The First Annual (hopefully) UK Geocaching Awards

It’s gonna be like the Oscars but hopefully with more integrity and a lot more fun. The hosts of the Geolympix 2016 Mega which is going to be held not to far from us are holding the first, but hopefully not last, UK Geocaching Awards. And what’s more, we get to decide who wins the coverted “Golden Smilies”. This could be a whole lot of fun I think and I have been keenly awaiting the announcement of the award categories for some time now. It all looks very extensive although I was slightly dismayed to find that bloggers get lumped in with every other form of social media including vloggers and FB groups. This sucks as There are so many cool UK geocaching blogs that I think they deserve their own award and not just an “catch all” category.

I better get my thinking cap on though as there are a lot of categories. If you are intested in knowing more and taking part then head over to the Geolympix web site or check out the Geocaching Awards Facebook group where full details can be found. (Note at time of writing this, the latter was more up to date than the former)

And here are the award categories…
1) Best Cache (must have been live at the end 2015.
2) Best New Cache (as above, but published in 2015.)
3) Best Cache Listing (most beautiful, clever, funny, helpful or educational cache page.)
4) Best Night Cache (specifically designed to be done at night.)
5) Best Non-Physical Cache (includes Virtuals, Webcams and Earthcaches, excludes Events)
6) Best Event (includes all British and Irish Megas, CITOs & regular events – inc flashmobs)
7) The Gone But Not Forgotten Award for Best Archived Cache (can only be won by a cache once. Must have been archived in 2015 or before.)
8) Most Extreme Cache (can only be won by a cache once)

Cache Series:
9) Best Individual Series (could be ring/s, power trail, cluster or just a collection of caches on a theme, owned by one cacher or caching account or a small number in a ‘geographically discrete series’ such as a multi-owner ring.)
10) Best National Series (themed caches – often numbered – set by multiple hiders across a wide –national- area.)

11) Most Helpful Landowner/Organisation (who’s been a great support to British and Irish caching?)
12) Most Helpful Reviewer (They give a lot of time and effort to make caching in Britain and Ireland possible, but who’s gone above and beyond the call of duty?)
13) Best Supplier of Caching Goods (must be based in Britain or Ireland)
14) Best Caching Social-Mediaist (includes British/Irish geocaching blogs, vlogs, podcasts, twitter accounts, YouTube channels, Facebook groups/pages)
15) Best Caching Resource (could be international, includes stats websites, books, magazines, hints ‘n’ tips sites, vlogs, podcasts etc)

16) Best Online Cache Log (funniest, most inspiring, or pack of lies. DNF, Found, Notes- all log types included)
17) Best Log Photo (must relate to the cache it’s added to. Includes Webcam log pics.)
18) Funniest Cache Name (can only be won by a cache once)
19) Most Memorable Trackable (owned by a British or Irish cacher. Can be memorable for being an interesting item, having a cool mission, etc etc.)
20) Best New Coin (released in 2015)

21) Geocacher/s of the Year (could be the most dedicated cache owner, keenest cache maintainer, most inspiring or creative cache owner, most helpful event host, most committed -or should be- cacher who went the extra mile and more… Basically this could be called ‘Services to Geocaching’)
22) Newbie of the Year (must have begun caching in 2015)
23) Young Cacher of the Year (Junior cacher who’s added something to the game. Must have been under 18 at some point in 2015. So born after 1/1/1998)
24) Achievement Award (either a Lifetime Achievement award, or for someone who’s Overcome Adversity in the pursuit of Tupperware. Basically, an impressive, inspirational cacher.)

We are planning to attend the awards ceremony at the event, I think it could be quite a giggle.

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Showcasing the GeoBlogosphere #5

It’s a new year and a new day… and all that. And yes there have been a few new geocaching blogs pop onto the scene. I tend to wait a few months to see if the blogger continues in the same enthusiastic vein as they started before adding it to my list of geocaching blogs. That being said, there has been no shortage of great geocaching related blog articles publish in January. Here is just a few of the ones that caught my eye.

