A nibble in Cholesbury

Blessed with a child-free week, thanks to Sam spending some quality time with Nanny in Norfolk, Shar and I naturally decided to…. go geocaching.

Following our somewhat abortive attempt to hoover up some caches in the Cholesbury area a week or so before, we thought we would head back there and give it another go. We elected to have lunch at home first, that way we wouldn’t have to carry a picnic either, making it a super easy and stress free caching outing. We already had the caches in our phones, Shar had parking coordinates from the previous time, no picnic to carry, no child to organise… wow caching can be really spontaneous and easy sometimes 🙂

It had rained continually the day before but despite that, the weather on this day was just about perfect, partially cloudy and dry. Parking up in the now familiar spot, we booted up and headed down the lane towards our first cache. A quick scramble up a bank and a brief dance with a nettle protected tree and we were signing our first log of the day.

Back onto the lane for a short distance and then we were onto footpaths across farmland and heading towards our next cache which sadly was a DNF, although it not having been found for over a year gave us hope that it wasn’t just us being dim, but more likely that the cache was gone. It was nice to be out in the open although it was a little windy as you can hear from this audio note I took after finding the next cache on our walk.

As you can probably imagine, my log for that one was a little vague seeing as about the only word I could make out was “wall”.

We continued on through the farmland and then came to a cluster of houses on a quiet lane. The route through the field past the houses was flanked by two fences which were the boundaries of the properties on either side and as we walked along, the fences got slowly closer together. It was like something out of Alice in Wonderland, being able to walk side by side to start with, then single file and eventually having to squeeze around one section that would present more than a small problem for anyone who was a bit too fond of the pies. Finally I can see the real world benefit of the diet we have been on for the last few months!

Emerging at the far end of the alley we found ourselves normal sized and standing on a country lane that would lead to our next cache. This one was almost a DNF the hint being helpfully inaccurate stating that the cache was hidden behind a wall with a sign on it when in fact it was hidden behind a different wall on completely the opposite side of the road. I have seen some geocache drift in my time but that was stretching things a little too far.

A bit of road walking later and we then headed up a wide track to pick up a couple of out of the way ones that would require a short double back to return to our route. But we didn’t mind, the weather was fine, and we had little cares except possibly a rather urgent need for a bathroom break. It’s always the way, when you really need a comfort break there is barely a tree to be seen and then when you find one, there is an annoying family with an over inquisitive dog that they have precisely zero control over, to get in the way. Alas they were walking the same path as us which hampered not only our search for a suitable convenience but also our ability to find the next cache, although we did give it a dam good try.

Eventually we doubled back, lost sight of the family, found another cache and restored order in the universe by finding a secluded spot for a wilderness wee. It’s a funny thing, but it is truly the case that it is very difficult to be recognized as a truly dedicated geocacher without accepting the fact that at some point you are gonna have to slip behind a bush and expose yourself.

Our walk took us back onto farmland and past a new build that had been somewhat confusingly plopped right on top of the footpath. We skirted around the, still under construction, building and waded a little way through a field of crops before re-finding the path that took us to our next GZ, the hide of which we found easily but the actual cache eluded us completely.

On our way to the next cache we came across this friendly horse who was more than happy to make the acquaintance of Jimmy Talon which made for a great picture to submit for the Mountain Warehouse trackable competition. I fear that if Sharlene had taken just a little longer to take the photo then I might have lost the TB and possibly even my fingers to the hungry horse.

Paul stands in a field next to a horse holding his Jimmy Talon TB. The horse is just about to nibble the TB and possibly Paul's fingers.

Why the long face?

The GZ of the next cache was a death trap with over hanging holly, stingers, brambles and even a rogue length of barbed wire that was hanging around. It was like trying to break out of Colditz just trying to get close to where we thought the cache was going to be. After a few shrieks of pain and a fair bit of swearing, we then had to endure the torture of not actually finding the bloody thing!

