After our less than thrilling GeoDate last week, I spent some time planning out a selection of countryside caching routes for us to use in the future. Whilst we have already done quite a few of the local loops, we are fortunate to have a large amount of caches around that can be drawn together in clusters to form nice walks.
“Hang on a minute, isn’t this cluster caching exactly the sort of thing that got you in trouble last week?” I hear you ask.
Well yes it was but this is different. I have moved my search area north west into Buckinghamshire and isolated lots of clusters of caches that can be strung together in walking loops through small villages and rural and woodland surroundings. The planning of this is made a little easier as we have CaptainJack as a cache owner in Bucks and parts of Hertfordshire and whilst he doesn’t specifically create sets of caches in nice numbered order etc., he has placed and arranged his 500 odd caches along easy walking routes around the countryside and quite often named them in clumps so loops can be quickly identified. So as a result of some serious bulk planning I now have just under 20 clusters of between 10 and 20 caches that should keep us in GeoDates for a good few months.
And so it was that on Thursday, Shar and I were parking up at the side of a quiet country road on the outskirts of Latimer in Buckinghamshire. This was the source of a small amount of confusion for me though as we got out of the car and selected our first cache, we appeared to be somewhere that I did not expect. Whilst I select the caches, it is Shar’s job to select the parking spots for our adventures. Fair enough right. What is the point of asking a blind man, who is the passenger, to choose a good place to park. Shar checks out likely places on google street view and then selects a nearby postcode to get us there with the sat nav. Sometime multiple options are considered before an optimal one is found. My confusion arose because Shar had parked at one of the earlier considered spots rather than the final one she had decided on the night before. No harm done except for a bit of disorientation on my part and the continued suspicion that Shar has the memory of a fish who is prone to bouts of amnesia.
We already knew that this week’s choice was a much better and more agreeable location for our GeoDate as the quiet country road was flanked by fields and woodland. And so we set off into the nearby patch of woods and up a big hill to get to the first cache, Pilewort (GC23GC1). Hills are not Shar’s best friend but she took it in her stride and we puffed our way up the steep slope to reach the GZ. where after hacking through the trees Shar made a quick find of the cache. We then discovered a much easier way back to the path but sheer momentum took us back the way we had come.
Heading for A View To Latimer (GC23FGW) next, we took a minor “detour” off the intended route which took us through a car park belonging to some sort of business establishment, I forget what now, and then back into the woods. With the promise of a good view as per the title we quickly located the GZ and the small cache that lurked on the bench nearby. A bench is always a great way to enjoy a good view and it was just a shame that this bench was placed right behind two massive trees that completely obscured the promised vista. I can’t quite decide if it was extremely bad planning by whoever put the bench there or an oversight on the part of the person who planted the trees. Either way I can’t imagine that there was ever a view to see back when the cache was placed, so it is odd that the cache was named thus, unless it was done with a sense of irony or by a blind person. A comment like that last one would usually evoke a chuckle but considering my blindness, I suspect that it caused an eyebrow to raise or a thoughtful expression to momentarily cross your face.
The route to the next cache, Coney Wood (GC32KFM), was slightly annoying in that it involved backtracking to pick up a footpath that led diagonally down across a farm field to get to a small patch of woods, and then reversing our walk to re-join the main path to continue with the other caches. I suppose it was entirely our choice to do this and no one forced us to divert to this cache, but seriously what were we meant to do… leave a cache unfound that was just a few hundred metres on the other side of a field? Are you mental? As it was the cache was found quickly and we returned back up to the bench without the view, with little more inconvenience than having to log back into amazon because your computer crashed and lost all your cookies…again.
