We won a prize!

Well, we only went and won something didn’t we!
Stone the crows… although not literally. I do not advocate the stoning of, or any other form of cruelty towards, animals. That being said, metaphorically parade out those crows and stone them.
The competition in question was the previously mentioned Mountain Warehouse geocaching TravelBug affair and one of our pictures taken with our Jimmy Talon TB whilst out caching won a runners up prize comprising of our choice of stuff from the awesome Mountain Warehouse website. You can see our winning photo, me with a sheep, along with all the other winning entries on the Mountain Warehouse Facebook page.
It was tricky to choose what we wanted; there is just so much cool stuff to choose from. In the end I selected a new winter jacket and we got some much needed lined trousers for Sam who will soon be off doing outdoor fun stuff with the scouts on a gruelling “Green Beret” weekend.

Paul and Sam stand inside at home wearing their prizes. Paul has a winter coat button up all the way with his hood up and is also wearing slippers. Sam wears his scout uniform and a pair of cool outdoor lined trousers. The are both somewhat comical figures ready for the outdoors standing inside.

The trousers look great and the coat is awesome, just not sure about teh slippers!

I want to thank the guys at MW for the swag and can especially praise their customer support which was very helpful and efficient even though there was a cock up on the part of the delivery company initially in getting our stuff to us.

I now, strangely find myself willing the weather to turn so I can really put our new clobber through its paces. Happy Days.

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NGA winner!

Time to dig out my trumpet, dust it off and give it a little blow.

I am delighted, and a little bemused, to report that I was fortunate enough to be among the winners of a National Geocaching Award (NGA) this year as announced at the recent UK MEGA in Devon.

Over 1000 people voted in the months running up to the MEGA and on average apparently some 400 people voted in each category of which there were over 20 highlighting all sorts of different achievements within the hobby of geocaching.

I won the award in the category called “Special caching Achievement” which was explained as being for “Someone who did something remarkable and inspiring in pursuit of tupperware, as either a Lifetime Achievement award, or for someone who’s Overcome Adversity to cache”.

I wasn’t able to attend the awards ceremony but would just like to say a massive thank you to whoever it was that nominated me in the first place and to everyone who subsequently voted for me, and of course I need to thank Shar and Sam for helping me to indulge in the hobby that has given us so many good times over the last 4 years.

Okay, that’s that done, I can put my trumpet away now and get back to caching.

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A nibble in Cholesbury

Blessed with a child-free week, thanks to Sam spending some quality time with Nanny in Norfolk, Shar and I naturally decided to…. go geocaching.

Following our somewhat abortive attempt to hoover up some caches in the Cholesbury area a week or so before, we thought we would head back there and give it another go. We elected to have lunch at home first, that way we wouldn’t have to carry a picnic either, making it a super easy and stress free caching outing. We already had the caches in our phones, Shar had parking coordinates from the previous time, no picnic to carry, no child to organise… wow caching can be really spontaneous and easy sometimes 🙂

It had rained continually the day before but despite that, the weather on this day was just about perfect, partially cloudy and dry. Parking up in the now familiar spot, we booted up and headed down the lane towards our first cache. A quick scramble up a bank and a brief dance with a nettle protected tree and we were signing our first log of the day.

Back onto the lane for a short distance and then we were onto footpaths across farmland and heading towards our next cache which sadly was a DNF, although it not having been found for over a year gave us hope that it wasn’t just us being dim, but more likely that the cache was gone. It was nice to be out in the open although it was a little windy as you can hear from this audio note I took after finding the next cache on our walk.

As you can probably imagine, my log for that one was a little vague seeing as about the only word I could make out was “wall”.

We continued on through the farmland and then came to a cluster of houses on a quiet lane. The route through the field past the houses was flanked by two fences which were the boundaries of the properties on either side and as we walked along, the fences got slowly closer together. It was like something out of Alice in Wonderland, being able to walk side by side to start with, then single file and eventually having to squeeze around one section that would present more than a small problem for anyone who was a bit too fond of the pies. Finally I can see the real world benefit of the diet we have been on for the last few months!

