Lake District 2021

Lake District 2021

Lake District 2021

Our first proper family holiday since the COVID pandemic started. We went to the Lake District. Well, why not?

Grasmere

Stone Arthur

Rydal Mount

Stockghyll Force

Go Ape Grizedale

Borrowdale Fairy Walk

Grasmere Walk

Keswick

Lakes Distillery

Honister Pass

Bowder Stone

Easedale Tarn

The Maize Maze

Heading Up

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It’s Been a Long Time

The last time we took a “proper” family holiday was 2019, our epic driving adventure in France. That was two years ago. In fact we set off on that trip exactly two years before this one. There’s been a lot of trauma since then, which I’m sure I don’t need to explain, but we decided it was still a bit early to go abroad. Still too much risk of cancellation at the last minute. So we reverted to type and booked a trip to the Lake District. We were heading up on a Sunday, to make it a bit less stressful. I’d been away in Lincolnshire the previous weekend and it felt like a rush to get everyone ready on Friday night. Kas and me were both working all week. So Sunday it was.

Motorways

The route up to the Lake District is somewhat familiar to us. We tend just to hack up the M6 because it’s easy and, very helpfully, it goes near to the Lake District. Always advantageous to use a road that goes where you want to be. Our traditional stop on the way is at Norton Canes Services. It’s about 90 minutes from home. That’s only about a third of the way, but it’s one of the better service stations. So we set off at around 11 am to make sure we arrived at lunchtime. It was kind of full when we got there. We had to rely on our usual parking karma to find a place. I guess it’s a warm summer day and maybe quite a lot of other people were setting off on holiday on Sunday. I dunno. We didn’t really get much – just some snacks and drinks to keep us happy for the rest of the drive. We were hoping (expecting) to do the rest of the trip without stopping.

The rest of the trip was as dull and uninteresting as it ought to be, apart from a couple of flurries of wet weather. So we arrived at our chosen venue mid-afternoon, filled up the last sensible parking space, and retired indoors.

Home for the Next Week

We’d booked rooms at the The Swan in Grasmere for a week. We normally do some form of self-catering in the Lakes, but this year we picked a hotel because it was a late decision to go. Options were limited and we wanted somewhere central. It turned out to be quite expensive but it’s well placed and it included breakfast. In comparison to previous trips we were planning a fairly leisurely week, with not quite so much hill walking and plenty of eating and drinking. So that was fine.

We booked a double room and a twin. They were able to put these across the hall from each other so we weren’t separated by any great distance. The rooms were clean and tidy if a bit old-fashioned and not huge. We learned that they’d just been taken over by a new hotel chain, and that their promised refurbishment had been delayed by COVID. If we go again it’ll probably be smarter. It was fine though.

An Evening Stroll

We did a couple of things in the evening, and to be honest I can’t really remember what order we did them in, so I’ll guess. We hadn’t really decided what to do for dinner at this point.

Firstly we legged it down into Grasmere and back. It was a half-mile or so from the hotel. We found a decent place for cake and coffee just as many places were starting to close. I remember sitting outside and I think I may have partaken of an alcohol-based coffee. After this, a quick walk around the village confirmed everywhere was full for dinner, so that made the decision for us. We’d have to eat in the hotel. It proved a strange week as many places were either running reduced numbers because of COVID, or they weren’t taking bookings.

Secondly, while the ladies were getting ready for dinner and/or snoozing, I legged it up the road to grab the nearest geocache. As I do. It never takes me long to get ready, so I had plenty of time. The weather looked a bit threatening while I was out, and this became a bit of a theme for the week.

Dinner

The hotel was able to accommodate us for dinner, even though we hadn’t booked. To be fair, they didn’t have a lot of spare tables, so we were probably lucky. Anyway, they had a reasonably broad generic hotel menu of British favourites covering everything from fish ‘n’ chips, through steaks, burgers, stir-frys and curries. Something for everyone, as it were. They also did beer.

Whilst enjoying dinner we had a chat with the proprietress. She told us about the lack of refurbishment and also mentioned that the hotel was normally full in the early evening because people tend to pop in for a drink and a bite after they’ve been walking, but then it gets quieter later on in the evening. That’s good to know. When we came back from our walk the car park was significantly emptier than when we’d arrived.

And that was more or less it. We ate a variety of things, all of which was decent, before heading up to bed. A fairly relaxing start to the holiday, given that it involved 4 hours in the car.


