One activity you can do at the lake is sailing, and to reflect that theme the first cache of the evening was This Sporting Life – Sailing (GC2EYAE). Strangely enough this is right next to the sailing/rowing pavilion on the south lake. It wasn’t hard to find, and the area was remarkably quiet – I was expecting it to be muggle central. Maybe the good citizens of Milton Keynes have got better things to do on a Friday night than walk around the lake. Shame for them. It was a lovely evening, with the sun setting down through a mainly clear sky.
Next up was Beyond the Hide (GC2GFT6), which is a bit further round the lake and a bit off-piste. It’s one of those where you have to simultaneously avoid getting your eye poked out by a tree and getting your shoes full of lake water. Always tricky. You can’t look both upwards and downwards at the same time. Well, I can’t, anyway.
Trolls of Caldecotte (GC2GFRN) is pretty much what you would expect from a cache with “Trolls” in the name. It involves a bridge. This was a nice little cache, to be honest. Well prepared and well placed.
So next up was Trainspotting (GC2GFR9). It was a bit of a hike here from the last cache and by now it was starting to get a bit dusky. Not dark, but definitely getting there. I was, however, committed to a certain course of action because at this point I had no torch and I was at the furthest possible point away from where I parked. No advantage in returning the way I came, so I might as well go hunting in the dark, without a torch. It proved to be remarkably easy to find, and it, too, was in pretty good condition.
So, I was now just a short hop from the pub, but there was still a faint glimmer of daylight, so I decided there was time for just one more, wafer-thin cache. OK, I wasn’t quite as far around the lake as shown in this photo, but it was about this stage of the evening and I hadn’t taken my own camera. Another excellent photo courtesy of the Parks Trust and Andrew Coupe.
Cunningly, Caldecotte Sluice (GC2EYAP) was an equally short walk away, just off to the right of the photo. This proved to be the hardest of the evening to find. It just was, OK. It’s a little tin hidden amongst a whole bunch of concealing vegetation.
And then it was proper dark, like. I had to follow the lights on the pub to get home at all. Note to self – get a torch, soon. Still, 5 caches in a little over an hour seemed good. All that was left was to scoot over the road bridge, down the slope, round the road and back to the cache-mobile, followed by a quick drive to Emerson for Singapore noodles and beer, then back home. A satisfying night all round.
What can you do when it’s Thursday afternoon, everyone is out, and you have a minging cold. Go caching, that’s what ! There is no point in mooching around at home feeling sorry for yourself when there’s a whole world full to tupperware to be discovered.
So I planned a quick trip around the Woburn Animal Series in (funnily enough) Woburn. To be more precise, they are to the south of Woburn, spread over about 5 miles round a bunch of fields of the agricultural variety.
I parked in the middle of Woburn village, leaving me a half mile hike before starting, and paid for parking. I then realised that all the time I had spent lovingly loading waypoints onto the Garmin was wasted. Why ? Because I left the flaming thing on the windowsill at home instead of chucking it in the bag. Doh ! Let’s just hope that I can get a 3G signal on the phone all afternoon or it might be a very short afternoon. In the Car Park, the signal was fine, so I decided to give it a go and see how far I could get. As well as the iPhone I was armed with a pocketful of tissues, several hankies, a couple of Tracker bars and a Lucozade Sport (other isotonic sports drinks are available…).
And so to the caching…..
The series proved to be fairly well laid out and the walk is fairly pleasant, but it is just fields, mainly, so don’t go here expecting a great view.
Most of the caches also were pretty easy to find. I missed a couple from the series because they are marked inactive. As it turns out, one is actually there and has been rehoused on the same feature. It has been in an inactive state for several months now, so I am assuming that the owner is not maintaining the series at all.
First up was Woburn Animal Series – 7) Antelope – a fairly easy find in a tree. Second up was Woburn Animal Series – 6) Lion and then Woburn Animal Series – 5) Camel – both of which were in hedges. The hint was off on one of them so I spent ages looking on the wrong side of the gate.
Now time for someone else’s cache. Woburn’s Three Mansions (Beds) was quite tricky to find. I had the coords around 15 feet from where I actually found it. This cache claims to contain some coordinates for a puzzle cache back in Woburn somewhere, but in practice there was nothing in there. I have subsequently gleaned the coordinates from someone else, and lost them, and got them again, and lost them again, so I don’t foresee me collecting the puzzle anytime soon, I am obviously jinxed.
So back to the animals. Woburn Animal Series – 4) Zebra was a nice little one next to a fence and Woburn Animal Series – 3) Monkey was under a rock near a hedge. Woburn Animal Series – 1) Black Bear was under the roots of a tree. It took me a little while to do this one as someone parked up a white van on the road just around the time I arrived and then spent an eternity offloading a couple of dogs before walking off in the direction I was going. He wasn’t going quickly and I was in two minds whether to walk past him on the way to Benjamin’s Cache or not. I chose not as I didn’t want him to catch me while I was looking underneath the huge lump of concrete which is its home.
And with that it was time to turn around and start walking back again. Woburn Animal Series – 15) Ape was an easy little magnetic on a gate by the side of the road.
