July 21 : St Fagans Museum (and a bit of Cardiff too)

Our final full day in Cardiff was to be spent exploring the 2019 Museum of the Year, St Fagans National Museum of History.

St Fagans Gwalia Ironmongers

The Museum is in the village of St Fagans, a short bus ride from Cardiff. With an hourly bus service on a Sunday we left the hotel in good time so we didn’t miss the first bus!

This extra time gave us the opportunity to look for a puzzle cache we had solved before we left home. The puzzle required us to identify 12 famous Cardiff personalities (past and present) and convert different letters in their names to numbers and hence co-ordinates. They were a motley selection of people including musicians, broadcasters and sportspeople!
We arrived at GZ, and hunted around for the hint ‘X marks the spot’. A typical treasure map reference, but being in the middle of a city centre not much soil to dig up. We spend some time looking for Xs, and eventually found two or three…one of which yielded the cache.

At 930 on a Sunday morning, the roads and pavements were quiet, so little stealth was needed, a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the previous evening. A log signed, and then a short wait for the Museum bus just outside the Principality Stadium.

Principality Stadium, Cardiff

Lots of people were on that bus, including a party of 6 from Hemel Hempstead and three Museum volunteers. It was standing room only by the time we arrived at the Museum – we were in for a busy day.

St Fagans is a free museum. Yes, free. Parking though is £5 all day (or a bus fare in our case).

An Old Mill

Surprisingly St Fagans Museum was started back in 1948, and now hosts over 40 different historic buildings spread over 100 acres of parkland. These buildings have been rescued from all over Wales and painstakingly rebuilt at St Fagans. During our visit the Vulcan Hotel was being rebuilt from its former base, just a few miles away in Cardiff.

Unusually the Museum hosts a geocache. A 16 stage multi-cache.

One of the Many Farmhouses

Many of the buildings host objects, dates, numbers which the cache setter has used to yield a set of coordinates and a Welsh phrase.

So as well as exploring each of the 40 buildings we had to explore 16 in detail to yield some additional information. In many cases, the information was obvious to find (the number of wood carvings on an outer door), sometimes the information was difficult to read (a date above a fireplace in a dark room) other times, plain impossible without asking building/room volunteer.

The Roundhouse

Inside the Roundhouse (picture enhanced, yes really!)

Our search for all the clues was hampered as one of the buildings was off-limits, so our final calculation would be based on guesswork!

The Museum buildings varied from a roundhouse (interestingly connected to a neighbouring roundhouse by a small passage), a bread mill, two churches, a village square with a terrace of houses cleverly taking you through the ages from one house to the next, a post office, a toll booth, shops and of course various farmhouses. We went in them all, and searched high and low where appropriate.

St Teilo’s Church

Inside St Teilo’s Church

We found 15 of the 16 answers and arrived at reasonable set of Westings. But the Northings we could not get as the off-limit building was key to its calculation. So we guessed. Where would the cache be ?

A Toll House

We had been told that the staff knew of the cache, and if one went to ground zero, and asked, in Welsh (!) for the cache, they would give it to you. We were running out of time before the last bus home so we went to, where we thought, was the most obvious place, the museum reception. Sadly the cache wasn’t there. They did tell us where they thought the cache would be…but we didn’t have time to walk there and collect it. So having visited all of the buildings St Fagans had on offer and collecting 15 clues, we left emptyhanded.

Thank goodness these green objects have disappeared from our streets!

…but these Sweets could make a welcome return!

A fine day out exploring and well worth a visit. To all readers of this blog who want to attempt this cache, we recommend two things… visit midweek, when there will be less people and access into the buildings isn’t so cramped, and secondly buy a guide book (some of the answers we believe are in there!)

Since our visit we have been informed we made a couple of errors with the answers we did find…including the mis-counting of objects in a bible scene, and the mis-dating of one of the cottages. So even if all 16 buildings had been open to visit, we still would have left empty-handed!

Farewell St Fagans

The bus journey back to Cardiff was even fuller than our outbound journey (no surprise, as it was the last bus of the day). As well as the same 6 people from Hemel Hempstead, and the three volunteers we saw earlier, half the bus was taken up by overseas students from Argentina! How we all squeezed into the bus was an achievement in itself.

We left the bus at the entrance to Cardiff Castle. We had visited the Castle on Friday (no cache to find), but the heavens had opened just as we were leaving and we hadn’t visited the nearby Stone Circle. It was now late Sunday afternoon and Gorsedd Stone Circle was busy. The Circle, is not an ancient stone circle, as it was built in 1978 to mark the Welsh National Eisteddfod being held in Cardiff. We had to interpret the various stones in the circle. and answer a question on a nearby plaque. Both tasks were tricky as a yoga class was going on within the circle, and the plaque formed a convenient mound which four people sat on before we could read the inscription.