As I come to write about our last cache which was also a DNF, being at the bottom of a very steep hill, deep in a bush and surrounded by, what Sharlene discovered was, angle deep swampland, I realise that we actually had a rather large number of DNFs on the day. In total we failed to find 5 caches, which was equal to the number that we actually did find. Somehow however neither of us was particularly upset about this. I think we had enjoyed our day out so much that the poor smiley conversion rate just didn’t matter. Even the steep and strangely muddy hill that we had to walk up to get back to the car didn’t really phase us either. Happy Days.
This geocaching adventure took place on the 3rd of August 2017 and took our total cache count up to 1733.

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A couple in Cholesbury

Schooooools out for ever! Well for the summer at least. With Sam on 6 weeks holiday it is always a challenge to find things to do to stop him and his loving parents, ahem yes that’s me and Shar, from climbing the walls. Although he would probably be happy to attach himself to his Xbox for the entire time, that is not going to happen, not on my watch baby!

What better way to start off the hols than with a spot of geocaching. And besides I was itching to take my new Mountain Warehouse friend Jimmy Talon out to begin his adventures. If you have no idea what I am talking about, check out my previous post, Meet Jimmy Talon for more details.

Oh, and talking of Mountain Warehouse, it is thanks to them that I was able to actually go geocaching wearing more than just my boxer shorts, as when we did leave the house heading for nearby Tring, I was wearing my new combat trousers, as supplied by them, and feeling ready to take on the world… or at least find some tupperware… same difference.

The area around Cholesbury and St. Leonards near Tring in Hertfordshire is one we have visited a number of times before for geocaching. In fact it is not too far from there that Shar and I got engaged, after finding a multi cache.

For whatever reasons, the mood and spirit in our team was less than 100% today so we decided to not plan too much and just take a lunch and do as many or as few caches as we felt like. The main thing was to get out and get some fresh air into our lungs. And fill my lungs with it I did as I stepped out of the car, with ease and comfort thanks to the nice elasticated waist and generous cut of the new trousers. With lungs full of air and nostrils filled with the smell of … err sheep poo, I booted up and we gathered our bits and bobs and headed off towards our first cache of the day, Church Micro 3510 Cholesbury (GC4A6ET).

I love church micros that involve collecting information from gravestones in sleepy village churchyards. Mainly because I get to sit on a bench in the peaceful grounds, while those with eyes that work, namely Sam and Shar, go in search of the information. So there I sat, in the warm sunshine listening to the birds tweet and the groundsman strimming back the weeds and I allowed my mind to drift.

But I didn’t get too much time in my own head as Sam and Shar soon returned with some of the information and complaints about not being able to find some of the other numbers. The curiosity of the groundsman got the better of him at this point and he came over to enquire if he could be of any help. A short while later after one of those slightly awkward conversations about what a geocache is and why we are looking at gravestones and he is able to help us find one of the numbers we need. Nice work fella.

With just a couple of numbers left to find I sat back down and listened as Shar and Sam did slow but steady laps of the church pausing only to grumble as the reached me each time. I felt I needed to do something to help and so after reading the cache description, I turned to Siri to see if she could help. One of the numbers needed was associated with a renowned doctor who was very influential in the field of world health and family planning. I got to work and promptly got thwarted when my single 3G reception bar disappeared and I was left with GPRS and the iPhone ground to a halt. hmmmm.

A bit of experimental moving around trying to find a better signal and soon I was back in business on 3G. Siri was put to work with a search based on the birth and death years of the doctor along with the keywords renowned doctor family planning. She was very helpful in returning a number of web results telling me all about cheap prescriptions and how and where to get free family planning advice and failing that, the morning after pill. Well not exactly what I was looking for.

After a little thought, a more careful choice of keywords and some improvised phone signal search jazz dance moves, I was able to pull up a name and the required number we needed to complete the formula, which was good because Sam and Shar were just about ready to give up.

