Caching in Cambridgeshire

In part two of our Cambridgeshire geocaching road trip our main targets were the Digital Electronics caches (set by the same geocacher as The Cambridge Positioning System which I wrote about earlier). These caches come as a pair, firstly the Theory part and then the Practical. You need to solve the Theory puzzle first, then visit the cache to collect some equipment you will need to find the Practical one.

So, Bob solved the theory puzzle easily but I found it much harder. Actually, I only solved it once Bob had given me a lesson in digital circuit design. Did I mention his electronics engineering background? My brane hurts!Anyway, after a long session with paper circuit diagrams and coloured pens I finally obtained the coordinates.

 

“My Brane hurts!”

Last Wednesday we drove up to the location of the first cache. Once off the main roads, we found ourselves driving down narrower and narrower lanes until we finally found ourselves on a quiet, dead straight, lane.

Freelander on a byway

Eventually the tarmac petered out and we found ourselves on a byway which, as it turned out, was the only drivable one we found all day, but I digress.

At GZ we soon located the cache. The cache was originally set up with 4 electronics kits for geocachers to borrow and we knew of one cacher who had a kit in his possession; we were relieved to find there was still one in there, I think we’d have been a bit upset if the box had been empty! Back into the Freelander and park in a nice quiet spot to conduct the circuit construction. I say ‘quiet spot’ but it was anything but. We were passed by a steady stream of dog walkers and horse riders. One of the horses was reluctant to pass us; her rider told us her horse was a bit spooked by our vehicle as “there isn’t usually a car parked there”.

Assembling the circuit

We assembled the circuit (well Bob did, I just passed him bits of wire and generally acted as electronics engineer’s mate). We powered it up and…

Bugger! Not the display we expected! Was the kit a “dud”? There had been some logs suggesting one of the kits didn’t work. Of course we’re made of sterner stuff and we weren’t giving up just yet! There then followed a session of pin straightening, wire wiggling and similar activities. Still nothing. We had a brew. Rechecked our wiring. Ah Ha! Made a small change. Bingo! Once we had it working we were able to obtain a set of coordinates. That wasn’t quite the end of it of course, we had to visit that location, obtain some more info and input that into our circuit-a-ma-bob to obtain the final coords.

While we were looking for the intermediate location a couple of farming types drove up in a muddy 4×4 to enquire what we were doing. When we said “geocaching” they didn’t seem surprised and became more friendly; “I’ve seen lots of things in the vees of trees round here” said one. Friendly muggles! Anyway, back in the car and off to the final and an excellent find of an ammo can. Of course, we then had to return to the Theory cache and put the electronics kit back for the next cacher, which we did.

These have been two of the best geocaches I’ve done to date, partly because of the work involved in solving the puzzles and partly in recognition of the amount of effort which has gone in to designing and constructing the caches. One of those occasions where awarding a favourite point doesn’t seem enough.

After our success, we found a further couple of caches along what used to be a Roman road. One end of this was apparently a byway, so we had a gander to see whether we could drive it. Unfortunately the County Council had slapped a bunch of TROs along most of it and the only part we could drive had a 2 metre width restriction. It looked a bit narrow, so I edged the nose of the Freelander into the gap while Bob spotted for me. It looked very tight and after a short discussion we abandoned the idea, parked up and walked along the byway to the nearby cache. I’ve since checked the Freelander’s spec sheet. Turns out the width with mirrors retracted is 2005mm. No wonder it wouldn’t fit!

roman road

After that it was off to the next major location on our hit list, near Saffron Walden: the Harry Potter series. This comprises 7 caches and, although I’d found 3 of them back in July 2013 whilst staying at Audley End, I still had 4 to find and Bob needed all of them. After a break for lunch we set off, starting with the ones I hadn’t yet found. This is a series of puzzles with a Harry Potter theme. I had no problem with the puzzles (ours being a family of Potter fans), also the caches themselves follow the HP theme, which is a nice touch; hence we found (amongst others), a rat from the prison at Azkaban, a dragon from the Tri-Wizard Tournament, a horcrux locket:

horcrux locket

and Tom Riddle’s diary – which doubled as one of the log books:

tom riddles diary

It was good to see my moniker there from 2013.

log book entry

Eventually, a lovely sunset reminded us it was time to head for home…

sunset

Plus, after logging our finds, we had a nice “H for Harry” shape on the map, made from smileys.

