The site of the cave that supposedly once served the Knights Templar as a secret meeting place is but a short drive from Old College. The instructions provided by the Old Library records were not dreadfully clear – not to mention being several centuries out of date – but I am sure a bit of purposeful wandering will turn up something or other. With any luck, a café or cake shop. Breakfast feels like ages ago.
“The people here are funny-looking,” remarks Professor Duke, rather too loudly. “There’s not a smart hat to be seen, you know—and it’s a bit of a wonder..”
Walking down the High Street, it is clear that we are no longer in The City. But then, it is that awkward time of day where those with anything useful to do are already at it and those lacking direction are still in bed. Small, slow-moving tribes of the elderly are clattering about with their little wheeled things, deliberating frightening toddlers and kicking cats. They scowl openly at us and point. I can only imagine that they are jealous of our hats.
“I must say, it seems a bit of an odd place for the Templar to have a secret hiding place,” the Professor says. “In the middle of this little town.”
“The town probably wasn’t here when they were using the cave,” I reply.
“Or – they built the town up around it so that the cave would be hidden!” exclaims the Professor. “Now that is a clever more right there.”
“I wonder where it is?”
Professor Duke flings out an arm and stops me in my tracks. His other arm is pointing theatrically to a small, handmade sign attached to a lamppost. Oh, really? Could it really be that straightforward?
“Well, that that little sign seems to think it is down that way!”
The sign does, indeed, declare itself to be pointing the way to the cave. It actually says ‘To The Cave’. This must be the least impressive Grail Quest in history. Nevertheless, we head down the narrow little side street that is indicated and things take an even stranger turn. The cave, if it is the cave we are searching for, appears to have become something of a local tourist attraction.
There is a twee-looking gift shop crammed full of St George tea towels and crusade-related toot. I can definitely see some shortbread in there and, I think, marshmallows. It might be worth a visit, you know, all in the name of adventuring.
Just past the shop is a large wooden sandwich board announcing the entrance to the cave.
“Do we just go on in there, do you suppose?” asks the Professor.
“I’m not sure,” I reply. “Maybe we should ask in the shop?”
“Absolutely. Let’s do it.”
Inside, the shop is oppressively filled with all kinds of nonsense, but is welcoming all the same. Behind a small wooden counter sits a wild-haired woman who puts me in mind of a pile of unfinished knitting. She is flicking through a pile of papers in front of her and appears to be counting. Not wanting to interrupt, we hover uncomfortably within her eye line whilst making half-hearted pretentions at browsing. Before too long, she scribbles on a notepad, tidies her papers and looks up at us.
“We were hoping to visit the cave,” I say, in my friendliest manner.
“Oh” the woman replies. “Grail Quest, is it?”
This rather takes us aback. I glance over to the Professor, who simply shrugs. Maybe we look the type.
“Um. Yes.” I reply, not having any better answer close to hand.
“Right you are. That will be three pounds fifty each, mind the entrance slope it gets really steep once you turn the first corner.” She holds out her hand for payment whilst eyeing her papers with some interest.
“Here’s the thing: this is the Knights Templar cave, isn’t it?” Professor Duke asks. “I’m thinking we’re at the wrong place.”
“Yes it is,” the woman replies. “Pride of the town is our Templar cave.”
“Okay, then,” he concedes. “I suppose so as well.”
We pass the jolly wooden sign and the mouth of the Templar cave is soon before us. It is almost inviting. But not quite.
“The odds of the Grail being down here now are longer than a Formal Hall dinner,” I say, gloomily.
“You are definitely right,” agrees the Professor, surprisingly cheery. “But we’re here now and I must needs have a look around this cave. Maybe we’ll find a few snails!”