Banwell Bone Caves and Caching in Somerset


I’m sure that most cachers have a “must do” list of caches that they would love to visit. Ever since I spotted it, the ‘Banwell Bonecaves’ earthcache (GC3M60D) had been on mine. This earthcache was placed at a very unique spot: A cave full of animal bones which had been excavated and placed on display in the 1800’s by The Bishop of Bath and Wells. He claimed that the bones were proof of Noah’s flood and placed them on display as a warning to those who disobeyed God! The bone caves are made all that more special by the fact that they aren’t accessible daily like most tourist attractions, instead you have to visit on a rare open day or private tour. I enquired at the beginning of the year about open day dates, but was told that none would be available this year which was very sad indeed. That didn’t stop us though and I arranged for a private tour with Doggywalker, Hollyncharlie, Helennbrian and stones2005 and we headed to Somerset to take a look around.

Banwell Bone Caves

We started our private tour with a video presentation to give us some background on the caves and show us what the deeper caves are like. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to go and explore those ones. After the video we headed to the main bone cave passing the information board where we all quickly jotted down the answers to the earthcache! ;)

Banwell Bone Caves Information board

Banwell Bone Caves Information board

The bone cave is a large cavern around 40ft in diameter and 20ft tall. The owners had placed candles around the cave to light it up and give atmosphere and told us about the bones that were contained within the chamber. We were then free to explore and take photos of the fascinating cave.

Candlelit bones

Candlelit bones

The Bishop's bone stack

The Bishop’s bone stack

Candleabra

Candleabra

View into the other half of the chamber

View into the other half of the chamber

Whale ribs moved from the cottage now mark the exit

Whale ribs moved from the cottage now mark the exit

Wall of bones

Wall of bones

A single candle lighting the bones

A single candle lighting the bones

In the chamber

In the chamber

Bones

Bones

Group photo

Group photo

We then headed up the hill to see the other interesting buildings on site. Interestingly we could see our campsite and our tents from this spot!

We could see the campsite from the grounds

We could see the campsite from the grounds

We visited the summerhouse which was renovated to look exactly as the original by following old records. There were some fantastic views from the summerhouse too.

Banwell Summerhouse

Banwell Summerhouse

Circular pattern inside the summer house

Circular pattern inside the summer house

The final attraction was the tower. The tower had had a massive restoration lasting around a decade and it really was quite magnificent that it had been restored so well. We followed the spiral staircase to the top for some wonderful panoramic views.

Banwell tower

Banwell tower

Heading up the tower

Heading up the tower

Views from the top of the tower

Views from the top of the tower

We finished our morning with yummy cream teas and cakes at the owner’s houses. It really was so kind of them to open their home to us and take us around this unique attraction. I’d really recommend booking a private tour of Banwell Bone caves. The tour lasted about 2 and a half hours and the owners were so knowledgeable. Tours can be booked via their website: http://www.banwellcaves.org/

Off-Piste and in the dark

Continuing our underground theme for the day we headed off for another cache which had been on my to do list for about 2 years, Off Piste and in the Dark (GCZKQ7). This fantastic 7 stage multi devised in 2006 takes you around Sandford woods and down underground into Sandford Levvy. After the bone caves we headed here with Doggywalker, stones2005, Yorkie63 and MummaD for a bit of an explore. We headed up, down, and around on paths and off-piste around the woods collecting the clues. At one point we took a bit of a diversion to try and obtain the Somerset Well Rounded Cacher Challenge (GC22QHC) however I realised that we were meant to have contacted the CO before attempting it to get a hint as to where the cache was (Down in a cave!) so we gave up on it, but did see some fabulous views on the way to the location.

Views from the top

Views from the top

Once we had got all of the clues we headed to the entrance to Sandford Levvy. This mine was a particularly interesting one. It’s a horizontal passage around several hundred metres long with two intersecting crossroads with tight, short passages. The mine was dug in 1830 in an attempt to locate ore, but wasn’t a commercial success. However, it found a new use in the second world war when it was used by the Auxiliary Unit of the local Home Guard. A paving slab floor continues along the start of the mine which was created by the home guard. Some remains of their wooden bunks can be found inside the mine as well. Unfortunately we didn’t see any bats when inside, but plenty of cave spiders and stone mosths instead. The British Resistance Archive website has some information on the patrol who occupied the mine during WWII at http://www.coleshillhouse.com/sandford-levy-bunker.php

The Home Guard in Sandford Levvy

The Home Guard in Sandford Levvy

We headed in across the paving slabs and past some fantastic calcite formations on the walls with cave pearls forming on the floor.

