Hidden Swords, Christmas Puddings and Darth Vader the Scarecrow

Having already found the required geocache types for the Explorer, Sightseer and Mystery souvenirs, we were half way towards the ultimate goal of obtaining all 6 badges and therefore qualifying for the final Achiever award. In a cunning plan I had identified two geocaches not too far away from us that would take us 2 souvenirs closer to completeing the challenge, and so it was that last Friday we loaded up and went in search of a hidden sword, Christmas pudding and, in an unrelated activity, scarecrows.

For the collector souvenir you have the option of finding any of the “out of the ordinary” cache types which are virtual, webcam, letterbox hybrid and WhereIGo. There are far less of these types of caches around and I generally tend to avoid them simply because when you really do need to find one for a challenge such as this, you don’t want to have to travel many miles because you have done all the local ones. The Virtual and Webcam geocache types are what is known as “Grand fathered” now which means that no new caches of these types can be created but the existing ones are still valid. This does mean that these cache types are slowly disappearing from the map as when one is archived it can never be reinstated and will be lost for ever. The webcam is possibly the rarest type of cache in the UK, there being only 11 left I believe.

We are lucky enough to have a virtual cache just a few miles away in Kings Langley and so that was our first destination. Hidden Sword not-so-virtual cache (GC52FE) is located in a small garden adjacent to a church. The story goes that high up in the branches of an old , now sick, Tulip tree you will be able to see a sword and chain mysteriously piercing the branches. There is rumour that the sword is something to do with the crusades and seeing as a church has existed on this site since the 12th century, there is a possibility of at least some of the story being true… maybe. Being able to see the sword is not a requirement to log the cache but most of the geocachers that visit do make an attempt to spot it. Some claim they can see it whilst others fail to notice anything other than branches and leaves.

It being summer, we probably didn’t stand much of a chance of seeing it due to the high leaf cover but we gave it a go nonetheless. That is to say that Sam and Shar gave it a go whilst I just stood there looking pretty. I did turn my head upwards and peer into the branches for some reason…. Like I was ever going to see it. I could barely distinguish the tree from the sky let alone find a hidden sword, but I wanted to lend moral support to the others. After a few minutes of circling the tree it wasn’t looking as if we would see it, so I grabbed Sam and we went in search of the nearby gate that contained the information we needed to record in order to convince the CO that we had visited the site. On our return, Shar was still craning her neck up in the tree desperately trying to catch a glimpse of the sword. With a little struggle we managed to coax her away and convince her that it was OK if we couldn’t see it. She sulked briefly but then resigned herself to the fact and we headed off back to the car happy that we would be able to log the virtual and claim our Collector Souvenir.

Sam and Sharlene circle the tree trying to find the best position to look up into the canopy in search of the not-so-virtual sword

Virtually Hidden

From here it was a short drive further North to Great Gaddesden which is just beyond Hemel Hempstead and is the location of the earth cache Christmas pudding (GC19Z3J) which was our target to qualify for the Nature Lover souvenir. In order to be able to claim this award you need to either find an earth cache or attend a CITO event and seeing as we had a couple of earth caches nearby it was an easy choice.

Sam lays on the lump of pudding stone in the Churchyard

Christmas Pudding

Again, our location turned out to be a church where we were looking, not for a Christmas pudding as such, but for a lump of Hertfordshire pudding stone. This is a very interesting type of conglomerate rock that is mainly found in the county of Hertfordshire. It is often mistaken for a man made material because it contains lots of pieces of flint and stone as part of its matrix and as such is similar to concrete which is often a combination of cement and an aggregate of sand and pebbles. Being an earth cache there was lots to read and learn from the cache page and a number of tasks to accomplish at GZ. We needed to estimate the weight of the lump of rock which involved measuring it and along with taking pictures we also had to answer a few questions about the origins of the rock. We did what we needed to do and after stopping to admire the church for a brief moment we then headed back to the car. Later that evening back at home I researched the other questions using the interweb thingy and emailed the info and the pictures to the CO. Having done all that was required, I was able to log the cache on geocaching.com and our Nature Lovers souvenir took its place on my profile page.
War Memorial in the churchyard. From a virtual sword to a very real one.

War Memorial in the churchyard. From a virtual sword to a very real one.

From here we drove another short distance to nearby Flamstead where there was a scarecrow festival taking place. If you don’t know, this involves many residents of the village customising and dressing scarecrows and placing them in the gardens for visitors to vote on. You pay a small charge for a voting form and all the proceeds go to a good cause. Whilst not geocaching related as such I thought I would include a few pictures here as it was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and I urge you to try and visit one sometime if you get a chance. There were geocaches in and around the village but this was probably the worst time of the year to try and find them as the village was heaving with muggles so we didn’t even try. Besides, for once we were out in a country village for a reason other than geocaching… I know, shocking isn’t it?
Womble Scarecrows

Womble Scarecrows

Frozen - Olaf gets his wish

Frozen – Olaf gets his wish

What are you doing in my swamp!

What are you doing in my swamp!

Evil Triumphs - Darth Vader - the winning scarecrow with over 1500 votes!

Evil Triumphs – Darth Vader – the winning scarecrow with over 1500 votes!

Use the following link if you want to see photos of the top 10 voted scarecrows.

With the Nature Lover and Collector souvenir’s obtained that only left the Socialiser one to get before we could complete the challenge, but we already had plans for that… Stay tuned for more on that soon. 🙂

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