Emerging at the far end of the alley we found ourselves normal sized and standing on a country lane that would lead to our next cache. This one was almost a DNF the hint being helpfully inaccurate stating that the cache was hidden behind a wall with a sign on it when in fact it was hidden behind a different wall on completely the opposite side of the road. I have seen some geocache drift in my time but that was stretching things a little too far.

A bit of road walking later and we then headed up a wide track to pick up a couple of out of the way ones that would require a short double back to return to our route. But we didn’t mind, the weather was fine, and we had little cares except possibly a rather urgent need for a bathroom break. It’s always the way, when you really need a comfort break there is barely a tree to be seen and then when you find one, there is an annoying family with an over inquisitive dog that they have precisely zero control over, to get in the way. Alas they were walking the same path as us which hampered not only our search for a suitable convenience but also our ability to find the next cache, although we did give it a dam good try.

Eventually we doubled back, lost sight of the family, found another cache and restored order in the universe by finding a secluded spot for a wilderness wee. It’s a funny thing, but it is truly the case that it is very difficult to be recognized as a truly dedicated geocacher without accepting the fact that at some point you are gonna have to slip behind a bush and expose yourself.

Our walk took us back onto farmland and past a new build that had been somewhat confusingly plopped right on top of the footpath. We skirted around the, still under construction, building and waded a little way through a field of crops before re-finding the path that took us to our next GZ, the hide of which we found easily but the actual cache eluded us completely.

On our way to the next cache we came across this friendly horse who was more than happy to make the acquaintance of Jimmy Talon which made for a great picture to submit for the Mountain Warehouse trackable competition. I fear that if Sharlene had taken just a little longer to take the photo then I might have lost the TB and possibly even my fingers to the hungry horse.

Paul stands in a field next to a horse holding his Jimmy Talon TB. The horse is just about to nibble the TB and possibly Paul's fingers.

Why the long face?

The GZ of the next cache was a death trap with over hanging holly, stingers, brambles and even a rogue length of barbed wire that was hanging around. It was like trying to break out of Colditz just trying to get close to where we thought the cache was going to be. After a few shrieks of pain and a fair bit of swearing, we then had to endure the torture of not actually finding the bloody thing!

As I come to write about our last cache which was also a DNF, being at the bottom of a very steep hill, deep in a bush and surrounded by, what Sharlene discovered was, angle deep swampland, I realise that we actually had a rather large number of DNFs on the day. In total we failed to find 5 caches, which was equal to the number that we actually did find. Somehow however neither of us was particularly upset about this. I think we had enjoyed our day out so much that the poor smiley conversion rate just didn’t matter. Even the steep and strangely muddy hill that we had to walk up to get back to the car didn’t really phase us either. Happy Days.
This geocaching adventure took place on the 3rd of August 2017 and took our total cache count up to 1733.

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A couple in Cholesbury

Schooooools out for ever! Well for the summer at least. With Sam on 6 weeks holiday it is always a challenge to find things to do to stop him and his loving parents, ahem yes that’s me and Shar, from climbing the walls. Although he would probably be happy to attach himself to his Xbox for the entire time, that is not going to happen, not on my watch baby!

What better way to start off the hols than with a spot of geocaching. And besides I was itching to take my new Mountain Warehouse friend Jimmy Talon out to begin his adventures. If you have no idea what I am talking about, check out my previous post, Meet Jimmy Talon for more details.

Oh, and talking of Mountain Warehouse, it is thanks to them that I was able to actually go geocaching wearing more than just my boxer shorts, as when we did leave the house heading for nearby Tring, I was wearing my new combat trousers, as supplied by them, and feeling ready to take on the world… or at least find some tupperware… same difference.

The area around Cholesbury and St. Leonards near Tring in Hertfordshire is one we have visited a number of times before for geocaching. In fact it is not too far from there that Shar and I got engaged, after finding a multi cache.

For whatever reasons, the mood and spirit in our team was less than 100% today so we decided to not plan too much and just take a lunch and do as many or as few caches as we felt like. The main thing was to get out and get some fresh air into our lungs. And fill my lungs with it I did as I stepped out of the car, with ease and comfort thanks to the nice elasticated waist and generous cut of the new trousers. With lungs full of air and nostrils filled with the smell of … err sheep poo, I booted up and we gathered our bits and bobs and headed off towards our first cache of the day, Church Micro 3510 Cholesbury (GC4A6ET).

