July 13 : Mega Devon 2017 Trackable Tag

We discovered this trackable in the Wombles Signature Cache.

In fact there were two other trackables in the cache, and we were spoilt for choice. Which should we take ? Should we take all 3 ? In the end we decided to take this trackable for 2 reasons – it was the smallest (and therefore easiest to hide in a cache), and we had been to the Devon Mega last year – and really enjoyed it!

The Devon Mega had taken place early August 2017 at Bicton Park near Otterton and we had spent a couple of days caching both on our own and following the hundreds of cachers from cache to cache.

Bicton Park – home of 2017 Devon Mega

The trackable we found was used to promote the event and started its journey nearly 18 months ago. It was initially placed in a cache near Princeton on Dartmoor. There it remained for 2 months, unfound, but then got discovered and visited various caches in Devon and Cornwall (Including Bude, Sennen Cove near Land’s End, and Combe Martin about halfway between Ilfracombe and Lynton.) It had one objective to attend the Devon Mega in August.

Did it achieve its objective ?

Sadly no.

In mid July 2017, it had been placed in a cache in Dartmoor – close to where it started – but sadly it stayed there for a month and missed the Mega! Thereafter the trackable stayed in the West Country with two exceptions, brief trips to Northern France and Turkey! This return journey to Turkey added nearly 4000 miles to its distance – which is the majority of its 5300 miles it has so far travelled.

One other interesting fact about the tag was that it was initially found by cacher ‘Chudleigh Traveller’ who enjoyed its company for its first month (before placing it in a cache in May 2017). Chudleigh Traveller re-found the trackable at an cacher’s meet in November 2017, and again took it caching for a few weeks. Amazingly Chudleigh Traveller found the tag a third time in March 2018, and once again, a few weeks later placed it in a cache – this time the Wombles Signature cache, where it has been for the last few months.

We can’t promise to take you to Devon, little tag… but we will move you on soon!

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August 6, UK Mega, Devon, Honiton

Throughout our weekend at the Mega we had stayed in a hotel in Honiton, but we hadn’t found a cache in Honiton itself!

Today we would put that right! Honiton is historically famous for knotted lace making and the eight caches we were going to attempt almost had us in knots.

Honiton

Sunday Morning in Honiton

There were three caches within walking distance of the hotel, so we attacked these before driving to the town centre. The first was a Travel Bug Hotel, set just off the A30, next to a real trucker’s stop. Not an official service station, but a couple of vans served food, and another provided a loo stop. Nearby was a pleasant copse, and it was on the edge of this copse that the cache was hidden. Our GPS went wild under the tree cover so a covert detailed search took place. Well, as covert, as we could be, as several people stood outside of their vehicles smoking and supping coffee. Eventually we found the Travel Bug Hotel and in a very well crafted wooden container seemingly part of a tree stump. we dropped off the M&S Wedding trackable that we had in our possession.

We struggled with the next cache (Mad Meany’s Wedding Cache) so much that we decided that after 15 minutes fruitless searching to abandon and go looking for cache 3. Cache 3 (Not Connected) was our easiest Honiton find of the day. It was attached to a lamp post and made to look like some electrical circuitry – excellently hidden in plain sight.

We returned to Mad Meany’s Wedding Cache, and of course found the cache almost immediately. How we missed the magnetic nano on our first pass we still don’t know. Still three caches down… five to go.

It was a Sunday, and Honiton Town Centre was relatively quiet. A few people out buying papers, going to Church, window shopping. Three of our targets in the Town Centre were multis. Regular readers of this blog will know we occasionally fail with multis so this was a big challenge.

Especially as the first multi (Historical Honiton) had 11 (ELEVEN) pieces of information to find. We had to walk up and down Honiton’s High Street and collect numbers and dates from various buildings in the Town Centre.

High Street, Honiton

High Street, Honiton

We learnt that not only is Honiton is famous for lace, but pottery too. There was a Great Fire and William III stayed in the town on his travels. The co-ordinates for multis can sometimes be entered directly into a GPS, but with 11 numbers we resorted to pen and paper. (High tech finding in Honiton!)

