The Sketch

A couple of weeks ago I’d been up in Burton Dassett to start some work on the Pokémon series of puzzle caches. Fast-forward a couple of weeks and I fancied another hack at them. This time I was looking to begin in Bishop’s Itchington, a fairly large village on the northern edge of the series.

I ended up parking a little way south of there in a fairly large pull-off alongside a country road. Unlike last time.

Driving Up

I didn’t stop for any drive-bys on the way up. Today was just about me and some caches. Well, initially it was about me and some shouting. In the previous week some morons in the media had turned a minor shortage of fuel at a couple of stations into a major disaster, and hey presto people started panic buying.

I wasn’t completely empty of fuel but I could use some. I normally stop at a local station to fill up and buy snacks and drinks. Today I was disgusted to find a queue of 30-35 cars outside that station at 7:30am on a Sunday. I didn’t bother stopping at that one. There was another station in Buckingham that didn’t have any queues, but only because it didn’t have any fuel. So I diverted around to some motorway services on the M40 where they had some fuel, but had limited it to £30 per vehicle. That was more than enough for today’s purpose so I just took that much and bought some snacks to go with it. I didn’t mind the diversion because today I was planning to start very close to a junction on the M40 anyway.

Off we go

I pulled off the M40 and headed into Bishop’s Itchington and then headed south to find my chosen parking spot. When I arrived there was another car there, but it moved quickly after I parked, while I was still putting my boots on.

I started caching with a fairly easy section along the road down to Knightcote. From here the work got a bit harder as the route started taking me across ploughed fields. September is a bad time of year for that, I guess.

From Knightcote I headed south towards Northend across some fields. The caches here were quite close together but the underfoot conditions weren’t great. Northend is just north of where we’d finished two weeks previously on the Burton Dassett day. My walk skirted the base of the big hills there and the caches became increasingly spread out. There was one point either side of Fenny Compton where I had to walk more than a kilometre between successive caches, most of which was across ploughed fields. The enthusiasm was waning a bit on that stretch.

Don’t Shoot

From Fenny Compton the walk took me north in a big anti-clockwise loop back to Knightcote. All the way around here I could here shooting. I eventually found a load of cars parked in a field – I guess there was some form of game shooting event going on. I was concerned for a while that my route would go right through the middle of them, but thankfully it didn’t. My walk went right around the outside of them. Good. I don’t fancy being shot.

I was managing to find most of the caches fairly easily today, including all the “hanging in hedge” ones.

When I got back to Knightcote I sat on a bench by a cache for a few minutes to have a drink and a snack. It was proving to be slower going than I’d hoped.

The Northern Loop

From here there was a second loop which lead up to the M40 junction, across the top of a big area of wood, and then back through Bishop’s Itchington. The first stretch of this was along a paved road, so it was quick to walk. The caches were easy to find too, so I managed to improve my average rate a bit. Along this stretch I bumped into a father and son who were picking litter. They were intrigued by what I was doing. I don’t mind talking to people about it these days. I think they’d heard of it before but hadn’t ever tried it.

When I got to the “top corner” and started walking alongside the large wood, I started to get a bit irritated about the spacing. Some of the caches were spread out at 400m or 500m separation, despite it being easily being possible to place them at minimum separation of 161m. I guess the cache owner had decided he was doing 4 loops and hence spread the caches out accordingly. My experience on this day was that he could easily have fit another 20-30 caches around the walk I did. This would mean the fourth loop (the one I hadn’t done at the time) wouldn’t be needed at all. I’m not complaining too much, but I guess I’m used to working with caches that are much closer together.

I was starting to ache when I got to Bishop’s Itchington but thankfully I was nearly home by then. The last section was straight down the road and I was still finding the caches quite easily, but by the time I reached the car I’d walked 27km.

When I got back to the car it was late enough that I couldn’t be bothered with any more. I had found 80 caches though, so not a bad day really.