I love church micros that involve collecting information from gravestones in sleepy village churchyards. Mainly because I get to sit on a bench in the peaceful grounds, while those with eyes that work, namely Sam and Shar, go in search of the information. So there I sat, in the warm sunshine listening to the birds tweet and the groundsman strimming back the weeds and I allowed my mind to drift.

But I didn’t get too much time in my own head as Sam and Shar soon returned with some of the information and complaints about not being able to find some of the other numbers. The curiosity of the groundsman got the better of him at this point and he came over to enquire if he could be of any help. A short while later after one of those slightly awkward conversations about what a geocache is and why we are looking at gravestones and he is able to help us find one of the numbers we need. Nice work fella.

With just a couple of numbers left to find I sat back down and listened as Shar and Sam did slow but steady laps of the church pausing only to grumble as the reached me each time. I felt I needed to do something to help and so after reading the cache description, I turned to Siri to see if she could help. One of the numbers needed was associated with a renowned doctor who was very influential in the field of world health and family planning. I got to work and promptly got thwarted when my single 3G reception bar disappeared and I was left with GPRS and the iPhone ground to a halt. hmmmm.

A bit of experimental moving around trying to find a better signal and soon I was back in business on 3G. Siri was put to work with a search based on the birth and death years of the doctor along with the keywords renowned doctor family planning. She was very helpful in returning a number of web results telling me all about cheap prescriptions and how and where to get free family planning advice and failing that, the morning after pill. Well not exactly what I was looking for.

After a little thought, a more careful choice of keywords and some improvised phone signal search jazz dance moves, I was able to pull up a name and the required number we needed to complete the formula, which was good because Sam and Shar were just about ready to give up.

We sat back down and worked out the numbers and discovered that our destination for the final location was within about 20 metres of where we had parked the car!!! We nodded to the groundsman and made our way back to GZ and after a short search managed to find the cache well hidden in a small clump of trees at the side of the parking area. This fun but time consuming process had taken us up to lunchtime, so we plotted up on the nearby handy benches and broke out the sandwiches.
Sam and Shar sit on benches after enjoying a picnic lunch
Revived and refuelled after lunch, but still lacking a little mojo for some reason, we decided to pick off one or two nearby caches and see how we felt. We packed up and strolled across the nearby cricket pitch and into the trees to make our next find. A relatively simple base of tree cache but well hidden in a patch of nettles nonetheless. After this we took a decision that rather than push on and risk turning lack of mojo into bad moods we would call it a day. We took a roundabout route back in the direction of the car and just enjoyed the walk as we went.

We bumped into this lady as we were heading back to the car and took a moment to introduce her to Jimmy Talon.

Paul stands in a field holding the Jimmy Talon TB while a sheep looks on.

“Meryl? Meryl Sheep, is that you?” – “Jimmy Talon, What are you doing in my field and who is that berk holding you?”

Back at home I tagged the picture with the required hash tags and uploaded it to twitter as per the Mountain Warehouse competition instructions. Okay, it was nothing special, but it is a start for Jimmy, and I feel sure that bigger and better things are just around the corner for him.

This geocaching adventure took place on Sunday the 23rd of July and took our total cache count up to 1728.

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Meet Jimmy Talon

This here is Jimmy Talon, and he is gonna be travelling around with us for a while. Aside from being a cute TravelBug Jimmy has a hidden talent. He could win me a holiday, or any number of other prizes.

Picture shows a TravelBug made to look like Jimmy Falon crossed with a bird of pray!Mountain Warehouse are running another geocaching TB contest over the summer, so it’s not just me that could be in with a chance of winning some cool stuff, you too stand a chance. Although if you could not try too hard that would be nice as it would give me a better chance and all that 🙂

So here’s what you do, you pop to your local Mountain Warehouse, pick up your free TB, take it caching with you, snaps some cool pics of it and post them on Facebook, twitter, Instragram or Pinterest with the hashtags #MWGeoTrail and #contest and Bob is your mother’s brother.

