Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.
April 23rd … a special day for us … so we had planned a slightly different caching day out, with a trip to a stately home neatly sandwiched between two caching sessions. We were in an area we had cached before, in August 2013, on the Polesden Lacey estate, which is run by the National Trust. It’s gorgeous countryside, undulating and wooded, very well kept and with loads of equally well kept paths. We planned to find some new (to us) caches, and also to have another look for some that we had missed on our previous trip; it really doesn’t do to have gaps in the rows of smileys (aka finds) that can be seen on the geocaching site map.
We started off in Great Bookham. It had two caches from the Church Micro series very close together. We have got interested in finding caches from this series, so this was a good place to start. I’d scouted out some free places to park nearby, and we arrived, a few moments after 9am, to find every single place taken. So we had to pay for parking, though not too much (there will be more about parking later). We found both caches quite easily, though both were in areas of high muggle (non-cacher) footfall near the village centre, churches and shops, and one was hidden in ivy AND off the ground, both things that make us fail at finding caches.
Next, some caches from the 51-strong ‘Humble Hike’ series. The description for the series sums it up well:
“About 11 miles around Polesden Lacey and along the river Mole, via West Humble. Along footpaths, bridleways and tracks, to take you around some pleasant countryside. A couple of short stretches of road, and a couple of lanes to cross.”
It’s a 51-cache series and we’d found – and failed to find, some of them back in 2013. Today, before lunch, we found another 7 in the series (and failed to find one). We also diverted slightly to take in one nearby, much older cache, ‘It’s Easter but it ain’t Miskin’; ‘much older’ in geocaching terms, is 2009! (And Miskin was the name of a folk festival, no longer running – I checked!)
Along our route, we passed a group of teenage boys, laden with rucksacks and vast amounts of kit. We stopped to chat. They were out on the first weekend of their Duke of Edinburgh (DoE) expedition, and had a long walk to Box Hill, a night’s camping, and a long walk back. Twenty minutes later, and in a light shower, we came on another group. It wasn’t going so well for them. The group was well spread apart, they weren’t sure where they were, and dissent was rising. We reassured them on their position and told them where we had seen the next group. We hope it got better for them later on.
Now it was time for the next bit of the day, a visit to Polesden Lacey, a stately home run by the National Trust, followed by a cream tea (and maybe a few caches after that). We’d glimpsed the house when we were here before, and it just looked like a good place to have a look around.
Major rant ahead …
We drove up the very long drive and arrived at the car park. It cost £5 to park! FIVE POUNDS! This wasn’t a mainline station, just a patch of gravel in the countryside. We arrived at the ticket office. It was £13.60 per person to visit. Oh, and there was a £1.40 ‘voluntary’ donation, rounding it up to a neat £15.00 per person. We declined the voluntary extra payment … actually, we declined it several times, as it seemed to be expected that we would pay the extra. We didn’t.
It’s a timed entry ticket to the house. That’s reasonable, so it doesn’t get too crowded. We asked for a time about 90 minutes later, so we could look round the gardens, and have lunch. We were offered a time 15 minutes after our arrival … we asked again, same result … and again, and got the time of our choice at the third time of asking. We felt we weren’t being listened to.
Off we went, to the formal walled gardens, which are lovely, and will be even better as spring and summer progress. But … the main garden was cordoned off for maintenance of the paths, with no alternative access. We thought about it, climbed under the cordon, tiptoed across the few metres of maintenance, and carried on, sitting on a nice, peaceful seat to have our picnic lunch and watching all the other folk who couldn’t work out the way into the gardens. Across the valley we could see where we had cached before, on 10th August 2013, along the North Downs Way and past Tanners Hatch Youth Hostel, while doing more of the Humble Hike series; we wrote about that trip during our early days of blogging.
Our timed ticket time arrived and we entered the house. We were asked to buy a raffle ticket to aid the National Trust; we declined; we thought we’d paid enough already. Leaving our rucksack, we went upstairs to watch a short video on the history of the house, which is … interesting … it was designed, and used, as a party place, and quite a lot happened here during the height of the house’s popularity in Edwardian times. And then it was off into the rest of the house to look around. Pleasant and interesting, though very dark. I think the highlights for me were the National Trust volunteer playing away on the grand piano … and the chance to play on the billiard table (we were rubbish – it brings back a memory of a long ago game of snooker where it took us an hour – yes, really – to pot the yellow!)
We emerged from the house and headed for that cream tea we had promised ourselves. We queued up … and asked where the scones were … oh, you get them yourselves … the coffee, the tea … you want two different drinks? … that’s extra …and what about the butter and the jam … get them yourselves … the cream? … oh, we have to find that for you … Eventually we got two scones, a tea, and a coffee, for around £7.50, and set off to find a place to consume them. The only empty table we could find wasn’t cleared, so we just pushed the rubbish aside and got on with it … the scones were overcooked … it wasn’t the special tea I had hoped it would be.
After “tea” we emerged and had another try at two caches we had failed to find on our first visit three years before – we don’t like to see gaps in those rings of smileys on the website – and then headed home, tired, but not quite as happy as we had hoped.
In summary – the Polesden Lacey estate is beautiful, and well worth a walk /geocache / cycle / run / around. The house, too, is a good place to visit. The car parking / money grabbing / non-listening staff / café – they all detract.