Wellies and Waffling with Ellie in Welwyn

Upon completion of this blog entry I was somewhat alarmed to discover just how much textual meandering, waffling and metaphorical staring out of the window I had succumbed to during its compilation. It is therefore as a service to you, dear reader, that I summarise the day as being a thoroughly enjoyable walk of around 4 kilometres, finding 10 geocaches in pleasant surroundings in Welwyn, Hertfordshire. If you are interested to learn the finer details then please, do read on, but you have been warned!

One of the many benefits of reading the blogs of other geocachers is that I sometimes get ideas about where to go for our own adventures. 90% of the time these ideas are completely impractical mainly because they are in far off magical places such as Australia, America, Japan or Milton Keynes. One in every hundred of these ideas, with a blatant disregard for pre-stated percentages, turns out to be achievable. And so it was that whilst reading drsolly’s blog on Saturday, I noted with interest that he and ladysolly had, that day, been for a spot of light caching in Welwyn.

This caught my eye because the name of the series in question, Ellie’s Wanderings was not one that I recognized. I thought that odd because during the summer we had visited Welwyn to go to the excellent water mill and roman baths (see Milling, Bathing and Geocaching), and I had not noticed any such series when scoping out the area for caches. On closer examination it transpired that this was a new series that had only been placed in October. Being more than 5 miles away, it had slipped under the radar of my new cache alert – I probably should increase the range now that we are more prepared to travel a bit further for a decent series.

Anyway, noting that the good doctor and his lady had found all 10 in the series and seemed to enjoy themselves, I suggested to Shar that we could make the half hour drive to Welwyn to tackle the series for our caching adventure this week. She agreed. I suggested Monday. She grumbled a bit, said she wasn’t sure. I said I was happy to go Monday or Thursday but the forecasted weather was much better at the beginning of the week. She concurred and, like the angel that she is, agreed to get up half an hour earlier to make the packed lunch and hot chocolate so that we could go straight after dropping Sam off at school. I said I would get up 10 minutes before her so that I wouldn’t have to encounter her in the kitchen with her morning head on. She started to look outraged and then agreed, aware only too well that as far as she is concerned, early mornings should be something that happen exclusively to other people.

With the prospect of a kitchen altercation with a semi-conscious SharZombie thankfully averted and Sam deposited at the gates of the prestigious seat of learning otherwise known as Pargate Junior School, we stoked the horses and spurred the boiler and made like the wind (non-flatulent) to the provided parking coordinates for the start of our walk.

Welwyn lies about 20 kilometres northeast of Watford and seems to be notable for generally being overlooked in modern history. Whilst once considered a town of similar standing to nearby Hatfield, when the locals objected to the railway passing through and stopping there, the area quickly became overlook by those that sped past. Road traffic was still significant with the Great North road carrying many north bound travellers through at the beginning of the 20th century. Eventually this was also deemed a bad idea, and what is believed to be the first officially named bypass was built taking the A1 past the village. As a further slight, the road was later extended, given motorway status and rerouted to bypass the bypass. All of which fascinating but pointless drivel leads me back to the matter of the parking spot which was on a quiet lane a short distance from the roar of the A1(M). I do hope you will forgive my proclivity for saying something in 200 words when it could be said just so easily with 10. After all that is one of the things you love about my blog. Isn’t it?

As we left the car, with packed lunch and hot chocolate stashed therein, the sun was shining and whilst the air temperature was a cool 7 degrees centigrade, thankfully there was little or no wind. Making our way along the lane and through a kissing gate, kissing as we did so, we quickly encountered the familiar squelch of mud. At this stage it was just a light covering underfoot and was of little concern. We were far more focussed on finding the first cache, 1 Ellie’s Wanderings – Duck race (GC5ECYR), which was found promptly by Shar with the aid of the hint in a cluster of trees just to the side of the path. Not more than a couple of minutes out and we were already signing our first log. We also retrieved a TB, Fosters Australia, that started out in Germany and wants to go to Australia. Its description declares , “Show me the red sands and white coast of Australia”. Red sand? Despite having been released in 2011 and having travelled over 12,000 miles, the nearest it has got to the land down under is North Africa. It is a shame that sending TravelBugs via the post is not really in the spirit of things as I reckon I could get it there by sending it to fellow blogger geo-Mumma Kel, but alas it will have to be content with coming to Watford.

Our walk to the second in the series, 2 Ellie’s Wanderings – Sitting Tree (GC5EEFR), took us along a grassy, footpath that was easy going underfoot. The title is a good clue to finding the rough location of this cache as the GZ was near a very conveniently shaped tree. Finding the tree was easy enough but reading the description and paying closer attention to the coordinates revealed that the cache had been moved a short distance away from the tree due to a number of recent mugglings. On the opposite side of the path we spotted a number of likely looking trees and we were soon among them, fiddling around the willows for the container. As luck would have it/not have it, I picked the wrong tree and was barely at the trunk before Shar had made the find. The area was popular with dog walkers and other such muggles so we did our best to be covert in signing the log and returning the cache before heading off for the next in the series.

We must have taken the wrong path to 3 Ellie’s Wanderings – Swimming (GC5EEGA), as we found ourselves curling back on ourselves to get to the GZ but it was only a short diversion. I had taken the time to glance at the descriptions and hints before coming out and had looked up the couple of Latin words that appeared in the hint on this one. This revealed that we were looking for a place where Willow met Hawthorn and sure enough we spotted a willow tree that had Hawthorn growing in amongst its trunk and branches. As you can imagine, this made for a rather delicate and somewhat painful search for the cache. Pausing a few times for muggles to pass, 10 minutes later we still didn’t have the container in our hands. The tree seemed a little decrepit in places and a couple of small branches had come down as a result of my searching. They literally were just hanging amongst the other branches, not attached to the tree at all. It was 5 minutes later when, in desperation, Shar turned her gaze to the ground and picking up one of the fallen branches discovered the tiny nano cache in the end of it. We were very lucky to have found this one and I am so glad we did as seeing as I had knocked it to the ground from where it was hanging in the tree, subsequent cachers would have struggled too.

Retrieving the log proved impossible as our caching kit does not currently contain a pair of tweezers after our last pair went missing. I know, I know, don’t tut at me and shake your head like that. I know going out to do a caching series with no tweezers is like leaving the house without your pants on but there it is, we did. Go caching without tweezers that is… not leave the house without pants. At least I had pants on when we left, I can’t speak for Shar. We resorted to plan B which was to take a photo of Shar holding the very distinctive cache. There could be no doubt from the picture that we had found the container, it’s not like it was a 35mm pot or a standard lock n’ lock box.

Shar stands holding ashort stick embedded in the end of which can be seen the tiny nano cache.

A pair of tweezers would have been handy!