Grasmere

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The Morning

So the first full day of our week in Grasmere. Time to go and investigate the hotel breakfast. It consisted of fairly typical hotel options. There was a table full of cereals and fruit, and from the kitchen, they supplied cooked breakfasts with copious amounts of toast and coffee. It was good except, as we discovered on subsequent days, taking one or two things off the full breakfast didn’t mean you got more of the other things. Anyway, it was a “tester” session, so we tested.

We’d decided the previous day to split up in the morning. Ami wanted to walk up a hill. Izzy didn’t. Not a big one, anyway. So Kas took Ami in one direction and I took Izzy in another. Some human Brownian motion, in fact.

Stone Arthur

The closest hill of note to the hotel was Stone Arthur. It seems debatable whether it is or isn’t a different hill to its parent, Great Rigg. But for this purpose we shall concur with Alfred Wainwright, even though that means two of us have completed a Wainwright that the other two haven’t.

Obviously, not having been there myself, I don’t have a lot to say. Kas reported that Ami was off like a proverbial rat up a drainpipe, at least for the first stretch. Their walk took them up an initial straight slope and then around more of a gradual slope around a “noggin” to reach the fairly well-disguised summit point.

By the look of the photo here, the view from the top was acceptably good.

Rydal Hall

Izzy and me chose to visit Rydal. There were a couple of physical caches and a set of Adventure Labs that we could do whilst having a pleasant walk around. It was uphill from where we parked (just off the main road) but not as far uphill as a proper hill walk.

I squeezed into Pelter Bridge Car Park, which nestles in the valley where the River Rothay flows from Rydal Water on its way down to Windermere. From here we had a short walk through woods and over the main road before climbing up on the road towards Rydal Hall and Rydal Mount. We were doing a geocache whilst walking up, collecting clues from around the church and up the road.

Rydal Hall has a big house that’s not accessible to Joe Public, as well as free-to-access gardens. It also has quite a lot of camping space, much of which was full. It was quite late in the morning but people in the campsite still seemed to be very much in “breakfast” mode. I thought campers got up early.

Back at the plot, we walked around the gardens finishing off Adventure Labs and finding caches for an hour or so and then I got hit by the need to make a comfort break. So we retreated over to the nearby Rydal Mount to see what was what.

Rydal Mount

Rydal Mount is the former home of William Wordsworth. You know, the bloke who wandered around this area finding and writing poems about daffodils. The building and gardens are still owned by his descendants and they make a meagre few groats by charging people to look around. They make a few more groats by charging people for coffee, cake and ice cream, so we allowed them to extract some money for that before anything else.

Our food and drinks were delivered to a cast-iron circular table on the patio at the front of the building. It was pretty decent weather so we were happy enough. We also allowed them to take enough money off us to cover two entry tickets for tours of the house. Well, we might as well.

The house was maybe a little disappointing. Much of the upstairs is inaccessible because members of the family still live there. Indeed they use the downstairs during the day too. But upstairs you could see one small bedroom and an attic room that was being set up for an art display. Downstairs we were given a fairly long talk covering the two main rooms at the front of the house. First was the original (and only) living room of what was a very small cottage. Second was the somewhat grander living room of the extension. Is it still an extension if it’s three times the size of the original?

I think Izzy enjoyed it more than I did, even though it was tricky because, somewhere, she’d dropped her facemask. I only had one, so I couldn’t help unless we did the tour separately. For me, the tour was a bit dull, to be honest. Maybe that is because it was about a subject that doesn’t interest me very much. I maybe also wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I’m glad I went though.

On the way back to the car we stopped in a couple of places to see if we could find Izzy’s facemask. Eventually we found it at the side of the road about 100m from the car.

Ambleside

Back at the car, we’d got a message from Kas to say they were on their way back down. So we drove back to Grasmere to meet them and discuss lunch.

The agreed approach for lunch was to go to Ambleside, and we were ready to go more or less immediately. That meant trying to find somewhere to park, which proved troublesome and time-consuming. Lunch was provided by a branch of a chain coffee shop. The one that rhymes with Hosta and roster. There was a bit of an issue because the payment transaction failed and it wasn’t clear whether we’d been charged or not. When the system came back we paid again and we were invited to check or banking app in the week and go back if we’d been charged twice.

After lunch we did a bit of walking around. I was trying to work on another set of Adventure Labs and Izzy wanted to buy some rocks. There’s a specialist rock shop, so that was her happy for a while. I was less than happy because I could get a stable signal. Every time I was in the right zone to answer a question I lost signal and couldn’t answer it. So I had to do a series of repetitive shuffles around the town to try to find signal. Annoying. A 10-minute exercise took over half an hour.

