BingBongLong suggested we go out and have a pop at a series called the Hargrave Hobble, which is around, funnily enough, the village of Hargrave, which is up in the triangle of confusion where you can’t tell whether you’re in Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire or Cambridgeshire. This is similar to the Cachemuda Triangle, but not quite. Anyway, I often refer to it as being Northbedbridgeshire, or Northbedcambshire, or Bedhampcambshire, or some other combination. Hargrave is just in Northants, but the walking took us into Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire as well.
We started off by grabbing a YOSM just outside Raunds and then parked up in Hargrave for the main event. We walked round in numbered sequence, which meant anticlockwise. When you get around to #33 we made the choice to not attempt to do the whole series in one walk – it would have been too far round for the light we’d got left, so we ducked back into the village there, missing out on #34 to #38.
From there we did a few in the car, including #52 to #54, and then parked up around #42 to walk over the fields through a wind farm, completing #42 through #47. From there we drove a stretch of road nearby to complete #41 through #39 in reverse order. For some reason there are two #41s and two #14s.
At this point we’d got a small amount of light left and had heard of a challenge cache that required the completion of church micros in three different counties on the same day. So far we’d done Hargrave in Northamptonshire and Covington in Cambridgeshire. There was a tempting and easy looking pair of church micros in Swineshead in Bedfordshire, so we finished our day by hitting those two. In all we’d found 55 caches, which is pretty good for a February day with a mid-morning start.
The caches we found were :
The Trip Down
The long awaited trip to Brighton for Kas to do the Brighton Half Marathon, entry to which she won as part of her Virgin London Marathon package from Lucozade Sport.
We did our usual parkrun in Milton Keynes in the morning and then dashed home for a quick clean up before heading out on the highway, looking for adventure and whatever comes our way, as it were. Whilst the prime objective of the weekend was Kas’s run, we were loaded up for a general weekend away, and were calling it a mini-break as much as anything else. All good mini-breaks have to involve some form of posh coffee and cake (or pies) so once we thought we were approximately halfway there (Cobham Services) we thought we’d better park up and do the doings. While the doings were being done, I thought I’d check the locality for caches, as you do, not really expecting anything nearby. Indeed, according to Google Satellite View, the services aren’t there. So imagine my total (lack of) surprise when a Motorway Madness cache appeared a mere 200m away from where I was sitting. Got to be done. So while the girls were finishing up their lunch I ventured over what looked like fields, but was actually a car park, and made an easy find under a bench near the bus park. It’s a new county for me too. Never been caching in Surrey before.
It turned out that we’d stopped a lot further on than halfway. Once we got back in the car expecting another 2 hours or so we were very surprised and quite happy to be entering Brighton a mere hour later and trying to pick our road down to our hotel in Newhaven. The hotel was easy to find but not so easy to get into. There’d been a lot of rain and the car park around the front was totally flooded. We had to park down the side of the hotel, where there weren’t really that many spaces.
The hotel itself was a fairly standard Premier Inn of the variety that has an attached pub for the provision of food. The room was spacious enough and we began what we hoped would be a gentle evening. It was about 4:30pm and the light was all but gone. This is where we hit upon a bit of an issue. As Kas was unpacking she noticed that she’d failed to pack one of her key pieces of running equipment. The one that is, shall we say, more necessary for a lady than for a gentleman. So we had to make a dash up to the nearest running equipment shop, which turned out to be in central Brighton, and yes madam, we’ll be open until 5:30 pm so you should have plenty of time. Driving into new places in the dark isn’t my favourite thing in the whole world so I was glad that Kas was doing it. We managed to get parked fairly easily and find the relevant shop easily too. So far so good. It was a bit warm inside the shop for me, what with me wearing shirt, thick jumper and ski jacket, but thankfully Kas found the necessary item fairly quickly and we were out.
Which left us wondering what to do about dinner. Neither of us really fancied the hotel pub so we did a quick search for the nearest Zizzi’s (always good before a race because they do pasta and pizza, and they do stuff the kids will eat, whilst maintaining a reasonably grown-up restaurant feel). Oooh ! There’s one about 300 yards that way. That’ll do us then.
After which it was time to get kids and wife to sleep ready for what promised to be a long day.