A brief walk across another muddy / grassy footpaved field, nodding to the dog walker who we had already seen once today, and then we were on a narrow country lane that led down the side of a very old Mill. The mill was the source of the information that we would need to calculate the coordinates of the multi cache, 4 Ellie’s Wanderings – The Beach (GC5EV6K). Walking down the lane we halted at an information board just to the side of the road where we were able to collect all the numbers we needed from the history of the mill. Fulling Mill gets its name from, as you might expect, the process of fulling which involves cleaning drying and stretching material. Interestingly in some cases the material is fixed to a frame called a tender and then suspended in the air while it stretches, and this is where we get the phrase “on tender hooks”.

Armed with the coordinates of the final we climbed up on a raised path that led down the side of the mill house buildings to avoid the river that was being forded by the lane. It was a pretty cool thing to stand and watch / listen as cars slowly drove through the water to continue their journey. By the way if you fancy living in an old mill house, this one, comprising 6 bedrooms and 5 reception rooms amongst other things would set you back somewhere in the region of £2 million. Beautiful, but to be honest the risk of flooding with the river being so close, far outweighs the benefits for me. Being near to any body of water these days causes me to tense a little and I feel that it is only a matter of time before I fall in a river/lake/sea/pond/bucket whilst out geocaching.

Pictured is the river as it is forded by the narrow lane. To the left a raised walkway can be seen for the use of pedestrians to avoid wet feet.

The Ford at Fulling Mill

The search for the final did indeed take us alongside the river and as time stretched on we seemed less likely to find the container. As is always the case with a multi cache that you can’t find, you start doubting your calculations, but we revisited the numbers and everything seemed correct. The location the arrow was pointing to didn’t quite fit with the hint though as it seemed to imply that the cache would be very close to the river and Shar’s phone was taking us the other side of the path. Shar read some logs whilst I tentatively edged towards any tree or structure I could find on the river side of the path. It was while I was entangled with a tree just a few feet from the water that Shar called out to me that she had located it and with a sigh I extracted myself and made my way over to her. Right down at the water’s edge there was a tree trunk that had grown horizontally and attached to it was a piece of rigid green garden wire and on the end of this was the cache. After nervously feeling around the hide I retreated and let Shar sign the log. This was indeed a truly tricky hide and if the river ever rises over its banks, it will be one that is impossible to find. It wasn’t only us that struggled with this one, the good doctor and ladysolly also had a very long search before eventually finding it, alerted, as indeed Shar had been, to the position of the cache by a glimpse of the green wire.

Happy to have avoided a DNF we set off in search of the next cache, 5 Ellie’s Wanderings – New path (GC5EY6F). We were happy and warm with dry feet as we walked to the GZ which lay on the other side of a road in a narrow patch of trees. Finding this cache turned out to be a lot harder than it could have been. If I tell you where we eventually found the container and then reveal to you what the hint was you might understand how we became somewhat confused. The path wound its way through the trees and was flanked on both sides by banks. To the left the bank was gentle and to the right it was steeper. Trees lined both sides of the path. The cache was hidden in a hole at the base of a large Oak tree up the steep bank a short way to the right of the path. Now a reasonably vague but helpful hint might have been “hollow in oak” or simply “oak” or even “quercus”. The actual hint was “In hole in tree opposite oak tree. Not the first tree, a short steep climb up the bank”. Perhaps you can see why we got a bit confused? I may be being a tad pedantic and unfair to the CO who, after all, has gone to the effort of placing the cache for which I thank them profusely. I guess it irked me because it took us so long to find it, but I suppose at the end of the day, we did find it and that is the important thing. On the whole all the hints were excellent with the exception of one other, which I will come to in due course.

Paul stands leaning on the trunk of a large Oak tree. He is elevated above the camera position as the tree is on a steep slope.

Paul, opposite the camera next to the tree, not the first one but similar in every way to an oak up a steep slope, near the path and the slope on the other side.

6 Ellie’s Wanderings – The Pond (GC5EY6W) was, unsurprisingly, very close to a pond, where we located a large metal water trough at GZ. The ground around the trough was very muddy with a great deal of standing water and my search of the metal surfaces of the trough resulted in a lot of minor injuries from the stingers and hawthorn that grew all around it. After a fair amount of sploshing around and quite a bit of language that wouldn’t sit well in front of the vicar, I laid my hand on the tiny magnetic bolt cache. Oh bugger, we really need to get a pair of tweezers!

Sharlene was enjoying the mild weather and the pleasant walk so much that she decided to extend our walk to the next cache so that we could take in views of a field and some fencing. At least that surely must have been the reason otherwise the only explanation was that she was navigating to the wrong cache and taking us on a wild goose chase. Like I say, taking in the picturesque views! A huge old pine tree was the home for our next cache, 7 Ellie’s Wanderings – The Old Tree (GC5EY7D). We knew what we were looking for and where to find it, so it was only a matter of searching all the low hanging branches. Our progress was only delayed briefly by some dog walking muggles. Shar spotted the out of place huge, perfectly formed cone hanging from the tree and it was smiles all round… ok, ok I promise to get some tweezers soon!

Continuing the theme of taking the long way round, our walk to 7 Ellie’s Wanderings – The Fernery (GC5EYD4), was less than direct. Cutting through a small cluster of trees we emerged onto a lane that ran left to right. The cache was generally to the left and a bit ahead of us, in which direction lay fields. Separating the lane from the field was a shiny new barbed wire fence, but the question was which side did we need to be on. We elected to turn left and walk along the lane. 100 metres later Shar declared that she could see a footpath on the other side of the fence and we should probably be on that. Should we go back, or forward to try and find a way through the fence. We elected to go forward but after another 100 metres we still hadn’t found a gate to get access to the path and so resolved to retrace our steps to a point just past where we had joined the lane where Shar had seen a gate. At the point at which we turned round we were only about 150 metres from the cache, but we walked the 200 metres back to the gate, crossed into the field and then turned back and walked the 200 metres back again. As we continued on in the direction of GZ, Shar suddenly spotted a gate giving access to the lane just a few metres on. I estimate we were around 20 metres from this gate when we turned back and added around 400 metres to our walk. Still, nice scenery… a field… and stuff.

In case you were wondering, although I reckon you weren’t; I strongly suspect that you are growing rather weary of my protracted and facile account of the day and just want me to get to the end so you can go for a coffee, of course assuming you haven’t given up and done so already. But, if indeed you were wondering, a fernery is a specialist garden designed for the specific purpose of growing ferns. I had hoped that the definition of the word would be far more exciting, as I assume you had too, but there you have it. If it is still there, we did not see it, but we did however locate the cache which was a small magnetic job attached to a gate between two fields. Oh and before you consider reminding me, I am all too painfully aware that we need to buy some ****ing tweezers!

