May 23 : Llandudno and the Great Orme

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

After three days in and around Chester, we ventured further afield for a day at the seaside at Llandudno, and the geocar was soon parked on the seafront. We perambulated pleasantly along the promenade to our first geocache of the day, based on information to be found around the war memorial. Coordinates gathered, we moved off to the cache location, retrieved the cache, and were just signing the log, when we were interrupted … by a bird (a juvenile jackdaw?) who clearly thought that our rucksacks might contain food. They most certainly did, but it wasn’t on offer!

But our main objective for the day wasn’t at sea level, but higher up, on the Great Orme. By the way, the name comes from the Vikings, and means ‘sea serpent’. Mr Hg137 knows that I’m easily swayed by quaint modes of transport, and there’s a tramway up the Great Orme if you don’t fancy the walk http://www.greatormetramway.co.uk We queued up with throngs of other people, then set off in a striking Edwardian tram carriage up an incredibly steep track.


Actually, it’s not one tram, but two, with a halfway station where you change trams. Maybe it’s not possible to string a single cable all the way to the top round some sharp twists and turns. We got at the changeover point and took a short walk to Great Orme copper mine http://www.greatormemines.info How many Bronze Age mines can you visit? Not many – but we didn’t have time and contented ourselves with finding the earthcache based on the rocks around the entrance to the mine.

Great Orme Mine

Great Orme Mine


Great Orme Mine

Great Orme Mine


Back at the tram station, we re-boarded and took the shorter ride to the summit on a much less crowded tram. We emerged from the station almost at the top, almost 700 feet above sea level. It was cooler here, and much windier. Up here there are expansive views, an old observatory, now a café, a playground, the terminus for the cable car, and much more. Just outside the tram station is a statue of a Kashmiri goat; they roam on the Great Orme, keeping scrub in check, and I was hoping to see the real thing, but it wasn’t to be, and I had to content myself with some distant views of sheep. Never mind.
Kashmiri goat - but a statue, not a real one

Kashmiri goat – but a statue, not a real one


We had thought it might be difficult to search for caches up here, as there were many, many people around, but there was anonymity to be had among so many people, and we didn’t get even one curious glance. Of the two caches at the summit, one is a traditional cache, close to the summit cairn, which was a little dilapidated when we visited (it’s been repaired since) and another earthcache, which needed us two find two kinds of geological information and have a look at the medieval ridge and furrow part way down the hill.

There was another cache not far from the summit, giving us a chance to step away from the crowds. Almost immediately we were on our own, walking across springy turf dotted with sheep, with a wide-ranging view out to the north and a large wind farm. We got close-ish to the cache site. Where was it? Mmm: we were stood at the top of a small cliff, and the cache was doubtless at the bottom of said cliff. Oh dear: I really didn’t fancy some hardcore rock climbing. We looked around and found a steep path, fortunately on dry grass, that made its way round to the base of the cliff. Once there, we still couldn’t find the cache. Where was it? Mmm: where would the sheep shelter from showers? Aha! That was where the cache was concealed.

Return tram journey

Return tram journey


It was well into the afternoon by now, and we had spent three or four hours up on the Great Orme, enjoying ourselves as the time flashed by. We returned to the tram and took the trip back down into the town. The school day was now over and there were lots more children about, cycling on the promenade, down on the beach, having a fine time. We looked at the beach, and the sea, and decided it was time for a short paddle before returning to the geocar. The shoes came off, trousers were rolled up, and in we went – and – it wasn’t cold!
Llandudno West Beach

Llandudno West Beach


We prepared to return to Chester, an hour’s drive away. But first: one more cache, on the other side of town, sort of on our way back. It was a puzzle cache, solved by completing an online jigsaw showing the view from the cache; as the jigsaw is completed, the coordinates are revealed. I like jigsaws and this one was a few minutes fun to solve. The cache is at Llandudno West Beach, overlooking Conwy Sands. It’s a much quieter, less brash side of the town, with a beautiful sheltered beach and gently breaking waves, plus a glorious view along the Welsh coast … just as the jigsaw promised.
Conwy Sands from Llandudno West Beach

Conwy Sands from Llandudno West Beach


This was a perfect cache to end the day: it had a good puzzle, a great location and a good cache container at the end of the hunt. We returned to our hotel tired but well pleased.

Here are some of the caches we found:

Advertisements

May 22 : Fearless Traveler !

During our second visit to Chester we discovered this delightful trackable ‘Fearless Traveler! ‘

Fearless Traveler!