Part way through collecting the 11 numbers we needed, we arrived at the start of our second multi (Church Micro 6449 Honiton St Pauls). Here we had to find words on Honiton’s War Memorial, translate the word lengths to numbers and hence to co-ordinates. We discovered that the final was further down the High Street (another sheet of paper) so we continued to collect the Historical Honiton numbers on our way.

Honiton

Multi-cache number 3 starts here!

We were reaching the end of our collection when we reached the start point for our third multi (A Fine Pair #470 Honiton). Here the numbers were calculated from the phone box and to our surprise the final destination was yards from where we were standing. So our first multi found, was the last one we started. (No paper needed! – Hurrah!)

We continued collecting more of the Historical Honiton numbers until we arrived at the final destination for Church Micro. We put away one piece of paper, retrieved another, read our notes for the Church Micro and made an easy find.

Of course we still hadn’t quite got all the co-ordinates for the Historical Honiton and after a few more minutes, we had them all. The final hiding place was 2 miles out of town! So, the now-slightly-ragged piece of paper with our notes was filed away (again).

We had two standard caches to find in Honiton – one near the station (Side Tracked Honiton). Our retrieval of this was made harder as we tried following the compass direction and not the main roads! Eventually we arrived and found the magnetic container.

Then a standard cache with an adventure! Splash & Cache involved us walking into a park, Mr Hg137 lowering himself down a slightly slippery bank into a stream and walking ankle deep along it. Ducking under trees until a small weir was reached.

In the stream, under the trees

Water, water, everywhere…now where’s the cache?

Descending the weir the water was now knee deep, cool but not too fast moving. But where was the cache ? The compass pointed to a upward sloping drainage channel … really up there ?

The drainage channel was slippery but soon the cache was located, head height. Held in with clips, it was difficult to extract and even harder to put back! (The cache had a difficulty rating of 3, and a terrain rating of 3.5)
It probably took 10 minutes to locate the cache, but Mrs Hg137 was getting a wee bit anxious while she waited in the park. A fun adventure for Mr Hg137!

Our drive home from Honiton, was via our last uncollected multi-cache (Historical Honiton). We parked up in a layby, walked 60 yards and grovelled in a hedge for a few minutes. A straightforward find, after a less-than-straightforward morning which had our caching brains tied up in knots!

A final look at Honiton

August 5 : What is the City?

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

We found this trackable while caching in the afternoon during the UK Mega event at Bicton College, Devon. “Found” is a bit of a misnomer – “What is the City?” has handed to us by another cacher, The Haywood Hornet. He is an incredibly experienced cacher, we are but beginners by comparison (he’s been caching since 2003, has found over 38,000 caches, we’ve just scraped over the 2,000 milestone, and finds as many caches most months as we find in a year).

Having got the trackable, we spotted the poem that was attached to it and have done a bit of research. The poem was written for Creative50, an artistic event associated with Manchester International Festival 2017:
“This poem was written as a Creative50 response to the opening event of Manchester International Festival 2017: ‘What is the city but the people?’. It celebrates Manchester’s hidden treasures – its residents – and their devotion to their city. 28 places in Manchester have been hidden inside the text of the poem and copies of the poem have been hidden around the city in geocaches.”

Here are links to videos about the poet:
http://creative50.mif.co.uk/people/cathy-wilcock
and of the poem – which is a very neat celebration of the many districts of Manchester:
http://creative50.mif.co.uk/the-city-and-the-people

August 5 : UK Mega 2017, Devon – Day 2, Bicton Park

Note : the following blog contains many pictures of people. If you are identifiable in a picture, and want to be removed from the blog/picture, please request this in the comments section.

The 2017 Mega had arrived.

