Archive for March, 2010

Isaac with our one cache find of the day

On Sunday we planned to attend the NW Caching Monthly Meet at Winwick, near Ikea just north of Warrington.

We were running behind all morning due to putting the clocks forward an hour last night, so arrived at the event a bit later than planned. Not a problem though and we had a great time. The quiz was really tricky but we managed to answer some of the questions and were really surprised to find we’d won (we never normally win anything!). Our prize was a lovely unactivated NW Caching geocoin :-).

On the way home from the event I’d spotted a cache and dash on the way to the M6 so we headed off for that. A nice easy find was had, but the cache itself was not that quick to do as a dual carriageway got it in the way and took us a bit out of our way. All part of the fun though.

We then headed off home having had a great time meeting lots of old friends :-).

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Not sure what this is, but it was very close to a cache and stopped us finding it!

We’ve been umm’ing and ahh’ing about the Skeg To Ness series ever since it came out. It’s advertised as “193 miles and 207 drive by caches” and is basically a route from one side of the UK to the other, via quieter roads, with lots of caches along the way.

Initial reports of the series did not look too promising but better reports followed and in the end we could not resist. We’d done a day walking last week so decided to do the opposite this week: an intense day with lots of quick and easy caches. We decided we’d see if we could get 100 finds for the day, without going too far east as that would make the journey home at the end of the day longer.

Views towards the Runcorn refineries from near one of the caches

The first cache of the day was just by the M53 at Cheshire Oaks Outlet Mall. There are 6 more caches to the west of here, but we’d have to double back on ourselves to find them so opted to leave them for another trip.

The first part of our route snaked through mid Cheshire along lots of very familiar lanes. Pretty much all the caches were 35mm containers and most were hidden in the same style – the base of a post. All nice and easy and we were soon racking up the finds quickly. We had a plan for 10 caches an hour and soon realised this was easily achievable.

Reservoir in the Macclesfield Forest

At the far side of Cheshire the route started to climb up into the very beautiful Peak District. We’d been looking forward to this section of the route as it’s a fab place for caching and the scenery is stunning. We were not disappointed!

The series is split into sections with different local cachers being responsible for different sections of the series. It soon became clear we’d started on another cacher’s section as the containers changed to Small’s and some were hidden a short walk from the parking spot (they had all been drive-by’s so far).

Lovely Peak District views

We particularly liked the section through the Macclesfield Forest but the rest of the Peak District caches were also a pleasure to do. Along the way we spotted Tizzie just as we were pulling up to a cache near to the A52 between Leek and Buxton. We stopped for a quick chat before going on our ways (she was doing the caches in the other direction to us).

After the scenery and inventive hides of the Peak District we dropped down into the more built up areas of Chesterfield and north Nottinghamshire. The cache owner changed again and 35mm containers and even a few magnetic nano’s started to appear. Nothing too tricky but they were harder finds than the similar hides on the Cheshire section of the series.

A Curiosities Of Derbyshire cache

We were approaching our 100th find of the day by now and spotted a nice looking cache in a nearby park with a 0.25 mile walk and a Regular sized container, so decided to head there and make that our milestone cache for the day. On the way back to the Jeep we stood and watched this guy flying his kite.

We decided to start thinking about heading for some tea but could not resist two more of the series on the way, plus an unrelated cache we spotted on TomTom as we went past.

Our 100th find of the day

103 finds for the day which whilst it’s not the most we’ve ever found in a day, it certainly blows our previous personal best in the UK of 72 finds out of the water.

A really good day caching too – we love the intensity of a cache run like this every so often as it’s the total opposite of the lovely long walk we did last weekend.

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Walking along the banks of the River Dee

We’d planned to do the Marcher Marches Bangor on Dee and Overton on Dee series on Saturday but the weather was awful. A quick check of the weather for Wrexham on the iPhone revealed it was going to be lovely on Sunday. Sun was forecast, which sounded perfect for a day’s walking.

Isaac and myself set off and were soon parking up at the south end of the Bangor on Dee series. This was the longer walk of the two so we decided we’d do this one first. Disaster struck at the first cache as we could not find it. There were lots of places that matched the hint so we decided to leave it for on the way back to the Jeep so as not to put us behind on time for the day.

