Starting the Pokémon cache series in Warwickshire
Earlier in the year, a new series of geocaches was released up in Warwickshire consisting of 151 puzzles. They form a geo-art that looks vaguely like a Pokémon of some kind. Probably a Pikachu, because that’s the only one most non-addicts have heard of, myself included. I have at least learned that “Pikachu” is a species, not a specific creature. Nearby is a series of Adventure Labs in Burton Dassett Hills Country Park.
Back at the plot, I solved the puzzles fairly quickly and then “parked” the series for later use. I often do this with large puzzle series. It gives me a backlog of puzzle caches to work on.
I’d been thinking about going out for the day, having spent the previous day in Sheffield with Daughterus Maximus. So late in the week I asked my new-found group of caching buddies (see London Calling) if they were up for a day out. HellieMW wasn’t, but as it happened, the Lydford Locators had already booked a hotel and were going to spend a couple of days going at them. That’ll do me, then. I prefer not to go caching on my own every time now, so it’s good to have company. It also meant I got the opportunity to meet Mr LL, who didn’t join us in London.
So the scene was set. The plan was to meet in Avon Dassett at 10:30, where there was convenient parking at the very bottom left corner of the series.
I fancied a few extras, so I set off from home in good time. I needed to fill my car up with fuel, which has been rare in the last year and a half, so took the opportunity to fill my caching bag with soft drinks and lunch items. All good to go.
The drive up was uninspiring and after a while I found myself near the first of my targetted villages for doing “drive-bys”. I’d pre-solved a load of multi-caches in the villages to the south of Avon Dassett so I could get a head start, as it were. So on this leg I passed through the villages of Great Bourton and Mollington in Oxfordshire before crossing the border to Shotteswell in Warwickshire.
In Great Bourton, I had to wait for a while as a bunch of boys doing a DofE walk. More of this later in the day.
I’d also planned to go through Warmington but by the time I got to Shotteswell it was time to head off and meet the Lydford Locators.
From Avon Dassett
How very dare they? The walk from Avon Dassett was uphill. I mean, uphill! What the actual? Although after the later part of the day I’d almost forgotten.
As we left the roads for our first bit of off-piste, we were faced with a venerable old cache (AQY-AVON DASSETT). It’s from May 2006, four years before I even started caching. Those are very rare these days. This particular one seemed to be challenging to find. There were no (or very many) obvious places to put it, but none of them made sense until we were accosted by the householder who lives at the top of the bank. He knew very well what we were up to, and gave us some spot-on guidance on where to search. In fact, he came down the bank and helped. Cool. Although it took him a while to remember precisely where it was. Anyway, as another finder said in their log, the cache location doesn’t currently match the hint, but it’s safe enough where it is.
This little bit was in a little woodland, but shortly afterwards we broke out into open countryside, and into sunshine.
Not long after this we heard the somewhat confusing sound of a steam engine. I wasn’t aware there was a heritage railway near here, so really we had no idea where the noise was coming from. That is, until, we walked around a noggin and saw the rather grand looking steam tractor in the photo here.
It wasn’t this one that made the noise – he hadn’t got steam up at that point – but we had a quick chat with the owner and he told us there was a bit of an event going on, and there were several of the things out in the nearby fields. That’d be it then. It sounded like he was going to use his for its original purpose, rather than just showing it off. We, showing it off would be pointless because there was nobody around really, apart from us. You don’t get many of those to the pound, anyway.
Just past the steam tractor we turned a corner and started walking towards Fenny Compton. By this time it was late enough to be lunchtime, so when we got to the village we did a quick cache or two and grabbed a seat in the churchyard. Churchyards are good for having lunch, because they normally have benches and tend to be away from busy roads. Lunch, then!
From Fenny Compton
Lunch was a nice break. I don’t often carry lunch with me other than drinks and snacks. And quite often I buy snacks and then take them home with me.
Anyway, back at the caching, we had a short diversion for one before returning to the main series. It was a short walk from Fenny Compton to our next major target, but it proved to be mainly uphill. While climbing a hill here we looked back across the fields and saw another DofE group walking, shall we say, not where they were supposed to walk.
At the top of that hill we emerged onto a road and saw a minibus from a school in Coventry. A couple of minutes later it turned around in the road and came back towards us. We asked the driver if he’d “lost a bunch of boys”, and indeed he was wondering where this group had got to. They had four groups apparently, and the “yellow” group weren’t where they ought to be. Just as we were discussing it, the boys appeared over the brow of the hill. All seemed well apart from some jokes about getting lost.
Burton Dassett Hills
So I didn’t really realise that Warwickshire had any hills of any size. At Burton Dassett it definitely does. There’s a country park on top of a large outcrop of ironstone. Most of the local buildings around here are made of the stuff. At Burton Dassett, they used to quarry the stuff, but thankfully enough was left behind to still be “hills” rather than valleys. At 200m it’s not the highest bit of Warwickshire, but it sticks up a fair way from the surroundings. And the hillsides are steep.
