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Archive for February, 2010

Looking along the canal from one of the Pelsall area caches

On Saturday Isaac was back at school so I planned to grab a few caches towards Wolverhampton after I’d dropped him off at school and headed down the motorway. Little did I know it would develop into a full day’s caching and that I’d meet 3 lots of other cacher’s while I was out!

The first cache was one myself and Allun from the Shropshire Seekers had had a DNF on a week or two ago when we were on a FTF mission. The cache was missing before FTF and had been replaced in the meantime so I popped along for a nice quick find. It’s always satisfying to tick off previous DNF’s :-).

Stream in Pendeford Woods

The next caches were not too far away and based along a walk though Pendeford Wood near Wolverhampton. I parked near to the top of the trail and had a lovely walk through the woods picking up the 5 caches there.

After I’d finished with the caches in the woods, I headed off for the Essington Signal Box series, which is a set of 4 caches on a circular walk near to an area I’d cached a few weeks ago. I started off with a quick guard rail cache before heading off down the path into the fields. The rest of the series were nice quick finds and it was a nice walk.

Canal boats moored at Sneyd Wharf

Disaster then struck as I had a DNF on a new cache near Sneyd Whark called BOYHOOD ESCAPE ROUTE (1) – that’s the cache owner’s SHOUTING and not mine ;-). On the up-side, I did bump into Hank’s Crew at GZ – it’s good to meet you both at last :-).

A quick cache at Sneyd Wharf on the canal followed, before I moved on to the north end of Bloxwich for the ‘The sky is falling down” series, a set of 7 caches based along an old canal and surrounding area. We’d totally failed to spot this series on the map before as all but one of the caches have exactly the same dummy co-ords, so it just look like one cache on the map!

View down the ex-canal, now a nature reserve

Needless to say, I got my bike out of the Jeep like we always do for canal based caches. A had great fun travelling between the caches on a deserted towpath and then stopping to work out the co-ords of the next cache at each previous cache. All too soon I was back at the Jeep with the series completed.

Next on my list was two quick caches round the corner at Izaak Walton pool, a nice looking fishing pool. Nothing much to report here as they were both quick and easy finds.

A beautiful memorial to a teenage girl killed in a car crash nearby

I then headed off to the Pelsall area for all the new andynelaine caches that had come out recently. After I’d done a few of them I got an almighty shock. I’ll quote from my cache log:

As I got back to the Jeep I was sat checking my GPSr to work out which cache to go for next when there was an almighty bang from behind me. It scared the bejesus out of me to say the least!

A car had just gone past and I wondered if he’d clipped the Jeep as he was passing. I got out to check and all was ok. The only other thing it could be was a tyre. The Jeep ones were fine so I had a check of my bike in the back. Sure enough the back tyre was flat as a pancake. How odd though for that to happen as it was not moving and was nowhere near anything sharp which might have caused a sudden explosion.

Old pool, near to where a farmhouse once stood

When I’d recovered enough to drive ;-) I headed off for more caches in the area. That’s when the second bizarre / funny thing happened:

On the way to this one I was sure a blue car had started following me as every turn I made, they did too. I stopped to check my GPSr for the footpath to a nearby cache and the blue car pulled up behind me too. Oh no, I’ve not cut someone up and they have been following me to have words or something have I? I didn’t think so and thankfully spotted it was Des and Bren, on their way to the same caches as I was on my way to.

FIshing man statue near one of the caches

Great to meet Des and Bren again. We ended up doing the next 6 caches together, although they had already found the last two, so just tagged along as we were chatting anyway :-). Along the way we also bumped into the thurs night gang who were just arriving at a cache we’d just done.

They kindly gave me the co-ords of the new YOSM virtual cache location which was not too far away. A quick check on my GPSr revealed a few other new caches in that area so I decided to head off there next as it would leave me not too far from the M6 and the journey northbound to home.

On the way I grabbed a few quick and easy drive-by’s and a cache on a short walk.

