For our GeoDate this week, Sharlene and I went to Apsley. Rather than a specific series, I had identified a number of caches that could be strung together to form a vaguely circular walk.
Apsley, the name deriving from Aspen Wood, is a historical industrial settlement with its origins dating back to the turn of the 19th century. Whilst there was occupation in the area prior to this, it was the introduction of water mills at the beginning of the 19th century that was responsible for the growth of the area. The Frogmore paper mill is most notable for being the place where John Dickinson the developed the mechanism to allow for the production of continuous paper. When the Trunk canal, later to be renamed the Grand Union, was built a few years later the region became a hub for the production and distribution of paper. Now, there is only one mill in the area that produces historic paper types and the pretty 19th century buildings sit uncomfortably next to Sainsbury’s and a large retail park. It now is classified as an outer district of Hemel Hempstead and is about a 20 minute drive from where we live in Watford.
Whilst I bemoan the arrival of the retail park, flattening some of the old mills, I confess that it was a handy place to park to start our caching day. I didn’t realise exactly how handy it was until we set off to find our first cache, Cachers Creche (GC4Y41X) which turned out to be less than 30 metres from the car. GZ was a small path that led from the car park to the road beyond and it was lined on both sides with metal tubular railings and thick bushy…. bushes. The hide was described as being very tricky and retrieval of the container would require the use of a tool hidden somewhere nearby. We searched the bushes for a while, scratching our heads in confusion, not finding anything. Thinking that tools tend to be specifically man made and therefore might benefit from the camouflage of something else man made, we turned our attention to the large amount of metal railings. After a short while, I managed to locate the tool in question and after a bit of fumbling around and with the help of nature’s attraction, Shar managed to extract the cache from its hiding place. I am being specifically vague about the details of the hide as it is a relatively new cache and one that belongs to our good friends, Smokeypugs. Needless to say it was a very satisfying retrieval, although being the one to make the find of the tool and then have Shar steal the glory of actually getting the cache didn’t sit too well with me for a bit. bah humbug!
To get to our next cache we walked through Aspley a short way, alongside a rather busy road but then thankfully took a side road and crossed over the canal where we got our first view of Frogmore paper mill.
The GZ of Travel Bug Central – Hemel (GC2ZAMR) was in the bushes to the side of a car park which would make tackling this cache as a C&D very helpful. Also worthy of note was that there were public toilets in the car park too a real bonus when you are out caching. Especially if you have your radar key which allows you access to the otherwise locked disabled toilets which tend to be generally cleaner and better appointed than the regular conveniences. Finding the actual cache was a bit tricky as we arrived just as loads of mums were turning up for a playgroup that was nearby. Each one that arrived took about 5 minutes extracting their pushchair and child from the car and we were left loitering at the side of the car park for some time before we were able to retrieve the cache which turned out to be a TravelBug hotel. This was a perfect opportunity to drop of some TBs that I had been carrying.
I knew that there were just a couple more caches in this relatively urban environment before we would be onto footpaths and out in the country a bit and I couldn’t wait. As we walked back onto the busy road towards the next cache though, we got seduced by the presence of a McDonalds and simply couldn’t resist popping in for a quick sausage and egg McMuffin. Afterwards, feeling sated and a little guilty we made a couple of quick finds of Ribbon in the Cache (GC5XERM) and TThe End of Bobs Nickey Line (GC2TDMY) before locating the footpath that would lead us out of civilisation and….. up a naffing big hill. Well beauty comes with a price after all.
It was whilst walking to our next cache that I noticed on my iPhone that the final location of a puzzle, Elementary my dear Watson (GC27ZXD), that I had solved over a year ago was going to be on our route. I haven’t even realised it was nearby when I was planning the caches but seeing as we would be passing within a hundred metres of it, we agreed that it would have been foolish not to take the opportunity to pick it up. After a short detour along the ridge of a hill that looked down into the valley where Apsley lay, we found GZ and a bench at the side of the path hidden by the deep and thick foliage. After a short search Sharlene located the tree and I rubbed my hands in glee when I realised that a bit of low level climbing would be required. Always keen to unleash my inner monkey I was soon up the tree and searching for the cache which was quickly located and dropped down for signing. It might only be a few feet off the ground but you have to take your kicks where you can get them.
Back on course we picked our way along paths and across roads to get to the beginning of a footpath that had 4 caches placed along it. When I had planned the series I had started with these caches and then added in others to form the circular route that we were now about a third of the way round. Shar found the first, rediscovering a footpath #2 – Crossing over A41 (GC282Z6), which was hidden in a guard rail at the side of a road just where the foot path started.
The next three, Rediscovering a footpath #3 – Passing Phasels Wood (GC28305), Rediscovering a footpath #4 – where the horses are (GC28EQQ) and Rediscovering a footpath #5 – by Phasels Wood (GC28ENR), were nice straightforward finds along the footpath. One of them was a bit out of place but soon located nearby. The footpath took us down the side of Phasels Wood Scout camp, a place we had taken Sam to a number of times for cub and scout activities over the years. Actually I even remember taking Jake, my eldest there when he was in the scouts too, about 10 years ago…. blimey the march of time and all that.
The footpath ended in a narrow lane and we followed this to the site of our next cache that was just next to the A41 that we had already crossed on our walked once today. Walking down the narrow lane was interesting especially when some silly bint didn’t slow down at all as she passed us with inches to spare. We are very diligent walkers when on road and lanes as you might imagine. At the first sound of a car we stop and move as far to the side as we can, stepping up onto verges if they exist and in return a slight reduction in speed just to acknowledge we exist would be nice. The cache, Across the fields to Scatterdells Wood (GC28DE1), was found quickly nestling behind a telegraph pole at the side of a field and then we re-joined the lane and went under the A41 to pick up the footpath that would take us back towards the car.
We had two further caches along this path which initially took us up another massive hill. This one was really steep and I imagine in winter when the ground is wet and slippery that the path isn’t navigable at all. Coming down the hill would be terrifying as where it ended a road began and I could just imagine piles of children and old people collecting at the bottom to be mowed down by the traffic. Thankfully today the ground was dry even though there had been a little drizzle, and we arrived at the GZ of Shendish edge (GCV140) without incident. It was just a case of finding the right tree to search at and after the third attempt we located the container and signed the log.
It was a similar story at the last cache of the day, Shendish Walk: ICT (GC3VV6Z), although the terrain was a lot flatter. After reaching the top of the hill the path threaded its way through a public golf course and the neighbouring woods. Finding the right tree here was a little trickier as all we had to go on was the hint that it was ivy covered. They were all ivy covered! The tree cover above was also very thick and so the coordinates danced around like Wayne Sleep on Red Bull. Eventually we did find the jumbo Kinder egg container wedged in the vines of ivy around one tree but alas there was no surprise inside.
Aside from ducking the odd golf ball as we crossed over a fairway, the walk back to the car was uneventful. When we first started caching, the idea of crossing a golf course filled me with dread, even if it was on a footpath. We were a lot less confident about rights of way and generally being in the outdoors back then. Now, it doesn’t bother me a bit although I still think Sharlene feels a bit uncomfortable about it.
Having originally intended to do 13 caches, we then had to drop off 2 from the end as we were running a bit short of time. But with the collection of the puzzle cache that we hadn’t planned for, the tally for our pleasant walk around Apsley was a very satisfying 12. Happy Days.
This geocaching adventure took place on 15th July 2015 and took our total cache count to 1172.