“Elaine had not considered that!” – Hockeridge Woods Part 2

I am the sort of person who likes to finish what I have started. I wouldn’t say it is a full-on OCD with me but unfinished business niggles me until I either make a decision to get it done or remove it from the to-do list completely. I tend to operate my inbox like this; if I can’t deal with an email that comes in straightaway but I do intend to act on it sometime, I leave it there to remind me. As time goes by I am constantly reminded that I have something that I need to do. Over time I either sort it out and do it or simply delete the email and then stop thinking about it. It is such a nice feeling when I finally delete the email and now that I think about it I get the same sense of relief whether I complete the task or simply decide not to do it.

Putting that paragraph of freshly baked waffle to one side, I will now attempt to inject some context into the point I was trying to make. Long and short of it is that a couple of weeks ago we went to Hockeridge woods to do some CaptainJack caches(See previous blog entry Hockeridge Woods Part 1) and on Wednesday we returned to finish what we had started so that I could delete it from my metaphorical geocaching inbox. School had broken up for Easter holidays so Sam was along as a key member of the geocaching team as well.

We parked on Hog Lane, like we had before but this time, set off in the opposite direction. By including 3 of the nearby Ashley Green Series we could link up to the end of the Hockeridge caches and then head into the woods in Ernest for some lunch before finishing the set off. That at least was the plan and if you have read my blog before, you know how I do like to have a plan. Planning is my forte. Sitting at home squinting at maps under my magnifier so that the place names are as big as my head; reading the cache description and logs to make sure we know what we are getting ourselves into’ and, of course, making sure we have somewhere to eat lunch; that is what I excel at. Once out on the trail it is over to those with eyes to get us from cache to cache… with the help of my planning notes and map of course.

Things didn’t get off to a great start though as we had a little trouble finding the first footpath, a mere 200 metres from the car. There was some sort of a path that went down the side of a house but it looked like a driveway and we didn’t fancy the idea of ending up in someone’s back garden. After a bit of wandering we did find our way into some parkland and spotted a path which we headed for and with the aid of the GPS we located the path we were meant to be on. I reckon it was the one down the side of the house but no matter we were heading to our first cache, Ashley Green – Bottom (GC3K9AB), and all was well. It was a shame therefore that after 5 minutes of searching we were unable to find the container. A fairly straight forward CaptainJack hide obviously on the bottom of a gate but there was no sign of it. Checking the logs revealed that there had been quite a few DNFs on this one in the last couple of months so reluctantly we resigned ourselves to adding ours to the pile. We hate DNFs and most of all we hate a DNF on the first cache of the day.

Shar pokes around with a stick in the stingers hoping that there might be a cache in there somewhere.

Starting off with a DNF


We headed off in search of our next cache in hope that we might start racking up the finds and forget about the early failure. The weather forecast had suggested that it was going to be mild temperatures today with sunny intervals and this being England, we therefore decided to wear jumpers and coats! We were now starting to regret this decision as we started to make our way through the picturesque Buckinghamshire countryside. The sun was out and it was lovely and warm, and wearing the layers we were it was getting uncomfortable so Sam and Shar stripped off jackets and jumpers and added them to an already very full back pack.

Being an optimist I had suggested that instead of planning our route to get us back to the car in time for lunch, that we take food with us and find somewhere to eat it on the way. This may sound like a very simple decision but it has quite a lot of significance as it heralds a confidence in the weather that we have not had in over 5 months. Not since October last year had we chosen to have lunch on the trail rather than building in a loop back to the car to eat in the relative warmth. My optimism did come at a cost though as it was me that would be carrying the lunch in my back pack along with everything else including two recently shed jackets. I opted to keep my jumper and jacket on for the time being as there was simply no room in the bag anymore and either way I would be carrying them, if not in the bag then on my body.

Sam and Shar at the GZ of Ashley Green - Inside Again with a glorious view of fields of golden stretching out into the distance.

