2013 Caching Diary

2013 Caching Diary

What ?

2013’s project was going to be to try to fill up my “Days I’ve Been Caching” matrix on the stats page. Or maybe the “Finds by Date Placed” or the “Finds by Month Placed”

This may sound relatively easy, and in Milton Keynes it would be ridiculously easy if you were a beginner. We’ve got about 500 just in the town, so you could just do one a day without ever having to travel anywhere.

For me, however, it’s a bit more tricky. As the calendar year of 2013 started I had about 130 days left to fill on my grid and less than 20 caches that I could drive to in under 20 minutes. The “20 minutes” is a practical constraint because of the number of days to do which are (this year) on a weekday, and hence which have to be done whilst also working. It’s not so bad in the summer when it’s possible to go out in daylight quite late after work, but in the winter, when you really want to be going in daylight, you have to go immediately before work, or at lunchtime. Or, as it turned out, you can use remaining holidays to take the morning off.

Sure, a few weekdays could be safely filled with business trips and with evening events, but that would leave about 70 or 80 I might have struggled with. From that perspective, maybe allowing 2 years would have made more sense than trying to finish in a year.

But “Bum to it !” I had a go anyway. And there’s a whole new world of caches in the “Challenge” category that become eligible if you fill these things up.

My intention was to update this post occasionally as the year progressed, and I managed to do that up until the middle of April, but then having failed on one day in March and with life being generally busy, as it tends to be, I lost a bit of enthusiasm. I’ve completed this year’s round up by changing this post to cover what I did, rather than what I was planning to do. And because I’m keen I’ve retro-engineered the stats pages from the start and end of the year, just because……

There’s a load of one-liners at the bottom of this post describing my progress through the year.

So let’s start with a summary of the “Days Found” matrix – I managed to fill in 132 out of 134 required days. Here’s my chart for just 2013 and my position at the end.

2013 Only FindsEachDay.jpg 2013 End FindsEachDay.jpg

I worked on the matrix of “Days Placed” too. Here’s my results for just 2013, and for the end of 2013.

2013 Only FindsByPlacedDateChallenge.jpg 2013 End FindsByPlacedDateChallenge.jpg

And I guess it would be quite nice also to fill up a few more bingo lines for the matrix of caches placed by month since geocaching started, although this is quite hard around here as there aren’t many old ones. I could gradually work my way up the board though. In 2013 I filled only 4 of these, although I didn’t ever specifically go out looking for the older ones. Maybe that can be a target for 2014.

2013 Only JasmerChallenge.jpg 2013 End JasmerChallenge.jpg

Oh ! Go on then ! While we’re at it I might as well track my Difficulty/Terrain Matrix here too. I filled in 8 new spots, although, again, there was no point where I deliberately tried to do this. Another potential target for 2014. It looks like I need to find myself some easy caches with high terrain rating.

2013 Only DifficultyMatrix.jpg 2013 End DifficultyMatrix.jpg

While we’re at it, let’s have a look at my map of the UK and Ireland. On this map I filled up several new counties in 2013 (Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset, South Yorkshire,  Gwynedd (which no longer exists) and also Dublin and Co. Meath over the Irish Sea).

2013 Only UKIrelandCountyMap.jpg 2013 End UKIrelandCountyMap.jpg

And finally, before we get into the gory detail, here’s a bit of Michael Fish, pointing at where I’ve actually been caching during the year.

2013 Only Heat Map.jpg 2013 End Heat Map.jpg

Judging by this one, you’d be hard pushed to say I’d travelled around a lot during 2013.

So he’s a day-by-day diary of days I went caching, and places I went.

Jantastic January (61 finds)

  • Jan 3rd saw an afternoon dash around Buckingham to pick up some of the Buckingham Crossing series and some of the Stowe Safari, such as they were this early in the year (see Stowe Maintenance) – 11 finds
  • The 7th and 8th saw a single find each in Milton Keynes – 2 finds
  • On Jan 10th there was the first Beds Bucks Herts event of the year, and a handful of other caches in St Albans, where it was held. I grabbed a couple of caches before the event and then had an extremely cold walk around St Albans with BingBongLong and EmmaW – 9 finds
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  • Jan 11th saw a quick dash up to Derby for a business trip, which gave me plenty of “freebies” to go at without wasting precious “close to home” caches – 2 finds
  • A quick dash up to Bradville for Train Spotting! sorted out Jan 12th – 1 find
  • Jan 13th saw a return to Buckingham with BingBongLong for a few more of the Stowe Safari and Buckingham Crossing series – 10 finds
  • On Jan 14th I made a business trip up to Blackpool and completed a few caches in darkness in the evening, mainly from the FHS3 series – 10 finds
  • That trip accounted for the 16th as well, with a quick stop off at keele TB HOTEL north on the way home – 1 find
  • The 17th and 19th were sorted with a couple of single caches in Milton Keynes. It was snowy. Getting around was tricky – 2 finds
  • For some reason, despite the snow, we went up to see my folks over the weekend, so Jan 20th was sorted with a quickie in Donisthorpe but I remember it took longer than it should have because I nearly couldn’t get my car back out of the car park – 1 find
  • On the 23rd and 24th I did a couple more onesies in Milton Keynes including Darren Barton’s Indigo Trade and then on the 25th we did a Friday night trip down to Aylesbury without Ami, who was away somewhere on a Brownie Camp – 4 finds
  • The 27th saw a bunch of random caches in Sherington then the month finished with Holly’s Second (Series) on the 29th and A5 Motel on the 30th. Kas had to kick me to make me go out on the 30th. It was dark and I could barely raise the necessary enthusiasm – 8 finds

Febtabulous February (134 finds)

Marching Onwards (127 finds)

March looked tricky, with a run of 8 days out of 9 to fill between the 19th and 27th – Not many weekend days in there and no business trips planned. It looked difficult, and so it proved to be, with a matrix day failure on the 26th.

