Friday, October 07, 2011

Geocaching Adventures Part 9 – February – April 2011

I’ll warn you now, this will be a long one!! I did actually start writing this post in May - it’s now October! I genuinely don’t expect ANYONE to read this through to the end, it’s waaaay too long. But I have this borderline-OCD need to document every cache we’ve ever found, so, here goes….

(I’d advise you to just skim through and look at the photos :), that’s much easier, to be honest)

Talking of photos – there may well be spoiler pics in here, so if you’re local to me, please proceed with caution (unless you are Slogger007 who has already found everything :D)

So – February was coooold! I’m not a great fan of being outdoors in the cold when I could be at home with the radiators on full, wrapped up in my slanket:

Accordingly, our grand total of caches found this month, was three! But at least all three were exciting – two were in the city of romance – Paris (during Valentine’s week no less), and the third, back home, was our first ever First To Find!

I have no photos of the first cache I’m afraid – #241 TB Hôtel at Disneyland – as I found it all on my own in pitch darkness at the end of a VERY long day in the theme park – it involved a long walk up to the car park and back that would have been a trudge too far for the already exhausted boys – so I sent them back to the hotel with Jay while I went off to deposit a couple of travel bugs that we had been saving for this trip, a Minnie Mouse bug and a Roman coin that wanted to make its way to Rome.

Ironically, having brought it over to the continent especially to get it that little bit closer to Italy, the Roman coin was picked up a couple of days later by a cacher from Kent, and then brought straight back to England :|  The cool twist to the tale was that the very next person who retrieved it (in Kent), was the granddad of the little boy whose travel bug it is (who lives miles away in Hampshire) – small world!

The only other cache we found in Paris (2 finds in 4 days is a pretty poor show – but we had such a packed itinerary for our trip that lots of geocaching wasn’t really squeeze-in-able) was a virtual, #242 Who Is She?, in the Jardin Des Tuileries near the Louvres.

Now, I must confess, we didn’t actually have a GPS with us that day, and I can’t use my phone to access data abroad, but I remembered from the cache page that all you had to do was have your photo taken with a particular statue, and I thought I remembered what it looked like….so…..we went and had our piccie taken (along with my phone in random compass mode to pass as a GPS) with the statue, and then walked on….and then realised it was completely the wrong statue when we saw the RIGHT statue further along…so we had our photo taken with THAT one as well :)  At least we got there in the end.

Hey Jay, which way is the cache??
We got home from our Paris trip very late on February 18th, and when we woke the next morning we ached all over from the huge amount of walking we’d done over the four days, so the LAST thing we wanted to do was go out caching. But then we got an email notification of a new cache. About a minute away from home. And we needed a FTF (first to find) to satisfy one of our Project Zero goals. So that was it – the race was on!

And we only just made it – hot on our heels chasing us across the fields on the way to #243 1st Stratton Scouts I could see a familiar looking young lady and her children – it turned out to be local caching team Toolaroola, it was nice to meet them at the cache (they got to it less than a minute after we did, close but no cigar :) :P ).

There was an unactivated scouting geocoin in the cache as FTF prize, which was very much appreciated – that would be a nice one to launch over on Brownsea Island (location of Lord Baden-Powell’s first scout camps) in Dorset, if we get back out there next summer.

March was a much brighter month, weather wise, the start of what turned into a lovely sunny Spring.

Our first caches for the month were a fab little multi, and nearby traditional, in and around the pretty (and apparently, duck infested) village of Bishopstone, not too far from Swindon. We found the trad - #244 Rabbit Round – first as we passed it while we were gathering clues for the other cache.

It was actually out in the open – hanging in its bag from a tree very visibly some 50 feet or so from ground zero. I guess that someone had found it lying around, assumed it had been mislaid, and had hung it up in the tree conspicuously in case its owner came looking for it. With the help of the co-ordinates, the cache description and the hint, we were able to replace it where we think it belongs, and we were on our way.

The countryside out here was gorgeous. Although perhaps dangerous – we did find evidence of ….da da dummmmm….. a murdered rastafarian!