Actually the UK Mega event had been going on all week. Many hundreds of geocachers had camped at Bicton College, just outside of Otterton, for many days and had taken part on a variety of activities including letter-boxing on Dartmoor, and early morning swim and lots of local trips and excursions.

Bicton College

But Saturday was the big day. The day, when people like us, would attend for one day only. And nearly 2000 people did too!

Lots of cachers!


A giant convoy slowly drove into Bicton College passing the huge camping site. Lots of large tents, small tents, campervans. Somehow we squeezed into a car park space and walked, to the main building. Without really trying, and despite arriving at 9:50, we found ourselves pretty close to the front as the Mega doors opened. A local towncrier pronounced the event ‘Open’ and with that Signal the Frog welcomed everyone.

From Town Crier…

…to Signal the Frog


Inside the Bicton Park building were a variety of stall holders, and we were first at the Garmin stand to find out what went wrong the previous day. It seems that may have been a ‘duff’ cache which caused the problem, but with over 70 caches loaded its difficult to work out which it was.

Other exhibitors included Aberdeen Geocachers selling wares for their Mega in 2019, various stands selling geocache containers and trackables, a demonstration of http://www.project-gc.com and also UK Cache Mag.

UK Cache Mag

UK Cache Mag

Buy your caches here!

Buy your caches here!

We’ve met Adam, the editor, a few times, and he asked us to take a few photos for the magazine. We were able to help him, and we were really pleased that several of our photos appeared in the latest issue.

Outside there was also a hive of activity. 10 lab caches had been set up.

These were short ‘games’ – perhaps solving a mini-jigsaw, decoding a series of flags, hanging up some ‘washing’ or tipping water into pipes with a large number of drainage holes. As each activity was completed the name of a previous Mega location was spelt out. (Or at least spelt, similar to, a Mega location. Many of the Os had become zeroes, many of the Is had become 1s, many of the Ls had become (s. ). To claim the lab cache one had to enter the answer online. We solved 9 out 10, failing only on the puzzle which required a QR code reader which we did not have on our phone. Great fun!

Keep pouring!

Washing Day!

Piecing it together!

A marquee on the campsite had activities going on in the day, including lock-picking!
With hindsight we should have taken a look in the marquee, but somehow it slipped off our radar.

We instead undertook some of the geocaches laid out near the site. Many of these had been undertaken by those camping all week, but it gave a set of close-by caches for the day visitors too.

2 series caught our eye : an Animal series and a Roadside Rubbish series. Between them they formed a circular trip of just under 20 caches.

Where have all the cachers gone ?


Caching at a Mega event is easy. Stand roughly near a cache site, and someone will soon arrive and find the cache with you. Surprisingly though we did have several caches to find and replace on our own. Some times we struggled and another cacher would appear from nowhere, stick their hand in a bush and retrieve the cache seemingly without trying.

At one cache, “Lizard”, probably 20 cachers were gently fondling tree roots desperately trying to find an elusive toy. (As it turned out, the toy Lizard had been replaced by a Tupperware container).

Where’s the Lizard ?

The caches in both the Roadside Rubbish and Animal series were imaginative. Toys were predominantly used for the Animal series – though the porcelain cat was a scary exception.

The ‘rubbish’ containers were cats’eyes (how they were acquired we still don’t know), number plates, plastic bottles and most unexpectedly a small plastic dustbin!

The only exception to the Rubbish and Animal series was a wooden box (similar to, if not made by, local Berkshire cacher, JJEF). We arrived at this cache with another pair of cachers who performed the appropriate magnetic trick with a coin.

We found all the caches we attempted on the circuit and arrived back at Bicton College as the closing ceremony approached. Drum Majorettes were performing, a presentation to the next UK Mega (Yorkshire 2018) took place, and the Geocaching awards took place in the evening. We were really pleased to see that Washknight – See blogroll left for his blog – won in the Special Caching Achievement Award category.

Well done to him, and well done to all the organisers of the Devon Mega – a truly fantastic event.

August 4 : UK Mega 2017, Devon – Day 1, Otterton, Ladram Bay and elsewhere

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

I had finally been permitted a day off work. So, bright and early, we were heading down the A303 towards Devon, towards the 2017 UK Mega Geocaching event at Bicton College.

Close by Bicton College lies the River Otter, Otterton village and Ladram Bay, with its red cliffs and sandstone stacks. The bay is one of my favourite places – ever, ever – we last visited in May 2016 and posted about the caches then. But, for the Mega event, LOTS of new caches had been placed and we planned to do quite a few of them.

Jurassic Coast

Jurassic Coast


We parked in Otterton and switched on the GPS. Mr Hg137 had spent several hours loading up 76 caches for the weekend and we were fully prepared. The GPS fired up … and there were just two (yes, two) caches visible. Aargghh! Something had gone wrong, and we didn’t have a caching route for today, or the rest of the weekend. We thought … how to load some more caches … we had a GPS, we had a laptop, where to find some wifi? Aha! The village pub. We grabbed GPS, laptop and cable, and rushed to the village pub, the Kings Arms http://www.kingsarmsotterton.co.uk where we bought a drink, asked for the wifi password and sat outside, loading caches. The village seemed to be quite busy, and suspiciously many of the folk wandering around seemed to be carrying GPSs. Hmm, a lot of geocachers about!

Mission accomplished, we walked back to the start of our day’s caching route which would lead us out of Otterton, over tracks to Ladram Bay, then up Peak Hill for a view across to Sidmouth, then back along a green lane to the village. We would usually have parked at the car park at Ladram Bay, but the price for doing this has risen to a rip off price of £10, and that is way, way too much for an afternoon’s parking. Oh well, another customer lost forever.

Slippery, slidy path down to the bay

Slippery, slidy path down to the bay


Our first couple of caches were from the ‘Strolling around Otterton’ series which had been recently placed, ready for the Mega event. Mr Hg137 became confused when one of the hints read ‘behind TP’ and he spent a little while looking for a tepee rather than a telegraph pole. Never mind, he worked it out soon enough. Then we left the village and walked towards the coast along a muddy, sunken lane leading downhill towards the bay. We had joined the route of the ‘Mega Byways’ series and found some more caches as we slipped and slid and eventually emerged into Ladram Bay Holiday Park.
Ladram Bay

Ladram Bay


The South West Coast Path crosses here, and we joined it to walk up the hill to the east of the bay, pausing for lunch at a picnic bench overlooking the beach. Here’s a video of the super little bay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9e5nTQvGgY
As we set off uphill away from the bay, we stopped to read a noticeboard, and for a chat to two people coming from the other direction. Their GPS gave them away as geocachers. They were Lydford Locators, and we found more than 50 of their caches as we worked our way down the upper reaches of the Thames in early 2015. We were duly awed to meet them and they were … puzzled by us two fans.

We carried on up the hill on a path between the cliff edge and a cornfield, finding caches as we went. We recognised another geocacher, Simply Paul, who we had last seen at the 2016 Geolympix in Ashridge Forest. And we kept spotting people behaving oddly, stopping at regular intervals or disappearing into hedges and bushes. Cachers, cachers everywhere! (Goodness knows what the locals and muggles made of all this ….)

Peak Hill, Devon: view west

Peak Hill, Devon: view west


We reached the top edge of the field and went into woodland, then spent a little while searching around in ivy before finding our next cache. All the time a family were approaching up the hill, and we just managed to replace the cache before they arrived. Hello to caching family, BECKS RLLR plus geodog, and we kept on bumping into them for the next mile or so. Leaving them to look for the cache we had just re-hidden, we huffed and puffed our way to the very top of the hill, 157 metres above sea level, leaving the woods for heathland and for a fine view out to sea. A short way further on, the south-west coast path began to drop towards Sidmouth, and the view opened out.
SWCP Panorama

