An EVENTful evening

On Wednesday we attended a local geocaching event BBH 91 – Bordering on a Road Trip (GC5XGZJ). The Beds, Bucks & Herts Facebook group has an event every month but most of the time we aren’t able to go. This is mainly because the original premise of the events was that they would always be held roughly mid-month, mid-week in the evenings. 9 times out of 10 they are always on a school night and we haven’t quite got to the stage of leaving Sam at home while we bugger off to the pub for a couple of hours….yet.

Every so often one of the events falls in the school holidays and when this happens we make an effort to go. This month’s was on the day after school broke up and even better it was only a short drive away in Belsize… perfect. It was run by gigglesandlouby+1 who you might recall are the CO on the series in Whippendell woods that we recently did with our friends Smokeypugs – see Scouting about – A PugWash Adventure.

The event was really well attended with about 30 or so people there at some point or another. The weather was good so we spent the evening in the beer garden chatting to caching friends, old and new. It is always good to meet people who you have messaged either through Facebook or via their profiles on and I added a couple of new voices to names this time.

The event hosts even went to the trouble of putting on a game involving some fantastic wooden horses that they had made. Whilst people were initially shy at getting involved, soon the competitiveness sides came out and the gloves were off.

Racing Horses - Sam, Shar and myself can be seen lurking in the background

Racing Horses – Sam, Shar and myself can be seen lurking in the background

Sam, Shar and I really enjoyed ourselves at the event and as the cherry on the cake it qualified us for the groundspeak 2015 road trip event souvenir.
A "Shiny" for the collection

A “Shiny” for the collection

We have a couple of other events that we hope to attend this year. There is one in September that is just before the schools go back and Sam is hoping to attend one in Norfolk when he visits with my mum in August. But the next one on the calendar for us is the UK MEGA event(GC53P8F) which is being held in Essex this year and we will be popping along for the day on Saturday 1st August. What about you dear reader… do you attend events?

Posted in Geocaching, Geocaching Events | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Chiltern Hundred – The Last Leg

On Sunday we travelled to Chesham once more to complete the Chiltern Hundred. Back in January we set out, not only to find all 110 caches in the series, but also to maintain them as we went. To catch up on the story so far check out our Chiltern Hundred Adventures.

This was our ninth visit to the Chiltern hundred and we only had numbers 90 to 98 to find and a replacement to make at 37 which despite two visits and maintaining the cache on watch for a couple of months was almost definitely no longer there. For the sake of brevity , I’ll summarise the finds on the day as being all along the same footpath in a straight line which we tackled by searching for every other cache in one direction before turning tail and looking for the others on the way back. Of the 9, we found 6 and based on our own experience and past logs, elected to replace the other three which we felt confident had gone missing.

After we had done this, we had a bite to eat and then parked close to number 37 and spent a while choosing a new hide for the replacement cache we had brought for that too. That done, there was only one thing left to do… head for the Chiltern Hundred golden bonus (GC1F4NV).

The Chiltern Hundred is basically a one hundred stage multi cache. Each cache contains a code and when you have collected all the codes, you visit a website, enter them all in and it spits out the coordinates for the bonus cache. As anyone who has done trails that contain bonus numbers essential for finding the big bonus knows… things can go wrong. Codes can go missing, caches can go missing. To make the whole thing a little more fool proof, drsolly did a couple of things. First he put out 109 caches thus meaning that even if one or two had gone walkies, or you couldn’t find some of them, you should be able to collect enough to get 100 and therefore qualify for the bonus. The second thing he did was to apply a threshold of caches required in order to have the website spit out the coordinates, and enable himself to alter that threshold. In the early days the minimum required number of codes needed to get the coordinates was set at 90. On the basis that there were 109 chances to acquire codes, this gave you a margin of 19. So that he didn’t have to be out maintaining caches all the time, over the years if codes have gone missing, he has reduced the threshold meaning that fewer codes were required to get the final cords. I think at the time we started doing the Chiltern hundred the number was as low as 65.

Now that we have found, or replaced if missing, all the caches and placed a custom laminated bonus code card in all the caches, the series is back to its optimal state of repair again and, although I don’t know if he has done so, drsolly could increase that required threshold back nearer to its original number if he wanted to.

The upshot of all this was that we had the coordinates for the bonus cache and so we drove over to a parking spot that we had been to on one of our previous visits whilst doing the Ashridge loop in order to head back into the woods to try and find it. Aside from being the culmination of 6 months of caching and the most massive cherry on the cake, the cache also had a couple of other things going for it. First, it promised to be an ammo can, and who doesn’t love finding an ammo can? Secondly because of the difficulty in finding all the required caches, coupled with the varying types of terrain you encounter including tree climbs, the bonus has a difficulty and terrain rating of 5 / 5! This would not only be our first 5/5 but it would qualify us for the extreme caching souvenir on offer from Groundspeak during the summer months which requires you to find a cache with either a difficulty 5 or a terrain 5 rating.

When we arrived in the woods with the intention of locating a fallen tree we didn’t expect to find almost nothing but fallen trees. All shapes and sizes. The forest floor was littered with them. There were however sufficient trees still standing to provide cover from the necessary satellites required to get a decent fix so the phones were only useful to a point. There was nothing else for it but to get on and start searching. We all split up and did just that. My approach was to walk carefully until I fell over a fallen tree and then to follow it to its end and search all around for the cache. It was a good system that only suffered from a couple of drawbacks. I think I kept searching the same three trees over and over, and my shins were getting pretty bruised.

