Over here on the Island, (Isle of Wight for those that don’t know me) we had a dismal, damp day earlier in the week so I walked down to our favourite Wonky Cafe, timed my dash to the door as the waves were literally crashing over the path, to enjoy a coffee seated on a lovely comfortable settee and logged in to the free wifi.
For anyone visiting the Island I can heartily recommend our friendly beach cafe; completely revamped over the winter months and opened this Spring with the new owners, Pat and Geoff offering a very friendly welcome to all. Based at Whitecliff Bay, a secluded horseshoe-shape on the east side of the island, the beach has private access from the small family run Sandhills Holiday Park but “outsiders” can park on the top of Culver Down and walk along the superb coastal path to the beach with the added enticement of a cache hidden on the route down, and also one hidden a little bit further along the coastal path. Whilst browsing the Wonky’s comprehensive menu, you’ll come across my ‘claim to fame’ as they have named a dish after me!!
I was nicely tucked up in the cafe surfing the net looking for answers to a series of 11 mystery caches about people who have a connection with the Isle of Wight – not surprisingly called IOW Connections. I haven’t done many mystery caches and this seemed like a good time to work out the answers to the clues and get the proper co-ordinates as the series started on Brading Down which is only about 5km away. I was enjoying a few days of freedom as Cockrobbinn had stayed at home due to a couple of appointments and since retiring recently, he has also taken up singing and he wanted to get his practice in; Monday operatic (March of the Toreadors was one) and Thursday a more light-hearted rendering of songs from South Pacific to Shenandoah; well, whatever ‘floats your boat’ as I have often said to him (he was in shipping !!) Cockrobbinn was due down on Friday and I wanted to surprise him with the list of caches; co-ords already worked out. Actually, I thoroughly enjoyed tracing the people connected to the island and learning all about them. I never knew Barnes Wallis (bouncing bomb fame) trained on the Island; nor that John Nash (architect) died and was buried here. Geocaching is full of surprises including what it can teach you. Perhaps I ought to mention that when Cockrobbinn walked into the Wonky Friday lunchtime, everyone started singing …….
Over the Bank Holiday weekend we found the first five of the IOW Connection Mystery caches; all of these situated on Brading Down with the most amazing views imaginable. Being the complete numpty that I am, I didn’t think to check the new co-ordinates on the map before we approached the nearest (or so we thought) cache. Driving up Brading Down from the Bembridge side, there are parking and viewpoints all along the left-hand side of the road with beautiful views across the downs to the Channel but slightly further along there are one or two car pull-ins on the right-hand side – somewhere we had never stopped before and an ideal start to our little series of caches as the first two were on the right-hand side of the road.
I o W Connection #5 was closest and I had worked out who was an innovative and prolific pioneer in the use of the Picturesque so I had the correct co-ordinates after answering the questions about this person. We left the car and almost immediately felt like we were going into “Indian Territory” as we entered Eaglehead and Bloodstone Copse and there were strict warnings about timber theft which is taken very seriously.
There was not a soul in sight; birdsong all around; a woodpecker keeping time on a distant tree; and the odd red squirrel darting across our path. Of course, I never had my camera ready when these lovely little creatures dared show themselves – they are much more timid than our grey squirrels over on the mainland and by the time I had my phone/camera out, they had disappeared into the trees. One day …………….
As we headed deeper into the copse, the path became little more than a very narrow trail and we ended up pushing through bum-high stinging nettles and although wearing jeans, these blighters could sting even through denim and I won’t mention where I got stung !!! We easily found our first cache and happily signed the log and left the Lovebug Travel Bug in it, which we had retrieved over on the mainland recently.
The next nearest cache was I o W Connection #3 which was to mystify us for a couple of days. We found GZ fairly quickly – the pathway continued from the last cache. We came to a pretty little footpath with three stiles; an ivy covered brick wall to our left and an open landscape to our right with just a single wire fence. The co-ordinates placed the cache half-way along the path – no overhanging trees so shouldn’t be too far out but find it, we could not. We searched every inch of the brick wall (clue was: protected side – low) then we searched all along the open field but to no avail. We went right to the end of the path and back to the beginning again; we even tried to get to the other side of the wall but it was too high to climb over and was also private property. We eventually decided to return to the car, which was some distance away, and try again tomorrow for this cache as I had spotted a tiny track – the sort Cockrobbinn hates with narrow strips of gravel for the tyres and grass growing high in the middle !! We backtracked to the car with Cockrobbinn almost sliding into a rather foul smelling slurry pit as he attempted to avoid the bum-high stinging nettles and tried to inch his way through the knee-high ones. Although I had my camera at the ready, he managed to stay upright although thankfully no-one was within earshot !! I’ll tell you something, these Scottish Cockrobbinns sure know how to swear!
When I am at home (on the mainland) I am the sort of person who never sits still; always doing something whether it is cooking, gardening, sorting, organizing etc but when I am on the Island I become a beach bum and can sit on the beach or at the Wonky Cafe for hours at a time – only in good weather of course – chatting to friends or perhaps just with Cockrobbinn. I also love being on my own and who could possibly be bored with a view like this.
It took us another two days to find the remaining four mystery caches #1 #4 #2 and lastly #3 which we couldn’t find earlier. They weren’t particularly difficult to find (except the last one) but we were enjoying a very lazy few days. We parked in the same lay-by and walked back up the road enjoying the views which seemed far nicer when on foot than in the car and zooming past.
We crossed over the road and entered a bridlepath which gave way to views across the downs to the channel and even though there was some low cloud around, it was still stunning. The path went down, and down and then some more but it was a really pleasant walk which is not what I thought on the way back up. We collected two of the caches, fairly easy to find although well-hidden but the third tested Cockrobbinn almost to the limit. He had insisted on wearing cut-offs and after scrambling up a bank, through brambles and very fiery nettles, he then had to wiggle his way backwards up through some branches to reach the hidden cache. But he managed it and I think he was quite proud of himself afterwards, although I did have to find him some dock leaves.
We were determined to find I o W Connection #3 which had eluded us a couple of days before and I headed in the direction of the little track I had spotted on my iPhone. Sure enough, it took us to within about 100m of GZ thoroughly brushing away any cobwebs that might have been lurking underneath my car. We spent ages searching the pathway again looking in every nook and cranny. Although I couldn’t see over the top of the wall, I felt all the way along wondering whether the cache was at the end of a long piece of wire or string on the other side, but still no luck. I had already given up and was walking towards the end stile when Cockrobbinn let out a whoop – he had spotted it quietly nestling behind a post. How on earth had we missed seeing it before but we were elated and quickly signed the log.
Five caches in three days – not high in numbers but the walks and views were well worth while. We found these caches on 22nd, 23rd and 24th May and the interesting thing is that we didn’t see a single person en route to any of the caches – amazing for such a small Island.