We travel to Norfolk, fail to find an Earthcache, lose an iPhone and find a rubbish micro.
During the recent half term school break, Sam and I took a trip to stay with my mum in Norfolk for a few days. Shar stayed at home to look after our aging and ever more senile cat, and so that she could put her feet up and watch telly. Our visits to Norfolk are invariably full of outdoor / nature based activities and this means there is always room to do some geocaching.
Just after lunchtime on Wednesday, Shar dumped Sam and I at the side of the road near a little chef on the A10 in Ely and drove off laughing maniacally and cranking up the stereo to the maximum. We were rescued a short while later by my mother who promised to feed and care for us until our safe return could be arranged a few days later. Keen to start the fun as soon as possible, on the way back to my mum’s house we stopped off in Denver to check out some sluices. It was actually pretty interesting and we had the added incentive of collecting some info for a nearby multi cache, The Drain Game (GCEF17). We soon found an information board and gleaned some of the numbers we needed and learnt a bit about the sluice system as well. Umm… really? You want me to tell you what we learned? now? Err, OK, here goes. As far back as the 17th century some clever people, perhaps with some sort of Dutch connection, although I might have got that wrong, worked out they needed to control the water levels of the rivers running through Norfolk to try and stop the low lying, fertile land from continually flooding. The answer was to dig some channels and put in place some sluices that would allow the tidal waters to be safely diverted thus protecting the land which could now be turned over to lucrative farming. I seem to remember something about the channels being hand dug, mainly by prisoners. The system has been improved over the years but its function is pretty much still the same. There is also a dual use for the diversion of the water. In the 1960s it was discovered that the reservoirs of Essex, approximately 100 miles away were starting to run very low and so with the building of more clever channels and a massive tunnel they have the ability to divert water from Norfolk all the way to Essex. Clever stuff innit?
We enjoyed our time collecting the information for the multi but were then a little disheartened to find that the final was around a 3km walk away. It was pretty cold and none of us were really in the mood for a 6km round trip hike and so we elected to save it for another day. Instead we went looking for a nearby traditional cache that was part of a series laid along the Ouse Valley Way. This is a long distance walk along the route of the River Ouse as it wends its way from its source in Buckinghamshire, through Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and ending up in Norfolk at Kings Lynn. The route is around 140 miles long and the cache series, when finished, will have caches at approximately 1 mile intervals. So far around 50 of the caches have been placed and Ouse Valley Way Mile Marker 129 (GC308B2)
was close by. We followed the arrows to GZ, which was a small clump of trees just to the side of an almost empty car park, but unfortunately we were not able to find the cache. We did locate a chewed up camo bag and suspect that perhaps the cache has gone missing. A little disappointed not to have made any finds, but still having enjoyed our brief diversion to the sluices of Denver, we left and headed for The north Norfolk coast where my mum lives.
The next day we travelled a short way along the coast to Wells where the plan was to tackle the earth cache, Time and Tide Wait For… Earthcaches (GC58PMA). The requirements for logging this particular cache involved walking out along the beach to the waterline when the tide was at its lowest, something which could only be done twice a day. We had checked the tide times and found that the low tide would be at around 12.40pm and so we planned to start our walk at just after midday to give us plenty of time to cover the 3/4 of a mile distance out to the water. While we were waiting we decided to take a stroll through the woods that flanked the coastline. I am sure you can probably guess that this was not entirely spontaneous and for the good of our health. That’s right, there are some geocaches in the woods. Well it would be rude not to find them wouldn’t it?
We decided to go for the one furthest from the car park first and then work our way back finding the other two on the way. After a 20 minute walk alongside the woods which separated us from the beach, we were finally close enough to the GZ of Holkham Haul (GC1984) to cut off the path and into the trees. This was a relief to be honest as the wind was bitter as it whipped along the Norfolk coastline and the trees provided us with some welcomed protection. The terrain was a little challenging though, the wooded area being littered with dells that meant there was a lot of slopes and uneven ground to negotiate. As is often the case when searching for caches under heavy tree cover, the GPS accuracy was a little patchy and because of this we overshot the GZ a short way before realising. The hint was excellent and as we back tracked a short way, Sam spotted a likely hiding spot and pulled out the cache. The container was in good condition and the contents were bone dry which is always nice to see. When we had saved this cache to the phones earlier in the day both mum and I had noticed that this was a very old cache and it soon became clear that it was, in fact, the oldest cache in Norfolk. It was placed back in August 2001 which made the fact that it was in such good condition even more of a surprise. But the biggest shock was finding 5 hard backed notebooks which contained all the log entries right back to when the cache was first published. It was a marvellous slice of history to flick through the well preserved pages and see the comments of other geocachers going back almost 14 years.
