Sharlene and I went out for our regular GeoDate on Tuesday this week. It wasn’t one of our most harmonious and pleasant outings, but it had its moments. I think I got us off to a less than positive start when I planned for us a bit of local, semi urban, within earshot of the M25 cluster caching. Cluster caching is when you string together two or more clumps of caches that are within a short drive of each other. They are spaced just a little to far to walk between them so planning small pockets of caches that can be linked together is a good way of making a longer caching adventure without having to search further afield for a bigger series.
Unfortunately a decent series out in the sticks was exactly the sort of thing that Shar was hoping for. She had, of course, neglected to mention this to me and so after I had spent a couple of hours planning our cluster caching day out, she reluctantly agreed that it would be “fine”.
Our first stop was a total nonstarter. Just a short distance away from us is a very large round about where you can feed off the A41 and join theM25 and there is a cache right in the middle of it. This fascinated me and I was interested to go check it out. As mentioned above though it really didn’t fit in with the hopes for the days caching and when we arrived at GZ we were surprised to find that the middle of this huge roundabout was a rather dense wooded area… on a very steep slope….surrounded by bramble… and nettles… with a sign saying “beware of the leopard”! OK, there wasn’t a sign but there might as well have been. There was no way we were going to be able to hack our way into the wooded area and I suspect that there is an alternative, sneaky way to access the GZ by driving into the middle of the roundabout. It would only really be an option to do this during the silly hours of the morning I guess and besides, I don’t think Shar would do it full stop. This false start created some tension between us and we returned to the car empty handed and grumpy.
Our next stop was a short distance away and after we parked up we did managed to make our first find… magnetic on a post, overlooked by some houses, after walking up a big hill. I was seriously not scoring any points from Shar with this kind of behaviour. Another urban nano on the back of a phone box and things were starting to look very bleak indeed. But then, my saving grace, a cache from a series with the curious name of “A Fine Pair”, A Fine Pair #258 ~ Hunton Bridge (GC5TG3H).
Far from being a series themed on the carry on films, which the name suggests it should be, the “A Fine Pair” series is a newish national series of caches that are placed where both an old red telephone box and a post box can be seen at the same time. I am always a sucker for an old phone box. The walk to it held one little treasure too. We crossed under a train line on the way to it and the bridge was really cool. The main section for cars to pass through was narrow and beautifully arched, not like modern square metal constructions but a brick built “tunnel-like” affair. The cooler part was that to the side of the road section, there was another small tunnel section just for pedestrians to walk through. I woefully neglected to take a picture of this either on the way to the cache or when returning to the car and for this I beg your forgiveness. Instead I include here a photo taken in 2009 by Nigel Fox which has been made available under a creative commons license…. whatever that is.
The cache itself was actually hidden within the phone box which had been converted into a small library. The container was cleverly disguised as a fake book and as one further nice touch, considering the link to both phone and post boxes, was that the cache was a letterbox hybrid. I happily gave this one a favourite point, not least because it had created a moment of pleasant happiness in our so far grumpy caching adventure.
After moving the car once more we picked up a single 35mm film canister hidden in a tree next to a lovely old church that was unfortunately blighted by the road noise from the A41 and nearby M25. It was pleasing to pick up though as it was an old cache dating back to 2003, HM4 – A Gate To Nowhere (GCD659). Originally owned by notorious Watford cacher The Hornet, it had long since been adopted and I have to say that it is fantastic that these old caches are kept alive as it does feel like a slice of history when you log them. OK it’s not ancient history… after all, I am standing next to a church that dates back hundreds of years, but it is geocaching history. The hornet placed the first cache in Watford in early 2002 and by the time this one was placed there still would have been less than 20 in the whole of the Watford area.
After this we returned to a different church in Abbots Langley to try and convert a DNF. Last time we had been there we had been thwarted by an old muggle and his chatty friend but this time it was a newspaper reading muggle that yet again prevented us from being able to log the cache. This is fast becoming our nemesis.
The next stop of the day was back to another cache that we had visited that same day we had DNFed the church. Last time we had discovered it was a water based pipe cache and we had not had enough liquid with us to make the container float up. This time the job was done nice and quick and simple and log quickly signed. We talked for a while about whether we should give it an FP but in the end we decided not to. The cache itself is very clever and well executed. I suggest, that had we not seen a couple of these before we would be utterly astounded at the ingenuity. The problem however was the location it was placed at which was obviously in use by the local youths for various nefarious activities. This time we found a massive pair of scissors discarded in the dirt and last time it was drug paraphernalia and general litter. The CO was aware of its occasional use by the locals and to me this is not acceptable. It is not a nice place to be and certainly not somewhere I want to take kids. If the cache had been in a different location -we could pinpoint one just a few hundred metres away- then it would be FP material for sure.
After picking a few blackberries from the nearby bushes, we headed back to the car to have some lunch and discuss our next stop. Shar was not very happy when looking at the map with the walking distances between this next clump of 4 and that, again, it didn’t look as if they were at interesting locations. We elected to call it a day and head home. Not our most enjoyable caching day it has to be said but it had its moments, and Shar and Sam enjoyed the blackberries later that evening, so that is something at least.
This geocaching adventure took place on Tuesday 29th September 2015 and took our total cache count up to 1288