We sat back down and worked out the numbers and discovered that our destination for the final location was within about 20 metres of where we had parked the car!!! We nodded to the groundsman and made our way back to GZ and after a short search managed to find the cache well hidden in a small clump of trees at the side of the parking area. This fun but time consuming process had taken us up to lunchtime, so we plotted up on the nearby handy benches and broke out the sandwiches.
Sam and Shar sit on benches after enjoying a picnic lunch
Revived and refuelled after lunch, but still lacking a little mojo for some reason, we decided to pick off one or two nearby caches and see how we felt. We packed up and strolled across the nearby cricket pitch and into the trees to make our next find. A relatively simple base of tree cache but well hidden in a patch of nettles nonetheless. After this we took a decision that rather than push on and risk turning lack of mojo into bad moods we would call it a day. We took a roundabout route back in the direction of the car and just enjoyed the walk as we went.

We bumped into this lady as we were heading back to the car and took a moment to introduce her to Jimmy Talon.

Paul stands in a field holding the Jimmy Talon TB while a sheep looks on.

“Meryl? Meryl Sheep, is that you?” – “Jimmy Talon, What are you doing in my field and who is that berk holding you?”

Back at home I tagged the picture with the required hash tags and uploaded it to twitter as per the Mountain Warehouse competition instructions. Okay, it was nothing special, but it is a start for Jimmy, and I feel sure that bigger and better things are just around the corner for him.

This geocaching adventure took place on Sunday the 23rd of July and took our total cache count up to 1728.

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Meet Jimmy Talon

This here is Jimmy Talon, and he is gonna be travelling around with us for a while. Aside from being a cute TravelBug Jimmy has a hidden talent. He could win me a holiday, or any number of other prizes.

Picture shows a TravelBug made to look like Jimmy Falon crossed with a bird of pray!Mountain Warehouse are running another geocaching TB contest over the summer, so it’s not just me that could be in with a chance of winning some cool stuff, you too stand a chance. Although if you could not try too hard that would be nice as it would give me a better chance and all that 🙂

So here’s what you do, you pop to your local Mountain Warehouse, pick up your free TB, take it caching with you, snaps some cool pics of it and post them on Facebook, twitter, Instragram or Pinterest with the hashtags #MWGeoTrail and #contest and Bob is your mother’s brother.

Don’t take my word for it, check out the Mountain Warehouse Geocaching page.
So we are already planning to head out caching this Sunday as well as cooking up more cool adventures over the summer for Jimmy to tag along with. Maybe we can even turn that angry, serious expression on his face into a smiling happy one!

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Ripping good times on the Cole Green Wander

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.

Paul stands before a large tree lifting his leg to display the large rip in the knee of the left leg of his trousers.

A ripping good time!

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.
A view down a path where the trees have grown over creating a tunnel like effect.
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.

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Geodating in Birch Green

A few weeks back, some “new geocache” notifications popped into my mailbox that caught my eye. I get a few emails every week as new caches are added in the area but they are normally one offs. These ones were part of a series though and that is always interesting. After some brief exploration on the iPhone I had a couple of offline lists saved with some nice looking cache trails not far from Hertford. We had been in the general area of these new caches before, most recently on a caching day out to Tewin with our friends Geoff and Melissa but for some reason I hadn’t noticed these circuits until now

Finding a break in the rain and the stinking hot weather Shar and I made our way over to Birch Green to tackle the smallest of the trails for a GeoDate. There are only 10 in the Birch Green Wander series plus 3 other odds that I had earmarked as “dooable”, we wanted to take it relatively easy and decide whether the area was worthy of returning some other time to tackle one of the other two loops which are bigger with 19 and 22 caches respectively.

On the whole it was very pleasant semi-rural Hertfordshire countryside, partially along an old railway line and for the rest it was footpaths through fields and alongside quiet country lanes.

A fairly straight forward set of caches, all a bit on the small side considering they were rural but they did the job and they were all there which is always a bonus.