  • March 1st – A Friday evening dash up to Great Linford to claim Fraggle Rocks On (a previous failure) and to do my first ever Ye Ole Survey Monuments by visiting a rivet stuck in the ground – 2 finds
  • March 2nd – A Saturday afternoon dash to College Wood to claim A Picture Paints A Thousand Locations (Bucks) – 1 find
  • March 3rd – A long afternoon of mixed fortunes with BingBongLong over at FD’s Trail near Billing Aquadrome, which resulted in 17 finds. One of these filled a gap on my D/T grid and one was a “Resuscitator Challenge”, which required me to find an active cache that had not otherwise been found for a whole year. I met that criterion the previous day – 18 finds
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  • March 4th – a quick dash out to Nash for Bucks Series A-Z….N – 1 find
  • March 7th – I resuscitated A Bridge Two Far – About an 8 mile drive in each direction for a single cache, in wet, foggy and darkening conditions, but worth it for the chance to qualify for another resuscitation challenge – 1 find
  • March 8th – The closest I’ve been to failure so far after a day of domestic near disaster. Just as I was being kicked out of the house by Kas and not at all looking forward to driving the 12 or so mile round trip to my closest cache, I saw a Facebook post for Keyne-O Series – 1 Howe Park Wood, a mere half mile from home. Sorted. Missed FTF by 20 minutes – I would have got it if I hadn’t spent half the day underneath various bits of the kitchen trying to repair the leaky dishwasher hose – 1 find
  • On the 12th there was a BBH event down near Tring with a token 4-5 others on the way down for good measure – 5 finds
  • March 16th – I relaxed after a week off (apart from an event on Tuesday) and itching to do a few more, so off up to Sawtry and Alconbury for a stint with Wavvy – it turned into my most cachiferous day ever. That certainly fills a slot (see Sawtry Splurge – 75 finds
  • March 19th – A couple in Preston on the way home from a business trip – Preston Drive By #13 – Fulwood Free and OLSE 8th Fulwood Beaver Scouts “Barrels of Fun” – 2 finds
  • March 20th – A quick lunchtime dash out for BUCKS RESUSCITATOR – CHALLENGE CACHE after a second revival activity a couple of weeks back – 1 find
  • March 21st – Completed Wavvy’s MK – Alpha to Omega – Pi to get Wavvy to the top of my “Found by Hider” board – 1 find
  • March 22nd – Completed Post Haste – Bancroft – the site of a couple of previous failures. Sure it wasn’t there the last couple of times – 1 find
  • March 24th – It snowed again. Blimey was it cold ! I went up to Towcester with Ami (see Towcester) – 5 finds
  • March 25th – Completed MKBW VIOLET 8 [a ] Weir am I ? – A rather short-lived cache – One of those that just seems to have caused irritation with a couple of cachers for no particular reason – 1 find
  • March 26th – Disaster. Tried two caches whilst Ami was at athletics in Stantonbury. Had to get her home before bedtime and just couldn’t be bothered to drive all the way across Milton Keynes to find another one. It was going to fail some time, I suppose.
  • March 27th – A dash up to Roade in the evening to attend Northants Natters #3 – Taking the opportunity to drive through Ashton to collect the Eggy series on the way – 7 finds
  • March 29th – Driving up to the North East for a couple of days with some caching stops on the way past – 2 finds
  • March 30th – A walk around Newcastle with the full family to get a nice breakfast, some fresh air and a few of caches (see Newcastle) – 3 finds

April Foolery (54 finds)

April was relatively lightweight – only 8 days to fill on the grid. I went out caching on 14 of those 8 days.

  • April 1st – We were still in the North East and the girls were stopping with Grandparents overnight so Kas and I grabbed a few South Shields before going to fetch the kids back – 5 finds
  • April 3rd – Close to the Bone saw me right – a lunchtime dash – 1 find
  • April 5th – Welcome to Appleby Magna completed on the way up to folks’ house for a few days – 1 find
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  • April 8th – Five around Ashby de la Zouch completed over a driving lunch break – 5 finds
  • April 9th – A business trip to Sheffield completed – Another day ticked off, and another county coloured in – 3 finds
  • April 10th saw another dash around Ashby and the 12th saw another BBH event at a pub in Milton Keynes – 7 finds
  • April 14th – Kas had a run in Flitwick so the girls and me grabbed a few there – 5 finds
  • April 16th – I was back in Blackpool. The weather had suddenly turned rather nice and I had an excellent evening caching around Fleetwood (see Fleetwood Flurry) – 15 finds
  • April 17th – I had to return to Fleetwood to have another pop at a YOSM that I couldn’t find in failing light the previous evening. I was driving home so I made a (cough) quick diversion – 1 find
  • On the 18th and 19th I did a couple of quick grabs to the north of MK to keep the clock ticking over – 3 finds
  • April 23rd – I scooted out to Heath and Reach at lunchtime, along some seriously dodgy roads – 5 finds
  • April 26th – A Friday night and I dashed over to Wing with Izzy for a handful of caches on a lovely night. It’s nice caching with Izzy – we have to go in little bursts and she gets very excited – 3 finds