Harry potter smiley map

So ended another brilliant day’s geocaching in Cambridgeshire! Just 10 finds, currently that’s a good day’s tally for me but this day was most definitely not about the numbers.

 

 

Chipperfield

I had to take my Freelander into my Land Rover dealer today. I needed them to fix the passenger side exterior mirror. They’d replaced the glass and motor a while back but the adjustment controls were all muddled up: moving the joystick down made the mirror go up instead of down, and vice versa. It was driving me nuts but this was the first chance I’d had to go back.

It took two of the dealer’s excellent Americanos before they’d finished but it was worth the wait, as I had time to check out the local geocaches on my iPhone App. There was one cache very close by which I had been meaning to do on previous occasions (it had been temped last time I was here) so once my Land Rover visit was complete I made the short journey to GZ for a very easy find.

Funny thing was, the cache had been renewed within the last few weeks and only had one find between then and me finding it today. That last cacher had signed the cache page with a ‘no pen’ log, which I found puzzling as there was a perfectly serviceable pencil in the cache container. Then I noticed that their last find – just the day before that- had been a geocache in Zanzibar. Armchair cacher? Owner of a teleport device? Or maybe they got their dates mixed up.

Ho hum. I was just pleased to get a cache, something of a rarity for me these days.

A Village Sign

Today we went looking for a nearby Village Sign cache. With a similar concept to the  Church Micro, Village Signs, as the name suggests, involve – sometimes tenuously – village signs erected in, um, villages. These signs tell the visitor something about the village. I think that just about covers the idea of this cache series!

OK, so we went to Potten End to find VS#73 (GC51PA8). Many VS caches are Multis, like CMs, and this was one such. Problem was: whilst we could find one of the objects needed to obtain the required numbers, the other (a dedicated bench) was missing. We did, however, manage to work out the missing numbers and figure out the coords for the final. While we sat in my Freelander working out the coords, a spot of googling unearthed the information that the bench ‘in absentia’ was due to be replaced. I think the locals had formed a committee to deal with the matter. Meanwhile I think the CO may have to update her cache page!

Anyway, off we went in search of the final which, once we’d waited for a muggle to finish her phone call and move on from GZ (!) was soon found. I guess it just goes to show that no matter how well the CO researches and prepares their cache, elements of a Multi can always go missing without notice. Of course with our huge brains we were able to deduce the required info anyway! 🙂

Today I has been…

Today I has been mainly washing my Freelander. Last time it was clean was 4 months ago. It got to the point where I just couldn’t look at all that dirt anymore.

Now, if it snows tonight (it’s a possibility, apparently) then at least it will look smart and shiny for the mandatory ‘look everyone we’ve had some snow!’ pictures. 🙂

Getting The Freelander Muddy

My off-roading chums organised a green lane trip on Salisbury Plain.

The gang

It was billed as “non-damaging” so I decided to take my Freelander 2 (which we call “R2”).

Freelander2

The Freelander doesn’t have the ground clearance of the Range Rover or Discovery 3’s in our group but, apart from a couple of lanes with deep ruts (which I dealt with by straddling the ruts) and a water splash which looked very deep from where I was (and which I chose to miss out), R2 took everything in his stride. Most of the time I had Grass/Gravel/Snow selected on the Terrain Response, switching to Mud/Ruts when required. At one section – which was a bit of an axle twister – R2 had one wheel in the air several times! When we encountered a steep climb I let R2 negotiate the start in first gear with the engine pulling along at idle, once it got steeper I just gave him a bit of welly and he simply shot up the slope with no drama.

Here’s our navigator checking the byway signs. As the Plain is a military training area, access to civilians is controlled and we had to ensure the byway we wanted to drive was open. We didn’t want to get shot at!

Checking the Byway signs

The only lane I had a problem with was a fairly narrow one enclosed by hedges and small trees and it was inevitable that these would rub along the side of the vehicle.

A bit of a narrow lane

Half way along, we encountered a huge pile of fly-tipped rubbish. It’s so disappointing; some unscrupulous people will fly tip anywhere just to save a few bucks. Getting past this obstacle wasn’t easy to do without risking a scratch or too and unfortunately I collected a few. No lasting damage though. Now that I’ve washed the mud off I’m sure the scratches will polish out with a bit of elbow grease.

I love the openness of the Plain. If the weather’s nice you’ve got all that “Big Sky”.