A pleasant amble through a couple of fields later in a zig zag fashion, urged on by the rumbling in our tummies heralding the imminent arrival of the hour of luncheon, and we found ourselves in a thick treeline flanking the A1M at the GZ of 9 Ellie’s Wanderings – Blackberry Stop (GC5EYM7). Sharlene made a quick find in amongst the trees but we remain a little perplexed as to the acronym in the hint, “MST, look for Quercus”. I no longer need to bring up a google search to translate the word quercus to Oak as I did a year ago when we were fresh faced noobs, but the meaning behind MST eluded us, and still does. As countless TV presenters from the 70s and 80s were fond of saying when inviting the viewers to enter a competition, “Answers on a postcard please”. It is strange how a phrase such as this exists in the lexicon of only people of a certain age. Recite it to anyone under the age of 25 and they will stare blankly at you. What is even more alarming is that I suspect that the majority of children today may not even know what a postcard is!

For the final cache of the series it is necessary to leave the meadows, commons, meandering rivers and country lanes and skirt along the side of the A1 past the new housing development that is going up and back into the urban sprawl of Welwyn. Let’s be clear here that the urban sprawl of Welwyn is still a fairly lazy, laid back village but compared to the terrain we had been traversing for the rest of the walk it is reality descending back down upon us once more with a thud and a prod in the side for good measure. Again, not sure if we took the most direct route to the GZ of 10 Ellie’s Wanderings – The Hall (GC5F0V1), but we got there in the end and the bench that greeted us was a welcome pew on which to rest our mildly aching bones, and search for the cache. The hint revealed it as magnetic which therefore left only so many places to search and eventually despite a few rather strange looks from a couple of passers-by, I eventually dislodged the nano container from its hiding place. If you dare to mention the T word at this point I will be forced to visit you in the night and, in the words of Basil Fawlty, “stick a bat up your night dress”.

From here it was just a short walk back to the car where we shed muddy boots and tucked into a welcome picnic of sandwiches and ginger cake. As we sat in the car listening to the radio I paused to remember the first time that Shar had ever included ginger cake amongst my caching packed lunch. It was on a very pleasant series called the Redbourn Ramble and if your brain hasn’t turned utterly to mush I highly recommend you go and read my blog entry for the day, Caches and Cake in Redbourn; it is, it has to be said, with a staggering lack of modesty, one of my funnier posts. Anyway I am glad to say that ginger cake is now a firm tradition on our geocaching days out.

Well there you have it, the account of our day in Welwyn. I do apologise for the rambling, waffling and general blithering on that this entry has turned out to be but it just happens that ways sometimes and I thank you from the heart of my bottom for sticking with me right to the bitter end. It was, in summary, a thoroughly enjoyable day out with the weather being kind to us and a caching series that both challenged us and rewarded us with well-deserved finds and interesting and pleasant surroundings. But more than that, I have learnt a valuable lesson as a result of our adventure. A lesson that while obvious to many, hadn’t sunk in for me until this day, but will now remain crystallised in my mind until I endeavour to learn from its virtue. And the lesson?

Buy some naffing tweezers, you berk!

Happy days indeed!

This geocaching adventure took place on Monday 15th December 2014 and took our geocache count to 874.

Posted in Finding Geocaches, Geocaching | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Iron Chicken and a Talisman

For our PugWash adventure this month we decided to do something a little different. It being December and not especially conducive to long caching days in the cold, wet and mud we decided to meet up with Smokeypugs just to do a couple of caches and then head back to their house for a pre-Christmas nibbles and board game affair.

And so on Sunday morning we left home and drove to St Albans where the plan was to find a new field puzzle cache by a CO friend of ours and also go in search of bones9 M10 view (GCTWF6) that was nearby but hadn’t been found for over a year, therefore being ripe for a possible resuscitation. The minute we got in the car and started to drive, the heavens open and the rain started. This didn’t bode well. But within a few minutes and the further we got from Watford the rain eased off and the sun even tried to make an appearance. When we arrived at the agreed parking spot, Geoff was already there with Smokey at his side raring to go. Mel was at home preparing the lunch and awaiting our return. As we all got out of the car the rain started again and Sharlene decided that she might just stay in the car if that was ok. No problem, a lads outing it was to be then. We set out across the open field towards our possible resuscitation and the spotting rain turned into a full on downpour. On top of that we were walking into the wind as well and Sam and I were soon soaked to the skin, at least our trousers were at any rate. Sharing a pair of gloves on the hands that we clasped so that he could guide me we set a quick a pace as we could muttering to ourselves that we must be mad. After about a 20 minute walk across muddy fields we made it to a small clump of trees where the cache was supposed to be. The rain had eased off and it was good to be out of the wind. We assessed the damage but apart from wet trouser legs both Sam and I were ok… a bit cold but warming up now that the wind was outside the trees and we were inside.

Unfortunately, the walk proved a waste of time as despite searching an area of woodland of about 40 metres square, we couldn’t find the cache anywhere. In the end we gave up and declared that it was either missing or nowhere near any of the alternative coordinates that we had been given by previous finders. We decided to head back through the mud to the field puzzle, The Iron Chicken’s Other Secret (GC5GC11), that had brought us to this area in the first place. We had walked past it on the way to the woods but decided to leave it for the way back which was a good idea as at least it wasn’t raining on our return journey.

Paul and Sam pose for a selfie in the woods where they failed to find Bones9 M10 view

cold, damp but having fun

To set the scene, if you can imagine a massive open field with one tree in the middle of it surrounded by a clump of undergrowth, that is where we were heading and that is where we found the cache. But that was only the beginning of the story because then we had to solve the field puzzle to open the container. This looked like a relatively simple affair. It consisted of a metal ring, oval in shape a bit like a big safety pin that was threaded through a metal spiral. There were a couple of circular metal rings that were on the spiral as well and these seemed to block the safety pin ring from being removed. The trick was to somehow get the safety pin ring off the spiral and this would allow you to open the container. Geoff gave it a go first, then Sam had a go, then I even had a bash at it. Then back to Geoff, then Sam, then me, then… well you get the idea.
Sam and Geoff fiddle ineffectually with the field puzzle trying to open the container.

Battling with The Iron Chicken

With the wind whipping across the open fields around us there was nowhere to shelter from it. We stood becoming gradually colder and ever more frustrated passing the container from one to another. Smokey the pug dog probably had just as much chance as we did of opening it but he wasn’t interested. A few text messages to the CO, mjcross, but still we couldn’t figure it out and so, with the patience of an angel Martin, the CO, left the warmth of his house which was a 15 minute jog, in wellies, away and joined us at the GZ whereupon Smokey greeted him excitedly and put his muddy paws all over his trousers. Martin arrived, took the cache from Geoff, told him to watch and proceeded to open the cache in a couple of simple movements of the hand. We were all delighted to see him, and ecstatic to be able to sign the log but nevertheless exasperated at how ridiculously simple it should have been to open the cache. Geoff promptly sealed it back up again and proceeded to unlock it again for himself to prove a point. Thankfully he was able to do this and after signing the log, finally, cold and still a little damp we walked with Martin back to the road where our cars were parked.
Sam stands looking cold in a field with nothing around himj for as far a the eye can see.

