Familiar Elephants – geocaching in Litcham, Norfolk

For the Easter holidays we had arranged to travel up to Norfolk and spend sometime with my mum. Our breaks up to the Norfolk coast are always a joyful mixture of relaxing and interesting days in the great outdoors along with excellent company in peaceful surroundings. There simply is no other hospitality quite like that provided by your own mother! As an added bonus she is also a keen geocacher and we try to organise at least one caching day during our visits.

Last Sunday was to be our day out and we headed over to the small town of Litcham to take on the Litcham / Lexham Loop which consists of 12 caches with the opportunity to pick up a few church micros on the way round. For those of you that might not be aware, the Church Micro series is the largest geocache series in the world with currently over 5000 caches in it, most of them in the UK. No prizes for guessing what the nature of the caches are although the micro part of the name is a bit misleading these days as they can be any size and indeed any cache type just as long as they are near a church and include information about the church in the cache description. For more information check out the Church Micro Website.

We parked up just on the outskirts of the town of Litcham in a convenient car park that was not too far from the first cache. Straight off the bat we knew this was going to be an interesting walk as we were greeted by a herd of wild ponies and a sign warning about the existence of Adders in the area. The adder is Britain’s only poisonous snake although bites are very rare and only occur if you try to handle them. The last fatal bite in the UK was over 30 years ago so that is ok…I guess. I feel a total fraud if I try to over dramatise the possible chance of being bitten by an adder as compared to a lot of places in the world that have snakes, spiders and all sorts of other thing that will kill you lurking under almost every rock the chances of finding one of these elusive adders is almost zero. I have never seen one… although I am blind, but before I lost my sight in my 30s I had never seen one although I do have a very dim memory of my dad finding one possibly in the sand dunes whilst on holiday somewhere but that could be wrong. You know how childhood memories can sometimes get messed up. What I remember to be a life and death wrestle with a 10 foot long spitting adder before my dad hacked its head off with a blunt biro, probably was more likely to be him finding a grass snake and squealing like a girl when it wriggled in his hand.

A pony in a field. It's wild apparently.

I’m Wild


After making our way through the ponies we got down to the serious business of caching. Our first one, Litcham Loop – Lost and Mound (GC40A7G), was an easy find and purported to be in the region of some Bronze Age earthworks but alas nothing is visible anymore, at least not on the ground. Mum found a TB in the cache which when we got back home and looked It up turned out to have a slightly weird history. It was not logged as being in the cache at all and in fact was logged as being in a different geocache in Norfolk and had been there for a year. No one had ever logged it as having been collected from that cache but someone must have as it moved to this cache and here we were finding it a year later. I expect the owner of the TB will be somewhat surprised to see it back in circulation after such a long time probably assuming it to be lost.

The sun was shining although the wind was cool when it blew and finding shelter from it was the trick. Luckily the walk took us into some very pretty woods in search of number 2 which was appropriately named Litcham Loop – walk in the woods (GC40A3Z). The cache container for this one was quite nifty, it being a lump of wood about 10 inches long that had been cut in half and the two parts pinned together so that they can swivel apart to reveal the log hidden within.

Sam holds the clever cache that is constructed from a log cut in half and fixed back together allowing the two halves to pivot apart to reveal teh log.

Logging a log


Number three, Litcham Loop – Exit, followed by a bear? (GC40A85) took us further through the wood along the side of the river Nar. Thankfully the weather had been dry recently as it was plain to see that the terrain would get muddy quite easily, however it was not bad today. We found the cache hiding in a crab apple tree and while Sam and Shar set about retrieving it and signing the log, mum got all excited about the large number of butterflies that were emerging into the sun in the grassy field ahead of us. One in particular, The Orange Tip, caught her eye. Along with Geocaching, butterfly spotting is another pastime that my mum and her husband Peter enjoy, a hobby that can take them all round the country in search of elusive specimens.

Our walk took us into the field where the butterflies were and alongside the wood where we could hear lots of pheasants calling out from time to time. This was turning into a real wildlife adventure. The geocaches were taking us along the Nar Valley walk which on this stretch is a very easy going wide path that was a joy to wander along taking in all the sights and sounds. We made a quick find at Litcham Loop – last post? (GC49Q4T)> before turning left and then right in a big dog leg taking us alongside a quiet road to the site of our next cache, Litcham/Lexham Loop – Take cover (GC49PX9). Which was buried in the hedge just as we approached the edge of another wood.

The next two caches in the series were slightly more spaced out but we didn’t mind as we pottered along the wide footpath which still followed the route of the Nar Valley Way. Mum recognized the bird song of a black Cap although she couldn’t quite see it at the top of one of the trees. We also saw a buzzard flying in lazy circles above us which was slightly ominous. Further along the path we were treated to the site of two hares frolicking around and dashing in and out of the trees, they move so fast there is almost no chance of getting a photo of them. Both the caches were found quite easily, the first, Litcham/Lexham Loop – Head for the trees (GC49PYN), was in a hole in a rather large tree at the side of the path and the next, Litcham/Lexham Loop – A stylish cache? (GC49PZC), being hidden around and old stile that was rapidly becoming consumed by the undergrowth.

Sam Shar and mum all look into the trees, at what, god only knows

Can you see that leaf up there?


Litcham/Lexham Loop – Drive carefully (GC49Q09) was the last cache that we did before our scheduled lunch stop and both Sam and I struggled to find it. It was up a bank at the side of a road somewhere on a very large tree and despite getting well and truly in amongst it for a few minutes we had to admit defeat. I extracted myself and almost knocked myself out on a road sign as I made my way to the other side of the road to sit down and take a break while mum and Shar had a crack at finding the cache. As Sam and I were sitting there two people rushed past us in a blur and as they went the man called back to us, “You must be MiniBbillKnight then?” This being the name that we were signing the logs as today, I could only assume therefore that they were cachers too and had been following us around. We didn’t really have time to find out as the couple sped on saying they would skip this one. Well it was nice to meet other geocachers… I guess… they seemed in such a hurry, hardly time to enjoy themselves at all it looked like, but what do I know?

Meanwhile the ladies came up trumps and found the cache and we headed off down the lane at a much more leisurely pace towards to small village of East Lexham where we found a very pleasant chilldrens playground with some picnic tables. Glad for the chance to take a break, having walked about 4km now, we broke out the sandwiches and sat munching away listening to the sound of a man strimming his lawn. The playground was very tastefully done and did not look out of place in the middle of the village. It was provided and maintained entirely by the locals and any donations left in a metal box by the gate are put to good use keeping it looking nice and more importantly safe and insured. Being on the Nar Valley way I expect it sees quite a lot of foot traffic.

