With just a few days left of the school Easter holidays, I was keen to make the most of the unusually warm weather for the time of year and get back to our Chiltern Hundred challenge. For more information see my previous Chiltern Hundred blog posts. Up to this point we had found and maintained numbers 1to 17, 21to 31 and 44 to 49 leaving us just 15 caches left to find of the 49 on the Chesham loop , the largest of the three rings that make up the Chiltern Hundred series. After a lot of map squinting and head scratching, resulting in a splinter, I decided that the remaining caches couldn’t be done in a single walk and therefore proposed a series of mini walks for our outing, splitting the caches into 3 clusters of 3, 5 and 7, each with a different parking spot.
As we pulled into the car park of a pub on the Ashley Green Road and got our boots on, the weak morning sun was battling against the cool breeze and losing. We powered up the phones and found that our first cache was over 2km away. This confused me. Even allowing for the fact that we had parked near number 21 in the series, a cache we had already found, and that we had elected to walk past this and numbers 20 and 19 to get to 18 and then turn around and cache back to the car, 2 kilometres still sounded like a long way. With most of the hides in the series being 2 to 300 metres apart the maths just didn’t work. Shar checked her phone again and agreed with Sam that number 18 was over 2km away. I then got out my phone and looked at how far number 21 was from us, knowing that it should be just a few metres on the other side of the road, but I was surprised to find that it was over a kilometre. Then the penny dropped… we were at the wrong pub! Not sure how it had happened and not wanting to blame any one individual.. *cough* *cough* Sharlene, somehow the wrong postcode had been put into the car sat nav. After a bit more squinting at phones and maps by Shar, she declared that we were on the right road, but indeed, at the wrong pub, so we all piled back into the car and drove a short way further along until we found the correct pub. I kept an eye on my phone tracking the distance to number 21 and as we pulled into the car park of the pub, I was happy to find that the cache was less than 40 metres away. That was better!
Confident we were now at the right place, we crossed over the road and found the footpath that would take us the 700 metres or so to our first cache of the day CH018 Lye Green (GC1ECQC). The walk was on a good footpath with some large houses to one side and open fields to the other. As I mentioned the route took us past CH020 and CH019 which we would collect on our way back to the car, but we were a little concerned to find a guy with a chainsaw lopping off branches from a tree that we reckon was almost right on top of ch020. We passed on by and hoped that on our return we would discover we were wrong and that the GZ would turn out to be somewhere else.
After a rather breezy walk across an open field we entered a small path of woodland and within 5 minutes or so we found ourselves at the GZ of our first cache of the day. Sam scooted all around the impressively large trunk and in quick time found the cache, nestling snuggly at its base. Having done a few legs of the Chiltern Hundred now we all knew the routine we had made for ourselves with regards to doing maintenance and although we were a little rusty on this first cache, we soon got the job done. My combat trousers are turning out to be a most excellent purchase from a local charity shop, as not only do they keep me warm and dry and safe from nettles and brambles, but they have an enormous amount of pockets which I make full use of. Left waist pocket contains voice recorder and plastic bag for damp logs and other trash removed from caches. Right waist pocket holds my iPhone. Left thigh pocket holds spare log sheets. Right thigh pocket holds plastic bags and laminated bonus code cards. Left back pocket holds kitchen roll for drying containers and my right back pocket is reserved for storing ancient roman gold coins found whilst caching. Alas this last pocket has not seen as much use as I would have hoped but as Captain Sensible once sang, “If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true.”
With our first cache of the day found, logged, maintained and re-hidden, we turned tail and headed back towards the car and our next two caches. CH019 , Nashleigh farm (GC1ECQM)was a straight forward find further along the path just before we reached the open field again and aside from the usual maintenance dance there was nothing of interest to note. As we strode across the open field though towards CH020 Wine tree (GC1ECQQ), we were unable to hear the chainsaw that we had encountered earlier. Thankfully, it looked as if the man had finished his tree amputations and we might be in with a chance of making the find. The hint told us we were looking for an elderberry bush and both Shar and I laughed and once again made a mental note to get a guide book to trees and bushes of Britain as neither had a clue what we were looking for. We instead relied on the coordinates and after a bit of prickly searching we managed to find the cache nestling in what was presumably an elderberry bush. As we walked away, heading for the car, I wondered if I would be able to recognize an elderberry bush in the future and sadly had to admit that I would not.