Standing in the middle of a field, cold with damp socks trying to open a puzzle cache. What am I doing here?

My hat would go off to Martin except it was too cold to take it off, but metaphorically I do indeed doff my cap for a fantastic field puzzle that was a nice easy find but a thoroughly impossible nut to crack, until you had figured out the knack. I hope I never come across one of those again, particularly as I wasn’t paying close enough attention when he opened it and I had decided not to “have another go” in favour of getting back to the car and ultimately back to Geoff and Melissa’s for nibbles and board games.

We arrived back at the car muddy but laughing and joking and bid farewell to Martin before heading off to Hemel where we spent a fantastic couple of hours playing a board game called Talisman which I can thoroughly recommend, and stuffing my face with sausage rolls, wedges, pork pies and, of course, cake, this time a wonderfully rich chocolate fudge cake crafted by Shar. All washed down with a couple of beers.

Despite only having earned the right to log one smiley it was a truly enjoyable and interesting day, as indeed all of our PugWash adventures tend to be. Happy days.

This geocaching adventure took place on Sunday 7th December 2014 and took our geocache count to 864.

Posted in Finding Geocaches, Geocaching | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Botley – The Sound of Silence

Recently some of our geocaching days out have been, shall we say, less than fantastic. Our trip to Wigmore was thoroughly unsatisfactory (see A Bad Day At The Office) and our recent excursion to Mill Hill left us demoralised and at a geocaching low (See Aborted after a Tip-Off). If it wasn’t for the great day out we had with Smokeypugs doing part of the Aylesbury Ring (see Zen and the art of canal caching) separating the two disasters we might have thrown our caching toys out of the box and given up on the whole thing in favour of basket weaving or contract bridge.

Keen to drag the horse back out of the stable and stumble back onto its back rather than let a bad metaphor fester, I suggested to Sharlene that we should go Geocaching this week. Silence was followed by a period of indecision and deflection until I explained to her that I was going back to basics to the kind of caching that we knew we liked. Definitely no urban or even sub-urban hides, but instead decent sized containers hidden in rural surroundings along footpaths and across farmland where there would be hardly anyone to see us acting like tupperware obsessed Muppets. This got a much more positive, if still slightly hesitant response and when I pointed out that I had cleared down her old Samsung Galaxy Ace and loaded it with c:geo and she could go back to using this as her GPS device , the bait was taken, the trap fired and the game was afoot.

I had identified a small circular walk of a couple of miles along footpaths around a hamlet in Buckinghamshire called Botley. The route which was primarily across farmland took in 7 geocaches for us to try our hand at. Whilst they didn’t form part of an actual series, I could see from the map that the walk should be easy and straightforward with little or no back-tracking between caches.

Sharlene had scouted out a couple of possible parking spots the previous night – whatever did we do before the invention of Google Street View – and after a drive of less than half an hour we were pulling into a small car park at the junction of Jason Hill and Botley Road. This was right at the southeast corner of our proposed route and turned out to be a perfect place to start and end our walk. Heading west to start with, along Botley road in search of the entrance to the footpath that would take us north across farmland, the sky was clear and the sun shone weakly although the air temperature left us in no doubt that it was December.

After a brief single-file shuffle down a narrow footpath that led away from the road we soon arrived at the GZ of Botley – I like your stile (GC3D1MH). The stile mentioned in the name of the cache no longer existed but instead had been replaced by a metal kissing gate as is the general trend in the British countryside these days. Whilst the path that had brought us here was hemmed in on both sides by fences and therefore was well sheltered, beyond the kissing gate open fields stretched to the north and east and as we started to search for the cache an icy wind molested any part of our bodies that we dared to expose to it. This was a CaptainJack cache, a CO which I have mentioned many times before, and one that alas seems to have ceased maintaining his five hundred or so caches these days. In many cases this isn’t a problem as they are placed with care and an attention to detail that ensures that they do tend to withstand the elements and the interference of muggles. That being said when an entire stile is removed and replaced with a different piece of footpath furniture then it is inevitable that the hiding place will vanish, along with the cache as well. Thankfully the geocaching community had come to the rescue here and someone had placed a new container at GZ and it was this that we now searched for, hands slowly turning blue.

To the side of the kissing gate were some wooden posts about 5 feet high and the tops of them had been hollowed out for a reason that I could not fathom. This seemed like an excellent place to drop a cache but no amount of feeling around inside revealed a container. The minutes passed and body parts got bluer and we feared that we might have to log a DNF on the first cache of the day, something that we most definitely do not like doing. Thankfully Sharlene saved the day and spotted a small plastic bottle container on the ground to the side of the kissing gate. We couldn’t work out if it had been secreted somewhere on the gate and fallen off or whether it had just been carelessly left on the ground – although we doubted this. Happy enough in any case that we had made the find Sharlene signed the log as I rubbed my hands together and tried to coax some feeling back into my fingers. A brief discussion then followed about where to put the cache back and in the end I suggested that we drop it in the top of one of the posts on the basis that any geocacher worth his salt would instantly think of this as a likely hide, as indeed we had.

Sharlene stands at the entrance of an alleywaylooking cold and a bit fed up. It is most certainly winter!

You wouldn’t think it but Shar genuinely was enjoying herself!

A short walk along the edge of a field which had a treeline to our left offering little protection from the wind that was coming at us from the northeast, took us to the GZ of FB03 (GC399JE), one of three caches by a local CO, familybell. The GZ was at a point where the tree line angled sharply to the left revealing even more farm fields to the northwest as well as those already visible to the north and east. On the corner of the treeline there were a number of posts and breeze blocks and with the help of the hint we focused our searching on the blocks which had holes in them. We found the cache nestling inside the second one that we searched and as Sharlene did the honours with the log I fished out a geocoin that I had been hanging onto for a while and dropped it in the decent sized container. I say it was a geocoin, but in fact it was a paper version showing a photo of the coin itself. We generally only see geocoins in this form nowadays as owners of the valuable trackable items are understandably reluctant to send out the actual coins as so many of them go missing. Well let’s say it as it is… so many of them get stolen by nasty thieving spoil sport gits! If you happen to be one of these horrible people, then sod off I forbid you to read my blog.

After checking and double checking the map we confirmed that the path to the next cache was indeed directly across the ploughed field to the north. The footpath was visible but it was not so much a footpath as the route the farmer used with his tractor and there was of course mud. It was quite hard work underfoot as it was very uneven with lots of ruts and loose clods of earth, but thankfully the mud was relatively firm and sticky and not gloopy and sloshy. Half way across the field Sharlene called back to me to stop as she wanted to rest a bit and a few paces behind her I halted and enjoyed a brief moment where the wind dropped and the sun’s warmth could be felt. It was even quite peaceful, the silence only broken by a busy road somewhere in the distance to the west. We stood for a minute or so getting our breath back and feeling the heat throb through the muscles of our thighs and calves. And then I thought it was just a bit too quiet. Not only was there a lull in the traffic to the west and the wind had dropped, but I could not hear Sharlene breathing. Hmmm, that’s odd. “Hello darkness, my old friend”. I shifted a little and refocused my hearing and then just about heard her footsteps disappearing into the distance. “Oh, are we on the move again then?” I called out and Sharlene giggled a little as she realised she had neglected to tell me that she was setting off. I wonder how long I might have stood in the field enjoying the peace and quiet and the warmth of the sun before realising that I was all alone.