Gorsedd Stone Circle

Questions answered we returned back to the hotel passing Cardiff’s Animal Wall, built in late 19th century, but has had some renovations and re-placement since then. As we only found one physical cache container all day, please enjoy these Animals from the Wall! Farewell Cardiff! Ffarwel Caerdydd !

July 20 : Penarth to Cardiff – plus an encounter with the RNLI

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

It was Saturday 20th July, the first full day of our weekend break in Cardiff. We caught the train to Penarth, planning to walk back to Cardiff, see the bay and the barrage, take in the city centre, and find a cache or two along the way.

After a short walk downhill from the station through pleasant parkland (they like their topiary and flowerbeds here!) we arrived at the promenade. It was high tide, with no beach visible, so we set out along the pier https://piers.org.uk/pier/penarth/ The pier is great and there’s lots to say about it:

Penarth pier

Penarth pier

– We saw the Penarth All Stars netball team in pre-season training on the pier https://www.penarthtimes.co.uk/sport/17757201.national-success-penarth-allstars-netball-club/ and a few years ago, Gareth Bale was spotted playing football there https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-28029379 And there’s a plaque commemorating a lady from Penarth who swam across the Bristol Channel to Weston-super-Mare http://www.dai-sport.com/91-years-ago-woman-porthcawl-made-swimming-history/

– It’s 658 feet long; it can’t be longer, or it would protrude into the shipping channel for Cardiff Bay. Paddle steamers – the Waverley and Balmoral – still dock at the pier.

– It was ‘Pier of the Year’ in 2014.

– There used to be another pier at the other end of the esplanade but that was destroyed by fire.

– When there are especially high spring tides, the water is almost up to the decking on the pier.

Having lingered on the pier, we started on the caching. The first cache we attempted was a multicache, ‘Penarth Prom’. To find it, we needed to collect and count numbers from signs and plaques from various places along the seafront. Having done that, the coordinates we derived led us to a plausible place and to a spot which matched the hint (and which looks correct now we have viewed other photos). But could we find the cache? NO! Not a good start. At this time there was sudden activity at the far end of the promenade; the road closed, briefly, as the Penarth lifeboat was launched and went zooming out to sea; more about this later.

Penarth lifeboat

Penarth lifeboat

We gave up on the unfound cache and began to walk back to Cardiff, arriving at a viewpoint at the top of the cliffs with a big view back to the pier and beyond to Flat Holm and Steep Holm islands. The boundary between Wales and England runs between the islands; Steep Holm, the farthest one, is English, while Flat Holm is Welsh. Here, also, is a cache, newly placed, somewhere around a wall at the lower end of the viewpoint. That gives littles away as the concrete wall has various lumps, bumps, cracks, and fixings, and ivy trailing over and through it. We had ample time to consider all of those as we searched up and back and along the wall, sticking our fingers in myriad places, and we were just getting downhearted when I spotted something ever so slightly different, which was the cache. Hooray, a find to get us going.

There was a short, winding descent and we emerged at the locks at one end of the barrage. After crossing the three locks, each with their own lift bridge, we were about to walk away when we saw “boats” approaching the locks. Ooh – a chance to see the locks work and the bridge lift! We went back to the locks to see what would happen. And “boats” was a yacht roped to a RNLI lifeboat. Another yacht roped to another lifeboat soon followed, and then a smaller lifeboat, keeping watch. The two pairs of yachts/lifeboats manoeuvered into the lock, leaving the littlest lifeboat outside. What was going on, and why do many lifeboats? As the lock filled, the lock-keeper told us that a yacht had broken down in the Bristol Channel and was taken in tow by the Weston lifeboat. The Penarth lifeboat, which we saw leaving earlier, went to collect it to return it to Cardiff, but was called to another broken-down yacht on the way. All yachts and lifeboats then returned to Cardiff and made their way into the bay, with a bit of RNLI crew swapping as the Weston RNLI crew weren’t familiar with the locks. What excitement! Read all about it here: https://www.thewestonmercury.co.uk/news/weston-rnli-tow-yacht-to-cardiff-1-6174628

Once across the locks, we were in Cardiff. Croeso i Caerdydd! We stopped almost immediately to find the Southernmost Point of Cardiff cache, hidden on the end of the breakwater; this one was hard to find, with fingertip searches of every likely hiding place. Then followed a cacheless walk of about a mile along the barrage and the shores of Cardiff Bay. It was now warm, but quite windy, and the waves in the bay were sparkling, though doubtless the water was cold.

