Archive for June, 2009

Our Plan B for last week became our Plan A for this week…

The bad weather put paid to it last week as the plan involved parking up and then walking round 36 caches during the day, before ending up back at the Jeep. No fun in the rain, but fabulous fun in the lovely sunshine we had this weekend!

The caches are further up the M6 than we normally go (near Preston), but having cached in the area a few weeks ago, we knew it was a great place for a long walk and with so many new caches on nice circular walks, it was too good to resist.

We parked up by the church in Balderstone and got our back-packs loaded up with all we needed for the day. The first cache of the Grommit series was about 100ft away so off we set.

The first one was a nice hide and set the scene for the kind of hide we would be looking for most of the day. We then carried on down the lane and spotted a stile which lead over a field to the next cache. The field was full of knee high grass, which was pretty much what we had all day long, with none of the footpaths appearing to have much use (I bet they will for the next few weeks though!).

The next few were easy enough, including a cache at a lovely little dingle by a stream that feeds into the River Ribble a bit further north from GZ.

At the next cache, we’d just put the cache back and were working out the route to the next cache on Memory Map when we spotted some walkers coming along the path. It turned out to be Eurochamps – great to meet you both. We were stood chatting when another walker with his dog came along the path. It was duncscott – wow, this is turning into a mini cache event!

We all carried on to the next cache, where we said our goodbye’s as they were all carrying on the Grommit series, whereas we were diverting off to do the OBS series by nandad.

The first of the OBS ones was a HUGE box, which was ideal for dropping off two big TB’s we had with us. We’d promised a cacher near home that we’d drop them in Lancs, so as to start them off with some mileage.

The next cache was a really nicely engineered hide which was a quick find. There was a horse jumping event in the nearby field so we had to be stealthy with the cache, although to be honest the people there were far more interested in anything with 4 legs than us (that’s if they could actually see us!).

We then lost the PF and ended up skirting up the edge of a field and having to jump a great big steeplechase water jump to get onto the next PF. Then it was a quick walk down into a dingle and up the other side to the cache.

This is where time started to slip away a bit as all the PF’s had been diverted around the nearby Hall, but they had neglected to put up enough signs so you knew where you should be going. We managed reasonably well, but totally lost the path around the front of the Hall and ended up right outside it, where we thankfully found a friendly gardener who put us on the right tracks.

The rest of the series was straightforward from there. Lots of very nice containers, which made the caches really enjoyable. We stopped for our sandwiches in this beautiful meadow on the edge of some woods, before continuing on our way.

Not far from finishing the OBS series, we bumped into duncscott again. He had finished the Grommit series and was now starting on this one.

With the OBS series finished, we headed off over another really un-obvious PF to join up with the next cache in the Grommit series. From there, it was a nice easy walk around the rest of the caches in the series, with all the caches being really easy finds, except for #19, which we could not spot.

With the details collected for the bonus cache, we plotted it on Memory Map but then wondered how the heck you are supposed to get to it as (without giving anything away) it’s not near any roads or marked PF’s. We tried our best to find a decent route to it, but did have to walk over a private field and climb two very sharp barbed wire fences. Not recommended.

Once in the woods where the final cache was located, we were soon at GZ and had an easy find with great co-ords (which have been bang on for pretty much all the caches today).

We’d hoped to finish a bit earlier than we did and would have gone on to do a few more local caches, but time was not on our side so we headed back to the Jeep and onwards towards home.

On the way back, I remembered there were two quick caches we could easily do, both near M6 junctions. We stopped for the first one at J17 which was nice and easy and then carried on back down the M6 to J15, where we were to leave the motorway anyway.

The last cache of the day, at J15, was only about 150ft from where our old Not Motorway Mayhem cache was, so was an easy find as we knew where to look before we got there.

37 finds for the day and some stunning walking in beautiful landscape.

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I’ve been helping a new cacher who lives not too far from home out with advice on setting up a new cache series and how to make your cache page look nice, with images and different text. For the record, I had no idea where the caches were going to be set so did not have an advantage over anyone other cachers.

This morning, my Inbox pinged to the lovely sound of 13 new caches close(ish) to home. The sun was shining – how could I resist going out to have a try for them?

On the way to the caches, I spotted a familiar car coming the other way down the lane and was pleased to see it was Allun from the Shropshire Seekers. We had a quick chat and he told me he’d got 3 FTF’s and 3 DNF’s on the series at the crack of dawn. No problem, as that still leaves 10 FTF’s to go after and it’s a great walk anyway :-).

I parked up in a place we parked absolutely ages ago when we did an old cache in the woods called The Pig Rails. I’ve not checked, but this must have been amongst the very first few caches we found.

