In which we encounter a displaced London Routemaster Bus, rent Pulp Fiction on VHS from a red phone box and cross time and space to fill the pretty village of Chipperfield with smilies.
On Tuesday, we once more drove the short distance to Chipperfield to see if we could find the remaining 11 caches that would effectively mark the village as done and dusted. But wait, I hear you say, return? When did you first go to Chipperfield. Well in order to answer that question I must invite you to join me in a bit of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff and take you on a journey back into the dim and distant past of….er… 4 weeks ago. Ready? got your time travelling trousers on?
wibbly wibbly wibbly wobbly wobbly wobbly.
And here we are, on Wednesday this week (1st April), we decided to get our cache on and so we headed for the nearby village of Chipperfield. When I say nearby, I really mean it is close, only about 7km away, so close it even has a WD postcode prefix, the same as Watford. That probably doesn’t impress you people who live out in the sticks where one postcode prefix covers the whole county but trust me, in Hertfordshire we have plenty prefixes to go round and the WD only really covers Watford and the immediate surrounds.
My usual planning and research session had determined that I could break up Chipperfield into 4 chunks and on this day we decided to tackle the largest section containing 7 caches in a basically circular walk starting and ending at a very handy car park right next to Chipperfield Common. Parking the car and getting our boots on Sharlene described the scene of children arriving at the church next door, most of them carrying violin cases prompting me to hypothesize that Chipperfield might be the Hertfordshire bases for training young machine gun toting mobsters. Sharlene suggested it was too early for any of my nonsense! Quite right too.
Our first cache, , was the final of a puzzle, A Cache with a view (GC4XEW3), that was easy enough to solve with the use of fingers and the internet – the fingers were to type in search terms in case you wondered. It was cold but dry as we walked the few hundred metres to GZ and when we got there it took us almost 15 minutes before we were able to find the cleverly hidden cache. With very little to search, there being just a fence and a bush and a sign at the side of a road you would think that it would be an easy search but the CO has a fiendish mind and it was only by luck that I managed to feel the tiny container on one pass. To keep an air of mystery about the hide I will not disclose whether the cache was found on the fence, the sign or in the bush. As the name suggest though, the location did afford you with some pretty good views across fields towards Kings Langley, but it was a bit too chilly to stop and stare, we had caches to find and fingers and toes to keep warm.
The next four caches were all along the same road which we reach by walking across the fields from the GZ of the first cache. Whilst the sun did break through the clouds the wind more than made up for whatever little warmth that its rays carried. Upon reaching the road we first turned right and headed down a hill to pick up the first of the four, A Cache with a view too (GC5NXZT). It was a relatively easy find although I did spend a few minutes deep searching the top of a hollow post to no avail. I did find a yoghurt pot, a crisp packet, lots of bark and an empty tobacco pouch, but it was Shar that found the cache somewhere else. After signing we turned tail and walked back up the steep hill with much puffing and panting.
Thankfully the other three caches on that road were on relatively level ground. The first, Hedera diagonal (GC5CFK2), was a devilishly tricky hide on an ivy covered fence that had us finger feeling it for 10 minutes before finally finding it. The second, The Jasmin Cache (GC5CFFY), took us along a bridle path next to a road and Shar made the find on the other side of the path from where I was searching… isn’t it always the way that the cache turns out to be on the other side of the path.
We were rather surprised to spot a london routemaster bus whilst walking to the next cache. It was all a bit cliff Richard, Summer Holiday and for a few moments I entertained the idea of having a red bus as a caching camper. How cool would that be, although I had to conclude that its height might cause some problems with low bridges and getting a bus up a country lane to do countryside caching would be a flippin’ nightmare… perhaps not then.
The cache, We Can See You (GC5PCG7), turned out to be a cool in plain sight hide near the entrance to a garden centre. The description suggested that the CO could watch our search from where they were so it would appear that they either live in the houses opposite or work at the garden centre perhaps. Either way Shar made such a super quick find of the clever magnetic cache that we were in, signed and out within about a minute.
