It took me longer than usual to decide where we should go for this week’s GeoDate. I kept getting distracted by interesting caches and not actually finding a series or clump of odds that we could do. I’ve just realised that I probably put more thought and work into planning our weekly geocaching alone time than I would do if we were going on a normal date, and I, therefore, claim the appreciation and kudos that is duly deserved.
For a long time now I have been keeping an eye on a series in Westbrook Hay which is very close to Bovingdon which, regular readers may recall, we have already visited a number of times. The caches are owned by the father of our good friend and fellow PugWash team member, Geoff. For the last year or so I had been checking in on the cache logs every now and then as some of them looked like they could do with a little maintenance, and I was waiting till the series was in tip top condition before we attempted it. When I looked this time I noticed that one of them had been archived. I checked the others and they generally looked ok, one or two of them had received some maintenance in the last couple of months and so I thought it was probably as good a time to go as any. I was getting the feeling that perhaps there wouldn’t be a lot of forthcoming maintenance and sensed maybe even a future archive of the caches at some point.
The series is set in a pleasant rural setting and the route winds around the Westbrook Hay prep school and a nearby golf course. The environment is a mixture of woodland and farm fields and the walk travels along footpaths and quiet lanes. All seemed to be well when we drove into the large car park near an old barn that had been converted into an educational centre. A nice, if slightly windy stroll to our first cache, Westbrook Hay By the T (GC3GYG2), was only slightly marred when we discovered we were on the wrong side of a treeline. We should have cut onto a path we had trotted past a few hundred metres back. No harm done and we were soon in the right place and searching the trees right next to a tee on the golf course. We were obscured from view enough not to be noticed but the constant sound of men thwacking balls into the distance was somewhat off putting. Despite a thorough search including a “full committal” moment when I found myself stretched almost to the max on my belly in amongst a prickly holly bush around the base of a multi trunk tree, all we managed to turn up for our efforts was a few scratches and a golf ball. I mused on this ball and how it could possibly have ended up embedded in the bowl of the tree when we were directly behind the tee. I did toy with the idea of it being a cache but after a minute or so of trying to unscrew it, looking like a weirdo, I gave up, concluding that the golfer that hit it there was just staggeringly crap and had managed to strike it backwards into the trees. Shock horror, our worst nightmare… a DNF on the first cache of the day. I have written before how much we hate this and how it can affect our mood for the rest of the caching. It takes a strong spirit to pull yourself up and carry on after a blow like that… ok well let’s not get too over dramatic here but it certainly puts a dampener on things as far as we are concerned.
The fleeting glimpse of a Munkjack deer as we approached our second GZ was enough to lift our spirits though and despite the search taking longer than it probably should have we did find Westbrook Hay Tree (GC3GYGE)and even found a Geocoin in it as well. (seeA Coin from down under) .
After a pleasant walk through the woods we made quick finds at the next two caches, Westbrook Hay By The Road (GC3GYH6) and Westbrook Hay Near the Gate (GC3GYHJ). Both were looking a bit worse for wear but were nonetheless still signable.
On the way to our next cache we acquired some woolly friends. When we entered the field a flock of sheep that had been clustered in the corner to our left came scurrying towards us. We started walking, Shar seemingly a little more nervous than me. They fell in behind us as we walked across the field, stopping in their pursuit every time we paused to look back at them. It was like a game of What’s the time Mr Wolf. It was then that Shar pointed out that a couple of them had horns and then I wasn’t so relaxed as I had been. Even so, they got bored when they realised we didn’t have any food for them and we carried on our way, making a quick find of Westbrook Hay Kissing Gate (GC3GYFH) at the kissing gate at the far side of the field.
After another quick find at Westbrook Hay On the Corner (GC3GYHQ) which was located at the corner of a field where the footpath turned sharply left, we headed back into a patch of woods and found our way to the GZ of Westbrook Hay Out of the Sun (GC3GYJ0). A clue about a drifters song was deciphered and we got down to searching under the wooden walkway and platform that was acting as a viewpoint for the lovely views across the Hertfordshire countryside. We made hard work of this cache. I think we searched every bit of GZ including where the cache actually turned out to be at least twice before, on the brink of giving up, we finally made the find. We both picked up quite a few stings and scratches on this one and for a while the air was quite blue. The caching seemed hard going today and neither of us knew why. We were still enjoying our walk but the searching seemed harder than usual.
It was the same at the next cache, Westbrook Hay In Plain Site (GC3GYJB), which turned out to be something so obvious, and not even that small, that was just sitting there perched in a bush, and yet it took us nearly 10 minutes to find it. Are we losing our touch? This was our 1,111th find – a pleasingly symmetrical number indeed.
Having completed about two thirds of the circular walk, we now came across the point at which we had entered the site. As we walked up the lane we had driven to get to the barn parking, we made a nice quick find of Westbrook Hay Little Lambsies (GC3GYJT) once we had found the ivy covered post that was rapidly becoming hidden in amongst the bushes. As we stood signing the log a tractor with trailer attached came bouncing into the field and proceeded to park up and herd a flock of sheep on board. The whole operation took about 5 minutes and then the tractor, with the sheep secured in the trailer, was off on its way again. I suspect the farmer was moving the sheep to pastures new… either that or Hertfordshire has some pretty gutsy sheep rustlers.
From here we trekked up through the sheep field to the top of a hill in search of Westbrook Hay Ow! Ow! (GC3GYK1). As we approached GZ we started to get a nasty feeling that the cache was just outside the field. The problem with this was that to our left was an electrified fence and in front of us was a double spaced barbed wire fence. Sure enough we needed to be on the other side and so we elected to straddled the barbed wire fence. Better that than the electrified one I thought, although I did almost managed to fall backwards onto it as I was attempting to clamber over the barbed wire. Finally we made it over and then located an old iron fence that had collapsed long ago and been abandoned to nature. Bushes and trees were growing all around, and even through it. A painful crawl into the holly and a fingertip search of the fence revealed a shaped metal hanger where the cache should have been and then we found the container on the floor under it. This marked our last cache in the Westbrook Hay series.
Just before we headed back to the car for some lunch we carried on up the hill winding in and out of the trees in search of Pete’s Birthday (GC10C71). The route took us right across one of the fairways of the golf course and into a clump of trees. We had to circle the trees all the way once before we found a way in and eventually made the find in a beech tree. This was a good sized dry container hidden snugly in the v of the tree, up quite high. It was a nice cache to finish the day. The series is in need of a little TLC although most of them are there to be found still. With 10 finds and just one DNF and an enjoyable walk through the pleasant woodland and fields of Westbrook Hay it was an excellent Geodate. Happy days.
This geocaching adventure took place on 9th June 2015 and took our cache count to 1,114.