SWCP Panorama


Mr Hg137 suddenly realised that there was a cache, named ‘SWCP Panorama’, that he had omitted to load during our earlier, rushed episode at the pub. He cast around like a bloodhound on a scent, and the cache was soon found. It was under a pile of large pebbles that looked as if they had been regularly disturbed – that’s the thing about Mega events, the caches are found a lot in a short time, and there are usually signs of searching, or even a cacher holding the cache!
Bars Lane, Otterton

Bars Lane, Otterton


We turned back inland and down Bars Lane, a sunken tree-lines track which turned into a lane, and with a few stops for cache finding and a few diversions down side paths for more cache finding, we made our way back to Otterton. As we reached the cache where Mr Hg137 had searched earlier for a tepee, we bumped into yet another group of cachers – this group were clearly from Scotland and they were the organising committee for the 2019 Mega event, which is to be in Ayrshire. So many cachers!

Arriving back at the car, we decided to attempt one more cache. This one was called ‘Spoiler’. You get some coordinates as a start point, are told that the cache is within a two-mile radius, and are given a photo taken from the cache site. And that is all the information you get. We’d done one of these before, in London’s Docklands, and hours, days and weeks of research had gone on to find the right place. This one was a bit easier. We knew that the cache was inside a circle based on given coordinates – we drew a circle on the map. We perused likely places using every kind of online map – and got a few candidate places. We researched further – bingo! Mr Hg137 found some drone footage. We had found the place. We drove there, down some very narrow Devon lanes. Walking round the location, we found the cache at the third attempt, when we had finally managed to line up the photo and the view exactly. Phew! Success. We headed off to Honiton and our hotel, to rest up, load some more caches, and prepare for the rigours of the Mega Day on the morrow.
A secret location somewhere in Devon!

A secret location somewhere in Devon!


Here are just some of the many caches we found:

May 27 : Devon / Cornwall : Day 6 : Plymouth

After the heavy overnight rain, our bedroom view of distant moorland was blanketed in a thin mist. We were grateful that today was our Town-Trail day, and a visit to the Coastal Town of Plymouth.

Plymouth is actually in Devon and about a 20 minute drive away. We decided though to go by train. This gave us the twin advantages of neither paying the Tamar Bridge Toll nor fighting Plymouth’s one-way system and car parks.

The train journey passed uneventfully, though we did learn the train was on a mammoth 12 hour journey from Penzance to Glasgow via Bristol, Birmingham, Derby, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh!

We had preloaded a number of caches into our GPS and the first on our list was the Sidetracked at Plymouth Station. Initially we took the wrong road to the cache (good start!) but found it easily. In fact it was silhouetted behind some street furniture and visible from some distance.

Our second cache was more troublesome. It was in a park, near to the University Student Accommodation. There were two seats in the park, and the cache was under one of them. That seat though was occupied by a youth, smoking whilst keeping a watchful eye on his dog. We decided to utilise the other seat for coffee and wait … Because of the overnight rain, the seat was wet, so we stood instead. Shortly after a just-graduated-student arrived. He was waiting for someone. He, too, did not want to visit the smoker’s seat. We got chatting, and as he was a Geography graduate, with pleasingly a job lined up, we talked about geocaching.
Eventually the smoker left and we made a swift find at the smoker’s seat. Showed the graduate the cache and re-hid. Whether geocaching has another convert… time will tell!

Our target was the sea-front and Plymouth Hoe in particular. Rather than have a fixed route, we just followed the caches we loaded as we zig-zagged our way through the University Campus, through a shopping centre, passed a sculpture or two, until the lighthouse on the Hoe was visible.

Sir Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake


Many of the caches were named after famous people with a connection to Plymouth. These included Charles Darwin (stayed in Plymouth before his historic fact-finding trip in the Beagle), Oliver Cromwell (Plymouth was one of the few West Country towns that sided with him during the Civil War), Nancy Astor (first woman MP and her constituency was Plymouth) and Oswald Mosley (visited whilst trying to set up his extreme right-wing party.)