Ye Ole Survey Monuments - Pheasey virtual cache

I parked as close as I could to the YOSM cache and got out of the Jeep to take the required photo of my GPSr with the trigpoint. All well and good, but I could not find the trig point anywhere! I then realised it was actually a flat concrete trig plate I was looking for and that I’d parked right on top of it – doh! I moved the Jeep back a bit and all was revealed.

Once I’d finished with the YOSM cache I headed off into the park over the road for the three new caches there. Some tricky hides on these which had me searching for a few moments and all good fun. The last one of the three had this amazing view over most of Birmingham, including the city centre :-).

That's my kind of 'Grub Grab' cache series location - a lovely Indian restaurant!

I decided I better head off towards the motorway and home as time was getting on, but spotted another 4 quick caches on the way so it would have been rude not to stop and find them.

44 finds for the day, which I was pleased about as I’d only intended to bag a few caches at the start of the day.

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Self portrait with the cache

A new cache had come out last night not too far from home but I’d not had chance to dash out to find it. The next morning I took a call from Allun of the Shropshire Seekers who was at GZ and could not find the cache.

GZ is a tree in the middle of open parkland with no other trees nearby. The cache just had to be somewhere on the tree but despite Allun’s efforts and my suggestions as to sneaky hides, he could not spot it. Later in the day another cacher tried for FTF and could not find it either. The cache owner then went to check on the cache on their way home from work and said it was still in place!

Later that evening I was chatting to Allun about the cache on MSN and we could resist a trip out in the dark to go for another look for the cache.

We arrived at GZ and found the cache instantly – the hiding place stood out as we walked up. We then went the short distance for the final cache (it was a Multi) and had another instant find there too.

All very odd as Allun confirmed he’d checked the exact same hiding place for the first stage and it definitely was not  there then. We called the other person to look for the cache who confirmed they had looked in the same place and not seen the first stage.

Was it there or not earlier in the day? I don’t know: two experienced cachers could not spot it but the cache owner says it was there all along. Very strage. At least we managed a FTF though :-).

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Manchester City Centre caching

Isaac sat next to Alan Turing at Manchester University

Yesterday we got very close to Manchester City Centre whilst out caching and I mentioned to Isaac that we must go for a wander round sometime soon as I’ve not been for ages. He suggested as Sunday was his last day of the school holidays, we should get the train into Manchester to do some caches and have a look around with perhaps a bit of shopping if we had any time left.

What a great idea as I’ve not been on the train for years and I don’t think Isaac ever has, despite him having been on the New York Subway, San Francisco’s BART and the Severn Valley steam railway nearer home! We booked our tickets online later on Saturday evening.

Great statue near the university

On Sunday we got the train to Manchester Piccadilly and absolutely loved it. The train was new, looked very clean and was really quiet yet fast. What a nice way to travel – we’ll have to do this more often. Very relaxing :-).

On arrival in Manchester our first cache just had to be the Sidetracked one just outside Piccadilly station. The GPSr’s lead us a merry dance for a while here due to all the tall buildings but eventually settled down and we went in for a quick find.

The Hilton Tower - it looks unfeasible!

During the morning we’d planned to work on a multi cache based around some alien’s that were done at various points around town using small mosaic tiles. A really neat idea for a multi and great fun to do. I won’t say much more about it here as I don’t want to spoil it for others, but I will say it’s a fab cache and the final is in a surprisingly nice place where the cache is very unlikely to get muggled.

We did all the other city centre caches as we passed them, including a couple by Manchester University. At the cache in St John’s Gardens, I pointed out the back of the houses at Granada Studios made famous on TV in Coronation Street. You could just about make them out over the walls of the studios.

Coronation Street (look closely!)

The next cache was in Albert Square by the Town Hall. The highlight of this one for both us was a beautiful Rolls Royce Phantom parked outside the Town Hall and obviously involved in a wedding. We both had a good look round it – what a great car.

