The less said about this day, the better. Except that there’s probably quite a lot that can be said. It was an eventful day.
Kas was booked into a cross-country running event near Brighton, so we thought we’d go down for the weekend. We’d booked a hotel in Lewes for the evening and had planned a bit of Tommy Tourism in Brighton on Sunday before coming home.
On the way down on Saturday, we had time to do a parkrun near Pinewood Studios – well, I guess we had time because we made time – but back at the plot, it was a relatively flat course in woodland and we got around it pretty well.
We stopped at Cobham Services for some breakfast and put some different clothes on while we were there.
At some point during the day Kas decided she didn’t fancy the cross-country any more, so she said she’d just go for a training run on the hills above Brighton while the girls and me did a spot of caching.
We parked up at the Ditchling Beacon car park, planning to do the “PUCK Butterfly” series on the Downs above Brighton, which looked eminently feasible even though we weren’t starting until lunchtime. The walk around the caches seemed to involve a walk down a steep hill into a valley, and then a climb back up again. The weather when we set off was marginal – grey but not actually raining – so we assumed it would all be OK.
In truth, the walk down the hill was OK. We found most of the caches, although a couple of them took some time. When we were about 3/4 of the way down, the weather took a decided turn for the worse, as it started raining. It got quite heavy and time was moving on, so we decided to turn uphill and start going home. About half-way up the hill we were making very slow progress and getting very wet, and we thought we’d only got an hour or so of light left, so we took the always painful decision to quit caching and just go back to the car.
When we reached the ridge at the top of the hill, still over a mile from the car, it was nearly dark and the ridgeline exposed us to very heavy rain and very strong winds. When I say “strong” winds, I mean winds that were really difficult to walk against. It was bad enough that I had some serious concerns about our safety, but there was nothing we could do but keep going in the direction of the car. At least we had a GPS, so we knew which way we needed to go, even if we couldn’t see it. About half a mile from the car Kas phoned to say that she’d returned and had then run down the steep hill into Ditchling village, where she was waiting for us in a cafe. She thankfully had some money on her and was able to buy a warm drink, but she didn’t have a change of clothes, as those were in the car.
Once we found her, the cafe was still open and we decided we better all get warmed up, so we had hot drinks and cake, and began the process of rationalising our very bad afternoon into something that becomes more and more death-defying every time we tell it, although in truth there probably wasn’t ever any imminent danger of death. Whilst sitting in the cafe we hung up our coats. They were so wet that they had to put a towel on the floor underneath. When we got into the car to go to Lewes we were still dripping wet, and it took at least 3 days for the car seats to dry out completely.
Once we got to our hotel and got checked in, we began the process of thawing out properly. It wasn’t late in the afternoon, because it was January, so it was totally dark by 4:15 pm and it was only about 5:30 when we got to the hotel. We spent a good hour and a half getting cleaned, dry and warm, and then headed out for dinner at a local Italian chain restaurant that Kas had booked previously. The tales of daring got expanded and embellished somewhat further while we were there, resulting in the now epic family saga that we have today. It was a good enough one, in fact, that most days that don’t go according to plan now end up being compared and contrasted with this one.
The caches we found were:
How many caches can you do on one day in January when you’re on a bit of a mission? Especially when there’s a new puzzle series you’ve already solved, in an area you’ve already cached in more times than you remember?
I decided to test that by having a pop at the “Celebrating 43 years of Charlton11” series up in the Gidddings, followed up by the nearby Gidding Gallop series. They’d been lurking around on the map, crying out to be done, for a number of months, so I thought it was about time I got off my bum and went to collect them.
I parked up in my customary place on the grass outside Hamerton Park Zoo, after all I have 4-wheel drive, so tend not to get stuck. Despite being out in the middle of nowhere but surrounded by small villages, there is basically nowhere to park for miles around. Even the zoo charges money and doesn’t let you use their toilets without paying to get in.
The route of the “Celebrating 43 years” series took me around a route previously occupied by the Twin Turbine Trail, and that route was still mainly flat and agricultural. There still weren’t any toilets or other facilities anywhere nearby either, but never mind. It’s one of the occupational hazards of being a geocacher. I’d been to the area before and knew what to expect, so I stopped on the way up to attend to the necessary.
The walk around was quick and fairly uninspiring, but that was kind of what I was expecting. Most of the caches in this area are pretty much like this – small to medium sized caches placed in hedges or at fence posts. They also tend to be easy walking because the area is mainly arable and hence there are never any delays caused by stiles, gates or livestock. All of the field boundaries around here just involve big, wide grassy or paved routes that you can get large tractors and combine harvesters through. That makes for fast walking and generally easy caching. Winter is the best time to come, in many ways, because there’s a lot less undergrowth in the hedges.
The second series on the radar, the Gidding Gallop, also went over old ground. In fact, I think it went over ground I’d been over more than once. One of those previous walks was Sawtry and the Giddings. Anyway, that one was a vaguely flat walk that was out along a country lane and back down a pretty decent footpath that runs down the side of fields, and hence has grass underfoot rather than mud. It was fairly fast going.
The caches I found on the day were :
The beginning of the year promised much entertainment, with us already having planned trips to Tokyo, Paris and Italy at various points, however, in discussion with the girls, I have a single objective for the year. That is to find 2018 or more caches in the calendar year of 2018.
You would think that was possible, despite being considerably above any other year so far, but let’s see how it goes.