Aside from almost being mowed down by an idiot mountain biker who just wasn’t paying attention, bumping into the same group of golden oldie walkers a couple of times and finding our 1700th cache, it was basically uneventful. Rather than give you the dull details of the individual caches I will just leave you with a couple of photos. I suspect we shall be returning again soon, probably with Sam, to tackle one of the bigger loops. It was nice to have a proper series to sink our teeth into.

Shar stands in a field of green wheat facing the camera

ahhh yes that classic song… “Fields of green”

Paul sits on a shaded bench eating lunch

“And if I point the food like this, it makes me seem like I am trying to say something in the photo”

A large church fills the view

A disproportionally large church at Hertingfordbury, the place that just won’t let you finish its name.

This geocaching adventure took place on Thursday 15th June and took our total cache count up to 1709.

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Geolympix Marathon Series – The first loop of… well, we shall see!

With the schools being on holiday this last week and the weather in the UK looking pretty average – we have moved out of that difficult phase where it is freezing cold one day to being boiling hot the next into a new period where it is marginally warmer than cold on a consistent basis – I was feeling the need for a good old family geocaching adventure. Not just popping somewhere local for a few odd caches, but a proper full on, pack a lunch, take spare batteries, drive into the arse end of nowhere, 20+ loop type of experience.

We have been searching around for a challenge that would span more than one day and give us something to really get our teeth into over the coming months and whilst browsing the map I came across the GMS series. I had heard of this already, it is a cluster of five rings near the Buckinghamshire Oxfordshire border and was placed to coincide with the 2012 Geolympix event, but the reviews had been mixed. They mostly ran along the lines of beautiful series but killer hills. Three months ago I would not have dared to suggest such a challenge, but now thanks to us all being smoke free, losing a bunch of weight thanks to the 5-2 diet and a massive increase in the amount of exercise being done, I thought it was worth floating the idea to the rest of the family. They were open to the concept as long as we took our time, went well prepared and only attempted it when the weather was right – no hot sunny days.

And so it transpired that on the Wednesday of half term, when the weather forecast was warm but cloudy, we found ourselves parking up on a quiet country lane in the vicinity of a small village called Skermitt, in Buckinghamshire, to undertake Loop A of the Geolympix Marathon Series. There are 24 caches in the loop with an additional odd one along the way, making for a target figure of 25, which if we achieved it would be a record for all of us.

Being slightly odd and having taken the time to do a bit of research, namely reading the excellent blog post by the Sandhurst geocachers who did the loop in October 2016, we elected to start our adventure at number 6 as this afforded us with a good spot to park the car. We decided to leave 6, to make it the last one of the day, and donned our boots and set off into the pretty woodland that ran across the top of a hill in search of our first cache.

This was a good start. It was quiet, no road noise to be heard anywhere, warm, dry, and the walking through the woods was easy. The first couple were quickly found, just your standard, run of the mill geocaches, but we all knew that the hides were not going to be the highlight of this series, it was the scenery that we were here for. We broke out of the woods on the way to our second cache and walked along the edge of a field filled with sheep… and that ticked off the animals item from my list of ingredients required for an interesting adventure in the countryside. OK, it was only sheep, but it was a start.

A field with sheep

“England’s green and pleasant land… and its playful sheep!”

A slight mishap on the way to the third cache as Sam deftly sidestepped a clump of sheep poo but, in typical cack-handed teenager mode, he fumbled his phone and dropped it in the very same pile of poo! After a small amount of cleaning on his part and a large amount of laughing from Shar and myself, we continued on with our walk and made the find easily. So far no sign of any gradients of any kind, the going had been flat and even, but Shar pointed out to me that we were on top of a hill, so some sort of “down and up” would be inevitable.
Sam and Shar stand in a field wiping sheep poo from Sam's iPhone after he drop it as he was walking across the field.

The all new Apple shItePhone!

The next couple of caches took us inside a tree line and did indeed lead us down from our lofty position atop the hill into somewhat of a valley and then the next few took us up a nice wide path through the trees where we were serenaded by the delicious smell of freshly cut pine. To this point the slopes down and up were gentle and the ground underfoot easy and the only hazard we had to avoid were a couple of all terrain buggies that came hurtling along the path, presumably piloted by the land owners or other such official types. It certainly looked like a fun way to travel but, alas, we had to stick to the old fashioned way of putting one foot in front of another.

Our only other distraction as we walked through the pretty woods was the regular sound of light aircraft buzzing over our heads either taking off or landing at the nearby airfield which we were expecting to encounter at some point. Ninety minutes into our walk we had found 8 caches and were on our way to number 15 in the series and all was going swimmingly. This next cache was found super quick , being a little out in the open as a result of its hide having rotted away somewhat, and the internal team rivalry was ramping up with Sam having found 4 and Shar 5. I had yet to find one myself, but had been employed to stick my hand in various places on a number of occasions so I certainly wasn’t feeling left out.

The route to the next cache saw us encounter a very steep hill indeed although thankfully it was in the downward direction and aside from my knees getting a bit of a jarring from the tricky terrain as we descended, we arrived at the bottom intact and made a quick find as we did at the subsequent one which was our 11th find of the day and number 17 in the series. So far no DNFS and other than starting to get a bit peckish, morale was high and tension within the team was low. A small walk along a country road took us to our one non-series cache for the day,Sparks’ Valley Spot (GC1J3JZ) , which was found at eye level hidden in the twisting vines wrapped around a large tree just a few yards from the road. The cache description gave a lot of general information about the local area and some interesting facts such as that a number of films and TV programmes had been filmed there over the years including the vicar of Dibley. Also apparently somewhere nearby was the iconic windmill used in Chitty chitty bang bang, but alas we never encountered it on our way round.

Then we had a quick walk through a field of cows – I am never at ease in the company of cows, for some reason they just weird me out. Thankfully the cache was beyond the field so there was no need to dawdle and after passing down the side of a house we found ourselves at number 18 where I located my first cache of the day at the base of a gate post. That put my score at one, Sam was still at 4 having not found any since the last tally check and Shar was streaking ahead with 8 finds so far.

Number 19 was a DNF for us. Upon arriving at the kissing gate surrounded by nettles none of us were interested in searching too thoroughly as this would have undoubtedly resulted in lots of nettle stings. Add to this the fact that the team was getting a little “hangry” and the result was that we spent only a few minutes swiping at the nettles with our sticks before declaring a DNF. We had agreed prior to leaving home that we wouldn’t spend more than 5 minutes searching for any one cache otherwise the day would become very long indeed. Besides what we were most focussed on now was finding a nice place to throw down the groundsheet and have some lunch.

With a staggering piece of good fortune, as we walked through a farm field to the next cache, a bench loomed upon the horizon like the veritable Holy Grail itself. We had no idea that this bench was going to be here and gleefully put it to good use to take a break and chomp our sandwiches in the warm sunshine.

Sam Shar and Paul sit on a bench enjoying the warm sun after lunch near number 20.

Lunchtime Selfie

Dear reader, I know you to be alert and attentive, which is why I know you raised an eyebrow at my mention of warm sunshine. Indeed it was forecast to be cloudy on this day and the appearance of the sun and it accompanying heat was not welcomed by some members of the team. The last thing you need when walking through open farm fields or up steep hills is the hot sun beating down on you. I was still optimistic though that it was only a fleeting appearance and normal cloud would be resumed shortly. Regardless, the temperature was up a few degrees and we were all down to our t-shirts now, my backpack stuffed full of redundant jumpers.

After a pleasant and much needed break for lunch we got back on the trail and made our way through the rest of the field to a country road where we failed to find cache number 20 in the series, again as a consequence of far too much nettle cover. Two DNFs in a row is never a good thing and morale took a dip at this point even though we were no longer hungry. Thankfully we made quick finds at 21 and 22 as we continued on up the lane and through another field. The hot sun and lack of cover called the search at 23 to an abrupt end as a less than comfortable Shar declared that we were skipping this one and heading for the next one where shade could be seen. There was no arguing, it was not optional, and so off we went. As the day stretched on and the temperature increased and energy levels started to decline, there were a few curt exchanges amongst the team and still yet we hadn’t come across the “killer hill”. This was both encouraging and worrying. Maybe it didn’t exist, maybe everyone else had got it wrong. OK, OK, I can be a mindless optimist if I like!

After finding number 24, the last in the series we then joined a road for a while and wrapped around to find number 1(GMS A 01 GC3Q2WY) which was in the little village of Skermitt and then number 2 which was at the side of the road as we left the village. This one took us a little while until we stopped searching at the base of the many gate posts and instead stood up and just looked at the obvious place right at eye level. It is interesting at how you can become conditioned to automatically search in one place if a series provides you with enough similar hides. So this was either a very sneaky diversion from the norm or, more likely, just too good of an opportunity for an easy hide, inside the top of a hollow gate post, to consider anything else.

And then we could see the hill!

Shar points up the hill that we are about to climb and sam hold's his head in his hands.

“I have a bad feeling about this”

Well obviously I couldn’t see it, but the way it was being described to me by Shar and Sam, there was no doubt that what lay ahead of us was most definitely the aforementioned “killer” that so many had alluded to previously. It kind of draws you in slow to start with. A gentle incline through a field, a change of direction and then up a slightly steeper slope to a point where the woods begin. That is where you take a moment, look back down and admire the deer sweeping through the fields below you and wonder if you could possibly get a cable car up if you wait long enough for someone to build one, or alternatively how difficult could it possibly be to capture and ride a deer up through the trees. We took the chance, whilst summoning our energy, to find the cache that was at the entrance to the woods and to allow a couple of elderly people, who looked annoyingly fitter than we were, to pass us.

And then there was the hill.

Sam and I strode it out as we are want to do, going for long paces and a brisk tempo to get it over with quickly. Shar took it at a slower pace and called out for us to stop a number of times as she didn’t want to be abandoned on a very steep hill in the middle of the woods panting like a rabid dog!
There was a lot of huffing and puffing, some grimaces and some gritted teeth. A certain amount of swearing for sure and when finally we all reached the top there was a frank and graphic conversation about the unlikelihood of doing further rings in the series if all the hills were like this. All three of us lost our cool over the next few minutes for various different reasons and to a lesser or greater degree. I blame the lack of oxygen at the high altitude of over 120 metres above sea level.

Needless to say after we had caught our breath and worked out how to get to the next cache, things had calmed down a bit and soon we were all friends again and united in our goal of finding the next 3 caches which would get us back to the car. Unfortunately only the next one was found and numbers 5 and 6 in the series both went down as DNFs. It wasn’t for the want of trying though. At 5 we just didn’t get the clue of “cats eye” and even with a handy photo from the sandhurst blog we still couldn’t locate it. We really wanted to find it as we were so close to the end of the loop now and we were content to search here for a while as it was shady and peaceful, but alas it was not to be.

At the last one I think the allure of the car which was just a few metres away from GZ was too much to resist and after a fairly thorough, but unsuccessful, search we all admitted defeat and called it a day. 20 out of the possible 25 caches were found and a very respectable distance of 12km was walked.

Back at home now I think we all agree it was a great day. Yes there was a big hill on the walk and the sun was a bit hot at times but the scenery did not disappoint and the caches were in good condition and mostly easy to find.
Sam and Shar walk away from the camera with a view across the hills beyond them.
I enjoyed it most because it was exactly what I wanted, a real family caching adventure away from the TV, computers, Xbox and the constant noise of traffic at home. It was just three of us, making our own fun.

