In which we hit milestones, smash records, climb every mountain and are disgusted at the cheats that went before us.
It being half term this week, there were plans afoot to “get out and do something”. To be honest it was more for my benefit than Sam’s. Over the weekend he had been to a Spy Day, been to the O2 to see Paul McCartney and had a sleepover with a friend. Shar and I, as adults had been very busy, slumped in comfy chairs watching movies and eating chocolate. On Wednesday it was time to blow off the cobwebs and get some fresh air into our lungs. Geocaching is always good for that, so we packed up and headed back to Chesham once more to do another chunk of the Chiltern Hundred. I am starting to sound like a bit of a scratched record with this Chiltern Hundred thing but I assure you, we are not too far off finishing it now, and then the blog entries will be far more varied again. If you are new here, then you can use the following link to catch up with my previous Chiltern Hundred blog entries.
This time we planned to finish of the Ashridge ring which would mean we would only have the Chartridge ring to go. In order to achieve this we would have to find 18 caches. But it wasn’t as simple as that. To form the walk into a circular route we would pass another 5 CaptainJack caches and that would make for a total of 23. This number started ringing alarm bells and after a quick spot of research I discovered that 23 would be a new personal best for both washknight and MiniKnight, our previous best being 22 and Sam’s being 21. As if this wasn’t enough to excite us, we realised that Sam was only 10 caches away from reaching his 500 cache find milestone. This was going to be interesting.
We parked in the same place we did on our last visit, the Blue Ball pub, and taking the footpath at the rear of the car park we were soon enjoying the cool breeze and warmth of the morning sun. The weather seems to have finally sorted itself out into something half decent and coats were left in the car once more. Our spirits were high and even though we had quite a challenge ahead of us, we were all feeling positive about achieving it.
Our first cache, Bellingdon & Ashridge – Could a squirrel crack this one? (GC3BH5D), didn’t present us with much of a problem. A bit of lateral thinking on the way to the cache had already allowed us to make the leap from nuts to the possibility of nuts and bolts. On arriving at GZ and finding an old gate buried in amongst the nettles, we knew we were on the right track and after Sam had edged his way through the stingers, he quickly found the large fake nut and bolt that held the cache inside. After a bit of careful tweezering and log signing we were back on our way and heading into the woods.
The route to Bellingdon & Ashridge – Jump (GC3BH6A) was a very pleasant one, winding through a small patch of woodland. At GZ we soon found the overgrown remains of a low horse jump and a bit of scrambling around at one end turned up the cache for me. The contents were mush but seeing as we were doing a dual finding and maintenance run on the Chiltern Hundred caches I always go armed with a good supply of logs, bags, tissues and even replacement containers. We cleaned up the container, popped in a new log and were soon on our way again. This was going very well. Too well in fact. So we decided to spice things up a bit by having a bit of an argument as we made our way out of the woods. I say we, but it was basically me and Shar. I won’t bore you with the details but needless to say we walked in silence on the way to the next cache.
We left the woods, swung right onto a footpath that we had been on last time we were here and were soon heading up a narrow country lane towards the GZ of our first Chiltern Hundred cache of the day, CH067 – Two Gates Lane (GC1ER7J). Keen to make up with Shar, I gave her a quick goose before we reached GZ and despite not wanting to, she laughed and all was good again. Having read the logs going back over 6 months for this cache, I knew that it was almost certainly not there and so after identifying what we reckoned to be the hide, we placed a new container there. On returning home I found that this was just in time, because on that very day, the local reviewer had temporarily disabled the cache because it had received so many DNFs over the last few months. There is something very satisfying knowing that we have done our bit to keep this cache alive for other geocachers that come behind us. The Chiltern Hundred is an excellent series and one that is well worth putting in a bit of effort to help the CO maintain the caches in order to preserve it for the future.
Continuing on down the lane, soon we came to a main road and crossing this we identified another narrow lane that fed into a footpath. At the beginning of the footpath we found CH068 – Bellingdon Farm (GC1ER7P), although it took us a little while as initially we were searching in a clump of trees that was about 10 metres away from the actual hide. I was starting to get a bit worried that this one had gone missing too, when Shar announced that she had found it.
From here we trekked across a field and through a kissing gate onto a path that led down the side of another field. This one had an electric fence running down one side of it and a thick treeline on the other. I do have a strange fascination with electric fences and for some reason harbour a desire to see what it feels like to get a belt off one. Today wasn’t the day to be doing that though and so instead we turned to finding the cache, CH069 – Bellingdon (GC1ER7W). We had identified a pile of rotten wood and bark which had at some point been the trunk mentioned in the hint but were unable to find the cache. Eventually we found it nestling in a tree about 10 metres away. Lord only knows how it got there. To be fair getting in to inspect the rotten stump was a bit tricky as it was surrounded by holly and so I reckon someone had extracted it but then decided to stick it in a tree rather than venture back into the holly to replace it properly. I took quite a battering from the holly when I was searching and so in a slightly sadistic mood, I placed the cache back under the rotten wood in amongst the holly after we had signed it. If I have to get pricked to buggery then so should everyone else.
Like so many other people, we took slightly the wrong route to CH070 – Hilltop Farm (GC1ER84). We had to back track a little and then head into a small patch of woods in order to get on the correct side of the tree line to search for the cache. After a false start at the first horizontal tree we came across, we quickly located a second likely looking candidate and soon had cache in hand.
After crossing another road and picking up the footpath again we soon arrived at the GZ of CH071 – Huge Farm (GC1ER87). Reading the logs on this one had revealed quite a few confused people who did not understand the helmet mentioned in the hint. I on the other hand was a bit more clued up as I remembered having read GeoCass’s Chiltern Hundred in a day blog entry. Back in 2011, GeoCass and a couple of friends did the entire Chiltern Hundred series in a single day and like us had agreed with drsolly to do some maintenance as they went. In her blog she recalls finding a helmet at this cache and on talking to drsolly had learned that he had found the helmet at GZ when placing the cache and so had popped the container underneath. Alas, the helmet has since gone missing and that is why so many people now get confused about the hint. We knew we weren’t looking for anything resembling a helmet and so got down to traditional searching and soon found the container nestled in the corner of a fence.
Even though there are a lot of fairly standard hides on the series. There are only so many interesting places that you can hide over 100 caches, there are still a good number of well thought out hides on the way round. CH072 – Johnson’s Farm (GC1ER8B) is one of those interesting places. At GZ there is a 5 foot high wall that appears to be plonked in the middle of a hedgerow for no reason. It is about 10 foot in length and is flanked on both sides by continuous trees and bushes. The top is lined with a thick piece of wood similar to a railway sleep and this gave us our clue as to what it could be. We reckon it was built as a horse jump, the wood on top being to protect the horses as they went over. As for the cache, Shar spotted it on the ground at the right hand end of the wall but asked me to retrieve as it was surrounded by nettles and bramble.
The footpath continued along the edge of a field, and to our right the land sloped away into a valley affording us some pretty spectacular views of the Chiltern countryside. CH073 – Savecroft Farm (GC1ER8F) can’t have been too exciting as I have almost no recollection of it at all. We did find it however and did our maintenance shuffle before moving on.
CH074 – Ashridge Views (GC1ER8K) was much more memorable. Not so much for the cache itself but because it was Sam’s 500th cache milestone. It was Sam who made the find too, so that was very fitting and a good excuse to break out the Haribo to give us a sugar boost as we carried on. We were trying to get as many caches found as we could before stopping for lunch, making the second part of our walk seem a bit easier.
As we made our way to CH075 – Captain’s Wood (GC1ER8P), we started to descend into the valley. At GZ we had to scramble up a bank to get on the correct elevation to search the trees for the cache, and just as I managed to get myself up to the right height, Sam emerged holding the cache. I don’t really get a lot of chance to search when Sam is around but that’s ok, especially on our Chiltern Hundred caching days as I have enough to do when we find the cache, cleaning, drying and replacing logs and bonus code cards and stuff.
Having read previous logs, I knew CH076 – Tile Farm View (GC1ER8W) was going to be a bit tricky. For starters it was noted that the original container had now been replaced with a curry box! Also, one log said that the curry box was now on the wrong side of a fence in a pig farm. When we arrived and searched the intended hide we didn’t find the cache but Shar did eventually spot it, lying in amongst the nettles on the far side of a barbed wire fence. Getting near the cache was very difficult as there were trees crowding the fence and the ground fell away sharply as it neared the edge of the pig farm. After a herculean effort Shar managed to use my long white cane to drag the cache back to a place where she could grab it through the fence, at full stretch and there was much rejoicing. Then when we opened the cache and inspected the log we found the last signature to be on 26th December 2014. I recalled it being found more recently than that and so we checked the online logs and found that at least 3 other people had claimed to have found the cache since then. I am fully on board with everyone playing the game the way they want to but there is one rule that I do agree with and that is, “no signy no findy”. Unless there is definitive extenuating circumstances, if you don’t sign the log sheet, you can’t claim the find. In my mind, simply spotting the curry box on the other side of the fence and claiming it as a find is nothing short of cheating! OK, rant over… settle down. We signed the new log sheet and did our maintenance chores before placing the cache as close to what we think was the intended original hide and moved on, bitching to each other as we went. We couldn’t bitch too much though, as directly after this cache we had to climb a bloody steep hill and it is really hard to get vocal and agitated when you are puffing and panting.
CH077 – Valley View (GC1ER92) was one of the other caches of the day that I had identified as probably being missing. There were lots of DNFs stretching back months for this one and we had come prepared to replace this container as well. First though we had to be sure that it really was missing. The hint led us to a very large and obvious oak tree which was good. There could be no doubt about the intended location of the hide. Getting round the back of the tree to search was difficult though as it was entirely surrounded by holly bushes. After a failed attempt by Sam to get in, I crawled in under the low branches and managed to work my way beyond the holly. Once I was there I was surprised at how much space there was, it was like a hidden cave in the bushes once you got past the outer branches. There was plenty of room for me to make a thorough hand search of the base of the tree and an area of around 6 foot all around it. The cache was definitely missing and so I placed a new pot there, covering it with a rock to keep it in place and did a weird, reverse crawling thing to get back out to the path.
We were all starting to get hungry now but Sharlene wanted to find some shade so that we could eat out of the sun which was starting to get quite strong. We pushed on, resolving to stop at the next suitable place. A quick and frankly entirely forgettable find was made at CH078 – Ashridge Road (GC1ER95), I think the hunger was starting to get to me by this point. We crossed a road and then picked up the footpath again making another quick find at CH079 – Tiles Farm (GC1ETMH) where the cache was found nestling under a pile of rocks at the side of the path.
As it turned out the best place we found to have lunch was right at the GZ of CH080 – Tiles Farm View (GC1ETMK) and so after finding the cache we spread out the groundsheet and broke out the picnic. The ground was sloped downwards somewhat so we all had to face the same way but we were all so hungry we didn’t care. After lunch I took a few minutes to award Sam with a 500 geocache finds pin badge to add to his 100 and 250 ones that he had already earned. He proudly pinned it to his jumper as we packed up and readied ourselves to search for the remaining 7 caches, still hoping to reach that magic 23 and set a new personal best.
Having hit the bottom of the valley, there was only one way to go and that was to head up again. I think we went up and down more times than the proverbial whore’s draws on this trip to the Chilterns, and I reckon we were more puffed out than she would have been! The footpath was steep and the footing was uneven and loose as we made our way to CH081 – Caravan Site (GC1ETMP) which was placed alongside a caravan park full of static homes. It took us a little while but eventually Shar spotted the container wedged in amongst the branches of a tree at around head height.
