With the over-indulgence of Christmas starting to take its toll, by the time New Year came around it was well and truly time to get out into the fresh air and work off some of the nuts and chocolate. We headed over to Aldenham, an area we are now very familiar with because our Wall Hall series is placed there. Close by and twisting in and out of our caches is another series, called Moosey’s Trail that was published just a short time after ours. Back in September we had taken a small bite out of the 29 cache (see Climbing a Ladder and Slipping past 800) series and on Friday 2nd Jan we went out determined to tick off a few more.
Even though it was January we were very lucky with the weather, it being clear and dry and as long as you didn’t spend too long in the wind it was rather pleasant. We parked up at the northwest corner of Berrygrove woods which is pretty much slap bang in the middle of the series and I had reckoned that we could walk in one direction picking up 9 caches in a loop back to the car, have some lunch, and then walk in another direction to collect another 8 caches in a second loop. And this is exactly what we did… after we had spent 20 minutes while Shar worked out how to put on her gaiters that I had gotten her for Christmas. I remember all too well how confusing it was for me last year when I got mine and how for the first few trips out I would need to allow a good 10-15 minutes to get booted and…. Gaited? Now, I have it down to a fine art and can be ready to rock in about 5 minutes. Shar wasn’t the only one with a new piece of attire. Sam was wearing his new boots for only the second time and I was in my brand new spanking, shiny boots! After I had them on and was standing next to the car listening to the groans and mutterings coming from Shar, she glanced at my new footwear and said they looked weird. I was immediately worried, like there was something wrong with them. I briefly questioned if I had them on the wrong feet, but then felt stupid because surely I would have realised this myself. She laughed and told me they looked weird because they were so clean.
The first loop before lunch was an easy walk along a couple of lanes, a brief stretch through a park and then a, not so nice, stretch next to the busy A41. The series is essentially a power trail which means the caches are straightforward traditionals usually less than 200 metres apart. The cache owner has departed from the standard power trail practice of using almost exclusively small, boring 35mm pots, instead making the effort to use a variety of containers and some clever camouflage. The hints are clear and fairly explicit… this is after all a power trail, the caches are there to be found quickly.
On the loop we enjoyed walking through tunnels under both the M1 motorway and the aforementioned A41 as this gave us chance to give our voices a bit of exercise as well to “test the echoes”. It was nice to see that we weren’t the only ones that did this as when we returned a family passed us and the kids had fun shouting through the tunnel. Now I think of it, I might have been the only adult doing it though.
A couple of the caches were big enough to take travellers and so I dropped off the two TBs that I had been holding on to for a while. Interesting, they both want to go to Australia but I fear I haven’t been much help with that. In the cache where I dropped of the second one, I found two hitchhikers already in there, a TB and a geocoin and I couldn’t resist taking them out. It actually was a coin too. So often these days you don’t actually see the coins, but instead a picture or other proxy travellers gets sent out instead with the actual coin nestling in a collectors folder back at home. It is a sad indication of some of the dishonest idiots that go caching these days that so many lovely geocoins get stolen.
A few caches further on and we were going great guns; now past halfway and heading back towards the car. The route for this took us down beside the A41 for a few hundred metres and this was the least pleasant part of the walk. The noise was oppressive and equated closely to sensory overload where you received too much information and as a result struggle to make anything of it. Thankfully the 2 caches along this stretch turned out to be quick finds including one which others had struggled to find, but which we found instantly. Having read the hint I followed the instructions with the help of Shar and then saying, “well it should be about here,” reached down and plucked the cache from its hiding place with a huge smug grin on my face.
Aside from a minor spaz from Sam when he complained of having something in his boot and continually refused anyone’s assistance to help him get it out we were quickly off the road and back on a quieter footpath. Oh what a joy to be having a shouting match with a stroppy pre-teen at the side of a very busy dual carriageway. 10 minutes later we were back at the car and breaking out the sandwiches and hot chocolate.
