Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Geocaching adventures, part 4 - July 2010

July’s caching exploits start off on a low note with an accidental Did Not Find (DNF). Or rather a Found It But Didn’t Realise We Had Found It So Didn’t Take The Qualifying Picture And Therefore Can’t Log It (that would be a FIBDRWHFISDTTQPATCLI – catchy!)

A few months ago, you might remember that we went to Tyneham Village in Dorset, which I assumed would have no caches present as it is on military land, but then later I realised there was an easy Virtual Cache there we could have claimed – doh!

Similarly on the 3rd of July we visited Woodhenge in Wiltshire, unexpectedly en route to somewhere else. I took a different route to normal and we found ourselves driving right past Woodhenge so thought it was worth a quick look. It totally was worth stopping for, it was really really interesting, but I wish I had had a quick look on my phone for geocaches when we got there as there was another virtual right there in the middle of Woodhenge. All we would have had to have done was have our photo taken with the GPS exactly where we were taking photos anyway. Double doh!

Never mind, good job we’re not real “it’s all about the numbers” cachers, or we would be kicking ourselves for that missed smiley :)

But never mind, we didn’t end the day empty handed, as we went for a nice walk later on, and on that fab walk we found #111 Tumuli Durnovaria. This cache was chosen mainly on the merits of it being very close to where we had spent the day (at a Medieval Fayre near Dorchester) – but it would have been worth seeking out and travelling to even if it hadn’t been so convenient.

It took in a walk up through pretty woodland onto an exposed ridge with great views of Dorchester (or, to give it its Roman name, Durnovaria). The cache itself was hidden atop an ancient burial ground, now wooded over. And further along the ridge was a second mound, this one easier to spot as it is just grassed over. And then completing the walk in circular fashion as suggested by the cache owner took us past a ghost village, where only one wall of the old church remains standing.

This is my kind of caching :)

Oh – and it was an ammo can, what more could you ask for?!!

It was a fairly tricky find, it took us a while to nab it, finders honours eventually going to my 18 year old, Darby, looking very pleased with himself here :)  He took the little polar bear (above, with one of the burial mounds) from the cache as a souvenir of his great finding prowess.

As I type he is off camping on Dartmoor with his girlfriend, and has taken the GPS with him as they hope to get some caching done during their week on the moors, I hope they find some good ones. Wish I could have gone with them :) (I’m sure they would have LOVED that lol)

The following day we went on a proper adventure, to get #112 Dorset Series Earthcache (Fossil Forest), walkable from Jay’s mum’s house in Lulworth Cove.

It was a gorgeous warm sunny day, perfect weather to take pictures of the Cove from the cliff tops, it looked positively spectacular.

We had to get up there first, though, and the steps almost killed me :O Partly just due to general lack of fitness. Partly due to the fact that I tripped over a root on the way up and very nearly careered down a steep bank to my doooooooom. The worst thing was that I instinctively reached out as I felt myself falling, and grabbed poor Connor, who at 7 years old wasn’t really likely to be able to catch me, so I probably would have pulled him down the embankment with me! I felt everso guilty about that! And I noticed he avoided walking directly in front of me for the rest of the walk lol. But anyway, we all survived :) and made it to the top unscathed.

We walked around the clifftop, down past the red army warning flags (that is the British army’s red flags, not flags belonging to the Soviet Red Army :) ), and then we entered the range walks, where you are permitted to walk on army land at the weekends, but are strongly advised to stick closely to the path and NOT to pick anything up from off trail, as it could be unexploded shells. And, as the sign at the entrance to the range walks says in such a gangsta way, these could explode and kill yo, mother*#@$~r :)

Eventually we reached our destination, the super amazing fossil forest. In a nutshell, although this area is now on top of a cliff, in Jurassic times of yore, it was at sea level. Massive trees grew, but then they were flooded, and around the base of the trees, mounds of algae gathered. The trees torred away, but the algae mounds, or tufae, fossilised, and can be seen today as huge doughnut shaped structures which are quite unique. Fascinating stuff. And really good fun to clamber over / pose for photos in too :)

And here is our qualifying photo for the virtual (you had to sit in/by a tufa with GPS in hand, and also answer a question with info that could only easily be found on an information board at the site)

After our fun weekend in Dorset we were pretty pooped, so there was no geocaching in the week, but we did sneak a couple in the following Saturday (not on the Sunday, though, as Connor’s 8th birthday party consumed the whole day). We went over to Bristol for the day to visit our friend Isobel – we get to see a lot of her during the hockey season as she is a goal judge at our rink - but we miss her during the summer.

not many pubs have a lock in their beer garden :)
We had a gorgeous lunch at a riverside pub called the Jolly Sailor, and as we were sat waiting for our food to turn up (and knocking back a couple of ciders, as Jay was driving :) :) :) ), I powered up the GPS in response to Izzy’s question “so what is this geocaching thing all about then?”. It turned out there was a small cache - #113 Kelston View - hidden on the bank of the Avon, no more than 300 feet from the pub, so of course after we’d finished eating we went to find it. It was a quick and easy find, but in a lovely location, and it was certainly enough to pique Izzy’s interest.

