The half term holidays were upon us and so it was time for a little family geocaching. Amazingly, for once, it wasn’t me that found the caches for us to do, but rather Shar was the one to spot the Lee Gate cluster of CaptainJack caches, located not far from Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire. My 3 second research turns up but one fact about the village of Lee Gate, which was that the local pub was once a filming location for Midsomer Murders; a programme that I have never seen and have no inclination to do so.
Our parking location was, indeed, in the car park of a local pub, but before you ask, I have no idea if it was the aforementioned “Midsomer” pub… oh you weren’t going to ask? Never mind then. Prior to leaving the house I had considered whether or not to wear a jumper as the weather was looking quite agreeable, but as we started putting boots on, I was glad that I had not only opted to wear the jumper, but also that I brought a jacket as well. The sun was vaguely trying to make an appearance, but the cool breeze was enough to strip any heat from its rays. This was almost June, so it was probably wise on my part to err on the side of caution when it comes to weather.
There are 23 caches in total in the Lee Gate series, but we knew we wouldn’t be up for tackling them all in one go, so we divided them into two chunks and, on this day, set off with 14 caches loaded into our phones. After a short walk along a footpath down the side of the pub, we were through a kissing gate and encountering our first taste of wildlife. The field was full of what, at first, we thought were llamas, but were actually alpacas. I so wanted them to be llamas so I could do my “bad llama” quotes from Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove, but alas it was not to bee. I was not to be put off though and did my quotes anyway.
We were in good spirits and walked with a spring in our step as we made our way towards GZ. I popped our collective bubble then by accidentally stepping on Sam’s “Super Stick” and snapping the bottom couple of inches off. It went very quiet for a few moments as the damaged article was examined before surprisingly, Sam shrugged it off, and we continued on. I had expected a bit of a strop at the very least, he being rather attached to the stick, as it was a wonderfully straight and sturdy one that he had acquired whilst visiting Nanny a couple of years before, but as he pointed out very maturely, the stick was a bit short for him now as he was getting taller, and it was probably time to look for a new one anyway. It is most off putting when your children act with common sense and maturity!
The llamas… sorry alpacas seemed very interested in what we were doing and trotted over en masse and stood about five metres away just staring at us as we searched for A Little Drink (gc3g8wj), which was hidden behind a water trough. They weren’t moving or doing anything in particular, but it was starting to get a bit creepy with 20 alpacas chaperoning us, so I was glad we made the find quickly and were able to head on out of the field. The alpacas followed us right until we got to the gate then they trotted off to the left into the tree line. It was like they were escorting us through their field, making sure we didn’t mess with anything we shouldn’t be. With a little relief we got through the gate and then took the footpath left whereupon we came face to face with the alpacas staring at us from the other side of the fence. Freaky!
The footpath took us in between two fields, one containing sheep and the other one containing more alpacas, although these ones seemed far less interested in us. It also took us past two more caches, Captains Log (gc3g8x0)and Triple Trunk Tree (GC3G8X), both of which were relatively easy finds for Sam who was on good form today.
The path, which was obviously leading us through a farm continued into an area which had a few large open farm buildings. They seemed to be used as shelters for a collection of huge farming machinery and we stood for a while and mused at how expensive it must be to buy and maintain such huge specialised vehicles.
A little further on, the path took a sharp left turn and descended into a valley, but before we followed it, there was a cache to be found right on the corner. To the left of the path there was a huge mass of prickly looking undergrowth and we just knew that it was going to be in there. Spare (GC3G8Xj) turned out to be a real team effort in the end. Sam did loads of poking around and searching and eliminated a lot of options, until Shar finally spotted the hint which was an old tyre half buried in the ground. Getting to it was another problem though as the undergrowth was quite dense and rather vicious. That’s when I was called for and thrust into the proceedings, quite literally. Head down and cane in front of me I fought my way through the stingers and thorns to reach the tyre and then rooted around under it and found the cache. A nice welt of stings on my hand was my reward but the log was signed so it was worth it in the end.
We followed the path down into the valley and picked up a small country lane in the direction of the next cache. It really was a narrow lane and a number of times we had to stop and scramble into the bushes at the side of the road to allow vehicles to pass. At one point a 4×4 passed us and then about 30 seconds later it passed us again, this time reversing back up the road. We were confused until we then saw another car coming up the lane in the direction the 4×4 was now reversing. After a minute or so the 4×4 passed us once more and this time did not return, either forwards or backwards. Whereas Team Washknight had prevailed and beaten the thorns and stingers at the last cache, alas they got the better of us at Topov (GC3G8YC). We narrowed the possible hides down to one of 3 locations and searched for about 10 minutes in the dense undergrowth but found it almost impenetrable in places. In the end, scratched and frustrated, we elected to log a DNF and move on.
What you really need after a frustrating DNF is a nice quick find and thankfully that is exactly what we got. Sam had a brief fight with the tree that was the guardian of Arrewig Tree (GC3G8YP) before pulling the container from its hiding place in amongst the roots. It is amazing how quickly the mood can be lifted again and thoughts of nasty DNFs forgotten once the next cache has been found.
Having descended into the valley, it was now time to turn right and head back up, as we were reaching the point furthest from the car and the remainder of our route would generally be heading back towards our starting point. The hill that took us out of the valley was a bit of a killer and once we had almost reached the top and entered into a tree line, our group seemed to suddenly need all sorts of maintenance. There was boot emptying and refitting, bathroom breaks and high energy snack and water being taken on. After everyone was happy again we tackled the last tiny bit of the hill and made another quick find atBray’s Wood (GC3G8Z4).
Now that we were back up the hill, the walk through the treeline to the next cache was very pleasant indeed. As we neared GZ we could hear a road a short distance away and just before we left the woods and joined it we broke off the path to find Cornered (GC3G8ZH), which was a good sized container hidden in amongst some dense trees next to a meadow. Seeing as the trees were sheltering the meadow from the cool breeze and the sun was making a fleeting appearance and it was about that time, we broke out the groundsheet and settled down in the meadow for some lunch and ginger cake.
After lunch, we joined the road for a short stretch before re-joining a footpath at the GZ of Inside (GC3G90D) which we found nice and quick inside a tree next to a kissing gate. Further along the path another easy, if slightly prickly find was made at Under (GC3G90Y) that was located at the base of a tree surrounded by holly.
A brief stint of walking along footpath, lane, footpath took us through the buildings of another farm, or possibly the same farm for all I know, where we encountered a rather vicious dog that exploded into loud barking as we approached. Thankfully the animal was chained up out of reach of us, which was a relief, if a little worrying. We scurried past the animal and further along the path where we located Vee (GC3G920), aptly hidden in the vee of a tree. At least with CaptainJack, nine times out of ten, you already know where you should be looking just from the cache name. Some might say this is uncreative and lazy hiding, but I think it was a very astute move on his/her part as the numerous caches he/she has hidden over the years are more often than not regularly found and kept alive by cachers despite very little CO maintenance. If they had been harder to find, I expect a lot more of them would have been lost and archived already.
Legs were starting to ache a bit now as we made our way through a wooded area to our last two caches that would take us back to the car. Sam made yet another find at End (GC3G92F), this time in the end of a hollow log to the side of the path at the first. The gods of geocaching weren’t quite done with us yet though, as we encountered our only patch of mud on the walk to the last cache of the day. When your legs are tired and aching, having the extra strain of squelching mud seems a little unfair, but despite this, there was only the smallest amount of grumbling, most of it from me to be honest. I was tired and just wanted to be done now and so took very little notice of the last find of the day, Rockin (GC3G94R), which was a rock cache that thankfully was quickly found by… you know what? I have no idea at all who did find it!
13 out of 14 caches found and a thoroughly enjoyable day in the Buckinghamshire countryside was had by all. Not bad for the first day of the half term holidays.
This geocaching adventure took place on 29th May 2016 and took our total cache count up to 1472.