There was a set of Adventure Labs in the Country Park as well as a few multis that we’d solved already. I’d assumed from Google satellite view that it was a valley with steep sides, but actually it was all uppy-downy. To access the caches you mainly had to walk up a really steep bit, and then down the other side. So at a couple of points we split up into groups and did the caches separately to save leg strength. When we reassembled we were at a car park. With an ice-cream van.
The DofE boys were all meeting up in the car parks here. Two of four groups were there when we arrived and a third appeared just as we were leaving.
From here we had to walk through Burton Dassett village, where there was a puzzle cache that would be difficult to access after rain. I went in for it, having tested water depth with Mrs LL’s pokey-stick. It involved me standing on stones and bits of wood that were sitting in a 10cm pool of water, but I managed to get the cache without getting wet feet. Which is good.
There weren’t any highlights after this apart from passing the fourth of four DofE groups.
Time for Drive-Bys
So, back at the cars and some goodbyes, until I suggested I was going for a few more. I kind of had to drive through Warmington and there were 4 caches I hadn’t had time to do in the morning. Ah hell, why not. So we convoyed our way to the village and parked up on the main road for a short walk around.
A total of 59 finds in the day, including the Adventure Labs. It’s a bit of a Sunday League error to finish one short of a multiple of 10. Especially when it’s also a prime number. I should probably recite the rhyme before unfortunate circumstances befall me. ”Hot potato, orchestra stalls, Puck will make amends” – There, all fixed. Probably.
I’d heard about the London Calling event earlier in the year but thought I wouldn’t be able to go, because we were scheduled to still be on holiday Ireland. But earlier in the year Kas’ triathlon event was canceled and we rebooked for a slightly shorter holiday in the Lake District. All of that meant that I would now be at home on August 28th, or at least, I wouldn’t be in Ireland. So I could go down to London.
I’d discussed going caching on Sunday 29th near Oxford with HellieMW but had concluded that caching 2 days in a row would be excessive. Anyway, she was going to London too and she invited me to walk the walk with her planned group. Her planned group consisted of Mrs Lydford Locator and ReggieCat as well as herself.
Mrs LL had planned a walking course to align with the new Adventure Labs that would be released. They actually were released on Friday morning, giving “ample” time to plan it all in. The sketch was to attempt a walk around all 40 of those, taking in most of the physical caches and other Adventure Labs that we’d pass on the way. You can surmise the route from the map at the bottom of this post. However, she’d planned that we walk around in backwards order so that we could complete an earthcache on the South Bank that requires low tide. The tide was due to come in during the early afternoon, so we’d have to walk the South Bank in the morning.
When I go to London by train I arrive at Euston, so to avoid a par two or three by tube I opted to go to Victoria and walk along Victoria Street. I also decided to go nice and early to “clear up” a few caches that weren’t on the plan.
So I arrived at Victoria just after 8 am. Really early. I’d had breakfast already, so I was good to go. There were a few Adventure Labs stages in the area as well as a solved wherigo, a couple of multis and a load of earthcaches. I’m not planning to recount all the caches at each section, as there were just too many, but when I met the others (at 10:15) I’d already done 18. I’d also visited Little Ben – I never knew that was there. Why would I? I don’t ever recall walking that way before.
The others arrived a little early too and had done all the Ad Labs around Westminster Abbey, so while we were waiting for the event to start they went for coffee and I cleared up Westminster Abbey. When the event started at 11 am I had 27 finds already.
The organisers had decided to apply a £5 entry fee for the event. They’ve had a few challenges in organizing fundraising events, which is fair enough. I know how much these things cost to do, so I don’t mind paying anyway. If you don’t pay, then future events become less likely. Anyway, in the grand scheme of a day out in London, with food and geocoin purchases as well as train tickets, £5 is a fart in the breeze.
They’d asked for everyone to do a lateral flow test beforehand, but on the door they didn’t check them. That’s a half-hour sneezing fit wasted!
Inside the event I was surprised to learn that they’d also released 10 more Adventure Labs inside the event venue. Bonus! We’d planned just to go in, turn our bikes round and then leave again. However, ReggieCat got in half an hour early with his supporter ticket, and had all but two of the answers by the time the rest of us arrived. We didn’t just leave though.
The room was full of people and many were friends none of us had seen for ages. So there was some mingling and networking involved. And some buying of coins. And someone in a Signal the Frog suit. Having your photo taken with Signal earned you a trackable.
Technically speaking, Westminster is a different city to the City of London, so the event should have been called “Westminster Calling”, but then it wouldn’t be named after a Clash album. Anyway, I digress.
Within the City of Westminster we had further Adventure Labs and multiple earthcaches to do around Parliament Square and Westminster Bridge. These included a brief walk up the Embankment to visit the Monument to the RAF.
Doing the Lambeth Walk
Over the Bridge from Parliament is the London Borough of Lambeth, which clips the South Bank just here. Our walk took us along past County Hall and the London Eye. At various points here there was some swearing and slow progress due to lack of phone signal. It’s irritating when that happens, because the Adventure Labs app requires you to be in the correct location and to have a phone signal. If you don’t, you can’t log them.
Anyway, enough of that. Once we got past the London Eye it got better. There were a couple of caches that required us to descend onto the “beach” by the Thames, which were fun. It was “minging” busy all the way down here. I’m not sure what I expected on the Saturday of an August Bank Holiday, and I’d forgotten how busy central London can be. There were lots of people.
At some point along the South Bank you cross from Lambeth into Southwark and Borough. We passed Southwark Cathedral, Borough Market, Shakespeare’s Globe, City Hall, Hay’s Galleria and HMS Belfast along this stretch. Tourist central. It was so busy that we had to stop for “gin o’clock” at one point. We’d been walking for quite some time anyway, so we’d earned one. Just before gin o’clock we’d had a chat with a security guard outside one of the buildings while we were attempting to find a cache that said “you might get wet” – he suggested that rather than being in the fountain, it might be another that required us to descend to river level at low tide. He’d spoken to someone before about the same thing. He was cool with geocaching, if somewhat perplexed. There was a set of steps nearby, but sadly now the tide was too far in to be worth a look. It comes in quickly around here.
Send them to the Tower!
Southwark becomes Tower Hamlets as you cross Tower Bridge. We were able to log all of the Adventure Labs series at the Tower of London by standing on Tower Bridge, which was fun. It saved an amount of walking. From here we headed east slightly into St Katharine Docks for another set of Adventure Labs. By this time it was getting on a bit (around 4 pm) and it was the warmest part of the day. It was busy down here too.
Next up, we headed into the City of London, around the Tower and the Monument and up to Leadenhall Market. I vaguely remember going to Leadenhall Market on a night out from work a few years ago, not that I knew it at the time, but I recognized the place as soon as we walked in. It’s nice….
This led us naturally to the Bank and along Cheapside to St Paul’s and then along a very long stretch of Ludgate Hill, Fleet Street and the Strand that have no caches at all. From Aldwych we headed slightly north-west in London’s busy West End.
A Busy Saturday Night
From Aldwych we walked up into Covent Garden, where there was another set of Adventure Labs. HellieMW decided it was gin o’clock again, so we grabbed some pre-mixed ones from a local supermarket. It was adequate (and very short-lived).
By the time we arrived here it was around 6pm and the place was getting very busy as the daytime tourists transitioned into night-time tourists. The main difference between the two is the amount of alcohol being consumed. Anyway, there were a lot of them. And in the confusion we forgot one Adventure Lab point and couldn’t be bothered to go back for it. Mrs LL and HellieMW decided they needed to pack up and get back to the tube station to meet ReggieCat, who’d ducked out earlier with a gammy knee. Fair enough. So once we’d finished the Ad Lab at Covent Garden and the associated bonus cache they headed off to the tube and left me on my own.
I wanted to finish all the adventure labs that they’d set for the event (as they were only hanging around for a couple of weeks). This meant I needed to walk through Chinatown, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square and along Whitehall. In Chinatown, eveing dinner was well underway. There were a couple of caches here and some conspicuous-looking searching. Leicester Square was also very busy but at least the caches were quick.
Trafalgar Square was boxed off for some film event, but thankfully the owners of the adventure labs here had extended the zones and published the answers so it was still possible to do them. This just left me the walk along Whitehall past the Horse Guards Building, Downing Street and The Cenotaph.
By now it was 8 pm and I’d had enough. It was getting dark anyway. The walking track on my Garmin showed I’d walked 23km. Somehow on the walk back to Westminster Station I managed to delete the track, so I couldn’t upload the evidence. I was annoyed about that, but too tired to fret too much on the way home.
The tube back to Euston was quite quiet, and then I had the delight of sitting on a train full of drunk people all the way back to Milton Keynes. By “drunk”, I mean “argumentative”. Not with me, I kept schtum and was sitting with some other sober people. But the rest of the carriage was getting a bit fruity at a couple of points.
I made it back to Milton Keynes at 9:25 pm and Kas was waiting for me.
The Day of Reckoning
All told I’d found 101 adventure labs during the day. Mrs LL pointed out also that I could log another (at the Bank) because we now had an answer and so long as you’ve actually opened the answer dialogue at some point you can answer when you get home.
Many of the other caches we’d done were virtuals or earthcaches, and hence they required some form of evidence to be provided. Thankfully, Mrs LL had sorted all of this out and collated all the answers, so she submitted on behalf of us all. In the final count there were a further 70 caches of various types that could be logged, making 172 for the day. That beat my previous personal best by 21. I doubt I’ll beat it again anytime soon.
Geocaching “Down the Smoke”.