Hoist the main sail and splice the spinnaker. Dig out your parrot and strap on your eye patch because Friday saw us heading to Trent Park with our Friends Geoff, Melissa and their pug dog Smokey for another PugWash geocaching adventure.
Trent Park is an English country house set in 320 hectares of park and woodland in the London Borough of Enfield. The house itself up until a couple of years ago formed part of a campus of the University of Middlesex and its grounds have been open to the public since the 1970s. During World War II the house was used as a prison for Enemy officers and it was routine procedure to listen in on the prisoners using hundreds of bugs placed all over the building to try and discover enemy military secrets.
Nowadays the house has been purchased by a Malaysian Medical Training Corporation but the park itself still boasts an extensive range of leisure and recreational facilities such as hockey club, go ape adventure centre, water garden, fitness circuit training apparatus and a cafe and they hardly ever listen in on people’s conversations these days.
As we pulled in to the already full car park at around 10.30 our friends were already there and after making our greetings, we readied ourselves before heading off in search of our first cache, Church Wood (GC1WRNG), which was but a short walk from the parking area. Around the car park the environment is well kept and much more akin to a formal country park with neatly trimmed grass and lots of proper pathways and sign posts. Keen to distance ourselves from all this and “get amongst it”, we struck out across a field towards a tree line in the distance which rang with the sounds of people swinging among the trees. No, this wasn’t a rift in space time leading to a jungle back in the mists of time. It was the Go Ape adventure centre that allows people to scramble around the tree tops in relative safety. That is all very nice but on this day at this time it was in our way. We skirted along the edge of it in the warm sunshine, hoping that it wouldn’t get too much hotter whilst we were out in the open, and tried to find somewhere to break into the woods where the arrow was pointing us.
Soon enough we came across a small path that led into the trees, and in addition to it being nice to be out of the sun, it was also obvious that we were right on target for the GZ. In just a few minutes we were all at 0 metres or near enough and it was time to start searching. Melissa was the one to make the first find and Sam was delegated to extract it from the undergrowth. The first cache of the day was found and duly signed with our combined caching name of Pugwash. I dropped off the TB that wanted to go to Russia that I had picked up on the Knotty Green series (see Getting Knotty with CaptainJack and we retraced our steps a few metres to find a footpath that would lead us to our next cache.
With the finding of this first cache we had just earned ourselves a special groundspeak souvenir as part of the7 souvenirs of August challenge. This one was our Explorer souvenir which is awarded for finding a traditional cache in the month of August. For more info about the challenge see my previous post, 7 Souvenirs for 7 cachers.
Operation Neptune (GC38R45) was the second of the day for us and the route to it looked fairly straight forward along a narrow footpath in the trees. Although the description didn’t shed any light on the reason for the name of the cache, google has provided a possible answer. Operation Neptune was the code name for the initial phase of the Normandy D-day Invasion during World War II. This doesn’t really explain why the cache is here. There was a connection between the war and Trent Park being used to house prisoners but that still seems rather tenuous. Needless to say the container was found quickly just to the side of the path. Geoff was the one to pluck it from its hiding place, just after he stepped in some dog poo, so I guess it is true what they say about it being lucky.
From here it was a longish walk to our next cache, Shaws Wood (GC4097Q), which was at the south east corner of the park. We carried on along the footpath for a while before crossing a road and picking up another path that led us in the right direction. On the way we broke out of the woods and for a short stretch walked through some open space where a number of fitness stations had been placed. These variously involved having to climb a cargo net or lift huge logs or swing from monkey bars. We calmly and nonchalantly walked past them all and made no attempt to try and conquer them. Except for Geoff who had to have a go on the monkey bars which lasted about 2 seconds and Sam who made a pretty good job of climbing the cargo net. Sharlene politely decline my offer to give her a “bunk up” onto the monkey bars so she could have a go.
We were soon back in the woods and nearing the GZ of the next cache. When we arrived, there was a lot of umming and erring on the path as people observed the carpet of waist high nettles that separated us from the potential hide. I volunteered to make a go of it and Geoff said he would join me, which was handy because if I found it I wouldn’t be able to sign it. We made our way in, with arms held high and me using my cane to flatten back the nettles. Thankfully they didn’t stretch too far and soon we were through in to a slightly clearer area under the trees. Geoff spotted a likely looking tree and I crouched down and got searching at the base. As I was just completing the circuit around the trunk I felt the hollow in the roots and found the container nestling inside. We signed the log and returned to the path triumphantly. I am a little ashamed to say that we did leave somewhat of an obvious cacher’s path into where the container was hidden. To be honest it looked like an elephant dragging a log had been in there, but I am afraid I do not have the agility to tiptoe through the undergrowth like some people do. I reckon we have done those cachers who follow us a favour at least.
From here we headed further along the woodland path until we met up with a more substantial footpath that was running North South across us. We turned left and headed north to find our next cache, Twins (GC4404N).
