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I've been on an AlleyCat

For those of you who are not aware, an AlleyCat is a treasure hunt on bicycles.

This is fifth one that has been hosted in Norwich, and the organisation of this particular AlleyCat was down to me.

I decided to base most of this AlleyCat around competitors having either a digital camera or a camera phone to take pictures of various things around the city which the  cyclists were guided to by clues. We are lucky as there  is a comprehensive network of cycle paths, lanes and routes throughout the city, and I chose to run over 85% of this Alleycat on these.

There was one checkpoint that every competitor had to pass through, and the task here was for everyone to grab one of our Polo mallets and hit the tap in gong: if you put your foot down when playing bicycle Polo, you are out of play until you have tapped the gong.

Anyway here are the clues that I set, and the set of control photos that the competitors had to match.

Norwich AlleyCat 27th September 2011.

Start point: The Forum.

Checkpoint Sloughbottom Park.

Finish Jurnets bar.

Read the clues and instructions very carefully before departing: it is up to you to plan and then cycle your chosen route!

Whose is the red box at the junction of Colegate and St Georges street? _  _  _  _  _  _     _  _  _    

Within sight of the main gates of Wensum Park take a photo of the artistic pile of human trash. (Additional clue: look next to the council litter bin).

Take a photo of the “Wiggly” silver coloured metal Sustrans mile marker post on Bank Plain.

Not exactly the “Mint with the hole” but under the floodlights in Sloughbottom Park you must Tap in.  The checkpoint controller is to sign below when you have completed this task.
_  _  _  _  _  _                            

On Marriotts way: There are no flies on this mile marker; take a photograph or (if too dark) describe this in one word.   _  _  _  _  _  _                    (glow stick marked)

On Marriotts way: All across, but only one down; mind the steps and don’t take a dip!..... a nine letter word beginning with K and ending with E   _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _   (glow stick marked within 2 metres).

At the beginning of Marriotts way there is a large piece of sculpture made from steel; but what is on the top of it?     _  _  _  _  _

By now you may have cut the Mustard, so take a photograph of the Bull in Jurnets bar.

What Stars begin with the Letter Z outside of the Norwich Playhouse?    _  _  _  _  _  _.

On Oak Street, where the Idols, and Statuettes face both the North and East take a photograph of the one in the first alcove on the North wall.

Take a photograph of the Mural on the wall at Wensum Lodge.

Take a photograph of the drinking water fountain at St Georges Church on Colegate.

What are the next two main productions at the Norwich Puppet theatre? _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  
_  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _   _   _  _  _  _  _  _  _   _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  

Edith Cavell.   Occupation?    _  _  _  _  _           Born?    _  _  _  _      Died?    _  _  _  _

We had 18 teams take part this evening; I am not exactly sure how many competitors in total, and because I deliberately mixed up the order of all the clues (with the exception of the Marriotts way section) to prevent it just becoming a linear race, I have been called a devious so-and-so an awful lot more than once once this evening.  

I had decided to add a 5 minute penalty for every incorrect answer or photograph, and because of the penalty system we ended up with a tie for first place, but more about the tie breaker later.

Only one team managed to complete the whole sheet and bring to me all of the correct photos and answers, but they came in over 50 minutes later than all the rest, and so were placed last and took the booby prize of a large tin of Mars Celebrations sweets. This was a team of fresher girls from the Norwich University College of Art. However, these girls had their heads screwed on because they used their smart phones to google the answers for Edith cavell, the puppet theatre and the post box, and thus saved themselves almost 2 km of cycling.

I had prepared for a tie breaker, with a handful of Chinese take away menus, and had placed them on the table next to me at the final check-in.

When I had collated all the results, I announced that the tie breaker winner would be the first person to hand me a Chinese take away menu.

We had to wait almost 15 minutes for the first one to arrive back, and by then all the others competitors not taking part in this particular sprint task had noticed the take away menus that I had placed on the table next to me, and again called me a right devious so-and-so.  

