Socialising, Baking Nuclear Fallout and becoming an Achiever

nWith only the Socialiser award left to collect to complete the 7 Souvenirs of August challenge (see my previous blog entry 7 Souvenirs for 7 Cachers) we needed to attend a geocaching event. With fantastic luck, our good friends Geoff and Melissa, otherwise known as Smokeypugs had decided to run an event at a nearby pub on Wednesday evening. This was perfect except for one thing… Sam was going to stay with my mum in Norfolk for a week on Wednesday morning so he would miss the event and he wouldn’t be able to complete the challenge. :(

He was a little disappointed at this, to say the least, but I assured him that something would turn up before the end of August which was the challenge deadline. For once, the wisdom of dad turned out to be perfectly correct. Another event had just popped up in the local area and it was going to be held on Tuesday evening… perfect, I couldn’t have planned it any better if I had tried. The Cakes on the Common (GC5A109)event was being laid on by Tom and Jo, who we had met once before, coincidentally at the first ever event we attended which they had hosted almost exactly a year ago (see my previous blog entry Meeting Other Geocachers. Tuesday’s event was to be held on Harpenden common at 7.30pm and people were encouraged to bring a blanket and some cake. Sam and I baked some ultimate chocolate chip cookies and while we were at it we covered everything in a 10 metre radius with a thin film of flour and coco powder. Blind man and a 10 year old let loose in the kitchen can only lead to the baking equivalent of nuclear fallout.

A baking tray is covered in freshly baked delicious cookies, irregular in shape but brimming with white and dark chocolate chips

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Armed with cookies and a blanket we headed over to Harpenden and spent a very enjoyable hour meeting up with some familiar caching friends and also being introduced to one or two new people as well. Geoff and Melissa came along seeing as they lived quite close and it was also nice to meet Bob, A.K.A. The Bongtwashes who had claimed the FTF on our first ever hide. Some people had come from quite a distance to attend this event, those keen on completing the souvenirs challenge had to find an event somewhere. I was delighted and surprised to meet a few people who knew me from my blog and I tried hard to be humble as they said nice things about my bloggy waffling thing :)

All too soon it was starting to get dark and it was time to leave. As we thanked the hosts and said our farewells I snapped this cool picture of the darkening sky above the nearby fairground before making our way back to the car.

The clouds in the sky are lit by the setting sun which has thrown the fairground in teh foreground into silhouette

Moody Harpenden Skies

Back at home Sam and I logged the event and we both received our socialiser souvenirs completing the set of 6 needed to finish the challenge. But there was promise of a 7th souvenir for finding all the others and this was not appearing in our profile and I couldn’t figure out why. After Sam had gone to bed I did some searching on the web and found that in order to unlock the 7th and final souvenir you need to visit a web page on the geocaching website. For those who want to check there own progress or unlock their final Achiever Souvenir you can use the following link – Unlock your 7 Souvenirs of August Achiever Award. When I went to the page it congratulated me on unlocking the achiever souvenir and told me that I was the 27,149th person in the world to do it. Not bad eh? OK, so not an early adopter but we will see at the end of August how many people actually complete the challenge and then it will put this position into perspective.
I am an Achiever

I am an Achiever

On Wednesday, after dropping Sam off to spend the week with my mum, we caught the bus to Geoff and Melissa’s event, Deja Vu Das Boot (GC59G95) in nearby Chipperfield. We left the car at home for this one so that we could have a drink or too. That is to say, so Shar could have a drink or too. Being blind I never get asked to be the designated driver and therefore can always have a drink or two. We had a great evening at the event, the pub was packed to the rafters with almost exclusively geocachers. At its peak there must have been 30 – 40 people in a rather small room all laughing and talking loudly about the joys and woes of their caching experiences. We got to meet a lot of new people that night and a few that I had wanted to meet for a while including MJS64, mjcross, Hope2pigs, ElaineAlex and the maverics; all local cachers; to mention just a few. I enjoyed meeting them all and am delighted that through geocaching we are starting to make new friends into the bargain. To my surprise, I even met another visually impaired geocacher, DrewryFam. He labelled himself as partially sighted and described that he had a much greater level of residual vision than me but it was still cool to finally meet another geoBlindee, although that is probably not a very politically correct term to be honest :)

As always when I got home and read the logs of who attended the event I was sad to notice a few names that I have wanted to meet for a while, but who I just didn’t get a chance to say hello to on the night. Still that means there is an excellent excuse to attend another event in the not too distant future. I think the 7 Souvenirs of August challenge has been a resounding success encouraging cachers to try new types of caches and urging them to attend event s to further promote the social aspect of the hobby. Nice job Groundspeak, keep up the good work! :)

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Hidden Swords, Christmas Puddings and Darth Vader the Scarecrow

Having already found the required geocache types for the Explorer, Sightseer and Mystery souvenirs, we were half way towards the ultimate goal of obtaining all 6 badges and therefore qualifying for the final Achiever award. In a cunning plan I had identified two geocaches not too far away from us that would take us 2 souvenirs closer to completeing the challenge, and so it was that last Friday we loaded up and went in search of a hidden sword, Christmas pudding and, in an unrelated activity, scarecrows.