Fields of Gold


After a pleasant amble down a worryingly gradual descent-what goes down, must come up- we made our first find, Ashley Green – Inside Again(GC3K99V), of the day inside a hole in a post at the side of the footpath. Sam was already proving his worth today having found this one and everyone was glad to vanquish the memory of the previous DNF. Despite not having much vision I was acutely aware that what lay before us was some pretty impressive scenery. I generally get this feeling due to the large amount of nothing that obscures my vision. By which I mean if I can make out lots of sky and little else then either the view must be pretty good or I have fallen on my back and am staring up at the sun. In this case, the vast void was being broken up only by clearly visible undulating hills topped with trees which made it even more pleasing to my wobbly eye.

As expected we started to climb gently on the way to the next cache, Ashley Green – Topov (GC3K997), which Sam was quick to find nestling on top of a post. His excellent caching skills were complemented by his poignant social commentary when we passed a “proper” family on the way to this one. Apparently it earned its label of proper as it comprised of mum, dad, two kids of comparable age and a dog. I suspect that rather than being a comment on the lack of having a sibling of a similar age to him, Sam’s complaint was more to do with the fact that we do not have a dog… and won’t be getting one… so deal with it!

The gradual incline turned into an ascent on Kilimanjaro in order to get to the next cache. Thankfully the path under foot was dry and in good condition which made progress straight forward if somewhat knackering. After reaching the top and taking on some water and puffing a bit we got down to the business of trying to locateHockeridge – Bark (GC3K98D) . Puzzlingly the GPS wanted us to go about 10 metres off the path to the left but there was a barbed wire fence and a dense hedgerow there making this impossible. We trotted back and forth trying to locate a fallen tree to match the hint but with no luck, until finally Shar went far enough ahead to spot a path around the fence that could lead us to the other side of the hedgerow and hopefully the cache. We hacked our way through the bushes and trees and I was barely arriving at GZ when the container was located and there were smiles and smug grins all round… from Shar.

My planning had only got so far with the next cache, Drinks near Ashley Green (GC31NQT). It was an oddball one not part of either the Ashley Green or Hockeridge sets but appeared to be close by. The map showed a path most of the way there but then it was unclear whether we would be able to cut through some fields to get back on track with the Hockeridge ones or whether we would have to back track to our current position before carryin on. A brief discussion with Shar revealed nothing other than the fact that she had no idea either, which was fair enough I was just polling her for her opinion, which turned out to be that she really couldn’t say one way or another.

The path down to the cache was easily found by back tracking about 20 metres and then heading off to the right and then it went down… seriously down, steeply and sharply. Making our way down was easy enough but when we reached the valley floor I glanced back and fancied that I did not want to backtrack up there so we better be able to find a cut through! I knew that Shar was thinking the same thing. First things first, so we headed across a field in the direction of the cache. The route took us back up somewhat, but nowhere near as sharply as we had just come down. On arriving at GZ we were presented with two horse troughs, one on either side of a fence and we knew the cache was hidden beneath one of them. Sam went round the other side of the fence and immediately set about getting a thorn stuck in his hand which he was not happy about, to say the least. Whilst Nurse mum saw to the extraction of said thorn I shuffled off in search of the cache which I soon located under the far end of the trough, my first find of the day.

As the crow flies we were only a couple of hundred metres to the next cache, Hockeridge – Inside (GC3K97G), but there were no handy crows to take us there so those with eyes spent a couple of minutes searching out a way to get us to our goal without having to go down into the valley and up that nasty hill again. It was Sam that spotted a gate that might give us access to where we wanted to be and so with Shar less than convinced we headed in that direction. On arriving at the gate, there was no stile or kissing gate which was not a good sign, but also there were no signs saying that it was private property, keep out, beware of the leopard, which was a good thing. After a brief conflab we decided to climb the gate and make a break for it, GZ was only about 100 metres away after all. Feeling slightly naughty we made our way down the track in search of a way to cut through the woods that were on our right so that we could get to GZ. Shar found a spot and we climbed through the fence which was no mean feat with the full back pack I was wearing; I nearly got wedged in the rungs of the fence at one point and had visions of the other two trying to decide whether to rescue me or leave me. Luckily I managed to squeeze through and after a short bush bash we emerged onto a path whereupon Sam instantly found the cache right there. Despite potentially having sneaked across private property for a short way and having to hack through the woods for a bit we were very elated at making such an easy find in the end.