With these three caches found it meant that we had now successfully logged all the Chiltern Hundred caches from 1 to 31. This meant that seeing as we had already found 44 to 49, all that was left was a continuous stretch of numbers 32 to 43. I hadn’t been able to build this stretch into a circular walk so our next chunk would consist of a “there and back” walk of 32 to 35. After parking the car, at the right place this time, we made our way onto a footpath that led alongside a farm and then headed into the woods. We decided to tackle the caches starting with 33 then 35 then turning around and doing 34 and 32 on the way back giving us a couple of caches to get in both directions.
CH033 Captain’s Wood (GC1EHDJ) turned out to be a right bugger of a search. GZ was in a small patch of woods and many people had stated that the coordinates were off by about 20 metres. Other than that the only hint we had was that it was hidden under fallen branches. This was a wood. With lots of fallen branches! We all split up and got on with the search, me mainly getting tangled up in branches as I am want to do when let loose amongst trees. After a few minutes I could barely hear the shuffling and searching of either Sam or Shar but wasn’t particularly bothered. I was just happy to potter about tapping things with my cane trying to find any piles of fallen branches that would warrant a search. After 15 minutes more of this, the novelty was starting to wear off and so I headed back towards the posted coordinates where I found Sam who had obviously given up. I kept hearing Shar pass back near to us and then away again, still looking for the cache, but clearly getting close to the point of giving up. Both Sam and I were ready to move on and got up to go find Shar when we heard those magic words… “Found it” come floating on the wind. Sure enough the cache was about 15 metres from GZ according to my phone and if you happen to be heading out to find it, then my advice is go to the published cords and then keep close to the fence line as you expand your search and you will find it. Delighted and elated again not to have to log a DNF, once the signing and maintaining were done, we trotted off through the woods in search of our next cache.
This being the Chilterns, it was inevitable that we would encounter hills at some point and on our way to CH035 Asheridge Road (GC1EHDV) we certainly did that. Initially happy that this one appeared to be going down, we then realised that after CH035 we would be turning around again and heading back towards the car… UP this massive steep hill that we were gleefully trotting down. Ah well, we would worry about that later. As we reached the GZ, making the find was easy and Sam did the honours, pulling the cache from a tree with more trunks than an elephant swimming team on holiday. We gave up counting. after about 10. We were about to turn about and head up the hill when a thought struck me. With confirmation from Shar, I realised that we were in a valley and the next cache in the series would also be in the valley. On the basis that after we had done 34 and 32 we were going to drive to a new spot and then back track to 36 before carrying on I suggested that to save us walking down into the valley from the hill on the other side and then, more crucially, back up the hill again to get to 37, we should do it while we were in the valley now. After a brief discussion and a bit more explaining on my part, trying to make myself understood, it was agreed. So we walked a couple of hundred metres along a country lane to get to the GZ of CH036 Asheridge Road East (GC1EHDY), where we made another quick find of the cache hidden behind a water trough. While we were there I asked Shar if this was indeed the bottom of a hill leading up to the next in the series and she confirmed that it certainly was and a very steep hill it was too. I have to say I did allow myself a slight smug smile.
Smug or not, we were still in a valley and would still have to walk up one steep hill to get back to the car and so we retraced our steps and headed back onto the footpath and up the hill to CH034. We made the hill climb in one piece, although we did have to stop a few times and take on water, oxygen and new knees, but the views were worth it.
At the GZ of CH034 West of Hivings (GC1EHDQ)there was evidence of some tree cutting and the logs revealed quite a few DNFs from previous cachers. We spent about 10 minutes scouring the area but in the end concluded that the cache was missing. We then spent a further 5 minutes trying to find a suitable place to put a replacement container that matched the original hint. Eventually we spotted a likely tree a couple of metres off the path and tucked a new 35mm container in amongst the vines wrapped around the trunk. We are generally reluctant to replace containers unless we can be sure that the original has actually gone missing, but this time we were fairly convinced this to be the case.
After this it was on to the top of the hill, thankfully only a little further and back through the woods to CH032 Mount Nugent Farm (GC1EHD8) which was a nice quick find in the crook of a tree to the side of the path. By now we were all getting very hungry and it was a relief to get back to the car so we could break out the sandwiches. Before we ate though, we moved the car to our last planned parking spot of the day on a road between CH038 and CH039. This was to be our base to tackle the remaining cache numbers 37 to 43 and then walk back to the car via a different route picking up one odd non Chiltern Hundred cache on the way.
CH038 Chartridge (GC1EHE8) turned out to be a really good hide with the cache being wedged in the top of a pole holding a street sign. The sign was well hidden though as it seems to have been reclaimed by the bushes a while ago and now is almost entirely invisible unless you actually start fighting your way through the greenery. From here we walked back towards the GZ of CH037 Asheridge view (GC1EHE7) which we were pleased to find was located just as the hill started to slope down. Again my smug mode kicked in, my earlier plan of picking up CH036 before we moved the car the last time now being proven most utterly brilliant. It is just a terrible shame that we couldn’t find the cache. No amount of searching at GZ turned up the pesky thing. There was a very massive tree at GZ and the hint suggested the cache would be 3m from the ground. With a bit of effort I managed to find a place to get a leg up enough to reach the kind of height indicated but the tree was totally smooth. There was absolutely nowhere at all that a cache could be hidden. We searched all around on the ground and inside the rotted hollow of the bottom part of the tree but no luck. The task of searching was not made any easier by the fact that the whole area was covered in nettles and brambles with razor sharp thorns. After 15 minutes of looking we were thoroughly scratched and pricked and, quite frankly, pissed off. We widened our search to trees on either side of the big tree, we read logs, noted that the container size had changed in the last year or so and it also seemed to be lower than the hint now but none of this helped us. The treeline was backed by a barbed wire fence so there was only so far behind the trees that we could search and on the other side of the path was an open field so we were starting to think that this one might have gone missing too. For some reason I just didn’t feel comfortable about dropping a new container at this GZ, partly because we hadn’t really found anywhere that looked like it was actually the hiding place. In the end we resolved to give it up as a bad job and seek some help from previous finders or the CO when we got back home. Thankfully this cache wasn’t too far from a suitable parking spot so it wouldn’t be too difficult to return to at a later date.
Having taken so long, searching at CH037 and feeling scratched, battered and somewhat deflated, we decided to curtail our caching for the day and save the remaining caches for another adventure. We were still very happy with our 9 finds and only a little miffed at our DNF. On returning home, I contacted a previous finder and despite sending a photo we had taken and them puzzling over it for a few hours, they couldn’t remember the cache and alas could offer no extra help. I also contact the CO, drsolly, but even he couldn’t recall the specific cache, not even after looking at the photo… I suppose he does have rather a lot of caches in the series to remember. The next day I happened to be reading the cache description once more and noticed something that I had missed before. The description began with the sentence, “Walk up the hill keeping to the right of the barbed wire fence.” Something troubled me about this and after replaying our attempts to find the cache on the day, I realised that we had approached the cache via a path which took us to the left of the barbed wire fence… not the right! Was that why we couldn’t find it? Was that why no one recognized the GZ from the photos? Were we on the wrong side of the fence? I was Frustrated at myself for missing this instruction in the description before but also I could feel the blossom of hope forming that we would be able to return and convert the DNF into a find at a later date. There is a tentative plan to go back and tackle this cache and a few others on Saturday May 2nd which also happens to be the 15th anniversary of when the first geocache was place and Groundspeak have a shiny souvenir up for grabs for those who find a cache on that day, which will be an added bonus. Happy days.
This caching adventure took place on Saturday 18th April 2015 and took our geocache total to 1017.