Dublin Jaunt

Dublin Jaunt

A business trip to Dublin for two full days, with plenty of slack time on the travelling days. Should be plenty of opportunity to finish off the run for February.

I had three days of the four to fill up, but I was anticipating enough time and opportunity to get some finds done, so I was fairly relaxed. On reflection, I don’t think I anticipated quite how many finds I would make.

I flew over on Monday afternoon from Birmingham Airport, but just to make sure I dashed down to my last one of the MK Boundary Walk Red series – Red 15, the one that was missing when I did the walk before Christmas. That get’s the day ticked off, just in case. As it happened though, I arrived at my hotel around 5.30 pm and even after recovering from a serious bout of sat-nav rage I felt like I was good for a few more. So first order of business was to figure out how to deal with the text messages my mobile supplier was sending me advertising unlimited data connectivity for £5 a day in my European country of choice. It’s a good deal when the option is 69.9p / Mb. Next order of business was to lock the rented sat-nav into the glove box of the rental car. Rubbish. When I got back to the airport to return the car the guy at the desk helpfully showed me how to locate the hotel. Couldn’t figure it out on the Monday, never tried using the thing again. Oh ! And Ireland doesn’t have postcodes, although they might do soon, apparently.

I chose to go for a drive around the Airport. Only a couple of kilometers away and heralding the promise of 9 or so nice easy caches to start me off in Ireland.

Of the nine, one wasn’t there, one was a puzzle that had me drive all the way round the airport and then wanted me to drive all the way back again, one was in IKEA car park, one involved a slightly dodgy walk alongside a dark road with no paths. And the others were all traditional drive-by or park and cache jobs. So I found 7 and then retired to my hotel for some food, beverage and sleep. Not a bad first night.

Tuesday was a busy work day so I was wondering what would be the best approach. I was a bit tired too. Also when my meetings ran out on Tuesday afternoon I decided to have an easy night – I noticed I was only about 3km away from the border between Co. Dublin and Co. Meath, so a trip over the border to colour in another entry on the “Caching Map of UK and Ireland” seemed a good choice. There were a couple of easy looking “Sidetracked” caches at stations on the Western Commuter (Docklands Branch) – The stations at Dunboyne and M3 Parkway. Dunboyne was a nice little station with not many people around. M3 Parkway is a terminus station designed mainly as a park & ride, with a huge empty car park. According to one of the Irish guys I was visiting, the downturn has been as bad as the boom time was good. 15% unemployment and no more infrastructure required means not a lot of work going on. I was surprised though by how quiet the roads were, and there was evidence at both stations that the railways would be pretty quiet too. Still, another day on the matrix filled and another county coloured in on the map, and still back to the hotel for food and some work by 6:30, just as darkness was arriving.

Wednesday was a day when my matrix was already done, so no obligation to go out, but when I got back to my hotel at 5pm it occurred that there wasn’t much useful work I could do, plus I would have a couple of hours in the morning, and I wasn’t feeling that tired, so might as well go out. When I first found out I was coming to Ireland I had a sniff around on the caching map and thought going to the Howth Peninsular might be nice, but after Monday night’s fun with contrasting light and dark, which I’m not too comfortable with when roads are involved, I opted for a night of urban caching down in the city centre.

I went down by bus, ‘cos it was cheap, frequent, and avoided the need to find a car park. The bus stop was 200m down the road and the bus journey takes a leisurely 25 minutes to get from Santry to O’Connell Street. I’d done a bit of research both at the hotel and on the bus, so had a bit of a plan. It didn’t involve the two virtual caches called Northside Pub Crawl and Southside Pub Crawl, as these seemed to involve about 25 stops each. In fact, I switched off display of non-cache waypoints on the phone app because there was just a confusing mish-mash of these everywhere, with no discernible pattern or route. Bum to that.

So I started off with a big traditional cache on a side street, which took a little while because the local TV company was filing an episode of something or other in the street when I arrived. I had to remain inconspicuous, so although they were filming up the opposite side and the cache was accessible, there were also loads of people and some very bright lights. Not good. I eventually found a long enough gap to extract the cache and chuck it in my rucksack (to hide what I was doing), then waited five minutes more to put it back again. Nice cache though.