As you may guess from the title, it emanates from America. It started its journey in Illinois back in April 2015 and quickly galloped to the Western side of Canada based in and around Vancouver. It also visited caches not too far from the American border, before heading to Ottawa where it pranced for some time from cache to cache. Interestingly the trackable never made it back into America, but instead headed for the UK.

The first British cache it was placed in, was one we had found back in March 2015 when we walked the Thames Path. It had been placed in a cache called ‘Mosaic Trail – Fishes’ at Newbridge. (Interestingly the cache, if our memory is correct, is a 35mm film canister..so how the horse got into its British Stable, we are not sure).

Thereafter its British journey headed North West to the Chester area where we found it!

We will release it when we find a suitably large cache for it to enjoy the British Countryside!

May 22 : Chester (part 2)

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Chester city centre

Chester city centre


Tuesday already, and we returned to Chester to complete our caching mission from two days earlier. Taking the bus from outside the hotel, we arrived on the north side of the city at the smart new bus station https://www.chesterchronicle.co.uk/news/chester-cheshire-news/watch-take-ride-round-chesters-13073745
Fearless Traveler

Fearless Traveler


Before going right into the city, we attempted a cache hidden close to a nearby underpass … we must have tried every exit from that *!?* underpass, and looked at a lot of brick walls and signs, but we eventually got ourselves into the right place, finding the cache and a trackable of a little horse, ‘Fearless Traveler’.
Captain Morgan's cannon

Captain Morgan’s cannon


Then it was through Northgate in the city walls, and another cache, near a sculpture of a broken Civil War cannon. We would spend much of the day diving on and off the walls, eventually completing the 2-mile circuit, my ‘must do’ item for the day. It’s a walk well worth doing (and free!), with great views of the city streets, the cathedral, the racecourse, the river … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester_city_walls

It was a short walk to the city centre, with more statues (there are loads and loads of sculptures in Chester), including this one of a baby elephant http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/8569557.stm – there is a similar statue at Chester Zoo …
Janya

Janya


Apart from statues, there is unofficial ‘art’ advertising local businesses (and another elephant) …

It was a short walk to Eastgate, close to the city centre, where the clock on the bridge over the gate is, so they say, the second most photographed clock in the world. There’s a cache here, too, though muggles swarm around the bridge, and you must pick your moment to find it.
Chester, Eastgate clock

Chester, Eastgate clock


Further on round the walls we climbed down to pass the Roman amphitheatre, where a group of schoolchildren were being trained to be Roman soldiers and having lots of fun doing it, being ordered about with shields as large as they were.
Attention!

Attention!


Having diverted from the park, we went further on and back into Grosvenor Park, where we’d had a cache DNF (did not find) two days before. We had a slightly amended set of cache coordinates, and we were hopeful. We approached, only to find a muggle asleep on the grass nearby. We retreated to eat our sandwiches and to watch a muggle carrying a large, opened bag of monkey nuts through the park. And we found some of those nuts wedged into the trees when we started our search (so THAT’s why the squirrels are so tame and brazen!) We looked around for a bit – we thought we’d searched here before the coordinates were changed – then a chance look down revealed the cache lying on its own in the open, in a small dent in the dirt. We signed the log and tried to replace it as the hint said it should be. Good to find one of our earlier failures.
Chester city walls

Chester city walls



We returned to the southern section of the walls, overlooking the River Dee, then around the corner to the western walls, overlooking Chester racecourse, the Roodee. http://www.d2architects.co.uk/a-brief-history-of-chester-racecourse-730.html It’s the oldest racecourse in England, and one of the smallest, tightest circuits, with one lap being just over a mile, but this means that you get a good view of the whole of each race from either the grandstands or the walls. The course was being prepared for a race meeting the next weekend, and it was quite busy even then: it must be heaving on race day itself! There are a couple of caches along this section, too, and it was again a struggle to find the caches and sign the logs without attracting the attention of the many passers-by.
Chester racecourse - the Roodee

Chester racecourse – the Roodee


We arrived back at Northgate with our wall walk completed. But we still had another mission to complete … we had started on two multicaches on our previous visit, but had failed to finish either. Each had multiple stages: one involved looking up at various items above head height around the old city, and the other required us to glean information from some of the many blue plaques dotted around. So far so good: we reviewed what we had done two days before, then went off to complete the rest. We checked our answers, but we STILL hadn’t finished them. Grrr! We’d got our looking up confused with our plaques and had missed things. We sighed, and set off on another couple of laps of the city, to check all the clues again, some for the third/fourth time. I was getting a bit fed up by now. Eventually we had some answers and set off for the allotted locations. We thought we’d walked along every single street in the city centre but we found two we hadn’t tried, one in a pleasant residential street, and one in a less salubrious service area behind shops.