Don’t take my word for it, check out the Mountain Warehouse Geocaching page.
So we are already planning to head out caching this Sunday as well as cooking up more cool adventures over the summer for Jimmy to tag along with. Maybe we can even turn that angry, serious expression on his face into a smiling happy one!

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Ripping good times on the Cole Green Wander

Sharlene and I were suitably impressed enough with our recent GeoDate in Birch Green, that when it came time to plan our next family caching day out, we decided to head back to the same area and take on a slightly bigger series of caches called the Cole Green Wander.

Located just a little to the south of The Birch Green Wander series, the Cole Green Wander is a set of 20 geocaches placed along footpaths in a semi-rural part of Hertfordshire just to the west of Hertford. The shape of it when observed on a map resembles that of a large saucepan with a handle extending to the right and the top line of caches all run along the Cole Green Way, a popular walking route following the path of an old railway line.

Our starting point was the car park of Hertford Town football club which was far less grand than it sounds. I was under the impression that Hertford Fc was a club of some importance, but the ground was basically a line of benches standing next to a football pitch. High profile it may not be, but it certainly was quite busy and this hampered our attempts to find the first cache which was meant to be hidden in the bowl of a tree right in the car park.

After a thorough search all round, and in the middle of, the multi-trunked tree, in the end we had to give up and resign ourselves to marking the first geocache of the day as a DNF. Disaster! I have stated on many occasions that a DNF right at the start of your day is the worst kind and indeed it is, but we tried to just put it behind us and move on. Also we reminded ourselves that we would be returning here on the way back so we could have another look then. I suspected that we all knew deep down that we wouldn’t be “having another look on the way back”, but it made us feel better about walking away.

The first leg of the walk was a long and straight one following the route of the old railway line. It was a very popular path indeed, with many walkers, cyclists and even a couple of horses passing us at one point. I hasten to add that the horses were being ridden by humans, they weren’t just a couple of back packing horses out for a gentle stroll. This initial stretch of our route took us past a further 8 caches a couple of which we skipped so we could have something to do on the way back and, with the exception of another DNF, we managed to find all the remaining ones.

The good thing about old railway lines is that they are often set in deep cuttings which means there are steep banks up both sides offering lots of suitable hiding places for geocaches. . The actual hides were your standard small pots at tree bases or beneath logs with a couple of exceptions. Most notably a tiny nano which was embedded in the end of a fence post at one GZ which was quite well done.

When it came time to head towards number 10, we turned off the main path and headed south forming the left hand side of my imaginary saucepan as described above in my pitiful metaphor… or was it a simile. Oh I always get those too mixed up. Anyway we made our way along a narrow path, overgrown and flanked with barbed wire to a small bridge where we located a cache box underneath the woodwork of the bridge. Spirits in our little team were pretty high as the weather was just about right, and there was little if any teenage moaning, or any other kind of moaning for that matter.

After a short diversion off the main series to pick up another rather well done nano in the end of a stick hidden in plain view in the V of a tree, we made our way to number 11 in the series, which was accompanied by a number of interesting incidences. Firstly Shar and Sam were treated to the sight of a family of foxes scampering away in the distance across the fields as we walked towards the GZ, which is pretty cool as you don’t often see foxes out in the daytime in areas where there is a reasonably high footfall.

Then as we found the cache which was behind a tree up a slope to the side of the path, I discovered that I had a rip in the leg of my trousers. I had for some time been monitoring a tiny hole in the right hand leg of my trousers hoping that it wouldn’t get any bigger. It had probably been caused by barbed wire or something similar and had been there for a good couple of months now. My plan was to make the trousers last through the summer, then I had my winter combats to wear and then I would get some new lightweight combats next year. Well that plan went out the window when I discovered that whilst the hole in my right leg had not got any bigger, I now had acquired a rip the size of a melon in the knee of my left one! I am completely oblivious as to how or when exactly I got it, but there was no ignoring it now. It was clear that there would be a rethinking of trouser plans after this trip. I tried my best to make it look like a fashion thing, but I couldn’t even pull that off back in the nineties when I was in my twenties, let alone as a 45 year old man in 2017.

