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Archive for November, 2009

We were going to leave our caching day out until Sunday this weekend so Isaac could come along as well, but looking at the weather forecast Saturday was looking good but Sunday a lot less so. I thus decided to go caching on Saturday on my own and maybe go out with Isaac on Sunday if it looked ok on Sunday morning.

As usual, we struggled to decide where to head for so decided to go a bit further than we normally do and head towards Bicester and the Lark Rise to Candleford Green and Shelswell Loop series. They had good logs and looked like a really nice walk.

I dropped Isaac off at school and headed for the motorways and the long drive to the caching area. I parked up by one of the Lark Rise caches called Round The Bend. This was roughly in the middle of the two series and meant I could do a figure of eight walk around both series.

It was very chilly so I added a warm fleece to my normal walking kit and set off on foot to do the Lark Rise series anti-clockwise.

The first stretch going over the fields to the hamlet of Juniper Hill (what a great name for a place!) was uneventful. Lots of easy finds with good co-ords and a really nice walk overall. I DNF’d one cache but was in good company with 3 other cacher’s DNF’ing it in succession too. I suspect the cache has gone as it’s not anywhere the hint says it should be in.

The next leg of the walk was my favourite of the day, going over the estate of Tusmore Park and in great countryside with a mixture of woodland and semi-open fields. Part way through it I was walking along in a world of my own, thoroughly enjoying myself when I heard a loud beep right behind me. I must have jumped at least a foot into the air, I was so startled! It was an estate worker in a 4×4 doing the rounds.

I had another DNF a bit later on by a lovely church. Again, several people had DNF’d it right before me and I suspect it’s another one that has gone missing.

The next cache was about 100ft off the stated co-ords. I had heard that this series had some iffy co-ords, but this was the only one of the whole day I thought was out. After reading the previous logs, it was clear where to look and it was just a case of methodologically searching the various ivy bits (that means poking around the ivy with the end of my walking pole ;-)) until I heard a clunk of the cache box.

After that one, there was a massive stretch of walk with no caches on. I’m not quite sure why they had not put at least one or two caches on this part of the walk as there were tons of places you could hide a cache, but I’m sure there must be a reason.

I had another DNF on a nano I’m pretty sure is also missing, before arriving back near the Jeep. I was debating whether to carry on straight to the Shelswell Loop series or pop back to the Jeep for my sandwiches. In the end the walking won and off I went to start the next series.

By now I had about 2 hours (or slightly more) before it would be starting to go dark, so I got a wiggle on with my walking as all the torches were back in the Jeep. As I passed the pub by the first in the series, the landlady was outside talking to some smokers and shouted over to me “You look like you are on a mission”. I was!

Next, I headed off down the PF’s over the fields on the walk. I could hear the sound of shotguns in the distance and hoped they would not be near any of the caches. Unfortunately they were and I had to walk right past one of the caches as a guy with his shotgun cocked was stood right by GZ.

One more DNF followed a bit later on – a micro on the ground in a wooded area with dead leaves everywhere. Not my idea of fun, so I soon got bored and headed off to the next cache.

I nearly forgot about one cache and only spotted it on my GPSr at the last minute so had to do a 0.18 backtrack to get it – doh!

It was starting to go dark by now and I was only just over half way round the loop. Time to walk a little bit faster still. The rest of the series was easy enough with a few things to note:

  • Another long gap between two caches. This time there was absolutely nowhere to put a cache in between (it was open fields with no hedges).
  • Nearly tripping over the carcass of a dead sheep near a cache.
  • Waiting for a tractor pulling a trailer full of country folk with their shotguns to go past.

I just about managed to get back to the Jeep as it became fully dark. The last few caches were in the darkness but it was just about light enough to see to find the caches.

Just two left to do for both series and they were a short drive down the lane. I parked up and set off over the fields with a torch and soon had both caches found.

That’s 37 finds so far. I wonder if I can find 3 quick and easy caches on the way back to the M40 junction on the way home. A quick study of the OS map on my GPSr and I spotted just the three caches I needed.

