After the heavy overnight rain, our bedroom view of distant moorland was blanketed in a thin mist. We were grateful that today was our Town-Trail day, and a visit to the Coastal Town of Plymouth.
Plymouth is actually in Devon and about a 20 minute drive away. We decided though to go by train. This gave us the twin advantages of neither paying the Tamar Bridge Toll nor fighting Plymouth’s one-way system and car parks.
The train journey passed uneventfully, though we did learn the train was on a mammoth 12 hour journey from Penzance to Glasgow via Bristol, Birmingham, Derby, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh!
We had preloaded a number of caches into our GPS and the first on our list was the Sidetracked at Plymouth Station. Initially we took the wrong road to the cache (good start!) but found it easily. In fact it was silhouetted behind some street furniture and visible from some distance.
Our second cache was more troublesome. It was in a park, near to the University Student Accommodation. There were two seats in the park, and the cache was under one of them. That seat though was occupied by a youth, smoking whilst keeping a watchful eye on his dog. We decided to utilise the other seat for coffee and wait … Because of the overnight rain, the seat was wet, so we stood instead. Shortly after a just-graduated-student arrived. He was waiting for someone. He, too, did not want to visit the smoker’s seat. We got chatting, and as he was a Geography graduate, with pleasingly a job lined up, we talked about geocaching.
Eventually the smoker left and we made a swift find at the smoker’s seat. Showed the graduate the cache and re-hid. Whether geocaching has another convert… time will tell!
Our target was the sea-front and Plymouth Hoe in particular. Rather than have a fixed route, we just followed the caches we loaded as we zig-zagged our way through the University Campus, through a shopping centre, passed a sculpture or two, until the lighthouse on the Hoe was visible.
Many of the caches were named after famous people with a connection to Plymouth. These included Charles Darwin (stayed in Plymouth before his historic fact-finding trip in the Beagle), Oliver Cromwell (Plymouth was one of the few West Country towns that sided with him during the Civil War), Nancy Astor (first woman MP and her constituency was Plymouth) and Oswald Mosley (visited whilst trying to set up his extreme right-wing party.)
These four caches alone provided us with insights into Plymouth’s History which we wouldn’t have found out without geocaching.
And so to the Hoe.
A large expanse of park – mainly grass, with flower borders and many a memorial. Mainly to Navy crew, but others to commemorate other diverse worldwide events. There are few caches in the Hoe area (due to the 1/10th of a mile rule no doubt), but we found most.
Our route took us Eastwards around the sea walls, overlooking the sea-water Lido. Last minute cleaning was being undertaken, as the Summer Opening was only days away.. it did look inviting.. if a little chilly!
We arrived at the Mayflower Steps, having found another cache overlooking them, to discover a boat was due to sail to the Royal William Victualling Yard. We rushed on it and very shortly we were looking at the Lido and the Hoe but from the sea!
The Royal Victualling Yard was originally used to provide the Navy with Drink (predominantly) and other basic rations. Many of the buildings have been converted to flats, restaurants and the like. Given all this modernisation it was interesting to see an Earthcache on one of the building’s walls. We found the wall, failed to find the stone in question for some minutes, but then spotted the minutiae needed to answer the Cache Owner’s questions. Again, we would never have know about the wall, and its make-up without geocaching!
We had a long walk from Plymouth’s Western Edge back to the Centre and our train. The coastal path had a few caches to keep us occupied, including a scramble up the large bouldery sea-defences. This was our first DNF of the day – not helped by Mr Hg137’s phone going off when he had climbed 12 feet above head height.
We weren’t keen on descending the boulder field, so we left by a different route, but this did mean we couldn’t find a path back to locate two more caches. (Grr!)
We arrived back at the Hoe area, and with enough time to attempt two more caches. The first, another Earthcache, was based on Drakes Island and how it was formed. We were impressed by the mini-sculptures on the handrail overlooking the Island too. Our last cache of the day was the biggest. Nestling near a tennis court it really proves big caches can exist in urban environment!
We really enjoyed our day in Plymouth. We walked over 7 miles and found 10 caches but what we learnt from the cache descriptions really enhanced our knowledge of the Town’s rich and varied history.
Most of the 10 caches we found were either nanos or Earthcaches… but here are two of the larger ones: