Secondly. You might want to grab a cuppa. I go on a bit in this one!
With our holiday booked I turned to the Somerset geocaching Facebook group and asked for some cache recommendations. A varied response. Strangely the majority being multis. (A cache which takes you to more than one location.) I must confess I’m a bit lazy with multis but did decide to check them all out. One however stuck out.
It warned of danger of death, it told tales of caves and adventure, and I wanted to do it straight away!
The cache was located on the opposite side of the county to where we were staying but it turned out to be well worth the journey.
Waking on the second morning of our trip to another beautiful, dry and sunny day we decided that it would be the perfect day for an underground adventure. I quickly realised that I was fast approaching 900 finds. I’m not too fussed on the whole milestone thing usually but this seemed too good an opportunity to miss. A couple of cache and dashes on the journey and we would be good to go.
The reality much trickier, with limited signal to download caches and much of the journey passing high terrain caches that were far from cache and dash status. However, eventually we bagged a couple of caches and were good to go and get #900.
Arriving in the woods we set off on a gentle woodland stroll.
Nice footpaths. A gentle hill. What’s all the fuss about? 😉
We soon reach our first waypoint. The information we need quickly retrieved from an information board. We head deeper into the woods.
It’s rather lovely. A bit muddy, but no big deal.
Our next waypoint, again requiring information from a bench nearby.
The children (and me!) excited, nervous and keen to explore. They duck down a side path and call out excitedly at a discovery they’ve made.
An ominous looking hole in the ground.
Actually a rather familiar looking hole in the ground.
Closer inspection reveals a hook in the rock and a label for a GEOsurvey point. Complete with its own GC code.
It seems we’ve peaked a little too early and found our final waypoint.
The looks on the children’s faces as I tell them that’s where we are heading. It no doubt matches the look on mine!
We follow the cache instructions though and head to the bench to grab some numbers.
We are instructed to follow the path until the GPS points at right angles. When it does so we are to head uphill, off-piste. The hillside is littered with sudden gaping holes in the earth.
It’s a bit hair raising to say the least.
Our next waypoint requires us to collect information from the Mangle Hole cave.
Extreme caution is required. The entrance an opening in the ground with a 120 foot drop. Oh and it’s just there in the middle of the woods, perfect for me to fall down. Gulp!
We gather the information we need from a tree next to the Mangle Hole, then continue off-piste further up the hill.
Waypoint four should be a very quick and easy affair. Using letters from a warning sign to answer questions.
Some idiot 🙈 reads the questions for waypoint five. We obviously struggle to find the answer. After five minutes of faff we (yes that’s a royal we 😉 ) realise the error of our ways, count letters and move along.
Waypoint five kindly gives us a break from dodging deadly drops and takes us back on the footpath. This time heading towards the Pearl Mine. We are informed that this mine is safe as it has been filled. We are instructed to stand in the small hollow and estimate its depth.
Fairly straight forward.
You would imagine.
After following the GPS in circles we fail to find anything likely on the steep hillside. We hunt high and low as the children watch with great amusement from the safety of the footpath. Deciding to ignore the GPS I wander off back towards the path, to the point we left the path and there it is, a substantial crater in the ground. Who moved it? 😉
As for standing in it…..
Using the answers we have gathered it’s now time to work some magic and make a new set of coordinates. Here we will find hidden ‘equipment’. The GPS indicates we need to head back downhill. Off-piste once again. If only I could remember where that bloody Mangle hole is…..
The hill is steep, muddy and requires lots of dodging falling trees, roots and holes in the ground. It’s amusing, hard going and we stumble and slide our way down. The inevitable happens. One of us loses balance and takes the fast route down to the path below. Sliding on a muddy behind and scratching palms to pieces.
yep. It’s me.
rushes to my aid, dusts me down and checks I’m ok. guffaws in amusement and proclaims ‘From now on kids I’m going to call Mummy, Goat. She’s just like a mountain goat!’
As I tend to my bleeding self I realise that I’m sat on a tupperware box.
It’s labelled as a cache. WHAT?!?
I peep inside and sure enough I find a log book. It tells me I have found a cache called the Beehive cache. I sign the log book because that’s what I always do.
Remember the trouble I went to finding two caches on the way? *Sigh* Looks like I just found cache #901! 😉
Mr Muddy goes off in search of the equipment, given I’m holding the GPS it doesn’t work well. Getting bored I too venture back up. It’s well hidden but eventually I spot some pieces of wood on the ground that are slightly too uniform in shape. Gotcha!
I uncover a bucket. It’s filled with rope. A very long rope.
The instructions now require us to work out the coordinates for the cave.
We trot down the gulley and kit ourselves out with torches. The children whimper. So do I.
We assume the next part of the cache will just be a short way in.
The instructions on the bucket inform us that we must attach the rope to the hook in the rock. Then follow it until it runs out!
It’s now or never, so in we go. The children despite one of them having a major wobble, again do us proud. Facing the fear head on.
For once I’m more than happy for Mr Muddy to lead the way.
Once all inside we take a moment to adjust to the darkness. It’s surprisingly spacious.
We begin to follow the rope. However we make it no further than 50m before we realise the previous users hadn’t returned the rope quite right. We have one almighty tangle of rope on our hands.
Let’s get this into context. We are deep under the hillside. In pitch black darkness, my hands shredded from my elegant glide down the hillside and I’m untangling 150m of soaking wet, mud covered rope. Marvellous!
I do a pretty good job though and we are left with just a small bunch of knots.
The silver lining on this particularly thunderous cloud however is that it’s given the children time to adjust to their surroundings. The whimpers become cries of ‘This is awesome!’ as they discover rock formations, cave pearls and stalactites around them.
Then the discovery that will stay with them forever.
They spot a bat sleeping on the roof of the cave.
If anybody has any ideas what type of bat this is please let me know. I’m a whizz with a bat detector in my hand but snoozing bats leave me clueless. I do however think this may well be Batfink. No?
With the rope finally manageable we walk deeper into the cave. We walk until the rope pulls tight as instructed, we fruitlessly scout around for the next clue. It becomes apparent that those last few knots will have to be taken care of.
Due to the position of them it will be easier for one of us to leave the cave, unfasten the rope, loosen the knots and come back again. Mr Muddy takes one for the team and heads off back out. Leaving me now deep underground, alone with the children and all the bears, monsters and dragons that live this far in.
With the knots finally tamed we make a quick spot of the container that hides our final clues. The tunnel extends far deeper under the hillside and whilst curious we agree that without more rope, and with children we won’t travel any further in – especially as there are dangerous drops from further caverns. This mountain goat has shed enough blood for one day thank you very much!
We emerge muddy and euphoric, dazzled by the daylight.
With the equipment returned *ahem* correctly. It was time for one last spot of maths. Time to make the coordinates for the final cache.
Off-piste again, for one final time. For that all important
901st 900th find. 😉
This was however very nearly the most fun we’ve ever had on a DNF. We searched high. We searched low.
I realised there was a hint. It didn’t help. Drat.
I redid the maths. All was ok.
I even tried my phone. The GPS pointed one way, the phone in the opposite direction. Seriously?
The spoiler photo wouldn’t even download, but we were utterly determined.
Sitting down finally in the realisation we may have to accept defeat and feeling pretty grim, when suddenly the phone and GPS threw up a new direction (in agreement!).
Approaching the area it looked promising and then came the satisfaction of at last the find! Hurrah!
An Ammo can. Woo! The cherry on top of this already amazing adventure.
The walk back to the car certainly interesting given the state we were now in. A certain satisfaction that we’ve had brilliant fun in the woods, brilliant fun that very few people know about. A secret world or fun, adventure and challenge and I’m certainly glad I’m in on that secret.