11th September 2013
Shar and I headed off to the Ver Valley today for a small series of geocaches along a public footpath. If you don’t know where the Ver Valley is, it is around the Bricket Wood Area of Hertfordshire. The Walk takes you from a point to the north of the M25 southwards, across the motorway to a point very near to the Confluence of the Rivers Colne and Ver. See… I is clever. I know what a confluence is…now. OK so I had to look it up but it is never too late to learn stuff.
The series in question is aptly named the Ver Valley series and consists of 10 Traditional geocaches. Most of them are small containers with a couple of micros. For more information on the series check out the web page for the first cache in the series #1 Ver Valley – Hidden in Hyde.
After parking up at the free car park nearby, we quickly found the footpath and headed off for number one. It was nice to see a wide well maintained path through this pretty area of rivers and lakes. We had to walk a bit out of our way for number one as the parking was actually nearer number 2. On the way we noticed a muggle angler, should this be a mangler?, and we hoped that cache number 2 wouldn’t be near here as retrieval could be tricky. As we reached GZ for number 1 and I was using the iPhone to lock down the final location, Shar announced she had the cache in hand. Well that was easy. After signing the log we retraced our steps and thankfully the phones took us past the mangler and further along footpath number 8 around the side of another body of water. Calling it a lake would probably be over selling it but I spose technically it was bigger than a pond. I wonder what the difference between a lake and a pond is and whether you can get pondweed in a lake or whether it becomes lakeweed. These are the things that don’t keep me awake at nights… thank god!
At GZ we commenced searching and it wasn’t long before Shar announced she had it once more. This hide was a nice chunk of wood with a hole in the middle for a thin tube. The log was itself hidden inside a hole in a tree. Nice to see a hide that is more than just a pot at the base of a tree. Don’t get me wrong, I like pots at the bases of trees, but it is good to see something out of the ordinary once in a while. 2-0 to the missus and I was starting to feel out of my depth. Still, 8 more to go and I could always push her in the lake to get a head start on the next one.
Number 3 took us to a very interesting site where an information sign told us that the empty field we were standing in front of was the site of a Roman Villa. The remains were excavated at some point and some finds including two skeletons were removed and are now housed in the Veralanium museum. After absorbing this we then both started frantically searching for the cache and Shar practically snatched it from the hand of a blind man to make the score 3-0. After a 3 second sulk from me and a struggle to sign the log that was fuller than full, we headed off to number 4.
Walking alongside the side of the Roman remains field we arrived at the site of number 4 and in light of the score and the likelihood of me getting a strop on if I didn’t find one, Shar pushed me into the bushes and told me to get on with it. I emerged moments later triumphant with cache in hand. We dropped off a geocoin at this one to further the confusion that already surrounded this cache as it was supposed to have 2 different travel bugs in it but appeared to have neither. Oh well. Importantly the score was now 3-1 and I was back in the running.
Number 5 took us to the M25. We had a tail wind with us today so as well as instigating the rule about travelling at the front of the group if you have wind, we realised that we could barely hear the motorway until we got very close. As we climbed the steps to the footbridge we sure could hear it now. We trundled across and I recounted how as a child I had spent many hours on footbridges over the Watford way trying to get Lorry Drivers to honk their horns. More on that later, but for now the important thing to note here is that it was me that plucked the container out of the undergrowth when we arrived at GZ.
Gladly we hurried down the other side of the bridge and tried to put some distance between us and the motorway which was definitely noisier on this side. After crossing a smaller road we found ourselves back on a footpath and Shar beat me to the find for this one. As we were standing around signing the log we nearly got muggled and I adopted my default, “fiddling with my phone” stance to appear casual and nonchalant… emerging from a bush at the side of the path. Horsey muggles didn’t seem to notice / care and all was well as we headed on to number 7.
The most notable feature along the route to number 7 was poo. Horse poo. It was like a flipping minefield as we zigged and zagged our way along the bridle path. With the score 4-2 I really need to knock one in for the home team here and I was not to disappoint. Arriving at GZ Shar said there was a tree on the other side of the fence which looked likely. I thought I might have to climb the fence but realised that the fence only ran for about 2 feet before ending just beyond the tree. I stepped around wondering what the hell use that fence was, and retrieved the small container to the cheers of the amassed woodland creatures. I stepped back around the fence, which thankfully was not electrified as some had been earlier on the walk and Shar scribbled our name in the log.
We emerged from the woods here onto a concrete driveway that lead up the hill to a training facility of some sort. The horseshit was still present to make our journey more interesting but thankfully it was a bit less plentiful. Apparently horses prefer to crap in the woods… who knew?
The training facility is next to Hanstead house which was owned by someone, sometime and now probably isn’t but has some significance to someone. Shar did research it when we returned and this is what I recall from that. Lady someone owned it in the 1920s. She knew J Arthur Rank (not the rhyming slang) and they opened pinewood studios together. Someone else was involve, maybe her husband who lived in India a lot and he was involved in Tea or rubber or ummm…ummmm… oh and he owned Midland Bank at some point. Oh yes I remember now, it used to be a training facility for HSBC but they sold it a couple of years ago. OK? Everyone clear on all that? good.
Cache number 8 and it was the homeboy, moi, that plucked the prize from the floor. I had fought my way back and I had proved that I could be a contender… Charlie!!
Number 9 took us further along the path and after a short detour courtesy of Sharlene Ticky tours limited for a cache not part of this series and not even in the direction we went, I dived headlong into the bushes and uncovered the cache to make the score 5 4 to the Blind Massive and a victory was well and truly in sight… well not to me … but you know what I mean.
Now this is where the bottle comes in. What bottle I hear you ask? Did you even read the title of this blog entry? Go on… scroll up…. its ok, I have all the time in the world….Right, got that now? good. So, now to the bottle. Well we decided to divert to a cache that is located at the confluence of the Rivers Colne and Ver. After another ticky tour along a footpath the wrong way, we arrived back at a ford in the river and realised that in order to get the cache we would have to cross over the water… using stepping stones…. with a blind man… and a short legged New Zealander. To her credit sharlene made it to stepping stone number two before chickening out and returning to the shore and I was a bit dubious in heading out myself alone without wellies so we logged a collaborative “Bottle” and vowed to return with suitable attire another day. Just as we made this decision and prepared to head to the last in the series of the Ver Valley Walk, a mangler parked up his car and trotted down the the river, promptly and effortlessly skipping across the stepping stones to the other side… what a git!
We set the phones for number 10 and off we went. After crossing a bridge a little further down and heading into woodland for a short walk of 100 metres or so we paused only to investigate “What the heck is that” in the bushes which turned out to be a sculpture of something or other. On arriving at GZ Sharlene announced she could see the cache and my heart sank. It was game over. But then she added, “but I can’t get it” it is up the tree. Ha Ha, trees are my department. But it was not a tree for climbing. The cache was suspended about 15 feet up and it was only through the cunning use of my white cane that we were able to retrieve it. Alas it was the good lady who did the honours and the game was a tie at 5 caches each.
We returned to a bench a short way back along the path and broke out the sarnies and yoghurts. We sat and reflected on what a pleasant walk it was and then refreshed and revitalized set off back to the car. We stopped briefly on the bridge over the M25 on the way back where , after a lot of urging,I managed to convince Shar to wave with me at a lorry driver. Shar squealed and giggled as he waved back and we scuttled off the bridge laughing and feeling like kids again.