So what do you do at the worst services in the UK ?
You turn your bike round, buy a posh coffee, collect the caches, and move on.
There isn’t much to say except that all the above activities were achieved with a minimum of fuss. The main danger was overlooking by other punters. Both are in prominent locations. The two caches there are called M6 Sandbach Services Southbound and Motorway Mayhem M6 Sandbach Services Northbound , and both are by The Bignall Boppers.
That’s all there is to say, except that they were done on a day trip to Lytham from Milton Keynes, and Sandbach was the worst location of the three.
Hopefully the photo sums it up.
A bank holiday weekend up north, and for us a whole new caching experience, three whole degrees north of our normal haunts. South Shields is quite well endowed on the caching front, so it proved to be a fairly busy weekend.
Saturday involved one complete failure, Coast Cache, which was supposed to be in the nearby Cornthwaite Park in Whitburn. It was obvious where it should have been, but it was equally obvious that it wasn’t there. D’oh !
So on to Sunday morning. Weather conditions were untypical for August, although maybe common for August in South Shields, to whit, it was howling a gale and freezing cold. One jumper each was not enough really. The kids were complaining. We initially tried up on Marsden Leys as there are a whole stack of Earthcaches down there – see below. Too cold with the kids in tow though.
So we adopted Plan B, which involved doing Rattler by brandywine as a drive by (it is quite close to the coast road), and then heading for nearby Cleadon for a couple of interesting looking activities.
Firstly, Cleadon Pond Earthcache by Pie Man. This is an Earthcache. “What’s that ?” I hear you say. It’s one where you have to do some activities and answer some questions that are only available from visiting the site. Then you post a log and Bob’s your proverbial. It’s all about geosciences.
Next came Cleadon’s Nursery by vicarvernon. This is a traditional cache and it proved to be right outside Nonny’s old workplace – the travel agent in Cleadon. Cool. It was a nice easy little find for the girls.
And that was us for the morning. We had other appointments. Mainly, we were dropping the kids off with Dennis and Linda for the afternoon and evening, thereby making a free afternoon and morning to spend as a couple.
Obviously we decided to use it by doing more caches. OK, it was cold-ish and windy, but that was mainly a problem for the kids. We are made of tougher stuff and, in Kev’s case anyway, we are much less likely to get blown away by the wind. We therefore decided to go for some altitude, and a walk from Whitburn up to Cleadon Hill Earthcache by seahorses2_uk looked a good bet. This Earthcache thing seems like a good idea. For this one you have to count some bits of geology and send in a photo.
On the way back to the car we picked up Geocaching 10 Years by Munkeh. A cunning little hide in a hedge. We had some issues with selecting the correct hedge due to having typed the coordinates into the GPS wrongly and following them until it was obvious we were a long way from anything appropriate. Doh ! But once we had the correct coordinates it was a fairly easy one to locate.
So back to the Earthcaches. As mentioned above there are a stack (pardon the pun) of them along Marsden Leys, each requiring you to read a few bits of info off the information board and submit a photo. Marsden Rock Earthcache by Pie Man was the first we tried.
Camel Island by Munkeh came next and then Frenchman’s Bay by jackflet44. All were pretty similar but it is good to do them all in one go anyway. The information signs are good because this is National Trust managed, so they have gone out of their way to cover the proper geology and history associated with each location.
Five Earthcaches in one day must be a bit of a record, I think, especially for us, having not done any before.
Monday morning saw us free once again and with an hour and a half to spare before having to fetch the kids back. More caching, I believe. So we drove up to the top of Marsden Leys to attack Norwegian Blue and INVASION! , both by brandywine. They are close to each other so it didn’t take much time to do, although it is a fairly busy muggle and doggle zone.
We still had a bit of time left and weren’t quite sure what to do so we decided to go looking for Newcastle Ferry TB & GC Hotel by dubnut, which is over the other side of the river north of the ferry terminal. The idea is that you can chuck TBs into this one for travellers to take and move on. It is handily placed for the ferry terminal so should hopefully attract some overseas traffic, particularly of the Scandinavian persuasion, given that it’s where all the ferries go to. The only problem was that it took us somewhat longer than we hoped. The traffic was bad, we parked in a bad place and then had to move, and then on the way back the traffic was still bad. We ended up over half an hour late to get the kids back, not that they really noticed or cared.
Monday lunchtime wanderings through some fields just down the hill from work. This was done from memory of Google Maps and a bit of on-the-fly estimation. To be honest, it worked a dream. My two targets were The “Ides of March” and Let Sleeping Caches Lie!
The first of these was located by pacing out a number of steps from the main path and then rummaging in the most likely looking trees. I found it in the fifth tree I tried. Not bad for pacing it out.
The second was full of logs indicating it might not be there. In fact, the item was actually shown offline when I attempted it. But, what the hell, try it anyway. It was actually the fastest find ever. It was right where it appeared to be on GoogleMaps. I just reached in and there it was. And it was in excellent condition too.
Sadly though, I am now completely out of caches that can be done by walking from work. I must get myself an iPhone and go out in the car more often.
