October 15 : Geolympix Series (Buckinghamshire) Ring A

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.

Autumn Colours in the Chilterns

Autumn Colours in the Chilterns


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.

Beech Woodland

Beech Woodland


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.

Autumn Colours in the Chilterns

Autumn Colours in the Chilterns

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!)

Ground Zero

Typical hiding place


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.

Oh Look ! A Balloon!

Oh Look ! A Balloon!


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.
Footpath

Along here !


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.

Beautiful house in beautiful scenery

Beautiful house in beautiful scenery


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.
Autumn Colours in the Chilterns

Autumn Colours in the Chilterns

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!

Is there a cache down there ?

Is there a cache down there ?


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!

Footpath sign

Can’t get lost here!

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’.

Cats Eye

Cats Eye Cache


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!

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June 21 – Geo-Achievement Hides 10 Coin

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Geo-Achievement Hides 10 Coin

Geo-Achievement Hides 10 Coin


As the equinox approached, this coin was trapped inside the mouth of a dinosaur in a wood in deepest Oxfordshire. There it had sat for almost two weeks, having been spotted, but not retrieved by others a few days before. How could it escape, to continue the 600-mile journey it had started on Christmas Day 2015? But all was not lost – two friendly geocachers arrived, prised open the mouth of the dinosaur, and freed it, distracting the dinosaur by feeding it another travel bug, Tilly the hedgehog. Bad news for Tilly, but good news for the coin.
I'm a scary dinosaur!

I’m a scary dinosaur!


The coin made good its escape from the scary dinosaur, safely tucked in their rucksack, and hopes to find a less disquieting homein the near future. First, it needs to calm down, having nearly been a dino meal!

June 21 : Dinosaur Hunting in Oxfordshire!

Have you every been dinosaur hunting ? There’s a great caching series in South Oxfordshire where all the geocaches you find are… DINOSAURS !!!

Before we attempted the series, we felt we needed divine help, guidance and strength for our adventure. We got this by attempting the nearby Church Micro in Checkendon. A lovely little church, with paintings and stained glass windows. We collected all the information we needed (variously from a noticeboard, the church door, and a gravestone), looked inside the church and went in search of the cache.

Checkendon Church

St Peter and St Paul, Checkendon

Church at  Checkendon

Stained glass and wall paintings

Now most Church Micros we’ve found have been near to the Church and we stupidly thought we wouldn’t change into our walking boots to find the cache. No sooner had we stepped away from the pavement of the typical Chiltern village at Checkendon, and we were on a muddy footpath. We dodged the mud, as best we could, to find our only non-dinosaur cache of the day!

A short drive later we had parked near to the Dinosaur series. The series called ‘Fathers Day II Dinosaur” is about 3 mile circular walk (it can be shortened) encompassing 13 caches, each one being a dinosaur. In most cases a bison tube containing the logbook is attached to the dinosaur. With one exception none of the caches allow for swaps, but children love dinosaurs and their knowledge far outstrips the dinosaurs (adults) accompanying them on the walk. A slight problem with the series is there is no real place to park on route, we search Googlemaps before we left, and discovered that near Cache#13 was the most promising.

There is a small amount of road walking (notably between #13 and #1, and between #9 and #11, but these are quiet roads with minimal traffic.

On the dinosaur trail

On the dinosaur trail

As we noted earlier our knowledge of dinosaurs is rusty and we could only to name a few of the dinosaurs on the way round. We found at least one Stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, Diplodocus (and the perceived pronounciation of that has changed since we learnt about Dinosaurs… is it “Diplod-icus” or “Dip-lo-do-cus” these days ?) We even found an Apatosaurus (the name was printed on the dinosaur belly).

Initially the route went around the edge of a field, and then through quite thick woodland.
Due to the Summer tree cover, the GPS wobbled a bit through this section until we arrived at a cottage.

A cottage in the woods

A cottage in the woods

**** BAD PUN ALERT **** BAD PUN ALERT **** BAD PUN ALERT ****

Here we passed a gardener undergoing hedge trimming duties. A cache was just out of sight of the garden. We quietly found the cache and wondered afterwards about a new species of dinosaur “Do-you-think-he-saur-us” ? Maybe his name was Terry Daktill ?

These bad puns caused us to forget to look at the GPS before we set off for the next cache. We walked 100 yards through some very tricky, slip-slidy, mud before realising we should have turned away from the main path. Those bad puns soon got their revenge!