OK, MAYBE it was sheep dreadlocks and bones, not human ones….. but we did also find the murder weapon! <--- You can imagine that we were a little dubious checking the contents of the hanging black bag….we had flashbacks to that movie Se7en :D

Having found Rabbit Round and all the clues for the multi, it was back to the village, and to the final co-ords for #245 A Bishopstone Folly. This one got one of our favourite points, thanks to the great walk, amazing views along the way, and the pretty little village. And we saw lots of purty baby lambs – awwwwwww.

I do wish someone else would go and find the cache soon, though, we dropped a geocoin in there and it’s been sitting there unloved for over five months now :( It’s an X Files themed coin – maybe Mulder and Scully will track it down and move it along?  (STOP PRESS, I’ve just re-checked the cache page and it seems that someone did finally visit the cache a couple of weeks ago – the first visitors in 6 months! – so the geocoin is back in circulation, hooray!)

Reece's chosen toy
The following day, we didn’t have much spare time for caching, but long enough to pop out and investigate a recent cache that sounded interesting for the boys – a cuddly toy hotel / swap shop hidden by local team Newman’s Mad House. They might be growing up fast, but both our lads still have a soft spot for soft toys, so I knew they’d enjoy the opportunity to pick out a new one each. Of course that meant they had to choose two they were prepared to part with, which Connor found difficult!

On the way to the cache, we found another, hidden by the same team called, appropriately, On The Way. This was our cache # 246.  And #247 was the Cuddly Toy Hotel itself.

Connor's choice
This was certainly no disappointment for the boys – a huuuuge big box, which they thoroughly enjoyed sifting through for some time, deciding which new toys to take home in exchange for the little horse and mouse they dropped off. In the end they settled on a very brightly coloured tartan sheep, and Flik the ant from the Bug’s Life movie.

Lacock Abbey
yes, the meerkat is a cache!
The following Saturday, March 19th, was one of those rare, rare days – a child free one! Connor was at his dad’s all day and overnight, and Reece was having his birthday party at his mum’s house. So Jay and I planned a full day’s caching followed by a trip out to Basingstoke for ice hockey. Just the two of us. Fab :)

and so is the stick....
We chose a series based around one of my favourite places – the lovely National Trust-owned village of Lacock – as we figured it might be a bit much for the boys (over 6 miles with some steep hills to struggle up – and trust me it was a struggle for me, I went maroon!).

this one was really clever!
This was a wonderful series, with a good variation of really clever hides to keep the interest up (close your eyes if you don't want to see the spoiler pics), and, save for a rather boring road-side segment in the middle (which apparently replaced a much nicer part of the series, but had to be re-routed as the original trail passed too close to Camilla Parker-Bowles’ house), lots of lovely countryside to walk through.

as was this one
I won’t link to all the caches – the first one was 1. Lacock Wandering, you can find the rest from there. 

I’m pleased to report we did find all 20, so this series took us from cache #248 up to cache #268.  (Yes, I know that doesn’t quite add up, but that’s because we also found an unrelated cache, #251 Bowden Hill – a nice big ammo can no less – along the way).

After we completed the series, we headed back into the village for a celebratory ice cream.  While there, we found a prior DNF - #269 Communicazione Rosso.  This is one we had spent aaaaaages looking for on a previous visit to Lacock, to no avail, but this time we found it easily (so easily, that Jay wandered off muttering "I'm SURE that wasn't there last time, grumble grumble"  :)  ) – so that made a total of 22 caches found on the day – our personal best!  Which we haven’t yet surpassed.

at the end of the Lacock series
I gave my poor tired legs a few days rest after Lacock, and didn’t find another cache until the next Friday.  It was a lovely sunny day, and I was in jeans as usual for a casual Friday (I don’t really fancy caching in work gear) so I was glad of the opportunity to escape the office for an hour and find a cache or two. 

I wasn’t really all that fussed where I went so picked a couple of nearby caches almost at random, and was pleasantly surprised when they turned out to be much more interesting than I thought they would be!  Not that I thought they would be UNinteresting – but I figured they would be fairly standard small-item-of-tupperware-in-a-tree types. 

looking up the lock flight to the bridge
Instead, the first cache #270 Siddington Old Pub Run, took me on a lovely walk (once I had figured out how to find the start of the footpath!) past some very friendly horses, and a lovely old church.  And the second #271 Siddington Lock Flight, was just brilliant!  It was located at the lock flight from a long disused canal system….instead of water here now, there are just grass and weeds.  It is a brilliant location for a cache.  Here is the rather gushing log entry I left on the website:

You’ll have to excuse me for a moment, I feel one of my “THIS is why I LOVE geocaching!” rants coming on ….

