Original artwork for the T3 8 Ages of Man

Here is some more of the original artwork, and some notes from the Time Treasure 3 document.

The Time Treasure 3 depicts the ages of man, and also relates to the element air and the 8-sided Platonic solid called a octahedron.

T3 artwork

and the text on that floating octahedron decodes to something like “Air we all breathe air”.

The designer of the Time Trail added a preliminary stage to the more familiar Shakespearian seven ages of man, “The Foetus”, and suggests that the Air theme is fundamental to all eight ages:

Without oxygen from the air to breathe, our life ends and with it our perception of Time. From conception to death, our existence is nothing without air. Life’s many stages from foetus to old age are driven by a natural quest for air. Fresh air and exercise help us lead a full active life. The brain that provides us with our perception of time has the biggest demand for oxygen than any other organ of the body.

T3:1/8 Foetus


Previous post:

Geograph 865811 by Trevor Wright t3 1 8

T3:2/8 Infant


Previous post

Flickr gregory williams grooombridge hartfield t3 2 8

T3:3/8 Schoolboy


Previous disk:

Flickr gregory williams hartfield groombridge t3 3 8

T3:4/8 Lover


Previous post:

Flickr gregory willliams norwich loddon t3 4 8

T3:5/8 Soldier


Previous post

Geograph 1374342 by keith edkins t3 5 8

T3:6/8 Justice


Previous post:

Flickr gregory williams forest row hartfield t3 6 8

T3:7/8 Sixth age


Previous post:

Truro feoequinologist truro route 3 t3 7 8

T3:8/8 Second childhood

Second child

Previous post:

T3 8 8

The decoding of the T3 series yielded the following text:

[L]ungs never full ensnare us in time's eight piece cage/
Entropy's aim shoots leptons in dancing cycles of light/
Nations reach out

and, since we have T1, T2, and T3, our results so far read thus:

Measure every heartbeat to count out our life's score
Is "time to escape" meant to fire our coming age?
Locked in seasons' bars swings pendulums's ceaseless claw
Lungs never full ensnare us in time's eight piece cage
Entropy's aim shoots leptons in dancing cycles of light
Nations reach out

A substantial part of the T3 Time Treasure booklet is devoted to a long story about a giant egg timer and a King who was too fussy about his boiled eggs.



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Original artwork for the T2 continents series

Commenter Clyde sent through the original official artwork for the time trail disks, and I’ve been meaning to upload them for a while, so here they are, with the decodings. Some of the notes are from the trail booklet that Sustrans used to send out.

Disk 1 is Africa. This one was described in an earlier post:


The artwork features the Sphinx, of course.


Disk 2 is Eurasia:


Europe and Asia are part of the vast ancient tectonic plate of Eurasia.

All over these caves the print of the hand says: “This is my mark. This is man.”

Jacob Bronowski in The Ascent of Man writing about the prehistoric outline of a hand found on a cave wall in El Castillo, Santander, Spain.

The runes here say:


Disk 3 is North America:


Olmec Head in La Venta Park, Mexico. The Olmecs, possibly Central America’s earliest civilisation, were responsible for carving the large heads from single massive blocks of basalt. They data from perhaps 1500 BC. Who and where the Olmecs came from is still a mystery.

The runes are:


Disk 4 is South America. This was covered in an earlier post:


The runes say:


Disk 5 is Australasia:


Uluru, the world’s largest monolith in Northern Territory, Australia, is sacred to the Aboriginal people of the continent. Their Dreamtime is the mythical past in which spiritual beings shaped the land. In Kakadu National Park, Aboriginal paintings of kangaroos and other animals adorn the rock walls.

On this disk, the runes are:


Disk 6 is Antarctica:


Is it possible that Antarctica, the continent only discovered in the late 19th century, could be the site of Atlantis, the mythical ancient lost civilisation of Atlantis described by Plato?

(I think the answer to that question is “No”!)

The runes are:


From these, it looks like this section of the puzzle reads as follows:

         oescape "meantt ofireou rcoming age?/
lo ckedins easons' barsswi ngspend ulum'sc easeles sclaw/

or, more readably:

       o escape" meant to fire our coming age?/
Locked in seasons' bars swings pendulums's ceaseless claw/

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Original artwork

The original idea of this blog was to try to collect all the disks on the millennium time trail ‘in the field’, and then to solve the puzzle as I went. The order of posts has therefore been a bit random—and I’ve been able to write more about the more recent disks as I gradually link the various ideas together.

However, the job of finding more disks is getting harder—and it’s possible that I won’t find all the others, since some might have been removed, or might be too far from a convenient parking place.