As if that wasn’t enough we found a travel bug nestling in there in the form of a cute little pug dog. Sam and I instantly realised we had to take this TB and pass it to our friends Geoff and Melissa who have a pug dog of their own, Smokey. When it comes to deciding whether a cache deserves a favourite point or not there are many factors to consider such as location, hide, how well maintained it is, whether finding the cache was particularly exciting and to some extent whether the cache itself has a level of kudos associated with it. This cache ticked so many of the above boxes that awarding it a favourite was a total no-brainer, and if I could have done I would have awarded it two.
As planned, we headed back in the direction of the car, choosing to head out of the woods and onto easier terrain to take us to the two remaining caches, Grimmett Weekender 2014 (GC546C3) and Lucy & Tim’s Wedding-Next-The-Sea (GC1K9MJ). Both saw us cutting back into the trees and traversing similar dells to reach the hides. Whilst they didn’t match the all-round awesomeness of Holkham Haul, they were both still excellent caches and we even managed to pick up another TB and a geocoin from them. The last one we found was in the trees, barely 30 metres from the beach and after we had found it we broke out onto the sand. The tide was already quite a way out and this left vast expanses of beach before us. It was wonderfully sheltered and it was such a stark transition to emerge from the heavily wooded area onto the large open beach. We still had sometime before it would be the right moment to make for the earth cache so we made our way back along the sand in the direction of the car to grab a bite to eat first. As we reached the car, the heavens opened and the rain poured forth. Checking the forecast, and looking at the sky, it looked like it was set in for the day so after we had warmed up with a hot chocolate from the nearby cafe as a substitute for the, quite frankly, disgusting stuff mum had made – I love you mum but I think you will agree it was.. vile, we curtailed our geocaching for the day.
We hadn’t planned any further caches for our remaining time in Norfolk. The next day we went to Pensthorpe which is a very interesting nature reserve and we spent an enjoyable few hours watching all manner of birds, learning about hedgehogs and searching for Sam’s iPhone which we eventually recovered from the restaurant where he had left it on the table. There is nothing quite like the intensity of feeling that is despair when an expensive smartphone goes missing for the second time this year, except perhaps the feeling of relief and joy when it turns up again.
On our journey back to Ely to be collected, hopefully, by Shar, we took a small detour to the town of Downham Market. Mum had found a town trail that would acquaint us with some of the fascinating heritage of this settlement that stretches back hundreds of years. There was no plan to cache but I couldn’t help but have a sneaky look at the geocaching app as we drove there. Not wanting to turn it into another caching day, I tentatively suggested that we could just have a quick look for one that was right in the town square. After we had completed the walk which was very interesting, if a little cold, we had a bite to eat in a cafe that overlooked the square and all the time the cache was burning a hole in the back of my head. With just enough time to spare before having to meet Shar, Sam, Mum and I went in search of the cache which was hidden somewhere in the pretty “oldy-worldy” square. We eventually found a magnetic film canister attached to the bottom of a litter bin and I very nearly didn’t sign it in disgust. There were a dozen other places you could have hidden a cache in that square and yet someone has decided that the best place for it was on the bottom of a bin. It is caches like that that give geocaching a bad name. I am not even going to provide a link to the cache, it annoys me that much!
Despite the disappointment of our last find and not actually getting time to tackle the earth cache at wells, our visit to Norfolk was, as ever, very enjoyable. It has always been a haven of peace and tranquillity for me, a real place to get away from it all and on top of that the three caches we found in Wells were extremely rewarding. Happy days.
These cache adventures took place on 18th, 19th and 21st of February 2015 and took our cache count to 966.