A very busy year hunting for tupperware.
It saw me exceed my previous greatest total number of finds in a year by some distance.
Bury St Edmunds
- Full Circle
- EHB Series
- Mega Day
- West Harling
- Bury St Edmunds
Time to sign off on my 2022 Caching Diary. It’s been a busy year.
2021 was a somewhat improved year compared to 2020, what with there being no pandemic lockdowns for most of the year and with me having the time and energy to meet up with friends and go out caching. 2022 looked like it ought to be even better.
My plan for 2022 was mainly to suck it and see. I mean, planning is tricky while this whole pandemic thing is still around. You don’t know quite what’s going to happen or when. Anyway, I planned to find loads of caches. Over the winter I was planning to stay on roads and paths. I’m done with being knee-deep in clart. The “agricultural” series could all wait until spring and summer. There’s several hundred available within an hour’s drive that are designed for bikes, and hence won’t involve muddy fields.
I’ve kept this post up to date and have moved its date of authoring forward as the year progresses. I’ve been doing some work on presentation of my own find statistics, and as a result I’m now in a much better position to make amendments to this post quickly.
So here we go. A whistlestop tour of my year in tupperware, in the form of a list with links to specific blog posts for the longer days (i.e. those where the caching was significant enough to warrant an individual post).
January (160 finds) – My best ever January
- 1st January – Pesh’s traditional “Pastries at the Pagoda” event – This year a “Community Celebration” – 1 find
- 2nd January – Ticking off a day from the Shifty Fifty Challenge in Yaxley (see Yaxley Peloton) – 61 finds
- 9th January – A quick trip up to Blisworth for a set of Ad Labs and a few traditionals – 15 finds
- 13th January – An evening event in Milton Keynes – 1 find
- 16th January – A bit of a day out in Hertfordshire (see Animated) – 82 finds
February (386 finds) – My best ever February
- 3rd February – A quick one while one of the kids was at Art Club – 1 find
- 5th February – If you’re going, go big! (see Brandon) – 90 finds
- 13th February – Hacking around a bit more of the “No cheese, Gromit!” series (see Plasticine) – 68 finds
- 14th February – Completing my 360° from Home Challenge (see Full Circle) – 18 finds
- 22th February – An event and a dash around Towcester for Twosday – 9 finds
- 26th February – A monstrously massive day doing poshrule’s peloton (see Peloton) – 200 finds
March (122 finds)
- 7th March – A single find for my first ever Traditional on March 7th – 1 find
- 12th March – Finishing the Grand Tour by completing poshrule’s peloton (see Pelotoff) – 115 finds
- 13th March – A single find for my first ever Traditional on March 13th – 1 find
- 19th March – A handful of finds whilst testing out my new bike in Milton Keynes – 4 finds
- 31st March – An evening event in Milton Keynes – 1 find
April (236 finds)
- 1st April – A single find whilst planning / setting some of my Only Connect puzzles – 1 find
- 3rd April – Testing out the new bike in earnest, over at Cambridge (see Girton) – 86 finds
- 9th April – Pounding round the Northamptonshire countryside (see Brigstock) – 93 finds
- 19th April – I solved an Only Connect puzzle from CASH & Gary, and then dashed for an evening FTF – 1 find
- 21st April – I solved another Only Connect puzzle from CASH & Gary, and popped out to find it in my lunch hour – 1 find
- 23rd April – I was in London for an event in the Olympic Park – 7 finds
- 24th April – I made heavy work of a walk around Harlington and then had some issues with phone signal in Woburn – 43 finds
- 30th April – A lunchtime event in Tattenhoe followed by a dash to Wavendon to complete the Shifty Fifty for today – 4 finds
May (108 finds)
- 1st May – A return dash to Wavendon on a break between house maintenance tasks – 3 finds
- 2nd May – A walk around Rushmere and Stockgrove with the family – 6 finds
- 6th May – An evening event and a few local caches – 5 finds
- 7th May – The 2022 MK Mini Geocoin Fair – 1 find
- 8th May – A morning event after the fair – 1 find
- 13th May – A new Ad Labs series at Caldecotte Lake – 8 finds
- 15th May – A handful on my way up to see my parents – 11 finds
- 17th May – A “Roundabout Milton Keynes” event – 1 find
- 22nd May – A birthday bash over in Ashwell for Ryo62 – a day that saw me pass 1,000 finds for the year and 15,000 in total (see Ashwell) – 63 finds
- 30th May – A new Ad Labs series in Milton Keynes plus a couple of others – 8 finds
- 31st May – One of Pesh’s “Pause for Art” events in Campbell Park – 1 find
June (521 finds – My best ever)
- 4th June – A day of insanity driving around the EHB Series (see EHB Series) – 384 finds
- 11th June – A single cache required to complete the Shifty Fifty for today – 1 find
- 14th June – Four caches required to complete the Shifty Fifty for today, but I did an Ad Lab series, so – 5 finds
- 25th June – Finishing off the month with another big day out over towards Royston – 131 finds
July (129 finds)
- 17th July – A bike trip round the Letchworth Greenway in ridiculous heat – 62 finds
- 18th July – A few local finds – 3 finds
- 21st to 31st July – On holiday in Crete – 64 finds
August (530 finds)
- 1st to 4th August – Still on holiday in Crete) – 50 finds
- 5th August – Up to Uttoxeter for the West Midlands Mega (see Knotty) – 109 finds
- 6th August – The day of the actual UK Mega in Uttoxeter, spent mainly in Lichfield (see Mega Day) – 83 finds
- 7th August – Walking from Sudbury to Tutbury followed by some Ad Labs near East Midlands Airport. Somewhere here I passed 16,000 total finds (see Sudbury to Tutbury) – 68 finds
- 10th August – An event in Milton Keynes to celebrate Sidetracked day – 1 find
- 13th August – A handful needed to make the Shifty Fifty – Done at Haversham – 9 finds
- 14th August – 29 needed for the Shifty Fifty – Mainly done in Great Brickhill – 30 finds
- 20th August – Logging the locationless cache GC9FAVE on International Geocaching Day, to get the souvenirs, but frankly because I forgot to do an actual physical cache – 1 find
- 27th August – A monster bike and car-based hack near Downham Market (see Norfolk Villages) – 160 finds
- 31st August – One of Pesh’s “Pause for Art” series on an afternoon where I’d earned a bit of time off – 19 finds
September (116 finds)
- 3rd September – A wander round the woods at West Harling near Thetford (see West Harling) – 106 finds
- 10th September – A Roundabout MK event near Wolverton, followed by a new series of Ad Labs up in Haversham – 7 finds
- 17th September – A couple of quick ones near Measham on a trip to see my folks – 2 finds
- 30th September – One of Pesh’s “Pause for Art” event series in Milton Keynes – 1 find
October (328 finds)
- 1st October – Another big day up near Downham Market (see Bouncing Butterflies) – 101 finds
- 22nd & 23rd October – A weekend with the family in Leeds doing Ad Labs in the rain – 54 finds
- 25th October – Another monster day up near Downham Market (see Pentney PedalAthon) – 109 finds
- 29th October – A day of multiple Ad Labs and other caches near Bedford (see Bedford Walkabout) – 63 finds
- 31st October – One of Pesh’s “Pause for Art” event series in Milton Keynes – 1 find
November (139 finds)
- 5th November – A walk around Milton Keynes collecting a new series of puzzles – 18 finds
- 19th November – A trip to Bury St Edmunds for a load of Ad Labs and an event (see Bury St Edmunds) – 71 finds
- 27th November – A strenuous walk near Cambridge around a series that was in bad condition and probably won’t survive the winter – 50 finds
December (251 finds)
- 2nd December – A walk Therfield and Kelshall (see Therfield) as a final (probably) mud-plugging day of the year – 105 finds
- 3rd December – Down “the Smoke” for a day of Ad Labs (see London Labs). Somewhere here I passed 17,000 total finds – 96 finds
- 9th to 12th December – A weekend in Dorset with the blokes – 14 finds
- 24th December – A set of labs in Buckingham – 5 finds
- 26th December – A few labs and other in Milton Keynes – 16 finds
- 28th December – A quick jaunt out for an hour on my birthday – 9 finds
- 30th December – A set of Ad Labs in London that (cough) doesn’t actually require you to be in London – 5 finds
- 31st December – Pesh’s traditional end-of-month (and this time, end-of-year) Pause for Art event – 1 find
So there we have it, my 2022 Caching Diary. So what did I actually achieve:
- A total of 3,026 finds
- One new country (Greece)
- 102 sets of Adventure Labs finished
- 26 days ticked off my Shifty Fifty Challenge
- 10 days of more than 100 finds
- A new one-day high of 384 finds when doing the EHB Series in June
I’m calling that a satisfactory year of caching. I haven’t (still) finished the Difficulty/Terrain grid and I still haven’t finished the “Full English” because I’ve not been setting out specifically to do that. Maybe that can be a target for next year (at least one of the two).
Time to get 2022’s caching efforts up and running. Well, aside from the previous day’s event anyway. I spent ages planning a trip down “That London” but eventually decided against. There was a possibility of train strikes and I couldn’t bring myself to drive an hour just to get on a train for another hour. So I decided not to bother with that. Anyway, I have literally thousands of caches I can do within a one-hour drive. In particular, there are hundreds that are designed for biking. That also means they are ideal for walking without getting knee-deep in sludge. That’s my New Year’s caching resolution. No muddy fields until it’s dried out a bit. So for this day I decided to go to Yaxley and begin poshrule’s peloton.
The peloton is a fairly large series of caches (over 300) which are simple puzzles based around professional cycling. The icons draw pictures of cyclists. Cool. Anyway I’ve had them solved for ages and I know they are all accessible by bike.
But Before That
There’s always a “before that” and today was no exception. The pre-walk jaunt today was to complete a set of Adventure Labs in Yaxley itself. They are quite spread out and, if I walked them, it would add about 3km onto the walk. However, the points were all accessible by car so I decided to drive. It was early on a Sunday morning, so why not. You can tell from the first photo here that it was still before 9 am when I parked.
Anyway, the first three parts of the Ad Labs could be done as drive-bys and the fourth was at the church, where I’d decided to park. Job done. 4 finds up before even walking away from the car.
On to the Main Business
The main business for today was to get above 50 total finds for the day of January 2nd. When I started that required 32 finds. So when I left the car I needed a further 28.
The walking route for the Yaxley part of the peloton is a triangle to the west of Yaxley that I’ve walked at least three times before (see Yaxley to Conington, Yakkety Yaxley and Tour de Haddon). I therefore more or less knew what to expect and knew it would be a quick and easy way to get the required number of finds. There were 44 caches on the triangular walk (plus 5 labs), so more than plenty.
I set off walking at just before 9 am and I got back to the car at 12:15, having found the 44. No particular hazards or issues apart from the regular batches of cyclists passing. I even had time for a short chat with another cacher who was sitting at the PoW Memorial at Norman Cross trying to solve the multi there. I could tell they were cachers. Normal people don’t usually examine memorials in so much detail. Anyway, nice to meet you.
What Now Then?
I sat in the car for a while contemplating what to do next. It was a bit early for going home but I didn’t think I had enough time for another full loop from the peloton. However, there are a few “stragglers” down the old A1, plus a nice-looking group of six in the village of Holme. So I went for those. I missed a load down the old A1, either because I didn’t like the parking or because I just couldn’t find the cache. I guess there’s other days. Holme was a pleasant little walk around a nice-looking village. I was able to park at the front of the primary school (it’s Sunday, so nobody around).
So, below are the results of my trip to Yaxley to start the peloton. I made a total of 61 finds, including 47 from the peloton series. That’s a decent start for a winter’s day.
At some point in the last couple of years, ryo62 cleared out a previous series of caches near Barkway (see Barkway and Reed) and replaced them with a set of puzzles based loosely on the theme of a certain plasticine animated dog and his rather peculiar master. I was looking for a good day out, and having started poshrule’s peloton (see Yaxley Peloton) a couple of weeks back, it seemed time to start this one too. So here we are with my first trip to attempt the 113 cache puzzle series. I expected it would take at least two trips, maybe three, depending on how many “extras” I add to the walks. But this is the first assault.
So why here? Why not return to the peloton? Two weeks ago I walked a triangle in Yaxley but left myself an “empty” stretch of 3km or so because of the shape of the series. I didn’t fancy walking that part. And the other bits of the peloton looked better suited to the summer (or spring at least) by virtue of being right out in the countryside.