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this cache today, all I really wanted, to be honest, was to get away from my desk and out into the sunshine for a bit, so anything on top of that would be a bonus.

So, having done zero research before setting out, I was blown away by just how cool the location for this cache actually was.

Now admittedly, I have a bit of a thing for old crumbling buildings and structures, so maybe others might not share my view, but for me, this was an absolute gem of a setting.

So, yes, back to why I love geocaching….it’s the way it pools all the local knowledge of where all the cool places are… I’ve worked just a stone’s throw from this flight of locks for a few years now, but had no idea it was there. There’s no way I would have found it in a guide book, and it’s very unlikely to have come up in general conversation with friends and workmates (unless of course they were geocachers :) ). It needed to be highlighted by someone who knew it was there.

In the three years we have been caching, we have found cool places like this all over the country, and for that, I am eternally grateful to this hobby.

I wish I had had one of our signature items on me today, as this cache certainly deserved one, but with it being an impromptu trip out I was empty handed. I can give a favourite point instead though, which the cache owner will probably prefer anyway :)

Anyway – back to the cache hunt itself – it was quickly found once I remembered to think in 3 dimensions, doh (I was looking at the correct co-ordinates but the wrong elevation). Like the other Siddington cache it was a quick spot and easily retrieved. Took nothing, left nothing, thank you.

I had a good explore of the lock system before heading back to the office. Great stuff.

I hope to add some photos to this log when I get home this evening if they turn out ok (my phone camera isn’t up to much unfortunately)

Thanks again for bringing me to this place.

The following day, we didn’t find any caches, but we did do our level best to hide one.   A bit of a long story, this one, we found a fab multi cache – Hey Toots - up on Selsley Common near Stroud, last summer.  We really enjoyed both locations the cache takes you to – a topograph close to a neolithic long barrow where you did your clue gathering, and the cliffs at ground zero.  The cache itself was in very poor repair, however, the container was smashed and all the contents were soaked through.  We contacted the cache owner offering to adopt the cache as he had ignored a number of needs maintenance logs, but there was no response, and eventually the cache was archived by the local reviewer.

We loved the original so much, that we re-hid a new cache in the same spot, and re-listed it, crediting the original cache.  Rather stupidly, I didn’t check the MAGIC map for any landowner issues, as I usually would do, as I figured I was only replacing the previously archived cache exactly as it was – so if it had permission before it would still stand.

But no – it turns out that the common in its entirety is an SSSI – a site of special scientific interest – and so geocaches cannot be placed there without express permission.  And any permission granted to the old cache did not apply to my new one (I wish the owner had just let us adopt the old one!  it would have saved so much hassle!)

So – the long and the short of it is, Jay went back to the common and retrieved the cache, which is now sitting on the side in my living room while I try to get the appropriate permission granted.  Wish me luck!  I hope we can get it sorted, as it’s such a great location.

That’s March wrapped up – April next….

On the 2nd, we went on the hunt not so much for a cache – but for what was inside it.  Although the cache did turn out to be an excellent one, which was a bonus. 

Ever since Connor and I started geocaching back in early 2008, I’ve been aware of two Wombles-themed travel bugs which are roaming around the South West – each carrying half of the co-ordinates to the signature cache of a local team called, unsurprisingly, the Wombles.  (or, as Reece calls them, litter monkeys lol).  I always hoped that we would come across one or the other of the travel bugs by chance, and at that point I thought we could then step up our efforts to find the other.
The “by chance” thing wasn’t working out so well for us, though, so when a friend pointed out on Facebook that she had just dropped off the Westings womble in cache #272 The Coombes, we decided to pop out there and discover it quick before someone moved it on. 

I was glad we did find the time to go after this one cache on an otherwise busy day as it was a great walk with fantastic views, and a good sized cache to find too.  And we didn’t get there a moment too soon, as just as we left the cache site, another geocacher was approaching – and checking his log later on that day, I saw that he did take the womble!  I’d say we got those westings co-ordinates with 10 minutes tops to spare.

