scavenger season

We’re all scavengers at heart. Who doesn’t like picking something up for nothing and making use of it? I love it, as do other members of the family. And what better place to do a bit of scavenging, than on the beach?

Since we moved here the shoreline around the island has been an endless source of treasures and surprises all rolled into one. If you like collecting driftwood, shells, pebbles and odd bits of this and that blown in by the tide, you’d love it here too.

This weekend there was some major scavenging to be done. It was almost a salvage job, but I’ll come back to that. Let’s call it ‘Op Groin’ or ‘Operation Groin’ for non-military types. The start of the operation was some weeks back on another beach where an interesting piece of wood was spotted protruding from the wet sand as the sea retreated into the distance. Sunday afternoon dog walkers passed by without a glance, until someone began digging and digging and digging… without a spade too! Some time later, along time later actually, a giant oak groin/beam was uncovered and claimed by the digger. Determined not to loose his booty he hauled it across the beach into the dunes and buried it. This short sentence does not accurately describe the Herculean effort it took or the toll on clothes and hands and patience, by those of us who advised against it. Once in the dunes, photos were taken of the ‘secret’ location so Pirate-like he could return to collect it another day. End of the first part of Op Groin.

beach skytom

Several weeks passed. Christmas came and went before Op Groin went into full swing again. More troops were recruited to help with the next sortie. There was some doubt about whether the buried treasure could be found, but ‘sniffer-dog-like’, the damp wood buried in the dunes was uncovered again and four healthy volunteers shouldered the weight and carried it down the beach, along the footpath and back to the recovery vehicle on the road. Success is a six foot beam drying in the garage.


But it wasn’t all over. This beam needed other similar pieces to be really useful. Fortunately, two more likely items were spotted quite recently nearby, so this weekend Op Groin Part 2 swung into play. The battered wood was spotted quite quickly this time, not buried, just lying on the rocks. And while the storm clouds brewed overhead, I helped manhandle the pieces into the vehicle, at the same time as rescuing an old football and some interesting pebbles, before we piled into the car as the heavens opened. Two more immense beams are now drying in another outside store. Thank goodness that’s over!

Today on a cycle along the beach keen eyes spotted a mast leaning at an odd angle from the shore. We headed over, careless of brambles and mud, wondering what a large boat could be doing so close in. It was a sorry sight. A large, rather lovely yacht was marooned on the beach, lying on its side, all out of sorts its hull imbedded in the sand. We later discovered that this yacht was swept ashore just a few hours after Op Groin had ended. Now, that would have been a very big salvage operation. Fortunately for the owners our prime family scavenger had returned to London by the time the boat appeared. No one’s too clear about the law of salvage, so we left the boat safely in the hands of a couple of frolicking seals.


As for Op Groin, thankfully the operation didn’t leave any casualties, apart from sore shoulders, and one day the wood drying in the garage may be turned into a beautiful table or a bench or even a bed… we can but hope.


in search of treasure

I love treasure hunts and this past week I’ve been introduced to an alternative sort of pursuit. In fact I’m not sure it is really treasure hunting at all, but it did involve clues, searching and finding things or sometimes not finding things.
We have prided ourselves in knowing quite a few of the major ‘must see’ visitor spots round and about and also some of the hidden gems, but suddenly last Saturday afternoon we found ourselves guided to places we had never been to before by my visiting sister-in-law and an iPhone app. At first this was a case of making unplanned detours on our journey to hunt out special locations which led us to an area called ‘ground zero’. First stop we found ourselves in a children’s park by an ancient medieval church. While some were intent on a hunt for a hidden canister, I wandered over to the pretty stone building and drew back the heavy bolt on the ancient wooden doors and stepped inside. It was lit by a soft glow of candlelight from small tea lights on a rough table with bowls of charcoal and bottles of incense and oil piled around in a homely state of untidiness. In front of the pale stone walls there were easels and tables scattered around with gilt framed icons, while some paintings were fixed on the walls. Further in I noticed ancient crumbling frescoes in blues, greens and reds still visible on the walls. In a darker area of the church, not penetrated by the candlelight, a pair of frescoes were just visible through the gloom. We all spent time peering at the worn paintings and images, captivated by this little ‘jewel’ on our doorstep. It was a fascinating little church and it is only about a mile or so from our house, but we probably wouldn’t have gone there without the ‘treasure hunt’.

The next day we ventured into our favourite walled city for a ‘frappe’ and a wander and here too were new discoveries. Following the arrows on the iPhone we climbed the mountain of steps without a hand rail to the top of the ancient Venetian-built walls. Here they were as wide as two cars parked end to end, and at the far corner there were views across the city and out to sea. It was beautiful and there also happened to be another hidden cache somewhere up there amongst the gaps in the walls.
church 3 church 2
Other searches involved looking underneath medieval canons and picnic tables, peering below low hanging branches and just generally scanning locations for clever hiding places. It’s probably obvious to some of you that I’ve been learning about ‘Geocaching’…it’s been fun and frustrating at the same time. I’ve enjoyed the way it’s taken us off the beaten track to a sunken church on the edge of a reservoir and remote paths to surprising viewpoints. But I’m slightly disappointed by the ‘treasure’ at the end of the hunt. At the very least I was hoping for a message in the hidden cache pots.

We found a message in a bottle once. We were on an island at the time and it was very exciting when we first spotted it bobbing near the shore. We waded out into the water to rescue it very intrigued about what might be inside and what secrets it would reveal…when we fished it out we saw there was a message inside. I thought it must be from a shipwrecked sailor and was all set to dial 999, but in fact it was a bit dull….so dull I can’t remember what it said, except that no one was in danger and I think someone had just thrown it in the sea to see if anyone would pick it up. We scrawled our own message and threw it back in the water further round the coast and tried to make the message slightly more dynamic.

Geocaching is a bit like this unsatisfactory experience…there are no mysterious messages to solve once you find the little box or container, you simply sign the paper inside and move on. The biggest excitement is finding a ‘travel bug’ which is a trinket that can travel round from cache to cache, so you don’t even get to keep it! Rather like a lot of things in life – the hunt was more exciting than the end result. Now if geocaches contained clues or maps to a small pot of gold or hidden jewels I could get into it… and then it really would be treasure hunting.