Get Your Motor Running

On the agenda today was a trip up to Leadhills, the UK’s highest permanent settlement (or is it?). The event wasn’t until early afternoon, though, so I had quite a bit of time to explore elsewhere beforehand.

So I got up early again and was ready to leave by about 8 am again. I planned to drive over to Sanquhar via a scenic route. There is quite a large stock of caches there. After that, I would pick my way around the countryside up to Leadhills for the event in the early afternoon. What could possibly go wrong with that?

Road Closure

Because it’s me loads could go wrong with that, obviously. I’d planned to drive up the motorway and pick my way down to Sanquhar along the B740. When I got there, there was a road closure. As I discovered later in the day, there’d been an incident previously with a lorry that didn’t quite fit. That resulted in dangerous damage to a bridge and a closure. What that meant in practice was that I had to go back down the motorway again. I found a different route via the A702 and into Thornhill. At least when I got there I noticed there were a few caches on the road, so I could start to get a few finds at least.

Thornhill was not quite what I expected. Another small town consisting of one main street. Like Moffat. Thornhill’s main street is miles wide and has parking down both sides. There wasn’t much obvious sign of life though. I’d got the solutions to a couple of puzzles and completed those quickly before turning my car around to head for Sanquhar. I had it in my mind that Thornhill had a set of labs, but it didn’t, which was a disappointment.

Anyway, back at the plot, the road from Thornhill up to Sanquhar was fairly pleasant and afforded me the opportunity to stop and turn my bike around, as it were.

Sanquhar

I’d somehow got in my mind that Sanquhar was going to be some massive homage to Victorian urban architecture, full of big stone public buildings and pleasant gardens. I don’t know why I thought that, but it isn’t like that at all. Overall, the village felt a bit claustrophobic and shabby to me. Maybe I’m prejudiced. I’ve been to worse places, by the way. Plenty of them. It just wasn’t kind of what I was expecting.

In town there was a sequential set of adventure labs (with a bonus) and a couple of other things. Those didn’t take me long to complete, and looking at the time I reckoned I could probably afford to spend another 90 minutes there before heading for Leadhills. So I decided I’d go for a walk around some of the caches off to the north of the village.

Running Up That Hill

Now I was on the ground it was clear that the north of the village meant “in the hills”, but I had walking shoes with me, so I was OK. Most of it was on roads or good tracks anyway. I collected 10 more finds up there. There were a couple of DNFs, so it should have been more, but nevermind. The downside was that it was a bit rainy and I’d decided to leave my raincoat in the car. I had a fleece, and that proved way more resistant to water penetration than I would have expected, but it was a bit bleak up there really.

On the way back down the main hill into the village I wasn’t able to avoid searching near a woman who was walking her dog. So I fessed up about the game, which she seemed genuinely intrigued by, and we walked together back to the hill into the village having a bit of a chat about caching, and why I’d come all the way here to do it. That made a nice finish to a rainy walk.

Over the Top

On the way up from Sanquhar there’s a pass between two villages, upon which there were a couple of caches. So I stopped on the way over to do those.

The event was being held in Leadhills, primarily, because the organiser of the Caledonian Cachefest lives up there. Officially though, the Leadhills Miner’s Library is a particularly interesting historical location in an otherwise out-of-the-way sort of place, and is well worthy of an event cache. I parked up at the big car park in the centre of the village and tried to spot a way into the huge building just there. That was the wrong building though. The library is the somewhat smaller one next door. OK, fair enough. The library houses a significant collection of antiquarian books. When I arrived it also housed the event organisers.

Walking Around

I didn’t spend long in the event. I was feeling kind of restless all day, so after 20 minutes or so I walked out and started picking at the caches in the village. There was a bit of a spread of these, including a sequential adventure labs that required going all the way over to Wanlockhead. These started at the north end of town (which I’m calling “the bottom” because it was downhill), and gradually worked their way over the top.

I’d been in contact with Pesh and Mr+MrsMinion again and was waiting for them to arrive so we could cache together in the afternoon again. Pesh needed to move from one campsite to another, so they were running a bit late. I kept passing another cacher (well, she was passing me really, because she was driving and I was walking) and we exchanged a few hints and did a bit of mutual signing on a couple of caches. A couple of those were on the way up to Leadhills little railway station. This hosts a heritage railway that provides brief rides up and down the valley where the village sits. The station had some toliets and a small office that sold a few snacks and drinks though. Those were welcome.

While I was pondering what to do next, I got wind that Pesh and Mr+MrsMinion were “in da house” and they were coming up to meet me near the station, so I was able to mooch about for a brief period until they arrived. They’d already done the first lab stage, so we didn’t need to double back, and I was able to just into Pesh’s car so we could continue that series together.

Over the Hill

Stages 3 and 4 of the labs were over in Wanlockhead, which meant I could point the others at the two caches I’d done on the hill on my way in. In Wanlockhead village the final stage of the labs (and a traditional) involved parking at the very top end and taking a bit of a walk. I think the two furry members of the team were ready for a leg stretch, so that worked well.

And from there we went back over the hill to Leadhills again and parked up by the cemetery. Just here there was the final stage of the adventure lab and an earthcache.

Going Downhill

Although it was mid-afternoon, it was way too early for giving up. We had a quick discussion about what to do next. Our conclusion was to go back to fetch my car and then move down the valley. There was a series of about 10 caches down the valley and we reckoned we could do 6-7 of those easily by parking in an obvious off-road parking spot and taking a walk. Those proved to be the best caches of the day. They weren’t particularly challenging but the scenery was good and the weather was as good as it had been all day.

One highlight was definitely a multi that had some very confusing diversionary wording on the page. The overall impression was that the cache itself was somewhere in a culvert that runs under the old railway line. It was a steep route down and we spent ages there going through that culvert. A mistake on my part resulted in a grazed head and some blood. Not a lot, but some. Ultimately, as we were on the verge of giving up, Pesh had a bright idea that somehow we’d overlooked before, and the cache was in hand. How we’d not thought about that earlier I don’t know. I’d literally had it in my hand without realising. Ho hum!

Quizzing

We decided that was enough caching for the day, so we drove separately back down into Moffat and I parked up outside the hotel again. Before going inside to get cleaned and changed I decided I’d get chips for dinner. The local chip shop came with very good recommendations and there was another evening event that meant a quick meal was in order. So I grabbed myself something and then sat on a bench in the High Street eating away. There were lots of other geocachers around, including my companions for the afternoon, who arrived about 20 minutes after me.

The evening event was back at the Proudfoot Centre and involved a quiz on a vaguely Scottish theme. This one was well attended and there was much better engagement than the previous night. My team came third, and we were rewarded with a few trinkets on a geocaching theme.

So another good day spent (partially) in good company and in some very pretty locations. The weather had been just about good enough for most of the day, so I couldn’t really complain about it. I retired to the hotel room and tidied up my caching logs before going to bed.