Today we decided we were in the mood to tackle a walking series of geocaches. The weather has been quite dry recently and this would mean that there wouldn’t be a lot of mud under foot hopefully. I scouted out a series in Redbourn which is a pretty little village just to the west of St. Albans. What can I tell you about Redbourn that will amaze and excite you? I have no idea as I have done my usual amount of research… precisely none in preparation for writing this entry.
See now after writing that I felt guilty and had to go and look it up in Wikipedia. Redbourn is in Hertfordshire, 3 miles from Harpenden, 4 miles from St. Albans and 5 miles from Hemel Hempstead so if I were you I would go there from Harpenden because it is much closer!The Church of St. Mary;s has been there since the 12th Century so there is no trying to deny it. It might be true that there is evidence that cricket was played on the common as early as 1666 making it one of Britain’s oldest locations where people have been bored out of their minds on a Sunday afternoon. The Hertfordshire County show is held a short distance from the village each year which is an excellent thing because there just isn’t space for it in the village to be frank.
Anyway, the series we set out to conquer today was the Redbourn Ramble described as a walk along footpaths mainly over farm land that can be muddy at times. Hang on I said at the start that there wasn’t likely to be a lot of mud because of the lack of rain so who is right? Well let’s find out. There are 12 caches in the vaguely circular loop including one that is currently disabled and we were hoping that we would be able to find it and revive it. We felt fairly confident that we could because it had recently been resurrected by a fellow cacher although it still remained disabled. We parked the car at the nearby Church of St. Mary and set off with a spring in our step and sandwiches in my backpack.
It was only a couple of minutes walk to get to GZ for the first cache which was good as we spent an extremely long time looking for the actual cache. It sounded like it should be fairly simple, the logs stated that it was a good hide but most people found it quickly. The hint was clear and straightforward and yet we spent 30 minutes hanging around a kissing gate at the trail head searching for the pesky thing. It is a good job that it was quiet as we both spent long periods of time buried deep in the bush at the side of the gate for which no reasonable explanation could be offered if challenged by a passer-by. We weren’t going to be beaten by the first cache in the series no way. In the end we looked through the photos that were attached to the cache listing and we found one of a boy holding the container and from this we gleaned that it was camouflaged with ivy and therefore it must be hidden in some ivy. That narrowed it down a bit and shortly afterwards and much to our great relief we had cache in hand.
As we left the site of the first cache and headed for number 2 we were soon on farmland. A field that looked like it had been recently ploughed and possibly planted. Sharlene said she could see the route of the footpath across the field so we ploughed on… no pun intended… oh go on then just a little one. We chatted as we walked and agreed that it was definitely not good to DNF the first cache in a series, much worse than ones later on. When I thought about this it seemed a bit strange logically as if you couldn’t find one near the start of the trail this would be easier to return to at a later date than ones that were in the middle of the loop and might need a long walk to reach. Even faced with logic we still both agreed that having to log a DNF on cache one would not be good and therefore we were very glad that we hadn’t had to.
Cache’s 2 and 3 took us across more fields and were easily plucked from trees at the side of the footpath. The walk to number 4 was again across a recently planted field although the footpath was much more difficult to spot here as the farmer has not done a very good job of re-establishing the path after planting. We got very close to the farm house here which always feels a little odd – like you are walking through someone’s back garden which you kind of are. As we discussed the chance of the farmer coming out with his gun shouting at us to get off his land I then discovered an interesting thing. My vocal impression of any farmer is always of one with a West Country accent. Doesn’t matter what part of the world I am in my impression sounds like an angry wurzel!
The walk to the farm had been on a very gradual gradient and we realised that over the distance from the start we had actually ascended quite a bit. It was no surprise to find out then that the farm was called Hill Farm and as soon as we passed on by and back onto the footpaths we started to drop in elevation again. We were making good time and had collected caches 2, 3 and 4 in about the same time that it had taken us to find just the first one. The next two were quick finds too and pleasant walks now along a bridle way for a portion and then out onto a lane leading away from the farm house. As we left number 6 and walked down the lane we passed by a huge piece of farm machinery in the field adjacent to us and two very inquisitive Labradors came out to see what we were doing. They trotted along with us for a few metres as this seemed like a lot more fun than what they had been doing before but then reluctantly retraced their steps at the shouts and calls of their owner.
