Un-Common Caching

Last week I finally managed to solve a puzzle cache that had been bugging me, Hope2pigs’ Conjuring Card Cache (GC5CDAZ). Not a subject I was at all familiar with (I’m still not!) but once more I’ve learned about something hitherto unknown thanks to Geocaching. Actually, it turned out I’d been on the right track with my solving method and it was a simple error with my maths that had prevented geochecker from giving me the green light. Hope2pigs had set a small series around Bricket Wood Common and I had visited there once on a FTF attempt (we got STF) but I had held off going back for the others, until now.

Having done a spot of research, I decided to go for the Multi of the series first for reasons which will become clear. Bricket Wood Common has SSSI classification, so is an interesting location. You can find more information about the Common here.

So Skye and I parked the Freelander in one of the designated parking spots and headed off towards the first cache, Hear or There (GC570QC). I had decided to do this one first as I suspected it might take some time and I wanted to make sure I bagged the “important” ones first in case I ran out of time. The cache page describes quite well what is required without giving the game away completely, so I’m not going to spoil it for you (should you wish to attempt it for yourself). The task is first to locate the first stage (at the published coords) which I did without difficulty. Once I had retrieved the container and opened it, I was then in possession of a “tool” (as the CO describes it). I’m not giving anything way by saying that I had to operate the “tool” and listen for a response. As the CO states, this cache is not suitable for the hard of hearing. Not knowing what to expect, I stood motionless and waited for what passed for silence before operating the tool. Nothing. I moved a few paces away and tried again. At which point the birds started singing. Then a truck trundled along the nearby road. Silence descended once more. I operated the tool. Just as I did so the birds started tweeting again. Damn! I waited for the next quiet period and tried again. As I strained my ears to listen (not actually knowing what I was listening for) Skye decided she was a bit bored of standing around and she started scuffling about in the leaves. “BE QUIET, SKYE!”. Hmm, that didn’t help. Once more I moved my position, thinking, correctly as it turned out, that my range to the “thing” might be critical. Then, faintly, I heard it! For a minute or two I moved around, homing in on the source…

After a bit more to-ing and fro-ing, I identified the location of the final but, before I could move in for the “kill”, a chap appeared along the nearby path with his German Shepherd. What now! Trying to be nonchalant, Skye and I engaged him and his canine companion in a friendly conversation until he decided to move on. Once he was a safe distance away I homed in on where I thought the final cache would be, at which point it was easily spotted behind some camouflage. Result! Once I had signed the log etc. we retraced out steps and replaced the “tool” in its hiding place. That is one novel, well thought out and prepared cache.

Next, it was on to the Conjuring Card Cache, by way of a small detour to pick up First Class?, a more traditional cache. Even this “Trad” was cleverly constructed, so much so that it was really hidden in plain sight. I love those!

Anyway, on to the puzzle cache. The coords were spot on, I think this may have been helped by us attempting these before the trees develop their full foliage and bugger up the GPS signal. As it was, it seemed a short search indeed before I spotted the very well constructed natural camouflaged container.

Once we’d put everything back, it was time to cross the railway line (via a footbridge) for a longer, circular, walk around another part of the common where we picked up three more caches (Will you take offence?, nano sect and Uncommon in the common), all of which had ingenious containers. Then it was back to the car – which we found without drama – a relief as I had failed to waypoint it before we left it.

The Common is a lovely location only minutes from main roads and houses, yet it seems a world away. The woodland, soon to be carpeted in bluebells (I hope) and the birdsong soundtrack make this a great place to find a few caches. The containers and their camouflage are brilliantly designed and constructed and a joy to find. I recommend a visit, just as soon as you’ve solved that Card puzzle!

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See Lions?

Today we went to Whipsnade Zoo which is always a great place to visit. Even better it’s just a 20 minute drive for us.

As usual all the lions were asleep, so we didn’t stay watching them for long.

I was going to post a photo or two of the baby elephants but I took so many photos that I haven’t edited them yet. Maybe later.

