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.

 

 

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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.

Getting all steamed up

Today we were going up towards Leicester in Bob’s Range Rover to do some greenlaning and caching.

Unfortunately at about junction 15 on the M1 we were becalmed in a huge stationary queue (due to the motorway being closed at J16). We were just sitting there, waiting for some movement in the traffic and chatting about caching when Woomph! Huge clouds of steam billowed out from under the Range Rover’s bonnet. When it had died down we investigated. Here’s what had happened:

radiator

The radiator filler plug had sheared off and blown out, taking the coolant with it. By the time the recovery chap had rescued us and the AA had effected a repair it was too late to continue our trip so we headed for home.

We did manage 4 caches on the way but it wasn’t as many as we had planned.

Oh well, there’s always another day.

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! 🙂

Is it an Evoque Plus ?

The other day, I parked my Freelander nose-to-nose with an Evoque. At least that’s what I thought it was.

On walking back to my car, I noticed that the “Evoque” wasn’t. What it was, was a Discovery Sport.

Looking at it properly, which I didn’t do when I was walking away from it, it seems to share design cues with the Evoque and the Range Rover Sport. It doesn’t have the boxy side view of the Freelander it replaces – which is a shame as far as I’m concerned as I like the square shape of my car (and that of the “proper” Discovery 4).

So I’m wondering who would buy it? Someone who wants an Evoque with more “rear” perhaps? It’s a bit like the choice facing an iPhone purchaser, i.e., buy the iPhone 6 or the 6+ ? In other words, you’d buy the “6+” if you needed an iPhone 6 that was, um, bigger.

Probably a poor analogy. Stop rambling, Wizzard Prang!

A boy’s day out

In which we do some green laning, move a tree, rescue a horse and FTF a geocache.

Plain lane

At silly o’clock, Bob picked me up in his Range Rover Classic and we set off for the byways of Wiltshire. I don’t normally do early mornings but we had to be at the RV just north of Devizes by about 08.45 and it would take us a couple of hours to get there. As well as us, there was our geocaching mate Jeff in his Discovery 3, plus four non-geocachers in two more Disco 3’s. The day was officially a geocache-free day, however Jeff managed to get us a “pass” to look for a cache he’d DNFd some time ago – GC36MA9 – Log it. It was on the first byway we were going to drive so while the 2 non-caching Discos drove on, we paused to find the cache. As we drove to catch the others up, we met a fellow cacher, who happened to be standing right next to another cache – GC36M9G – It’s miles!  – so we jumped out of the Land Rovers and found that one as well!

After that, we caught up with the others and the laning began in earnest; we set off in the general direction of Avebury and its famous stone circle. Unfortunately, the winter weather had left several of the byways extremely wet, these had voluntary restrictions on them which we complied with and so we didn’t drive them. This meant a bit of “recalculating” by our navigator but he soon had us back on our planned route.

Later, we were driving along a rutted lane which followed the hedge line of a field, when we came upon a fallen tree completely blocking the lane. We could have driven “off-piste” around it but we stopped instead. Jeff made short work of the branches with his trusty bow saw, until the tree was sufficiently manageable for us all to lift the tree and move it off the track and into the hedge. At that point, Jeff managed to get his Disco stuck in the rut and it took a gentle pull from one of the other Discos to help him get going again. At that point we all decided to back up and leave the lane for another, drier, day.

After a while, we agreed that it was time to find a suitable lunch stop and we parked up in a secluded lane which ran next to a field. This field contained several horses and a couple of donkeys. We stood around munching our sandwiches and chatting to the friendly horses who came up to the fence (presumably hoping to snaffle our lunch). I noticed that one of the horses had got a back leg caught in the strap of his overcoat making him a three-legged horse . He was hopping about trying to free himself. Along with Nick (one of the Disco drivers) I hopped over the gate and the two us approached the horse. He wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry so we soon caught him. With Nick holding his head, I, being careful to keep away from his legs (as I didn’t fancy being kicked), reached under said three-legged horse and pulled his foot clear of the strap. As soon as he was back on four hoofs he scampered off across the field. Not a word of thanks. Typical horse!

Anyway, after we’d finished our lunch we continued on our route, navigating our way in a southerly direction towards the byways which crisscross the eastern side of the Salisbury Plain Training Area (SPTA). The army are using most of the SPTA for a major exercise but the eastern side was (fortunately) open to civilian traffic over the weekend. Finally, skirting Tidworth, we reached the end of our planned route.

End of the route

cleaning the Rangie
Just enough cleaning to keep it road-legal.

Looking at the map, we found that we were very close to a cache (GC401F7 – Devil’s Ditch #3), so, freed from the no-caching constraint, we set of to find it. On the face of it this was an easy one, although we still made a meal of it, eventually finding it in a place we’d allegedly searched thoroughly a few minutes earlier. Duh! After that, we drove a short way up the byway opposite and made another quick (and easy) find. Back on the blacktop, we stopped once more for what we thought would be our last cache of the day, then we set off for home.

As we drove homewards along the M3, we discussed some new local caches which had been published that morning while we were en route to our RV. I called them up on my iPhone and discovered that one of them had not had a find logged. Could it be that nobody had FTFd it all day? I input the cache’s coordinates into Bob’s satnav and we continued on our way with a slightly amended plan. When we got closer, I checked again – still no log on the website!

So, at about 19.05 we arrived near to GC5NXZT – A cache with a view too. It seemed only a minute or so before I spotted the container. We opened it and… a clean log. FTF! Incidentally, that was my first FTF for a whole year – partly due to my unwillingness to compete with the local FTF hounds – so it was a super result. Bob and I were pretty pleased with that; we jumped back into the Range Rover and drove to the other new cache (which had already been FTFd) and found that as well. Well we had to pass it on our way home anyway.

After that it was back home for tea and medals. For a non-caching day it had turned out to be pretty successful: 7 caches found and one of them a FTF. Excellent!

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!

 

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. 😀

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. 😉