Monday, February 28, 2011

What a productive day!

I have to say, I wish that Connor's school would have teacher training days more often :)

I've had a lovely day off work, chilling with Connor and making tons of stuff.

  • the CJ entry I blogged earlier
  • three ATCs (pic of one above, they're all the same) for a swap on UKStampers (theme "In The Woods")
  • A "wish you weren't leaving but good luck anyway" card for my boss (forgot to take a pic of that)
  • A background page in my art journal: 

And I'm still at it, I'm partway through cutting a stencil which will be used at some point over that background.

I do love being productive!  The only problem is that once I'm on a "making stuff" roll, I find it hard to stop.  I have to get up for work in the morning, mind, so I need to make sure I drag myself away from the art supplies and up to bed by midnight....

If anyone spots me still up at 12:01, tell me off!

**edited to add - ok, so now it's just after half past midnight....slapped wrists.....but I promise I'm off to bed now....I just had to share my accidental "self portrait in glitter":

Bling bling!!!! :D

No idea what I'm going to do with it, it's just on a scrap piece of paper....but you see I finished cutting the stencil, and then sprayed it on the back with repo adhesive, so it will be dry tomorrow when I want to use it in my journal...

But of course the glue went through the holes in the stencil and left a gluey version of me on the scrap paper.

Well, I couldn't waste it, could I, so I dumped a pot of glitter over it lol

I like it! I'm all sparkly! :)

I really am off to bed now, or I'll never get up for work in the morning - night night.

Another CJ entry, this one crept up on me a bit....

I realised last night that I had overlooked a CJ which was due for posting today.  Oops.  I should have been working on this one ahead of the Orpheus and Eurydice one which isn't due for another week, but I got them round the wrong way.

But never mind, thankfully today was a Teacher Development day, so I'm home from work, and Connor has been happily amusing himself with an inflatable tyre all day (don't ask!).  And due to this little stroke of luck, I was able to get the CJ done and in the post just in time :)

This book is in the "colours" circle, with a manila theme.  And the format that the book owner has asked us to follow is to complete our entry on the right hand side of a double page spread, and then use the left hand page to sign in, with a photo of ourselves and some facts.

So here's my take on the manila colourway.  The background was inspired by a recent article in Craft Stamper magazine, a technique they called "paper blending".  I've used this kind of torn and gesso'd background in the past, to be fair, it's been around a while, but the article did remind me of it.

The main image (isn't she great? she's a stamp by Invoke Arts) and the title words were stamped onto paper from a lovely pin striped manila envelope that I brought home from Paris the other week.  And a little bow finished it off.

On the left side I used the same background, a sepia toned and scuffed-up photo of yours truly, some metal letters that I have had sat in the cupboard for YEARS to spell out my nickname, Flo, and some more of that pinstriped envelope to write my little autobiography on.

This was a fun entry to pull together.  And it was lovely to be able to photograph it outside in the daylight, I love days off :)

I think I get red next, which I'm really looking forward to, as it's one of my favourite colours.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Don't do it, Orpheus!

Not an art journal page today - a CJ page instead.

This is my entry in the latest Take Ten CJ to reach me - the theme for this one is "couples in literature".

As I'm 8th of ten to tackle this book, most of the classic couples - including Heathcliffe and Cathy, Mr Darcy and Elizabeth, Romeo and Juliet, Edward and Bella from Twilight - had already gone.

But luckily for me, one of my favourite (if rather tragic) couples was still available - Orpheus and Eurydice.

I remember going to see the opera of this with my dad when I was a kiddie.  And the story is a cracker.  As is the moral (I'm a BIG believer in looking forward not back).  So I had fun bringing it to life on paper.

Unfortunately the end result is pretty tricky to photograph because it's a bit shiny in the light, but hopefully you get the general idea.

I enjoyed making the papers for this one, the "flamey" background was made by dragging various colours of translucent fluid acrylic paints across some yellow pearlescent card with an old credit card.

And the rocky walls were made with various paints and Liquitex glass bead medium on dark red textured card.

