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Kili or bust (Sean P O'Rourke): Geocaching visit to the Peak District
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Geocaching visit to the Peak District · Jan 15, 03:59 AM by admin

Bleak Peak

Well that title really doesn’t say it all, at all!! “Bleak in Winter” is the name of a cache I attempted deep in the Peak district near Manchester and which led to one of my most bizarre caching experiences.
I had a couple of days to myself so I went over to find a load of caches. Unlike most “normal cachers” who “euphemistically speaking” travel to XY place “on business” and while there pick up 10, 20 or more caches, I was there to get them, end of story.

I had a head cold just before leaving and the weather turned worse when I landed in Manchester. Picking up a cheap hired Fiat Punto (not bad at 38 Stg for 2 days!) I headed off into the hills. Armed with all the tekkie trekkie gadgets I could muster (some fun at airport security with those!!) I was ready for anything, or so I thought!

It soon became clear that I had planned the routes incorrectly because I found myself driving silly distances between caches. There are great concentrations of caches in Britain and I corrected this the following day but on that first day I spent far too much frustrating time in traffic. “Sadie” my car mounted GPS router brought me up every small boreen of that green and not so pleasant land in the rain, that you could imagine. During the time I spent caching that day I probably could have normally picked up twice the miserly 15 that I did gather. It was about 9.00 at night when I set off to find the simple multi-cache “Bleak in Winter”, intending to find a place to overnight anywhere nearby. For some reason I understood the cache page information to mean that clues to provide the cache coordinates were to be picked up pretty easily, presumably in the local village of Bradwell, and then the cache.

On an island not a whole lot bigger than our own and teeming with about 60 million souls it is tough to imagine a place more remote and untouched by humanity in the “bleakness” of Peak district winter. I arrived at the spot, not the village of my plan at all, in total darkness and in driving rain and wind. I imagine the area is high in the clouds because it never let up. I found myself stopped on a road barely wide enough to accommodate the Punto and wisely deciding to leave this till the morning, I pulled into the gateway of a “private road” in order to turn around and head for a bed. The gate had Connemara type walls and pillars with grassy (more accurately muddy) banks on each side and I entered the gate on an upward incline. Misjudging the exit slightly I missed the pillars ok but the drivers side went back over the grass/mud side decline and promptly “beached “ the Punto on to the grass section. The rain was causing a bit of a slide so the car listed to the right and perched itself with the back left wheel and the front right one off the ground. I still can’t understand how it happened or how the car ended up that way but there I was, stuck!
As if some major Muggle up there had it in for humble cachers like myself, the heavens opened and I imagined the whole British Isles were going to sink because the rain that fell was unnatural, to say the least. The mud slide continued and the car listed further only this time it found the rocks that were waiting underneath and it locked the hitherto “free” front wheel into a space between rocks while sitting the metal base of the car on the rock itself. Of course I didn’t know all that till later. I was frantically burning rubber from the one drive wheel that was on the ground and very quickly getting absolutely nowhere. Probably just as well because if the car had gained purchase at all I would have been in the next parish before I could have stopped it.

While the noise of the wind and rain outstripped the Punto by about ten to one I sat there, bemused at first, and wondered what to do. I knew I had driven through quite remote territory so there was nothing nearby that I was aware of, as a stranger to the place. I decided to have a short rest and wait out the rain as I had been going all day and I was tired. I certainly wasn’t going to get out of the car in that weather, not knowing which way to go, with a head cold that risked pneumonia. I was quite worried about the position of the car if any vehicle, particularly a big one, arrived suddenly around the bend. They may not have had time to see the rear of the Punto before ploughing into it and me in blissful repose. The worry must have been short lived because the pounding rain woke me, shivering, at 2.00 am!

Nobody at home was any use to me there so no point in ringing. There was very patchy mobile signal but I did manage to contact caching buddy Steve, in Dublin. It is not unusual to find him up and about at all hours. I hoped he might know someone within reasonable distance of my position that could help. As nobody he knew was nearby we went through all the possible solutions. The only option at that point was to try to jack the car up over the rocks, find some stones to fill the gap and try to drive it down. With that plan assembled in my head I relaxed in the Punto and decided to give the car’s user manual a good going over so I would know how and where to find the necessary implements. That Muggle overhead continued chucking bucketloads of uisce with some sort of power hose because at times I became genuinely “concerned”.

