We return to Bovingdon, meet the grumpiest man in the village, vanquish some DNFs, and perform a resuscitation following one of our most challenging treks to a cache yet.
On Wednesday, despite the temperature only just hovering above zero and with the threat of snow hanging in the air like a fart in an elevator, we dropped Sam at school and set off for Bovingdon – We had some unfinished business to take care of. It is quite normal for people to have a nemesis cache, one that, despite repeated attempts, they are unable to locate. We have a nemesis village – Bovingdon. It has thwarted us in a number of ways over the past year or so and you can read about those times on my previous blog entries, Slow Cats and Lessons Learned – Back to Bovingdon and Bovingdon Rebooted.
As you would expect, there was a plan. If you know me then that goes without saying, there is always a plan. I plan, therefore I am. Our objectives were to find the 4 caches that we were missing from the RAWGOLD.COMP series and then, hopefully, find the bonus cache too. In addition to this we had a list of nearby caches that we could find at the same time including one that hadn’t been found for over a year and therefore would be eligible for resuscitation… but more on that later.
We parked up at the Bricklayer’s Arms which, as I am sure you realise, is a pub and not the remains of a shocking building site accident. As we started getting on our boots and gaiters I suffered a momentary pang of apprehension as my mind flashed back to the last time we had been here just a few weeks ago – see Bovingdon Rebooted. Realising that we had indeed got the correct boots this time, I reckoned that the day had already been a success and any caches found were purely a bonus. It being only a degree or two above freezing we were well wrapped up today. I had even gone for a double layer of trousers and the scarf, hat and gloves were a must. We left the car and headed down the narrow country lane keen to get moving and get the blood circulating.
Flaunden – Crossroads (GC32730) was our first cache and we found it quickly, just beyond a kissing gate at the start of a footpath that led away from the road. Interestingly the name of the cache was crossroads, but the roads here were actually a T junction. The footpath that went north beyond the gate did turn the junction into a crossroads and I wonder whether sometime in the past that it actually was a crossing of tracks but only three out of the four legs were deemed important enough to be turned into roads. Shar found the cache within seconds of us getting through the gate, kissing on the way of course, and I stood and waited for her to sign the log and wondered what the patches of white were that I could just about make out on the ground. Duh, Snow! Whilst there was no evidence of it anywhere else, on this one footpath there was the odd patch of frosted snow. It was almost as if it was fake snow that had been added ahead of a photo or video shoot. We headed north to our next cache which, like the first one, was owned by CaptainJack.
Flaunden – Plantation Purple Patch (GC3273W) was about 400 metres along the wide footpath. The going was easy with only a couple of patches of mud. It was quiet and peaceful here and slowly our feet started to feel the benefit of the walking. My fingers were still having a few issues and I certainly spent an inordinate amount of time putting on and taking off my gloves during the first part of our walk. This cache had not been found since August 2014 and we were expecting it either to be missing or to be a difficult find but it turned out to be quite easy, hidden at the base of a tree. The log was a bit damp but considering it had been undisturbed for 5 months it was in good condition. I am still not quite sure why this one doesn’t get visited more often. There are caches all around it and they tend to get visited at least once a month but for some reason not this one. After Shar had done the signing honours we backtracked our way along the footpath to the GZ of the first cache we found so that we could continue on along the lane.
A short way along we discovered the hint item for Flaunden – James Bond Gate (GC3272G) had either fallen over or been pulled out of the ground. The post, for that is what it was, lay in the undergrowth but luckily the cache itself was still intact. As we stood signing the log we paused as a man passed with his dog. After he had gone Sharlene commented on what a grumpy man he had appeared to be. She had smiled at him as he went past and despite obviously seeing her he made no acknowledgement of her or the smile and instead just stared at us with contempt and said nothing. Me being ever diplomatic and optimistic suggested that perhaps he hadn’t properly noticed us in time to respond, or that his curiosity about what we were doing was manifesting as concern or suspicion, or even that this was the landowner “sick of bloody geocachers.” Sharlene just thought he was a rude and grumpy git. As we continued on down the lane towards the next cache we discovered that he was now walking back towards us, still with his dog. I suggested to Shar an experiment. I told her to squeeze my hand as he was about to pass us and then we would both smile at him to see if we could elicit a response. I was wrong, Shar was right, he was just a miserable old git.
The lane bent round to the right and shortly we found ourselves at a junction where an even narrower lane branched off to the right. Flaunden – Dale Farm (GC3271Q) was located on this corner on the back of a sign and it was an easy retrieve for me being of “normal height”.
Further on down this narrow lane we located the footpath that would take us to the first of our missing RAWGOLD.COMP caches. When we were here in November 2013 a friendly horse had greeted us and accompanied us half way across the field but today there was no horse, but unlike last time, there was a cache, RAWGOLD.COMP #21 (GC23EQ1), which was good as we were there for caches not horses. It was hidden snuggly under a rock at the base of one of the post making up the structure of the stile. A quick sign job and then we backtracked to the lane and found the footpath on the other side that would take us past three remaining caches before we could get back to the car.