The devil is a photo of a toy I found on t'interweb.  I drew Orpheus and Eurydice myself, she has ended up with a rather big head and a jutty out chin, but I'm sure Orphy still thought she was beautiful :)

I think I have "Guns n Roses songs" coming next in this circle - I'm REALLY looking forward to that one (although 8 out of the 10 available song titles will have already gone, so I wonder what will be left for me!)

Friday, February 25, 2011

I really don't mind what you call it....

The other day, on an internet forum, someone took it upon themselves to tell me that what I do isn't "REAL art journalling", as I often use my own photos and the journalling on the page is usually just documenting the photo - hence I am "just a scrapbooker".

I think I was supposed to be upset by that, but to be perfectly honest, I'm not in the slightest bit fussed what you want to call it, I'm just having fun doing what I do :)   I certainly don't have any personal need to call what I make "art".  I've always considered myself more of a crafter than an artist anyway, although I often use artists' materials in my craft.

But anyway, here's another page in my journal / little scrapbook / book of fun :)

This page commemorates the ticking off of another one of our Project Zero goals - to have a smooch on or in front of the Eiffel Tower.

We're not the world's most romantic couple, but who could resist the opportunity for a little 'moment' in the cité d'amour? :)

Lots of sparkle on this one from copious applications of glimmer mist.  Shimmer shimmer.

And it's VERY purple.  It wasn't supposed to be, but it just turned out that way :)

My little Moleskine is getting really colourful and pretty at the edges now - and it's seriously fattening up  - it will be HUGE by the time it's all full!

AJED : 55 / 365

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Stop! this is the Empire of Death!

Another quick page tonight, just to showcase one of the many photos I took last week in the Paris catacombs.

It was quite the experience, walking miles through tunnels deep beneath the city, lined with the remains of over 7 million.

It was a sharp reminder that our time on Earth is short.

More photos of the Catacombs, and the rest of our Parisian adventure, are on Facebook here.

AJED : 53 / 365

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I was supposed to be having an early night tonight....

....but I thought, in the spirit of ten minutes art journalling every day, before heading up the stairs, I'd just spend a little time adding some more paint to the background I started in my book yesterday....

...and of course I got carried away and ended up finishing the whole page.  Ooops.

Never mind, it's still only 11pm, that's still an early-ISH night.

This is a fairly simple page just to celebrate the completion of one of our Project Zero goals - we finally got a First To Find!!!  (in Geocaching, if someone hides a brand new geocache, and you get to it first and are the first to sign the log book, you get FTF honours).

It has taken us three years to get our first FTF as it's a highly competitive side of the game - as soon as a new cache is published, the race is on, with local cachers legging it to the location.  And we have never been fast enough before.

(We were very nearly not fast enough this time either, with another team literally breathing down our necks racing across the field - it was fun!)

I like how the background turned out on this page, you can't really see on the photo but the dry-brushed paints over the washi tape stripes are semi metallic, and they catch the light really nicely as you tilt the book.

The compass was made with a Tim Holtz mask with the N, S, E, W letters drawn on with paint pens.

There will be another Project Zero page in the journal soon as we cracked another goal while we were in France...

AJED : 52/365

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Didn't we have a lovely time, the week we went to Paris...

So - we're home - achey and exhausted, but we had a great time.

And I NEARLY kept up my art journalling every day - but I must admit that on the very last day, after a very tiring 5 hour trip home with lots of train changes, I was in no fit state :(  So the best I can hope to end the year with is 364/365.  I can live with that, though - I kept up this new years resolution well into February which is a lot better than most! :)

I think you'll need to click on these trip journal pages to see them larger if you want to be in with a fighting chance of actually reading any of the writing, but even just at a glimpse they give you a fairly good idea of how much we managed to cram into 3 and a half days (and why we are now so tired! :) )

We spent 2 and a half days in the Disneyland Paris parks going on tons of rides, and meeting the characters.

And we had an action packed day trip into the city of Paris itself, where we visited all the sights, the highlights being Sainte-Chappelle, the Catacombs and travelling right to the very top of the Eiffel Tower at night (blimey, it's a LONG way up!!)