The first one was a short way down a closed off road and a nice quick find. The second was a bit more interesting as I was walking down the PF in the dark and could see a torch coming the other way. It turned out to be a man and his two dogs. I thought nothing of it until I turned round and he’d stopped a bit further down the track and was looking at me. Oh no, it’s not one of those nocturnal canine type places is it?

Thankfully it turned out to be the gamekeeper from the estate and he was wondering what the heck I was up to in the dark on my own in some woods. I explained about caching to him and he was fine with this. Apparently they have some trouble with drug dealers and poachers on the estate so he was just being careful. After he went on his way I soon found the cache.

Last cache of the day turned out to be one of the Alphanumeric Northants series caches, set at the very southern end of Northamptonshire. I collected the clue for the next cache and have filed it away for when we’re next in the area and want to carry on that series.

With 40 finds in the bag and a very satisfying day’s walking, I stuck a great podcast on the iPhone and headed off to the M40 and northbound to home.

 

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We could not decide where to go caching this week (our usual conundrum) and the weather was not looking too great for Saturday either. It looked like it might be wetter the further north you went, so we opted to go south and a group of caches on what looked like a nice walk in the Cotswolds caught my eye.

We decided to head for Longborough (near Moreton in Marsh) and do the Sezincote Stroll series, followed by the Cachewalker Kids Trail. If we were left with any time, there were quite a few Swells and Wells series caches nearby and some quick ones in Evesham for the way home.

We drove down the M6, M5 and then the A-roads to Longborough and parked up in the centre of the lovely village for our figure of 8 walk around the caches. After getting kitted up with full waterproofs, off we set.

We decided to tackle the Sezincote Stroll in a clockwise direction to start off, as this was the longer of the two walks. A nice easy find at #3 started us off on the right track. A bit later on we passed the lovely Sezincote house and gardens – a wonderful yellow Cotswold stone building with a huge green onion dome on top of it!

Just as we were nearing the top of our walk, we spotted a group of about 30 walkers taking a rest by where we thought the next cache might be. As we got nearer it was clear they were stood right by GZ.

Nothing else for it but to strike up a conversation with them, mention geocaching and show them the cache. They looked a decent lot and not at all likely to endanger the cache. We did exactly this and quite a few of them were really interested in the idea of caching, with one lady even saying she’d look it up and take her grandchildren out caching :-).

The rest of the walk was uneventful, apart from passing quite a few pheasant beaters out checking the hedgerows. Luckily none of them were anywhere near any of the caches.

All too soon we were back near the Jeep and pondered stopping for our sandwiches or should we carry on for the next walk – the Cachewalker Kids Trail. We were enjoying our walk so much we decided to carry straight on to the next series.

The Cachewalker Kids Trail looks to have been set for an event and involves 6 easy puzzles, designed for children to solve, and then a bonus cache at the end. Nothing too taxing here with all the caches being really easy finds (some were out in the open for some reason – we hid them back where we thought they should go).

On the way round it started to rain properly and looked to be set in for the rest of the day. We were glad we had our waterproofs on and could just carry on caching as normal. We also picked up a couple of Swells and Wells series caches on the way round as we were walking past them anyway.

Once back at the Jeep, Isaac planned a few drive-by’s and cache and dashes towards Stow in the Wold, before heading back towards Evesham on the way home.

The Stow caches were easy enough. We were puzzled at one as it was a Church Micro but we totally failed to spot a church anywhere near it. Either we’re walking around with our eyes shut or the church must have been behind the buildings and out of sight. Either way, it was a bit odd.

On the way up to Evesham we passed a delta68 Earthcache at Fish Hill. We’ve not done an Earthcache for ages so stopped for a look. We started off in the old quarry for a photo, then up to a viewfinder on top of the hill to pick up some required details. Next, it was down to the car park information boards for the rest of the details. All good fun and it was interesting to read about the area on the noticeboards.

