The idea: Plant a T5 geocache that’s worthy of its rating
Location: Lulworth Cove (50°36’58.5″N 2°13’27.6″W)
Essential kit: Wetsuit. Gnome.
Less essential kit: Wetsuit booties. Trail running shoes.
Kit we wished we’d had: Waterproof pens/permanent markers.
Cost per person: £20 (petrol) + £5 (gnome)
It started, as most things in my world do, with a plan to go for a swim. Well, in fact, it really started as a plan to hide a hard-to-reach geocache, but whatever mild peril we were going to put ourselves in for this month’s challenge, I was determined to get wet.
Geocaching, in case you haven’t experienced it, is a worldwide treasure hunt that can be joined by anyone, anytime. At a basic level, it can add excitement to a standard Sunday walk, but at its most extreme, geocaching can become a full-blown addiction. Picking up where the conveniently named Ash Ketchum (self-fulfilling prophecy?) left off, “Gotta catch ‘em all!” takes on modern meaning for dedicated geocachers who remember the heady days of swapping Pokemon cards in the playground and doing anything they could do get their hands on a shiny Charizard.
“So, out came the OS maps and a set of potentially terrifying islands was chosen just off the coast near Lulworth Cove in Dorset.”
Geocaching is aided by probably the most amazingly useful satellites – the Global Positioning System. Using GPS coordinates and a GPS device, aspiring cachers are directed to the rough location of the geocache and are then left to battle with whatever clue or riddle the placer has deemed fit to provide. Clues range in complexity from “it’s in the tree, stupid”, to a complex quantum mechanics theorem that needs to be solved to reveal the missing coordinates (quick tip – the cat’s dead).
There are two rating systems for Geocaches – difficulty and terrain. Difficulty refers to the mental challenge aspect, while terrain is all about the physical challenge. Both are given ratings from one to five, with five being the toughest. As a group with a penchant for outdoor exertion, terrain five (T5) caches have the most appeal. What constitutes a T5 ranges massively, however, from caches planted underneath bridges to the one on the International Space Station, which is decidedly out of reach for most mere mortals (Ash Ketchum included).
Unfortunately for us, the reality of most T5s is that they aren’t quite as extreme as their rating makes them sound. We set out to fix this by planting a cache in the type of place we’d like to find one, i.e. somewhere close to water. Given that there are tides/boats/sea life to worry about, however, we worked out that the ideal spot would be an island that was only accessible by a little swim. So, out came the OS maps and a set of potentially terrifying islands was chosen just off the coast near Lulworth Cove in Dorset.
Wetsuits were packed and Matthew, Callum and I set off from Windsor in typically early fashion, in search of high seas and hiding secrets. We met Jake and Joe on the coast shortly after breakfast. Rather than take advantage of that fact that they live two hours closer to Lulworth than us by having a lie in, they decided to put the extra time to good use by going for a trail run. 10 intensely hilly kilometres later, we found them, bright eyed (Jake) bushy tailed (Jake) and slightly tired (Joe) and set off, thankfully at walking pace, to our “insertion point” (two words we never uttered).
The walk down to the sea was glorious, and enough in itself to remind the city dwellers among us that there is more to life than traffic jams and train delays. The cliff’s edge was vertigo inducing, the sea was littered with white horses and the salty air that we breathed into our lungs acted like a healing tonic sent from the gods. Arriving at the beach, we disrobed and awkwardly tried to get into some fairly thick wetsuits without breaking the no-nudity pact that we’ve all agreed upon without telling each other. I broke the secret rules, however, and flashed a bunch of seagulls that gave squarks of, what I took to be, compliments.
Neoprene-d up, we gazed out to the daunting islands in front of us and began to prepare our cache. Geocaches come in all shapes and sizes, but normally take tupperware form – our cache was a little different. From my bag I pulled a gnome, complete with colouring pens, and we all got to work, giving him a fresh identity (Mr E.A. Gnome) and some crucial branding. Stowed in my fashionable (and entirely non-waterproof) bumbag, we set off, slipping over the rocks like a bunch of drunk seals.
The water was cold – drinking too much slush puppy cold. The first stretch was mercifully shallow and easily navigated, despite stubbing our feet on lots of submerged rocks. The next section was more of a fully submerged swim and we set off, bobbing like corks on the tumultuous seas. The first to reach the solid ground of the island was Matthew, who looked back to watch us get slapped silly by an overenthusiastic wave. Eventually the rest of us wallowed on to the rock with daft big grins on our faces.
The next step was to find an appropriate hiding place that would treat our gnome well and cradle him from the incessant wind, waves and birds for years (or at least days) to come. The only choice was up. With Jake leading the way, we climbed the rock to the very top and were greeted with a stunning view of the surrounding rugged coastline and a savagely refreshing breeze. Navigating a downwards climb and traverse, Jake found a suitable spot and I reached down to extract Mr. E.A. Gnome from his sodden bum-baggy bed. Unfortunately, it was only at this point that we realised our painstaking branding work had been added in washable felt tip, so Mr E.A. Gnome was now nothing more than a blank canvas, with only a tenacious Everyday Adventure sticker to keep him modest.
Joe placed Mr Gnome and, given the arrangement of the crevice we had chosen, did so in an upside down fashion to ensure that he had the best chance of surviving. From his unique vantage point, he has one of the best and most original views on the south coast. Sadly however, where he’s placed isn’t technically allowed by geocaching rules, which means the next finder will either be someone who reads this post, or someone who stumbles upon it accidentally. Either way, if you #findEAgnome, get in touch so we can give you a hearty slap on the back and feature you on our humble blog!
Mission accomplished, we made our way back to shore and changed into our land-lubbers clothes with nothing more to do than find a scrumptious lunch to feed our ravenous appetite, safe in the knowledge that one day, a very special person would find Mr E.A. Gnome and take a triumphant selfie with him. As I write, I lie in wait for that monumental day with excitement in my heart and a twinkle in my eye. ▲