Well the weather finally perked up today, and why not it is nearly July after all, and I was itching to get out and tackle a series of caches preferably in pleasant surroundings. After a little research we decided on a series called Charlie’s fields in Elstree, Hertfordshire. The series contained 6 caches and a bonus puzzle cache that could be located using clues found in the main caches and looked just the ticket. It was family friendly and best of all it was only a 15 minute drive away. Once we arrived we were delighted to find the area quiet and extremely pleasant. The area has the feel of a place that has been left to grow wild but has had enough traffic through it over the years to create some very obvious tracks and trails. The main path is obviously maintained and is wide and flat although we had to mind out for the odd pile of horse poo as the route is accessible to horses, not that we saw any.
Out with the iPhone and we plotted a path to the first cache. We weren’t far along when it was obvious that our bearing was going to take us off the track and into more overgrown patches. And so the game was a foot and with a smile on my face we branched off and headed in the direction the GPS was pointing. It wasn’t long before the lightly wooded path became a little denser but then up ahead could be seen the large open and very neatly maintained expanse of a golf course. Having read the descriptions of the caches I knew that we didn’t need to cross the golf course and were requested to stay off it so we knew that our route would not take us that way. The iPhone told us we were in the right area and after a little rooting around cache number one was in hand and the log signed. I dropped off a Travel Bug that I picked up a couple of weeks ago – the bug had already done a mammoth journey from Germany, around France, the UK and over to Thailand and was now trying to get home to Germany.
The second cache took us further into the woods after retracing our steps back to the main path and it wasn’t long before we were again signing a log and slapping ourselves on the back. Sam, our 9 year old was proving to be the eagle eyed cacher today that was for sure. On to number 3 and after walking straight past it we spent 5 minutes searching the undergrowth along the path before retracing a little and finding the obvious hiding place. So far we were 3 for 3 and all was going well. There is one other cache in the woods, not part of the series, and we decided to try for it too as it was right on our way between number 3 and 4 of the series. We peaked at the hint before we set off for it and it turns out our clue would be provided by track 11 on the Red Hot Chilli Peppers album Blood, Sugar Sex Magic. I am not too familiar with their songs but the first thing that came to my head was “Under The Bridge”. We decided to head to Ground Zero and see what we could see. Low and behold what should we find at GZ but a small bridge over a now dried up stream. A little searching around and Sam snagged the cache again.
Onwards we went and after a few steps in the woods we found ourselves out in the open in a field. We were worried that we had strayed onto the golf course but even though the grass looked cut it certainly didn’t look like fairway quality so we pressed on. The sun was warm and the going was easy. The ground being level and open and there being no one else around I let go of Sharlene’s hand and just wandered free just being able to make out the shape of her in front of me as a guide. It is a lovely feeling to be walking free like this, not having to scan with the cane all the time or worry about people or street furniture. After a few minutes I couldn’t believe how good it felt, how I had missed this. A little later when we were taking a break I thought about it and realised how long it had been since I had been able, or should I say allowed myself, to just roam like this. It must be 20 years if it had been a day. Out in the open now, we realised that we could hear a train line nearby and lots of light aircraft quite low above. This must be on the flight path for landing planes at nearby Elstree Aerodrome and we were surprised at the almost constant stream of small planes passing overhead.
Back to the series and cache number 4 took us off the path again and a short way into the tree line where we found our obvious target a large tree with an enormous hole in its trunk at the base. Sure enough the cache was an easy find and as with the caches before we marked down the clue to the bonus cache that was inside and moved on. A short way on we stopped on the side of the path and rested for a while taking on a welcome drink and snack. Only 2 more caches to find and then just the coordinates for the bonus to figure out. Having collected the clues so far I was starting to see a pattern and suggested a possible system for solving the puzzle. No spoilers I am afraid, you will just have to find the clues yourself.
The iPhone led us to within 50 metres of cache number 5 before again pointing us off the path. This looked a bit more tricky as it was quite high grass and thistles and brambles seemed to be lurking along the way. However there seemed to be an obvious path trampled down. Probably by previous geocachers so we went native and hacked our way through. Sam and Sharlene went first and I followed on using their voices and glimpses of them to keep me on their tail. Just as we started into the grass a helpful dog walker passing called to us to tell us there was a path just a little way up that we could take instead. He obviously thought we were trying to reach the other side of the field and we thanked him and said we were fine. He must have thought we were rather strange as we pushed on through the high grass and thistles – woman, child and blind man. Through the grass we entered the tree line and being within 10 metres we now started searching for the cache. As is often the case in woodland caches you tend to focus your attention on the ground, but in this case we found our target hanging from a tree in plain view. That is to say it was in plain view once you had fought your way through the grass, thistles and into the tree line. Sharlene snagged this one and we were delighted and elated to sign this one now 5 for 5 with only one to go.
Back out onto the path without major injury we head in the direction of number 6. This was the main path and muggle traffic was heavier. Through most of the woodland trail and even the field previously we had seen very few people at all and I found myself now wanting to be back in those isolated peaceful places. The final cache in the series was found by Sam in a little clump of trees just near a playground. After signing the log we found a patch of grass and sat down to work out the coordinates to the bonus cache. My theory seemed plausible and Sharlene fed the numbers into the provided equations and we had our coordinates. I dialled them into the iPhone and off we set. My general sense of direction and my memory of studying the map before we came told me were on our return path now to complete the circle and as we got closer both Sharlene and I soon realised that the coordinates were leading us literally back to the start of our walk. The wooded path back to our start point is most remarkable as it is obviously the site of many wild garlic plants as the smell can be very strong at times and having trampled through many a bush and bramble today we found the heady aroma of garlic following us back to the car.
Alas we could not find the bonus cache in the end. The coordinates looked right and GZ looked like a very likely spot but we just couldn’t lay our hands on it. Looking in the recent logs we realised that it had not been found by anyone for over a month whilst all the other caches had been found recently so we were worried that the cache had gone missing. After more than 3 hours walking a total of nearly 4km it was time to admit defeat this time and head for home. All in all it was a fantastic afternoon caching, enjoyed by all and we managed to find a total of 7 caches which currently stands as our personal best for number of caches in one day. The codes for the caches are as follows GC34500, GC346FP, GC346G1, GC346G5, GC346GC & GC346GE make up the 6 caches in the series. The bonus is GC346H3 and the extra cache not part of the series was Charlie’s Woods GC2VM85.