Paul sits at teh picnic table with teh playground in teh background in East Lexham

Lunch Break


Sam and Nanni on the seesaw

Sam and Nanni on the seesaw


Feeling refreshed and revived after lunch we went in search of our first Church Micro of the day, Church Micro 3109…East Lexham (GC40EFE). The church at East Lex ham can only be described as quaint. The small unobtrusive structure sits nestled in around the few widely spaced houses that are here and is surrounded by a meadow graveyard that is only broken by the fenced path that takes you up to the entrance. The reason that the path is fenced is that the graveyard is lovingly tended by a flock of sheep who mill amongst the graves trimming the grass. The other remarkable feature of the church is its round tower which is thought to be the oldest of its kind still standing in the UK dating back to approximately 900A.D. The cache itself was fairly unremarkable but to be honest seeing the church in its rural surroundings was reward enough. Shar was the one that located the container, passing through the gate in the fence and entering the graveyard in order to sign the log. She was warmly greeted by the sheep who trotted over to see if she had any food. Sharlene was slightly spooked saying that she had grown up with sheep and knew how they could turn on you. To me they all looked cuddly and fluffy and very amiable but Shar insisted that any one of them could snap in a heartbeat and rip her throat out.
The Church at East Lexham is thought to date back to 900AD

East Lexham Church / Sheep Pen


Shar leaves the graveyard closely worried by the sheep.

Baaaaaack off our church


After leaving the church Sam became somewhat distraught at the realisation that we had to walk almost a whole kilometre for the next cache. I guess we are pretty spoilt in this country with the cache density and we do tend to choose circuits that have caches spaced not too far apart so normally the longest distance we have to walk is around 400 to 500 metres. So to be honest I wasn’t too impressed with having to walk a kilometre either but being an adult and a parent you learn to temper your disappointment and always look on the bright side and find yourself saying things like ‘it isn’t that far really’ and ‘the sooner we get going the sooner we will get there’.

The walk took us along a quiet country road that saw only the occasional car travelling down it. To the left of us the woods stretched into the distance and to our right the estate of Lexham house covered the ground from the road off towards the South where we had walked earlier today. We had left the route of the Nar Valley Way now and were for all intents and purposes, heading back in the direction of Litcham and the car.

Sam and Nanni stride out with a purpose for the next cahce

Its not that far…


We located the cache, Litcham/Lexham Loop – Bridge of size (GC49Q1Z) stuck to a bridge that was nestled in a valley having enjoyed the gentle stroll down the hill to get there with only minimal whinging. Astute readers will have course realised that if we walked down a hill to get to the bridge then it stands to reason that we had to walk up a hill to get away from it. As we made our way to the next cache, Litcham/Lexham Loop – Pipe Dreams? (GC4B11R), we saw our second group of geocachers for the day. A family of mum, dad and daughter came past us with the girl holding a GPS device out in front of her. The good weather of the recent weeks was definitely starting to bring out the cachers… the fact that it was school holidays no doubt contributed too. Eventually we found the break in the hedge that we had been looking for and were able to get off the road and continue our walk along the edge of farm fields. The hide for this one turned out to be rather inventive. It was located near a water trough and where there were water pipes coming out of the ground there seemed to be one rather odd extra one that on inspection turned out not to be a pipe at all but in fact a holder for the cache.

Now that we were off the road, the walk was even more relaxing and the sun continued to warm us as we made our way to the next cache, Litcham Loop – 1st class post(GC49Q3F), which we found after turning right along a tree line that led us away from the road. After locating it we turned tail and retraced our steps back along the tree line to re-join the footpath at the edge of the fields in the direction of Litcham. Our next was to be the second church micro of the day, Church Micro 2846…Litcham-Methodist (GC3R0DF). In order to get there we could either break out onto the road or we could stick to the field and have a slightly more peaceful walk. As we walked though, the path became less defined and after a while houses started appearing and we were basically walking at the back of people’s gardens which felt a bit weird. Keen not to have to back track and take the road route we pushed on and prepared ourselves to adopt the clueless out of towner attitude if challenged. If we had not walked the way we had though, we would never have seen this.

I remember you

I remember you


I am sure there are stranger places to see an elephant but I would be prepared to bet not many. There is a possibility that Shar and Sam had actually seen this elephant before. In 2010 a load of similar elephants were placed all over London as part of a giant treasure hunt and after it was all over the elephants were auctioned off for charity. We can only suggest that the person who lives there bought one.

As we trudged on, now only a few hundred metres from the church, we couldn’t quite work out how to get out of the field. We almost turned back at one point but decided to carry on a bit more and see if there was a way through. Thankfully as we turned the next corner and followed another tree line we noticed a gap in the houses and emerged onto the road just a few metres from the church. When we got to GZ there was a family chatting on the other side of the road and we had to do a very stealthy search and retrieve of the cache but we pulled it off with practised ease pulling the log from the fake rock container.

For the last cache in the series, Litcham Loop – Bridge of Signs (GC4B12Z), we strode through the small town of Litcham towards the bridge over the River Nar where Shar made a quick find of the magnetic key holder whilst I gave my mum a heart attack crossing over the road to take a picture.

Sam, Shar and mum stand on the other side of teh road on teh bridge at the last cache

Bridging the gap


A short walk and we were back at the car for hot chocolate and a well needed sit down.

We had just one more cache to find and this one had been on our DNF list for over six months. During the summer last year we came to Mileham to do the Mileham meander, one of the first series that we ever did and we had to admit defeat on Mileham Meander #3 – Nether Mill Farm (GC387R9) as none of us could find it. I never thought we would get the chance to come and have another go but here we were, less than a couple of miles away and I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity like that. After we had spent a little while driving in the wrong direction, we corrected and finally found ourselves pulling into the small road where the GZ was. We were all keen to get out and vanquish the DNF and it was almost a race once the car was parked as to who could get there first. A few short minutes later and Shar announced that she had found it tucked away on the other side of a railing on a small bridge and the ghost of the Mileham DNF was finally put to rest.

Tired and a little weathered but happy we piled back into the car and headed for home. The Litcham Lexham loop is an extremely nice geocaching series and it was made all the better by the pleasant weather and the delightful company that I had on the way round. Caching in Norfolk is always enjoyable and doubly so with mum. Happy Days.

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“Elaine had not considered that!” – Hockeridge Woods Part 2

I am the sort of person who likes to finish what I have started. I wouldn’t say it is a full-on OCD with me but unfinished business niggles me until I either make a decision to get it done or remove it from the to-do list completely. I tend to operate my inbox like this; if I can’t deal with an email that comes in straightaway but I do intend to act on it sometime, I leave it there to remind me. As time goes by I am constantly reminded that I have something that I need to do. Over time I either sort it out and do it or simply delete the email and then stop thinking about it. It is such a nice feeling when I finally delete the email and now that I think about it I get the same sense of relief whether I complete the task or simply decide not to do it.

Putting that paragraph of freshly baked waffle to one side, I will now attempt to inject some context into the point I was trying to make. Long and short of it is that a couple of weeks ago we went to Hockeridge woods to do some CaptainJack caches(See previous blog entry Hockeridge Woods Part 1) and on Wednesday we returned to finish what we had started so that I could delete it from my metaphorical geocaching inbox. School had broken up for Easter holidays so Sam was along as a key member of the geocaching team as well.

We parked on Hog Lane, like we had before but this time, set off in the opposite direction. By including 3 of the nearby Ashley Green Series we could link up to the end of the Hockeridge caches and then head into the woods in Ernest for some lunch before finishing the set off. That at least was the plan and if you have read my blog before, you know how I do like to have a plan. Planning is my forte. Sitting at home squinting at maps under my magnifier so that the place names are as big as my head; reading the cache description and logs to make sure we know what we are getting ourselves into’ and, of course, making sure we have somewhere to eat lunch; that is what I excel at. Once out on the trail it is over to those with eyes to get us from cache to cache… with the help of my planning notes and map of course.

