The EHB Series has been lurking on the caching map ever since it came out. It was staring at me, I’m sure. Subconsciously I imagined it continually muttering to me “come and have a go if you think you’re ‘ard enough.” So there’d been two-and-a-bit years of me not being ‘ard enough. I’m going to play the whole global pandemic card here. Big chunks of those two years could have been used to do the EHB Series aside from not being allowed to.
The other thing preventing me from doing the series earlier was the fact that there didn’t seem to be anywhere where’d I’d be happy to leave my car all day.
And then there’s also the fact that series is huge. I’d discounted walking around fairly early on. I do now have a bike that would be suitable, but even so the nearly 400 caches from the series and associated hangers-on would be way too much for a single day.
So the plan switched to being “how many caches can you find in a day by driving” – the EHB series is designed for biking or driving. They are all alongside a road. The plan was therefore hatched, and today was the day of the hatching.
A team of four was constituted, consisting of myself, Candleford, CDinc and Waves117. The plan was drive round in Candleford’s “go anywhere” motor. She’d done them all already.
To prepare, I’d prepared a set of GPX tracks for the GPS and had also constructed some pace notes – essentially a spreadsheet of all the caches in the plan, with the name, coordinates and hint. I’d done this by putting turn-by-turn instructions too so that it would be easier for any of us to instruct the driver on where to head. I’d also split the day up into distinct loops, anticipating that we wouldn’t finish them all, and hence thinking we should drive in such a way that we were leaving loops that could be done more easily by walking or biking.
So the “nowhere to park” problem was addressed by me parking at Candleford’s house. It added a bit (but not a lot) to my total journey but it meant my car would spend the day somewhere definitely safe. As we’d planned to meet the other two at 7 am that meant getting to Candleford’s for 6 am. And that meant I needed to be out of my house just before 5. That allowed time for my usual stop to fill the car with fuel and acquire coffee, breakfast and lunch. Plus some snacks, because it promised to be a long day.
As now seems to be the habit, I arrived early, so we left early, and therefore we had the time to grab a few finds before meeting the others. So the first cache I logged was at 6:33 am at EHB Series #1. We had enough time to grab the first 10 by 6:51. That set the theme for the day. 10 finds in 18 minutes. Madness.
The Fellowship of the Rings
CDinc and Waves117 arrived at the agreed parking spot more or less at the same time we did. There wasn’t a lot of time-wasting. So we constituted our team of four and agreed our way of working before heading off for a long old day of caching. The way of working we agreed was that one of the non-drivers would sit in the back ticking off the caches on the pace notes and shouting out the directions. The other two would sit on the passenger side and would alternate jumping out of the car to make the finds.
So that’s how we went, except others jumped out of the car too whenever we needed a leg-stretch or whenever the find wasn’t made inside 10 seconds. The caches all had low difficulty and low terrain, so they were meant to be really easy. And so they proved to be. We also jumped out of the car for the church micro at Strethall. It was a bit further from the parking than it looked on the map.
The first stretch formed a big triangular shape up to Ickleton and back and then down to Littlebury Green. This set the tone for the day, both in terms of the speed of caching and the tone of the conversation. We found ourselves chugging along at 28-30 finds an hour, which is, quite frankly, ridiculously fast.
We got to a point near Littlebury Green where the pace notes said to do a U-turn in the road. Once spotted, one of the others asked why we weren’t finishing off the items from the series that were down this road. Which ones? It turns out that I’d missed about 5 from the series because they were just off the edge of my Pockey Query. I hadn’t noticed. Anyway, adding those on took us around to Wendens Ambo. There were five more in that village, which meant we’d added 12 caches that weren’t on the pace notes. That was despite getting held up at one cache that we couldn’t find and completely avoiding another. The one we avoided was supposedly behind a bus stop, and as we arrived we saw there was a cyclist turning his bike around where we needed to be. No thanks.
Littlebury Green, Arkesden and Duddenhoe End
This section promised a further 91 caches. It consisted of a big “overall” loop with a number of smaller loops inside.
We were still hacking around at ridiculous speed, and by the time we reached 160 total finds for the day we decided it was time to treat ourselves to a lunch break. We’d been going for about 5.5 hours – it was about 12:15. Still, 160 finds at an average of 29 an hour. That was somewhat faster than I thought we’d go. The previous time I’d done drives-bys with Candleford we were averaging 20 finds an hour. The extra speed today was mainly caused by having two searchers, but also by the caches being very easy.
Lunch was had whilst sitting in the car at the entrance to a field. We picked the right time, because it started heaving it down just at that time. It proved to be the proverbial “clearing up” shower. It lasted no more than 10 minutes and then the sun came out.
Back at the plot, we went slightly off the pace notes (deliberately) by changing the route. But it was only a tiny bit which we had to drive through later anyway, so not really an issue.
This loop finished back at Littlebury Green, which was now a bit out-on-a-limb. We had to drive for 5 minutes with no caching to get back to Duddenhoe End. That’s the problem with multiple interlocking loops. You can’t avoid at least some time spent back-tracking over ground you’ve already covered.
Langley Green to Clavering
The next set of loops took us from Langley Green down to Clavering, Arkesden (again) and back up. It contained another 82 caches. At the start of the day I assumed that this one would probably be our last. After all, according to the pace notes the end of this would be 266 finds. And, of course, we’d stuck an extra 12 into the mix. It was just before 2 pm when we started this loop. It proved to be high speed again. Pretty much all of the caches (all day, not just on this bit) had good coordinates and descriptive hints.
Anstey, Brent Pelham and Great Hormead
This was to be the final loop of the day. To get there from the previous loop we had to drive south from Langley Green and pass a further 18 caches. Well, we didn’t “pass” them, obviously. We “did” them.
When we got to this loop it was about 5:45. We’d done 294 caches in just over 10 hours, so we were maintaining the earlier 29 finds/hour rate. Because of this, and because we were getting hungry again, we took another little break here to have something to eat. It had been 5 hours since lunch, so we’d earned another short stop. We started thinking about how long our tolerance was going to last. I wasn’t fussed because I knew I only had half an hour to drive home from Candleford’s gaff, but CDinc had an hour to get home and Waves117 had another hour from there, so it was going to be a late one.
So we sort of decided there to do the final loop and see what the time was. We were obviously going to get way past 300 finds, but I wasn’t sure we’d make 400. I wasn’t bothered about trying anyway. It was going to be a fantastic day whatever, and I’m never one for imposing arbitrary targets. I was happy to give up when the others wanted.
Ups and Downs
This stretch involved driving a section of road east of Anstey twice. The first time around was definitely the low point of the day. Many of the caches were in poor condition and it was a less-than-great experience. We brightened up a bit though when Candleford decided she was going to drive to the one away from the road. She has a car that will go to a lot of places that mine won’t, which helps quite a lot. And anyway, there was a gravel track and there weren’t any signs saying it was private or not to drive it. So off we went. We might otherwise not have done that one at all, I guess.
The final stretch of the day was a point-to-point running north from Langley Green. There were only 14 from the EHB series up here. On the pace notes I’d also put a load from the Great Chishill Gander series, just in case we were early. We weren’t early though. It was 8:40 when we started this section. As we were driving it we realised also that the high cloud was meaning that the light was disappearing quite quickly, so we agreed just to finish off the EHB series and then give up. That would leave the circular Great Chishill Gander for another day, which was fine by me.
Those last 14 took 27 minutes, so we were still hacking along really quickly. And when we got to the end we gave a communal sigh of relief and started heading back to where CDinc had left her car. We were done for the day.
Well, Not Quite
Except, when we were driving through Great Chishill there was a Church Micro right by the main crossroads. And then in Heydon there was another one. So we did another couple even though we’d stopped.
That made an utterly ridiculous 384 finds during the course of the day. I’m not sure I’ll ever get close to that again. Partly because there’s not very many series where you could even try it. Not within an hour of home anyway. So unless I drive somewhere else where there’s a massively easy series, I’m unlikely ever to beat that single-day tally. I can promise though that there wasn’t any multi-teaming like the power trail hounds in the USA do. Genuinely all four of us went to every cache location and either found, or observed one of the others finding, every single one of them. In many cases, if the cache wasn’t located inside 10 seconds then a second and third person would jump out of the car to help. From that perspective it was a totally Bony Fido day of caching.
OK, so each individual cache was somewhat less than spectacular. Most were on the backs of road signs or stuck at the bottom of a tree. But they’re not meant to be great individually. They are obviously set up to be found in large numbers. That makes it a different kind of challenge. It was a challenge that I very much enjoyed. If I’d tried it by bike or on foot it would have taken many more days. In the car, with four of you, it’s not really tiring so you are able to keep going for much longer as well as being able to find them much more quickly. Much gratitude to Candleford though. She was driving all day.