The first cache was at the entrance to the woods and I noticed Allun had already been to this one. I carried on and had a DNF at the second cache. The co-ords *must* be iffy as they took me into the middle of an area of waist high nettles with no clue item anywhere in sight. Hmmm.

Rather than waste any more time, I carried on to the next cache. Navigating was interesting as Memory Map only shows a handful of the many, many paths in the woods. I ended up sort of zig-zagging my way along, picking up caches as I went.

All was going swimmingly until cache #3 where I had another DNF. Another suspected case of iffy co-ords as the co-ords took me to a bench in an open grassed area, with no hint item anywhere near. I moved on and decided to come back for another look later on.

The rest of the caches were easy enough with the main point of note being when I bumped into a group of locals out for a walk for the third time and in the third different location. They nervously asked me what I was doing and when I replied I was on a high tech treasure hunt, they looked really relieved. It turns out they thought I was a property developer sizing up the woods for a new development and that I was using my GPS to measure out distances!

Just before I got back to the Jeep, I went off to try and clear up DNF #1. I eventually found the cache about 65-70ft off the co-ords, just over the top of a bank from where my GPSr was pointing (and hence why I could not spot the hint item earlier). Phew!

I got back to the Jeep and drove round to a closer point to DNF #2. I searched as per the hint for a while and could not spot the cache. I then moved back closer to the bench and where my GPSr was trying to take me and spotted a nice cachers path leading to a hint item. How on earth I’d not spotted this earlier is beyond me. The co-ords were about 45ft out, so not *that* bad.

Just as I was opening the box, snerdbe phoned to say they were part way round the series and had seen our name in the logbooks and was wondering where I was up to. I mentioned I was at #3 and was told they had beat me to FTF on it.

Ah well, 9 FTF’s is not bad for a morning’s work and I’ve had a great time in the area anyway. The caches themselves were really good too – nice big containers (not a micro in sight), loads of good quality swaps and some nice hides. Just the way caching is supposed to be :-).

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The rain continued on Sunday with it absolutely teeming down most of the day. Later in the day, we’d just had a lovely Sunday roast dinner when the rain started to clear up.

I didn’t need an excuse to get out to walk my dinner off and more importantly, get some fresh air. The closest to home not found was near to The Wrekin in some lovely woods on The Wrekin’s smaller cousin, The Ercall. Perfect!

I was soon parking up and off I set up into the woods. On the way I passed the site of an Earthcache in the old quarry on the hill. We’d done this one ages ago so stopped for a moment to admire the great views of the quarry anyway.

The fun then began as the paths to GZ were not at all obvious and were not ones marked on Memory Map. I headed off down one that looked to be going in the right direction, only to be presented with a very slippery bank to climb down. It was then a question of hopping though the undergrowth before I found a better path. After that it was plain sailing and I was soon at GZ.

The cache took a few moments to spot – I should have trusted my GPSr as the co-ords were spot on and I was reading about 3-4ft at the cache. You don’t get better than that.

The biz done with the cache and I set off back to the Jeep. This time I tried to stick to the path and to my amazement, it joined back up with the main path near the old quarry. If only I’d known this earlier, although I would not have had as much fun getting to the cache.

Back home and settled down for the evening, I had a notification that a local cacher had had problems with our Jeep Challenge 2 cache and that part of the special equipment needed to retrieve the cache was stuck in the cache tunnel. Easily done by the sounds of it too.

We hope to have the cache back up and running with all special equipment back in place later today.

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The weather for the weekend was forecast to be absolutely awful but we could not let the weekend pass without going out caching. I work from home during the week so getting out and about at the weekend is an absolute necessity for me, otherwise I’d slowly drive myself nuts.

During the week, we spotted a new series by The Strangler, just south of King’s Norton in the countryside just outside the urban sprawl of Birmingham. The caches are based around the albums from the band The Stranglers, with most caches containing a clue needed for the Bonus cache to the series. There were also quite a few other caches we had not done in the area so it looked perfect.

We set off from home in heavy rain, armed with full waterproofs as it looked like we were going to need them. The first cache was a drive-by, not far from the M42 junction, so we donned our waterproofs and jumped out of the Jeep for an easy find.

Next, it was a short drive to the next one, which was just into a field near the road. We then headed 0.25 along the public footpath, up the hill to the next one. By this time we were thoroughly soaked and beginning to question our wisdom of coming caching in such awful weather.

Needless to say, we struggled with this one as it was in a very slippery place and you had to stand in what would normally be a shallow stream to get the cache. Today it was anything but shallow! We were not having fun at all so decided to give the cache up and return to the Jeep to decide what to do.

Back in the warmth of the Jeep, we had a good look at Memory Map and decided to hit drive-by’s and cache and dashes in the vain hope the weather would improve and we could consider longer walks to caches.