Reunited once more we squidged our way to the far side of the field where a hedgerow dotted with trees separated us from the next field to the north. Our next cache, Amazing Grazing (GCY0NJ), was a short distance to the east and it was not clear on which side of the field boundary it would be accessible from. We plumped for the field that we were already in and after about 10 minutes searching we reversed our decision and climbed over the stile and headed east again on the other side of the trees. Shar spotted the cache or at least the obvious hiding place for it which was a sizable tree with a large hole at its base. With direction from her I made my way through the hedgerow and plucked the cache from its hiding place. It has to be said that we do make a good team… most of the time.

Another sticky muddy field was crossed to the north before we arrived at a T junction of paths with a gate directly in front of us that seemed to go nowhere in particular. The gate was obviously the home of the cache according to the distance readings on the phones and in no small part to the name of the cache which was Orchard Leigh – Gate (GC3D1NN). While Shar kept an eye on the busier footpath that ran west to east perpendicular to the one we had used to cross the field, I got down and started searching the small metal gate for what could only have been a magnetic hide. I quickly found the small container nestling safely and securely inside the bottom of one of the hollow uprights of the gate. The super strong magnet meant that I almost didn’t realise it was the cache at first as it was held so firmly in place that it almost felt part of the gate. A good firm tug did finally allow me to extricate the little bleeder from its hidey hole and I marvelled at my first solo find of the day.

We were now at the point furthest from the location where the car was parked and as we turned east towards our next cache we were 4 caches down with just three to find. On arriving at the GZ of FB01 (GC399J2), we discovered a low and very spindly tree that barred those from wishing to search its centre with a forest of low and entangling branches mixed in with a large portion of bramble for good measure. The cache, if still in place, had to be somewhere in the middle of the tree, it was too good a hiding place to be passed up by a cache owner, but getting to it was the problem. After much stretching, bending and not an insignificant amount of blood loss and swearing Sharlene was finally the one to pull the cache from its well-guarded spot. By this stage we were feeling extremely pleased with ourselves and regardless of whether we found the remaining two caches or not, felt that our faith in geocaching had been restored. We were enjoying ourselves, more than that, dare I say it, we were having fun, even in spite of the bitter wind that had kicked up again as we set off along the winding footpath as it slowly bent back southwards towards our next cache.

Shar is pictured having just climbed over a wooden fence to search a tree for the cache. The tree is a mass of low spindly branches and bracken. In the background farm fields stretch into the distance.

It has to be in there somewhere

As we approached GZ the farmland gave way to houses and beyond these lay Jason’s Hill, at the bottom of which our car was parked with the promise of lunch and hot chocolate therein. The footpath nestled neatly to one side of the road separated from it by a wide verge and a line of trees. Thankful to be slightly sheltered from the elements here we soon arrived at GZ and started searching the tree stumps for Jason’s Hill – Stumped (GC3D1N4). With two false starts on the left of the path Sharlene eventually spotted a tall tree stump covered in ivy hiding behind another tree to the right and I was “sent in” to investigate, which meant sticking my hand in there. This I promptly did and pulled out the cache, easy peasy. This was more like it… exactly the sort of geocaching we enjoy. Sure we like a challenge every now and then but for our bread and butter caches we like nice walks, good sized containers and short searches.

Further along the footpath, we came upon our final GZ of the day. As the road dipped down into a small valley and then climbed up again, to the right of us a bank rose high above us. FB02 (GC399j9) was hidden somewhere along the bank but no real specific clues could be gleaned from the logs or the hint to pinpoint its location. We spent about 15 minutes searching trees and hollows but with no luck. With hunger fast becoming a more pressing concern than the prospect of logging a DNF we decided to call it a day and headed back to the car. Six out of seven caches was good enough for us. It was a most pleasant walk around Botley and one that restored our excitement for Geocaching. Happy days.

Paul and Sharlene pose smiling for a selfie

Happy Caching Days

This geocaching adventure took place on Wednesday 3rd December 2014 and took our cache total to 863.

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Aborting After A Tip-Off

Last Thursday we went out with good intentions of grabbing a few caches in and around Mill Hill which is the area I grew up in. I had scouted out a half a dozen locations where we could drop the car and grab a couple of caches at each. It all started well enough, we parked up near a roundabout called Mill Hill Circus and headed into a small gardens that I hadn’t ever noticed before despite the fact that I used to walk past it every day when I was about 12 on my paper round. With minimal fuss we found the right bush, once we worked out what constituted a low bush and after we had decided that the first one we tried actually wasn’t that low. The second bush was perfect and even though the little green space was busy with walkers and other random people Shar managed to pluck the cache, Simmonds Mead, Village Green(GC22C23) out and we signed the log.

Our second cache was just a short walk away on a footpath that connected two roads, Footpath from Lawrence Street to Birkbeck Road (GC474KY). It was a nice walk along the footpath which afforded us views up across the Mill field to what used to be St. Joseph;s College but is now being developed into luxury apartments. We had been here before, although we were up the top of the mill field last time – See Three Little DNFs from 9, are we!. The sun was even trying to shine a bit of joy on our cold bones as we made our way along the footpath to GZ. Once there we failed miserably to find the cache despite a lot of log lifting and turning, barbed wire negotiating and sticking hands in unseen places.

We gave up after 15 minutes and headed back to the car for the short drive to Lyndhurst Park where our next cache, Lyndhurst Park (GC4Y7T8), was waiting. Out of the car and into the park and soon we were at GZ of this simple offset multi. We were looking forward to this cache as it promised to be a bit of fun. Inside the container are supposed to be 50 Kindar egg containers and in just two of them the coordinates for the final are hidden. As you can guess by the language I am using, we didn’t find it. The hint said that the cache was on the ground under the ivy. Well there was ivy everywhere. Shar was getting very frustrated with her new Samsung s3 as despite my iPhone telling me we were on top of GZ, it was telling her that we were over 100 metres away still. This is a recurring problem with her phone and over the last couple of caching days she has become very distrusting of the phone in general. While she swore at it softly at the edge of the bushes I waded in and starting searching in the ivy. I found quite a lot of empty bottles – beer, whiskey etc. – but no cache. Then all of a sudden I noticed the end of my cane was missing. Not only had the roller tip become detached but the bottom 10inch section of cane had gone too. I started searching in the ivy again… not for the cache this time but for my missing cane bits. After 10 minutes of that we both decided that it was a dead loss and left the park with no cache and a broken white stick. Obviously this made any further caching for me impractical and so we got back in the car and headed for home, distinctly pissed off! Aside from being an essential mobility aid for me, my long white cane is also my personal mileage trackable. It has a TB dogtag attached to it and I log it as visited on each cache we find. See Long White Cane TB.