From here we had just two caches left and were heading back in the direction of the car now. The first of the two was The Bus stop Dash (GC3A90K) and on arriving at GZ we discovered a bus shelter big enough to seat about 10 people with lots and lots of nooks and crannies to search. I think I must have pissed off a billion spiders during my 10 minute search judging by the amount of cobwebs I disturbed whilst feeling around in the rafters. You know the expression that you always find what you are looking for in the last place you look. It is a dumb saying because you obviously stop looking when you find something but it has to be said that when I finally did find the cache, Shar spotting it, I had indeed already searched there and therefore I found the cache in the 4th of 50 places that I searched as I carried on looking well after I had found the hiding place. With a brief apology to arachnids of Chipperfield and much brushing myself down, we moved on to our last cache, Too Common To Park (GC4KCT0), which we found with ease at the edge of a pub car park. And that was that, 7 smilies and a grudging respect for the deviousness of the hides of elainealex who is CO on 6 of the 7 caches we found.
wobbly wobbly wobbly wibbly, wibbly, wibbly
… and you’re back in the room. Everyone made it back ok from the past? Hang on, you didn’t have a beard when you left, how long were you stuck back there? Well, glad you made it back to the present anyway. So now back to how we finished off Chipperfield on Tuesday (28th April).
We had three separate legs planned for our adventure. The first leg started at the same car park as last time, right on Chipperfield common, and we were there, putting on our boots, straight after dropping Sam off at school. As we headed for the first cache which took us across the common and the cricket pitch towards a small patch of woods, we cringed at the amount of dog walkers around. The place was swarming with doggy muggles. This could be a problem.
Our first cache, Feeling stumped by The Apostles (GC52QXR) went smoothly enough, once we were under the cover of trees we were soon at GZ and as the title of the cache suggests we were looking for a stump. There was a smack in the face, couldn’t be more obvious one just off the path and within seconds of arriving at it, I had cache in hand. 1-0 to the blind man. I tried not to get to excited as I invariably find only around 1 in 20 of the caches we go for but at this stage I was still allowing myself a small internal victory dance.
A pleasant walk through the pretty woods with the sun weakly breaking through the trees, led us to the GZ of our second cache, Screwed Over (GC5B52E). That is to say as we approached GZ, Shar said just to hang on a second as there was a group of walkers approaching and she wasn’t kidding. We stood to the side of the narrow footpath and waited as about 30 ramblers hiked past us, most of them of a more mature age, obviously a local rambling club. They just seemed to keep coming and coming as we patiently waited, answering the many choruses of “morning” from them. Finally they were gone into the woods and then a runner came barrelling along the path and as we eventually started searching, we heard the calls of the ramblers bringing up the rear of the pack that a runner was approaching. It was like someone being called to court, the cries echoed all the way through the group as they all warned each other to get out of the way. As for the cache with a name like screwed over it was fairly obvious what we were looking for but with a long fence at GZ, searching every point where an appropriate cache might be hidden could take a long time. Thankfully I reached over the fence and laid my hand right on the cache in the first spot I tried. My mental celebration was now going external as I allowed myself a small gloat at having found 2 caches to Sharlene’s 0.