Paul stands before a large tree lifting his leg to display the large rip in the knee of the left leg of his trousers.

A ripping good time!

After a brief interlude for mother and son to have a “discussion” about the best route to take to the next cache, we made our way down a pretty tunnelled path and around the edge of a field picking up a couple of easy finds, the second of which was affixed to the back of a sign that told us all about the nearby wonderfully named “Grotto Wood, not to be confused with what I thought it was called which was “Grotty Wood”.

We were “on our way back” now and as we turned east our gradual descent was predictably replaced with a similarly gradual ascent. The next few caches were not too challenging except for one where the GPS had us about 25 metres from where we eventually found the cache. This was a little frustrating but all that doesn’t really matter if you actually find the cache in the end.
A view down a path where the trees have grown over creating a tunnel like effect.
We had another DNF at number 19 although we were convinced the cache was missing as the hide was very clear and the hint and description obvious enough. I note as I write this that the cache owner did visit a few days later and confirmed that the cache had gone missing and helpfully replaced it.

Number 20, which is the last in the series, although we had a couple from the beginning of the trail saved for our return stroll to the car, was an easy find under the watchful eye of a CCTV camera. As we stood there, Sam and Shar explained to me that it was a very odd place for a camera. We were at the end of a track and all around us were fields. The track was about 100 metres or more from the nearest building and the camera just seemed to cover … nothing. It was weird because it made me feel a bit self-conscious as there was really nothing else for the camera to focus on other than the 3 berks messing around in the bushes looking for tupperware. In hindsight I suspect it was soon to be the site of a new development, or that they may have had problems before with either travellers or fly tippers.

Our walk now took us back to the disused railway line where we had to reverse the instructions for finding cache number 4 as we were approaching it from the opposite direction, which hurt our brains for a while. Then it was an easy find for our last cache and with tired feet but good spirits we strode out for the car. No one was interested in having another look for our first DNF, as I had suspected, but the painful memory had subsided now leaving behind only that nice warm fuzzy feeling you get when you have spent a couple of hours of quality time with your family in the countryside finding geocaches. Happy days.

This geocaching adventure took place on July 1st 2017 and took our total cache count up to 1726.

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Geodating in Birch Green

A few weeks back, some “new geocache” notifications popped into my mailbox that caught my eye. I get a few emails every week as new caches are added in the area but they are normally one offs. These ones were part of a series though and that is always interesting. After some brief exploration on the iPhone I had a couple of offline lists saved with some nice looking cache trails not far from Hertford. We had been in the general area of these new caches before, most recently on a caching day out to Tewin with our friends Geoff and Melissa but for some reason I hadn’t noticed these circuits until now

Finding a break in the rain and the stinking hot weather Shar and I made our way over to Birch Green to tackle the smallest of the trails for a GeoDate. There are only 10 in the Birch Green Wander series plus 3 other odds that I had earmarked as “dooable”, we wanted to take it relatively easy and decide whether the area was worthy of returning some other time to tackle one of the other two loops which are bigger with 19 and 22 caches respectively.

On the whole it was very pleasant semi-rural Hertfordshire countryside, partially along an old railway line and for the rest it was footpaths through fields and alongside quiet country lanes.

A fairly straight forward set of caches, all a bit on the small side considering they were rural but they did the job and they were all there which is always a bonus.

Aside from almost being mowed down by an idiot mountain biker who just wasn’t paying attention, bumping into the same group of golden oldie walkers a couple of times and finding our 1700th cache, it was basically uneventful. Rather than give you the dull details of the individual caches I will just leave you with a couple of photos. I suspect we shall be returning again soon, probably with Sam, to tackle one of the bigger loops. It was nice to have a proper series to sink our teeth into.

Shar stands in a field of green wheat facing the camera

ahhh yes that classic song… “Fields of green”

Paul sits on a shaded bench eating lunch

“And if I point the food like this, it makes me seem like I am trying to say something in the photo”

A large church fills the view

A disproportionally large church at Hertingfordbury, the place that just won’t let you finish its name.

This geocaching adventure took place on Thursday 15th June and took our total cache count up to 1709.

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