Geo-Mumma Kel on Groundspeak guidelines
If you have placed more than a couple of caches, chances are you may have been tripped up by the Groundspeak guidelines once in a while. In this eloquently written article, Kel tells of her recent observations in respect of placing caches that reference pop culture and/or commercial content. As I was reading this I found myself nodding and agreeing many times with her comments on the lack of consistency when it comes to the implementation of the guidelines and at the same time giggling on the humourous and light hearted nature of the article.

ultimate geocacher list
Ever considered what the ultimate list of geocaching must dos is/? Well here is one version from the Memfis Mafia Blog. How many of them would make it to your To Do list?

Griff Grof toys with caches in South Gloucestershire
It is always nice to see a blog come back to life after a break and I was delighted to see a couple of new articles pop onto Griff Grof’s site recently. In this article he tells of a recent outing to tackle a muddy Toy Story series.

Nuclear Search and Rescue with Mr and Mrs HG137
The Sandhurst geocachers tell of a recent outing to claim their 1300th cache and how they met up with a search and rescue dog while in search of a nuclear bunker. This article caught my eye as I am fascinated by the left over relics from the threat of nuclear war an if only I could summon the courage would visit a nearby cache in a bunker myself… but for the moment I will stick to reading blogs :)

>Get out into the Snowpocolypse
You would have to have been living under a rock not to be aware of the epic snow storms that swept across the US recently. I must have been nestling slightly under the rock though as I wasn’t aware that it was being referred to as Snowpocolypse, a name that despite its potentially dangerous conatations, nevertheless made me giggle. Not being one to be kept down, Mrbream tells of how he ventured out with his girls to find some smilies.

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2015 Geocaching Review

Blimey O’riely, its two weeks into 2016 and I haven’t even written my review of 2015, let alone geocaching goals for this year. Better get on with it then, huh?

Some numbers first. We found a total of 504 caches last year, a surprisingly similar number to the year before which was 479. Those figures are nice but not sure what they mean to me if anything. I mean I am glad that we found quite a few caches but only because this meant we were out having a lot of adventures. I don’t really want / need the number to be higher or lower, it just is what it is. If I was that anal about numbers I would have held back to finish the year on exactly 500… and I didn’t. *twitch*

We past a pretty big milestone this year finding our 1000th geocache and yet again I was reminded how difficult it is sometimes to plan your milestones and make them work. As it was it turned out to be an event which was really nice as it reminds me of all the friends we have made along the way (See πevents³ = 1000). Like a drug dealer getting you hooked, Groundspeak throw milestones at you thick and fast when your numbers are low but when you hit 4 digits, man do they ever leave you twisting in the wind. You have to work bloody hard for your next milestone, which is at 2000!

We cached further from home than we have before this year. Although we only added just a couple of miles with our New Year’s Eve find in Sheringham, Norfolk which is 112 miles from home (See Steam and Supple Wine – New Year in Norfolk). It’s not exactly far is it? That is now our furthest cache East too.

Numbers, snumbers, what about the adventures. Well we set out the year with a couple of goals and I think we did pretty well in achieving them. We started, found, maintained and completed the Chiltern hundred series which gave us many laughs, sore muscles, muddy clothes and the odd tear or two during the 5 months it took. I feel really proud of our achievement, we cut no corners on this series and I now get pleasure at reading logs from those thanking us for our maintenance work keeping this historic series alive. The cache owner was very grateful too. (Check out our Chiltern Hundred Adventures)

Another goal was to complete the epic cache that is Your Mission and we finally managed it in October. And when it was finally finished, I was sad that there was no more of the adventure to complete. When you save the world from an anti-matter bomb, life afterwards seems like a bit of an anti-climax. This must be how James Bond feels! Seriously, I cannot recommend this cache highly enough, as long as you have the patience and dogged determination to rise to the challenge. (See our efforts to save the world by undertaking Your Mission)