After about 10 minutes I stopped and listened. I could hear Sam in one direction and Shar in the other both searching without success. I checked the iPhone for something to do while I took a breather and it said I was 5 metres to the right of the hide. Yeah right, it had been saying that for the last 10 minutes and I had been moving all the time. Regardless, I made my way a few metres to the right and “found” a tree with my shin. OK, here we go again. I felt my way to the end and discovered the roots and a bunch of moss and undergrowth. Hmm, don’t remember this one before. A bit more feeling around and… hang on… that’s metal! I don’t know what you do when you make a really special find in your own space, away from everyone else. What I do, is to just take a moment. I ran my hands over the ammo can and just grinned for a bit, confirming its existence, its ammo can-ness. Then I counted to 5 and listened to the others searching and then I shouted “Hurrah” at the top of my voice!. This was instantly met with relieved and jubilant responses from both as they made their way over to me to inspect the cache. It was a lovely find, one that feels truly proportionate to the hard work that has gone into finding it. After 109 caches, the majority of which were just standard beakers, tubes and tubs (pleasingly not many micro containers), it felt even better to haul out the heavy and sturdy military hand me down. There was much smiling, metaphorical back slapping and the obligatory photo session.

Sam and Paul pose proudly with the ammo can that is the chiltern hundred bonus cache.

The Final Chiltern Hundred Cache

We have had a fantastic time doing the Chiltern Hundred over the last 6 months. The scenery is stunning and the walks have never been dull. The sense of achievement at completing this renowned series is enough to put a smile on my smileies… and look at this for a before and after map of the caches… you have got to love that!
The Chiltern Hundred Geocaches


The Chiltern Hundred Smilies

After :)

Here are a few stats…
  • Number of Chiltern Hundred caches found =110
  • number of non-chiltern hundred caches found whilst doing the Chiltern Hundred = 23
  • Miles walked = god knows somewhere between 30 and 40
  • number of times super stick misplaced = 5
  • milestones past = Sam 400 and 500, Paul and Shar 1000
  • number of caches replaced 15
  • amount of rubbish removed from caches = approx. 3 full carrier bags.
  • amount of ginger cakes consumed = 1.5
  • animals seen = cows, horses, cats, dogs, red kites, other birds, spiders, miscellaneous crawlingthings, sheep, squirrels, no ostriches.
  • number of pre-teen strops = 4
  • number of adult arguments = 1
  • laughs had = too many to count.
  • value of memories acquired = priceless

    Happy Days indeed!

    This Geocaching adventure took place on 19th July and took our total cache count to 1193.

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

    Ambling Around Apsley – GeoDate

    For our GeoDate this week, Sharlene and I went to Apsley. Rather than a specific series, I had identified a number of caches that could be strung together to form a vaguely circular walk.

    Apsley, the name deriving from Aspen Wood, is a historical industrial settlement with its origins dating back to the turn of the 19th century. Whilst there was occupation in the area prior to this, it was the introduction of water mills at the beginning of the 19th century that was responsible for the growth of the area. The Frogmore paper mill is most notable for being the place where John Dickinson the developed the mechanism to allow for the production of continuous paper. When the Trunk canal, later to be renamed the Grand Union, was built a few years later the region became a hub for the production and distribution of paper. Now, there is only one mill in the area that produces historic paper types and the pretty 19th century buildings sit uncomfortably next to Sainsbury’s and a large retail park. It now is classified as an outer district of Hemel Hempstead and is about a 20 minute drive from where we live in Watford.

    Whilst I bemoan the arrival of the retail park, flattening some of the old mills, I confess that it was a handy place to park to start our caching day. I didn’t realise exactly how handy it was until we set off to find our first cache, Cachers Creche (GC4Y41X) which turned out to be less than 30 metres from the car. GZ was a small path that led from the car park to the road beyond and it was lined on both sides with metal tubular railings and thick bushy…. bushes. The hide was described as being very tricky and retrieval of the container would require the use of a tool hidden somewhere nearby. We searched the bushes for a while, scratching our heads in confusion, not finding anything. Thinking that tools tend to be specifically man made and therefore might benefit from the camouflage of something else man made, we turned our attention to the large amount of metal railings. After a short while, I managed to locate the tool in question and after a bit of fumbling around and with the help of nature’s attraction, Shar managed to extract the cache from its hiding place. I am being specifically vague about the details of the hide as it is a relatively new cache and one that belongs to our good friends, Smokeypugs. Needless to say it was a very satisfying retrieval, although being the one to make the find of the tool and then have Shar steal the glory of actually getting the cache didn’t sit too well with me for a bit. bah humbug!

    To get to our next cache we walked through Aspley a short way, alongside a rather busy road but then thankfully took a side road and crossed over the canal where we got our first view of Frogmore paper mill.

    A view of the 19th century paper mill taken from the bridge over the canal

    Frogmore Paper Mill

    The GZ of Travel Bug Central – Hemel (GC2ZAMR) was in the bushes to the side of a car park which would make tackling this cache as a C&D very helpful. Also worthy of note was that there were public toilets in the car park too a real bonus when you are out caching. Especially if you have your radar key which allows you access to the otherwise locked disabled toilets which tend to be generally cleaner and better appointed than the regular conveniences. Finding the actual cache was a bit tricky as we arrived just as loads of mums were turning up for a playgroup that was nearby. Each one that arrived took about 5 minutes extracting their pushchair and child from the car and we were left loitering at the side of the car park for some time before we were able to retrieve the cache which turned out to be a TravelBug hotel. This was a perfect opportunity to drop of some TBs that I had been carrying.

    I knew that there were just a couple more caches in this relatively urban environment before we would be onto footpaths and out in the country a bit and I couldn’t wait. As we walked back onto the busy road towards the next cache though, we got seduced by the presence of a McDonalds and simply couldn’t resist popping in for a quick sausage and egg McMuffin. Afterwards, feeling sated and a little guilty we made a couple of quick finds of Ribbon in the Cache (GC5XERM) and TThe End of Bobs Nickey Line (GC2TDMY) before locating the footpath that would lead us out of civilisation and….. up a naffing big hill. Well beauty comes with a price after all.