Just before we arrived in Evesham Isaac took us to a group of 6 easy looking caches around the village of Badsey. It was very dark by now but thankfully we were right and they were all indeed very easy finds.

Just time for a few more before we head home so we went for the three caches in the Evesham By Pass series. Not a very inspiring series name but the caches were ok and just what we needed at this stage – quick finds not far from where we’d parked (it was raining really hard by now and everywhere was very damp).

We thought that was it for the day and headed over to join the M5 just north of Worcester. On the way Isaac spotted two quick caches just off the main road in Pershore. How could we resist ;-).

Two more easy finds ensued – the last one was hidden as per the hint but had no covering on it and nothing nearby to hide it better with. We hope this one lasts as it’s going to look even more exposed in the daylight.

We then headed home very satisfied with our day out caching. 37 finds for the day and some seriously nice walking. Just perfect and very close to our ideal day out caching.

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On Saturday I’d planned to start off with the new Saza36 caches between Bromsgrove and Redditch before heading off to the Finding Flyford series and then I’d play it by ear depending on the time.

We were out on Friday night but when I got home I spotted a newly published series of 18 caches just by the Flyford ones so a hasty rearrangement of my plans was called for.

I dropped Isaac off at school and then headed off for the motorway and the journey to the new Himbleton series. As I came off the M5 just to the north of Worcester I bagged a quick and easy Motorway Mayhem cache as I was driving past it anyway.

I then parked up by the first cache just outside the village of Himbleton, got kitted up and off I set for a circular walk around the caches. There was another car at the parking spot so I assumed another cacher was already part way round the series (they were!).

It’s been raining very heavily overnight and all the streams are full to overflowing around here, which is going to make the walk interesting to say the least.

The first cache by the parking spot was an easy find. I then did a couple more easy ones before meeting the first obstacle of the day: the lane was totally flooded on the way to the next cache. It looked to be about a foot deep but there was a hint of grass along one edge so I gingerly made my way along this, using my walking pole to stop myself falling into the water.

Lots more easy finds followed with the main comment to note being a detour off the walk to bag another cache in a nearby woods. This took an age to find as the cache co-ords were pants and about 70ft off. Eventually I spotted a second set of co-ords on the cache page and some pacing instructions (more like a letterbox than a normal cache). This did the trick and I soon had the cache in hand.

Later in the walk I ended up wading through a flooded stream and getting wet socks as there was no other way round it and I needed to be on the other side to do the rest of the caches. I spotted some other cachers in the distance but never got to talk to them – they were sketr1, the owner of the car I had parked next to. Later on in the walk I also passed The five Keepers and said hello.

All too soon I arrived back at the Jeep and set off to make a start on the Flyford series. I did the first couple of them as cache and dashes before parking up for the walk round most of the remaining caches.

The highlight of the walk was bumping into Butttercup and stormystorm, who were doing the series in the opposite direction to me. We had a lovely geo-chat, swapping tips about the parts of the walk we’d each done, before heading on to the next cache.

I was soon back at the Jeep again, but not before a very long cacheless (is that a word?) stretch down the road from the last cache. I’m not sure why there are not caches on this part of the walk too as it seems a bit odd. Never mind, as I was thoroughly enjoying myself anyway :-).

Time was getting on by now and I needed to be home early tonight as we’re hosting a bonfire party at home and we’ve got a ton of people coming. I could just about fit in a few more caches though…

I bagged a quick drive-by which was hidden on an old tank outside an army surplus shop. I’d have loved to go inside for a nosey but time was too tight by now.

A short drive later and I was in Saza36-land and pulling up for the first cache. Just as I was parking a 4×4 that looked strangely familiar pulled off in front of me. I suspected it was the Stag Ramblers and sure enough, when I found the cache, they had also found it today.

Just 4 caches to go to our 8000th find now. I was planning to leave the 8000th for when Isaac is with me next week but on the way to the dual carriageway that leads to the M5 and home, I spotted 4 easy drive-by’s that were just saying “find me”. I could not resist.