There were a good smattering of PugWash adventures with our friends Geoff and Melissa in 2015. These days out are always entertaining and provide me with excellent memories, not to mention stories for my blog. I really hope there will be more madcap voyages on the good ship PugWash this year. (See our PugWash Adventures)

One thing that 2015 did bring home to me was that it is getting harder to find a series of caches close to home. There are still loads and loads of caches to find but we have definitely thinned out the nearby trails over the last couple of years. I am having to string together caches to make our own trails more and more often which is not a problem but I do miss the simplicity of finding a ready-made series and just loading up and heading out. A couple of new ones have popped up which is awesome and I hope there will be more this year, although density in Watford and the surrounding areas is starting to become a bit of a problem.

As for this blog thing. Well, I think it has gone OK this year, what do you think? I’ve been quite consistent with putting up articles and rarely feel like I am neglecting my (small) readership… I know you are out there, I can hear you rolling your eyes. I am really pleased with the Geocaching Blogs list that I have continued to maintain this year, I hope it helps people find interesting and funny caching blogs. It is hard being a lonely blogger out there in the big wide inter web net thing and if my list helps people find their way to other people’s blogs then that is all good. I do feel that there are loads of great caching blogs out there, people just don’t know about them. That is why I started my “Showcasing the GeoBlogosphere” feature this year as a way to…. well, Showcase the Geocaching Blogs out there. I have gotten some thank you from the bloggers that I have featured, so I am happy to continue it in 2016. I am hoping to do some more interrogations this year too as it is always fun to get to know the other bloggers and how geocaching impacts their lives.

Geocaching continues to be one of my favourite pastimes and during 2015 have enjoyed it in all its many forms. From the GeoDates that Shar and I have on our own to our family days when Sam comes along and brings his unique pre-teen madness with him, to the social group caching days with friends. Happy days indeed!

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Steam and Supple Wine – New Year in Norfolk

After finally bagging a cache on Christmas day this year, and with various family commitments planned thereafter, I really didn’t expect to be getting any more smilies before the end of the year. But as Sam and I sat in my mum’s car travelling along the A10 towards the West Norfolk Coast where we would be saying goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016, the conversation inevitably turned to geocaching and before I knew it plans were being made. We were staying with mum till Saturday, the 2nd, and I knew there would be no time for finding a nearby series, but there might be no harm in picking up the odd cache or two… over the course of the 3 days… say one a day… to help with our calendar? *smiling innocently*

As it happens, mum had been asked to check on a cache near where she lived by the cache owner who both my mum and I have met separately on a number of occasions at various events, and seeing as I hadn’t previously logged this cache, that would fit the bill wonderfully for ticking off the 30th of December. But even before we reached our intended target of the village sign at Thornham, mum was turning off the coast road and driving down a narrow lane, saying that there was one down here that we could pick up on the way… just in case the village sign one isn’t there? Good thinking mum!

As we stepped out of the car on the deserted lane , the wind took me completely by surprise. In the shelter of the car, I had not realised how strong it was, and it took me a moment to regain my equilibrium as Sam led me across the road to the GZ of Twilight’s Shocking Discovery (GC59DNQ). Sam had already found this one on a previous visit to stay with Nanny but he couldn’t really avoid finding it this time as he practically fell over it. The container had drifted somewhat from its intended hiding place, quite possibly due to a combination of the vicious wind that was whipping through my flimsy jacket and it being badly replaced by the previous finders. I stood holding the small plastic box and started to shiver uncontrollably as Sam added my name to the log. Retreating quickly to the shelter of the car I mentally scribbled on the chart affixed to the fridge back home in Watford, filling in the tiny box that aligned with the 30th day of the 12th month. nice!