    An Apsley sign is visible in the foreground on teh other side of a side road. In the background lurks the tempting fascade of McDonalds

    The lure of the golden arches

    It was whilst walking to our next cache that I noticed on my iPhone that the final location of a puzzle, Elementary my dear Watson (GC27ZXD), that I had solved over a year ago was going to be on our route. I haven’t even realised it was nearby when I was planning the caches but seeing as we would be passing within a hundred metres of it, we agreed that it would have been foolish not to take the opportunity to pick it up. After a short detour along the ridge of a hill that looked down into the valley where Apsley lay, we found GZ and a bench at the side of the path hidden by the deep and thick foliage. After a short search Sharlene located the tree and I rubbed my hands in glee when I realised that a bit of low level climbing would be required. Always keen to unleash my inner monkey I was soon up the tree and searching for the cache which was quickly located and dropped down for signing. It might only be a few feet off the ground but you have to take your kicks where you can get them.
    Paul is a few feet off the gorund up a tree retrieving a cache

    Unleashing my inner Squirrel

    Back on course we picked our way along paths and across roads to get to the beginning of a footpath that had 4 caches placed along it. When I had planned the series I had started with these caches and then added in others to form the circular route that we were now about a third of the way round. Shar found the first, rediscovering a footpath #2 – Crossing over A41 (GC282Z6), which was hidden in a guard rail at the side of a road just where the foot path started.

    The next three, Rediscovering a footpath #3 – Passing Phasels Wood (GC28305), Rediscovering a footpath #4 – where the horses are (GC28EQQ) and Rediscovering a footpath #5 – by Phasels Wood (GC28ENR), were nice straightforward finds along the footpath. One of them was a bit out of place but soon located nearby. The footpath took us down the side of Phasels Wood Scout camp, a place we had taken Sam to a number of times for cub and scout activities over the years. Actually I even remember taking Jake, my eldest there when he was in the scouts too, about 10 years ago…. blimey the march of time and all that.

    The footpath ended in a narrow lane and we followed this to the site of our next cache that was just next to the A41 that we had already crossed on our walked once today. Walking down the narrow lane was interesting especially when some silly bint didn’t slow down at all as she passed us with inches to spare. We are very diligent walkers when on road and lanes as you might imagine. At the first sound of a car we stop and move as far to the side as we can, stepping up onto verges if they exist and in return a slight reduction in speed just to acknowledge we exist would be nice. The cache, Across the fields to Scatterdells Wood (GC28DE1), was found quickly nestling behind a telegraph pole at the side of a field and then we re-joined the lane and went under the A41 to pick up the footpath that would take us back towards the car.

    We had two further caches along this path which initially took us up another massive hill. This one was really steep and I imagine in winter when the ground is wet and slippery that the path isn’t navigable at all. Coming down the hill would be terrifying as where it ended a road began and I could just imagine piles of children and old people collecting at the bottom to be mowed down by the traffic. Thankfully today the ground was dry even though there had been a little drizzle, and we arrived at the GZ of Shendish edge (GCV140) without incident. It was just a case of finding the right tree to search at and after the third attempt we located the container and signed the log.

    It was a similar story at the last cache of the day, Shendish Walk: ICT (GC3VV6Z), although the terrain was a lot flatter. After reaching the top of the hill the path threaded its way through a public golf course and the neighbouring woods. Finding the right tree here was a little trickier as all we had to go on was the hint that it was ivy covered. They were all ivy covered! The tree cover above was also very thick and so the coordinates danced around like Wayne Sleep on Red Bull. Eventually we did find the jumbo Kinder egg container wedged in the vines of ivy around one tree but alas there was no surprise inside.

    Aside from ducking the odd golf ball as we crossed over a fairway, the walk back to the car was uneventful. When we first started caching, the idea of crossing a golf course filled me with dread, even if it was on a footpath. We were a lot less confident about rights of way and generally being in the outdoors back then. Now, it doesn’t bother me a bit although I still think Sharlene feels a bit uncomfortable about it.

    Sharlene walks across the golf course


    Having originally intended to do 13 caches, we then had to drop off 2 from the end as we were running a bit short of time. But with the collection of the puzzle cache that we hadn’t planned for, the tally for our pleasant walk around Apsley was a very satisfying 12. Happy Days.

    This geocaching adventure took place on 15th July 2015 and took our total cache count to 1172.

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    In search of Watford’s first ever cache

    Whilst on a recent caching adventure in Whippendell woods (see Scouting About – A PugWash Adventure), I convinced everyone to join with me on a mini-pilgrimage to find the first cache ever placed in the Watford area. This might not seem like anything out of the ordinary, people search for old caches all the time. Indeed Hornet’s Hide 2 – Whippendell (GC4027), dates back to March 2002 and as such is pretty old but not exactly unique. What made this an interesting caching adventure is that the cache has actually been archived since 2011.

    Yes, you heard me correct. I dragged our friends Geoff and Melissa, not to mention Shar and Sam into the middle of the woods in search of a cache that hasn’t been there for nearly 4 years. Why on earth did I do this? Well, I’m not sure to be honest. I think the main reason is that I felt a connection to it, as it was the first cache ever placed in Watford back during a time when there were probably less than 20 in the whole of Hertfordshire. But what possessed me to think it would still be there? Well on looking through the logs I had noted that it had been consistently found until suddenly it was archived by the CO who was moving out of the area. There hadn’t been any DNFs or requests to archive, just finds all the way until it was disabled. This led me to believe that perhaps the container was not retrieved by the CO, and if that was the case, then potentially it could still be there.