A few days later, Jay and I were in Cheltenham on a pleasant Thursday evening for a comedy gig – Tim Vine – he was very very VERY funny!  We got to the town hall, where the gig was happening, way too early (I know!  That’s not like me at all!  I’m usually late for EVERYTHING), so we fired up the GPS on my phone to see if there were any caches nearby.   

There were actually quite a few, and we found two before the show, and one more after.  These were #273 ArtyParty5, #274 Neptune The Mystic and #275 ArtyParty3.  They were all set close to sculptures / fountains.  We usually do very little in the way of urban caching, but it is fun to use geocaching as a kind of tour guide to bring you to interesting things in a town centre, and these caches worked well for that purpose – and did a very good job of entertaining us while we were waiting for our gig to start.

Next up was another casual Friday lunchtime foray – and another First To Find - #276 Michaels Mission 1 (although it was actually a cache that had been moved a bit and given a new GC number rather than a brand new one, and so there were already names in the log book which confused me…) . 

And that evening Connor and I even went caching after work – which is unusual – but we had a jolly good reason to scoot over to West Swindon to find a cache that usually we wouldn’t have bothered with (you know the type, thrown in a bush on an ugly housing estate) – our #277.   I’m not going to bother linking the cache page as it’s not one I’d recommend.    The reason we bothered to go after an urban park and grab?  The Northings womble travel bug was in there!!!  Can you believe our luck?  We tracked them both down within a week!

So that was us fully equipped to go looking for #278 the Wombles Signature Cache.  Which we did the very next day!  We had a bit of an adventure getting there, here’s our log:

well, we had fun with this one :)

we heard about this cache when we first joined the hobby back in 2008, and have been hoping to come across the co-ordinate carrying wombles by chance ever since, but it wasn't eventually we decided to make the effort to specifically target caches containing the trackable wombles, and as of yesterday we successfully tracked down both parts of the location.

woohoo! I thought it would be plain sailing from here.....nope....wroooong :)

I put the final co-ordinates into our GPS this morning as waypoint name "womble", and the (closest) recommended parking spot as waypoint "wompark" - and then loaded this cache onto the GPS so we would have the description etc

We drove over, parked up at wompark, and set our compass pointing to womble. This took us all the way through the woods, across a residential area, and to a HUGE busy road - this can't be right???

It turns out that the main parking spot for this cache also has the waypoint name womble, and had over-written my manually entered destination, so we had actually just walked from one parking spot to the other, oops!

Trouble was, I didn't have the real co-ordinates written down! Thankfully though I had them entered as a private note on the geocaching website, and managed eventually with rather poor signal to track them down using the internet on my phone - phew!!

We then walked back past our car - doh! to find that the final location was very close to where we had started :D

It then took us a while to locate the actual cache - you'd think something that size would be easier to spot :) :) :) - but we got there in the end! and had the pleasure of meeting Mr Womble and his family too, which was really nice, having had many an email from him over the past couple of years confirming virtual cache finds and the like.

Thanks for hosting this fab cache, it was a real adventure :) (especially crossing the stream over the log bridge - eek! wasn't expecting to have to go quite so "mission impossible" on a terrain 2, but I'm glad to report I didn't fall in :) )

I don’t think we got any photos of me crossing that stream by walking over a very wobbly log – I didn’t enjoy that one little bit!  I like standing on firm, solid ground, me.

The kids loved the cache itself – a GIANT ammo can filled with really good quality swag.  I liked discovering the Blorenges’ mahoooooosive geocoin, and meeting Mr Womble, whose garden backs onto the woods, and who was presumably alerted to our presence by my screams of terror as I traversed the wobbly log :D

All in all, I’m kind of glad we got our waypoints muddled up as we got to see a lot more of the pretty woodland than we otherwise would have done.

Cake series - a game of pooh sticks before we set off
Straight after finding the Wombles cache, near Chippenham, we jumped back onto the M4 and headed out towards Hungerford, where we had promised the kids they would find cake!   Many cakes in fact, starting with #279 Cake 1 – Battenberg J

The cake series, hidden by the locally notorious (in a nice way J ) Cache and Cake Club, consists of 19 caches (although we skipped the last two due to failing light as we didn’t start out until after 4pm) over 3.5 miles, around the village of Eastbury, Berks. 

the boys chose chocolate cake
They are all good sized caches (not one micro – yay!) with decent swaps, and all are very straightforward finds so this would be a very good series to do with little ones who like LOTS of caches to find and a good chance of being able to spot them themselves.  For us, we would probably have preferred a bit more of a challenge, as we like the trickier hides, and it felt like there were almost TOO many caches – you could barely get up to a good pace before it was time to stop for another!  But that said, we did thoroughly enjoy our late afternoon stroll, the countryside was lovely and the boys enjoyed doing lots of swapping. 