Phew! We were finished for the day. We returned to the swanky new bus station and went off for a rest and a meal.

Some of the caches from our previous visit remain resolutely unfound (by us, anyway). But here are some of the caches we did find, some fresh for today, and some at the second try from two days earlier:

May 21 : Chester Zoo

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Today we went to the zoo! Yes, there are caches around Chester Zoo, but we spent soooo long looking round the zoo that we didn’t even get around to completing all the stages of a multicache or finding any caches. Maybe we will return for another try?


So here are some pictures of animals instead. There was a baby rhino, all bouncy, baby meerkats, following the adults around, penguins in their new pool … oh, and a baby elephant, just three days old, so small, so cute, so well protected by his mum …


May 20 : Chester (part 1)

Chester & The River Dee

We had booked a week’s holiday in Chester, as it was an area neither of knew that well, and it would give us a small break from caching the Sandhurst Trail.

Our hotel was about 2 miles outside the City of Chester, and with a station on our doorstep, we took the train. (Saved car parking fees, but didn’t save shoe leather as we later discovered Chester Station was a little distance from our City Centre Caching Targets).

Chester is a former Roman Town, with a 2 mile Roman Wall surrounding the city centre. (The wall has been rebuilt several times since the Romans left!). The station was to the North of these walls, and our target caches was well to the South of the Walls, near the River Dee.

Before we left home we had solved a difficulty 5 puzzle cache called “The Clairvoyant” and we were determined to find it. As its location was some distance from the station, this gave us a chance to find caches on the way.

Can you look into the future and solve this puzzle, before you read whether we discovered the cache ?

We had forgotten that city locations play havoc with the GPS ! Many times we found a cache about 20 feet from its location. The first was attached to some ‘street furniture’ near to the Deva pub (‘Deva’ being the Roman name for Chester).

First Chester Cache

We weren’t so lucky looking for a cache in Grosvenor Park called ‘Park Life’ as we found neither the cache nor the ‘Stump’ alluded to in the clue. We were in a park were squirrels abounded, sadly they didn’t help us.

“Can I help ?”

We even took a ride on the model railway and looked again. Nothing!

Choo-choo !

We did find the other cache in the park, “A Walk in the Park”, and as we sat and completed the logging, a young couple sat on adjacent seat, and fed another squirrel… with a very large chip! To see a squirrel holding and nibbling a chip lengthways (as if a corn-cob) was really cute and funny!

We needed to cross the river, and the Queens Park Suspension Bridge (originally built in 1852, and rebuilt/restored a few times since) provided us with our next cache.

Partway along, we stopped 10 feet after GZ, and looked down. Nothing at our feet. But, as we looked back up… we saw a family of four, 10 feet away, signing a piece of paper! Yes they were cachers! Pleased to meet you Team ELSR, and well done on finding your first 4 geocaches!)

We had a half-mile walk along the River Dee’s Bank to “The Clairvoyant”. Like many puzzle caches, the answer is very obvious when you discover it. Here, a read of the previous finder’s logs, as well as fully understanding every word written about the cache, gave us the solution. (Hint: to solve it will require printing it out, and using at least one tool).

A small, indistinct trail led through knee-high nettles at Clairvoyant’s GZ. An even smaller track lead to a bush which provided excellent camouflage for an ammo can! It is certainly worthwhile to find a large cache when a large amount of brain-power has been used!

As it says on the tin.. “The Clairvoyant”


The flood-plains near the River Dee provided an excellent vantage position for watching a canoe race take place, as well locating one other cache in a very disguised paint tin!

We headed back towards the City, collecting another, much smaller cache, near the former City Mill.

The centre of Chester (ie inside the city walls), has a good mixture of caches. Some standard, easy to find caches; an earthcache based on the former Roman Baths (successfully answered); and two very lengthy multi-caches. It was these multicaches we started work on, as we headed back towards the Station. We realised we didn’t have enough time in one day to complete all the stages, so we stopped about half-way in each, to give us enough stages to make a worthwhile return visit to the City.

Chester’s former Roman Bathhouse

The day was hot, and after several hours wandering around we were tired, so we thought the Chester Cathedral Multicache would give us a chance to relax and cool off. We unfortunately arrived at the Cathedral 20 minutes before the Annual Mayor-Making service was due to start. Seats were named, various several members of the clergy were due to participate, hundreds of guests invited… and we had 20 minutes to find 4 objects and dates to yield the final co-ordinates for the cache. So much for a relaxing few minutes! Fortunately two of the answers were found in a small courtyard adjacent to the Cathedral so we were well away from the pomp and ceremony as it unfolded.

