I have noticed that I tend to start quite a lot of my blog entries with a weather report, e.g. “With the weather warming up today…” or “It finally stopped raining today so we…” or “Despite it being a wet and windy day…”. I am not sure why I lean towards the meter logical when trying to get started but I found myself wanting to start this post with yet another similar comment. Having realised that I often do it, now I am extremely conscious of mentioning any sort of weather at all and this resulted in me sitting staring at the computer blankly for 5 minutes puzzling at an alternative method of starting. Finally I gave up and decided to write about my revelation thus giving me an opener other than , “It was a cold day but not cold enough to stop us from planning a geocaching adventure”… sigh… bugger!
The plan for today, because there was a plan, there is always a plan, there SHOULD always be a plan. I find that peace and harmony can be maintained if there is a plan. That is not to say that the plan is always adhered to, but that is ok. I am not plan-obsessed to the extent that I have a hissy fit if our chosen course of action does not conform to the original idea, but I find things work out better if you at least have some idea of what you are attempting to do when you leave the house. This is especially true when you have girlfriend/wife and/or children. I reckon that if you are a single person with no ties or restrictions, you can pretty much up and leave on a whim and just go with the flow. If I just suggested randomly popping out for some caching with no idea where we would be going, I would just get stared at… blankly…. And then a laugh and a comment like, “ no seriously, what shall we do?” The other reason I like / need to plan is that my ability to adapt on the fly is less because I am blind. At home I can take my time, use whatever means I have at my disposal to make a plan and think about where will go and what we will do. In the field if we suddenly decided to throw out the plan and do something else I don’t have the tools to quickly make decisions based on looking things up or browsing the map and similar such things. Hmmmm, I reckon this paragraph makes me sound like some sort of OCD freak, but I am not… honest, I just like to have some idea of what we are doing and I know my other half and son, and I know that they like to have some idea of what we are doing too, to know when the next chance for a comfort break might present itself, or the next meal might be in the offing. So there is generally always a plan… of sorts.
OK, that whole bit was not planned, it was in no way part of the plan to waffle on about plans and/or the lack of them. The plan was to tell you what the plan was for the day… back to the plan.
We decided that we didn’t want to do a long series today, but instead would prefer to be closer to the car so that we could take breaks and warm up in between caches if we wanted. This was a perfect opportunity, therefore, to try and find some of the puzzle caches that I had previously solved but not collected yet. Check this out…
That map shows the puzzle caches that I have solved but not been out to sign the logs yet. The circle basically surrounds where we live as that is the way I have been attempting the puzzles, starting with those closest to home and working my way steadily outwards. 76, in case you were wondering, but there is as many again that I have been unable to solve as yet. I selected a handful close to home and then at each final location I looked to see if there were any trads nearby. The net result is that I ended up with 3 locations that we could visit, parking at each and then, hopefully, finding some puzzles and trads at each one. The three locations were Harrow Weald, Stanmore and Mill Hill, totalling 9 geocaches for us to attempt, 5 puzzles and 4 trads.
With a plan in place, we headed out and immediately got in an argument with the sat nav. I had a rough idea in which direction we needed to go but she wanted to take us the opposite way to pick up the main A road, the A41, as soon as possible. We vetoed her and headed the way we thought would take us in the general direction of our chosen geocaches. Again she tried taking us back towards the A41 but we ignored her. Then when we finally did get close to it, she told us to go a different way. Interesting, so maybe I had got it wrong and we weren’t heading for the A road at all. We decided to trust her and see what happened. She took us in a wide loop along a short bypass and then onto the A41 after all a bit further on!!!!!
Our first parking coordinates turned out, much to Sharlene’s concern, to be in the grounds of the Grim’s Dyke Hotel in Harrow Weald. “Do you think we should really be here?” she asked, but I reasoned that if the parking coordinates were on the cache page then this must be ok. The Grim’s Dyke Hotel was famously, or not, the country residence of Sir William ilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan renown whilst he was alive. Lol, although to be fair I am not sure he needed a country residence after he was dead!
We were here because I had solved the puzzle, The Motley Pair (GC2XARY)and the next part of the cache lay somewhere not far from the parking coordinates. The puzzle itself was a fun one that involved filling in the blanks from lyrics of musical numbers penned by the above duo. It was an informative puzzle which required you to be on the ball and pay attention as some of the answers needed were not the obvious choices, and I found it best to turn to the tinternet to make sure that I got all the right numbers. In a lot of cases the puzzle on the cache page is all you need to do to get to the ultimate prize, but in this case the solution only provided you coordinates to a micro cache which, in turn, would provide you with the location of the final geocache.