All in all a fantastic night of entertainment.

I've never heard of an Alleycat - it sounds great fun.
I like your clues too  

Ditto. It does sound like interesting fun.

Good Lord Gareth - fiendishly difficult. Ive been going to Norwich for years and Ive never noticed any of those things except for Edith Cavells memorial. Looks like a fun evening. Love lizzie

AlleyCats began a few years ago, and are now featured in most European, and North American cities and largish towns:

They began in Norwich in Septemberr 2010 to celebrate the Tour of Britain cycle race passing through Norwich, and until now have been an occasional ad-hoc affair with only 5 done (last night's was the 5th). Lois and I have competed in 4 of them (and come in well down the listings), and it is now an ambition of mine to have a Norwich AlleyCat every month, and I have now made a facebook page for us (type Norwich AlleyCat into your FB search bar). As the next Norwich AlleyCat will be undertaken on the Wednesday evening before we all put the clocks back in October for the winter period, I am organising a "Tick Tock Clock" AlleyCat, and the clues will be relevant to the many clocks seen around the city. N.B. At what time is the stopped clock on All Saints Church, Photograph the plaque beneath the Forget-me-not clock, the colour of the face of the clock on St Georges tower, etc.

AlleyCats are really good fun, and an excellent way of exploring towns and cities on bicycles. We are all guilty of not observing our surroundings; driving into somewhere in the car, and then doing what we need to do before jumping back in the car and leaving. When you take the time to explore a little by walking or cycling about you see and notice so much more.

Over half of the competitors partaking in last night's AlleyCat had only been in Norwich for 10 days or so: all freshers from the UEA or NUCA, and it was a team of 4 girls that completed the whole course; it was the locals who missed or could not solve clues  

Surprisingly, the clue that everyone missed with the exception of the girls, was the Oak Street Clue. It was commented last night that they never expected the clue to be right at the beginning of Oak Street, and next to the Street name sign, and they all just flew by it on their bikes.  


October's norwich AlleyCat

This evening it was the October Norwich AlleyCat, and again I was the organiser. So here are the clues that I set and the control set  of photo answers.

Start at the Forum, finish at Jurnets Bar, Wensum Lodge, King Street. There are no compulsory checkpoints to pass through on this AlleyCat. The clues are not in order; it is up to you to plan and then cycle your chosen route to complete this AlleyCat. The first individual and first team to hand in a correctly completed sheet are the winners!

1) Norwich Cathedral precinct: Nelson’s Column; what is the statue of Nelson holding in his right hand?

2) On Surrey Street: What is the date on the Norwich Union clock?

3) At the corner of Old Post Office Court and Castle Street, two clocks can be seen on two different buildings; Name one of those buildings.

What animal is depicted on the clock of St George’s church in Colegate?  And which way is it facing (L or R)?

5) What two words are directly under the H. Samuel clock on Gentlemans walk?

6) Take a photo of the gates to the secure Bicycle parking area at the Bus station.

7) Name the sculptor of the Sculpture outside the main doors of the EDP building.

8) The clock on the tower of the Old barracks on Britannia Road has stopped; but at what time?

9) On the St Peters Mancroft church there is a sundial but what item(s) are depicted as the Gnomon (pointer)?  

10) Who visited the Woolpack inn on Muspole street on the 1st of July 1975?  

11) What is on the top of one of the red bollard posts under the Natwest clock on the corner of Bedford Street and Exchange Street?

12) At the junction of London street and Exchange street: what two historic aircraft are commemorated?

13) What is the date on “Forget me not” clock?  

14) (just inside the door) At St John’s row on Timber Hill: What is inscribed on the bell of the Gurney clock?

15) What are the three words under the clock above the Tombland sign?

16) At Sentential house on Surrey Street what is the name of the Sculpture? The name of the sculptor? And the date?

17) Name the shop that has the Swan clock on its front.

18) What is commemorated in the inscription under the clock on one of the buildings of the Norwich University College of the Arts?

