March 17 – Ariconium Quest

A Church Micro day around Upton Bishop, Linton, Gorsley, Aston Ingham, Clifford's Mense, Lea, Hope Mansell and Weston-under-Penyard.

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

Last night I was researching a route of geocaches for today and I found the Ariconium Quest. Ariconium is a benefice made up of six churches and the quest requires us to go to each of these churches and find a piece of information from the inside of the church. These churches must always be open otherwise this would not be possible. We have already been to two of the six churches but I planned a route that allowed us to revisit them and find the required information.

The first church was St John the Baptist at Upton Bishop which is nearby. There we had to count the oil lamp holders hanging from the nave ceiling. We have visited this church before but had not noticed the lamp holders before.

The site of Ariconium was occupied before the Romans came as this whole area including the Forest of Dean is an ancient site of iron ore and charcoal giving evidence of an ironworking industry. There is evidence of early mining and smelting, and there were many sites consisting of groups of forges. Ariconium was occupied throughout the Roman era, and the scale of industrial activity increased over the period.

Next, we headed for Linton which required us to cross the M50 and on the way, we passed a golf course where we stopped for a Motorway Mayhem geocache. We parked over the road and were soon looking for the cache. It is a busy road though with lots of cars, a group of cyclists plus some golfers but the cache was easily found and we were soon off to the next one. We loved the cache container which was a golf ball with a hole in it for the log.

St Mary’s church in Linton is a nice 12th-century stone church with a lovely East window dedicated to William Bonner and a fantastic very old yew tree which is completely hollow but with another younger yew growing inside it. It is one of the oldest trees in England, reportedly 4000 years old. We had to discover how many letters are missing from the maker’s name on the cast-iron pump housing sited at the base of the tower. It seemed very strange to have such a pump inside the church. The great-grandfather of Michael Palin, The Rev Edward Palin, was Rector here in the 19th century.

Now I know we have a quest to complete but I saw a cache called “The Court of King Edmund” along the way and since he is one of my favourite saints we just had to go there to see if the place was as interesting as the title. We drove all around the woods looking for a way in until we saw a footpath sign and a place to park the car near the back of the Gorsley school. The woods have various footpaths and we followed the GPS until we came to a series of carved wooden totems with animals and plants depicted. Around these, a circle of tree stumps have been carved into chairs. The sculptures were awesome and we were so pleased to have been privileged enough to see them. I could just imagine the court of King Edmund sitting around discussing the business of the land.

We searched for ages in the woods looking for the cache but were utterly disappointed because it was the right season to find the cache, very early spring, and there is very little undergrowth. The blackberry is very young and causes a great trip hazard, there were tiny white flowers and the green of bluebell plants but too early for colour. We checked out all the trees high and low, again and again. The tree at GZ didn’t have any hiding places so we looked further afield but eventually, we had to give up. It was to prove one of two DNF’s for the day.

Only a short drive away we came to Gorsley Baptist church. We parked beside the church and started looking for the cache as if it was a traditional cache but we were getting nowhere as nowhere fitted the hint. Then I realised that it was a multi. Well, that makes more sense. I soon collected the numbers from the front of the church which was dedicated in 1852 and we soon found the cache nearby.

At the other end of the Gorsley village was Christ Church which had a lovely apse with one stained glass window. We walked down through the churchyard to GZ after collecting the numbers for the multi. Just after we found the cache, getting prickled for our pains, a lady arrived back to her car in the car park after visiting the church. We asked her about the other church-like building which we were standing beside. It was apparently built as the village hall until they built a new one near the Baptist church. It has an apse too and tracery surrounding the windows. It is now a private house and looks like it would be a really nice one too.

St John the Baptist, the 13th-century church at Aston Ingram had a fantastic East window which looked like it was probably a Christopher Whall window. Christopher Whitworth Whall was a British stained glass artist who worked from the 1880s and on to this death in 1924. He is widely recognised as a leader in the Arts and Crafts Movement. We particularly like his work and are learning to recognise it.  The tower had been built inside the church which made it look like a huge chimney and there was an interesting font from 1689 which had lead all around the outside of the font with WR 1689 on it. The cache took us a while to find as the coordinates were a bit out but the hint was explicit. Still, we could not find the last two parts of the hint. The cache site brought us to a well but then we needed something magnetic and we could not see anything. Just as we were thinking about giving up Mike saw a plaque covered in plants under a tree and we found the cache under it. We also collected the numbers we needed for the Ariconium Quest which was when was Rev Howard Stracy Laws the rector here? Great name.

I noticed that there was A Fine Pair to find at Clifford’s Mesne so we parked near the telephone box and the post box. There was also a bus shelter with a mural painted on the inside. The telephone box had a display of things required to make pancakes as it was Pancake Tuesday on the 5 March. It is amazing the uses people find to put their telephone boxes to. The geocache was a tricky find especially as there was a guy over the road trimming his hedge. But I casually sauntered past the green electricity box, retrieved the cache and then casually sauntered back. I wonder what he thought? Probably he was seen people there before and laugh at geocachers antics to be unobtrusive.

We walked from the fine pair to the St Peter’s church which was just as well as there was nowhere to park there. It was built in 1862 to the design of E.S. Harris. It always amazes me how many churches have no provision for car parking. I guess when they built them there was no need. The church had a wonderful window dedicated to Philip Glasier who lived from 1916 to 2000. He was a local conservationist and a falconer. There was also a tapestry featuring the story of Christianity over two thousand years which was very nice. The cache was a short walk away and an easy find in a good, dry container.

As we were driving down the hill I noticed a cache coming up called “Picture this View”. It had a place to park so we pulled over. The view of the village of Lea was definitely worth a photograph however the heavens opened up just as we pulled up so we had to quickly find the cache. We also saw a sign saying “no flytipping” which for the Kiwis is the audience is “no dumping”. The sign went on to threaten up to £50,000 fine or even imprisonment. And the place looked like a rubbish dump. Seriously did they just put the sign up hoping that the rubbish would clean itself up?

Next, we revisited St John the Baptist church in Lea to get the numbers for our quest. We had to find the date that the mural on the wall was restored. This was in tiny writing and you had to go right up to it to see the date. The oldest thing in the church is apparently the small carved white marble font which had a lovely base of an elephant with a mosaic cover and the capital of the column holding the font was two ram’s heads entwined.

Hope Mansell church micro was the second geocache of the day that we couldn’t find. There was no sign of the hint item anywhere and considering it hasn’t been found in ten months I think it could do with being checked to see if it is still there. Apparently, the CO for the cache hasn’t signed in for three years so it looks like it should just be archived so that someone else can place a church micro. For the quest we had to find the population in 1801 which was at its lowest in the three dates in the 1800s. All the numbers were lower than its current population which, in 2011 was 259. There was a lovely crucifix hanging in the chancel which was made in Oberammergau, Bavaria. There are some lovely stained glass windows including a modern one of St Francis of Assisi.
Our last church of the day was St Lawrence church in Weston-under-Penyard. This church had lots of lovely stained glass windows but the most special ones for me were the modern window of St Francis of Assisi and the Millenium window by Jane Grey. representing icons of the church and community. We found the geocache easily with a fun hint. With this church, we found the last number for the Ariconium Quest so we will come back out to find it tomorrow when we have done our sums.
When we got home we walked down to the river with Hector and Mimi to see the River Wye which is still amazingly high. The river has covered the farmland on the other side of the river. If you look at previous days photographs to see the way the River Wye has been acting in the last week. The two magnolias are also looking fantastic.