Next up was a webcam and a virtual. The webcam was up a back street and I had read up on how to take a screen shot on the iPhone whilst on the bus, so I could complete the task unaided. The virtual was at the Spire of Dublin, which is apparently the tallest piece of sculpture in existence.

After these two, it went a bit free form. There are loads of traditionals to the south side of the Liffey heading out towards the docks, and around the old Grand Canal. I completed about 15 caches before I got back to Grafton Street, where I made a stop to recharge both myself and the phone. From here I continued through Temple Bar without stopping for a beer, and then proceeded west along the Liffey to a puzzle I’d managed to solve earlier in the day. At this point it was getting late and I was increasingly conscious of the time of the last Number 16 bus back to Santry – 11:30pm from O’Connell Street – so I needed to get a shift on. After stopping on Grafton Street I completed another 8 caches to bring my total to 23 for the night (with 3 DNFs). I thought that was OK, and it was enough to elevate Ireland to my second-highest country, in caching terms, beating the 32 we did in France in 2010 (which took us 2 weeks to finish). And all of this evening’s caches were done without needing to use my torch, that I’d carried over all the way. That wouldn’t have happened at Howth.

It seemed to be a very long walk up to the bus stop on O’Connell Street and when I found the bus the driver told me I’d need the right change, ‘cos his machine couldn’t give any. If I wanted, I was welcome to hand over one of my 20 Euro notes to cover the 2.50 Euro fare, but I thought that was a bit excessive, so in the 5 minutes he told me I had spare, I spent a minute and a half on the pavement looking around and feeling disheartened, and then a couple of minutes asking a nice taxi driver if he could split a 20 into something smaller. Thankfully he both could do it, and was willing to do it without taking a cut. Nice man. So I went back to the bus now armed with the right money and had a long discussion with the driver because I’d misheard him the first time. My target bus stop is just on the boundary between two zones so the fare was different depending on where I planned to get off. What I heard as €2.50 or €2.40 Euro was actually €2.15 Euro.  As it cost me €2.50 to get down there I assumed this is the one I wanted. I proferred the requisite and he said “I can’t give change” Funny, I thought, when I’m giving you the right money. But eventually we realised and I paid €2.40. Night buses are normally more expensive so I was perplexed by the idea that it was cheaper to go home than to get down there, given I was on the same route and got off at the same stop. Never mind. I got there. Maybe I’d actually just paid over the odds on the way down.

When I got into the hotel the bar was still open so long as I didn’t mind sitting in the lobby and having my beer brought to me there. I didn’t mind. When I paid the bill though, it came up as lunch. Well, I know it was 12:30 wen I ordered the beer, but that was 12:30 in the morning. Like I’d really have beer and pringles for lunch on a work day !

In the morning I had plenty of time. Hotel check-out at 12 noon. Flight at 1:45pm. A couple of hours work to do and a need to go caching. Just over the road was a park I had been “saving up” for Thursday morning, anticipating I’d be able to spare and hour or so to attempt the 3 caches there in the park and one on the road home. I found the 3 in the park, including dropping the lid of one of them into the sticks and leaf mould and not being able to find it again. I didn’t find the one by the road. But that gives me a total of 35 for the trip, which is pretty good given that I was working and I only really had evenings and this 1 hour in the morning to do it. Result.

I toyed with the idea of driving around the airport to have a pop at that puzzle again but eventually couldn’t be bothered and just had a leisurely hour in the departure lounge instead.

The flight home was OK. The train home was delayed a bit because of some oiks chucking stuff onto the line just after Coventry. And I was met at the station by Kas and the girls with enough time left in the evening to feel like it wasn’t a total waste of a day. The girls seemed genuinely happy to see me, which was nice. Sometimes I feel like they barely tolerate my presence, so it’s nice to feel wanted.

The caches I found on the trip were :



Another day with a spot of caching required to fill up the matrix, and with Kas having just got back from another long run and Izzy out at a party, time for a bit of wandering around the countryside. Ami decided not to come, which is a shame because I think she’d have enjoyed it.