I hope to use this particular journal (a 5"x8" landscape watercolour Moleskine) to record all our trips and holidays this year, it will make a nice memento I think.

These three pages are also my contribution to the current Green Pepper Press crusade - "been there done that" - where the challenge was to document evidence of a trip or an event in your journal.  Thanks to Michelle Ward as ever for the inspiration.

AJED : 49/365

Monday, February 14, 2011

The devil is in (stressing about) the details

On the day before a holiday, I always end up in full on "what might go wrong?" stresshead mode.

I am a bit of an obsessive researcher/planner when it comes to trips away, and even with all that work done upfront, I still worry about the details and all the little things that might still go wrong despite all my best efforts to plan for all eventualities.

I don't know why I do worry so much, as when things DO go tits up - like when we went to Florida and my handbag was stolen, containing all our park tickets, lots of our spending money and our passports - we cope perfectly well and still manage to have a great time :)  I just like to think through all the possible disasters so that I can come up with contingency plans, I think.

So, anyway, that's where this art journal page came from....

The background is fluid acrylics in various red and purple tones, with some glimmer mist thrown in for good measure, with various of the detailed worries that are currently spinning round my head scribbled down with a white pen (the idea was to get them out of my head and onto paper so I can chill, and it has worked fairly well :) )

The devil heads at the bottom of the page are pigment ink through a mask, outlined with a black pen, sitting on little vellum podiums.  Cute aren't they :)

And the title was stamped, but it didn't really show up all that well so I went back over it with yellow and black paint pens.

That's it from me now for a week or so as we won't have internet access while we're away.

But I'll still be Art Journalling Every Day :)

AJED : 45 / 365

Sunday, February 13, 2011

You might need sunglasses on for this one!

All my pages over the past few days seem to have been blue-based, so I pulled out the yellows and oranges for a change... then I used a "tie dye" stencil (that I first saw used here on Paula's fab blog) over the top. 

I only really had one way to go from there, and as I'd been humming songs from Hair all week for various reasons, I got to thinking that maybe the hippies from back in the day would be a bit disappointed with how the much lauded Age of Aquarius is panning out.....harmony and understanding? sympathy and trust abounding?  nah, not so much.  Just lots of fake wars, recessions, and lying politicians. 

Ah well, maybe the Aquarian Age just hasn't kicked in properly yet, it's 2,150 years long after all, maybe it just needs to ramp itself up to full strength - we can live in hope, eh? :)

AJED : 44/365

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Birthday TROWFTD!

A quick page tonight to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the release of To Record Only Water For Ten Days by John Frusciante, one of the best albums ever made, in my humble opinion.

The photo was printed on my brand new toy - the Polaroid Pogo portable sticker printer thingy - and then soaked in water and pulled apart so that just the blue layer and bits of the magenta layer are left.  I haven't tried this before, I like the effect.

AJED : 42/365

Friday, February 11, 2011

Having one of those days....

Very therapeutic, this art journalling lark.

(and I knew that photo from the hall of silly mirrors at Wookey Hole would come in useful one day!)

AJED : 41/365

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Counting down to La France!

I had grand intentions of doing step by step photos as this journal page came together, but I ended up enjoying the making of it so much that I forgot to slow down and take photos, doh!

So all I have is this first one, just after I glued down a load of little squares and rectangles cut from watercolour paper, and stamped a few black squares on top.

 It changed a bit by the time it was done :)

There are lots of layers of paint on the finished article - bronze, copper, a couple of shades of turquoise and a lovely lime green - and some more stamping in between the layers.

You can see the shine of the metallic paints better in this closeup:

The spread - which of course is about how darned excited I am that we're off to Paris in just one week - was finished off with an Eiffel Tower image from a napkin (thanks Tesco!), my Paris themed masking tape, and some writing (dip pen and India Ink).

Oh - and in homage to Portlandia - of course I had to put a bird on it!

In fact I stencilled LOADS of birds on it :)

AJED : 39 / 365

Monday, February 07, 2011

So here I am watching Fergie murder Sweet Child of Mine....