I know the peloton is able to be done by bike, but I have an issue with bikes. I have a road bike, but that’s not suitable for caching. A while back I also got a folding mountain bike. But like an eejit I bought it online without checking enough details. It’s supposed to be OK for someone up to 6 feet tall (which I’m not) but I find that the handlebars are way too low and the seat doesn’t quite go high enough. Sometimes I’m rather impulsive. So anyway, I’m going to sell that bike and maybe buy a more suitable one that fits me properly. But for now, no bike that’s suitable for caching on. I need to get one though, because as well as the peloton, there’s a series of 500 or so on the Essex-Herts border.
The Essex-Herts border is quite close to the villages of Barkway and Barley. Which brings me rather untidily back to “No Cheese, Gromit!”, ‘cos it’s there, innit! So that’ll do then.
And I failed to mention the second reason for going there. It’s a series by ryo62. Not especially challenging hides, because Ross sets them more for the numbers hounds, but that kind of caching hits the spot when you want to find at least 49 on a day in mid-January. Ross’s series generally have relatively easy caches, packed in quite close. All have good coordinates and are hidden to be found. So my experiences of ryo62 caches are generally good ones. In this case, it’s a relatively new series too, so low likelihood of poor condition or missing caches.
I set off in darkness because it’s about an hour from home and I wanted to allow as much daylight as possible. And I made my now customary stop at the BP garage to top up with diesel and acquire coffee, breakfast, and some sustenance for the day. So far, so good.
Last time I was here I parked on the high street in Barkway, which I wasn’t especially happy with ‘cos it’s not very wide. Other people park there, but they are probably residents. I’m not. Anyway, this time I noticed there’s a Village Hall and recreation ground to the north end. And it has a car park with hard standing and no gates. Ideal then. I am happy to park somewhere like that, because I’m in nobody’s way and it’s the kind of place where nobody bats an eyelid if there’s a car parked there all day. The best place for a non-local to go.
The parking was conveniently close to the first cache too – a Village Hall puzzle, funnily enough. It was about 20 yards from where I parked.
The first stretch of walking took me north out of Barkway for a mile or so before joining a byway/bridleway. You know – one of those tracks covered in gravel that is frequented by horse riders and people on trials bikes. And geocachers. There was a quick turn west here to grab some of ryo62’s “Congratulations” caches. And then back east along to the village of Barley. So far, the going had been good. When I reached Barley I’d found 18 caches in about 75 minutes.
Barley is a pretty village which has an old Tudor Town House, which was the subject of another Village Hall cache. I couldn’t pre-solve this one using Google Street View because the information wasn’t clear enough, so I had to visit. The end point of the calculation was not far off my walking route, which is good.
The No Cheese, Gromit! circuit goes a bit free-form here and there are a number of other caches, so I ended up walking the width of the village three times on different pathways to snaffle them all.
Around this time I hit my “problem” for the day. I bought new boots a while back and was trying some gel insoles to try to reduce aches on long walks. Problem is that these insoles lifted my heel up just enough that they moved inside the boot. So blisters on the way. Those insoles need to be removed, or I need a better arrangement of socks. Anyway, the temporary fix for the day involved toilet roll. I carry some in my bag, and it was ideal for sticking around my heel to stop the rubbing getting any worse. It worked well enough, although I had to keep changing the toilet roll every few miles because it’s not very resilient stuff when it’s sweaty and encountering a lot of friction.
There was a point at which I considered giving up and just taking the shortest route back to the car. That was the point I was stuffing bog-roll down my socks. It was also the place I took this panorama photo though. Anyway, I unwisely opted to “man up a bit” and keep going. I’d regret that later.
From Barley I picked a loop heading south which was on the east side of Barkway village. The southbound leg was down a road and the northbound across fields. All nice and fast. It would have been faster if my feet weren’t hurting. But I found every single cache I looked for apart from one. That plainly was missing so I replaced it with one from my bag, as I tend to with Ross’s caches. They’re meant to be quick finds, so if I don’t find something matching the hint then I assume it isn’t there.
Coming back north to Barley proved to be rather painful, and when I got back to the road I’d had enough. However there were still 11 caches and 3km of walking to be done to get back to the car. Some of those really hurt, but I got there eventually. I don’t think I can completely blame the boots though. They do their best, but I’m carrying far too much weight, and by this time I’d walked a nearly half-marathon distance anyway.
Is That Enough?
When I got back to the car I’d walked 20.2km and found 76 caches. That more than met the 49 minimum. In fact it also made me my best ever January and took me past 14,200 finds total. It still wasn’t enough though. There’s a bunch more “Congratulations” caches on the road home, so I stopped for those and pushed the total for the day up to 82 finds. Here they are in glorious map-o-vision.
I recently emerged from a mandatory 10-day period of isolation, after being hit by the COVID thing. I was definitely ill for a while, but not badly so. The main problem was that it forced me to miss a weekend of attempting to push forward with the Shifty-Fifty Challenge. That’s a couple of days that’ll have to wait a few years now until they fall on a weekend again. Never mind. Every problem brings an opportunity. In this case, it was an unexpected opportunity to go caching in Brandon on a weekend I hadn’t previously planned to.
February 6th was a day I already had more than 50 finds, but February 5th required 41 to make the magic 50 total. During the course of the week I’d been discussing a possible day out with Candleford and she suggested I could join her with Palmer28 and DanSpurs14 for a hack around Brandon on a trip she already had planned. That sounded like a top idea that ticked all the proverbial boxes, so the deal was struck, the contract made.
Always Read the Fine Print
The fine print of that contract was based around the maxim of “if you’re gonna go, go hard.” Or possibly “if you’re gonna have one, have a big ‘un.” Anyway, Candleford had agreed to meet the others for a walk around Brandon at 9am. That meant there was nearly two hours of perfectly good daylight available before that.
We decided to go to Thetford so I could do several sets of Adventure Labs there whilst Candleford could pick up a handful of Trads, Multis and a Virtual that she didn’t have time for on her previous visit. We thought we’d need maybe 70-80 minutes there, so we’d need to be away by 8:45 at worst.
So working backwards through time, I agreed to pick Candleford up at 6am, with a 45-50 minute drive to get to Thetford from the pickup point. Working backwards even further that meant I needed to be away from home at 5:10 at latest. I set my alarm for 4:35.
As chance would have it, because I’d gone to bed at 9pm, I was awake before the alarm went off. So I was able to get into my car before 5am and therefore had time for my usual coffee stop at the garage on the way.
I made it to the pickup point early. Funnily enough, there wasn’t a lot of traffic around. Candleford was already waiting when I arrived, so a quick turnaround and we were outta there.
Who do you think you are kidding?
The drive to Thetford also didn’t take quite as long as we thought, and we were in the town centre looking for a car park at 6:30. We found one that was great at getting me to type my car registration and taking my coins but seemingly not so good at issuing a ticket. Sod that. Don’t want to risk it. So we moved around the block and parked in an unrestricted, sign-free and ungated car park behind a pub.
And so the caching. It was still seriously dark, but the good thing about Adventure Labs in a town is that they can usually be done in the dark. And there were so few people around that there was nobody around to notice us acting suspiciously.
So why call this bit “who do you think you are kidding?” Mainly because Thetford was the original shooting location for key buildings used in Dad’s Army, that’s why. One of the Ad Labs sets was about just that. And there’s a statue of Captain Mainwaring there too. Back to that in a bit.
The first Ad Lab celebrates Thomas Paine, a famous son of Thetford. There’s a very brightly gold-painted statue of him right behind where we parked. From here we headed west across to Thetford Priory and back again to the statue of Captain Mainwaring. From here we continued east(ish) to the Old Coffee Mill. By this time it was just about getting light, as you can see from the picture.
Motte and Bailey
From here we ventured up to Thetford Castle. There’s not a lot of castle left but there is a big mound that used to be the Motte. There’s a virtual cache that requires you to count the steps and photograph yourself at the top. I can confirm that the number of steps is “lots” and it’s hard to get a good photo of yourself if you’ve attempted to run up them. Especially if you’re unfit from having spend two-weeks sitting at home with a respiratory illness.
Back at the plot though, from here we wandered back into the town centre to finish more Ad Labs and a handful of multi-caches we’d been able to solve from google. You know you’re early when even the market stall holders have only just arrived.
When we got back to the car I’d found 20 caches already and it was still before 8am. There’s one Adventure Lab we couldn’t sort out on site, but thankfully a bit of text-a-friend activity from Candleford later in the day uncovered what we were supposed to have typed in. That’s a decent start to my attempt at a minimum of 41 finds.
So as we left Thetford I was thinking that the 41 target was going to get properly smacked out of the proverbial ballpark. We arrived in Brandon around 8am and started on a few of the labs in the village. Again, Candleford had done these before but she was happy to humour me. We found another 4 Ad Labs and 3 Traditionals before deciding it was late enough to go for the meetup.
A couple of those finds were up at Brandon Station, which turned out to be the least station-like station ever. Well, it was the least welcoming anyway. All the doors are boarded up. I guess it’s on a line now where they take online payments or use conductors, and hence there’s no actual staff at the smaller stations. There’s just a couple of platforms and an inaccessible building. It seems the owners want to demolish it but are being prevented from doing so by a number of objections based on the historical significance of 1840’s railway architecture. So the building is in limbo.
We’d agreed to meet up with Palmer28 and DanSpurs14 at 9am on the west end of Brandon. There was marked parking for the beginning of the “Gate Lodge Loop” series. It was more than big enough for two cars, even if one of those was mine. We arrived a couple of minutes before the other two, so we were halfway through getting booted up and deciding what snacks to put in our bags.
Making Like a Bear
So off into the woods we went. The Gate Lodge Loop is a clockwise loop of 26 traditionals through the woods to the east of Brandon. At the far end there was the opportunity to add a couple of more loops. The 26 would have been enough to make my target, but why stop at “acceptable” when there’s time for “exceptional”
Anyway, the first stretch out was spent getting some familiarity with the style of caches, and also some familiarity with each other. Candleford, Palmer28 and DanSpurs14 knew each other, but I only knew Candleford. We evidently deemed each other as acceptable companions, because we kept going.
Back at the caching, most were fairly straightforward finds. We weren’t suffering too badly with helicopter GPS syndrome, although four devices and four pairs of eyes always helps. We made pretty good progress through to Gate Lodge Loop, from where we had a decision to make.
The Train Track Trail
The decision we made was obviously the one that involved doing more caches. We headed north slightly to go to the Train Track Trail. This is a short series of caches running (in part) alongside the Breckland Line, which runs from Cambridge to Norwich. It seemed to be quite a busy little train line anyway. The caches were good, and quick to find. We were still making good progress.
The Train Track Trail took us on a triangular route from a level crossing back to the same point.
Strolling and Slogging
From here we elected to follow various parts of the Santon Stroll and Santon Slogg series. These kind of ran into each other and took us in the opposite direction (Norwich-bound) along the same railway line. There was a car park with picnic tables that was an ideal spot for a quick break for snacks (and lunches, for those who were organised enough to bring lunch).
We were still heading away from where we parked at this point, and had a quick discussion about how far we could actually go. We decided to skip the “Tree Trail” in the woods here. We’d just loop out along the Stroll and Slogg series. That would bring us back after a long out-and-back linear walk along the railway line.
The caches on this section were quite spread out, and we missed a couple of them too. It was quite time consuming and when we got back to #16 on the Gate Lodge Loop we still had 2km to walk, 11 caches to find and about 90 minutes of usable daylight.
Back to the Gate Lodge Loop
When we got into this final stretch of 11 caches the light under the trees was failing quite quickly. A couple of the caches were also field puzzles or were otherwise quite slow going. It was evident we needed to think about the time. We started to alternate, with one pair of us doing one cache while the other pair continued to the next. I’m happy doing this, to be honest, because we all passed the site of every cache, and each one was properly found.
We got back to the cars after 4:30, having walked 18km and found 55 caches. That’s quite spread out, and it took us longer than I might normally expect (at least 7.5 hours), but it had been a great walk and the cache series we did were all well thought out. I favourited pretty much every one of them. They were all either good, challenging hides or entertaining containers.
We split up at this point. DanSpurs14 and Palmer28 went for a pootle around the nearby housing estate to grab a few more. Candleford obviously had to go where I went, so we drove around Brandon village to finish the two sets of Ad Labs I’d started earlier plus a War Memorial one I’d managed to solve using google.
It was proper dark by the time we’d finished those and I was out of energy, especially with knowing I’d got at least 90 minutes of driving to get home. We stopped on what I thought was 89 finds for me. A pro might have done a few more, but because there’s a few more in the woods here and another set of Ad Labs, I might well come back at some point. And anyway, I’ve got the better of my “thoroughness” traits where caching is concerned. Enough is enough, however many that happens to be and regardless of where it leaves me in the stats charts.
Take Me Back ‘ome
So we set off back home. Candleford’s car was thankfully still where she’d left it, and whilst the traffic was busy that was good because it helped keep me awake. To be honest, I could quite happily have snoozed for 30 minutes before driving home. However, the Good Lady Wife had texted about making dinner and I knew if I got home straight away I’d be in time for a good meal with the family rather than getting takeaway and eating on my own. So that was all winner-winner-chicken-dinner (except we had chilli).
I spent the rest of the evening moaning about being stiff, drinking cider, typing up logs, and watching sport. Some Winter Olympics, and some FA Cup football. While I was typing the logs up I noticed I’d miscounted and actually found 90 rather than 89. That would normally be good, except it meant I finished the day on 14,299 total finds, which just looks a bit like a schoolboy error.
All in all an excellent day, spent in the company of fine people who I hope I can persuade to let me accompany them again. The caches I found over the course of the day around Thetford and Brandon are shown below.
So back to the geocaching after a whole week since the last time I went out. How did I survive that long? Today’s task was to find a minimum of 48 finds to keep the Shifty-Fifty Challenge moving along. I’ve yet to get a bike that’s suitable for caching on. Well, I’ve bought one, but I don’t have it yet. So my options are still limited to drive-bys or Shank’s Pony. I opted for a bit of walking and a further assault on the plasticine canine-based series over at Barkway that I started four weeks ago (see Animated).
The weather looked like it would be challenging. The forecast said “probably” dry in the morning un until about 2pm and then “bad” for the afternoon. By bad I mean 80-90% chance of rain to add onto the guaranteed high winds.
Off We Go
As the weather looked like it would get worse over the day I got up early again and set off while it was dark. I did toy with assuming it would be wet all day. That meant planning to do all drive-bys, and looking for areas where I could pack Adventure Labs into the same space as regular caches. Ultimately though, I decided to stick with the walking plan. The part I needed to do would take 5-6 hours, so my plan was to start walking at 8am and hope that meant I could get round without getting wet.
So I left home at about 6:45 and stopped on the way out, as ever, to buy fuel, coffee and snacks. It’s about an hour’s drive across from home and I was in the car park in Barkway just before 8am. I chose to use the same car park as I did four weeks ago. That meant I was on one side of the main walk, but if conditions were good it gave the option of another walk in the other direction afterwards.
Across the Top
My walk took me west out of Barkway in the direction of Reed. I think I walked this slightly differently the last time I was here but the result was similar. Ross had set two parallel lines of caches here – one from the Gromit series and one line of his “Congratulations” caches. That meant there was no simple route here to capture all of them. A bit of backwards-and-forwards was required.
From Reed the walk took me due south in a straight line for 10 caches, which I assume is therefore about 2.5km. When I got to the road at the bottom end I’d found about 33 caches in 3 hours. That’s quite good going.
The route then turned east to head back towards the south end of Barkway. It wasn’t a straight walk though. There’s a stretch back into the middle of the loop and back to the road which meant that 2.5km as the crow flies was more like 5km and had 21 caches on it.
As I was exiting that inside part I passed a bloke with two dogs who asked if I was out caching. Yes, definitely. Turned out he was the CO’s grandad. Excellent. Then when I got to the road, two other guys approached. They turned out to be the CO himself, and his dad. It’s weird meeting him for the first time given that we’ve exchanged IMs quite often. And because more than 10% of my total finds are on his caches.
Anyway, it was nice to meet them all.
Enough is Enough (I can’t go on!)
No, not Donna Summer. But by the time I got back into Barkway I really had had enough. I could feel several things but none of them were love. So I decided that I’d go back to the car and drive for a while, maybe stopping halfway home for an Ad Lab series and/or a few drivebys. As it happened though, it started raining just as I got back to the car. Literally right as I got back to the car. It was dry when I unlocked the doors, but I was soaking by the time I’d changed my footwear.
It was really raining quite hard, so I decided I’d just grab the local drive-bys and go home. That made a total of 68 finds, so 20 more than my minimum acceptable level.
Monday was a day off for me. For the first time ever I decided I’d had enough with watching half of the Superbowl and then going to bed, so I planned to stop up to watch the whole thing and book Monday as holiday. Conveniently it was also a day with a relatively small target in the Shifty-Fifty Challenge. I needed just 12 finds to pass the magic 50 total for February 14th. That made for a simple but effective plan. Take the day off, get up fairly late, and then attempt to find 12 or more caches while the rest of the family are working or schooling. I originally thought I go local but last weekend someone mentioned going full circle by attempting the 360° Challenge on Project-GC.com.
The idea of the 360° Challenge is to find a certain number of caches within each degree of arc on a bearing from your home location. I was missing just 4 out of the 360. All of those were clustered to the south-east of where I live. I somehow had it in my mind that the nearest caches in my “unfound” degrees were miles away, but it turns out I could do them all without driving much further than Aylesbury. So it looked relatively easy to achieve, even on a day when I didn’t start until after 11am.
First up was a visit to Mursley. I didn’t need it for the 360° Challenge but there were a couple of caches I hadn’t done. One was disabled and the CO agreed I could check and replace if needed. I got my first taste of things to come here. Mursley currently can’t be reached on the shortest route from Milton Keynes. They’ve closed it because the East West Rail route goes beneath it. I guess as well as needing access for lorries, they’re also demolishing an old road bridge and building a new one. Anyway, it made me drive an extra 5 miles around to get to where I wanted.
The first cache I tried was the one that was supposedly OK, however I couldn’t find it. I asked the CO, and sent photos of the site. It had changed a lot. The stile that used to be the hiding place for the cache was in pieces in some bushes and there was a new stell gate where it used to be. So no cache. CO was kind enough to allow me to replace it.
Swanbourne was my first stop for the 360° Challenge. It was a church micro. I parked up by the roadside and was observed by a guy who was fiddling with the blue sign outside the church. We had a brief chat and he was fairly familiar with what I was doing, so all good there. A quick find. Tick, move on.
The next one for the 360° Challenge was the bonus cache for Simply Paul’s Adventure Labs in the Claydons. Obviously (cough?) to find the bonus you need to do all of the Adventure Labs points first. That wasn’t a problem though. Several could be done without getting out of the car, and I still needed my target of 12 total, so 5 simple ones was good. I parked in Middle Claydon to do the two traditionals there too. It would be rude not to.
So at this point, 11 total finds and two out of four ticked off for the 360° Challenge.
So, on the previous weekend, it turned out that someone had deliberately set a n=bunch of new caches in Padbury because Candleford needed that degree of arc for her own 360. I didn’t need that, but who can resist 3 completely new caches? All were easy finds in good condition. Well, I’d hope so, because they’d only been out for 6 days.
Next up was Quainton. That’s a good 20-25 minutes from Padbury along the country roads. During that drive it started raining. Quite heavily. There was a single church micro that contributed to the 360. The other two caches in the village are over the boundary into the next degree of arc, so I felt no urge to do them in the middle of a downpour. I contented myself with parking at the church and doing just that one.
My final stop was in Wotton Underwood. It’s not even really a village, it’s just a couple of houses and a church. It’s close to a big country estate though. Anyway, available here was a church micro and another puzzle. I’d solved the CM but hadn’t fully solved the other puzzle. Finding one of the two would be OK though.
The CM was a straightforward find. And unless I’m very much mistaken, the church in question has just had its spire covered in new copper sheeting.
For the other puzzle I thought I’d pinned down the northings and when I plugged that in I could tell there were basic only two possible areas for the final. I won’t go into too much detail but I guessed which one and went for a look. Initial inspection wasn’t promising, but after a bit more wandering I returned and decided to sacrifice the cleanliness of my gloves, Once I went in for a proper look I was rewarded with the cache. It was seriously buried under a large amount of leaf mould, but otherwise fine.
So anyway, that sector now has two finds in it. I also added one in the sector immediately clockwise. There was another puzzle that I’d solved which I figured I’d walk to while I was here.
And that was it for the day. I could have attempted a few more things, but fundamentally I’d achieved my aim. 18 total finds and all 360 sectors filled in with at least 1 find. Result.
Anyway, it was Valentine’s Day, so there was some exchanging of cards and some spending of family time to be done.
The caches I found are shown on the map below.
Time for another “decent” day out caching after a couple of relatively lightweight days. Candleford suggested we could go and have a hack at poshrule’s peloton. I’d so far only done a few of them (see Yaxley Peloton) but she’d done all of them. But she volunteered to drive me around anyway, on the basis that it’d be a bit of a laugh. And anyway, the weather looked like it would be gorgeous for February. That was about as much of a plan as we had. I wouldn’t normally do series as drive-bys, however a couple of things made me agree. One was that Candleford offered to drive, obviously. The other was that there are a couple of long stretches at the south which are basically linear, not circular. That means that both walking and cycling would be tricky. Both methods would leave a long old hack back with no caches. Bum to that! So drive-bys it is.
I had in my mind that we might get those two stretches done for a total of, if we were lucky, a hundred or more. That was based on Candleford’s estimation. I’ve never really done drive-bys before en masse, so have little concept of the typical speed. A hundred would be a good day in anyone’s book, especially in February.
Start Me Up!
If ya start me up I’ll never stop! Or something like that.
Long days of caching in February mean starting early. We agreed to meet in Alconbury at 6:30 am. Officially the sun comes up at 7am at this time of year, but on a clear day the light is perfectly adequate at 6:30. As is often the case, I couldn’t get to sleep. A long day at work, plus the excitement of a caching day, meant I couldn’t get settled. I did manage about 6 hours in bed but I was bolt upright by 3am, to be honest. So there was some thumb-twiddling and generally time wasting before giving in and getting out of bed at 4:45. I’d planned 5am originally, so this meant I didn’t wake everyone else up with my alarm.
So kecks on, and off we go from home at 5:10. I made my normal stop at the BP garage for fuel, sweeties and drinks. It was surprisingly busy. I knew I was a bit early, but I thought I could grab a couple in Alconbury before meeting Candleford if time allowed.
Time did allow. It gave me 15-20 minutes. That was enough to grab a multi-cache where I basically guessed the solution. The arithmetic on the cache page offered only a couple of possible locations. I picked one at random, zoomed in on street view, and saw something matching the hint. So that was good enough to convince me it was the right place. It was also enough to grab a Village Hall series puzzle for the Village Hall that I was going to leave my car at. Rockin’ and rollin’ – and when I pulled into the car park, Candleford was there.
The First Stretch
The first group of caches was a linear arrangement of 42 along the road from Alconbury to Old Weston. About an hour into this I began to think we’d be getting a big total. After an hour we’d found more than 20. We reached Old Weston, having made 42 finds along the road, in just 2 hours. That put me 44 caches up and it was only 8:30am. Blimey!
The path from here to the second stretch was a bit awkward. That’s mainly because RAF Molesworth is in the way. You have to drive right around it, and the roads aren’t great. We grabbed a couple more caches in Molesworth itself before looping back around the north of the airbase and rejoining the peloton series at Clopton.
The Second Stretch
This took us on a clockwise loop from Clopton with a little offshoot over to Titchmarsh and back. It kept being really fast. We parked up for lunch after this stretch at around 11:30. That’s fine for lunch because we’d been going for 5 hours. In those five hours I’d logged 107 caches (plus the two I did at the start). So, we were well past 100 finds and it wasn’t even midday. It’s madness, I tell you! Utter madness.
So whilst we were having our halftime break I think I finally convinced myself that 200 was on the cards. I just needed to pick caches for the afternoon that would leave enough from the series to make it worthwhile coming back. That meant planning caches so that I’d got self-contained loops remaining. That makes them easier for either walking or biking.
More of it
Back on the trail for the afternoon, we drove further west until we reached Tansor. This was pretty much the furthest we got from my car. On the way there some shenanigans where it turned out I’d pasted the wrong corrected coordinates onto a couple of the caches. As a result, Candleford had more on the list than I did. Anyway, it took me a while to figure out what was going on. It turned out to be simple. Tansor was a bit of a lollipop on the end of our driving stick. When we were done there we retraced our steps.
What I’d got left to do of the series was a couple of quite small loops (i.e. less than 50 caches) plus one humungous loop. They interlocked with each other so that completing any particular loop in full would take a big chunk away from the next day. We decided therefore to take all of the “big” loop apart from those parts of it which were also in the smaller loops. I hope that makes sense. It did when I thought of it. Anyway, that plan meant a couple of long one-way stretches, with a u-turn and a hack around to somewhere else.
While we were in this section I began counting forward and planning where we’d end up. There was a tiny loop close to Stilton. I reckoned if we did all the caches up to there, plus a couple from the tiny loop, that would make exactly 200. So that’s what we did.
OK, Enough Now
By the time we’d finished the 200 it was after 4pm, so we gave up and drove our way back to where I’d left my car. It was where I’d left it, and doesn’t seem to have been tampered with. That’s a good result. Back at the plot, when I got back to the car we’d made 200 finds and had spent about ten-and-half hours doing them. That’s a pretty ridiculous rate to have sustained for so long. I doubt I’ll break that one-day record any time soon.
The caches I found from the peloton are shown on the map below. You can see it’s quite a lot. The day actually contributed three-fold to my caching statistics. Firstly, 200 finds is by far and away the most I’ve done in a single day. Secondly, I needed 39 finds to finish the Shifty-Fifty Challenge for this day. And finally, I’d never found a cache in the UK on February 26th before. I had previous finds, but only outside the UK. 2 in Ireland and 9 in Japan, as it happens. So tick, ticky tick-tick, from Tickettyville.
Time for some more excuses about how I meant to go caching on my new bike but ended up going in the car again. I went to finish poshrule’s peloton, so pelotoff, as it were. The excuse this time was that I’d been ill in the week, and I wasn’t sure I was up to either a long walk or a long bike ride. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t up to it. Candleford once again volunteered to drive me, as she did a couple of weeks ago (see Peloton). And as with last time, she’d already done all of the peloton series. After the last trip I’d got 96 more to do.
96 may seem like a lot for a winter day, but after getting 200 on the previous trip, 96 in a day is obviously a bit lightweight. On that basis, we decided to meet at the same place (in Alconbury) but somewhat later in the day.
Start Your Engines
Well, first of all there were a few around Alconbury that Candleford hadn’t done. Seems fair enough to go do those before heading to the peloton again. There were 10 of them, in fact. That got my morning off to a good start.
And then we drove up the A1 to Yaxley and to the end of the stretch where I’d left a big gap just after New Year (see Yaxley Peloton). This took us on an anti-clockwise loop around the Morborne Transmitter. You can see from the photo that it was a beautiful day. It was after 10:30 when we started doing these ones, and we were done with all 46 of them by 12:30. Not bad.
Get a Move On
This gave us time to waste. And as it happens, we found some ways of wasting it. Going into Yaxley to grab a Village Sign cache for Candleford wasn’t a waste, but the next 50 minutes or so could have been better used. I needed to turn my bike round, as it were, so we tried the centre of Yaxley but singularly failed to find anywhere. So we then decided to jump on the motorway and drive up to the Peterborough Services. At least there we were guaranteed some vaguely usable toilets and a coffee shop. So one out and one in, as it were, before heading down to Stilton. Oh, and there was a cache in the car park.
Anyway, yes! That Stilton. The Home of the Cheese. Great!
Before we began the afternoon’s caching, we sat with the windows open and scoffed the scoffables.
Last time out I’d deliberately left a few near to Stilton because I wanted to leave enough to be worth coming back. So we had about a dozen or so here to get. All were easy.
The last bit of the peloton I needed to do was a loop around Connington. I’d been here before, many moons ago. On that previous attempt I remember parking on the field near the church. There was some kind of summer fair on. That meant I couldn’t find one of the caches because there was a bunch of kids playing right next to it and I felt uncomfortable asking them to leave. So I left instead. This time, the whole area was quieter than a minute’s silence at a Trappist’s funeral. So we were able to flip our way around without any hassle. I was glad we were in Candleford’s car though. There were several stopping places where I wouldn’t have been happy leaving mine.
That lot took us past 4pm, once we’d cleared the main road too, and I was done with the peloton series. So we drove back to Alconbury and found my car where I’d left it. At this point I’d found 113 caches during the day.
Oh, go on then
Can’t finish on a 13 though, can you? Bad karma, is that. It’s nearly as bad as going round a loop anti-clockwise. Which we did on two out of three loops today. That needs sorting. So Candleford suggested I could waste a few minutes by checking her Village Sign and Village Hall caches in Diddington. Oh, go on then.
So 115 finds it was. Another fantastic day, and thanks once more to Candleford for driving all day. I wouldn’t have been willing to do these as drive-bys either on my own, or in my own car. So that’s a couple of tiddlywinks thrown into the “days owing” bucket.
The caches I found on this day were:
So having previously made loads of very dubious excuses as to why it wasn’t suitable to go caching on my new bike, today I actually bit the proverbial bullet. Oh yes! The bike went in the back of the car, with the front wheel off, and off I went. I’d been havering about doing the Essex-Herts Broder series but couldn’t find anywhere I liked for parking. I don’t really like leaving the current cachemobile in the middle of nowhere on a concrete pad that a farmer might decide he wants to use for dumping organic fertilizer. So that series is quite hard work. I was, however, discussing “stuff” with a certain local reviewer-come-cacher and she suggested I take my bike over to Girton. It’s near Cambridge, and it has a couple of series that run over brand-new, beautifully surfaced cycleways. Ideal. That’ll do then.
So off I went and did my normal routine – diesel, coffee and snacks at the garage on the way out, and then hit the Bedford Bypass.
Through the Village
My first stop was in a public car park next to playing fields in the centre of Girton. I picked here for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a nice big car park in the middle of a village, so a low likelihood of the car being in someone else’s way. Secondly, it’s a convenient place for the first caching series. And finally, there was nobody else there when I arrived, so there was plenty of room to muck about with sorting out the bike and associated shenanigans. It was just before 9am on a Sunday morning, and there was nobody else in the car park at all.
First up I noticed there was a Church Micro within 100m, so I walked to that before getting on with prepping the bike.
Once on the bike I headed south down a busy road towards Girton College. And then turned north-west around another side of the college campus. Thankfully there wasn’t a lot of pedestrian traffic around and I was mainly able to cycle carefully on the road or often along the pavement. Once I turned the corner the pavement was marked as a cycle route.
Somehow, somewhere around here, a little earworm popped into my head. I can’t help it. Stuff happens. Anyway, the soundtrack to my day (apparently) went something like this…..
When me rock and roll records wake him up
When the Poles knock England out the cup
When the kids are banging on his door
When the barman won’t serve him any more
Chas & Dave have got a lot to answer for.
The Girton Pedal Power Series
At the point where the road crosses the concrete confusion of the M11 and A428 I crossed over onto the spanking new, perfectly surfaced and muck-free cycleway. This was the start of the Girton Pedal Power series. I’d previously been doing caches from the Girton Corner series.
Anyway, the Pedal Power series proved to be swift. Most of the hides were pretty easy and most of them were in good condition. In addition, I have a handlebar mount for my GPS and the bike has a kick-stand. Those mean that essentially I could cycle to “close enough” and then simply jump off the bike to make the find. There was no messing around with putting the GPS in and out of pockets, or trying to find somewhere to prop the bike. Just wash-and-go, as it were. This made it quick going.
The Pedal Power circuit goes about 4km out alongside the M11 on a completely new bit of road, and then turns back down the other side to come back straight into Girton. At the very far end there’s a further couple of km of the “Pedal Power Bonus” – and out and back, but on a bike that’s fine.
When I got back into Girton Village I rejoined the Girton Corner series for a few more around the western edge of the village. There was a stretch here where I got off the bike and pushed it, partly because it was narrow and partly because there was a lot of tree debris. I didn’t want to risk a puncture.
Histon to Rampton and back
From Girton I decided to head up to Oakington to do some of the “Histon to Rampton and back” series. There’s a loop at the top of that which goes out alongside the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway and back down a more “rural” route.
This section was somewhat harder going than the morning. The caches were a bit more difficult to find and I DNF’d a couple of them. Also, that “rural” route was a couple of km of worrying about punctures again. It was uneven, stony, and covered in broken bits of trees. I managed to escape unscathed though.
Cambridge American Cemetery
So after all that biking, I’d made 79 finds and it was about 3 in the afternoon. Too early to give up, but too late to start another big series. So I decided to finish my day at Cambridhe American Cemetery. There’s a set of Adventure Labs there with an associated bonus and a couple of others.
It made for a half-hour in a more reflective mood. The Ad Labs take you around the Cemetery site, so I plodded around at a leisurely pace taking in the mood and the scale of it. There are over 3,000 graves of known servicemen as well as a commemorative wall for over 5,000 further servicemen who were lost on air raids from the UK or lost in the North Atlantic and who were never found. It was well worth the visit and a very good place to finish off my day.
By the end of all this, I’d made 86 finds on my day at Girton. They were:
A few days ago it was pointed out to me that the 360° Challenge I completed was not sufficient to do the cache in Northamptonshire. I did 360° from my home. The challenge cache needs 360° from the location of the cache. So having thought I was done with it, it turns out I’ve actually still got over 50 to do. Conveniently, four of the missing ones were in a contiguous arc running through Brigstock, in Northamptonshire.
So I agreed to meet Candleford somewhere up there at 8 am so we could have a go at one of the walking series there, plus whatever else we had time for. I didn’t have a huge amount of time though, because today was the day to drive down to St Albans in the evening for beers and curry with my old workmate Lee. This particular social event had already been delayed 3 times as a result of various shenanigans.
Anyway, as seems to be the case these days, when I know I’m going out caching I don’t need an alarm. The plan was to get up at 6 am and head off at about 6:30, but I was wide awake by 4:30. I hung on until just after 5 am and then just got up and got on with it. Somewhat before 6 am I was ready to go.
I tried to do my normal routine – diesel, coffee and snacks at the garage on the way out. On this morning though, that proved troublesome. Various shortages caused by the unpopularity of Russian products, the fact that most people can’t use red diesel anymore, and the fact that various protesters have been fastening themselves to oil terminals, meant that on this day diesel was short. I passed through 3 garages in MK with no luck. My tank was fairly full of fuel anyway, but I did need snacks and drinks.
I was heading north up through Olney today, and when I got to the “big” junction at Wellingborough there’s a Tesco with a garage, and it appeared to have fuel. So I pulled in and topped up on fuel, snacks, coffee. Because it’s a different retailer from usual, the only thing I could get that was in my “normal” portfolio of caching goodies was the Wispa Gold. Even the coffee was a different brand, but at least it was one of those make-your-own machines from the well-known high street brand that sounds like a bit of Spanish coastline. No bother, job done.
Fermyn Woods Country Park
As I was “well early” I had time to do a bunch of caches we’d planned for the afternoon. There’s a set of ad labs, plus a few other bits in the Fermyn Woods Country Park. That meant by the time I met with Candleford at 8 am I’d already found 8. Candleford had signed a couple with our team name of MKGC too, so when we set off walking I’d already done 10. Can’t be bad. We’d parked at the Village Hall, by the way. It has a nice big car park.
From Brigstock to Geddington
There’s three series here that form a big loop to the west of Brigstock. The first was titled “Geddington to Brigstock”, so we were evidently going round backward. That saw us through 26 caches, including a very nice pink ammo can in a private (but still public) garden on the edge of Geddington.
We did all those in under two hours, which was good.
Geddington to Stanion
Next up was “Stanion to Geddington”, so I guess we were doing those backward too. This was a somewhat shorter stretch of 13 that took us around an hour to do. This put me on a total of 50 (ish) finds, which is good for 11 am. Stanion Village had a Church Micro and a couple of others which added to the total too.
Stanion to Brigstock
We got back to Brigstock with a very functional walk along the main road doing the “Brigstock to Stanion” series. So I guess that makes three series we did backward. This stretch was hard going because of the very busy road nearby. It was noisy. We got honked at by a van at one point. No idea what he was on. But ho-hum!
Around Brigstock Village
When we got back to the cars we stopped for a few minutes for some lunch. It turns out that as well as a car park, the Village Hall also has unlocked doors and clean toilets. Result. It didn’t seem to have any occupants, even though the car park was quite full. They can’t all have been out caching.
Back at the plot, Brigstock village had another dozen caches. They were mainly Ad Labs that Candleford had done, except there was a trad plus a new set of labs that she hadn’t. They were all knocked off pretty quickly, including a TB hotel that had 7 actual TBs in it.
Whilst driving out for the bonus of one of the sets of labs we also continued on so I could sign the Explorer 224 Challenge. For that cache you have to find 224 caches in different 1km squares on the Ordnance Survey Explorer Map #224, which covers this area. I was a long way short but I might as well sign it while we were here. Some day I might qualify.
Anyway, that meant I’d found about 76 caches and it was not yet 2 pm.
The plan for the rest of the day was to give our feet a rest and go grab some lab series instead of starting another walk. On the way past though there were a couple of church micros in Geddington that needed to be done. One of them was really close to Geddington’s Eleanor Cross. It’s the best-preserved of the remaining three (the other two are at Hardingstone and Waltham Cross. Candleford parked right next to it while we did one of the caches. That was a nice find.
Rothwell had a whole Ad Labs series just dedicated to its churches. We were able to do all of those fairly quickly despite misfires on a couple of the locations. Otherwise it seemed an uninspiring kind of place.
Desborough was also an average kind of town. It had a set of Ad Labs that we were mainly able to drive to. It also had an earthcache and a TB hotel right next to each other, so we were able to complete those.
This made things look quite healthy, and it looked even more healthy when we returned to fetch my car from Brigstock and walked over the cricket field to grab one that was there.
The only downside of the day was that whilst driving home down the A43 I managed to hit a massive pothole and apparently bent one of my wheel rims a bit. I found a guy who could straighten it (or “round” it, I guess), but nevertheless? It happened when I adjusted my line to avoid a pothole I could see, and consequently went straight through a larger one that I couldn’t see. I was not a happy bunny.
By the end of all this, I’d made 93 finds on my day around Brigstock. They were:
Rumour had it that there was going to be a birthday party at a pub in Ashwell in celebration of Hertfordshire’s most prolific cache setter, ryo62. To be honest, in the run-up I’d totally forgotten about it. But a couple of days beforehand I decided I had bandwidth for a day of caching, so lined up a day out.
The sketch was to meet up with Candleford, DanSpurs14 and Palmer28 for a hack around Steeple Morden before heading to the event. I wasn’t up for a “monster” day. I only needed 30 or so finds to make the Shifty Fifty Challenge for May 22nd, so a relatively light day was in order. In any case, the weather looked warm, and hence a heavy day wouldn’t be wise.
I arranged to meet Candleford at the pub in Ashwell that would be hosting the event later in the day. That seemed a better option than parking roadside somewhere. So on the way in, I stopped off for a couple of caches in Newnham on the way, as I was a bit early as ever.
Parking at the pub was good, and we were off in good time to meet up with the other two at the start of the Steeple Morden Stampede at 9 am.
We did the Steeple Morden Stampede in numeric order starting from #1. That meant an anti-clockwise walk, but I’ve just about got over any sense of that being bad luck. Well, almost. I offered a small prayer, just in case.
The caches were all fairly easy and the walking was quick. By the time we got around to Steeple Morden village we had a decision to make. We had time to add a bit of the Steeple Morden Shenanigans series too if we wanted. Palmer28 and DanSpurs14 had been around most of these on the previous day. I hadn’t done any of them but wasn’t especially bothered about doing half a series, so we extended our walk here to include an extra 11 before returning to the Stampede series.
Adding that short extra walk and others in Steeple Morden made a total of 41 finds on the walk, and put me on 44 when we returned to Ashwell.
When we got back into Ashwell we still had just over an hour before the event started. There were 5-6 extra caches in the village that I hadn’t found as well as a series of Ad Labs. That was about right to fill up an hour. All were quite easy to do. We bumped into Simply Paul whilst walking around.
The event itself was held at a pub in the centre of Ashwell. It was well attended and afforded the opportunity to chat with a good number of cachers, some of whom I knew and some I didn’t. It was sunny enough for everyone to stay outside. That was great, aside from the fact that I’d neglected to take suncream. I had to keep turning myself around so that I was getting cooked evenly on all sides.
The Final Countdown
By the end of the day I’d got to 63 finds. That was enough to tick off several milestones. I’d passed 15,000 total finds and also 1,000 total finds in 2022. On top of that, I’d obviously also raised my finds for May 22nd to something over 50. The event was good and the weather was excellent, resulting in me having some sunburn when I got home. So a good day all round.
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.
A day of caching my way around multiple fairly small routes near to Royston. Some of them were new series (to me) and others were drive-bys or the dog-ends of series I’d started on other days but didn’t have time to finish. So bits and bobs, basically.
If you start me up, I’ll never stop, as Mick Jagger once sang. So I started up relatively early and got going. As it happens though, I’m not a rolling stone, so I stopped on the way. I always do. If you’ve read any of my other caching blog posts you’ll know I stopped for diesel, coffee, and lunch. It’s a habit.
Back at the caching, I was meeting up with Candleford for part of the day but I was a bit earlier than we’d agreed, so I stopped in Baldock to do a simple-looking set of Adventure Labs to get me going. It was an easy walk up and down the high street. I’d never been into the high street in Baldock before. I normally drive in from the A1 and then make a turn towards Royston. It was quite a nice little area and the labs series was done in double quick time.
By this time my phone had pinged because Candleford was more or less in the zone. So I left Baldock and popped over to Royston to our designated parking spot. It was a residential street but had plenty of space, and we were only planning to be there a couple of hours anyway, so I guessed it would be safe and not especially irritating for me to park.
Somehow Candleford parked in the wrong street, so she couldn’t find me. So that lost us a few minutes, but eventually we got ourselves sorted. Anyway, it gave me time to go find the cache at the end of the road.
Our first walking loop was the Royston Rumble, which runs in a circle across some fields south of Royston. We hacked around these in double quick time despite me having left the archived caches that used to be here on my GPS. This series only had 18 caches in it and we were finished with them after 90 minutes. OK, so a couple of them we’d done whilst failing to park near to each other, so we only did 16 on the walk, but still…
From here we jumped into Candleford’s motor and headed up to Great Chishill. There was a little triangle of caches here that we might have done on the EHB monster day, but we skipped past them ‘cos we’d had enough that day. It was better this way anyway. On EHB day we were only doing drive-bys. A few of this series needed a walk, so we’d have left a few.
So we did all the driveable ones first and then Candleford dropped me off at one end of a linear walk. She’d done this area before so she pootled back to Great Chishill village via a single Little Bridge cache she hadn’t done. I walked a quick path along an easy route to grab the 5-6 that couldn’t be accessed by car.
From here we decided to do a bit of village-to-village driving to scrape a few odd ones – we drove through Fowlmere, Thriplow, Foxton, Meldreth and Whaddon collecting a further 20 caches in a couple of hours before returning to Royston.
Candleford had appointments elsewhere, so we split up here and went in different directions.
This was the short series called Ashwell Acrobatics. Back in May I took one out of this series because it was on our walk. So that meant I had 15 left to do, plus a War Memorial cache which somehow I’d not done before on any previous visit to here (of which there have been several).
So by this time I was debating whether I had the time and energy to do any more. It was only about 3pm but it had been a long morning and it was warm.
Well, you can’t be going around packing up at 3pm when you’re out for a full day. There was another series at Litlington which I was going to do before Ashwell, but as I drove past that village I couldn’t find anywhere sensible to park. Anyway, I decided to come back and on this second visit there was a space at the marked parking location. Oh, go on then. How bad can it possibly be?
It turned out not to be bad at all. In fact, I expected the 23 caches might take me over 2 hours but it actually only took me about an hour and three-quarters. That was a bonus, as it meant I had a bit more time than I thought I would.
I decided to drive back towards Milton Keynes though once I was done in Litlington. I did this in fairly leisurely fashion via a few other villages containing individual caches.
When I got back to MK I finished off a set of Adventure Labs I’d started some time previously. It was a set based (loosely) around Wavendon but actually spreading as far as Woburn Sands and out to the famous “Greg” statue on the edge of town. Adding those into the day’s total got me to 131. I figured that was probably enough for one day.
When I got home the house was still there and all other members of the family were still in it.
What’s Going On?
Time for a final day of geocaching before we set off on holiday. The weather had been hotter than a hot thing so I was havering on what to do. Eventually, I chose to take my bike over to Letchworth to have a go at the new(er) series around the Letchworth Greenway.
I stopped at the garage, as ever, on my way out to acquire some consumables and to fill the cachemobile with motion lotion. It’s got somewhat more expensive to do that in the past few months, which isn’t great, but this isn’t a political commentary so we’ll leave it there.
The drive over was dull with a hint of boring, and I found myself parked up at Standalone Farm on the north side of Letchworth in well under an hour. I’d parked here before in 2015 on the fateful day when I dropped my GPS down a drain. I was hoping not to do that again. Anyway, parking here is good, because there’s a big car park, it’s technically free to park, and there’s no barrier gate, so you can’t get locked inside. It’s also not very far into Letchworth from my direction of travel, so cool. And the Letchworth Greenway passes right next to it. Winner winner, chicken dinner!
After parking it takes a few minutes for me to set the bike up. It won’t go into the car without taking the front wheel off, plus the handlebar mount for the GPS is a bit fiddly, to say the least. However, once it’s all set up, it’s a very effective way to go geocaching.
I was riding a clockwise route, which meant initially I was heading towards the north-west corner of Letchworth. Technically, this bit is right out in the countryside. No houses anywhere near, although they are spreading up all the nearby main roads. The ride was quite hard as there seemed to be a lot of steep hills to climb. I have to admit a couple of them were steep enough for me to get off and walk. It was also very warm, and whilst I wasn’t noticing it at the start, that would come back to bite me later in the day.
Anyway, progress was quite quick and I took the opportunity to hit a few side-channels to grab a few extra caches – especially a few from the “Norton Well Stroll” series. By the time I swung round and started coming down the eastern edge of time I’d done 25 caches in a couple of hours.
The East Side
Down the east side of town the Greenway is trapped between the town and the A1 motorway, so it’s a bit noisy and you go through some of Letchworth’s not-so-scenic parts. This was the part where I remember some time ago Ami and me abandoned a previous ride around the Greenway because it started snowing.
At one point up here I had to politely ask a gentleman if he didn’t mind me searching the bench he was sitting on. He was a nice uy and we stood talking about my hobby, plus a bunch of other random stuff, for a good 15 minutes or so. I was ready for a short break so it wasn’t any problem to stop and talk.
Around here there’s a little part where the Greenway comes into an industrial estate because it needs to find a way over the railway line. And then it goes back to the side of the A1 again before turning into the “southern” section of the Greenway caches.
Up until this point all had been going well. The finds were all quite easy and I was progressing quickly.
Heading Down South
Things started to go a bit pear-shaped once I passed the Baldock road. Not massively bad, but all of a sudden the caches seemed harder to find, and as a result my progress over the ground dropped quite significantly. I had a few DNFs too, which never helps.
I shot off briefly to the east to do some from the “Lannock Hill Wander” series, but was starting to struggle.
Several caches were supposedly available in the village of Willian but I couldn’t manage to find any of them and I was starting to get a bit irritated. If I’d have been clever about it, I would have stopped at the pub here and had something to eat and drink. But I didn’t, because I’m not very clever sometimes. So I kept going with my route taking me across country towards the Purwell estate, which is Hitchen rather than Letchworth.
As I enetered Purwell there’s a section where you ascend a long climb on a road. There were a couple of caches along it, but this is the point where disaster struck me, I’m afraid. I evidently wasn’t fit enough and hadn’t eaten or drank enough during the day, and I got cramp in both legs. It was probably triggered by attempting to pedal up that hill. It was bleedin’ painful, whatever. So I got off the bike and staggered my way up to the next cache. I was in so much pain I really couldn’t get back on the bike, so I started to push my bike up the hill (on the footpath) hoping the cramps would go away. It was hard going.
I was saved (somewhat) by a really nice guy who came out of his house to check I was OK. He offered me a chilled bottle of water, which I gladly accepted and necked rather quickly.
And after that little episode I decided that was enough for the day. Well, not quite, because I had to cycle back to the car. That was still quite a long way away, but with relatively few caches, so it wasn’t going to take long. The cramp thankfully held off for the rest of the time I was on the bike.
Once I got back to the car park I tried the cafe at Standalone Farm for some cold drinks and an ice cream. They had both.
The drive back home was uneventful aside from five minutes near Ampthill where the cramps came back. I pulled off the road and got out to stretch my legs for a while. Next time I must remember to take food and more drinks.
The day after returning from two weeks in Crete I was off again for the annual UK Mega Event. This year’s event was being held in Uttoxeter but was branded as the “West Midlands” event. Well, I guess Uttoxeter is in the West Midlands, so time I moved on with the action. The Event Team had released a few days earlier a big series of puzzles out in the countryside. They were called the Knotty Problems. They are a series of varied puzzles amounting to 69 caches in total. They’re spread across more or less of a linear route to the south-west of Uttoxeter.
As the planned series was accessible by car I searched for an in-car companion to do the doings. I don’t like doing drive-bys alone when in the countryside, because there’s too much scope for getting in someone’s way. So the offer was made on Facebook while we were in Crete. Simply Paul volunteered to ride shotgun, so the deal was done. I arranged to meet him on the event site at 10am.
Uttoxeter is maybe 90 minutes drive from home, which meant getting out quite early. As ever though, when a caching day is promised I couldn’t really sleep. I got up early enough to wash my car and still get out of the house before 7am.
My normal routine was disrupted a little by the fact that the nearest fuel stop was shut for maintenance. I therefore had to drive up to Northampton Services to make my stop for fuel, drinks and snacks.
It was obvious that I was going to arrive way early. I texted Paul from Northampton to ask if he could make it an hour earlier than planned. It wouldn’t have bothered me if he couldn’t make it though, to be honest. I’d never cached up here so I could easily keep myself busy, but Paul responded in the positive.
Off with the Knotty
The Knotty Problems started a bit to the south-west of town. There were a couple just off a main road (a very busy one) and then the rest were along quiet country lanes. We began at #67. which was in a layby on the main road, and then picked our way down to #68. Near here there were a few other caches and one stage of an Ad Labs series the mega event had created. One of the caches here was a “Chirp” and whilke we were parked up figuring it out we bumped into the DoBunnis.
Just down from here there was a kids open farm sort of place and we took the opportunity for a service break. We legged it from their car park out to grab Knotty #1 and then got back in the car to attack the main series.
Most of the Knotty Problems were quite easy finds and were close to somewhere the car could be parked off the road. We were moving at high speed through these and despite passing several other groups of cachers we didn’t really stop or take any breaks. There was one moment where I nearly got totalled by a massive tractor though. Even after I backed up and got off the road a bit he didn’t exactly pick his way passed delicately. I had visions of going to pick a wing mirror up off the road, but thankfully he missed me by all of 15cm.
For Your Information
When we finished the Knotty Problems it was only just after midday. We were planning to attend an event back in Uttoxeter at 2:30pm, so we had an hour and a half or so to kill. We spent it wandering around a manicured public park on the west side of Uttoxeter finding four caches form the FYI series. These are usually short offset multis based on information boards found in various public places.
While we were here we bumped into another pair of cachers, and we sat for a while with them whilst eating an ice cream.
I just don’t know what to do with myself
The event was based around circus skills, which I wasn’t really interested in, so I signed the log and moved on. I had a quick look around the event site to see if there were any cachers I know around, but I couldn’t see anyone. So I wasn’t quite sure what to do.
There was a series of walkable caches available from the event site but I wasn’t really up for that. There were also a number of caches and Ad Labs in the centre of Uttoxeter. I’d sort of agreed to do those with Candleford at some point so I plumped for doing the shortest walk available from the event site. Obviously, I could have given up and gone to my hotel. But it was only 3:30. It seemed a bit of a waste to give up so early, even if I had been out of the house for 8 hours already.
So I strolled off in a slightly grumpy, Billy No Mates kind of way. The walk initially took me towards the centre of Uttoxeter. And then one of those moments of minor salvation that sometimes happens. As I was walking up the road, Candleford appeared in her car just coming back from somewhere. She was with two Sussex cachers that she’d spent some of the morning with. They were Steve of Church Micro fame, and Andy The Long Man.
So with half a sniff of an alternate plan I was happy to ditch the long walk and instead go into Uttoxeter to grab a handful of caches and a 10-stage Ad Lab. There was supposedly another set of labs too that had disappeared overnight for some reason. That made for about 17 finds in under an hour, and was enough for this part of the day.
I was staying at the Boar’s Head in Sudbury. It didn’t look much from the outside and it turned out that the hotel rooms were fairly average. They weren’t bad, they were just a bit dated. However, the same could not be said of their restaurant. The food was wonderfully good.
Candleford was staying in the same place, but she was scooting back out to an evening event which I didn’t have the energy for. So I sat in the bar with my PC creating caching logs and drinking a couple of beers.
I managed to really mess up the automated logging of caches from GSAK. I somehow messed up the template. As a result I had to go back and manually edit 96 of them. That took a while. Just as well I had nice beers and food to keep me company.
I finally jacked it in at around 10:30, having logged 109 finds in the day.
Mega Day! The day of the West Midlands Mega Event. So what better way to spend it than doing a few caches before the event itself got going.
Up and Atom, Fallout Boy!
First order of business was breakfast. The Boar’s Head normally doesn’t start doing breakfast until 8 am on Saturdays, which is quite late. So we opted to linger around the dining room somewhat early and ask a passing server whether they could do breakfast a bit earlier.
I forgot to mention that the “we” in this case was me and Candleford. She’d randomly booked into the same hotel as I did.
Back at the plot, an early breakfast was secured, and we were ready to head off for some caching by 8 am.
For Your Information
The target for the day was to collect the information for a bunch of multis in the middle of Lichfield. We had a heads up that they formed a loop around a country road to the west of the town, so it would be advantageous to go collect all the information in one go and work out all the answers. As it happens, there were also a bunch of other caches and Ad Labs in the middle of Lichfield, so that made a good plan.
Once we’d found all the start points and worked out all the finals we jumped into Candfleford’s car and headed west to complete 26 caches in a matter of an hour. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
By the time we left Lichfield we’d been caching for about 5.5 hours and had made 56 finds. A good start to the day.
By the way, a visit to Lichfield ticked another off the list of English Cathedrals I’ve visited, although we didn’t go inside it. Lichfield Cathedral’s claim to fame is that it’s one of only three in the UK that have three spires, and it’s the only medieval one of those three. It’s kind of fantastic to look at too, because it’s really ornately decorated by carvings in a reddish sandstone, and the spires are entirely made of masonry blocks.
We headed back to the Boar’s Head and separated into our individual cars to go to the event itself. That increased flexibility.
I arrived on the mega site at about 2:30 (it was due to finish at 4). To be honest, that’s about my limit for an event day anyway. Plus it was hot and I was ready for a drink.
On the event site they’d two released two new sets of Ad Labs (with 10 points each). That pushed the numbers up a bit more. One set involved finding a bunch of laminated cards around the site and answering a simple question at each one. The other set was “old skool” labs, which were basically field puzzles that required you to find or calculate a keyword somehow. This set was quite good fun. It was nice picking through them on a warm August afternoon.
The event itself was, well, event-like. I wandered around some of the stalls inside but didn’t buy anything. I caught up with a few Milton Keynes and Beds/Bucks/Herts cachers and mooched around while they did the formal handover from West Midlands to Milton Keynes (because next year’s UK Mega is in my home town). And that was that.
Except that wasn’t quite it. There was a group of Ad Labs up in Uttoxeter that briefly appeared on the map, and then disappeared again. Then on Saturday afternoon they appeared again. I think one of the points required access to a private building which wasn’t accessible all the time. Obviously, the owner had boo-booed but then been to see the location and they’d agreed to stick the answer in the window of their door. So that was the end of that then. And in the car on the way out of town I gathered the information for a virtual.
The Evening, and the Summary
I returned to the Boar’s Head and had an early dinner. I was done by this point, so I stayed at the hotel all evening and sat in the bar with a couple of drinks and my laptop.
Over the course of the day I’d reached 82 finds, which is pretty good.
This was my final day before having to go back to work. I’d been off work for ages, having spent a fortnight in Crete and then come to Uttoxeter for some geocaching. The plan was to walk from Sudbury to Tutbury across a bunch of fields. The walk very conveniently started at my hotel. It was a day where I sort of forgot to take any photos, so you’ll just have to look at the map at the bottom and pretend I’m a better-organised person than I actually am.
I was joined on the walk (or I tagged onto the walk) by Candleford, Steve (of Church Micro fame) and Andy “The Long Man”
Sorting Out the Arrangements
The first thing we did on the day was to drive over to Tutbury and park Candleford’s not insubstantial vehicle on the High Street. It’s a one-way walk so leaving a car at the far end counts as good planning. Anyway, we had loads of time. Steve and Andy weren’t coming round until 9am.
That meant Candleford and me could return to the hotel (we had randomly booked into the same place) for some breakfast. There were a couple of other cachers in the breakfast room. It’s almost like there was an event going on, or something.
We’d left plenty of time for a good breakfast and then to pack up the rooms and then get out of the rooms and throw all the stuff into the back of my car. Steve and Andy arrived a little later than planned, but still in plenty of time. We began walking at 9:20am.
Stage 1 – Sudbury to Hanbury
This first stretch was all across fields. The caches were a bit spread out, so it was quite slow going. At one point also we were diverted by a herd of cattle standing right where we wanted to be. They made us walk along a field, through a hedge, down a hill, and then back to where we needed. That probably wasted 20-25 minutes.
Other than that though, the weather was good, and the company was good, so the slow progress wasn’t exactly depressing.
At Hanbury there were a series of caches from the “FYI” series, which caused us to break the linear walk.
Hanbury to Tutbury
The next stretch of the walk took us north-east and finished at Tutbury Castle. There was a little loop of FYI caches around there too.
Once in Tutbury, Candleford when to fetch her car and we did a couple more caches as drive-bys on the way out. We made our way back to the Boar’s Head car park to split up and head off.
Not Quite Finished
I had a serious opportunity to get past 16,000 total finds, so I wasn’t quite ready to give up. I only needed 4 more at this point, but I couldn’t face more walking. So I had a quick chat with Candleford and we decided to head to Castle Donington for cluster of Adventure Labs. They all looked like they could be done quickly.
There was one series in Castle Donington, one in Hemington and one in Lockington. All could more or less be done from the car. Plus, of course, there were a few “real” caches on the way which couldn’t be done from inside the car.
And then to finally finish off my caching day we drove up to the Aeropark on the north side of East Midlands Airport to do a set of Adventure Labs that appear in the middle of the runway. They are designed to be done by people travelling through the airport, so they’ve been set with a very generous zone to make sure you can actually get them from the terminal building. I wasn’t sure we could get them from the Aeropark, so we parked up and gave it a go. We were in range, so 5 more finds were added in about a minute.
There was no sitting in a railway station involved, nor, indeed, were there any diminutive but very talented American songwriters. There was just me, my car, and the M1.
On the journey from Sudbury to Tutbury I’d made 68 finds and had waltzed well past the 16,000 total. So this made me start thinking about whether I could get to 17,000 by the end of the year, and whether I could get close to 3,000 total finds in a single year. It seemed distinctly possible.
For much of the summer I’d been gawping at the area around Downham Market in Norfolk as the villages round there are packed with caches. This is partly as a result of a well-known and very prolific cache setter moving up there (but there were quite a few anyway).
A closer inspection identified several series that could be done on a bike. Said prolific cache setter also has a leaning towards the bicycle.
So a plan was hatched.
On yer Bike
The first job, as ever, was to jump in the car. The target location is over 100 minutes from home by car. Allowing time to stop for fuel and coffee on the way out, that meant a two-hour journey. It would have to be spent alone because I was obviously taking a bike too. That requires dropping all the back seats. And whilst my road bike fits in the car with all the wheels on, the recreational one doesn’t. It’s bigger, heavier and has much wider handlebars. So the front wheel has to come off so that it fits through the tailgate. I could probably get a roof rack, but then I could probably get a telescopic step-ladder and a kayak too. I haven’t got them because it feels like a big expense for something I would use infrequently.
Back at the plot, we met up in Wereham because it was within range for most of the circuits and it has a generous amount of “proper” parking between the village pond and the church. That meant I was happy to leave my car there for most of the day.
Circuit #1 – Wereham and Barton Bendish
There wasn’t really too much of a plan, but the start was to head north-east along the Wereham Whilygig series until it meets the Barton Bendish Bolero series near Boughton. Progress was quick. It was a little cool and windy at the start but that made for a pleasant ride. The caching went quickly.
The route took us anti-clockwise around the circuit. At Boughton there was nearly, but not quite, a full house of village cache types. There was one each from the War Memorial, Church Micro and Village Sign series, but no Village Hall. Someone should attend to that. The reason may, of course, be that Boughton doesn’t have a Village Hall.
Back at the plot, after Boughton the route goes north into Barton Bendish. This bit of the route was over farm tracks rather than road, but because it was dry these were perfectly good for riding. A little bumpy, but perfectly good.
Barton Bendish has the same collection of village cache types, except there are two Church Micros.
At some point on the way south from Barton Bendish back to the cars we stopped in a field entrance for a sandwich and a drink. Surely it can’t be lunchtime already?
It was indeed lunchtime. It had been quick going though. When we finished this loop we’d done over 60 finds already.
Circuit #2 – Crimplesham and Wimbotsham
We made the decision to cycle back to the north of Wereham and head for another big circuit around the villages of Crimplesham and Wimbotsham. That circuit promised another 50 or so. There were two sets of Ad Labs as well as forty regular caches. We were still on the bikes so we assumed it would take us just another 3 hours or so to get around.
Halfway round, at the north end of Wimbotsham, it felt like time for another break. Given that one of the Ad Lab stages was on the outside of a pub, it felt like a good place to stop for a couple of lemonades and some peanuts. There was a wedding reception in half of the building but they didn’t seem to mind a couple of scruffily dressed oiks on bikes camped out the front for half an hour. To be honest, it was a much needed rest, especially as I’d been out of drinks for a while.
Wimbotsham is also one wave short of a shipwreck, as it were. It has a Church Micro, a Village Hall and a Village Sign, but no War Memorial.
This circuit was all on paved surfaces, so we kept going really quickly. Towards the end my legs were starting to cramp a bit. It was quite hot, after all. So when we finished this circuit I was reluctant to go further on the bike. It was still quite early in the afternoon though, so I was up for another circuit in the car.
Circuit #3 – Fincham
The Fincham Flamme Rouge is shortish series of 26 caches set in a loop around roads that are narrow but paved. It would have been fine on the bikes, but it was also OK in Candleford’s “go anywhere” vehicle.
We got around the circuit in around an hour and got back to Fincham village. Here we encountered our first village with the “Full Monty” – a War Memorial, a Village Sign, a Village Hall and a Church Micro. All were easy finds and easily accessible from the car.
And that was about it for the day. By the time got back to my car it was definitely late afternoon. The car was where I’d left it, which is good.
Enough is Enough
Except it wasn’t quite enough. It never is. On the way out I stopped off in Fordham for a quick easy Church Micro and a Really Sidetracked.
I hadn’t really been keeping count but knew we’d done loads. When I counted them all up at home during the evening, the final tally was 160 finds, including the 10 labs. It hadn’t felt like a tiring day for that many. We hadn’t really started very early and we’d packed up fairly early too, so 160 finds was a Brucie Bonus.
A day of wandering around the woods near West Harling, out in the wilds of Norfolk. Well, not that wild, but not exactly urban either. Anyway, I digress. Regularly.
As for most of the epic days this year I was in the company of Candleford, and also this time with Archer Phoenix for the main part of the day.
We weren’t due to meet Archer Phoenix until mid-morning, which is obviously a bit late for me at this time of year, so Candleford and me met early and had a hack around the Safari Smiley series first. These are in the same set of woods, so not much of an issue.
West Harling Walk
The main event for the day was Rilks’ West Harling Walk – a loop of 50 traditional caches set in the woods. The series began and ended in a good-quality parking location. By this I mean, open, spacious, not full of potholes, and quiet enough that the car wouldn’t be a risk. All of those are good things.
Neither Candleford nor me had met Archer Phoenix before, so there was obviously a bit of furtive “what do you think, him maybe?” discussion before wandering over to some random individual to say hello. Thankfully we got the right guy.
So off we set, armed with bags full of caching bits and bobs, chocolate-based snacks, sandwiches and suncream. Oh yes. It was only the beginning of September, and the weather could best be described as “warm” again.
The walk initially took us north. The circuit makes a shape that’s difficult to describe. Possibly like a sombrero. So using that description, the walk started by going up and over the crown, before walking out to both ends of the brim. I should work on my descriptive techniques, maybe.
The cache-finding was quite straightforward despite the trees. Most had very good coordinates and good hints, which meant very few misfires. There was also a mix of container types and hide types, which kept it interesting.
I think the walk around took us five hours. Some of the caches were quite spread out, plus we added a few more from the Safari Smilies and a couple of other things, so there were 60 caches in this walk.
It was still early enough in the day to do a few more. Over at Burwell there were a group of Adventures Labs interspersed with traditionals and a few other bits. They were all close enough together to make it a worthwhile end of day.
Burwell is about half an hour or so from West Harling, but at this time of year there’s still plenty of light.
We did most of the caches around here as drive-bys. Although a busy village, there were plenty of places to stop. Driving meant also that we were inside for the short period when it rained. It rained a lot. Stair-rods kind of stuff.
All was good except for trying to get in and out of the village hall. There was a bit of a sharp slope between their off-ramp and the road, so I was treated to the horrible sound of a scrape on the tarmac as I pulled out. So that left me grumpy all the way home. Ultimately the car was OK though.
The day resulted in 106 total finds. Another ton-up to add to the list, and another big series done. Can’t be bad.
Another trip up to Downham Market for some tupperware hunting. I spent the day with CDinc, waggerswinners and Candleford hitting the Bouncing Butterflies and Shouldham Shoe Shine series.
We all met up at a massive car park on Forestry Commission land next to Shouldham Shoe Shine #22. It was a nice easy place to meet up and there was plenty of (free) parking. It felt like somewhere that would be safe to leave the car all day too.
The Bouncing Butterflies is a series of 37 puzzles caches, each of which involves completing a small (ish) jigidi jigsaw puzzle. These had all been solved by a community effort some time before actually going on the hunt, thereby meaning all we had to do today was to walk around and sign all the logs.
Because we’re not really rebels, we started at number 1 and walked the series in number order, which made for an anti-clockwise loop. Obviously we were torn, because anti-clockwise is bad karma, but then so is doing them in reverse number order. It was bad luck whichever way round we went. But we decided number-order outweighed clockwise.
The walk involved a number of offshoots to fetch “off-series” additions, and that added a bunch of extra walking to the circuit.
Despite the icons being placed over a forested area, most of these were actually out in agricultural land, not that it was a problem. It was good weather still, and with four sets of eyes we made excellent progress. By the time we got back to the car we were past 40 finds. And by this time we were all happy with taking a lunch break. Lunch was had sitting on a big log near the cars.
Shouldham Shoe Shine
After we’d done with lunch, we set off in a clockwise direction around the Shouldham Shoe Shine. Obviously we were starting closest to #22 but we started with #23 because it was clockwise from where we were. This series doesn’t have bad karma, because the numbers go clockwise. Which is nice.
This walk was almost entirely in the woods, following on from the morning’s open-countryside walk. We didn’t really suffer with helicopter GPS syndrome though. Probably something to do with there being four pairs of eyes. So this walk added a further 26 finds to the total without any great stress.
The Full Monty
After the walking, we drove down to Shouldham. The village contains the proverbial Full Monty of typical English village cache series. There’s one each from the Church Micro, Village Hall, Village Sign, War Memorial and Fine Pair series. You can’t pass up the opportunity to do the Full Monty when it presents itself.
A Few in Downham Market
To finish the day, Candleford, waggerswinners and me met up in Downham Market to walk around and do two sets of Ad Labs plus a few others. We parked in the car park of a certain well-known supermarket, as it was by far and away the best place to park.
We walked a vaguely clockwise circle around the town centre, grabbing as we went. It only took an hour or so to walk round. It’s kind of compact and obviously Ad Labs aren’t subject to the proximity rules.
By the time we gave up, I’d eeked out another hundred-plus day. Top notch.
What’s Going On?
Well, there were four of us, but not all of them are non-blondes, to be honest. That song is called “What’s Up” not “What’s Going On” anyway, so my rather obvious ruse of adding an external link for this post (because the search engines like it) is looking increasingly tenous. Meanwhile, back at the plot, you may be wondering what the subject of discussion is in this post. It’s Leeds. Not generically the whole of Leeds, but a small microcosm of Leedsiness captured during a weekend running event.
Kas’s running event was on Sunday, so we were in no great hurry to get to Leeds itself. That was good, because Daughterus Maximus wanted to come too, which meant our trip up required a diversion via Lincoln. That maybe added an hour to the journey. So after some faffing about with routes and stopping for coffee, and the like, we eventually got to Leeds in the middle of the afternoon. We also stopped at Ikea in Sheffield on the way past, because they had an item I needed for Ami’s room and it wasn’t in stock in Milton Keynes.
The logistics also required us to take both cars. Kas was going to proceed northwards after the event, but someone had to drop Ami back in Lincoln, as she doesn’t have a half-term week any more. So I’d planned a couple of days holiday during the half term to get Ami’s bedroom redecorated and refurnished, as well as some caching.
We were staying at a Premier Inn close to the centre. It was one of the newer style spangly tower block jobs and was fairly new. The only downside, as with most of their city centre sites, is that they don’t own parking. The parking they advised to use was right next to the building but was pretty awful because it wasn’t really paved. Just hard-packed gravel, full of potholes and loose bits.
Oh well! It is what it is, I suppose.
The girls didn’t fancy doing anything in between arriving and going out for dinner. So I did a small recce-run round the city centre capturing a few Adventure Labs. I think I grabbed 13 or so on a short loop along the river, around the central station and back again.
Dinner was at a popular chain Italian eatery inside a modern shopping/entertainment mall in the middle of town. It was good. We walked there and back in what proved to be the last rain-free period of the weekend.
The kids obviously had no intention of getting up and out for Kas’s run, so they stayed in bed while me and Kas had an earlyish breakfast and then headed off for run-land.
Once Kas was settled into the right locations, I set off a bit of caching. She’d expected about 100 minutes between me leaving her and her returning. That was an hour for the run, plus 25 minutes before the start and at least 15 at the end. That set the boundaries for my morning walk.
I’d decided I was only going to Adventure Labs. I’d previously done a couple of caches in central Leeds, plus there was a sufficiently large number of Labs to make anything else seem unnecessary. So Labs only.
As it turned out, I’d made totally the wrong clothing choice. I toyed with fetching a raincoat from the car as we were leaving the hotel but ultimately didn’t. The result was that I got soaked. It started drizzling not long after we left the hotel and gradually got worse as the morning progressed. By the time I finished I was literally dripping wet.
My walk initially took me north towards the First Direct Arena and then south down the main shopping street of Briggate. The Ad Labs were pretty densely packed, to be honest. That contributed to my decision to cache only these parts. I was interlacing six or seven sets, which required a bit of care, but was still packing them in at one heck of a rate.
At the end of Briggate I turned west past the station and made it all the way up to Park Square and up to the General Infirmary (crossing the running circuit as I went). I reckoned I still had time to meet Kas at the finish line, so I went back and elbowed my way through some crowds just in time to see her big finish. And then I followed her at a distance all the way back through the crowds up to where the bag drop area was. And queued in the rain.
She’d done well in the race. Not a PB but then she wasn’t aiming for one.
Off We Go
When we got back to the hotel we’d got half an hour or so to get out of the hotel room. So Kas got cleaned up and I switched to some vaguely dry clothes.
The kids had spent much of the morning having breakfast, so the decision was made to not stay in Leeds for lunch. We both had a 2-3 hour drive ahead of us and none of us was really hungry. So off we went. We left the hotel in convoy and went our separate ways when we reached the appropriate motorway junction.
I spiced up mine and Ami’s drive back by driving towards Hull so I could drive over the Humber Bridge. I’d never been over it before, and it wasn’t really out of the way to go that way, so why not. And to make things better, the further east we drove the more the sky cleared up. When we crossed the bridge it had stopped raining, and by the time we made it down to Lincoln the sun was out.
Ami was in no rush, so we went for some lunch before I set off home. The drive back took me a couple of hours, as it always does, and I got back home in the early evening having no desire whatsoever to eat anything more. I think I grabbed a beer and watched NFL for a while before giving up. Monday was going to be a bit busy.
Having had a decent day of furniture-building in Ami’s room on Monday I took the day off on Tuesday to go for one final monster caching day by bike before the daylight turned and the clocks had to be changed. The plan was to take the bike up towards Downham Market to do the Pentney PedalAthon series.
I was joined on the trip by Candleford. Well, that understates her role. More correctly, we went in her car. On a previous trip we’d concluded we could get both bikes into one car, so that’s what we did. That meant an earlyish start for me and a drive before transferring vehicles.
This is a moderately large series of 60 traditional caches set to be accessible by bike. As it was October and we’d had a bit of rain, that accessibility remained to be proven.
The series forms a big figure-of-eight to the west side of Pentney, so that’s where we parked. We parked in an offroad area in the village close to the church.
Cycling conditions were good most of the way around. Through to #27 it was all road. Then a bit of farm track (gravel) for a few before reaching a pretty difficult section between #38 and #40. Here it was just along a grass footpath. It was uneven and a bit soft, so hard pedaling and not very forgiving on the butt cheeks. #41 to #48 took us through some woods, which were OK to cycle apart from a couple of bits that were up really steep slopes. Then #49 through #55 we on farm tracks again before finishing off on the road again.
Just to the east of Pentney is the short Pentney Plodge series. It has just 12 caches and they are beside the road. Biking round these 12 took under an hour. There’s not a lot more to say other than that they were easy to do.
Down at West Dereham is the “Wheelie” series. This is a bit drawn out, but we had a couple of hours of usable light left, so we started by driving our way around 20 or so of these. Again they were designed to be easy finds, and so they proved to be.
From there we headed to Hilgay. There’s a walk there which I haven’t done, and it remains that way. on this trip the light was failing quickly, so we only had time to grab a couple of traditional caches and a set of Adventure Labs. Most were by the roadside. The exception was the final lab stage, which required us to walk through the churchyard in the last of the daylight.
The day had yielded 109 finds. That was way more than I expected, so a good job, all in all.
A day spent around and about on a Bedford walkabout. There were a number of groups of caches in the area that I’d been looking at for a while. That meant it seemed like a good day to try to get loads of them at the same time.
New Adventure Labs in the Town
There’d been a couple of new sets of adventure labs added since my previous trip to Bedford (see Bedford). Well, that was 10 months previously, so unsurprising. One of the two involved tracking down five pieces of sculpture. The other involved some history about Bedford Castle. Seriously, I didn’t know there was a castle in Bedford. Anyway, there is, and I’ve now been to it.
Whilst I was in the town centre I also grabbed Bunyan’s Books. This is a puzzle that involves finding a statue to read some data (which was easy). And after that, you have to find another location which proved to be needle-in-a-haystack territory. Even after a couple of calls and some very descriptive information on what to look for, it took me an hour.
Next up was to meet Makaraka and Candleford up on the north side of town. The plan was to finish off the WTDWYCIHIMOT series (what to do when your car is having its MOT). None of our cars were having their MOT, but nevertheless. Up here it’s a bit of mud-plugging across mainly agricultural land, but thankfully it hadn’t been too wet, so it wasn’t bad going. We found 15 up there.
Great Denham is supposedly a village on the western edge of Bedford that has some evidence of neolithic settlements. The bit we went to had these pretty effectively disguised though. This side of Bedford is currently being filled with new housing estates, and inside one of those is Great Denham Country Park. It’s the home to a parkrun that I haven’t done yet, and also home to a set of Ad Labs. On the way round there were also 5 traditional caches. That made for another 10 quick finds, although it was made slower by the decision to stop for coffee and cake before setting off.
Stick it to the Man
From here we headed west to have a pop at the Wootton Stick Man series – a short series with a couple of “hangers on” which boosted the day’s total by a dozen in short order.
Back to the Labs
From here I returned to caching on my own. There’s a series of Ad Labs in Kempston which can pretty much be done as drive-bys (or not-very-long-walk-bys), so I did those on my way past to get to Bedford Park.
Inside Bedford Park there’s another set of Ad Labs, as well as three traditionals and a bonus for the Ad Labs. One of those traditionals was a fairly rare D/T combination of 3.5/4. It required me climbing about 3-4 feet off the ground to stand in a tree to retrieve the box. While I was up there I had way too many things to hold, and ultimately my ham-fistedness resulted in me dropping the log to the floor. So I had to jump down, find the log, and then climb back up again. To make matters worse, when I jumped down the second time I managed to rip the lanyard that I use to attach my GPS to myself. I’ve been doing this ever since I dropped a GPS down a drain (see Letchworth Disaster) some years ago.
Anyway, that meant my GPS fell on the floor, but at least there were no drains nearby, so no real harm was done. A massive bag of replacement lanyards arrived through the post a couple of days later.
So that was enough of that for another day. The day had resulted in 63 total finds without being very much effort. I’ll take that.
This also was the last day before the clock change and the return to it getting dark before 5pm. That meant no more long days out (supposedly) and certainly a few months of caching needing to finish well in time to get home for dinner.
Disa Urg was hosting a Community Celebration event over in Bury St Edmunds. Those are quite rare beasts, so combined with St Edmundsbury being an English cathedral I’d never visited, I snapped up the opportunity to go.
The plan was to meet Candleford and Makaraka at some awful time of the morning, and to grab a couple of caches with peculiar D/T ratings near Stow cum Quy on the way. The event in Bury St Edmunds wasn’t until quite late in the morning, so we reckoned we could get a dawn walk in and also walk around Bury before the event started.
At Stow cum Quy we did also walk over to a cache that’s a field puzzle. It was one of those three-dimensional mazes made by a 3-D printer. They are quite cunning, but to be honest if you don’t figure it out in the first few seconds you could be there for ages. We gave up after 30 minutes, because we just weren’t getting any closer to a solution and we had other things we wanted to do. I knew we shouldn’t have walked to it.
Bury St Edmunds
Ah! The home of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, which like many English cathedrals, is actually a mish-mash of styles and ages. It’s had more extensions added to it than you could get away with and didn’t actually become a cathedral until 1914.
None of us had been caching here before, so potentially anything and everything was on the radar. Parking looked variable, and we had some information it might be possible to park free at the station. You could park for free. However, you had to get a “free” ticket out of the machine to put in your window. That took some time to figure out.
So off we went for a bit of a walk around town. There were three sets of Ad Labs on top of a selection of Church Micros, War Memorials, and other typical “in town” caches. This kept us busy until over halfway past the start of the event, but we had decided to complete chunks of the walk before going to the event, so that’s what we did.
The event was in the cathedral gardens, at the furthest point from the car. The walk back was quicker though, because we’d done all the caches apart from a couple.
After Bury, we’d decided to head for Newmarket, but to get there via Barrow, where there was a set of labs as well as a Village Sign, a Village Hall, Church Micro and a War Memorial. That’s got to be worth a trip. As it turned out, it was a pretty quick way of grabbing 10 finds.
Where They Do the Horses
Newmarket wouldn’t really be worthy of much note except that it’s considered to be the original home of, and still a major global centre for, thoroughbred horse racing. Not a sport I’m interested in, other than the geographical aspects. The geography of things is always interesting to me. It’s what I do. But the actual racing of horses, and the wagering of money on it, are of no interest to me.
Anyway, we got there around the main road and followed a long straight road alongside some of the gallops. It has a bunch of caches at places that were (cough) suitable for Candleford to park at.
Once we got into the town centre there was a set of Ad Labs that required walking. So we parked “behind the shops” and went for a bit of a walk. It was a short walk around a smallish town centre. And then once we were done with that we drove to the west end of the main street to finish off one of the sets of labs. By this time it was nearly 5pm and it was getting close to darkness.
Well, we can’t finish yet
Well, just because it’s dark, that doesn’t mean we have to stop.
So Candleford “forced” us to do another set of Ad Labs in Eaton Socon as part of the drive back to her house (where me and Makaraka had parked). Well, it would be rude not to.
In total, the day yielded 71 finds, which was somewhat more than I’d anticipated. I was only expecting 30-40, but that was based on us only going to Bury St Edmunds. Adding all the others into that pushed me well clear of my expectation.
A day walking around the countryside near Therfield, south of Royston. This is the very heart of Ryoland, and to make the experience more real, the man himself was in the party. That meant the walk was fast and all of the finds were guaranteed. It made for a big day of caching.
It was a Friday and I’d taken the day off work because I had a few holidays left to use before the end of the year.
The day began with a meet up in the village of Therfield. Candleford had been to fetch Ryo62 on the way and they were waiting for me when I arrived. So after a quick change into my walking boots we were off on our way. The plan was to walk around the series at Therfield and then to move the cars round to the other nearby series at Kelshall.
We started our walk heading west and then north, tidying up a few caches there before heading off around the extended figure-8 shape of the series along it’s left side. There were a few “hangers-on” on the route too. Much as expected, the caching was quick. The weather was dry and the underfoot conditions were firm, so progress over the ground was easy. Searching was also easy. Ryo’s caches are generally easy to find, with good coordinates and useful hints. Obviously in this case it was made even easier by Ryo being with us. He walks quickly and remembers pretty much every location. Candleford had also suggested that we should aim for a 100 finds in the day (at least for me) and with that in mind we were basically on a bit of a mission.
On this section we walked about 12km over 4.5 hours and found over 40 caches. That was a decent start and it was therefore deemed to be lunchtime when we got back to the cars. We treated ourselves to a fairly unhealthy lunch sitting in Candleford’s car.
We moved Candleford’s car round to the Village Hall in Kelshall for the second loop of the day. I left mine on the road outside the pub in Therfield, where it had been all morning. It looked perfectly safe there.
This second loop of the day was 7.7km long and took us well under 3 hours to complete. It yielded a further 34 finds. That put me just over 80 finds. By this time it was after 3:30pm and the light was closing in, so we switched to hunting in Candleford’s car.
Time for Drive-Bys
Ryo suggested we could make a good number of easy drive-bys if we headed for Nuthampstead, so that’s where we went. We found 13 in double-quick time there and then headed to Royston to complete a set of Ad Labs. Those could be done in the car.
By this time it was well after 5pm and I was pooped, so I got Candleford to drive me back to my car and we went our separate ways.
My separate way didn’t involve going straight home though. There was an event being held in a pub that was sort of on my way home, so I went straight there for half an hour before finally packing up. I’d got a long day planned for the following day, so didn’t want to leave it too late.
When I added everything up, I’d found 105 caches during the day. That was by far and away the most I’d ever found on a December day, so I was happy as.
Having spent a day of vacation walking around Therfield on the previous day I decided I still hadn’t done enough caches in the year, so I headed of for a day doing London labs.
I’d studied the form to some extent and knew I could find a large number of stages of Adventure Labs if I walked eastwards from Euston, then south and back westwards towards Westminster. Beyond that, there was no real plan, to be honest. It was a Sauturday and I had all day available. However it was December, so it would be dark not long after 4pm. That set some parameters for me.
I began by getting a very early train from Milton Keynes down to London. Clearly. I would have done a lot of caching if I’d tried to walk to London first. I grabbed some coffee and pastries at the station to eat on the train.
The train trip was dull, as ever, and I arrived in London just as it was getting light.
After a couple of quick finds near the station I progressed on to Tavistock Square and then on to St George’s Gardens, heading east from Euston. I was quite surprised when I came across the Foundling Hospital and the associated playing fields. Those were busy with loads of kids playing some Saturday morning football. It was surprising to see such a large area right in the middle of the city, I guess.
A Religious Experience
I made my way from the King’s Cross area through Farringdon and down towards The Temple. My biggest problem here was finding a way in. Once I did, again I was surprised the the pristine and peaceful nature of the place. I mean, the church appears in The Da Vinci Code but I’d never really considered that might be an “actual” place in the middle of London. Nor that it would be so quiet. I guess barristers don’t work on Saturdays.
I was in there because there was a set of lab caches in the area. It’s public access, despite being the home of two of the Inns of Court. It took me ages, to be honest, to find the way in. I wasted an amount of time there. I also struggled with a couple of the pieces of information required. And to cap it all, I then couldn’t figure out how to get out. One piece of information I needed was near the exit out to The Strand, but you could only get out with an electronic pass, and I clearly didn’t have one. Thankfully, after a while, someone arrived who did have one, and they were happy to let me tailgate out. The information was on the outside not the inside.
Into the Afternoon
As time moved on into the afternoon I found myself wandering towards the West End and picking up a few caches that I’d failed with on the last time I was in London. That was London Calling day, back in August 2021. I failed those due to a lack of time, a lack of patience, or a lack of phone signal.
Some of those issues were still present on this trip, especially the phone signal, and I once again found myself wandering around aimlessly trying to find a free wi-fi to enable me to complete what I needed. I got there eventually, but it was slow and there was some swearing involved.
After this, I was getting a bit tired and needed a sit down. I availed my self of some lunch at a certain well-known multinational chain whose name rhymes with Pack Ronalds. That was right next to Charing Cross Station. It wasn’t an entirely pleasant experience, to be honest. It took ages to get served and then I couldn’t find a seat for ages.
From here I picked my way down Whitehall to Parliament Square, where there were a few new sets of Adventure Labs that weren’t there on London Calling day. I also didn’t have time on that day to walk through the area to the south of the Houses of Parliament nor round St James’s Park. The park was quite nice. It was a little busy, and it was starting to go a little dark by this time, but it was good. There was one locaiton where I struggled to find the information, but got there eventually.
I needed another rest, so sat on a bench for 15 minutes to give my feet a rest. This gave me a final burst of energy, and I used it to walk through Waterloo Place and up to Piccadilly Circus, then throuogh Soho.
It was “proper dark” by this time and frankly my legs had had enough, but I wanted to walk round everywhere. Well, I didn’t want to have to use the tube on a Saturday evening, to be honest. So I legged it up to Tottenham Court Road and then along Goodge Street back to where I’d started.
I was kind of glad to get back to Euston and also to be able to catch a train back fairly quickly. All-in-all another excellent day of caching with a disgusting quantity of finds, as you can see from the map.
The house and the remaining members of the family where pretty much where I’d left them, so that was all good.