So, let’s do another! :)

Close to Isobel’s house is an urban nature reserve called Trooper’s Hill. It really is a fascinating place, almost like wild heathland in places, and a haven for loval wildlife including some rare butterflies and lizards, but bang in the middle of a very built up part of the city, and with a large industrial chimney (no longer in use) plumped right on top of it.

Of course there is a cache up there - #114 Trooping By the Chimney - (I’m surprised there aren’t more, it’s a big enough area to support a couple more I would have thought)  And it’s a regular, so it ticks all the boxes for the sort of cache we enjoy – a good length of walk in an interesting place, with a big box of goodies at the end of it :)

I don’t think Izzy quite knew what she was letting herself in for when we set off up the hill – it was a fair distance over quite an incline – definitely more effort involved than the amble down the river bank earlier in the day. The cache page says you should be able to reach the cache in 10-15 minutes, maybe if you fly! It took us a good hour :) We were all huffing and puffing- but we all made it to the top of the hill intact, explored the chimney, and then delved into the wooded area to find the good sized cache.

Unusually I was right in there with the kids trading swag for once, as there was a cool paper crimping tool in there which I swiped for use in my arts and crafts :)

On the way back down we had a great view and could see Izzy’s house clearly, which was fun as she had never seen it from that angle before.

This was a really enjoyable cache, I’d recommend it to anyone else in the area.

After Bristol, once again we were cache-free during the week, so our next smileys were picked up the following weekend, in beautiful South Wales. We were there for a short break (we set off Friday afternoon, stayed two nights in Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, and returned home on the Sunday evening) to celebrate Connor’s birthday.

The main focus of our trip was a day at Oakwood theme park, not geocaching, but we did manage to fit a couple of caches in, one very appropriately named, as you’ll see in a moment.

We arrived at our hotel fairly late on the Friday night, it was already getting dark as we walked down into the harbour to try and find somewhere to eat (we managed to find a Chinese restaurant who were happy to serve us a sit down meal at 10pm, we were the only people in there, it was delicious :) ).

We walked right past a micro cache site - #115 Harbour Heights on the way down the hill from our hotel, but there were too many muggles about for a good look. We decided to leave it until the next day, but of course on the way back up, we couldn’t resist another try, despite it being pitch black.

I amused myself taking long exposure shots of the harbour below, as the boys searched. Reece soon came up trumps and found the little tin which was attached with a magnet on the metal railings. Not the most exciting of caches in terms of container/contents – but the views were lovely.

The same evening, we logged a DNF on a nano cache – Muggle Mayhem – which as the name suggests, was in a very busy part of town, a lovely sensory garden area down by the beach. We resorted to using the hint, which was very specific, but still we had no luck. We gave up after 20 minutes or so of searching, grudgingly, we hate DNFs as much as anyone. We were therefore pleased (for our own pride, not the cache’s sake) to see an owner maintenance log pop up the next day to confirm that the cache had been muggled. The owner did manage to replace it just before we left Wales, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to go back for a second attempt.

The following day was our theme park day, so we didn’t have time for a ton of caching, but we did wander back down to the harbour in the evening after we had had our fill of Oakwood’s amazing coasters, and so we thought we’d go hunt out the only non tiny cache in the immediate area – a small called #116 Hectic Harbour.

We hadn’t expected to spend too long down there, but right near the cache location we discovered a second beach that we hadn’t noticed before, as it was tucked around the corner from the main beach where all the tourists and beach shops and cafes seemed to be. This beach was really beautiful, complete with its own waterfall, and the sun was just setting, so we spent a couple of hours exploring it (and almost getting ourselves cut off by the tide!). I took SO many pictures, these are just a couple, if you want to see the full set (and lots of pictures from Oakwood, Tenby and the Dinosaur Park too :), clickity click here).

The cache itself wasn’t all that spectacular, but I am so glad we went looking for it as we probably would not have found this gorgeous beach otherwise.

Our last cache found in Wales was on the Sunday morning. This was Connor’s birthday. We hadn’t planned to geocache at all on this day – the, pretty full, agenda was to have a swim and then breakfast, then head to Tenby for a few hours, check out the National Trust Tudor merchant’s house there, and then go on to the Dinosaur Park for the afternoon. But then I noticed that, less than 2 miles from our hotel, there was a cache called #117 Birthday Boy! How could we resist???

