Sometimes plans to go geocaching are made because the weather is looking great, or because you are meeting up with friends, or because you simply need to get out of the house before you start climbing the walls. On the weekend just gone the decision to go geocaching was arrived at because the Saturday after that was Sharlene’s birthday and “We are not going caching on my birthday!” Fair enough, no arguments from me. Personally, I would see it differently but each to their own. So this is how we came to be heading back to our second home in Chesham to pull another leg off the spider that is the Chiltern Hundred. You can catch up on all our previous outings to Chesham on my other Chiltern Hundred blog entries.
Having now finished the Chesham ring, the plan this time was to attack part of the Ashridge ring. I have ambitiously split this ring into two legs, creating two smaller circular walks of 20 and 23 caches respectively.
We parked at the Blue Ball Pub in Ashridge which has a nice large gravel car park out the back and is wonderfully positioned with footpaths leading away from it in all directions that can be used to connect you to the Chiltern Hundred caches. The weather was looking good and I opted to leave my jacket in the car, it is bloody May after all. Leaving the pub we crossed the road and soon found the footpath that would take us down into a valley and up the other side to where we would pick up the Chiltern Hundred at Ch053. The walk wasn’t wasted though as along the valley path there were 6 geocaches, 5 of which were CaptainJack ones. Those of you who have ever cached in Buckinghamshire, or have read my blog before, will probably know about these caches. CaptainJack is a very prolific hider in Bucks and parts of Herts having over 500 cache hides. They are all generally very straightforward hides placed along footpaths in clusters around villages. Alas CaptainJack seems to have stopped hiding new caches now and doesn’t seem to maintain many of his existing hides either but there are still a lot out there to be found.
The first two, Bellingdon & Ashridge – Braziers End (GC3BRXW) and Bellingdon & Ashridge – Braid Wood (GC3BRYH) were at the side of a very steep downward path that led into the valley. It ran along the side of a campsite and as we walked along we could hear sounds of wood chopping and fire building taking place on the other side of the fence. Despite the steepness of the path we were quite surprised to have to step to one side to allow an early morning horse rider to pass us. It was quite handy as it was at the exact spot where one of the caches was and gave us an excellent excuse to step into the bushes and retrieve it.
After a while we reached the bottom of the valley and the path dog-leged left and then right past the GZ of Bellingdon & Ashridge – Another Tree (GC3BRZ5),which again gave us no problem. We crossed the valley floor and were just starting to ascend the other side when we found our next cache, Bellingdon & Ashridge – Ivy (GC3BRZP). We had barely been going 30 minutes and we already had 4 caches done and dusted this was unprecedented.
As we made our way to the next one, Bellingdon & Ashridge – Near Lime Tree Farm (GC3BT0P), we again had to step aside for a couple of horses, then stop for another 5 minutes so that Sam could remove a stone from his boot. It is amazing how frustrating it is just standing and waiting as a 10 year old fails to untie the laces that he tied just half an hour before. Finally mum decides that to avoid ripping the boot off and beating him senseless with it, she will help him. Ah, this is more like it! Eventually we found the cache and headed up the last of the hill to where the path ended in a road.
Just a few metres along the road we located Life begins at… (GC2KY87), which was placed to celebrate the COs 40th birthday. Not the most auspicious of places to hide a cache, in the bushes at the side of a fairly busy road, but it turned out to be a fairly decent size cache and a good opportunity for me to drop off a TB that I had been holding on to for too long.
After this it was time to head for our first Chiltern Hundred cache of the day. After a short walk along the road we eventually found our way onto the footpath, thanks to the direction of a man strimming the hedges around a playing field, and enjoyed a pleasant walk through a field along what I believe to be Chartridge. Whatever the name it was nice to be walking along level ground rather than down or up hills. We passed through a hedgerow between two fields and then swung left to go find CH053 – Cogdell’s Farm (GC1ER5C). At GZ at first we turned up nothing but then Shar spotted something that might be the hide poking over the hedgerow. I was just tall enough to lean over and have a feel around in the top of the tall dead tree and soon pulled out the cache.
Continuing on through the field along the footpath that we had used to pass through the hedgerow we soon emerged onto a hard packed lane and headed right towards CH054 – Capps Lane (GC1ER5E), where Shar made a quick find of the cache lurking behind a large Oak tree. The next two caches CH055 – Capps Lane North (GC1ER5H) and CH056 – Ashotts Lane South (GC1ER5M) were hidden along this lane, the first just a short walk further on and the second after we had crossed a road. Despite the warm weather the lane was dotted with large puddles, evidence of the recent rain. We dodged these and then Sam made the find at the left of the path nestled in a tree at waist height. I took the opportunity to drop off a “tent peg” TB which I thought was appropriate as we were now roughly flanking the campsite again, this time on the opposite side to where we had started our walk.
Having found 10 caches by now and it being very much around lunchtime, we looked for somewhere to take a break. Just a hundred metres up the lane was an opening into a huge empty grass field and so I pulled out the groundsheet and we settled down to a peaceful picnic. Despite not being able to count to more than 5 without hearing a manmade sound, it was still very pleasant and afforded us a well needed rest.
Refreshed and refuelled we set off once more along the quiet lane in search of more caches. The first one we came to, CH057 – Ashotts Lane Northing (GC1ER5R) had Shar and Sam scurrying into the bushes on the right hand side of the road as I calmly went to the telegraph pole on the left and retrieved the cache with the smug confidence of a man who knew he was right, or at least was proved right in that instant.
Soon after this the lane gave way to a footpath that led back down into the valley and we picked our way carefully down amid the loose rocks that strewn the ground. Shar was the one to make the find at CH058 – Ashotts Lane middle (GC1ER65) in a small hole in a tree and it became clear that we had a bit of an impromptu competition on our hands. Up to this point Sam had made 5 finds, Shar 4 and poor blind man just 3 but seeing as there was a small amount of bragging going on by the youngest member of the team, an atmosphere of determination emerged and the game was afoot.
Almost as soon as we hit the bottom of the valley we started up the other side again. With open fields on either side of the hedgerow that we were walking next to and the moderate warm breeze blowing around us, the climb was gentle but seemed long. Above us we were treated to the sight of a red kite swooping and curling on the thermals. There was no quick find at CH059 – Ashridge Farm View (GC1ER69) which made it interesting as we all had a chance to get in amongst the hedgerow and search. So often Sam scampers ahead and has found the cache even before we arrive at GZ, but not this time. We all search the trees looking for something around shoulder height and as time stretched on we slowly widened our search until Shar gleefully called out that she had struck gold. The coords were about 10 metres off but the container was safe and sound. Shar had edged level with Sam both having 5 finds, leaving me behind on 3.
But I wasn’t giving up, no sir. After we had made it up the hill puffing and panting somewhat, we arrived at the GZ of CH060 – Asheridge Farm (GC1ER6J) which was at a gate into a field. Well it used to be a gate, but the gate had gone and the posts were probably not going to be far behind. This was worrying as the hint indicated that the cache would be found at one of the gateposts. One post had fallen over and was lying buried amongst stinging nettles and so we focused on the other one. After a fruitless search there was nothing else for it but to delve into the stingers. a few minutes and a lot of red rashes on my hands later and the cache was in hand, it had been hiding at the base of the fallen post. And now suddenly the game was starting to get very interesting with me clawing back a find to bring the score to 5,5, 4.
On the way to the next cache we passed alongside the farm buildings that most probably were part of the farm that owned the fields we had just crossed. As we did so a bloody massive dog came out and started barking angrily at us. We kept moving, side stepping the beast and it quickly gave up its serenade. The call was taken up, however, by a rat of a dog further along the lane that pounced on us as soon as he smelt us. Viciously barking and snarling at us as we approached. Shar squeezed my hand tightly and Sam was getting worried, but I just reminded everyone to stay calm and keep moving. The little monster moved around us and barked continuously at us but didn’t get closer than about 10 feet. Even after we had past it, it kept barking and snarling at us and followed us until we were about 50 foot from the entrance where it had emerged from. That sure was one territorial dog. As we got around the corner and to the GZ of CH061 – Asheridge Road (GC1ER6P) we relaxed a bit. Shar confessed that she had been pretty worried but I argued that at least it wasn’t the big dog that was being so vicious. She didn’t see how that made a difference until I suggested that if the worst came to the worst, the small dog could have been warded off with a swift kick or two, but the bigger dog may not have been so easy to defeat this way. She seemed to agree with this logic but still wasn’t happy.
We turned out attention to finding the cache instead, having to pause and step off the path to allow a long line of girl guide hikers to pass us. After they had gone we dove into the bushes and Shar made the find in a low tree, moving into the lead with 6 finds to Sam’s 5 and I was still on 4. As we signed the log sheet we heard the dog go mental round the corner as the girl guides entered its territory. By the time we had finished signing the dog had gone quiet which was good as we had to backtrack a short way to pick up our path to the next cache. Thankfully the dog didn’t seem to notice us this time and we quickly walked out of the farm area and onto a road.
Shar made the find again at CH062 – Not Chartridge Pond (GC1ER6W) and stretched her lead to 7,5,4. From here we walked up the road and into a small cluster of houses that seemed to have a lot of people around them. We never figured out why but it was just weird after being out in the farm fields one minute and then being in a busy village the next. We arrived at the GZ of CH063 – Bank Farm (GC1ER71) and I knew instantly where the cache was. The hint had led us to a pole with a footpath sign on it and only I was tall enough to reach up and retrieve the cache that was dangling on the end of a string inside. Sam was getting worried now. Not only was mum in the lead by 2 finds, now he had dad coming up from behind to tie with him on 5 and there were only 3 caches left. Sam would have to find them all if he wanted to be victorious.
We followed the footpath sign and walked alongside a riding school that seemed to cater for disabled children. They seemed to be having a lot of fun as the horses walked around the small enclosure with the kids on their backs. The path took us on past the riding school and to a gate where the search was on for the next cache, CH064 – Oil Drum (GC1ER73). Had I got on the correct side of the gate I reckon I could have made the find, but it was Sam that got there first and with a smile he moved up to within 1 find of drawing level with Shar. With only two caches left now the best I could do now was to tie for first with Shar, but it was still a straight run for Sam or Shar to win the day.
The walk to our last two caches took us along clearly defined white chalky paths through flat grassy fields. The weather was still lovely, a warm sun with a nice cool breeze kept us all happy. Sam was trotting a little way ahead and when we reach the GZ of CH065 – Southview (GC1ER79) he began searching with more energy than we had seen all day. Shar made a plausible attempt to search for the cache with a wry smile on her face. I was starting to understand her plan here… keeping Sam energised about winning the day was keeping his energy levels up and the whining down. Sam did make the find and he beamed as we signed the log and did our regular maintenance shuffle, inserting new log sheet and bonus code card. The score was 7,7,5 and there was only one cache left.
As we walked to the last cache, CH066 – Bloomfield Farm (GC1ER7D), Sam scampering ahead, I asked Shar if she would let Sam win and she laughed and said that she wouldn’t but she suspected that he would find the cache even before we arrived at GZ and she wasn’t wrong. A great cheer went up from Sam as he emerged from the bushes with the winning container in hand.
The last part of the walk was, for me, some of the most pleasant countryside of the whole Chiltern Hundred series so far. Large flat open fields with clear chalky pathways criss-crossing all around us. In the distance the hills and valleys of the Chilterns and above us the cries of various birds. The warm sun shining and a gentle wind rustling my beard. It made for a lovely walk back to the car and even the sheepish hill at the end didn’t dampen our spirits. 20 finds and no DNFs. Happy days.
This geocaching adventure took place on the 16th May 2015 and took our total cache count to 1067.