Caching in Suffolk

I haven’t posted about my caching adventures recently. Apols, chaps! Been busy, etc.. Time to rectify the deficit then. We recently spent a few days R & R in Suffolk, where I hoped to bag a few caches even though this was a family break (which normally means geocaching is frowned upon by everyone except me).

Nevertheless, I had loaded the results of some PQs onto my Garmin and I knew that there was a series of caches starting near to the house we had rented for the duration. Anyway, the first morning, I had some time to kill whilst waiting for the rest of the tribe to surface for breakfast, so I was wandering about in the rear garden with Skye. I just happened to have my Garmin with me…

Nearest cache: 17 metres! Wow! That worked out to just past the end of the garden. I had already noticed that there was a footpath running next to the house…

Gate post and start of footpath

You can see the start of the trail to the left of the pillar. Luckily I didn’t have to walk back to there. The garden fence separating us from the footpath could best be described as nominal, so Skye & I simply ducked through a gap in the shrubbery and set off along the path. Of course it didn’t take long to reach GZ – which turned out to be a few metres beyond the end of the garden – and the cache (Country walk 1 (wireman sam)) was easily spotted.

‘That was quick’, I thought, and Skye thought so too, so we decided to pick up the next in the series (Country Walk 2 (pandora’s box)). A short walk ensued and then I was a bit stumped. The arrow suggested it was off the path and the hint told me it wasn’t a ‘base of tree’ or similar. So then, what? We followed the arrow off piste and found this:

Pandora's box.

Of course, the cache name now made perfect sense! Researching the CO, it seems sarah2kids has a penchant for quirky and inventive cache containers and, by all accounts, puns. A great cache, this!

Oh well, c’mon Skye, time for breakfast!

Later, we visited Snape Maltings. Nothing to do with Hogwarts as it turned out. However we did go for a walk along the river.

Just a view along the riverside boardwalk at Snape

At one point, we passed a chap who was just standing near the path and doing something on his phone. He looked a bit suspicious, a cacher perhaps? So I checked the map and Lo! we were near New and Improved Iken Icon. Hmm. We carried on with our walk (very pleasant) and on our return I set up the cache on my iPhone (my Garmin was in the car). When we got to where the suspicious character had been earlier, the arrow swung to the right, pointing into a clump of small trees, so I set off for a search. The hint was no help so I adopted the ‘where would I hide it?’ methodology and soon spotted a tell-tale bunch of stick-o-flage. The last entry in the log was several weeks earlier, so either that chap (a) was not a geocacher or (b) didn’t find it!

So that’s it for now. I shall post again! 🙂

My Yearly FTF

Let’s be clear about this, I’m no FTF hound. True, it is fun to get a FTF every now and again but I’m just not that dedicated/focussed/obsessed/mad. According to what I’ve learnt from those who are one (maybe all) of the above, I’d have to remain permanently sober, sleep in a chair with my caching trousers and boots on at all times and… You get the idea. (to my FTF crazy friends: I’m only joking. About the sober bit. Honest.).

Let’s apply some perspective: my last FTF was on 22 March 2016. Yes, that is more than a year ago.

Now, I’m always interested in drsolly’s puzzle caches as they often have an IT element which of course appeals to my inner nerd. Yesterday the good doctor published a new cache – n/\m. At the time I couldn’t make any headway solving it but this morning I was taking Skye for a walk when a solution popped into my brain. I had to wait until I got home to crack open my Mac before I could try it out, with… Success! Cue one short, restrained, happy dance. Nobody saw that? Good. Moving on…

Then it was a question of waiting until I could find a suitable window to go look for it, all the while being everso slightly worried that someone else might solve it…

So, it wasn’t until this afternoon that I was able to whizz out in the Freelander, collect Bob (who has considerably more FTFs than me^) and drive over to the location. Once at GZ the cache itself was an easy find. Even better, we were rewarded with a clean logbook. Excellent!

On our way back home, we stopped at another drsolly cache we’d both solved when it was published about 10 days ago. We still managed to be Second To Find on that one!

 

^ 700, as I write this.

 

Hatley Heart Attack

Last weekend we had planned to take the Freelander greenlaning. Then this message came up:

error message - terrain response system fault

That meant the 4 wheel drive system was U/S. Greenlaning was off!

So instead, Bob and I went geocaching in his car. We decided to go for some numbers and chose the Hatley Heart Attack series. This comprises 533 caches (!) but Bob had worked out a small loop we could reasonably achieve in a few hours.

We parked in the village of Sutton and started with a simple offset multi, GC5ZZKX. After that one, the rest were simple trads. Some were easier to find than others:

A simple base of post

There were a couple of caches mixed in amongst the HHA ones which were quite interesting so we incorporated these in our route. The container for  GC6MC7F was this Matryoshka.

Russian nesting dolls

The other one (GC6N4JJ) took a bit of finding because to begin with we found ourselves looking in the wrong ditch. When we did finally locate the cache it was simply huge! A veritable pirate treasure chest. If you find it you’ll see what I mean.

We also made a small detour to collect a Trig Point – GC4WBZG.

trig point view

After that it was mainly a series of trads, through farmyards and across fields. Luckily the farmers left lovely trails across their land so we didn’t have to trudge across energy sapping ploughed fields. It was more like:

wide track across ploughed fields

If we had any problem at all it was with the wind. No, nothing to do with beans 🙂 , Storm Doris was trying to make a comeback and most of the paths seemed to be on the windward side of any available hedgerows which could otherwise have provided some shelter. Nevertheless we found a secluded wood for our lunch break which sheltered us nicely.

Suitably fortified and refuelled we carried on and eventually arrived back at the car with a respectable bag of caches:

Our route with smileys

On our way back, we picked up 2 more caches as drive-bys and a cheeky village sign just before the A1.

So that was a total of 43 finds and no DNFs. My second best day EVER!

A slightly sad footnote. One of the COs (MarcusMaximi) has posted on the HHA FB group to the effect that, because he no longer works in the area, he will not be able to maintain the series going forward. The series will be archived starting after Mayday 2017, starting at the Biggleswade end. It’s a shame because this was a spectacular undertaking. I was never expecting I’d get them all anyway but I do hope to pick up a few more before they go. There is still time!

 

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.

 

 

Valley of Gold

View - The Golden Valley panorama

As part of this summer’s Geolympix event, the team set some caches in the gorgeous ‘Golden Valley’ on the Ashridge Estate. Landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown, the Golden Valley is a lovely place to walk with magnificent views of Ashridge House.

Well, I missed the Geolympix due to eye ops, and today was the first chance I’ve had to start the huge, hopefully enjoyable, task of seeking out all the geocaches set for the Geolympix. I thought I’d start small with this mini series of 5 caches. Having said that, I started with a cache which had nothing to do with the Geolympix, a cache placed recently by my mate Bob – GC6P5ZD A Fine Pair #652 – Little Gaddesden. The national ‘Fine Pair’ series is all about combining a red telephone box with a red post box (more info on the cache page). That was an easy find so then Skye and I set off the the Golden Valley.

View - back along the valley

Aiming for the first cache, GC6K9ZE – VoG1: The Valley of Green, I arrived at the waypoint to find I hadn’t. What I was expecting wasn’t there, which was a bit puzzling until I realised I was at the second stage of a different cache. I must have selected the wrong WP! Knowing I would eventually need it later, I made a note of the information before plugging the correct WP for VoG1 into my GPSR and off we went again! VoG1 was itself a multi-stage and so first we had to get to its first stage. Once there I spotted an AAND which to be honest, based on the hint, was not what I was expecting. So I duly worked out the coords for the final and off we went again!

Finding the final was easy enough and I then thought, well I have part of the info I need for  VoG5 so I may as well pick up the rest. I had planned to do the caches in numerical order but what the heck! The second stage of VoG5 required me to find a plaque but arriving at the general location, a substantial brick-built bridge, there wasn’t anything which ‘leapt out’ at me. Skye and I spent a while scouting all around the bridge before I finally spotted the plaque. That gave me the info I needed so it was then time to ‘do the arithmetic’ and obtain the final coords.

view of the valley from an old bridge

Off we go again! From the map it was clear that this cache was not in the general direction of the remaining caches. I didn’t have time to do all of them on this trip so I decided to complete VoG5 and return for the others another day. And so it was that I arrived at GZ for GC6KA4R – The Hill of Pain. I have to say that yes, it was a steep hill but no, it wasn’t painful to climb. Maybe because I hadn’t walked the entire route. Whatever, the wet grass did make for a sometimes interesting ascent but, once we were on the flat once more, it was an easy walk to GZ. Now you know that I don’t include spoilers in my caching tales. Following the hint I homed in on the location. Low down in what I can only describe as a very bushy tree, there was the hint item and a convenient dark hollow. Which was empty! Casting my eyes around and about I spotted another likely hiding place and was rewarded with a tupperware box. Yay!

So that was it for today. It’s a great location and I now have to come back to get the other three caches.

 

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.

Time to get back in the (caching) saddle

It’s been a long time since I did any geocaching (because of my eye surgery). So I thought I’d start things off by doing a bit of maintenance on some of my own caches. I figured that it would be a good test, e.g. to see if I could find some of my own caches before hunting for someone else’s!

I knew from a recent log that one of my Green Lane caches needed some TLC, so I started with that one. The container for GC5454Y (a small screw top container) was broken so I replaced that (plus a new log). The second one I wanted to look at (GC54558) was my “mystery” cache in the series, this hadn’t been found since December ’15 so I was a bit concerned. I began by checking the final. Well, I couldn’t find it. After a lengthy search I decided that it really was missing so I replaced the container (etc.). This cache is a sort of multi, except that the values you need to collect in order to calculate the final coords are “hidden” on a couple of AANDs*. If you happen to have copies of these in your possession you can work out the final without visiting the stages. This makes the geocache slightly different to a standard multi. Anyway, I digress.

I made my way to the other two stages and checked that the ANNDs were still there (they were), so job done.

Funny thing was, this AAND cache replaced the original one I set back in 2013. That one had 3 stages, using red, green and blue AANDs. I had to archive it when the green one went missing back in May ’14. Anyway, as I was walking to the final of the current cache, I spotted a footpath signpost poking out from a large bramble thicket – the very post to which I had affixed the green AAND in 2013! I assume someone had found it and propped it upright (sort of) roughly where it used to be. I had a look around the post and – surprise – there was my green AAND! I thought, maybe I can remove it and keep it for reuse elsewhere. Out came my trusty Leatherman and a brief tussle with the rusty nail I had used to fix the AAND in place ensued. I was just thinking, this could be tricky, I need to be careful that it doesn’t ping free unexpectedly and shoot off into the brambles, when… oh bugger. There was no way I would be able to find it now! Ah, well, I had already lost it previously so I’m no worse off.

Anyway, the cache is now repaired, enabled and ready to be found. I think it’s quite a good one (it has quite a few FPs) but if it goes AWOL again I will probably archive it.

*  Aluminium Alpha Numeric Disks, originally an invention of the 2012 Geolympix.

 

So I’m not the master of timing…

In our local geocaching circles, the Geolympix 2016 has been a long time coming and has been something I have been looking forward to. As it turned out, something better has taken priority in the form of the NHS. They gave me a date of Thursday 28th July for my second cataract operation which, for me, was fantastic and not something I would postpone for anything. It’s so good to get my “proper” sight back but it’s a pity that I can’t sensibly attend the Geolympix. The hospital’s do’s & don’ts mean it’s unadvisable to risk damage or infection by going geocaching, plus there’s the issue of regular application of eye drops, etc…

So I’m reluctantly going to be missing out on this Mega Event. Once I’m “allowed out” again I fully intend to mop up all the new geocaches the Geolympix team have placed specifically for the Mega. It will be fantastic to be able to search for caches using the unbeatable “Human Eyeball Mk I” once again!

By the way, there was another special moment this evening:  an excellent overhead pass by the International Space Station which I was able to see with my newly restored vision. Haven’t seen one of those for a long while. Fan-bloody-tastic!

Anyway, in case this is the first you’ve heard, here’s a last minute plug for my dear friends’ Mega Event:

Geolympix banner

If you haven’t heard and fancy going, see these links:

The GC5XXYY cache page and the official GEOLYMPIX 2016 web site

And if you know nothing about the Geolympix or Geocaching, there’s this on the BBC.

Oh, and if you are interested in reading more about the saga of my retinal surgery, etc., you are welcome to visit my eye surgery blog, see the link towards the bottom of the sidebar under “Quite Interesting”.

 

 

FTF !

These days, I normally don’t react to the new cache alerts and one I received today was no exception. This is because our local FTF champions are usually on QRA and are hard to compete against.

However…

This evening Bob contacted me suggesting that a nearby cache was still unfound, so it was that a short while later we were in his car and heading towards Berkhamstead. This was a Bus Stop nano and at 21.30 we had the place to ourselves. After a short search I found the cache, something of a rarity when I’m out with Bob. A clean logbook – Yay!

That followed on nicely from yesterday, when I’d been out with Skye for a country walk. (we are both out of practice and need to build our walking up once again). We combined the walk (We? Who am I kidding, Skye doesn’t know anything about route planning) with a few local caches. 6 found and a nice walk to boot. So I’m hoping this is the start of me getting out caching a lot more this year.