Interrogating another GeoBlogging team

This month I have dragged my spotlight out of the cupboard and aimed it into the eyes of another Geoblogging team to try and find out a little bit about why they love to cache and also what possessed them to start blogging about their adventures. Continue reading

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Black Ops, princes, balls and a stroll along the river Chess

On Saturday, we spent quite a lot of time sitting in front of the TV watching the royal wedding of Harry and Meghan, the FA cup final between Chelsea and Manchester United, and a recording of The Bourne Supremacy. Therefore it was decided that, on Sunday, we needed to get out of the house and remind ourselves what people who are not royalty, footballers or movie stars do with their free time.

They go geocaching.
Well, most of them probably do.
At least, some of them might.
Anyway, whatever. We did!

We didn’t go far and it was one of those classic geocaching scenarios where you end up finding something unexpected right on your doorstep. Just the other side of Croxley Green is Rickmansworth and what we found there was a tiny little riverside paradise.

A short stroll from the convenient parking area, through a meadow, took us along a footpath that ran alongside a section of the river Chess. Gently sloping grassy banks fell away into the shallow waters and a handful of families had plotted up along its length to enjoy the warm weather and easily accessible river. As we made our way to our first of two caches, Cache for the birders (GC3GMJV), children happily laughed and squealed as they paddled and splashed about in the cool water. If only we had known about this place when Sam had been younger; it would have been a perfect place to while away a couple of hours every now and then.

After a brief pause to read an information board about the area in the warm sunshine, we made our way to our first GZ which was located on a tree covered section of path just beyond a small wooden bridge that crossed the river.

Shar and Sam read from an information board about the river Chess.

Did you know?

Ten minutes later we were still there and despite much searching in amongst many ivy covered stumps we still did not have cache in hand. I did have rather a lot of disturbed dust and dried plant matter up my nose causing some serious sneezes, but no geocache. We separated and started searching further afield but soon wandered back to the original spot and it was clear that we were all independently thinking it was about time to admit defeat.

And then a miracle! Well miracle might be overstating it just a tad. But Sharlene did find the cache which was a relief and did serve to lift our spirits once more.

We turned tail, and after a short stop to play a round of Pooh Sticks on the bridge, which I claim I won but Sam and Shar say I most certainly lost, we made our way back along the same path in search of our second cache of the day, Ahoy there landlubbers (GC24EE8).

Following the arrow and the guidance of the hint and some previous logs, we searched all the multi trunk trees in the indicated area extensively with no luck. With some skilful direction from Shar, I made my way a bit deeper into the trees and continued to seek out the cache, but still with no luck. We then started checking all the places that each other had already checked, a practice that generally happens in groups only after a certain amount of time has passed so as not to insult the searching abilities of the original searcher, and the cache was duly found by Shar in a place that both Sam and I had previously thoroughly examined. Sam’s excuse was that he had spotted the battered ice cream container on his initial search and had dismissed it merely as a piece of rubbish. My excuse was… well I don’t really need an excuse, I’m blind and I am happy to come out of the trees with only a couple of bruises and minimal scarring from my search. Actually being the one to find the geocache falls very much in the category of “Bertie Bonus” for me.

Even though the container was battered and had a small split in the bottom, the contents were in remarkably good condition. We signed the logged and re-hid the rubbish for the next geocacher to find and mentally chalked up another find to our cache counts.

With that done and dusted we ambled back across the meadow to the car. All told we were only out for somewhere in the region of 90 minutes but it was enough to allow us to connect again as a family and enjoy the great British summertime away from the distractions of Princes, balls and black ops agents with amnesia. Happy days!
Paul and Sam stand hugging on the footpath in the summer sunshine.
This geocaching adventure took place on Sunday the 20th of May and lifted our total cache count up to 1869.

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Honorary crumbling amblers of London Colney

For our GeoDate this week, Shar and I went to London Colney. I know what you are thinking… oh the glamour! Well glamourous it may not be but it suited us down to the ground. I had spotted a couple of caches set by a local scout group as part of the requirement for their geocaching badge. Having been through this process with Sam a while back (see Scouts geocaching badge), I thought it would be nice to go and find some placed by some other scouts.

After parking on a verge down a quietish lane we entered the woods and took a pleasant walk around the edge of some fields to get to the first cache, LC Scout Cache 4. Side of the woods (GC7EX04). Admittedly there was a bit of a constant hum of the nearby M25 and a couple of other roads but it wasn’t that bad and the weather was just about perfect for caching, the sun popping out every now and then but not for long enough to melt skin.
A view across fields in spring time towards trees in the distance.
After about 1km we reached GZ and then ducked into the trees in search of the cache. Well, I ducked into the trees and Shar held back, wary of the rather high stingers and such that guarded the treeline. Logistically this meant that as I ventured in, Sharlene attempted to shout general directions to me where she thought the cache might be. Not the easiest of tasks but pretty standard stuff for us and so we got on with it. After about 5 mins Shar braved the stingers and despite the two of us searching around we still found nothing.

Then we realised that we might have ducked into the trees a little too soon and so fought our way back out and followed the arrow staying outside the trees for as long as we could. Sure enough we got down to about 3 metres and there was a likely looking tree right there in front of us. Job done.

After replacing the cache we went back to the path just in time to meet a large group of rambling old people, although as Sharlene pointed out they didn’t really look like proper ramblers so more like just amblers. As the group filed past we paused for some water and when the tail-enders got to us, they stopped and enquired as to whether we were with them, as they were meant to wait for stragglers and not let the group get split up. We explained that we were indeed not part of their group, a fact which you would think perhaps they should know, and off they trotted.

Thinking about this as we walked to the next cache I wondered if we somehow looked as if we fitted into their group and Sharlene said that no, the entire group was much older looking than us. Hmmm, not sure whether or not to be insulted by this, surely we don’t look like we belong to a group of ambling oldies do we? Maybe it was the white cane that lumped us into their demographic, perhaps being disabled qualified us to be a part of the group.

Shar stands on a path with a treeline to her right and fields to her left and in the background.

Honorary ambling crumbly

Next one, LC Scout Cache 5. Corner of a field (GC7EX0H), was a frustrating DNF with us not even being able to find GZ let alone the cache. Various logs had stated that the coordinates were way off and despite about 30 minutes of searching we couldn’t find anything that matched the description of the massive tree that was supposed to mark the hide. Sometimes you just gotta know when to give up and move on, not always an easy thing.

Thankfully the last cache we attempted, Tribute to Bonnie Boo Boos (GC1E31C), was there and in good condition. It was a regular container but could probably pass for a large and it was nestled safely in the crack of a tree at the side of the path. I only endured a half a dozen or so nettle stings to retrieve it, so that wasn’t so bad. Pro tip: When you retrieve a cache in a nettle infested area, don’t put the sticks that were covering it down on the ground in the nettles while you extract the log, cos then you have to pick the bloody things up again and get another couple nettle stings into the bargain.

Paul Is standing at the side of a field near some trees. He bends down and points at the nettles making a pained face.

No pain, no gain

Ironic really, finding such a large cache, as I have been trying to find one for months to drop off a cumbersome TB and then last week I finally dropped it off in one of our own hides just to be rid of it, and pretty much the next cache we find is a super large one and would have been perfect.

Two out of three found and back home in time for a curry lunch. Happy days.

This geocaching adventure took place on Thursday May 10th, 2018 and took our total geocache count up to 1867.

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May day multis and a malevolent moggy

May Day Bank holiday weekend and the weather was set to be stonking hot! The desire to geocache was there but this was coupled with not wanting to expire in the heat. So we decided to stay local and tackle a couple of multis in nearby Bushey, getting out relatively early and thus avoiding the hotter parts of the day.

I was looking forward to getting out for some cache time with Sam and Shar and I therefore felt it was unnecessary of the cat to vomit in one of my slippers just prior to leaving. Continue reading

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Spring Maintenance

After receiving some needs maintenance logs on a couple of our caches recently and seeing that the weather was starting to improve, we decided it was time to head over to Aldenham and do a maintenance run.

It has been almost 4 years since we put the Wall Hall caches out and we have had very little cause to revisit them other than for general cleaning, drying and log replacements. Having said that though, we never see having to return to the series as a chore as we always enjoy the chance to walk the route through the pretty surroundings, and this is just about one of the nicest times of year to do it, with spring most definitely springing. Continue reading

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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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