Now, however, I don’t have to rely just on the metal disks on mileposts. Commenter Clyde has very kindly sent me photographs of all the cardboard disks that Sustrans used to send out to enthusiastic clue hunters. Here’s a typical card, compared with the corresponding metal disk:

20 century

Flickr gregory williams porttalbot llanelli t5 20 20

It shows what looks like the original artwork, much clearer details, annotated coded symbols, and even flaps so that you could (if you had them all) construct the paper polyhedra that Sustrans expected you to make.

I’m thinking of going back through all the old posts here and adding the photographs of the cards. And then perhaps creating new posts for each card that I’ve not yet managed to find on the trail or online. Either way, there’s plenty more to do here over the next few months.

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T4: 6/12 Truro

This is the sixth disk in the T4 Signs of the Zodiac series, so it’s Virgo, which most mythologies identify as some type of young goddess.

IMG 1115

Here’s what original designer of the Time Trail wrote about this in the Time Treasure document for this series (which you can find hidden somewhere on this site…).

The constellation of Virgo has throughout history been identified with many different goddesses. With a palm branch or ear of wheat in her right hand she is Demeter, the Greek goddess of the harvest. She was also the Roman goddess of justice who held the scales of judgement. In Egypt, Virgo was identified with Isis, the mother of Horus, the last of the divine sun kings. Spica, the brightest star is the ear of wheat. Virgo has over 13000 galaxies scattered amongst it and the brightest known quasar.

In the middle ages the constellation was identified with the Virgin Mary, and whose initials are believed to be the origin for the sign’s symbol: ♍︎.

Around the outside of the disk are five coded pieces of text. As usual we can decode it using the Utopian Alphabet key:

top left:

 ...e's tre...

top right:

 ...old tim...


 ...makes u...


 ...s, but a..



I’m only halfway through the T4 series of disks, so it’s not yet worth trying to piece them together to make a sensible source text.

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Map of Sustrans mileposts

On the Sustrans (Scotland) site you can now obtain a complete list of all milepost locations for the entire UK. The raw data is supplied as a KML file, which you can import into GIS and mapping systems.

I had a go myself, and managed (to my surprise) to create a map using the KML locations, the Open Street Map data, and the umap website:

sustrans milepost map

If you make anything interesting out of the Sustrans data, add a link to it in the comments!

Sustrans Scotland are leading the way in providing open data for the National Network. Although the milepost page and data for the UK is available only on the Scottish web page at the moment, it will soon be available on the web pages for the other regions.


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Making the models

Cosmo from Sustrans sent me the following photos:

IMG 20151222 124244350

I put together a dodecahedron as part of a presentation I was giving to colleagues about the Time Trail. I also challenged two colleagues to make them!

IMG 20151222 124244350

Thanks Cosmo!

You can use the rubbings to make these, or, if you know where to look, you can use the images from one of the Time Treasure booklets.

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T4: 1/20 location unknown

This image of the first disk in the T4 series, the Signs of the Zodiac, was sent to me by a kind contributor (thanks!).

T4 1

I imagine that this disk is probably sitting in a vast warehouse full of coded disks and rusting mileposts, waiting for its time in the sun (and rain).

This disk is a stylish rendition of a ram, the animal that represents Aries, the first sign of the zodiac. The origins of Aries the ram lie in Greek mythology – Aries was a flying and possibly also swimming ram, the offspring of a liaison between Poseidon and a sheep. Aries had golden hair, and was sent to rescue the twins Phrixos and Helle, who were about to be sacrificed. As they were flying away over the sea, Helle fell off (into what was later called the Hellespont) but Phrixos escaped. As a reward for this daring rescue mission, the poor ram was sacrificed — or “returned to the gods” as they might have explained it to him — and his fleece was hung up in a wood and guarded by a dragon. This was the Golden Fleece later sought by Jason and the Argonauts.

The symbol for Aries the constellation and zodiac sign (♈︎) is one of the more literal symbols in the zodiac, looking like a ram. Aquarius (♒️) and Taurus (♉️) are the others…

The prominent sun at the top of the disk and the profusion of stars are probably referring to the importance of Aries in astronomy. The First Point of Aries is the location of the vernal equinox, one of the two points on the celestial sphere where the celestial equator crosses the ecliptic plane. In its year-long journey through the constellations, the Sun crosses the celestial equator from south to north at the First Point of Aries, which is considered to be the celestial “prime meridian” from which right ascensions are calculated, the equivalent of the Greenwich meridian on the celestial map. Confusingly, the First Point of Aries is no longer in the constellation of Aries, due to the changing positions during the 2000 years that have elapsed since Hipparchus used it.