...during the Superbowl half time break (Slash, how could you???), and I kind of pulled this journal page together super quickly....I hope it doesn't show that it took me all of 20 minutes!

I did already have the background done, so all I really had to do was Dymo up some words, and stencil that kinda-clockface and stick the spinner on.

This page is inspired by the latest three-part prompt over at the 'A Year In The Life Of An Art Journal' blog:
THE SONG: Butterflies & Hurricanes by Muse

The line in the song "the time is now" really resonated with me after the last journal page that I did (where I was thinking aloud that you shouldn't wait for a disaster in your life to make big changes for the better, you should start making those positive changes right now!)

So that's what I ran with.

This art journalling lark is really helping me get my head straight....

PS Go Steelers!

AJED: 37/365

Sunday, February 06, 2011

You're going to reap just what you sow

I don't know about you, but for me it's impossible to hear that line sung, without thinking of Heather Small :)  Boy, that little woman had a BIG voice.

I'm now back to working in my regular journal after my few days prepping pages in my travel book.  It's nice to be back, I've missed working in my baby Moleskine.

This page is about my bessie Alison, and how brave and brilliant she is.  Despite much more bad luck and disadvantaged-ness (is that a word?) than most people, by far, she still posted a Facebook status message the other day to say how happy she is with her current situation and what a great day she had had.  That certainly puts some other peoples' doom and gloom status updates into perspective!

I have journalled about her situation and how unfair it is that to get the perfect, creative life she always craved, she has had to lose so much.  And how that's a lesson to all of us not to wait until bad things happen before we make the effort to transform our life into the perfect life it has the potential to be.

All way too deep for a Saturday night.

Look - pretty background before I finished it off (still wrinkly because it was still wet):

You can just see the pattern from the new fancy shaped stencil waste I got from ebay last week, it's very cool.

And here's a close up of the writing within writing on this page - done with the finest nibbed gel pen I've ever seen:

And no, they're not lollipops :)  They are the gorgeous lampwork glass beads that my talented best friend now has the time and kit to make. These were from her 2nd or 3rd try.  So clever!

AJED : 36 / 365

Friday, February 04, 2011

Quickie blog post - Paris pages all prepped and UKStampers Random Swap

This really is going to be a quickie as I'm dead on my feet after a long and stressy day, but I've had a productive evening and have some bits to share

First of all, I've still been journalling every day, and I have now finished all three of my background pages in the trip journal I'll be taking to Paris in the couple of weeks.

Here they all are together (the middle page has photographed badly but I'm too tired to go take the picture again!)

You've already seen the Eiffel Tower one:

 Next the Arc de Triomphe in blues and greens:

And last but certainly not least, the Disneyland Paris page in pinks and purples (what, you thought we were only going for the culture?? lol no way! we want to see Mickey!)

Close up of the castle because I'm actually silly proud that I drew it all by myself:

So -  the plan is to take this book with me to Paris with a fairly minimal kit (a couple of nice journalling pens, a glue stick, a stapler, some wicked cool Japanese masking tape --------> , a charcoal pencil, a date stamp and small ink pad, a small pair of scissors, and that's about it)

I intend to write briefly about the sights we see, glue staple or tape in efemera from our trip (entrance tickets etc, imagery from postcards or leaflets), maybe attempt a few little sketches or doodles of things we come across while we are there.

(and *STOP PRESS* I’ve just ordered a Polaroid Pogo instant sticker printer from ebay – fingers crossed it arrives on time to take along with us – if it does I’ll be able to include photos in the journal too, fab!)

Can't wait!

And the other thing I wanted to blog is the UKStampers "random swap", as I finished my piece for this this evening also.

The premise of the swap is that you are sent 5 random items by your swapee, and have to make something using all 5 items and not too much else.

Efemera was my swap partner, and she sent me this little lot:

  • a cardboard circle (like what is left in the middle of a roll of sellotape when all the tape is used up)
  • some twill ribbon
  • a plastic flower
  • a copper something-or-other
  • and a cool button
And this is what I made!

