Now that Sam is back at school after the summer holidays, on Tuesday it was just Shar and I that headed off to Abbots Langley to do a little geocaching. We had greatly enjoyed our visit to the area earlier this year (see Philosophy and something Squidgy)and so I planned this return trip to attempt some of the remaining caches. Being just a few kilometres from Sam’s school we made our way directly there after dropping him off.
One of the geocaches on our hit list for the day was the multi, bones17 Abbots walkabout (GCJRMV) and this provided us with a perfect place to park… a car park. Amazingly, it was a free car park too. Having lived in urbanised areas all my life I was used to not being able to find a free car park that is anywhere near where you actually want to be, but this one was slap bang in the middle of the village and had plenty of free spaces. Even though we started our walk from this place I have to admit that we didn’t follow the waypoints of the multi. Reading the logs I had noted that a couple of the clue items of the cache were now no longer available, but helpful cachers had indicated that the final hide could be calculated by reading previous logs and using some logic. We had spent time the previous evening doing just that and with the help of Google Street view to snag one of the clues, a website that transcribed the carvings on a war memorial in the town, and some good old fashion logic and deduction we had derived some very plausible coordinates. I noted that this location was very close to the last cache I had planned for the day’s walk and so we set out in the opposite direction along the high street in search of a trad, The view across the horse field (GC4KM5W).
On our last visit to the area we had failed to find this cache but now with confirmation from the owner that the container was still there, we were returning to give it another go. Our walk from the car actually took us past a few of the waypoints of the multi cache so I didn’t feel so bad about arm chair solving it as we were getting to see the intended locations anyway. Soon we cut off the busy high street and down a track that eventually led into a footpath along the side of the field where the eponymous horses were distinctly absent. With a crispness in the air indicating that summer was on the way out and autumn would soon be here, and yet blue skies and the sun warming us from above we ambled down the footpath towards GZ. I am happy to report that once there, it was only a matter of minutes before Shar had the cache in hand and we were able to sign the log and tick off a DNF from our list. Always a good start to find the first cache of the day and a very pleasant feeling when it is a previous DNF.
From here we turned tail and headed back towards the main road, crossed it and found another footpath that would take us to our next cache. The walk was quiet and easy as we passed down the side of a school before arriving at a cross paths where we turned right and headed through a farm field in the direction of our old friend the M25 motorway. As we walked my nostrils were filled with the tantalising sweet smell of blackberries and Shar confirmed to me that they were indeed growing on the brambles to our right. We really must remember to pack an empty container in future to snap up some of this free fruit while it is in season… thing is we are a bit short on plastic containers, because we keep hiding them in the woods. Soon the bramble was left behind and we crossed the rest of the field with the merest hint of sprouting crops on both sides, which we hypothesised to be some variety of winter veg. Aside from a dog walker we saw no one else as we reached, and then crossed over, the M25. The path led us across more arable land to a T junction of paths where we turned right and marched on toward our second cache of the day which was simply called A View (GC2HQZT).
With a name like this our expectations of the vista that would present itself upon reaching GZ were high as we hiked along the wide track towards a point where hedges marked a boundary in the fields and flanked the path on both sides. Our hint directed us to look at the bottom of a post but we struggled to find any posts at all. The cache had not been found since January and as had been indicated by previous cachers, the area was very overgrown. On closer inspection Shar spotted some posts on the left of the track but searching these revealed nothing. Eventually she managed to spot some posts on the other side of the path but was dismayed to find that they were buried about six feet into the dense and prickly hedge.
There was nothing else for it but to get down on my hands and knees and get in the hedge in order to check out the posts. The first one yielded nothing and after a painful extraction we moved to the left and tried the next one. This turned up nothing either. Feeling somewhat scratched and battered Shar directed me the other way to a likely looking corner post that she had spotted. Again on my hands and knees and almost at full stretch, I was at last rewarded with the feel of a small metal bison tube hanging from the wire at the bottom of the post. When I unscrewed the body of the container from the cap, I found that the log inside was so wet as to be practically pulp and there was no way we were going to be able to sign it. I stayed in this rather compromising position while Sharlene fetched a fresh log sheet and tissue from my bag so I could perform a little cache maintenance. Having done my good turn for the day and feeling pleased as punch to have found a cache that hadn’t been found previously for such a long time, I then set about removing myself from the hedge. The smug feeling lasted only about 10 seconds as I then proceeded to mistake a pile of horse poo for my rucksack and stuck my hand in it… perfect! As for the view… well Shar reckons it was ‘nice enough’, what do you think?
