Today we visited two very interesting nearby places that until recently I didn’t even know existed. Whilst there was no intention to go geocaching today, as I am sure many of you know it never hurts to have a quick look to see if there is anything nearby before you go. 🙂 Remarkably there were caches slap bang on top of both of the places we had planned to go to!
Our first stop was a working water mill in Welwyn which is about 20km north east from us. Records show that there have been mills in the area for over a thousand years and this one in particular dates back some 250. For most of the 20th century it was unused and fell into disrepair, but in the 1970s it was rescued and over the next 15 years was restored to a fully working mill and museum. It was a fascinating place where we got to see the wheat being milled into flour. We could get really close to the process and the millers took the time to allow me to touch and feel parts of the machinery and the flour at different stages.
An extra bonus was that they were running some activities for kids in the gardens attached to the mill and Sam had fun moulding a pot out of clay that is currently air drying on his windowsill. As for the geocache, Mill Green Museum (GC2NW33), I knew it was in the gardens somewhere hidden by an old mill stone and when we arrived we went there to do the clay activity and we should have looked for the cache then when it was quiet. After our visit around the mill and a picnic lunch, when we next looked in the garden it was heaving with people and there was no way we would be able to find the cache. We made a mental note to return at some point when it was quieter and was confident that we could come at any time to get it because there was a very polite and friendly sign at the gate welcoming geocachers and letting us know that we are free to hunt for the cache anytime in the gardens even when the mill is not open.
From here it was a short drive further along the A1 to the site of a Roman Bath house. In the 1960s an amateur Archaeologist spotted a piece of exposed tile in the bank of a river near a football pitch. On closer examination it turned out to be roman and so he arranged an excavation of the area which turned out the remains of a roman villa including a complete bathhouse. The race was on to dig the site and preserve it as the plans to build a new road right through the middle of the site were about to be put into action. Thankfully it was agreed that the site was of great significance and so a huge steel structure was placed over the excavated bathhouse remains before the road was built over the top of it. The fact that you now have to enter a tunnel to get to the steel cavern to view the remains while cars thunder along the A1 over your heads just serves to add to the coolness of the attraction.
We spent a thoroughly enjoyable hour walking around the site and listening to an audio tour that had been recorded by the original finder. There were also lots of interactive displays around the edge including some cool dress up items for kids.
As for the geocache, Time Tunnel (GC3WX1G), as we exited the bathhouse we feared we may have messed it up again as there were quite a lot of people in the area where we thought it was going to be. On glancing at the iPhone I confirmed that we were about 5 metres from it but there were too many muggles. Shar had a casual glance around and just behind us spotted a large tree planter. She couldn’t see anything cache-like, but Sam spotted the container hiding behind a similar planter on the other side of the path. We gathered around to act as a shield and I crouched down and pulled the plastic box from the bushes. Shar signed the log and we replaced it in a similar way with Shar and Sam shielding me as I put it back.
So we had a great day out enjoying two interesting and reasonably priced historical attractions and as a bonus on top, we got a geocache. Cool. Or as the Romans used to call the cold water bath… fridgidarium!