A couple of M42 Motorway caches followed. We had a nightmare at the second one as it was one of those tiny dog-tag holder nanos. After a struggle, we got the logbook out and signed it, but could we get it back in the container? Of course not. The more we tried, the soggier and harder to get back in it became. We ended up having to take it with us and leave the cache in situ with no logbook in it.

Next up, were more of The Strangler’s Studio 16 series, which were nice and easy, with some fab hides involving string, hooks etc etc. All good fun and very enjoyable.

The only other thing of note here was a major disaster at yet another dog tag nano. I was on the phone and Isaac was doing the biz with the cache. As he struggled to get the logbook back into the tiny container, the bottom of the container slipped out of his hand and rolled in slow-motion to the planks on a wooden bridge and down a gap between the planks. We had a good look under the bridge for it but it must have got washed away in the stream beneath. We PAF’d to the cache owner to apologise profusely and also let them know about the missing log in their M42 Motorway cache from earlier on.

The Studio 16 series was spread all around the area, with no clear route round the caches. We had worked out a rough plan to get round them and hopefully not miss any out but this changed on the fly as we went round.

Part way round, we were near the Hollywood Bypass series, so worked our way along the back roads picking these up, along with a couple of Studio 16 straggler caches.

Towards the top of the area for the series, we stopped for our sandwiches and plotted out the clues we’d collected for the Studio 16 Bonus cache. We realised we only needed one more clue for the Bonus, so worked out what the missing digit was likely to be and saw we were not too far away from it.

A short drive later (via an un-related cache) and we had an easy find of the bonus cache in the second of two co-ordinate possibilities we had. We then headed off to pick off a few more caches in the area, before we headed off into more urban areas for some fun urban caching (which we always enjoy in the suburbs of Brum).

First off, were four caches in Kings Norton. The first one was easy enough, but then we came a cropper at the next one as we had just started to look for it when some teenagers came to shelter from the rain under a nearby canal bridge. We had to abandon the search as GZ was in full view of the muggles. Hmmm!

Next was a really interesting spot a bit further down the canal where there was this really unusual guillotine style canal gate. The cache page had lots of interesting information on it that we really appreciated. We love this kind of thing.

The sister cache to the last cache foxed us though. We arrived at GZ on the edge of the canal by the site of an old swing bridge (no longer there). We searched for a while in a place that matched the hint, with co-ords down to 3ft but no cache was to be found. We gave up and have since noted that the cache is actually on the other side of the canal. No wonder we could not find it!

A few more urban caches around the southern suburbs of Brum followed, with nothing particularly special to note. All good fun though!

By this time, we were getting hungry so started to head for home, but not before picking off an inner Ring Road cache we’d had a DNF on last Christmas (it was missing last time we looked for it). We also tried for “one last cache” at a Sidetracked cache near Aston, but the cache seems to be missing as the hide was obvious, the co-ords were bang on, but no cache was there.

A great day out which we thoroughly enjoyed, despite the damp spirits at the start of the day. 31 finds too!

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I was wondering when the elusive #3 in the new 8 cache series around Apley Woods near Wellington would come out as all the rest had now been published. Mid-evening yesterday, along came the notification email so I dashed off out to try and get a FTF on it and also find the only other remaining one, #8 (we’d DNF’s this yesterday with several other cachers).

I was soon parking up, just up the road from the new Hospice and wandered down the cycle-path and into the woods. GZ seemed to be just to the left of the path as I walked into the woods. I could hear some people in their back garden just the other side of the garden fence from where my GPSr was pointing so I knew I’d have to be stealthy.

A quick creep around the undergrowth there revealed nothing. The cache had no hint so all I knew was I was looking for a small box, probably the same cylindrical shape as the others in the series and almost certainly wrapped in a black plastic bag (like the others were).

I tried the other side of the path but still could not spot it, so I decided to head off to try and find #8 while I searched my mind for inspiration on where the new #3 cache could be.

Luckily #8 was a nice quick find with the new co-ordinates. We’d searched for this one yesterday but could not find it anywhere. It turns out the cache owner had a problem with the co-ordinates under the heavy tree cover and they were just under 200ft off where they should be.

Buoyed with my success, I returned to #3 and started to re-check all the places I’d already looked. No cache. I widened the search up to about 100ft into the woods but still no cache was to be found.

By this time, I was getting a bit frustrated as there were tons of places a small cache could be in such dense woods and I was wondering how good the co-ords on the cache page were (they turned out to be pretty good in the end).

