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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T4: 7/12 Bute Park, Cardiff

The seventh disk in the T4 Zodiac series represents the astrological sign Libra, the Scales or the Balance.


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

Charlie Harrow’s logo (CH→) is a bit more prominent than usual in the centre of the disk. The scales look to be comparing the weight of a heart with a — well, what does that shape on the right side look like?

The only suggestion I can offer is — a feather. This is based on the ancient Egyptian notion of weighing the heart. Apparently they believed that “your heart had to be light” if you wanted to enter the afterlife. The good deeds that you performed during your lifetime made your heart lighter. Then after you died, you had to pass through the Hall of Ma’at to get your heart weighed, to check how light it had become:

The Ancient Egyptians believed that when you died, you travelled to the Hall of the Dead. There Anubis (the Egyptian version of Pluto) weighed your heart against the feather of Ma’at. Ma’at, the goddess of justice sits on top of the scales to make sure that the weighing is carried out properly. Anubis steadies the scales to make the weighing fair. If your heart was lighter than the feather, you lived forever. We still talk of “a heart as light as a feather” to mean carefree, and “heavyhearted” to mean sad.

The text, decoded using the Utopian Alphabet key, provides the following:

e ’ s t r e

r e r a ' s

a s u r e /

m a p p e d

o u t , a s

So we have a few more fragments to add to the collection:

...e's tre...
..r era's ...
 mapped out, as 

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T4 4/12: Dover to Folkestone

The T4 series shows the 12 signs of the zodiac, and presents little for the budding symbologist to decipher. It’s Cancer, the crab.

dover folkestone t4 4 12

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

With the T4 series, there are five pieces of text on each disk to be decoded. As usual we can use the Utopian Alphabet key to decode the text:

d u t o p i a

s / e v e r

u s i c a l

’ s n a t u

y g a i n e

which can be made into:

Every gained utopia
      ...'s natu...


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T5:11/20 also near March, Cambridgeshire

This battered old disk looks like it dates from the 11th Century, but it’s the 11th disk in the T5 series, the Centuries.

Geograph 613610 by Keith Edkins t5 11 20

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

We’d expect to see graphics representing the Battle of Hastings, and I think we’re looking at a stylized version of the Bayeux Tapestry’s stylized version of the battle, which saw the defeat of Harold II, Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxon King of England, on October 6, 1066.

Bayeux Tapestry scene57 Harold death

The chain-mail clad Harold (just below the label “hAROL”) is seen clutching the end of an arrow which has made its way past his helmet into his eye — a lucky shot by someone, although this “one in the eye” story is quite possibly a legend, and he may just have been hacked to death by rampaging Norman knights.

In the lower right corner is a good medieval representation of a comet. It’s Halley’s comet, which visits us every 75 years. The monk and historian William of Jumièges wrote in Gesta Normannorum Ducum (“Deeds of the Norman Dukes”) in 1070-1071:

“At that time [1066] a star appeared in the north-west, its three-forked tail stretched far into the southern sky remaining visible for fifteen days; and it was portended, as many said, a change in some kingdom.”

As a result of the battle, prince William became the first Viking-blooded King to sit on the throne of England.

The castle shown at the lower left might be a reference to the Tower of London, but it might also be a representative symbol of one of the 36 castles that William
built between 1066 and 1087, in a frenzy of development described as “the most extensive and concentrated programme of castle-building in the whole history of feudal Europe”.

Decoding the symbols around the side using the Utopian Alphabet key, and flipping the lines vertically or horizontally, as necessary:

-  s t r e a m s w 
s e v o l v e i n
l e f o r t h e

So these snippets of verse can be saved for later:

- streams w[...]
[...]s evolve in 
[...]le for the

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T5:13/20: near to March, Cambridgeshire

Disk number 13 of the T5 series represents the 13th Century, 1200 to 1299.

Geograph 847338 by Keith Edkins t5 13 20

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

There’s not much mystery about the main graphics here – it’s the Magna Carta, usually assigned to 1215. The Magna Carta is widely believed to be some great document enshrining the democratic rights of ordinary people. In reality, it was a typical political deal — in the words of Dan Jones in The Telegraph:

Politicians today love to invoke Magna Carta as a bulwark for the rights of the ordinary man. But it would be more accurate to say that Magna Carta’s clauses variously offered special legal protection for the Catholic Church and the aristocracy, advocated tax breaks for the wealthiest, freed the City of London from regulatory oversight, promised total freedom of immigration and placed the burden of infrastructure maintenance on local communities instead of government. Any party that stood on a platform that was true to the spirit of Magna Carta today would be massacred at the polls.

The image of a magnifying glass isn’t a pun on “magni-carta”, but a reference to Roger Bacon (1220 to 1292), who is believed to be the originator (or at least introducer) of the use of the magnifying glass for scientific purposes, probably around 1250.

The other noticeable feature of the disk is the profusion of rabbits. These refer to the famous puzzle posed by Leonardo Bonacci, also known as Fibonacci, in his book Liber Abaci (1202). Fibonacci considers the growth of rabbits, and assumes that a pair of rabbits, one male and one female, mate at the age of one month so that at the end of the second month a female can produce another pair of one male and one female rabbit. The puzzle was: how many pairs will there be after one year? The Fibonacci sequence — 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 etc. — is named after him.

Decoding the symbols using the Utopian Alphabet key, and flipping the lines vertically or horizontally, as necessary, gives:

s t t a p e s t r

e w a d e , o u r 

t i n a l l t h e

Which, at a rough guess, gives these fragments of ‘poetry’: tapestr[y]
...e wade, our [...]
...t in all the [...]

I’m nearly half way through this series of 20 disks.


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