19) Take a photograph of a clock inside a bar or pub.

20) The Clock on the Norwich University College of Art building on Duke Street has stopped: But at what time?

Only 14 competitors on this AlleyCat, but everyone enjoyed the evening tearing about Norwich on their bicycles ...... .... and again I was called a devious So-and-so a lot more than once.  

I wonder why they would think such things of you Gareth  

The best comment was made by Lois. Her, and our friends; Ruth and Kiel made up one of the competing teams, and Lois thought she had got this AlleyCat in the bag, because she had previously found a copy of the clues laying on my desk last week, and secretly her and Ruth had visited a couple of the sites over the weekend to obtain the answers, and thus they thought they would save themselves 3km of cycling which included the very steep and long Ketts Hill ... ... ... ... ... ... it was only when I handed out the clue sheets at the beginning of this AlleyCat that Lois & Ruth realised that I had deliberately left out a fake set of clues on my desk for her to find ..... the words she used to describe my action would have made a sailor blush.

Last night we only had 14 competitors, and over night I have received 12 emails thanking me for organising a great night out for all involved. I am also quite proud of the fact that here in Norwich we have the only regular monthly AlleyCat in the whole of Europe.  other cities only have occasional AlleyCats.

Those pics make Norwich look lovely Gareth - a city I've never been to (like most fof the east coast actually)

Years ago, when I was involved in a Riding for Disabled group, we found mounted treasure hunts to be a good fund raiser. Not much outlay - just the question sheets and a few small prizes and some sarnies and a cuppa back at base. Used to send them out in pairs so that one could hold a neddy while the other collected items we asked for on some of the questions. A 'fun' hack on a Saturday morning.

Once again Gareth has managed to find loads of bits of Norwich I have never seen - and we go there twice a month at least! Love Lizzie

Last Wednesday evening: the 23rd was the November AlleyCat night. Again I organised and ran it, and although we only had 22 competitors it proved to be the most successful AlleyCat that I have done.

I wonderful mix of people attending, alas only six who have competed before, but that meant 16 new faces to alleycatting, one of whom was a young student of only 19 years old who completed the whole course in her electric assist wheel chair.

We also had a new winner: until now in every Norwich AlleyCat Joe the bicycle courier has been first to finish (although give him his due he hasn't officially competed but has completed the routes for pleasure). Joe was knocked well and truly of his podium by a new guy to the Alleycats; Dominic, who arrived at the finishing point 20 minutes ahead of Joe.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves, including two 17 year old lads (new to Norwich AlleyCat) who took over 3 hours to complete the course because they failed to read the sheet properly and plan a route, and went round in the order laid out on the sheet, which meant that they visited some areas three times on the night.    

Yet again, I was called a devious so-and-so a lot more than once, and especially by a very competitive team of 4 men who missed a clue that was only 10 metres from another clue, which entailed them doing an extra 3km sprint covering ground previously cycled upon only 30 minutes earlier. ...... they all said it it was great night out, and they are beginning to learn about me, and my devious streak.  

In Jurnets bar at the social afterwards everyone complimented me for organising a great night out, and two suggestions were made; the first that I obtained some orienteering punches, so that the Alleycats are not wholly reliant upon  points of interest or blue plaques. An orienteering punch can be left at a way point, and stamping the clue sheet will prove that the point has been visited.

The second suggestion was that we build a pedal powered scaletrix track, so that if an AlleyCat is rained off, or otherwise affected by bad weather,
we can all retire to the bar and still have a fun and competitive night out.

To those ends the hat was passed around and enough cash was collected to purchase 2 X sets of Silva Orienteering punches, with a little left over to help cover the costs of building the frames for the pedal powered dynamos that will power the scaletrix set. I have been promised various bits of these from AlleyCatters, and I am sure I can obtain anything else required from freecycle.  

