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 DWDiscworld Updated: 01/05/17

Friday Saturday Sunday Monday

Plan: Get first available train to Leeds, pick up hire car, come back to flat, check facebook for anyone wanting a lift from Shrewsbury, load up, head to Shropshire. No problems so far (apart from the usual rush that happens when I go on a long trip), and no-one wanted a lift, so I decided to take a longer, more scenic route to the campsite. This caused problems. Not only was it intermittently raining, which is always annoying, pretty much every mile of road south of the M62 had a traffic jam or delay of some kind. Instead of getting to the campsite at Marshbrook around 3pm, passing Shrewsbury about half an hour earlier, I arrived closer to 6pm. After checking that this was indeed the place, I parked up, caught Andrew's attention as he was in the vicinity of the car park, and with his help unloaded and arrived where everyone was. Everyone else at the time being him, Heather, and Adrian. Tent up, got talking, Essy arrived, more talking (it transpired that Essy hadn't asked for a lift because she didn't think she'd've got to Shrewsbury by the time I said I would have, but it turned out that I was passing Shrewsbury round about the same time she was changing trains there anyway.) Quite some time later the last two people, Nic and Stu, arrived, and we all helped putting up their massive tent. It being about 8 o'clock by the time we finished, we all repaired to the pub, the Station Inn, situated handily just at the entrance to the campsite, for dinner.


Friday nights were grill nights at the pub, where you could select which cut of meat you wanted from a selection, specify how much you wanted, and then have it grilled. Many of us went to meet the meat, but I decided I would have the chicken. It came with a thick blue cheese-based sauce, which tasted a little like a very mild cheese-flavoured mustard. It did not do much to improve the chicken, or the chips, seeing as how they were both rather dry. Dinner over, most of us had some sort of pudding, then retired to the big tent for talking and things for an hour or so until it was generally decided it was time to attempt sleep.

Saturday dawned bright and early, as days always do on camping trips. I dressed, abluted, put my picnic blanket out, had breakfast, and continued reading The Shepherd's Crown, which I had reserved from Waterstones on Wednesday, picked up on Thursday for half price, and begun reading last night. As I did so, the others one-by-one emerged from their tents and completed their own morning rituals. Around mid-morning it was decided that we would make a trip to a nearby owl sanctuary and small-breeds farm. But first we had to wait for it to stop raining, which it had started doing almost as soon as we had decided what we would be doing. So we went into the big tent and played games until the rain stopped, leaving us with a lovely sunny day. Owl sanctuary, here we come!

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There were owls, and chickens, and goats, and sheep, and pigs, and geese, and reindeer, and alpacas, and donkeys, and squirrels, and pheasants, and tortoises - and you could stroke and pet most of them! There were even owlets in their own little room just off the entrance. Two of the largest were sitting one on top of the other in their own massive plastic tub, and the two smallest looked like Skeksis rather than baby owls. Afternoon well-spent, we headed back to the campsite, with a quick stop on the way for supplies.

Back at camp, time was being passed in creating and solving Only Connect-style walls and conundrums and links - it was a theme that would pervade the weekend. We also tried to get the best flight characteristics out of a toy polystyrene bird that Essy had bought from the Owl sanctuary. It had a tendency to pull to the left and dive headlong into the ground. I had a look at it, fiddled slightly, and produced loop-the-loops with it. When evening finally rolled around, it was barbecue time. Eating, talking, joking, huddling around the last glowing embers of the barbecue to keep warm after dark, and then bed, followed.

It had rained slightly in the night, but it was not raining in the morning. It was cold and cloudy though, so I made sure to put on extra layers. Yesterday, mention had been made of finding some nearby geochaches, so I bemoaned my lack of boots, and made sure my drink bottle was full.

It started to rain. Not heavily, but enough for us to delay our start. I had heard of geocaching, and am vaguely interested in the concept, but can't really do it due to a lack of a smartphone. But that's not enough of a reason to not to want to do it when the opportunity comes up just because of a little rain. After a little while playing more Only Connect, the rain stopped, and we departed for the first geocache. It was at a nearby working farm museum, just over a country mile away, and it was a nice walk along the local lanes. As someone who has, until quite recently, been limited to shanks' pony for places that don't have public transport, it was a fairly easy and enjoyable walk, despite the hills. Others in the party were not finding it so invigorating, and after we found the first cache, some of them decided to remain at base while the rest of us went after the other two. Returning to base and looking for the other two geocaches required going past the Station Inn, and as it started raining just as we did so, we slipped inside for drinks, plugging in phone chargers, and games (not necessarily in that order). We were there for nearly two hours as the rain came steadily down, and eventually we headed back to the tents. Snacks were eaten, more games were played, and the weather was watched. The rain never completely stopped, but it did ease off considerably several times. Having determined that the rain was at its' lowest ebb, Essy, Heather, Nic and myself set off for the remaining geocaches.

The first one was relatively simple, about half a mile away in a layby, halfway up a tree. That found and examined, we struck out for the next one. Having left the main road for the one to Little Stretton, Essy initiated a game of "My Cows": If you spotted some cows, you could claim them. There were other rules, such as if you saw a horse and a Union Flag you could convert the horse into a cow, marrying someone so you could get half their cows in the divorce, etc. Heather claimed two haystacks, which meant that the rest of us (the ones with cows) couldn't feed them without her.

Little Stretton was a nice rural-type village that was the sort of place where people named their house "Gordon" rather than "Dunroamin". It had two pubs - The Green Dragon and The Ragleth Inn - and a Tudor-style church. The church noticeboard was where we had to decode clues to the geocache's actual loaction, so once that was done, off we went again. We found a little stream, crossed it, climbed a stile to get through a campsite we thought was in the right direction (it wasn't), headed up a path through a couple of gates to The Mynd, a small complex of local moors. The geocache was not far past the second gate. Unfortunately, geocaches don't come with vertical co-ordinates, and we had to look up the clues and then search every set of tree roots we could see. The geocache was evetually found, mostly hidden behind a piece of bark. It was retrieved with the aid of a stick and pulled out, treasure was swapped out, paper was signed, and it was replaced. We had spent about forty-five minutes looking for it since we'd deciphered the clues at the church noticeboard, and now it was rather late. We started back to camp, stopping first at The Green Dragon to ask which was the Minton road, so we could walk down a raod with less chance of coming up against traffic.

Since barbecue was loosely planned for tonight as well, I texted Andrew that we were heading back now. He asked for an ETA. I replied, "Pass". We took a while getting back, in the low-grade rain, along narrow roads, quite a bit up-hill. There wasn't any traffic, but once we got to the little shelf in the hills where Minton rested, and worked out which was the road back to Marshbrook from the single signpost in the centre of the village (which had sheep actually grazing in the middle of it too), it was all downhill. So we started singing about gold, mostly to whatever ensemble tunes from musicals we could think of. We arrived back at the campsite, with the rain really setting in for the evening. The barbecue was still on, but it wasn't a pleasant process for Stu and Adrian who were operating it. The rest of us were in the big tent, either preparing food or eating non-barbecueable things. I had arranged earlier with Adrian the purchase of a gammon steak for my barbecue meal, and it was lovely. "I have been walking, now I am sitting down, and I am eating a huge gammon steak," I declared, smiling. "What more could you want?" Essy asked. Apparently a government that cares is unrealistic, but a beautiful woman in my bed and a million pounds in the bank are less so. There is hope.

We sang about gold as we ate, we sang about gold after we finished eating, we played some games, we went to bed, and the rain poured down.

Monday was cold, wet, and horrible. We had earlier joked about the name being Marshbrook, but now we found out exactly what that meant. There was a brook along the side of the campsite, just beyond a row of rhubarb and just before the road - it had swollen considerably in the night. My tent, pitched pretty much in the corner of the campsite, had ground water up to the flap - I had pitched it on the marsh. The other tents near me were in little better condition. I breakfasted, waterproofed my feet at much as possible, and began packing, taking each thing down to the car as soon as I had finished with it. My tent was soon empty, and after dismantling it, packing it up and adding it to the stuff already in my car, my car's boot was full, as was half the back seat. I confirmed with Andrew and Essy (who had both requested lifts to Church Stretton station) that there was only room for one in my car. Essy had called dibs yesterday evening, and I had said I didn't mind making two trips, but yeah. I helped the others dismantle their tents, then we all helped dismantle the big tent. Then it was a matter of sorting out who had how much room in what car, transport being arranged (Adrian would give Andrew a lift to Church Stretton then he would ferry Heather home, Essy would get a lift with me), farewells made, and off we went. I had a rather enlightening conversation with Essy in the car concerning theatre funding and opportunities, and geocaching, and Middle Earth Weekend (which I shall be looking into further), before I dropped her off in Shrewsbury, and then it was off to the motorways (on which there were hardly any delays or traffic jams), and I got home in nearly ninety minutes less than it had taken me going the other way.