So, amongst the various animals we saw were the sea lions (these are on our shortlist of favourite animals), this produced an amusing tale. What happened was this: we arrived about 20 minutes before the sea lion display and the poolside area was packed to the gunwales with noisy children and their equally noisy parents. Well, we hadn’t come to see them so we bypassed the outdoor pool arena and headed inside the sea lion’s building, where the sea lions were amusing themselves in their indoor pool. As the time for the display approached, they became more excited, presumably at the prospect of getting to eat lots of fish, swimming, jumping and diving around the pool, they also kept jumping out of the water and going to wait by the door through which their keeper would emerge with her buckets of fish.

We found it amusing that we had the place almost to ourselves and we got to see the sea lions swimming playfully around in a more natural way than they would be in the subsequent staged display, meanwhile all the audience were sat outside staring at an empty pool for half an hour! 🙂

I took some video which I’ll hopefully post shortly, in the meantime here are a couple of photos.

ZSL_OCT_1 ZSL_OCT_2

Aren’t sea lions super?

(Oh I do like to be) beside the seaside

beach

Until Wednesday, when I went to a local caching event, I hadn’t given much thought to Groundspeak’s “The  7 Souvenirs of August”. During the event, Bob and I popped out to bag a Letterbox cache thereby earning me both the “Socializer” and “Collector” souvenirs in the same evening (Bob already had the full set).

Hmm. Suddenly all I needed was to find two caches of specific types and I would be able to collect the full set, plus the extra “Achiever” award for getting all six. Completing this challenge had unexpectedly become feasible.

So yesterday I took Skye for a walk at Little Heath, not far from home, where there was a Multi and a new Earth cache. Now I hadn’t known this before but thanks to the Earth cache, I now know that the area of Little Heath used to be the coastline of what is now England. Don’t worry, you haven’t missed anything connected with global warming, this was a long time ago! During the Pleistocene Period (2.6 million to 11,700 years ago) the North Sea extended westwards across south east England. Little Heath used to be a beach! Now located within the National Trust’s Ashridge Estate, this area is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

To claim the Earth cache as a find, Skye and I had to collect some information and answer some questions posed by the Cache Owner. Actually, I did the hard work while Skye just rummaged about sniffing things. She does this a lot when we go caching, I’m beginning to think she’s not all that interested in geocaching. Having done that ( I would email the info to the CO later) we moved on to the Multi cache. This was supposedly a simple offset multi where you find the first stage which contains the coordinates for the final. Simples.

Well no, actually. It was anything but. To start with my GPS was behaving strangely. This was partly due to me having buggered up its software the day before. Anyway, I managed to work around that and I got a reasonable reading, followed the arrow, etc.  Except that the blasted thing kept changing its mind about the location of the first stage. I’d looked at some of the previous logs so had some ideas as to where to look, however this didn’t make any difference as I still spent ages looking high and low to no avail.

Now, any cacher reading this will know how it goes. You look in all the possible places, Then you go back and look again. You read the logs on your GPS or phone App again. You search all the places once more, maybe extending the search because who can be sure of the GPS accuracy anyway? You decide to give up. Just before you walk away you decide not to give up just yet, after all it was found two days ago so it must be here somewhere, right? This time, something I hadn’t noticed before caught my eye and a closer look revealed…  The micro! In my defence it was a very small micro and no wonder I hadn’t spotted it.

microdot

After that it it was pretty easy; using the newly discovered coordinates Skye and I were soon at the final location and signing the log. Alright, I admit it was just me signing the log. Now that she knows they aren’t edible, Skye really isn’t that bothered about the log-signing bit.

Oh, by the way, I got my 7 souvenirs. Here’s the 7th:

Groundspeak souvenir

If you’ve already got yours, congratulations! If not then there are still 8* days left 🙂

 

* At the time of posting

Publishing my series

Green Lane sign

For a while now I’ve had my eye on a this empty space on the geocaching map and planning to place a geocache series there. Last week I had a free day and a choice. Either go caching or set out some more caches of my own. Altruism won the day and so, equipped with a bag of various containers, I was soon out in the fields. I had reconnoitred the route previously and had some hidey holes in mind. Skye and I had a nice walk and once the containers had been hidden it was back to base for tea and medals, and the time-consuming but important admin.

After a small hiccup, the caches were published yesterday evening and several of the local FTF hounds were soon out – congratulations to The Bongtwashes on FTF-ing them all! 🙂

If you’re interested, there is a list of my caches here.