Rolls Royce Phantom by the Town Hall

Just a few more to do now as we’ve nearly run out of caches to do. The next one was by a bar that is in what used to be some grotty underground toilet’s when I was a teenager. I’m not sure I’d want to go drinking down there even though it looked very nice from what we could see down the stairs.

The last cache was down past the BBC building on Oxford Road and a nice quick one. From here we caught a bus to Piccadilly Gardens to go and have a look for some old fashioned record shops (Isaac’s request, not mine, but really good fun nonetheless).

We had a walk around a few more places and something to eat before it was time for our train home. On the way home the train went right past the Jodrell Bank telescope and we clocked 102mph on our Oregon!

Jodrell Bank telescope as we zoomed past at 102mph

An absolutely fabulous day out which we both loved. I really liked re-living all the places I used to go to in my teens and Isaac liked being taken to see them, plus he loved having a look around the “old fashioned” record shop he’d looked up on the internet the night before!

Only 9 finds for the day, but the day wasn’t really about caching :-).

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The Hellfire Club near Queens Park

On Saturday myself and Isaac planned a trip to North East Manchester. We decided to start off with the cache series around Boggart Hole Clough, move on to the various stand alone caches in the area before heading off to do the Rochdale Canal series and then finally the SBT series by the last junction of the M62 before it heads over the Pennines.

On the way to Boggart Hole Clough we picked up a quick cache called Claires Brothers outside a church not far from where we’d got off the motorway. Once at Boggart Hole Clough we parked up in the main car park and got the bikes out of the Jeep for the ride around the series.

Green Victorian Post Box

We started off along the northern edge of the park with several easy finds, before diverting off to a cache by a lovely Victorian post box that was painted green rather than the usual red. Just the kind of location that caching is made for as we’d easily have driven past here without even noticing it otherwise.

Next, it was back into Boggart Hole Clough to go round the rest of the caches in the series. All nice quick finds with some great hides and even an ammo box on one of them. It’s always good to see an ammo box used on a cache in such an urban location (although it was in a secluded part of the park that could easily be anywhere in the middle of the countryside).

The Hellfire Hearse

After we’d finished here, we headed off southwards to pick off various stand-alone caches. The highlights for us were:

  • A cache by the Hellfire Club – a huge dining and entertainment venue that had a very creepy looking hearse outside and ghoullies hanging from the walls outside the building. Another fab location for a cache.
  • A cache by some very urban locks on the Rochdale locks in an area I’d never have dared go into 20 years ago. It’s been cleaned up a lot since then although I have to admit it’s not our favourite part of Manchester for caching.
  • Getting lost by Isaac at this roundabout with tons of exits. We got the wrong exit twice and were very thankful we were third time lucky and were soon at the next cache after that!

Lock 75 on the Rochdale Canal

After we’d finished the stand-alone caches, we picked up a couple of easy finds in Broadhurst Clough woods before arriving at a very familiar Morrisons by the M60 not far from Oldham. We’d been here to do some other caches in the past but it also served as a great place to start the 6 Rochdale Canal caches.

Out came the bikes again and headed off down the towpath. Lots more easy finds here, including a cache in a tunnel, a cache by this unusual hydraulically lifting canal bridge and a cache near to some lovely locks with a very interesting information board nearby.

The top end of the Rochdale Canal series

After we’d finished the canal series we got back on the M60, then the M62 and were soon parking up for the SBT series near Milnrow, just off the M62 before it goes across the Pennines towards Leeds. These new caches were set around some excellent brand new cycle paths and a dream to do by bike.

All were nice easy finds apart from number 5 which we could not see anywhere. The logs implied it was a sneaky hide, but even looking in all the sneaky places we still could not spot the cache. I’d be interested to see where it is if it’s still there.

