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Archive for January, 2010

Thinking the cache might be in a sneakier place than it was on the Ned's Walk series

We’d left Sunday as our main caching day this weekend and with the snow finally melting, we were looking forward to a full day out and some proper caching, rather than having to pick and choose caches near main roads to avoid the worst of the  snow.

We planned to start with the new caches to the NW of Wolverhampton not too far from the in-laws house, before heading up through Penkeridge to Stafford and picking off two new series there. Finally there were 3 new caches between Stafford and home, to bring the total finds for the day to about 30.

The first caches were a set of 3 on a short walk over some fields not far from Chillington Hall (where we found our first ever cache!). All nice an easy and totally un-eventful apart from me scraping my head against a tree and getting a bad graze. Ouch!

Handy arrow which pointed to one of the caches

A quick drive-by followed, on the way to a nice looking circular walk called Ned’s Walk which was along bridleways and canal’s just to the north of Wolverhampton. We parked up and got the bikes out of the Jeep as we’d seen several other caches had done the series by bike.

As we rode up to the first cache we could see 3 cachers stood by it with the cache. It was Shropshire Seekers, Big Farmer Giles and Wild Goosey. Great to meet you all again :-). Wild Goosey insisted on us turning our backs while she re-hid the cache for us to find. I might have had a quick peek over my shoulder as we soon found the cache ;-).

We then all walked up to the next cache which was a quick find by Big Farmer Giles. We left them all to carry on at their own pace and headed off ahead on our bikes. The rest of the caches were quick and easy finds apart from one where the co-ords were about 25ft out. The main problem here was the co-ords took you to a place that matched the hint perfectly – it’s just that it was the wrong place!

Lovely urban canal cutting

On the way round we bumped into the Nozi Parkers who were doing the series in a different order than the others we’d met earlier.

Once back at the Jeep, Isaac guided us up to Penkeridge for the two closest to Grandpa’s house not founds. Both really quick finds and one of them was our first non-micro of the day – woooohoooo :). What’s with all the micro’s today :-(?

In Stafford we headed off for the strangely named ‘Over-un-under-um’ series (what the heck does that mean?). This is a circular walk around a flood plain by the River Sow, continuing on to a canal at the far side of the walk. Needless to say with all the snow melting the flood plain was under quite a bit of water and the first three caches were impossible to get to without a boat.

Flooded cache fields in Stafford

We decided to try the other side of the loop and see how many we could get to. Luckily the path was much higher up on this side and we had no problem cycling off for 3 finds and 1 DNF (the cache was missing). On the way we bumped into BigCe, a local Stafford cacher who we’d not met before. Great to meet you :-).

We then re-located to the other side of Stafford and the other strangely named series, the ‘Clog & Knocker’ series. This time the cache page explained that it was named after the local nickname for the old Stafford to Uttoxeter railway, along which the series is set.

We set off on our bikes along the cycleway for the 6 caches in the series. All nice quick finds, but well hidden which is good as the cycleway is seriously busy with muggles at times. Along the way we bumped into WiliamTM – another local Stafford cacher we’d not met before :-). We saw that snerdbe and cannonedwards were also doing the series but did not bump into them unfortunately.

Once we’d finished we realised we were short of the 30 finds we had planned for due to the flooded caches we had to abandon earlier. A quick check of Memory Map revealed a conundrum – we’d done all the other caches in the area! Hmmm!!

We ended up back on the M6 heading south to the Cannock area as there were a few quick caches we’d not yet found there. Nothing much to report here as they were all easy enough.

The last one (which was to be our 30th find) was down a bridleway and a short walk later we were looking for it. I’m not sure it’s still there as we had a good search and it was nowhere to be found. Drat! There are also no other nearby caches we have not already found – one of the pitfalls of caching in an area we frequently cache in.

Unusual bridleway sign

We decided to start heading for home and do a new cache by the canal at Gnosall for our 30th find.

It was totally dark by the time we arrived at this one and despite searching for something like 40 minutes on a very slippery canal banking with tons of places to hide a cache we could not spot it. I bet it’s dead easy to find in the daytime too (see a later blog post as it was indeed really easy to spot in the daytime!).

That’s 29 finds for the day but a good day out nonetheless and possibly a record for the number of caching teams we’ve bumped into in one day – 6 in total :-).

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Memorial stone on the Montgomery Canal

On Saturday I was wondering where to go for a few caches after dropping Isaac off at school as we’re saving the main caching day out for tomorrow.

A quick check on Memory Map revealed quite a few new caches to do in the NW Shropshire area towards Wem and Ellesmere and mostly out in the wilds on very narrow country lanes. I could then head home via Shrewsbury and mop up the new caches there along with a chance to take some co-ordinates for our new Earthcache at Haughmond Quarry.