Leaving behind the bench, we walked further along the ridge and were eventually treated to the promised view as we broke out of the trees for a brief while before plunging back under cover to search for Walk Wood (GC23FVY) which I fully expected to be a challenge as it had received a previous DNF and had not been found for some time. We both searched separate parts of the wood to the side of the path and aside from getting tripped up by a tangle of branches, I came up with nothing. Shar had better luck and after pausing to allow some muggle to go by made the find. The coordinates turned out to be pretty accurate and although it did take longer than some finds we couldn’t quite see what the fuss was about. There is always a nice warm smug feeling to be had after making a find in the wake of one or more DNFs but I try not to let this slip into my logs… but I generally fail! 😛
The nice wide path was proving a busy stomping route for various muggles including a sizable group of walkers on an organised hike. As we approached the point at which the path met Stony lane the muggle activity seemed to increase dramatically with various dog walkers and other outdoor types making the search for Stony Lane (GC23GCA), one that was constantly interrupted. At GZ there we two old ivy covered posts and according to the hint, one of them would be the hiding place of the cache. Shar took one and I the other and in between various bouts of “casual leaning” I eventually plucked the cache from the top of my post.
Our chosen route took us down the busy Stony lane that unfortunately didn’t have any sort of a footpath or verge next to it and so regular dives to the side / into the bushes were required to avoid being mashed by the passing traffic. Thankfully the road wasn’t too long and we were soon at our next cache, Cardinal Points (GC23FGD). A short search turned up the cheeky magnetic nano lurking behind the kissing gate and we then re-joined the road to a crossroads and beyond, now travelling gently uphill towards Latimer.
We had actually been very close to this cache on a previous visit to the area. The first time we went out caching with our friends Geoff and Melissa back in December 2013, we did a small line of caches starting out at Latimer. I remember considering doing Not Latimer 30 (GC32KF8) back then but deciding that we couldn’t be bothered to walk the couple of hundred extra metres to get to it. We were such caching whimps back then! The cache was easily located on a speed limit sign and I plucked it off while presumably bemused motorists sped past defying the legal speed limit as indicated by the blind man apparently pointing at the sign by the side of the road.
Just another short section along the road and then we joined up with the footpath that would take us back in the direction of the car past a few more caches. Colin’s Christmas CaChe (GC394A8) is a puzzle cache that I had solved back in 2013 but it wasn’t until now that the opportunity to collect presented itself as our route took us past the final location. Pausing for the hiking party to pass us for the second time that day, presumably they were doing a bigger loop and had walked a much greater distance than us, we started along the path. Just a few short metres in though, we had cause to pause and marvel at the sight of a tree growing out of the remains of another. To the side of the path could be seen the remnants of a trunk of a huge tree that would have once stood here. The diameter of the base would have been getting on for 1.5 metres I estimate. Growing out of the middle of the remains was another tree. This one was no spring chicken either, its trunk being 50cm across probably meaning that it must be quite some considerable time since the monster tree had been taken down. A curious thing it was indeed and a location that would warrant the placement of a geocache, but unfortunately this is not possible because Not Latimer 30 and the final of the puzzle cache are both too close to satisfy the proximity rules.
A short distance along the path and we came across a large fallen tree just to the side, and we knew that it would be our target for the puzzle final, there being little else of any description for a good distance in all directions. The tree provided many suitable hidey holes and the cache was discovered safe and sound deep within one of these.
Back on the path and a pleasant walk through the woods took us to an easy find at Two Way Fish (GC23FFT) once we understood that the fish referred to a design of footpath marker sign that was in use in these parts. From here we continued on along the path which led us back to the car, but we passed on by and up the lane a short way to pick up one last cache, Barley Croft (GC23FKR),which was located at the base of a large tree that was next to a bench that overlooked the wide expanse of farm fields in the direction of Sarat. We were so delighted that this bench came with view included, that we decided to stop and enjoy it whilst munching our sandwiches.
We had one last cache planned for after lunch but had to abort as we simply couldn’t find anywhere to park that wasn’t already in use by other thoughtless muggles. We will return for that one another time. It was good to be back in the Buckinghamshire countryside again and was certainly a marked improvement on our cluster caching attempt of last week. Happy Days.
This geocaching adventure took place on October 8th 2015 and took our total cache count to 1303