Four nice easy finds followed, with our 8000th cache being a really easy drive-by micro hidden behind a road sign. An ok cache, but one of these days we’ll plan things properly and do a really special cache for our milestone.

38 caches found for the day and I managed to get home for just after 5pm so plenty of time to get things sorted for the party later.

 

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I could not decide on where to go caching on Saturday. We loved the long walk round the Chiltern Hundred last weekend so thought something similar would be perfect as we could not see anywhere closer on the map jumping out saying “find me”.

The UK Mega series was the obvious choice: we’d done the northern loop earlier in the year so had the choice of the southern loop or the new Mega Series 2 loop. We opted for the latter with the idea that we would pick off a few caches from the southern loop if we had time too.

I was also anxious to go and bag the Chiltern Hundred Bonus cache while I was down south. It’s not exactly close to the UK Mega series, but it would be about as close as I’m planning to be for a while!

Isaac was doing things at school this weekend so it was just me on my own. I decided to stop overnight just outside Basingstoke on Friday night so I could get an early start on Saturday morning. This in turn would hopefully give me time to get up to Chesham for the Chiltern Hundred Bonus and then back home for a reasonable time on Saturday night.

The hotel was a bit of nightmare as the promised WiFi did not seem to be working and there was no 3G coverage so my 3G dongle refused to work. Luckily I was not there too long so just had to do without internet access for a while. I read a book instead!

Saturday morning dawned and it looked a promising day with clear skies and the sun shining. I drove to Bentworth to start the trail.

I’d read that the last cache of the series – #057 – was opposite a pub and a bit of a nightmare to look for later in the day when people were sat outside the pub. Luckily I found a handy parking spot right next to the cache so did that one first.

I then got my bike out of the Jeep and set off round the trail, doing them in the right order for a change. I was debating if the bike was a good idea but most of the series looked bikeable on Google Earth and another cacher who had done the series confirmed it should be ok.

As with the other Mega Series caches we’ve done, most of them were big containers with swaps and all were quick and easy finds. I won’t go into detail on each cache as there were a lot of them, but will summarise a few highlights below:

  • A few stiles to navigate at the start of the trail, but not a problem as it was easy to lift my bike over them.
  • At around #012 I bumped into a guy from the local hunt, who was driving round the fields in his 4×4 checking for hazards in advance of the hunt on Sunday. I stopped chatting to him about the countryside and ancient Byway’s for quite some time :-).
  • I bumped into a group of middle aged bikers on a Byway around cache #20. They stopped for a chat and were telling me about part of the Byway being downgraded to a Restricted Byway by the council. I guess this was the part that a cacher fell foul of the law on when he got his vehicle stuck in mud there.
  • Mud, mud and more glorious mud. I suspect it must have rained for the last week around here as the whole walk was seriously muddy. My feet were sliding all over the place but it all added to the fun.
  • I did not even bother trying cache #051 as it was in some roots on the side of an old quarry and very dangerous to get to. If I’d had a rope and someone with me I’d have given it a go, but on my own I did not want to risk it.

All too soon I was back at the Jeep and had made good time. The whole series took just under 6 hours to complete. I decided to do a few quick ones from the southern loop that were near the village before heading off to Chesham and the Chiltern Hundred Bonus cache.

After I’d done the quick caches in the village, I headed off towards the M3. On the way I did a couple of quick caches that I spotted on TomTom as I drove past: one called Panda Stone and a quick Motorway Mayhem at J5 of the M3.

After a long trip up the M3, round the M25 (surprisingly quiet today which was good) and then through Chorleywood, I arrived in Chesham just as it had gone dark.

I’d plotted the Bonus cache on my GPSr and noted a few ways to get to it. My favoured route went through a farmyard so I ruled that out as it was dark and I did not want to get arrested loitering around a farm with a torch in the dark.

Plan B was called for and involved parking up on a quiet lane, away from houses and then walking over the fields past some caches we did last week to the bonus cache. Off I set, accompanied by the sounds of fireworks going off in the distance.

As I entered the woods, my torch started a lot of birds who were settling in the upper branches for the night and they all took flight. The co-ords were bang on thankfully and lead me to an obvious cachers trail, which then took me in for an easy find. Boy am I glad to get this one ticked off after the disaster at the end of last weekend’s trip!

I then got settled into the Jeep for the long drive northbound to home. I ended up back home just after 8pm which was not bad at all. 64 finds for the day which is also not too shabby :-).

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Chiltern Hundred Trip

We’ve been meaning to take the long trip down to Chesham to do the Chiltern Hundred series for ages now and as it was school holidays and we had a couple of days spare, we thought we’d finally get round to doing it.

The weather looked ok-ish on Saturday but not so good on Sunday so we decided to try and do as much of the series on Saturday as we could. Ideally we’d have liked to do the whole lot in one go but with the winter evenings we were not too keen on the possibility of walking through cattle fields in the dark.

We thus settled on a plan of driving down Friday night and then staying at the Premier Inn (Isaac liked the look of it from those Lenny Henry adverts on TV) at Hemel Hempstead West on Friday and Saturday nights.

The drive down was uneventful and we picked off a quick drive-by right outside the hotel, which was handy. On the way we went round this ridiculous roundabout in Hemel Hempstead that has smaller orbiting roundabouts around a main middle section. Very un-nerving if you are not expecting it as some traffic is effectively going the wrong way round the middle roundabout!

Saturday morning dawned to light rain so we had a hearty breakfast, put on our waterproofs and set off for Chesham town centre. The Chiltern Hundred is arranged in 3 separate loops – the Chesham, Chartridge and Asheridge rings. These all touch at various points so you can easily swap out to another ring as you see fit.

Our plan was to start on the Chesham ring doing them in sequence and then near the end, swap over to the Chartridge ring before returning to the Chesham ring going back to the start point. Then, if time and light were on our side, we’d drive to a handy spot by the Asheridge ring and do that as well.

After finding somewhere to park free for the day (not so easy in a town centre on a Saturday morning) we set off. The first cache (#049) was dead easy, but the next two were not…

Cache #001 had the GPSr’s pointing to the back of some buildings in an area that was obviously private. We did not want to look there so had a scout around the rest of the car park in case the co-ords were dodgy but no cache was to be found anywhere. We decided to leave it and look again on the way back to the Jeep.

Cache #002 also had dodgy co-ords as they zero’d out at the back of some fences and we could not find it. In a last ditch attempt we spread the search out and had an easy find of the cache by a bridge. It was only then that we noticed the cache had the word ‘bridge’ in it’s name – doh!

After that it was all plain sailing and we walked round the ring having really easy finds on just about every cache, with quite a few of them being on plain view as we walked up (I’m told by the cache owner that this is intentional as they rarely get noticed by muggles). A very different hiding style than we are used to, but fun nonetheless :-).

Part way round there was a cache by an ostrich farm which we really liked. We stood for a few moments watching the ostriches and chatting about what odd looking creatures they are.

A few caches later we did one with a really good hide. I won’t say too much here as I don’t want to spoil it for others but it’s a very sneaky alternative to what is now quite a common hide. Really enjoyed finding that one.

We had a DNF on #033 – the clue said ‘hexatrunk’ and we much have searched every 6 trunked tree near to GZ (and there were quite a few!). Either the co-ords are even further off than we thought, we’re rubbish cachers and missed something obvious or the cache is not there. We’ve got it on our watchlist to see which one is the correct answer (I suspect the middle one!).

Isaac managed to leave his walking pole at #040 but we did not realise until a few caches later and did not have time to go back for it. Luckily it was not an expensive one, so not a great problem. I’ve noted this in our log for the cache in case the next cacher to do that one finds it.

After #042 we spotted a quick way down onto the road, which meant we could swap over to the Chartridge loop and then pick up the Chesham ring later on.

The first half of the Chartridge loop took us along a quiet lane and none of the caches were any problem apart from the last one which was well and truly pushed into a hollow elderflower branch. Luckily there was a small hole the other end of the hollow bit so we used a thin stick to slide the cache out.

