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Archive for October, 2009

A quick trip to Birmingham

I had to pop to the Apple Store in the Bullring in Birmingham as one of our wireless routers in the house packed up suddenly last night. As I was driving down the M6 I was thinking there are no city centre caches left for us to do. I then realised that the Cole Challenge cache we could not find on Sunday was no more than 2 miles from the Bullring (or thereabouts) so took the ‘scenic’ route via the cache.

I parked up close to the cache and walked the 0.15 to GZ. I’d had a hint on the cache after our DNF so this narrowed down our search area. It still took an age to find the cache and when I finally did find it, I kicked myself as it was on the only tree in the whole wooded area we’d not already checked.

I was thinking I better get to the Apple Store and then back home as I’m supposed to be working today but could not resist bagging the other loose end from Sunday’s caching – the Ward End Park Bonus cache.

A short drive later and I was parking up for the bonus cache. I did not have a GPSr with me but did have my iPhone. The only problem being I only have the co-ords for the bonus cache on a scrap of paper in my pocket and I don’t know how you can input co-ords into the iPhone. I thus checked the approximate direction and distance of the cache off TomTom before I jumped out of the Jeep and set off for a quick bit of naked caching.

I need not have worried as it was a really easy find in the obvious place and I did not need the GPS at all.

Now, to try and work out how to get from here to the Bullring using minimal TomTom as it’s more fun that way. I set off in what I imagined was the direction of the city centre and was not far wrong as I was soon parking up by the lovely Selfridges building and heading off on foot.

On a final note, I did not have a pen with me for either cache and as they did not have pens in themselves, I had to sign both logs with a smudge of mud and add photos of this to my logs to prove my find.

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We’d switched our normal day out caching to Sunday and were looking forward to trying the Cole Challenge, a new set of 16 caches along the banks of the River Cole in E/NE Birmingham. They looked to have lots of sneaky hides and something a bit more of a challenge – just the kind of thing we enjoy.

We set off and had intended to come off the M6 to the north of the caches near The Fort but as we drove along the M6 it was clear that the motorway exit we thought was here did not seem to exist. We ended up having to carry on to the M42 and then coming off by the NEC. Quite a bit of a detour but it was still early and the roads were quiet, so not a great problem.

We parked up not far from #4 in the series and got the bikes out of the Jeep. We had intended to do the series in sections, moving the Jeep round as we go and picking off caches near to where we park before moving on to the next section. As it turned out, it was easier to just do the whole series plus a few others in one go by bike.

The first cache was a quick find, although you’d struggle to get it if you were short. The next one we could not find so decided to have another look on the way back. We had just found the third cache when someone cycled up and said hello. It was Luke, who caches as m3vvb and whom I’d been chatting to on Facebook last night trying to work out the best way of tackling the series. We joined forces and did the rest of the caches with Luke, even though he’d already found some of them so just stood back to watch us search.

When we returned to the one we had just DNF’d, Isaac spotted it after a short search. A really nice hide which blends in perfectly. The rest of the series was uneventful apart from one DNF (at cache #8) and quite a few sneaky hides, which I won’t go into detail about here as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who has not done the series.

At the end of the series, we did three other caches that were by the River and were on the way anyway. One, Bridge over the River Cole, we’d DNF’d the last time we were in the area (it had been muggled at the time I think) but was a quick find today.

We then made the long ride back to #8 for another look. After quite a long search (well, 10-15 minutes anyway) we still could not spot it. A micro in the woods with a hint that meant it could be anywhere is never going to be easy. It’s a shame we could not get this one as it would have meant we’d finished the series, but never mind, that’s life sometimes.

We said our goodbye’s to Luke and headed off to the Jeep for our sandwiches. After this, we decided to go to the Ward End Park series – a set of 5 caches plus a bonus cache around a nice looking park not too far from the M6. We set off on our bikes and soon had all 5 caches bagged. We did a double take when we plotted the co-ords of the bonus cache as it was about a mile away and nowhere near the park. Hmmm, we’re not going that way so that one will have to wait for a future visit.

We’d planned to finish the day with the new set of caches near Bescot – that’s just by the RAC Building where the M6 and M5 meet, if you don’t know the area. Isaac planned a route over to there, via a few quick and easy caches.

Two quick Sidetracked caches followed, then one called A Piece Of Cake, which was anything but the cache name and totally eluded us. We gave up after a short search as we did not like all the rubbish at GZ. We also had another DNF on a micro behind one of those horrible metal fences with bars everywhere. The cache could have been literally anywhere and as is usual with this kind of hide, we got bored and moved on. Not sure we’ll be back to be honest as we don’t like this kind of hide at all as it’s not fun to look for.

Next on the list was one in the Grub Grab series. We’d seen this mentioned on one of the forums (or was it Facebook?) when the series came out and did not have high hopes for it but were pleasantly surprised. The cache was quite near a McDonalnds admittedly, but it was in a nice looking park just out of sight of McDonalnds and was a Regular sized box with some decent swaps in. Not bad at all for an urban cache and certainly much better than the usual nano you get in these situations.

We had yet another DNF at Sidetracked Tame Bridge – the cache was nowhere to be seen in the guard rail it was supposed to be in. It turns out someone must have muggled the cache and thrown it over a nearby fence as another cacher had spotted it there.

Finally it was time for the 4 caches along the wildlife area at the side of the Bescot railway depot. The first was a quick find, then we spotted a group of 20+lads racing motorbikes around the circular area where the remaining three caches were. There seemed to be quite a few bushes to hide the cache finding from them so we pressed on to see if it was possible to get the caches undetected. It was and all were nice quick finds.

