V-Force Tour

This weekend, Vulcan XH558 (the sole Vulcan flying today) has been travelling the UK. When I saw the flight plan for today I knew that this might be my last and only chance to see her in flight. Here are the details for the Salute to the V Force Tour.

Today’s flight plan:

VForce Tour flight plan

One of the waypoints was over Leavesden. Now home to the Warner Brothers Studios and the Harry Potter studio, in the old days this airfield was a Rolls Royce jet engine factory so I think this waypoint was chosen to commemorate the link between Rolls Royce and the Vulcan’s Avon and Olympus engines. So, off I went to Leavesden and parked up near the studios. Within about 15 minutes I was joined by numerous enthusiasts who all had the same idea!

XH558 was tweeting her progress so, once she had cleared RAF Halton we knew she was en route for the RAF Museum at Hendon and would be passing overhead soon.

We all spotted her in the distance then, very quickly, there she was! Almost overhead, she made her planned turn to starboard and within a couple of minutes was gone. I managed to fire off a few photos but I had a spot of trouble with the camera; the continuous AF wouldn’t lock on, so I quickly switched to manual focus, then I had to get her in focus as she flew away from me. Plus I was using my good (left) eye – before my retina detachment I’d  always used my right eye as my “viewfinder eye” and I’m not used to using that one yet. Argh!

Anyway, here she is:

Vulcan XH558 Vilcan XH558 Vulcan XH558

What a beauty!

I’m still hoping to see her again  this year but, if I don’t, today was a fitting salute to the V Force and the iconic Vulcan. I’m really pleased I saw her.

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Geocaching once more

In which I get my geocaching mojo back.

Two months after my retina detached itself, curtailing my geocaching activities, I finally made it out onto the footpaths of Bucks.

Obviously I can see where I’m going but I was sceptical about my ability to spot a nano in an ICT, so I decided that I’d go for slightly larger containers on my first outing. I’d been following with interest the fate of some Chiltern Hundred caches which I had previously DNFd. Fortunately, my fellow cacher (and geo-blogger), Washknight, had started to work his way round the series and was actively undertaking maintenance when necessary. So I figured if a blind man could manage it, a one-and-three-quarter-sighted bloke like myself should have no problems. Actually (and of course you’ll know this if you read his blog) Washknight is actually Paul, his wife/partner-in-crime and his son, but you get my drift. 🙂

So, having parked up somewhere familiar once more, Skye and I set off along a footpath towards CH002 – Chiltern Hundred, bridge. This one was a bit out on its own for us but a necessary find for completeness. This turned out to be the smallest cache of the trip and it did involve Ivy! After that we retraced our route towards the car, picking up CH005 – Chiltern Hundred, Chesham back and CH003 – Chiltern Hundred, Chesham heights. Stopping for coffee and a biscuit by the car, we then set off to find CH008 – Chiltern Hundred, bridleway. Last time we were here, the bridleway was a quagmire of gloopy mud and Skye got completely covered in mud. It was such heavy going that I ended up carrying her. And of course we couldn’t find the cache.  Since then the path has been resurfaced and we found it to be mud free. Until we got to within 50 yards of GZ. There must be something strange going on from a geological point of view because that section of path was very muddy. Significant churning up by passing horses didn’t help the situation. This time I decided to pick Skye up before she got muddy and I’m sure she appreciated the lift. When we got to GZ I could see that there was only one place that the cache could be and it was. Very pleased to get a quick find. As we returned back the way we came, we made a detour into a small wood (owned and looked after by The Woodland Trust) which bypassed the muddy section of path. Result!