A Bit of Running and Some Complicated Caches
Sunday morning greeted us with a nice warm radiant smile. Well, it was sunny, which is about as good as you get in the middle of February.
We needed to be leaving the hotel at 7.15 to avoid road closures but the pub/restaurant resolutely didn’t open for breakfast until 7. It’s the rules, don’t you know. So we dressed, packed and prepared everything first and then carried everything we needed into the pub with us, ready for a swift exit. It’s impressive how much the kids actually managed to eat in the 15 minutes we had in the breakfast room. Well done girls.
And so off we went for the short drive up to our designated parking spot at Brighton Racecourse and a fairly hair-raising (if I had any) bus ride down some very steep hills to the race venue on the sea front. We were dropped off a hundred yards or so from the bag drop and general corral areas, so all going to plan so far. At this point we decided to pretty much leave Kas to her own devices while we went off for a spot of light caching to pass the time. While Kas was waiting to start we grabbed a couple of easy-ish ones on the sea front and tried to solve the fairly complicated, but rather excellent Parallax View II. We mis-counted one of the stages so walked up to a place which looked hopeful until we got there. Botty !
By this time the runners were pretty much on their marks, and had got set, and were just waiting for a “go” – there certainly were quite a lot of them. Which meant that we had to wait a while before we could get over the road to the pier. On the way there the kids decided they were hungry, so we had to wait outside a stall at the end of the pier for 10am so that they could grab an ice cream. The we entered the pier to do The Parallax View (also excellent) and about 3 others. I thought I had the calculations wrong for this one too because it seemed a long way away, but off we went. And it wasn’t there. So I recalculated and realised the problem, but by this time we were running out of time, so we looped back through the middle of Brighton back to where I now knew was the location of Parallax View II (it was an easy find) and then made our way back to the finish line to discover that not only had Kas finished, she’d run a (slight) PB. And the sun was still shining. A good morning for her and a reasonable if slightly frustrating one for us. Still, at least we got a few decent photos.
We jumped back on the double decker bus and took a different but equally steep route back up the hill to the racecourse, and an end to the morning’s frivolities.
Catching the Big Fish
If you look at a geocaching map of Brighton you can see a great big fish shape with the head being a series of traditionals around the outskirts of Saltdean and the body and tail being a series of puzzles stuck out in the sea. Obviously they’re not really in the sea, but… All these puzzles are actually the same thing, near enough. They are all Hidato puzzles, of increasing complexity as you move in numeric sequence through the series. These seem fairly easy once you apply a bit of deductive reasoning to them. So I was armed with the solutions to about 25-30 different puzzles, plus all of those traditionals to go for too.
By my estimation, I could just about get around in the afternoon before darkness descended. Kas had plans to get cleaned up at the hotel then go back into central Brighton to meet an old workmate for a spot (more) of ice cream, posh coffee and crazy golf. So I had an afternoon of beautiful sunshine, a GPS full of unfound caches, and no one to stop me. My walk started at a YOSM next to Roedean School and continued over the downs around the back of the school and towards Saltdean. I also started collecting information for a multi that started at the same place. I still don’t know why they’re called “Downs” because they seem mainly to be “Ups” every time I’ve been there.
The finds were all very straightforward and I was going great guns really, although maybe a little slower than I thought I might. There was a lot of upping and downing. But the conditions underfoot were generally good. I trundled my way through Rottingdean on the coast road and into Saltdean, and eventually right through to the far side, whereupon I looked at my watch and decided I better get my skates on.
Thankfully the route back was faster than the route out and I made it back to my start point at about 5:30 pm just as the sun had finally disappeared. I measured out my route when I got home and I’d walked about 11 miles. So when I add in the distance I covered in the morning with the kids I’d actually covered at least as much ground as Kas did, just a bit more slowly.
Down the Pub
We tried our very hardest to find a fairly posh restaurant in Newhaven. We really did. But we failed. Not to say that where we ended up was bad, it just was a kind of place I don’t think we’ve taken the kids before. It was down by the harbourside and looked from the outside like a typical English seaside town old pub. It was called the Hope Inn. From the inside it was decorated simply, with a lot of wood, but was set out with dining tables and looked fairly comfortable. It turned out to be really rather good for what it was. Given the general state of us I think it was actually perfect. We’d all spent most of the daylight hours outside and all of us, in some way, had covered a lot of ground and caught the sun. We didn’t really need “posh”. We needed “relaxed”.
