Pablo's Armchair Treasure Hunt

Armchair Treasure Hunt 1995

Title: Armchair Treasure Hunt 1995
Setters: Rosalind & Paul Barden, Jonathan Mestel
Themes: George Orwell

Hunters' Tales

The Treasure Hunt arrived at my house and Pablo's during Monday 18th December. That prompted the first of many phone calls that night between Pablo and myself. On the following day, copies where with all our team and we started sifting through the questions and glancing at the codes. By Wednesday, Pablo had cottoned on to the Orwell theme which prompted Matt to get a copy of Crick's biography from the library. This certainly helped with the more obscure references, particularly for James Burnham which caused some groaning with the match and pig clue. During Wednesday and Thursday we cracked the "stile" and "turn left at signpost codes".By Friday, Matt had decoded the postcodes and, armed with the biography, was starting to suspect Wallington.

The result of all this was Pablo's first visit to the village as a lone intrepid explorer. We reckoned it was worth the gamble despite not having all the answers. After some preliminary exploration starting from Manor Farm, the Icknield Way was spotted which seemed to be another give-away. This was south of Wallington on the way out to Sandon. If you follow this footpath, you come quickly to a stile and in the distance there is a line of trees. So Pablo resolutely walked across the very uninviting cabbage patch which seems to be trying to obliterate the public footpath and at the trees came to a signpost. This seemed to be the spot as Paul then found a Logica logo carved on a tree trunk. This was later found to be a complete red herring, act of nature or wishful thinking and an immediate scan of the area (without the chess code/hollow tree reference) proved fruitless.

However, another look at the chess clues prompted the "hollow tree" solution. This prompted a decision to return the next day, so Pablo and Hardings (wife volunteering as well) duly arrived at Wallington at 9 am on Christmas Eve confident of finding the box. We retraced Pablo's steps and paced thirty yards from the sign, and found a suitably hollow tree. This was indeed hollow - containing no box. Repeating in all directions and with an ever-widening circle produced no more luck. Dispirited we logged a phone call to Rosalind, sure that someone had moved the box. This prompted your quick visit which must have been Boxing Day or the following day to confirm that the box was indeed still there. This was not surprising as we were in the wrong spot.

A period of disillusionment followed, broken by Christmas and New Year celebrations with the team spread throughout Britain and the continent. We plugged away at the questions and during this time cracked that the answers to the questions could be used to spell out Wallington. This recharged our batteries and we started gearing up for a visit over the final weekend.

However, Matt still had Wednesday 3rd as holiday and decided to visit Wallington himself with his girlfriend and another friend of his girlfriend. After another dispiriting visit to the cabbage patch, they decided to try other paths from the village and, by luck, found the path near the house that George Orwell lived in. Once on this path all the instructions fell into place by crossing the stile, turning left and going thirty yards and finding a hollow tree. Even then we could have been stymied as Matt dug around at the base without luck. As a last fling of the dice, his girlfriend suggested trying up the tree and reached up. Lo and behold, there was the box - and no one had found it, much to our amazement, so we were proud owners of ticket number 1.

The Thought Police (Dave Harding)

I first visited the site of the treasure at 11am on 27th December 1995, and indeed examined the very resting place of the treasure twice, but still failed to find the box. This was partly due to the frozen ground (covered with snow at the time) and my frozen hands (I couldn't feel anything!) My instructions at that stage were not sufficiently precise to identify the specific tree continuing the treasure, so I could not be certain that this was indeed the right tree! However, I had a meeting in Peterborough on 5th January 1996, so I thought I would just make a minor detour (at 8am) to Wallington. This time, I rechecked the same tree - and there was the box! Unfortunately, I had only got the second ticket.

Martin Milnes

George Orwell lived in Wallington at The Stores and the nearby Manor Farm may have been part of the inspiration for Animal Farm. We found this out from his biography and though we hadn't cracked enough of the acrostic to be certain it looked like a good bet and worth a visit on Saturday 6th Jan as it was the last chance to find the treasure before the deadline.

The building has a commemorative plaque on it as expected. Following the instructions (start of the plaque, do not go down the street, right seventy, cross a stile straight towards the second line of trees, turn left at sign post) led to a suitable looking location. Found a tree with an X on it and a convenient hole in its trunk and hence ticket number three.

The Famous Five (Brian Mills)