In which we head back to Chesham to do some more of the Chiltern Hundred, find way too many Scouts and far too few ostriches.
As the weekend rolled around and the weather forecast looked extremely favourable we made plans to take another chunk out of the Chiltern Hundred. For more information about this series and our previous outings to chip away at it, see previous Chiltern Hundred blog entries.
The weekend before on our Pugwash adventure, Another day, another duck, we had found 19 caches and that took our cache total to 987. A glance at the caches I had planned for this outing showed 16. Hmmmm. A bit of re-planning and our new proposed total was 13 which would take us up to 999 and set us up nicely for doing something special for our 1000 milestone. At that stage I still had no idea what it was we were actually going to do but at least now I knew that we would stick to our plan of honouring our milestones.
Despite this being our third visit to the Chiltern hundred, we were still on the Chesham ring which is only the first of three rings that make up the entire series. The plan was to go for caches 021 thru 031 this time. Being a straight line my plan was to park not far from 31 and walk via a different route to 21 and then cache all the way back to the car. The route from the car took in 2 non Chiltern hundred caches so that would at least break up the long walk to start with.
We parked the car in Great Hivings which is just a little north of the main town of Chesham. As we approached the planned parking spot we drove down into a valley and then up rather steeply. The hill peaked just as we pulled the car into a space next to a small parade of shops and I couldn’t help but think that if we were at the top of a hill then we would most likely be walking down to do our caching and that meant we would be walking back up to get to the car. I expect Shar might have been thinking this too but she wasn’t saying anything and I sure as heck wasn’t going to bring it up. As we booted up the sun warmed us and the breeze was gentle. The temperature were in the mid-teens which for an early march day in the UK is pretty amazing.
We set off and within 5 minutes we were leaving the residential streets and heading along a footpath at a gentle downward slope. This footpath soon opened out into fields and the decline got ever so slightly steeper. Remembering the map that I had studied at home, I thought this might be Chesham Vale and then I realised that it being a vale would suggest that it was indeed going to be surrounded by hills… that is how vales work. As we got closer to our first cache the footpath ended at a road which we crossed and then joined another path which now went up. Ah hah this is the whole vale thing in action. The path was so steep it prompted Sam to suggest it might be vertical! I explained that our ability to continue ascending without the need for ropes an crampons kind of ruled out that but agreed that it was indeed very steep.
Thankfully Chesham Vale – Whitehorn’s Farm. (GC338W5) wasn’t too far up the hill and it gave us an opportunity to take a break. A brief search of the trees to the right of the path soon turned up the cache hiding in an ivy covered tree. After signing and re-hiding, we continued on up the hill but turned left quite soon and followed another path through the trees that thankfully was nowhere near as steep as the previous one. Sam was in sullen pre-teen mode, had been all morning to be honest. I suspect that he would have rather stayed at home and plugged himself into his Xbox all day but there was no way we were going to do that, not on such a great day. Still, Shar and I kept our cool and counted to 10,sometimes more and pushed on. Shar was the one who made the find at Chesham Vale – Francis Wood. (GC338WD) which was hidden in the roots of a gnarly tree just to the left of the path. Both Sam and I had gone too far, blaming our mistake on the poor GPS coverage due to the trees, but Shar just nodded and smirked.
From there we had a longish walk up to the footpath where the Chiltern hundred caches were placed along but once we were there it would be a straight run all the way back to the car picking up 11 caches hopefully. Getting out of the woods was our first challenge though and one that took us a few attempts. There were lots of little paths and on more than one occasion Shar announced that after studying the map on her phone again, that we were going the wrong way. This did little to lighten the mood of cranky Sam and just before we did manage to find our way out of the trees I felt that a few words needed to be said. I appraised him of his attitude and told him to pull his socks up… or words to that effect. To his credit, it did seem to do the trick and he was generally in a much more positive and pleasant mood for the remainder of the walk.
As we made our way along a very narrow long path out of the woods I managed to bump my head 4 time son the overhanging branches. Sometimes I wished that I was the same height as Shar and Sam then they would always remember to tell me to duck. The way Sam is growing it may only be a few more years before that might actually be a reality. Shar, on the other hand, will always be a short arse. Finally, we emerged out onto a road just a hundred metres or so from our first Chiltern hundred cache. What we found was a lot of people in hi vis jackets manning some sort of check point. As we made our way towards CH021 – A416(GC1ECR3) we kept seeing more and more highly visible people walking around. As we got to GZ which was at a kissing gate where the footpath was intersected by the road, we saw streams of these walkers coming along the footpath and heading for the checkpoint. We worked out that they were Explorer scouts and that they were on some sort of hiking challenge and they were all hiking along exactly the footpath that we wanted to be caching along. This was going to be interesting. It took an extreme amount of stealth and patience for Sam to retrieve the cache which was right next to the kissing gate and even more for us to sign the log and carry out our maintenance as we had done for all the other Chiltern Hundred caches we had found so far.