Further up the path we found CH082 – Raymond’s Cottage (GC1ETMR) and I was glad that it was a quick find for Sam as there was a noisy tractor on the other side of the treeline that was making a mockery of me being able to navigate by sound. I was glad to get to the end of the path, which was also the top of the hill and catch my breath and get some hearing back. I was also happy to find a bin in the courtyard of a stables that allowed me to empty out the rubbish bag of all the old manky logs and other assorted crap that we had removed from the 18 caches we had found so far. It really was quite surprising how much we had collected, it was a good way to half filling a supermarket carrier bag.
It was nice to be on a smooth tarmac pavement for a while as we walked towards our next cache, CH051 Chartridge Pond (GC1ER4Y). This was next to a small pond and hidden under a large rock in the shade of a tree on the side of the road. I was surprised that this cache didn’t get muggle all the time as it was fairly exposed but we found it in good condition.
From here we continued on the road until we came to Chartridge church where we turned right onto a footpath that ran down the side of the building and back into the valley that we had come out of. We were now on our return journey to the car, with only 4 caches left to find. Feet were getting tired and there had been the odd whine or two starting to appear. At GZ Shar and I did our best to search for CH052 – Chartridge Church (GC1ER56) while Sam gave a quick glance around and then set about attacking nettles with his stick before taking a seat, presumably waiting to see what would happen next. The Large oak tree at GZ was swamped by nettles and after many stings and swear words, both Shar and I came to the conclusion that the cache was missing. We had suspected this from the logs and so we placed a new container at the base of the large tree in a decent hollow. We covered it with bark but it didn’t really need any more protection, the nettles would keep most people away. This was our last Chiltern Hundred cache of the day and with it we completed the Ashridge loop. To get us back to the car we had 3 CaptainJack caches to find so we dug deep and found some extra energy.
The path descended further towards the valley floor and we soon found ourselves at the GZ of Bellingdon & Ashridge – Just a post (GC3BH5V). After both Sam and Shar had inspected the metal post from top to bottom it fell to me, the blind man, to do a finger sweep and pluck the magnetic cache from its hiding place half way up the post, much to the surprise of the other two.
It was the blind man that saved the day at the next cache as well. Further down the hill we came to the GZ of Bellingdon & Ashridge – Just a tree (GC3BRVY) which was listed as a regular sized container 6 foot up in an Ivy covered tree. After the other two failed I stepped in and after failing at the first tree I searched, I turned around and was almost hit in the face by the container that was wedged in the branches of the tree next door.
The GZ of Bellingdon & Ashridge – The Low Down (GC3BRWF) was right at the bottom of the hill where a wide gap intersected the treeline between two massive farm fields. Shar disappeared into the bushes and Sam and I sank to the floor, too knackered to search. I started feeling guilty after a while and so dragged myself up and started poking around the undergrowth. Just when I was starting to think that we would have to log a DNF, and that we wouldn’t reach our target of 23, Shar called out that she had found it. The celebrations lasted as long as it took to sign and rehide the cache. Then we turned towards the route back to the car and were confronted with one of the steepest hills I have seen in a long while.
The climb was gruelling, we had to stop 3 times on the way up. By the time we made it to the top my muscles were screaming and I was seriously out of breath. It was really the straw that broke the camel’s back for all of us and we were all very grateful that the car was only a hundred metres or so away along a flat and smooth road. We covered the ground quickly and were all extremely happy to get back to the car and get our boots off.
We completed the Ashridge ring, Sam found his 500th cache and we all set a new personal best of 23 caches in one day. Tired muscles and aching feet couldn’t take the smiles off our faces. Happy days.
This geocaching adventure took place on May 27th 2015 and took our cache count up to 1090.