Total Wipeout, Cardiff-style

Total Wipeout, Cardiff-style

Part way along, we came to a floating assault course – think “Total Wipeout”! – and we watched a party of exhausted participants drag themselves from the water while the next group rushed excitedly in https://www.aquaparkgroup.co.uk/cardiff/
Norwegian Church, Cardiff

Norwegian Church, Cardiff

We passed the Norwegian Church (Roald Dahl was baptised here), and next reached outer space – the “Doctor Who Experience” had been located here until recently, and our next pair of caches had Whovian themes – “Bigger on the Inside” and “Don’t Blink”. Passing Britannia Quay, we found two more caches (at last, the total was beginning to build now, after a slow start to the day). We’d reached the Senedd, the National Assembly for Wales http://www.assembly.wales/en/visiting/senedd/Pages/senedd.aspx and decided on a quick look inside. Mistake! We had to go through security: Mr Hg137 almost had to disrobe (??!?), while I had to hand in my weapons (a Swiss Army knife and a torch): we had a look around but we didn’t feel especially welcome.
Senedd, Cardiff, outside ...

Senedd, Cardiff, outside …

... Senedd, Cardiff, inside

… Senedd, Cardiff, inside

Weapons reclaimed, we returned to the shores of the bay to look for “Goldfinger Revisited”. We weren’t quite sure what this was going to be, and were surprised to arrive at a large sculpture, the Celtic Ring http://harveyhood.blogspot.com/2011/11/celtic-ring-cardiff-bay.html The other surprise (to us, anyway) was that the area was incredibly busy, but it was a sunny weekend afternoon, down by the water, with a nearby funfair, so maybe (a few!) people are to be expected … We thought for a bit, read cache logs, hint, and description, and soon found the cache, without any of the crowd spotting us.

Celtic Ring

Celtic Ring

We continued into an area now called Cardiff Bay, but which used to be called Tiger Bay, which was a very … umm … vibrant area of the city. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_Bay We stopped to find the Sidetracked cache at Cardiff Bay station. After the quick find, we stopped to regroup, around the corner, for a moment, then stepped back into the sunshine to find … some other cachers replacing the cache! Nice to meet you, new-dawn and two mini-cachers! They said they had come into town for the day, and that they had found a new cache on the barrage called “Captain Fartypants” … we had walked right past it … and the cache hadn’t been placed when we loaded the caches for this weekend. Curses!
Cachers, caught red-handed!

Cachers, caught red-handed!

A little further on, there was another cache for us to find, outside St. Mary’s Church, called “Tiger Bay Girl Was Here” – Shirley Bassey, the girl in the title, was baptised there.
St Mary's Church, Cardiff Bay

St Mary’s Church, Cardiff Bay

Then we reached the southern edge of the city centre – almost back now! – to do two earthcaches, close to each other, in quick succession: these require you to gather geological information from items in the area. So close to each other, so different in aspect: Callaghan Square was a breezy open space with fountains and skateboarders: St. Mary’s Street was party central, and maybe 5pm on a sunny Saturday wasn’t the best of times to attempt this cache. The area was quite … lively! We sat on a bench and assembled the answers, unnoticed, while hen parties, stag parties, and party parties all passed by.

And that was it – back to the hotel. A little later, after a rest and a superb Chinese meal in a restaurant where we were almost the only Europeans, there was one final cache to attempt, the Sidetracked at Queen Street station, opposite our hotel. We finished the day as we had started, with a failure. The cache is hidden somewhere along a wall around a private car park. Mr Hg137 decided to search inside the car park (foolish), but became trapped when the automatic gates shut on him (oops); luckily, he got a concierge to let him out through the foyer of some nearby apartments. A quirky end to a fascinating, but tiring day, and we had seen a huge variety of what Cardiff has to offer.

(Editor’s note: if you are in the area, the restaurant is No. 23 Chinese Restaurant 金满楼 in Churchill Way)

Here are some of the caches we found:

July 13 : The South Bank, London

July 13th is a special day for us. (Our caching name is hg137). To celebrate this year, a trip to London was planned.

The Globe

We had tickets to see ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the Globe Theatre. The Globe is about 3/4 mile from Waterloo Station so it seemed a good excuse to find a couple of London caches too.