Today’s target was a little series to the north of Sherington. Five in the mini-series, plus another random drive-by and then the chance for another one to knock off the “366 Days Placed” challenge.

It wasn’t as muddy as I expected up there. Mainly a bridleway, and whilst there were a couple of puddle-filled bits, it was mainly quite firm. Indeed, there was also a walk over the ploughed field to reach a Trig Point which was surprisingly OK. No sinking in up to the knees there.

Aside from that, it was quite an easy afternoon. The “366 Days Placed” filler was a 3 stage multi followed by a 1.3km walk out. I made the mistake of going for an “it would be rude not to” extension to that walk and couldn’t find that one. But apart from that, a decent afternoon.

It was cold though.

The caches I found were :

East Midlands Airport

East Midlands Airport

A couple of weeks ago I was in a discussion on Facebook about filling up the cacher’s Difficulty/Terrain Grid and we got round to a discussion about finding 5/5 entries. Often difficult because a terrain 5 is generally something beyond my less-than-nimble physique. However, there are a number of such caches in the UK which are terrain 5 only because of the qualifying criteria, and where the cache itself is quite easy. Oh yes ! The “Challenge” variety.

My only current 5/5 is Dr Solly’s Chiltern Hundred Bonus, which requires about 25km of walking to collect at least 100 of the 109 traditionals around 3 loops in Chesham. I completed this a while back, so it’s probably time to attempt another 5/5.

So back at the Facebook discussion, a couple of “Challenge” type caches were mentioned as possible “5/5 lite”, by virtue of them requiring a long drawn-out effort rather than any particularly stunning feat of athleticism. More of a marathon than a sprint, you might say. The two suggested were :

of which the first is more hair-raising from my perspective, as you have to complete a line horizontally and vertically through your “Days Found” matrix. On the face of it that sounds like a nightmare, but having done the calculations I actually only need about 3 days for a vertical line and about 7-8 for a horizontal, so I might as well go for it.

Today was the first must-have day for the vertical line. It’s also a current “zero” day, so is required generally for filling the “Days Found” matrix anyway.

Ami decided she’d come with me, and our target was a 10-11km walk around East Midlands Airport, which is only about 10 miles from where my parents live in Measham.

Doing a full breakdown of the day would be quite time consuming, so I won’t bother, but here’s a few highlights :

  • The listed parking at the Aeropark on the North-West corner is NOT open every day. We thought they were late so we drove down the road, did a couple of caches and came back at what ought to be opening time, but no-can-do. Shutski ! So we parked on Diseworth Lane outside the pub.
  • We replaced one of the “Walk on the Winged Side” series (after checking with the owner first because I didn’t want a dodgy non-smiley on my face). Kas bought me up a selection of camo pots from home when she came up.
  • It was cold. Speed over muddy terrain was actually quite good at the start because the mud was frozen. There were a few flurries of snow too.
  • There weren’t anything like as many planes as I thought there’d be. Must be a quiet day for it.
  • When we got near to the airport access road Kas picked us up and drove us back round to the pub where we had parked – we had a nice family lunch there. Two mucky individuals and two clean.
  • Then Kas drove us back to the access road and we continued where we left off.
  • On the homeward leg we missed two caches so we were trying to find a couple of drive-bys to make the numbers up to 30 after the walk, but darkness and hunger got the better of us and we gave up with 29 finds.

All in all a good day out. Ami was a little star and we had a good old walk despite the cold. We didn’t get particularly filthy, which is novel for the last few weeks, and by the time we got home we’d had enough. But that date for the Double-Digit Blockbusters Challenge is well and truly done. I now have a vertical run down all the way to the 3rd week in January, at which point I will have to start thinking about the horizontal run as well.

We picked up a natty new line in eyewear while we were there.

Here’s some photos of our walk around the airport nature trail.

And here are some more of a particularly nice bit of mosaic artwork at the western end of the runway.

The caches we found were :

Donisthorpe Cycle Trails

Donisthorpe Cycle Trails

Blimey, wasn’t the weather nice today. Shame to be stuck inside for most of it working.