Well, the button looked too much like an alien for me not to run with that, the cardboard thing made a brilliant frame, the flower was cut up and coloured with a copper Krylon pen then used to decorate the frame, the copper sheet was cut into stars and the twill tape runs round the outside of the frame with the message "The Truth Is Out There" on it.

This swap was mucho mucho fun, Hopefully they will do another one day.

Until then, time for me to hit the hay.  Night night!

AJED : 34/365

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Geocaching Adventures, Part 8 - December 2010 & January 2011

I doubt that any of my geocaching buddies are even still popping by my blog after I’ve done my best to scare them off with all that Art Journal stuff! But never mind, I enjoy writing up our geocaching outings just for my own sake anyway, so here goes with December and January’s tales….

It has been another quiet couple of months due to the cold and mainly wet weather, and the little inconvenience of Christmas in the middle of everything, so we haven’t done huge amounts of caching, but those that we have done, we have, as ever, thoroughly enjoyed. Quality over quantity and all that!

The recent introduction of Favourites Points on the geocaching website has helped us a lot with that, actually – over the past few weeks, we’ve been deliberately seeking out caches that a lot of people have “favourited” or “favoured” or whatever the verb is, and it has really paid off! We also placed a cache in December and I’m glad to report that it has already been “favourised” 5 times, yay!

So – our first outing in December was to the Lawns, a lovely park in central Swindon which looked especially pretty in the bright winter sunshine. This park was the location of one of the first geocaches we ever found back in March 2008 – a fantastic multi by RoobyDoo, sadly since archived – so it was great to go back. We found a couple of caches there this time – #218 The One In The Lawns, a micro at the entrance to the park inside which the kids were delighted to find a travel bug, and #219 The Lawn, a larger trading cache with stuff in it further in.

We had a nice walk around the semi-frozen lakes after nabbing the caches, and enjoyed it so much that while we were there we scouted out a spot for the new cache we already had in the planning stage – a BIG letterbox hybrid, now active, called X Marks The Spot. This was the one that we had originally considered placing in Nightingale Woods, as mentioned in my last roundup post.

This is the cache that has already got 5 favourite points, which I’m chuffed about. I think that’s partly because the location is so lovely, partly because the box itself is a whopper and it has lots and lots of nice swag inside, and partly because kiddies especially seem to be enjoying following the treasure map that we included on the cache listing as an alternative route to ground zero. It’s definitely the kind of cache that we as a family would enjoy doing ourselves, so hopefully other families think so too!

A few days later it was time for our #220, the bi-monthly Swindon Soiree event. And this time it was a Christmas special – which involved a visit from Stanta! (yes, I spelt that right ;) ). The kids were mightily chuffed to win a prize in the raffle – a cool interactive I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here DVD game – thanks Mrs Mole! And it was great to meet up with Hannah from The QCs for the first time in the flesh after much communication via blogs and Facebook.

That was us all geocached out then until after Christmas. Life’s too busy in the run up to the big day to do much other than faff about with presents, decorations and other prep.

The day after Boxing Day, with the snow still on the ground but starting to melt, we went out for a walk to shift a couple of the millions of calories we had consumed over the previous 48 hours. We had planned to do a new series over Avebury way, but we overslept and wouldn’t have had time to do it justice, so instead we headed over to Mouldon Hill which is a new-ish country park over the other side of Swindon. We chose it as we hadn’t been there before, and we knew there were a few caches there. As it turned out we only found two little ones – #221 Mouldon Fields – and #222 Mouldon Hill – as the kids (including Jay :) ) were having more fun throwing snowballs about. Also we did start out after a third, but in following the arrow came to an impassable barrier, and the boys were thirsty and cold by then, so we didn’t bother looking for an alternative route. We give up far too easily, us :)

A couple of days later we had a trip planned to Marwell Zoo in Hampshire, and Hannah QC just happened to mention that there were a couple of good caches very close to the zoo, and I’m glad she did as they were well worth checking out.