We were making excellent progress so far. A short trek along a narrow and slightly muddy footpath and we came to the GZ of our next cache, RAWGOLD.COMP #22 (GC23EQ4). We couldn’t fail to notice this one as the white screw top container about the size of a coke can had just been tossed into the branches of the hedgerow to the right of the path at about eye level. This being winter there were no leaves to hide the cache and we were astonished at how it had not been muggled even though the last finder was just after Christmas. After signing the log we check the hint which said that it should have been base of tree and so we put it back in a location that matched the hint and cursed whoever put it in the branches. If that was a geocacher then they are an idiot and a terrible endorsement on the hobby. Rant over.
Flaunden – Football pitch (GC3271A) was our next cache and we made our way further along the footpath until it ended at a kissing gate with an open field beyond. Being rather exposed here, the wind was a bit bracing to say the least and we quickly searched all the posts to try and find the cache as fast as possible. Despite searching all the posts we had no luck and reading the logs discovered that the last cacher had not found it either. Seeing as this cache is directly in between two caches on the RAWGOLD.COMP series, both of which have been found recently and often, it seems strange that there was a total lack of logs before the last DNF until last summer. The previous finder noted this and said that it was obvious that people had failed to find it but not logged a DNF. He ranted about this behaviour and I tend to agree with him. The process of logging DNFs is a valuable one that benefits other cachers as well as the cache owner. Obviously everyone is free to play the game however they wish and there is no actual requirement to log DNFs but I personally think it sucks not to do so. Just my two penneth worth.
From here we made our way across the field being gently battered by the wind to RAWGOLD.COMP #23 (GC23EQ5) which we found suspended in a tree to the side of a wooden kissing gate. The cache was held in place by some garden wire and as I was holding it, the thing came away in my hand. Oops. I replaced it as best I could and walked away whistling nonchalantly. Our route so far had taken us along three sides of a rectangle and after finding this cache we carried on till we met another lane then turned right along it to take us back to our first cache and then back to the car. Phase one was complete and apart from 1 DNF it had been a great success. It was still a bit early for lunch and so we drove a short distance to our next parking spot where we planned to pick up the last of our missing raw.gold caches and a couple of nearby captainjack ones too. We hopped out of the car and located the footpath that would take us to two of the three caches. Back in November 2013 this footpath was where both our phones finally died leaving us over 2km from the car not knowing where it was or how to get there with darkness closing in and time rapidly running out. We obviously made it back fine, otherwise how would I be writing this? Arriving at the GZ of RAWGOLD.COMP #27 (GC23EQP) the hint told us we were looking for a micro hanging in an evergreen bush. We were slightly deflated to see a wall of conifers lining the whole path. That was a lot of very similar looking bush to search for a micro. Even though we had the protection of the conifers on one side the other side of the path was flanked by open fields and the freezing wind was at its worse here. Fingers soon became numb and stiff. It took us about 10 minutes of finger searching the bush before with relief Shar finally found the little bleeder. We were so happy to be heading back along the path out of the wind.
Bovingdon – Hogpits Bottom Cricket Score (GC3270V) had a confusing hint that we never did quite figure out but we found the cache at the base of a tree without too much trouble. Heading back along the path to the road where the car was parked we crossed over and headed down a lane a couple of hundred metres to where the third of our trio was located. Bovingdon – Middle Lane Dairy(GC3270A) was supposed to be hidden at around head height in a large tree and although we found the tree quite easily we couldn’t find the cache. We eventually found it on the floor and as we signed the cache a group of horses came over to us, leaning over the fence for some attention. I put the cache back in the tree and Shar played with the horses for a bit. Turns out today was about caches and horses after all. Back at the car we moved to another parking spot and broke out the packed lunch. Hot chocolate was most welcome although it was only really my hands and nose that were cold the rest of me was toasty warm.
After lunch we took a short walk down a country lane to find Bovingdon – Middle Lane Tumbledown (GC326ZF) which was a relatively easy find at the base of a tree hidden under a piece of stone. There were a few cumbersome bushes to get through to reach the cache so when I was there I decided to stay there and toss the cache back to Shar for her to sign. Without turning round I asked her if she was ready and thinking she said yes I backhanded the container to her. She wasn’t ready and I managed to hit her. It is an unusual side to geocaching that we haven’t explored, the idea of throwing containers at each other. Shar passed me back the cache, she didn’t throw it because throwing a cache to a blind person is illegal in Hertfordshire. No harm done and soon I was rehiding the cache.