We drove the short distance to VS #132 Thornham (GC587BV) and all assembled around the small tree which stood on the triangle of grass that was home to the sign. We then performed a little ritual amongst the three of us where we all took it in turns to bend down, fumble at the base of the tree and then shuffle around a bit. Eventually mum and Sam drifted away to investigate other possible hides of which there were none. Their hearts weren’t really in it though as they had both previously found this cache and, therefore, had a pretty good idea of where it should be. And that is exactly where it was, as I discovered a short while later as I “properly” searched the base of the tree, a search that actually involved using my hands to move some of the leaf litter and turn over a piece of bark rather than just staring at the ground and hoping that the cache would pop up and wave. A hand-sized plastic turtle was uncovered and the log extracted from its innards. On examining the list of names and dates, it turns out that the spate of DNFs that had caused the CO to ask mum to check it out were obviously as a result of lazy searching, as in addition to us, the cache had actually been found twice in the last couple of days. I mentally coloured in the box for the 30th day of the 12 month and then realised that I had already done this and had now mentally shaded in the wrong day… I mentally rubbed it out and then mentally told myself to get a grip.

We hadn’t even properly arrived at mum’s place yet and we had already found two caches. A pretty good start if you ask me. We didn’t do any more caching that day, but instead went into Hunstanton for fish and chips and a glass or two of a cheeky wine that described itself as “smooth and supple”, before indulging in that quaint British tradition of Pantomime. We clapped and laughed and shouted out in all the right places, and even some of the wrong places thanks to the wine, as the cast worked very hard to tell the tale of Aladdin to an audience that was made up of suspiciously more adults than children.

Sam stands in front of a sign advertising Aladdin at the Hunstanton theatre

It’s behind you!

The next day was New Year’s Eve, but prior to the festivities that mum had planned for the evening we decided to “get out” for a bit. We had a plan… I definitely get my liking of plans from my mum- and our destination was Sheringham, a small seaside town on the North Norfolk coast. We jumped in the car and mum drove us to Holt… which isn’t Sheringham… but it is where you catch the train to Sheringham. Yeah, yeah, so what? You took a train. But hold on a minute, let me describe this for you.

You step onto the platform of the small station set in amongst the surrounding woodland of holt. The decor is old and charming. Not just 70s old in need of tarting up. This is 50s old and meant to be that way. It looks clean, just the way it would have done back then. There is a small crowd milling up and down the platform, happy voices and restless children. There is a sense of excitement moving through the people and you can’t help but let it infect you too. A sharp whistle blows a short distance away and, as one, the crowd turns to look down the length of the platform where a puffing steam train slowly chugs into the station, steam wafting from its stack into the cloudless winter sky.

People bustle off the train smiling and laughing and you are soon climbing into one of the old carriages and taking your seat on a seat that is sprung with a real spring… you can feel it. As you wait, the small black engine chugs past you on an adjacent track, heading to the end of the train to be coupled up to your coaches. There is a tantalising wait as people settle down ready for the journey and then you hear the loud sharp whistle from the engine and an enormous cloud of steam wafts back down the length of the train as the boiler is vented, preparing to transfer its immense pressure into kinetic energy that will spin the heavy iron wheels and drag the train from the station.

You hear the slow “Chug Chug” steadily increase as you feel the train move under you and the station disappears behind you. Within minutes you are travelling at quite a speed through the idyllic Norfolk countryside and as you look out of the window you can see the shadow of the train on the ground and wisps of steam passing by as both shadow and, above you, real water vapour. Your heart lifts and even though you have never been on a steam train before, this is exactly how you expected it to be. How every old movie has portrayed it to you. This is the Railway Children! Not a flimsy, modernised, simulation or a virtual cinema experience at some theme park. You can smell the steam mixing with the smoke from the coal burning in the boiler. And as you try not to bounce up and down on your seat like a small child, the whistle sounds once more as you flash across a level crossing, through the English countryside and back in time towards Sheringham.

Sam stands on the platform at Holt station as the steam train arrives

All Aboard!

