Whilst in lock down and still in unfamiliar surroundings, a scavenger hunt was organised for us evacuees to provide a morning of entertainment. I found this challenge incredibly appealing given that I have taken to rambling around the countryside, and the hunt for treasure at least gave me some purpose.
I was permitted to do this with a member of the same household so I was overjoyed that I no longer had to attempt such a challenge alone. My team mate, Hayley Snaily also known as The Sparkling Snail was equally as excited at the prospect of being released for the day so it was decided that we would dress for the part. Having been in lock down and being confined for so long, we had felt an overwhelming sense of being trapped, so costumes were designed to reflect our feelings.
We transformed ourselves into the Lockdown Ladies and dressed in shockingly bright orange boiler suits with a designated prisoner number to reflect our raw feelings of imprisonment. Liberation was at large so we set off from the starting check point with our instructions, our map in hand and a spring in our step as we anticipated fun!
The instructions provided detailed directions and a list of the treasure that we had to seek out on our adventure. Much to my pleasure, the items sought were entirely natural and products of nature, such as a feather, a pine cone, the longest blade of grass, elderflower, a buttercup, bindweed flower and other such lovely things. We also had to find our way to different locations and answer questions regarding where we found ourselves. For example, we had to navigate our way across Salisbury Plains using the map provided and record who owned the ‘shed with no walls’ and the colour of the blinds and GGR number on an abandoned building and other snippets of information relevant to our location. We also had to keep our eyes open for ten letters which were to be found at random places on our journey which would spell out a famous Kenyan tourist destination.
I took along my trusty compass to ensure that we were going in the right direction and we set off just as the heavens opened. The drenching could not dampen our spirits however, and we continued at a roaring pace excitedly taking in the beautiful scenery as we went.
Salisbury Plains, a chalk plateau in South West England is a large area sparsely populated and offered very little shelter from the down pour. It can be found mainly in the county of Wiltshire but spills over into Berkshire and Hampshire too. It is the biggest remaining area of calcareous grassland in North West Europe.
We trundled through the tall grass on the vast plains getting a good soaking as we went and we marched along dirt tracks in the pursuit of treasure. We discovered letters placed on trees and hidden in bushes, and we collected numerous items carefully securing them in our ‘swag bag.’ We correctly established where North was and rambled on in the appropriate direction homeward bound, estimating the distance of the route as we went. (No mean feat considering my feelings of being ‘lost’ of late!)
We counted signs along the road side and we noted the number of spikes on security cameras. We crept into the dark shadows of the woods and identified the predominant trees, the rain drops still present on their leaves glistening in the returning sun. There are a few wooded copses dotted around the plains, mainly occupied by the mighty Beech trees and the odd coniferous pine tree.
One item that we sought that was on our loot list was something beginning with the letter ‘H’ and whilst we had grabbed a handful of hay found by a field containing horses, my compadre was not as enthusiastic as me when I suggested we borrow a horse from the said field. Perhaps a wise move given that we could not fit an actual horse into the swag bag.
Our oversized boiler suits gathered stones and pebbles in the ‘turn ups’ of the legs of the suit, and the material was decidedly heavy when dripping wet but the sun eventually revealed itself and we dried off as we travelled around the area, covering approximately five kilometres of ground. Not a large area considering that Salisbury Plains are around 300 square miles, or 700 square kilometres, but it was enough to give us both a good leg stretch. We laughed and giggled at the dishevelled look of each other but we had such fun. It was wonderful to be released into the countryside and with a gamely companion, something I had missed during the weeks and months of lock down.
When we reached the finish check point, we were greeted by the resident dog, Stanley, who seemed as anxious as us to check the contents of the swag bag. It did make me miss the Nomadic Family Unit back in Kenya, but its always wonderful to be embraced by a furry creature.
We were most pleased that we had discovered every item of treasure, we had answered every question about our surroundings correctly and we had identified the ten letters to spell out the great Maasai Mara, a dreamy place in Kenya that I miss so much. Most importantly, we had revelled in the sense of freedom and we had had fun, something which had been somewhat lacking in the preceding months of our temporary stay in Larkhill.
Alas, we failed in the quest to find the longest blade of grass but it was a prize enough to get out and about and have a good giggle whilst being surrounded by the beautiful British countryside. Whilst I hanker to be back in Kenya, I’m not entirely sure wandering around in the African bush in the pursuit of treasure would be safe given that the hunters would become the hunted.
I am still missing my partner in crime and my furry children but until we can reunite, Larkhill will have to do and days like this serve as a reminder that adventures can be found anywhere.
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