Things didn’t get off to a great start though as we had a little trouble finding the first footpath, a mere 200 metres from the car. There was some sort of a path that went down the side of a house but it looked like a driveway and we didn’t fancy the idea of ending up in someone’s back garden. After a bit of wandering we did find our way into some parkland and spotted a path which we headed for and with the aid of the GPS we located the path we were meant to be on. I reckon it was the one down the side of the house but no matter we were heading to our first cache, Ashley Green – Bottom (GC3K9AB), and all was well. It was a shame therefore that after 5 minutes of searching we were unable to find the container. A fairly straight forward CaptainJack hide obviously on the bottom of a gate but there was no sign of it. Checking the logs revealed that there had been quite a few DNFs on this one in the last couple of months so reluctantly we resigned ourselves to adding ours to the pile. We hate DNFs and most of all we hate a DNF on the first cache of the day.

Shar pokes around with a stick in the stingers hoping that there might be a cache in there somewhere.

Starting off with a DNF


We headed off in search of our next cache in hope that we might start racking up the finds and forget about the early failure. The weather forecast had suggested that it was going to be mild temperatures today with sunny intervals and this being England, we therefore decided to wear jumpers and coats! We were now starting to regret this decision as we started to make our way through the picturesque Buckinghamshire countryside. The sun was out and it was lovely and warm, and wearing the layers we were it was getting uncomfortable so Sam and Shar stripped off jackets and jumpers and added them to an already very full back pack.

Being an optimist I had suggested that instead of planning our route to get us back to the car in time for lunch, that we take food with us and find somewhere to eat it on the way. This may sound like a very simple decision but it has quite a lot of significance as it heralds a confidence in the weather that we have not had in over 5 months. Not since October last year had we chosen to have lunch on the trail rather than building in a loop back to the car to eat in the relative warmth. My optimism did come at a cost though as it was me that would be carrying the lunch in my back pack along with everything else including two recently shed jackets. I opted to keep my jumper and jacket on for the time being as there was simply no room in the bag anymore and either way I would be carrying them, if not in the bag then on my body.

Sam and Shar at the GZ of Ashley Green - Inside Again with a glorious view of fields of golden stretching out into the distance.

Fields of Gold


After a pleasant amble down a worryingly gradual descent-what goes down, must come up- we made our first find, Ashley Green – Inside Again(GC3K99V), of the day inside a hole in a post at the side of the footpath. Sam was already proving his worth today having found this one and everyone was glad to vanquish the memory of the previous DNF. Despite not having much vision I was acutely aware that what lay before us was some pretty impressive scenery. I generally get this feeling due to the large amount of nothing that obscures my vision. By which I mean if I can make out lots of sky and little else then either the view must be pretty good or I have fallen on my back and am staring up at the sun. In this case, the vast void was being broken up only by clearly visible undulating hills topped with trees which made it even more pleasing to my wobbly eye.

As expected we started to climb gently on the way to the next cache, Ashley Green – Topov (GC3K997), which Sam was quick to find nestling on top of a post. His excellent caching skills were complemented by his poignant social commentary when we passed a “proper” family on the way to this one. Apparently it earned its label of proper as it comprised of mum, dad, two kids of comparable age and a dog. I suspect that rather than being a comment on the lack of having a sibling of a similar age to him, Sam’s complaint was more to do with the fact that we do not have a dog… and won’t be getting one… so deal with it!

The gradual incline turned into an ascent on Kilimanjaro in order to get to the next cache. Thankfully the path under foot was dry and in good condition which made progress straight forward if somewhat knackering. After reaching the top and taking on some water and puffing a bit we got down to the business of trying to locateHockeridge – Bark (GC3K98D) . Puzzlingly the GPS wanted us to go about 10 metres off the path to the left but there was a barbed wire fence and a dense hedgerow there making this impossible. We trotted back and forth trying to locate a fallen tree to match the hint but with no luck, until finally Shar went far enough ahead to spot a path around the fence that could lead us to the other side of the hedgerow and hopefully the cache. We hacked our way through the bushes and trees and I was barely arriving at GZ when the container was located and there were smiles and smug grins all round… from Shar.

My planning had only got so far with the next cache, Drinks near Ashley Green (GC31NQT). It was an oddball one not part of either the Ashley Green or Hockeridge sets but appeared to be close by. The map showed a path most of the way there but then it was unclear whether we would be able to cut through some fields to get back on track with the Hockeridge ones or whether we would have to back track to our current position before carryin on. A brief discussion with Shar revealed nothing other than the fact that she had no idea either, which was fair enough I was just polling her for her opinion, which turned out to be that she really couldn’t say one way or another.

The path down to the cache was easily found by back tracking about 20 metres and then heading off to the right and then it went down… seriously down, steeply and sharply. Making our way down was easy enough but when we reached the valley floor I glanced back and fancied that I did not want to backtrack up there so we better be able to find a cut through! I knew that Shar was thinking the same thing. First things first, so we headed across a field in the direction of the cache. The route took us back up somewhat, but nowhere near as sharply as we had just come down. On arriving at GZ we were presented with two horse troughs, one on either side of a fence and we knew the cache was hidden beneath one of them. Sam went round the other side of the fence and immediately set about getting a thorn stuck in his hand which he was not happy about, to say the least. Whilst Nurse mum saw to the extraction of said thorn I shuffled off in search of the cache which I soon located under the far end of the trough, my first find of the day.

As the crow flies we were only a couple of hundred metres to the next cache, Hockeridge – Inside (GC3K97G), but there were no handy crows to take us there so those with eyes spent a couple of minutes searching out a way to get us to our goal without having to go down into the valley and up that nasty hill again. It was Sam that spotted a gate that might give us access to where we wanted to be and so with Shar less than convinced we headed in that direction. On arriving at the gate, there was no stile or kissing gate which was not a good sign, but also there were no signs saying that it was private property, keep out, beware of the leopard, which was a good thing. After a brief conflab we decided to climb the gate and make a break for it, GZ was only about 100 metres away after all. Feeling slightly naughty we made our way down the track in search of a way to cut through the woods that were on our right so that we could get to GZ. Shar found a spot and we climbed through the fence which was no mean feat with the full back pack I was wearing; I nearly got wedged in the rungs of the fence at one point and had visions of the other two trying to decide whether to rescue me or leave me. Luckily I managed to squeeze through and after a short bush bash we emerged onto a path whereupon Sam instantly found the cache right there. Despite potentially having sneaked across private property for a short way and having to hack through the woods for a bit we were very elated at making such an easy find in the end.

As a somewhat strange aside, whilst finding our way from Drinks near Ashley Green we put our minds to renaming the Teletubbies. If you don’t know who the Teletubbies were then check this link out, but do so at your own risk. Seeing as it has been a number of years since the Teletubbies were, for want of a better word, famous, I reckoned that they might be a tad bitter now and maybe they have descended into the bottom of a bottle or two in a desperate attempt to obliterate their “careers” from their own memories. To this end we rename them as follows. Dipsy is now tipsy, Tinky winkie is now Drinkie Drinkie, La La is Legless and Po is simply poo. I think the BBC should consider bringing them back, perhaps in a late night adult version of the original.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. Hmmm that’s a strange expression. I use it from time to time and I have never really stopped to think about where it originates from. It turns out that the phrase has its own Wikipedia entry which of course could be complete rubbish but it sounds plausible. It suggests that the phrase was originally used as a stock subtitle in the silent movies of the early 1900s and whilst at first was literally intimating a scene change to something going on at a ranch, later it was used to imply simply that something else was going on at the same time somewhere else.