After the delights of the train ride we made our way through the narrow and busy high street of Sheringham, which really isn’t very accessible for someone trying to guide a blind person, down to the sea front. The tide was very high and reached almost to the steps leading down from the prom. Our reason for coming to this specific spot was… you guessed it… a geocache. Sheringham – Art and Sculpture 1 (GC3RT3X) was a nice simple multi that required us to collect a bunch of information from a mural that had been painted along the prom wall.
Sandra and Sam sutdy the mural painted on the prom wall to find the information needed to calculate the location of a nearby geocache.

Art by the Sea

Between mum and Sam, we soon had the coordinates of the final and as we made our way towards GZ, I worked out what the hide was going to be from the hint which simply said “Do’s and Don’ts”. After signing the log we turned around to find a cafe tempting us in to its warm and fragrant interior an so we celebrated our find with a spot of lunch.

The return home was made even more salubrious by the complimentary warm mince pie and glass of sherry that was served to us on the train ride back to holt. Whilst our last cache of 2015 was a fairly run of the mill off-set multi, I will certainly remember the day we found it with great fondness.

Paul and Sam sit on the train holding plastic sherry glasses, Paul looks somewhat dazed!

Festive Tipple (No children were inebriated during the making of this photo)

After a suitable lie in the following morning, it was agreed that we needed to step out for a bit of fresh air and so we headed to Holkham Hall, just a short drive away for an enjoyable, if somewhat chilly, stroll around the lake admiring the ducks and geese and trying to sneak up on the large herd of deer that idly grazed on the open grassland. On our way there we took a short detour to Brancaster to grab our first cache of 2016, National Trust Norfolk Coast – Oh Buoy (GC4J3Q3). We barely needed to get out of the car for this one as it was hidden on an old buoy that stood in the car park and seeing as it was so convenient we took it back to the warm car to extract the tiny log from the magnetic nano so that we could sign it. Tweezers would have been really handy but, ever resourceful, Nanny produced a safety pin from somewhere and the pesky log was soon in our hands and the first smiley of the year was claimed. As a bonus, we were in receipt of two souvenirs, one for the last day of the year and one for the first of the new one. Neat!
Paul and Sam stand in front of a lek on the Holkham Hall Estate

Brushing away the cobwebs with a stroll for New yYear

Only 4 caches in 3 days is by no means a massive haul, but they were spread over 3 difficult to fill days on our calendar and seeing as we had blocked out Christmas Day as well, things were looking good for making inroads towards completing our caching calendar in 2016???!! No chance mate. Its January 8th as I write this and we missed the 3rd and 4th and 5th and 6th and 7th and 8th so it won’t be getting completed this year that’s for sure. Oh well, I’m not so bothered, just as long as there are still caches to be found and adventures to be had. Happy days.

These geocaching adventures took place in Norfolk between 30th December 2015 and 1st January 2016 and took our total cache count up to 1381

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Showcasing The GeoBlogosphere #4

Finally, in December, we got out and did some caching again which was a relief as I was beginning to forget how it all worked! Meanwhile, elsewhere on the big world wide inter web blog universe thingy, others were having exciting geocaching adventures too. Here’s a selection of some of the blog articles that caught my eye in December. Remember there is a full list of geocaching blogs on the handily named Geocaching Blogs section of my site. Enjoy and see you in 2016!

The Sandhurst Geocachers have a brush with the law
Mrs HG137 recounts the funny tale of a recent London caching day during which they manage to convince the police to assist them with there investigations.

Getting “Arty” with MZBizkitz
Following up on a previous post about the elaborate concept of Geo ART, check out this article on MZ Adventures detailing some more truly amazing cache placement.

Silver coin achievment for PaisleyKMT
K and G visit more than 50 state parks in Washington during 2015 and claim their silver geocoin.

On the trail around Pendon
Geo T hosts an excllent site that can be used to display all the geocache trails near you in the UK. All the trails he personally visits he then blogs about and just before Christmas he was in Pendon in Hampshire.

On the Pacific Coast Trail with Old Dweeb
Old Dweeb, a long time cacher and blogger heads out on a winter’s solo hike in Acton along part of the Pacific Coast Trail.

