Sharlene and I were suitably impressed enough with our recent GeoDate in Birch Green, that when it came time to plan our next family caching day out, we decided to head back to the same area and take on a slightly bigger series of caches called the Cole Green Wander.
Located just a little to the south of The Birch Green Wander series, the Cole Green Wander is a set of 20 geocaches placed along footpaths in a semi-rural part of Hertfordshire just to the west of Hertford. The shape of it when observed on a map resembles that of a large saucepan with a handle extending to the right and the top line of caches all run along the Cole Green Way, a popular walking route following the path of an old railway line.
Our starting point was the car park of Hertford Town football club which was far less grand than it sounds. I was under the impression that Hertford Fc was a club of some importance, but the ground was basically a line of benches standing next to a football pitch. High profile it may not be, but it certainly was quite busy and this hampered our attempts to find the first cache which was meant to be hidden in the bowl of a tree right in the car park.
After a thorough search all round, and in the middle of, the multi-trunked tree, in the end we had to give up and resign ourselves to marking the first geocache of the day as a DNF. Disaster! I have stated on many occasions that a DNF right at the start of your day is the worst kind and indeed it is, but we tried to just put it behind us and move on. Also we reminded ourselves that we would be returning here on the way back so we could have another look then. I suspected that we all knew deep down that we wouldn’t be “having another look on the way back”, but it made us feel better about walking away.
The first leg of the walk was a long and straight one following the route of the old railway line. It was a very popular path indeed, with many walkers, cyclists and even a couple of horses passing us at one point. I hasten to add that the horses were being ridden by humans, they weren’t just a couple of back packing horses out for a gentle stroll. This initial stretch of our route took us past a further 8 caches a couple of which we skipped so we could have something to do on the way back and, with the exception of another DNF, we managed to find all the remaining ones.
The good thing about old railway lines is that they are often set in deep cuttings which means there are steep banks up both sides offering lots of suitable hiding places for geocaches. . The actual hides were your standard small pots at tree bases or beneath logs with a couple of exceptions. Most notably a tiny nano which was embedded in the end of a fence post at one GZ which was quite well done.
When it came time to head towards number 10, we turned off the main path and headed south forming the left hand side of my imaginary saucepan as described above in my pitiful metaphor… or was it a simile. Oh I always get those too mixed up. Anyway we made our way along a narrow path, overgrown and flanked with barbed wire to a small bridge where we located a cache box underneath the woodwork of the bridge. Spirits in our little team were pretty high as the weather was just about right, and there was little if any teenage moaning, or any other kind of moaning for that matter.
After a short diversion off the main series to pick up another rather well done nano in the end of a stick hidden in plain view in the V of a tree, we made our way to number 11 in the series, which was accompanied by a number of interesting incidences. Firstly Shar and Sam were treated to the sight of a family of foxes scampering away in the distance across the fields as we walked towards the GZ, which is pretty cool as you don’t often see foxes out in the daytime in areas where there is a reasonably high footfall.
Then as we found the cache which was behind a tree up a slope to the side of the path, I discovered that I had a rip in the leg of my trousers. I had for some time been monitoring a tiny hole in the right hand leg of my trousers hoping that it wouldn’t get any bigger. It had probably been caused by barbed wire or something similar and had been there for a good couple of months now. My plan was to make the trousers last through the summer, then I had my winter combats to wear and then I would get some new lightweight combats next year. Well that plan went out the window when I discovered that whilst the hole in my right leg had not got any bigger, I now had acquired a rip the size of a melon in the knee of my left one! I am completely oblivious as to how or when exactly I got it, but there was no ignoring it now. It was clear that there would be a rethinking of trouser plans after this trip. I tried my best to make it look like a fashion thing, but I couldn’t even pull that off back in the nineties when I was in my twenties, let alone as a 45 year old man in 2017.
After a brief interlude for mother and son to have a “discussion” about the best route to take to the next cache, we made our way down a pretty tunnelled path and around the edge of a field picking up a couple of easy finds, the second of which was affixed to the back of a sign that told us all about the nearby wonderfully named “Grotto Wood, not to be confused with what I thought it was called which was “Grotty Wood”.
We were “on our way back” now and as we turned east our gradual descent was predictably replaced with a similarly gradual ascent. The next few caches were not too challenging except for one where the GPS had us about 25 metres from where we eventually found the cache. This was a little frustrating but all that doesn’t really matter if you actually find the cache in the end.
We had another DNF at number 19 although we were convinced the cache was missing as the hide was very clear and the hint and description obvious enough. I note as I write this that the cache owner did visit a few days later and confirmed that the cache had gone missing and helpfully replaced it.
Number 20, which is the last in the series, although we had a couple from the beginning of the trail saved for our return stroll to the car, was an easy find under the watchful eye of a CCTV camera. As we stood there, Sam and Shar explained to me that it was a very odd place for a camera. We were at the end of a track and all around us were fields. The track was about 100 metres or more from the nearest building and the camera just seemed to cover … nothing. It was weird because it made me feel a bit self-conscious as there was really nothing else for the camera to focus on other than the 3 berks messing around in the bushes looking for tupperware. In hindsight I suspect it was soon to be the site of a new development, or that they may have had problems before with either travellers or fly tippers.
Our walk now took us back to the disused railway line where we had to reverse the instructions for finding cache number 4 as we were approaching it from the opposite direction, which hurt our brains for a while. Then it was an easy find for our last cache and with tired feet but good spirits we strode out for the car. No one was interested in having another look for our first DNF, as I had suspected, but the painful memory had subsided now leaving behind only that nice warm fuzzy feeling you get when you have spent a couple of hours of quality time with your family in the countryside finding geocaches. Happy days.
This geocaching adventure took place on July 1st 2017 and took our total cache count up to 1726.