We quickly replaced the cache and cross the road to pick up the footpath, hoping that this might be the end of the Explorer scout walk and not just a checkpoint but it wasn’t long before a group of 4 scouts came speed walking past us. Another group came up behind us and as we took the footpath to the next cache, they veered off to the right on a different trail. We sighed with relief but then a few minutes later we realised that they had made a mistake and soon could be heard trotting up behind us. Allowing them to pass we then stopped and I plucked CH022 Pressmore farm (GC1ECR7) from its hiding place in the top of a tall stump that lurked just beyond a strand of barbed wire. After this, it being around lunchtime, we decided to lay out the ground sheet in a field just a short way from the path and watch the scouts trot by whilst enjoying the warm sunshine and lack of ginger cake. I mean I was polite and accepted the replacement digestive biscuits from Shar with a smile and assured her it was ok but quite frankly if there is no cake on the next caching day out, I might be contacting my solicitor.
After lunch, during which Sharlene had amusingly tipped hot chocolate over herself, presumably for our enjoyment, we packed up and got back on the trail of caches. We noted that the whole time we had been eating lunch, we hadn’t seen any explorer scouts go past and hoped that we had seen the last of them. It was not to be however, as we had only been walking for a few minutes when another small group of them came barrelling past.
On reading previous logs for CH023 – boardwalk. (GC1ECRA) it appeared that it would not be a straight forward cache to find. There were a higher number of DNF logs than on other Chiltern Hundred caches. I had taken a look at the hint before leaving home, as I always do – my blindness is enough of an obstacle in finding caches without trying to do it without the hints – and knew exactly what it was referring to. The hint asked “How many trombones”. To me this made perfect sense, but that’s because I remember a song from my childhood called “76 trombones”. I admit it is a fairly obscure clue but I suspect that there will be at least one or two of you reading this that remember the song. are you one of them? Coupled with this knowledge and the name of the cache I suspected that we would need to be counting planks to find our cache. I told Shar and Sam this and as we neared GZ we did indeed find that a wooden boardwalk had been placed along the path, presumably to cope with a part of the footpath that had a greater propensity than normal to get overly muddy in wet weather. I adopted my smug face and we started to count. At 76 we started searching at the sides of the planks and underneath but to no avail. Feeling slightly less smug now I started a more thorough search getting on my hands and knees and shoving my hand as far under the boards as I could. Pausing briefly to allow yet more scouts go past I continued to search but still found nothing. Shar suggested that perhaps it was 76 from the other end and off she went to count. I continued to search, thinking that Shar’s idea would indicate a rather evil thinking cache owner. It was just a couple of minutes later that Shar called out, confirming that drsolly did indeed have a warped and twisted mind when it came to placing caches. At the end of the day, we didn’t mind because we had found the cache.
Continuing on along the footpath we started to descend rather steeply, obviously heading back into the vale of Chesham that we had traversed earlier coming from the opposite direction. Thankfully a break in the scouts allowed us to make a quick find in a stump of ch024 – Little Pressmore Farm (GC1ECRF). It was Sam who made the find this time and I am happy to report that he was in a much better mood now, probably because he had recently eaten and also because, technically, we were heading back toward the car now even though we still had 7 caches to go.
The last stage of the descent into the vale of Chesham was quite hard going. The footpath was quite narrow and the ground under our feet was rutted and broken up from the damage that water no doubt has caused when it runs down the hill. With just one more pause to allow yet more scouts go past, we finally reach the bottom and crossed over a lane to re-join the footpath and arrive at the GZ of CH025 – Chesham vale (GC1ECRK). Due to an administrative cock-up on my part, reading the wrong cache page, I had advised people to search the ivy covered tree to the left, but in fact the cache was hidden in the end of the metal crash barrier to the right of the path. Ah well, even I’m not perfect… all the time.
Being now in the vale of Chesham, there was only one way to go and that was back up out of the vale. The path up the hill was more gentle than the one we had just descended but it did tend to go on a bit longer. I think if presented with a choice between a long gentle ascent or a short steep one, I would generally pick the short steep one, getting the hard work over with quicker. Shar on the other hand would pick neither. At the GZ of CH026 – Bower farm (GC1ECRQ), we were introduced to the infamous dog that is mentioned in most people’s logs. The Doberman, thankfully, enclosed by a fence, made his presence known vocally as we started to search the ivy covered tree… yes the one I thought was at the previous cache. The dog soon got bored when he realised we weren’t scared of him. Even less scared of him was the cat that was stretched out in the sun on the other side of the same fence. I expect that the dog was rather miffed with the cat, blaming it for undermining his authority. The cat was probably totally unconcerned with what the dog thought… cats are like that… they rarely give a crap about anything. The cache was quickly found nestling just above head height in the tree and we did the sign and maintain dance before bidding farewell to the dog and cat who were both totally uninterested in us now. I have just been distracted by a thought and went searching previous logs for mention of the dog or cat. The dog gets quite a lot of mentions and the cat too got a few words here and there. I gave up when I got back to June of 2012 and realised that the cache has over 600 logs and there was no way I was going to search through them all. My conclusion is that the dog got way more mentions than the cat, but the cat gets lot more positive sentiments. Read into that what you will… I presume nothing, in fact I would be surprised if you are still reading at all.
I had been looking forward to the next cache all day. As the name suggest, ch027 – ostrich farm (GC1ECRX) was placed alongside an Ostrich farm. I had never realised such farms existed and was keen to try and catch sight of the long legged birds. Alas no birds found here. It didn’t look like there had been any for a while but on returning home it appears the farm is very much still going so I guess it must have been the time of year, or perhaps they are kept in a field further away from the path these days. The cache didn’t prove to be that easy to find either. The hint was simply “Ostriches are wild animals” which made me think we were looking for a sign with that phrase on it but there was no sign anywhere near GZ. In the end we resorted to reading past logs and when a previous finder suggested that the coords had initially led him to the wrong side of the path we focussed our attentions on the treeline to the left of the path. After a few minutes, Sam found the black tub hiding in amongst the undergrowth.
The path to our next cache, CH028 – ramscoat wood (GC1ECT1), climbed steeply with glorious views of the Chilterns to our left and a wooded area to our right. As we counted down the metres we realised that the cache appeared to be in the wooded area which lay on the other side of a high barbed wire fence. It appears that we probably could have taken a different route after the last cache to get here but not wanting to go back down the hill only to have to climb it again we continued on up in the hope that we would find another way in. Sure enough as we crested the hill we found a path leading back into the woods and we took it, travelling a hundred metres or so back to GZ. About 30 metres from the cache we left the path and picked our way through the trees and fallen branches to get to the hide. The cache was located snugly in amongst the trunks of a multi trunked tree. I was called to “stick your hand in there” and the container was retrieved. After a short water and Haribo break to boost flagging sugar levels we headed back out of the woods.
Sam made the find at CH029 – leaving ramscoat (GC1ECTB), which was hidden inside a stump at the side of the path. The hint had indicated that it had a stone on top of the stump but when we found it, the stone was next to it. There followed a discussion between Sam and Shar about whether the stone should be put back on top of the stump. Shar argued that to match the hint it should and Sam argued that it shouldn’t. When pressed as to his reasoning it transpired that he had none other than it would wind his mum up. Don’t you just love kids.
Our penultimate cache, CH030 – swing high (GC1ECTH) was one that I was concerned might not be there. Reading the logs there was evidence to suggest that the cache container might have been broken and that there appeared to be no trace of it at all at GZ. With the CO’s number in my phone I was expecting to have to call him to confirm the location so that we could replace the cache but when we arrived we discovered that the cache was indeed there. I can understand that because it is not a straight forward type of hide that a lot of people get confused into thinking it is not there but seeing as we have a hide that is similar to this one, all three of us quickly switched from searching the metal sign post for a magnetic cache, to looking for a string that hung down inside the pole with a cache on the end of it. Sure enough the string was there and after carefully pulling it up, a cache popped into view. I think that one of the problems with a series that is as big as this is that because most of the hides are standard nook and cranny hides when people come across something different they often don’t switch their brain into creative cache hide mode and assume that it is missing. Basically what I am trying to say is that we are amazing, versatile geocachers that kick-ass. True story!
Despite it being a relatively short walk, I think the hills and the unusually warm weather had drained us more than usual and as we made our way to our last cache of the day, I think we were all happy to be on the final stretch. Whilst Sam fished a rogue stone out of his boot at the side of the path, Shar and I continued on and made the find of the small square box at the base of a post at CH031 – great hivings (GC1ECTM). Whilst Shar signed the log and we did our maintenance I also chose to remove a golf ball that was taking up almost all the space in the container. From here it was just a short walk back to the car where we gladly shed our boots and enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate before heading home. It won’t be long before it will be cool refreshing drinks back at the car rather than warming ones.
After this, our third outing to find and maintain the Chiltern hundred caches we have now found 35 of the 109 hides which means we are just under a third of the way to completing our challenge that we set ourselves at the beginning of the year. Happy Days.
This geocaching adventure took place on Saturday 7th March 2015 and took our total cache count to 999