Chester Cathedral


Then we had to find the cache!

For some obscure reason (probably because all the photos on http://www.geocaching.com were of a water feature), we thought the cache was nearby. Indeed it was – 30 feet away. But, after far too long searching inside the courtyard we concluded (with the help of the gift shop staff – who knew where the cache was) the cache was outside the courtyard walls! Once at GZ… we found a container LOCKED to some gates. The numbers we had found formed the number to UNLOCK to cache! The cache was in a relatively high muggle area.. but will never be lost!

Solve the clues correctly..and you can open the cache


Our last cache of the day was close to one of the towers that are situated on the City Walls. An easy find, and in a lovely location with Roman Walls above, and the Shropshire Union Canal nearby.

We had walked about 6 miles, found 9 caches (including an Earthcache) on our first sortie into Chester. We still had lots more find … watch out Chester…we’ll be back!

May 11 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Bibury to Fairford

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

River Coln, Gloucestershire

River Coln, Gloucestershire


Spring was two weeks further advanced, and we were set to do the next section of our epic walk from Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) home to Sandhurst (Berkshire). This section followed the Coln valley downstream from Bibury to Fairford. And, good for our navigation, the route also followed more of the largest cache series we have ever seen (the Great Cotswold Walk or GCW series) which comprises over 130 caches. Just follow the arrow on the GPS!

Start point of our walk


We set off from the riverside overlooking Arlington Row in Bibury, where we finished our last walk. It was early on a weekday morning, but the tourists were already out in numbers. Luckily, they were all clustered around that one small area, and we were soon away from people as we stepped onto the track leading away from the village. It was about 3 miles to the next village, Quenington, walking roughly parallel to the river, along paths and tracks, through fields and woods, all very attractive and spring-like. By then we had found just under 20 caches, almost all of them from the GCW series, and all straightforward finds with accurate hints to assist our searches.


One of the caches not in the GCW series was Old Ent, a cache set in a venerable hollow tree close to the footpath. We sort of expected the cache to be hidden in the hollow trunk of the tree, but no … a search ensued and we were eventually successful.
Old Ent

Old Ent


Our arrival in Quenington coincided with lunchtime, and we sat on one of the many seats on the village green, ate our sandwiches, and watched the world go by. The green was freshly mown and all was very tidy: it was the village fete the very next day. There were two multicaches in the village: one from the Fine Pair series (where a red telephone box is visible from a post box), and another from the Church Micro series, St. Swithin’s Church https://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=1565. We found them both, criss-crossing the village and the village green several times on the way.
Quenington - village green

Quenington – village green


Quenington - a Fine Pair - red phone box and postbox

Quenington – a Fine Pair – red phone box and postbox


Quenington - St Swithin's Church

Quenington – St Swithin’s Church


Eventually we decided we had ‘done’ the caches of Quenington, striking out towards Fairford. We trundled onwards by the river, finding yet more caches as we went. While finding one cache in the woods, we were passed by a fisherman, who wanted to know what we were doing; a long explanation was provided by Mr Hg137. Later, having just found a cache, we were passed by a lone walker. We stopped to chat about inconsequential things, then both moved on. Strange that he also had a GPS … We looked back, to see the lone walker disappearing into the same hedge that we had just left. Aha! Another cacher: hello, Muriel the Pluriel.
Approaching Fairford

Approaching Fairford


We walked on, more and more caches were found, and we approached Fairford. It turned out that we had been following a permissive path along the river (FYI – it’s closed on Tuesdays!) (Editor’s note: but we had thought we would have at least two miles of road walking and this is MUCH better.) http://ernestcooktrust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/the_pitham_brook_permissive_footpath_map.pdf As we reached the geocar in the (free) car park, we totted up the number we had found that day. Thirty five !!! A new daily record for us (albeit that our previous record had been set only two weeks before, on the very same cache series …)
Our route from Foss Cross to Fairford

Our route from Foss Cross to Fairford


Here are some of the very many caches we found:

April 28 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Foss Cross to Bibury

Bibury

The next section of our walk back to Sandhurst would pass through Fairford. As the crow flies it was a distance of about 8 miles. To reach Fairford would mean walking through one of the largest cache series we have seen (the Great Cotswold Walk or GCW series) comprising over 130 caches!

Foss Cross to Fairford caches


What to do ? Do we walk to Fairford and ignore every cache on our way ?

Do we walk to Fairford and attempt every other cache ?

