Sam’s First Hide Goes Live

Yesterday Sam a.k.a. MiniKnight submitted his first cache and today it went live. Whilst I have helped him at points along the way, he has done all the work himself and I am very proud of him. Church Micro 7231… Aldenham (GC5MF95) is a puzzle cache and whilst the puzzle is relatively straightforward, we were surprised to see the first found it log pop up in just under 20 minutes of it being published. We have some pretty full on FTF hounds around these parts but I wondered if the puzzle might slow them down a little, but apparently not. Well done to gigglesandlouby+1 being FTF and hard luck to smokeypugs who were just 5 minutes behind.

Posted in Geocaching, Hiding Geocaches | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

The Liebster Award – This is Washknight

liebsterawardNever heard of it? No, neither had I until a week ago when I was reading a fellow blogger’s site, Mud and Nettles, and discovered that she had nominated me to take part. I use the phrase “take part” as opposed to “Nominated to receive” because once I understood what it was all about I realised it was in essence a blog equivalent of a chain letter. However, I do think it has its benefits and knowing that Claire was fully aware of what it was but appreciated the positive potential of it and wasn’t just nominating people to avoid breaking some sort of chain, I was pleased that she had listed me as one of those people that she would be interested to read the responses of.

Bottom line… It is a way for bloggers to promote their sites. You write some stuff of interest about you, answer the questions from the person who nominated you and then set a list of new questions and nominate some other people to answer those. There seem to be various versions of the “rules” and as Claire has done, I too will choose to treat them as guidelines and pick and choose. I will :-
Explain the Award and display the image.
Thank the person who nominated me. Thank you Clair :)
Answer the 11 questions asked of me.
List 11 random facts about me.
Set 11 new questions and nominate other bloggers.

First off, here are the 11 questions Claire asked me. As an aside did you know that non round numbers tend to attract readers more than round ones. It has been shown that Internet lists are more successful if they are, for example, “The 17 things you need to know about men” rather than, “The 10 things you need to know about men”. I suggest this is because 10 sounds too neat, too perfect, and as such we are less likely to identify with it because we know that life is rarely so efficient and tidy.

1. Where is your dream holiday destination?
A small island where the sea is warm and there is nothing that will kill me. There should be people but only the barest minimum in order to make my experience enjoyable. The accommodation is on the beach, air conditioned and not overly luxurious, except there is fresh Egyptian cotton sheets every day and a small fridge that never runs out of beer. Within walking distance, but out of ear shot or sight, there are restaurants and bars but no tourists. Bordering the beach there are woods filled with exciting geocaches and, again, nothing that will kill me. I don’t know where this place is, do you?

2. What is your favourite indulgence?
Red wine, Cheesecake and Red Dwarf.

3. What scares you?
Losing what little sight I have left. The thought of seeing nothing at all terrifies me.

4. Why did you start blogging?
I love to write and I want to be remembered by someone for something, if only by my future grandkids for silly tales of my geocaching adventures.

5. Who was your childhood hero?
Tough one this… I certainly looked up to my dad a lot, still do. But I think I most wanted to be David Lightman in the film War Games, I was such a computer nerd and still am, but just cooler with it now.

6. Eat to live or live to eat?
Somewhere in between although leaning toward live to eat. It is probably a good job that I am not rich otherwise I would probably be very fat and unhealthy as I would eat all sorts of expensive things that were bad for me.

7. What would you like to achieve this year?
Write and publish my first novel. It is what I have always wanted to do since I was very young, but this year I am actually making a concerted effort to achieve it. It will, hopefully, be funny and exciting and involve a certain amount of geocaching. Alternatively it will be a load of old tosh but at least I will have tried. I warble on about writing my book and life in general on my other blog, WaffleStream

8. What is your favourite film?
So….hard….to….pick…one…brain….is….overloading….BOOM! I will list a few just to show that I can disregard the rules. War Games, Singing in the Rain, You’ve Got Mail, Shawshank Redemption, Paint Your Wagon.

9. If you were a super hero who would you be?
It all sounds like a lot of hard work to be honest. After a hard days saving the world you get to go home and be miserable and lonely. If I had to pick I think it would be Batman because he has some of the coolest tech.

10. What is your favourite City?
Hmmm, not really a city person these days. I much prefer the peace and quiet of the countryside. Having said that London is pretty kickass as cities go. I haven’t actually been to that many cities. How weird is that? Trying to count in my head the number of cities I have spent more than a few hours in and I can only get to about 10, and only a few of them are outside the UK.

11. Mud lover or mud hater?
lol, well I can’t say I love it, but I definitely don’t hate it. What I do love is the places where the mud is. So many of the beautiful places that we visit, usually geocaching, are accompanied by mud and that makes it great but I aint gonna start dimming the lights and smearing it all over my body or anything. Ummm…stop talking now!

Next up we have 11 Random facts about me.
1. I could live happily on Red Wine, crispy chicken skin, crackling and cheesecake… but not for very long.
2. I have 2 sons aged 10 and 20.
3. I met Roald Dahl when I was 10 and he signed my copy of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.
4. I used to play the Cello, only grade 3 though but gave it up because I couldn’t be arsed to carry it on the 90 minute walk/bus/train/walk journey to school.
5. My mum’s second husband’s daughter from his first marriage is a cousin of Matt Lucas.
6. I have a knack of guessing the right time.
7. I am writing a novel.
8. I once travelled to Texas (from London) to see a woman I met on the internet.
9. I have been with the wonderful Sharlene for 14 years now. She is not the woman I travelled to Texas to meet, although I did also meet her on the Internet.
10. The sound of a plastic sauce bottle being squeezed to eject sauce makes me shiver and cross myself.
11. I am blind.

For my nominations I will ask the following people. Please note if you are one of these people then do not feel any pressure to take part, do it if you want to, ignore it if you don’t. My already high opinion of you and your blog will not change. :)
Krista – The muminator
Bill – Travels with the Halls
Eleanor – Sun and cake
Meagan – Where’s Your Dog
Rebekah – Blind Girl in the Big City
Here are your questions.
1. What did you do last week that you regret?
2. What is your idea of a perfect evening out?
3. What movie do you return to time and time again?
4. What 3 things can you not live without?
5. Aside from excellent blog entries what else can you create?
6. Name a hidden useless talent that you possess?
7. Sport or Art?
8. What was the last book you read?
9. Name something silly you do when you know no one is watching.
10. When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
11. If an alien landed on your lawn tomorrow, what would you ask them?

Posted in Blindness, Geocaching, Personal | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Chiltern Hundred – Leg 2

We head back to Chesham to vanquish a DNF and take another bite out of the Chiltern Hundred.

Even though we had been caching on Saturday, seeMiniKnight’s 400th Milestone and our first whereigo, we set out for the hills on Sunday to find a few more caches in the Chiltern Hundred series. It is extremely unusual for us to cache on both days of a weekend but Saturday’s outing had been a special trip as Sam had wanted to do a whereigo for his 400th milestone. Sunday’s adventure was our 2nd visit to Chesham. You can use the following link to see all our Chiltern Hundred instalments.

The Chesham ring of the Chiltern Hundred consists of 49 caches and our last outing saw us tick off numbers 1 – 11 and 44-49, with the exception of number 3 which we had been unable to find. This time I had planned another loop that would take us away from the car picking up some caches that aren’t part of the series and then returning via number 17 thru 12. Why do them backwards, I (don’t) hear you ask. Well, I knew the Chiltern hundred caches would be accompanied by a certain amount of mud but some of the others ones were semi urban, so I thought do those first, which would mean we wouldn’t have to walk around residential streets covered in mud. I’m not just a pretty face you know.

But before we started with those caches we had a previous DNF to deal with. CH003Chesham heights (GC1ECHG) had eluded us last time, but when we had returned home I contacted one of the previous finders and he set us right as to where we had gone wrong. Luckily the cache was not too far from a small housing estate and we parked up and set off. Once we got to GZ, we made the find quickly, the small tub was perched safely in a tree, and we launched back into our maintenance routine. At least we would have if Sam hadn’t left the bonus number cards back in the car. Shar went back to get them and he attempted to sulk. I was having none of that though, and I set him to work signing the new log and getting things ready for the arrival of the cards. We were done and back at the car within 10 minutes of having left it. I expect if anyone had taken notice it would have seemed a bit strange. We had arrived, spent 5 minutes putting on boots and gaiters, walked off towards the footpath and then returned in just a few minutes.

We then drove to the Hen and Chickens Inn and parked up, having a spot of lunch before heading off for the main event of the day. The hen and Chickens seems a strange name. Chicken is a species of bird and Hen is the female of that species. It would be like calling a pub, “The Woman and People”. Anyway, even though it was Sunday lunchtime, the 16th century pub didn’t look very busy. This didn’t bother us, we were only making use of their facilities to park our car and eat our sandwiches as we enjoyed the unusually warm winter sun.

Our first two caches, Stumped at Botley Road (GC312CJ) and Botley Road Gate (GC30MXE) were quick finds, both being spotted by Sam almost instantly. The route to them was along Botley Road which was a bit busy. Thankfully we left the road on our way to the next cache, Alley Cache (GC3EQHG), walking via a footpath to some football fields before joining up with some smaller roads. Again it was Sam that plucked the tiny nano from its hiding place on the back of a sign at the entrance to an Alley, he was certainly on good form.

A short walk along another busy road and then we branched off onto a footpath that took us to a much quieter suburban residential road. I suspect that Conker It (GC3AGRV) may be actually placed outside the house of the cache owner. Its placement was very clever being in the top of a stone pillar and the contents of the cache were in perfect condition. I imagine that having a cache outside your house allows you to maintain it easily and often. It was a lovely hide and I felt comfortable dropping off a TB that I had been holding on to for too long.

Another short stint of road walking took us to a footpath that ran down the side of a school, which thankfully was quiet, it being a Sunday. When I was planning this one I couldn’t quite work out how we would get toPlimsaul’s Haul (GC50d33), there being no marked path, but once we got close it became clear that there was a well walked route along the side of a crop field. At the corner of a field we found the cache in a fabulously sturdy camo bag nestling in a tree. The cache was in great condition and contained a stack of geocaching report cards for finders to take, marking their performance. I suspect that the cache was placed by someone who worked at the school. We pulled out a TB that started its life in Canada and wanted to visit night caches. I was a little puzzled as the cache hadn’t been found since November and yet the TB wasn’t actually logged into it, but instead reported itself to be in the hands of a cacher. I resolved to grab it from them.

Sam and Shar hug as they stand at the GZ of Plimsaul's Haul with an open field in the background behind them

Peaceful and Pleasant Caching

It was so peaceful as we stood at GZ, the warm sun and lack of wind making it a very pleasant place to be. If it wasn’t for the mud, it could have been early summer. Our next planned cache was beyond the field, but it appeared that the best way to get to it was to walk around the edge of it rather than hack straight across. This allowed us to pick up another cache that initially I hadn’t thought we would have been walking near but our route now took us directly past it. I was the only one with it loaded on to my phone and I counted down the distance to the other two and as we approached GZ, Sam yet again spotted a likely hiding place. Post a Field note 3 (GC317Z8) was a captain jack cache and we are fairly familiar with the types of hides he tends to use.

From here we carried on round the field along the edge of a wood. Just beyond the GZ of Lycrome Wood (GC2vZPY) we found a place to cut into the trees and soon made our way back to the cache and this time Sam had it in hand whilst we were still around 20 metres away. After a brief stop for water and a snack we were on the move again following the edge of the wood to where it met the footpath that the Chiltern Hundred caches were placed on. We were now at the furthers point from the car that we would be and the route back was along one long footpath that had six caches for us to find on the way. The first one, CH017 – Lyegreen farm (GC1ECQ9), was actually my only find of the day. I had to stoop down and almost crawl on my hands and knees into the bush to make the find of a plastic screw top container that was behind a large tree. We did our maintenance routine, disturbed only briefly by a muggle that wanted to squeeze past us on the narrow footpath.

CH016 – Hilltop view (GC1ECQ6) was placed inside a small cluster of bushes and trees and I wonder if the name was ironic as you couldn’t actually see anything of the view from in there. Sam made the find yet again although it was only a 35mm pot and we wondered whether the original container might be still around. drsolly used no 35mm pots when he originally placed all 109 caches but over the years one or two have been thrown down to replace containers that have disappeared. A search didn’t turn up the original so we assume that it had long gone.

Our walk back to the car was a lovely stroll on a gently downward hill with not too much mud. It was glorious to be up in the Chiltern hills in the peace and quiet and more than once it made me think of how noisy it is where we live just outside the town centre of Watford.

CH015 – Brockhurst farm (GC1ECQ3) was hidden at a point when the footpath crossed a road. We had already moved to the other side before we realised it was on the side we had just left. As we went to cross back we noticed a muggle family hanging around by GZ. We waited a little awkwardly on our side until they finally moved on before crossing back for Shar to make the find. CH014 – passing Codmore (GC1ECPV) was found in super quick time by Sam, AGAIN.

When we arrived at the GZ of CH013 – Codmore view (GC1ECPK) there were some horsey muggles flaffing around. We waited to one side pretending to look at the view or our phones while they mounted up and proceeded, finally, to trot off. Shar found the cache, in fact she found 2. Sitting side by side was the original container and a another that had obviously been placed at some later date.

Sam stands atop one of the many stiles we encountered

The King of Stile

The last cache of the day, CH012 – Lee farm (GC1ECP9) was found, again by Sam, on the ground. It should have been hanging according to the hint, but it was neither hanging or a container that could be hung. We performed our Chiltern hundred maintenance dance and then tried to decide what to do with it. Not having any way of hanging the cache to the evergreen hedgerow, we elected to find a snug spot and wedge it in amongst the branches so at least it matched the elevation that the hint suggested. Due to my superb planning we now found ourselves just 80 metres from the car and as we walked the short distance we congratulated ourselves at how enjoyable and productive the afternoon had been. Removing boots and perching in the boot of the car for a welcome drink of hot chocolate, the sun bathed us in its weak rays and I could have quite happily sat there until it disappeared below the horizon. Happy Days.
Sam and Paul sit in the boot of the car drinking hot chocolate. The sun shines on their faces
This geocaching adventure took place on Sunday 8th February 2015 and took our cache count up to 962.

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MiniKnight’s 400th and our first Whereigo

We mark Sam’s 400 cache find milestone by heading to the woods in Uxbridge to tackle our first whereigo cache, and we find some 10 year old swag.

One of my geocaching resolutions this year was to pay attention to our numbers and make sure that we do something special for our milestones. Despite this resolution, as you may have read in my blog recently, we still managed to let our 900 milestone slip by without noticing (seeBack to Back to Welwyn with Ellie to get the plague) . Realising that his 400 was fast approaching, Sam came to me and said he definitely wanted to do something different for it. We put our heads together and eventually he decided that he wanted to do a whereigo cache, we had never done one before. So what, I hear you ask, is a whereigo?

A whereigo is a location based game that you play using a GPS or smartphone. You need a special app for your smartphone or a compatible GPS receiver and you have to load a cartridge into this for each game. The cartridge is not a physical whereigologothing, but instead something you download from the website. When you play, you move around in the real world, and as you arrive at certain places, the app triggers tasks for you to do. In its simplest form you may be instructed to head in a certain direction for a certain distance and when you reach this place the app will then ask you to find a piece of information and enter it so that you can move to the next task. It is basically like an electronic multi cache. Eventually you will go to all the required locations and complete all the necessary tasks and you will be given a completion code. Whereigo games exist in their own right outside of geocaching, there are cartridges that are not also geocaches. But a lot of the cartridges are both a whereigo game and a geocache, so that when you complete the cartridge, you will be in the vicinity of GZ and be able to find a physical container there. There are complex cartridges that are more like complete roleplaying games involving items you need to collect, characters you need to interact with or fight and places you have to travel to and tasks to solve, all while actually moving around in the real world. For our first attempt at a whereigo I thought it best to seek out a simple one and so we found ourselves in the woods in Uxbridge, West London. preparing to play the 007.5 Licence to Cache (GC55D4Q) whereigo cartridge.

Before leaving home we had all downloaded free whereigo apps for our phones. Sam and I have iPhones and Shar has a Samsung s3 mini. Once we had done that we had to figure out how to use the app, signing into the whereigo online system using our credentials and downloading the cartridge for the adventure. The instructions on the cache page simply told us to start at the published coordinates where we could park and our mission would begin.

After loading our apps and telling them to start the cartridge we found that we were just a few metres from the start point. When we moved closer, we entered a zone and all our phones sprang to life telling us what we need to do now. We had to find a date from a notice board and enter it into the app. We all got a successful response and then we were instructed to move to our next location. There is a small compass arrow and a distance reading for you to follow and we could see that the next stage was only about 30 metres away. As we got to within a couple of metres the app asked us to gather another bit of information so that we could access the direction to get to the next location. In total I think the cartridge had 5 stages and when we finally arrived at the last one which was some 700 metres away from where we started, the app told us where to look to find the cache. We found the whole experience very entertaining and Sam especially was eagerly running ahead to each zone and had found the cache whilst Shar and I were still about 30 metres away. It was an excellent way to mark Sam’s milestone and we definitely want to do some more whereigo caches in the future.

Sam holds his 400th cache above his head in victory

MiniKnight’s 400th

After we had found the whereigo cache we were just under 200 metres from another cache, Ten Acres Cache (GCNAMQ), and so we decided to go and find this one too. It was a bit of a muddy walk to GZ and when we got there I fell in a ditch. No harm done and once I had got myself out, Sam and Shar made a quick find of the cache inside a tall tree stump. The cache was placed back in 2005 and we were amazed to discover the original log book still in the cache. It was dry and in perfect condition and we took a minute to browse through some of the messages that people had left. We were tickled to see that bones1, a friend of ours, had been the FTF back in 2005 and according to his message in the log book he left a pair of gloves in the cache. As we looked through the contents of the container we found the gloves that he had placed in there almost 10 years ago. To make the discovery of the cache even cooler, as we were retrieving it, a robin was hopping about just a few metres away.
Where's Robin

Where’s Robin

I want to say well done to Sam on reaching his 400 milestone, Shar and I are very proud of him. Happy days.

This geocaching adventure took place on Saturday 7th February 2015 and took our cache count to 948.

Posted in Finding Geocaches, Geocaching | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Bovingdon – Lifting The Curse

We return to Bovingdon, meet the grumpiest man in the village, vanquish some DNFs, and perform a resuscitation following one of our most challenging treks to a cache yet.

On Wednesday, despite the temperature only just hovering above zero and with the threat of snow hanging in the air like a fart in an elevator, we dropped Sam at school and set off for Bovingdon – We had some unfinished business to take care of. It is quite normal for people to have a nemesis cache, one that, despite repeated attempts, they are unable to locate. We have a nemesis village – Bovingdon. It has thwarted us in a number of ways over the past year or so and you can read about those times on my previous blog entries, Slow Cats and Lessons Learned – Back to Bovingdon and Bovingdon Rebooted.

As you would expect, there was a plan. If you know me then that goes without saying, there is always a plan. I plan, therefore I am. Our objectives were to find the 4 caches that we were missing from the RAWGOLD.COMP series and then, hopefully, find the bonus cache too. In addition to this we had a list of nearby caches that we could find at the same time including one that hadn’t been found for over a year and therefore would be eligible for resuscitation… but more on that later.

We parked up at the Bricklayer’s Arms which, as I am sure you realise, is a pub and not the remains of a shocking building site accident. As we started getting on our boots and gaiters I suffered a momentary pang of apprehension as my mind flashed back to the last time we had been here just a few weeks ago – see Bovingdon Rebooted. Realising that we had indeed got the correct boots this time, I reckoned that the day had already been a success and any caches found were purely a bonus. It being only a degree or two above freezing we were well wrapped up today. I had even gone for a double layer of trousers and the scarf, hat and gloves were a must. We left the car and headed down the narrow country lane keen to get moving and get the blood circulating.

Flaunden – Crossroads (GC32730) was our first cache and we found it quickly, just beyond a kissing gate at the start of a footpath that led away from the road. Interestingly the name of the cache was crossroads, but the roads here were actually a T junction. The footpath that went north beyond the gate did turn the junction into a crossroads and I wonder whether sometime in the past that it actually was a crossing of tracks but only three out of the four legs were deemed important enough to be turned into roads. Shar found the cache within seconds of us getting through the gate, kissing on the way of course, and I stood and waited for her to sign the log and wondered what the patches of white were that I could just about make out on the ground. Duh, Snow! Whilst there was no evidence of it anywhere else, on this one footpath there was the odd patch of frosted snow. It was almost as if it was fake snow that had been added ahead of a photo or video shoot. We headed north to our next cache which, like the first one, was owned by CaptainJack.

Shar is pictured in amongst the trees searching for teh cache

Back in the woods again

Flaunden – Plantation Purple Patch (GC3273W) was about 400 metres along the wide footpath. The going was easy with only a couple of patches of mud. It was quiet and peaceful here and slowly our feet started to feel the benefit of the walking. My fingers were still having a few issues and I certainly spent an inordinate amount of time putting on and taking off my gloves during the first part of our walk. This cache had not been found since August 2014 and we were expecting it either to be missing or to be a difficult find but it turned out to be quite easy, hidden at the base of a tree. The log was a bit damp but considering it had been undisturbed for 5 months it was in good condition. I am still not quite sure why this one doesn’t get visited more often. There are caches all around it and they tend to get visited at least once a month but for some reason not this one. After Shar had done the signing honours we backtracked our way along the footpath to the GZ of the first cache we found so that we could continue on along the lane.

A short way along we discovered the hint item for Flaunden – James Bond Gate (GC3272G) had either fallen over or been pulled out of the ground. The post, for that is what it was, lay in the undergrowth but luckily the cache itself was still intact. As we stood signing the log we paused as a man passed with his dog. After he had gone Sharlene commented on what a grumpy man he had appeared to be. She had smiled at him as he went past and despite obviously seeing her he made no acknowledgement of her or the smile and instead just stared at us with contempt and said nothing. Me being ever diplomatic and optimistic suggested that perhaps he hadn’t properly noticed us in time to respond, or that his curiosity about what we were doing was manifesting as concern or suspicion, or even that this was the landowner “sick of bloody geocachers.” Sharlene just thought he was a rude and grumpy git. As we continued on down the lane towards the next cache we discovered that he was now walking back towards us, still with his dog. I suggested to Shar an experiment. I told her to squeeze my hand as he was about to pass us and then we would both smile at him to see if we could elicit a response. I was wrong, Shar was right, he was just a miserable old git.

The lane bent round to the right and shortly we found ourselves at a junction where an even narrower lane branched off to the right. Flaunden – Dale Farm (GC3271Q) was located on this corner on the back of a sign and it was an easy retrieve for me being of “normal height”.

Further on down this narrow lane we located the footpath that would take us to the first of our missing RAWGOLD.COMP caches. When we were here in November 2013 a friendly horse had greeted us and accompanied us half way across the field but today there was no horse, but unlike last time, there was a cache, RAWGOLD.COMP #21 (GC23EQ1), which was good as we were there for caches not horses. It was hidden snuggly under a rock at the base of one of the post making up the structure of the stile. A quick sign job and then we backtracked to the lane and found the footpath on the other side that would take us past three remaining caches before we could get back to the car.

We were making excellent progress so far. A short trek along a narrow and slightly muddy footpath and we came to the GZ of our next cache, RAWGOLD.COMP #22 (GC23EQ4). We couldn’t fail to notice this one as the white screw top container about the size of a coke can had just been tossed into the branches of the hedgerow to the right of the path at about eye level. This being winter there were no leaves to hide the cache and we were astonished at how it had not been muggled even though the last finder was just after Christmas. After signing the log we check the hint which said that it should have been base of tree and so we put it back in a location that matched the hint and cursed whoever put it in the branches. If that was a geocacher then they are an idiot and a terrible endorsement on the hobby. Rant over.

Flaunden – Football pitch (GC3271A) was our next cache and we made our way further along the footpath until it ended at a kissing gate with an open field beyond. Being rather exposed here, the wind was a bit bracing to say the least and we quickly searched all the posts to try and find the cache as fast as possible. Despite searching all the posts we had no luck and reading the logs discovered that the last cacher had not found it either. Seeing as this cache is directly in between two caches on the RAWGOLD.COMP series, both of which have been found recently and often, it seems strange that there was a total lack of logs before the last DNF until last summer. The previous finder noted this and said that it was obvious that people had failed to find it but not logged a DNF. He ranted about this behaviour and I tend to agree with him. The process of logging DNFs is a valuable one that benefits other cachers as well as the cache owner. Obviously everyone is free to play the game however they wish and there is no actual requirement to log DNFs but I personally think it sucks not to do so. Just my two penneth worth.

From here we made our way across the field being gently battered by the wind to RAWGOLD.COMP #23 (GC23EQ5) which we found suspended in a tree to the side of a wooden kissing gate. The cache was held in place by some garden wire and as I was holding it, the thing came away in my hand. Oops. I replaced it as best I could and walked away whistling nonchalantly. Our route so far had taken us along three sides of a rectangle and after finding this cache we carried on till we met another lane then turned right along it to take us back to our first cache and then back to the car. Phase one was complete and apart from 1 DNF it had been a great success. It was still a bit early for lunch and so we drove a short distance to our next parking spot where we planned to pick up the last of our missing caches and a couple of nearby captainjack ones too. We hopped out of the car and located the footpath that would take us to two of the three caches. Back in November 2013 this footpath was where both our phones finally died leaving us over 2km from the car not knowing where it was or how to get there with darkness closing in and time rapidly running out. We obviously made it back fine, otherwise how would I be writing this? Arriving at the GZ of RAWGOLD.COMP #27 (GC23EQP) the hint told us we were looking for a micro hanging in an evergreen bush. We were slightly deflated to see a wall of conifers lining the whole path. That was a lot of very similar looking bush to search for a micro. Even though we had the protection of the conifers on one side the other side of the path was flanked by open fields and the freezing wind was at its worse here. Fingers soon became numb and stiff. It took us about 10 minutes of finger searching the bush before with relief Shar finally found the little bleeder. We were so happy to be heading back along the path out of the wind.

Bovingdon – Hogpits Bottom Cricket Score (GC3270V) had a confusing hint that we never did quite figure out but we found the cache at the base of a tree without too much trouble. Heading back along the path to the road where the car was parked we crossed over and headed down a lane a couple of hundred metres to where the third of our trio was located. Bovingdon – Middle Lane Dairy(GC3270A) was supposed to be hidden at around head height in a large tree and although we found the tree quite easily we couldn’t find the cache. We eventually found it on the floor and as we signed the cache a group of horses came over to us, leaning over the fence for some attention. I put the cache back in the tree and Shar played with the horses for a bit. Turns out today was about caches and horses after all. Back at the car we moved to another parking spot and broke out the packed lunch. Hot chocolate was most welcome although it was only really my hands and nose that were cold the rest of me was toasty warm.

Shar is standing next to a fence and two horses are showing interest

Caches for Horses

After lunch we took a short walk down a country lane to find Bovingdon – Middle Lane Tumbledown (GC326ZF) which was a relatively easy find at the base of a tree hidden under a piece of stone. There were a few cumbersome bushes to get through to reach the cache so when I was there I decided to stay there and toss the cache back to Shar for her to sign. Without turning round I asked her if she was ready and thinking she said yes I backhanded the container to her. She wasn’t ready and I managed to hit her. It is an unusual side to geocaching that we haven’t explored, the idea of throwing containers at each other. Shar passed me back the cache, she didn’t throw it because throwing a cache to a blind person is illegal in Hertfordshire. No harm done and soon I was rehiding the cache.

After this it was time to try and find RAWGOLD.COMP Bonus (GC23EJ2). On our previous visit we had managed to collect 8 out of the 12 needed bonus numbers and I was curious to see if I could work out what the missing ones were. In the cache description there were 6 formulas the answers to which each represented a digit in the coordinates. 3 for the longitude and 3 for the latitude, usual stuff. This meant that all the answers had to result in an answer between 0 and 9. Looking at the bonus values we had collected, I noted that all 8 numbers were unique and all were single digits. I made an assumption therefore that the 12 bonus values were the numbers 1 to 12. This allowed me to work out which ones were missing and using excel I could play around with substituting the missing numbers into the formulas until I found ones that made the answers all be single digits which is what I needed. There turned out to be only one way to make this work and therefore I had myself an estimated set of cords. I looked on the map to see if they looked realistic and found that the location was on a footpath slap bang in the middle between the last and first caches in the series. That was good enough for me. We managed to collect another 2 bonus numbers from the 4 RAWGOLD.COMP caches that we found and they lined up with the values I had guessed for them. It was only a short walk to the footpath and arriving at GZ we made a quick find in the bowl of a tree. I was feeling very smug with myself but as is quite often the case we felt that the bonus cache was a bit disappointing. A bonus cache should, in our opinion, be something a little special seeing as how you have to do a lot of extra work to get it. One of our favourite caching trails is a series in Stubbings wood in Tring and that has a lovely large ammo can as the bonus cache stocked to the brim with decent swaps. (see Stubbings Wood – Do bogeys smell of fish)

There was another cache, Woody Woody (GC23WMK), nearby to the bonus and so we hoofed it over to a small copse of trees overlooking a cricket ground. We spent a long while searching trees in and around this copse but we just couldn’t find the cache. We couldn’t even find a tree that matched the hint at the given coordinates. We gave up after 15 minutes and headed for the car.

We still had some time left before we had to pick up Sam and so we decided to try for just one more cache. Wind Chill (GC49F1Q) had caught my eye when I was searching for caches in the area as it had not been found since 26th December 2013. There were no DNFs or logs of any kind after the that date. I told Shar about this and we agreed that this was too good an opportunity to pass up. If we could find this cache it would qualify us to go for a resuscitation Challenge cache. If you find a cache that has not been found for over a year it is referred to as a resuscitation and there are special Challenge caches dotted around the UK that you can only find if you have successfully resuscitated a cache. From looking at the map it did appear to be in the middle of a rather long footpath and I wondered if this was what put people off. Looking in more detail I noted that it had only been attempted around 15 times in the 2 years that it had been live which isn’t much at all. The difficulty and terrain were nothing special and all the logs said that the find was a bit tricky but a very good hide indeed. We were intrigued and were determined to give it a go.

We parked up at one end of the footpath and straightaway we spotted one thing that might put people off. The path leading away from the car was uphill and very steep. We set off climbing about 20 metres in elevation in almost the same horizontal distance. It was tough going but we pushed on. The ground levelled out a bit. The going underfoot was not too bad, but soon the mud started. It was that clay based sticky mud in most places but as we got further along it became wetter and covered more and more of the path. From car to GZ it was just over 750 metres and the second steep hill came at about 150 metres in. We had to stop a few times on the ascent. After this it was mud all the way again. There was a stretch of about 100 metres that was like a total swamp and we were extremely thankful for our decent boots and gaiters.

Shar is walking away from teh camera towards a huge patch of mud

Mud anyone?

With 300 metres to go I thought Shar was going to give in but she dug deep and we pushed on. The mud eased a bit and the last couple of hundred metres were normal muddy footpath conditions. Once we arrived at GZ we got down to the serious business of searching. There was no hint and the logs didn’t reveal too much, a few vague clues that we couldn’t really string together to mean much. We didn’t know if we should be looking on the ground or hanging in a tree. After 15 minutes of tromping through the treeline at the side of the path I was starting to fear that we were not going to find it and that the difficult journey here had been for nothing. I worried that the walk back down would not be a happy one if we were forced to log a DNF. But then, joy of joys, Sharlene found it. The hide was very clever indeed. The container itself was a small screw top container about eh size of a coke can. A hole had been made in the soft earth and then a stone slab had had an impression carved into it to wedge the container into. When the container was in place in the slab it was turned over and the container would sit in the hole in the earth with the slab lying flush to the earth just looking like an old broken slab of stone. Very clever and also an excellent way to keep the cache safe and dry. Despite not having been disturbed for over a year the log was bone dry and the contents of the cache in perfect condition. We were very impressed and also very happy at having made the find. The walk back was a happy one albeit still a muddy and steep one.
This was my victory photo for finding the cache. I have no idea why I look like I do!!!!

This was my victory photo for finding the cache. I have no idea why I look like I do!!!!

Shar is walking away from the camera down a steep hill after finding the cache

It was waaaay steeper than it looks

The next day it took me much longer than normal to clean the sticky dried mud off our boots and both of us were aching from the tricky walk. We have located a challenge cache near Aylesbury, Resuscitator Challenge (GC4AZ1Q), that we can now claim and it looks like it might be near the proposed location of our next PugWash adventure which will be very convenient indeed.

Finally we have managed to lifted the curse of Bovingdon from us and complete the RAWGOLD.COMP series. Add to that the achievement of a cache resuscitation and it was a pretty awesome caching adventure. Happy days.

This geocaching adventure took place on Wednesday 4th February 2015 and took our cache count to 946

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

The Chiltern Hundred – Leg 1

On Saturday we loaded up the car, remembering the right boots this time (see Bovingdon Rebooted), and Shar, Sam and I headed northwest from home for the 30 minute drive to Chesham to take our first bite out of the Chiltern Hundred. For an introduction to the series see my last post, The Chiltern Hundred – Intro. We planned to tackle 21 caches, 16 of them from the Chiltern hundred series plus a few odds and sods to get us back to the car.

As a family we are quite aware of our comfort zone when it comes to caching. We don’t like to start at the crack of dawn, or finish in the dark. The walks should be circular if at all possible and in an ideal world when it is cold we won’t have to eat lunch leaning on a gate post in the arse end of nowhere. So the plan today, bearing all this in mind, was to park at Chesham station car park; it’s very handy for access to all the three rings of the series and whilst it does cost £1.50 on Saturdays, if you are a blue badge holder, which I am because of my blindness, it is free. Before lunch we would take on CH047, CH045, CH044, CH046 and CH048. Then lunch back at the car before heading out in the afternoon to do ch001 thru ch011 and then cutting back to Chesham picking up a few other caches on the way, ending at ch049 just a few hundred metres from the car.

As we parked up and started getting ready, the wind whipped across the car park, cold and biting. It was clear and dry but cold. Sharlene nearly went apex over base before we had even started as the tarmac around the disabled bays was frozen over in places. Nowhere else in the car park seemed to have ice on it, just the disabled parking bays; does that count as positive discrimination? At this point I should mention, in as delicate fashion as I can, that of all the days in a month today just happened to be one of the most inconvenient days for Sharlene to be caching. Geocaching can require patience and tolerance and there are times during a month when Sharlene’s tank is running low on these things; nuff said? Add to this a wonderful, delightful 10 year old who was somewhat disappointed when we said we were going caching today as he had planned to “be on Xbox all day” and you can see that the witches cauldron has been primed for an interesting brew.

Nevertheless, as we left the car park our breath misting in front of our faces and with a bag full of cache maintenance supplies, we were energized and ready for the mud, trees, fields, hills and glorious rural views that the Chiltern Hundred was promising to offer. It was somewhat of an anti-climax, therefore, to have to walk through Chesham town centre bustling with Saturday morning shoppers before we could get to our first cache. To be fair, it was me who planned to tackle this particular cache first, the more conventional thing to do would have been to start with number one but I needed a small clump of caches that we could do before lunch and heading out from number one would take us longer than the two hours we had before our tummies would be complaining. Now personally I do not have any problems strolling through Chesham in full caching gear; canvas pants, walking boots and gaiters, but Shar felt a little awkward. Maybe we were getting looks, I couldn’t tell. ;) Besides, Chesham is slap bang in the middle of the Chilterns, a mecca for hikers, ramblers, cyclists, runners and all other manner of outdoor nutters so three geocachers are hardly going to look too conspicuous. Having said that it was good to get through the town and enter Lowndes Park where our first 5 caches would be found.

CH047 – Lowndes Park (GC1EHFQ) only took us a few moments to spot, just a question of choosing the right tree and looking at the correct height. It was quite close to the edge of the park and the road and as a result I think it has been the victim of a few mugglings over time. Happy to be signing our first log, we carried out our maintenance routine for the first time that day. Shar would inspect the cache and contents, while I got a new log and plastic bag. As Shar signed the log I would dry the container if needed, and then Sam would find the correct bonus code card to put in the cache. With maintenance done, we popped the cache back and I made some notes on my voice recorder so that I could do my logs and report back to drsolly on the state of the caches when we returned home. By the end of the day we would all be much more slick and efficient in our routine but this first time we were all a bit, here you hold this, while I do this, no wait, hang on, hold this too, where’s the tissue, hang on, I’ve only got two hands, well stick it…, steady, calm down, etc.

The route to our next cache took us away from the main road and after a short stretch on a narrow lane, we then made our way into the tree lined park, up a hill. It was gradual and gentle, but it got steeper as we progressed. About 100 metres from our first find, Sam suddenly stopped in his tracks, “Where’s super stick?” Super stick is his trackable stick. Every boy should have a stick when out and about, it should be the right length and strong to withstand the punishment it gets when being idly thwacked against bushes, trees or anything that remains stationary for more than 30 seconds. He realised he had left it at the GZ of the first cache and so he went back for it, while we stood and watched him go. Well, no point in us all going down the hill only to have to climb it again. It wasn’t me that forgot my stick, was it? He returned 5 minutes later puffing like an old steam train.

After making a quick find and slightly more coordinated maintenance run on CH045 – mound view (GC1EHFC) which Sam spotted screwed snugly in place at the end of a fence line, we headed on further into the parkland. We were still going uphill and more bizarrely listing somewhat to the left. Not only were we walking up hill but we were walking across the hill too. We couldn’t go any further left to seek flatter ground as the slope descended into the trees and therefore I started to feel a bit like I had one leg longer than the other. At the GZ of CH044 – Chiltern link (GC1EHF8 )we started to get glimpses of the views that this part of Buckinghamshire is renowned for. I stood facing the view for a short while before getting down to the job in hand. We searched the GZ for about 15 minutes locating the most obvious hiding place but no cache. The previous logs were hit and miss for this cache, with some people finding it on the floor although it was meant to be half a metre up and the last person failing to find it at all. I called drsolly and introduced myself’ we hadn’t actually spoken before having dealt only through email and FB messenger thus far. Whilst he couldn’t remember the hide specifically, it has been over 6 years after all and there are a lot of hides to remember in the series, he did confirm the probability of the type of hide it would be and agreed that if we couldn’t locate it then we should drop another container. We had a stock of 35mm pots with us for just such an eventuality. It’s a shame to put a film pot there really; most of the series consists of small containers with hardly any micros but better a container than no container at all.
From here we cut across the park to CH046 – Bury (GC1EHFH) which was almost directly opposite our current location. We had to take a slight deviation due to a fenced off area in the middle but it took us to the peak of the hill where the views across Chesham and beyond were pretty breath-taking.

Sam and Sharlene stand close together with the park stretching out behind them. A hint of distant view can be glimpsed

Sam and Shar in Lowndes Park

Soon we were descending through the park towards the road that skirted around it to the GZ where we made a quick find behind a piece of aquatic street furniture at the side of the road. Four caches done and only one more before lunch and all was good when this phrase left Sam’s mouth, his voice panicked, “where’s my iPhone?”. Ok, stay calm, don’t panic, let’s backtrack and look. Tension was high, Sam was worried. We went back into the park and as he walked ahead I called his phone. It was ringing, that was a good start. I let it ring until it disconnected and then I rang it again. Had we installed “Find My IPhone” on it? I couldn’t remember. Then Sam thought he could see something lying on the ground up ahead. As we approached, he whooped with joy as we heard the phone lying in the mud ringing. OMG, that was a close one. Aside from a little mud, it was fine, the case had protected it for the most part from getting dirty or damaged. Stress levels reduced back to bearable and we all laughed and joked, the relief evident in all of our voices, as we made our way, once more, out of the park towards our last cache before lunch.

CH048 – Lowndes Park North (GC1EHFW) was located amongst the trees on a wide central divide between two roads. Getting across the road was the first challenge and then once we were there it was just a few moments before we located the cache inside the low hanging boughs of a tree. The cache was actually on the floor but we noted from the hint that it should have been slightly higher up so after doing our maintenance we repositioned it slightly.
From here it was a short walk back through town stopping to use the very handy public convenience on the way. Buckinghamshire is pretty good for providing public loos; which as every geocacher knows is such a wonderful luxury that if you see one then you just have to use it, whether you need to or not, you never know how long it will be till your next toilet. Sharlene said she didn’t need to go. Sam and I stopped and looked at her. She said she was fine. I double checked. Yep she was fine. Sam and I mentally shared a look and we all headed for the car for sandwiches and hot chocolate. Our Chiltern Hundred journey had begun; 4 caches found and maintained and one pot replaced. Already we had a good feeling; at least those caches would be good for a while to come.

“I think I should have gone to the loo.” No prizes for guessing whose mouth these words came out of as we finished lunch and prepared to set off for the second loop of the day. Sam and I said nothing, there was nothing to say really. I merely banged my head softly off Sharlene’s shoulder.

As we made our way to CH001 – Chesham station (GC1EB13), a cache that we knew was missing from the logs, we bumped into another geocacher; fellow Beds, Bucks & Herts (BBH) Facebook group member elainealex. She was in Chesham in search of some of the new Church Micros that had just been published and was picking up a couple of the Chiltern Hundred that she was missing too. Coincidentally she had just been to CH048 and signed the fresh log sheet that we had place there and now was on her way to CH001 as well. We talked as we walked to the GZ and confirming that the cache truly was missing, I handed over the log sheet for her to sign before placing it in the new container. Always good to meet a fellow cacher in the wild and a pleasure to bump into one that we actually know.

The walk to CH002 – bridge (GC1ECHA) took us along an easy footpath next to the train tracks. From reading previous logs I was concerned that this was not going to be an easy find and was worried that we might not find it at all. Previous cachers had mentioned that it was very well camouflaged. Just before we reached GZ we crossed over the tracks on a bridge and there right in front of us was a brick wall, covered in that lovely ivy stuff. Thinking it would take us ages to search all that, I was, therefore, delighted to place my hand on the cache within about 5 seconds of reaching the wall. I grinned smugly as we carried out our maintenance and then stopped to watch a train roll into the station as we retreated over the bridge to re-join the footpath that would take us to the next cache.

This section of the Chiltern Hundred has obviously undergone some jiggery-pokery at some point as the order of caches on the ground now runs CH004, CH005 and then CH003. It wasn’t a hard route to follow to get us to CH004 – Chesham view (GC1ECKY), still being on a well maintained path on the edge of the town. To the right of us were houses and to the left the train line. At GZ it was just a matter of stuffing my hand down behind all the posts I could find until eventually my fingers closed around the circular tub that was the cache. Considering this is a big series, it is so nice to see a good amount of decent sized containers.

Somewhere between CH004 and CH005 we walked into a wall of smell that had us all gasping and holding our noses. It was like 10 metres of raw sewage even though we couldn’t actually identify the source. We didn’t stop long enough to pinpoint it though as we couldn’t get past it quick enough. Contrary to the accusations of the rest of my family, it was nothing to do with me… this time. The path steepened quite a lot on the way to CH005 – Chesham back (GC1ECMN) and it was good just to stop to take a breather when we got there. With a very accurate hint it wasn’t long before I was extracting a cache from the ivy covered limb. It was a 35mm film pot and it caused me to pause for a second. The listed container was a tub not a film pot. Shar looked at the log sheet and the last entry was December 2013. It looked like we had stumbled onto a replacement or “throw down” cache. We went back to searching and Shar who was a bit further back towards the fence soon pulled out the black tub that was obviously the original container. Not wanting others to make the same mistake we removed the film pot so only the tub remained, did our maintenance dance and then moved on to CH003 – Chesham heights (GC1ECHG).

We were still ascending as we carried on along the footpath and we could see that we were heading for more open countryside. We crossed a road and re-joined the path with a high fence hiding houses to the right. We reached GZ and soon realised that the slightly worrying 8 foot high clue did not actually involve a tree climb, but was more a case of perspective. We got down to searching. At least Shar and I did; Sam was having a bit of a moany moment and just ambled around absently thwacking things with his stick. As we picked our way through the considerable amount of rubbish at the GZ we kept over hearing the broken conversations of some of the residents on the other side of the fence. It was a bit like the famous five parody that the comic strip did where the heroes overhear the villains discussing their plan and even though they manage to hear only every 5th word they extrapolate the whole plan. Well this was something like that – “blah blah blah move that battery… blah blah blah she never stops complaining… blah blah blah line the hole… blah blah blah secret plans… blah blah blah 3.30 at Doncaster…blah blah blah world domination.” Unfortunately we didn’t manage to find the cache but we were convinced that it probably was there but that we were looking in the wrong place. It had been found just a few days ago, but neither of us felt comfortable continuing the search so we vowed to return to this one. Luckily it is quite near a road as I said so it would be easy to pop back to at a later date. The next day I contacted another BBH member who has done most of the Chiltern Hundred caches recently and they provided a very good explanation of the cache location and we know now exactly where we went wrong, we were looking in the wrong place by about 5 metres.

Sam was escalating his moaning by now, acting like we had walked a hundred miles or something when in fact we had only come less than 2. Shar wasn’t fairing too well either, although she was putting a brave face on it. She was having a bit of trouble with a blister on her little toe and it was starting to get a bit painful. CH006 – At the junction (GC1ECMY) and CH007 – gnarly (GC1ECN1) were found quite easily along the same path which had now left the houses behind and was at last leading us into countryside. Both were very good hiding places in excellent natural holes in trees. Unless drsolly had been out with a drill and a full set of wood working tools, this stretch of footpath was exceptionally blessed with wild and crazy trees that had great holes in them.

As we left number 7 the path finally started to level out and then descend into a small valley which was a bit easier on the legs. Before we got to the next cache a familiar phrase was to be heard from Sam. “Where’s Super Stick?” *sigh*, and breathe. Back he went again. He was in an okay mood when he left us but he returned, a few minutes later, stick in hand, puffing and looking and sounding like he was in what can only be described as, “a right grump”. Apparently he had run all the way and then got spooked by a large dog as he was searching for the stick. At least he had remembered he had forgotten it, if you see what I mean.
And then the mud began. Remember I said we were going downhill into a valley. Well all the water from the beginning of time had also at some point taken the same journey and a lot of it had hung around to form a lot of sticky gloopy mud that had us zig zagging back and forth across the path to get to the least muddy bit. This exercise was rendered entirely pointless as upon arriving at the GZ of CH008 – bridleway (GC1ECN6) and finding myself on the opposite side of the path, I proceeded to mud slide my way across to the other side, failing epically and falling flat on my back in the mud flailing around like a flipped turtle. I remained calm and kept my cool, after all it was just mud. I got up and then almost tripped over the hint item and fell into the bushes. Few words were spoken as we did our maintenance and quickly moved on although I was soon able to see the funny side of it and at least it lifted the spirits of the other two… for a bit.

Paul stands on a muddy footpath facing away from the camera. Mud can be seen on the back of his trousers, jacket and backpack.

Muddy Paul

The mud had eased a little by the time we got to the GZ of CH009 – Up and in (GC1ECNJ) although it was still thick and sticky on my trousers, jacket and backpack. We had deduced that we had to scramble up a bank to search a tree at GZ and Sam wanted to be the one to do it. He was making a half arsed attempt at getting up and moaning about it and Shar was losing her patience. She then had a go and also failed, breaking a nail in the process. A minor frustration release session took place while I scramble dup the bank almost doing myself a mischief in the process. After a few minutes of not finding the cache, Shar found it in a different tree that was much more accessible. Don’t misunderstand me; we were all enjoying ourselves for the most part. It’s just that we had a lot of isolated incidents on this trip that tested our resolve. By the time we were half way to the next cache, we were in good spirits again and despite the sun starting to dip towards the horizon, determined to finish all the caches we had planned.

A similar bank scrambling exercise was undergone at CH010 – Up the junction (GC1ECNQ). Both Sam and I struggled and persisted and triumphantly made it up the bank and then failed miserably to find the cache. Only for Shar to spot it from the path a lot lower down. Oh well, at least we had achieved what we had set out to do. Small victories, however hollow, should always be acknowledged and so we broke out the Haribo for a much needed sugar boost. Our team was holding up, just. Shar’s toe was getting sorer but through some form of teeth gritting, or Buddhist mantra she was managing the pain. The path at this point wasn’t helping though; it was full of pot holes and broken rocks, I nearly lost my footing a couple of times.

Shar looks on from the path as Sam stretches to retrieve the cache that is lodged in a tree a short way up a bank

Sam retrieves the cache

Sam made a quick find at CH011 – Botley (GC1ECNY) in a tree; trees feature heavily in drsolly hides. It makes sense really as they provide an off the ground natural protection from the elements. After the maintenance shuffle had been performed we turned tail and back tracked to before CH010 to pick up a footpath that would take us west across farmland back to our start/end point. As I incorrectly explained as we marched along the edge of a field, “As the pigeon flies it is less than 2km back to the car.” Pigeon…crow… whatever. In order to break up the walk, I had identified three non Chiltern Hundred caches that we would pass on this route. The first was reached after ascending a rather meaty hill. Although the views once at the top were fantastic, Shar was just hoping for a nice easy walk back now… she was starting to limp a little. No luck at Post a field note (GC30MX3) but we didn’t spend too long searching. The horse we found there was no help either. The winter sky was filled with the low sun and it was surprisingly still and peaceful standing there. I must confess to letting the others search whilst I just stood and allowed myself to be consumed by the vastness of the open space in front of me.
Even with my severe sight loss I can appreciate the vastness of open space.

Even with my severe sight loss I can appreciate the vastness of open space.

Knocking my “as the pigeon flies” theory out of the window we then walked the long way around the edge of a large field in order to join up with another footpath that eventually turned into a lane and to our next cache, White Hill Post a field note 7 (GC3348M). Sam made a super quick find here and we were delighted. Shar was in some pain now and understandably was keen to get back to the car as soon as possible. Sam on the other hand with the end in sight was perking up considerably, and he and I walked together along the lane to join the road that would now take us to White Hill (GC2XRF9).

I can’t say I had thought too much about it but I suppose the clue was in the name. White HILL. We had climbed it already on our way here and now much to our relief it was downhill all the way and thank god as it was a really steep one. If the pavements ever freeze on this hill you would be down at the bottom in a pile of grannies and pushchairs in about 4 seconds flat. As it was, it was a couple of hundred metres before we got to the GZ and Sam again made a super quick find thanks to the excellent hint. We were still only half way down the hill and as it turned out, the steep slope of the hill was not helping Shar but instead making things worse as her toe was now being forced sharply into the front of her boot with each step.
Finally we made it down and at the GZ of CH049 – The Backs (GC1EHG0) made a quick find. Even better we could practically see the car from where we were. We did our last bit of maintenance for the day and then had an easy walk back to our parking spot where we thankfully flopped into the car. The sound of relief and joy in Shar’s voice as she removed her boot was very evident. Hot chocolate was a welcome reward and we sat and drank watching as the last of the sunlight faded away.

We agreed that despite the ups and downs of the day we all felt really good about the 18 caches that we had found and the maintenance that we had carried out. I know it is only a small part of the Chiltern Hundred but I think we are all looking forward to the next leg. Happy days?

Well hang on a second. My story is not quite finished there. As we drove out of Chesham, the light finally gone and me sitting in a pile of dried mud our thoughts turned to a cup of tea, a vodka, an Xbox and falling asleep on the sofa and… “Where’s Super Stick?”

You cannot be serious. Oh but he was. Sam’s voice was nervous, disappointed and unsure. Noone wanted to go back, but he wanted his trackable stick. It appears that he had, again, put it down at the GZ of CH049 and failed to pick it up… again. In an effort to ease the situation I suggested that we could replace the stick and use the copy tag at home to continue the adventures of super stick another day. He seemed ok with this and we relaxed once more and continued our drive home. A slightly deflated end to a great adventure? Well fear not, there is a happy ending. Later than night another cacher “grabbed” super stick from Sam. Amazingly this cacher and a friend had been out in Chesham and had done a couple of caches, including CH049. They had found the stick next to the cache and noticed the TravelBug tag. Thinking it a little strange that it hadn’t been logged into the cache they went ahead and grabbed it. We have since contacted them and they have agreed to return the tag to us so that we can attach it to a new stick so that Super Stick will live once more. As Sam so rightly said, “I need a bigger stick now anyway.” Well indeed. All’s well that ends well…

…Happy days.

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The Chiltern Hundred – Intro

The Chiltern Hundred is a series of geocaches placed around the picturesque Hills in Buckinghamshire. It was placed back in 2008 and was one of the UK’s first large trails that was designed to be possible in one day. If you think this is a blog entry of how we found all those geocaches in a single day then I am afraid you will be sorely disappointed. Whilst I harbour a romantic notion that I could achieve such a feat the truth is I probably couldn’t and I know for absolute certain that Shar and Sam would not be able to, or more accurately, not want to, and seeing as I am unable to cache without at least one of them, it was never going to happen. But that’s fine. I would much rather take our time and spread the challenge out over a number of trips than risk relationship destruction and most likely physical pain and probably death from trying to do it in a day. So what this actually is, is the first in a number of blog entries that will follow our progress as we complete one of the most well-known cache trails in the UK

This entry is by way of introduction to the series. First off, some basic info. The Chiltern Hundred is actually 109 caches laid out in three rings The Chiltern Hundred Geocachesthat touch each other at various places. There is more than a hundred because this series has a bonus cache and each cache contains a unique code. In order to get the coordinates for the bonus you had to have collected at least 85 numbers. For reasons that will become clear shortly, you currently only need to collect a minimum of 55. There is also a challenge that requires you to find 100 caches in one day and in order to enable people to do this the cache owner very considerately created more than a hundred in the series because he knew that by the law of averages that there would be the odd one or two that were missing at any one time or that were a bit too tricky for you to find.

Technically you wouldn’t call the Chiltern Hundred a power trail. It certainly does give you the opportunity to find a lot of caches in quick succession but the hides are varied and the containers are a mixture of different pots and tubes and not just 109 35mm film pots at the base of 109 trees. The distances between caches are relatively small but they don’t approach the proximity limit as you would expect on a power trail. The three rings all focus back to a central point in Chesham, a town with lots of amenities and parking and transport links which makes it a great place to start. Having said that, within a few hundred metres you are out along footpaths and up and down hills and treated to some of the finest views across Buckinghamshire and beyond. So who is the cache owner on this famous series? Well for a big series you would expect a big name, and they don’t come much bigger than drsolly. Probably one of the UK’s best known cachers and with almost 40,000 finds at time of writing one of the most active too. And with the majority of the caches in the Chiltern Hundred having more than 600 finds in the 6 and a half years it has been active you can see that it is still an extremely popular series.

The fact that it has been around for quite a long time and that it experiences quite a lot of traffic has resulted in it getting a little run down in places. One of the big pitfalls of having a series with bonus numbers is that you need to make sure that those numbers stay in the caches. In recent years the amount of codes that are still present in the caches has been dropping considerably as well-meaning geocachers replace log sheets but fail to transfer the codes. Whilst the majority of the caches appear to be in place, from reading the logs some in better states than others, the drop in codes has meant that drsolly has reduced the minimum requirement of codes needed to get the bonus coordinates from 85 to 55. For the most part the series is maintained by the cachers who visit them as drsolly rarely gets the chance to visit his caches. There was even a rumour that it might get archived at one point, but thankfully that hasn’t happened. I had been thinking about attempting the series for quite a while and I suggested that we make it one of our family goals for 2015. I also thought that I would offer to maintain the caches that we visited and, in particular to put bonus codes back in the containers. With that in mind I contacted drsolly, who gladly accepted our offer and provided me with a full list of bonus codes for the caches. Rather than write the codes on log sheets in the caches we decide to make up small cards and cover them in sticky back plastic to protect them and pop them inside the containers in the hope that in the future when log sheets are replaced that the codes would still be there for people to collect. He also offered to be a PAF on any that we had trouble with. I now have drsolly as a PAF :)

We won’t be doing the series in one day, and we won’t be doing each of the three rings in single days either. What I have planned is to break up the series into 7 or 8 bite size chunks. With planning I have managed to make these chunks roughly circular using other, non-chiltern hundred, caches in the area to get us back to the car in each case. So, please check back from time to time, or even better follow me and join us as we tackle the Chiltern Hundred.

Coming next: – Leg 1, during which Sam loses his trackable super stick 3 times, his iPhone once and I end up on my back in the mud!

If you want to find out more about the Chiltern Hundred, then you will want to read drsolly’s official Chiltern Hundred website and here is a handy bookmark list containing all the caches.

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