May the Cache be With You (155 finds)

  • May 1st – I did a couple of new caches a couple of miles from home on a very warm lunchtime – 2 finds
  • May 2nd – I dashed around the north of Milton Keynes for 4 quick finds while Ami was playing at Aerial Extreme with her Brownie pack (see Aerial Extreme) – 4 finds
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  • May 4th was, obviously, “Star Wars” Day, but also World Wide Flash Mob day, so the girls and I shot off down to Aylesbury in the afternoon to attend a flash mob (see World Wide Flash Mob X) – 16 finds
  • I then had a week off caching but made up for it with a monstrous splurge in NorthBedsCambshire (don’t know which, it’s all a bit samey up there – loads of caches, no idea which county I’m in) – Ami came with me (see The Giddings) – 44 finds
  • On May 13th I was up in Blackpool again and grabbed a relatively measly collection on the seafront near the Tower – I remember I couldn’t really be bothered that night but a night away from home is a night away from home – 5 finds
  • By the 17th I was back home and drove round to Deanshanger in the evening – 2 finds
  • On the 18th I went to Cranfield for a Saturday afternoon – 9 finds
  • On a beautiful Sunday Sunday afternoon on the 19th I went up to Towcester with Izzy for another handful – 11 finds
  • The 20th had a BBH event near Aylesbury so I popped down for a bit of chat – 8 finds
  • On the 23rd I grabbed a few MKBW Orange caches near Woburn Sands – 4 finds
  • On the 26th I went up to Emberton with Izzy while Ami stopped at home with Kas – 4 finds
  • By this time it was spring half-term so on the Sunday evening (the 26th) we drove up to Measham, and on the 27th I completed the Austrey Amble series while my folks took the kids to Tamworth (see Austrey Amble) – 31 finds
  • On the 28th and 29th I was in Blackpool again with 3 finds on each day, and a quick YOSM in Derbyshire on the way home – 7 finds
  • May 30th I took the kids down to London for the day so Kas could get a bit of work done. We grabbed a few caches in the West End – 7 finds
  • May 31st – To finish off the month I grabbed the final Stowe Safari cache whilst on a maintenance day over at Stowe – 1 find

Flaming June (183 finds)

June proved to be a productive month from the numbers perspective but a bit annoying in that I simply forgot about one of the matrix days. I thought I had to do a 3 day run on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but on Wednesday morning I realised it was supposed to have been Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so I missed the Monday. Bum !

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  • June began with a couple of quick onesies in Milton Keynes on the 1st and the 4th and a couple of quick ones on a Saturday lunchtime dash to Buckingham on the 8th to keep the numbers rolling, followed by a lunchtime bike ride along the park outside our house for a single find on the 11th. So far, so slow – 5 finds
  • But then it was June 15th, and a long planned day out with Alibags and Wavvy over to NorthBedCambshire which resulted in an unprecedented number of finds in 10 hours caching (see Ton Up) – 102 finds
  • Disaster struck on June 17th, when I simply forgot to go out.
  • On the 18th I dashed up to the north of MK for a couple of finds while Ami was at athletics – 2 finds
  • On the 19th there was a BBH event down in Little Gaddesdon – I decided to take the afternoon off an ended up with a lot of finds (see Dunstable Dash) – 40 finds
  • On the 22nd I negotiated a couple of hours to go and walk the bottom end of Wavvy’s MK Boundary Walk: Grey stretch from Cranfield (see MKBW Grey – The Bottom) – 15 finds
  • There were simple ones in MK on the 24th, 28th and 29th punctuated by a further trip to Blackpool on the 27th – 19 finds

Jolly July (137 finds)

  • July started slowly with only 3 finds in the first couple of weeks – onesies in Milton Keynes on the 1st, 7th and 8th – 3 finds
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  • July 13th – I went over to Haynes Church End and Houghton Conquest with BingBongLong on a very hot afternoon to grab a new series – 14 finds
  • July 20th – I went caching with BingBongLong again, and with Ami, over to the Little Staughton Sortie series – This trip included Ami’s 500th find (see Little Staughton Sortie) – 34 finds
  • On the 24th and 26th I did onesies in Milton Keynes to keep the calendar ticking over – 2 finds
  • On the 27th I had a “monster” day out with Wavvy doing the Kimbolton Krunch and Shelton Scooby-Doo series, which resulted in a lot of finds (see Kimbolton & Shelton) – 81 finds
  • I finished the month off with a couple of quickies up north Milton Keynes on the 30th and a BBH event on the 31st – 3 finds

August Frenzy – 31 Days of Souvenirs (114 finds)

At some point in June/July a new target raised its head when Groundspeak published their intention to give a souvenir image for every day of caching in August – a 31 day streak. For some pros 31 days isn’t a long streak, but for me it is very long. I’ve had neither the time, the inclination nor the available caches to keep going for that long. So how did I think I could possibly achieve this one then ?