After this it was time to try and find RAWGOLD.COMP Bonus (GC23EJ2). On our previous visit we had managed to collect 8 out of the 12 needed bonus numbers and I was curious to see if I could work out what the missing ones were. In the cache description there were 6 formulas the answers to which each represented a digit in the coordinates. 3 for the longitude and 3 for the latitude, usual stuff. This meant that all the answers had to result in an answer between 0 and 9. Looking at the bonus values we had collected, I noted that all 8 numbers were unique and all were single digits. I made an assumption therefore that the 12 bonus values were the numbers 1 to 12. This allowed me to work out which ones were missing and using excel I could play around with substituting the missing numbers into the formulas until I found ones that made the answers all be single digits which is what I needed. There turned out to be only one way to make this work and therefore I had myself an estimated set of cords. I looked on the map to see if they looked realistic and found that the location was on a footpath slap bang in the middle between the last and first caches in the series. That was good enough for me. We managed to collect another 2 bonus numbers from the 4 RAWGOLD.COMP caches that we found and they lined up with the values I had guessed for them. It was only a short walk to the footpath and arriving at GZ we made a quick find in the bowl of a tree. I was feeling very smug with myself but as is quite often the case we felt that the bonus cache was a bit disappointing. A bonus cache should, in our opinion, be something a little special seeing as how you have to do a lot of extra work to get it. One of our favourite caching trails is a series in Stubbings wood in Tring and that has a lovely large ammo can as the bonus cache stocked to the brim with decent swaps. (see Stubbings Wood – Do bogeys smell of fish)
There was another cache, Woody Woody (GC23WMK), nearby to the bonus and so we hoofed it over to a small copse of trees overlooking a cricket ground. We spent a long while searching trees in and around this copse but we just couldn’t find the cache. We couldn’t even find a tree that matched the hint at the given coordinates. We gave up after 15 minutes and headed for the car.
We still had some time left before we had to pick up Sam and so we decided to try for just one more cache. Wind Chill (GC49F1Q) had caught my eye when I was searching for caches in the area as it had not been found since 26th December 2013. There were no DNFs or logs of any kind after the that date. I told Shar about this and we agreed that this was too good an opportunity to pass up. If we could find this cache it would qualify us to go for a resuscitation Challenge cache. If you find a cache that has not been found for over a year it is referred to as a resuscitation and there are special Challenge caches dotted around the UK that you can only find if you have successfully resuscitated a cache. From looking at the map it did appear to be in the middle of a rather long footpath and I wondered if this was what put people off. Looking in more detail I noted that it had only been attempted around 15 times in the 2 years that it had been live which isn’t much at all. The difficulty and terrain were nothing special and all the logs said that the find was a bit tricky but a very good hide indeed. We were intrigued and were determined to give it a go.
We parked up at one end of the footpath and straightaway we spotted one thing that might put people off. The path leading away from the car was uphill and very steep. We set off climbing about 20 metres in elevation in almost the same horizontal distance. It was tough going but we pushed on. The ground levelled out a bit. The going underfoot was not too bad, but soon the mud started. It was that clay based sticky mud in most places but as we got further along it became wetter and covered more and more of the path. From car to GZ it was just over 750 metres and the second steep hill came at about 150 metres in. We had to stop a few times on the ascent. After this it was mud all the way again. There was a stretch of about 100 metres that was like a total swamp and we were extremely thankful for our decent boots and gaiters.
With 300 metres to go I thought Shar was going to give in but she dug deep and we pushed on. The mud eased a bit and the last couple of hundred metres were normal muddy footpath conditions. Once we arrived at GZ we got down to the serious business of searching. There was no hint and the logs didn’t reveal too much, a few vague clues that we couldn’t really string together to mean much. We didn’t know if we should be looking on the ground or hanging in a tree. After 15 minutes of tromping through the treeline at the side of the path I was starting to fear that we were not going to find it and that the difficult journey here had been for nothing. I worried that the walk back down would not be a happy one if we were forced to log a DNF. But then, joy of joys, Sharlene found it. The hide was very clever indeed. The container itself was a small screw top container about eh size of a coke can. A hole had been made in the soft earth and then a stone slab had had an impression carved into it to wedge the container into. When the container was in place in the slab it was turned over and the container would sit in the hole in the earth with the slab lying flush to the earth just looking like an old broken slab of stone. Very clever and also an excellent way to keep the cache safe and dry. Despite not having been disturbed for over a year the log was bone dry and the contents of the cache in perfect condition. We were very impressed and also very happy at having made the find. The walk back was a happy one albeit still a muddy and steep one.
The next day it took me much longer than normal to clean the sticky dried mud off our boots and both of us were aching from the tricky walk. We have located a challenge cache near Aylesbury, Resuscitator Challenge (GC4AZ1Q), that we can now claim and it looks like it might be near the proposed location of our next PugWash adventure which will be very convenient indeed.
Finally we have managed to lifted the curse of Bovingdon from us and complete the RAWGOLD.COMP series. Add to that the achievement of a cache resuscitation and it was a pretty awesome caching adventure. Happy days.
This geocaching adventure took place on Wednesday 4th February 2015 and took our cache count to 946