The five pieces of text around the disk read as follows:

top left:

d i e / o u

top right:

s , b u t a

bottom right:

l l l i f e


’ s n a t u


r e i s t o

which suggests the following reading:

...s, but all life's nature is to die

something that Aries the Flying Ram found out the hard way.

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The Time Trail Record Card

Thanks to the kindness of Sustrans, I’ve finally been able to see a copy of the original Time Trail Record Card:

Millennium timetrail record card page 1

Millennium timetrail record card page 2

You can download a PDF version here.

This is your Master Card

After some months puzzling over the Time Trail, it’s great to see something official, straight from the puzzle-makers themselves, or at least the custodians of the puzzle.

The mention of 1998 is the earliest date that I’ve seen in relation to the Time Trail. It’s interesting to see the emphasis on ‘old-school’ rubbings, crayons, and water-resistant paper! In good weather, and with patient friends or family, it would be a good excuse to interrupt the journey, particularly if there was a pub nearby. Today, though, the instructions would probably be different, and would include mobile phones, QR codes, Instagram uploads and Facebook likes…

To obtain an actual Time Treasure kit from Sustrans, for one of the sets T1 through T5, you would have taken a rubbing from each disk, cut out the small shape (containing a letter or two) from the rubbing, or a photocopy of it, after having found at least 3/4 of the disks, in most cases. Then posted off another photocopy of the whole master card, along with your payment and an order form.

I’m fairly sure that Sustrans are no longer accepting any orders, submissions, or payments, or selling water-resistant paper — although they’ll certainly accept donations — you can now sponsor individual miles of the cycle network!

The second page of the record card is also interesting because it gives us another way to arrange the disks in each set, in addition to the one that the disks themselves form. So, for example, for the T3 set, the disks in numerical order show the 8 Ages of Man. The small contents of each tiny triangle are, in 1-8 order:

A N₂ r i Ne Ar O₂ CO₂

But with this new information on the record card, I now know that another order for the T3 set is 1/4/3/2/7/6/5/8, so we get:

Air N₂ O₂ Ar Ne CO₂

And these are the top five elements in our Air, in descending order: Nitrogen (78%), Oxygen (20%), Argon (0.9%), the (in)famous Carbon Dioxide at 0.03%, and Neon (0.001%). (Water vapour is not included, but would probably be about 0.25%.)

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T5: 2/20 Forest Park, West Sussex

The T5 series portrays the 20 centuries of the last two millennia, and this one is devoted to the second century, 100 to 199. And, unless you’re a historian, you’re probably wondering “did anything happen then?”.


(Image: © Copyright Gregory Williams (Flickr) and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

One big event in the second century was the construction of Hadrian’s wall, which I think is well represented by the bricks in the background of this disk. The popular view is that Hadrian built the wall “to separate Romans from barbarians”. The barbarians in question here are the assorted tribes that lived in the north of Britain (in what we know now as Scotland), who obviously bothered the Romans to such an extent that a 100 kilometre wall between 3 and 6 metres high was considered necessary.

I haven’t yet found a meaning for the two characters in the centre of the disk… I would have expected to see some reference to Claudius Ptolemy’s astronomical treatise called The Almagest. We know that the puzzlemaker likes to insert astronomical and scientific clues, and, according to the wikipedia, the Almagest is:

one of the most influential scientific texts of all time, with its geocentric model accepted for more than twelve hundred years.

Ptolemy, an Egyptian scholar and Roman citizen, lived from about 100 to 170, and the Almagest, written in Greek, dates from around 150.

The three coded text strings are:

n o c o r n e r s
n e s a n d l o n
g d e g r e e s /

which gives something like:

...nes and long degrees
no corners...

whatever a long degree might be…!

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T4: 9/12 Clyde Walkway, Govan, Glasgow

This is the ninth disk in the T4 Signs of the Zodiac series: Sagittarius, the Archer.

Geograph 4200368 by Keith Edkins t4 9 12

(Image: © Copyright Keith Edkins and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 License.)

While the bow is clearly visible, there’s also a map of England and Scotland (is that Ireland on the left?), which needs some explanation. Is that the bow’s string running the length of the country — it looks a bit wide for that. Are there also some letters? Unfortunately neither the disk or the photograph are helping me much here, so if anyone has any ideas, please add a comment.

As for the text around the pentagon, the condition of the disk makes it hard to be certain, but four of the five are easy enough:

top left:

s p h e r e

top right:

s / e v e r


, n e r g a  ?


a b o v e s


l t i c k s

which provides the following fragments:

....l ticks ...
...above s...
, nerga...

I’m interested to find out what “nerga” is going to be. I wonder whether it’s going to be “Nergal”, an ancient Mesopotamian solar deity…


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