Start Me Up

The first day of my long weekend in Southern Scotland. I’d been looking forward to this trip ever since I booked it. Well, clearly, else there’d have been no point in booking it. But meanwhile….It’s an area I’d never been to before and I was keen to go and explore some of it. Before any of that though, I had an appointment with the Cumbrian Coast.

I’d driven on Thursday night up to Penrith so that I could start the caching jaunt on Friday not Saturday. Moffat is quite a way from home, so I didn’t want to do just a quick up-and-down job. Anyway, I was in the centre of Penrith at a slightly quirky but well placed hotel. They started breakfast quite early so I decided I’d aim to leave the hotel by 8am. The route I’d planned was quite long, so I didn’t want to be wasting time.

Morning Joy, and Frustration

I started off by heading inland. There was a set of lab caches in Temple Sowerby which looked like a nice quick “getting it started” kind of thing. And so it proved to be. I left my hotel at 8am and I was done in Temple Sowerby before 8:30.

My second set of labs started at Barton and ended in Pooley Bridge. I’m not sure why the CO split it across such a big distance. Essentially, two points were in Barton and three were in Pooley Bridge. But anyway, the labs were easy and there was a good trad at Barton too. So that kept me ticking along. I wasted some time in Pooley Bridge though, because there’s a puzzle there that I couldn’t solve remotely, and when I got there, I couldn’t solve it in the field either. The information to be collected to get the coordinates was ambiguous, to say the least. It involved counting things at a church (solar panels, windows, stained glass windows, etc, etc. It wouldn’t add up, so I moved on. I made a couple of random guesses but was wrong.

I was still on 11 finds by about 9:30 though.

Past History

From Pooley Bridge I headed west to Cockermouth. Why is this section entitled “Past History”? Well, many moons ago, before I was a geocacher, I had a job which took me periodically to Iggesund Paperboard in Workington, and every time I went to work there I stayed in Cockermouth. I must have had 10-11 trips there over the course of a year at the start of the 2000’s. So I knew a little bit about the town. I’d been a couple more times as part of holidays too, but they were fleeting visits.

On previous visits though, I’d been working, and so I hasn’t ever really walked around the town. This trip gave me the opportunity to do that. I parked in the car park of a well known UK supermarket whose name rhymes with “Gains Berries” as it was best placed for the town. No scrounging though, it was a public pay and display which would validate you for free parking if you went in the shop. I decided to pay for the parking, as I wasn’t going in the shop other than to turn my bike around and grab a cold drink.

Famous Sons

Back at the plot, there was a set of labs dedicated to five famous sons of Cockermouth. They were a varied bunch. The first was England’s favourite cricketer Ben Stokes. He was born in New Zealand but moved to the UK at secondary school age when his dad took a job coaching the Rugby League team in Workington. To show how old I am, my previous trips to Cockermouth were before Ben moved there, at age 12.

Another faous son was William Wordsworth, who was born in the town and lived here for a while before wandering off to find some daffodils.

Next was Fletcher Christian, who got so upset that he started the Bounty mutiny. To be honest, I don’t especially like chocolate covered coconut bars either, but I don’t know if I’d be upset enough to nick a Royal Navy ship. That’s by-the-by. He was a son of Cockermouth.

The other two were The Earl of Mayo, who was once Viceroy of India, and presumably developed the egg-based salad dressing while he was there, and John Dalton, who “said atoms were the littlest”, despite that theory being assigned to Albert Einstein in 1978 by a certain Ian Dury. That’s a pretty broad spread of talents for such a small town.

The labs had a bonus, which proved to be a thrupenny bus ride away from the town centre, so I moved my car a bit closer and took a walk up the banks of the Derwent.

The Cumbrian Coast

I bet you were beginning to think I never actually made it to the Cumbrian Coast. You may have noticed I have a tendency to wander off topic, both when geocaching, and when writing about it. Anyway, to the coast!

I joined the coast at Maryport. Maryport is a former port and mining town on the coast which has been through some extremely rough times. I won’t go into that in detail, for fear of getting lost, but whilst superficially the town was quite neat and tidy, there were also signs of deprivation around. My caching journey here took me mainly to the old port area with one trip up to the Castle Hill.

Parking to get to the Castle Hill was a challenge. The streets were a bit tight in my car and there weren’t any obvious car parks. I eventually pulled into the car park at Maryport Settlement. The place was really quiet but someone came out when I parked up and I confirmed with her if they were OK for me to leave my car for 10 minutes. To get to the castle I had to jump over a 4-foot high wall, but it was a much quicker method then walking up from the bottom. So thanks for that. Job done, and off we go.

Allonby

Next up was Allonby – a ribbon settlement along the coast to the north of Maryport. It grew up as a fishing settlement, presumably with quite small boats as there’s no harbour. There was a set of of lab caches here which I found, and a handful of traditionals that I mainly didn’t find. Some I gave up on, some were “occupied” by the presence of other humans. So a bit disappointing, but not very time consuming.

Silloth

My final foray along the coast was Silloth. Again, I’d never been anywhere remotely near here before. It was a bit of a surprise, to be honest. It apparently developed (contrastingly) as a deep-water port for Carlisle, and as a Vicotrian seaside resort. The place isn’t massive, but the seafront area around the park and main street are very pleasant. From the seafront you can see all the way across the Solway Firth to the bottom end of Scotland – a very beautiful view. To get to the seafront I parked on an a cobbled main street and walked across Siloth Green.

Silloth proved to be the most fruitful stop of the day, from a geocaching perspective. Within the tight area around the central park there was a set of labs and six regular caches, and I found all of them. So that was a worthy hour or so. I nearly celebrated with an ice cream, but then time was moving faster than I hoped, so I moved on.

Wigton

Wigton proved to be moderately fruitful but very frustrating. I made 9 finds in total, but they took me ages due to the fact that the lab series was sequential, and I struggled to get a good enough phone signal to do them. Plus there were a couple of misses on caches that should have been easy finds.

It was a pleasant little town though. And it was definitely getting late in the afternoon. My stay coincided with chucking out time at the local school, so the town centre got suddenly flooded with teenagers waiting for buses and generally mooching around, as they do. As time was moving on, I again decided not to linger for too long, but I did stop on the way out of town to fill my car up with juice and to buy a drink and some chocolate.

Caldbeck

Caldbeck was my final geocaching stop for the day. From Wigton, Caldbeck is a drive around the top side of Skiddaw, on the perimeter of the National Park. So it became more hilly and less coastal on this leg. Caldbeck has a bunch of large car parks. There didn’t seem to be much else in the village, so I assume it must attract tourists just for being a nice village. Anyway, lots of car parks makes for easy access.

The geocaching “form” here included a set of lab caches based on local buildings, and a set of traditional caches on a general theme of rock bands. All were easy enough and I made 10 finds in the village in about an hour.

It had now ticked round to some time between 5 and 6pm, so I decided that was enough. I had somewhere else to be.

I hopped into the trusty vehicle and pointed it in the direction of Carlisle and then towards Moffat.

Slow Down

Moffat was easy to get to. It’s only just off the M74. It also has a long, broad high street with parking in the middle. My hotel ( The Balmoral ) was easy to find and I managed to park right outside.

I don’t know what type of room I booked. The choice wasn’t wide, but I think I picked something above the most basic. I was sort of hoping I’d get one of the cottages in the back. What they in fact gave me was a rather large suite on the first floor. By “suite”, I mean I had a lounge as well as a bedroom. And not a small one either. The lounge was big enough for two decent-sized sofas with walking space all around. So I wasn’t going to be short of living space in there on my own. It took me a while how to fiddle with the radiators working sensibly though. When I first went in, the room was like a sauna.

And so to the evening’s activities. I made the mistake (as I sometimes do) of assuming the evening geocaching event would finish on time, and hence that I could reasonably find something to eat afterwards. It didn’t. And there was beer involved. By the time it was finished (or by the time I was finished, anyway) it was a little late for getting dinner. Everywhere in Moffat seems to give up cooking by about 9pm. So that chocolate I’d bought in Wigton was the last thing I had to eat until I got back to my room, whereupon I laid into the multiple packs of biscuits the hotel had left in there. That would have to do. And so they were done. And so was I.