For the collector souvenir you have the option of finding any of the “out of the ordinary” cache types which are virtual, webcam, letterbox hybrid and WhereIGo. There are far less of these types of caches around and I generally tend to avoid them simply because when you really do need to find one for a challenge such as this, you don’t want to have to travel many miles because you have done all the local ones. The Virtual and Webcam geocache types are what is known as “Grand fathered” now which means that no new caches of these types can be created but the existing ones are still valid. This does mean that these cache types are slowly disappearing from the map as when one is archived it can never be reinstated and will be lost for ever. The webcam is possibly the rarest type of cache in the UK, there being only 11 left I believe.

We are lucky enough to have a virtual cache just a few miles away in Kings Langley and so that was our first destination. Hidden Sword not-so-virtual cache (GC52FE) is located in a small garden adjacent to a church. The story goes that high up in the branches of an old , now sick, Tulip tree you will be able to see a sword and chain mysteriously piercing the branches. There is rumour that the sword is something to do with the crusades and seeing as a church has existed on this site since the 12th century, there is a possibility of at least some of the story being true… maybe. Being able to see the sword is not a requirement to log the cache but most of the geocachers that visit do make an attempt to spot it. Some claim they can see it whilst others fail to notice anything other than branches and leaves.

It being summer, we probably didn’t stand much of a chance of seeing it due to the high leaf cover but we gave it a go nonetheless. That is to say that Sam and Shar gave it a go whilst I just stood there looking pretty. I did turn my head upwards and peer into the branches for some reason…. Like I was ever going to see it. I could barely distinguish the tree from the sky let alone find a hidden sword, but I wanted to lend moral support to the others. After a few minutes of circling the tree it wasn’t looking as if we would see it, so I grabbed Sam and we went in search of the nearby gate that contained the information we needed to record in order to convince the CO that we had visited the site. On our return, Shar was still craning her neck up in the tree desperately trying to catch a glimpse of the sword. With a little struggle we managed to coax her away and convince her that it was OK if we couldn’t see it. She sulked briefly but then resigned herself to the fact and we headed off back to the car happy that we would be able to log the virtual and claim our Collector Souvenir.

Sam and Sharlene circle the tree trying to find the best position to look up into the canopy in search of the not-so-virtual sword

Virtually Hidden

From here it was a short drive further North to Great Gaddesden which is just beyond Hemel Hempstead and is the location of the earth cache Christmas pudding (GC19Z3J) which was our target to qualify for the Nature Lover souvenir. In order to be able to claim this award you need to either find an earth cache or attend a CITO event and seeing as we had a couple of earth caches nearby it was an easy choice.

Sam lays on the lump of pudding stone in the Churchyard

Christmas Pudding

Again, our location turned out to be a church where we were looking, not for a Christmas pudding as such, but for a lump of Hertfordshire pudding stone. This is a very interesting type of conglomerate rock that is mainly found in the county of Hertfordshire. It is often mistaken for a man made material because it contains lots of pieces of flint and stone as part of its matrix and as such is similar to concrete which is often a combination of cement and an aggregate of sand and pebbles. Being an earth cache there was lots to read and learn from the cache page and a number of tasks to accomplish at GZ. We needed to estimate the weight of the lump of rock which involved measuring it and along with taking pictures we also had to answer a few questions about the origins of the rock. We did what we needed to do and after stopping to admire the church for a brief moment we then headed back to the car. Later that evening back at home I researched the other questions using the interweb thingy and emailed the info and the pictures to the CO. Having done all that was required, I was able to log the cache on and our Nature Lovers souvenir took its place on my profile page.
War Memorial in the churchyard. From a virtual sword to a very real one.

War Memorial in the churchyard. From a virtual sword to a very real one.

From here we drove another short distance to nearby Flamstead where there was a scarecrow festival taking place. If you don’t know, this involves many residents of the village customising and dressing scarecrows and placing them in the gardens for visitors to vote on. You pay a small charge for a voting form and all the proceeds go to a good cause. Whilst not geocaching related as such I thought I would include a few pictures here as it was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and I urge you to try and visit one sometime if you get a chance. There were geocaches in and around the village but this was probably the worst time of the year to try and find them as the village was heaving with muggles so we didn’t even try. Besides, for once we were out in a country village for a reason other than geocaching… I know, shocking isn’t it?
Womble Scarecrows

Womble Scarecrows

Frozen - Olaf gets his wish

Frozen – Olaf gets his wish

What are you doing in my swamp!

What are you doing in my swamp!

Evil Triumphs - Darth Vader - the winning scarecrow with over 1500 votes!

Evil Triumphs – Darth Vader – the winning scarecrow with over 1500 votes!