After fluffing about for a bit trying to work out where to park we finally set off with no idea where to go. We had the phones to direct us but Shar was not having a lot of luck identifying any obvious paths through the wooded area. We backtracked out of the car park a bit and then she found a place for us to cut in. Happier to be on the trail of our first find we were only ticked off slightly when we found ourselves back at the car a few minutes later. This time we carried on along this path that we had not previously seen and forged back into the woods for a second time, happy to be on the trail of our first cache of the day… again.
At least it was sheltered amongst the trees from the cool breeze and the going underfoot was not too bad although we didn’t see much in the way of paths on our route to the site of the micro even though I expect they were there somewhere. I have no problem with going off trail as long as I get a little guidance about when to duck and when to watch out for holly on the left or a sheer drop on the right. Sharlene is an excellent guide… most of the time.
We arrived at the GZ for the micro but unfortunately spent a rather frustrating 20 minutes or so searching in vain for the container. Even when using the provided hint, we were still unable to locate it although we were pretty sure where it should have been. There was a very likely looking tree that offered a number of obvious hidey holes that could easily have hidden a micro container but there was nothing in any of them. It had been quite some time since this cache was last found and soon we started to worry that this micro might have gone missing and that meant we would not be able to find it or the final container. I resolved to take a photo of the tree we thought the micro should be in and email the cache owner on our return home to see if we were barking up the wrong one, as it were.
A DNF on the very first cache of the day is always guaranteed to put us in a bad mood and so it was that, slightly grumpily, we stomped off in search of our next cache, Stanmore Trail – 2 (GCTZ21), which was a traditional one just a few hundred metres away. Thankfully we found this without too much trouble and our spirits lifted again. The log sheet was in a right state here, very damp and almost falling to bits. In the end we replaced the log with a new one from the supply of spares that I carry and popped it in a little plastic bag to help try and keep it dry. Feeling good about our bit of charitable caching maintenance we went in search of our next cache.
This one was another puzzle, Number Cruncher (GC2X0D6), by Chiptheduck. I have tackled quite a few puzzles by this cache owner and have always found them entertaining and challenging. This and the other three remaining puzzles we were hoping to collect today were all chiptheduck ones. Number Cruncher is a numerical crossword which was a lot trickier to solve than at first glance but I got there in the end and so it was that we went off in search of the cache today. It was a walk of about 800 metres or so from where we were through pleasant woodland. I say it was about 800 metres but I think we must have travelled quite a bit more than that. We tried to stay on trails but the trails kept veering off in different directions and so we cut through the woods on more than one occasion.
We had seen hardly anyone whilst walking and the only person who we did encounter on this stretch was a runner. I heard him approaching from behind but I was in mid-sentence and didn’t think to stop and say that there was someone approaching. The net result was that Shar got the fright of her life as this guy came running up behind us. She squealed and scared the pants off the runner who sounded rather panicky as he apologetically ran on. I am not sure who scared who more. After that we had to negotiate a fallen tree across the path. Not a particularly large tree but it was just at that awkward height where it was not possible to go under it and going over it could have brought tears to your eyes if you weren’t careful. I managed to straddle it, just, almost giving myself an impromptu proctology examination in the process and then Sharlene opted for walking around instead.
Eventually we made it to GZ and then spent another 15 minutes searching all the likely hide positions for the cache. After initially having high spirits on arriving at the cache site we were starting to become quieter now as both of us wrestled with the possibility of another DNF. It was quite difficult searching as the hint pointed us to the exposed roots of a couple of sizable trees that were at the top of a small slope. Both of us had fun scrambling up the slope and then carefully trying to stay there whilst searching for the cache. I managed to slide down on my backside at one point and got a nice spindly thorn thing stuck in the palm of my hand at the same time. This was wearing me down and I was just about to give up when I thought I would have one more look. I prodded and pushed and fiddled around in every little opening I could find and then all of a sudden I felt the familiar texture of plastic. But it was only a tiny bit. I started pushing the loose earth away and there it was. This cache had not been found since August and I reckon that the rain had dislodged quite a lot of loose earth and practically buried the cache almost entirely. We were incredibly relieved though to have found this one.
On our way back to the car we stopped to pick up Grim’s Ditch (GCMGMJ), which was very much not in a ditch but at the top of a bank that was next to a ditch so I guess that counts. I managed to miss my footing whilst up the bank and almost ended up in the ditch completely but thankfully it was just another bruise to add to my growing collection and nothing worse. Shar also sustained a bruised leg at this cache and we were both starting to think there was a curse on us today.
Back at the car we removed various bits of woodland from us, leaves from Sharlene’s hair, and a leaf and a twig from inside my jumper! How the hell did that get there? We had been planning to have lunch here but there were some loud muggles at the car next to ours so we opted to drive to our next stop and eat their instead. It was only a short drive away over near Stanmore Golf Course so it was not long to wait.
