August 20 – An afternoon of Church Micros

An Evening out with Hanna and Tom

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

It is not long now before we leave St Albans and we wanted to spend some more time around the district visiting churches and collecting church micros. We aim to finish the day at Biggleswade where we will meet Hanna and Tom and go out to dinner together.

The first place we visited was Barton-le-Clay where we found St Nicholas church was closed. The soon found the numbers we needed for the church micro multi and soon found the cache. We also found a rather lovely village sign and its geocache.

All Sants church at Shillington is right up on top of a hill up a tiny road which leads to the church and the school before stopping dead. Shillington church is a Grade 1 listed building dating mainly from the late 14th century. It has been described as the ‘Cathedral of the Chilterns’ and it dominates the village and the surrounding landscape. There has been worship on the site since the eighth century and the oldest parts of the present church date back to the eleventh century. There is a wealth of treasures including monumental brasses, stained glass windows, a peal of five bells and an extensive collection of graffiti. One window is modern stained glass named the Hillyard window and was dedicated in 1993. Its design incorporates bell ropes and peels change permutations. The other window I liked was in the Lady Chapel and featured St Alban, St George and St Joan. We collected the numbers we need for the multi without any problem and set off down the hill on the footpath to the bridge over a stream. However we could locate the cache despite a good hint and after looking for ages as this would have been our 6400th find, we had to give up the search.

Next, we went to All Saints church in Stonden where the church was closed but we found the traditional cache easily. We saw a lovely Faith, Hope and Charity window through the window and Mike managed to get a lovely window of it. There was also a fancy composting toilet in a room behind the church which we were very grateful to find.

St Mary, the Virgin church in Meppershall was lovely with its tiled reredos behind the altar with pink and white tiles at the bottom and blue and gold tiles at the top. There were also some great wall monuments from 1672, 1763 and 1833 and two monumental brasses on the wall. There was a Norman tower in the centre of the church and a wonderful old chest with the most amazing huge chains and padlocks. Security was obviously quite an issue. Outside we found the cache and there was a lovely Manor House. St Giles church in Upper Gravenhurst we found the cache at yet another closed church.

At Campton, we saw that the Parish Name was Campton and Chicksands Parish Council. Chicksands Priory rang a bell with Mike and when I looked into it had been requisitioned by the Royal Navy then the RAF when it was known as RAF Chicksands Priory until in 1950 it was taken over by the US Air Force when it became a listening post until September 1995. Chicksands Priory is a Grade I listed building and was originally a priory of the Gilbertine Order and housed both nuns and canons. By 1200 it was one of the largest and wealthiest Gilbertine houses.

All Saints church was open and featured some impressive wall monuments to Sir Peter Osborn who was the Treasurers Remembrancer of the Exchequer for King James and King Charles and died in 1653. He was the son of Sir John Osborn who held the same position for King James and died in 1628. There were several wonderful stained glass windows including a Faith Hope and Charity window. There was a monumental brass on the wall and three hatchments. The visitor’s book impressively started in November 1968 so has been used for nearly 50 years. The clue for the multi was ‘you need to find Harry Stebbings number’. We could not find his name anywhere on the notice board nor on the sign itself. We wondered if it was something English that we did not comprehend but despite googling the name we were unable to make any progress and in the end, we had to give up. We are having a strange day today – if the church is open we cannot find the cache and if the church is closed we can find the cache. I have just found a mention that – “Harry Stebbing Workshop produces notice boards, benches and a wide range of furniture. All handmade from English Oak to the very highest standards.” We checked the sign for a maker and that did not help.

The next church micro was at the Methodist church in Shefford where we collected the numbers which took us some distance away. We drove to the nearest coordinates and found ourselves at the top of a bridge on the main road so we had another try which took us into suburbia and when we got to 30 m away there were high fences stopping us getting any closer. After another drive around we managed to find a way in and walked 200 metres to the sign through an area that looks like it will all be built into houses in the not too distant future. Even when we got to 1m we were still having problems and after a few minutes of looking, I finally saw the cache. We left both having gained a few nettle stings.

At All Saints in Clifton, the multi took us aged to find and the church was closed. We had to find two headstones in the churchyard. We spent ages looking for the two military heroes thinking that they would be the white Commonwealth gravestones but they were not. After about half an hour of searching, we found one headstone and went off to search even more thoroughly for the second one. When you have spent so much time we did not want to give up. I had a guess at the coordinates but we could not find anything there. Mike finally found Tucker and my guessed coordinates had been right but there was nothing magnetic there. We looked everywhere in any place we thought possible and eventually had to give up. When I logged it the CO contacted me to say it was under the bench. However, there was no bench there as it has been removed and only the screws for holding it down to the concrete remain. It looks like the council must have removed the bench for replacement or repainting or something.

We had two easy finds at the church at Henlow and the village sign at Langford and went on to Biggleswade, our last stop for the night. The church of St Andrew was closed and I soon found the numbers for a short walk to the final. It was a nice quick find but we were majorly muggled by a couple and their dog who stopped right behind us as we reached for the cache. Luckily they were distracted by a lady in a car who they went to talk to and completely uninterested in what we were doing.

We returned to the car a continued on a few blocks to Hanna and Tom’s flat arriving right at 7 pm as we had arranged and they were waiting on the footpath for us. We walked to a Pizza Express and had a lovely evening chatting and catching up with them. Hanna handed in her notice at work today as she is starting a new job in London in mid-September. It is lucky that they live so close to the railway line for easy access into the city. We also saw some photos of her Dad, Mike’s cousin for the first time. Hanna asked whether we would like to go with them to Poland in the New Year to meet the family and we are very eager. How exciting!