I have since got myself a new “sunday best” cane and rebuilt my caching one from bits of old canes that I had at home so we can now go caching again. And Shar has decided that when we go, from now on she will use her old Samsung Galaxy Ace which worked perfectly well, and a hell of a lot better than the supposedly more advanced S3. Tomorrow (Wednesday) we are off out to try out both of these with a few caches in Bottley, and I will be sure to let you know how things go.

Posted in Blindness, Geocaching | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Back on the rack – Interrogating another GeoBlogger

I recently discovered Geocaching MzAdventures, a most excellent geocaching blog. After gorging myself on the fascinating and well written articles therein, I knew I had to unpack my tools of torture, change the bulb on the spotlight and invite the site’s creator to take Washknight’s Interrogation challenge.

Becks who goes by the caching name of MzBizkitz, lives in Surrey and along with hubby Mr Bizkitz has been geocaching since the summer of 2012. She started blogging about their geocaching adventures in October 2013 and their site is ram packed with fantastic stories and great photographs. A love of adventure and a great enthusiasm for caching and the outdoors is coupled with a talent for writing and a flair for creating engaging and interesting blog entries – I can thoroughly recommend their recent cow encounter blog post to have you both on the edge of your seat and laughing out loud at the same time. So put on your wellies and squelch on over to check out how Mr and MzBizkits tackled Washknight’s Interrogation.

To quickly find all the posts listing the other bloggers that have taken my challenge use this tag search – Articles tagged with Washknight Interrogates.

Posted in Geocaching | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Washknight featured on OpenCaching North America Blog

Recently I was contacted by Jim from the OpenCaching North America Blog asking me if I would be interested in answering a few questions about my experiences geocaching as a blind person. Well what with me being the shy retiring type… I was more than happy to waffle on, probably more than I needed to, and to provide some photos for them as well. They have assembled the Q&A and photos into a very nice blog entry, Interrogating Washknight.

I’d like to thank Jim for inviting me to answer the questions and doing a fantastic job putting the entry together and publishing it on their site.

Posted in Blindness, Geocaching | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Zen and the Art of Canal Walking – Team Pugwash take a bite out of the Aylesbury Ring

Last Saturday saw us meeting up with our friends Geoff and Melissa and their cute pug Smokey for another PugWash caching adventure. Because of one reason or another, this was the first time we had all been together on a day out since August and there was much excitement. Geoff and I had put our heads together, a worrying thought I know, and come up with an ambitious plan. In October we had made our first dent in the 140 cache series known as the Aylesbury Ring and now we were going to take another chunk out of it. In total there were 24 caches on the table for the finding although Smokeypugs had already found a few of those, Shar and I had also logged a couple of different ones, but Sam, as MiniKnight, had not found any of them. Another interesting dimension to the day was that, potentially, we could find five different cache types – traditional, multi, puzzle, letterbox and virtual.

We met up with team Smokeypugs at an agreed parking place close to the end of our planned walk, close to the village of Wendover in Buckinghamshire. From here the plan was to all pile into our car and drive to the starting point of our walk which was to be along a 4km stretch of disused canal. Before we did so however we paused to collect a couple of bits of information from a sign, near the canal bridge, which we would need to locate the final of a multi cache later in the day. There were actually two multi caches that started at the bridge, one that was part of the Aylesbury ring that took you on a walk around the village of Wendover and the second, Canalside Walk (Bucks) (GC1449H), which we had just collected the cords for. It is really strange actually, as both of the multi caches have exactly the same published coordinates. I thought I was going mad when I was planning and saving the caches as I could only find one of them on the map view but they both appeared on the list view. It was about 15 minutes of thinking I was completely bonkers before I realised that I could only see one of them on the map because the other one was hiding underneath it. You would think you would not be allowed to create two caches with the exact same published coordinates regardless of their cache type.

Next, the six of us, including Smokey, squeezed into our Nissan Note for the short drive to a car park further along the canal where we would start our walk. On the way, however, we made a couple of brief stops. The first was to collect some information for the virtual cache, Fly By (Bucks) (GC5667), outside the entrance gate to RAF Halton, a training base for the Royal Air Force. We made our stop a quick as we could because loitering around outside an air base taking photos and squinting at electronic devices is probably not the smartest move if you want to avoid a lot of probing questions and possibly an even more probing body search. Geoff and I were out and back into the car in about a minute and our first cache and indeed our first cache type of the day was under our belt.

Back in the cachemobile, we almost made it to the car park, but not quite as there was another cache along the way. With a name like Vale View (GC3A1G2), this one promised to be one worth stopping at. We pulled into a handy lay-by and commenced the search. A short scramble down a bank and the cache was spotted hiding in a tree. Then we turned our attention to the view and for once I was not the only one who had problems enjoying it. Unfortunately there was a low and thick fog covering the landscape which reduced visibility somewhat and so Vale View became more of a view through a veil but it did at least give us a smiley and took our tally of cache types up to two.

A normally spectaular view into the Aylesbury Vale is obscured by a thick layer of fog

The Vale Through A Veil

Back in the car again and third time lucky we actually made it to the car park this time. The Mandarin section of the Aylesbury Ring consists of 24 caches but today we were only aiming to tackle the second half of it – the stretch that followed the route of the Wendover branch of the Grand Union Canal. A brief stint of lane walking took us over the canal towards the GZ of AR11 Mandarin – Stablebridge Road (GC4PZN1), which lay behind the buzzing structures of an electrical substation. The high voltage hum and crackle of these places always makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I was glad therefore that the search for the cache didn’t take too long. Shar made an excellent find on a telegraph pole where a most unique container fashioned out of some coaxial connectors guarded the log sheet.

Retracing our tracks a short way allowed us to gain access to the canal towpath via a steep set of rather slippery steps at the side of a bridge. The Wendover arm of the Grand Union Canal was open in 1797 and whilst it was originally intended only for the purpose of drawing water to the main canal, it was quickly and easily widened to make it navigable for boats. It stayed in use for almost exactly 100 years but in 1897, for a number of reasons, not least of all because it had a tendency to leak in places, it was sealed off and in parts drained. A new plan of regeneration has been under way for some years and a portion of it has now been reopened for the traffic of boats but the majority of it, including the stretch that we walked, has remained unnavigable for more than 110 years and Mother Nature has very much attempted to reclaim what was once hers.

A view along the disused section of the Wendover arm of the Canal

Wendover Arm of The Grand Union Canal

Canal caching has its pros and cons. The single biggest plus is that it is very difficult to get lost – the trick is to stay next to, but not in, the water – so you don’t spend a lot of time working out what footpath to take etc. On the other hand canal caches tend to be laid out in a linear pattern but we have covered this before, hence the reason for two cars. For our family the biggest downside is that there is a distinct possibility that I might fall in a canal. Toe paths are notoriously narrow and there is almost always no barrier or ledge or anything marking the edge of the walkway. This makes Sharlene a lot more nervous than it does me, although her being nervous always makes me edgy anyway.