The route to our next cache, Hockeridge – Reload (GC3k96y) was much more conventional, it being along a nice woodland path. After a distance the GPS wanted us to head right off the path so again we ventured into the woods and up a steep bank to arrive at GZ which was a very large fallen tree. Within the roots of the fallen tree we found an ammo can which was a very pleasant surprise as not many of CaptainJack’s 400 or so caches are anything other than standard plastic geocache containers. Once Sam and Shar had wrestled it open we rummaged through the swag and happily signed the log book before carefully heading back down the slope to the path.

Sam sits on the fallen tree holding the cache, an Ammo Can

Reloading


The bottom section of Hockeridge Woods is cut off by a main road that runs through it and now we had to get ourselves on the other side of the road in order to continue our route. We were again pleasantly surprised when we reached the road to find that we didn’t have to play Frogger with the traffic as there was a small tunnel underneath the road. Once on the other side and with our bellies reminding us that it was not far off lunchtime we turned left and climbing a steep bank with the aid of some helpful steps we tracked along the edge of the road to find our next cache, Hockeridge – William Hill Farm (GC3D8C9), which was to the left in a gully in the stump of a tree.

Our next one, Bones13 Hockeridge (GCW2KB), was not strictly part of the Hockeridge series but as it was so close it would have been rude not to collect it and seeing as it was placed back in 2006 by our friend Bones1 we could hardly ignore it. To get to it we followed the woodland path which would had been a lot more relaxing if it had not been so close to the road but it was great to be in the woods again.

We took a bit of a twisty turning track through the woods to get to our next one and had to scramble over a huge fallen tree that was blocking our path at one point but once at GZ finding the cache was easy. With a name like Hockeridge – Stumped Again (GC3K96C) and practically nothing else within 20 metres of the cache other than a stump you would have to be blind not to find this one… ahem.

Spurred on by the prospect of breaking out the sandwiches at the next cache we marched on along the wide woodland path enjoying the peace and quiet now that we were deeper in the woods away from the road. The only frustrating thing was that as we walked along the path we were skirting the cache which was always about 100 metres to the left even after we turned left onto a path to get closer to it. In the end there was nothing else for it but to head off the path and into the woods and after doing this we made much better progress finding ourselves at the GZ of Splish Splosh (GC4AZ5N) in a matter of minutes. Tummies grumbling we made a speedy find and log sign at the cache and then plonked down on the nearby bench for a welcome rest and lunch.
Shar kisses sam on the cheek and Sam sticks his tongue out Sam and Paul are sitting on the bench after lunch having swapped caps. Sam is pulling a funny face for the camera

Feeling refreshed and refuelled with some grub inside us we made our way back to the path and headed in search of our next cache, Hockeridge – Under (GC3K96P). Which was a quick find hidden underneath a log at the side of the path. As we continued on along the path we started to experience feelings of De Ja Vu as we soon found ourselves about 150 metres to the right of the next cache, Maddy’s Memorial Cache (GCX1HB), with nothing but woods to the left of us. We continued on until finally we met a path that looked like it might head back in the direction of the hide but with the prospect of this adding another 500 metres to our walk we all opted to leave it for another time. It was actually very close to Remains which is the cache that we had to log a DNF on last time we came to Hockeridge so I am thinking there is a kind of Bermuda cache triangle in the area.

Sticking to the path we were on we soon found ourselves on Northchurch lane and standing at the GZ of a cache that Shar and I had already found, the last time we were here. Sam had not found it so we let him do the honours whilst he giggled at the prospect of where we had to go next. Our last leg of the walk consisted of four caches all in a relatively straight line up Hockeridge’s Bottom… (Insert childish giggling here). Hockeridge Bottom is actually nothing more than a fairly straight footpath from northchurch lane down to the main road but it has more significance than that as it lies on what is technically the border between Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. Along the path there are steep banks which date back to medieval times and are topped with old hedgerow trees to make the separation between the two counties.

Glad to be on the home stretch now as legs were starting to ache a little we made our way down the path that quickly narrowed from its original wide open layout to a narrow single file affair. After a while we approached the GZ of our next cache, Hockeridge – Bottom (GC3D8AY) and when we got close we headed off the path and into the woods where the arrow was taking us. Yet again Sam made the find here as he had so many times already today… I was starting to feel like just a pack mule at times, lugging the supplies around.

The next cache turned out to be exactly what the title, Hockeridge – Just A Tree (GC3D8B2), promised. It WAS just a tree but the question was which one. When we approached GZ both Shar and I started having problems with our GPS signals due to the tree cover so it was basically a case of just splitting up and searching trees. Whenever we split up to search it always reminds me of Scooby Do; where the mystery solving friends always separated into small groups when they were in search of the spooky monster. Thankfully nothing leapt from the woods to pick us off one at a time but we did have trouble finding the cache. I gave up on the GPS and just felt my way from tree to tree and searched at the base of each of them. I find if I stare up towards the tops of trees I can make out there form a lot better than trying to make out their trunks against the backdrop of the woods, so I spend half the time staring up at the sky and then using my cane to make my way to a tree before sticking my hand in any nook and cranny to look for the cache. After a while I got rather disoriented and turned around and had no idea if I was constantly searching the same couple of trees or whether I was actually working my way through the many that were at GZ. Sam gave up after a while and sat down and Shar was a little way off to one side of me… I could hear her rustling about… at least I think it was her, either that or the monster come to pick me off from the group. Finally after searching a tree which I strongly suspected I had already stuck my hand in every one of its crevices I was rewarded by the familiar feeling of plastic and I was triumphant as I pulled out the cache. To make my victory even sweeter Shar came over complaining that she had just searched that tree.

The penultimate cache of the day was to be Hockeridge – Stumped (GC3D8BH) and as you might expect it was found in the stump of a tree. There was a slightly comedy moment when arriving at GZ where there was conflicting information from the GPS devices so both Sam and Shar immediately went in opposite directions and left me standing on my jack jones on the path. I didn’t have to wait long though before Sam called out the familiar cry of “Found it”.

Sam is pictured in the woods finding the cache in the stump of a tree

Sam finds the cache


As we walked to the last cache of the day, Hockeridge – Archery (GC3D8C0), we stumbled quite literally on a drain cover which was rather odd considering where we were but this was not half as weird as what happened next. As I half tripped over the drain and recovered turning round to the others to inspect it, my iPhone decided to randomly start playing the audio book that I am currently listening to and the words “Elaine had never considered that,” Punctured the momentary silence that had fallen through the woods.

The GZ for the last cache was a place that we had already been. When we had crossed under the road before lunch and turned left into the woods we had been at the bottom of Hockeridge Bottom and here we were again now having approached it from the opposite direction this time. We quickly found the magnetic cache that was located on the archway of the tunnel bringing our find count for the day up to 16 with only one DNF.