Use the following link if you want to see photos of the top 10 voted scarecrows.

With the Nature Lover and Collector souvenir’s obtained that only left the Socialiser one to get before we could complete the challenge, but we already had plans for that… Stay tuned for more on that soon. :)

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I, geoRobot

Science fiction writers have for many years predicted the rise of the robots; a time when the machines that we have designed and built will develop higher “thought” processes and decide that on balance they are better off without us pesky humans. Even with this undercurrent of doom and gloom surrounding our metal friends, playing with robots is fun with a capital f. But you may well be thinking what has this got to do with geocaching. Enter the Geocaching Robotic Arm (GC41V9Q).

The electronic metal limb in question is located at the home of drsolly, who you may recall is currently the UK’s most prolific cacher with over 38,000 finds. In order to log this cache you must first take control of the arm over the internet and force it to do your bidding. With the help of three web cams you can see where the arm is and using the on screen controls can position it wherever you want. The goal is to manipulate the cyber appendage to extract a bison tube from a mug whereupon a secret code will be revealed to you. Then, with a bit of web research you can find out the next piece of the puzzle you need and, bingo, the final coordinates can be discovered.

A screenshot of a web page that displays three webcam views of the geocaching robotic arm along with the controls needed to manipulate it.

Taking Control

I so wanted to play with the robot, but to avoid damage and possible injury to anyone within a 5 metre radius of it I delegated the job of retrieving the bison to people with sight. With Sam at the controls and Shar providing guidance, the robot was instructed bit by bit to move towards the bison. After about 5 minutes and when we were nearing our goal, we were surprised to see a human hand enter the picture holding a note of encouragement that read “nearly there”. This made me laugh, to think that drsolly was actually there and watching as we were controlling his robot. After a not insignificant amount of trial and error and a small amount of bickering about how to control it, the bison was finally brought into the view of the web cam and the secret was revealed to us. We made a note of the info and then set about trying to get the thing back in the mug for the next person to have a go. This proved a lot harder than extracting it and after around 20 minutes we had to admit defeat and hit the reset button to return the arm to the starting position. This was fine except for the fact that it was still clutching the bison with the secret word visible to the camera. It was, unfortunately bed time for our chief robot controller so I contacted drsolly and apologised for leaving the clue visible and was relieved to receive a prompt reply saying that it was no problem and that he had simply plucked the bison from the grip of the arm and plopped it back using his extremely versatile and flexible human arm.

I have since managed to discover the final coordinates using the code word and hopefully soon we will be able to make the short journey into Buckinghamshire to sign the log unless I can develop an automated log signing device… oh wait I have one of those… Sharlene.

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Milling, Bathing, Geocaching

Today we visited two very interesting nearby places that until recently I didn’t even know existed. Whilst there was no intention to go geocaching today, as I am sure many of you know it never hurts to have a quick look to see if there is anything nearby before you go. :) Remarkably there were caches slap bang on top of both of the places we had planned to go to!

Our first stop was a working water mill in Welwyn which is about 20km north east from us. Records show that there have been mills in the area for over a thousand years and this one in particular dates back some 250. For most of the 20th century it was unused and fell into disrepair, but in the 1970s it was rescued and over the next 15 years was restored to a fully working mill and museum. It was a fascinating place where we got to see the wheat being milled into flour. We could get really close to the process and the millers took the time to allow me to touch and feel parts of the machinery and the flour at different stages.

Paul and Sam pose in front of the large milling equipment. The wooden frame surrounding the grinding millstones looks old and aged.

The loft of the mill where the wheat is poured into the hopper that feeds the millstones that grind it into flour

The wheel that powers the machinery is a 1980s copy of the original wheel that was too rotten to be refurbished when the mill was brought back to life.

The wheel that powers the machinery is a 1980s copy of the original wheel that was too rotten to be refurbished when the mill was brought back to life.

An extra bonus was that they were running some activities for kids in the gardens attached to the mill and Sam had fun moulding a pot out of clay that is currently air drying on his windowsill. As for the geocache, Mill Green Museum (GC2NW33), I knew it was in the gardens somewhere hidden by an old mill stone and when we arrived we went there to do the clay activity and we should have looked for the cache then when it was quiet. After our visit around the mill and a picnic lunch, when we next looked in the garden it was heaving with people and there was no way we would be able to find the cache. We made a mental note to return at some point when it was quieter and was confident that we could come at any time to get it because there was a very polite and friendly sign at the gate welcoming geocachers and letting us know that we are free to hunt for the cache anytime in the gardens even when the mill is not open.

From here it was a short drive further along the A1 to the site of a Roman Bath house. In the 1960s an amateur Archaeologist spotted a piece of exposed tile in the bank of a river near a football pitch. On closer examination it turned out to be roman and so he arranged an excavation of the area which turned out the remains of a roman villa including a complete bathhouse. The race was on to dig the site and preserve it as the plans to build a new road right through the middle of the site were about to be put into action. Thankfully it was agreed that the site was of great significance and so a huge steel structure was placed over the excavated bathhouse remains before the road was built over the top of it. The fact that you now have to enter a tunnel to get to the steel cavern to view the remains while cars thunder along the A1 over your heads just serves to add to the coolness of the attraction.