The next two caches I wanted to find were up near the village of Botley, so we went back to the car and drove there, parking in the carpark of the Hen & Chicken pub. From there it was a short walk to CH012 – Chiltern Hundred, Lee farm although spotting the footpath sign pointing into what looked like a private farm yard took me a few minutes. Finding the cache took a further few minutes but having the knowledge that Washknight had been there and maintained the cache just a couple of days before gave me the confidence to a) search in an exposed area and b) ignore the many muggle vehicles which drove past me. Of course nobody paid me the slightest attention! After that it was on to the last one of the day, CH013 – Chiltern Hundred, Codmore view. The funny thing about this one was that Washknight had found 2 containers on his visit. He performed maintenance on the original container and removed the other, temporary, one. I was therefore surprised to spot the container in a place which didn’t fit the hint and was a few metres off. A look at the log showed me that this was yet another “throw-down”, albeit a nice container and not just a film pot. Shortly afterwards I located the correct, original, container with Washknight’s new log and laminated card with the bonus code! So I signed that log and removed the other container. I wonder if there are any more?

I was pleased with the day. Skye had a really nice long walk and I got my caching eye back in. I filled in a matrix day and my six finds brought my total Chiltern Hundred finds up to 99, excluding the bonus. I really just need to find one more of my DNFs and that will be sufficient, I think.

Lastly, a big thank you to team Washknight for their cache maintenance which certainly helped to make those DNFs more “findable”.

Chiltern Hundred – Bonus

When the good Doctor first published the series there was a bit of competition to see who could do the lot in the shortest time. I believe 12 hours is the record. I made my first Chiltern Hundred find on 13 November 2012, so it has taken me just over two years to make my way round the three rings, in a somewhat sporadic fashion.

When I reached 93 finds I was missing bonus codes for 20 of them and the web form apparently required 90 to generate the coordinates for the Bonus. By chance I read the Bonus cache page again and spotted that Dr Solly had altered his algorithm. This meant that some numbers could be missing and it would still be possible to get the coords. So I plugged my numbers into the form and hey presto!

So I decided to look for the bonus cache today and go back to my DNFs at a later date to see if I can get the total numbers up.

skye
Skye belted up and ready to go caching

 

I parked in a now-familiar location (not telling where) and made my way with Skye towards the cache. Given that it wasn’t raining I was very surprised that during the entire sortie I didn’t see another human. Skye and I enjoyed the walk in and we soon found ourselves in a very pretty, secluded wood. Then the serious business began. We searched for quite a long time without success but hey, this was “The Bonus” after all so I wasn’t expecting it to be easy. The hint on the cache page was pretty specific but (without giving too much away) it was also misleading and a couple of recent cachers had logged a DNF. After searching for a while, Skye and I decided to stop for a drink and some biscuits. Then I thought, I’ve looked in all the obvious places so let’s look in the places that are not. So I did. Eventually I spotted something which looked a bit more promising. Getting up close, I carefully parted a couple of prickly bramble stems and I could see the cache nestling in its hiding place! Fantastic!

Then it was a question of getting to it with a Westie who had suddenly lost interest in the search. Once I had the container out in the open she realised what was happening and sat down patiently while I examined the cache.

The bonus cache

Then it was time to replace the cache, restore the camouflage and set off back to the Freelander; me with a silly grin on my face and Skye just happy to be snuffling in the fallen leaves.

A very big “thank you” to Dr Solly for an excellent and entertaining series. All that remains is to go back to find as many of those 16 DNFs as I can; I’d like to get my Chiltern Hundred tally up to 100.

Sorry, 101.

If you haven’t yet attempted this series then my recommendation is have a go. The variety of terrain, contour changes, lovely countryside views and Dr Solly’s penchant for tree climbing and cheeky hides make it well worth a go. Maybe you’ll do it quicker than me. 🙂

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.

The Washknight Tapes

Ha ha, well not tapes exactly but an interrogation nonetheless.

This chap I know, who caches under the pseudonym Washknight, has been pestering inviting the blogging cachers (or should that be caching bloggers?) he knows to post a response to a set of 20 questions. So I have, finally, managed to sit down in front of my Mac, roll my sleeves up in a purely figurative way, open a bottle of my favourite “thinking mixture” and, cracking my finger joints in the manner of the best piano virtuoso, peck out this missive on my keyboard.

