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.
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.
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.
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.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
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.
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.
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!!!