Abbotsbury Swannery opened at 10am, and we were in the village earlier than that, with time for just one cache before opening time, the appropriately named ‘Swans’ – a puzzle cache that we had solved at a few days earlier. There was a cryptic paragraph of text to consider, then some sums, which made little sense at first. An ‘aha’ moment followed, and the equation below made sense:
N50 Young Swan . Cygnet/4 (Mute Swan + 1)
W002 (Mute Swan * 2) . (Young Swan – Eggs – Cygnet/4) (Swan&Cygnet – Cygnet/3)
Then it was off to see some swans. I’ve been to the Swannery before, most recently in the late ‘90s when I helped with the Swan Census. It is just such an extraordinary experience to be handed a live, wild swan. Here’s a video of the swan census
We spent a couple of hours at the Swannery, going around the swan-shaped maze (Covid restrictions have made it into a labyrinth, but it’s still good), then the swannery itself, the duck decoys, and the prototype bouncing bomb recovered from the Fleet.
As we watched the swans, I wondered if I had seen any of them before: wild mute swans can live almost 20 years and where they are looked after (as here) it can be longer. It’s possible that some of the swans here now are children (or grandchildren) of the ones I helped to count. Or … if they were very young at the time of ‘my’ census, and quite old now, swan-wise, some of the very same swans …
Next on our pre-booked list of things to do was the Abbotsbury subtropical gardens , but we had a little while till our timed ticket, so we headed for the beach.
It was Chesil Beach – where we sat on the shingle, enjoyed a picnic lunch, and watched the sea anglers. And then, just up the road, were the gardens, which were lush and jungly, with a walk out to a superb viewpoint over Chesil Beach, over to Portland to the east, and, in the distance, Start Point in Devon to the west. We went round twice just to make sure we didn’t miss anything.
Next, in mid-afternoon, we made our way back into Abbotsbury for a bit of geocaching. First of all: a Church Micro cache: the church is adjacent to the village car park so it was a very short walk into the churchyard to locate the answers to the coordinate clues, then another very short walk to the final location. Once there, the GPS didn’t seem to point to the correct place, and nothing very close by matched the hint, but widening the search a little and a ‘cacher’s eye’ soon spotted the hiding place. (Editor’s note: as you find more caches you get an idea of the kinds of places that caches might be hidden and tell-tale signs to look out for).
Our next cache lay along a disused railway line, the Abbotsbury branch line Who’d have thought it – a disused railway line in Abbotsbury! And we doubted it, too, as we walked up a farm track leading to the cache. Then we turned a corner, and were unmistakeably on an old railway line, flat and straight, a shape of a platform on the right and a railway shed ahead. A short distance further along the old line was the cache, cunningly hidden amongst some old railway items.
Our day in Abbotsbury was now done. On our way back to the hotel in Dorchester we climbed Portesham Hill onto the Wessex Ridgeway, topped by the Hardy Monument (Editor’s note: it’s not a monument to Thomas Hardy, the writer, but instead Thomas Masterman Hardy, one of the commanders at the Battle of Trafalgar.)
We had one final cache to find, Blackdown, named after the hill on which the monument stands. We parked a little way away from both monument and cache and walked along the top of the ridge, with wide views to both north and south, and belted Galloway cattle grazing on the heathland. We came upon a structure; at first I thought it was a ruined building, but I was wrong; it’s a new artwork, the Black Down stone circle
Arriving at the monument, we surveyed the view out to sea, past Weymouth and Portland to the dormant cruise ships parked in Weymouth Bay, and then worked out the coordinates for the cache from items nearby. From here, we set off downhill to the cache (everything is downhill from the monument, so that’s not much of a clue!) Arriving at our calculated position, we located the cache, then slogged back uphill to the road and our geocar.