Back to the plot, I’m visiting my parents over the half-term week and have a fairly intensive programme to complete if I’m going to keep filling up The Matrix, so I needed to scoot out at some point to go grab a cache or two.

The closest non-smileys to here are over at Donisthorpe, a couple of miles away. Donisthorpe appears to be completely devoid of photos, at least as far as Wikipedia is concerned, but seriously it isn’t quite that bad. This whole area used to be fairly heavily into coal mining within even my living memory. My maternal grandmother’s second husband used to work at Rawdon Colliery, which also needs a Wikipedia entry writing. Much of Conkers Discovery Centre in Moira occupies land that used to be Rawdon Colliery, and the access road to the “Waterside” site at Conkers is along a street called Bath Yard – the former home of the pit bath house. It’s now been upgraded a little bit and is home to one end of the Ashby Canal, and has this natty little marina and bridge. Not many boats yet though, because the canal only goes about a mile and a half and doesn’t connect to any other navigable waterway. It’s also where the Conkers Parkrun starts from, so we know the area quite well. In fact Donisthorpe Woodland Park, and that’s where Conkers Parkrun goes too, innit ? It’s also where the Ashby Canal finishes at the moment. There used to be a bunch of caches in there, some of the first we ever did. Then they disappeared. Then a few more appeared.

And at the risk of getting all nostalgic, like, then came the 1980’s, so coal mining wasn’t in favour any more and most of the collieries closed. They were replaced by the succession of newly prettified woodland parks, lakes and activity centres that are the National Forest. No politics please. Whatever your views on the 1980’s the mines would have closed by now anyway, ‘cos there’d be no coal left. I should know – I spent 4 years at University in the mid-1980’s studying mining.

Let’s just say there’s a lot of immature trees, artificial lakes and suspiciously straight-sided hills round here and leave it at that, huh ?

My target caches for the day, however, were not in Moira. I was headed to the Hicks Lodge: National Forest Cycle Centre. There were potentially three on the radar, one that’s been here a year and a half (but I never got round to it), and a couple of relatively new ones that were, I believe, released on a day that helps me with my “366 Days Placed” challenge attempt. Result. Much of this area is full of the Grizzlies “GANI” series (Grizzlies: As Nature Intended), but I did most of those over a year ago, so that’s ancient history in caching terms. If the Earth had been formed on the day caching started, “over a year ago” would be before the dinosaurs, that would.

I must try to stop rambling and keep to the point.

So I took advantage of the nice warm weather at lunchtime to pop out for a quick walk and a bit of fresh air. Much needed, because I’ve had a dog of a cold for the last week and a half and I haven’t actually been out of the house since Sunday night, when we arrived.

First up was the rather impressively sized Grizzly’s 10K Celebration – a proper old-skool ammo can, although a spangly new one – see thumbnail at the top of this post. It was also good fun walking down there along a rather slippery mountain-bike track. And there was some undergrowth involved. Enough undergrowth that you might actually called it overgrowth, to be honest.

Second up was the rather more modest GANI : 9 – Stoned and Prickled – from the name you can take a good guess at what kind of cache it is. I walked right up to it. Job’s a good ‘un, as they say.

And then finally I banged Grizzly’s Silver Wedding Anniversary into the targeting computer to try to make it three, but sadly in the direction I was walking there was no way into the relevant field. I had a quick read of the description and realised I should have turned the other way at the previous junction, but then also decided I wouldn’t have had the time anyway, so I took a few more photos and mooched my way round the rest of the lake back to the park.

One small but significant highlight of the day – I didn’t have to pay to park because someone gave me their all-day ticket, so I handed down the favour to someone else as I was leaving. The receivers offered me money for my ticket. I told them I didn’t pay for it anyway, so “whatever”, buy yourself a coffee and feel happy ! But thanks for offering to pay for it.

Got a few nice photos too………..And I went back the following day to get Grizzly’s Silver Wedding Anniversary

Only in Olney

Only in Olney

Not a great deal to say about this trip really except that I needed to fill a slot on the Matrix and to the west of Olney are caches set on two different days I need for the “366 Days Placed” list too.

