With Sam being away for 4 nights on a school trip to Devon there was grand plans to do some serious caching this week. However, after checking the weather forecast, it was looking unlikely that we would be picking up hordes of smilies. I expect you think it was the dreaded wet stuff that was causing problems, but in fact it was the opposite. Temperatures in the UK soared into the 30s this week and that was just the air temperature. On Tuesday temperatures in excess of 41 were recorded on centre court at Wimbledon, although to be fair I don’t think there is a cache there, not even a nano on the net. Within reason, I enjoy a nice warm sunny day but it isn’t very conducive to hiking for miles and rummaging around in seas of nettles for too long. Shar, despite originally coming from New Zealand, hates the hot weather. Anything over low 20s and it is all a bit too much.
That being said, Monday still looked like our best bet with it being partially cloudy and temperatures in the mid-20s so we decided to head out and get some in before god turned up the thermostat. I have had my eye on an old series based on the planets of the solar system for some time now and this seemed like as good a time as any to crack on with it. Even though there are only 10 caches in the whole series, in the years since they were place the area around has become peppered with other cache hides so I was able to plan for two days out with 20 caches on the first day and 15 on the second. Tring, close to the border of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire is the setting for the caches and it is just the sort of terrain we enjoy. Small villages connected by well-maintained footpaths through fields and woodland. Everything looked good for an enjoyable days caching.
We parked at The Full Moon pub, visions of werewolves and locals advising us to “stay on the paths” running through my head, and set off, and immediately got disorientated by the myriad of footpaths running this way and that. Enjoying being under the cover of trees and bushes we meandered along the paths until we arrived at the GZ of our first hide, Commons Big Picnic – The Middleway (GC5VXET). Far from being an old cache, this one had only been out a couple of weeks and aside from the triplet of FTFers who all met at the GZ to claimed a shared first to find, no one else had been out to find the cache yet. We fought our way into the undergrowth and quickly ruled out all the likely places matching the clue. After reading the logs of the FTFers we discovered that the tree cover gave some varying coordinates of GZ and so we punched in a set of coords provided by one of the cachers as a possibly more accurate alternative. These new coordinates turned out to be right on the money and as soon as the arrow had led us to GZ, we spotted a likely hiding place and soon had the cache in hand. It was a letterbox hybrid cache, although we have not yet acquired an ink stamp for ourselves so were happy just to log it as a geocache.
As we made our way to the next cache, the cover of the trees thinned and eventually we found ourselves on a quiet lane at a gate which was the GZ of Cholesbury – Green Gates (GC3349K). We made a quick find of the super strong magnetic cache and headed off up the paved lane / foot path towards our next two caches. Both of these were straightforward CaptainJack caches, Cholesbury – Pole (GC3349C) in a tree next to a telegraph pole, and Cholesbury – Stoned (GC32Z2P) underneath a large stone just a short way off the path. We were out in the open now and the sun was more often out than behind the clouds and so it was getting quite warm as we trekked along. One of these caches introduced me to the other problem at this time of year which is nettles. Around May time in the UK when the weather starts to get warm but we still have quite a few rain showers, the vegetation starts to go nuts. During the months of May, June and July England goes green an prickly. Nettles, bracken, and other assorted thorny plants explode out of the ground to cover the GZ of every cache in rural areas. The problem is made worse by the fact that it is now to warm to wear long sleeved tops and so I invariably get stung to buggery on our summer caching adventures.
Our next cache was actually our first in the series that we had primarily come to do. Universally Challenged 2 Pluto (GCNA5R) was placed at the side of the road, hidden in the hedgerow… allegedly. As you can probably guess, we didn’t find it. The hedgerow was protected by a verge of ferns and stingers about 3 feet deep and 4 feet high. Once beyond those, the hedgerow was laced with thorns and stingers. Despite this we spent over 30 minutes trying to find the cache. After this time and with my arms burning with nettles stings we reluctantly decided to give up. My approach with nettles is to worry about them later. With my lack of sight there is little or no chance of me picking my way carefully through them, so I just wade in as normal and get on with it. I get stung a lot but this generally doesn’t bother me, until later when we get home and I take a shower and it all starts hurting. Oh well, what’s the alternative, sit on the side of the road and whine about it? Not my style.
We moved on, now rather dejected at not being able to find one of the series caches, as this would make it difficult for us to eventually find the bonus. Add to this nettle stings for both of us and an ever increasing temperature and we weren’t the happiest of cachers as we walked further along the lane to look for our next cache, Summer Grazing (GC51PCN). Thankfully this one we did find and seeing as it was well past 1pm now we elected to find somewhere to plot up for lunch.
I could see that Sharlene wasn’t really enjoying her caching day, mainly because of the heat and so I suggested that we could cut the day short after lunch by taking a slightly different route. This would miss out more than half of the planned 20 caches but there was little point in slogging on if she wasn’t enjoying it. She explained that cutting it short would make her feel guilty. There followed a brief discussion and explanation that if she wasn’t enjoying herself then I’m not enjoying myself. Dear reader, do you think I am a heartless and uncaring man who would force the woman he loves to continue on for a further 10k and 11 caches merely because I wanted to? Oi, who said yes? I would, of course, not do that. I blame her Catholic school upbringing… you just can’t reverse that indoctrinated guilt once it takes hold can you?
A new route was formed and we packed up lunch and headed for the first of the 6 caches that remained on our to do list. Ironically conditions were vastly improved as the next few hides were in the woods and the thick tree cover offered excellent protection from the sun’s rays. We initially struggled to find Gallifrey (GC2W9JV), but again after reading some logs we noted a new set of coords which led us right to an excellent cache that was hidden deep in the roots of an upturned trunked. I like the humour of the cache owner, who stated that he had placed the cache here and named it thus as it fell on the route of the Universally Challenged series and would therefore sit comfortably next to all the other planets.
A quick find was made of Cholesbury – Log it (GC344MW) after a bit of back tracking in the woods. It was a fairly standard captain jack cache found easily inside half a rotting log. We were enjoying ourselves again, what with the cooler temperatures and the lower levels of nettles in the woods. This was short lived however after we had to DNF our next cache, Cholesbury – Post a Field Note 11 (GC344MH), which was meant to be hiding somewhere around or in a post. We found a number of wooden posts at GZ the site of a stile on the edge of the woods, but no cache despite thorough searching and fights with the holly that grew all around the area.
The woods stretched all the way to a nearby road where we found another super magnetic cache, Cholesbury – Roundhill Gate (GC344M2), before turning and heading in the direction of the car. Thankfully, the road was quiet, shaded by overhanging trees and, for the most part, provided us a nice wide verge to walk along. When we reached the end of the road we picked up one last CaptainJack cache, Cholesbury – Bushy (GC344N8), which I found quite quickly wedged in the crook of a tree surrounded by bushes at the side of the road. It was a good sized regular plastic box which is unusual for CaptainJack as most of his hides are micros or smalls at best. We even found a TB inside attached to a toy car and for a brief moment we thought it was actually one that belonged to Sam. On returning home I discovered it wasn’t Sam’s and had in fact been released at the end of 2014 from Puerto Rico. Unfortunately it hadn’t been logged into the cache by whoever moved it there yet so as yet I can’t really log it. I could of course do a “grab it from somewhere else” log, but this would mean that the mileage from where it was last picked up would be wiped off. I generally wait a couple of weeks or so to see if the person who dropped it off will log it. If I hear nothing, I will go ahead and grab it then.
We were now just a couple of km from the car with just one more cache to try on the way. Universally Challenged 1 – Jupiter (GCNA5Q) proved a nonstarter though as we just couldn’t work out how to get closer than 40 metres to GZ. I suspect we approached the cache from the wrong direction and neither of us fancied backtracking or continuing on to see if we could find a way to the GZ. We cut our losses and headed for the car having racked up 9 smilies and about 30 nettles stings.
Whilst it wasn’t the massive caching adventure that I had envisaged when planning it, it was still an enjoyable day out in the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside with my best girlie by my side and a double sized wedge of ginger cake in my lunchbox. Happy Days.
This caching adventure took place on Monday 29th June 2015 and took our total cache count to 1149.