Cornish Wedding

This time last week we set off to drive some 300 miles down to Cornwall for a family wedding. I, Mrs WizzardPrang and our 2 daughters piled into my Freelander with enough luggage to last a fortnight, thereby increasing the Freely’s weight from about 1.8 tons to nearly 3. Despite this handicap the Freely performed superbly and we arrived in St Mawes raring to go. This was a 3-day event so we’d rented a house for the week.

It was an upside-down house, i.e. the living room was upstairs to make the most of the view. Here it is:

view of the living room

For some reason the WiFi was set to deliver just a single IP address, in other words it would only allow one device to be connected at a time. This was a bit of a problem for us so while Mrs WP unpacked 24 pairs of shoes I set about configuring our devices so that we could all access the internet at the same time (essential if I was to avoid a family mutiny). It was simply a case of assigning manual IP addresses so, 1 MacBook Air, 3 iPads and 4 iPhones later we were good to go. Before you reach for the “comment” button, yes I had tried to hack the router’s DHCP first.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. The view from our balcony.

view from the balcony

Stage one of the event was afternoon tea at the hotel, so after freshening up we made our way down to the harbour. Now, I had looked at the OS map before so I knew that there would be a bit of an elevation change. In other words, we were at the top of a steep hill and the hotel was at the bottom.

the hill from our house

This bit was 1:3

the steepest bit

As we found out later, going back up was much harder.

On the way down we found this old well.

Old well

So we arrived at the hotel, The Idle Rocks, for cream tea on the terrace overlooking the harbour. Very nice.

The Idle Rocks across the harbour

After tea we walked back up the hill (gasp!) to change for dinner, then back to the Idle Rocks for an evening of chatting, drinks, a cornish buffet and a quiz. My wife’s family always does a quiz. Then back up the hill again. (Gasp, wheeze)

Next day we had the morning to ourselves so we had a wander around St Mawes.

St Mawes Harbour

St Mawes is quaint with some interesting details. Two shillings & threepence a gallon. Good grief.

Petrol Pumps

The view from the other side of the hotel, with the Idle Rocks and its terrace on the right.

harbour view from The Idle Rocks

I haven’t mentioned geocaching yet, have I? There was a cache nearby. It would have been daft not to grab it, or the other one I found on the walk back to our house. If you are interested, they are: GC4JK3H and GC1RZMQ

In the evening we returned to the Idle Rocks for a champagne reception followed by dinner, speeches and dancing. And cake. And drinking. And, just so you know, I don’t dance. Ever. On Sunday morning, we returned to the hotel terrace for the last time for coffee and cakes, and to say our farewells.

We had a brilliant time with gorgeous weather and the whole weekend went off extremely well. Plus once we said goodbye to everyone else, we still had a few more days on our own before heading home.

 

 

 

 

 

Stowe

After so many months of grotty weather, finally a nice sunny warm day. Off we went to Stowe School to check on little Tarquin. No, not really :). We don’t have a little Tarquin at Stowe (or any other school, posh or otherwise), we just went to Stowe gardens for a walk around. For those not in the know, Stowe has possibly the best landscaped gardens in England and, in The New Inn, the first tourist hotel.

Stowe School

We had a really enjoyable time and I even managed to get a couple of photographs with hardly any people in them.

Palladian Bridge

One drawback of the glorious weather was the large number of people who’d had the same idea as us.  Also, as the only “proper” geocacher in my family, I was somewhat outnumbered when it came to taking advantage of the situation and searching out some of the Stowe cache series. I was however able to look for a couple…

Well what did you expect?

The first one I attempted turned out to be impossible. Approaching the approximate location with my part-time geocaching daughter we soon realised that there were many cachers looking for the same one. What was amusing was that they obviously hadn’t read the cache page properly. The cache is (apparently) hidden in the Ha-Ha and clearly none of the idiots looking up trees or rummaging in the bushes had any idea what a Ha-Ha was. I say “apparently” because there were so many of them milling about that I felt searching for the cache would prove impossible and would probably compromise its location to cachers and muggles alike. We decided on a strategic withdrawal. I’m sure I’ll be able to come back another day when it is quieter.

Anyway, I was determined not to leave Stowe without at least one find, so on our walk back to the car I stopped to retrieve Stowe: Roadside. This being the main route in and out from the car park meant a constant stream of people and dogs, so even bagging this one undetected took some doing. Still, at least I didn’t go home without a smiley.

Oh, and Skye had a lovely time. She even had her own chair in the cafe.