As a somewhat strange aside, whilst finding our way from Drinks near Ashley Green we put our minds to renaming the Teletubbies. If you don’t know who the Teletubbies were then check this link out, but do so at your own risk. Seeing as it has been a number of years since the Teletubbies were, for want of a better word, famous, I reckoned that they might be a tad bitter now and maybe they have descended into the bottom of a bottle or two in a desperate attempt to obliterate their “careers” from their own memories. To this end we rename them as follows. Dipsy is now tipsy, Tinky winkie is now Drinkie Drinkie, La La is Legless and Po is simply poo. I think the BBC should consider bringing them back, perhaps in a late night adult version of the original.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. Hmmm that’s a strange expression. I use it from time to time and I have never really stopped to think about where it originates from. It turns out that the phrase has its own Wikipedia entry which of course could be complete rubbish but it sounds plausible. It suggests that the phrase was originally used as a stock subtitle in the silent movies of the early 1900s and whilst at first was literally intimating a scene change to something going on at a ranch, later it was used to imply simply that something else was going on at the same time somewhere else.

The route to our next cache, Hockeridge – Reload (GC3k96y) was much more conventional, it being along a nice woodland path. After a distance the GPS wanted us to head right off the path so again we ventured into the woods and up a steep bank to arrive at GZ which was a very large fallen tree. Within the roots of the fallen tree we found an ammo can which was a very pleasant surprise as not many of CaptainJack’s 400 or so caches are anything other than standard plastic geocache containers. Once Sam and Shar had wrestled it open we rummaged through the swag and happily signed the log book before carefully heading back down the slope to the path.

Sam sits on the fallen tree holding the cache, an Ammo Can

Reloading


The bottom section of Hockeridge Woods is cut off by a main road that runs through it and now we had to get ourselves on the other side of the road in order to continue our route. We were again pleasantly surprised when we reached the road to find that we didn’t have to play Frogger with the traffic as there was a small tunnel underneath the road. Once on the other side and with our bellies reminding us that it was not far off lunchtime we turned left and climbing a steep bank with the aid of some helpful steps we tracked along the edge of the road to find our next cache, Hockeridge – William Hill Farm (GC3D8C9), which was to the left in a gully in the stump of a tree.

Our next one, Bones13 Hockeridge (GCW2KB), was not strictly part of the Hockeridge series but as it was so close it would have been rude not to collect it and seeing as it was placed back in 2006 by our friend Bones1 we could hardly ignore it. To get to it we followed the woodland path which would had been a lot more relaxing if it had not been so close to the road but it was great to be in the woods again.

We took a bit of a twisty turning track through the woods to get to our next one and had to scramble over a huge fallen tree that was blocking our path at one point but once at GZ finding the cache was easy. With a name like Hockeridge – Stumped Again (GC3K96C) and practically nothing else within 20 metres of the cache other than a stump you would have to be blind not to find this one… ahem.

Spurred on by the prospect of breaking out the sandwiches at the next cache we marched on along the wide woodland path enjoying the peace and quiet now that we were deeper in the woods away from the road. The only frustrating thing was that as we walked along the path we were skirting the cache which was always about 100 metres to the left even after we turned left onto a path to get closer to it. In the end there was nothing else for it but to head off the path and into the woods and after doing this we made much better progress finding ourselves at the GZ of Splish Splosh (GC4AZ5N) in a matter of minutes. Tummies grumbling we made a speedy find and log sign at the cache and then plonked down on the nearby bench for a welcome rest and lunch.
Shar kisses sam on the cheek and Sam sticks his tongue out Sam and Paul are sitting on the bench after lunch having swapped caps. Sam is pulling a funny face for the camera

Feeling refreshed and refuelled with some grub inside us we made our way back to the path and headed in search of our next cache, Hockeridge – Under (GC3K96P). Which was a quick find hidden underneath a log at the side of the path. As we continued on along the path we started to experience feelings of De Ja Vu as we soon found ourselves about 150 metres to the right of the next cache, Maddy’s Memorial Cache (GCX1HB), with nothing but woods to the left of us. We continued on until finally we met a path that looked like it might head back in the direction of the hide but with the prospect of this adding another 500 metres to our walk we all opted to leave it for another time. It was actually very close to Remains which is the cache that we had to log a DNF on last time we came to Hockeridge so I am thinking there is a kind of Bermuda cache triangle in the area.

Sticking to the path we were on we soon found ourselves on Northchurch lane and standing at the GZ of a cache that Shar and I had already found, the last time we were here. Sam had not found it so we let him do the honours whilst he giggled at the prospect of where we had to go next. Our last leg of the walk consisted of four caches all in a relatively straight line up Hockeridge’s Bottom… (Insert childish giggling here). Hockeridge Bottom is actually nothing more than a fairly straight footpath from northchurch lane down to the main road but it has more significance than that as it lies on what is technically the border between Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. Along the path there are steep banks which date back to medieval times and are topped with old hedgerow trees to make the separation between the two counties.

Glad to be on the home stretch now as legs were starting to ache a little we made our way down the path that quickly narrowed from its original wide open layout to a narrow single file affair. After a while we approached the GZ of our next cache, Hockeridge – Bottom (GC3D8AY) and when we got close we headed off the path and into the woods where the arrow was taking us. Yet again Sam made the find here as he had so many times already today… I was starting to feel like just a pack mule at times, lugging the supplies around.

The next cache turned out to be exactly what the title, Hockeridge – Just A Tree (GC3D8B2), promised. It WAS just a tree but the question was which one. When we approached GZ both Shar and I started having problems with our GPS signals due to the tree cover so it was basically a case of just splitting up and searching trees. Whenever we split up to search it always reminds me of Scooby Do; where the mystery solving friends always separated into small groups when they were in search of the spooky monster. Thankfully nothing leapt from the woods to pick us off one at a time but we did have trouble finding the cache. I gave up on the GPS and just felt my way from tree to tree and searched at the base of each of them. I find if I stare up towards the tops of trees I can make out there form a lot better than trying to make out their trunks against the backdrop of the woods, so I spend half the time staring up at the sky and then using my cane to make my way to a tree before sticking my hand in any nook and cranny to look for the cache. After a while I got rather disoriented and turned around and had no idea if I was constantly searching the same couple of trees or whether I was actually working my way through the many that were at GZ. Sam gave up after a while and sat down and Shar was a little way off to one side of me… I could hear her rustling about… at least I think it was her, either that or the monster come to pick me off from the group. Finally after searching a tree which I strongly suspected I had already stuck my hand in every one of its crevices I was rewarded by the familiar feeling of plastic and I was triumphant as I pulled out the cache. To make my victory even sweeter Shar came over complaining that she had just searched that tree.

The penultimate cache of the day was to be Hockeridge – Stumped (GC3D8BH) and as you might expect it was found in the stump of a tree. There was a slightly comedy moment when arriving at GZ where there was conflicting information from the GPS devices so both Sam and Shar immediately went in opposite directions and left me standing on my jack jones on the path. I didn’t have to wait long though before Sam called out the familiar cry of “Found it”.

Sam is pictured in the woods finding the cache in the stump of a tree

Sam finds the cache


As we walked to the last cache of the day, Hockeridge – Archery (GC3D8C0), we stumbled quite literally on a drain cover which was rather odd considering where we were but this was not half as weird as what happened next. As I half tripped over the drain and recovered turning round to the others to inspect it, my iPhone decided to randomly start playing the audio book that I am currently listening to and the words “Elaine had never considered that,” Punctured the momentary silence that had fallen through the woods.

The GZ for the last cache was a place that we had already been. When we had crossed under the road before lunch and turned left into the woods we had been at the bottom of Hockeridge Bottom and here we were again now having approached it from the opposite direction this time. We quickly found the magnetic cache that was located on the archway of the tunnel bringing our find count for the day up to 16 with only one DNF.

Sam and Shar locate the cache in the tunnel under the main road on Hockeridge Bottom

ARCHery


To get back to the car we had to follow the same route we had taken earlier skirting along the road before turning left out of the woods. This took us past two caches that Shar and I had found the first time we were in the woods so we stopped allowing Sam to sign his name in them too. And then it was the last trek back to the car and a much needed sit down and cup of hot chocolate. Hockeridge woods is a lovely place to walk and cache and we had a great family day out with lots of laughs and capers on the way. To top it all off I realised when we had finished that somewhere on the way round we had broken our 600 finds milestone. Happy days.

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