I did a bit of mud plugging around the back of the Secondary School and decided very quickly that I wasn’t going to attempt the 9 part 2-mile long multi just there. Not in that mud. So I did 4 trads there and then moved into the town.

Olney seems to be the home of the impossibly long multi. There’s two in the town. One has 8 stop offs to gather the material and another requires you to gather, wait for it, 28 pieces of information from buildings identified by photos. Doing those two caches could conceivably take a whole day.

So I gathered a few bits then killed of a Trad and an Earthcache in Emberton Country Park, and then a couple of random others before heading back home with a total of 8 finds under the belt. Not a stellar afternoon, but good enough to fill a bit of Matrix.

And I took a few photos…………….

Shocott Shuffle

Shocott Shuffle

Sunday afternoon and some planned cache time, having sorted out schedules with the lady of the household. What to do and where to go ? First, time to fill up a seat in the car, so I dropped a quick line to BingBongLong, who happened to be in our area hoovering up a few of my MKBW Yellow series. Yeah, of course he was up for a few more in the afternoon, especially if someone else was driving there. Must be his turn next.

We decided to head over to a series near the Cardington Airship Hangars and a nearby circuit in a very immature community woodland at Shocott. The weather could best be described as gandiegow, if you’re of the Scottish persuasion.

I have to wonder whether the spelling of the wood is subject to debate, seeing as the cache owners chose to spell all the even-numbered ones with a double “t” and the odd-numbered ones with a single “t”. It would probably be irritating if you were a bit OCD, but my main problem was that the boundary of my pocket query of “1000 caches closest to home that I haven’t done” runs right through the middle of here. So when I first looked at the phone I got the western 5 caches only. I had to run my Bedford PQ for the first time in a few months to get all of them loaded.

So not a bad afternoon overall. A couple of misses on caches that were almost certainly not there anyway. 12 finds, and that took me past 100 this year and 2200 in total.

Ampthill Amble

Ampthill Amble

I had a slot to fill in The Matrix and managed to persuade Ami to come out with me for a bit (well, technically, it was bribery rather than persuasion, but it’s a fine line with an 8 year old). I gave her the choice of either a bit of biking, or a walk round a town, or a few simple drive-bys. she picked the middle one.

So once the bribe had been paid (at Macky D’s) we were off to Ampthill on the promise of a handful of caches to fill up a lazy Saturday afternoon.

We parked in the car park of a well known posh supermarket chain (well, the sign said it was free) and began our walk. It was quite an unremarkable afternoon, but the caches we had a go at were :

But all in all, a decent afternoon I suppose. It was nice to spend an afternoon just with Ami.

Route Canal

Route Canal

I made a quick dash up to Stoke Bruerne on a grey Sunday afternoon in early February for the usual reason – a selection of caches that I haven’t done, and a desire to fill in a slot on The Matrix It was after 2pm already when I arrived, having had a lazy morning and solid brunch. So limited time, and about 8 caches to have a crack at.

The first problem, as ever, was trying to find somewhere to park. The village roads are either double yellow lined or for residents only. I pulled into a pub car park (the pub in this photo) and felt uncomfortable with parking under their CCTV cameras without actually going inside the pub, so I moved on. Eventually I found the car park for the Canal Museum, which was rather empty. I required £2.50 in loose change, which I didn’t have (I was 15p short) but thankfully the museum shop is happy to sell you a ticket too.

I had a target of 8 caches (well, the target changed while I was walking, to be honest) and found 7 of them. The unfound one was the furthest from home and I reached it when the light was starting to get a bit dodgy. I didn’t want to waste the opportunity to do the other three that I had planned to do on the way back and I’d had my fill of night caching yesterday, so I decided not to dwell at that one.

None of the ones I found were particularly strenuous, though the one right next to the museum could have been – I happened to put my hand right on it in the first place I tried. Magic.

The Grand Union Canal is an absolute heaven for caching. There’s loads. Just pick a bit of canal and off you go.