The remains of the Roman Bath house. The main house would have been to the right of the baths. From nearest to the camera the layout would have been the changing area, cold bath, warm, hot bath where the walls and floors would be too hot to touch and then the furnace which would need to be kept burning all the time in order to keep the hot room up to temperature.

The remains of the Roman Bath house. The main house would have been to the right of the baths. From nearest to the camera the layout would have been the changing area, cold bath, warm, hot bath where the walls and floors would be too hot to touch and then the furnace which would need to be kept burning all the time in order to keep the hot room up to temperature.

We spent a thoroughly enjoyable hour walking around the site and listening to an audio tour that had been recorded by the original finder. There were also lots of interactive displays around the edge including some cool dress up items for kids.
Sam poses dressed in a large centurion helmet and holding a sword.

Centurion Samicus Maximus

As for the geocache, Time Tunnel (GC3WX1G), as we exited the bathhouse we feared we may have messed it up again as there were quite a lot of people in the area where we thought it was going to be. On glancing at the iPhone I confirmed that we were about 5 metres from it but there were too many muggles. Shar had a casual glance around and just behind us spotted a large tree planter. She couldn’t see anything cache-like, but Sam spotted the container hiding behind a similar planter on the other side of the path. We gathered around to act as a shield and I crouched down and pulled the plastic box from the bushes. Shar signed the log and we replaced it in a similar way with Shar and Sam shielding me as I put it back.

So we had a great day out enjoying two interesting and reasonably priced historical attractions and as a bonus on top, we got a geocache. Cool. Or as the Romans used to call the cold water bath… fridgidarium!

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Tieing up loose ends in Knotty Green

A week or so ago we went to Bekonscot model village to attempt the multi cache there. We had a fantastic time which you can read about in the blog entry, Bekonscot – Playing at being giatns for a day, but we didn’t find the cache. On speaking with the cache owner we had made one error and so we made a note of the correct coordinates and put it on our to do list. Also recently we had completed half of the CaptainJack Knotty Green series as you can read about in the blog entry Getting Knotty with CaptainJack. So today seeing as these two loose ends are a matter of a few hundred metres apart we set out to collect the multi and also finish off the 9 Knotty Green caches we had left.

The Multi was an easy find after we had parked at the trail head it was just a few hundred metres down the path before we spotted the hint item which was an ivy covered stump. As well as being covered in ivy it was also surrounded by needle like thorns which I managed to continually stick into my hands whilst retrieving and replacing the container.

Once that was done we moved the car a short way down the road to the head of a footpath that led into the woods where the Knotty Green caches were. The first 3 of these were all placed along this footpath which unlike a lot of captainjack hides was almost urban, with houses to the left of the fence along the edge of the path. They were also micro sized caches and all of them were a bit fiddly to find but in the end we managed to get them all. The fourth one was a bit further into the woods and much more like the sort of terrain we enjoy. There was quite a lot of rain the night before so there was a bit of mud around but nothing too bad. I smiled when I saw the container as it was an old Marmite pot… I love marmite!

Cutting across the loop to the other side of the woods, we just had 5 more to find to complete the series. We went a little wrong and came too far down the loop so we had to back track to collect 2 of the caches but the walk was pleasant enough. One of them was a bit tricky but we should have known as it was called “A little challenge” and it was buried deep inside some blackberry bushes on a metal fence. Getting to it involved quite a lot of pain for me. The things you do for a geocache, eh?
Buckinghamshire View
The last four caches were straightforward enough being hidden in bowls of trees or at the base of posts along the side of the footpath as we headed back towards the road where the car was park. The cache finds whilst fairly unremarkable did take us along some pretty woodland and arable fields and it was a perfect climate to cache, warm but not too hot with a nice breeze. In some sort of spooky alignment moment Sam and I worked out that with these finds my account is just 8 short of 750 and his miniknight account is just 8 short of 300. He is off to stay with his Nanny in Norfolk for a week soon and I expect he will hit his] milestone while he is there. Maybe Shar and I will hit our 750 at a similar time as he reaches his 300… now that would be cool!

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Getting the “MEASURE” of our Wall Hall geocaches

It has been a little over six weeks since our Wall Hall series of geocaches was published. The reception has been fantastic with lots of positive and complementary logs. In total the series has had 22 visits at time of writing this and it seems to be particularly popular with those with young children and dogs. This is great as my aim was to create a trail that would be accessible to the widest audience as possible. We haven’t had a single DNF on any of the 12 caches yet and apart from a couple of comments about how tricky some of the ones in the woods are due to the tree cover effecting the GPS, there have been practically no adverse comments at all.