After a little personal maintenance to wipe the horse poo from my fingers, we headed back towards the t junction of paths and continued on towards our next cache, Boulder hide (GC2HMQR). On the way we passed a woman leading two horses whilst having a conversation on her mobile phone. This got me to thinking, is it legal to use a mobile phone whilst on a horse. Internet to the rescue. Turns out it isn’t technically illegal to use a phone whilst on a horse just bloody stupid. It is however illegal to use a phone that isn’t hands free in a car or on a bike so horse riders have a distinct advantage there. On a slight tangent, it is, however, illegal to be drunk in charge of a horse on a public highway… just saying! I am unsure whether it is a crime or not to be in charge of a drunk horse.
This slightly bonkers line of conversation caused us to almost walk past the GZ and miss the cache. Once we realised this Shar quickly spotted a tell-tale pile of rocks that could only be the hide. Sure enough upon sticking my hand in the hole I pulled out the cache. This too was sopping wet, with water actually collecting in the bottom of the container and all the contents being mush. Out with the cache maintenance kit again and soon the lock n’ lock box was being replaced in its hiding place with a fresh log sheet inside a protective plastic bag. I hid the box a little better and wrestled a rock across the opening to conceal it a bit more and to perhaps protect it a little from the elements.
Carrying on along the path our next cache, View the wind turbine (GC2KNPZ), was to be found nestled in the bowl of a tree just to the side of the path. As this container was off the floor, the condition of the log and the rest of the contents were much better than the previous caches so the maintenance kit stayed in the bag this time. As for the title of the cache, there was indeed a very good view of, what I believe to be Hertfordshire’s biggest and possibly only Wind turbine. Little did I know it but we would get a lot closer to the turbine at the site of our next cache.
After replacing the container we strode on towards the next cache. Even though the direct line of sight distance to this cache was only about 500 metres we knew we would have to follow the path around the edge of the farm fields which would more than double that distance. We didn’t mind though as the weather was good and the walking was relatively easy, although there was probably one or two more uphill slopes than Sharlene would have liked. The footpath soon turned into a dirt track, which eventually widened and then joined up with a road just before it crossed the nearby railway line. We did have the option to divert over the railway and along the canal that ran next to it to pick up a cache at the old Ovaltine factory but we opted to leave this one for a day when we were walking the canal. If you don’t know what Ovaltine is, it is a hot malty eggy drink thing… ok that isn’t a great description but the Wikipedia entry for Ovaltine can do a better job. Suffice to say that when they first started making it in this country in 1909 they built a factory on the banks of the Grand Union canal next to the train line. The factory is now luxury apartments and duplexes but part of the facade of the factory still remains.
Our route took us away from the site of the factory and down Egg farm lane. I have now realised with a head slapping ‘doh!’ moment that when the Ovaltine factory was still in operation they would have needed a hell of a lot of eggs and what better way to achieve this than to have your own egg farm, which is what they did. The farm no longer exists and on its site now is the headquarters of Renewable Energy Sources (RES) which is a company that builds wind farms around the world. They are the owners of the aforementioned wind turbine which provides enough power to fulfil their needs and pipe a bit back into the national grid too. The walk to GZ took us right past the turbine and I have to say that it is quite a sight to see up close… even I could manage to make out its shape. The turbine itself was purchased by RES from a farm in Holland and they have turned the story of how ‘Lofty’ came to be nestling on the side of the M25 in Kings Langley into a really cute online children’s book called Lofty Finds A New Home.
As for the cache,What no view of the M25 (GC2M7M4) we found it easy enough just behind a tree at the side of the road. Shar was surprised to see how exposed it was to passers-by and so we re-hid it a bit better before carrying on down the lane which eventually took us back over the M25. We had just 3 more caches left to do before we could head back to the car where sandwiches and cake would be waiting.