    The first thing of interest to note when we started searching for it was that whereas all the other caches we had found that day in the woods had been no more than 5 metres from a well maintained path, this one was 50 metres into the wood from the nearest track. Once we got a short distance off the path and into the woods, we then discovered that the going was getting pretty challenging. This was becoming a proper bush whacking exercise.

    About 15 metres from GZ we came across the most massive tree we had seen in the woods all day. A trunk of about 5 to 6 feet across sent the tree soaring way above anything else in the woods. You couldn’t possibly spot this tree from any path though and so I was struck by the desire of the CO, all those years ago to place a cache this deep in the woods. That and the fact that nearly all caches back in the early days were hidden extremely well off the beaten path.

    After battling through the thick trees and undergrowth we finally found GZ and it was everything I had hoped it would be. A large fallen tree took up all the available space in the small patch of cleared ground, a definitive GZ if ever there was one. We got down to searching. After a few minutes it was only Geoff and I searching, and then it was just me. I was reluctant to give up the search, wanting so badly for the container to still be there but I think, in my heart, I knew that it wouldn’t be. Eventually I had to admit it to myself and I concluded what the others had done so about 10 minutes before, that the cache had long gone.

    Before we left, I took a moment to imagine the cache owner placing the cache back here over 13 years ago and I wondered if he realised how big geocaching would become. How in the space of 13 years, his single cache would prompt the placement of so many more in and around Watford. Now there are hundreds and hundreds within a couple of miles radius – almost 20 in these woods alone.

    I did contact the CO when I returned home to see if he remembered archiving the cache. This wasn’t the original person who had placed the cache back in 2002 as the cache had been adopted at some point. I got a reply saying that although he didn’t specifically remember returning to collect the container, he suspect that he probably did as he generally did when archiving caches. So I guess that is the end of it then.

    The last thing I did before we left GZ was to check my iPhone to see how far the next nearest cache was. With a smile I realised it was well over the minimum required by groundspeak, so even if the original cache wasn’t to be found here, there was scope for someone perhaps to place a tribute cache here at some point. Now I wonder who might do that?

    Posted in Finding Geocaches, Geocaching | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

    Scouting About – A PugWash Adventure

    It was way back in March that we last teamed up with our friends Geoff and Melissa (a.k.a. Smokeypugs) for a team PugWash caching adventure and although we had talked a number of times about unfurling the sails and casting off during the interceding months, for one reason or another it just hadn’t worked out. Finally, the planets and our diaries aligned and we agreed to meet in nearby Whippendell woods for some piratey caching fun.
    Scouts Geocaching Activity Badge
    Up until a few months ago the woods had just had a handful of caches dotted in and around it, but then a new series was published by local cachers gigglesandlouby+1 that was based on the elements required to obtain the Chief Scout badge. Considering that both husband and wife, the “giggles” and the “louby” respectively, are scout leaders and that Lees wood scout camp site is slap bang next door to Whippendell woods it is a brilliant idea for a series. Not least of all because you can actually earn a geocaching badge in scouts now and completing this series with your scout troop would take you a good way towards qualifying for it.

    While we waited in the car park for Geoff and Melissa to arrive we took the opportunity to pick up a cache that was just a few metres away, Woodland Wanderer (GC2P421). Smokeypugs had previously found this cache and so we didn’t feel like we were jumping the gun. When I say “we” found a cache, what I meant to say is we sent Sam off to find it. He was happy to do so and trotted off into the bushes, returning a few minutes later with tales of being mega muggled by what appeared to be an entire scout troop on a hike from the nearby camp site.

    Shortly after our friends arrived and human greetings and licks from Smokey the pug dog had been exchanged we headed off into the woods to start the series. Whippendell is a patch of ancient woodland that receives quite a lot of tending and upkeep from the council. The result is a lovely environment that is often very busy and, for my tastes, just a little over maintained at times. The paths are wide and mostly smooth and information boards are dotted around. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great place, but I like my woods a bit more wild and unpopulated.

    Just a couple of hundred metres from the car park and we were at our first cache, 01 Creative (GC5NYAG). Shar and Sam darted off the path searching for a suitable stump where the cache might be. I hung back and after a couple of moments Geoff mumbled that there was a likely looking stump “over there”. I left the path and started heading in the direction I thought he was referring to and after a bit of course correction I was on my way, when Sam swooped in from the flank and nabbed the find. A very nice cache it was too showing evidence of a bit of woodworking skills on the part of the CO, always a nice touch.

    It was almost the same story at 02 Adventure (GC5NNH7), which was further along the path. I located the sideways stump mentioned in the hint using the cunning technique of banging into it with my shins. Sam and Shar were already there at the other end and it appeared they had found the cache. But neither of them wanted to put their hand in and retrieve it so I was to get my chance after all. I stepped up and then laughed mockingly when I discovered the cache barely a few inches inside the hollowed out log. After signing I pushed it back a bit further as a challenge for the next cacher. Muhahahahahahahahaha.

    I further justified my membership of the group by being the one to pluck the tiny nano cache out of its hiding place, an ivy covered tree, at 03 World Challenge (GC5NQE2). Where as many cachers hate these sorts of hides, they are perfect for me as the best way to find them is generally with your fingers rather than your eyes.