The Cart and Horses public house was a short walk away and the GZ of our next cache, Don’t Put The Cart Before The Horses (GC5B0KW). From the description we knew we were looking for a magnetic cache. The pub was quiet although there were a few cars parked outside. The lane it was located on was free from traffic and so Shar got down to searching the only metallic object she could find, but with no success. We scratched heads and wandered around a bit but all the time we kept returning to the metal post at GZ. I made to search it just to convince myself that it really wasn’t there but just as I did a woman in a car pulled up in the road outside the pub and just sat in the car with the engine running, not 20 feet from us. We started fiddling with our phones and tried to look natural. Shar had a smoke and I, well I just stood there trying to convince Shar to relax, we weren’t doing anything wrong and she would drive off soon. After 5 minutes even I had to admit that it was starting to look weird and so we elected to move on, regrettably not finding the cache. We started walking away down the lane and as we did so the woman in the car pulled in behind us following us very slowly. This was very odd, but we kept walking and she kept driving, not passing us even though she could. In the end we stepped to the side of the road and just stopped to see what she would do. Slowly she drew alongside us and then finally drove off leaving us shaking our heads in confusion. Seeing an opportunity, I turned us around and walked back to the cache to search that pole that we had waited so patiently at. I found the cache nestling safely at the bottom of it and the score went to 3-0. Get in there! Blind man 3, sighted woman 0.
To complete the first leg, we had two more caches to find although they were a bit of a walk, but when I was studying the map I concluded that it would be criminal to leave them out as they would just sit there and taunt us as isolated caches in a forest of smilies. The walk to the next cache was about a kilometre but it was shaping up to be a lovely morning and so we didn’t mind strolling along the quiet lane that turned into a footpath. We elected to skip the first cache we came to, choosing to pick it up on the walk back to the car, giving us something to break up the longer return walk. As we approached GZ, having passed a happy muggle who greeted us along the way and a couple of horsey muggles, the flat footpath sloped into a steep paved affair down to the little neighbouring village of Belsize. As we arrived at the GZ of The Belsize Nano(GC34C09), I was excited to find an old red telephone box.
You don’t see many of these nowadays and so it is cool to find one. Even better, we realised, the cache was in it. I dove in and started searching, pissing off more spiders but after a few minutes I hadn’t found it. I did find a small stack of 3 VHS video tapes on top of the phone though, including pulp fiction. Weird.
Shar opened the door to see how I was getting on and immediately spotted the cache, it was hiding in a place that you could only see with the door open, clever. So that made it 3-1 to me.
Back up the hill, puff puff, pant pant and then after a few hundred metres we arrived at the GZ of Hornet’s Hide 3A – Penman’s Green (GCMDB3), a cache dating back to 2005. I really wanted to find this one as The Hornet is a legendary cacher from the early days and placed a lot of caches around Watford and the surrounding areas. Alas only a few of them still remain and so I think it is quite special when we are able to find one. Finding it was a different matter though. The GZ was in amongst a patch of trees at the side of the footpath and searching for the regular cache was difficult due to the uneven ground and dense trees. I bounced off the woodwork as Shar slowly got further and further from me, searching in ever increasing circles. I had got myself thoroughly turned around and lost when I finally heard Shar’s victorious cry. It then took me 5 minutes to get to her and in the end she had to come find me and lead me to the cache which was off the path, through the trees, up a steep bank, through more trees and try not to slip down the bank. I can see why this cache has survived for over 10 years and I hope it does so for another 10. 3-2… bugger, please don’t let the first three finds be a fluke!
Having made pretty good time so far we decided to drive to our next spot just up the road at the Boot Tavern. Back in the summer of last year we had attended an event at this pub and one of the caches we were going for had been published to coincide with the event but we had been far more interested in drinking and socialising with other cachers to actually go and find it. Besides, it was a puzzle cache and I am only able to solve these when I can take my time and use my own computer at home that has all my familiar blindness enhancements, speech and magnification etc. Shar… well Shar doesn’t do puzzle caches other than to help me with the ones that require eyes and only then if it can be solved quickly and simply. The puzzle, Tanks for the Letterbox (GC59GDG), was set by our good friends Smokeypugs, involved tanks and translating things from German. It took me a little while with google translate and some image recognition websites but in the end I had some coords and it turned out to be an easy walk down a footpath next to the pub. Shar made a quick find at GZ and the scores were tied at 3-3.
We walked back past the car and crossed over the main road to find an easy traditional that was placed down a narrow country lane in amongst some trees. With the competition between us increasing we both wanted to be the one that found the next one and move into the lead. Shar spotted Up a Bridleway (GC3B3WE),but asked me to retrieve it. I challenged her that this would mean a find for me but she told me that was rubbish and the score was hers regardless of who actually picked the container up. That was me told! 4-3 to team sighted stroppy female.
We returned to the car and broke out the half time sandwiches. I had to eat with one foot out of the car as I had stepped in some horse poo at some point and the smell of it was not a nice thing to have while you were eating. If I hadn’t been so hungry I might have taken the time to scrape it off first but leaving the offending boot outside the car did the job… bloody horsey muggles.
After lunch we relocated the car a short distance away at the entrance to Scatterdell Woods where we were planning to search for the last 4 caches of the day. This was good for a number of reasons, not least of all so I could get the opportunity to scrape the poo off my boots over the course of walking a couple of kilometres through pretty woodland. And the woods were seriously pretty, especially as the bluebells were out too.
The first cache, Scatterdells – Hydroelectric Power (GC4D1VV), was a very clever hide near a water hydrant sign just at the entrance to the woods. We kind of had an idea what we were looking for based on the name – something to do with electricity near the water sign. It still took us a couple of searches to find the small custom container but eventually I found it in the place I had first searched. Woo Hoo, team blind man Poo fights his way back to 4 – 4.
After another short walk through the woods and up a bit of a steep hill we eventually found ourselves at the GZ of Scatterdells – Hornbeam Hollow (GC4D1KC). We were looking for a mossy stump and wouldn’t you know it there was no shortage of places to start looking. Shar left me near one such stump and dashed off to powder her nose and wouldn’t you know it, I reached down and found the cache. This was easy pickings. 5-4 to me and only two caches left, this was getting seriously interesting.
A bit of down the hill and up the hill and we were soon at the GZ of Scatterdells Swirl (GC4CERV), where Shar practically shoulder barged me to the ground in order to search the very obvious tree where the cache was no doubt hidden. Despite the underhanded tactics and the fact that I had to actually retrieve the cache due to the possibility of Boris the Spider residing in the hollowed out tree, she insisted on claiming the find, levelling up the contest at 5 caches each with only one more to decide the ultimate caching champion… of Chipperfield… on that day…. out of me and her.
Thanks to a bit of lateral thinking by Shar, we took an alternative route to our last cache, thus avoiding walking down a massive hill and then back up it again. Instead we skirted around the top of the hill which was a slightly longer way to go but didn’t involve the use of oxygen and Sherpas. Hang ’em high (GC5CFM0) was another one placed by queen CO of Chipperfield elainalex and so we knew it would be something a little out of the ordinary and based on the name of the cache and the description we knew it would be hanging in a tree somewhere. With tensions running high, Shar and I instantly split up at GZ and got down to searching for the cache, both wanting to get the last find. It wasn’t a quick find though and gradually minutes stretched into… more minutes and we found ourselves wandering in circles searching the same trees. I turned to the logs of previous finders and although one or two of them had something interesting to say, none of them were much help in finding the right tree. I was starting to think that neither of us were going to find the cache when finally Shar called out that she had indeed found it. My emotions were mixed, relieved at not having to log a DNF, but disappointed at having come runner up in the Chipperfield Caching Challenge 2015. Team sighted Woman 6 – Team Blind Man Poo 5. I was honourable in defeat and congratulated Shar as we set off for the kilometre walk back to the car.
And so, after two visits and a bit of time travelling, Chipperfield is all smilies. No wait, is that an unsolved puzzle cache lurking just next to the common. Bugger! Ah well, at least that will give us an excuse to return to this lovely village another day. Happy Days.
The first trip to Chipperfield took place on April 1st and took our cache count from 1000 to 1007. The second visit to Chipperfield took place on April 28th and took our count from 1017 to 1028