This one was in the woods, inland a bit, and boy, it was dark and dingy in there! Given it was about 10am and broad daylight, it was a surprise to find that I had to use a flash to take pictures. Otherwise they ended up like this – Connor looks like the Predator :)

The kids enjoyed running around through the trees and getting muddy, as all children always seem to, and we soon found the cache.

Connor took on log writing duty in the birthday boy cache, of course, as he was the birthday boy, and he was writing it for ages, so the next finders will have had quite an essay to read.

The following weekend, Jay and I had a rare treat – some kid-free geocaching time :)

Reece had gone down to Dorset to spend a week at his granny’s house, and Connor was having a sleepover with his pal Oliver (who you will see more of a little later on in this post)

We had been enjoying our freedom since early afternoon, and had already been to the movies to see Inception (great film!) which was a long old movie, so we didn’t have time, or if I’m honest the inclination, to launch into a major expedition. But we figured we could manage a couple of easy urban-ish grabs on a nice summer’s evening, and so headed off towards West Swindon to carry on with a series we had found a couple of a few months back.

On the way, we had another attempt at our nemesis, the 802.11g puzzle cache, which had us standing in the street staring at a road sign and scratching our heads for another fruitless 15 minutes (still no closer to figuring that one out), and then we picked up a nano, #118 The One Near The Pond, very close by.  I didn't see a pond there, which is odd.  But there was a lil' stream and a lil' bridge.

In fact the lil' bridge was soooo tiny it was smaller than a nano cache and a 5 pence piece, look:


Caches #119-#124 for us were on the West Side Story series.  Here's the link for the first one - West Side Story 1 Cache in the Attic - we did this one and #s 2 - 6 today. We found #s 7 and 8 back in May, so that just leaves us 9, 10 and the bonus to find some other day.

The cache owners, the Middleleaze Moles, describe this series as a pleasant walk around the open spaces of West Swindon, and that’s exactly what this is. Nothing too taxing, it’s mainly on paved paths and the hides are fairly straightforward (but nice and varied), and you don’t see anything out of this world amazing on the way around. But it’s a really nice stroll, and it’s well worth a visit. There are a few play parks along the way too to keep the kiddies amused (not that we had that problem today)

And we did find this rather cool sculpture thingy en route.

We made our find count for the day up to 8 with a micro in Asda carpark, as we pulled in to pick up some food for tea - #125 Off Yer Trolley West Swindon. I don’t know about you, but I always feel kind of unclean doing these blatantly just-for-the-numbers caches. This one was a film can stuck behind a waste bin in the corner of the car park. I certainly can’t say it enriched my life. We didn’t need the smiley that much. I kind of wish we hadn’t bothered….

The next day we took Connor over to Lydiard Park to have a go on his new bike (birthday pressie).  He has never ridden without stabilisers before, so got off to a shaky start, but he did manage a few hesitant unaided pedals before falling off :)

We put the bike back in the car once he'd had enough of the falling off part, and went looking for a couple of the caches in the park.

The first one, #126 Swat Me?, was a tricky little fella to track down.  Not least because, as it turned out, it had been dislodged from its hidey hole, and therefore the hint, which we had looked at after searching fruitlessly for a while, was making us look in all the wrong places.

I reckon we were looking for almost half an hour in the end for this one, and we weren’t far off giving up when I spotted the tiniest glint of blue on the floor almost totally buried with leaves and dirt. It was the cache, a nano sized bison tube attached to something you’d swat :) We put him back where he should have been, and moved on to the next cache.

This next one was called Mine’s a Cornetto Please, hidden by the same person responsible for Swat Me?, Silverkonsulent, and just as tricky to find. So tricky, in fact, that we eventually had to admit defeat as Connor was getting bored, and we noticed that its last few logs were DNFs so wondered if it had been muggled. We logged a DNF of our own and slunk off home. I’m definitely going to give this one another try, though, next time we are at the park, as the cache owner has confirmed it is still there, and a few people have found it since.

The following Wednesday, both Jay and I had the day off work (yippee!), so we went for a day trip to Oxford for O fortnight. As Reece was still away, Connor brought a friend along, Oliver, the young chap whose house he had been to for a sleepover the previous Saturday. As usual, our day wasn’t focussed around geocaching (the main purpose of our trip was to visit Oxford Castle), but we did find a couple while we were out and about.

There didn’t seem to be many caches around the castle itself – we did find one nano close by, mainly to demonstrate to Oliver how the GPS worked – but other than that there didn’t seem to be much that the boys would enjoy (ie big boxes with goodies in) in the city itself, so instead we did a short series about 5 miles outside of Oxford on our way home.

These were our #s 127-130, the Appleton Amble (link takes you to number 1 of 3)

This was a really nice walk, around a mile and a half all in, through fields, some very pretty woodland (which is apparently even more gorgeous in bluebell season), and back past a lovely little church.

