There would be no geocaching on the 16th of October, my birthday… boo! But there would be caching on the 15th… hooray. And there would be caching on the 17th too.. double hooray! Normally the suggestion that we go out caching on both Thursday and Saturday in the same week, would be met with much grumbling. But there were to be no grumblings this week, because it was my birthday week. I find that generally the celebrations and relaxing of chores etc. lasts about 2 or 3 days when it comes to my birthday. Is that a fairly average thing?
My choice for the pre-birthday geocaching was to go to Hyde Heath in Buckinghamshire. Placed here in amongst the farms and woodland are nestled 15 caches that are all owned by CaptainJack. Being terribly efficient this week, I had loaded up the phones well in advance and even put out a message on the Beds, Bucks & Herts Geocachers Facebook group to see if anyone had any suggestions for parking locations. I got 4 answers, some more helpful than others but the net result was that we found ourselves a good place to park just opposite the Plough pub.
We took a slightly longer than necessary route to the first cache, travelling around the common to enter the woods, only then to find a footpath that ran straight across the common. But our detour did allow us to see a rather strange sight of a shed half buried in the woods with ivy growing gall around it. It doesn’t appear to be attached to any property as such and I found myself wondering if it was a huge geocache. How cool would that be.
Our first cache, Utility (GC3EA7K), was right on the edge of the woods and spotting a concrete water hydrant marker at the side of the path I quickly got down to searching. It was only after turning up nothing that I enquired of Shar what size it was, to which she replied that it was a regular! Well, that will teach us to read the cache page as there was no way in hell that you could hide a cache of that size on the sign. We shifted our attention to a tree just beyond it and after fighting off a few branches that seemed determined to attack me, the nice size container was retrieved. Being such a good size and not far from a road I took the opportunity to drop off a TB that I had been holding onto for a while.
We were off to a good start. The weather was … cooperating and the further we got into the woods the more peaceful and pleasant the walk became. Our route took us through a narrow tree-lined path that was almost like a tunnel it was that dense. A couple of horses galloping along the edge of the field to our left gave me a start for a moment, although I confess that my reactions were not sufficiently quick enough to have saved either myself or Shar should the horses actually have been on the path and heading straight for us.
Spotting the cache at the GZ of The End (GC3EA7D) didn’t prove to be a problem at all though as it was clearly visible, to Shar at least, as we approached. At some point a very large tree must have fallen across the narrow path and to clear the way, a section of it had been cut out of it leaving part of the tree on either side. On One of the remaining tree parts there was a very neat hole positioned at about chest height which was big enough to neatly hold a small geocache. The container was perched right at the front of the hole when we found it and I was surprised that it hadn’t been muggled, being so clearly visible. As we were signing the log, I got a chance to test my reflexes again as a couple of cyclists came along the path with their lights brightly shining. As before my cat like reactions kicked in and Sharlene only had to tell me 3 times to stand to one side before I clocked on. I found myself wondering, for the briefest of moments, about how anyone could get pleasure from huffing and puffing on a bike up a hill through the woods. Then I realised that what we were doing was basically walking in the woods picking up old plastic containers out of trees, bushes and other weird places and trying not to get stung, bitten or covered in mud or something worse… who was I to call the cyclists weird?
Having replaced the cache, pushing it a lot further back this time, we continued along the path making a quick find at The Pile (GC3E16Z), although retrieving it from its holly prison was a little painful. Yet still further along we found Just log it (GC3EA6E), hidden in a custom made hide that had been fashioned out of a 10 inch long 3 inch diameter log. Even though we both knew what we were looking for, this one took us a little while to actually find. Despite the extra time on this cache we were making great progress, having found 4 caches in just over half an hour.
Our route took us out of the trees now and a short distance along a fairly busy road, that thankfully had wide verges, and then back onto another footpath to the GZ of In Plain View (GC3EABW). As the name suggested, we knew that wherever the cache was, it should be obvious. At GZ there was a farm gate, two fences perpendicular to each other and a stile to cross into the field where the path continued. Obviously our focus was on the fences and gate. As I stepped up to start the search Sharlene warned me not to touch the fence beyond the stile as it was electrified. This was good advice which I immediately failed to follow, reaching my hand through the fence in front of me and touching the electrified fence beyond. A sensation akin to getting a jumbo static shock off your car door just after you have been rubbing 20 balloons on your head, is the only way I can describe it. It wasn’t painful as such but wasn’t something I felt I needed to experience again. It astonished me therefore to find that immediately after getting the shock and realising what it was that I found myself wondering if I should touch it again just to get a clear feeling of what it was like so I could describe it. Yes dear reader, I was tempted to intentionally give myself an electric shock just so I could explain to you what it was like…. all in the name of art, darling! Common sense prevailed and instead I stepped back and snagged my arm on some barbed wire.
Meanwhile, back in the world inhabited by sensible people, Sharlene had spotted the jumbo bolt cache that was screwed through the gate and was undoing it to get access to the log. I stood stock still, a respectful distance from everything and waited patiently for her to finish.
The distance to the next cache was considerably further than those we had found so far because there was a farm in the way. Our route appeared to be through the middle of the farm, something that we would have felt very uncomfortable indeed about doing when we started caching a couple of years ago. It still feels a little odd to be trundling right through the middle of someone’s farm buildings but if there is a marked footpath on the map then it doesn’t bother us much these days. Into the field we went and to pass the time we discussed our choices for meals next week. If we cache on Thursdays then we often talk about what sort of meals we want to eat the following week as Sharlene goes shopping on the Friday. As I may have mentioned before I use a digital voice recorder to make notes on the caches we find when we are out and it isn’t unusual on playing it back sometimes to hear this sort of thing.
