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Dorset: Day 2 – 24.07.20……….It was a variable and muggy kind of day!

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

We just don’t understand! The Spy Trail leaflet suggested it would take us just 2.5 hours to walk the 2.5 mile route…….so why then did it take us six hours to walk the 2.5 miles which in fact turned into 8.2 miles? Around a very small part of Exeter? We just don’t understand!

It all started so well. I picked Maice up at 8am and we headed off in the direction of Exeter. Today, Day 2 of our staycation, which is really Day 1 as Day 1 was a pre-staycation planning day….but I digress………so, Day 2 was a day out to Exeter so that Maice could buy herself a new camera, as a birthday present to herself. So we thought, while we’re there why not explore the city and partake in a Spy Trail which is far more fun than trudging round the shops doing the hokey-cokey with our facemasks……and it’s cheaper! We arrived at the Park and Ride at 9.45am, donned our face masks, hopped on the bus and within minutes we were in the centre of Exeter. ‘What time is the last bus back’ we asked the driver. ‘Oh, not until 11pm this evening’ he told us. Great, we’ve got plenty of time to a) have coffee b) do the camera shop c) do the spy trail d) have lunch and e) make it back home for 5pm.

First things first. We located the nearest ‘you are here’ map board to get our bearings and find out exactly where we were. We were looking for a) Fore Street, the home of the London Exchange Camera shop and b) the Visitor Information Centre, the start of our Spy Trail. Committing both places to memory we went in search of a coffee shop, found an outdoor one, enjoyed a cappuccino and a slice of toasted banana and chocolate bread and headed off down Fore Street to the camera shop, which I would like to say, for the record, we found straight away!

I have to say, not only is it a ‘variable’ day weather wise, a Maice observation, not mine and extremely muggy, that’s my observation of todays weather, it was also very hot inside the facemasks. With glasses steaming up we listened to the very helpful and extremely knowledgeable assistant explain the workings of the cameras on display. Fortunately, Maice had done her research, well, actually Jane had done the research on her behalf, producing a spreadsheet for Maice to peruse and voila, a camera was thus purchased. A big shout out and Thank You to Jane.

With items ‘a’ and ‘b’ completed we were now on item ‘c’, the spy trail. We needed to get into ‘super sleuth’ mode so we regrouped and gave ourselves an inspirational talking to…..’read the clues properly, follow the clues correctly, cross reference everything, don’t be distracted’. Sounds sensible enough. And with that we set off on our Mission.

Needing to find the starting point, the Visitor Information Centre we found another ‘you are here’ board, located our position, located the ℹ️ and headed off, looking for the first clue…..’find the flagpoles outside the council offices’. Now, as we know, flagpoles are rather large standing poles with a flag flying from the top. Easy to spot, one would think. Well, look as we might, we could find no flagpoles. Or council offices. Or indeed the Visitor Information Centre. The weather remained variable and muggy throughout our search…..wet, sunny, cloudy but undeterred we continued our search for the starting point and clue number one! We returned to the ‘you are here’ board. It clearly showed the ℹ️ so why then could we not find it. We did however find ‘the house that moved’, a lovely quaint old house dating back to the 15th century where an urgent regroup was required. We’d been searching for the starting point for 45 minutes now and were still no closer to finding it. So we crossed the busy road and came across a sign post that pointed us in the direction of the ℹ️. Well, imagine our surprise when we found ourselves at the riverside? Now, I recall that the other Mystery Trail around Exeter started here at the riverside, but not the spy trial that we were doing. We still couldn’t find the ℹ️ so we found a bench instead, sat down and contemplated our predicament. Where had we gone wrong. What’s wrong with us that we can’t even find the starting point after what is now well over an hour later?

Engaging our brains, we decided to ‘advance read’ all the clues to see if any took us down to the river. They didn’t, but fortunately clue 8 took us to ‘the house that moved’ so we retraced our steps to ’the house that moved’, which was still there and finally we began the Spy Trail! It was now 12.43! It’s only taken us ninety minutes to get started!

After a very dodgy start we began to get the hang of this spy trial. We even had to carry out some arithmetic calculations, thus keeping our brains engaged. It was really interesting exploring this part of the city, following the city wall, coming across some lovely little houses and courtyards. We did feel the need to retrace our steps on more than one occasion, well, actually it was more like five times, looking for clues that we’d missed. The weather was variable and a little muggy to the extent that our cardigans were on then off, our sunglasses were on, then off…..the umbrella was up, protecting us from the flash torrential downpours, then down. It was all very variable……and very muggy! But being M&A, we just ‘went with the flow’. By now we were feeling rather peckish and in need of sustenance. It was now 2.45pm, two hours into the trail. According to the information sheet we should be just thirty minutes away from completing the mission but we were only half way round! Just as well the last bus isn’t until 11pm, you know, just in case!

On our third attempt at finding a café we liked the look of, we came across Zukis Caffettaria just next to the train station, where we rested our weary bodies and enjoyed a lovely meze. It was just what we needed. Fed and watered we mustered on. We had another eleven clues to find so best get cracking then.

For any normal investigators the mission would have been accomplished on reaching the final clue, clue 21, but for us we had another eight to go, so we continued on, through the variable and muggy weather, regrouping every now and then to re-read the clues until hallelujah……we found clue no.1 the flagpoles and the Visitor Information Centre. Of course we soon realised that had we entered the postcode into the map app on our phones, you know, the postcode that was provided and clearly shown in the briefing notes, we would have known where to start. But no, instead, we relied on the ‘you are here’ board. But to be fair to us, and in our defence, there was only one ℹ️ shown on the board so how where we to know that there were two information centres?

It took us at least fifteen minutes to find clue no.2…..’find a stone in the grass that is in front of some steps behind glass’. We found the stone, but we couldn’t find the clue so we wandered away from the stone in search of another stone in the grass and ended up walking part way along the city wall. Realising we’d gone too far we regrouped on a stone bench, glad to rest our by now, very aching legs. We re-read the clue again. We retraced our steps back to the stone. No, the inscription didn’t give us the clue we needed so we found another bench and sat in thoughtful contemplation. And then the lightbulb went on. What if there was an inscription on the other side of the stone? Surely not? But sure enough, there is was. Clue no.2 was on the other side of the stone. Why had we not even thought to walk around the stone? It wasn’t even a big stone! We can only put it down to tiredness! We trudged through the next set of clues until we came to clue no.5 where we found ourselves at the ruins of St Catherine‘s Almhouses where we chatted to a pizza delivery driver who was having a fag on the steps of the ruins. He told us about the underground passages and tunnels that wound there way beneath the streets of Exeter.......something to look forward to on our next trip here, maybe!. We finally came to our final clue and lo-and-behold we had finished the spy trail. It was now 4.56pm. We’d started looking for the Visitor Information Centre and clue no.1 at just gone 11am almost six hours ago!

Exhausted, we caught the bus back to the park and ride, and drove the ninety minutes back home to Dorset. To keep ourselves awake we sang along to ‘drive time’ on BBC Radio 2, murdering the majority of songs with our caterwauling. The variable and muggy day continued into Dorset as we drove the coast road back to Weymouth. What a sight to behold though when we came to the top of the hill and there was St Catherines Chapel and The Fleet, looking resplendent under the early evening sunshine. How lovely. You know what……‘we’re just so lucky to live where we do’.

Tomorrow its going to be wet, so we’re meeting friends for coffee and then having a staycation at my house doing some home-schooling……….learning how to use our cameras, our Ipads, you know, that sort of thing!

Until tomorrow…….

Super Sleuths M&A xx

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