Confusing Geography on the grid
Mrbream rounds up his caching efforts in December, where he finds korea to be very close to both France and New York, as part of his ongoing quest to complete his caching calendar

That’s it for this month, and indeed this year, but don’t forget to check out my full list of Geocaching Blogs, and I will see you in 2016.

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3rd Christmas Lucky

Since we started caching in 2013 I was aware that if we ever wanted to complete our caching calendar, where you find a cache on each date of the year, then we would have to go out on Christmas day. Well this was our third Christmas after starting caching and still we hadn’t managed it. We had planned to go out last year, had even saved a cache just 70 metres from our house especially for the purpose, but somehow I wasn’t able to drag myself that ridiculously short distance.

This year I was determined. The same cache still remained unfound and so after lunch, a lovely Lamb Roast, I risked life and limb by dragging Sam from his new xBox One to take me across the road. After I had weathered the whining and moaning from him, we headed out in the rain to make the find. Spectacular it was not, it was just a magnetic on the back of a telecoms box, but it was a tricky day ticked off the Calendar and Sam got to use one of his new pens that will write on anything in any condition – rain, snow, hail or plague of frogs.

Oh, and Santa was very nice to me and brought me 5 lovely screw top cache containers and a fake rock cache too. Not to mention a teapot and cool tea cosy. Christmas cuppa anyone?
Sheep Cosy

Merry Christmas

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Christmas Caching Poem

My take on a classic Christmas poem, enjoy…

T'was the night before Christmas when all through the house,
There came not a sound save for the clicks of a mouse.
The GPS batteries were charged, and a bag packed with care,
For tomorrow I complete my calender, with a multi in Ware.

The minicachers were nestled, all snug in their beds ,
while visions of gleaming geocoins, danced through their heads.
As Wifey submitted logs, iPad propped on her lap,
I closed GSAK, and turned to the map.

When at once from my phone, there arose such a clatter,
Startling both cat and dog, eliciting a yelp from the latter.
I averted my eyes, all confidence diminished,
As I sheepishly told wifey, of the cache just now published.

Her cold icy stare did finally soften though,
and rolling her eyes she said with a sigh, "just go".
Away to the car in a blink of an eye,
Slippered and gowned, grabbing GPS as I ran by.

The roads were deserted, lined with fresh fallen snow,
That crunched under my slippers as into the woods I did go.
50 feet from GZ and to my eyes what should appear,
but a miniature sleigh and 8 tiny rein deer.

With a laughing driver so quick not a moment to pause,
It could only be that FTF hound by the name geoclaus.
More rapid than mountain bikes his courses they came,
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name.

"Now, Garmin! now, Oregan! Now, Magellan! Now, Dakota!
On, etrex! On, eXplorist! On, Smartphone! On, Montana!
Glide on the virgin snow, between the trees so tall,
Now cache away, cache away, we must beat them all."

He winked as he passed, a single goal on his mind,
I could only sstare gormless as he raced to my find.
I broke from my trance and sprinted in chase,
My dressing gown flapping all over the place.

As I burst through the trees panting and slick,
My fears clearly realised, I felt suddenly sick.
There stood the fat fellow, smiling, triumphant and grand,
With a pristine new log book held tightly in hand.

He was dressed all in gortex from head to his foot,
Shiny FTF badges on his body he had put.
A full bag of Swag he took down off his back,
and I drooled at the trackables I glimpsed in that pack.

His bearded face looked merry,
His cold nose like a cherry.
As he lifted his gaze to me, I saw nothing but red,
thanks to the Million candle torch strapped to his head.

I dropped to my knees, watching him work,
I should have called joint FTF, man what a berk.
His gloved hand steady, he signed the log in bold print,
The swag he dropped in, oh how it did twinkle and glint.

And then in a moment his triumph complete,
He whistled for the reindeer whilst I struggled to my feet.
As he took to the sky grinning, he called out this rhyme,
"Merry Christmas fellow cacher, and better luck next time!"
Copyright Paul Weston

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