  • On the 1st and 2nd I did a few simple Milton Keynes caches – there had been just enough new ones turning up to keep me happy – 3 finds
  • August 3rd was the day of the UK Mega Event for 2013 up near Warwick – 1 find
  • August 4th was a single find in Little Horwood (with Ami) – 1 find
  • The 5th was a single drive-by find in Newport Pagnell which was not quite on the way home from running club, having failed with one at the coach station that I attempted by running over before running club – 1 find
  • The 6th was a Milton Keynes onesie over at Stantonbury – 1 find
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  • The 7th was a lunchtime dash to Winslow for a couple – 2 finds
  • The 8th was a run-by one at the Coach Station before running club that I failed to find on the 5th – it had been replaced – 1 find
  • On the 9th I found an excuse to work in the office instead of at home so I could pop out for a new cache in Woburn Sands at lunchtime – 1 find
  • On the 10th we did Parkrun in Bedford in the morning – Kas ran there from home – which gave me the opportunity to do a “Sidetracked” cache at Bedford Station on the way home – a matrix filler, a souvenir, and also the “somethingty-somethingth” anniversary of the first ever Sidetracked cache – 1 find
  • The 11th was a Sunday and the start of our quick holiday to Dorset – we did a single cache on the M27 on the way past Southampton (see Down to Dorchester) – 1 find
  • On the 12th we went over to the Isle of Portland for a bit of touristy stuff (see Portland Bill) – 5 finds
  • On the 13th we did quite a lot of caching and had a long day out at the Osmington White Horse, Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove (see Geography Lesson) – 17 finds
  • On the 14th we managed only a couple of easy caches on a very wet day on the south coast (see Not What We Planned) – 2 finds
  • On the 15th we had our final day on the south coast collected a handful of caches in Weymouth (see Weymouth) – 9 finds
  • On the 16th we picked up a drive-by in Dorset on our way home – 1 find
  • On the 17th I took the kids up to my parents for a few days and grabbed a cache down the road from their house in Measham – 1 find
  • On the 18th I grabbed 5 caches near Measham – then I went home, leaving the kids with my parents – 5 finds
  • On the 19th I was back at home and I ran down to running club via a single cache in Netherfield – 1 find
  • On the 20th I grabbed a couple up in Wolverton – 2 finds
  • On the 21st I grabbed a couple more in Great Linford – 2 finds
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  • On the 22nd I took the day off work and went caching in Northampton followed by a BBH event in Harpenden – 35 finds
  • On the 23rd Kas and I drove back to Measham for the weekend to get the kids back and grabbed a crafty cache by the side of the A444 on the way – 1 find
  • On the 24th we all went out to a new series in Seale Wood – I’d been here 2 years previously with Ami and my dad for the previous series in this wood – 5 finds
  • On the 25th I grabbed a onesie near Measham – 1 find
  • On the 26th we attended a two events at the same place – a cake munching BBH event and a CITO – Thanks to N0hope – 2 finds
  • And on the 27th I scooted down to Winslow for another one of N0hope’s – 1 find
  • On the 28th we paid our dues for a one-year membership at Bletchley Park so I could go and grab Station X, my closest unfound – 1 find
  • On the 29th I made a single find at Willen Lake but only because I went on the way to running club, realised it wasn’t there, texted the owners mum (Norfolk12), and they very kindly drove down and replaced it while I was out running so I could go sign the log on my way home – sometimes it’s nice to know someone – 1 find
  • Which left the last two days, where Happy_Hunter_HP20 had cunningly arranged an event spanning midnight on the top of Coombe Hill – I took Ami with me and of the 9 caches found/attended we logged 5 on the 30th and 4 on the 31st, including one of Englands oldest (A View from Coombe Hill) – the grace and natural beauty of which was lost as a result of it’s being dark at the time – 9 finds

All of which means that I actually did it. It was a bit of a struggle for motivation on some of the days, especially when I was working, but I got there in the end.

September – Autumn on the Way (140 finds)

  • On the first Kas was running a half marathon in Kenilworth so the girls and I grabbed a couple of hours worth of caches while she was running (see Kenilworth Half 2013) – 6 finds
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  • On the 4th I made a quick dash up to MK city centre for a onesie after work – 1 find
  • On the 8th I had a long walk around my old caches at Stowe which I transferred to gingko earlier in the year – funnily enough I found them all quite easy to find – 21 finds
  • On the 10th I had a professional exam to do in Northampton but my train arrived early enough for me to grab a couple in between the station and the exam centre, and then another on the way home (I passed the exam, by the way) – 3 finds
  • On the 12th there was a Northants Natters event just outside home so I left work and grabbed a few local caches before attending the event – 5 finds
  • On the 13th I finally found a trivial cache in south Milton Keynes that had been really bugging me – heaven knows why I’d not found it on my previous 3 visits – 1 find
  • On the 14th we all drove up to Llandudno to fetch Kas’s shiny new car, and of course took the opportunity to grab 1 cache and fill in one of the Welsh counties on the map while we were there – 1 find
  • The 15th was a Sunday and Ami and I went for a walk round a new series near Stoke Bruerne (see Stoke Bruerne) – 19 finds
  • On the 21st Ami came with me again and we drove over to NorthBedCambshire to meet up with Wavvy and BingBongLong – they’d done a few in the morning then met up with us and we completed around 50 caches together near Huntingdon – mainly from the Low Road Loops series (see Low Road Loops) – 55 finds
  • On the 22nd and 23rd I did 3 of chas49’s MK Artwalks caches – 3 finds
  • On the weekend of the 28th, 29th and 30th Kas and I were in Berlin for the marathon – Kas ran, I went caching (see Berlin Marathon) – 25 finds