Anyway, without further ado here are the clues and solutions that I set:

Here are three photos of AlleyCat competitors reading the clue sheets and planning their routes before departure:

1)The access gates at the New Mills Sluice on the River Wensum, has a set of warning signs on the gate; what are you not allowed to do there?

What group of people are depicted in the carved wooden pillar in Chapelfield Gardens?  Kemp Men.

What method of public punishment was formally undertaken at Quay side?

How many knights on horseback are depicted upon the Pillar on Pitt Street?

In what year was the Jenny Lind children’s playground opened on Rupert Street?

In the Cathedral precinct a statue of Nelson is at one end of the green, but whose statue is at the other end of the green?

what other name has Elm Hill been known? (Plaque on Elm Hill)

At what number London Street is the Co-Operative bank?

How many Dragons are mentioned on the wall plaque on the pathway up to the castle entrance?

At the Wildman public house on Bedford Street; what was the name of the wild boy?

What is the Red Lion leaning upon at Bishopgate?

A bridge crosses the river Wensum at Coslany Street: But what is the meaning of the word Coslany?     (Plaque on the bridge wall)

In the door way of Jarrolds department store is a blue plaque: Which two musicians are mentioned?

Walter De Suffield founded the great hospital on Bishopgate, but in which Year?

What kind of Tree is near to the hand pump on Elm Hill?

Obtain (by fair means or foul) a menu sheet from a proper “sit down” restaurant. Menus from takeaways, fast food outlets, Pizza places, McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Kebab houses, Wetherspoons, etc. will not count!   This was the task that was set for everyone, but there was a reason; Lois & I are currently looking for a little inspiration in the kitchen, and the plan was to have 20 odd people with 20 odd different menu sheets ...... we now have ideas for many recipes to do over the coming months.  

There is a stone trough on Castle Meadow, but what profession is mentioned in the inscription?

When was the fire at Paston House on Elm Hill?

Well, that was the November Norwich AlleyCat, I do hope that you have enjoyed the photos.

December 2011 Norwich AlleyCat.

Today was the December 2011 Norwich AlleyCat, this is the fourth consecutive one that I have planned and organised, and to my mind is the best one I've done.

I had been out on my bike earlier in December to find features around Norwich to use, and had only found 9 suitable clues, so on Christmas day I spent about 2 hours cycling around Norwich with my camera and notebook, covering about 20 miles. To my surprise I ended up not using any of the previously gained 9 clues, but set the whole lot for this Alleycat from that Christmas day ride. I also utilised 2 of the 10 Silva orienteering checkpoint punches, and this has encouraged me to organise an AlleyCat Navigational Challenge. where I give only the destinations and positions of the punches, without the need to sort out a lot of clues & solutions.

I was pleasantly surprised because we had 19 entrants turn out for today's AlleyCat: I was expecting no more than 10 or 12. Everyone enjoyed themselves, and yet again I was called a devious so-and-so more than once.

How many spheres are there inside the circle on Queens Road?

Take a photo of the Continuous City near the Cow Tower

Who Conceived the Renga (writing on the boards) at St James Place?

On Quay side near the bottom of Pigg Lane: what School is mentioned?

Who officially opened the Henderson business centre on Ivy Road?

St Crispin’s Bridge crosses the River Wensum, but what is the date on the bridge?

What is the Word incorporated into the Steel sculpture next to the river at St James Place?

St Andrews: What is the name of the Warrior of Agincourt?

The Mischief Pub is one side of the Fye bridge, and the Ribs of Beef Pub the other: But which of them is on the shallow side of the river? (Warning sign in the middle of the river, that is visible from Quay side).

Take a photo of the Skull & Cross bones at St Benedict’s Church tower

Punch this sheet at mile marker 2 on Marriots Way.                                                 Punch Here XXXXX

What years are commemorated on the clock of St Clements Church on Colegate?

At Heigham Park on the Avenues, according to the sign at the gate what is Heigham Park?

The first bridge on Marriots way that crosses the River Wensum: What is the inscription in the wall of the far side?