I dropped Isaac off and headed off round the Shrewsbury ring road northbound to the first cache of the day, a drive-by by thefortytwa. This was a nice quick find with a very nice neat TTPOS to guide me to the hide.

After this I headed for a series of 5 caches on a circular walk just south of Baschurch. I parked by the first one but could not find the micro so decided to leave it for the way back. The next one alluded me too, but there was a shorting electric fence right near GZ and the hint implied the cache was hidden in a pretty thick hawthorn hedge – hmmm.

Rather wet path on the way to the caches near Baschurch

Undeterred I pressed on to the third cache and had a quick find of the nano here. Now knowing this cacher setters co-ords were reasonably good I headed back to try and find the two I’d failed on. The first one I spotted just as I was about to give up. It was not in the hedge at all which is why I’d not spotted it earlier. The one by where I had parked was also a quick find, about 2 inches from where I’d looked on the way out – doh!

Next on the cards was a series of 4 new caches along the river just to the west side of lovely Wem. I parked near to the second one and headed off on foot to find the caches. The first was an easy find. On the walk to the second I passed what was left of what must have been quite a big snowman – all that was there now was a lump of snow in the middle of a grass field.

Bridge with no sides near the Wem caches

On the fourth cache I got a nice surprise as a light aircraft was just taking off from nearby Sleap airfield so I looked up to see what it was. It was G-LFSA from Liverpool School of Flying – the very same plane I’d done my first solo flight in just over 10 years. How nice to see it unexpectedly like this and for it to bring back lovely memories of that milestone day :-).

I could not decide whether to head down towards Shrewsbury next or to head NW towards Ellesmere and bag a rather remote cache on the Montgomery Canal. The latter won over and after driving down some seriously narrow lanes in the middle of nowhere I drove up over what has to be the steepest canal bridge I’ve ever seen just before the parking spot.

I’d been here ages ago to get our 2nd and 3rd ever FTF’s so knew the stretch of canal well. I have to say it’s our favourite part of the canal system as it’s always lovely and quiet out here with just the sound of wildlife to keep you company and some excellent views over great countryside.

Lovely tranquil views by the Montgomery Canal

Next, I headed over to the A5 just south of Oswestry and then southwards to Shrewsbury. On the way I picked up the only cache we’d not done on our trip to the Oswestry area last weekend. Once in Shrewsbury I did a few easy cachees including one at a lovely spot on the Severn Way, overlooking the River Severn (there’s a surprise!).

During the week a great looking cache based on getting clues from bridges over the Severn near the centre of Shrewsbury had come out. I’d picked up the clues soon after the cache was published but ran out of time to do the final cache. Knowing where to go for it now, I drove straight there and parked up not too far from GZ. The cache was an easy find in a great spot I’d not been to before. It was really lucky I’d picked up the clues during the week as the Severn was very full and was covering the path along side it, meaning I’d not have been able to get to the clues today.

Haughmond Quarry Earthcache

Next stop was the car park at Haughmond Hill for the walk down to the location of our new Earthcache to take some photos for the cache page and double check the cache co-ords. All nice and easy and I was soon back at the Jeep.

Last cache of the day was a nice walk down the side of Haughmond Hill to a new cache that was published during the week. I parked at the Abbey Woods car park and then had a lovely walk down to the cache, followed by a very slippery scramble up the bank to the cache which was near the top of the hill.

17 caches for the day but it’s made a serious dent in our closest to home not founds and I’ve had a ball driving round some beautiful countryside and finding some nice caches.

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The viewpoint overlooking the quarry

Over the past few weeks we’ve been developing an Earthcache at the new viewpoint overlooking the quarry on Haughmond Hill near Shrewsbury. Every time we walk past the viewpoint we say we must set an Earthcache here so we decided it was time to actually get on and set it!

Looking at the maps it looked like the viewpoint might be on Forestry Commission land and I know there is a caching agreement with Forestry Commission West Midlands, so I emailed the Ranger contact to ask for permission over Christmas.

Just after the New Year I had a reply saying it was actually just on the quarry land and giving me details of the Geologist contact at the quarry firm. I thus emailed him and this lead to a phone call where we went through the finer details of what I was asking for. He was really enthusiastic as he’d not heard of Earthcaches before :-).

It's this way to the cache

Everything was ok apart from they asked for the cache co-ordinates to be put a short distance from the quarry wall iteslf as they did not want cacher thinking you have to enter the (very active) quarry to get the cache. This put the co-ords back on Forestry Commission land so I emailed the Forestry Commission contact back to ask if this was ok. It was :-).

The next thing was drafting up the cache page as the reviewing for Earthcaches has changed from the Geological Society of America to Reviewers appointed by Groundspeak themselves. As part of the process there has been a tightening up on permission issues for an Earthcache and they also now require you to ask more geological questions than before. Finally, you are no longer allowed to insist on a photo of the cache or their GPS at GZ to prove they have visited the site. You can request a photo but not insist on it like you used to be able to do.