Sam and Shar locate the cache in the tunnel under the main road on Hockeridge Bottom

ARCHery


To get back to the car we had to follow the same route we had taken earlier skirting along the road before turning left out of the woods. This took us past two caches that Shar and I had found the first time we were in the woods so we stopped allowing Sam to sign his name in them too. And then it was the last trek back to the car and a much needed sit down and cup of hot chocolate. Hockeridge woods is a lovely place to walk and cache and we had a great family day out with lots of laughs and capers on the way. To top it all off I realised when we had finished that somewhere on the way round we had broken our 600 finds milestone. Happy days.

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Losing My Bearings in Langley Park – A PugWash Adventure

On Saturday we met up with our friends Geoff and Melissa and their cheeky pug dog Smokey for what has become a roughly monthly geocaching adventure under the team name of Pugwash. For the full story on our team name check out the previous blog entry, PugWash and the Royal Standard of England. On this occasion we headed to Langley Park out near the village of Iver to the west of London just within the borders of Buckinghamshire. We had planned to tackle this series of caches earlier in the year but with the torrential rains that we experienced in January and February we had elected to hold off for a while as other geocachers had reported that some of the walk was very much under water.

After we had parked up and said our greetings the five of us humans and Smokey the pug dog headed just a short distance to the GZ of our first cache, Langley Park 1 – Ashen Cross (GC4NRK8). The weather was dry and warm and the sun was threatening to show its face and some of the group had shed jackets and were just in thin jumpers. I erred on the side of caution and kept my light jacket on just in case… what a pessimist!

The first cache was plucked from its hiding place very quickly by Geoff and before we knew it we were on our way, team PugWash was caching again! We chatted and caught up on our geocaching gossip as we strolled along the wide path towards the next couple of hides. Geoff found Langley Park 2 – John Kedeminster (GC4NRM9) like a hawk too and quickly banned himself from searching on the next one to give others a chance of finding some too.

Sam is pictured standing on a couple of logs that look a little like a giant's pair of chopsticks.

Good to be caching again


Third on the trail was Langley Park 3 – Mansion House (GC4NRMX) and it was at this point that I started to wonder what exactly this placed was. We gleaned some answers from information boards around the park and now back at home I have supplemented this knowledge with the multi vitamin that is Wikipedia. Evidence that the park was used as a royal hunting ground exists as far back as the 13th century. The Name Langley is Anglo Saxon in origin and simply means a long cleared piece of land within woodland. At one point Langley Park which had been owned privately reverted back to the crown and it became a regular haunt of the royals. In the 16th Century Henry VIII actually made a habit of gifting it to his wives. He gave it in turn to each of Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour. I can’t imagine they were too happy about that. How pissed off would you be as someone’s second wife to receive the very same gift that your stupid fat husband had given to his first wife… talk about insensitive! But then again I don’t think arguing with Henry VIII ever worked out well, certainly not as far as the wives were concerned anyway.
View of The Mansion House

View of The Mansion House


The mansion that was visible from this cache did not actually appear on the scene until the 18th century when the park was owned by Charles Spencer the third duke of Marlborough. Shortly after building the mansion, Lancelot “Capability” brown was employed to landscape the grounds and lake… but we shall hear more of him later, now stop fidgeting and pay attention.
Shar is pictured holding a large leaf that was used to hide the cache.

Turning Over A New Leaf


Our next cache, Langley Park 4 – Sir Robert Bateson Harvey (GC4NRNR) , which was named in honour of a man who is in serious confusion about which were his forenames and which his surname, who bought the estate in 17 hundred and some change, and was a rather cunning hide which Sharlene managed to find attached to the underside of a rather large and slightly out of place looking leaf. So far so good, Smokey was enjoying time off the lead and none of us had disappeared over board to drown yet so all was going well as we turned right along the boundary of the park and headed off the nice easy path towards some slightly more rugged terrain.

We quickly realised that this stretch of the walk was most likely the one that was under water at some point. It was muddy and boggy in places but thankfully as we have had mostly dry weather for the last couple of weeks the waters had receded and it was dry feet all round, except for Smokey of course, he had left his shoes at home again. Mel was quickly in the bushes to retrieve Langley Park 5 – Deer Fence (GC4NRQ7), closely followed by young Sam. The log was signed and Geoff dug out a TravelBug that he wanted to drop off from his seemingly endless bag of trackables. Every time we meet up, Geoff always has loads of bugs he wants to get rid of. I strongly suspect that he is breeding them under laboratory conditions in his shed at home, although don’t breathe a word of this as the illegal breeding of Travel Bugs is still an offence punishable by humiliation through the administration of a public wedgie.

Sam, Geoff, Shar and Smokey squelch to teh next cache

Squelch

We squelched on through the mud a bit further, navigating some trees that had helpfully grown right in the middle of the path, and soon found ourselves coming up on a small brook. The sun was breaking through now and those who had just worn light jumpers were looking smug… I was comfortable but overdressed. I am reluctant to shed my jacket as it has so many useful pockets and without them I will have nowhere to put all the handy and important things that I bring with me when caching. A small footbridge spanned the brook and we all felt the cache, Langley Park 6 – The Brook (GC4NRR5), had to be somewhere underneath near one of the banks so we all got down to it, literally, and started looking. Smokey wandered back and forth across the bridge and watched us work and at one point whilst I had an arm buried deep under the boards he decided to give my face a good licking as it had been conveniently placed at his height. I am not sure if he was trying to tell me something but needless to say I didn’t find the cache. There was much scratching of heads and swapping back and forth between sides to search and still we did not find it. Eventually I gave up and just stood in the middle of the small bridge and let others get on with it. This seemed to work as in a matter of seconds Geoff had the container in hand, having located it in pretty much the place I had been looking when Smokey had slobbered all over me. It was under the bridge on one of the cross beams that supported the walkway, my hands must have been mere inches from finding it.

After signing the log and replacing the cache, everyone seemed to gather in the middle of the bridge chatting about nothing in particular. I finally realised that I was blocking the way across and people were politely waiting for me to turn round and get on with it… LOL, I love being blind sometimes.

Once on the other side of the bridge we had a decision to make. The series continued with a cache not too far away but there was also another one that was not part of the series close by. We decided to head in the direction of both and see which one the path took us closest to. We strode across an open field and Smokey made a new friend who just didn’t want to go back to their owner. Who can blame them, Smokey is just too lovable. Finally we managed to separate the two dogs and then we realised that we were approaching a road. We quickly worked out that the cache, The George Green Cache (GC3E5EM) was on the other side of a fence next to the road. Geoff, Sam and I left the women to discuss knitting patterns or some such thing and headed back a short way to a gate in the fence Geoff had noticed. We effortlessly vaulted the gate and headed along the path at the side of the road in search of the cache which I quickly found hidden at the base of a tree. With much smugness and manly grunting we headed back to the gate and as before CAREFULLY climbed over whimpering softly as we straddled the top metal rung of the gate, before then CAREFULLY climbing down the other side and returning to the girls.

