December 16 : London

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

No. 9 London bus

No. 9 London bus


We hadn’t used our Oyster (London travel) cards for some while, and we were worried that they might be disabled, so we set off to London on a caching trip – now there’s a tenuous excuse for a day’s geocaching!

Almost as soon as we left the train at Waterloo we were searching for our first cache, at the entrance to the station. The description said a London landmark would be visible from Ground Zero, the location of the cache. Well, the bottom half of it was, and the top wasn’t; the cloud base was very low, while the Shard is very high …

We made our way down to the Thames, just downstream from the London Eye, with a great view over the river to the Houses of Parliament. Having found the cache hidden there, we signed the log looking out over the river, and got a rare view of much of the riverbed. It was two days after the full moon, and a very, very low spring tide, and the level was lower than we had ever seen it, with the footings of one of the bridge arches exposed to view; even in the few minutes we watched, the tide turned and the riverbed began to disappear.

River Thames - VERY low tide!

River Thames – VERY low tide!


Crossing the river on the Golden Jubilee footbridge, our next target was the Sidetracked cache at the nearby Charing Cross Station. It was tucked away behind a drainpipe close to, but not actually in the station. We did the ‘pretend to tie a shoelace’ mime to retrieve the cache, but we really needn’t have bothered, as everyone in the city is in a hurry, looking at phones, rushing onwards, and not interested in the antics of a couple of oddball cachers.
Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square – lion at Nelson’s Column


Our main objective of the day was the ‘No 9 Routemaster bus: cache route’, which involved a bus ride and the spotting of clues on the way to the final cache location. But before that, we wanted to have a go at the caches in Trafalgar Square. And the first cache was … ‘Trafalgar Square’, a cunningly concealed cache hidden in an item around the square. We moved on to two earthcaches, one based around Nelson’s Column, and one around the statue of Charles I which is placed on the original site of Charing Cross, which is regarded as being the centre of London for measuring of distance. Earthcaches are excellent little teaching aids – in each case we learnt something about the places that we couldn’t have guessed beforehand.
Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square


A number 9 bus duly turned up and we caught it and got prime seats, upstairs, right at the front, where we could watch the route unfold. We were glad that we’d researched the answers to the clues for the cache beforehand so we could concentrate on the travelscape expanding before us. Charing Cross, Trafalgar Square (again), Pall Mall, St James’ Palace, Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park, and the Royal Albert Hall … where we got off and crossed the road to one of the ornate sets of gates leading into Hyde Park. Mr Hg137 stopped to chat with a man from British Gas who was maintaining one of the gaslights on the gate. He told us that there are still over 1500 gaslights in London (!) and that they require regular attention http://londonist.com/2015/11/video-meet-london-s-remaining-gas-lamp-lighters The final cache was very close, and found after some very close inspection of park ‘furniture’. We had brought a trackable with us and had been looking for a suitable cache to place it. We decided on this specific cache as it had needed time and effort to solve, and so was unlikely to be found by chance, meaning that the trackable was likely to be picked up by an experienced geocacher.
Albert Memorial

Albert Memorial


Lunchtime: we sat on a park bench, ate our sandwiches, and people-watched, then did a circuit of the Albert Memorial https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington-gardens/things-to-see-and-do/memorials,-fountains-and-statues/the-albert-memorial , to find ‘The Royal Albert Hall’ cache, the 20th most often found cache in the country (the description says) with well over 4000 visits.
Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall


From here, we walked down to the Natural History Museum, which had two earthcaches in the grounds that we wanted to visit. We hadn’t really thought about this carefully enough: a skating rink is set up just outside the museum at Christmas time. That meant that the route to one of the earthcaches was through the museum, not through the gardens – and the other cache was within feet of the skating rink, so we thought about the answers while skaters whizzed by very, very close behind us http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/ice-rink.html What the earthcaches were about: one is centred on a (very) large fossil, and the other is about details in the memorial stone dedicated to those who were killed in the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004.
Natural History Museum ice rink

Natural History Museum ice rink


There was just one more cache left on our list for today, a Church Micro, but where to find it? We walked up to the Brompton Oratory: was that it? No. Our GPS, and the clues to the cache, led us down a path to the side, to Holy Trinity, Brompton. The noise of traffic from the A4 died away as we walked round the church to the garden at the back, and it was peaceful and quiet, with tree-lined paths, and a squirrel frolicking on the grass, overlooked by small mews houses in cobbled streets. What a contrast to the loud, rushing world so close by!

And that was the end of caching for the day; it was getting darker, and colder, and we were getting tired and hungry. We caught the underground back to Waterloo and headed home in the dark.

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