It had a simple menu that was a bit heavy on the old “fruits of the sea” theme, but with a few notable (and hence to the ladies of the house “edible”) other things. I think I ended up with a substantial pie and some chips. The kids had a roast dinner, I think, although we had to wait a few minutes so they could have fresh roast potatoes. The other thing of note there was the pub dog. “Dog” is a bit of an understatement. More of a hairy horse, if I’m being honest, but it was softer than a pack of Andrex that hasn’t been put in the freezer, and what was really remarkable is that Izzy was brave enough to go stroke it. Blimey!
And we had pudding as well, because it would have been a sin not to.
The Morning After the Night Before
Monday morning, and no hurry to get away because it was half-term week, so we planned a leisurely breakfast followed by a leisurely few hours doing some bits and bobs in Brighton.
Breakfast was certainly leisurely. And once we’d finished eating it our rate of progress over the ground was somewhat more leisurely too.
We decided to drive down into the centre of Brighton to see what took our fancy. The price of parking didn’t take our fancy very much. We stuck the car on the side of the road near the pier then baulked at the price of £7.50 for 3 hours, and moved on to a public car park further inland. It was a bad choice. The same 3 hours was going to cost us £15 in there. So we moved back again to the roadsisde near the pier.
The kids were gagging for a go on the big wheel thing, so it had to be done. A for once the “picture of yourselves on the tourist attraction” stall got some business out of us. The photos were actually quite good (see below).
After this we crossed a couple of roads to have a bit of a gawp at the Brighton Pavilion. As with many things it seemed much smaller in real life than I imagined, but at least it wasn’t covered in scaffolding. By this stage it had turned into quite a pleasant morning too. The sun was shining and the (early) birds were tweeting away. We sat outside for a coffee in the gardens. Outside, in February. What’s the world coming to ?
We still had a bit of time left on the parking when we’d finished coffee, so we took a walk westwards along the beach from the pier, taking in a couple of caches as we went, including the correct resting place of The Parallax View that I’d given up on the previous morning. There were a few interesting little thingummy-bob and whatsamajig sellers along the beach including one that had an impressive collection of wooden sculptures. There were also a whole host of stallholders attempting to chuck all the stones off the promenade and back onto the beach after the most recent storm.
This took us nicely up to lunchtime, and lunch consisted of chips, on a plastic tray wrapped in paper, eaten with a wooden fork (or fingers) whilst sitting on a wooden bench on the pier. In February. This couldn’t have been more stereotypically English unless St George had been actually killing a dragon on the beach while we were doing it. With a knotted hanky on his head.
And then we drove home. In stages. Firstly I made Kas stop at a church in Pyecombe just so that I could colour in West Sussex on my caching profile map (along with Surrey and East Sussex that made three new counties for the weekend).
And then driving back towards Crawley Kas needed a stop for a posh coffee. I didn’t, so I did the old random “where’s the nearest geocache” search on my phone and discovered a TravelBug Hotel that was fully 25 yards away from where we were parked.
It would have been rude not to.
Funnily enough, after a long weekend away like that, neither of us felt like going to the shops to buy food or cooking anything, so we didn’t. We went to the new Chiquitos in Kingston Centre instead. Good choice.
If you can’t fight, wear a big hat…………
We found ourselves at my folks’ house in Measham for the weekend after I’d been up for a flying visit to Blackpool in the week. We’d done a fairly cold parkrun at Conkers in the morning and when we got back the kids decided they didn’t fancy the weather very much so decided they weren’t going out. I’d half planned to a bit of caching and the good lady wife volunteered to accompany me for a few drive-by caches on the condition that some lunch was involved at some point. Works for me. I’d got in my mind that I’d like to qualify for a Challenge Cache that requires getting 20 Church Micro finds in a day. That looked more than doable just here as there seemed to be loads of new ones within a few miles. There’s another challenge I looked at which needs you to find 25,000 Church Micro “points” in a day, where the points for each cache are simply the Church Micro number, and then another one where you have to find more than 20 points where a “point” is 1 for a Traditional, 3 for a Multi, and various higher values for less frequently occurring types like puzzles and WherIGos. Well if I can do all that in one afternoon we can call that a busy afternoon.
