Flood Avoidance and Maintenance – caching in St. Albans

The weather at the moment is seriously starting to cramp our style when it comes to geocaching. If you have been living under a rock or happen to not be from the UK then you might be forgiven for not knowing the extent to which our country is being battered by wet and windy weather of late. Putting things into perspective I realise that compared to other countries in the world where you can get tornados and earthquakes and such like the constant dreary cold and rain of the UK is rather trifling. Having said that, we have been subject to such prolonged periods of heavy rainfall lately that things are starting to give; rivers are bursting their banks, sewers are flooding and it is generally bloody miserable out there …all the time.

We are lucky enough to live in an area where flooding is extremely rare although we have had a few incidents in the vicinity but in nearly all cases it was only road and fields that were succumbing to the ravages of the water not people’s houses. Choosing places to go geocaching under these circumstances has become a lot trickier as I have to pay very close attention to the locations to try and judge the likelihood of there being flooding their or if the routes might be prohibitively muddy. Now we don’t mind mud, we have come to accept it as part of our winter caching experience. But there is muddy and then there is MUDDY.

It was for these reasons that this week I was planning urban caches and not country walks. Urban caching is very different to woodland or countryside caching and as such requires a very different mind-set and collection of searching skills. Urban areas can be much more muggly and a lot more stealth is required when attempting these sorts of caches. As you can imagine it is extremely difficult for me to be inconspicuous when searching as I am not very aware of other people in the vicinity and therefore have no idea when to hang back and when it is ok to search. That and the fact that I am carrying a 5 foot long white cane that tends to attract the odd glance from passers-by which is exactly what I am trying to avoid in most cases.

In addition to this, the majority of containers in urban hides are a lot smaller than those out in the countryside. You see a lot of micro and nano sized containers and as you can imagine these can be buggers to find, especially when you have a constant nagging feeling that at least half a dozen people are watching your every move. We are not great fans of urban environments for r geocaching but some places are better than others, there can still be nice settings in built up areas for hiding caches and sometimes you can find some truly surprising locations tucked right away in the heart of towns and cities.
St. Albans was the venue for our urban caching today and some extra careful planning had been done as we are getting very close to our 500 milestone. The goal today was to get up to 498 in preparation for the milestone cache which we hope to do this weekend. We started the day on 486 and I scouted out a possible 15 caches in the area. I knew that this was more than we needed but as is always the case you often don’t find all of them.

Our walk today took us in a circle around the town visiting a number of local pubs, alas not to sample the ales, as well as the Historic Abbey and Clock Tower that stands in the centre of town. The origins of St Albans can be traced back right to Roman times when, under the name of Veralanium, it became one of the first towns on the newly built roman road Watling Street. Remains of some of the roman buildings can still be seen in the town including a rather splendid hypocaust. As well as the roman remains one of the most prominent structures is the Cathedral. Originally an Abbey parts of the building date back to the 11th Century. The knave of the building is the longest of its kind in England and famously the interior was used to double for that of Westminster Abbey for the filming of the Rowan Atkinson movie Johnny English.

Paul stands to teh left of the frame with the imposing building of St. Albans Abbey dominating the rest of the picture

St. Albans Abbey

The containers today included a number of micro sized containers both magnetic and otherwise, a couple of nano sized ones and a fake rock along with one or two small click and lock boxes. In the town itself there were 11 possible finds and we managed to get 9 of them which was a good way towards our goal. Thankfully the rain held off today and the sun even showed its face at times although we were still cold to the bone by the time we returned to the car for hot chocolate and lunch.

We had to call on our cache first aid kit a couple of times today to replace logs that were sodden to a pulp. At the bottom of my back I have a small pouch that contains a few essentials to get a sickly cache back up and running. The supplies include a selection of small plastic bags, some blank log sheets, a small cheap micro container that could function as a temporary replacement and a roll of waterproof electrical tape good for on the spot repairs. I feel quite strongly that cachers should do their bit to keep geocaches in good condition as it makes the game better for everyone. Yes it is the responsibility of the cache owner to keep their hides maintained and in good order but as we all know, this doesn’t always happen and all too often circumstances change and caches go unmaintained and abandoned. If I can replace a log or add a plastic bag to help keep the cache alive rather than see it eventually get archived then I am happy to do it. Having been geocaching for just over 9 months now we have already come across a number of circuits that are obviously not being maintained by the CO anymore and there is a real danger that holes in the loops will appear as caches get archived. I wonder whether a concerted effort by some fellow likeminded cachers might help keep them alive. I don’t think I can be the only person who has given this problem some thought, I will make some enquiries and see what I can discover.

After lunch we were still a few caches short but I had identified some that could be done as drive bys on the way home and if we managed to get 3 of these then we would have reached our target for the day and be set up nicely for the weekend when we planned to do two Multi Caches to take us through our 500 milestone. Thankfully we did manage to find three, the last of which was hidden behind a log at the side of a narrow lane than ran next to the M1 Motorway. This lane which at one point was probably quite a busy route is obviously enjoying a much more peaceful life in retirement now that the massive motorway takes people whizzing past the area as opposed to through it. I am glad that we decided not to whizz past on the motorway today, but instead to stop and enjoy what the city of St. Albans has to offer

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