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Geocaching. How to Spot Art Without Really Trying (WARNING: Spoilers)

So, Lucretia talked me into joining her to find a local GeoCache. For those, like me, who have not encountered GeoCaching, it is like a Treasure Trail, following clues to find the Prize. Except there is no real prize, apart from knowing you succeeded. Now this may not sound too much fun, but the trails are often interesting, it gets you out in the fresh air, and the puzzles can be tricky.

The chosen trail is a Pictorial one, meaning we are given some images as clues, and must work out the GPS Co-ordinates from a set of puzzles. To help us along, we have a rough route-map, showing the direction we should be looking for each clue.

WARNING: The rest of this post contains SPOILERS about the route, clues, cache positions and all such sensitive data.

Read on at your own peril!

We start the day at the Town Hall Square, and must work out “How many wings?”.

The Fountain at Town hall Square

The Fountain at Town Hall Square

As you can see, the lions on the fountain are Winged! What is less obvious from this picture is that there are four of them. My high-school maths kicks in to multiply 4 lions by two wings each: EIGHT! We have solved the first clue!

My alter-ego P.C. Wizard has made sure I brought an electronic note-pad to record everything (Technical data: Samsung Galaxy J5 running Evernote app), along with my camera to record the significant details (and any #Art we may spot along the route!)

The route now takes us out onto Granby Street, to find an avian-named cafe. It’s name has been obscured in the picture, but I recognise it instantly: The Turkey Cafe!

The Turkey Cafe

The Turkey Cafe

Obscured ornamentation

Clue B – How many letters in this bird’s name?

This clue is the number of letters. We can count to 6 easily enough, and so it is recorded, and we continue.

Now, I’m hoping you’ve got the idea by this stage. We walk around town, matching provided pictures to the local landscape, and recording the numbers for a later puzzle. So I won’t be fully describing the whole route, and each clue step-by-step.

One thing that this route really points out is the Leicester architecture. While it may seem that the town centre is just your average array of chain-stores, coffee shops (more on these later!) and charity shops, if you take the time to look above the shop-fronts, there is an amazing (as Lucretia describes it) vista of ornamentation, carvings, and designs.

For example, the local branch of Foot Locker is based in what was originally the Thomas Cook building. The ground floor shows little evidence of this, but just tilt your head up a little …

Foot Locker store-front

Foot Locker store-front

The Thomas Cook Building

The Thomas Cook Building

(The clue here was to to find a year from one of the murals. It took us a little while, but we did match the provided picture-clue to the correct train! Another number recorded, and we move on …)

Some of you may have heard about a little sports team called The Foxes, who did rather well in the football this year. (If you’re in Leicester, you’ll have heard of nothing else!). But this is not the first time we have had Sporting success! Back in 1996/7, we had victories in the Football (Coca-Cola Cup), Cricket (Britannic Assurance County Championship) and Rugby (Pilkington Cup)! As is our wont, a statue was commissioned, and placed in pride of place near the Clock Tower:

Lucretia with some sports

Lucretia, and some Sports.

There was a clue re: number of balls on the statue. While I would have made a dirty joke, with all of the featured players being male, I restrained myself, so as not to mar Lucretia’s moment of joy with her local heroes. One football, one rugby ball. Two. Answer recorded. Joke avoided. Next please!

One building that particularly caught our eye was The Singer Building, built circa 1902. Unfortunately, a large tree made photographing it difficult, but I did my best!

The Singer Building

The Singer Building

Not only does it show off the contrast of new shops vs old architecture, but it is a rare example of Edwardian lavish commercial property. The featured murals show British flags topped by depictions of Empire (A camel for Egypt, an elephant for Burmah, a Canadian Mountain Lion, etc). Mainly occupied, as the name might suggest, by the Singer Sewing Machine Company, until 1965, it is well worth seeking out. (Six flags! Another clue recorded!)