Our way to the next cache, Langley Park 7 – Deer Park (GC4NRRK), was not as straight forward as we had first hoped. Every time we made a bee line for it we got diverted by water or some such other obstacle. We did eventually make it to GZ where Sharlene managed to find it quite quickly hidden in a large green planter

Geoff and Melissa at GZ
Making our way to the next cache reunites us with our friend Capability brown as mentioned earlier. This man has a staggering list of landscaped parks and gardens to his name including the likes of Warwick castle, Hampton court and more than 170 others besides. As an aside I think I may have read one of the most bizarre sentences on Wikipedia whilst looking him up. “Capability Brown’s popularity decreased after his death”. Ummm…. You don’t say. Anyway he turned his hand to Langley Park in the mid 18th century re-landscaping the lake and cleverly shielding it from the mansion house by the use of trees! Now if I had a lake in the grounds of my house… I would not hide it with trees, I would want to see the lake out of the window. But that’s just me I guess. Although to be fair, you could just tell me the lake was visible from the window and I wouldn’t be able to see if there was a tree in the way or not.

At the GZ of Langley Park 8 – Capability Brown (GC4NRT8) we found a bench, some magnets…. And no cache. Unfortunately we had to log this as a DNF as it had obviously gone missing leaving just the fixing magnets behind. Never mind, a return visit to Langley Park would not be a terrible thing. After a brief rest on the bench staring at the lake it was time to move on. As people were sitting there, I thought that would make a good photo and so got up and retreated back a bit only to find that by the time I got my camera up and ready that everyone had got up off the bench and left.

I now have a whole in my recollection of our day. I cannot remember this next cache at all. I know it is called Langley Park 9 – Duke of Marlborough (GC4NRV8) and I know we found it but I really can’t remember anything about it. That is the second time on our PugWash adventures that I have had a cache stolen from my memory.

Our route now took us closer to the mansion and for our next cache, Langley Park Abridged (GC2BV79), we diverted into the gardens. This one was also not strictly part of the series but as it was on the way it would have been rude not to go for it. On approaching GZ we realised two things. Firstly the cache was located on a small Japanese style bridge in the gardens and secondly a couple of people were sitting very close to it… bugger. Team Pugwash is not put off by a bit of muggle activity though and so it was that we employed various distraction tactics to enable some of us to search. Firstly Sharlene acted as a human shield whilst I got down on my knees and looked and felt around under one end of the bridge with no luck. Then we shifted to the other end of the bridge and some of us stood around chatting and looking nonchalant whilst others got down and searched. Smokey provided excellent cover by being a dog. As time went on our distraction and shielding tactics got less thorough until after about 5 minutes we were just all openly searching around the bridge. The couple no doubt thought we were all a bunch of total nutters…. Which of course, we are. Geoff finally found the cache and we moved on to the last in the series.

Sam, Shar and Geoff stand at teh bridge basically being nutters.

A Bridge Too Far


Leaving the gardens behind we walked further through the park in search of Langley Park 10 – Verney’s Walk (GC4NRVR) At GZ a number of trees presented themselves as likely hides and of course, I chose the wrong one to search. There is, however, “no I in team” as people say rather nauseatingly and therefore a find for the group is a find nonetheless and there was much metaphorical back slapping as we made our way back to the cars. It was at this point that I literally lost my bearings when the end of my white cane fell off and the ball bearings inside the large roller spilled out onto the floor. I only realised when my cane suddenly went very light in my hand and then Geoff commented that the end had fallen off. Funny really, with all the abuse that the cane gets whilst geocaching, that it chose at that moment when it was under no stress at all and probably hardly even touching the ground as Sharlene was leading me, to give up the ghost. I suppose it was very much a case of the straw that broke the camel’s back. I retrieved the roller and tipped a few ball bearings out. There was no way to repair it as the bearings were stress fitted into the housing and so a new roller tip would go on my wish list. That is twice in less than 6 months that geocaching has tried to kill my white cane, the other time was while doing a series around Bovingdon as I reported in Slow cats and lessons learned – Back to Bovingdon.

Back at the car it was good to shed my coat and jumper as I was seriously sweating under the warm sun now. We broke out the sandwiches and refuelled whilst we discussed what we would do next. After lunch we went in search of a couple of Village sign caches that were close by. The first one, VS#43 Iver Heath (GC4NCQM), we drove past but with no obvious place to stop, let alone park two cars, we abandoned that one and headed over to VS#44 Iver (GC4PQ9C) which we had had to DNF back in October last year as the container had gone missing. After picking this one up we then re-walked the Iver Loop series as Geoff and Melissa had not done these caches. It is a lovely little walk of 8 hides all with Star Wars themed descriptions and even one or two themed containers too. It was a nice feeling to travel light, not having to “geocache” as such but just be there to provide nudges and hints for the others whilst enjoying the pleasant walk along a quiet lane and some footpaths past rather impressively expensive looking homes.

Sam and Shar stand in the foreground of the picture whilst Geoff and Mel search for teh cache in the background

Iver Loop Episode II


By the time we got back to the cars for the second time feet were starting to ache and poor little Smokey was tuckered out. What better way to end an excellent days caching than with some excellent homemade cake. Mel had done herself proud again with a most exquisite carrot cake laced with banana and walnuts with a very yummy icing. Here’s to the next PugWash adventure. Happy days.

P.S. As an astounding coincidence, upon returning home and logging the caches, Geoff realised that his Sister and her family had also done the Langley Park caches just an hour behind us!!!

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Hockeridge Woods Part 1

In the last couple of weeks our geocaching has been confined to local urban ones in and around Watford, which serves to feed our desire to cache but falls a little short of the full-on countryside caching experience that we love. In an effort to rectify this and based on the recommendation from a fellow geocacher from the Beds, Bucks, Herts Geocachers Facebook group, we set out today to tackle a series of caches in Hockeridge Woods near the Village of Ashley Green on the border of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

As we parked up and found the footpath that would lead us away from the country lane and towards the woods I was already feeling elated and happy to be “out amongst it” again. A short walk down the footpath and our first find of the day, Ashley Green – Snowhill (GC3K963) was in hand within just a few minutes of getting out of the car. I always think it is a bad omen to struggle on the first find of the day and god forbid you have to log a DNF on it, you might as well get right back in the car and go home. None of that today though, Sharlene plucked the magnetic container from the bottom of the kissing gate and was signing the log even before I had properly arrived at ground Zero. We were almost muggled though as we had not been paying attention to others around us and a couple of dog walkers were almost upon us before I realised and managed to warn Shar who was cache in hand at the time.

Leaving the first cache we headed across open fields in the direction of the woods which stretched out in front of us. Now this was more like it. The weather was dry although the air still had a chill to it, but the sun was trying its hardest to break through the clouds to bathe us in its weak heat. Before us lay Hockeridge woods, boasting over 50 species of tree, some native to the region, mainly beech, and others from much further afield. The Woods were originally own by someone for a long time and then they died and sold it to someone else, blah blah blah and then in 1950 something it was bought by Mary Wellesley, the great grand daughter of the Duke of Wellington. She rescued the woodland from many years of neglect before finally gifting them to the Royal Forestry Society in 1986. How rich do you have to be to be able to just give away a forest?