Woburn Animal Series – 14) Rhino was the first “proper” cache of the series – a reasonable sized clip lock box inside a tree. It was easy to find but a bit more tricky to walk to than some of the others. There is an official footpath across the field there, but it had been harvested and ploughed, so there was nothing you could actually call easy walking. Good job I had the walking boots on.
So on to Woburn Animal Series – 12) Bison, which was in a ditch and under a rock. A number of people have marked this not found recently, and I seem to remember it took me a while, but mainly because there were a lot of rocks for it to be under. I suspect these guys have just missed it.
Woburn Animal Series – 11) Wolf was quick to find but a weird location. It is near the remains of a rusting supermarket trolley. How the hell did that get all the way out here ? Well placed on a bridge and in good condition was Woburn Animal Series – 10) Tiger.
Woburn Animal Series – 9) Elephant is another “proper” cache – a great big ammo can under a pile of logs. Finally on this walk was Woburn Animal Series – 8) Giraffe. This was quite tricky to reach as it was quite high up in a tree.
Whilst walking around I also noticed Maryland Cookie, which required a bit of a hike off course and actually could have been done somewhat earlier in the walk, had I noticed it. No bother. It was one of those cunning little pots hidden around a kissing gate. When I arrived it wasn’t very well hidden, so I buried it a bit deeper.
I had a little time left before needing to go home so I scooted over to the woods beneath Bow Brickhill to try to find a couple more. 16 in one afternoon just isn’t enough, so more are definitely required. Give Peas a Chance is a cheeky little puzzle which looks much harder than it actually is. Anyway, the cache was spot on at the calculated coordinates so I decided to try another a bit further into the woods. Max’s Marvellous Cache was not difficult to find. Much easier than I thought given the heavy tree cover.
And by this time it was getting on towards 5pm and it was getting a little dark, plus I was getting a bit tired after now around 7 miles of walking with a stinking cold. So I gave up and went home. Anyway, the iPhone was pretty much out of juice………..
Hmmm ! How can I describe this afternoon without totally giving away the game on the prime purpose. Ahh bum ! It isn’t giving away much really. The point of the afternoon was to plan the route for one of our own caches – MK Schooldays: 10Km Race, but obviously you can’t cycle that far around Milton Keynes without finding a few caches as well. So off we went, Kev Kas and Ami under their own steam, and Izzy under Kas’s steam as well.
The general idea of the 10km Race is that we were trying to set a course of around 10km ( surprising, huh ? ) that you have to follow in sequence to get to the cache. At each kilometre along the route you have to find an item from which you read some letters or numbers, then you do a few sums and get the coordinates for the next kilometre marker. Is that clear ? If not, read the cache description. It probably won’t help you understand, but at least by the time you get back to reading this blog post I might have finished writing it…..
So the job for the day was to measure out lengths of 1km around a loop starting from Shenley Brook End school, and ending as close to that same point as we could manage. We didn’t do too badly, as it happens. I’m going to skip over most of that though as the cache will give you all that. We did the route a bit out of sequence but then we had planned it using http://www.gmaps-pedometer.com first – a very useful resource for planning routes before you set off, and stuff like that.
We started with kilometre marker 2, which is the closest to home. It’s in Emerson Valley. Quick photo, then off we go. Next was kilometre marker 3 in Shenley Lodge, and then marker 4, also in Shenley Lodge. At number 4 we took advantage of a little stopping off to let the kids have a quick run around while Kev ambled off to bag MK Aeolian #2: Shenley Lodge. It was a quick easy find behind an obvious feature.
So back to the bikes and on to kilometre marker 5 in Knowlhill, and time for a snack break for the kids. This proved handily close to Ware the Weir – Redway Rambles. This one involves pacing around some green space just inside Loughton looking for this and that. I seem to remember there was a bit of debate over “that” but “this” was easy. Anyway, calculated coordinates in hand we proceeded up a bit of a slope and started a bit of searching around. I’m not sure if our GPS was off or whether the cache owner’s were off, but it took us some time to find it. We got there eventually. Correction, Ami got there eventually.
Just time then to cycle round to kilometre markers 6 & 7 before the girls got an attack of the grumps and that was our lot. Kas took the kids home while Kev hacked on for a bit. Kilometer 8 and then over to a previous failure (or, more precisely, a non-event). Dry Stream ? proved to be quite and easy find, but I think it’s fair to say we were rank amateurs last time we came. The iPhone 3GS was undecided as to whether the cache was there or not, and the GPS was taking us round in circles. This time though, it was easier than Jack McEasy ( I must find a new cliche to use, mustn’t I ? ). Anyway, it was where it was supposed to be. The iPhone 4 got it spot on. Magic !
And so on to the end of a bit of an epic journey. An adventure. A quest, no less. In fact, the end of Kitey’s excellent Mission Impossible series. The last one, for some reason, is numbered 5 of 9. No idea why. Anyway, the is a whole blog post dedicated to just this series, so more details there, but I had previously visited where I thought Mission Impossible MK10: Finale ought to be probably 6 times. I had been in and out of bushes and hedges, into a wood and down a drainpipe, but all to no avail. I had worn out all available Brownie Points with Kitey himself by continually emailing him – Is it there ? Is it really there ? I can’t find it. Is it where Google Maps says it should be ? Blah-di-blah, warple, warple. I had kind of resolved that this would be my last ever visit. I had all but given up hope except for one hint from Kitey. I can’t even remember if it was in an email or verbal, but anyway, I had a fresh bit of info to work with. This one proved spot on. It allowed me to focus my search somewhat. Somewhat enough, in fact, to actually find the thing. Success, joy, deep satisfaction,…..,disappointment. It’s a Kitey, so there has to be another stage, doesn’t there. And there was. I’ve been at this one for so long though that I was more than familiar with what tools I needed. Just didn’t know what I would need to do with them. What I needed to do was to cycle another few hundred metres and go hunting in a tree. The final part of this was probably the easiest bit of the whole series.
So we are the 7th team to complete the Mission Impossible series – I have a little laminated card to prove it, and everything. That must be enough excitement for one day. Anyway, Kas will be wondering where I am, and I’ve still got to find kilometre markers 9, 10 and 1, in that order.
Job done !
Sunday afternoon and all three girls seem to have made their minds up to watch telly and generally do very little, so Kev decided to go out hunting tupperware for a couple of hours. I did ask Ami if she wanted to come but the answer was a resounding “huh?”, so alone it was.
After the trip to the “Bordering on the Ridiculous” event we were aware that there are a bunch of caches around a walk of reasonable length around the fields there. What we didn’t realise was that there are a couple of others within a few yards of each other. In fact I parked up on the roadside just north of the pub looking to start a walk from there. So I fired up the iPhone and the Garmin and lo and behold there’s supposedly one within 5 yards. Gorrick’s Spring, Calverton, no less. Finding it on the phone was the easy bit, though. Finding the cache was a nightmare. After a PAF at a later event I now understand that my problem was partly to do with altitude and partly to do with the coords being slightly off. So I didn’t find it.
I also didn’t find Ouse Valley Walk – Pointer, despite 15 minutes of hunting around. Must try a PAF on that one as well. Couldn’t find the little Herbert. Maybe returning during winter, with the corresponding lack of leaf cover, would be a good idea.
And so to the main event. I seriously had no idea how far i would get around this walk, but by now it was getting on 3 pm so time was not my friend. First on the walk (once I found how to start the walk) was Riverside. No Troll. This was a simple little cache under a pile of wood.
Next was Dare You? The name gives more difficulty than the actual cache, which proved quite easy to retrieve.
From here I would have done some more but I made a bit of a boo-boo. I lost sight of the markers for the public footpath and ended up walking most of a mile down the wrong side of a hedge that I couldn’t get through. So I walked all the way back and then walked all the way down the other side of the same hedge. There were lots of sheep. The next cache was very appropriately called Baa Baa Black Sheep. It was quite easy to find.
I was just toying with the idea of what to do next when Kas called to mention the girls were getting restless and she was about to put the tea on to cook. I begged for a half hour reprieve and walked back to the car via Just Northamptonshire #008, which is just up the road to Passenham and stuck behind a tree. That, to, proved to be a fairly easy find.
So not a bad afternoon, all in all.
The initial purpose of this trip was a bicycle borne expedition to measure markers for a half marathon around Milton Keynes. That exercise, however, turned into our MK Schooldays: 10km Race cache, which is around the Shenleys mainly, so this purpose was wasted. However, there’s always the opportunity to look for a few while on the way round.
My proposed half marathon route followed the approximate course of the MK summer half marathon starting at Stantonbury. This puts the Grand Union Canal in Woolstone and Campbell Park at around miles 7 through 9. It also means I was scheduled to pass Grand Union Series – Bridge 85 – Woolstone, which proved to be a nice easy little find. It was exactly where it said on the tin. Unlike Grand Union Series – Bridge 84: Barge Inn, which proved to be a nightmare scenario of biblical proportions starring Charlton Heston and Elizabeth Taylor. OK, maybe that’s a bit excessive but it is one of those heart sinking MK caches that is “shoulder high in ivy covered tree”. I hate ivy covered trees. Every last one of them. And in this case there were plenty of them to hate. I think that was the problem. I couldn’t tell which tree I should hate the most, as it were. Bum !
So I moved on towards Sleeping Logs, which involved a high risk of puncturing the bike tyres but apart from that was an easy find.
Not so, Grand Union Series – Bridge 81b: Campbell Park. This is a previous failure where we had to suspend the search due to a particularly stubborn angling muggle who just refused to go home. Today there were fewer muggles and the location was conveniently my scheduled mile marker #9. However, I had another good old rummage around and got precisely nowhere. No idea. To the extent that I still couldn’t even confirm which side of the bridge it should be.
So I thought that Twisted but not Bitter – Down the Lane should be somewhat easier, and indeed it was. It was very easy, even with the proverbial cow infestation. And the piles of smelly stuff. Mmmmm !
So time for a leisurely ride home, with one final stop off in NewportNobby’s back yard to bag A Little Bit of Nature, and so to home. About 25km of cycling and four finds, so not bad.