We didn't do any BAD caches, not even close to bad, but somehow none for this month have leapt out at me as being AMAZING caches either. Whereas usually we find at least 2 or 3 a month that really knock my socks off.
It kind of left me with a "am I going off this? is the honeymoon period over?" feeling....but I really don't think that's the case...I think maybe we just need to concentrate more on the kinds of caches we used to go after - typically one-off caches at spectacular locations, especially fun multis, rather than serieses. Is there even such a word as serieses?? :) Having said THAT, we did do a really great series this month.
Anyway, enough of my soul searching :) On to the caches! (which, despite everything I've just said, were all fun and hands down beat sitting indoors watching Jeremy Kyle!)
We started our August adventures on Sunday 8th, with the longest trail that we have tackled so far (in terms of number of caches, not distance, we only walked about 3.5 miles or so on this one) – the Hannington Wick series placed by prolific local cachers the Lydford Locators.
It was one of those days where we had nothing special planned, and the weather forecast was good, so a circular walk at a nice easy pace with a few caches and a picnic fitted the bill for a nice day out.
We chose this particular series because it generally had favourable logs, many specifically recommending it for those caching with children, wasn’t too far from home, and promised a high cache density and variety of container sizes to keep the boys’ interest levels up. And also because the first few caches in the series were on the Thames [P]ath, and it was P fortnight in our A-Z quest :)
Thames Path - HW01 Hannington Wick was the first in the series of 12. That was our find #134 – and by the end of the day we were up to #147.
With hindsight, it might have been better to just concentrate on the sightseeing today without the extra pressure of wanting to tick off 9 caches – I can be a little overambitious sometimes!
Swindon Soiree (location photo shamelessly stolen from the cache page's gallery).
I am just pants at the whole socialising thing, frankly, and found myself feeling mainly uncomfortably shy at those first events, where everyone except me either seemed to know everyone else already, or was a hundred times better at chatting to strangers than I am.
Oh – and there was delicious cake! :) And a word search – that I came last in :) But in my defence we had got to the do very late after a day at Legoland, so I only had about ten minutes to work on the word search, on my own (as the kids were far too busy playing), compared to some teams of multiple adults and children who had had well over an hour. Sore loser??? Moi??? :D
I’m now really looking forward to the next Soiree, bring it on! :)
It was raining quite heavily so we didn't attempt the other city centre cache - a multi that looks really interesting, but better saved for a dry day I think.
The next day was a dry day :) In fact it was gloriously sunny! But alas we weren't in Gloucester any more, so that multi will still have to wait. Today we tackled our most ambitious - and best (in my opinion, probably not in the kids' opinion!) - series yet.
Like the “Quercus” series in Windsor, this one was chosen initially simply because of its association with the letter Q – the series is called the Coldwell Quarks – but it also had some very positive (if few and far between) logs. Also, the cache owner “I!” was extremely helpful and friendly when I emailed him a query or two before we set off – and that’s always encouraging.
As usual, I mapped this one out in Google Earth the day before, and checked total distances etc. By my calculations, the total circuit, including a brief detour to pick up an interesting-sounding micro that was slightly outside of the series loop, and another side-track to a pub for lunch, came to around 6 miles. That would be our longest ever caching trek (nothing compared to what some people manage, but none of us are hyper-fit), but I reckoned the kids should be able to manage it (if I didn’t tell them they were going to be walking 6 miles!!! :D)
I must have mis-measured though, because when we got home and checked the saved track on the GPS, it turned out we had actually walked for a mammoth 8.2 miles! Eeek! And that was up some pretty hefty hills too - no wonder we were all shattered! :) And no wonder the kids were both put off the whole geocaching concept for a little while after (we haven’t done another series since!).
Despite the tiredness, though, all were agreed that this series really is something special, and one that we would highly recommend. And not only because it is named after geeky-cool sub-atomic particles :)
Coldwell Quarks: Strange – this one is a simpler-than-it-looks multi which takes you into a rather swish church (within the grounds of a very posh, and private, manor house, who have to grudgingly let the public onto their land to access the church ONLY) to gather some info, and then back outside to find the cache itself, which is hidden well at the start of the main walk.
CQ: Down, we met quite a variety of livestock - chickens running wild in the woods, a friendly pony, and a very noisy sausage dog!
This first part of the walk was nice and easy and level – breaking us in gently to what would turn out to be quite a climb later on!
After Down, we took the first of our two scheduled detours, to visit a nearby micro placed by a different cache owner. This was #156 Florrie’s Florin.
The setter of the Coldwell Quarks series had helpfully provided us in advance with a map, and directions for this little departure from the course. I’m really glad he did as we would have made heavy weather of it otherwise! It’s one of those situations where you know where you need to go, but you can’t figure out how to get there!
The cache was also in a wonderful location – right by a gorgeous old mill pond, and very close to one of the most interesting churches I have ever had the chance to visit. This is probably the best film pot micro we’ve found yet – so they’re not ALL bad (just most of them :) )
Next up was #157 CQ: Top - and they weren't joking about it being at the top! Gosh it was a climb and a half!