A short distance from the GZ we were greeted with another wall of stingers and nettles and again it was Geoff and I who made our way in. This time Sam came with us too, and the three of us fought our way in so we could commence our search. The stingers soon ended and we were under the closed canopy of trees and found ourselves in front of a most remarkable tree… or should I more accurately say a pair of trees. As can be seen from the picture it seems that these two trees have grown intermingled with each other. This had to be the hiding place for the cache. Geoff had to return to the path as poor Smokey had some blood on his tongue and there was some concern for him. In the meantime, Sam guided me to the tree and I made the find in between the roots. Neither of us had a pen so Sharlene followed us in, which was a lot easier now that us boys had trampled all the nettles down, and did the honours with the log. When we got back out all seemed ok with little Smokey and we were all ready to move on.
This was the furthest East in the park we would travel and we were now effectively heading back to the car via a few more caches. Our next target was the final of a puzzle that we had solved. Trent Park by Numbers (GC4404F) had required us to do a series of sums and Sudoku style puzzles to reveal the coordinates. The walk was a pleasant one which took us along a footpath heading west that eventually ended and led into a country lane. At the point at which the footpath ended we quickly found the cache and were able to obtain our second souvenir in the August Challenge, this one being the Puzzler for collecting a mystery cache.
As we left the GZ and headed onto the country lane in the direction of our next target, we passed some quaint little cottages on our left hand side which Geoff felt sure had been used for the filming of a TV programme called Just William. No amount of searching can confirm that but I can find record of Doctor Who having been partially filmed in Trent Park during the 80s so maybe that is what has sparked his moment of recognition.
Further along the lane we took a right and headed north through some buildings that included an animal rescue centre and a tea room. The tea room reminded us that lunch was fast approaching and we were all getting hungry. Just beyond the tea room we left the lane for the trees again and Sam found Moss House (GC3KTMD) in a small den like structure in amongst the trees. Shar and Sam both went in whilst I stayed on the verge but I was soon called in as the official “stick your hand in there” person. Container retrieved, Dolphin TB dropped off and log signed we paused on the way out to admire a rather odd looking obelisk that seemed to be in the shape of a pineapple, before heading in the direction of our last cache before lunch.
So far the going had been easy with no hills. Wouldn’t you know it though on the way to Streamside (GC3KTNK), we seemed to be dropping quite a bit in elevation as we followed the paths through the trees. This could only mean having to climb back up afterwards as the cars were off to our left. I was concerned that with a name like streamside that there could be a possibility of getting on the wrong side of water at GZ. But I needn’t have worried, the stream was completely dried up and even Geoff who has a propensity to fall, or throw himself, into water at the drop of the hat was safe here. After a short rest on a convenient fallen tree it was time to head towards the car for lunch, but not before locating Oak Wood (GC1WRNN).
The route to the cache took us back out into the open and up a hill which if people hadn’t been focussed on quickly finding this last one so we could have lunch, would have been much more of a struggle. This cache had no hint which worried us at first but when we reached GZ which was in a small clump of trees it seemed likely that we were looking for a base of tree hide as there simply wasn’t anywhere else to hide it. We all split up and picked a tree. Seeing as Sharlene was the only one in the group who hadn’t found a cache up to this point, apart from Smokey, it was fitting that the last one before lunch was found by her. Everyone started to get excited about our next mission… lunch, so we made for the car, where shade, air conditioning and most importantly, food, awaited us.
We had found 8 caches before lunch, 7 traditionals and one puzzle, and had acquired 2 of the 6 needed cache types for the August Challenge. Our plan after lunch was to tackle the northern part of the park and in addition to a handful of trads, to attempt a multi-cache, which would net us our third souvenir. Trent Park has two car parks and we had already worked out that it would be easier to move the cars to the second car park, located on the Hadley Road that ran across the top of the park, to start our afternoon caching. I noticed as we drove the short way to the new parking spot that we were driving up some fairly steep hills and suspected that we would also encounter these when out of the cars and on foot. For the first couple of caches though the going was easy as the terrain seemed to slope down from north to south and to start with we were travelling west to east along a ridge. Both Entrance to Wonderland (GC4T6RX) and Ride Wood (GC1RJD3) were found quite quickly and simply as we strode along the tree lined path just to the side of the road. Sam located the latter of the two in a hole to the side of the path just as we turned south and gradually started to descend.
The path got steeper and steeper as it headed down into the park further. Following the arrow for Leeging Beech Gutter (GC1RPN0) we branched off the main track and headed east a bit further before Shar spotted a break in the trees that seemed to point in the right direction. We followed this new path which dropped sharply into a gully which in winter must get very flooded but at this time of year was perfectly dry. At GZ, Geoff made the find and we dropped off our Denmark TB which was the last of the ones we had found recently whilst doing the Knotty Green series. We then had to retrace our steps slightly to get back to the main path where we hiked up the hill a short way before cutting west to our next cache, Camlet Hill (GC1WRM3).