Front and back

In the middle distance, lots of evidence of the Army’s tank training:

Big sky

We didn’t see any tanks. 😦 The only Army activity we saw were a couple of platoons of squaddies doing some running, some of them carrying bergens or mortar ammo. At their RV they had a strategically placed Land Rover ambulance! 🙂

Taxi

On Saturday night I went to pick my daughter up after her works do.

I arrived at the hotel venue just before pumpkin time, parking discreetly slightly back from the reception entrance/exit where a few revellers were mincing about. Then, shortly after midnight, the noise from the disco ceased abruptly. Chucking out time! Small groups of partygoers started leaving and cabs started arriving.

So there I was, sitting there contentedly waiting for my daughter to appear, when a slightly inebreated chap, accompanied by his girlfriend tottering on very high heels, approached my vehicle. He tapped on the front passenger window. I thought, he’ll realise his error shortly, I’ll ignore him.  He rapped on the window again so I gave him what I call my dismissive wave. By this time his girlfriend had made it to the rear door and they both started trying the door handles but were unable to open the doors (my doors lock automatically when I drive off so they were still locked). They both seemed perplexed by this development and tried the doors again. They’d obviously not read the memo about not getting into unknown cars. So I opened the passenger window an inch and engaged them in conversation.

 

taxi
This is a taxi

Me: “I’m not a cab.”

Bloke: “Uh?”

Me: “I’m not a cab. Or a taxi.”

Bloke: “You’re not a cab then?”

(Bear in mind he’s trying to get into a muddy Freelander)

 

lr
This is not a taxi. You can see how they’d get confused.

Me: “No. I’m waiting for someone.”

Bloke: “Who you waiting for then?”

Me (still trying to be polite): “That’s none of your business.”

Bloke: “Uh, ok.”

Girl: “He not a cab then?”

Bloke: “No, he’s not a cab.”

After a minute or so of just standing there looking bemused, they wandered off. Luckily, at that moment my daughter arrived so I unlocked the doors, she hopped in and I drove off before any more drunks tried to join us. You can’t make this stuff up!

 

93 out of 109

Saturday’s planned greenlaning was scrubbed so I found myself with a day pass & I thought, “Chiltern Hundreds!”. A short while later, after loading the relevant PQs onto my GPS, I was off. The major section I had left to do was the Chartridge Ring which started at number 83 and finished at number 109. (As I think I mentioned before, Dr Solly’s Chiltern Hundreds actually comprises 109 caches plus the bonus). I parked up at the Chartridge Reading Rooms – which as far as I can ascertain is the only safe place to park on this series – and set off.

The first few caches were pretty straightforward, I was pleased to find them though; there is nothing more disheartening than scoring a DNF on the first cache of the day.

CH100_2

By one cache, I found a gate which was not attached to a fence at either end. At least the land owner hadn’t bothered to padlock it.

Today I was reminded that the good Doctor is fond of climbing trees, or at least fond of making other cachers do some climbing to retrieve caches. Today I did more tree-climbing than on the rest of the CH100 combined. At another cache, although I had spotted the container from afar, I had to reach for it without being able to see it at the same time which resulted in me grabbing a huge slug. At least I have the correct accreditation.

BSS

After that, a walk along a lane called Herbert’s Hole via the interestingly named Little Hundridge Lane.

CH100_1

From CH098 the route doubled back in a Westerly direction along a tarmac lane, even so I encountered no more than a couple of cars and it was a simple process to pick off the caches as I walked up the gentle incline. Before I knew it, I had found and passed  cache number 100. I soon had to turn off the lane in order to pick up CH104, off a lane running alongside the Chartridge Park Golf Club. Now, not many people know this: I was a golf-orphan when I was younger. I found it amusing to listen to the Pringle-clad twits as they tried to decide whether to use a Spade mashie or a Mashie niblick. They were soon left behind as I retraced my steps down to Pednor Bottom. I had already had to deal with several non-caching folk, waiting until they had gone before grabbing the cache, etc. By the time I had found CH108 I was following a bunch of these walkers with a very barky (is that even a word?) dog. I gave the group a head start before climbing the hill towards the last cache of the series.

If you know the area covered by this series you will know that many of the paths choose to ignore contours. If the path wants to go straight up a steep hill then that is what it does. This particular one was so steep they (The Council?) had built in a series of steps.

Steep hill, steep steps

Even with that it was a big push to the top and I was glad to be able to stop at a stile where the aforementioned walkers had halted to watch the Red Kites soaring magnificently above us. At this point I decided to stop for lunch so I picked a spot in the lee of a hedge and admired the view while I munched my sandwiches.

CH100_4

After lunch I set off once more, passing the walkers who by now were stopped for their lunch, and made my way to the final cache – CH109. This was an easy find, so after signing the log I made my way back to my Freelander.

I knew that there was a short run of caches I had missed out before (I think one or two were missing last time I was here) so I relocated the car to another familiar parking spot before setting off to find them via Captain’s Wood and CH033.

I was keen to get this one as I had DNFd it many months previously. Having read the recent logs it was now evident that the cache was nowhere near the published coordinates so I searched a radius of about 20 Metres from the coords. I was considering calling it a day when I spotted something which tallied with the hint item on the cache page. At first I couldn’t find anything. Just then, I moved a dead tree branch and heard the distinctive sound of wood striking hard plastic. Yay! It was the cache!

After that it was off through the woods to pick up the final 3 planned for today’s trip. Two of the three were found without drama, however one which already had several DNF logs proved to be a problem. I even went so far as to burrow on all fours into a hedge to check all around GZ but to no avail. All I found were the crusts of someone’s sandwiches. Nice. Later on, when I was logging my results, I saw that another cacher had apparently found the missing cache the very same day. Hmmm.

Anyway, after that one I successfully found CH078 – my last of the day, then it was back to the Freely and home.

Map

Summary for today – 28 finds and 3 DNFs. As to the Chiltern Hundreds, I have found 93 and DNFd 16. What is slightly annoying is that for 20 of my finds the bonus code is missing. I need to get that fixed so that I can go for the bonus cache.

Crossing the border

I always enjoy drsolly’s puzzle caches. Usually with a technical or “IT” element, solving the puzzle stage to reveal the final coordinates is often the most enjoyable and sometimes the most challenging part. Inspired by the poem by W H Auden, Night Mail is one such clever cache from drsolly.

night mail

 

I did the original Night Mail back in September 2011. Two years later it had been archived and the good doctor had replaced it with a new Night Mail cache. As with the original, in order to discover the coordinates one has to control a model train in real time via a website. Great fun but no easy task I can assure you! I accomplished this tricky task when the cache was first published (last September) but for one reason after another I never managed to fit in a trip to find the physical cache.

A caching friend recently suggested we go to find this one so on Friday night he (Martin), Bob and I piled into my Freelander and set off, crossing the border into Buckinghamshire in search of the night mail. To be honest, finding the cache was the easy part after controlling the train and obtaining the coordinates, then allowing my satnav to send us on a roundabout tour of Chesham before we finally found the correct road out of the town. Isn’t technology wonderful/<insert your own adjective here>.

Our powerful torches piercing the stygian blackness (poetic licence), we found the cache without too much difficulty and, after suitable celebrations, found our way back to the car.

Before setting out we had decided to find another drsolly cache as well, as it was (sort of) on our way home. So the next stop was to find who is. If you are familiar with drsolly caches or maybe a cast member of the IT Crowd  then the method of obtaining the coordinates will hopefully leap out at you.

not me

Otherwise, I suspect you will be stuck. As you know, I’m not in the habit of putting spoilers in my blog posts, that would spoil the fun <evil laughter>. Once again, I had found the coords when the cache was published last September but, as with the Night Mail cache, it was sat in my “solved” list  for a time when I would be in the area.

Back to the tale. Although I had the waypoint in both my satnav and GPS I was driving into the unknown; luckily Bob had already identified an excellent parking spot. Also luckily, the hour was too early for nefarious activities, so three blokes parking up and disappearing into the bushes wasn’t going to raise any eyebrows. We had read that previous finders had found the coords a bit off so, after a look around at GZ, we widened the search and made use of some coords supplied by an earlier finder. These proved to be pretty accurate because after that we soon found the cache. The cache was full of the usual drsolly hardware plus, for some inexplicable reason, a large robot dog. It seemed happy enough to be there so we left it for the next cacher!

Freelander @ two years

So, I’ve had my Freelander for two years now and I’ve been looking at my mileage stats. In the last 12 months I’ve covered over 2,000 miles more than last year, up by about 17%. And that doesn’t include commuting because there isn’t any.

Seems my insurance company were correct when they said my mileage would go up when I retired…

Oh, and I had the Freelander serviced last week by Chipperfield Land Rover. At the risk of jinxing things, for once I couldn’t fault them. Long may it continue. 😉