A small bridge was our next target, and underneath… yet under dinosaur!

Who is brave enough to go dinosaur hunting under this bridge ?

Who is brave enough to go dinosaur hunting under this bridge ?

Most of the dinosaurs we found were palm-size or not much bigger than a hand. One however was 2 feet tall! Seen here for scale against our GPS! Another was just a dinosaur head, peering out from the trees! The skull could be opened and inside we retrieved a trackable and left the trackable in our possession, Tilly the Hedgehog! Yes, a hedgehog was swallowed whole by a dinosaur!

A fabulous series, and if you’ve got kids who are into Dinosaurs, this series is a real treat.
We’ve included pictures of every dinosaur we found, we found them all, so if any of our readers can identify them we will be most grateful.

ROAR!

April 19 – The Ridgeway and an attempt to break our record of caches in a day (Part 3)

… with 25 caches found so far we needed just 4 more caches to break our record… but we only had 5 caches left to attempt !

We've been here before!

We’ve been here before!


What lay ahead us, was a climb to the Ridgeway footpath. Earlier on in the day we had ascended from the South, now, much later in the day our tired limbs had to climb from the North. The Southern side was on footpaths, sometimes grassy, sometimes chalky. The Northern ascent was on a road.. a hard, tarmac road. The road led to a couple of farms and a car park, and should have been empty, but in a half mile section we dodged various items of traffic.

Fortunately the tarmac was punctuated with 2 caches to find. Named very strangely, JSW40.02 and JSW40.01. Most cache names have some relevance like the location, the type of container or in the case of the ‘Chocolate’ series we had still yet to finish, set by cachers known as the ‘Coffee and Cake Club’. But JSW40.02 and JSW40.01 completely baffled us!

The first we found (02), was an easy find – the film canister was hidden in a small piece of log, just away from the roadside.

However JSW40.01 was completely different. Needing to break our record, we couldn’t afford not to find the cache. At ground zero, there was huge log with lots of crevices for hiding a cache.

We looked.

We looked.

We looked again.

We couldn’t find.

We widened our search, and still couldn’t find. After some 30 minutes we were about to give up, when amongst the leaf litter there was a 35mm film canister! It contained a log book, which we signed and replaced where we thought it should be.

(It was only when we returned home that we noticed the cache had been visited that day by another cacher. They found a ‘clip lock box’ not a film canister.. since this double finding day farmers have cleared much of the area at GZ so its not clear to us whether we found the true cache or not. Still a cache was found and a log signed – that seems good enough for us).

Our climb up the hill continued, until the very welcome sight of the geo-car in the distance. We has three caches to find all on the flat. Phew!

The first, right next to the car !, was the ‘worst cache of the day’. Part of the chocolate series, the lid no longer kept water out. The cache had well over an inch of water at the bottom. The log was sodden. We decided to dry everything as best we could by laying everything on the hot metalwork of the car. We had a drink (needed after the steep hill climb) and then moved the whole cache contents inside the car while we spent 10 minutes (!), looking for our two remaining caches.

The first was hidden near the Ancient Monument of Scutchamer Knob. Originally called Cwichelmeshlaew or Cwichelm’s Barrow, it is recorded as having been the place where King Edwin of Northumbria killed Cwichelm of Wessex in AD 636 and, in the Middle Ages, became the meeting point of the Shire Moot (or market) which was abolished in 1620. It was long thought to be the actual burial place of Cwichelm but the mound has been excavated several times without serious finds. In 1006, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states that the Danes marched to Cuckhamsley Hill as they believed that if they reached the Hill, they would never return to the sea.

Last look at the Ridgeway

Last look at the Ridgeway


The cache was hidden some distance from the ‘Knob’ and although our GPS was bouncing around, we though we’d found GZ. A youngish tree, with a hollow root ball and more importantly a pile of sticks. But no cache! No sign. We searched around and about … no sign. We gave up. Our record breaking attempt depending on finding the last cache of the day (Raspberry Cream).
No cache here !

No cache here !

A short walk and we were there.. would it be there ? Given the difficulty we’d had with the last few caches, would we finish on a high…. another fence post.. a quick swish of the geo-pole and voila! We found it! Our 29th cache of the day!

Our Record Breaking Cache!

Our Record Breaking Cache!


We could go home happy (and quite exhausted) !

April 19 – The Ridgeway and an attempt to break our record of caches in a day (Part 2)

… our daily record breaking attempt continued by descending from the Ridgeway towards the hamlet of East Ginge…

We felt quietly confident as we’d found 19 caches so far and just needed 10 from the remaining 12 caches to break our record.

View from East Ginge looking towards the Ridgeway

View from East Ginge looking towards the Ridgeway

The previous night we had solved a puzzle cache and this was our next target. Themed very overtly on the film franchise which begins “In a Galaxy, far, far away…” we discovered Google was our friend and gave us the answers quickly. Sadly our overnight map management skills were poor. What we had read as a ‘footpath’ turned out to be an impenetrable field boundary. So we lost our third cache of our day due to our poor fact-finding skills. Whoops!

The reason we had dropped down to the hamlet of East Ginge was to undertake a very cleverly constructed series entitled “From Nano to Ammo”. Six caches increasing in size. All hidden along a straight road!

Along this track are 6 differently sized caches... can you find them ?

Along this track are 6 differently sized caches… can you find them ?

If you are new to geocaching, and wonder what all the sizes mean hopefully these pictures will give you a clue :

Nano

Nano

Micro

Micro

Small

Small

Regular

Regular

Ammo

Ammo

Observant readers will note there are only 5 pictures!

The sixth cache type to be found on this mile long route was a ‘Unknown’ type. The container was so unusual it will part of our end of year highlights!

We really enjoyed this mini-series. It just proved with a little imagination a variety of containers could be placed in the same terrain! An excellent idea very well executed.

So our diversion at the foot of the Ridgeway yielded 6 caches out of 7, and our running total of 25. To break our record we need 4 more caches, but we only had 5 left to attempt! Two caches were to be attempted on our second climb up to the Ridgway and then 3 to find on the Ridge itself. Would we complete our mission…

(to be continued)

PS We don’t normally split our caching adventure into 3, but the ‘Nano to Ammo’ series was so different we felt it deserved its own special blog.

April 19 – The Ridgeway and an attempt to break our record of caches in a day (Part 1)

Spring and sunshine were definitely in the air and we decided to go further afield for our next caching adventure. The Ridgeway on the Oxfordshire/Berkshire border.

The three remaining towers of Didcot Power Station

The three remaining towers of Didcot Power Station – a changing view


This was an area we had a fair knowledge of, as we had walked there before (we walked the whole 80+ miles of the Ridgeway in 2012), but had never cached on this section of the Ridgeway. There was a great circuit of 23 caches and another on its route.

We then discovered if we made a diversion or two we could attempt 9 other caches including two mini series of 6 and 2 caches and an easily solved puzzle cache. This would give us a total of 33 caches, which if we found them all, would break our best daily cache haul of 28 (set in August 2013).

Easy eh ?

After an hour’s drive we arrived at a car park on the Ridgeway itself. Without even leaving the car there were great views of farmland to the South, and to the North, the three remaining towers of Didcot Power Station.

As an aside, many people view such buildings as a blot on the landscape, which to an extent is true. But as a landmark, they do give aid in evaluating distance. When we walked the Ridgeway in 2012, the (then 6) towers were visible for at least half the Ridgeway’s length, which definitely gave a “Wow we’ve walked all that way” feeling!

Anyway the remaining 3 towers are due for demolition later this year, so we said “good-bye” to our walking companion of 4 years ago.

The Ridgeway is quite an open landscape as the chalk soil does not lend itself to large wooded areas. There are some trees, but these are in tiny pockets. Most of the caches were found were next to field posts, frequently well hidden in grass, and quite often under burgeoning stinging nettles. (The geo-pole was absolutely essential for these).

The series was entitled a Chocolate Series, though many of the cache names were not obviously chocolate – for example Lemon Mousse, Nougat, and Turkish Delight.

We found the first three caches very easily and thought (mistakenly!) we were in for a very easy day.

Never, never, never think that when put caching!

We failed to find number 4 (Coffee Cream). Every fence post near GZ had been well cleared of vegetation and there was no cache to find. Looking at the cache logs it has not been consistently found since mid-February. An occasional cacher has logged a “Found It” visit, but then written in the log “DNF” ! Standing at GZ does not count ! Logging “Found it” means the cache owner thinks the cache is there and won’t check it! Grr!

Lovely pile of stones.. but no cache underneath!

Lovely pile of stones.. but no cache underneath!

We had a similar experience at cache 7. Here though the cache had been found recently, and the GZ was very obvious (a tell-tale pile of cacher’s stones). That’s 2 DNFs out of 7. Suddenly the daily record attempt seems a long way off!

Our descent off the Ridgeway was completed at caches 8 and 9 (Orange Cream and Hazelnut Noisette… not making you hungry am I ?). We then a very short walk along what should have been a quiet country lane. In the 1/10th of a mile we walked along the road at least 4 vehicles zoomed passed us – we were grateful for the grass verge.

Leaving the road, approaching a farmhouse, we were loudly challenged by the farmer’s dog, shortly pursued by the owner! This was at a critical point of the route in terms of path-finding, so as soon as we were out of sight of the farmhouse, we double-checked that we heading towards the next cache, and more importantly back up to the Ridgeway.

Many easy finds followed, our only distraction from the route was watching a handful of red kites gracefully gliding in the sky, eying the ground for prey. We tried taking pictures of these beautiful birds, but none of the dozen or so photos we took, did them justice (A black blob on a blue background!).

We found every cache on our ascent which left us 8 to find on the Ridge itself. The first was hidden in the back of the memorial stone to the wife of the late John Betjeman. To us it seemed wrong to have a 35mm film canister stuck into a memorial crevice. Admittedly Penelope Betjeman wasn’t famous, but one wouldn’t place a cache in a memorial to say Nelson or Newton so why the wife of a former poet Laureate ?

Memorial to Penelope Betjeman

Memorial to Penelope Betjeman


We found the next 4 caches on the Ridge before we descended off the Ridgway (again) to hopefully find enough caches to break our record. So far we’d found 19 from 21 with only 12 more to attempt… things were looking good…will we break our record ?

(to be continued)

Some of the caches found so far :

March 19 : Chilterns Ramble, a giant worm, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.
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Rural Oxfordshire: the geocar turns into a narrow lane. It is narrow and mud-covered and Mr Hg137 pulls up, concerned that it does not lead to the parking he hopes for. I walk on down the lane; a car passes, I see a few houses, and then the parking place. Mr Hg137 is mollified and we proceed, park, and set off on our geocaching circuit.
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And so started our assault on the undulating (a.k.a. hilly) Chilterns Ramble, near Nettlebed in Oxfordshire. It was a cold, grey, day, but it had not rained for a while and we hoped it would not be too muddy. We headed gently downhill, finding caches as we went, along a path, then a track, and on through a nature reserve. All that downhill walking was repaid by a sharp uphill climb; hmm, we had suspected that would come sometime. A cache halfway up the hill gave us a moment for a breather, and also a chance to admire the most enormous worm adjacent to the cache. It was several inches longer than the outstretched span of my fingers, and my picture does it no justice.
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We turned away from the hill climb – and that worm – to cross fields, and contoured along the side of the hill and through woods, finding another few caches as we did so. In a few weeks these woods will be bursting with bluebells, but when we walked through they were bare, with just a few shoots emerging. After lunch, taken on a handily placed seat, it was back to the caching trail again, to find the next few caches on this sixteen cache circuit.
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And here, about three-quarters of the way around the figure-of-eight trail, we had decided to add in some extras. First we climbed uphill again, to emerge in the pretty hamlet of Russells Water. The Water itself is a large pond, where we sat, working out the clues to a nearby multicache, and watching a father and toddlers feeding the resident ducks, coots and carp – they got tortillas, not bread! But Russells Water has an additional claim to fame, apart from ducks with refined tastes; it was here, into the pond, that Truly Scrumptious crashed her car in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (more than once) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vRRXdKUHbs

Russells Water

Russells Water


On our way out of the village, we paused to get another cache entitled ‘Russells Water’; we were only the third cachers to find it, as it had only been out for a week when we found it. Downhill again, we headed off to find another cache up a side track before returning to the Chiltern Ramble series. We only had four caches left to find now, but it had got colder and darker, the remainder of the route was uphill, and steeper, and muddier, and suddenly those extra diversions maybe hadn’t been such a good idea … But we did find the remaining caches and emerged back onto the lane just a few yards from our parking spot.

We were muddy and we were tired – this had been our longest walk since finishing the Thames Path almost three months earlier, but we were triumphant, having found all nineteen of the caches we had attempted. Result!

Before: badly hidden cache

Before: badly hidden cache

After: better hidden cache

After: better hidden cache

Usually, at the end of a blog post, we show some of the caches we found. But, first, above, as an aside, is an example of how NOT to hide a cache … some of the caches we found were in full view … we did what we thought was right and hid them better afterwards …

And here are some of the other caches we found:

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