Jay went for Pavlova
And of course we got a lot more smileys than we would usually pick up in a day (18 including the Wombles cache), and it was fun playing pooh sticks in the little river by the parking spot.  Oh, and by #292 Cake 14 – Pavlova we saw 2 large deer jump over a fence about 3 feet in front of us!  Which was amazing!  So all in all – a very enjoyable series.

Kendal mint cake for me
We got properly into the cake theme too - we each posed on the way round for a photo with the cache that represented our favourite cake – and then when we got home (well, actually the next day as we got home rather late), we celebrated with a rather yummy butterfly cake (with sparkly edible glitter, no less!) from Morrisons – yum J  That presumably cancelled out all the good work we had done walking 3.5 miles in the first place!  Oops!

Connor was at his dad’s the next day (10th April – Ethan’s 21st birthday! Wow, that makes me feel old), so Reece was playing with (a different) Ethan from up the street.  It was a lovely sunny day, and at around 3pm we started to get the caching urge again, so looked for something we could do not too far from home.  We found a multi-cache in Shrivenham that had a few favourite points and rave reviews - #296 The Fallen Idol, so that was the one we went after – and young Ethan from up the road tagged along. 

it was a gorgeous sunny day
We never did see the concrete scarecrow mentioned in the cache description, sadly, although having read it again I am now assuming it was near waypoint one (which just looked like a big field to me!) , not at the final which was what we were expecting (hence we didn’t make a point to look for it at waypoint one).  Our baffling inability to spot a pair of huge concrete legs aside, we LOVED this multi (and “favourited” it accordingly).  Both the waypoint mini-caches (containing onward co-ordinates) were ingenious and the final hiding spot (an old rusty boat) was very cool indeed.  Sadly I believe this cache has since been archived, a real pity :(

Young Ethan from up the road thoroughly enjoyed his first “geo catching” (that’s what he calls it) experience.  So much so that when I asked if anyone wanted to do another, he shouted “YES! YES! YES!” J

The next closest was called Boats Long Gone (our #297) – so called because the canal here has fallen into disuse and I imagine it is indeed a long time since it carried a boat.  This was a nice big cache that the boys enjoyed rifling through, and more importantly, there was a rope swing which they happily played on for ages. 

This was one of those perfect afternoons where you just mull about in the great outdoors for a few hours, have fun, and forget about all your troubles for a while.  Thank you geocaching!

Fast forward to the following Friday, and there had been some more new caches published in Cirencester – in beautiful Cirencester Park - which, to be honest I was a bit surprised at as I’ve been trying (and failing) to get permission from the Bathurst Estate for over a year to hide caches in the park (which is privately owned but open to the public between 8am and 5pm with a ton of restrictions), with no luck, and it turns out these new caches have been put in there without permission and have been published!  But that’s life…. 

I love it in the park anyway so was happy to take in a couple of caches there, I didn’t actually realise until I got to them that one was still unfound (2 days after publication!) – so I got my third FTF!  Woohoo! 

The caches were #298 Michaels Mission 4 (I got second to find on this one) and #299 Michaels Mission 5 (my FTF). 

I’m guessing that the chap (or chapess) who has hidden these is a fairly new cacher and hasn’t quite gotten the hang of everything yet as these weren’t the best containers and the co-ordinates were a way off, but don’t let that put you off trying to find them as whatever the caches themselves are lacking, the surrounding grounds more than make up for! 

There is still loads of Cirencester Park left “uncached” (it’s 8km x 5km in size altogether) – there are numerous even nicer spots further in that would make wonderful cache locations.  I’d LOVE to place some in there myself, but I can’t quite bring myself to do it without permission, even now knowing that they would likely be published without any problems, especially since I have written to the estate office twice expressly promising that I wouldn’t do so and would wait to hear from them.   I just wish they would get back to me!  (I’ve tried phoning too and I just get promised a call back that never comes…..ah well)

Look – isn’t it gorgeous (not my photo) :

And there are various cool follies and structures dotted about.   Lovely place.