As a group we made quick work of the first few caches, AR12 Mandarin – By the Canal (GC4PZNC), AR14 Mandarin – Perry Mason Investigates (GC4PZQ3) and AR15 Mandarin – Threes A Crowd (GC4Q771), all of which were hidden in various trees alongside the canal. Another benefit of canal-side caches is that there are only so many places you can hide a cache and trees are always a sure fire bet. AR12 being a letterbox and AR14 being a puzzle cache meant that with only 5 finds under our belts we were already up to 4 cache types. The puzzle is one that I enjoyed solving greatly as it used one of my favourite ciphers – the pig pen cipher. This is such a clever and simple code that utilises a grid similar to the type used for noughts and crosses.

The weather was holding well and everyone was enjoying the stroll along the canal, especially Smokey who was off the lead and free to explore anything and everything. We did the same for Sam and he scurried off to the front of the group where he and Geoff worked as primary cache spotters whilst Shar and I lingered at the back where she was free to fret at her leisure about me getting to close to the edge of the towpath.

Smokey Investigates the reeds at the side of the canal

Smokey Investigates

Sam is pictured a way down the towpath standing next to a bridge over the canal

Sam off the leash

At this point we took a diversion away from the canal briefly in search of cluedo – The Where? (Relocated) (Bucks) (GCTD8T). We climbed up some steps at the side of a bridge so we could cross the water into the woodland beyond where the cache was hidden. As we made our way up onto the bridge we met a couple of men who were calling out looking for their lost dog. unfortunately we were unable to help as none of us had seen any other dogs, or people for that matter, so far. We made a quick find at GZ, that is to say by the time that Shar and I arrive, the cache was in hand, and so we turned tail and headed back to re-join the canal. When we arrived back at the bridge we were met by one of the men who told us he was now no longer looking for the dog, which had been found, but instead he had now lost the other man who had been helping him look for the dog. We promised to pass on the message of the dog being found if we saw the man who was now lost and made our way back onto the towpath with the feeling that the last 10 minutes had been distinctly weird – a bit like a one act play that we had accidentally stumbled onto the stage in the middle of.

AR16 Mandarin – Take A Seat (GC4Q77V) was a hide that we could all join in on as the seats that we came across on the side of the canal were big enough so that everyone could pick a bit and have a search. I got lucky and was the one to pluck the container from its hiding place at the bottom of one of the legs. I got lots of help from Smokey, of course, although exactly how licking my face as I bent down to look for the cache is a help, Pug only knows. That being said , I can’t really dispute the fact that it did help me find the cache… because I DID find the cache. I wonder if dogs can be trained to sniff out geocaches?

Sticking to the approved method for walking along the canal – i.e. following its course and avoiding the wet bits, we continued on in search of our next hide. AR17 Mandarin – Monopolistic Tendencies (GC4Q790) is another puzzle cache that I had taken the time to solve before coming out today. A nice easy one based on The game Monopoly, although if you weren’t careful it could trick you up due to variations of the game over the years. I don’t know if it is the same in international versions, but in the UK version when properties are grouped in threes, one of the group would always have a slightly higher purchase price and rental value than the other two. For some reason known only to doublesix, the god of board games, in early versions, all three of the properties in the yellow group – Leicester Square, Coventry Street and Piccadilly – have the same rent, £22. Content that I had done my bit by solving the puzzle, although Geoff had solved it as well, I allowed the others to get on with the business of finding the cache which they promptly did and we were on to the next one… sticking with the theme of walking on the hard dry bit and not the wet bit to our right, which seemed to be working for us. So far it was all going swimmingly – bad choice of words seeing as it most definitely had not involved any swimming thus far – we had attempted 9 caches and found 9, amongst those being 4 distinct cache types. We were geocaching gods… nothing could stop us now. Please feel free to imagine me disappearing over the edge of a cliff as those words leave my mouth.

On our way to our next cache we paused to chat to a man who was accompanied by a, relatively, portly pug dog. Smokey was most excited to discover that there was not only another dog of his size, shape and breed in the vicinity, but that the dog in question was in fact not a dog but a bitch. There was much sniffing of bums. Just in case you were wondering, this was neither the lost dog nor the lost man from earlier. As fun as making new doggy friends was, we were here to cache and so we made our way the short distance to the GZ of Bridge Nano (GC3J7B7), which as the name suggest was a nano on a bridge. I say that, but the only evidence we have for that is the fact that it is called bridge nano and that GZ was at a bridge. We can’t confirm or deny the size of the cache as we didn’t actually find it (plummets over the edge of the cliff… thankfully to land in a vat of custard. Shame about the custard allergy!) After 10 minutes of scrambling up the side of the bridge and inspecting the ground nearby in case it had fallen, pausing only briefly to loiter embarrassingly as the man with the fat pug shuffled past, we eventually gave up and chalked up our first DNF.

Geoff, Melissa and Paul  stand at the side of the canal planning their next move. Paul looks at the camera while Geoff and Mel study their phones.

More caches?… or lunch?

It was getting on for lunch time and everyone agreed that a pit stop for some food would be a good idea. I had thought ahead on this front and had suggested that we take a detour at the next bridge to walk into the little village of Halton where Shar and I had actually been once before. There was a Church Micro located in the village which Geoff and Melissa hadn’t logged yet and I distinctly remember something very magical in the churchyard and hoped it would still be there. The cache, church Micro 4515 Halton Village (GC4RN7P), is a multi cache and upon entering the churchyard Geoff, Melissa and Sam got down to finding the required info while I was relieved (no pun intended) and smug to see that the portaloo was both still there and in a very excellent state of cleanliness. After numbers were collected we found a place to plot up by the church and broke out the sandwiches for a much needed energy boost. Whilst we ate a man wandered past and briefly engaged us in polite conversation. I chipped in and exchange pleasantries until Sharlene told me that he had actually gone now and I was talking to myself! Oh the joys of being blind

Refreshed and revitalised we went off in search of the final for the church micro. Shar and I hung back a little as we had previously found this cache and we didn’t want to give away the location. This wasn’t really too much of a problem as we were struggling to remember actually where it was. That being said though , eventually we did remember and we were a bit surprised to see Geoff leading Sam and Melissa past it and into the distance somewhere. We hung back and checking that the cache was still in place I then got on the phone – They were slightly too far to shout at by now – and suggested that they might have made a miscalculation. They returned and upon being given an approximate GZ, they quickly found the tiny little bleeder hiding in a road sign. Happy to have offered a nudge, as Geoff and Melissa have done the same for us many times, we turned round and headed back to the bridge to re-join the canal and the Aylesbury ring.