Up on top of the Viaduct
The first was #223 Viaduct View (Hampshire). This one was a LOT of fun! It’s a nice old cache (hidden September 2001), and it involves finding your way up on top of a gorgeous old viaduct and walking along up there enjoying the views (M3 in one direction, somewhat prettier the other way!) to get to the cache location. It’s the kind of feature that people must drive past every day, but I bet they don’t even realise it’s possible to get up to the top (the path wasn’t clearly marked). This is the kind of adventure-in-your-own-back-yard that geocaching is so good at providing.

The second cache – #224 the Marwell Cache and Dash - involved solving an easy zoo-related puzzle to obtain the co-ordinates (it MUST have been easy if I could do it! I’m flat out rubbish at puzzle caches). The cache was hidden very close to the zoo, and as suggested by the name was an easy pickup with no hiking involved - so we tackled it just before we went animal spotting. I thought we had got the wrong location at first, as the GPS was pointing beyond a locked gate on what was clearly private property. But a quick re-read of the cache description indicated that the landowner had given permission to climb the gate and recover the cache. Good job the kids were there as my dodgy knees don’t do gate climbing – I struggle enough with a stile! :)

So I sent them over, and they quickly found the cache, or so they thought….but when they opened it, it was empty. Hmmmmm. They kept looking, with me yelling helpful directions from the other side of the gate, one of which was for them not to look in a particular spot as I was pretty sure the cache wasn’t there. After 10 mins of fruitless searching, we gave in and checked the hint, which of course revealed that the cache was in the spot I’d told them specifically to stop looking in, ooops! Not sure what the first box was that they found, a decoy maybe? The real cache was a good size, and had some good trade items in it, so the kids were happy. Connor traded for these charming fake teeth (don’t worry they were in a sealed plastic bag!) – doesn’t he look adorable? :D

And then we went to the zoo – I’ve already posted some of my zoo piccies on the “Z” entry for our A-Z Year, but here are a couple more….

On New Year’s Eve, Jay was off doing boy stuff with his eldest (fixing cars and things, and probably eating bogeys or whatever it is that boys do when there aren’t any girls around), so I went out for the day caching with the kiddies. We had a full day with no hockey to rush back for, so this was our chance to go and tackle RoobyDoo’s new series near Avebury that we had been eyeing up for a week or so.

can you glimpse Silbury Hill in this photo?
Happy to report that the East Kennett series – starting at #225 EK1: Silbury Glimpse - was ACE. It’s only a short one, 7 regular caches and a bonus, over around 2 and a half miles, although of course we made it last hours, being the slowest geocachers in the world :) We can’t help it, we like to stop and look at stuff, and explore, and dawdle...

I managed to set out for our expedition woefully unprepared - I lugged my heavy DSLR camera around all day with no less than 3 lenses, but forgot to bring a memory card for it, so couldn't take any pictures, doh! (except with my phone which isn't quite the same). I also forgot our logbook stamps. And worst of all I didn't pack spare batteries for the GPS which was running dangerously low. So we did the whole series by checking the heading and rough distance for the next cache, then switching the GPS off and walking the guesstimated distance to the next one, then switching it back on briefly to get the position. It was a bit nervewracking but happy to report that the GPS got us all the way round and to the bonus cache, just! Phew :)

that little blip on the horizon is the West Kennett longbarrow
Luckily we did remember our big bag o' swag :) and we happily filled up the caches with lots of goodies, as some of them were looking a little bare.

We got SO muddy doing this series – the heavy snow had only just melted and I guess it had softened up all the mud – the whole way round it was squelch squelch squelch. Thank heaven for good walking boots.

The boys really enjoyed the day’s walk, it’s a fascinating area with plenty to keep their interest up, and they loved collecting symbols from each cache to determine the location of the bonus cache at the end. I see that the series already has 9 favourite points despite only being a month old, and it fully deserves them.

After completing the series, we relocated just down the road and climbed up to the famous West Kennett longbarrow where there is a virtual cache that was #233 for the Chaos Crew. For some odd reason I haven’t been to the barrow since I was in my teens despite many visits to the Avebury area now that I live in Wiltshire.

It really is spectacular, you can explore quite far inside it, in the pitch black, which was kinda spooky, but fun. Reece enjoyed making Connor and I jump out of our skins by jumping up from behind a stone with the torch held under his chin yelling “aarrghh” :) We stayed until it started to get dark, by which time we had the whole place to ourselves. Very atmospheric indeed. I love ancient sites. At the risk of sounding like a sad old hippie, they have a resonance to them that you just don’t feel anywhere else. It’s the viiiiibes, maaaan :)

We did no caching after this until the 9th January, when we were spurred into action by an event cache called #235 “On Holiday By Mistake” which we had signed up for some months back. In all honesty, none of us woke up that Sunday in a caching mood, it was a cold morning, my knees were playing up (old lady that I am) and we knew that the event involved climbing up a whopping great big hill. But we didn’t want to let anyone down, so off we set. And of course we were glad we did, it was a lot of fun.

Connor and I were due to meet Jay and Reece there, and we set off bright and early, and made such good time that we stopped to pick up a driveby cache on the way - #234 A Road Anarchy A417 - Stand & Deliver. It is very close to the Highwayman pub on the main Swindon to Gloucester Road (the clue’s in the name :) ), and we found this lovely old stagecoach there. It was lovely and sunny by this point, and we were getting in a caching mood. Then the cache itself (a slip of green, mouldy, slimy paper in a dripping wet film tub wedged behind a road sign) kind of put us off again. Every time I do one of these cash and dash micros I remember why I don’t do cash and dash micros! Still, if you ignore the nasty cache, the location itself was worth stopping off at just for the stagecoach….

Of course, having only stopped off because we thought we were in plenty of time, our little detour made us late, and when we got to the congregation spot for the event, everyone was waiting for us. Ooops!

This event involved a bracing walk up to the trig point at the top of Painswick Beacon, followed by a well earned pub lunch. The other eventers raced off, and by the time I had said a quick hello to Sandra of the Lydford Locators, and tightened Connor’s boot laces, the crowd was already out of sight, so Jay and I and the boys did the walk on our own.

We were beginning to feel like this really wasn’t much of an event for socialising, but when we finally reached the beacon we found that the others had been nice enough to wait for us there, and we ended up having a good old natter with a few of the other attendees which cheered us up. I had to be nagged to the top of the hill by a fellow cacher (who turned out to be a Canucks nut, small world!) as my knees were not co-operating at all. But I’m so glad that I did manage to scramble to the top as the views from up there were out of this world! And the kids had lots of fun clambering up and down the hill fort undulations with the mini Lydford Locators.

Group photo at top of beacon, you can *just* see my head to the left of Jay's - we look like midgets compared to everyone else :D
It was a short DOWNHILL (hooray :D ) walk back to the pub for an expensive but delicious roast dinner, and much fun was had there by all – it is always fab to put faces to names you have seen online or in logbooks. There was a fun quiz too, and by some miracle we came third, which was quite some achievement in a room of very brainy people!

Oh and we managed one more cache before we went home, #236 The Beacon, which strangely wasn’t up at the beacon at all, but instead very close to the pub car park. This was a good sized cache in some pretty woods, with some decent trade items in, so the kids were happy. I think everyone at the event found this cache today, the owner must have been somewhat startled by all the “found it” emails flooding in out of the blue!

By the following weekend, I was really starting to miss “proper” caching big time – we’d picked up one or two here and there, but we hadn’t really got stuck in for a while – so with Connor at his dad’s for the day the rest of us set off to tackle the Leigh Fields series, starting at #237 Leigh Fields 1 – High Bridge.

As we pulled up to park the car we saw that all the fields around us were flooded. It had rained non stop all week after all. Definitely a good day for me to test out my snazzy new gaiters that I got for Christmas!

We found the first cache in the series easily enough, and then, well, that’s as far as we got! That was because we got within 50 feet of Leigh Fields 2 – Derry Brook, and saw this:

The brook had breached its banks and the bridge (yes, there’s a bridge under there) was under about a foot of water. As Jay and Reece were gaiterless, and already had wet socks from the walk through the squelchy fields, we decided that this series is maybe best saved until a sunnier day...