    If you were thinking that I hadn’t mentioned Geoff and Melissa much so far in the finding of these caches, that’s because they had previously got the FTF on this last one and the other two they had located in the company of the cache owner whilst on a maintenance run, so they had been stepping back and letting us get on with it. For the next cache, 04 Teamwork (GC5NQEC), though they were back in and it was team PugWash all the way… to the information board, where we would find the numbers required to locate the multi cache. Numbers wasn’t the only thing we found at the board. We also bumped into a couple of newbie geocachers, da51her. Whilst the ladies and Sam collected the numbers, Geoff and I waxed enthusiastically about geocaching and in the space of about 5 minutes filled their heads with far more useful tips than they could possibly remember. It is hard to dial back the enthusiasm sometimes when we meet newbies… I just hope we didn’t weird them out, lol.

    Having collected the required data and worked out the coordinates, we split up. Sam and Geoff went to find a nearby cache, Harrocks Wood Walk 1 (GC58AHK), that was not part of the series, whilst Shar, Melissa and I went in search of the final. By the time we had located GZ, after a couple of false starts into the woods through impassable routes, Geoff and Sam were back with us and even da51her were snapping on our heels.

    Sam photo bombs Sharlene while Mel can be seen in the background

    Photo Bombed

    Further along the path and soon the arrow was pointing into the woods again and so naturally we all barrelled off piste. This turned out to be a big mistake as soon we were tied up in trees with nowhere to go. Returning to the path the arrow now pointed to the other side and so Shar, Sam and I headed that way while Geoff ventured on further down the path to see what the arrow would do next. A couple of minutes and a fruitless search on our part later, Geoff called out that he had found 05 Outdoors (GC5NQEM) and so we trundled on further down the path to a cross paths and then a short way into the woods where we found him grinning next to an ammo can. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of ammo cans we have found in over 1100 finds and so it is always a real treat to pull one out of its hiding place. I took the opportunity to drop of a TB and then acquired 3 more that were in the cache already. Upon returning home I discovered that I had already had one of them before, dropping it off in a Chiltern Hundred cache a few months ago, and now here it was in my hands again. Has that ever happened to you?

    Our next cache, 06 Personal (GC55NQF7), was found by Geoff I think. I am not really sure as I was standing on the path gas bagging and not really paying attention. As I was doing so, our old friends da51her came up and we joked that we must stop meeting this way. As we were caching quite slowly today, taking our time and enjoying the good company and pleasant surroundings, we hung back and let them pass us by.

    As we walked to the next cache we took note of a number that was on a metal tag on a tree as Melissa had cleverly noticed that this was a waypoint for a multi cache that lay further along the path. This saved us having to backtrack a fair way to pick it up once we reach the GZ which was two caches hence. . 07 Skills (GC5NQFD) turned out to be a rather well made cache that had been seated inside a hollowed out log and then a shaped wooden lid had been fitted with magnets to hold it in place covering the hiding place inside. A very classy bit of woodwork and one that urged me to dig out another FP, that was the 3rd one I had awarded on this series so far and it wouldn’t be the last either.

    Sam came into his own at 08 Team Leader (GC5NYBD). Not only spotting the hint item whilst the rest of us was standing twisting round staring into thin air but then getting in amongst the holly to make the final retrieve. This was a clever decoy cache set up that had us searching multiple pine cone caches for the one that actually held the log. Sam really enjoyed this one and so the Favourite points came out again. It is really satisfying to find a collection of fun and ingenious caches all in one series that make the awarding of FPs a no brainer. After so many simple base of tree or magnetic micros it was great to be finding surprising and interesting caches in the woods.

    And so came the multi, 09 Expedition (GC5NY7G). We had one piece of info already and at or near the published coordinates there were two more. One was on a footpath sign and the other an orienteering post. While the others looked for the latter I let my iPhone guide me along the wide main path to the former. I think I caused some concern to a couple of walkers who saw me split off from the group and appear to “wander off blindly” but I was sooner at or close to the sign and just waited until one of the others came and found me, which Geoff did shortly and duly noted the number. It is one thing to locate the footpath sign using the waypoint, but making a note of the number on it still needed eyes. The orienteering post proved a lot harder and after 5 minutes of searching we elected to take advantage of the handy picnic bench nearby and stop for lunch.

    Geoff, Melissa, Sam, Shar and Smokey are pictured posing for a group photo on the path in the woods

    Team PugWash

    After sandwiches, ginger cake and a call to the CO, we were able to locate the orienteering post and retrieve the last number we needed to locate the final. Off we trundled into the centre of the woods and soon were plucking the cache from its hiding spot and signing the log. We had been collecting bonus codes from a number of the caches as we went round and so now we could calculate the final location of the last cache in the series, 10 Chief Scout (GC5NY9P). It was just a short trot away as Geoff had predicted and once at GZ it didn’t take him long to declare that he had uncovered this very clever hide on the side of a tree. There was much celebrating and back slapping and talk of returning to the cars for cake. Team PugWash made it round all the caches in just under 4 hours which qualified us for the honour of a “Gold” award from the CO. It was of course only a virtual “in name only” award, but we happily claimed it anyway.

    Then we went back to the car…. oh wait, no we didn’t. I led the team on one last special pilgrimage which you can read about in my next blog entry, In search of Watford’s first ever cache.

    Back at the car park we met up with the COs for a brief chat and playful beating from their cute son Z. I like the idea of meeting the Cache Owner at the end of doing a series and I think it should happen all the time, then you can tell them how much you enjoyed it or possibly even how rubbish it was. There was none of the latter in this case though and only plenty of admiration and congratulations for an excellent, favourite point stealing, series.

    All that remained was to have a slice of Melissa’s world famous lemon cake and a hearty PugWash farewell and another adventure drew to a close. Happy Days.

    This geocaching adventure took place on Saturday 11th July 2015 and took our total cache count to 1170.