After a reviving lunch of sandwiches and of course ginger cake we make quick finds for our next two caches, Somewhere in Stanmore(GC48HGE) and Hole in One (GC4AN4E). They were both chiptheduck puzzles again and Hole in One had, I remember, been a particular favourite of mine to solve. It was a logic style affair where you are given a number of clues such as bob is older than frank and lives further away from John than farquar does and other such inclusive and exclusive hints like that in order to derive a full list of all the people and their attributes. This one was all about golfers and it took a little while to crack although I had a big help from an online logic grid tool that allows you to feed in the number of different variables you have and it will produce you a nice empty logic grid for you to tick and cross off the facts you know. Both hides were excellent, one being very cleverly hidden in the eaves of a small wooden shelter at the roadside and the other was a very cunning bolt cache hidden in a fence post at the edge of the golf course. Both made us smile and compliment the cache owner on his expert hides.
Back on the road for our last trio of the day and over to Mill Hill it was. I grew up in Mill Hill and you can read these other blog entries detailing my recent caching adventures in and around the area if you like Geocaching in Mill Hill and Returning to Mill Hill
. I do so like coming back when I can to do caching and to remember what it was like growing up here in the 70s and 80s. The puzzle cache that had brought us here was Baaa (GCGC3K8XT) which required knowledge of an old English sheep counting system in order to solve. From looking at the map I knew the area where the final was. The Mill field took the name after the Windmill that was purported to stand at the top of the hill as far back as the 16th century. I remember it fondly as the place we used to go sledging in the snowy winters of the 70s. In particular I remember hurtling down the hill as fast as you could only to be cut short by the fence that was strangely place half way down in a copse of trees.
Our route to the final was, quite frankly, mental. The Mill Field consist of an open section at the top of the hill and then a wooded section further down. In the middle there is the fence with bushes and trees and access to the lower section seems to be best gained from the left or southern side. We went the other way! At first this meant just the odd low branch or two but after a bit more it grew denser and denser and we were practically on our hands and knees hacking our way through the branches and bushed. We eventually burst out of the undergrowth red faced and scratched up a bit to find a track of some sort leading the direction we wanted to go. We located the cache quite easily at GZ and our spirits were lifted again as they always are when we make a find.
Just two more trads on our hit list for the day now and it was back up the hill to find the first of those… and a steep hill it most certainly was. Sharlene doesn’t do hills too well and when I pointed out that it was all good for her thighs, the answer I got back was rather breathy and not really suitable for a public forum!
Once at the top of the hill we commenced our search of the tree line for Curse of the FTF Greater London #3 The Mill Field (GC1QC5M). It was just a thin line of trees next to a high wall that separated the park from the building next door which was formerly St. Joseph’s college owned by the Mill Hill Missionaries. The building has been derelict for a number of years now and apart from being used for some location filming seems now to be under development for god knows what. I spent a few minutes fighting with a tree getting caught up in its low branches repeatedly and then spent a further 10 minutes or so fruitlessly looking for a cache which we are both convinced is not there anymore. The cache owner seems to have given up on caching, not having logged on to the geocaching.com website for almost 2 years and there are a truck load of needs maintenance logs on it. I reckon it might be time to suggest an archive on this one.
Archiving is the process of taking a geocache offline permanently. Sometimes a cache can be archived by the owner simply because they think the site is no longer worthy of a cache or it is not proving popular or if it keeps getting muggled. If a cache is abandoned by its owner and not archived then a cacher can request that it be archived. One of the reviewers will then post a message on the cache log asking the owner to get in touch and rectify whatever problems exist with the cache and if no response is forthcoming after a period of time then the reviewer will archive the cache. The good thing about archiving a cache is that it frees up the location for someone else to place a new one nearby.
We finally gave up and with the mood darkened a little by another DNF we headed out of the Mill Field and along the ridgeway to the GZ of our last cache for the day, Old Sheep-wash Pond (GCGC2QYE7). Shock horror another DNF here but it wasn’t for the want of looking I can tell you. We popped in and out of the bushes more time that a pair of nymphomaniac exhibitionists but alas no luck. One memorable moment when after spending about 2 minutes bent at the waist searching the undergrowth I stood up just as a couple were walking along the ridgeway and whilst I cannot see their expression, the fact that their conversation stopped dead in its tracks as they went past told me that they were rather shocked to see a blind man with white stick emerge from the bushes looking somewhat frustrated. Eventually we reached the point where enough is enough and we agreed to chalk up another DNF.
All in all it was a good day, whether we find our goal caches or not I always enjoy myself out on our geocaching adventures. Today we found 6 and DNF’ed 3 in the end. A few scratches and bruises were collected along the way but it wouldn’t be a good day without a few knocks and bumps. Happy days!