As the name suggests there was a hill involved and it was also rather exposed so the sun was beating down on us as we slowly ascended. When we were about 40 metres or so from GZ the arrow was pointing directly south into the thick trees and so Geoff and I offered to go in, leaving the others to rest in the shade of some trees on the path. Fighting our way through the thick undergrowth was quite a challenge and to be honest I don’t thing we took the easiest of available routes in, but either way we eventually broke out into a clearing just a few metres from GZ where there was a huge fallen tree. The hint was rather cryptic merely saying not to be timid which suggested that perhaps the container was in a hole or crevice… or so we thought. We got to work and started searching all around the fallen tree. The roots seemed to be the obvious hide, but we found nothing there except a lot of creepy crawlies and dirt. We checked the entire length of the tree a number of times, looking at every possible hole and crevice but still nothing. Then we spent a few more minutes widening our search and looking for alternatives and still nothing. Reluctantly we had to admit defeat and call in the others to help. They made their way to us using a slightly easier route than we did but after a few minutes of searching, they were scratching their heads too. As a group we really don’t like DNFs and there is a reluctance to give up unless every possible stone has been looked under and every hole has had a hand stuck into. So we split up again and started thinking outside the box and searching beyond the clearing. I decided to try trusting the cords and spent 5 minutes slowly zeroing in on the best reading I could get which was difficult as it was taking me into some thick trees. In particular it was leading me to a rather twisty turny tree and finally I got the phone down to 1 metre at this tree. I put the phone away and started feeling around it for any possible hide. It was while I was doing this that Shar had worked her way over to the same tree and as she was looking at it watching me fumble around she glanced up and noticed something out of place. Hanging about 7 foot up the tree was a bird box. We both thought that it was a rather odd place for a bird box. If it was actually for birds it would be a lot higher up and when I experimentally pushed a finger in the hole a bird would use to enter, I found it blocked by a plastic container. Excitedly we called the others over and challenged them to find the hide, now that we knew where it was. Geoff spotted it and being a good height, he plucked the container from its hidey hole much to everyone’s relief. As I said, we really don’t like DNFs. After signing the log, Sam wanted to replace the container so he scrambled up the conveniently shaped trunk of the tree where he could just about reach the box and he popped it back in.
It was evident that energy levels were starting to flag a bit in the group, the terrain had been a lot tougher in the afternoon than it had in the morning but we really wanted to get the multi for the souvenir so we agreed that we would at least do that and then work out the most direct route back to the cars to call it a day.
We opted for the most direct route to the cache which was a bit of mild bush bashing down a rather steep slope before we broke out onto a path that led us to the beginning of Water Garden (GC2X46Q) which was set around a water garden that had been laid out in the grounds near the buildings that formed part of the University campus. The gardens consisted of a number of large pools and ponds connected with pathways and bridges and formed a fantastic habitat for all manner of creatures. We followed the trail of 4 waypoints that were dotted around the garden and collected all the clues that involved the usual counting of objects along the way. There seemed to be a great number of old millstones around the place being employed as bench supports and similar structures…
…well there is two hours of my life I won’t get back. I’m not talking about doing the multi-cache but whilst I was writing this I then decided to go and find out what those millstones were and what they were doing in the water garden. Needless to say I didn’t find out but I spent a fascinating, if unproductive, 2 hours learning about the intriguing history of Trent Park. It has all the good elements of a fantastically interesting and weird place such as the now buried ruins of Camlet Moat in the north which dates back to the 14th century and is now believed to hold great significance, and potentially some links to the Arthurian legend, by pagans and other weirdoes. Or the amazing stories of all the royalty and famous people who were entertained at the house and gardens in the early twentieth century including the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Edward and Mrs Simpson. The tales of the opulence and extravagance of the parties in the 20s and 30s are epic. Anyway, it has been, and still is, a really cool place, but I still don’t know what the stones were for. Oh, oh, I did find out what the pineapple obelisk thing was from a couple of caches ago. There are actually 3 different obelisks in the park and they are all linked in quite cool but indirect ways. The pineapple one is in memory of Jemima Crewe, Duchess of Kent who died in 1728 sadly leaving behind only daughters when what she dearly wanted was to provide a son and heir for her beloved Henry Grey the Duke of Kent. Interestingly this memorial and two other obelisks were not originally built in Trent Park but bought in 1934 and placed there by the, then owner Sir Phillip Sassoon.
Meanwhile, back at the water garden, we fed all the acquired numbers into the formula and produced a set of cords for the final. Off we trotted the short distance to a bridge with a large tree next to it and I was volunteered to do the retrieve. For a relatively simple cache hide I made very hard work of it getting tangled up in all sorts of brambles and taking ages to work my way round the base of the tree to where the cache was actually hidden. With the signing of this log we had managed to obtain our third Souvenir of the day, the sightseer souvenir, and now we were all knackered, sweaty and ready to go back to the cars for cake.
The walk back to the car park was annoyingly all up hill and with the sun beating down it was hard work. Once at the top of the hill we had a minor panic moment when we found the car park but not the cars, before realising that the car park was actually broken up into lots of little areas surrounded by trees. On the third attempt we found the one with our cars in and we were all relieved to be able to take off back packs, loosen boot laces and tuck into some lovely cake, freshly baked by our resident cake queen, Melissa.
A total of 13 caches for team Pugwash and 3 souvenirs in the August challenge were acquired on the day and much fun was had with our good friends Geoff, Melissa and the whirlwind that is pug dog Smokey. Happy Days.