Stockbridge Stomp

Stockbridge Stomp

I hadn’t been out for a decent caching session for a month or so, but heard a rumour that Pesh and the Happy Hunter were planning a trip out. They invited me to join them for the relatively small cost of taking my car. The plan was to head into Hampshire to have a pop at the “Stamped in Stockbridge” series – a series of 42 letterbox caches, each of which is located by performing a simple distance-and-bearing calculation from the given coordinates. This can be done in advance, thereby rendering the walk into a simple task of hunting at known coordinates.

There were a number of “hangers on” around the Stockbridge series, and I’d pre-solved the nearby Michelmersh Mystery Meander too, in case we had time for a few extra. It was a warm Bank Holiday at the end of May and we set off early enough to give ourselves a good, long day of searching.

The Stockbridge series was one of the most creative I’ve done, not because of the means of calculating the final coordinates, but for the cache containers. The CO had gone to great lengths on about half of them by creating quite elaborately ornate “special” containers and field puzzles – the net result was a number of excellent surprise finds which were worthy of a favourite point. On the way around there were a couple of church micros and others, and once back into Stockbridge village we found another church micro before heading back to the car with some drinks. We decided we’d got time for a few more and drove a couple of miles south towards Michelmersh. The caching here was a bit more painful – it took a lot of time to find each cache. When we’d set out from home we thought we might have time to go for a third circuit, but about halfway around this one we realised we had no chance. It was just taking too long for each find and it was quite difficult walking too.

In total we made 69 finds on the day, which is a decent number, so I wasn’t unhappy about it, but the day ended with a slightly frustrated feeling.

The caches I found on the day were :


Decking

Decking

The old playhouse had become unused, unloved, inaccessible and a bit ricketty, for which you should read “rotten”, so I decided it was time to hack it down and replace it with something a bit more suitable for the family as it now stands.

Building a deck might seem like something that isn’t especially hard to do, but it proved to be quite an exercise, for any number of reasons, including (but not limited to):

  • I didn’t own anything like enough power tools
  • I’d not built a deck for about 12 years
  • Kas asked that it be quite a big deck
  • The ground has a slope on it
  • Next door used to have a massive tree on this side of their garden, and whilst they’d removed the top of it, the underground parts were still very much, well, underground
  • Did I mention the inadequacy of my power tool collection?

All of which meant that it was quite a big challenge for an amateur (and infrequent) DIYer like me.

I guess the principle of building a deck is quite straightforward, involving the laying of a base on the ground, followed by the covering of said base with some wooden boards.

Anyway, first of all I had to remove the old playhouse and the old deck upon which it rested. The back corner was rather wet and rotten as a result of 10 years of rain falling into a space from which it couldn’t escape very well. The front was fine, the back was a mess.

Once the old one was away, I remembered that before the playhouse, we used to have a pergola in this corner, and when I’d removed that I’d essentially just cut down the uprights and covered over them. Once they were exposed again, three of the four became very useful as bracing points for the base of the new deck.

I constructed the base as two frames, which I then fastened together in situ. I got them all level using some plastic adjustable bases, which proved to be rather handy. I didn’t trust these as the only method of support though, and I hadn’t bought enough of them anyway, so once I had the base mainly where I wanted it, I retrospectively dug a few holes, inserted small posts fastened to the frame, and then surrounded them with concrete. I also wedged a few spare block paviours under various bits of the frame and concreted them in place too. That meant that the nicely levelled base was now supported across most of its weight by plastic supports, block paviours and concreted-in footings. It was solid. I can tend to over-engineer things, but that’s better than under-engineering them.

Because the corner where the deck lies is not quite square, I decided the best way to lay the deck boards was diagonally, thereby hiding the fact that the shape is ever-so-slightly not rectangular. It’s all square at the front edge, where it matters, but the back sort of sits at a constant distance from the fence, and the fence corner is not square at all. I decided to further hide the acute nature of the corner by building some “sticky-outey-bits” to put plant pots on. They distract the eye.

It proved to be a little easier to do than I was expecting once the base was down. I did most of the work in the summer of 2017 but then couldn’t decide how to finish off around the front edges, so I left that bit. I eventually found some slate coping stones that I used to form a sharp edge, and then filled the remaining gaps with cobbles. It all worked out quite nicely, I thought.