Then it was up onto the fields, round past the local school and back into some woods and another rural section. Nothing much to note here apart from just about every cache being up a tree. I wonder if the cache setter used to like climbing trees as a child ;-)?

All too soon we were re-joining the Chesham loop for the walk back into town and the Jeep. It was getting very dark by now and we were umm’ing and ahh’ing about doing the third loop in the dark. Two DNF’s in quick succession (The first was almost certainly there but we spooked a lone female dog walker in the bushes so moved on. The second we think is missing as the hiding place was very public) sealed out fate and we decided to do the third ring in the morning and treat ourselves to a meal in a nice restaurant instead this evening.

The last couple of caches into town were easy enough. We looked for #001 on the way to the Jeep but drew a blank again.

Once back to the Jeep, Isaac took us back to the hotel to get washed and changed, via a couple of quick drive-by’s. All very easy and no problem at all.

Sunday morning dawned as expected with really heavy rain, high winds and low clouds. We had no option but to don waterproofs and go out and get on with the caches as we had to be home early as Isaac needs to get ready for school tomorrow.

We started off back at Chesham Station and cache #001. I’d spoken to a previous finder overnight and knew the rough area the cache was in. As we walked up, it was literally sat there in plain view and not hidden at all. It definitely was not there yesterday so all we can assume is someone is interfering with the cache or perhaps it’s slipped under the fence (which is right by it) and the house owner noticed it and pushed it back overnight. All very odd, but at least we found it!

Next we drove off to a handy place to park for the Asheridge loop, near to #062. We set of on foot anti-clockwise. Highlights and lowlights of this loop were:

  • A DNF at #059. The hint said it was up another tree but we could not spot it, despite having a good look. In the end we stopped having fun as the rain was awful and moved on to the next cache.
  • A tricky find at #050 right by the cache owner’s house. I hope they were not watching us as it took us an age to find as the GPSr’s were trying to tell us it was on the other side of the lane, where there was lots of ivy to search. In the end we had a re-think, checked a hiding place similar to one we did yesterday and there the cache was! A very nice hide.
  • A few more caches that were made really tricky by all the leaf litter that is around this time of year.
  • A DNF at #076. The weather was appalling at this one and the hint ambiguous. We had a brief look but gave up and headed for the relative shelter of the nearby woods and the next cache.
  • The rain finally stopping around cache #075 with the sun even threatening to come out soon afterwards.

We were soon back at the Jeep and that’s where the fun really started. We’d taken photos of all the numbers from the caches as you need 100 numbers to get the co-ords to the bonus cache. Some of the photos were blurred by rain on the lens of the camera and not readable. We were gutted to see we were short of the 100 required numbers. Aaaarrrrrgggggghhhhh!

We tried a PAF who very thankfully had the co-ords for the bonus cache (phew!) and off we set. We soon arrived at GZ and despite a good look around could not spot a hint item anywhere within 300ft of GZ. We did find a blue string hanging from a branch at the co-ords and realised we must have been given the co-ords of where the cache was, before it was moved on 4th May this year.

We tried two more PAF’s and one was at work without access to their notes of the co-ords, the other was out caching and obviously without access to their computer. The last PAF did provide a rough description of the area the final cache was in and after looking at Memory Map, we suspected it was in a certain area of woodland we could see.

Time was running short now as we’d already wasted tons of time looking for the bonus and did not have the time for a brute search of the woodland, even though we were confident we’d find the cache if it was there.

Reluctantly we left for home and decided we’d have to grab the bonus cache the next time we are in the area. We’ve not idea when this might be as it’s a long way from home and there are not enough other caches round here to bring us back anytime soon.

All in all a really excellent weekend of caching though which we both loved. We found 108 caches and DNF’d 6, which is not bad at all. According to the other logs, we’d walked around 24.5 miles in total. The walks were in some great rolling countryside and there was a decent variety of hides to keep the caching interest up.

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