Wild garlic galore!

We carried on along the banks of the Dee to the next cache, thoroughly enjoying the beautiful day it was turning out to be. A few caches later we did out favourite of the series: the cache was hidden in a lovely wooded dingle with a stream heading through the middle and wild garlic absolutely everywhere. What a beautiful place.

The rest of the caches on the walk up to Bangor were uneventful. Along the way we were getting too hot so put our coats in our back-packs and started our first t-shirt caching of the year. Spring must be on it’s way!

Stepping stones across a stream

After briefly passing through part of the town of Bangor, we arrived at what was cache #1 of the series (you’re meant to start the walk in Bangor, but we quite often don’t do things as intended!). Just as we arrived, a guy with a very nice looking camera around his neck walked over. We initially thought he was a birder or walker but he had recognised Isaac from our “Isaac with the cache” photos and introducted himself.

It was Zeus55 – great to meet you. He had just started the series and was going the same way as us, so we decided to head off together for the remainder of the caches we needed to do on the series.

Old bridge over the River Dee at Bangor

The rest of the series were easy finds, with yet more great walks along the banks of the Dee in glorious weather. All too soon we were back at the cache we could not find earlier by where we’d parked. Zeus55 put his hands on it – and in perhaps the only place we’d not looked – doh!

We said our goodbye’s and headed off to the Jeep for some cake and loopy juice (Lucozade Isotonic drink). Feeling ready to go again, we drove the short distance to the village of Overton to start the next walk.

The Bolas Heathens out caching (thanks to Zeus55 for the photo)

The next few caches were nice and easy. This series has less micros than the Bangor series and we soon got used to the cache owners hiding style.

On the way to cache 08 we managed to get on the wrong side of the hawthorn hedge (but did not realise it at the time). I’ll quote for our log on the cache for what happened next:

As we walked along a light aircraft was about 1000ft above us and obviously practicing steep turns (turns with a bank angle of 45 degrees or more). They then did a few manoeuvres that as a pilot myself I recognised as looking for a suitable field to ditch the plane in. This is often practiced as part of the PPL syllabus.

I commented to Isaac that the field we were in looked to be ideal for a forced landing and to maybe expect them to line up with it and come down to about 50ft before powering on and flying off again for another practice.

Anyway, we carried on our walk into the next field and soon realised we were on the other side of the hedge from where we needed to be. While we were trying to find a quick way round Isaac said “there’s that plane”. I looked up to the sky but he said “no, over there” and pointed to the plane coming through a gap in the hedge from the last field.

So that’s why the pilot looked to be practicing for a forced landing… this is actually a farm strip :-).

The plane that had just landed

Needless to say we eventually got to the correct side of the hedge and soon found the cache.

Later on in the series the walk took us down a track I recognised from a previous visit to the area when we’d done a fab stand alone cache by the River Dee. The path then took us down to the next cache which was in yet more lovely woodland by the Dee and absolutely carpeted in wild garlic. We picked a bit so we could spice up the gravy with our roast Sunday dinner when we got home later :-).

Circular cattle trough

By this time we had the co-ords of the bonus cache for the series so stopped by to get this on the way back to the Jeep. A nice spot for the bonus cache and we can see why the bonus has to be a nano.

It had got dark by now and we had to head home as we were later than expected. On the way we passed an easy drive-by so stopped to make that the last find of the day.

Looking down the River Dee

43 finds for the day and about 13 miles or perhaps slightly more walked. What a great day out which we both loved: great walking, sunshine, wild garlic, lots of good caches and meeting another cacher. All ingredients for a perfect day out :-).

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A wet walk around Badger Dingle

Looking down into Badger Dingle

On Saturday I’d planned a walk round two new cache series near Wrexham but on the way to drop Isaac off at school in the morning the weather was absolutely awful with rain just about as hard as it could get. Myself and Isaac thus decided to put the caches off for the day and go on Sunday as the weather forecast was MUCH better.

I was at home a bit later on and things started to brighten up outside so I decided to go and tackle the 14 new caches around Badger Dingle near Bridgnorth. We’ve got two adopted caches in the area, so the added bonus was that we could stop and check on them as we walked past.

Hidden lake at Badger Dingle

I parked up by the lovely village church and off I set. The first cache was right by where I’d parked and an easy find. I then followed the lane down towards the next cache which was also an easy find. The track from there lead down towards the dingle and most of the rest of the series.

All was going well until I made a right mess of BD08 Sandy Hollow. The hint implied the micro was hidden in a specific feature of a sandstone outcrop but despite there only being two such items near the co-ords I totally failed to spot the cache. There was another sandstone outcrop  a little higher up so I clambered up the very slippy slope to there, but the cache was not there either. I eventually returned to where I’d started looking near the path and found the cache in the second place I’d looked when arriving at GZ – doh!

Lots of lovely wild garlic in the dingle at this time of year

Moving on, the rain then started with a vengeance and was soon lashing down about as hard as rain rains (is that a verb?) in the UK :-(. Anyone who knows Badger Dingle will know it’s not the best place to be when it’s wet as a lot of the paths are very narrow and part way up very steep banks along the side of the dingle. Going was seriously precarious in places and with no mobile phone signal at all I was contemplating giving up for the day as if I fell, there would be no way of alerting anyone to where I was.

Thankfully the rain started to ease off after a bit and I then started to enjoy the walk round the rest of the caches, which were all easy enough to find. Both our adopted caches were in good shape and ready for more finders too.

I wonder where this goes to?

I had to be back home soon to pick the children up from their friends houses and then go to see Mrs Bolas Heathens who is singing in a concert at Shrewsbury Abbey this evening. I thus abandoned any idea of other caches for the day and headed off to pick the children up.

Luckily my route home took me very close to another cache (good planning or what ;-)) so I quickly stopped to walk the 500ft to GZ for an easy find.

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I was reading this article which mentions new Beta firmware for the Oregon 550t (available here) which now allows you to add your own custom symbols for waypoints, including replacing all the Geocaching icons used on the unit.

I’ve always found the built in geocaching icons to be a bit small and really hard to see when overlaid on the OS maps when out caching. We usually cache by starting in one area and then just picking caches off the map to go to next, with no real advance plan of where we will be going. Being able to see where the caches are clearly on an OS map is thus really important to us.

To date, we’ve carried on using Memory Map on a PDA for this as the geocaching icons are easier to see, but with the new beta firmware it got me thinking about seeing if I can use the great Memory Map icons on my Oregon. Turns out it’s not as hard as I expected :-).

Even better is that you can double tap on the icons and get taken into the full cache details, just like you can using Memory Map with Cachemate on a PDA :-).

Here are a couple of screenshots:

Icons on nearest caches page

Icons overlaid on the OS map

I’m not sure if the new firmware is available on the Oregon 300 / 400t range yet but it’s only a matter of time if it’s not there already. If anyone wants a copy of the icons I’ve converted from Memory Map and how to use them (it’s a simple matter of dropping them into a folder on your GPS) then let me know :-).

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Looking through a tunnel along the River Rea

On Friday night 14 new caches had been published along the River Rea leading into the centre of Shrewsbury. I’d not bothered with a FTF dash as I knew it would mean I’d be very late back and I had a full day’s caching on Saturday planned anyway.

On Sunday afternoon the weather looked lovely and myself and Isaac fancied a walk, so off we set. We decided to do the two caches closest to the town centre as drive-by’s before re-locating to the southern end of the walk and heading off on foot for the rest of the River Rea series.

The River Rea

We parked up near the first cache and headed off to find it. The clue indicated it was on a bench and as we got neear to GZ there was a family sat on this bench trying to look normal, but we could see their hands kept slipping under the bench. They just *had* to be cachers.

Our GPS indicated a different bench so we went off to grab the cache. Just as Isaac had put his hands on it, the other cachers came over. It was geowerm from Chester – great to meet you all. After a nice geo-chat they started their long walk to the bottom of the series (we’d have given them a lift but the bikes were in the back of the Jeep). We went off to get the other drive-by by Asda, which was a quick find.

Isaac with one of the caches

Once parked up at Meole Brace, we set off on foot for the other 10 caches in the series. A nice walk ensued with quite a few ivy clad micros and one or two small sized cache containers. Once we’d got used to the cache owner’s ivy hides, they got noticeably easier and we were soon at the top of the trail, having completed all 12 caches in the series.

I mentioned there were 14 caches in total above… the other two caches were short walks and stand-alone.

Golf course near one of the caches

The first of the two was a short walk over a golf course to another ivy clad hiding place. The second was a nice walk in a more rural setting over fields to an easy find.

All 14 caches in the bag now, so off we set for home and our Sunday roast dinner :-).

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View from the parking location at Perry Park

Isaac was at school on Saturday morning so after I dropped him off I planned to make a start on all the new caches that had come out recently in Sandwell Valley Country Park near to J1 of the M5. After I’d done there, I planned on heading east towards Perry Barr to another park and then if time permits, just choosing caches on the fly from my GPSr.

Little did I know that it would turn into quite a cache run with 51 finds at the end of the day. I was home in time for tea too, after not starting early (as I had to drop Isaac off at school at 9am)!

Looking out over the Ice Pool at Sandwell Valley Country Park

As I came off the M5 I passed a drive-by cache on the way into the country park so stopped for a quick look. Luckily we’ve seen quite a few of this type of hide in the USA so I walked right up to it. A nice hide nonetheless :-).

Once parked up in the country park I got my bike out of the Jeep as the caches looked to be bikeable. I was soon at the first cache but came a cropper as I could not find it anywhere. There was one very obvious place but the cache was not there. I decided to carry on to the next cache and have a look again on the way back to the Jeep.

Swan Pool at Sandwell Valley Country Park

The next few caches were all nice and easy and all with great co-ords. I was soon heading over to the far side of the park where there is an RSPB bird watching area with a hide (or perhaps more than one?) and a beautiful lake with all manner of wildlife on it. I could have stayed here all day watching it all, but there were caches to find…

Somewhere aound the park I found what is possibly our first “skirt lifter” in the UK. In case you were wondering what I was up to lifting skirts ;), they are caches hidden under a cover at the base of a lightpole and very common in the USA, where they are known as LPC’s (light pole caches). You don’t usually get them in the UK as our light poles are a very different design.

Our first UK "skirt lifter"

I was soon nearing the car park again so I popped over to the first cache in the park I could not find earlier. I still could not find it but spotted some people coming down the path so did my best to look un-suspicious. It turned out to be the thurs night gang, who are related to the cache owner and commented the cache was missing. He had a spare in his car so I walked back with him to sign the logbook. Great to meet you all again :-).

Next I did a quick cache by a fast food restaurant (I use the term ‘restaurant’ very loosely as it was a McD’s ;-)) before going off to do another similar cache. The closer I got to this one the busier it got. As I arrived at the cache I realised it was opposite West Bromwich Albion’s ground and they were playing at home today. With nowhere to park safely I had to give up on the cache and move on to the next one :-(.

Lovely spring flowers near a cache in Perry Park

Next stop was a set of 5 caches in Perry Park (I think that’s what it was called anyway). I got my bike out and had a nice ride round the park picking up the caches. The highlight for me was the last cache as there were lots of spring flowers out right by GZ making it look lovely.

I then headed off to a series of caches based around fountains in a nearby industrial estate. Not very exciting you may say, but they brought back memories of some lovely caches we did in Southern California a couple of years ago which were also based around fountains. I did a double-take when I read the cache page and saw the cache owner had done the same USA caches and been inspired to place their own ones in the UK.

One of the fountain caches

Anyway, I’m waffling a bit here so I’ll cut to the chase… all were nice quick finds and I was soon on my way to the next caches at Witton pool / lake.

At these I spotted butttercup and stormystorm had found them today so texted them to see if they were still in the area. Unfortunately they had already finished and moved on to the next caches via a refreshment stop. Their next caches were the Perry Park ones I’d done earlier! Small world! Needless to say, I rode round the pool / lake finding all the caches quickly.

Looking out over Witton pool

I was making good time by now so checked the map on my GPSr to see what was the best area to head for next, given I’ve still got loads of time to cache left. The area to the east of where I was looked the most promising and would keep me near to the M6 for my eventual journey home.

Next I did two quick caches in another park and was treated to more spring flowers on display :-). From there I headed off for a set of 3 caches along the Brum and Fazeley canal. I got the bike out again and soon had all 3 caches polished off.

Brum and Fazeley canal

Carrying on eastwards I did a few stand alone caches before turning back westwards towards Castle Bromwich, where I imagined the caching day would end (it wouldn’t, but more of that later).

I spotted the River Tame Stroll series on the GPSr, which is a series of 3 caches along the River not too far from where I was. Strange how I’ve been totally un-intentionally following the River Tame all day, from the very urban areas in Birmingham to the countryside here :-).

River Tame view whilst doing the River Tame Stroll series

The 3 caches were quick finds and I then moved on to some caches in Castle Bronwich itself. I did one by a dual carriageway and remembered you (obviously) had to use other roads to get close to these as it’s not a good to stop on a dual-carriageway. There were quite a few teenagers in these areas playing football etc etc so I decided to leave the rest of this series as I was being watched everywhere I went. Perhaps these are caches for earlier in the day when it’s quieter ;-).

View from GZ along one of the canals during the day

After a quick drive-by and then a DNF as at micro in an ambiguous location that was totally overlooked, I gave up on the area and looked at the maps to see where I could get my last 4 finds to get me to 50 for today. Most likely areas were further into Birmingham, which would take me even further from home but I spotted some likely looking caches to the north of where I was, towards Sutton Park. That’s a much better idea :-).

Off I set and on the way went past this fabulous Spitfire statue at the Jaguar car factory at Castle Bromwich. They used to make Spitfires here during WW2 and the statue is a very fitting tribute to this. Pity I was driving as I’d have loved to get a photo of it.

More beautiful flowers in one of the parks I visited

The last few caches of the day were thankfully very quick ones, apart from one in some woodland where some teenagers were right by GZ and I had to wait for them to move on before going in for a quick find of the cache.

I soon had my 50 finds, but still had my backup cache (just in case I could not find one of the other ones) up the road and it looked to be an easy drive-by. It would have been rude not to stop and bag it.

Railway crosses the River Tame

51 finds and I was home for tea at the normal time. I know cache runs like this are not everyone’s cup of tea but I really enjoy the intensity of them from time to time and today was one of those days when everything just went well :-).

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Layout of the caches

I was just settling down for the evening last night when I checked my emails and realised 5 new caches had just been published not too far from home. I wonder if Allun from the Shropshire Seekers is around as I bet he’s up for a FTF dash. He was and he was :-).

I picked up Allun from the local village on the way and we were soon parking up at the same place I’d parked when I got FTF on the old multi-cache in the area (which was archived to make room for these 5 new caches).

We could not spot the first cache so decided to press on to the others so we could get an idea how good the co-ords were and remind ourselves of this cache owner’s hiding style. The next cache was a quick find and a FTF :-).

On the way to the next cache we spotted torches at GZ so I suggested to Allun that we leave this one out and carry on to the last cache, in the hope the cacher’s we’d just seen had not got to the next cache yet. My plan worked and we got another FTF :-).

As we were putting the cache back the other cacher’s caught up with us – it was Big Farmer Giles, Wild Goosey, Nozi Parkers and a cacher from Saudi Arabia called Saati (I was meaning to ask how he found himself caching in this part of the world but forgot to).

Me with Allun from the Shropshire Seekers at the bonus cache

We left them to it and dashed off for a quick find on the cache we’d seen them looking for earlier. It was then a short back-track to the first cache we’d tried for and a quick-ish find here for another FTF :-). How the heck we’d missed it earlier I don’t know. Just as we were signing the log, the other cacher’s caught up with us so we handed them the cache. They still had one cache to find, but we now had the bonus cache co-ords :-).

I can’t say too much about the bonus cache here as I don’t want to spoil it for future finders. It took us a few moments to spot but we got another FTF :-). It was a really nice hide though and we had the added bonus of bumping into the cache owners for a nice chat on the way.

A fun 45 minutes or so, bumping into loads of other cachers. So much better than the TV tonight :-).

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Isaac and Freya with the cache

On Sunday we were in Manchester for a return visit to the MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry) as we’d not been for absolutely ages and keep seeing it mentioned on the TV. Needless to say it was well worth a trip and we really enjoyed looking round.

While we were in the area we could not resist one quick cache for the day. Castlefield was not too far away so we walked over from the museum for a quick find of the cache. A great spot for a cache and one that has been used countless times on Coronation Street on the TV.

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Canal boats moored on the way to a cache we did

Isaac did not have to go to school this Saturday so we planned a trip out caching instead. Our idea was to start with some caches near Earlswood, south of Birmingham that were set for a recent event. We then planned a walk round some lovely looking woodland before heading back up the M5 to J3 and the new Illey Quest (IQ) series. If we have any time left, there are a few other new caches in the area we could look for.

We parked up by the Village Hall in Earlswood and set off on foot round the caches that were set for the event. The first one was just by where we parked and a nice quick find. We then headed off down a path to the back of the pub and into some lovely woodland by the reservoir.

Walking through the woods

The next couple of caches were nice and easy – the hardest thing was finding out how to cross quite a wide stream onto the path at the side of the reservoir as we could not see a bridge. We ended up spotting a reasonably shallow part and tip-toped over with our walking boots keeping our feet dry.

A curtain of ivy near to one of the caches

At the far end of the reservoir was a stand alone cache with the word “Challenge” in the cache title. It was obviously a sneaky hide, which is normally right up our street. The problem was, with it being so early in the day, we did not want to spend too long looking for it as it would put us back for the rest of the day. Needless to say we could not spot it so ended up moving on. We will be back though as we don’t like being beaten :-).

On the Max's Clowes Wood Circular Walk

The rest of the caches around the village were quick and easy and we were soon on our way to other caches. On our way to Dickens Heath we stopped off for a lovely cache along a very peaceful section of canal.

Dickens Heath was great fun as it seems to be a totally new village / small town and has more dead ends than a really good maze. After several u-turns we finally found our way to GZ and parked nearby for an easy find of the cache.

The next cache was nearby and was absolutely fabulous. It’s situated just outside a garden centre that specialises in “hardy tropical plants”. There were palm trees everywhere, a HUGE metal elephant statue and even an authentic Africa style Land Rover. What a great place :-).

Africa, but just south of Birmingham?

Next we headed off to try for Max’s Clowes Wood Circular Walk. This is a set of 4 caches, along with two other stand alone caches around some beautiful woodland in fine countryside. The first cache was a tricky hide and we could not spot it. We decided to come for another look on the way back to the Jeep and headed off for the rest of the caches.

Nice pond near to a cache

After a lovely walk with some really nice caches, we arrived back at the sneaky hide. On the way round the other caches we ‘d formulated some ideas as to the hide and sure enough, eagle-eyed Isaac soon spotted the tell-tale sign of the cache. A really inventive idea too.

We now headed off back along the M42 and grabbed a few quick caches near Bromsgrove on the way to the IQ series.

Welcome to Illey

The IQ series is a set of 8 caches plus a bonus cache, set on a 4.5 mile circular walk centered on the village of Illey. We set off and were soon at GZ for the first cache, which was a quick find. At the second cache, we saw a couple on the bridge near the cache, admiring the stream below. We got chatting and ended up telling them about caching and showing the hide. They were really interested – a couple of new recruits maybe?

We could not find #4 in the series – the clue had the dreaded vil (ivy) in it and it was a micro. Other cachers had struggled with it and needless to say so did we. We ended up giving up and moving on as we did not want time to slip too much.

Bullrushes on the IQ walk

The rest of the series was nice and easy and we soon had the bonus cache bagged and were back at the Jeep. Some jokers had thrown some mud pies at the windscreen, but they were easy enough to get off. I bet that was fun for them ;-).

Just time for a few final caches around the area so off we set with Isaac directing us using Memory Map. He loved the next cache as it was by an Audi garage and even the cache was a car themed micro. Great stuff :-).

View over the lake at Leasowes Park

We ended up at Leasowes Park in Halesowen. The plan had been to bike it round all the new caches here but it was going dark and we were getting hungry by now so we just ended up doing the one cache. A really good hide it was though, so well worth it.

35 finds for us today and another great day out.

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