In which we embark on another Pugwash adventure to Aylesbury, have two arguments, meet a tree wearing knitwear and fall over (again).
Our monthly geocaching outings with our friends Geoff and Melissa which have become known, through the combining of our caching names, as our PugWash Adventures , took a brief hiatus in January as they were having car trouble. It wasn’t until almost the end of February that a new cachemobile was in place, and all the planets and diaries aligned and we were able to head out, once more, into the great outdoors in search of excitement, danger and Tupperware. The plan was to continue with our ongoing project of completing the Aylesbury Ring, this time taking on the Pochard section that runs from Wendover to Kimble Wick. This is quite a long stretch and so we agreed to set out to do just over half of it and then assess whether we had the stamina to continue on or whether we would leave the remainder for another time. As is the case with all of the sections of the Aylesbury ring they are linear and need to be tackled either by employing a “there and back” approach or by using more than one car. Having two cars the plan was to meet at Great Kimble which was in between number 13 and 14 on the 22 cache section and then leave one car there and travel to Wendover to begin our walk.
As we left Watford, the rain started and didn’t let up until we got about 10 minutes from Great Kimble whereupon the clouds thinned out allowing a weak sunshine to break through. After meeting and greeting team Smokeypugs, we all piled into our car and drove to Wendover. Our parking spot was familiar to us as we had been there on a previous PugWash adventure. Wendover is not only the start of the Pochard section but also the end of the Mandarin leg, and this we had tackled back in November (see Zen and the Art of Canal Walking). The Pochard section doesn’t actually start until the other side of Wendover, about a kilometre or so from where we parked but we had some unfinished business with Mandarin first. On our last visit we had failed to find the penultimate cache, AR23 Mandarin – Through the Keyhole (GC4Q7NZ), but a subsequent found it log from our friend Bones1 made us determined to grab it this time no matter how long it took. It took precisely 20 seconds from the time we arrived at GZ for Sharlene to spot and retrieve the container which left us all scratching our heads as to why we couldn’t find it the last time we were here. We can only assume that we were all tired and probably hungry and just wanted to go home by that stage.
Delighted to have made such a good start we then headed back along the canal tow path to near where the car was parked to start the last cache in the Mandarin section, AR24 Mandarin – Roger of Wendover the Early Years (GC4Q7QF), which was a multi that took us on a walk around the small town of Wendover. We did not attempt this one last time because, quite frankly, we were all knackered and couldn’t be arsed. This time, however we were all raring to go and quickly collected the first couple of bits of information we needed before Shar and I decided to have an argument about what we were supposed to do with them. Sharlene maintains that my instructions to her were far from clear but seeing as this is my blog, I was totally in the right and she was in the wrong. It didn’t matter thankfully as Geoff and Melissa were also recording the information so Shar and I could concentrate on giving each other the silent treatment for the next 10 minutes as we continued to go in search of the rest of the clues. Sharlene complains that if we are walking together and we have an argument that she feels she can’t walk away to calm down because that might leave me in a vulnerable situation. This time however, she was able to ask Sam to guide me so that she wouldn’t have to hold my hand for the duration of the mutual snubbing.
After collecting the next couple of clues which were in the centre of the town near a very striking clock tower we paused to find, Where’s Halton? (GC45KNR), which was a straight forward magnetic container on the back of a sign that stood right next to the clock tower. As we spotted the hide we were annoyed to find a muggle standing right next to it having a loud phone conversation. We hung around for a bit and then as he wandered round the corner we moved in like a shot. A moment later, the muggle turned round to return to his spot, still on the phone, and was shocked to find 5 people and a dog standing there. It was on the walk to the next couple of clues for the multi that Sharlene and I made up, just in case you were worried. Wendover is a pleasant enough place but we were all keen to get away from the Saturday morning shoppers and traffic noise and get out into the open countryside. Not least of all, Smokey was straining at the lead and desperate to run free. As we collected the last piece of information from a notice board outside the library a local woman came over and, showing interest in what we were doing, proceeded to recite, almost verbatim, the information from the board. To what end, I am not sure. We calculated the final coords and after a short walk through a housing estate and into a park, we arrived at GZ. Sam and I got down to search the roots of a large tree, him using his new Super Stick Mark II, which he had been given by his granddad in Norfolk the week before, to poke around in the hollows. After a moment or so, I discovered the fake rock nestling in amongst the gnarly roots and the Mandarin section of the Aylesbury ring was done.