At the gate of St John’s Church on the corner of Finklegate and Ber Street; what is the Number on the Norfolk Constabulary information sign?

Take a photo of the railings at Brooke Place

Punch this sheet: To the left of the main door of the Earlham Library on Colman Road.  Punch here XXXXX

What colour is the large “Bush” on Fishergate?

Who is directly to the Right of Laurel & Hardy in St Gregory’s Square?

Take a photo of the Thorpe Hamlet Post at the bottom of Ketts Hill

How many large Balloons are there on St Margaret’s Street?

Who is commemorated on the marble plaque at the Wiffler open air theatre, at the Castle?

From which Monarch’s reign is the Post Box on St Peter’s street?  

What is the date on the drinking fountain at the city gaol?

Well, that was the december norwich AlleyCat: I do hope that you have enjoyed the photos.

Wednesday the 25th was the January Norwich Alleycat, and the fifth one that I have organised and run.

A lot of people ask me why I continue to the run the AlleyCats and the simple answer is: Because if I don't, no one else will, and then I have to explain how I obtain more pleasure cycling around the city on two consecutive Sunday afternoons as I explore for more clues, then spend 3-4 hours coming up with the clue questions to solve. With the addition of using Silva Orienteering punches for unmanned checkpoints I also have to cycle the route twice on the evening of the Alleycat: once to place the punches, and the second to collect them up afterwards. So by and large I get in the region of about 10 hours of pleasure cycling in each month completing these tasks.

The Silva Orienteering punches have proven to be reliable in use and popular with those who have entered the AlleyCats.

This AlleyCat was also slightly different in that the Eastern Daily Press sent a photojournalist to cover the start, and so we all got our photo published in this regional newspaper.

Here are a couple of photos of the Silva Orienteering punches; each on has a different layout of punch pins, so there is no chance of cheating.

The Silva punches were reasonabily cheap: £32.25 for a box of 10, and it was an easy step to just add a set of boxes at the bottom of the sheet for the entrants to stamp with the correct punch. See the bottom of the attached document:

Click to download file

By using the punches as the control checkpoints, it has reduced the number of clues that I needed to set. This will allow me to use unique clues for several more alleycats before I start having to recycle pre-used clues.

1) At the junction of Castle Street and London Street: When was the Norwich Mercury Newspaper founded?  

2) At Strangers Court on Pottergate: How many French Speaking Walloons were there?

3) How many Little Ships and Lighthouses are there in the window of Boats ‘n’ Bits on St Benedict’s Street?

4) What is depicted on the circular paving slab in the Alley between the Mischief Public House and St Clements Church?

5) On Sinsins wall at Charing Cross: How many Beguinages were there in Norwich? (Blue wall plaque)

6) On Lower Goat Street: When was the Oak Shades Public House opened?
And then closed?                    (Commemorative paving slab)

7) At the Norwich Playhouse: What was the Owl Afraid of?

8) Near to Whitefriars Bridge: Lady Eleanor Talbot is also known as? (Wall Plaque)

Only eight clues to solve on this Alleycat, along with nine checkpoints and one task:

A) Punch this sheet at the Herb Garden in the Cathedral Close (to the right of gate)
B) Punch this sheet at Wensum Park Main Gates
C) Punch this sheet at the cycle stands of the Aylsham Road Library
D) Punch this sheet under the statuette of the cloaked and bonneted lady on Opie Street
E) Punch this sheet at the gated rear entrance of St Martin’s at Palace Plain
F) Punch this sheet at the gate adjacent to the new St James Place Bridge
G} Punch this sheet at the new gates of the Norwich Yacht station on Riverside Road
H) Punch this sheet at the cycle stands under the clock of Norwich Cathedral
J) Punch this sheet at the Occupy Norwich camp on the Haymarket

Use the correct punch for each of the boxes. Note: Every punch is different.

January task: Take a photograph of a Musical instrument. An additional bonus point will be awarded if the instrument is shown being played in the photo.

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