After all this I requested that we walk up to Stockghyll Force to finsih the Ad Labs series. We’d been up there on our previous holiday in the Lakes (in 2019). On that day it was a brief couple of hours of dry weather on a day when otherwise it rained all day. Today was a bit drier. Again I couldn’t do the Adventure Lab stage as I had no phone signal, so I was in a bit of a grump. This became a running theme for the holiday. I’d already got the coordinates for the bonus cache so that was OK, and as it turned out, phone signal returned halfway down the hill and once you’ve been into the right zone with the app running you can answer later. So I was able to complete the series.

It was getting late in the afternoon by the time we’d done all this, so we jumped in the car and went back to the hotel.

Dinner in Grasmere

We’d decided to walk into Grasmere for dinner to see what was what.

We found Harley’s, a nice little bistro in a converted church building. They were able to accommodate us without booking but were closing quite early. That’s a thing in Grasmere apparently. People turn up on busses during the day to wander around the church and a Wordsworth museum. They have a coffee in the afternoon, then they get back on the bus and go home. So Grasmere has little nightlife. Even the people staying in the village tend to stay in their hotel to eat. Back at the plot, they did beer which was cold and wet. And they did a range of pizzas, pastas, salads and other stuff. Everything we had was good, so that was a bit of a result.

The walk back to the hotel involved putting one foot in front of the other. That can be complex and strenuous, so we sat in the bar for a while and had a drink before going to bed. It had been a fairly full day.


Grizedale

A Slow Morning

We’d booked an early afternoon session at Go Ape over in Grizedale, so we were in no particular hurry. We took a leisurely breakfast in the hotel again.

The drive around to Grizedale was fairly painless. It’s a bit of a twisty road and, much as happened in 2019 when we came here, we got lost. The sat nav was all but useless, mainly because the postcode for the site covers a large area and the sat nav takes you to the wrong part. We had a flash of recognition at one point and knew we were more or less there, but not before we’d driven 5-6 miles along tiny roads in the wrong direction. To be honest, I don’t think there are any “good” roads into the place.

Apeing Around

This time around I’d booked tickets for all four of us to go around. I thought I’d give it a go, and soon regretted it.

Back at the plot, we waited for a while before our slot so we took a service break had a drink.

When it was time, we were ushered through quickly and joined the group at the base of the first step for our induction / training. They were running a bit late, but it wasn’t really a problem.

All four of us went around the beginner’s loop. It was rather slow because a group of quite small children has got in front of us and they were going rather slowly. We all got round this fairly easily, but I have to say I didn’t enjoy it at all. I didn’t like the sensation of things moving beneath my feet as I was walking. Obviously I was fastened on so I couldn’t fall, but balance isn’t a strong point of mine. I just didn’t feel secure at all.

After the first loop we started up the second one and I spied some parts I really didn’t fancy. At about the same moment Izzy expressed some concern about going on the larger one too. So she and I decided not to bother going further. If you’re going back, decide so at the start. So we back-tracked out and left Kas and Izzy to do it. Izzy fancied another go around the smaller circuit, so off she went while I sat at the bottom. Maybe next time I’ll remember and just not buy myself a ticket.

A Quiet Evening

Driving back was fine, but we couldn’t be bothered with much in the evening, so we went back to the hotel.

One of the other hotels in Grasmere had suffered a COVID outbreak amongst its kitchen staff, apparently. As a result, everyone was wandering around trying to find tables for dinner. Our hotel had allocated a few but had also decided that they were going to keep aside enough tables for all residents to have dinner if they wanted to. So that’s what we did. The food was functional and substantial again. I think the girls had more or less the same thing every night we ate there.


Borrowdale

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The Morning

Another fairly easy-paced morning involving some breakfast in the hotel. The weather was a bit grey, but not too bad. Our plan for the day was to go to Borrowdale to attempt the “Fairy Walk.” I’m not sure why it’s called that, but it’s worth a go. Izzy didn’t fancy any massive walks but a shortish walk on the flat was deemed acceptable.

So after breakfast we saddled up and made our way around through Keswick and into Borrowdale, supposedly the wettest place in England. The walk required us to park in Rosthwaite, where there’s a handy National Trust Car Park. And of course, we can park in those free of charge.