The image shows a lot of geocaches laid out. They are all covered in camoflauge tape. In the centre at the top is a box with a question mark on it covering two of the caches from view.If you are a regular reader to my blog then you will probably remember the entries I posted about creating the caches for the series a while back. At the time I included a photo of all the containers just as we were ready to place them on the trail. There was one cache though that I kept under wraps. In the photo I obscured it with a cardboard box with a question mark drawn on it. I wanted it to be a big surprise for the local cachers as it is something a little different. Well I have kept you in suspense long enough, so now it is time that I let you all in on the secret.

The cache under the box is a Tape Measure cache. This is a custom hide that I created using an old tape measure that I had lying around in a tool box. I fixed the tape measure inside a modified plastic cache container and attached a bison and a retrieval hook to the tape. We have secured the whole unit using cable ties high up in a tree in the woods on the trail and cachers need to use a stick or something similar to hook the loop and pull down the cache. The tape extends from the tape measure housing which remains fixed to the tree and the bison is drawn down for the cacher to sign. When they have signed the log they release the cache and the spring mechanism inside the tape measure pulls the container back up into the trees. You can see the cache fixed in the tree in this photo. There is a lid for the container to protect it from the weather but for the purpose of the photo it has been removed.

This picture shows the cache fixed to the horizontal limb of a tree. The cache is an plastic lock n lock container that currently has no lid. inside the container is a tape measure with the tape part protuding through a cut hole downwards. On the end of the tape a bison tube and a hook have been attached.

Tape Measure Geocache

If you are wondering how the hell we got it up the tree, then, then the answer is a lot more straight forward than you might think. We used a ladder! We took a step ladder into the woods, a walk of about 1.5km and then once we had found the perfect tree, up I went. As you can imagine this did cause a few bemused looks from people that we passed on the way.
Ver Valley Tape Measure

Ver Valley Tape Measure

Here is a picture of me operating a tape measure cache. This is not my version of the cache but a similar example which is not too far away. In all honesty I would like to say that it was an original idea of mine but I did get the idea from this cache and credit must go to the cache owner for the idea. Having said that so many of the cachers who have done our tape measure cache say they have never seen anything like it before. It certainly seems to be very popular and has already received 15 favourite points which is 71% of all the premium members that have logged it. In addition to the tape measure we have a bison on a fishing line that dangles inside a sign post and lots of decent sized containers suitable for swaps and trackables. I think all these points combined is the main reasons why it is proving to be so popular – One caching family gave the series a total of 4 favourite points!

I have to say that I couldn’t be more pleased with the way the series has worked out and it was definitely worth all the planning and hard work that Shar, Sam and I put in to make it happen. The most rewarding part of the process has been to sit back and read all the logs as they come in and learn how people are getting enjoyment from something that we have created.

We are not going to rest on our laurels for long though as , I already have plans to extend the series and am currently doing the “thinking” about exactly what sort of caches this will include. Watch this space!

Posted in Geocaching, Hiding Geocaches | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Souvenirs and Pineapples in Trent Park – A PugWash Geocaching Adventure

Hoist the main sail and splice the spinnaker. Dig out your parrot and strap on your eye patch because Friday saw us heading to Trent Park with our Friends Geoff, Melissa and their pug dog Smokey for another PugWash geocaching adventure.

Trent Park is an English country house set in 320 hectares of park and woodland in the London Borough of Enfield. The house itself up until a couple of years ago formed part of a campus of the University of Middlesex and its grounds have been open to the public since the 1970s. During World War II the house was used as a prison for Enemy officers and it was routine procedure to listen in on the prisoners using hundreds of bugs placed all over the building to try and discover enemy military secrets.

Nowadays the house has been purchased by a Malaysian Medical Training Corporation but the park itself still boasts an extensive range of leisure and recreational facilities such as hockey club, go ape adventure centre, water garden, fitness circuit training apparatus and a cafe and they hardly ever listen in on people’s conversations these days.

As we pulled in to the already full car park at around 10.30 our friends were already there and after making our greetings, we readied ourselves before heading off in search of our first cache, Church Wood (GC1WRNG), which was but a short walk from the parking area. Around the car park the environment is well kept and much more akin to a formal country park with neatly trimmed grass and lots of proper pathways and sign posts. Keen to distance ourselves from all this and “get amongst it”, we struck out across a field towards a tree line in the distance which rang with the sounds of people swinging among the trees. No, this wasn’t a rift in space time leading to a jungle back in the mists of time. It was the Go Ape adventure centre that allows people to scramble around the tree tops in relative safety. That is all very nice but on this day at this time it was in our way. We skirted along the edge of it in the warm sunshine, hoping that it wouldn’t get too much hotter whilst we were out in the open, and tried to find somewhere to break into the woods where the arrow was pointing us.