For the last few weeks I have been reading the Song of Fire and Ice books by George R. R. Martin which inspired the Game of Thrones TV programme. With all these tales of knights and Kings and battles and horses fresh in my head it was easy for me to imagine the woods that lay before me playing host to outlaws or brigands just waiting to relieve us of our Gold and horses as we carried out the king’s business of geocaching. Our second cache was just inside the woods which lay at the bottom of a hill…. Yes a hill, this is the Chilterns after all. It wouldn’t be the Chilterns without hills. As we passed to the left of a kissing gate that seemed somewhat pointless as there was no fence to the side of it so it was just a gate in the middle of nowhere, the arrow on our phones was pointing us left in the direction of the base of tree hide, Hockeridge – Back to Baseics (GC3D8CT). Even I could make out the likely tree for the hide as it was very large and set apart from its neighbours a little. Sharlene asked me if I wanted her to tell me that she had found it or let me look for myself. I don’t go in for pity caching and don’t want people to wait for me to find them myself if they can see where it is. I don’t get upset about not finding more than a handful myself each outing. I let Shar retrieve the cache whilst I got down to my usual tasks of snapping a few pictures of whatever happened to be in my way at the time and recording a note of the find on my voice recorder so I can remember what the hell I am talking about when it comes to writing these blog entries. I have a critical mass of remembering about half a dozen caches so if we plan to do more than that then the voice recorder comes in very handy. Thankfully we weren’t pounced on by a band of marauding bandits as we signed the log.

Shar stands before a large tree that has just revealed the case to be hidden at its base.

BASEic geocaching


The path to the next cache took us along the edge of the pretty woodland and for a short while it felt like we were being teased. The woods full on were just a few yards to the right of us but the path just kept skirting along the edge of them. I could just have imagined Jim Bowen exclaiming, “Look, here’s what you could have won”. Sorry, that was an extremely obscure 1980s TV game show reference that anyone from outside the UK is unlikely to get. Although I would be interested to hear if anyone from around the world did get Bullseye. If you didn’t, you have missed a real gem, a game show with the main premise revolving around darts. It was responsible for launching a whole host of wonderful catchphrases including the epic, “stay in the black and out of the red, nothing in this game for two in a bed”

True to CaptainJack form this next cache,Hockeridge – In Plain View (GC3D8CY), was less than 200 metres from the previous one and it wasn’t long before we had arrived at GZ and were searching. The hint led us to believe that the container was going to be just above head height in a tree and so we systematically started hugging trees, or at least I did. The path was quite narrow here and it was lined on both side with trees of all sizes and shapes. After about 5 minutes of groping the likely candidates though I had achieved nothing other than almost disappearing into a gully at the side of a tree and dirty hands. To start with our search had focussed on the left side of the path as this was where our arrows were pointing us but when we moved back to the path and started looking the other way it wasn’t long before Shar had spotted the little beggar and was able to direct me to reach up and grab it. This one was so small, I am surprised that people find it at all, but they seem to. Can you spot it in this photo?

Hidden in plain View

Hidden in plain View


The time spent walking to the next cache, Hockeridge – Fallen (GC3D8D9),which again was not too far, was spent thinking about what dinners we fancied having next week. It being the weekly food shop tomorrow, we generally spend some time on Thursdays thinking about what we want to eat the following week. As we often go caching on Thursdays, this means that we can often be heard discussing meal ideas as we hack through woods, climb hills, ford streams and all the other fantastic geocaching stuff. I find this a wonderful example of how life is so not like a movie. Sure do the exciting things, climb trees, wade through rivers and all that but just remember that you need to decide if you want shepherd’s pie or beef casserole next Monday at the same time. Actually it is neither… next Monday it is Ribs, and because the walk to the next cache was so short that was pretty much the only culinary decision we managed to make before arriving at GZ. With a name like Fallen, it was pretty obvious where I needed to be sticking my hands and it wasn’t long before Sharlene managed to direct me off the path to the left to find a couple of likely looking fallen trees. Sure enough under one of them I found the small lock n’ lock container and threw it over to Shar to sign the log. On the return throw she managed to score a direct hit and land the cache neatly in my outstretched hands. Not bad considering it was about 15 feet away and I am not able to make any adjustments if the shot goes wayward. I was so shocked to feel the cache land in my hands that I almost dropped it in surprise.

Still keeping to the tree line we followed the woodland path towards the next cache, Hockeridge – The Heart of it (Gc3D8DN). The Weatherman had forecast showers for today but so far it was remaining dry and the sun was still trying to make an appearance. By the time we arrived at the next GZ it was 40 minutes since we left the car and already we had 5 caches under our belt and a decision to have chicken Salad for Dinner on Thursday. An easy find in the bowl of a tree for Shar and I dropped off a GPS TB that I had picked up whilst doing the royal Stand of England series a few weeks ago. We headed off to the next one crossing a narrow country lane on the way. Once on the other side we joined a public footpath that ran just to the side of the woods so now we weren’t even in amongst the trees anymore. The path flanked a couple of fields and the views looked pretty expansive leading to more woodlands to the north and west and finally the sun broke through for a few moments and it was agreed that it would be Curry on Saturday night. Initially Hockeridge – Post a Field note (GC3D8EC) gave us some problems. Having done an ever increasing number of CaptainJack caches you get to know what you should be looking for and this seemed to imply a simple base of post find. However after searching every post we could find in the vicinity of GZ we were left scratching our heads. There was nothing else for it but to start searching them again and assume that this might not be as straight forward as we first thought. This time Shar found a length of string tied to the bottom of a post and upon pulling it revealed the cache lying in amongst the undergrowth. A very simple, but effective way to add a twist to an established premise. Nicely done!

Hockeridge – Hollow(GC3D8EQ) was the next cache and it similarly had us scratching our heads again until we realised that we were looking too hard in all the wrong places for this one. Gz appeared to be just beyond a kissing gate and the hint implied that we were looking for a hollowed stump. No amount of looking revealed the cache until we realised that we had come too far and once we backtracked to the kissing gate, Shar was able to make a quick find to the right of the gate in amongst the bushes. Just as an aside… does anyone else kiss at kissing gates? I don’t mean with random strangers… that would just be weird, although a good way to meet people. No, I mean when you are out walking with your other half / partner / wife / lover / escort etc., do you stop with one either side of the gate and kiss? Do you even know what a kissing gate is? If not, read here. I just read that and was devastated to find out that the name owes nothing to the practice of kissing at the gate but instead to the manner in which the hinged middle part of the gate “kisses” the sides. How dull and un-romantic. Well knickers to Wikipedia and what the truth is, Shar and I will still continue to smooch on our way through, even if it means holding people up… so ner.

Spaghetti Bolognaise on Wednesday.

The walk to the next cache took us on further along the footpath until we met Northchurch lane which forms the northern most boundary of the wood. By this point we had been on the trail for over an hour and spent almost none of that time actually in amongst the trees but we weren’t complaining. The surroundings are very pretty, quiet and had been relatively easy going under foot so far. We turned right along the lane and then after a bit of car dodging nipped back into the trees to collect Hockeridge – Within Reach (GC3D8FA) which turned out to be just within reach down inside a hollow tree. It was one of those just stick your hand in and don’t think about it moments, something I am happy to do only because this country has very little that has a tendency to latch on to you with fatal consequences.