These four caches alone provided us with insights into Plymouth’s History which we wouldn’t have found out without geocaching.

And so to the Hoe.

Sculpture near the Hoe 1

Sculpture near the Hoe 1

Sculpture near the Hoe 2

Sculpture near the Hoe 2


A large expanse of park – mainly grass, with flower borders and many a memorial. Mainly to Navy crew, but others to commemorate other diverse worldwide events. There are few caches in the Hoe area (due to the 1/10th of a mile rule no doubt), but we found most.

Our route took us Eastwards around the sea walls, overlooking the sea-water Lido. Last minute cleaning was being undertaken, as the Summer Opening was only days away.. it did look inviting.. if a little chilly!

Anyone care for a swim ?

Anyone care for a swim ?

We arrived at the Mayflower Steps, having found another cache overlooking them, to discover a boat was due to sail to the Royal William Victualling Yard. We rushed on it and very shortly we were looking at the Lido and the Hoe but from the sea!

Mayflower Steps

Mayflower Steps.. from a cache site!


The Royal Victualling Yard was originally used to provide the Navy with Drink (predominantly) and other basic rations. Many of the buildings have been converted to flats, restaurants and the like. Given all this modernisation it was interesting to see an Earthcache on one of the building’s walls. We found the wall, failed to find the stone in question for some minutes, but then spotted the minutiae needed to answer the Cache Owner’s questions. Again, we would never have know about the wall, and its make-up without geocaching!
Finding an Earthcache

Finding an Earthcache


We had a long walk from Plymouth’s Western Edge back to the Centre and our train. The coastal path had a few caches to keep us occupied, including a scramble up the large bouldery sea-defences. This was our first DNF of the day – not helped by Mr Hg137’s phone going off when he had climbed 12 feet above head height.
Somewhere in these defences is a cache...

Somewhere in these defences is a cache…


We weren’t keen on descending the boulder field, so we left by a different route, but this did mean we couldn’t find a path back to locate two more caches. (Grr!)
It's a long way back!

It’s a long way back!

More Plymouth Sculptures

More Plymouth Sculptures

And more!

And more!


We arrived back at the Hoe area, and with enough time to attempt two more caches. The first, another Earthcache, was based on Drakes Island and how it was formed. We were impressed by the mini-sculptures on the handrail overlooking the Island too. Our last cache of the day was the biggest. Nestling near a tennis court it really proves big caches can exist in urban environment!
Drake's Island

Drake’s Island


We really enjoyed our day in Plymouth. We walked over 7 miles and found 10 caches but what we learnt from the cache descriptions really enhanced our knowledge of the Town’s rich and varied history.

Most of the 10 caches we found were either nanos or Earthcaches… but here are two of the larger ones:

May 23 : Devon / Cornwall : Day 2 : Trackable – The Only Way is the Devon Way 2017

Sometimes coincidences happen … just a shame we didn’t notice until much, much later….

During our exertions climbing to the Cheesewring we found, in a large boulder field, the cache, “Scrumpy”. Inside was a trackable of a genre we had not seen before – a business card.

This business card advertised an event – the Devon (Geocaching) Mega 2017. Clearly the organizing committee of that event have invested heavily in business cards, as we encountered at least six other during our stay in Cornwall. Looking at the trackable history it is very difficult to work out how may business cards there are, as almost every day there are 3 or 4 finds in disparate locations varying from Exeter, North Wales, Essex and Malta!

But where is the Devon Mega being held ? The answer is Bicton Park – an agricultural college near Devon’s South Coast.

Observant readers of the this blog may remember the name as about 24 hours previously we had been standing outside Bicton Park locating a cache. The cache, which we failed to name in that blog, was called “Will you be here on the 5th August 2017?” We’d assumed that the date alluded to a reunion of students or teachers… but no! the cache is the marker for the Mega Event!

Our excuse for not realizing sooner.. we were giving our brains a holiday!

So look out Bicton Park we may be one of the 500+ people visiting you in 14 months time!