Soon enough we came across a small path that led into the trees, and in addition to it being nice to be out of the sun, it was also obvious that we were right on target for the GZ. In just a few minutes we were all at 0 metres or near enough and it was time to start searching. Melissa was the one to make the first find and Sam was delegated to extract it from the undergrowth. The first cache of the day was found and duly signed with our combined caching name of Pugwash. I dropped off the TB that wanted to go to Russia that I had picked up on the Knotty Green series (see Getting Knotty with CaptainJack and we retraced our steps a few metres to find a footpath that would lead us to our next cache.

With the finding of this first cache we had just earned ourselves a special groundspeak souvenir as part of the7 souvenirs of August challenge. This one was our Explorer souvenir which is awarded for finding a traditional cache in the month of August. For more info about the challenge see my previous post, 7 Souvenirs for 7 cachers.

Operation Neptune (GC38R45) was the second of the day for us and the route to it looked fairly straight forward along a narrow footpath in the trees. Although the description didn’t shed any light on the reason for the name of the cache, google has provided a possible answer. Operation Neptune was the code name for the initial phase of the Normandy D-day Invasion during World War II. This doesn’t really explain why the cache is here. There was a connection between the war and Trent Park being used to house prisoners but that still seems rather tenuous. Needless to say the container was found quickly just to the side of the path. Geoff was the one to pluck it from its hiding place, just after he stepped in some dog poo, so I guess it is true what they say about it being lucky.

From here it was a longish walk to our next cache, Shaws Wood (GC4097Q), which was at the south east corner of the park. We carried on along the footpath for a while before crossing a road and picking up another path that led us in the right direction. On the way we broke out of the woods and for a short stretch walked through some open space where a number of fitness stations had been placed. These variously involved having to climb a cargo net or lift huge logs or swing from monkey bars. We calmly and nonchalantly walked past them all and made no attempt to try and conquer them. Except for Geoff who had to have a go on the monkey bars which lasted about 2 seconds and Sam who made a pretty good job of climbing the cargo net. Sharlene politely decline my offer to give her a “bunk up” onto the monkey bars so she could have a go.

Sam is pictured walking across a balance beam as Geoff watches. Smokey is nearby

Getting the balance right

We were soon back in the woods and nearing the GZ of the next cache. When we arrived, there was a lot of umming and erring on the path as people observed the carpet of waist high nettles that separated us from the potential hide. I volunteered to make a go of it and Geoff said he would join me, which was handy because if I found it I wouldn’t be able to sign it. We made our way in, with arms held high and me using my cane to flatten back the nettles. Thankfully they didn’t stretch too far and soon we were through in to a slightly clearer area under the trees. Geoff spotted a likely looking tree and I crouched down and got searching at the base. As I was just completing the circuit around the trunk I felt the hollow in the roots and found the container nestling inside. We signed the log and returned to the path triumphantly. I am a little ashamed to say that we did leave somewhat of an obvious cacher’s path into where the container was hidden. To be honest it looked like an elephant dragging a log had been in there, but I am afraid I do not have the agility to tiptoe through the undergrowth like some people do. I reckon we have done those cachers who follow us a favour at least.

From here we headed further along the woodland path until we met up with a more substantial footpath that was running North South across us. We turned left and headed north to find our next cache, Twins (GC4404N).

A short distance from the GZ we were greeted with another wall of stingers and nettles and again it was Geoff and I who made our way in. This time Sam came with us too, and the three of us fought our way in so we could commence our search. The stingers soon ended and we were under the closed canopy of trees and found ourselves in front of a most remarkable tree… or should I more accurately say a pair of trees. As can be seen from the picture it seems that these two trees have grown intermingled with each other. This had to be the hiding place for the cache. Geoff had to return to the path as poor Smokey had some blood on his tongue and there was some concern for him. In the meantime, Sam guided me to the tree and I made the find in between the roots. Neither of us had a pen so Sharlene followed us in, which was a lot easier now that us boys had trampled all the nettles down, and did the honours with the log. When we got back out all seemed ok with little Smokey and we were all ready to move on.

Sam stands next to an intersting couple of trees that have grown intertwined


This was the furthest East in the park we would travel and we were now effectively heading back to the car via a few more caches. Our next target was the final of a puzzle that we had solved. Trent Park by Numbers (GC4404F) had required us to do a series of sums and Sudoku style puzzles to reveal the coordinates. The walk was a pleasant one which took us along a footpath heading west that eventually ended and led into a country lane. At the point at which the footpath ended we quickly found the cache and were able to obtain our second souvenir in the August Challenge, this one being the Puzzler for collecting a mystery cache.

As we left the GZ and headed onto the country lane in the direction of our next target, we passed some quaint little cottages on our left hand side which Geoff felt sure had been used for the filming of a TV programme called Just William. No amount of searching can confirm that but I can find record of Doctor Who having been partially filmed in Trent Park during the 80s so maybe that is what has sparked his moment of recognition.