While in the area, we visited a much-lauded cache called #238 Lonely Church (Wilts). This is a good example of a cache that might not have leapt out of the listings at me, but the fact that 10 of our fellow cachers had awarded it one of their precious favourite points made it a must-see.

We couldn’t park too close to the lonely church in question, and had to walk up the world’s muddiest lane. I don’t think either of the boys were in the slightest bit impressed! But when we arrived at the gorgeous location, everyone agreed it was worth the squelchy approach.

From the cache page: This church was built in the early 1200s, but the village centre subsequently grew some 1/2 mile further down the road. The villagers decided to move the nave of the church in 1896, but the chancel remains in its original location, now some distance from any other buildings. It is a very peaceful location.

We spent some time exploring inside and outside of this lovely serene little building. In fact it was a while before I remembered we actually had a cache to look for! It was a fair old size and Reece dropped a travel bug off there, and picked himself a funky hairy red nose from the swag selection. All in all a great cache, we never would have come across this amazing location without it, and so we added one of our own favourite points to its tally.

The following weekend, we were headed down to Basingstoke for the day (for a pub lunch, a swim in the Aquadrome, and an ice hockey game in the evening), and we knew we would have about an hour to kill mid afternoon, so once again we used the new “favourites” feature to help us to choose a good cache to hunt in the area. We came up with one called #239 Roman Coins, in the old Roman town of Silchester, just outside the ‘Stoke, that looked very promising.

Once again, it was a dingy wet day, and as we trudged up from the car park in our pacamacs in the cold, I think we were all wondering whether we might have been better off staying in the nice warm pub for an extra hour instead! But when we turned the corner and saw the remains of the old North Gate to the old Roman town of Calleva, it was, as ever, all worthwhile. The gate must have been quite a sight in its prime, it’s still pretty spectacular now.

The cache itself was an easy find, and we were chuffed to find a travel bug in there attached to a replica Roman coin – how apt! This, as it turned out, had been launched there that very morning by a local 8 year old boy who wants it to make its way to Rome. We have been in touch with him and offered to take it to France, a good step on its journey, if he didn’t mind us hanging on to it for a month first. He was happy with this, so we will try to find a nice safe cache in Paris to deposit it into in a couple of weeks.

There were some other caches nearby, and more Roman ruins to explore, but we spent so long at the North Gate that we ran out of time. We will definitely come back here one day, next time Swindon Wildcats are away vs the Bison maybe.

And that was it then for January until we snuck a quick virtual in right at the end of the month - #240 the Agricultural Cathedral (Oxfordshire).

It was a sunny afternoon for the first time in ages – still bloody cold mind! – and we thought we would take a little drive out. Many times as we have driven along the A420 (the main road from Swindon to Oxford), we’ve passed one of those brown National Trust signs for the “Great Coxwell Tithe Barn”, but we’ve never stopped off to investigate. Well, a barn doesn’t really sound that interesting, does it? But it is one of our Project Zero goals to visit 5 more NT properties before our membership runs out in June, and this was our closest not-yet-visited NT place, plus there is a virtual cache there too which is always a bonus, so off we went.

Of course the barn turned out to be considerably more interesting than I thought it would be – and a lot bigger too – in fact it was huge!

The blurb from the cache page:

Great Coxwell Barn is a medieval tithe barn, generally considered to be the finest of its kind. It was built shortly after 1300 for a farm attached to Beaulieu Abbey. King John gave the Royal manor of Faringdon to the Cistercian monks in 1203 to use for a new abbey. Although the abbey itself was built at Beaulieu, Faringdon remained an important part of their income.

William Morris used to live near here and regularly took visitors to see "the finest piece of architecture in England". It is also called the cathedral of barns, partly because it is so impressive and partly because of the construction - medieval people knew how to build huge churches and Cathedrals, so used the same design - in wood - for this barn. The building is almost complete despite it's great age.

We had a good explore around, and bought some postcards, and then went on to have a look around the 12th century church nearby, which was fascinating in its own way.

A great end to another couple of months of caching – the weather may have put us off doing loads, fair weather cachers R us, but we did have fun with what little we did do.