The plan was to drive in a large generally loop-ish and generally anti-clockwise-ish path around west Leicestershire grabbing as many Church Micros as I could locate on the phone. This isn’t too difficult as I run pocket queries and use a phone app that allows groups for filtering, so I was able to get a screen showing Church Micros but no other caches. This is the best way to do it, as I didn’t want the afternoon to get all confused with trying to find other caches that weren’t on the plan. Sounds a bit mechanical, but it was still the first week in February and the light doesn’t last long, especially if you’re not starting until 11:30 and you’ve got to make time for lunch too.
So running through them roughly in order, and mentioning the names of all the villages, if only because some of them are quite strange….
First up we went to Stretton-en-le-Field, with its apparently redundant church. We nearly didn’t find that one as I somehow either got the wrong information or made the wrong calculation. My target location looked fairly sensible-ish, but nothing matched the hint. Anyway, as we were walking along the road Kas spotted something which did match the hint, so we had a quick look and there it was.
We then moved on to our only find of the afternoon that wasn’t in Leicestershire. The beautifully named No Man’s Heath is technically just in Warwickshire, albeit very close to Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Leicestershire too. It was a tiny little church, though not the smallest of the day, and it proved to be an easy find.
From there we moved on in quick succession to Appleby Magna, Snarestone and Norton Juxta Twycross before ducking in for some lunch at the recently refurbished and renamed Turpin’s Bar & Grill in Twycross. I seem to remember I had an extremely posh version of a fish finger sandwich, complete with sweet potato chips. It took a bit longer than I was planning but it was lush, and I was in the company of the good lady wife, so not exactly wasted time.
Suitably restored to good health we jumped back in the car and headed off for a few more. We progressed quickly through Congerstone, Shackerstone and Carlton and then skirted around Market Bosworth (what, no church micros?) to get to Sutton Cheney and Cadeby and then on to Newbold Verdon, which has two.
From here we started to turn vaguely northwards through Desford, Thornton, Heather and up towards Ravenstone and Snibston before finishing off the afternoon at Swannington and finally Coleorton.
As you can see from the attached photos there was a wide variety of different architectural styles on display, reflecting not only the different denominations but also, presumably) different ages of church building within England.
On the following day I took the opportunity to go for a muddy walk around a few fields to grab a few more while Kas was out running.
The caches I found over the weekend were:
Come all without, come all within !
Ami and I had a spare Sunday afternoon so we arranged to meet up with BingBongLong (who was coming home from a rain-cancelled event at the Severn Bore) in Aynho to have a go at Gingko’s COYQ series (Come On You Quins – He’s evidently a rugby fan).
It looked like a relatively lightweight series of around 35 caches over 4-5 miles. Shouldn’t take more than 3-4 hours then really, which is just as well, because we didn’t meet BingBongLong until nearly lunchtime.
As we arrived he’d already gathered the info for the multi that was first on our list, and having made a quick grab here we continued in a clockwise loop starting at Teddy Wakelam. Underfoot conditions were pretty good most of the way round considering how wet it had been over the winter months.
When we got back to Aynho BingBongLong had to dash home but Ami and me decided to have a crack at the bottom half of the loop around Souldern too, which proved entertaining. Generally conditions were similar to the first part of the loop until we reached a point where there was supposed to be a ford through a small stream with a foot bridge over the top. Well the bridge was visible but the water was up sufficiently far that there was no way we were getting along the path on he far side back to the road, so we were left with having to double back a quarter of a mile up the road and around a couple of fields to find a different way over the stream. By the time we got back to the road the light was starting to look a bit dodgy. We had torches but I still don’t really like being out in the middle of nowhere in the dark, especially when one of the kids is with me.
I encouraged Ami to speed up a bit, because we were obviously at a point where we couldn’t duck out of the route, and we thought we’d just go as quickly as we could and see what happened.
As it turned out, we got back to the car just as the last vestiges of light were fading away, and the twilight allowed Ami to capture a couple of really nice shots on my camera.
By the time we got back to the car we’d made 32 finds and failed on just 3, and we had plenty of time to drive home and avail ourselves of a fine Sunday roast as prepared by the lady of the house.
Can’t be beaten!
The caches we found during the day were: