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. 😀

Publishing my series

Green Lane sign

For a while now I’ve had my eye on a this empty space on the geocaching map and planning to place a geocache series there. Last week I had a free day and a choice. Either go caching or set out some more caches of my own. Altruism won the day and so, equipped with a bag of various containers, I was soon out in the fields. I had reconnoitred the route previously and had some hidey holes in mind. Skye and I had a nice walk and once the containers had been hidden it was back to base for tea and medals, and the time-consuming but important admin.

After a small hiccup, the caches were published yesterday evening and several of the local FTF hounds were soon out – congratulations to The Bongtwashes on FTF-ing them all! 🙂

If you’re interested, there is a list of my caches here.

As an aside, it’s amazing what you see whilst out in the countryside. As I was walking around a bend at the edge of a wheat field, a fox jumped out of the trees to our left and pounced on an unsuspecting pheasant hiding in the wheat. Within seconds the fox had picked up the pheasant and dashed back to the safety of the trees. Skye went absolutely bonkers and would have shot after the fox if I hadn’t had her on the lead. All this happened so fast I had no chance to go for my camera. 🙂

 

 

 

Back to Chesham

I’ve been aiming to get back to the Chiltern Hundreds but on the rare days when I’ve been able to go, the weather has conspired against me. It’s not just the rain (I don’t mind getting a bit wet) but more the recurringly-soggy ground making walking along the footpaths an unpleasant undertaking.

So, today the weather stayed fine (or at least fine enough to go geocaching). Me and Skye piled into the Freelander and headed off to the outskirts of Chesham. I had worked out a small loop of CH caches and a few Captain Jack caches. We had a good trip, the only con being a slog up a very steep hill. Phew, I must be so out of condition.

Found 10 with just one DNF. I’m pretty sure I know where the cache is but I’m nowhere near tall enough. I’ll have to come back to that one with suitable equipment to see if I’m correct. 😉

Stowe

After so many months of grotty weather, finally a nice sunny warm day. Off we went to Stowe School to check on little Tarquin. No, not really :). We don’t have a little Tarquin at Stowe (or any other school, posh or otherwise), we just went to Stowe gardens for a walk around. For those not in the know, Stowe has possibly the best landscaped gardens in England and, in The New Inn, the first tourist hotel.

Stowe School

We had a really enjoyable time and I even managed to get a couple of photographs with hardly any people in them.

Palladian Bridge

One drawback of the glorious weather was the large number of people who’d had the same idea as us.  Also, as the only “proper” geocacher in my family, I was somewhat outnumbered when it came to taking advantage of the situation and searching out some of the Stowe cache series. I was however able to look for a couple…

Well what did you expect?

The first one I attempted turned out to be impossible. Approaching the approximate location with my part-time geocaching daughter we soon realised that there were many cachers looking for the same one. What was amusing was that they obviously hadn’t read the cache page properly. The cache is (apparently) hidden in the Ha-Ha and clearly none of the idiots looking up trees or rummaging in the bushes had any idea what a Ha-Ha was. I say “apparently” because there were so many of them milling about that I felt searching for the cache would prove impossible and would probably compromise its location to cachers and muggles alike. We decided on a strategic withdrawal. I’m sure I’ll be able to come back another day when it is quieter.

Anyway, I was determined not to leave Stowe without at least one find, so on our walk back to the car I stopped to retrieve Stowe: Roadside. This being the main route in and out from the car park meant a constant stream of people and dogs, so even bagging this one undetected took some doing. Still, at least I didn’t go home without a smiley.

Oh, and Skye had a lovely time. She even had her own chair in the cafe.

Skye in the cafe

Back to the Chilterns

I had another chip away at the Chiltern Hundreds on Tuesday. I decided I would try to complete the bits of the Chesham Ring which I hadn’t yet done before moving on to the next ring. In case you aren’t familiar with it,  the Chiltern Hundreds series is conveniently divided into 3 – The largest (49 caches) is the Chesham Ring. The other two are the Asheridge Ring (33 caches) and the Chartridge Ring (27 caches). Now, if you are any good at arithmetic you’ll have realised that makes 109 caches rather than the 100. Actually there are 110 because the good doctor has also set a bonus and the extra ones are there in case some are out of action or simply not found. There’s more info on this website.

Anyway, I parked at Chesham Station and set off to CH001 with Skye. As you can probably tell I haven’t been doing the ring in numerical order; actually I started at number 9 some time ago and have been working my way round in an anti-clockwise direction. CH001 was an easy find but I had been anxiously watching the darkening sky and at that point it started raining heavily. Rather than carry on we dashed back to the car and took shelter until the rain eased; we took the opportunity to eat some of our rations. Afterwards we set off again towards a short run of caches (Nos. 47, 45, 44 & 43). That involved walking around an ornamental park lake and Skye got great pleasure from watching the geese jump into the water as she approached them 🙂

After that, it was simply a matter of walking from one end of the park to the other. Finding the caches was not difficult, the main problem was traversing a very slippery grass slope. I was sure that I was going to slide uncontrollably and end up on my arse but my luck held. By now the rain had stopped and I was optimistic about the next part of the trail. We retraced our steps, stopping at No. 49 (yes I know!) before collecting the car and driving to our second parking spot.

With the sun now out (sort of) off we went along a decent metalled footpath. Unfortunately I couldn’t find one cache, I think because of fallen trees etc., and another I couldn’t even look for because, as we approached GZ, so did about a dozen dog-walkers. Turns out this was a convenient place for the locals to take their dogs and they were all taking advantage of the dry spell. Normally I’d have stooged around for a few minutes until the coast was clear but I could see this wasn’t going to work today. Ho hum. Onwards and upwards!

We set off in the opposite direction, away from habitation and into the countryside. Unfortunately the path was a) uphill, b) very muddy and c) underwater. I hoped that conditions would improve with the increase in elevation so we pressed on, finding the next two caches easily. After we found the first cache the path got worse, the Council had started what their sign said were “Footpath Improvements” – they had excavated the path out to a depth of about a foot and then abandoned the site, leaving their plant behind and what amounted to a shallow river. By this point I was carrying Skye over the worst bits in a vain effort to prevent her getting too muddy. Some hope! Then it started raining again (not that it made any difference to the amount of surface water), by now we were struggling to make headway along the path. At the GZ of the last CH cache we had aimed to find, the path was completely submerged and there was no sign of the expected hiding place. I carried Skye a bit further until we reached the junction with Bottom Lane which I had always intended to use as our return route. This path had a totally different character – the surface had been washed away to reveal a gravel bed, it still had water running along it so as we made our way uphill once more it was like walking along the bed of a stream. Thankfully my walking boots actually turned out to be waterproof. Which was nice. En route we picked up the Captain Jack cache I had planned on getting.

After that it was just a question of getting back to where we’d left the car. Overall I was pretty satisfied with the day’s outing, 10 finds and 2 DNFs.

And when we got home, Skye had a much needed bath. 🙂

Staying at Audley End

Last week we spent a few days at Audley End. We didn’t stay in the main house:

Audley End House

We stayed in the gate house – Cambridge Lodge:

Cambridge Lodge

The gate house was lovely. They’d kept it as much in period as possible, although we did have a modern kitchen and bathroom. But no internet. This fact was met with dismay by my family but we created our own WiFi LAN by tethering the iPhones. Skye wasn’t at all bothered by the lack of an internet connection and made herself at home…

Front door Window seat

Audley End House was magnificent, as were the grounds. During WW2, the house was used by the military to train Polish SOE operatives before they were parachuted into occupied Poland. There is still plenty of evidence of this:

IMG_2608 Pill Box 2

and a simple memorial to those who lost their lives.

Polish SOE

During the day, the house was open to the public and was pretty busy. The best bit for us was once the gates were shut and we had the grounds to ourselves to walk, explore or have a picnic on the lawn.

Gates

Mid-morning, it’s getting busy:

Open

6pm and they’ve all gone !

Closed

The grounds had some lovely outbuildings and other interesting places:

Cascade

Boat House

While we were there I did manage a few caches. There was a nearby Harry Potter-based puzzle series, I’d solved all the puzzles before we went but I only had time to find 3 of them. Within about 60 Metres of our house there was a micro which had been DNFd by 6 of the last 7 cachers so I felt duty bound to find it. It turned out to be a really “nasty” ICT but after a couple of attempts I found it. I felt pretty chuffed at that so I think I did enough, considering I was on a family holiday.

Outstanding in the field

On an altogether more pleasant note, today I went geocaching with my older daughter & our “Geo-dog”. We had a really enjoyable walk, out standing in the cornfields in the sunshine. We found some caches (8) and the dog found some new and exciting smells.

Plus we stopped off for a Maccy D on the way home.

And my total now stands at 640.

Mud

Today I took some time off Olympic spectating and went to Hockeridge woods with #2 daughter and Skye. We had already decided Skye needed/deserved a decent walk as she’d been confined to barracks while we all watched the Olympics. Not being one to pass up the chance to do a spot of Geocaching, I reckoned that it would be OK to try to rectify one of my earlier DNFs at the same time.

I parked my sparkly clean Freelander in the usual place and we set off. Found the cache without too much trouble and, as we’d done it so quickly, we decided to try for a couple more nearby. This required a bit of a hike across the woodland. Now, for those who don’t know, the tracks in Hockeridge get very wet, very soggy and very muddy; then since they are mostly covered by the trees, the sun never gets much chance to work its magic so they stay that way. By the time we’d found the caches and sploshed our way back along various fire breaks and tracks, Skye was very much a two-tone dog, sporting a white upper half and a very wet and muddy undercarriage.

On returning to the car we carefully installed her in the back and headed home to give her an essential bath. Of course, having parked in a muddy lane, by the time we got home the Freelander was covered in mud as well, although that will have to wait for another day.