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. 🙂

Advertisements

Something for nothing

I received an email from Waitrose inviting me to take part in their survey. Now I don’t mind helping out from time to time, giving up a couple of minutes to help improve the service a company provides me with, or (more likely) telling them where they need to improve when I’ve been on the receiving end of poor customer service.

As I read their email further I found this:

The full study consists of this initial questionnaire which will last about 45 minutes in total and a diary we would like you to complete over a 7 day diary period.

Hang on! 45 minutes?

The diary will last about 9-10 minutes each time you complete it, and we would like you to fill in the diary a minimum of 3 times

Plus at least 30 – 70 minutes for the diary?

OK, consider this. Waitrose would like to use something like an hour and a half of my time for free. True, they will enter me into a prize draw to win some vouchers but we all know that’s a carrot which is very unlikely to translate into any tangible remuneration. Let’s suppose for a moment that I normally charge my time at £50 per hour, that’d be worth £62 minimum. Now if they had to pay 1,000 people to undertake their survey that would cost them something like £62,000. So they would be getting a lot of time for free, in accountant-speak that would be a saving of £62,000. Pretty neat, huh?

And then I read the bit about privacy again.

Waitrose may wish to match your individual answers against other information they hold about you on their database, and may use the information to improve their products and services and how they tell you about these. 

Provided they nailed down the privacy element then perhaps I might have been more interested if they had offered some real remuneration rather than the fiction of a competition entry. I don’t necessarily mean paying me £60 (!) but they could have offered everyone a £5 voucher or, better still, promised to donate a decent amount to a charity for each completed survey.

Ho hum.

 

 

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. 😀

(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

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!

The Cable Drawer

Today I tackled the remaining drawers, including the dreaded cable drawer. In the end I didn’t manage to throw much of it away apart from a few duplicate chargers, some dodgy looking USB cables and some cables that I’d previously cannibalised for their connectors. On the plus side I did find some lost but useful things and organised everything neatly. Oh, and I did throw lots of non-tech stuff away.

On the whole, a success I think.

Minor works

We’ve acquired a piece of furniture from my Mother-in-law who is moving house shortly and has, consequently,  a surplus of furniture.

Not my Mother in Law

It’s a nice storage unit which my wife decided would be good in our den. I use the term “den” in the loosest possible sense, but I think it suffices as a short description of the room’s various functions in our household.

Too much?

Anyway, the idea was that this “new” piece of furniture would replace a six-drawer storage unit which we have wanted to get rid of for some time. The swap was, on the face of it, a simple ½ hour job. Except that we decided to move the desk to where the storage unit was and put the storage where the desk was. Which meant the power cables to the LAN hardware had to be relocated. Which meant getting the drill out to hang a power point on the wall. And vacuuming up the brick dust… <sigh>. At least moving the printer was a breeze – it has a wireless LAN connection.

After all that, it was time to sort through all the old stuff, deciding what I could chuck out. I dug out some of the old software CDs and binned them (I’ve kept a copy of XP for old times’ sake) but I have yet to tackle the dreaded cable drawer.

Cables

Think I’ll leave that ’till tomorrow.