Skye in the cafe

Hillside

Last Tuesday we went to Hughenden Manor. This is famous for being Disraeli’s home.

manor view

An impressive building from the outside, the interior was similarly interesting. As we walked round it seemed as if it was still lived in, as opposed to feeling like a museum. I think that was down to the way the house was presented and it didn’t feel as if the rooms were cordoned off.

front elevation rear elevation

It was interesting to learn that during WW2 the house was used by the Air Ministry. Codenamed “Hillside”, it was the top secret centre where the target maps for Bomber Command were created from aerial photographs taken by RAF PR aircraft. Fascinating stuff!

Wandering around the gardens afterwards, I saw this top secret instruction:

herbs

 

I wondered what would happen if they didn’t?

Staying at Audley End

Last week we spent a few days at Audley End. We didn’t stay in the main house:

Audley End House

We stayed in the gate house – Cambridge Lodge:

Cambridge Lodge

The gate house was lovely. They’d kept it as much in period as possible, although we did have a modern kitchen and bathroom. But no internet. This fact was met with dismay by my family but we created our own WiFi LAN by tethering the iPhones. Skye wasn’t at all bothered by the lack of an internet connection and made herself at home…

Front door Window seat

Audley End House was magnificent, as were the grounds. During WW2, the house was used by the military to train Polish SOE operatives before they were parachuted into occupied Poland. There is still plenty of evidence of this:

IMG_2608 Pill Box 2

and a simple memorial to those who lost their lives.

Polish SOE

During the day, the house was open to the public and was pretty busy. The best bit for us was once the gates were shut and we had the grounds to ourselves to walk, explore or have a picnic on the lawn.

Gates

Mid-morning, it’s getting busy:

Open

6pm and they’ve all gone !

Closed

The grounds had some lovely outbuildings and other interesting places:

Cascade

Boat House

While we were there I did manage a few caches. There was a nearby Harry Potter-based puzzle series, I’d solved all the puzzles before we went but I only had time to find 3 of them. Within about 60 Metres of our house there was a micro which had been DNFd by 6 of the last 7 cachers so I felt duty bound to find it. It turned out to be a really “nasty” ICT but after a couple of attempts I found it. I felt pretty chuffed at that so I think I did enough, considering I was on a family holiday.

Geocaching in Manhattan

I recently went on holiday to New York with my family. I knew that we would be very busy taking in as many sights as possible, nevertheless I was determined not to miss the opportunity to grab a few caches in a new country. Fortunately, my wife and daughters were happy to allow me a small slice of geocaching time.

So, I managed to grab a modest 5 caches:

Caching Day 1.

Brit in the Park 

Bryant Park

The eponymous park & my family share some commonality, so we had to pay it a visit. My first experience of the effect of extremely tall buildings on a GPS signal! We bought lunch and enjoyed the sunshine while I waited for the GPS to find some satellites, then I made my way to the cache. Unfortunately a bloke was standing right next to it, engaged in a phone conversation, so even though I could see the container I couldn’t grab it. I wandered around the park for a while then returned, fortunately he had moved on so I was able to get it second time around.

Caching Day 2.

Twitter cache 

Central Park

The following day we went to Central Park. Being a Twitter user, this cache caught my eye, so leaving the girls looking at the Dairy, I made for GZ, with a reasonable GPS signal. I spent a while looking in the wrong place and, thinking about the prospect of returning to a very bored family if I stayed much longer, I was on the point of giving up when by chance I looked somewhere else and spotted the container! This was particularly apt, given the nature of  the last cache I had found before leaving for the USA (Dr Solly’s RFC 1149).

Umpire Rock 

Continuing our tour of Central Park. The advantage of an Earth Cache over a traditional in such a busy location made it an easy choice. It took a while to identify the various features and photograph them. Meanwhile, what an impressive feature this rock is, I hadn’t realised until reading the cache page that the Park had natural features like this. Amazing! Once I was back at the hotel (with a WiFi signal), I did the necessary research to complete the answers. In the interests of travelling light, I had left the MacBook Air at home, bringing only my iPad on holiday with me so I didn’t upload the photographs until I got home; at which point I realised I hadn’t included my GPSr in all the photographs. Still, the CO was happy enough so that was another smiley!

Stone Face 

Once we left Central Park, we walked up 5th Avenue to the Guggenheim. On the way we passed the location for this cache. Yet another marvellous building, the cache was a virtual and required me to count some features. That was a bit of a challenge as I couldn’t see the whole building from a single viewpoint so it required some moving about and concentrating on the numbers. On 5th Avenue. In Manhattan. With a wife & two daughters keen to move on to the next location. Still, the CO was happy with the answer I emailed so I must have been about right.