Sam with Super Stick MKII
Well actually that isn’t quite true, it was complete for team Smokeypugs, but Sam, Shar and I still needed to find numbers 1 to 10 at some point, but that could wait for another day. We were happy now to be heading back through Wendover to where the Pochard section started. As we passed through we met the same woman who had talked to us before and she greeted us with a cheery, “Still here are you?” Difficult to know how to answer that one really.
A short walk through the town and over a bridge that crossed a busy A road and we were at the beginning of a footpath at would take us to our first cache on the Pochard section. The general hubbub of the town was gone but we still had the road noise to contend with. However as we began walking along the path and into a small wooded area, that faded too and it was finally quiet. AR01 Pochard – The Start
(GC4PNCF) was a quick and easy find for young Sam who had the cache in hand, retrieved from a tree at the side of the path, even before Shar and I had arrived at GZ. Shar, Sam and Geoff were in charge of navigating, Geoff was also responsible for recording bonus numbers and Smokey was in charge of peeing on things. Me? I was taking it easy this time. I had decided not to navigate to the caches but instead to concentrate on making notes for this blog and taking pictures and generally enjoying myself. The first two I did with a reasonable amount of success, mostly, and the last I did splendidly. As we walked towards the next cache we saw a cold tree. Or at least I assume it was. Either that or it had an over protective mother who never let it go out without a scarf, regardless of the weather.
“Wrap up dear… keep your bark warm”
Speaking of the weather, at this stage it was ok. The clouds had thickened and darkened a little but it was still dry although the wind was rather sharp. As we continued on towards the next cache I discovered that the backpack containing the lunch that Shar was wearing, was almost luminous, and that in the shade of the trees it was providing an excellent contrast against the surrounding vegetation and acting as a great beacon for me to be able to follow the rest of the group. This was an interesting discovery and one that we hadn’t made up until now as I generally carried the lunch, and not in this particular bag. It meant that as long as we were in the woods I would be able to follow Shar with considerably more ease than I normally do. As it turned out, this was the only patch of trees we would encounter for the whole day, the rest of the walk being through open fields and exposed footpaths. Ah well, never mind.
Mel made the find at AR02 Pochard – Cricket Pitch (GC4PNCN) which was a relief as when we initially arrived at the end of the wooded path onto the edge of a massive open field, it looked as if GZ had been cleared right back and we feared the cache might have gone. The wind was bitter as it blew through us at GZ and it only got worse as we headed across the field towards the next cache. The field was muddy, not overly wet mud, but sticky, very sticky. The field was probably about 600 metres and within the first 50 or so, layers of sticky mud were starting to build up around the soles and sides of our boots. Within another 50 metres our shoes seemed to have grown about 4 sizes and the weight of them doubled. It was hard going as we stomped through the field and then it started to rain. By the time we reach the fence at the other side, leg muscles were burning, clothing was damp from the mizzly (cross between drizzly and misty) rain and we all looked like we had mud slippers on. After a few minutes spent “de-clagging” our shoes we found AR03 Pochard – Spike (GC4PNCP) on the far side of the stile that was now covered in our scraped off mud.