January (88 finds)
- On January 1st we grabbed a single cache on the way home from double parkrun just so I could get the souvenir – 1 find
- On January 14th I made the majority of finds for the month up near The Giddings (see You’ve Got to be Gidding) – 71 finds
- On January 18th I attended a “Roundabout MK” event – 1 find
- On January 28th we had a near-death experience on the hills above Brighton (see Close to the Edge) – 14 finds
- On January 29th we slipped in a single cache whilst visiting Brighton – 1 find
February (36 finds)
- February was a fairly slow caching month, with my only finds being over the period of the Tokyo marathon weekend trip with Kas from Feb 23rd to Feb 26th – 36 finds
March (434 finds)
- On March 10th I got off to a decent start with a trip over to the Bourn Bonanza series (see Bourn Bonanza) – 56 finds
- On March 22nd I attended a “Roundabout MK” event that I’d organised myself – 1 find
- On March 24th I scooted over to Hertfordshire to do the Sandon Sloth series with Izzy (see Sandon Sloth) – 40 finds
- March 28th was Day 1 of our epic journey to try to complete the MTVO series just north of Paris (see Frouville) – 120 finds
- March 29th was Day 2 of our MTVO quest (see Livilliers) – 128 finds
- March 30th was our third day in France and we took a day off the monster caching for A Day Off in Paris – 15 finds
- March 31st was our fourth day in France attacing the MTVO series again after doing a French parkrun in the morning (see Hérouville) – 74 finds
April (361 finds)
- April 1st was our fifth day in France attacking the MTVO series, and we attacked it pretty hard (see Jouy-le-Comte) – 151 finds
- April 2nd was our sixth day in France and we managed to finish off the MTVO series (see Valmondois) – 134 finds
- April 3rd was our seventh and final day in France, and we spent it trying to visit as many different French Departments as we could manage (see Colouring In) – 11 finds
- April 29th I travelled over towards Royston to (see Litlington) – 65 finds
May (82 finds)
- On May 2nd I was on a business trip to Guernsey and dashed out for a few finds in the evening – 7 finds
- On May 19th we were in Liverpool for the annual running weekend – 3 finds
- On May 24th I grabbed a cache on the way to the pub – 1 find
- On May 25th I popped out to find a nearby puzzle – 1 find
- On May 28th I drove down to Stockbridge with Pesh and the Happy Hunter (see Stockbridge Stomp) – 69 finds
- On May 31st I made another find on a business trip to Guernsey – 1 find
June (3 finds)
- On June 3rd I made a couple of finds locally during a lunch break – 2 finds
- On June 9th there was a Saturday afternoon event in Milton Keynes – 1 find
July (176 finds)
- On July 13th I was with Izzy and the Happy Hunter at the GeoNord event in Dunkirk (see Forts & Dunes) – 44 finds
- On July 14th I was with Izzy and the Happy Hunter at the GeoNord event. We went to Lille (see A Lille More Time) – 33 finds
- On July 15th I was still with Izzy and the Happy Hunter at the GeoNord event. We were near Dunkirk (see Deux Sans Frontieres) – 76 finds
- On July 24th there was an event locally in Milton Keynes – 1 find
- On July 29th we were on our family holiday in Italy and spent the day in Milan (see Milan) – 14 finds
- On July 30th we spent the day in Bergamo (see Bergamo) – 5 finds
- On July 31st we spent the day at Lake Como (see Lake Como) – 3 finds
August (72 finds)
- On August 1st we were in Turin reliving the original Italian Job movie (see Turin) – 10 finds
- On August 2nd we drove down to the Cinque Terre for a very special ice cream (see Cinque Terre) – 4 finds
- On August 3rd we were in Pisa (see Pisa) – 3 finds
- On August 4th we were in Florence and attended an event organised by a French family across in Montecatini Terme (see Florence) – 9 finds
- On August 5th we were still in Florence (see Florence Again) – 2 finds
- On August 6th we made our way from Florence to San Marino via Urbino (see Urbino) – 4 finds
- On August 7th we were in San Marino in the morning before making our way to Bologna (see San Marino) – 8 finds
- On August 8th we were in Bologna in the morning before making our way to Venice (see Bologna) – 7 finds
- On August 9th we were in Venice doing the full tourist job (see Venice) – 14 finds
- On August 11th we made our way to Verona (see Verona) – 9 finds
- On August 12th we were heading back home again but made a random find on the way (see Lake Garda) – 1 find
- On August 14th I attended a nearby Beds, Bucks, Herts event – 2 finds
September (48 finds)
- On September 13th we attended an event to say goodbye to dear caching friend who sadly passed – 1 find
- On September 15th I met up with a couple of friends to walk around a new series at Souldrop (see Souldrop Revival) – 31 finds
- On September 17th there was a caching event in Milton Keynes – 1 find
- On September 28th I dashed round a few local caches – 15 finds
October (155 finds)
November (12 finds)
- On November 4th I made a single find whilst Kas was doing a run in Dovedale – 1 find
- On November 6th there was an event in Milton Keynes – 1 find
- On November 17th and 18th I grabbed a few caches on our lads’ weekend away (see Lads in the Lake District) – 7 finds
- On November 26th Kas grabbed a few caches on my account while she was in Cyprus – 3 finds
December (67 finds)
- On December 26th I made a single find at Stowe while we were having a nice Boxing Day stroll – 1 find
- On December 30th I went for a final “big day” out for the year (see Weston Underwood) – 66 finds