This weather has just been relentless, hasn’t it? I like winter walking in snow or on frozen ground, but the regular gales and rain means that footrot and rising damp have been an unwelcome feature since November.
So, after a short stroll up onto the moors, I’ve dipped my toes into the world of Geocaching on a mini treasure hunt around the gorgeous village of Lealholm. More of that later.
Starting at the railway station (with its new electronic sign telling you when the one train a day will make its next appearance), turn left out of the gate and follow the track as it curves right and up through a gate.
Nice views emerge behind you of the village of Lealholm. Bounded by steep slopes, the village snuggles up along the banks of the river and is one of the prettiest in the Esk Valley.
Follow the track as it curves left then sharper right below a stone wall, down over a beck and right again uphill. Fifty yards or so up the slope, head sharp left on an unmarked grassy track. This curls up left over a tiny ford, then bends right well above Greystones Farm, with fabulous views of the Fryupdales now available for your personal pleasure.
Join a wider track right, to soon cross a minor road. The thin path ahead in the heather quickly leads to a wide stony track. Go left and you will presently reach a track that leads off left towards Danby Beacon.
Instead, turn right and after 400 yards a marked thin path leads off right which you should follow to pass a standing stone on your left, over a lateral stone trod, soon through a gate, then down to the road leading back down to Lealholm, where there be treasure.
Geocaching is an increasingly popular pursuit that admirably gets people off their sofas for a walk with a mission. In summary, people hide little boxes or tiny containers, then load clues and co-ordinates onto the www.geocaching.com website. You then try and solve the clues with the assistance of an expensive GPS device. (The “Global Positioning System” uses satellites to accurately show your location on the device).
Obstinate and stubborn old luddites like me can try and use a map, and with that method there is a significantly increased chance of emitting a frustrated grunt and making a bright and early departure to the pub.
The cache, should you find it, involves a small logsheet where you can record your success, and sometimes take and leave a small gift for the other geocachers.
Where caches are grouped together, it allows for a nice walk as you bag them successively. For instance, there are over 20 caches to be picked off on an 8 mile walk around Roseberry Topping.
I chose a slightly different cache from the website called “Looking at Lealholm” by someone called Reddanbydan (perhaps his cat walked over the keyboard when inputting his name). This gives clues and co-ordinates to various signs around the village, where you note down a particular number off each sign, then put them together to make up the GPS co-ordinates of the location of the cache itself.
There are excellent historical notes added to each clue as you tour the village to see the Mill House, the 19th Century Methodist Church and the 17th Century Quaker Burial Ground.
The writer also states that Lealholm means “the Village among the twigs” (suggesting that the Vikings in charge of place names were running out of ideas).
Having gathered all the clues and worked out the location of the cache (a small beaker), I headed for the stepping stones to cross the river. Now I know we’ve had a lot of rain and I don’t often cross these stones in winter, but I was surprised to see that the stones had vanished under the water. The only things between me and the opposite bank, were several thousand gallons of muddy water and 2 ducks.
So, it was back round the road and after signing the cache in the log, I adjourned to the welcoming arms of the superb Board Inn. (Admirably open all day even in winter).
Finally, I should admit to a small lie - a porky of a trifling nature.
Due to an error which owed as much to my eyesight as to my arithmetical skills, I misread a letter ‘I’ as a figure ‘1’. It meant that I calculated the final location of the cache to be in some woods over a mile away, and frankly I couldn’t be pestered. Just as well really, because the beaker is actually in the village.
You may not be surprised to read that the bit about me adjourning to the Board Inn, is true.