates provided, and trade the token inside for an easter egg. 

The micros weren’t easy to find – some of the adults helping smaller kids even struggled!  But our two managed to find theirs without any help – eventually (I was getting worried about them, they had been gone so long) – so they were very proud of themselves and their well-earned prizes.

After the event we nipped next door to the Chinese Experience restaurant and filled ourselves up at the delicious all-you-can-eat buffet.  Expensive, but yum!

Monday was a bank holiday, so we capped off our long weekend of caching with a return visit to Oxfordshire to see the Watchfield Windmills up close (cache #330).  I don’t know why people object to these wind farms so violently, I think a field with these windmills in it looks a lot more interesting than a field without, they don’t make a sound, and they are generating clean energy, what’s not to like? 

From Watchfield we walked through some lovely countryside up towards Coleshill to find the final for #331 the Best Ale puzzle cache that we had solved the final location for on my birthday a few days before.   A fantastic cache this one - highly recommended.

And on the way back home we picked up a quick layby cache and dash - #332 A420 – Watching Windmills Westbound – and that was us done for the day.

On to Thursday 28th April – which despite being a Friday was a casual dress day at work, because of the Friday being a national holiday for Kate & Wills’ royal wedding.  So I took advantage of being in jeans and trainers and headed out for a lunchtime caching sesh.  There were two relatively new caches not too far away, hidden by Gackt whose previous hides I have enjoyed, so they were an easy choice.  The first, #333 Doggles, was a very clever one, I won’t spoil it by explaining – and the second,  #334 A Purple Cow, involved a nice walk through the fields.  It was a lovely day, and to be honest I would have happily stayed out there all afternoon just wandering around in the sunshine, it was an effort to convince myself to go back to the office.  Only 20-something more years till I can retire, sigh.

view from inside one of the birdwatching hides
Just the one cache for us on Royal Wedding Friday – we had had a fairly busy day, but with the weather still being gorgeous in the early evening, we set out to find a brand new multi cache that had been listed at Lower Moor Farm nature reserve in the Cotswold Water Park, around 15 minutes drive from home - #335 Back To Nature.  We spent at least two hours going around the nature reserve (which was lovely), gathering the clues for the multi, and checking out the bird hides and brass rubbing points (luckily I had some spare paper and a crayon on me, so the boys were able to do some brass rubbings each which they really enjoyed). 

brass rubbing....
Given how long we were ambling around, and the fact that the new cache had been listed much earlier that day – a good 8 hours before we found it – we were very surprised and pleased to find a virgin log book when we got to the end!  The boys found it before we did, so this was their first FTF (they have their own caching account separate from us old parents).  They were delighted, as you can imagine!  To this day, the cache only has 10 finds, way under average for a cache around these parts over a 5 month period - people really don’t know what they are missing!  I guess it’s because it’s an hour or so’s “work” for just the one smiley, in this day and age of power trails and series.  Such a pity that’s the way the game seems to be heading L  Ah well, we’ll continue to play it our way.

And so we come to the last day in April – and therefore the last set of caches covered by this super long post (I’ll write up May – September another day – maybe some time next year!). 

The 30th was a gloriously sunny Saturday, and we decided to make use of our National Trust family membership before it ran out and check out the famous house and gardens at Stourhead.    I’d been kind of putting off taking the family to this one as, well, it’s just fancy gardens, how good could it be??  Answer – bloody amazing!  What a wonderful, wonderful place!  The house was interesting, but the grounds were absolutely breathtaking.    

There are trees and flowers and wonderful Roman/Grecian style follies galore surrounding a beautiful man made, but very natural looking, lake.  And all sorts of other fascinating bits to explore like a shell lined grotto and a huge obelisk topped with a gorgeous sun decoration (that I wanted to steal – it would look fab on my kitchen wall J ). 

Here are lots of photos, that hopefully give you some idea of what a beautiful place it is.  I’d love to go back in the autumn as apparently at this time of year the colouring of the trees around the lake is spectacular, but sadly our membership has run out now L

Anyway, enough of my gushing, what about the geocaches?  Well, the first we found today was up by the aforementioned obelisk - #336 Stourhead 2 the Obelisk.  It was hidden slightly outside the National Trust owned grounds, but it was easy enough to get to.  Nice view of the grand house from the cache site:

The next - #337 Alfred’s Tower - was a few miles up the road, at the site of a wonderful triangular folly, built in the 1700s.  Luckily we got to the tower just in time to go inside, and climb the 200+ steps to the top – ooof! 

slightly out of breath at the top of the steps :)
It was VERY hard going on our poor tired legs, already complaining from exploring the house and gardens all day – but the view from the top was WELL worth the bother!  Wow.  Also while we were up there, we were able to pick up some vital info for the multi cache Towers and Tors of Somerset which I’d love to complete one day (in fact, I’ve made it one of the family’s Project Zero goals, to make sure we do….)

view from the top
And our final cache for April was #338 Stonehenge – a virtual that we’ve been meaning to tick off for some time – and as we were driving right past the stones on our way home, and they looked magnificent in the golden evening sunshine, this was our perfect opportunity.

So there you have it, a VERY long overdue write up.  I’m glad I can finally cross this off my ever growing to do list J