Earlier this year (July 31) we attended the Geolympix Mega Caching event in Hertfordshire. The Geolympix is a 4 year event coinciding, not surprisingly, with the main Olympics. Today we would attempt to find caches from a legacy series from four years ago in Buckinghamshire.
One of the series that was placed in 2012 ago was called GMS (Geolympics Marathon Series). It is actually 5 circular walks or (Olympic) RINGS, with a total distance between them of 26.2 miles. (The official MARATHON distance). We decided to undertake the ‘A’ series which contained 24 caches. The caches were named very imaginatively GMS A 01, GMS A 02, etc..
The series started in the tiny village of Skirmett a few miles North of Hambledon, and just a few miles from the Oxfordshire border town of Henley-on-Thames. Skirmett is devoid of obvious parking places so rather than start our walk at cache 1, we drove up a narrow lane to park under some beech trees near cache 7.
This part of Buckingham is classed as the Chilterns, and about one fifth if it is covered in woodland. Predominantly beech, but we saw oak, yew and many others on our walk. Autumn was just starting to take effect, and many of the trees were showing rich red, yellow and brown colours.
At times it was all too easy to admire the colourful countryside rather than stop and search for a cache. Fortunately for us, the caches were, by and large, easy to find. (All the caches had a difficulty rating of 2.5, which seemed exceedingly high as most of the time we stopped at GZ, saw a tree, and nestling in its roots was a large piece of flint covering the cache!)
Most of the containers were the same, black plastic containers, big enough for small swag and trackables. We placed the trackables we had in our possession at different parts of the route. We even found a very old trackable, US Geocoin, on route too.
Our route started at the top a hill, initially on a flat path, but then after crossing a meadow, descended sharply downhill. Crossing the meadow we espied, some distance away a balloon gently being carried by the mid-morning breeze. We stopped and watched before remembering there was a cache just yards away.
The Chiltern footpaths are well used by walkers, cyclists and equestrians. Walking downhill after the meadow, we gave way to two rather-fit mountain bikers cycling to the summit. On a later path, just as we were replacing a cache, three horse riders trotted towards us, but as they passed us, went into a full gallop! We heard a bird-shoot going off in the distance, and far-away church bells heralded the arrival of a wedding party.
We saw a Roe Deer making its way from a corn-field to a narrow strip of woodland. We saw Red Kites swooping high above, checking the ground for prey.
The countryside was alive with activity and yet we were barely spotted looking for caches. It helped of course that all the caches were easy finds. There were only about 5 which gave us a real challenging search.
The first of these was in a yew tree. When we did find the cache is was very wedged in the tree’s bark and then covered, fairly recently, by Autumn leaves.
The second troublesome cache was the only cache not on the GMS series. Nestling in a tree near a picturesque footbridge and stream, we spent far too long looking in the wrong place. We were slightly disappointed at this location, as the stream had dried up! Photos on http://www.geocaching.com showed a beautiful bubbling stream – all we saw was a dried up river bed full of cow muck!
We were in the valley now, and we saw a lot more walkers. Some clearly were experienced ramblers, others were out with just a ‘easy local walks’ book as their guide. Another couple were walking in flip-flops! The caches continued to be easily found. One was 20 yards from a house, and we watched by the owner’s dog for the full duration of cache location, log signing and replacement.
We paused for an early lunch in the valley, on one of the few seats on the walk. (The other seat, in Skirmett, we earmarked for a second late lunch). We ate our sandwiches and watched a pair of pheasants fly slightly ungracefully across the field. (They must have avoided the earlier bird-shoot).
Our third troublesome cache of the day was at a set of double gates. We had so many posts and poles to look at that when we did see the cache, we had to walk back through the gates to undertake the retrieval.
We arrived in Skirmett as large walking party went by, and as our eyes glanced to the promised second-lunchtime-seat, we discovered it was taken by a young family settling down to their lunch. We walked on, to cache 1 (actually our 19th cache of the day) and sat on some staddle stones instead.
Although most of the route was on footpaths, we now had a short section of road walking. A fairly busy narrow road. We scurried along the road as quickly as we could, pausing for traffic to pass, and occasionally wedging ourselves in roadside bushes. As we stepped off the road we began our search for what was to be our fourth troublesome cache.
After much searching at ground level, we read the previous cachers’ logs and discovered we needed to be looking higher. In fact the cache was in plain view the whole time! Duh!
One of the disadvantages with parking at the top of the hill was that the final mile or so was uphill. Some of the route through beech woodland. Many of the trees had been marked with white arrows, so it was almost impossible to get lost until…
…until we crossed a small thin rectangular piece of grassland. The footpath sign pointing across the grass was ‘vague’ in its angle, so we followed the GPS bearing to find a cache under stinging nettles and a waterbutt. What we then failed to notice was a tiny footpath sign covered with ivy. Because we missed the sign we walked on the GPS bearing towards the next cache. We walked passed a vineyard, and then a light aircraft went whizzing past us, just yards from our faces. We were walking up a light airfield!!!! We saw at least 6 more aircraft, some in hangars, some parked outside, before were politely told where the footpath was!
We had two caches to find, and the penultimate cache was the hardest of the day. We were looking for the hint of ‘catseye’. In a wood. Yep. a ‘catseye’ in a wood. We searched everywhere and eventually some 30 feet from where the GPS originally pointed, found ‘the catseye in the wood’.
Our last cache was quickly found, and we realised we had found every single one of the 25 caches we had attempted.
A glorious day’s caching in glorious Autumn weather!