Lunch came with its own cabaret. As we sat in the car we watched a group of geocachers, search for and eventually find a cache that was about 20 metres in front of us. We had found this one the last time we were here doing some of Moosey’s Trail. After they had signed and replaced it they walked past us and down under the A41 the way we had. It was therefore slightly surprising to see them return about 5 minutes later and go in a different direction. Having just gone that way we knew that there were 9 caches over that side but they surely had only just enough time to find one of them. Reading logs later I discovered that the cachers in question had intentionally gone that way for just one extra as it meant they would reach their 1000 milestone later that day when they had done all the other caches they planned. Makes sense in hindsight, but at the time it was most bizarre. Reading the logs was like having the murderer unveiled at the end of an Agatha Christie crime novel. You end up with that “ahhh” moment and then decide it was obvious and wonder why you hadn’t thought of it before.
After lunch we headed along Otterspool lane and deeper onto the Wall Hall estate. This part of the route was pretty familiar to us because we had walked it quite a few times before when planning our own caches. The lane was a bit sheltered from the sun because of the trees lining it, but for some reason this failed to shelter it from the wind. We drew coats tighter around ourselves and I even slipped my gloves on as we continued on our way the bitterness swirling all around us.
More easy finds which were only hampered on a couple of occasions by the amount of muggles out and about. Seeing as the route took us right through the middle of a golf course, our searches for tupperware in the bushes was made harder by the many men shuffling around in said same bushes looking for their balls.
At the end of the lane, on which we had found a further 4 caches, we turned left at the site of the impressive Wall Hall Mansion, and headed down towards the river to pick up crab lane which would take us back to the car. Before we got to our next cache, we stopped to check on one of our own, Wall Hall 05 Mansion (GC53X4Q). Shar had a much better recollection of where it was than I did to be honest and despite a muggle dog walker hanging around waiting for their errant dog to return to them, she quickly had it in hand. It is quite a strange feeling returning to one of your own caches to discover how others had treated it in the past six months. I feel strangely protective of our caches and don’t like the idea that they have not been given the respect they deserve, but instead just tossed in the bushes and forgotten about. As it turns out this one was in good condition and aside from the log book being almost full and a couple of bits of useless and pointless swaps – why on earth would anyone put a broken ear bud from a set of headphones in a cache as a swap…ewwww, that’s been in someone’s ear – everything else was good. After a bit of maintenance we tossed the cache back in the bushes and moved on in search of smilies.
Crab lane is a foot path that runs in a valley near the river Colne and affords wide open views to the north towards Watford and golf course obstructed views to the south. Another 2 caches on Moosey’s trail were found relatively quickly and then it was time to check on Wall Hall 06 River Colne (GC53X58) which was hidden inside a huge hollow at the base of a very old tree. It is a fantastic hiding place for a cache, even if I do say so myself. The hollow is big enough to fit almost an entire small child in. I panicked for a while when I couldn’t find the cache but I knew it was their somewhere as it had been found only the day before. Eventually I found it nestling on a little natural shelf up towards the top of the hollow which, quite frankly, was a better location for the cache than the one that I had previously chosen which was deep down at the bottom of the hollow. After replacing the log and throwing out a bit of trash I put it back in its new hiding place on the shelf and we continued on along Crab lane for our last two caches of the day.
I have to hand it to TR64, the CO of the Moosey’s Trail series, because he really has put some effort into the containers and the hides. Despite it being a power trail, the interest and challenge is still there for those looking for something other than the standard 35mm pots. One of the last two caches we found, in particular, was a real piece of work being a fake branch stem that actually had been fixed to a tree. At this time of year it was a little easy to spot but in spring and summer that is going to be a bugger to see.
Our last cache of the day was a bit of a surprise actually because it was hidden at a spot where there used to be a different cache. We had found the old one a year ago whilst out doing our first exploratory walk of the area with a view to placing our Wall Hall series. I hadn’t realised it had been archived. The new cache was located at almost exactly the same spot although it was a little safer to retrieve. The old one had been under a small foot bridge over the river and in order to get at it, you had to get extremely close to the water’s edge and lean right under the bridge. Sharlene nearly had kittens when I retrieved it last time we were here.
In total we found 17 caches and managed to avoid DNFs completely which is an excellent way to start the year in my opinion. Despite the bitter wind we had all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves being reminded that this was a lovely place to walk. Probably why some bright spark decided to put a geocache series there. Happy days.
This caching adventure took place on January 2nd 2015 and took our geocache total to 893