October (84 finds)

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  • October had a very slow start with nothing but onesies local to Milton Keynes on the 1st, 5th, 7th, 8th, 11th, 13th and 15th – 8 finds
  • On the 19th I had a bit of a splurge afternoon with Ami when we went to do the top and middle sections of the MK Boundary Walk Grey Section (see MKBW Grey, The Top) – 31 finds
  • On the 21st I popped out for 20 minutes after work to grab a nearby puzzle that had been on the to-do list for a while but I’d not been to fetch as lots of others had reported it some way away from the calculated location – 1 find
  • On the 26th we popped up to Nottinghamshire for my brother’s 50th birthday celebrations and I took the opportunity to grab 10 or so caches while the girls were doing a Saturday afternoon chiilout in his flat (see Big Bro’s 50th Birthday). We followed this up with a swift Church Micro on the 27th – 13 finds
  • On the 31st it was school half-term still and I took Ami over to Salcey Forest to do a bunch of the new caches placed for this year’s Halloween Hides & Creepy Caches Mega event, which we were unable to attend (see Not Quite Halloween) – 31 finds

Nutty November (121 finds)

When the kids started back to school after autumn half-term it occured to me that I still had 9 matrix days to fill on weekdays and was rapidly running out of local caches. It also occurred to me that I’d already booked one of them as a day off and had 4 holidays left unbooked – which meant 8 half-day holidays would be enough to see me through, so long as the boss signed them off.

She did sign them off !

  • On Nov 1st I popped over to Woburn Sands to do 4 from the MK Boundary Walk Orange Series that I’d missed, including its Bonus – 4 finds
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  • On Nov 4th I did a onesie in Central Milton Keynes on my way home from running club – 1 find
  • On Nov 6th there was an evening event in Ampthill to celebrate an astronaut taking a trackable to the cache in the International Space Station – 1 find
  • On Nov 8th I went back to Salcey Forest with wavvy, Norfolk12, Little Fair Bear and BingBongLong to do the night cache that was placed for the Halloween Mega
  • On Nov 10th I went back to Salcey Forest to try the caches on the southern and eastern edge (see Not Quite Halloween) – 17 finds
  • On the 12th I attended a BBH event in Wendover – 1 find
  • The 15th was one of my mornings off and I went over to Salcey Forest to finish off the last area of caches from the Mega Event. I found 19 caches in a morning, which I was happy about, including a couple of random non-Halloween caches on the way home, as I had half an hour spare (see Not Quite Halloween) – 19 finds
  • The 16th was also a matrix day and I took Izzy for a drive-by in Milton Keynes on the way home from Parkrun – 1 find
  • The next week was fairly quiet up to the 22nd, which was another morning off. This time I went Hockeridge Wood near Chesham – 20 finds
  • The 25th was another morning off and I drove over to Houghton Conquest for what was a fairly unsatisfying morning – 17 finds
  • The 29th was booked as a full day off with Kas being at a conference in London and not able to get back in time to get the kids from school, so I set off really early to drive to Hemel Hempstead to do smokeypugs Ms Meander series, ShadyLady’s Solve & Search series, and a few others (see Meandering) – 39 finds

December – A Challenging Month (215 finds)

December started off looking like a bit of a challenge – 5 weekdays to do (including three in a row) and 4 weekend days. The holidays meant the numbers wouldn’t be a problem, but it turned out that motivation was, what with Christmas approaching and the need to plan a few things as well as go caching. In the end, the “hard work” resulted in my most prolific month of caching ever – 215 finds

  • On Dec 1st I drove west of Buckingham to finish my old caches at Stowe then do a few extras – 11 finds
  • On Dec 2nd I had the morning off and drove towards Mursley, Swanbourne and eventually Whitchurch – it proved to be a rather draining morning – 13 finds
  • On Dec 4th I had another morning off and went to Northampton to attack the Brackmills Country Park caches. Plenty there, but a few misses meant I came home with fewer than planned – 18 finds
  • On Dec 8th I went with BingBongLong and Brew-a-Cache towards Riseley in NorthBedCambshire to do the bottom section of the Sevens 70th Birthday series (see Riseley) – 51 finds
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  • On the 11th there was a BBH event in Milton Keynes for the novelty date 11-12-13 – a Groundspeak “multi-event” day – There’d been loads of events in MK that day but as I didn’t have the day off I didn’t attend the daytime ones, just the evening BBH one – 1 find
  • The 14th was a Saturday and a matrix day – I went over to Fringford for the afternoon – 17 finds
  • The 17th was a morning off and I returned towards Fringford to do the Shelswell Loop Extension series (see Shelswell Loop) – 20 finds
  • On the 18th I suffered cache fatigue and stayed in Milton Keynes to do a handful around the town. Enthusiasm drained away further by my picking a few tricky hides and my missing a few – 4 finds
  • On the 19th I had the last of my mornings off – I went to Pavenham to do the Pavenham Plod series (see Pavenham Plod) – 22 finds
  • On the 22nd I had my final matrix day of the year. I sloped off to NorthBedCambshire again to start work on two very large loops near Grafham Water – The caches were from the S2E2 series and the Woolley Mammoth series – It was nearly a disaster as my phone ran out of juice and the external battery pack wouldn’t work, but I managed to grab 7 more caches even after the phone was down to 1% charge (see Ellington Expedition) – 34 finds
  • On the 29th I went with Ami, Wavvy and Norfolk12 down to an event in Imber (see Imbibing Imber) – 20 finds
  • And the finally on Dec 31st my new toy had arrived from Garmin so I had to go out around Milton Keynes and pick up a few new caches, just to test it out – 4 finds