Sunday morning, the sun is out, and we have visitors. Nic and the boys, Grandad Dennis and Nana Linda all at once. We can’t possibly fit all those people into the house so let’s go and wander round the woods looking for tupperware. Linford Wood, in fact. There seem to be a handful of caches up there so it’s got to be worth it.
Right by the car park is MAKING WAVES ? by Norfolk12. This is named for the fact that it’s underneath an enormous telecomms tower, nothing to do with water. It might as well have been at the bottom of the ocean though for all the success we had. Our visitors’ first experience of caching was rummaging around in a bunch of trees and failing to find anything. This needs to improve or they may not catch the bug. After 10 minutes of fruitless rummaging we gave up. The kids won’t last much longer.
As we were walking along looking for item number 1, and taking a few wrong turns into the bargain, we were talking about the chainsaw sculptures in Linford. A few years ago Kas and Kev got quite familiar with these whilst producing a photographic brief for the MK Parks Trust. Since that time (2006) there have been a number of others added. Two of the newer ones provide the backdrop for Betwixt the Hare and Bear by jakits. You can guess for yourselves which Bear and Hare we are talking about, but they are close to each other. Can’t say where though, you’ll just have to go and walk around the woods yourself.
Further around the wood, and a couple of wrong turns later again, is This could be Poplar by jakits. This one involves going a bit “off-piste” but still proved fairly easy to find. This was closely followed by Leap the Ditch by jakits. This, too, required a bit of off-piste and was a bit more scratchy and dangerous than the last one. Not difficult, but a bit uncomfortable.
On the way back to the car Kev decided to have another pop at MAKING WAVES ? and whaddya know ? There it was, obvious as you like, hiding under a pile of bricks. How exactly did we manage to miss that last time ?
So we think the Whickham Moores enjoyed a bit of caching but not too sure. Anyway, we had made sandwiches (with drinks and Pringles) for lunch and so we retired to Campbell Park (down by the canal) for lunch. The kids had a bit of a play and then all too soon came their departure. Grandad Dennis doesn’t like driving home in the dark so off they went.
Which left us away from home but not quite ready to give up. There’s quite a few around Campbell Park so that seemed good enough. A short (but longer than expected) walk along the canal is Grand Union Series Bridge 80a; A Novel Idea! by Norfolk12. It was easy enough to find but we had a few problems with a small canal boating muggle of around 5 years (maybe), who’s parents were allowing him to just wander up and down the canal banks unattended. I would not let my kids do that. Still, the advantage from our point of view was that he was unable to articulate to his parents what we were doing, so we didn’t worry about him too much. It was a nice big cache and we grabbed a couple of trackables to relocate. And then we set off back along the other side of the canal to return to Campbell Park.
We decided to try one more, Grand Union Series – Bridge 81b: Campbell Park by Norfolk12. This is a multi which requires to you read some information off the furniture down by the canal and then do some sums. We think we got it OK but couldn’t find the cache. Kas had a couple of looks, as did Kev, but to be honest it was a busy afternoon and there was an angling muggle sitting right under the canal bridge which more or less sealed our fate. The required GZ was too close to him for comfort.
And that was our lot for one day.
This was a solo lunchtime jaunt by Kev to get a couple of nearby caches. It is only really of interest because it was done without the assistance of a GPS device. So why the title ? Well, it is apparently a tradition with one of my new office colleagues that the Friday after payday someone has to bring in cakes, sweets, or something else generally unhealthy. So as I remember it these two caches were fuelled by doughnuts and coffee.
First was Wavvy’s IMBY! – a previous failure caused by issues with identifying the correct tree. This time I got the correct tree, and as a result the goodies were in hand within seconds. Second was Come on Babe, why don’t we paint the town…… by We do checks and cache, which involves a bunch of anagrams and some general internet based research to establish the coordinates of the cache. It is quite a public location but thankfully it was quiet when I was there. You get the distinct impression of being watched, though.
And being a Friday it was obviously necessary to go out and buy wine. I managed to persuade Kas to let me go look for one wafer-thin cache on the way, that being Cows, Roundabouts and …… caches by Kitey. After 2 previous failures I now knew after the event the previous Wednesday that this was in the location I had visited, but that I had somehow missed it. Anyway, third time lucky. Tree selection issues, again.
So at this point I had solved 6 of the 8 qualifiers of Kitey’s Mission Impossible series and had therefore narrowed the location of Mission Impossible MK5: Finale down to a spot on one of four lines of 20 yards long with about 60 yards between each. Difficult to explain, but there’s some algebra involved. I took a punt that one of those 4 lines was much more likely than the other 3 and it proved to be the correct one, but not on this visit, or on several others. OK, so it was dark. Maybe I’d better go and fetch that wine and go home.
Thursday lunchtime, working at home, no girls in the house and no sign of the courier who is supposedly bringing a new phone that I’m sending back, so what do you do to pass the time ?
Take a guess !
So out with the bike and first of all scoot off westwards in search of WA6509 – New Norcia in Sight ? The owner gave me a strong hint the previous day which I worked out in about 5 mins after returning from the Event Cache the previous night. The site looked feasible on Google Maps and the goodies turned out to be right there. So easy that I found it without using the GPS – just biked straight to GZ and there it was. Lemon Squeeezy.
So back on the bike to try out a theory on Mission Impossible MK7: O Whose Workpad! by Kitey. See the mega series blog entry but suffice to say the theory was correct. Excellent, another coordinate to narrow down the search area for the bonus a bit further.
We didn’t even realise you could claim finds just by going to the pub, but that’s just what an event cache is. What a brilliant idea, although the purists might argue that 3-4 hours for a single find is a bit wasteful. In this case, it was the Bucks/Beds/Herts Border-ing on the Ridiculous #32 Event Cache at Calverton Shoulder of Mutton, organised by XBoxCrew.
Some of the keen guys went for a splash around Calverton to find 7 newly planted caches as well, but given that we had the sprogs with us and it was a bit of a last minute decision, we were happy to eat nachos and meet a few fellow addicts. Particular highlights included a long discussion with the XBoxCrew on the subject of childcare and how to make time for caching, and a couple of very useful information gathering discussions with zensunni and Kitey which have resulted in some subsequent successful outings. The evening was also an informal 10,000th cache celebration for bones1.
In actual fact, it was a good night out and the location is excellent both for entertaining the kids and for stuffing your face with quality nosh.
We were away from the holiday house by 9:20, having suitably disposed of anything edible that remained in the fridge. We had a fairly long way to go and, of course, this time we didn’t have the luxury of a night in a hotel midway, so we were committed to getting all the way to Calais by early evening and then all the way home.
Thankfully the roads weren’t too bad and after a couple of hours we found ourselves all the way over at Caen, where we stopped for some lunch at some motorway services.
We then continued on over the rather impressive Pont de Normandie. We found a bit more traffic around here, but it was mid-afternoon on a Saturday in August, and there were quite a lot of North Europeans and Brits attempting to get out of France.
We needed another stop to change drivers, stretch our legs and rotate our bicycles, so we chose the fairly uninspiring services at Bosc-Mesnil just north of Rouen. Having stayed in Rouen on the way down we were fairly familiar with the amount of time it was likely to take us to get up to the Channel Tunnel so we didn’t hang around for long. Just long enough for the kids to stop climbing the walls and for us to have a bit of a rest from being cooped up in the car.
From there we managed to get to Calais and through the tunnel without any fuss at all. We continued on to Maidstone Services where we stopped for a motorway dinner before finishing off the journey in the gathering darkness.
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We had another fairly slow morning before deciding to scoot over to Rothéneuf to look at the famous rock sculptures. These rather weird items were carved into the rocks above the sea by a poor guy who suffered a stroke at the age of 30 which left him paralysed. He retreated to these cliffs to spend most of the rest of his life carving out sculptures.
Some of them were a little strange, to say the least.
The sculptures are a little way out of the town, so we drove back there for lunch, which consisted of a small cafe serving crepes. These turned out to be pretty good.
While we were there we had to find somewhere to buy stamps so that Ami could post her postcard back to school.
And that was more or less it for the “being out” – we drove back to the house and began the long, painful process of trying to get everything packed whilst keeping the kids occupied.
They were occupied for some portion of the time by going into the swimming pool again.
Kev was occupied for some time by trying to wrestle the roofbox down the tight staircase and onto the top of the car again.
When all this was finished we had the traditional last day “fridge clearance” for tea, finished off whatever alcohol was left, and headed for an early night.
The following day was going to involve a lot of driving.
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We spent most of the morning in the swimming pool, as is traditional for Ami. And then we had a pretty slow lunch and got cleaned up.
In the afternoon we drove over to St Malo to see what we could find. Granny and Grandad went for a walk around the walls without us for a while, so we took the opportunity to take a walk our along a very long sea wall to find the cache called Saint-Malo – Le môle des Noires. It required a little bit of thought as to where it could be placed and it took us out to a location we might otherwise wouldn’t have gone.
After this Kev, Kas, Ami, Izzy went down onto the beach in the town centre for some ice cream, some paddling and some sandcastles, but generally none of us had much enthusiasm for it.
By now it was more “late” afternoon than it was “mid” so we decided to go over towards Saint Servan to find somewhere for dinner, having suitably met up with Granny and Grandad again.
Saint Servan turned out to be a bit of a nightmare to park in, but when we did park up we found ourselves in a fairly nice looking spot with some excellent views. We also noticed a tempting looking geocache nearby called Saint Servan – Parc des Corbières, which, if we found it, would be our 100th total find. That was too good an offer to resist. It involved a bit of a hike over a small hill and along a wooded pathway before reaching an overlook onto a fairly secluded beach.
When we got back to Saint Servan we then tried, but failed, to find a cafe that was open for food (at 6pm). We were quite surprised to find that none of the cafes at this quayside in a fairly touristy (judging by the lack of parking) location was actually serving food yet.
We didn’t want to wait ages so for some reason we decided we’d jump into the car and drive over to Dinan instead. Well I guess it’s not that far, to be honest.
When we got there we ate at a place called Cafe Noir, and it turned out to be really good.
On the way home we got slightly lost.
We got the girls into bed at about 9pm and then popped out onto the lawn for a while for a bit of stargazing.
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