On the walk to GZ

After quite a bit of writing and re-writing we finally had a draft that looked good and was not too technical as to put cacher’s off reading it. After all, what would be the point in the Earthcache if cacher’s don’t learn something from it?

On Saturday we took some accurate co-ords for the cache and also got some photos to make the cache page look nicer and to break the necessary text up a bit. When everything was put together we submitted the new cache and it was published just over 24 hours later :-).

We hope cacher’s enjoy doing it as much as we did researching and setting it.

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Cockshutt hill in the snow

The weather has been looking dire all week with snow covering all the areas we usually cache in and it being too cold to want to venture out for long. We thus ended up calling off our usual day out caching this weekend and settled for a few caches each day to keep the caching itch from needing to be scratched too much.

Friday 8th January

I had to pop out to Stoke for something else but had not really planned to do any caching. One thing lead to another and I ended up also having to visit Stockport. TomTom wanted to take me up the M6 but I had other plans as the scenic route up over the Staffordshire Moorlands before dropping down into Macclesfield and through Hazel Grove sounded much more interesting!

On the way I was looking out for caches that I might pass on TomTom and sure enough, I spotted one in Endon, just as I was coming out of Stoke. A quick check of my iPhone (I did not have a GPSr with me) gave me all I needed to know and it was a really easy find without even needing a GPSr.

The Rudyard Lake nano

A bit further on I spotted another cache near the southern end of Rudyard Lake so stopped for another quick find. This one was a nano and I had no pen with me so had to make do with a picture of the cache container to prove my find.

On the way from Stockport onto the M60 a bit later on I stopped for another drive-by right under Stockport Viaduct. This one was not to be though as the snow was really deep and I was looking for a micro at ground level. Ah well, two out of three ain’t bad :-).

Saturday 9th January

I had to drop Isaac off at school this morning so could not resist going to look for a few caches nearby which had been sat at the top of our closest to home not founds for way too long.

Snowy views over Telford

The first four caches were on the Cockshutt hill near Oakengates and looked like a nice linear walk from where I had planned to park.

The first cache was right by the parking spot and a nice easy find. I then carried on up the steps to the top of the hill but failed to spot the next cache. I thought I’d leave it for the way back and carried on for nice quick finds at the next two caches. The second of these had a HUGE hole in the corner of the box where a rat had chewed through but was thankfully dry inside as the weather is too cold for it to get damp. On the way back to the Jeep I managed to spot the cache I could not find earlier :-).

The chewed cache box

Just time for one more quick cache so off I set for the next nearest which was in Shifnal (to the east of Telford). I was soon at GZ but my heart sank when I was the amount of ivy :-(. I had a good look but after spooking two lone female dog walkers (I was on my own and must have looked a bit suspect!) I resorted to a PAF. The cache was then a really quick find 2 inches from where I’d already looked.

Now for the drive home for a nice drink to warm me up.

Sunday 10th January

We had to drop the children off at their Grandparents but could not resist a quick look for the two new snerdbe caches near White Ladies Priory. We walked up past their existing cache which we’d found ages ago and soon found the first of the new ones. A quick walk out of the woods and up the next field had us with the second of the caches in hand.

White Ladies Priory

On the way back to the Jeep we took the chance to have a look round the old Priory ruins again.

Monday 11th January

Mrs Bolas Heathens had an appointment in Gobowen (just north of Oswestry) this morning so I came along to do some caches afterwards before a nice dinner out in the area.

After we’d done with the appointment, we set off to find the nearby multi cache. We’d had a DNF on this last time we were here as it was dark and we were short on time for a good search. This time I put my hands on the cache in the first place I looked – result :-).

Urban caching in Oswestry

We then headed off into Oswestry for some urban caching, all of which were easy enough apart from one DNF where the owner had taken the cache home for maintenance but not temp’d the cache. I’ve added some notes to my DNF log to advisewhat they need to do to temp the cache as I think they are quite new cachers.

We were getting hungry by now so stopped for dinner at the lovely looking pub the last two Border Meet’s have been held at. After we’d finished dinner we went outside to find the cache at the other side of the car park. The hide was clear but no cache was there. After checking we were looking in the right place with a previous finder we left a slip of paper to prove we were there. I suspect the cache has slipped into the wall further and is now in-accessible. We’ve posted a Needs Maintenance log to alert the cache owner to this.

Whittington Castle remains

The next cache was a Christmas themed cache and GZ was obvious, but behind a fence. Hmmm – we’ve not done any caches by this hider before so could not be sure they did not want you to climb over the fence. The coast was clear so I went in for a quick look but the cache was nowhere to be seen. I checked with a previous finder who told me the cache had been moved yesterday as the fence had been put up a few weeks after the cache was hidden! Armed with the new co-ords, we drove to a closer spot and went in for a really easy find.

Just time for a couple more caches before we really must be getting home. The next cache mentioned you might get your feet wet as the cache was on an island. Sure enough it was, but the island was jumpable from the bank and I soon had the cache in hand.

The frozen pond where I had to jump over to an island

Last one for the day was a short walk down an ex-road that is now closed off, not too far from the A5.

10 finds for the day, which is not up to our usual tally but not bad for a couple of spare hours each day.

We’re hoping to return to a proper caching day out next weekend as we really missed it this weekend, despite the fun we’ve had on the few caches we’ve found.

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Sunset over Earlswood Reservoir

After all the over-indulgences of the Christmas period, myself and Isaac were keen to get out on a good walk to not only get some fresh air, but work off some of the above excesses.

A new series just to the west of Coventry looked to be getting good logs and looked a nice walk so we settled on that as the target for the day. We knew this would not take us all day so spotted loads of caches near Hockley Heath (where the M40 meets the M42) which looked like they might keep us occupied for the rest of the day.

Old vehicle remains near a cache

Isaac directed us to the suggested parking for the Coventry caches, at the southern end of the walk. The walk consisted of starting off on the Peppa Pig Trail before joining up with the adjacent George Pig Trail and then finally finishing off the rest of the Peppa Pig Trail caches on the way back to where we’d parked. The George series were all stand alone caches but the Peppa series involved collecting visual clues at various parts of the walk, which then lead you to a bonus cache.

We set off on our walk and had a series of easy finds. One had a dog poo bag right on top of the cache sticks, which was nice (not!). Pity the lazy dog owners don’t take their rubbish home with them rather than hiding then in tree roots – who in their right minds would hide something in the roots of a tree in the middle of nowhere anyway ;-).

Lovely old tractors seen on the walk

Part way round the series we joined up with the George series and set off to loop round them. Lots more easy finds followed, with the main thing of note being that we recognised part of the walk from a puzzle cache we’d done in the area absolutely ages ago. We actually walked past the puzzle cache hiding place and had a quick look to check on it. It was not there and we now know it’s been archived for quite a while as someone had changed the combination on the padlock on the cache box, so even the cache owner had to break into the box!

Soon we were joining back up with the Peppa series and calculating the bonus co-ords. We plotted these and realised they were on the way back to the Jeep (how handy!) and there was another, un-related, cache we could grab on the way past.

There was an old cache hidden somewhere in this picture

Once back at the Jeep, we headed off for the next set of caches near Hockley Heath. It did not look far on the map but seemed to take an age to drive to. Luckily time was on our side so far today :-).

Once in Hockley Heath, Isaac took us to a quick drive-by before a short walk to a cache at the side of a very ornate garden with a big house in the distance. The cache was called ‘Dragons Den’ and it’s obvious someone with too much spare cash lives there, but I suspect it’s not a Dragon. Whoever it is has very questionable taste as the whole garden looked just a little big tacky to us. Each to their own though – it would be a boring world if we all liked the same things.

Great views

Next on the list was a cache down a green lane. Perfect for a drive-by in the Jeep. I’d not have wanted to try this in a non-4×4 though as the lane was pretty muddy and had HUGE potholes to navigate over.

We enjoyed this so much we headed straight for another set of caches along another green lane. We’d driven down this lane for a puzzle cache ages ago (I won’t say which one as I don’t want to spoil it for others) so knew it was passable. All nice easy finds with some really fun, if not a bit scary ;-) containers.

Driving down the green lane

Just time for a few more caches before it goes dark, but we’ve almost run out of ones to do around here. A quick check on Memory Map showed us there were lots we could try to the west of the M42 near Earlswood. This is an area we’ve cached in many times before and we’ve always enjoyed the caches there.

We were soon parking up for a quick drive-by on a lane we’re sure we’ve done a previous cache on – the lane was called Lime Kiln Lane and I’m sure the cache was something like ‘Tutti Fruitti – Lime’.

Next stop was Earlswood Reservoir. The sun was just going down over the far end of the reservoir now and the sky was awash with purples, crimsons and yellows. An absolutely spectacular sight, so I took some photos whilst Isaac did the biz with the nearby cache.

Obelisk cache

Last of the day was a walk down a PF with 6 more Max caches on them. Max is a caching hound (I think) and seems to have hidden fun caches all over this area – that’s our kind of dog :-). All were nice easy finds, even though it had now gone fully dark.

We decided to head off to the motorway and homewards, but spotted a quick The Strangler drive-by just before we got onto the motorway. How could we resist?

37 finds for the day, some great walking, some really good green lanes and a thoroughly enjoyable time was had by both of us for our first caching of 2010 :-).

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