As an aside, it’s amazing what you see whilst out in the countryside. As I was walking around a bend at the edge of a wheat field, a fox jumped out of the trees to our left and pounced on an unsuspecting pheasant hiding in the wheat. Within seconds the fox had picked up the pheasant and dashed back to the safety of the trees. Skye went absolutely bonkers and would have shot after the fox if I hadn’t had her on the lead. All this happened so fast I had no chance to go for my camera. 🙂

 

 

 

Treasure Hunt

Spoiler alert: This post has nothing to do with geocaching.

Alright, so you are still reading this despite the above. After the excitement of the family wedding, we found ourselves with some spare days before the sun stopped shining and we had to head back to Hertfordshire. We decided to visit the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, which would involve either a very long detour around the rivers Fal and Tresillian or a short cut across the Fal via the King Harry Ferry. We took the second option.

The King Harry Ferry is not really a boat, it’s  a chain ferry – more of a moving bridge in fact – and it has has been in operation since 1888. I can vaguely remember making the crossing as a lad when on holiday with my parents. No, not in the 1800’s you cheeky sod! Luckily being out of season we didn’t have to wait long to board the ferry and we were soon enjoying the peace and quiet of the crossing.

king harry ferry 1 king harry ferry 2 king harry ferry 3

Once on the other bank,we set off for the seal sanctuary. We had a good wander around before watching the sanctuary care team feeding the seals. The sanctuary do a sterling job of rescuing and rehabilitating abandoned and injured seals, always with the aim of releasing them back into the wild once they are ready.

seals1 seals 3 seals 2

More details on their website and I recommend a visit if you are ever down that way. They also have some resident otters – another endangered species thanks to the gradual loss of their natural habitat.

otters

After leaving the seals we drove past RNAS Culdrose which, because the Royal Navy always names its bases like ships, is also known as HMS Seahawk. The Navy have thoughtfully provided a legitimate viewing area on the perimeter so we parked up for a while and watched the SAR Sea Kings and the more tactical Merlins coming and going. I’ve posted a few pictures although they aren’t brilliant (I hadn’t packed my long lens – we had more than enough luggage already).

SAR sea king Merlin  culdrose merlin 2culdrose merlin 3

Earlier, while we were enjoying the sights and smells of the seal sanctuary, my wife and I had realised that this was the location of an episode of the TV programme “Treasure Hunt”. Actually, my wife told me she knew all along and was just waiting for the penny to drop in my head before mentioning it.

Anyway, those of you who are old enough may remember this programme; Kenneth Kendall in the studio with a couple of contestants and a room full of reference books (don’t forget this was very definitely pre-google!) guiding Anneka Rice in her helicopter from one clue to the next. No? Well this may help. Anyway, in this particular episode from 1984, Anneka had to fly to HMS Seahawk for a clue then on to the seal sanctuary where she had to jump into one of the seal pools to retrieve the treasure. At this point I must ‘fess up and admit that I haven’t remembered all the details from 1984, we happened to see this particular episode a few weeks back on (I think) the Challenge TV channel. Ahh, the inexhaustible benefits of cable TV.

 (credit Martin Underwood)

Now I’m wondering, did watching Treasure Hunt all those years ago embed something in my subconscious which, many years later, developed into an interest in geocaching?

 

 

Bombsite

I was in London today and luckily had time for one cache. This is one that’s been on my list for some time.

The cache is called Bombsite No. 1. The interesting thing is that, as the name suggests, this is a parcel of land which used to be occupied by a house – until it was destroyed by a bomb during the Second World War. The house was never rebuilt and the space is now home to a delightful public garden, complete with duck pond. Hidden away from the noise and dirt of the city, with its soundtrack of birdsong and dabbling ducks it is an oasis of calm.

Guardians of the cache

Locating the cache itself was easily accomplished. That done, I then found myself surrounded* by a family of Mallards who were obviously the guardians of the cache. After watching them for a while I took my leave, with one of the male Mallards following me along the path towards the gate, no doubt escorting me off the premises.

Here’s a short video I took:

* Oh, alright, they were really just very tame!