On the other side of the motorway we were soon once again on a footpath that led us back through farm fields towards our next cache, The Dog Walkers’ path (GC2HDHD). Once at GZ we started searching behind fence posts as directed and soon had the sample tube container in hand. Shar was slightly confused to find none of the names of the cachers who had found it recently listed on the log. We checked on the geocaching app and it appears that after a string of DNFs, the cache owner had put a new replacement container out in April this year, but we had actually managed to locate the old container that apparently no one else could find. We were a little perplexed as the hide had not been a particularly tricky one and then we started wondering whether the replacement container could be found as well. After a bit of rooting around in the undergrowth at the base of the same post, sure enough I pulled out a 35mm film pot. We were a little confused as to what to do next but in the end we resolved to re-hide both containers and contact the cache owner to let him know that the old sample tube had reappeared and if he wanted to reclaim the replacement cache it was sitting snuggly next to it.
Backtracking a little we then turned onto a path that after a short way led us back into the civilisation of the houses of Abbots Langley. We didn’t have to suffer this urbanisation for long though 🙂 as the arrow soon took us into a small patch of woodland that nestled on to the edge of the village. We started off following a well laid path but soon found ourselves on smaller and less distinct trails as we threaded our way up a steep slope into the trees. With a name like Tom’s Tricky Treasure (GC31PEY) we got the feeling that this was not going to be an easy find. We split up and started trying to zero in on the cache but the poor GPS coverage had us zig zagging back and forth. The cache was described as being somewhat off the path and so we started venturing in amongst the undergrowth and trees. I found the terrain pretty difficult going to be honest as whilst trees and bushes don’t normally present me much of a problem the unevenness of the ground kept catching me out. Ditches and slopes just kept appearing out of the greenery with no warning and one minute I was suddenly stumbling into a hollow and the next I was struggling to stay upright as I tried to clamber up a slope; all the time being scratched and snagged by nature. I managed to fall over whilst standing still which really takes some doing I can tell you. One minute I was upright and the next I shifted my weight slightly and my feet were sliding away from me and I landed rather heavily on my right hip. No lasting damage although I do feel a significant area of bruising there now.
Little by little Shar and I were getting further apart caught up in our own search for the cache and being constantly deceived by our GPS devices. My tolerance was starting to wear down when I heard Shar call something to me. I could barely hear her and it took a few minutes of us both shouting to actually be able to find one another again. She had found a likely spot but needed me to ‘go in’ and check it out. So yet again I was on my hands and knees and crawling into the undergrowth in pursuit of ‘something blue’ that Shar had noticed. Unfortunately it turned out to be some random bit of plastic and not a container. By this point I had reached my limit and said that I was ready to give up but by the time I had extracted myself from the bushes and brushed myself off, Shar had vanished and was calling to me from somewhere else. This time she had found the cache! Apparently in a spot that she was sure I had already checked… this is extremely likely as my searches are less than thorough sometimes. It didn’t matter though as the cache was in hand and I could drop off the Interception TB that I had been holding on to for over a week now.
Our last destination of the day was to be the final of the multi cache bones17 Abbots walkabout (GCJRMV). It was very nearby to our current position and in fact was only just over the minimum distance that the rules state that physical stages of caches should be apart. We followed a handful of winding trails through the trees until we met up with a wide and most definitely man made path that led us to within 20 metres of GZ. The hint said that we were looking for a fallen tree and there was a massive one right to the left of the path. After fighting our way in through the trees we located the tree and evidence that the locals had been using this spot for the odd party or two… but no cache. After a while we turned to the logs and noticed more than one comment stating that they had been initially distracted by the massive red herring. Obviously this large tree was not the hide and so we set about looking for something else nearby. Again we split up but it wasn’t long before Shar was calling me over, not to tell me she had found the cache, but that she had found the log sheet. Sure enough she held a tattered log in her hands that showed signs of being attacked by a dog or similar wild animal. Just to the side of the path at this point Shar could see a fallen tree in amongst the undergrowth and when we got in there we discovered the container and lid on the ground. Feeling like the veritable Red Cross of geocaches today we again set about maintenance and placing the still usable log in a protective plastic bag we reunited it with the container and hid it back where the hint suggested it should have been.
Delighted at having found all eight of our planned caches and feeling good about the maintenance that we had carried out today we headed off back to the car where a much needed pack lunch awaited us.