Another field lay beyond the stile but thankfully this one wasn’t quite as bad or as big as the first one but the mizzle kept on and there was a few grumbles from the group about this not being as enjoyable as it could be. After Shar plucked AR04 Pochard – Wellwick Farm (GC4PNCY) from its hiding place next to a rather nasty looking rusty fence spike, we stopped and tried to work out the route the footpath took to the next cache which was quite a distance away. While we were standing there a group of walkers came behind us and we exchanged pleasantries with them. We wondered if they knew which way the path went and they said that they had been planning on following us. After a few moments Geoff and Shar worked out the route which was to turn right and follow the fence line to a lane which would take us through some farm buildings to where the footpath would be found, but the other party decided that this was not the route and turned left instead. Well, we got it right and we never saw them again so perhaps they are still lost in that field. The mizzle eased up and the sun broke through the clouds as we made our way along the lane and through the horse related farm buildings as Geoff and Shar reminisced about Hay bale fortresses from their youth. Once beyond the buildings and back on the footpath we decided that this was as good a time as any for a spot of lunch and so broke out the sandwiches whilst we sat at the side of the path. Whilst we had only found 4 caches on the Pochard section so far the terrain was pretty challenging and we were all grateful of the rest and food to refuel our bodies.
After lunch we continued on and found AR05 Pochard – Bushy (GC4PND2) although I couldn’t tell you a thing about it. I can’t even remember where it was, or how we got there. I remember eating lunch and I definitely remember the cache after this one for reasons that will become clear, but have no recollection of this cache, or who found it at all. I assume it was in a bush but only because of its name.
I remember the next one well because after we had walked across a field we met a couple of muggles with a Dalmatian dog at the next stile. We all climbed over, one at a time and then, with an audience, I slipped over and fell on my arse in the mud. Perfect. If you are going to fall over, why not make sure that there are some strangers there to enjoy the show. The only thing missing was a vendor selling popcorn and soft drinks. The cache, AR06 Pochard – Chalkshire
(GC4PNDA), was to the side of the path and the finding and signing was done whilst I was distracting the muggles with my acrobatics.
The walk to AR07 Pochard – Eeeh VIL (GC4PNDN) was very muddy again and there was another communal boot scraping session held once we had reached the stile at the other side. Buckinghamshire need to get their act together and replace all these bloody stiles with kissing gates, it is a right pain having to clamber over them. After boot scraping and a brief pause for some photos, oh and the finding and signing of the cache, it was onwards towards AR08 Pochard – Posted (GC4PNEF) which I think Sam found in the top of a post. The group was starting to show signs of fatigue at this stage and it was clear that people were not going to be up for doing more than the first planned section as there were still half a dozen caches left to do and feet were starting to ache.
Next our route took us across a road and onto another footpath that was narrow and flanked on both sides by wooden fences. There was only enough space to walk single file and barely a foot of even ground to walk along. It was hard going and it wasn’t just me that almost lost balance a couple of times. Thankfully the fencing didn’t last too long and it ended pretty much right at the GZ of AR09 Pochard – Home Close Farm (GC4PNEK) where someone, I forget who, made a quick find.
Geoff and Melissa had already found AR10 Pochard – The Springs (GC4PNEW), in fact they had logged the FTF on it when the cache had been published. When we arrived at GZ after a much more comfortable walk, they stood back and Sam was the one that located the cache on the Ivy covered Posts. From here we continued on and after a while Geoff mentioned that if we wanted to grab an extra Church Micro we could take a detour using a footpath to the left. As we approached the turn we all looked at the wickedly steep hill that the footpath ascended and, as one, declared that perhaps we would leave it for another time. We were all starting to flag now, but we could see the end in our sights and didn’t want to push our luck. It was a straight walk along a relatively easy footpath to pick up AR11 Pochard – Ellesborough (GC4PNEX) and AR12 Pochard – Back of the houses (GC4PNF6). The former was easily found at a kissing gate and the latter underneath a triangular rock at a point where the footpath met a road. A previous log had stated that the cache was not hidden where the hint suggested but it turned out to be exactly where the hint said it would be so we were left scratching our heads a little.