Welcome to the South Bank

On our last visit to London, way back in December 2016, we had started a multi-cache, but never finished it. The multi required finding a paving stone on the South Bank, near Waterloo, locating a particular engraved key word, and using it to convert to numerical co-ordinates.

We scoured our photos before we left, and worked out the co-ordinates and discovered the cache was hidden on our route to the Globe.

Great views across the Thames

The South Bank, on a hot Saturday in July is busy. Mainly tourists, but a good mixture of Londoners out and about.

A large second-hand book market, a group of morning joggers, another group of cyclists. An array of street performers, from singers, to bespoke poets, to a floating Yoda.

A Selection of Street Entertainers

Ordinarily caching is hard when people are watching, but with so many people around – all doing their own ‘unusual’ thing, leaning over a parapet to find a magnetic nano is natural.

Its Busy !

Our second cache, closer to the Tate Modern, was similarly easy. A well defined hint and cache title ‘Squeezed in at the Tate’ and we could see GZ well before we arrived. A quick swoop down (well an exaggerated shoe-lace tie), and we were soon signing the log.

The area around the Tate Modern was particularly busy as a new exhibition had opened days before https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/olafur-eliasson , and many people were crossing the Millennium Bridge and not walking along the South Bank.

A few yards further on, we arrived at the Globe. The Globe was opened in 1997, and founded and built by actor/director Sam Wanamaker. The names of many of the project’s contributors can be seen as paving stones around the theatre concourse. (Technically the theatre complex is known as Shakespeare’s Globe, to differentiate it from the original Shakespearean building pulled down by the Puritans in the 1640s.). We had a multi to complete which would take us between the two Globes.

The Original Globe was here!

While the modern building is busy with people, the older building, or rather a few information boards and a cobbled pavement was much, much quieter enabling a quick find.

We still had an hour before our matinee performance so we headed back to the Tate Modern. We ate lunch on one of the many seats, and wandered inside. We were expecting to see some artworks in the ‘hall’ area, but all the free/paid for exhibits are now on various different levels.

Turbine Hall, Tate Modern

Instead of heading back to the Globe, we hatched a plan. We would sit on a seat, near to, but not overlooking the cache ‘Squeezed in at the Tate’ which we found earlier. Would anyone visit it while we watched ? Typically this cache, especially on a Summer Saturday, has 5 or 6 finders so we might be lucky.

A person approached slowly…was he a cacher…nope, he was using a nearby rubbish bin.
Hang on.. what about these two. Clearly they are together, they are walking in unison, both looking at some electronic equipment and…what an elegant swoop (far better than Mr Hg137’s shoe-lace tying). We had waited probably 3 minutes and 2 cachers came by! We went over to introduce ourselves and we had a chat. Welcome to London Dombies and Topanga_ugh !

Dombies and Topanga_ugh

They were part of the crew from a Belgian ship moored near HMS Belfast, so we said goodbye to our new Belgian friends to have a look at their ship.

Can you see the Belgian Ship nestling behind HMS Belfast ?

The South Bank had got busier, and it took us longer to walk there than we imagined.. so we just had time to take a quick photo before rushing back to the Globe arriving minutes before the performance started. Unsurprisingly a well acted, very funny production and one that made our day very special.

We couldn’t take pictures while the play was on, so this was the band warming up, the three seating tiers (we were in one of them) and some of the ‘groundlings’ who stood for the whole performance.

Inside the Globe

Welcome to the Band!

A cracking day out…Shakespeare, the Globe, 3 caches and 2 Belgian cachers!

July 6 : Longhill Park, Bracknell

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

First, a disclaimer: this blog post is mostly about caches which are great fun to solve, but which take time and ingenuity, patience and problem solving. We *could* show you pictures of how the caches work and how we managed to open them, eventually, but this would spoil the fun for others, so all you will see, picture-wise, are some bland pictures of wooden boxes, of trees, and parkland.

Longhill Park, Bracknell

Longhill Park, Bracknell

We wanted to test our new GPS. Our old GPS had stopped working during our last caching trip, so we had mourned it – see the previous post – then bought a near-identical replacement. Hello to our new Etrex 10, all new and shiny, with crisp edges and clicky buttons!

A while ago, we had done the ‘Green Hill’ series in Bracknell, set by JJEF, a local cacher who has a talent for devious and clever caches, often made from wood and always worth finding (Editor’s note: he sells them, too! https://www.quirkycaches.co.uk/apps/webstore/products ) Mr Hg137 had noticed that the series had been removed, but had been replaced with six new caches from the same setter. Now, the point about JJEF’s caches isn’t that they are especially hard to locate – the challenge is to get inside the pesky things once found – so we were prepared with tools … notebook, Swiss Army knife, magnet, piece of string, torch, etc, etc … so that we hoped we could cope with most challenges the caches would throw at us. And many of those tools were put to use at some point. (Editor’s note: we’d checked the map and decided we wouldn’t need wellies or a canoe, and fortunately, we were right.)