Will we do any more of the GMS loops? Well, I am hopeful. We have agreed to try and find an OS map and assess the contours to try and get a handle on the hills for future rings and the choice of day is again critical. I hadn’t remembered about the nettles and this concerns me a bit for other loops. Perhaps we should have tackled this series earlier in the year, around Easter time, or maybe we should postpone till nearer the end of autumn. We shall see. I am, as I say, hopeful though. Happy days.

This geocaching adventure took place on Wednesday 31st May 2017 and took our total cache count up to 1696.

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Scouts Geocaching Activity Badge

Way back at the end of August last year, I posted an article about starting to work on the Scouts geocaching badge with Sam and some friends. An update on the situation is well overdue and whilst I said I wouldn’t be filling in the missing articles from my recent absence from blogging, this is an exception as I am so proud of Sam and his friends Ben and Ethan for the work they did towards this badge.

To recap, our first outing was to a local park, Cassiobury, where I taught the boys about the basics of geocaching, the science behind it and then got them to do a few simple map reading tasks and then ended the day by finding a couple of caches in the park. (See Scouting out and about in Cassiobury Park for more details).

The next step the boys needed to complete was to plan and embark on a walk of at least 5km using waypoints to navigate. As another task they would need to find a number of geocaches including a couple of multis so it seemed to make sense to combine the two into one outing. Just next door to Cassiobury Park is Whippendell woods and conveniently there is a series of caches there that ticked all the boxes. After a brief planning session our two families met up one Sunday morning at the woods and led by the boys we did the walk, finding the caches as we went.

Sam Ben and Ethan pose on a path in the woods holding the ammo can geocache

Now THAT is a proper geocache!

Sam Ben Ethan and Alfie all look on excitedly as the contents of the ammo can geocache are inspected.

What wonders lay within?

That left only one part of the badge criteria left to complete; to place a new geocache. Conveniently about this time a couple of local caches in the park were archived as the owner was no longer prepared to maintain them anymore which left us a couple of handy gaps on the maps to fill.

So, at the beginning of October it was back over to Cassiobury Park to search for some good hiding spots. We spent quite a while trying to find appropriate places, this particular park has a surprisingly large number of trees that seem to disappear straight into the ground with no emerging root structures which are so popular with the geocaching community. Eventually we managed to find a couple of spots and the boys chose their containers, filled them with log sheets and swag and then recorded the coordinates using their smartphones. We then spent a little time collecting some numbers from a few nearby landmarks as one of the caches was going to be a multi and then it was back home to write up the cache listings.

Sam chose to be CO on the traditional, as he already was the owner of a multi; a church micro in Aldenham, and this went through fine going live just a couple of days after being submitted. The multi, which Ben and Ethan put themselves down as CO on took a little longer as the reviewer queried a couple of points but in the end it was also published You can check out the caches using the below links.

Between a rock and a hard place (Traditional Cache) in Eastern England, United Kingdom created by MiniKnight
Cassiobury park multi (Multi-cache) in Eastern England, United Kingdom created by bigbruburrows

Predictably the multi gets less finds than the traditional and tends to confuse some people, for no other reason than it is a multi, but both caches are still in place and still being found, the trad having been found 34 times in its first 6 months. Not bad considering it went live as winter was starting to creep upon us.

With all the practical work done, the boys completed a summary report of all the activities they had done towards the badge and along with a few pictures submitted these to the Scout leader. Just a few weeks later and the boys were in possession of their Scouts geocaching badges. I am very proud of all the effort and hard work they put in and, I have to say, that the whole process was a lot of fun for all involved.

Sam stands holding his scouts geocaching badge

Sam with his newly earned geocaching badge

As the cherry on top of the cake recently the scouts did geocaching as an activity on one of their regular evenings and not only were the boys super well prepared and able to help others in the troop, but they chose to go to the park and find the two caches that the boys had created. Happy days, and don’t forget… Be Prepared!

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