Treasure Trails – Spy Mission, Mayfair

January 8, 2011 10 Comments

Earlier this week I saw this post linked from the Londonist Twitter feed which promoted a ‘treasure trail’ that they had been on around the lovely St Katherine’s Dock. As a lover of puzzles and London this sounded right up my street so I decided to check them out.

The company behind this venture is Treasure Trails Ltd (http://www.treasuretrails.co.uk/) and the franchise now covers much of the UK with over 550 trails on offer. For the base price of £5 you choose a trail that you want to go on (Treasure Hunt, Murder Mystery or Spy Mission) and receive a booklet that has various clues to solve as it guides you around a short trail in a particular area. For the £5 you’re provided with a simple PDF to download, whereas £6 will get you a colour postal copy and £12.95 will allow you to customise the trail and make it more personal by, for example, adding the names of your friends or co-workers into it – great as a gift or team building event. I have a little issue in the term ‘treasure hunt’ as this is what some people call geocaching also and is simply not the case. They are not treasure hunts unless you can actually find and return with treasure. Kids get excited by the prospect of treasure hunts and finding a chest full of gold so it’s unfortunate that the term is being used for these types of events where no digging or booty is in play.

Though the trails are for all ages I think it would most suit a family who are looking for a bit of time to kill in a particular area; it’s great exercise, gets you into the streets where you may not normally go, seeing things you may ordinarily miss and spending time together.

I went ahead and bought two trails initially; the Covent Garden Murder Mystery which I’m going to do with a few co-workers in a couple of weeks; and the Mayfair and Park Lane Spy Mission which is the one I’m going to cover below.

The Mission

The latest British lunar mission has just launched, and the rocket ‘Bulldog II’ is on course for the moon. Your agency has uncovered information leading them to believe that international saboteur Meg Le Maniaque is behind a plot to blow the rocket to smithereens. Can you gather the evidence and crack the code to disable Meg’s device?

This trail takes you around the streets of Mayfair, starting and ending at Marble Arch and running over two and a quarter miles. I started it after work on Tuesday night and found the going quite straight forward – to start with.
Jelly Babies

The clues and guided route are easy to follow. Though I know my way around the streets of Mayfair you wouldn’t need a map if you didn’t as the guide does just that – it tells you exactly where you need to go to solve the clues. Finding the answers to the clues is all very straightforward, and it’s more of an observational game rather than an actual case of deciphering a clue. As long as you keep your eyes open for the items mentioned in the clue then you won’t really go wrong.

The problems I had on this cold and dark evening were mostly that of visibility. I don’t have the best of eyesight at the best of times, but when looking for dates carved onto the walls of building I soon found that I would be better off doing this during the day. Luckily I was armed with a camera also, as at one stage my access to the answer was blocked by the gate to a park area, open in the day time but closed at night time. With the camera I was able to zoom in on the answer through the gates, but without this I’m not sure I would have been able to secure a few answers.

Church Yard

As I was carrying all of my UrbEx gear with me I luckily had a torch to hand, as this was also required to find one particular answer placed at ground level. It was only when I was approached by an armed policeman that I realised I was outside the US Embassy; he was a little confused as to why I had a camera on a tripod and was shining a torch at the floor – but a brief discussion later and he was pointing me in the direction of one of the answers.

I called it a night halfway through the trail and decided to come back during the day time, which I did today.

grotesque

I started from where I had left off on Tuesday night and found the remainder of the trail nice and straightforward. One of the clues was reminiscent of those you may find in a ‘multicache’ if you’re a fan of geocaching, but pretty much just a case of find an item in the clue and look around that area for the answer. I actually did combine this trail with geocaching, making sure to pick up any of those near this route on my way around.
horse

I don’t feel I learnt a great deal as I walked around the route, though there are plenty of blue plaques to take in if you are interested in those; however it was still great fun walking around and observing those little details in an area that you would normally miss by walking straight past them. I enjoy these things which make you pay attention to your surroundings and whereas I would normally just give a passing glance at statues, plaques, engravings and buildings this trail gave me an opportunity to take all of this in during a pleasant walk. The guide you are provided with also gives you a few more facts which you wouldn’t normally learn about the area you are in as well. There are also plenty of cafes, restaurants and bars on the way around should you need a quick refreshment.

The clues being solved gave me words or numbers which I completed into a page that was provided, and this allowed me to eliminate numbers and letters on a grid – eventually giving me the correct answer to disable Meg Le Maniaque’s device and save Bulldog II, so at the end of the day I’m also a hero. I’ve submitted my answer online and had confirmation of it being correct, and have also been entered into a prize draw which is drawn once per year and provides regional winners with the chance to win a jackpot made up of 10p from each trail sold.
eisenhower

All in all I enjoyed the trail and look forward to teaming up with colleagues to check out the Covent Garden Murder Mystery in the near future.

On a personal level, and as someone who has been riddling for years, I would like to see the introduction of difficulty levels to the trails. I think this one was perfect for anyone to do, but especially those with young children and you can tell them they are looking for a particular item and they can go ahead and find it. I would like to see a more difficult one, perhaps with cryptic clues and various types of code to decipher in order to find the answers. This would add more of a challenge to the route and, for me, provide even better value for money.

Saying that, you really can’t complain at spending £5 for several hours of fun in London – I look forward to taking part in more of them as they are introduced around London and recommend you go ahead and do the same.
boots