Summary

My stats for the year – 1525 finds on 186 different days – 4.18 caches a day, or 8.2 caches per caching day.

Matrix days to do at start of year = 130ish. Matrix days left at end of year = 2.

5 days with more than 50 finds, including 1 with 102 finds.

Filling the matrix should be easy in 2014 – I only have two days to get done and I already booked them as holidays.


Imbibing Imber

Imbibing Imber

A day to remember in more ways than one, with a target of visiting the event at the uninhabited village of Imber in the middle of one of the Ministry of Defence’s training areas on Salisbury Plain.

Wavvy volunteered to drive some time back so I managed to sponge a lift down with him and Norfolk12. I also managed to persuade Ami to dust off her alter ego, Travelling Pumpkin, and come with us. Kas and Izzy had some plans involving spending some money and vouchers that Izzy got for Christmas, and, of course, the obligatory trip to Pizza Hut.

Wavvy picked us up at 8.15 and we loaded all of our worldly goods into the back of his car. I seemed like all our worldly goods anyway – my caching bag, Ami’s rucksack filled with food, spare shoes/boots, coats, hats, gloves, a Brownie camp blanket and a camouflage bear called “Hidey”

Away on time, can’t be bad. The plan was to head for a few caches on the way down, then do the event at Imber, then waste some time in Westbury before doing a night cache and then dashing back home for an event near Bicester. More of a strategy than a plan, probably, which is just as well, as it turned out.

We headed off towards the M40, Oxford, and then just before Swindon Wavvy decided it was time for a stop, so we pulled off the road to do a YOSM, which proved to be my first of the “Fundamental Benchmark” category. If you want to track down what a YOSM is, then have a quick look at my YOSM post. A benchmark is an old-fashioned (i.e. pre-GPS) survey marker used for calculating elevation. A fundamental benchmark is, I assume, a benchmark whose integrity is never in doubt. Either that, or it is a benchmark that has rather extreme views. A Trig Point, on the other hand, is used for measuring angles over flat ground and hence is used to determine coordinates. However most Trig Points of the “pillar” style have a benchmark on the side too.

But I digress…….

There was supposed to be a traditional cache at this location too, but we couldn’t find it.

Next up Wavvy asked whether we’d done the Agricultural Cathedral cache in Great Coxwell. We hadn’t. So we went there. It was quite impressive, for a medieval building.

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After which we scooted up a hill to do another YOSM before driving down into the village again for a failed attempt at a Church Micro. A bit disappointing to not find a Church Micro, but we did get a few others during the day, so not to worry.

So we plodded onwards towards Swindon and by this time it was definitely time to stop and “turn our bikes around” and grab a second breakfast. Coffees and cakes to go from the local Sainsbury’s served the purpose nicely, thank you very much.

And so off to Imber. Another most-of-an-hour away down some non-motorway roads and passing some local tourist attractions like Silbury Hill and some barrows.

When we got onto the relevant bit of Salisbury Plain we were greeted by a large number of cyclists, and then an even larger number of dirt bikers. If we’d been a few minutes earlier there would also have been lots of runners. We missed them, but all the better for it. The problem with the place only being open for a few days each year is that it becomes a novelty, and loads of people go, so it isn’t very peaceful.

Imber_10.JPGOnce at Imber we gathered information for another virtual cache and then wandered up to the church to attend the caching event. There were enough people that it might have been branded as a mega-event. But whilst at the church we bumped into a number of fellow cachers from the Beds-Bucks-Herts borders groups that we knew. It was cunningly lunchtime so whilst standing outside with Happy_Hunter_HP20 and Dave’s Piglings we cracked open a tube of Pringles and some sandwiches. I’m not sure how much bad luck we get for resting our food on top of a flat-topped tomb in the graveyard, but our excuse is that Happy_Hunter_HP20 and Dave’s Piglings started it.

While we were there I collected the relevant information for another Church Micro and confirmed coordinates with Dave’s Piglings. It really is miles away. That’ll be because of the recent change in the UK which means caches can’t be placed on land belonging to the Ministry of Defence. It had to be moved and the nearest non-MoD land is a few miles away.