The boys enjoyed the series, found a few travel bugs to move on, got some good swag, and themselves out nicely so they were quiet on the journey home :)

Always a bonus ;)

And finally for July (and one day into August), we went back down to Dorset for the weekend, to pick up Reece after his week’s holiday by the sea (lucky boy!).

On the Saturday, we took a boat trip from Poole to Brownsea Island, owned by the National Trust, and famous for being the birthplace of scouting.  'tis a lovely place. 

There are actually three caches on the island, but we only had three hours there, and we wanted to have time to explore at our own pace rather than solely rush around looking for tupperware, so we just went after the main prize, a large sized cache (the first of those we have found) that was placed back in 2001. It’s always fun to find caches that have been around since the game’s earliest days.

This was #131 BP’s Brownsea Island. The “BP” in the name refers to Lord Baden-Powell.

Sadly, despite being a massive container, there was no non-rubbish swag in here, and all the travel bugs listed are missing too. I suspect the visiting cubs and scouts know exactly where this one is – it’s not exactly hard to spot now that the rhododendron bush it lives under has died a death leaving the cache very exposed – and they probably clean it out regularly. We put 5 or 6 items in to fill it back up, hopefully they’ll not get swiped.

The real treasure in the cache, though, were the logbooks, which thankfully have been left intact. These went right back to 2001, and were great to browse through. People used to write so much more in the log books in those days, whereas now people don’t write much in the physical logbook itself, saving all the juicy details for the online log. I must admit I’m fairly guilty of this one myself. I will try to make an effort going forward to write more.

We had a funny exchange as we approached ground zero for this one, I had the GPS around my neck with a very noticeable geocaching.com lanyard on it, and the kids were rooting around in the bushes, so it was fairly obvious what we were doing. Two park rangers suddenly appeared, approached us and asked if we were “looking for the geo box”. Both kids immediately said “no!”, having been trained to be discrete around non geocachers (“muggles”). I knew the game was up though, and said “mayyyybe…..” :) they then insisted on helpfully showing us exactly where it was :) Which kind of spoiled the hunt a bit, but never mind, like I said, now the rhodie is dead it kind of sticks out like a sore thumb anyway. And they were very nice and friendly, so I’ll let them off :)
That evening, after we got back from Brownsea, we went for a walk up to Stair Hole, with great views down over the cove, and we found a micro cache up there - #132 Lulworth Cove. I’m surprised we haven’t found this one sooner, given how often we visit Lulworth.  Just a tad smaller than the Baden Powell one :)
And then the following day, we carried on our tradition of finding one great geocache per day every day we visit Dorset. And this one - #133 Corfe Common (Dorset) really was great, in both size and quality.
The hiders, ‘Gary & Jane’, were also responsible for the Grange Arch cache we found back in May, and on the basis of our two experiences with their caches so far, we will certainly be looking for more next time we are down Dorset way. They seem to favour biiiig boxes filled to the brim with great swag, and in some really spectacular locations. What more could you ask? Both of their caches that we have done so far have been multis also, which are always fun. And another nice touch, if you leave a nice log on their caches, Jane sends you a lovely email to say thanks. She seems like a really nice person.

This cache involved a great walk around the outside of Corfe Castle and around Corfe village, gathering clues (one was at the well where you can see Connor and Reece taking a breather in the pic above), and then a fair little hike up onto the common, past a few Neolithic burial mounds, I do love those, and then up onto the ridge where we found the super-sized cache.

180 degree panorama shot from up on the common....you might need to click on this to see it properly

The boys were delighted with the goodies on offer, it turns out that the owners had restocked the cache with tons of quality swag just a couple of days before, so they had first pickings. Reece chose a model car kit, a bit like meccano, and Connor got this little electronic bug thing that you hide in, say, your older brother’s bedroom, and whenever the light is turned off, it rings like a mobile phone, but when the light goes back on, it goes silent. Evil :) We left a ton of really good swaps behind too, fair’s fair.

I love this piccie of the lads rifling through the cache contents, with the castle in the background. It sums up to me everything that’s great about this brilliant hobby. Happy children and great views :)

After finding the cache, we wandered back down the hill and spent a few happy hours exploring the castle itself, we've always been too tight to go inside before, but now we have National Trust membership, it's free :)  It would have been well worth it even if we had had to pay.

So that's the end of another roundup.....I'll be back in a month or two with more. 

We're aiming for 200 caches found by the end of the year, so there will be plenty to blog about.



forcryeye said...

WOW! Your photo's are fantastic! Caching looks like so much fun!

Erika Jean said...

You should talk to the cache owner, I've heard sometimes they will let the no gps pic slide. Some are more picky than others though...

And THANKS for the postcard ;-) I really appreciate it!