By this point we were a couple of hours into our walk, and it was about 1pm - lunchtime, yay!
So it was onwards and (thankfully) downwards to the next cache - #158 CQ: Bottom.
Which scared the living daylights out of me and Connor, being proper townies both. But Reece and Jay, much more countryside-savvy than us, assured us that we had nothing to worry about.
We survived the day without so much as a glimpse of any snakes, so I guess they were right.
It was also Reece that found the cache, so he got logbook writing honours.
From this cache, it was about 0.6 miles directly to the pub where our lunch awaited, or 0.8 miles via the next cache which would avoid backtracking later. We chose pub now backtrack once refreshed :)
The walk across country was a nice amble downhill past hundreds more sheep, but then the final hurdle was getting across the A417 to the pub which was inconveniently on the wrong side of this very busy dual carriageway. I thought we were going to be there all night! It took so long before there was a gap in the speeding traffic long enough for us all to cross without being splatted. It was like playing frogger for real :)
|Yay! Civilisation! and cider shandies!|
It was about 3:30pm by this point but thankfully they were still serving lunch - and the food was SO good! So if you're ever doing this series....or driving along the A417 between Cirencester and Birdlip....I can definitely recommend the Golden Heart Inn in Nettleton Bottom (don't you just love English place names? :) )
Next on the list was #159 CQ: Up, our only micro today, and the penultimate cache in this series.
It was a clever litle thing, one of those hidden in plain sight jobbies, that you can't see for looking, but once you have found it it seems so obvious you can't believe everybody doesn't see it :)
Can you spot it?
In an unusual move, the cache owner has put the tracking number for one of his favourite geocoins in this microcache, so that it can be remotely "discovered" by visitors keen to get a Northern Planisphere icon on their tally. I didn't pick up the numbers though, I'd rather not discover the coin unless I've seen it in person.
More on that later.
The walk onto the last cache in the series - #160 CQ: Charm - was the least fun bit of today's walk. It was a long leg - over a mile - and it wasn't particularly pretty, so it did drag a little. Even the cache owner describes this bit as "a muddy trudge alongside the wheat fields". We managed to take a wrong turn on the way aswell - you can see where we went wrong on our track - which with already tired feet was not particularly welcome.
We did see this nice wall though :) And the evening light was a photographer's dream.
After finding this last cache, which perked the kids up as it had some good swapsies inside - we set off back to our car which we had left by the Strange cache.
This last 0.8 mile segment seemed to take forever, as we were so tired, having been out walking for almost 8 hours by this point - plus we got a little lost in the woods and took a while to find the right path out (and both Connor and I got a little spooked!) - but the views over to the manor house once we were finally out of the wooded area and on the home stretch were spectacular, and all in all we absolutely thoroughly enjoyed this series today.
|Woohoo! nearly back to the car! you can just see the Manor in the distance.|
So - that's the end of that adventure...not quite....remember I said we'd get back to the geocoin?
After I logged the 6 Quark caches that night, I got an email from the cache owner, saying he was glad we had found Charm after all. It turns out he dropped the Northern Planisphere geocoin in Charm in the morning, as he knew we were planning on doing the series that day, to cheer us up after that "long muddy trudge" at the end :)
Trouble is, he went back and picked it up again at half past 5! :D He saw that we hadn't signed the log, and assumed we had DNF'd it. Nope - we just hadn't got there yet :) He clearly hugely over estimated our caching speed lol - it was actually 10 to 8 when we logged that last cache, according to my field notes.
Maybe another time ....
That was such a nice thing to do though, don't you think? Even if he was a bit hasty snatching it back :)
So - that looooong walk kind of frightened Connor off geocaching for a while, but I did manage to persuade him to take a brief walk round into Epping Forest after visiting my dad the following Tuesday....why? because 1) the walk was less than half a mile and 2) the cache page promised us a Large!
There were a few other incentives for me to go after this one too - it's a nice old cache, placed way back in May 2003, and we all love those, don't we? Plus the story on the cache page is really interesting (and a bit of local history my dad had no idea about). Also this part of the forest was very much my stomping ground growing up, so there was a bit of a nostalgia thing going on.
But most importantly, I hadn't yet coloured in Essex on my GSAK map of counties we have cached in!!! :D
I've set myself a personal goal (the rest of the family enjoy geocaching but couldn't care less about the stats) to add at least 10 more counties to the map by this time next year, and Essex was ripe for the taking :)
So - we found the (not really a large IMO but still a good size) cache, and a very enjoyable trek through the woods it was too. We liberated this rather cute, and surprisingly clean given he was loose in an old ammo can with no baggie, owl travel bug, and rushed home to log the cache and update the counties map.
But guess what – the GSAK county allocation polygon thingies, which work in their own mysterious ways – decided that the cache isn’t in Essex after all (although I am pretty sure it is!), but in Greater London, which I already had coloured in. So Essex is still white on my map. Fiddlesticks!