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

    Lizards and Nettles – A GeoDate in Hemel

    On Wednesday Sharlene and I went back to Hemel Hempstead for our weekly-ish GeoDate. The series I chose was called Frank’s Foray and like a number of other ones I can think of, it is named after the cache owner’s “trusty Geohound”. There are 9 trads and a bonus in the series and with a distinct lack of other odds and sods around, just those 10 were to be our target for the day.

    As we pulled into the small lay-by near the trail head it became clear that this spot was popular for dog walkers and other outdoor types alike, as there were already quite a few cars parked there. Thankfully there was just enough space for us to squeeze in. A series always gets a metaphorical box ticked if there is a convenient and safe place to park not too far from the first cache.

    The weather had just been weird lately with a combination of both searing hot and cool rainy days. Whilst it was dry when we set off, it was cloudy and the wind was picking up. This, however is perfect caching weather in our opinion… basically not hot, not wet and not freezing.

    It was nice easy going along a footpath at the side of a horse field for the first couple of caches. At the GZ of Franks Foray – 1. Meet Lionel! (GC5KK05) , we weren’t quite sure what to expect with the description suggesting that there might be some sort of cache guardian. Within a couple of minutes, a squeal from Shar signalled that she had found the eponymous Lionel who turned out to be a rather striking lizard. Unfortunately it appears Lionel has undergone a tracheotomy in order to enable him to hold the cache in his throat but he doesn’t seem too bother by this, or at least lacks the ability to voice his discomfort anymore.

    Shar is holding a fake lizard which has been used to house the cache.

    Meet Lionel

    The 2nd and 3rd caches were fairly unremarkable pots, Franks Foray – 2. Pass the Pony Paddock (GC5N3TM) was in a small patch of woods and Franks Foray – 3. Dally down the Alley (GC5N3TK) wasat the side of a quiet alleyway. Whilst the caches were fairly normal we were starting to collect information for the bonus. Rather than have the numbers inside the cache, the CO has gone for a slightly different approach by making the caches distinct in different ways. Thus the colours of these two containers was the information we needed to collect. This then translated into numbers through the names of the caches. For example the bonus formula may refer to the number of the cache that was blue.

    The alleyway turned into a footpath that led us down a rather steep hill to the GZ of Franks Foray – 4. Stop to fish for bugs (GC5N87G). This one had us scratching our heads for a long time. The hint eluded to something to do with fishing and so I started searching for poles in the vicinity. I found three large wooden telegraph poles and spent about 15 minutes scouring every inch of them for something resembling a cache but found nothing. Eventually Shar made the find a short distance away on the other side of a kissing gate. There was a rotting pole hidden within the trees and once we found it, it was clear that the cache needed to be fished out. thankfully it was on a line to allow for easy extraction, but this had broken so we had to fish it out another way. Finally we got it out and I even tried to reattach it to the line when we had signed it. The one good thing about us taking quite a while to find this one was that there had been a rain shower while we were searching under the cover of the trees, so we had, thankfully, stayed dry.

    We followed a path that skirted along the edge of a wooded area to our right and a field to our left to get to Franks Foray – 5. Look under a rock (GC5N87F) which was a nice straightforward container under a rock at the side of the path. From here we had a slightly weird route, carrying on and then cutting up the side of a crop field, where there was only the merest evidence of an actual path, to get to the GZ of Franks Foray – 6. Climb a tree (GC5n88X). A small amount of tree climbing was needed here to retrieve the cache although it really was just a case of stepping up into the bowl of the tree but at least it was something out of the ordinary.

    a horse

    A horse… just because

    The next cache was quite some distance away and there really looked to be no paths to get to it, not on the map, or on the ground. We were at the side of a large crop field and the cache lay beyond it and on the other side of a road. We could see on the map that a footpath led to the road but it was on the other side of the field. There was no other option than to walk the long way around the edge of the field which was hard going at times as the crops had been planted almost up to the hedgerow in places. It felt rather uncomfortable at times, like we were trespassing. Upon reading logs later it appears there may be a path through the field but it is totally unmarked and is only really visible during the winter months when the crop is not growing. We speed walked round the field, keen to get back onto proper paths as soon as we could. Eventually we did pick up the path again although it still felt a bit weird as it led between houses and onto a gravel driveway leading to the main road and we still felt like we were trespassing a bit. We finally made it to the road and to the GZ of Franks Foray – 7. Investigate the Ivy (GC5KT45). This was a nice quick find for me, a rather neat container affixed to the metal work of a gate by a magnet inside the container.

    We were making very good time as we walked towards Franks Foray – 8. Follow the tree line (GC5MRJH), but this is where it all got a bit difficult. The path led away from the road and again around and in between farm fields. The main path from 7 to 9 was clearly marked and easy to follow. 8 seemed to veer off to the side a little and looked as if you could only reach it by trekking down the side of a field before backtracking to continue on to 9.

    We stood for a while trying to work out which side of the treeline we should walk as it looked like the cache might be accessible from either. As well as a tree line separating the fields, there was a barbed wire fence so we thought we should choose carefully. In the end we elected to go to the left side as this look more like a well-trodden path. For about 150 metres all went well, the path was a little uneven and difficult to walk but basically it was no problem.

    Then we hit a wall of stinging nettles barring the path completely. There was no way through at all and the cache was still about 120 metres away. We backtracked a little and then entered the treeline to see if we could pass to the other side to continue our journey but were greeted by the barbed wire fence. It rained for a while as we stood under the cover of the trees and looked across into the field of rapeseed. There were nettles alongside that field too but it looked like there could be a enough space to squeeze between nettles and rapeseed to get to GZ which was only 120 metres away after all.

    We talked for a bit and I said we could just go back, it wasn’t that important. I wanted to go on, of course, but I am well aware of pushing Sharlene to far is a bad idea and will have future ramifications for caching trips so I suggested we head back. Far from turning tail, Sharlene started eyeing the barbed wire fencing and exploring strategies for crossing it.