At the end of High Street is Jubilee Square, one of Sir Peter Soulsby’s Follies. Commissioned to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th anniversary on the throne, and opened three years later, it is mainly an open patch of grass, crossed by concrete pathways. (At this point we were accosted by a couple of friends, wondering why we were taking pictures of Ascot House, now a bookmakers. “Art”, we told them! They seemed placated by this, and went about their business).

But take a U-turn here, and head back along Guildhall Lane, and you will find The Guildhall! (Shock! An unexpected turn of events!). Now here is proper History!

The Guildhall

The Guildhall

The exact date it was built is not known (luckily the clue just wanted the Century!), but it has been a landmark for hundreds of years. This is a particularly amazing part of the town, next to the Cathedral, and marking the Western Entrance to The Lanes. (I was a little disappointed that the GeoCachers missed an opportunity to include mention of the Great Leicester Hoax here, but I can’t have everything).

Passing onto Grey Friars, we recorded clues re: King Dick 3 and the Council Buildings. And then another statue!

The Leicester Seamstress

The Leicester Seamstress – James Butler 1990

Representing the importance of hosiery in Leicester’s history, the Seamstress has sat outside the City Rooms for over 25 years, still darning that same sock!

And on to Market Street. Not actually where Leicester’s famous outdoor market lies, but part of the Victorian shopping area, now covered by a Conservation Area. Again, the ground level is a mish-mash of modernity: Greggs, StanJames, Cafe Nerd, Subways, and many more recognisable names. But above, a mish-mash of older, less known names!

Market Street

Market Street

(1876! Solved another clue!)

The Toni And Guy salon not only has one of the Fox Trail markers (A Clue!) but also a wildlife mural across its frontage, celebrating Leicester’s rural life.

Toni and Guy

Toni and Guy – with wildlife!

And that Fox Trail marker is the last clue! We now have all the information we need to solve the puzzle, and find the location of the Cache! We retire to Cafe Nerd, order lunch and rest our weary legs.

Lucretia decides upon a low-tech approach to solving our Puzzle (Nothing to do with her fruit-based device having run out of juice!), and we start scratching out numbers on my old notebook. The Puzzle requires a little maths, but the most complicated is: “f = (R – O) / (L x G)”. No real challenge for a mathematical genius .. and even we manage to solve it before too long!

The Puzzle takes the numbers we have found along the route, and calculates new numbers, which represent GPS co-ordinates of the Cache. We punch this into Lucretia’s GPS unit, and set off … but wait … that is pointing to somewhere 5 miles away! There must be a mistake! What is that “2” is supposed to be a “3”? Yeah, that would put us closer – near the Court Rooms! Without stopping to think why we have the number wrong, we set off!

Long story short, we go to the wrong place, and waste half an hour looking for something that is not there!

We decide to check the numbers. If that is a “3”, then this must be wrong … and that also affects that … the mistake is identified – we have taken the year, not the day! Aha! Luckily, we have not strayed too far, and set off confidently!

SPOILER ALERT AGAIN!

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If you don’t want to know the location of the final Cache, then why have you continued reading so far along, when I told you there were spoilers?

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Final Spoiler Alert!

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OK, now we’ve got rid of them, I can reveal where we ended up!

The correct co-ordinates take us along The New Walk, and the Final Clue leads us to a particular sign:

The Clicker sign

“You’ll see a sign that you are at Ground Zero, then everything should click into place.”

Searching around, we find the tiny container holding a list of people who have previously found it, and we add our moniker to it!

Success!

Success!

The Clicker sculpture is a homage to the shoe-workers of Leicester, made from the shapes of shoe-leathers, and named for the noises of the knives as they hit the cutting-boards! A fitting end to our journey, as we have travelled far, and surely must have worn out our soles (although our souls are in high spirits!).

If you have enjoyed reading about our GeoCaching adventure, you can find out how to do your own at https://www.geocaching.com/

Or maybe you have been inspired to take a new look at your own home town, and see the things that you normally overlook.

Either way, I would advise you to get out in the open air, take notice of the spaces around you, and find some ART!