Heading in

Heading in

Cave pearls

Dave pearls

Calcite formations

Calcite formations

Stalagtites

Stalagtites

It didn’t take us long to find the micro inside the mine which helped us get the coordinates for the final, however, we wanted to carry on exploring first. We headed deeper into the mine until we reached a beautiful calcite floor which sparkled in our torchlights.

Tunnel

Tunnel

Doggywalker in Sandford Levvy

Doggywalker in Sandford Levvy

Calcite floor

Calcite floor

On the way out we spotted something we hadn’t noticed on the way in which was my favourite feature of the mine, a Quartz Geode large enough to place your hand in and covered in crystals.

Quartz Geode

Quartz Geode

Andy appearing from Sandford Levvy

Andy appearing from Sandford Levvy

The final cache was a big ammo can and a great reward for our hard work! A great cache and a definite favourite!

Off-Piste ammo can

Off-Piste ammo can

Cheddar Gorge

During our trip to Somerset we paid a visit to the beautiful Cheddar Gorge. We walked up all 257 steps of Jacobs ladder and followed the gorge walk around the top before finally reaching the geocaches near the bottom. It was a beautiful day when we walked it and the caches were very rewarding when we eventually reached them.

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge Panorama

Cheddar Gorge Panorama

Views of Cheddar reservoir from Cheddar Gorge

Views of Cheddar reservoir from Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge

View from The Lion Rock (GC1WCZY)

View from The Lion Rock (GC1WCZY)

A European Adventure – The Munich Giga and 10 countries in a day challenge!


The first ever Geocaching Giga event of 5,000+ people was being held on Saturday 16th August 2014 in Munich, Germany. Myself and some caching friends quite fancied an adventure there so we caught the Eurotunnel on the Thursday evening with Kris&Co, FayR+R, Decker1527, Yorkie63, MummaD, Foxscout, Doggywalker, The Box Teddies, and BEASTMARSTA for a real adventure around Europe!

Friday: The trip to Munich

It was a 9 hour drive from Calais to Munich so the following morning we headed off to make our way there. We changed our route slightly to encompass a very old cache named simply “Geocache”, but popularly known as GC40.

Our route to GC40 took us past a few cache and dashes. Our favourite was La grotte de Revogne at the grotto of Lourdes at Revogne (Beauraing). The grotto was built in 1885 as a place to pray. Inside were holy statues, candles, flowers and a few prayer benches.

The Grotto

The Grotto

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Mega Scotland 2014


The 2014 UK Annual Mega event was held in Scotland this year. So we headed up to Ayrshire for our first trip caching in Scotland and had a great time attending the events that the Scottish Committee put on. So here’s a blog on some of my favourite events!

Cumbrae Day

On the Tuesday morning we headed to Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae for the Cumbrae Day event. To get there you have to catch a ferry across from Largs. We took a few cars over so that we could grab some of the caches on the island whilst we were there as well.

Catching the ferry across to Cumbrae

Catching the ferry across to Cumbrae

Views out to sea

Views out to sea

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Piratemania 2014 with the Essex Crew


And so it was time again for the fabulous yearly Piratemania Mega event. This year it was further north in the beautiful town of Cartmel, famous for their wonderful sticky toffee pudding (And yes, of course we had some whilst we were there!) :D

We headed up on the Friday night with our Team Essex crew of Doggywalker, Yorkie63, MummaD, Natlie92, Riskt4ker and Hollyncharlie. Before long we had pitched up the Essex camp and were ready to sail the seven seas and plunder dubloons!

Just in case you couldn't guess who the tent belongs to!

Just in case you couldn’t guess who the tent belongs to!

Proudly flying the Essex flag

Proudly flying the Essex flag

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UK Mega 2015 – The 8th Annual UK Geocaching Mega Event


ukmegaessex2015_banner

After the original Mega 2015 East of England committees disbanded, the host for the 8th Annual UK Geocaching Mega event was up for grabs. With bidding finishing on 31st March for a new host myself and a few other Essex caching pals decided we would form a committee and bid for it. We won the bid!!!! I am delighted to announce to my blog readers that the UK Mega 2015 will be hosted in Essex. We are absolutely thrilled and so excited. We’ve all been working super hard this month as due to the previous problems we now only have half the usual time to fund raise and organise it!