“err. Hyde Heath – in plain view was a bolt cache. Shar found it. I touched an electric fence and got my first ever shock (laughter in the background from Shar). time is …err… it 10.55. Moroccan Meatballs, Roast Chicken and cottage pie.”
On this occasion we had done the full meals list by the time we reached the other side of the field and discovered there was no way to get out. Despite there being a footpath running through the middle of it there seemed, according to Shar, to be no way to get out. There was a waist high fence and I was about to vault over it like an Olympic gymnast when Shar remarked that it, too, was electrified. We could see the farm buildings and a track through them just a short distance beyond the fence but with no way to reach them we were forced to return the way we had come. Back over the stile and this time we walked along the side of the field where there wasn’t a path as such but a route was clearly visible. On reaching the farm, again we found there was no way through but as the fence was not electrified this time, we hopped over and continued on down the track. As we reached the farm buildings, Shar glanced right and spotted the stile that would have allowed us to exit the field that we had got stuck in. Apparently the field with no way of getting out of it, had a way of getting out of it… and I am the blind one. All of a sudden, I felt slightly less stupid about giving myself an electric shock.
Eventually we made it through the farm and to the GZ of Hawthorn Farm (GC3EABH), where we failed completely to find the cache for 10 minutes. There was only two wooden posts and a cross bar to search and yet we couldn’t find anything. We paused and had some Minnesota nut roll and then Shar found the cache in one of the places we had searched before. It was the first cache I have seen hidden in an old shotgun shell, although I believe that these are not strictly permitted under Groundspeak guidelines. The first four caches of the day had taken us 35 minutes and this one had taken us a full 45 minutes to travel to and find. We were still smiling… although, in my case, that could have been a muscular side effect of the electric shock.
Although the route to the next cache, No Gate (GC3EAB9), was straightforward and I didn’t manage to further injure myself in any way, we struck out in an even worse fashion at GZ. We couldn’t find the cache!. despite crawling almost entirely into a bush of thorns, the little blighter completely eluded us. Grumpy and bleeding in one or two places, we gave up and made our way along the wide easy path to Flintlock (GC3EAB1), where thankfully we made a quick find, plucking the cache from under a huge piece of flint at the base of a tree.
After Two more relatively easy finds at Post a field note (GC3EAAK) and Hedgerow(GC3EAAB), which were along a path that took us down the edge of a ploughed field, the wind whipping through the valley and right into our faces, we decided it was time to find a sheltered place to throw down the groundsheet and have a spot of lunch. After refuelling and resting we set off again across some fields that would be a lot harder to traverse during the summer months but having recently been harvested were effectively just scrub. A short stretch along another road and then back into the woods on the other side of the fields for the last stretch of our walk that would take us back up to the car.
The next two caches were relatively straight forward hides. Half way house(GC3EA9W) was easily located once we had found the right stump, at the second attempt and then it was On Stony Ground (GC3EA9Q). The thing about a lot of CaptainJack caches is that the title often serves as the hint… Post a field note is always at a post, stumped is in a stump, just a tree is.. well just a tree etc. So finding on Stoney ground was just about finding the right stone to reveal the cache. Even armed with this knowledge it still took us a little while to find it with a number of failed attempts on either side of the narrow path
As we set off to Behind (GC3EA8V) we startled a pheasant out of the trees which took to the sky in a flap of wings and a shower of autumn leaves. As we continued on a second pheasant hopped from its hiding place and stood regarding us from a distance. Then another came out and another. We left them to it and focussed on scaling the hill that now lay before us. As we huffed our way up, another family of pheasant suddenly sprinted across the open field to the right of us and disappeared into the woodland beyond. It seems we may have arrived in the height of the pheasant festival in Hyde Heath. Once we had made it to the top of the hill and caught our breath we made a quick find of the cache hidden “behind” a fallen tree to the side of the path.
Then came Fallen (GC3EA8H) which was also located behind a fallen tree at the side of the path… hmm bit of confusion there – “Behind” was behind a fallen tree and “Fallen” was behind a fallen tree. First of all though we had to get past a pack of doggy muggles one of which was barking rather too loudly and aggressively for my liking. Why is it that dog owners always laugh and joke when their dog confronts you. “It’s his way of being friendly”, “he won’t bite”, “oh you obviously aren’t dog owners”… just sod off and get your big arse scary dog under control.
Our last cache of the day was stumped (GC3EA87). No prizes for guessing where this one was hidden. As Sharlene was putting a couple of TBs in the cache, up a small bank, who should reappear but annoying doggy muggles and their owners again. They had barely past us about 3 minutes before and now they had turned tail and were heading back the other way catching Sharlene in a rather compromising position up the bank. My technique in these cases is to do nothing, offer nothing, act as if nothing is weird. Very few people and especially those that live within shelling range of London will stop to ask what on earth you are doing. Maybe out in the arse-end of nowhere the locals are a tad more inquisitive and happy to start a conversation with total strangers but not round these parts. At least they don’t normally do that to me, so it might just be me giving off some sort of weird “don’t mess with me” vibe. Most likely it is a blind thing. I am unable to make eye contact with people unless they stay still and keep talking, and seeing as many such confrontations would start with a flash of eye contact, we never get past the first hurdle.
Our route had brought us back to within a couple of hundred metres of the car so we made our way across the common and enjoyed a nice cup of hot chocolate before setting off. Except we didn’t because Shar hadn’t made any hot chocolate. And it was so very nearly a very perfect pre birthday geocaching day but nonetheless it was pretty dam good to be out in the country searching for bits of old plastic with my, very much, better half. Happy days.
This geocaching adventure took place on Thursday 15th October 2015 and took our total cache count to 1317