Caching Day 3.

The Empire Strikes Back 

View from the Empire State Building

This proved to be something else altogether. As the title suggests (and of course when you look at the map) it’s obvious where this one is. Once again it was a virtual, although the requirements to claim the find were quite specific. We decided to make the ascent at night, at about 22.30. What a fantastic view, the photographs I took don’t begin to do it justice. It seemed a fitting last cache for this first visit to New York City.

Outstanding in the field

On an altogether more pleasant note, today I went geocaching with my older daughter & our “Geo-dog”. We had a really enjoyable walk, out standing in the cornfields in the sunshine. We found some caches (8) and the dog found some new and exciting smells.

Plus we stopped off for a Maccy D on the way home.

And my total now stands at 640.

Mud

Today I took some time off Olympic spectating and went to Hockeridge woods with #2 daughter and Skye. We had already decided Skye needed/deserved a decent walk as she’d been confined to barracks while we all watched the Olympics. Not being one to pass up the chance to do a spot of Geocaching, I reckoned that it would be OK to try to rectify one of my earlier DNFs at the same time.

I parked my sparkly clean Freelander in the usual place and we set off. Found the cache without too much trouble and, as we’d done it so quickly, we decided to try for a couple more nearby. This required a bit of a hike across the woodland. Now, for those who don’t know, the tracks in Hockeridge get very wet, very soggy and very muddy; then since they are mostly covered by the trees, the sun never gets much chance to work its magic so they stay that way. By the time we’d found the caches and sploshed our way back along various fire breaks and tracks, Skye was very much a two-tone dog, sporting a white upper half and a very wet and muddy undercarriage.

On returning to the car we carefully installed her in the back and headed home to give her an essential bath. Of course, having parked in a muddy lane, by the time we got home the Freelander was covered in mud as well, although that will have to wait for another day.

Cabin life

Cabin in the forest

We just spent a long weekend in the Forest of Dean, staying in a log cabin in the forest. Ok, the cabins aren’t really constructed from logs but they are timber and are quite sophisticated with all mod cons, even WiFi. To be honest I don’t think I could ever go anywhere without access to the internet for more than a day, still…

Anyway, the cabins are embedded in the forest, there is no external lighting so once it gets dark it’s, well, very dark. Plus there’s the absence of noise. Marvellous.

This was the furthest we’ve driven with our dog. What can I say?  She was brilliant and handled the journeys very well. I’m now confident we can take her pretty much anywhere.

We had some great trips out, e.g. to Symonds Yat and Goodrich Castle. Oh, and I even managed a bit of Geocaching.

Silverstone, nearly.

I took my wife & daughters to Silverstone for the GP practice last Friday. We went but we didn’t get in. This was due to the utter incompetence of the organisers. You probably know about this – it was all over the news. Like many others I was extremely pissed off. Silverstone issued a press release promising refunds although they apparently expect us to email them explaining our “difficulties”.

So I wrote an email, quite a long one. Here are some extracts from it.

At no point did anyone from Silverstone Circuit inform us of the situation; e.g. why there was a hold up or when we could expect to get into the circuit. Why was there no communication? Eventually we managed to speak to one of your helpless traffic marshals who told us we would never get in, he remarked that our tickets were worthless. …

…  the second practice session had finished by the time we had crawled to the roundabout where your traffic marshals were attempting to direct spectators through the solitary gate into the parking area. Of course the gate was completely blocked with officials at a complete loss as to what to do with everyone. A single gate for everyone to get in? One entry point? What were you thinking?

In case they didn’t comprehend the length of time we spent in one short stretch of road, at this point I attached some screen shots from my iPhone Maps App showing my progress along the Dadford Road.

You and I both know that Silverstone has received severe criticism over many years regarding the appalling facilities for the fans. What you have spent on peripheral infrastructure, parking, “decent” toilets and proper (as opposed to scaffolding) grandstands is small beer compared to the enormous sums you have spent doing Bernie’s bidding and making everything nice and comfy for your shareholders and the BRDC. You cannot blame the weather for this debacle, this is England. It rains in England. When it rains, the ground in this part of the country gets very wet and muddy. This is not rocket science, you have known about this for years. Despite this you have chosen not to invest in proper tarmac car parking. That said, you had the option to provide a decent Park & Ride service on Friday. You could have planned this well in advance, so you can’t use the “there were no buses available because the schools were using them” excuse. Come on Silverstone, sort it out. And when you have, please let me know. In the meanwhile I shall spend my valuable cash (and less of it too!) on trips to european circuits where they do know how to organise a GP weekend.

I wonder when I’ll hear about my refund?