We were on the last stretch now, the car lay less than a kilometre away and the walking would be easier in that it was along pavements. On our way to the next Pochard cache we walked right past Church Micro 1996…Little Kimble (GC4MMPT) and so we took a detour onto the church grounds to find the info needed for this simple multi. Mel and Sharlene slumped in the doorway of the church and said they would wait there while someone else gathered the info. Geoff, Sam and I proved that the men were up to the job and made our way round to the back of the church where we found a very handy bench right opposite the monument containing the info we needed. We jotted down the numbers and then sat for a short while and enjoyed a bit of peaceful and relaxing woman-free time. All good things must come to an end though, and so collecting the girls on our way back round, we headed out of the churchyard and across the road to the final location. We made a quick find of a decent sized container hidden in a lovely crack in a large tree. We signed the log and grabbed out a TB that was in there and then set off in search of the next cache.
Just when you think you are on the final easy path, someone throws a massive big hill in your way. It was exactly what we could have done without, tromping up a steep hill next to a busy road, but it had to be done. As we approached the top we made a quick find of AR13 Pochard – Great Kimble (GC4PNFB), which also gave us a chance to catch our breath before finishing off the rest of the hill and covering the short distance back to the car.
But we weren’t quite done yet. We had parked right next to another church and wouldn’t you know it, there was a cache at this one too. Church Micro 1970…Great Kimble (GC4MMW5) was another multi and so with a yearning glance towards the car we trudged off into the churchyard to collect the numbers. As if to remind us of how far we had come today Geoff and Melissa honoured the memory of the argument Shar and I had at the beginning of the day by having one of their own about what to do with the numbers for the multi. Shar and I shared an ironic giggle as the final coordinates were being calculated. But these weren’t quite the final coords. This multi was a little different. The coordinates we had, took us back past the car and down a lane a short way where we found a container which held within it the formula needed to calculate the final final coords. My brain was getting a bit fried at this stage but thankfully Geoff was on to it enough to stay with the plot and soon we had final final coordinates in hand and, more usefully, loaded into phones. And so you would think we would head to get it yes? Nope. There was a discussion about doing one more on the Pochard leg as this would benefit us greatly when next we decided to tackle the remainder of the section. Despite everyone feeling tired and really wanting to get boots off and relax, we all agreed it made sense to grab it and so off we went down the hill. It was a quiet country lane that had a small school on one side of it. As we walked, we noted that the children had been busy creating custom “SLOW” signs to warn the motorists about their speed. It got me to thinking as to what other art and craft related activities they could have turned to road safety. I suggested to the group that perhaps the kids could have made speed bumps out of papier-mâché but this was met with little enthusiasm and it was a couple of minutes later that I realised the flaw in my plan, especially being in a country that experiences so much rain. The lane continued down to a point where a footpath ran down the side of a railway line and this is where we went in search of AR14 Pochard – Off the rails (GC4PNFQ). A couple of hundred metres along the path Geoff made the find and then it was back up towards the car. Sam pointed out to me that on this particular train line there was a footpath that actually led across the track. Not on a footbridge but just a point where there had been boarding placed in-between the tracks allowing people to walk across. This was a proper official crossing point. I had never seen anything like this before. It might be just because I grew up in Suburban London and that this sort of thing is common place in more rural locations but it astounded me that you could just walk across the tracks.
On our way back up the hill to the car, we branched off down another footpath that would take us to the final final of the Church Micro. It is a shame we were all so knackered as this would have been a great place to take our time and enjoy the walk. The route took us past chickens and Geese and along the banks of a body of water. It was quiet and picturesque but all we wanted to do was find this last cache and get back to the car. Of all the caches of the day, this had to be the hardest to find. In the end Geoff contacted a previous finder for a PAF and then found the cache in a place he had already looked… in fact we had all looked there.
After that it was back to Geoff’s car and then a short drive to Wendover where we had left ours. It was such a good feeling to finally get my boots off and slurp a cup of hot chocolate at the roadside before heading home. I reckoned we walked about 8km which doesn’t sound like much but with the extra challenge of the muddy fields and a few hills thrown in it was enough to have muscles aching by the end of the day and indeed on the next day too. But when you find 19 caches with no DNFs, it is a satisfying and contented ache. Happy Days.
This geocache adventure took place on Saturday February 28th 2015 and took our cache count up to 986.