Just time for a few more caches before we get back on the M6 northbound for home. A nano by a Kebab shop (why is there a cache here?), followed by another Grub Grab cache, this time outside a Pizza Hut. We then went off to find a quick drive-by near where one of the Walsall Cacher Meets had taken place.

We can squeeze one final cache in, just about, so headed off for an interesting one which was on top of what is probably the highest point in this part of Birmingham. The cache was clearly by the side of a church but all the church helpers were shutting up for the day and stood outside chatting before going some. Luckily there were some information boards nearby so we stopped to read these while we waited out the muggles. This made it worse as they then came over to tell us all about the history of the area and even popped into the church to get us some leaflets about it! All we wanted to do was find the cache, but we’re glad they did stop to tell us about things as it was really interesting and really added to the cache and why we had been brought here.

38 finds for the day. We’d have loved to get 2 more to make it a round 40 but our Sunday Roast was going to be on the table by the time we got home and it was just too tempting.

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On Saturday, Isaac was at school so we’d planned our main day out caching for Sunday instead. It looked like it was going to be a nice day on Saturday so I decided to head off and try and complete the Crewe and Nantwich Circular series as some of it was on our closest to home Not Found page.

I dropped Isaac off at school and headed off towards the first cache, which was the southernmost one in the series. I parked up at the end of a dead end road and walked down the track and over the fields to GZ. A quick scout around soon revealed the cache in a nice spot by a small stream.

Next I headed off to clear up a DNF from a few weeks ago. It was a micro in ivy in an area covered in ivy. Thankfully I’d had a small pointer from the cache owner so was able to narrow down my search to a smaller area and soon spotted the cache. How the heck I’d missed it last time I don’t know, but I seem to be in good company with the DNF as several other high finders have failed on it too.

The next few caches were up the west side of Nantwich and were all nice and easy with some decent length walks to get to them. The last of these was down as a multi cache but had a logbook in each stage. I could not decide if it should really be two separate Traditional caches, but I guess it does not really matter.

Another previous DNF was next on the list and sure enough I soon had the cache in hand. I’d been looking on the other side of the bridge last time as that was where the GPSr was trying to take me. I then set off over the fields for the next cache in this circular walk but the farmer had recently trimmed the hedge and the cache was nowhere to be seen. The wind was whipping a gale over the flat, open fields and I was not enjoying myself so decided to leave the rest of this walk for a nicer day and move on to a new area.

I could not resist popping up to Shakerley Mere, just north of Holmes Chapel as we’d totally missed two new caches there the last time we were in the area. We’d literally driven right past the woods they are in on the way to other caches, blissfully un-aware that they were there. Two nice quick finds were had – what a lovely spot for a cache too. I had a lovely walk around the Mere in between the two caches.

More DNF clearup’s followed with a trip into Holmes Chapel for one we did not have time for last time and then the final three Cheshire Railings caches that we’d not done last time – or rather we’d DNF’d the first two and totally missed going for the third.

By this time I’d done a grand circle round the Holmes Chapel area and was back in Sandbach. Lots of new caches in this area so what a bit of fortuitous planning, even if I do say so myself ;-).

A quick one on the Wheelock Rail Trail (an old railway line that is now a lovely cycleway) was followed by a DNF at Sandbach Station. The cache was in a laurel bush at the side of some playing fields in a park. As I arrived, the coast was clear so off I went to look through the bushes. As I was searching some young lads arrived to play football right by the laurel bush I was behind. Hmmmm – only a matter of time before I start getting strange looks as a lone male in some bushes appearing to be watching young lads. Time for a hasty exit methinks… (I’m pretty sure the cache was not there anyway).

I opted to get out of the urban areas now and head off for the nearby Missing Pieces series. Not much to report here apart from lots of easy finds, a quick rainshower and then a DNF at the last one. The hint said “leave no stone unturned” and I didn’t leave any stones unturned. I also did not find the cache and can’t think where it is, unless it’s missing.

Time was getting on by now and I still had the 5 Crewe and Nantwich Circular caches down the east side of Crewe to do so off I headed.

The first was a lovely walk through a field of HUGE maize which was great fun. I nearly missed the cache as I was expecting it to be magnetic given where it was hidden, but it was just lying on the ground under the item at GZ.

I then walked down the PF on the other side of the road from this cache and onward to the Little End and Big End caches. I think the cache owner had intended Little End to be the last one in the series but then decided to put out a bigger cache for the final cache. You have to find Little End to get the co-ords for Big End, which is then a short walk away. Highlight of the walk was catching a glimpse of the lovely Haslingden Hall – a fantastic timber framed building.

Just two more for the series now. The first was a longer walk along the edge of a railway line, first through woodland and then on a boardwalk over some lovely wetlands. The cache was a nano (not sure why it’s not a much bigger container in such a rural location, but hey, it’s a smiley).

The final cache of the day was a DNF from last time as the cache was missing (or was it – read on!). The hint mentioned a Beech tree so I’d swatted up on my leaves so I knew which trees to look at in the woods. Little did I know virtually every tree there was a beech – doh! A systematic search around GZ soon paid dividends though and I had the cache in hand. The odd thing was I think it must have been the original cache as the logbook was signed by all sorts of people. The cache owner had checked the old cache was missing and placed a temporary micro for now in it’s place. The cache I found was a small and not a micro so I suspect there is now two caches in the woods.

That’s the Crewe and Nantwich Circular series finished now and it’s just about teatime so I’ll head off home to get set up for the day out with Isaac tomorrow.

24 finds in total and some great walking.

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