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King John's All Washed Up Letterbox Hybrid

2 out of 5
4 out of 5

Size: Size:   regular (regular)

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Geocache Description:

This cache involves a round trip of 12 to 15km along the southern shores of the Wash. Most of the walk on a sea bank but the final crossing to the island is by causeway across salt marshes. You must check the state of the tide here before attempting the cache as the salt marshes flood at highest spring tides and when there are sustained northerly winds.

For most of the year the island is accessible at all states of the tide but you should make your party aware of the dangers of straying off the causeway onto the salt marshes: there are deep tidal channels and pools which have very steep slippery sides and it is very easy to become stuck in the thick mud deposits. Before leaving the carpark check the notice boards as access to parts of the National Nature Reserve are periodically restricted for wildfowling or other conservation activities. Please keep dogs under close control. We would like to thank English Nature for giving permission to place this cache.

The Wash National Nature Reserve is the largest in England and covers an area of 86 square kilometres along the southern shores of the Wash. The combination of shallow water, large tidal range (up to 30 feet) and the constant input of nutrients from the rivers results in the mudflats holding an enormous concentration of invertebrates and thus one of the most important feeding areas in western Europe for waders and wildfowl. The best time to see migrant birds is on a rising tide from early September to early May as the birds move from the intertidal zone to the surrounding land. For more information on the Wash NNR visit English Nature where you can download an information sheet.

The shorter approach is from Ongar Hill in Norfolk (6.3 km) but it is also possible to reach the cache from Guy's Head in Lincolnshire (7.5 km). Both approaches follow part of the Peter Scott Walk which starts by the eastern Lighthouse at the mouth of the River Nene in Wingland and ends at Kings Lynn 5km southeast of Ongar Hill. Although there is a network of metalled farm roads shown on the map these are all private and should not be used. Anyone attempting to drive closer to the cache is likely to encounter locked gates, wide dykes separating you from your destination and irate farmers and conservationists. The route of the walk has all been reclaimed from the sea since 1910 and in fact the island, called the Inner Trial Bank, was constructed in 1972 as part of a feasibility study for a large freshwater storage reservoir. About 3km offshore there is a larger island, the Outer Trial Bank, which is close to the proposed outer edge of the now abandoned reservoir scheme.

Both Trial Banks are over 12m high and appear to tower over the surrounding landscape where even the sea banks are less than half this height. A glance at the map will show a deep wedge on the east side of the Nene which Lincolnshire tricked Norfolk out of when the wide river estuary was reclaimed in the 1820s. Before this date the route across the Fens involved the crossing of a wide estuary between Walpole Cross Keys and Long Sutton where the combined discharge of the Rivers Nene and Great Ouse formed the River Wellstream below Wisbeach. If you are coming from the west it is worth stopping in Long Stratton at St Mary's churchyard to visit the grave of Charles Wigglesworth the last guide to the Sutton Washes who died in 1840. Find out more about The Wash at the Wash Estuary Project or The Green Quay in Kings Lynn.

Eight centuries ago in the autumn of 1216 there was civil war in England: the barons were in revolt against King John, the French had captured the Plantagenet heartland of Normandy in 1205 and now held much of southeast England, Norwich Castle was about to fall to the Dauphin Louis, the Welsh were in revolt , King Alexander II of the Scots was marching south and King John had even managed to get himself excommunicated. The King now recalled the Crown Jewels and Royal Regalia from the Knights Templar to whom it was normally assigned for safe keeping. With the Royal Treasury in tow and acting as surety on loans to pay his troops the King arrived in Bishops Lynn on the 9 October, crossing the Wellstream on his way from the defence of Lincoln and the pillaging of the rebel baron's lands. Bishop's Lynn was the seventh richest town in England its merchants coffers filled with the riches of Hanseatic trade and its fishing fleets bring home whale oil and cod as big as a man from the Atlantic seas around Iceland and Labrador. The King was three days in the town where he feasted on peaches and new cider. On the 12th the King departed for Newark by way of Wisbeach with 2000 knight while the baggage train went by the shorter route due west intending to meet the King in Swineshead in two days.

Who knows what else you might find with King John's Seal in the midst of the watery wasteland? But beware of mysterious monks and rich burghers proffering gifts.

The lumbering baggage train, which was over two miles long, was delayed on the crossing and was then caught by flood tide: many members of his household were submerged in the waters of the sea, and sucked into the quicksand there, because they had set out incautiously and hastily before the tide had receded. But more disastrously for King John the Crown Jewels and Regalia including the Empress Matilda's crown and the Sword of Tristram were lost too. Unable to pay his troops and suffering the effects of overindulgence the King staggered into Newark where he died on the 18 October deserted by all those who had so gloriously set out with him from Lynn less than a week before. But the mystery deepens as the treasure has never been found, some say the King pawned it to Lynn corporation (click the cup and see), others that he was poisoned by the Knights Templar at Swineshead, yet others that the disaster was just a cover up as there was no treasure. When you reach the cache, hidden with the letterbox stamp self adhesive labels you may find some clues.........
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