We did neither. We decided to break our route at about the 4 mile mark in Bibury. This would give us about 30 caches to find and a reasonable walk too.

Coln Rogers Church

Of course there were a few other non-GCW caches to find, and after about half-a mile’s walk we reached one of these. A Church Micro set in the tiny village of Coln Rogers. A small Saxon church. In the foyer, there was a memorial plaque to the villagers who fought in WWI. But, almost as interesting was another plaque. This village lost no-one during the fighting in WWI. Such villages are known as “Thankful Villages”.

Our route away from Coln Rogers was tricky. Some of the ‘public footpath’ signage was obscured by verdant Spring hedge growth, which meant we started to walk through someone’s front garden! Whoops!

Then the sting. A fierce uphill climb, up a muddy path to reach a bridleway. The path was muddy and slippery and the tree branches were excellent tools to aid ascent.

At the bridleway we had a choice. To head South to Bibury, or North to a village called Calcot before taking a different path to Bibury. We again did neither. We headed South to find three caches (one had a high number of favourite points, but actually was a cache on a stick hidden in ivy) then return and head for Calcot. The bridleway was very muddy, but no so muddy that a horse rider galloped past us while we searching for a cache.

The bridleway yielded 4 caches, all very easy finds. In fact all the GCW series were easy finds. The cache owner gave very specific hints for each which made every find very quick. The payback for these quick and easy finds is that the majority of the caches were small film canisters, with perhaps half-a-dozen exceptions.

The highlight find of the day was in Calcot. The cache was part of the ‘Fine Pair’ series, where both a red telephone box and red post box are in very close proximity to each other. Like many of the post boxes we had seen recently this was now a mini library. Second hand books festooned shelves, and on the floor of the telephone box, was a large metal box used by children to put money in. It took us a couple of minutes to realise that this was the cache!

A Fine Pair.. and its cache!


From Calcot we walked on a small road at first, then a track, then open fields.

Mmm… best not to ask!

The GCW finds came relatively frequently and quickly found. One of the trickiest to reach was screwed into the ‘orange hat’ used to mark the underground gas pipes. We wondered how the permission had been granted for placement on such a structure!

A field of slightly-interested cows were passed, and then.. a lake. A large expanse of water covered the footpath. We had seen pictures on http://www.geocaching.com, but didn’t realise it was a semi-permanent feature. The cache owner knowing this, had placed the next cache some way from the ‘true’ footpath, so that it could be used a bearing to guide cachers around the lake. Very thoughtful.

Has anyone got a boat ?


We had seen no-one all day, then suddenly there was loud barking. We were approaching some kennels and the dogs were barking at a Duke of Edinburgh’s party heading in the opposite direction to us. As usual a collection of teenagers exhibiting little map-craft were being ‘guided’ by a leader some yards behind. We warned them of the lake and the cows!

The kennels were just outside the small village of Ablington, where we decided to go slightly off route and collect a couple of extra GCW caches. Here a bus stop seat provided us with the opportunity for a breather, and to sign the log of an adjacent cache – wedged in a squashed film canister tucked behind the village notice board, in a concrete bus shelter.

Coln Valley


We had been following, albeit from afar, the River Coln from the North, but at Ablington we crossed the river to walk on the river’s Southern bank to Bibury. We struggled with a couple of these caches – our brains must have been fading – or the GPS wasn’t as accurate as it could have been, but we arrived in Bibury having found every cache attempted.

Bibury is one of THE tourist honeypots in the Cotswolds and it was mid-afternoon, and visitors were everywhere. (You can even get a Cotswold Tuk-Tuk ride in the Cotswolds! https://www.cotswoldtuktuktours.co.uk )

Fortunately for us we could bypass the town and head in from a different direction. A cache under a horse trough and another next to the Cricket Field both retrieved with minimal muggle interference.

Bibury Church


Our final cache on our walk was, like our first, a Church Micro. This time we had some memorial stones to find and undertake a simple calculation to acquire the co-ordinates for the final hide. (The term ‘simple calculation’ doesn’t apply if its the last cache of the day!). We then discovered we had walked by GZ some 15 minutes earlier. Grr! However what a find! The cache was hidden in a coffin shaped container! A macabre end to the day’s very successful walk.

As we headed to the car, we took the obligatory photos of Bibury (now thankfully much quieter), and we realised we had equalled our best ever day’s caching. Then we remembered, there was another cache parked in a layby not far from where our other car was parked back at Foss Cross. So, on the way home, we pulled into this layby, and found, not for the first time, a film canister.. yielding us a record breaking number of 31 caches! Woo ! Woo!

Making progress through the GCW series!

Some of the caches we found :