I was back to Kent today to pick up at least 24 Leterboxes, 4 Multis and two Puzzles, so I could qualify for a couple of Challenges elsewhere. There were a couple of suitable circuits around East Peckham and Beltring, so I headed south of the river.
The first circuit offered a good parking spot at St. Michael’s church, East Peckham. So it would have been rude not to pick up the trad and CM nearby before setting off on my letterbox quest.
My usual trick with letterboxes is to forget to bring my personal stamp along, but I remembered this time! All logs got a nice fat imprint.
Of course, most of the letterboxes contained their own stamps (a couple were missing), so by the time I had finished, I had a nice collection in my own notebook.
Well that’s job done and another two Challenge caches can be moved onto the “qualified for” pile.
It was my last day in Hampshire and Dorset today, so I made the most of it by running round like a mad thing picking up the last caches which were on my list – a mixture of virtuals, challenges and a few others as I was passing. I started off heading further south west, to pick up a D1/T4 Loop 2 grid filler, The Bear Necessities Of Life. There were even bears inside! Awesome.
Next I headed to Minstead Church, situated in a quiet village just off the busy A31.
I was looking for a Virtual cache dedicated to the author of a famous Detective. Can you guess who?
Next I headed for another Virtual, this time on Hengistbury Head, an outcrop of rock overlooking Christchurch Harbour. Just as I got out of the car, it started raining! Drat.
The rain continued, on and off, for much of the day. I also enjoyed locating several trads and Challenge Caches along the route of the old railway between Upton and Broadstone, north east of Poole. I was particularly pleased so spot The Fat Controller – or perhaps he is a frustrated commuter – in one of the caches.
Other wildlife spotted included this huge red beetle! Thankfully, it was just plastic.
The irony of walking past a solar farm in the pouring rain is not lost on me! By this time I was east of Ferndown looking for a trio of Challenges by DizzyPair. There are one or two more in the area which I don’t yet qualify for, so perhaps I will be back on a sunny day sometime!
My final find, as it turned out, was another Virtual at Florence Nightingale’s Grave. Here I am, posing under a brolly!
As if I wasn’t already wet enough, I decided to attempt another grid filler – this time a D2.5/T4.5. I even donned my waders, but the cache was out of reach and I didn’t feel it was safe to go climbing on my own, so I left it be – it’s only a cache!
It was a rather soggy drive back home, but I had a great 4 days finding some unusual stuff in an area I don’t get to very often. A grand road trip!
My first cache of the day was another 5/5 Challenge, this time the 365 Days – A Year Lost! Having just completed a 400-day streak, I was more than qualified. More cows, but they were behind a fence and once the muggles at GZ had pushed off, I made a quick find.
After bagging another Challenge close by, I headed to Portsmouth to Fort Cumberland for the CITO event there. Shifty insisted on coming along too, as did Larry The Litterpicker, ever helpful at a CITO event.
The attendees were happy to pose for a group shot after our work was done, and then I headed off for more Challenges around Portsmouth which I had earmarked for my attention.
After picking up some nice DTs on challenges, I then headed off for some more Loop 2 fillers – mainly trads – which I had noticed in the area. I bumped into som CITO foilks at one, and we had fun wading in a very dry ditch before finally finding what we had come for.
Another Challenge completed was the 3 Caches In 3 Continents Challenge. Well, having found boxes in the UK, US and Japan, that will qualify me very well. And it was a great little box with a bear passport inside!
I found another trio of trads last thing, but before that I had earmarked three letterbox caches in the Whiteley Walk series, one of which would fill my Loop 2 D1/T4.5 square. It promised to be swampy, but I had the waders in the car and I was itching to use them! It was a slippery and sweaty walk to this one, but I picked up another couple along the way. Then I arrived at GZ!
I suspected I knew where it would be, but there was about 20ft of evil smelling swampy water to cross first. I found two substantial sticks which were kicking around to use as depth feelers and steadiers, and gradually glooped my way across! Yes, there’s the box… And after signing the log, I was most relieved to get back to dry land without having fallen over. Job done! And much fun had in the process.
I bagged up my swampy waders and headed back to the hotel for a rest, having found 16 hides today. Phew.
For ages I had wanted to attempt 100+ finds in a day to fulfil various challenge caches. I had targeted the 79-cache Letchworth Greenway Gallivant series for my assault, since it offered a circular walk, caches which were meant to be found quickly and plenty of potential extras not far away to make up the numbers and if I had any DNFs.
Originally I had planned to do the series by bike but I unfolded the machine where I had parked in Willian, only to find the rear tyre was flat! Argh! No time to mend it and I wasn’t about to be defeated right at the start – especially with a 120-mile round trip to get here. So, I started off on foot, resigned to the fact that it was going to take considerably longer than planned.
I had a couple of frustrating DNFs right at the beginning, but once I was actually on the Gallivant caches, things started well enough.
The sun was shining, the landscape was pleasant and the caches came quickly. I kept moving, but it felt like slow progress. Eventually I reached the quarter-century find, and as a reward I got a free snail with the pot!
Just a few finds later, and I was beginning to feel like this graffiti dude I found painted in the subway under the A1(M)! Oh dear. Trudge on regardless.
Another setback a few caches later – the GPS was telling me that GZ was behind this fence! So I moved along quickly to the next… When you are on a mission, you can’t hang around. I allowed myself just 5 minutes per cache and if I didn’t find it in that time, I needed to forget it.
Eventually the half century ticked over – I was very relieved to find this pot (many were similar, so at least I knew what I was looking for).
I soon realised I was running out of fluids, despite having brought a lot with me. The unexpected sunshine was taking its toll. So I had to make a detour off the main circuit and into an estate to the north of Letchworth to go in search of a newsagents to buy more supplies. At least I bagged another trio while I was there. Then back to the main route, where I was completely ignored by bored sheep in the fields.
With a few more DNFs under my belt (13 in the end, and one found but could not open to sign, it was a field puzzle), I had to make another detour off the main route to pick up a handful of emergency extras, or I knew I would be short by the time I got back to the start. Dusk was beginning to fall too, as I clocked up No. 75.
I walked on some more, and the sun set even further.
Round about No. 80 I had a decision to make – press on and find the last 20 in the dark (I’m a bit useless at night caching) or give up and take a short cut back to the car. Well, what do you think I did?
My feet were killing me, but I knew that if I gave up I would just kick myself. So I decided to carry on. How difficult can this night caching lark be?
As it turned out, not as bad as I thought! Head down, concentrate on the next find. Was I afraid of the dark? Not really. There were a few birds and animals which I surprised during my bushwhacking. But nothing scary about that wildlife. What about getting mugged? (A question from my Mum). Well, to be honest, by the time I finished, I was the only fool stupid enough to be walking around the Greenway, I never saw a soul! So no.
Eventually, I hobbled back to where I had parked the car with 97 finds under my belt. It was now very dark, But time for a few drive bys in Letchworth to tip my total over the ton.
98… 99… 100! Yay! But you know what, there’s always time for one more, isn’t there?
Having started the day with a Church Micro find in Willian (12.5 hours ago!), I thought I should go one better than my target and finish off with another CM – 5460. This was the closest and thankfully a quick, easy find to bring up 101.
That’s it, I’m shattered, having walked 23 miles and done a little over 49,000 steps, now all I have to do is drive 60 miles home.
Would I do it again? Not tomorrow! Or the day after. One day, maybe. On my own? Nope. It was really hard work with only one pair of eyes and nobody to chivvy you on when motivation began to wane – so I was really pleased in the end that I managed to succeed doing 101 solo. But another time, I would welcome some company!
But, the strain was beginning to show. I had somehow reached Day #366 but didn’t want to give up then. 500 days would take me back into December and Winter caching, and I really couldn’t face that – so a little while ago, I promised myself I would stop at Day #400, a nice round number. And here we are!
I wanted to have a good walk for my last hurrah, so Alistair and I set off for the Strod & Trod loop and The Saffron Trail (plus extras) just south of Hullbridge. There were some great hides and we had a lot of fun – something which has not always been the case during the last 400 days, and other reason for “doing it when I want”, not “because I have to”.
From now on, I will still be caching (but NOT tomorrow!) and writing about my most interesting adventures here, just not every day. Thanks for all my geo-friends’ support along the way, it’s been a blast!
Today I set myself the challenge of climbing The Monument in London, to finally log the Virtual cache which is at the top. I haven’t been up the thing in several years, but today looked perfect – lovely weather was promised.
But first, I started my walk from Liverpool Street and picked up information for a Multi I’ve been meaning to do for ages (sadly a DNF today) plus bagging a trio of Earthcaches before I began my climb,
At the bottom, it looks like a long way up!
Finally at the top of the Monument, Virtual Cache in the bag.
That wasn’t it for Earthcaches though, I did another couple after my climb, and also picked up five trads as I was pottering about.
Today’s first even was Ddraig’s Big Day Out at Chirk. There wasn’t a lot going on apart from a few oversized games laid out on the lawn. Shifty challenged me to a game of giant Chess, but I know how he plays, so I declined.
We did sign the big daffodil which was the event logbook and then headed off by gee-bike to pick up more of the Llangollen Canal Trail series. I was hoping to get as far as the ones Gilly and I found just east of Llangollen the other day.
There was plenty to see along the way. The industrial archaeology of the area was celebrated with this fine little sculpture – LQ enjoyed sitting in the alcove to pose for a photo.
The highlight was the part of the towpath which crosses the Pont-Cycyllte Aqueduct. Not the thing if you are afraid of heights! But thankfully they don’t bother me too much. I did of course walk across rathe than cycle as the towpath is very narrow, and if I was sitting on the saddle I would have been dangerously above the handrail – I wasn’t that daft!
It was quite a hot day, so I stopped at the canal basin in Trevor for a delicious ice cream and to make a few photos of the boats from the bridge.
Parts of the canal path were nice and shady which was very welcome given the temperature. There were plenty of barges on the move – at a very relaxed pace!
We made it to No. 21 which was the target – to join up the trail we had already found. LQ and I then stopped for a refuelling snack before heading back the way we had come – the geo-bike making the return journey much quicker than it would have been on foot.
As the ice cream was so nice, I stopped off for another at Trevor on the way back, before grabbing a few more along the canal trail by bike south of Chirk. Eventually I was feeling rather saddle-sore, so decided to head to Carrog for the evening even at the campsite.
I was also trying to keep up my unconventional streak (15 days needed for a Challenge cache) and the only cache which would satisfy that around about was the Whereigo. The actual puzzle was solved very quickly, but the climb up to the final GZ was a bit of a killer – especially given that my legs had already had plenty of exercise today! Still, job done.
Today was time for a road trip to Llanberis to go up Snowdon. I wanted to get there quickly, so only stopped off for a couple of hides along the way. LQ liked the view at this cache in the Llanberis Pass.
The next thing was to sign the ducks into the event at the car park in Llanberis – Summit Up Snowdon. They were happy to meet the folks there. Shifty decided he didn’t want to come all the way to the top (I think he’s secretly afraid of heights) but sent Little Quacker with me to report back how it was.
But first – we wanted to log the webcam at Llanberis – Mole says “Stick ’em up” 2 – Shifty was happy enough to be in that, he had his wings up too!
We enjoyed the trip up to the top on the diesel train. I had booked ages ago as I knew it would be busy. You only get 30-40 minutes at the top, and have to go back on the same train you came up on – but there were 3 caches to log! Would I be able to grab them all? One was a trad, one a virtual and one an Earthcache.
My original plan was to try for all three and if I didn’t have enough time, I would perhaps walk down from the summit. But we got half way up and entered the cloudbase. It turned very cold and extremely windy. The view from the summit was about 3 feet! But still, there was a big group of folks gathering the info for the virtual and Earthcache.
Little Quacker helped me out with gathering the information too. Thankfully we didn’t have to search hard for the trad – I saw it i the hands of other cachers!
Thankfully, I managed to get all three in the time, and took the train back down in comfort! But seeing little trains wasn’t over yet – I looked for the SideTracked – Llanberis hide which is sited along the lovely Llanberis Lake Railway.
Dolbarn Castle was the venue for another great little cache, the view was lovely. The cache had quite high terrain rating, but it didn’t pose too many problems.
Little Quacker found the cache easily! Well done LQ.
On the way back to the Carrog Campsite (for another event in the evening), I went from cache to cache along the A5, stopping for quick finds and no DNFs, ticking off another few counties today.
The evening festivities carried on well into the night at the Sombreros After Sunset event – Shifty disgraced himself by drinking too much Tequila and somehow came away with a rather bushy Mexican moustache! He’s been wearing it proudly ever since.
When you’ve been caching for a few years, it’s not often you get the chance to find a new cache type, but today was the day!
But first, I met up with Essex caching friend Gilly of Bean & Sprout to walk a section of the Llangollen Canal Trail between Berwyn and Llangollen. We also did a couple of extras (including an Earth Cache) while we were passing.
The canal walk is a lovely relaxing stroll, all very flat, and a good wide track to walk or ride along. We saw a horse-drawn canal boat excursion while we were on our route.
After “lunch” of a lovely Cream Tea at the canalside café, we made our way to the Llangollen Pavilion to visit the GPS Maze Europe – a rare beast indeed and the first time the GPS Maze has been seen in the UK. Another cache type added to the list, yay!
Little Quacker met a little duckie friend who was also in the HQ Duck Dash races, they got along well while they quacked away happily, telling each other of their adventures.
After the Maze, Gilly and I found a few more trads around the town of Llangollen, which has the pretty River Dee running right through the middle of it.
One fun cache was Over The Bridge, a Whereigo implementation of the classic Famer’s Conundrum (with caching-based characters instead of the usual Fox, Chicken & Grain). We ended up quite a way out of town but bumped into another group of cachers at the final GZ, so we all posed for a photo.
It was getting late, so I left Gilly to sign in at the campsite at Carrog about 10 miles west of Llangollen while I returned to my hotel in Oswestry – via a delightful (but tricky) little CM5266 in Llandysillio, which earned me Powys on the map.
The Llangollen hides had already earned me Denbighshire today, but I couldn’t resist also adding Shropshire to the list by finding Mile End Cache & Dash, conveniently placed in a corner of the car park at the hotel in Oswestry!
Today it was time to head to Ashridge Estate to attend the Geolympix 2016, my second Mega event.
I was delighted to test out the geo-bike properly. Ashridge is a big estate and it enabled me (and Shifty Duck!) to get around and find a good few more caches than we would have managed on foot alone.
Shifty bagged the jump seat pretty quickly – and certainly turned a few heads as we rode along!
Little Quacker was also keen to help out with the finds and signing the log!
We found some interesting fungi in the woods too.
The birds were a bit worried about the camo for this cache!
If I was worried that Shifty would be the biggest kid on the block, I needn’t have – look at this monster bear who was helping out on the Mega sign-in desk!
At 2pm the participants of #UKGeocachingHour on Twitter got together for a little meet up. It was well attended! Nice to meet folks in person who I’ve only chatted with online before now.
Three Irish cachers turned up for the meetup – The_Chris, lulybelle and Saramur – great to meet them too, I’ve been chatting with Susan (lulybelle) and Sarah for ages, so lovely to put faces to names.
After riding around looking for a few more caches, I returned to the main site to have a rest and watch the National Geocaching Awards – there were some worthy winners – some of whom seemed particularly ecstatic to have won!
It was a very enjoyable start to my geocaching holiday, and I managed to find a few more boxes on the way back to the car, arriving just as it started to rain! In the nick of time…
I then made my way to the Travelodge in Hemel Hempstead for the night, so that I would be ready to set off again, bright and early tomorrow, for day two of my trip.