Saturday 12 March 2016
Well what a meeting that turned out to be! The Bowland Explorer Club members heeded our call and 240 of them, of all ages, shapes and sizes, came together in Gisburn Forest for a Very Special Meeting.
This was no ordinary meeting. Our long search for the Club’s founder, Gertrude Fulshaw-Smythe, would culminate on this special day. We had followed the clues, cracked the codes, and made many an expedition, and it had led us to one conclusion… that hidden within the Forest was a magical place, and if we could find it, we would find Gertrude.
Having adopted a suitable Explorer name and posed for a Club portrait to commemorate the day, members headed off from the HQ tent. To assist them they collected a Journey Stick and were updated on the latest intelligence by Gertrude’s Great Nephew, Dr Gregory Fulshaw-Smythe and his father.
Following the path, members came upon a Base Camp, seemingly abandoned but clearly Gertrude’s, her love of bird watching very evident, her fondness for puzzles also, as a memory test lay in store. One young member rather cleverly made notes on her arm to ensure she wouldn’t forget. Why soon became apparent when we headed further into the woods and came across a Gate Keeper. To proceed you had to tell her some of the things you’d remembered. All the members had the wit to get past her, and in doing so discovered an extraordinary door. With much bravery the members all went through, unsure of what was on the other side, but determined to solve the mystery.
First, a warning, ‘Look Before You Leap’, and timely it was, as a number of small chasms needed negotiating. Next a place to create a ‘Wish Fish’, doing so allowed you to make a wish. Odd fish for sure, but not out of place in a forest.
Then the expedition members came across the ‘Bog Dogs’. Great stealth was needed to negotiate these creatures, quiet too so as not to disturb them. We believe all members made it past in one piece.
This magical land was full of strange sights: giant flowers, Tree People, and a strange chap who not only insisted on quiet but that everyone wear a piece of clothing back to front! All continued on because we were sure that we were on the right track. Literally, in one place, as we crossed stepping stones spelling out, ‘Not Lost, Just Exploring’, surely a clue left by Gertrude.
All the clues led to a Reading Room with an unusual post box, it seemed to blow the postcards and letters up into the air. Perhaps this is how Gertrude’s postcards had left the magical land to be discovered in the forest? The Room was warm and cosy and many took the opportunity to stay a while and write their own card.
Senior Explorers then led the way to an enchanting gathering place. There Dr Gregory and his father revealed the collected knowledge from this fairy tale like expedition, and also revealed what had been discovered about the call of the Night Jar. This rather mystical and rarely seen bird, could, so legend said, open a further ‘doorway’ leading deeper into the magical world. If we all worked together we might be able to summon the Night Jar, and its call might just allow an opening to where Gertrude was.
240 voices chanted, made calls like the Night Jar and stamped feet and Journey Sticks. It really was an extraordinary racket! But suddenly, just as throats were getting sore, a sound, a beautiful bewitching sound, a Night Jar! Then strange lights from deep inside the forest alerted everyone to a figure emerging through the trees. Hard to make out at first, but then, yes! It was Gertrude, hardly changed a bit, how odd, but it was a magical realm after all.
Of course, Gertrude, being Gertrude, wasn’t particularly surprised to see us or very concerned that she had been missing 50 years. In fact what was all the fuss about? As she said, she “hadn’t been lost, she’d been exploring”!
There really is only one thing to do after an adventure like this, and the Explorers are very fond of doing it, and it is… having tea and cakes!
Field Report by Senior Explorer ‘Mad as Her Hat’ Melanie
Web page: HERE
(Photography by Richard Tymon; Cath Ford & Wild Rumpus)