Further along the lane we took a right and headed north through some buildings that included an animal rescue centre and a tea room. The tea room reminded us that lunch was fast approaching and we were all getting hungry. Just beyond the tea room we left the lane for the trees again and Sam found Moss House (GC3KTMD) in a small den like structure in amongst the trees. Shar and Sam both went in whilst I stayed on the verge but I was soon called in as the official “stick your hand in there” person. Container retrieved, Dolphin TB dropped off and log signed we paused on the way out to admire a rather odd looking obelisk that seemed to be in the shape of a pineapple, before heading in the direction of our last cache before lunch.

Fruitless - Due to my crap photography skills I have completely cut off the pineapple off the top of the obelisk. But if you get a pen and just drawn in a pineapple on your screen at the right place then you will get the full benefit of what I was trying to capture.

Fruitless – Due to my crap photography skills I have completely cut off the pineapple off the top of the obelisk. But if you get a pen and just drawn in a pineapple on your screen at the right place then you will get the full benefit of what I was trying to capture.

So far the going had been easy with no hills. Wouldn’t you know it though on the way to Streamside (GC3KTNK), we seemed to be dropping quite a bit in elevation as we followed the paths through the trees. This could only mean having to climb back up afterwards as the cars were off to our left. I was concerned that with a name like streamside that there could be a possibility of getting on the wrong side of water at GZ. But I needn’t have worried, the stream was completely dried up and even Geoff who has a propensity to fall, or throw himself, into water at the drop of the hat was safe here. After a short rest on a convenient fallen tree it was time to head towards the car for lunch, but not before locating Oak Wood (GC1WRNN).
Sam and Smokey explore under the small bridge that crosses the dried up stream while Geoof stands atop the bridge. Shar stands on teh far bank

Searching for trolls?

The route to the cache took us back out into the open and up a hill which if people hadn’t been focussed on quickly finding this last one so we could have lunch, would have been much more of a struggle. This cache had no hint which worried us at first but when we reached GZ which was in a small clump of trees it seemed likely that we were looking for a base of tree hide as there simply wasn’t anywhere else to hide it. We all split up and picked a tree. Seeing as Sharlene was the only one in the group who hadn’t found a cache up to this point, apart from Smokey, it was fitting that the last one before lunch was found by her. Everyone started to get excited about our next mission… lunch, so we made for the car, where shade, air conditioning and most importantly, food, awaited us.

We had found 8 caches before lunch, 7 traditionals and one puzzle, and had acquired 2 of the 6 needed cache types for the August Challenge. Our plan after lunch was to tackle the northern part of the park and in addition to a handful of trads, to attempt a multi-cache, which would net us our third souvenir. Trent Park has two car parks and we had already worked out that it would be easier to move the cars to the second car park, located on the Hadley Road that ran across the top of the park, to start our afternoon caching. I noticed as we drove the short way to the new parking spot that we were driving up some fairly steep hills and suspected that we would also encounter these when out of the cars and on foot. For the first couple of caches though the going was easy as the terrain seemed to slope down from north to south and to start with we were travelling west to east along a ridge. Both Entrance to Wonderland (GC4T6RX) and Ride Wood (GC1RJD3) were found quite quickly and simply as we strode along the tree lined path just to the side of the road. Sam located the latter of the two in a hole to the side of the path just as we turned south and gradually started to descend.

The path got steeper and steeper as it headed down into the park further. Following the arrow for Leeging Beech Gutter (GC1RPN0) we branched off the main track and headed east a bit further before Shar spotted a break in the trees that seemed to point in the right direction. We followed this new path which dropped sharply into a gully which in winter must get very flooded but at this time of year was perfectly dry. At GZ, Geoff made the find and we dropped off our Denmark TB which was the last of the ones we had found recently whilst doing the Knotty Green series. We then had to retrace our steps slightly to get back to the main path where we hiked up the hill a short way before cutting west to our next cache, Camlet Hill (GC1WRM3).

As the name suggests there was a hill involved and it was also rather exposed so the sun was beating down on us as we slowly ascended. When we were about 40 metres or so from GZ the arrow was pointing directly south into the thick trees and so Geoff and I offered to go in, leaving the others to rest in the shade of some trees on the path. Fighting our way through the thick undergrowth was quite a challenge and to be honest I don’t thing we took the easiest of available routes in, but either way we eventually broke out into a clearing just a few metres from GZ where there was a huge fallen tree. The hint was rather cryptic merely saying not to be timid which suggested that perhaps the container was in a hole or crevice… or so we thought. We got to work and started searching all around the fallen tree. The roots seemed to be the obvious hide, but we found nothing there except a lot of creepy crawlies and dirt. We checked the entire length of the tree a number of times, looking at every possible hole and crevice but still nothing. Then we spent a few more minutes widening our search and looking for alternatives and still nothing. Reluctantly we had to admit defeat and call in the others to help. They made their way to us using a slightly easier route than we did but after a few minutes of searching, they were scratching their heads too. As a group we really don’t like DNFs and there is a reluctance to give up unless every possible stone has been looked under and every hole has had a hand stuck into. So we split up again and started thinking outside the box and searching beyond the clearing. I decided to try trusting the cords and spent 5 minutes slowly zeroing in on the best reading I could get which was difficult as it was taking me into some thick trees. In particular it was leading me to a rather twisty turny tree and finally I got the phone down to 1 metre at this tree. I put the phone away and started feeling around it for any possible hide. It was while I was doing this that Shar had worked her way over to the same tree and as she was looking at it watching me fumble around she glanced up and noticed something out of place. Hanging about 7 foot up the tree was a bird box. We both thought that it was a rather odd place for a bird box. If it was actually for birds it would be a lot higher up and when I experimentally pushed a finger in the hole a bird would use to enter, I found it blocked by a plastic container. Excitedly we called the others over and challenged them to find the hide, now that we knew where it was. Geoff spotted it and being a good height, he plucked the container from its hidey hole much to everyone’s relief. As I said, we really don’t like DNFs. After signing the log, Sam wanted to replace the container so he scrambled up the conveniently shaped trunk of the tree where he could just about reach the box and he popped it back in.