Views towards the snowy hills from the SBT series

We’d pretty much done for the day but it was still very early as we’d got through the caches a lot quicker than expected. I suggested to Isaac we head home via the two Earthcaches just outside Manchester City Centre. On the way to these we picked up a quick drive-by nano just off our route by a church.

Just as we neared the city centre we remembered there was a bargee canal cache we’ve been meaning to do for ages. It used to be a not so nice area but urban regeneration has meant the area has changed beyond recognition. The historic locks are still there but are now surrounded by very swish looking high-rise apartments and tastefully restored mill buildings. The cache was an easy find.

View of the Ancoats locks

The first Earthcache was right by the Manchester Apollo. I’ve been to tons of gigs there in my teens and twenties and so it was really nice to come back again. Isaac also enjoyed seeing the venue I saw my first gig at – Iron Maiden in about 1984 :-).

Next, we headed for the other Earthcache by Manchester University but could not resist a few easy caches around the area as we went. All quick finds with the hardest bit being finding somewhere safe to park.

Love the architecture in these new buildings

We finished the day with an impulse cache at one called ‘Most Dangerous Cache In Manchester #8′. Not the nicest of areas (that’s the whole point of the series apparently!) but a quick and easy find as the coast was clear.

42 finds for the day, glorious weather and a fun mix of urban and more rural caching. A great day out!

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Aqualate Mere Nature Reserve

On Thursday I had to pop into Stafford to pay some cheques in at the bank and decided to stop to look for a new cache that had come out near Aqualate Mere just outside Newport during the week on the way home.

The walk to the cache is quite a long one (0.88 miles each way) but takes you past a cache we adopted from MarcB a few years ago, giving me the perfect chance to check up on our cache.

I’d forgotten how beautiful the area is here as it’s been a while since we’ve visited. The area is a nature reserve and absolutely teeming with wildlife and the added bonus of hardly any people! I had a lovely walk down to our cache, which was safe and sound and well hidden.

I carried on the walk and was soon at GZ for the new cache, which was an easy find. I then re-traced my steps back to the Jeep and headed home to get some work done.

Views from GZ

Later that evening, Allun from the Shropshire Seekers popped up on MSN to ask if I fancied a FTF dash to a cache near Brewood that had been sat unfound for a few days now. Normally new caches in that area get found really quickly as there are quite a few FTF dashers in the area. We could not work out where everyone was!

As we drove down the A41 it became apparent that the area round the cache would be covered in newly fallen snow (there was no snow at home). We walked over the snowy fields in the dark from the north and were soon at GZ. Despite spending an hour or so frisking down ivy clad trees we could not find the cache.

I did not have the cache owners PAF number so phoned some other caching friends who roused the cache owner on Facebook and asked him to call me. Even with a detailed description of where the cache was hidden from the owner himself, we could not find it.

The owner went out the next day and confirmed the cache was missing. It’s now been replaced nearby so we’ll have to stop by again the next time we are in the area.

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A quick new cache near home

Lovely sunny views on the walk to the cache

On Sunday morning I was checking my emails and noted a new cache had come out very close to home. Being Valentines Day, I was otherwise occupied for a while ;-) so pretty much gave up on the chance of a FTF.

Just before dinnertime I had a spare hour or so, so decided to pop out and bag the new cache. The walk was very familiar as there *might* be a puzzle cache hidden a bit further along the same track somewhere ;-).

I was soon at GZ (or so I thought) but there were no hint items anywhere to be found. I’d passed one not far back so walked back for an easy find. My GPSr was saying 92ft to go at GZ which did not look right, so I power cycled it and it then said 2ft to go. That’s much better! Glad to see it’s not just me that struggles in the morning ;-).

Oh, and I had missed FTF as I suspected. Not a problem though as it’s a lovely walk and a beautiful day to be out and about.

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Hulme Quarry Earthcache

Saturday was the first day of the school holidays so Isaac was free to come caching :-).