When Sharlene and I had been here before, we had done not only the Church Micro but also a couple of caches along the canal too ,and so for the next two hides we got to hang back and huddle and point and giggle as the others tried to make the finds. Alas there wasn’t much giggling and pointing as Geoff spotted the first one, AR18 Mandarin – Eye Level (GC4Q79R), instantly as he arrived at GZ and a little further along the towpath Sam spotted and retrieved The wonderful Story of Henry Sugar – a piece of cake (GC47AWJ) whilst Shar and I were still 20 metres away. The last cache that we had previously found was called billy goats gruff (GC3G6J8) and as you might expect it was located under a bridge that crossed the canal a bit further along. This is a stunningly difficult hide as the entire underside of the bridge is rusty old iron covered in bolts and rivets and somewhere on this is stuck a magnetic nano cache. The first time I found it, it took about 20 minutes and seeing as it was in January my hands were like frozen sausages by the end of it. You would think that I would be able to find it nice and quick the second time but you would be wrong. It took another 10 minutes with both Geoff and I searching the nasty, rusty, freezing, spider infested underside of the bridge and it was Geoff that made the find eventually.

AR19 Mandarin – The Heart of it (GC4Q7BP) was a straightforward find a bit further along the towpath and even further along still we found another cache in the Henry Sugar mini series. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar – THE SWAN (GC3N8XB) was well named as right at GZ there were a pair of swans gliding up and down the canal, generally looking as if they owned the place. I was staggered to see them there and for one bizarre moment I thought perhaps one of them was a fake and was in fact the hide for the cache but before I could strip off and dive into the murky water to check it out, thankfully sanity kicked back in and the cache was found at the side of the path. I am still amazed that there were actually swans at the GZ of a cache with swan in the name, and just to put this into perspective they were the only swans that we saw all day. I think there might be something lurking in the depths of the odd sock bag that is my brain to the effect that swans mate for life and live around, or at least return to, the same place all the time. I could be wrong… it wouldn’t be the first time, or even the second!

A swan glides across the surface of the canal

Swan or Creative Cache Container?

More staying on the dry bits and avoiding the wet and a short time later we were at the GZ of AR20 Mandarin – Drainage (GC4Q7CQ). The hint for this was ICMTT which caused Sharlene a little confusion before it was decoded for her, not being used to seeing the two acronyms shoved together. This got me to thinking that Geocaching is a hobby with more than its fair share of acronyms. Try your hand at this little lot which could quite possibly be a log on a cache. QEFF in ICMTT SL TNLN TFTC ROFL! We did indeed have a QEF at the GZ and then it was on to AR21 Mandarin – BackDraft (GC4Q7P7) which demonstrated in the CO a great sense of humour with its hide and hint. You wouldn’t expect to see a sign saying “fire door keep closed” on a gate at the side of a canal towpath and it made me giggle when Shar pointed it out and promptly retrieved the cache.

Legs were starting to tire a bit now and I think everyone was focusing on the end of the walk and the cake that was waiting for us there. AR22 Mandarin – Moon 11/13 (GC4Q7GT) was a cool puzzle cache that involved referencing some pictures denoting phases of the moon to a chart indicating on which dates of a particular month they occurred. With some help from Shar before we came, we solved this one with little trouble and the find was also quickly made.

Sam, Shar, Geoff and Melissa are pictured on the towpath as the sun starts to dip low to the right of the frame.

The Sun starts to dip as the caching continues

If you were paying attention near the beginning of this entry – I know, it was quite a while and a considerable amount of waffle ago – you might remember that the first thing we did was to collect some information for a multi cache called canalside walk (GC1449H). At this point on the towpath we were just a couple of hundred metres from the final but the direction of this seemed to be perpendicular to the canal across a field that was on the other side of a fence. We spent a little while trying to work out how to get into the field, which looked like it regularly saw walkers passing through it, but didn’t really see any obvious entry points. We elected to carry on down the towpath to see if there was a logical way in and sure enough a short way down the path there was a stile that allowed us to get across and into the field of wet grass… oh joy wet feet here we come. The grass wasn’t too bad and we made it to GZ, which was a little cluster of trees, without too much dampness. I was last to arrive on the scene and was told that everyone was waiting for me so that I could be the one to make the find. After a short finger search in the crook of a tree, I felt a camo bag which after a bit of jiggling and tugging came free of its hole. I held the cache up in triumph and was surprised that instead of cheers, I was greeted with a chorus of “ewww”. The cache had become home to a large number of snails who were all clinging to the camo bag. I gently eased the container from the bag and the log was duly signed and contents inspected.

We retraced our steps to the towpath and continued our walk, now with only two hides on the mandarin section left to be found. The first, AR23 Mandarin – Through The Keyhole (GC4Q7NZ), was a puzzle cache again which had taken a little while to solve. It concerned characters on the soap opera Coronation Street and it was necessary to identify pictures of people and not only that but work out which house numbers on Coronation street they have lived at longest. This took a bit of time and with the help of some friends on Facebook who identified the people, I have no idea about Corrie, I never watch it, and a wiki that had all the info about who lived where, the coordinates had finally been teased out. This section of the canal seemed a lot busier than any we had travelled along so far and we had to continually stop our searching as families and walkers and runners and cyclists came past us. One mother and her spawn lingered annoyingly right near GZ and proceeded to feed the ducks. This made life a lot harder for those searching especially as we were having trouble locating the cache at all. We had located a likely hint item but no amount of searching, even after Geoff called in a PAF could unearth the container. Ooh I could have added PAF to my acronyms log. QEF in ICMTT after PAF. SL TNLN TFTC LOL ROFL ROOA (Running out of Acronyms). By now everyone was fading seriously and the fact that we were only a hundred metres or so from the car was too much to take so we reluctantly declared it a DNF and vowed to return another time. Thankfully it was very close to the car as I said so returning would be easier. We also opted to leave the last cache in the mandarin section, AR24 Mandarin – Roger of Wendover the early years (GC4Q7QF) as this was a multi that looked like it would take us on a longish walk around the village and to be frank, none of us could be bothered at this stage.

Sam sits at the side of the canal, obviously tired and wanting to go back to teh cars for cake.

Had Enough Now

We made our way to Geoff’s car and after a brief interlude while Shar and Geoff went to retrieve the other vehicle, we had an impromptu cake party outside someone’s house just near the bridge. To be fair if they had come out and complained about us loitering we would probably have offered them some of Melissa’s yummy Victoria sponge with chocolate icing to placate them It was certainly a most welcome sugar boost after a thoroughly enjoyable but knackering walk along the Canal. In total Smokeypugs managed to log 13 caches they hadn’t previously found, we clocked up 16 and Sam broke his previous best day with 20. Both Sam and I beat our previous best of cache types in one day setting a new best of 5. And just to cap off a perfect day as we all got back in the cars and drove for home, the lovely dry weather that we had enjoyed all day finally decided that enough was enough and some rain was in order. How was that for perfect timing – Team PugWash style!

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