Not much left to do but wait! And wait! Eventually greyness started to arrive and at last I could see all the rain instead of just hearing it. Not much else though!
The outline of the gate became clearer and beyond it I could make out a rough and rocky track which meandered up the brow of a hill then disappeared to “somewhere”. First though, the jack solution. Since rain seemed to fall forever there was nothing for it. Out came the limited rain gear that I could carry on to the flight (without giving Michael O’Leary and Ryanair any more than they deserved) and I went for it.
Finding all the tools was no problem but trying to get the jack under the “wedged” car would have been comical to watch. Picture this:

Its still darkish and in case I have not already mentioned it, the rain was……heavy! I am kneeling on a slanted mud bank trying to jam the jack under the car. I slip down the short bank. The jack slips down after me and whacks my knuckles. This happens three times. On the third one I yank my hand quickly out of the way in time and it slams into my knee. I try again and the jack finds a tiny mud hole and spirals down into it leaving the car untouched. I start digging into the mud with my hands to retrieve the jack. Just at that wonderful moment of pantomime the one and only vehicle of any sort that appeared during the whole escapade whizzes past narrowly missing the jutting out rear of the Punto.
After a few “oh dears” I start back at the jack. I pull nettles, brambles, mud and grass for about 20 minutes before I eventually retrieve it. I am tempted to say “in a last DITCH effort” but that would just sound silly!!! I yank the jack out and a great glob of mud comes flying with it straight into my face.
Its brighter now, unlike my humour, but the rain keeps coming. I look up and that great muggle in the sky has a huge belly laugh while he pisses on my face!

Plan B was to go for help. I was about to start off disconsolately back down the road from which I arrived when the rocky track beyond the gate caught my eye again. I trundled up that rocky hill wondering what magical cures medical science had for pneumonia. I couldn’t believe my eyes when through the misty wet semi darkness the meandering track led eventually to an old farmhouse. As I approached at first it appeared derelict but maybe that was just my now depressed humour. The approach was littered with the very old and rusted remains of vehicles of prehistoric proportions. I couldn’t begin to describe how many. There were no sounds but thankfully, at last, human contact! A man appeared and foostered with one of these old machines. I approached him and blurted out the whole story and begged for assistance. He looked straight through me and shrugged. He didn’t understand a word of English, or whatever gibberish I was offering.
In that continental way he raised his chin toward the farm where a woman immediately appeared. I told her the story and she simply told me to wait for “him”. The word “him” was sort of spat out! Then she proceeded to milk the cows but not before she went sliding on to her backside in the mud. God forgave me for laughing I’m sure because he knew I could use a right laugh just then! The wounded look she gave me rivalled the darkness of the sky.
I stood there sheltering (well nearly) under a corrugated iron outer area and waited…….and as seemed my destiny for this trip, I waited!
Some fifteen minutes later a very large black bearded man straight out of Dickens, or maybe Beckett, loped toward me tying a rough piece of twine around equally rough trousers. I spent the next half an hour with this man and he never uttered an earthly syllable to me in that entire time. I told him the story and half way through he wandered away from me grumbling as if to say, “not another useless city fool”! I followed and eventually after ruminating for some moments he gathered some bits and pieces and climbed into a very large old van. If Bedfords existed in the forties then this was one. No windows, one door and not a seat to speak of. Starting it took another 10 minutes. The vehicle was wider than the track back down to the gate and despite my protestations about the width of the van and the need to get out the gate first in order to drag the Punto out of the hole, he carried on. I knew he could speak because he muttered occasionally to himself but nothing at all to his new companion. I could not believe my eyes when, without further thought, he went careering through the pillars, missing the front of the Punto by inches and up on to one grass bank and even slightly up on the stone wall. The wall and mud below it immediately gave way and this huge monstrosity started sliding down. I could just see it hammering sideways into the poor afflicted Punto and pounds Sterling were flashing before me when he pressed the wasted metal to the floor which produced not exactly a thrust but more of a lurch that took it barely past the Punto and almost into the ditch on the far side of the road before screeching to a sideways stop. Black beard had a manic (the Shining!) look of satisfaction on his face that will remain with me to the grave. I cursed the fact that I hadn’t brought a lot of underclothing!!

After some rolling about in the mud under the Punto looking for a place to attach the huge chains he brought, we or more accurately he and his monstrous beast of a van, pulled the Punto out in seconds. At that precise moment the Grand Muggle turned off the tap and the sun appeared in minutes. We were only short of the angelic fanfare. I swear I could hear him chuckling up there! I pushed some notes into the man’s hand in gratitude and he stared blankly at me. I took that as my cue to get in the car and as far away from there as quickly as possible.
I tell a lie. I went up the road and checked out the cache but I couldn’t understand a word of the cryptic clue and then I got out of there as quickly as possible. Remarkable how none of them noticed or commented on the state of their visitor who must have looked some mess!

I went home a happy cacher with a dose of mini pneumonia and 53 caches the next day.

Essential facts
The Peak District was Britain’s first national park, established in April 1951
Around 38,000 people live in the Park in 125 parishes
Visitors from all over the world come to the Park to find peace and tranquillity (yeah right!) and to reconnect with the natural world
They can also find adventure (there you go!), experiencing some of England’s finest climbing, caving, walking and cycling
The National Park covers 1,438 km2 (555 sq. miles) with over 2,500 km of public rights of way
The main economic activities are tourism, manufacturing, farming and quarrying.
And I sampled all four of those things during one crazy night!!!!!

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