(Some nice clever people on the Geocaching forum have now shown me how to manually adjust that cache’s location from Greater London to Essex, but I think I’ll leave it as it is, just in case I’m wrong, and I’ll pick up another cache deeper into Essex next time I visit Dad. In fact, we might even drag him along with us :) He was completely bemused when we tried to explain why we were heading into the woods at dusk to look for a box – and he was amazed at how quickly we found it – I think he thought we were just going to wander aimlessly around Epping Forest in the hope of just bumping into one :) )
The ambitious plan was to do all 6, plus 2 more unofficial caches that were also in the grounds, but by the time we started caching we were all tired after walking around the house and gardens for a number of hours already, and so we only did the first two. These were the opposite of the “large” in Epping Forest that was really a “regular”. They were both graded “small”, but they were hayuuuuuge! Nice surprise :)
Here is Connor filling in the logbook at #162 NT Tyntesfield Geocache 1
They also had nice extras inside, to be left with the cache, like laminated sheets with information about the wildlife that you might be able to spot in the grounds, etc. A big well done to the National Trust for setting some great caches (we’re assuming the other 4 were just as good :) )
NT Tyntesfield Geocache 2 - it could maybe have been hidden slightly better! This is how we found it :)
We covered it up a bit better when we put it back, but at least on National Trust property it's probably fairly safe from malicious muggles, even if it does get spotted hopefully it will be left alone.
So that was all our geocaching for the day. Well almost. We did try to find a microcache on a bridge that we passed in Bristol on the drive back from Tyntesfield - I remember the cache on this "yellow banana bridge" being mentioned on the Radio 4 geocaching programme, so as soon as I saw the bridge I pulled over in the hope of making this cache a quick Park and Grab on the way home.
But sadly we had to post a DNF. We looked in all the obvious places, and then the unobvious places, and then everywhere else, with no luck. The only consolation is that nobody has found it since, but there have been a few more DNFs, so perhaps it wasn't actually there.
We found two more caches in August, thanks to the bank holiday which gave us an extra don't-have-to-go-to-work-today day - always appreciated! :)
We weren't planning on doing much at all on the Bank Holiday Monday, just chilling out for a change. My Facebook profile that morning said "Sarah Harris is planning to do precisely nothing today, it's a long time since I last did that". And 2 hours later it said "got bored of doing nothing, up on Selsley common instead, gorgeous up here".
I don't think we're really designed for that relaxation thing :)
So yes, scrap the lazy day, instead we went up onto the aforementioned common, near Stroud, on a rescue mission. One of our travel bugs was logged into the cache 'Hey Toots', and recent logs suggested that the cache was in a bad way - broken lid, contents soaked. So we thought we would go and pick up our bug and take it somewhere drier.
We didn't rush straight to the cache though, it was a lovely day and we spent some time first exploring the common, flying Reece's kite, watching the paragliders, and just generally having a great time.
After solving the clues, we realised that we were actually closer to another Selsley cache than to the Hey Toots final, so we thought we'd go and pick that one up first.
This was #164 Cache With A View - rather oddly named as the cache turned out to be down in a dip where there wasn't a view at all. But never mind.
The walk over to it was great though, up and down over the undulating common (good word that, undulating :) I should use it more often).
We passed a grassy slope on the way, that had a load of white rocks at its base. It seems that it is a common pastime to take these pebbles and write your name on the grass. There were tons of names spelt out. Non destructive graffiti, I like it :)
Reece took this opportunity to pebble-write R + O - presumably a declaration of undying devotion to his girlfriend Olivia - awww :)
The cache itself I was pretty unimpressed with, as you can tell from our log:
found while we were in the area on the hunt for the Hey Toots multicache
this cache is in no way a terrain 1 - it is accessed via a steep muddy path which was, today at least, absolutely covered in broken glass. I imagine it would be quite a difficult / unsafe descent if wetter underfoot. Even in dry weather I wouldn't recommend for small children because of all the glass.
the contents of the cache are damp, and it's pretty dirty in there.
fantastic area, though, the common is a brilliant place for a walk and a picnic (and a Winstone's ice cream :) )
took nothing, left a pencil sharpener and a smiley face badge, both in baggies to protect against the damp
There was one really cool thing about Cache With A View, though - when we looked in the (damp and manky!) logbook, we discovered that Reece's uncle and cousins had found and logged the cache just the day before - what a small world :)
#165 Hey Toots was in a far more accessible, and interesting, place. The last thing we were expecting to turn the corner and find was cliffs :)
I do hope this great cache doesn't end up archived - it doesn't look like the owner is going to get it fixed up though :( He doesn't seem to have geocached for a long time. I've offered to adopt it, but no reply.... Maybe we should just "unofficially" adopt it and take a new container up there and a dry log book.... not sure of the etiquette of such things....
So that was August.
And......you know what???? Ignore everything I said at the top of this post - we did some AWESOME caches this month!!! I must have just been hormonal or something when I wrote all that :) (which was on the tenth of September when I started writing this post....this blogging lark takes me forever and a day!)
See you again next month :) I promise not to be so whiny next time :)