Fairy Walk

We’d read beforehand a brief description of a walk up the Stonethwaite Beck and past Galleny Force to some rock pools where the Langstrath Beck joins. It was only a mile and a half or so. The walk was mainly flat and there was a handful of geocaches on the way to keep me occupied while the ladies walked. At the rock pools there was a particularly troublesome cache that I decided wasn’t there. I started preparing a replacement and messaging the owner to check, and just as I was about to place it I spotted the real cache. D’oh!

All the while I’d been doing this, the ladies had made their way down to the water and started paddling. I joined them eventually and got my boots off for a quick dip. There was a nice and relatively shallow bit with decent rocks that we could sit on, so we sat there for a while, plodged, and generally soaked up the atmosphere. It was a lovely spot, even if the weather was a bit average.

The walk back, down the other side of the beck, seemed to take much longer. Maybe we’d had enough of walking. Anyway, the car park also had a cafe nearby. So we availed ourselves of some drinks and lunch while we were there.

We hadn’t really planned anything for the afternoon and Izzy was done, so we went back to the hotel.

Legging It

A general lack of enthusiasm for more exercise amongst the ladies lead to a decision by them to just chill at the hotel.

I wasn’t quite so tired, so I stole away to walk my way around Grasmere, picking up a few caches on the way.

I started by walking down the main road towards Ambleside. At Town End I went off the main road and onto the local road around White Moss. This eventually bought me out quite close to Rydal Water and I walked back through the woods and along the little river that drains Grasmere into Rydal Water.

I crossed the river onto the far side and walked my way around the west side of Grasmere and back into the village. I was getting a bit parched so I grabbed a drink from the Co-Op on the way past.

By the time I got back to the hotel I’d walked just over 8km and I’d been outside for an hour and three-quarters.

A Night on the Town

The girls had saved enough energy to go out in the evening rather than stay at the hotel. So when I got back from the walk I had a quick shower and we headed to Ambleside. We’d seen a few decent-looking places when we were there two days earlier. Our favourite-looking one was a brew-pub right next to the car park. They had a bit of a queue and said it might take about half an hour before we’d a table. So the girls went and sat on a wall by the river while Kas and me stood in the queue.

It eventually took a little under half an hour, partly because some people just walked away.

Once we got inside we were treated to some nice, fresh beer (well, I was) and a menu that had a bit of everything. I think we ordered a lot of pizzas, amongst other things. It was really busy, which was rare for this holiday. The hotel restaurant had been quiet every night we’d eaten there and the one night we went out we were in a quiet restaurant too. This place was busy. All the tables were full and the wait-staff were running around like blue-arsed flies, only more efficient.

Back at the hotel Kas and me retired to the bar for a swift half while the girls went up to sleep. It had been the busiest day so far.


Bassenthwaite


Honister


Easedale


Maize Maze


Sunderland


Derwenthaugh


Newcastle University


Geocache Finds 2021-08-07 Lincoln

Lincolnshire Mega

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The Sketch

Every year there is an “official” UK Mega geocaching event. The Lincolnshire Mega is this year’s iteration, and was to be held at the Lincolnshire Showground. A lot of cachers go and camp for a few days at the UK Mega. This group was enticed this year by the annual Piratemania event being held the weekend before and within 10 miles. So some went up for two weekends, with a change of location halfway through. I didn’t. I’m not a camping fan, and anyway I only wanted to take one day off work.

The Trip

I’d arranged to spend the Friday and Saturday nights at my brother’s place in Southwell, which is only about 40 minutes from the event site. A few days beforehand though, I decided I’d like to get an early start on the Friday, so I booked a cheap(ish) hotel in the centre of Lincoln just for the Thursday night. That meant leaving home as soon as I finished work on Thursday. Lincoln is about 2 hours drive from home.

The car park at the hotel caused some swearing because it had online payments. The website told me I couldn’t book a space for “now” because it was full (it was actually half empty). The telephone service was useless because I don’t know how to type a registration number on a phone keypad. Eventually, after wasting ages, I decided to go and ask for help in the hotel. Whereupon I spotted the “old skool” card payment machine next to the hotel entrance. D’oh!

Anyway, I managed to get checked in to the hotel eventually. I had a huge 20 minutes to get back downstairs to order food before they shut the restaurant. I sat eating a substantial burger and drinking a beer or two whilst watching it rain cats and dogs. My mind turned to how much caching we’d get done on Friday if the rain stayed. The weather forecast said the rain was set in for the weekend.

Friday Caching in Lincoln

Friday morning still looked a bit damp. The hotel supplied a substantial breakfast, which was most welcome. Which left me a while to pack the car and wait for Pesh to arrive. I’d arranged to meet him to cache in Lincoln on Friday. While I was waiting I walked off to find a couple of caches. One wasn’t there. The other was on the tank memorial, right outside the hotel.

The sketch for Friday was to work our way around Lincoln. There are six sets of Adventure Labs in the centre. Plus we could do any other caches that we passed. Once this was done, the plans were unformed.

Pesh was a bit later than we’d arranged, but we eventually got off some time between 10 and 10:30. My hotel was at the bottom of the big hill, and there was one set of Labs that required you to walk up the hill (and do the points in sequence), so we started with that series.

There was a flashmob event outside Lincoln Cathedral late in the morning, so that set our time window for the morning caching. We managed to get most of the caches to the east of the central “uphill” bit. At the event it was my first opportunity to meet up with old caching friends that I hadn’t seen for months.

Caching Uphill

After the event there was another set of Ad Labs in the “uphill” area that had to be done in sequence. The last of these was closest to the cathedral, so it was a bit of a hack to get them right. I also discovered the pain of trying to run multiple Ad Labs series concurrently. It’s hard to remember which points are where, and which series to have open in the app at any given time. I’ve solved that now by creating laminated QR codes for each target series so I can just open the Ad Labs app when I need it.

There was very little sign of the promised rain. We had one 15 minute shower at about midday and another an hour later, but the rest of the time it was quite bright. I wore sunglasses most of the day. Fair enough when it did rain, it rained hard, but it didn’t rain for long.

Our route took us on an anti-clockwise loop to the north of the cathedral and around to Lincoln Castle. We didn’t linger there though, because time was moving on and Pesh wanted to get out to the Cache-In-Trash-Out event mid-afternoon.

There was some delay searching for a solved wherigo when it turned out that the final zone of the wherigo is not the same place as the cache location. That took a while, but we got there eventually. We finished off in the town centre by walking down Steep Hill to Brayford Pool.

Heading for the Hills

I wasn’t bothered about going to the CITO event, but I was quite keen to do a load more caches. There was a big series of 81 challenge caches out to the south-east. I’d reviewed them and confirmed that I qualified for nearly all of them. They were notionally set up as drive-bys, so that seemed like good news after a busy morning of walking.

In practice, the parking wasn’t great at most of them and there were lots of other cachers around. It was slow going and I missed a few. I eventually found 30 more caches, of which 25 were from the Challenge series. At this point, I basically got bored and decided it was time for the evening to begin. I stopped at an earthcache on the Lincoln Edge on the way past. By the time I stopped caching I’d made 81 finds, which counts as a decent day.

Homeward Bound, Sort of

The drive over to Southwell was uneventful apart from having the strange feeling that everything has got smaller since I was young. Maybe it’s just that both me and my car are somewhat larger. Anyway, it always feels to me that things have got smaller than I remember them as a kid. The roads, the houses, the whole town, whatever. So driving into Southwell felt a bit peculiar at first.

I wasn’t sure whether my bro would be home yet, so I pulled into the nearest car park and checked my phone, which had been charging in the car for a while after getting drained right down to the last electron whilst doing all those Adventure Labs earlier. Anyway, he’d texted a while back to say he was home already, so I was able to pull off the car park and head into his flat. He has gated entry, and I didn’t have a doo-dad to open it.

I hadn’t seen my brother in ages (in fact, I can’t even remember when it was), so it was good to catch up for a bit. I got showered and changed quickly so we could head off out for a couple of beers and a curry.

Be Careful Not to Drink Too Much

As I’d been out caching all day the beers disappeared rather quickly. Rather more quickly than I could have done with, if truth be told.

But back at the plot, the conversation turned to the weather. Not because of that particular English obsession, but for the more practical reason of how it might affect Saturday’s plans. I was due to be caching all day, and as I was “in the zone” I was going to the event regardless. Bro had got tickets for the Test Match at Trent Bridge, and the weather forecast was that there’d basically be no play at all. When he goes to the cricket he likes to avail himself of the onsite hospitality, and that is incompatible with driving there (or with driving home, anyway). So he normally gets a taxi. How lucky did he feel about paying for a taxi both ways if the weather forecast was a 90% chance of no play at all? So while we were in the pub he cancelled the taxi and decided not to go.

While I was in the pub, I met a few of the bro’s friends. I’m sure I’ve met some of them before, but so long ago that I couldn’t remember. I also consumed too much beer. By the time it was curry o’clock I was in need of a change of scenery. One of the bro’s friends came across with us. One who was also supposed to have been going to the cricket in the taxi.

The food in the Indian was good, but they don’t do dhansak like my local does 🙂

Saturday is Event Day

I woke up on Saturday morning with a stinking hangover (it serves me right). It was much earlier than I really wanted. I knew I wasn’t going back to sleep and the bro was still in bed, so I decided to go for a walk around Southwell to grab a few caches. There were about a dozen on the radar that I reckoned I could find in an hour or so. It’s not that big a place. The morning was quite bright and there was no sign of the predicted rain. In fact, it was gorgeous, and the cool morning air did wonders for my head.

By the time I got back, bro was out of bed and offered me a bacon sandwich, which I was powerless to resist. All of this happened prior to 9 am. I really did wake up far too early.

I left shortly afterwards and found myself at the Lincolnshire Showground about 20 minutes before the event formally started. Spot on, I’d say.

My first order of business was to find a coffee. The second order of business was to go and find the Beds, Bucks & Herts caming group, otherwise known as “Team Cake” during mega event week. They’re easy to spot if you know your English county flags. Anyway, Pesh was there too, and his caravan was surrounded by massive rainbow flags. That made it kind of easy to navigate to them. Most of Team Cake were in residence that early in the morning, so having coffee, some washing up after breakfast, and some having just returned from parkrun. So I sat and nattered for a while until the event site was properly open.

The Actual Event

Inside the event there was the usual array of geocaching supplies traders and caching knick-knacks. There was an “official” Signal the Frog banner, which allows you to gain a very rare locationless cache by posting a photo of yourself next to it. I collected my supporters pack from the team and promptly gave them a load more money for geocoins because there were extra designs that weren’t included in my pack already. In the traders’ hall there was a set of 10 adventure labs that required you to visit stalls and (somehow) obtain a password. Those took a while, but partly because I kept spending more money on geocoins.

Once I’d done all the ad labs indoors and chatted to a few old friends it was time to go and wander around the site to do all the daytime adventures. There were another two sets of ten, one on the theme of bears, and one on a theme of birds. I got all of the birds but somehow failed to log the tenth bear, so now I have a set on my profile that will remain forever unfinished. D’oh!

I was toying with how to spend my afternoon. Some fellow Team Cakers advised they’d done the new Lincolnshire Legends series of traditional caches that were close to the event site, and it had taken them about 3-4 hours. That sounded like a good use of time, so I set off across the extensive car parks to find a way out.

The Great and the Good

It was a mainly very easy series. At the start I caught up with a guy from London who was doing the first few. Then about halfway round I caught up with TonyDev, who’d started partway around. We walked together until we were joined a couple of others that he knew, and we made a team of four for the rest of the route. With four of us it was quick going.

It’s fair to say that the weather all day was a lot better than predicted. In fact, whilst it was a bit breezy, it was sunny most of the time and I got sunburnt. There was one shower that lasted about 10 minutes. If bro had gone to the cricket he’d have seen more or less a full day.

By the time I got back to the event site it was all packing up, so I said a quick goodbye to the BBH crew and headed off back to bro’s house. He was at home watching the Rugby Test Match between the Lions and the Springboks. I arrived just around half time. He already had a selection of food in the house that was good to eat whilst watching a sporting event, so we were sorted.

In the evening, because bro had already shifted a few beers and I’d had a long walk, we couldn’t really be bothered to go out. We stayed in and I typed up all my caching logs whilst drinking a couple more beers and watching baseball on the telly. I’d found another 85 caches during the course of the day, so I reckoned that was enough.

Sunday

On Sunday I’d promised my parents I’d go see them for lunch. The ladies of the house weren’t coming up because Kas had some stuff to do during the day, so the folks arranged to go out for lunch in Tamworth at an Italian restaurant they fancied trying.

Before I left I took the opportunity to find a few more caches in Southwell. I had a change of clothes handy so I wasn’t bothered if I got a bit mucky caching in the morning. I could always shower when I got to their house, if I needed.

After four caches in and around Southwell I set the car sat nav going. It took me a rather creative route around the outside of Nottingham, but I was happy with that as it can be difficult to follow when you’re in a town anyway.

Once at the folks’ house we had a short elevenses break before setting off for Tamworth. The restaurant was an Italian that they’d been eyeing up for a while. It was nice. There was some mucking about trying to find car parks, but that’s not the restaurant’s fault.

The Reckoning

In the final reckoning I’d found 170 caches over the weekend, which is somewhat more than I was expecting. They are shown in the maps below.


Geocache Finds 2021-07-03

Geocache Finds 2021-07-03

Geocache Finds 2021-07-03

Rushmere

The Sketch

A chance random event saw a friend discussing with his sister the fact that there are lots of geocaches near Milton Keynes. She kind of knew this anyway, but that lead to an excuse for visiting. However, said friend (and brother) isn’t a geocacher, so he referred the discussion to me. So, do I want to go caching somewhere local with a good friend’s sister? Er, yes, of course. And where could we go? Well, there’s a series of moderate length at Rushmere Country Park, down near Leighton Buzzard, that I haven’t done. “That’ll do”, as they apparently say in Yorkshire.

The friend’s sister, and newfound caching companion, was HellieMW. She doesn’t geocache alone though. She always brings along Desmond the Dog. He’s apparently a very excitable soul, prone to going a bit wild whenever he meets someone new.

Setting Off

HellieMW and Desmond arrived at my house quite early in the morning ready for us to set off for our walk. We agreed to go in my car (as I knew the way), which meant we expected Des would be a bit manic in the back, but it can’t have been that bad because he was basically silent the whole time.

We parked alongside the Grand Union Canal at the Three Locks pub and dismounted whilst finding the first step of the first cache of the series.

Up to Rushmere

Our first stretch of walking took us along a road and then into fields running south-east towards Rushmere Country Park. It was fairly easy going until we found a field full of cows. This isn’t always an issue, but in this instance there were a few problems:

  • There were calves in the field – cows are more protective when they have calves.
  • There seemed to be a bull in the field too – sod that for a game of soldiers.
  • Whilst it wasn’t a big field, we couldn’t see the stile on the other side.
  • Des was with us. Dogs make cattle twitchy.

So we decided we ought to bypass that stretch and loop around a nearby road, and then back in from the other direction. As we were walking up a random farm track to the road we were challenged by someone, but once we explained he was fine with it. I think he was camping rather than the farmer, so not really his business anyway.

Once we officially crossed the road we had one more field to cross before reaching the country park. It didn’t have cows in it, just a load of tall plants.

Rushmere is somewhere I really only know because we’ve been there a few times for Rushmere parkrun. What I remember from parkrun is a course that’s mainly uphill. It’s in woods and is a part of the Greensand Ridge, so underfoot is mainly sandy apart from the bottoms of valleys.

Our walking path bought us into the park about halfway along the parkrun back straight. There’s a bunch of other caches in the park that were off the main series. We had loads of time so we tracked around the north part of the park, more or less backwards around parkrun, grabbing those.

Down the Hill we go

After passing the cafe in the Country Park we followed the path down the hill towards the Leighton Buzzard road. This is a bit of the park I’d never been to before. You don’t normally go there during parkrun. It was easy to navigate downhill from cache to cache and we soon found ourselves walking along the road, having picked up another clue for the letterbox cache that began at the very start.

The walk along the road here is actually a footpath that skirts the fields. At one point HellieMW snapped the landscape shown here.

As we rejoined the road we picked up another clue for the letterbox cache. Or so we thought.

Back along the canal

When we reached the canal we collected the final clue for the letterbox cache and sat down to work out the final location. We took the opportunity to snaffle some lunch too. Whilst we were calculating, we realised we were supposed to have gathered much more information from the previous location. We were missing two numbers. I sort of knew (or guessed) where the final cache would be. This was based purely on the hint, which implied it was the same physical container on the canalside that I’d done before. However, I couldn’t remember exactly where that was and our candidate numbers were giving a range of about 200m of canal that the cache could be at. That’s too much for guessing.

So once we finished lunch, I legged it back to the previous point while HellieMW and Des the Dog went slightly south to find a Church Micro cache that was just off the loop. 10 minutes lost, but it probably saved considerably more than that in the long run.

The final was exactly where I thought, except I’d forgotten the precise situation. It was definitely the same box, secured in the same manner, as the previous complex multi I’d done down here.

Once we got back to the car, there was a traditional cache out of the back end of the car park that I’d done but HellieMW hadn’t. So off we went. It was a right old bushwhack to get in. And it probably drew a few looks when we came out again.

Leighton Buzzard

There was an Adventure Lab series in Leighton Buzzard that neither of us had done, so we drove in and parked in the car park of a well-known supermarket. While we were walking up to that, we grabbed a challenge cache that Hellie hadn’t done. The previous two searchers hadn’t found it, but I kind of knew where it was.

The Adventure Lab required us to visit five spots of (minor) historical interest in the town, including an old well and the library. It had a bonus cache to follow which proved to be in a convenient location for us.

While we were out and about I showed Hellie where the final of the central Church Micro is, and we ventured to a puzzle which was easy to solve but quite hard to find. I’d have given up but Hellie persisted a while longer and was rewarded with the find.

The bonus for the Ad Labs was in a location that helped Hellie find another (that I’d already done).

On the way home we stopped roadside for Hellie to do another puzzle that I’d found a few years back. The drive home was peaceful. I think Des the Dog must have had enough.

Well, that was a decent day out!

Thirty-something caches found and a new buddy (or two) to go caching with. We should do that again.


Geocache Finds 2021-06-19

Geocache Finds 2021-06-19

Geocache Finds 2021-06-19

Geohound

The Sketch

Every post has to have a sketch. In this case, because it’s a post about a piece of geoart, the sketch is of a dog. A dog made-up of smiley faces on my geocaching map. That’s more or less all the sketch you need to know about the Geohound series at Grafham Water.

It was a Saturday afternoon and there weren’t any games in the Euro 2020 that I particularly wanted to watch. And anyway, I hadn’t been caching for more than a month. And Kas was taking the kids up the shops for some retail therapy after the latest period of lockdown.

Driving there was fairly uneventful, which is good. I went to the massive car park on the south-east corner of the lake. It’s actually a reservoir not a lake. It’s supposedly 16km round, and is the third largest in the UK by surface area. Not by volume though, because there’s not many hills near here, so it’s really shallow.

Around the Car Park

I chose this car park because on the caching map there seemed to be a big confusion – no obvious route through. This turned out to be because the area is a huge open field with a few trees. Multiple routes are available between locations and there’s no obvious flow to the footpaths. Anyway, it meant I’d found 10 caches before venturing more than half a mile from my car. I also found this coo.

Where do we go from here?

Is it down to the lake, I fear? Here we go…..

I was walking in an anti-clockwise direction around the geohound loop, which meant I was going in the opposite direction to the geocache numbers. And I’d started in the middle. I don’t like being conventional.

Anyway, it was a flat path and pretty easy to follow. The biggest two problems were that the weather was all sticky and clammy, and that the recent rain meant the undergrowth was neck-high in some places. This can make for some challenging cache finds. I was going quite slowly, but at least the path was a nice, wide, clear pathway suitable for cycling.

Round the Back

At the back of the lake (the west end, the other end from the dam) the path starts to run through farmland and leaves the lakeside a little. I speeded up a bit around here even though the underfoot conditions were worse. Speeded up, that is, until I hit four or five in a row that were “small tube hanging in hedge”. In the middle of summer you basically don’t have a prayer with these unless you get lucky or you’re very persistent. I was neither, so I have left four solved puzzles in the middle of nowhere. I know I’ll never go back just to do those four.

The Village

Around here, the circular bikeable path runs into Perry, and there were a few “off series” caches in this bit. It felt a bit slow and fiddly, with some backwards-and-forwards. I found everything in the village though, so I was reasonably happy with that.

After the village the path went back into the trees and away from the roadside to complete the loop.

Dam You, Geohound!

Most of the eastern end of Grafham Water is the large earth-and-concrete dam that holds the water in. At this point on the walk you have to trust in engineering. The route goes onto a footpath below the top of the dam rather than over the top of the dam. So you have a big earth wall on one side of you. And, bizarrely, you have a big solar farm on the other side.

By this stage my feet were starting to hurt a bit, and I also noticed I’d switched off my GPS’s tracking at some point and hadn’t switched it back on. That means no complete track to upload to Strava. If it’s not on Strava, did it even really happen?

One of the last two caches looked like it was on the path but it turned out to involve a hike along the top of the dam to get onto the watery side, and then a walk back. That took a while and my feet weren’t happy.

When I got back to the car park my car was where I’d left it, which is good. I hadn’t got the energy to attempt any more caches so I just set off home from here. It was about 3:30 by this time.

I’d found 72 caches over the course of the day, which I thought was enough anyway.

At home there was the rest of the family, food, beer and football, in roughly that order.


Geocache Finds 2021-05-09

Geocache Finds 2021-05-09