My face was feeling a bit funny at this point as I had inadvertently pushed my face into some nettles when retrieving the cache at number 6. My lip was tingling a bit and I had picked up a sting on my hand too. I really must get some gloves! Although gloves would not have protected my face obviously… if I had been wearing gloves on my face then I think Sharlene would have had bigger things to worry about than me getting stung, namely that I was a flipping nutter. Number 7 was a cheeky hide to be sure although it was no problem for Sharlene who had dove into the bushes to search while I stood outside and took a picture of her backside. I have not included that photo here as I am sure you can understand that I was under some pressure not too, instead I offer this landscape…. Well a photo of it anyway… I think the land actually belongs to the farmer.
Another ploughed field to dash across and then hack our way through an almost overgrown cut through to join up with the footpath again by some stables. From here it was easier going under foot and we quickly marched on to number 8. This one took us a lot longer than most of the others although not as long as the first cache on the walk. We spent a good 15 minutes here as the phones bounced us from one side of the path to the other. I was up banks and almost into holes and even dared to step over some barred wire to investigate a possible hide. In the end it turned out to be the tree we had examined first but the cache was well and truly tucked away in a little nook within.
So far so good. The weather was dry and the wind not too cool. The mud was non-existent up till now and there was only a little bit of squelchiness under foot on the last section but I apologised profusely about that. Number 9 was an easy find and then we headed off to the 10th which was the disabled one. We started off well by being so preoccupied with chatting that we initially missed the obvious turn in the footpath and had to retrace about 30 metres to get us back on target. Sharlene spotted the cache even before we had arrived at GZ and there was much rejoicing and back slapping.
Our original plan had been to break for something to eat around the 7th or 8th cache in the loop but seeing as we were making such good time we opted to hold out till we got back to the car. With only two caches left though now our tummies were starting to rumble. Hunger is not a good condition to try and geocache with. It can reduce your tolerance, make you irritable and generally screw things up. At number 11 we quickly plucked the cache from the bush were it was hidden and proceeded to sign the log. As we were doing so Sharlene noticed there was a man approaching us across the field. She thought it was odd because he didn’t look like he was out on a hike and he was holding something in his hand. A geocacher maybe? There were looks exchanged from a distance as both he and Sharlene attempted to work out what each other was doing there. Finally he smiled and Sharlene knew he was a fellow geocacher. You actually meet very few geocachers out on the hunt as I have mentioned previously in my entryMeeting Other Geocachers. Despite having only one cache left to grab and also despite hunger starting to take hold it was a pleasure to stand and chat with the cacher known as Kudubundu who was out doing some caches on the nearby Nicky Line series and trying to find a few previous DNFs on this one.
After picking up number 12 and thus completing the series we made our way quickly back to the car as lunch was sorely needed. But wait…. There is a village sign cache just a couple of hundred metres from the car. Shall we pick that up first? OH ok… so off we trot taking a risk that hunger won’t turn us into spitting vipers anytime soon. We followed the arrow which fooled us into crossing the same road 4 times for some reasons before finally depositing us at GZ where thankfully Shar made a quick find. Now can we have lunch? Well there is a church micro just a few hundred metres the other way…. NO, lunch first… and we’ll see about the church micro afterwards.
Probably the best discovery of the day was made back at the car during lunch when I found a slab of Jamaican Ginger cake lovingly wrapped in cling film in my lunch box. That was worth waiting for, worth the nettle stings, including the one in the face, worth the extra walk to the village sign. Ginger cake is true manna from heaven and it got even better when Shar said she couldn’t finish her bit and I practically whimpered like a begging puppy for her to feed it to me. She said it was quite big but I just whimpered some more so she shoved the massive piece of cake in my gob where struggling slightly I savoured every last gingery crumb of it.
Refreshed and revitalised from lunch and with a little time to spare before collecting our son from school we headed off to snag the Church Micro too. The Church Micro series of caches is the largest collection of caches in the world and I believe they are almost entirely over here in the UK. Started way back it quickly caught on and people all over the country started requesting to have their church caches added to the series. There are now over 4000 caches in the series and you can read more about it including the accurate version of all those “facts” I just spouted at you on the website http://www.15ddv.me.uk/geo/cm/.
We, of course, took the long way to the cache as we so often do but soon cache was in hand and we realised that we had set a new personal best of 14 caches in a single day. All in all it was a fantastic day out. The weather was just right, not hot but not cold either, the going was firm under foot and we had found all 12 caches in the series and two bonus caches as well to set a new personal best. And on top of all that, as if that wasn’t enough, the cherry on top of our day was that there was ginger cake… glorious, sticky, Jamaican Ginger Cake. Happy Days!