Please head over to our website at http://www.mega2015.org.uk to meet the committee and see some of the fabulous attractions and caches that Essex has to offer. We are still working round the clock to develop the site and add more content. This is just a taster of things to come!

You can also head over to our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/UKMega2015 and “Like” the page for all of the latest news, or you can follow us on Twitter at @GeoUKMega2015 too.

There are still lots and lots of exciting things to come! :)

A Geocaching coach trip to Chichester!


On Saturday 1st March we headed off on a coach trip to Chichester organised by geocachers Hollyncharlie. We attend wonderful bi-monthly events in our region called the “Essex/Suffolk BorderCache and Piffle” meets and the trip was arranged associated with the meets. So at 7am all 49 of us geocachers departed from Essex and headed down to Sussex. The main focus of our trip was Church Micro 5000 which had quite recently been placed at the magnificent Chichester Cathedral. A nice, and slightly rare requirement of this particular church micro multicache was that you had to go inside the cathedral to collect the clues to find the final.

As soon as we arrived we headed inside and we were all bowled over by the size of it. Beautiful stained glass windows lined the walls. There were tombs, sculptures, and paintings covering the entire inside. So much to see. Whilst Andy researched the clues with some other cachers I was busy taking photographs of the cathedral.

Saint Richard Of Chichester statue

Saint Richard Of Chichester statue

Stained glass inside the cathedral

Stained glass inside the cathedral

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Lab Caches and I <3 Geocaching


A while ago Geocaching mentioned their new “Lab caches” idea. A lab cache is a new cache type that Groundspeak announced in August. In the announcement Groundspeak said that lab caches will count towards your find count and would only be available at Mega Events. The special thing about Lab Caches is that you must find a code in order to mark the cache as found like with Wherigo completion codes. I do like the idea of having a code in order to log a cache as it’s a good verification that you did indeed find it. Since the announcement there have been a few lab caches and it was announced that there would be one at the Kent MEGA. On your geocaching profile they give you a new cache type icon that Walter White would be proud of!!! ;)

Lab cache icon

Lab cache icon

Lab Caches can be anything and give a playing field for Groundspeak to experiment with new ideas. As they don’t exist after an event and there’s no log it’s a bit of a hard concept to grasp!

To make it that little bit more trickier there was an announcement recently on the Geocaching blog about an “I <3 Geocaching" lab cache which will be available to premium members between 3rd and 28th February. So try and get your head around this

I-heart-geocaching-blog-banner

During this time period you will be able to hide one personal lab cache (and no more than one) for one person. You create your personal lab cache and a URL will be generated. You then pass that URL onto somebody (Or a few people if you wish but it’s meant for “One special person”). That person can then log the cache using that URL. Once it’s logged it’s automatically archived so nobody else can log it. You must involve a code in the process. So if you hide a container there could be a code written inside which the finder then inputs when they log their find (You will have specified what this code was when you created the cache and it will have been hidden from the view of others). There doesn’t have to be a container though. These caches can be hidden anywhere even in your house. The code may be a word written on a monument somewhere (for example) like a virtual cache.

Groundspeak say that that this idea of personal lab caches could be used for marriage proposals (!), presenting your friend with some cinema tickets, or taking your friend on their own personal adventure.

At the moment it’s just a test and your find count won’t go up after logging an ‘I <3 Geocaching' cache. So what's the point? Well, I guess we're helping them test out some new features and they probably figured it was about time after challenges were ditched! At the moment the geocaching statistics system doesn't support lab caches anyway (It will in the future) so although you do see your find count increase with other lab caches they won't fill a space on your caching calendar, won't be included in your MyFinds PQ, and don't count towards your hide count.

It does all sound a bit mad at the moment, like Challenges did. I'm not sure Geocaching needs lab caches but maybe this is an attempt to fill the empty hole left when challenge caches disappeared. I love the idea of having a code to log a cache though and would like to see this feature made optional for physical cache types. So I'm going to say let's wait and see what comes of it all and give them a chance. It might develop into something completely awesome! :D

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