Whilst on a recent caching adventure in Whippendell woods (see Scouting About – A PugWash Adventure), I convinced everyone to join with me on a mini-pilgrimage to find the first cache ever placed in the Watford area. This might not seem like anything out of the ordinary, people search for old caches all the time. Indeed Hornet’s Hide 2 – Whippendell (GC4027), dates back to March 2002 and as such is pretty old but not exactly unique. What made this an interesting caching adventure is that the cache has actually been archived since 2011.
Yes, you heard me correct. I dragged our friends Geoff and Melissa, not to mention Shar and Sam into the middle of the woods in search of a cache that hasn’t been there for nearly 4 years. Why on earth did I do this? Well, I’m not sure to be honest. I think the main reason is that I felt a connection to it, as it was the first cache ever placed in Watford back during a time when there were probably less than 20 in the whole of Hertfordshire. But what possessed me to think it would still be there? Well on looking through the logs I had noted that it had been consistently found until suddenly it was archived by the CO who was moving out of the area. There hadn’t been any DNFs or requests to archive, just finds all the way until it was disabled. This led me to believe that perhaps the container was not retrieved by the CO, and if that was the case, then potentially it could still be there.
The first thing of interest to note when we started searching for it was that whereas all the other caches we had found that day in the woods had been no more than 5 metres from a well maintained path, this one was 50 metres into the wood from the nearest track. Once we got a short distance off the path and into the woods, we then discovered that the going was getting pretty challenging. This was becoming a proper bush whacking exercise.
About 15 metres from GZ we came across the most massive tree we had seen in the woods all day. A trunk of about 5 to 6 feet across sent the tree soaring way above anything else in the woods. You couldn’t possibly spot this tree from any path though and so I was struck by the desire of the CO, all those years ago to place a cache this deep in the woods. That and the fact that nearly all caches back in the early days were hidden extremely well off the beaten path.
After battling through the thick trees and undergrowth we finally found GZ and it was everything I had hoped it would be. A large fallen tree took up all the available space in the small patch of cleared ground, a definitive GZ if ever there was one. We got down to searching. After a few minutes it was only Geoff and I searching, and then it was just me. I was reluctant to give up the search, wanting so badly for the container to still be there but I think, in my heart, I knew that it wouldn’t be. Eventually I had to admit it to myself and I concluded what the others had done so about 10 minutes before, that the cache had long gone.
Before we left, I took a moment to imagine the cache owner placing the cache back here over 13 years ago and I wondered if he realised how big geocaching would become. How in the space of 13 years, his single cache would prompt the placement of so many more in and around Watford. Now there are hundreds and hundreds within a couple of miles radius – almost 20 in these woods alone.
I did contact the CO when I returned home to see if he remembered archiving the cache. This wasn’t the original person who had placed the cache back in 2002 as the cache had been adopted at some point. I got a reply saying that although he didn’t specifically remember returning to collect the container, he suspect that he probably did as he generally did when archiving caches. So I guess that is the end of it then.
The last thing I did before we left GZ was to check my iPhone to see how far the next nearest cache was. With a smile I realised it was well over the minimum required by groundspeak, so even if the original cache wasn’t to be found here, there was scope for someone perhaps to place a tribute cache here at some point. Now I wonder who might do that?