After crossing the road by the car park, we were soon looking at an anonymous brown box fixed to a tree. Having examined all visible surfaces, Mr Hg137, being the taller, was delegated to do the opening of the container and managed it after a little while. Aha! A good start. We continued amongst trees grown up over a reclaimed landfill site (much, much nicer than the description suggests). The second cache was near one of the fences; this one was much easier to open, but corresponding much harder to spot; JJEF has a knack of placing things, often wooden things, that look as if they belong where placed, but aren’t …

An anonymous wooden box

An anonymous wooden box

The path continued through hollies and rhododendrons. This was unfortunate,as the next cache was behind an impenetrable leafy, bushy wall. We backtracked and found a way round the back, to find another anonymous wooden box. Safely hidden from muggle eyes, we needed a few minutes to think. How to get into this one? We looked at the box, we thought, we surveyed the tools we had, and an idea came to us. After a few more minutes, we worked the mechanism to open the box, and out popped the cache container. Result! (Editor’s note: and then we tried the mechanism a few times more to admire its cleverness.)
Another anonymous wooden box

Another anonymous wooden box

The next cache was also hidden in the bushes, which was good for us as it took us about Thirty minutes to solve. It’s called ‘Trio of Fun’, and the ‘Trio’ bit indicates that there are three parts to the puzzle. We arrived at yet another anonymous wooden box – aha – we’d seen one of those before – we thought, so set about trying to open it. We turned, we twiddled, we pushed, we pulled, we passed it between ourselves for more turning, twiddling, pushing, pulling, and slowly, slowly, we got it open. Maybe twenty minutes had elapsed, and we were glad to be concealed in bushes. The end of the first part gave us a clue to part two, which we achieved after a few attempts, and this in turn helped with part three, and another few minutes had us triumphantly holding the cache log. Now to put it all back together; we turned, we twiddled, we pushed, we pulled, even drawing some pictures for ourselves to help with reassembly; and, another few minutes later, all was back as it was before. Phew! (Editor’s note: sorry that this is all a bit vague, but it would spoil the puzzle if we said exactly what we did.)

We had just one more JJEF cache to find. It was under thick tree cover so it took a while to locate, as the GPS didn’t settle, so spent a while wandering in the general area before spotting the cache, within fifteen feet or so of where the GPS said it was. Other finders have mentioned that the cache contains a surprise, so I was prepared for (almost) anything and only let out a little squeak as all was revealed.

And yet another anonymous wooden box

And yet another anonymous wooden box

We retraced our steps to the geocar, parked near the skate park in Longhill Park. This, too, is a reclaimed landfill site, but there’s little to see except a few ventilation cowls and patches of bumpy ground. There are two caches in the park, so we decided to find those, too. The first, ‘That Special Club’, was a puzzle cache, which we had solved at home, had checked the answers, and taken due note of other logs which said that some aspects of the hide have had to change. So – we approached GZ and found what was likely to have been the original home of the cache, now no longer standing. We then cast around the general area, looking at possible hiding places, but didn’t spot the cache. Oh dear, a failure to add to our list of successes for the day.

It was not going to improve: our final cache attempt for the day was a cache from the ‘Counting Vowels’ series. The clever idea for this series is that you count the vowels on (some or all words on) signs and noticeboards in the area and derive the coordinates for the cache from the answers. This one was number 21 in the series; in the past, we were the first to find number 1 in the series, having a lively discussion with the cache owner when there was a problem with the coordinates. Anyway, we counted the vowels, checked that the number we had derived was correct, and set off to the final location, a short walk away. We arrived, and … there was nothing, nothing that could house a cache, except for signs of very recent path maintenance; we speculated that the cache could have gone missing. Back home, we got in touch with the cache owner for another lively discussion (we bet he was glad to hear from us again – not!), described the cache location in detail and supplied him with a photo. He has since been out to check; the cache had indeed vanished and he has replaced it nearby, adjusting the vowel counting suitably.

No cache here any more!

No cache here any more!

Summary of the day:
– We tested our new GPS, it worked perfectly, a slightly updated model from its predecessor
– We found all the caches that JJEF has placed
– We still have a reason to return, to find those two caches in the park