We’d planned a trip to clear up the new caches in Parkhall Country Park to the SE of Stoke, just on the edge of the Staffordshire Moorlands. After we’d done there, we planned a circular walk near Weston Coyney, followed by the new caches near Endon, to the NE of Stoke. Finally, if we had any time left, we planned to clear up the newer caches in the south of Stoke on Trent.

The first caches of the day were 4 Mawgan’s Trail caches near to Parkhall. We’d had DNF’s on 4 out of the 6 caches in this series a while ago as they were nowhere to be seen. I’d noted lots of recent finds on the 4 caches so we stopped off and found 4 easy caches in the first place we looked on each of them. The caches were almost certainly not there last time I looked as I had checked the hiding places then. All very strange!

Frozen fisherman's pond near one of the caches

Next, we headed over to the car park at Parkhall Country Park for our walk around all the new caches in the area. As we set off Isaac mentioned the area looked very like parts of the L E G E N D letterbox trails in Lancashire. The likeness was uncanny – part moorland, part pine woods, some streams and a bit of terrain thrown in for good measure.

The caches around the park were all nice quick finds with some really good co-ords. We only messed up once where we had finished an Earthcache at the bottom of an old quarry and scrambled up to the top of the quarry for the next cache, only to discover that the cache was back down near the bottom of the quarry – doh! We did not think it was safe to scramble back down and could not be bothered to walk all the way back round so opted to leave the cache for next time.

Viewpoint looking down over Stoke on Trent

After we’d done at the main park, we drove round to the side of a housing estate to access to last two Parkhall caches. Both were quick and easy finds with the main thing of note of seeing a stretched limo decked out as a LAPD car, along with an ex-fire engine that is obviously used as a limo too. I can’t begin to imagine all the shenanigans that must have gone on in them!

We then headed up for a circular walk starting off at the excellently named Sheepwash. The OS maps showed a Byway leading up to the start of the walk and we were looking forward to driving the Jeep along it. Unfortunately someone has blocked the end off so you cannot drive down it – hmmm!

Lovely brook next to one of the Sheepwash caches

The walk was our favourite of the day (although the Parkhall caches were excellent too) with a lovely mix of open spaces, small streams and lovely woodland. This is definitely our kind of caching and a real treat to do :-).

After we’d finished our walk, we got back into the Jeep while Isaac directed me to the next caches near Endon, NE of Stoke. The first three were quick and easy cache and dashes. We then parked up for a circular walk around the rest of the caches. Another fab walk followed, with the highlights including walking alongside the massive Stanley Pool, getting back up to the higher ground for fab views accross the area and finally seeing the lovely church in Bagnall.

Bagnall Church

Once we’d finished here, we decided to head off to south Stoke to clear up the newer caches there, as they were starting to show on page 1 of our closest to home not founds. The first was one I’d DNF’d last summer due to nettles over head height around GZ meaning I could not spot the small stump the cache was hidden in. No problems this time of year though as we could clearly see the hint item as we walked up.

Some more quick caches folllowed, including one where you have to scramble up the very steep side of what looks to be an old slag heap. I sent Isaac up to do the biz with the cache while I stood ready to stop him if he slipped and started to slide back down.

Really strange looking black rocks near one of the south Stoke caches

The last caches of the day were three new ones around the beautiful Trentham Gardens, near J15 of the M6. It was just starting to go dark by now and we failed to spot the first one, which was a nano with no hint on the back of a horrible metal fence with 1001 places it could be. Not our favourite type of cache at all (I’m being very generous here!).

We gave up in disgust and walked off up the hill for the other two caches, which were both easy finds. On the way back to the nano, we called up some caching friends who’d found it for a hint. Armed with a good idea where it was we then had an easy find in the dark (the sun had totally gone down now).

Isaac signing out some of the answers for the Earthcache so we don't have to write them down

36 finds for the day and a lovely day out with my boy in some glorious countryside. The weather even behaved itself and was perfect all day long :-). Caching at it’s very best :-).

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