    With a little bit of creativity involving a groundsheet that I always carry in my bag and feeling a bit like we were escaping from Colditz we made it over the fence and into the field just as the rain stopped. This surely was a good sign. We started to make our way along the edge of the field but there wasn’t as much space as we had thought and soon we were brushing heavily past the rapeseed on our right and the nettles on our left. Remember I told you it had just rained? Well soon all that wetness that had landed on the crops was transferred into our clothes. After about 50 metres we were soaked to the skin and had a few scratches and stings into the bargain. We stopped to regroup an again consider going back, but we were now less than 60 metres from GZ.

    Paul stands admist the nettles

    I was soaked, scratched and stung… none of which is visible from this photo!

    We pushed on and after more wetness and scratches we arrived at GZ where the cache was clearly visible… on the other side of the barbed wire fence. With Sharlene’s help I was able to step over the fence onto a log narrowly avoiding performing a an impromptu self-circumcision and soon I had the container in hand. At least after all this effort it turned out to be a nice regular sized box packed with swaps. We signed the log and caught our breath for a bit asking ourselves why on earth we put ourselves through this sort of thing. I was all too aware that the little notebook in my hand was exactly the reason and was more convinced than ever that it wasn’t only me that is guilty of getting that blinkered determination to find each and every cache in a series, no matter what. I admired Sharlene’s determination on that little adventure and I said as much to her as we were dragging ourselves back through the field and over the barbed wire fence on the return trip to the land of normal paths.

    The last cache in the series, Franks Foray – 9. Lean on the farmer’s gate (GC5MRJR), was found after a short walk up a steep hill between the fields. We made the find pretty quickly and then retreated to the shelter of a nearby tree as another shower came down. Alas the tree wasn’t that helpful and the rain dripped from our bodies which to be fair were already pretty wet because of the recent field trip, as we worked out the coordinates for the bonus. It turned out to be not on the way between number 9 and number 1 as I would have thought but about 2 kilometres back the way we had already walked. We were stunned and couldn’t believe we had got the right coordinates, so we checked them again, but it was plain to see that they were right. Neither of us wanted to retrace our steps that far, only to have to then walk about 3k back to the car so we headed back to the car scratching our heads and wondering why on earth a CO would put the bonus cache in the middle of a series where there is no chance of calculating the final coordinates until you have found all the caches.

    Aside from the rather dodgy bonus coordinates, the unconventional field trip and a bit of uncomfortable routing, we actually had a pretty good time on this cache series. I don’t want to take the credit away from the CO who has put a lot of effort into the containers and the hides. It is a good series, but with just a tweak or two it could be a great series. We still haven’t been back for the bonus, but even so, 9 finds, no DNFs and an enjoyable and adventurous day out in the country is reward enough. Happy days.

    This geocaching adventure took place on Wednesday 8th July 2015 and took our total cache count to 1158.

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

    Playing with planets and getting scorched by the Sun

    With Sam being away for 4 nights on a school trip to Devon there was grand plans to do some serious caching this week. However, after checking the weather forecast, it was looking unlikely that we would be picking up hordes of smilies. I expect you think it was the dreaded wet stuff that was causing problems, but in fact it was the opposite. Temperatures in the UK soared into the 30s this week and that was just the air temperature. On Tuesday temperatures in excess of 41 were recorded on centre court at Wimbledon, although to be fair I don’t think there is a cache there, not even a nano on the net. Within reason, I enjoy a nice warm sunny day but it isn’t very conducive to hiking for miles and rummaging around in seas of nettles for too long. Shar, despite originally coming from New Zealand, hates the hot weather. Anything over low 20s and it is all a bit too much.

    That being said, Monday still looked like our best bet with it being partially cloudy and temperatures in the mid-20s so we decided to head out and get some in before god turned up the thermostat. I have had my eye on an old series based on the planets of the solar system for some time now and this seemed like as good a time as any to crack on with it. Even though there are only 10 caches in the whole series, in the years since they were place the area around has become peppered with other cache hides so I was able to plan for two days out with 20 caches on the first day and 15 on the second. Tring, close to the border of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire is the setting for the caches and it is just the sort of terrain we enjoy. Small villages connected by well-maintained footpaths through fields and woodland. Everything looked good for an enjoyable days caching.

    We parked at The Full Moon pub, visions of werewolves and locals advising us to “stay on the paths” running through my head, and set off, and immediately got disorientated by the myriad of footpaths running this way and that. Enjoying being under the cover of trees and bushes we meandered along the paths until we arrived at the GZ of our first hide, Commons Big Picnic – The Middleway (GC5VXET). Far from being an old cache, this one had only been out a couple of weeks and aside from the triplet of FTFers who all met at the GZ to claimed a shared first to find, no one else had been out to find the cache yet. We fought our way into the undergrowth and quickly ruled out all the likely places matching the clue. After reading the logs of the FTFers we discovered that the tree cover gave some varying coordinates of GZ and so we punched in a set of coords provided by one of the cachers as a possibly more accurate alternative. These new coordinates turned out to be right on the money and as soon as the arrow had led us to GZ, we spotted a likely hiding place and soon had the cache in hand. It was a letterbox hybrid cache, although we have not yet acquired an ink stamp for ourselves so were happy just to log it as a geocache.

    Shar stands on a woodland path.