After a while at the event we made a move back to Wavvy’s car to discover we were totally surrounded by dirt-bikers. They’d evidently arranged for a van load of pasties to be available and this was parked about threee spaces along from us, so there were quite a lot of mucky bikers there, and more than a few half eaten pasties. It took a bit of careful positioning to reverse the car back out onto the road whilst ensuring no bikers got squished. There were lots of people (mainly cachers) ambling aimlessly past and by this time also quite a lot of cars trying to get out. I went and stood in the road for a while with my arms stuck out, while Wavvy backed out. He didn’t run me over. If he’d known what was coming later he might well have run me over to do himself a favour.

Imber_25.JPGSo off over to West Lavington for the Imber Church Micro, which also proved interesting. No idea what quality the road up there would be from the satellite view, and amidst apparent chaos we were advised by a returning cacher to park at the bottom and walk 700m up the hill. I think it was a good idea. There really wasn’t much room at the top and there was really nowhere to turn around or let other cars past on the way. Plenty of people did take their car up though. It was one of those caches where I had to check whether anyone at the site had actually been present when the container was picked out, and hence whether anyone actually knew where it was supposed to go back to. Someone apparently did, but they did a runnner pretty sharpish. We did likewise. We signed the log, then made like a shepherd.

We did a couple of other caches in West Lavington then before heading back over the MoD land (ish) to retrieve a challenge cache which required completion of a cache on every calendar day in August. To get there the road was marked as a byway, but was hard packed gravel and perfectly wide enough for two cars to pass. This, unfortunately, lulled us into a false sense of security. As this byway was quite nice, we decided to follow the same byway to exit the MoD land on the other side. Bad mistake. We grabbed a couple of other caches as we were passing, but the road was getting progressively worse, and eventually we found ourselves halfway down a very steep, very narrow and very rutted gravel track with no possibility of turning round and no possibility of reversing back up. Oh dear ! We’re going on then, regardless.

Wavvy did a fantastic job of holding his nerve and getting his car down. There was one point a hundred yards or so from civilization where there was a horrendous crunching noise, but when we got to the bottom we jumped out for a look and it appeared we’d just managed to ground the skid-plate. All the wheels were in place, as were all the sills and the exhaust, so I sincerely hope that no lasting damage was done, and we learned the lesson that says when the road is starting to look bad, assume it will get worse not better, so stop, turn around, and go back again. Don’t be a knob !

We ended up in the village of Bratton, where we toyed with the idea of doing a bit of a walk but didn’t toy with it for long. So we ended up driving up to a nearby Church Micro and then progressing on to Westbury, where we did another Church Micro and a couple of traditionals. One of these was on a short street with the wonderful name of Snappersnipes.

Imber_27.JPGBy this time darkness was closing in, so we headed north for a planned night cache. On the way I was examining the map and noticed we were passing a street in Heywood called Church Lane. As there were a couple of traditional caches showing there it was a fair bet one of them would be another Church Micro, and indeed the closest one to the main road was. Bit of a habit, this.

The night cache was quite good. It involved following little reflective firetacks stuck to trees. These were spread out much more than is usual for this kind of thing and so locating the next one took a few minutes at some points. We did eventually find a “double” firetack, which meant the cache was supposedly 15 yards further on. We were jst about to give up looking for it when Norfolk12 shouted up from a good 30 yards away that she’d found it. Excellent.

By now time was marching on and it was properly dark, so we started heading back towards Swindon. We’d half planned another night cache but in the end we plumped for yet another Church Micro in Wroughton. This one was the most challenging of the day, for several reasons. It was dark, we took the wrong path out of the churchyard (and had to clamber over two fences), and it was a camo film-pot on an ivy covered wall. Again we were about to give up when Norfolk12 earned her ride by finding the cache in a place most of us had looked already. Nice way to finish the caching bit of the day.

Except we hadn’t quite finished, because there was an event to attend at Ardley organised by the Bicester and District (BAD) cachers. It was quite a quiet one, but I don’t think we cared too much. The food was nice and Ami was still being a little angel, despite the time. Plus a few other Beds, Bucks & Herts buddies turned up to bolster the numbers, so all-in-all a good end to our caching day.

It was a long old day and Wavvy seemed to do more than the average amount of driving, so I think he earned more than one day out in the passenger seat for that one. We got home about 9:30 pm with Ami having slept quite a lot of the time from Wroughton back home. She did well, bless her. It was a long day for a nine year old. We didn’t do a huge number of caches, but the ones we did do were quite good. I awarded favourite points to a quarter of the caches we did, which is rare for me. It was a shame we had those two DNFs early in the morning.

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The caches we found on the day were:


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Ellington Expedition

Ellington Expedition

A Sunday afternoon out just before Christmas to fill in one of the few remaining days from The Matrix. The day turned into a bit of a disaster that resulted in me making a fairly momentous decision about my future geocaching life.

There were a couple of massive series over near Grafham Water called S2E2 and the Woolley Mammoth. There seemed to be a point at which the two series intersected around the village of Ellington so I decided to go and give some of them a go. I hadn’t really planned how many – I just set off thinking I’d keep going right up to the point where I’d have to start walking back to beat the darkness.

I headed south and west of Ellington in a vaguely clockwise loop and was going fine until I crossed the main road leading to Grafham village. As I crossed the road there I started getting some very strange behaviour from my iPhone, in that it kept moaning to me about low battery even though I’d been charging it from the battery pack for a while. Basically, it wasn’t happy.

As I’d done over 20 caches at that point and it was mid-afternoon I decided the best thing to do would be to simply walk back to the car while the phone still had enough ziggies to find my way there. The walk back was all along roads, which wouldn’t have been my first choice, but there were a few caches to hand and the phone did a decent job of eeking it out to the very last second. It finally died a death just as I was approaching my final possible target for the day.

I took the phone to my local Apple store the next day and they told me that the battery in it was basically shot, probably as a result of it having been charged up too many times. They have a design life, apparently, and I’d exceeded it. I had a moan at them and played the “merchantable goods” card – i.e. the one under UK consumer law which says that for a period of up to 7 years you can get stuff replaced by the retailer if you’d have a reasonable expectation that it wouldn’t break in that time. They agreed with me but told me I’d need to contact the retailer (which was the Three phone company). To their credit, Three told me immediately to just get it fixed at the Apple store and send them the bill so they could deduct it from my next month’s bill. That all worked fine.

The momentous decision I made was that I couldn’t afford at any point to break my phone or to get stranded somewhere without the ability to get home, so I decided to invest in a handheld GPS, both to save the battery in my phone and to ensure I was carrying a device which could easily be recharged just by stuffing in a few more AA batteries. Anyway, I didn’t actually invest much in it, because it was coming up to Christmas and I hadn’t decided what I wanted at that point. It’s always quite a big deal for me around that time, because my birthday is a couple of days after Christmas, so I’m used to a) being offered money and b) getting a combined Christmas and birthday present. So in the case of this year, everybody contributed to the purchase of a spangly new Garmin Montana 650T, and the rest is, as they say, history. Although given that it’s a handheld GPS, it might be more accurate to say that the rest is geography.

The caches I managed to find before the phone gave up were:


Pavenham Plod

Pavenham Plod

A weekday morning and yet another day where I took the morning off to fill in a spot on The Matrix. This time, I headed for the village of Pavenham, to the north of Bedford.

The village is home to a cute looking (i.e. quick) series of about 18 caches, with a few others nearby that would help make it up to my “doing the matrix morning” target of 20 caches or more. I’d been doing quite well at that. 20 seemed a reasonable target for a half day effort.

This proved to be a very brisk walk with no particular problems, and I had enough time left to grab a few others by the roadside, including the church micro at Oakley. The weather was good, if rather cold, and it was a very pleasant morning out.

The caches I found were:


Shelswell Loop

Shelswell Loop

Tuesday morning on my “busy” week of pre-Christmas matrix fillers – I needed to go out caching on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week to keep the run going.

On Saturday I’d started (well, done half of) a big looking series near Fringford, which is within a half hour of home when the traffic isn’t bad. I set off before 8am to beat the morning rush hour and got parked up in a lay-by near Newton Purcell alongside a greasy spoon van. It was tempting to grab a bacon buttie but I resisted and got on with some caching. It was a beautiful clear, bright and sunny morning.

The plan was to walk the top of the Shelswell Loop series by gingko. It looked like about 4 miles walking, and so should be doable in a couple of hours.

It was indeed quite quick walking, and about half an hour in I decided to get my camera out of my bag and take a few snaps. It would be a shame to waste such a pretty morning. The photos are shown below, including a few rather nice spliced together panoramas that I made up using Microsoft ICE. Hopefully I’ve captured the beauty of a cold December morning in England, with that little bit of mist at ground level and the nice mix of textures and colours in the sky. When these first few were taken, at about 9am, it’s really only just about light – the sun is very low in the sky and produces some colours that make it look like an episode of CSI: Miami – all yellow-orange tones. It only turns blue when the sun gets up a bit further, like on the fifth of these panorama shots.

About half way round I encountered the only other person I saw on the morning (apart from the lady at the lard wagon). It was a bloke walking a dog. A little later I was walking up a hill looking for where the footpath went and I decided to go and ask the man at the house at the top of the hill. It turned out to be the same guy, and we had a five minute chat about caching. It’s nice to meet a muggle who is fairly favourable towards us. He’d seen people standing on the road (which is his driveway) a few times and asked what they were doing, but in a friendly way and he seemed genuinely interested. On a lovely morning like this one, any excuse for getting outside is a good excuse.

After finishing this walk I still had the best part of 90 minutes left, so I drove round to the other side of Fringford to attempt a handful more, having got to the car with 17 finds in the bag. This turned out to be the now traditional frustrating end to the morning, involving a few misses, some annoyance and a general feeling of hurriedness. I think this contributed to me deciding the following morning that I really couldn’t be bothered to drive far.

The caches I found on this Tuesday and the preceding Saturday were:


Riseley

Riseley

Not much to say about this one except that there was a new series up near Riseley so I scooted up there with BingBongLong and a plan to meet Brew-a-cache up there.

There was a bit of a delay getting going and we were also in the position of trying to figure out what to do with cars, as we weren’t planning to walk all the way round, so we had to figure out where to leave the one car we’d got with us.

It is quite a big circuit (too much for an afternoon in winter), which is why we’d decided not to try the whole thing.

All the caches were pretty easy finds and it was a nice sunny afternoon for caching, so progress over the ground was speedy.

By the time we’d finished we’d found 51 caches. Better than a smack in the eye with a wet kipper.

The caches we found were: