Treasure Hunt

Spoiler alert: This post has nothing to do with geocaching.

Alright, so you are still reading this despite the above. After the excitement of the family wedding, we found ourselves with some spare days before the sun stopped shining and we had to head back to Hertfordshire. We decided to visit the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, which would involve either a very long detour around the rivers Fal and Tresillian or a short cut across the Fal via the King Harry Ferry. We took the second option.

The King Harry Ferry is not really a boat, it’s  a chain ferry – more of a moving bridge in fact – and it has has been in operation since 1888. I can vaguely remember making the crossing as a lad when on holiday with my parents. No, not in the 1800’s you cheeky sod! Luckily being out of season we didn’t have to wait long to board the ferry and we were soon enjoying the peace and quiet of the crossing.

king harry ferry 1 king harry ferry 2 king harry ferry 3

Once on the other bank,we set off for the seal sanctuary. We had a good wander around before watching the sanctuary care team feeding the seals. The sanctuary do a sterling job of rescuing and rehabilitating abandoned and injured seals, always with the aim of releasing them back into the wild once they are ready.

seals1 seals 3 seals 2

More details on their website and I recommend a visit if you are ever down that way. They also have some resident otters – another endangered species thanks to the gradual loss of their natural habitat.

otters

After leaving the seals we drove past RNAS Culdrose which, because the Royal Navy always names its bases like ships, is also known as HMS Seahawk. The Navy have thoughtfully provided a legitimate viewing area on the perimeter so we parked up for a while and watched the SAR Sea Kings and the more tactical Merlins coming and going. I’ve posted a few pictures although they aren’t brilliant (I hadn’t packed my long lens – we had more than enough luggage already).

SAR sea king Merlin  culdrose merlin 2culdrose merlin 3

Earlier, while we were enjoying the sights and smells of the seal sanctuary, my wife and I had realised that this was the location of an episode of the TV programme “Treasure Hunt”. Actually, my wife told me she knew all along and was just waiting for the penny to drop in my head before mentioning it.

Anyway, those of you who are old enough may remember this programme; Kenneth Kendall in the studio with a couple of contestants and a room full of reference books (don’t forget this was very definitely pre-google!) guiding Anneka Rice in her helicopter from one clue to the next. No? Well this may help. Anyway, in this particular episode from 1984, Anneka had to fly to HMS Seahawk for a clue then on to the seal sanctuary where she had to jump into one of the seal pools to retrieve the treasure. At this point I must ‘fess up and admit that I haven’t remembered all the details from 1984, we happened to see this particular episode a few weeks back on (I think) the Challenge TV channel. Ahh, the inexhaustible benefits of cable TV.

 (credit Martin Underwood)

Now I’m wondering, did watching Treasure Hunt all those years ago embed something in my subconscious which, many years later, developed into an interest in geocaching?

 

 

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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

Extravagant houses

The other day we went to Waddesdon Manor. One-time home of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, now a National Trust property. Designed by the Baron to emulate a French Renaissance Château, the architecture is truly magnificent and, at the same time, wildly excessive. Personally, I love it.

IMG_2699

There are many excellent photographs of the house, I couldn’t get one without the tour coaches or people in it so if you want to get the full picture, well there’s always Google or the NT site here.

The only other thing I’ll say is that it’s so over the top, even the tradesman’s entrance is a bit posh:

IMG_2700

Oh, and one thing I noticed as we walked round the house: the place was chock-full of old people. Give it a few years –  could that be me?

Bloody hell, got me worried now. 🙂

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.

Website moved

Okay, so it has taken me longer than I had planned to move my website to the new hosting service. That’s purely down to me because I decided to redo the site.

I developed my old website using RapidWeaver mainly because I wanted to experiment with it, however I was never happy with the free templates and the degree of customisation available within them. In my previous life (working in IT) I had developed web pages using a combination of NetObjects and the good old text editor but of course that’s all in the past and my skills could therefore be best described as “rusty”. I decided that this time I would ditch the WYSIWYG design tools and re-learn some hmtl and css.

So I’ve designed and built the new site from scratch. I took advantage of the 960 Grid system which was a layout boon; I’ve used some simple css code and even more simple (!) html but the result is a nice clean website. At the moment the site only covers my Geocaching activities but I have plans to expand both that and add further content covering my other interests.

In parallel with this I’ve been digging beneath the surface of blogger to help daughter #1 customise her blog – prettylittledoodahs.blogspot.co.uk (well worth a look) – and my next job as web developer is to work on daughter #2’s website.

There’s a link to my site in the side panel but here’s the URL if you want to have a look: www.wizzardprang.co.uk.

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.