    Cool in the woods

    As we made our way to the next cache, the cover of the trees thinned and eventually we found ourselves on a quiet lane at a gate which was the GZ of Cholesbury – Green Gates (GC3349K). We made a quick find of the super strong magnetic cache and headed off up the paved lane / foot path towards our next two caches. Both of these were straightforward CaptainJack caches, Cholesbury – Pole (GC3349C) in a tree next to a telegraph pole, and Cholesbury – Stoned (GC32Z2P) underneath a large stone just a short way off the path. We were out in the open now and the sun was more often out than behind the clouds and so it was getting quite warm as we trekked along. One of these caches introduced me to the other problem at this time of year which is nettles. Around May time in the UK when the weather starts to get warm but we still have quite a few rain showers, the vegetation starts to go nuts. During the months of May, June and July England goes green an prickly. Nettles, bracken, and other assorted thorny plants explode out of the ground to cover the GZ of every cache in rural areas. The problem is made worse by the fact that it is now to warm to wear long sleeved tops and so I invariably get stung to buggery on our summer caching adventures.

    Our next cache was actually our first in the series that we had primarily come to do. Universally Challenged 2 Pluto (GCNA5R) was placed at the side of the road, hidden in the hedgerow… allegedly. As you can probably guess, we didn’t find it. The hedgerow was protected by a verge of ferns and stingers about 3 feet deep and 4 feet high. Once beyond those, the hedgerow was laced with thorns and stingers. Despite this we spent over 30 minutes trying to find the cache. After this time and with my arms burning with nettles stings we reluctantly decided to give up. My approach with nettles is to worry about them later. With my lack of sight there is little or no chance of me picking my way carefully through them, so I just wade in as normal and get on with it. I get stung a lot but this generally doesn’t bother me, until later when we get home and I take a shower and it all starts hurting. Oh well, what’s the alternative, sit on the side of the road and whine about it? Not my style.

    We moved on, now rather dejected at not being able to find one of the series caches, as this would make it difficult for us to eventually find the bonus. Add to this nettle stings for both of us and an ever increasing temperature and we weren’t the happiest of cachers as we walked further along the lane to look for our next cache, Summer Grazing (GC51PCN). Thankfully this one we did find and seeing as it was well past 1pm now we elected to find somewhere to plot up for lunch.

    I could see that Sharlene wasn’t really enjoying her caching day, mainly because of the heat and so I suggested that we could cut the day short after lunch by taking a slightly different route. This would miss out more than half of the planned 20 caches but there was little point in slogging on if she wasn’t enjoying it. She explained that cutting it short would make her feel guilty. There followed a brief discussion and explanation that if she wasn’t enjoying herself then I’m not enjoying myself. Dear reader, do you think I am a heartless and uncaring man who would force the woman he loves to continue on for a further 10k and 11 caches merely because I wanted to? Oi, who said yes? I would, of course, not do that. I blame her Catholic school upbringing… you just can’t reverse that indoctrinated guilt once it takes hold can you?

    A new route was formed and we packed up lunch and headed for the first of the 6 caches that remained on our to do list. Ironically conditions were vastly improved as the next few hides were in the woods and the thick tree cover offered excellent protection from the sun’s rays. We initially struggled to find Gallifrey (GC2W9JV), but again after reading some logs we noted a new set of coords which led us right to an excellent cache that was hidden deep in the roots of an upturned trunked. I like the humour of the cache owner, who stated that he had placed the cache here and named it thus as it fell on the route of the Universally Challenged series and would therefore sit comfortably next to all the other planets.

    Paul stands in the woods.

    Caching on Gallifrey

    A quick find was made of Cholesbury – Log it (GC344MW) after a bit of back tracking in the woods. It was a fairly standard captain jack cache found easily inside half a rotting log. We were enjoying ourselves again, what with the cooler temperatures and the lower levels of nettles in the woods. This was short lived however after we had to DNF our next cache, Cholesbury – Post a Field Note 11 (GC344MH), which was meant to be hiding somewhere around or in a post. We found a number of wooden posts at GZ the site of a stile on the edge of the woods, but no cache despite thorough searching and fights with the holly that grew all around the area.

    The woods stretched all the way to a nearby road where we found another super magnetic cache, Cholesbury – Roundhill Gate (GC344M2), before turning and heading in the direction of the car. Thankfully, the road was quiet, shaded by overhanging trees and, for the most part, provided us a nice wide verge to walk along. When we reached the end of the road we picked up one last CaptainJack cache, Cholesbury – Bushy (GC344N8), which I found quite quickly wedged in the crook of a tree surrounded by bushes at the side of the road. It was a good sized regular plastic box which is unusual for CaptainJack as most of his hides are micros or smalls at best. We even found a TB inside attached to a toy car and for a brief moment we thought it was actually one that belonged to Sam. On returning home I discovered it wasn’t Sam’s and had in fact been released at the end of 2014 from Puerto Rico. Unfortunately it hadn’t been logged into the cache by whoever moved it there yet so as yet I can’t really log it. I could of course do a “grab it from somewhere else” log, but this would mean that the mileage from where it was last picked up would be wiped off. I generally wait a couple of weeks or so to see if the person who dropped it off will log it. If I hear nothing, I will go ahead and grab it then.

    We were now just a couple of km from the car with just one more cache to try on the way. Universally Challenged 1 – Jupiter (GCNA5Q) proved a nonstarter though as we just couldn’t work out how to get closer than 40 metres to GZ. I suspect we approached the cache from the wrong direction and neither of us fancied backtracking or continuing on to see if we could find a way to the GZ. We cut our losses and headed for the car having racked up 9 smilies and about 30 nettles stings.

    Whilst it wasn’t the massive caching adventure that I had envisaged when planning it, it was still an enjoyable day out in the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside with my best girlie by my side and a double sized wedge of ginger cake in my lunchbox. Happy Days.

    This caching adventure took place on Monday 29th June 2015 and took our total cache count to 1149.

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