Sitting in a car park overlooking a wooded area in the Chilterns, I felt a strong sense of De Ja Vu.
It is reasonable I suppose seeing as we have cached quite a few times in the Chiltern hills of Buckinghamshire this year, but this time it was different. Had we passed this way before? Had I seen this place in a photo many years ago? Or perhaps I had rode through these woods in a past life… a time when Men were knights, women were constantly in distress and hygiene was not even a word in the dictionary let alone a reality.
And then it came to me… No, we had been here three weeks ago sitting in this exact car park watching the rain run down the windscreen, munching ham, cheese and pickle sandwiches, wondering if the weather would clear so we could go caching. It didn’t. We went home. But today, we were back! And whilst it was a different Ham, Cheese and pickle sandwich, a different piece of ginger cake, it was the same car park and the Same wood in front of us. But this time it was not raining and we were just about to set off in search of 10 caches. This was our first family caching day for almost a month and we were in Hodds Wood, a stone’s throw from Chesham in Buckinghamshire.
Enough with the pre-waffle… get on with the main waffle.
Hodds wood sits just to the side of the busy town of Chesham and it constantly attempts to fend of the encroaching threat of industrialisation and urbanisation. The footpaths we walked took us through patches of lovely woodland and up steep hills but every now and then the “civilised “world tried to muscle its way in in the form of a street or two of houses, or an industrial unit or two, not to mention the metropolitan tube line that skirts the edge of it. It is easy to see that the modern world has robbed the area of a once impressive patch of woodland but if you look hard enough there are still treasure to be found… but then this is the Chiltern Hills after all. If you get enough elevation anywhere in the Chilterns, the views can be quite breath-taking, even if they do sometimes include the detritus of 20th and 21st century man.
Our quest for smilies was what had brought us to Hodds wood though and just getting to the first one proved somewhat confusing. Sticking to our philosophy of getting the long walk out of the way first, it was about a kilometre to the first cache. The distance was further increased by a number of crazy diversions to avoid being run over by a car on one of the roads that intersected our footpath. Or to avoid falling into a river which wound its way through the woods and under and around the houses.
A pleasant diversion of a different kind was discovered on the way to the first cache in the form of these stepping stones.
I thought perhaps the “Priests View” mentioned in the title of the first cache might be somewhat interesting and I suspect that there may well be something to that, but all we could see at the first GZ in a clump of trees that flanked a road was Priest Car dealership on the other side of the road. Not exactly what I had been expecting.
Then horror of horrors we had a DNF. At least it wasn’t the first cache of the day, that would have been even worse. Still, a DNF is still a DNF and no one likes those. Thankfully the next one was not a DNF but it was quite a trek to get to it. For a long while, the route took us through a quieter section of the wood and almost out of reach of the encroaching industrialisation. A cache is a cache though and I was happy to be the one that found the pesky magnetic micro on the side of the footpath pole, even though both Sam and Shar had looked and failed to spot it.
Another DNF in a rather prickly spot near an old rusty iron fence and our performance for the day was looking pretty dismal. Not only had we only found 50% of the caches, it seemed to have taken us a long time to get to this point. Our next three caches took us up higher and higher through a mixture of woodland and quiet suburban streets. None of the caches were anything special but at least they weren’t DNFs. The hills were taking their toll on our little group though and because things were taking a lot longer, the light was now starting to fade slightly.
After a small backtrack we then took a path through a new cemetery that had been placed on the side of this steep hill. The trek was incredibly steep in places although it was easy underfoot. It was very odd to see a cemetery with just 2 graves in it, but I guess Every churchyard started with just one grave. The cache at the top of the path was not worth the climb, but the view most certainly was. With the light fading fast, we took just a few minutes to catch our breath and admire the vista before continuing on to find our last three caches of the day.
Thankfully now we were heading down hill, back towards the train line and
beyond that, the car. The first cache gave us a small amount of difficulty when we couldn’t find the post that it was meant to be hidden on. We eventually found it and Sam declared that he had dismissed this one because the hint had said a black pole and this one wasn’t black enough! The next cache took us under the metropolitan line and then back again where I got prickled to bits retrieving a cache from a metal fence at the side of the path. It was pretty much dark now as we hustled for our last cache. This was, appropriately, named Christmas Tree and was hidden next to the Christmas Tree centre. Shar and Sam made the find a bit further up on the path from where I was searching and after signing the log we headed back to the car where a nice cup of hot chocolate awaited us.
Eight out of ten caches found and another day ticked of our caching calendar. Happy Days.