Sam stands on teh trunk of a tree and is reaching up at full stretch to replace the cyclindrical container back into the bird box hide that is being held open by Geoff

Sam replaces the elusive Sam replaces the hard to find Camlet Hill cache.

It was evident that energy levels were starting to flag a bit in the group, the terrain had been a lot tougher in the afternoon than it had in the morning but we really wanted to get the multi for the souvenir so we agreed that we would at least do that and then work out the most direct route back to the cars to call it a day.

We opted for the most direct route to the cache which was a bit of mild bush bashing down a rather steep slope before we broke out onto a path that led us to the beginning of Water Garden (GC2X46Q) which was set around a water garden that had been laid out in the grounds near the buildings that formed part of the University campus. The gardens consisted of a number of large pools and ponds connected with pathways and bridges and formed a fantastic habitat for all manner of creatures. We followed the trail of 4 waypoints that were dotted around the garden and collected all the clues that involved the usual counting of objects along the way. There seemed to be a great number of old millstones around the place being employed as bench supports and similar structures…

…well there is two hours of my life I won’t get back. I’m not talking about doing the multi-cache but whilst I was writing this I then decided to go and find out what those millstones were and what they were doing in the water garden. Needless to say I didn’t find out but I spent a fascinating, if unproductive, 2 hours learning about the intriguing history of Trent Park. It has all the good elements of a fantastically interesting and weird place such as the now buried ruins of Camlet Moat in the north which dates back to the 14th century and is now believed to hold great significance, and potentially some links to the Arthurian legend, by pagans and other weirdoes. Or the amazing stories of all the royalty and famous people who were entertained at the house and gardens in the early twentieth century including the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Edward and Mrs Simpson. The tales of the opulence and extravagance of the parties in the 20s and 30s are epic. Anyway, it has been, and still is, a really cool place, but I still don’t know what the stones were for. Oh, oh, I did find out what the pineapple obelisk thing was from a couple of caches ago. There are actually 3 different obelisks in the park and they are all linked in quite cool but indirect ways. The pineapple one is in memory of Jemima Crewe, Duchess of Kent who died in 1728 sadly leaving behind only daughters when what she dearly wanted was to provide a son and heir for her beloved Henry Grey the Duke of Kent. Interestingly this memorial and two other obelisks were not originally built in Trent Park but bought in 1934 and placed there by the, then owner Sir Phillip Sassoon.

Meanwhile, back at the water garden, we fed all the acquired numbers into the formula and produced a set of cords for the final. Off we trotted the short distance to a bridge with a large tree next to it and I was volunteered to do the retrieve. For a relatively simple cache hide I made very hard work of it getting tangled up in all sorts of brambles and taking ages to work my way round the base of the tree to where the cache was actually hidden. With the signing of this log we had managed to obtain our third Souvenir of the day, the sightseer souvenir, and now we were all knackered, sweaty and ready to go back to the cars for cake.

Geoff, Melissa, Sharlene, Sam and Smokey all sit on a bench at teh end of a hot and hilly days caching

Team Pugwash – Knackered!

The walk back to the car park was annoyingly all up hill and with the sun beating down it was hard work. Once at the top of the hill we had a minor panic moment when we found the car park but not the cars, before realising that the car park was actually broken up into lots of little areas surrounded by trees. On the third attempt we found the one with our cars in and we were all relieved to be able to take off back packs, loosen boot laces and tuck into some lovely cake, freshly baked by our resident cake queen, Melissa.
Sam and Paul walk holding hands and Geoof walks with SMokey at his side. Everyone is walking away from teh came along a long path into the distance.

The Final Stretch

A total of 13 caches for team Pugwash and 3 souvenirs in the August challenge were acquired on the day and much fun was had with our good friends Geoff, Melissa and the whirlwind that is pug dog Smokey. Happy Days.

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