1. When and how did you first get into geocaching?

A few years ago at work, the topic of geocaching came up a couple of times; finally one of my geocaching friends (you know who you are!) pulled up the map and it turned out there was a cache very close to my house. I went and had a look but didn’t do anything about it. Some weeks later another friend (The Bongtwashes) arranged an off-roading day in Berkshire. We stopped for lunch on our way to the off-road site and it “just so happened” that there was a cache nearby, so we set off to look for it. What I didn’t realise at the time (but  subsequently discovered) was that it is standard practice to arrange routes, lunch stops etc. so that they pass near to geocaches! Anyway after that I went back to find that local one near my home and that, as they say, was that.

So, David and Bob, I blame you for infecting me with this bug for which there appears to be no cure. 😀

2. Do you remember your first find?

Certainly do! It was the one I found with The Bongtwashes. It was “A Different Approach to Recycling” . What was extra special was that when Bob read out the hint I immediately knew where to look and I found the cache before he did! I think that is the last time that has happened (LOL)

3. What device(s) do you use for locating caches?

When I started out I used my iPhone running the Groundspeak App but, being a clumsy sort of fellow, I quickly became concerned that I would drop it into a puddle (or worse). At this point I bought a Garmin Dakota which is still my main device. This is backed up by my iPhone which I use mainly for mapping (more screen real estate so I can see the map and caches in a wider context) and for interrogating the web while I’m out and about. The GPS on the newer models of iPhone is generally excellent and I sometimes use it solo for urban caching, the ocassional ad hoc cache or the increasingly rare FTF attempt. Oh, and I always put my iPhone in an “All Terrain” case.

4. Where do you live and what is your local area like for geocaching? (density / quality / setting etc)

I live in Hertfordshire, and the borders with Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire are only a few miles away; there are thousands of geocaches as far as the eye can see. The nearest (my second find) was less that 0.1 mile from my house. There’s a good mixture of easy trads, naughty nanos and tricky puzzles plus some really good rings.

5. What has been your most memorable geocache to date, and why?

This has to be the Virtual cache “The Empire Strikes Back”. A cache in New York. What’s not to like? It also scores as my “Farthest from Home” and “Farthest West”.

We visited the ESB on the night of September 11th, 2012. To say the views were spectacular would be putting it midly. To top an amazing evening we were able to see the memorial twin towers of light which were beamed up from the site of the World Trade Centre towers on every anniversary night. Stunning and moving. Just wish we didn’t have to see it.

6. List 3 essential things you take on a geocaching adventure excluding GPS, pen and swaps.

Just 3? Hmmm. Leatherman. Torch(es). Hat.

7. Other than geocaches and their contents, What is the weirdest thing you have discovered whilst out caching?

Other geocachers. 😛

Seriously, and perhaps a little disappointingly,  I haven’t found anything really weird. I have however found some unexpected things, some beautiful countryside and spectacular views. The strangest thing I can recall finding was an old-fashioned “Tanoy” loudspeaker high up in a tree, in a wood miles from any building of any sort. Very puzzling.

8. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is I am obsessed by numbers and 10 is I am all about the experience and the quality of each individual cache. Where do you put yourself?

“I’m not a number, I’m a free man!” 🙂

If you look at my yearly stats you’d realise it isn’t all about the numbers for me. I have always enjoyed walking and so being out in the countryside, (preferrably with Skye our West Highland Terrier) is something I really do enjoy, so I guess it’s about the journey as well as the geocaching.

9. Describe one incident that best demonstrates the level of your geocaching obsession.

That’s difficult to answer because I’m not obsessed. There was a time when I would dash out for a FTF and I did get extremely wet completing a series of FTFs with The Bongtwashes in the pouring rain once. Note emphasis on the “once”.

10. Have you picked up any caching injuries along the way?

Only the usual scratches and dents from thorns, brambles and barbed wire. Usually on my head, which is why nowadays I always put my hat on when I have to burrow into anywhere and I always carry a simple first aid kit.

11. What annoys you most about other geocachers?

Hmmm. I don’t want to offend anyone. Some of them seem to take it a bit too seriously.

12. What is the dumbest thing you have done whilst out caching?

Trying to walk on something slippery such as sheet ice. That always ends badly in my experience.

13. What do your non caching family and friends think of your hobby?

In my house it’s called “Nerding”. They think I’m slightly mad. I’m not sure I have any non-caching friends…

14. What is your default excuse you give to muggles who ask what you are up to or if you need help?

My favourite is “I lost my dog” or variations of that. This excuse works even when I don’t actually have Skye with me.

15. What is your current geocaching goal, if you have one?

To complete the Chiltern Hundreds. Because it is there.

16. Do you have a nemesis cache that despite multiple attempts you have been unable to find?

There’s a micro in Pinner which I’ve never been able to find, mainly because of the muggle traffic. It has recently had a spate of found logs so maybe I’ll go back for another go soon.

17. What 3 words or phrases best sum up what geocaching means to you.

Challenging. Outdoor fun. Mud!

18. What prompted you to start blogging about geocaching?

I started my first blog in October 2005 as an evolution from MySpace (remember that one?). On my blog I write about whatever interests or (sometimes) annoys me, not just about geocaching.

After I found my first cache I posted a short item about it, it’s only recently that I have been writing about my geocaching adventures on a more frequent basis.

19. Which of your own blog entries are you most proud of.

I’m not sure I’m proud of any of my writing but I quite like this one  because it describes my best caching day (for numbers) and combines geocaching with another of my favourite pastimes – Green Laning.

20. Which other geocaching blogs do you enjoy reading?

To be honest I’m only just discovering the geocaching blogs, with two exceptions.

Washknight’s Geocaching Blind  which I’ve been following for a while now. His posts are entertaining and I like the fact that he is happy to take the p*ss out of the fact that he can’t see jack. Yes, I know he triggered this post but no, that’s not why I’ve singled him out for a mention in dispatches.

The other blog of note has to be Dr Solly’s.  It’s not just about caching, his technical tales appeal to my techie side. I’m not going to elaborate here, as he says; you either know him or you don’t.

Well, that’s the 20 questions answered, Paul. That was an interesting challenge which gave me pause to think, and travel back in time in order to research a response to some of the questions. I hope you (and anyone else daft enough to read to the end) enjoys reading my answers. 😀

iPhone 6

I’m pleased with my iPhone 6.

I haven’t managed to bend it.

I’m not going to wax lyrical about it because I’m not interested in stirring up the trolls or haters.  See paragraph one for my iPhone 6 review.

I’m not sure about the changes Apple have made to Photos with iOS 8, although I think I can see why they have done what they’ve done. It will be interesting to see how it all works once Yosemite drops. The only issue I’ve found is with the Instagram App which displays every photo on the device in duplicate (FB and others seem to have got it right).

Being a clumsy sort of fellow I have ordered a case for it, hopefully that will arrive tomorrow.

Recharging my batteries

Since we got home from New York, life in our household has been both hectic and draining, so I was getting desperate for some R&R.

Yesterday I finally managed to get out for a walk and grab some caches. I went up Chesham way to do some more Chiltern Hundreds. I found 8 of those, 4 of these finds were caches I’d DNFd on previous visits which I was very pleased about; I also DNFd a new one! Ah well can’t win them all. I also found a Church Micro and a random Captain Jack.

It made a nice change to be out in the English countryside, if only for a few hours.

And when I got home my iPhone 6 had arrived. 🙂

 

 

Postcard from New York

I took quite a few photographs as we wandered around Manhattan. Here are a few “postcards”. Hope you like them.

 

Not all Manhattan buildings are glass and stainless steel:

interesting stonework

 

Or shiny and new:

Office windows

 

Wholesale clothing, 2nd Floor:

wholesale

 

Here’s a site for sore eyes:

site for sore eyes

 

High above the modern shop fronts, there are still signs of the old, um, signs:

Macys old signs

 

Urban Outfitters have gone for a minimal, loft style. I love this:

bare pipes

 

Subject to inspection:

bit of a dump

 

There’s still space available:

space available