As we continued along the lane towards our next cache, occasionally stepping up onto the verge to allow cars and vans to pass, we found a most idyllic cottage set back from the road right in the woods. What a fantastic place to live that would be. I curse myself for not taking a picture. As I was standing there listening to Shar describe it, all I could think was wow, that would be so awesome. Now that I sit at home and think about it again I fear that whilst it must be a beautiful place to live the threat of a tree falling on your house must be very real and call me pedantic but I don’t relish the thought of waking up one morning with a huge bloody tree blocking the view of the TV and a family of squirrels scampering around the bed looking for nuts.

Once we arrived at the GZ of Hockeridge – Denny’s Lane (GC3D8AW) we quickly found the cache lurking at the base of a metal pole and I promptly retrieved it and picked up a nettle sting on my fingers for my troubles. Having reach our furthest north point of the walk and with a brief stint of cursing and a decision to have Lamb Steaks on Tuesday we backtracked a few metres and headed down John’s lane to find our next footpath that would lead us to our penultimate cache, Hockeridge – Remains (GC3D8FP). This path took us through the woods proper now and it was a most enjoyable walk. The trees are not particularly dense which is great and the paths are well defined and easy to follow. There was a bit more mud here than there had been so far on the walk but nothing too bad. The description said that we were looking for the remains of a tree trunk here and so once at GZ we got down to searching out anything matching the hint. We found lots of likely looking stumps, some intact and some rotten almost to nothing but no cache. I had my arm pretty much up to the shoulder in the remains of one trunk but still nothing. The GPS coverage was a bit patchy to say the least under the trees and upon reading the logs we found that a lot of people had logged DNFs on this one. Some people have found it and nearly all of them commented what a very difficult and cunning hide it was. The logs also revealed an alternative set of coordinates and even a spoiler photo and armed with these…. We still didn’t find the cache. Having found 8 up to this point in just under 90 minutes we spent the best part of half an hour trying to find this one before finally admitting defeat. The threatened showers looked like they might just arrive soon and it was heading towards lunchtime which meant we were both getting a bit grumpy or “Hangry” as it is known.

We felt a few spots of rain from above as we tried to put the DNF behind us and move on to our last cache before lunch. Thankfully we made a nice quick find at Hockeridge – Triple Trunks (GC3D8G2) which is an excellent way to restore your faith after a frustrating failure. As we left the GZ and squelched through a small stretch of muddy path to meet up with one of the main footpaths running through the wood, we slotted Roast Chicken in on Friday and decided that on Sunday, which is Mother’s Day, we would go out for Pizza. The path took us back to where we had found our second cache of the day and from there it was a short walk back up through the fields to the lane where we had parked. We did manage to take one minor wrong turn and ended up coming out of a footpath into a pub car park but we soon worked out where we needed to be. I personally needed to be at the bar with a pint of ale in my hand but alas that was not to be and it was back to the car for hot chocolate and sandwiches and a slice of ginger cake.

We had a second loop of another 10 or so caches planned out in the woods but we decided to leave them for another visit and instead head back home. 10 caches found with one frustrating DNF and a most enjoyable walk through the attractive surroundings of Hockeridge woods. Good times.

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Permission Denied

I had hoped that this blog entry would be the first of a series about our new geocaches that we were planning to place. Unfortunately, we have fallen at the first hurdle as the Owner of the rural estate on which we were hoping to put them has declined our request for permission. It is such a shame as we had identified a very nice walk around pretty surroundings on the Munden Estate which is a pleasant mixture of woodland, parkland, river and greenways not far from the village of Aldenham in Hertfordshire. The estate is criss crossed with public rights of way including, footpaths, bridal ways and other byways and all the parkland and woodlands are open to the public to enjoy it just seems that they would rather not have any geocaches on their estate.

It seems they have had various requests in the past and so it would appear that I was not the first person to think that this would be a great place for a series of caches. Hey ho, there is nothing that we can do about it and so we go back to square one and look for other possible locations. I did have an idea to maybe set a multi-cache in and around the grounds of the estate with the actual physical final container being placed outside, and I will give this some more consideration. *evil grin*

I do have a plan B that can be pursued and it happens to be right next door to the Munden Estate. The Wall Hall estate is made up of a similar environment but the one difference here is that the whole estate is owned and managed by Hertfordshire County Council so I might have more luck there…. We shall see.

Posted in Geocaching, Hiding Geocaches | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Finding The Lock to Fit The Key

Having found the key, see my previous blog entry I’v got the key, it was time to go in search of the lock that it would fit. Thankfully this was not a difficult task as we had the exact coordinates of where to find the lock in question. The sun was shining bright in a cloudless sky as we parked the car not far from the church in Bedmond, a pretty little village just a few miles north of Watford. As to the exact location of our destination, I could not say as this is a mystery cache after all.

We completed the remainder of our journey on foot down a narrow country lane flanked on one side by a wooded area and on the other side by open fields. Once at ground zero it was just a quick search before my fingers touched on the hard metal of the cache hidden deep in an old tree stump. Inside the protective plastic bag we found, as the name would suggest, a metal cash box. After a heart stopping moment when I thought I might not have brought the key with me after taking it out of my bag to photograph it last night, I was relieved to find it safe in the little TB pouch I carry in my rucksack. I passed the key to Sam to do the honours and he triumphantly slotted it in and unlocked the box to reveal the log book and a plethora of small swaps.

Sam made a swap of an ink stamper for a plastic jumping frog and then after signing the log and taking a photo we repacked everything and went to replace the cache. Sam then spotted that the key was still in the lock and laughing he retrieved it and I put it back in my bag with plans to drop it off somewhere this week. It wouldn’t be much of a special concept if the key to open the lock was sitting in it the whole time, now would it?

Sam and Shar pose for the camera holding the metal cash box with the key in the lock.

Cache Box


Even though we have found over 500 caches it is so nice to do something a little different every now and then and it was a joy to take a special trip out just to pick this one up today. The only shame was that it is a premium only cache which means that Sam couldn’t sign the log as well, but he seemed happy enough to be the one to actually unlock the box.

Posted in Finding Geocaches, Geocaching | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

I’ve Got The Key!

It’s always cool to see something a little different when it comes to geocaches and this one grabbed my interest a while back. Bones Cash Box is not a complicated or in depth puzzle cache, but instead it earns its question mark other status for two other reasons. Firstly there is only one place you will find the final coordinates and that is embossed on TravelBug TB4KNJ1. And before you think it would be possible for people to pass the coordinates around over the net or by word of mouth, then forget it. You might be able to locate the cache that way but you won’t be able to open it because dangling from the Travelbug tag… is a key! You guessed it, the key to open the cache.

TB KeyThe Travel bug is not to travel out of the area so as to give people a fighting chance of being able to find it in reasonable proximity of the cache. I had noticed this geocache when I first started caching but had no idea where the TB was at the time and saw little chance of getting hold of it. Then by chance I saw something posted by a fellow local cacher on his blog, Wizzard Prang’s Ramblings, who had located the TB and had been to log the cache. I commented on his blog and placed the TB on watch to see where he might drop it. It was another surprise, therefore to meet Wizzard Prang, otherwise known as Steve, in person at the Village signs event we went to recently and he put a big smile on my face when he dropped the TB into my hand.

We plan to make the short trip to the final location tomorrow and hopefully we will be able to log this rather unique cache.

Posted in Finding Geocaches, Geocaching, Geocaching Events | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments