Most of my blog entries of late have made comment about how our recent house move has meant that we haven’t done this or that for a while… and this one is no exception. Sharlene and I went out on our own on Wednesday as Sam was at school and I worked out that we hadn’t done that since early April. Our geocaching days out on our own are a bit like “date nights” for us. It is a great chance to be together away from all the distractions of daily life and just focus on each other… whilst geocaching of course.
The plan was to take on two circuits that sit slap bang next to each other near the small village of Flanstead in North West Hertfordshire. Looking up Flanstead on the web revealed that it plays host to an annual scarecrow festival and this has pricked my curiosity to such an extent that I have put this year’s festival, being held from 15th to 17th August, onto the list of things to do this summer.
The first circuit,Green Lane is a new series placed by WizzardPrang who we met a few months ago at the Village signs event. I have been following his blog at wizzardprang.wordpress.comsince not long after we started caching. When his series went live a few weeks back I was half tempted to suggest a try for the FTF but seeing as Smokeypugs and The Bongtwashes, both of whom are keen FTF hunters, are very local I reckoned we would be wasting our time. Sure enough The Bongtwashes nipped in and snagged the lot almost the moment they were published so I am glad we left it so that we could properly enjoy the walk.
Leaving the car at the suggested parking coordinates where we snagged another cache not part of the series called it’s the nuts, we then headed off down the deserted country lane to tackle the 7 traditionals and 1 multi that made up the loop. The weather was perfect, warm but not too hot and the going under foot was excellent. The walk was extremely enjoyable along quiet lanes and across fields and through small clumps of trees. We were soon relaxing and chatting about this, that and nothing in particular as we added the smilies to our total. The hides were excellent, nice good sized containers and all well hidden but with detailed hints. If you read my last blog entry,The Versatility of Geocaching, then you will know that this sort of loop is exactly the sort of thing that ticks Sharlene’s box, so to speak. Easy walks with shade and caches a few hundred metres apart
Along the way we met some walkers who seemed lost and we must have looked like locals as they started asking us for directions but we had to admit that we were visitors to the area too and couldn’t really help them. Having been a geocacher for a little over a year now, I am baffled as to why people walk around without the security and assuredly of a GPS unit these days. I understand that the purists like to have a map and a compass but how come it is these sort of people that get lost and have to ask a blind man and his companion for directions. We also met some very friendly horses who were not lost but were keen to know if we had any food for them. Wwe didn’t, so instead we passed the time chatting for a while before then bidding them farewell and continuing on our way.
Aside from the trads on this walk there was one little added curiosity to throw into the mix. There was a multi cache that relied on hidden Aluminium Alpha Numeric Discs (AAND). If you don’t know what these are then this image might help you. Basically if you have ever solved a bonus cache then you will be familiar with the idea of associating letters of the alphabet with numbers as in A=1 B=2 etc. An AAND has some letters and the corresponding values printed on them and therefore if you are given some letters as part of a puzzle then you can use the disc to return some numbers that you can usually feed into a coordinate formula. WizzardPrang had hidden two of these discs along the way round and published only the coordinates of the first one. You then have to use the info from the first disc to locate the second one and then using information from both discs you can locate a final physical container. This was the first time we had encountered these handy little discs and after a bit of fluffing around and a short period of pain endured whilst Sharlene retrieved the numbers off the first disc as some holly tried its best to stick itself into her bottom, we managed to put all the numbers in the right places and picked up the bonus cache as we made our way back to the car for lunch.
On the whole this is an excellent series of caches through some lovely countryside. We picked just the right time of year to do it I think when there was little or no mud and the weather was glorious. The added twist of the AAND made this a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours and WizzardPrang gets a big thumbs up and a favourite point for his hard work.
After lunch we moved the car a short distance to take on the second series which had been placed by the Bongtwashes in June last year. After parking up we headed off along the roadside in search of the first one, Red Lion Part two, and almost came a cropper right at the start when after 15 minutes of searching the very prickly hedgerow at the side of the road, we still didn’t have cache in hand. Finally after almost disappearing up to the armpit in the hedge I found it and, therefore, order was restored once more to the world. This first cache did set a bit of a trend for the next few hides though as we had to work quite hard to find the containers and more scratches and stings from nettles were picked up along the way. (Grumble grumble thanks bob
The first few that we tackled were along the roadside which, whilst not too busy, did have the odd car come speeding down and the lack of a footpath on either side of the road did make things a little worrying at times. Soon, however, we turned off the road and felt much more comfortable as we walked down towards a farm. The stings and scratches didn’t ease up for the caches though. We met a lovely herd of cattle whilst crossing a field at one point. To be fair there was a sign specifically warning of livestock in the field at this time of year and we made sure we knew where they were when we entered the field. They were all shading under the trees over the other side, but as soon as we started making our way through the field, one inquisitive young male broke away and started walking towards us. Our pace increased slightly and we tried to stay calm. Thankfully the distance we had to cover wasn’t that far and he was obviously too lazy to do anything like run so we were soon out of the field and breathing normally again.
And then disaster!
We had a DNF! Despite about 15 minutes searching, getting scratched and pricked to buggery and cursing myself a hundred times for not bringing my gloves, we could not locate the cache that was supposed to be on a broken gate. Eventually when I had almost lost feeling in my left hand completely from the nettles stings we gave up. What a bummer, a DNF right in the middle of a series and a fair way from the nearest parking point, so I guess we will be walking back some time in the future to try and lay that demon to rest, perhaps during the scarecrow festival.
After that we found the rest of the series without too much trouble other than the odd extended search. I enjoyed the walk very much and seeing this horse jumping course laid out right on top of one of the GZ made me chuckle. I tried to get Shar to do her best horsey impression and trot over a few of the jumps but she was having none of it… what a spoilsport.
Presently we found ourselves back on the road where the first cache was located, to pick up the last in the series and then it was a short stroll back to the car with plenty of time to spare before we had to pick Sam up from school. The two circuits were vastly different, the first being very relaxed with nice easy finds and the second being a little more
challenging in terms of the hides and also the environment and the accompanying vegetation and livestock but I enjoyed them both for different reasons, not to mention that we added another 16 smileies to the pile even if there was one DNF. And, of course, it was good to be out on a “date” with the better half. Happy days.