I was literally about to give up when I thought I’d have one final check of a pile of sticks / small logs just by the path as I’d not looked properly there before. Still no cache, so I decided on one final sweep of trees coming back round to the path and low and behold, there the cache was, under leaf litter at the side of a tree I’m sure I’d already checked. I was FTF too. Phew!

I returned home very satisfied with myself as that was *so* nearly a DNF and a 4th trip to these lovely woods to finish off the series.

All in all, I’ve really enjoyed my 3 trips to the woods for the series. There have been a couple of frustrating moments, but this has been more than made up for with decent sized containers, well stocked caches and a lovely walk in a great place. Well done nozi parkers for placing them!

Meanwhile, Isaac has been wanting to place a new cache near his Grandparents in Blymhill for ages so as I knew he was off there after school yesterday, I sent him with a GPSr, camera and a well stocked ammo can.

As soon as he’d placed it, he phoned me with the co-ords so I could make a start on the cache page, while he was driven back home by his Grandpa. When he got back, we both finished off the cache page, double checked everything and hit the submit button. I wonder who will be FTF? …

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After the 3 caches from the new Apley Castle series being published last night, another 4 of them came out at lunchtime today. There is still 1 yet to be published so it looks like a third visit to the area is on the books sometime soon!

We were at Halfords in sunny Telford when I spotted the new caches on the iPhone so dashed round to the area and parked up in the same fisherman’s lay-by as I did last night. Off Sarah and myself set down the path, making hard work of navigating as we’d been caught short with no proper GPSr with us – just Isaac’s very old eTrex Yellow (useless under tree cover) and my iPhone (OK, but the maps look to be from OpenStreetMap, which is worse than useless round this area).

We eventually arrived at the first cache and luckily the clue made the hide very obvious and I found the cache in the first place I looked. A nice FTF too!

Next on the list was not too far away. As we approached, two people were taking pictures of each other by the very ornate gate into the woods. As they turned round we realised it was Paul and Izzy from Izzy and the Lizard King. They had just got FTF on the nearby cache, so I did the biz with the cache while everyone chatted away.

We all set off for the next cache in the woods, which Izzy and Paul (and cannonedwards) had already DNF’d. We searched a very wide area but nothing even coming close to the hint had a cache.

We gave up and moved on to the 4th new cache. This was a nice easy find thankfully and a Joint FTF with Paul and Izzy. We all then returned to the DNF again and had an even more extensive search but the cache is nowhere to be found. We wonder if the cache owner has transposed part of the co-ords or the cache has gone missing before FTF.

We then walked with Izzy and Paul to one of the caches I got a FTF on last night before continuing on to the Jeep and heading back home for some dinner.

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I was just settling down to watch Corrie last night when quite a few caches came out not too far from home. There was #1, #6 and #7 of a series round Apley Castle near Wellington and a whole trail of caches along the old railway line between Stafford and Newport.

Decisions, decisions….

The Apley Castle ones are decent sized containers but numbers 2-5 are obviously still waiting to be published. The Stafford / Newport ones are virtually all micros (not our favourite cache size at all).

I went for the Apley Castle ones as we know the area from visiting for 4 old caches that are there (3 of these are now sadly archived) and it has a special place in our hearts as one of the first caches we ever found was there.

On the way, I had the WiFi network in the Jeep on and my iPhone constantly checking to see if numbers 2-5 had been published. By the time I arrived they still had not come out so I set off anyway.

After parking up on the A442 in the fisherman’s lay-by, I vaulted the wall and waded through chest high nettles, only to find out that there was a gate with a perfectly good path not 20ft from where I’d vaulted the wall – doh!

The first cache was a quick find, after I initially checked the wrong mossy log. A nice FTF too!

I then headed off round the lake to the next cache. This one took me a good while to find as the co-ords were pointing to the edge of the lake but after wading through the nettles and not seeing a cacher’s trail that the cache owner must have surely left when they set the cache, I spotted somewhere else on the other side of the path. A quick dive into the bushes there yielded the cache. Another FTF :-).

As I was walking off to the next cache, some muggles were coming towards me and the customary “are you geocaching” was said. It was Greygeeza – great to meet you all at last. We had a nice chat before continuing on our ways. They had got their first FTF on the remaining cache – nice one!

The last of the three caches was a really easy find. I then checked again and the missing 4 caches still had not been published. The cache pages for the ones I had found gave a few clues as to the route to follow to find the missing 4 caches, but there were just too many places to check to have a hope of finding them. If I had more time, I could probably have found one or two, but we’ll just wait for them to get published and do them properly I think.

On the way back to the Jeep, I bumped into Greygeeza again so we stopped for a chat. We lost track of the time and it was soon going dark, so we both headed off to our respective homes – they had their first FTF and I had 2 FTF’s – a good evening’s caching for everyone :-).

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