On my way back to the office after finding MMs 4 and 5, I had a quick look at the final cache in the little series – called Michael Over and Out.  This one is so close to my office I can actually see Ground Zero from our back window!  But I had to DNF it.  Or rather DNA (Did Not Attempt) it.  It involves paddling across a river which has very steep banks, and I was actually more worried about getting stuck down there unable to climb back out, than about arriving back at work soaked from the knees down!  I’ll have to come back one day with wellies and a ladder J

So that brought the Chaos Crew to 299 caches – and we wanted to do something memorable for #300.  So what better than to tackle my nemesis - #300 (yes, that means we finally found it!) 802.11g . 

I first DNF’d this little pest of a cache back in June last year.  I went back twice more, once with Connor once with Jay, with no luck.  A string of further DNFs followed mine and after a while the owner confirmed that a waypoint had gone missing, which explained things.  I then had another look at the new co-ordinates (gathered via unusual means, which luckily I was able to figure out straight away thanks to my background working with computers and networks), but still couldn’t find anything.

I then gave up for a few months – I had planned to give it yet another go with Hannah from the QCs over Christmas, but that didn’t happen in the end, and I guess I just got used to ignoring it! 

But – for #300 – it was worth another try.  And, do you know what?  We found the bloody thing SO easily this time!!  Typical! :)

So glad to have that one crossed off my list.

Later on that day, Jay, Reece and I (Connor was at his dad’s) headed out towards Wootton Basset to tackle a circular walk out to Bincknoll Castle hillfort and back.  Once again, the weather was perfect for a hike (overall it was the most amazing, and dry, April I can remember), and this was a wonderful walk. 

There were a number of caches to find along the way – we started at #301 Salthrop Farm North, made our way to the impressive hillfort itself (passing a few others on the way) where we found #304 Bincknoll Castle, then past #305 Quidhampton Wood to #306 Bassett Down Gorge .

It’s hard to explain quite how striking the gorge is – the best spot to see it from is inside Quidhampton Wood up at the hillfort end (where we went by mistake on our way to the eponymously named cache, not realising we would end up on the wrong side of the gorge – we were so glad we made the slight detour though as it’s just an amazing piece of natural landscaping.  I couldn’t get a decent photo of it, you kind of just have to be there.  One minute there’s nothing there, and a few feet further along there’s this huge 50 foot hole in the ground! 

A brave person has put a rope swing right beside the gorge – you can just see Reece swinging on it in the picture above - I’d hate to be the person who was on it when the rope snapped!

And the hillfort (and burial mound alongside) is also well worth a visit.  The views from the top are amazing.  It overlooks a lovely green valley where apparently they used to hold jousting competitions back in the day (there was a medieval castle on the site too).  The atmosphere there is so rich with history, it would be a fascinating place to just sit and contemplate (preferably without kids running around being noisy!).  In fact, that’s exactly what I did – ommmmmm J

After the fort cache we walked down into the valley and back into the woods at the bottom, where we went on to find two more caches in gorgeous surroundings.  You’re always guaranteed great locations with RoobyDoo’s caches.

All in all, a great walk and a perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Three days later, it was my birthday, yay! 

So that meant a day off work for me, and for Jay too so that he could help me celebrate / commiserate (not sure which is more appropriate at the grand old age of *whispers* 44) .  No kiddies today again – so we could tackle a longer series.  As it was my birthday I got to choose, and I plumped for the Coleshill and Coxwell Circuit – or CCC (not to be confused with the aforementioned Cache and Cake Club, who have nothing to do with this series!). 

The CCC series is a 7 mile circular walk of 16 caches (plus a bonus) that starts at a hillfort – so I was bound to like it, I do have a thing for hillforts – then travels through some lovely woodland and out across farmland to the village of Coleshill in Oxfordshire, which was where they trained “Churchill’s Secret Army” of spies during the war – and then back via Great Coxwell and the 14th century great barn that you may remember from my previous geocaching round up post as we found the “Agricultural Cathedral” virtual cache there back in January.

You can read more about the series on the description page for the first cache - #307 The CCC #1 Badbury Hillfort .

The hillfort is unlike every other hillfort we have visited (and there have been many!), as instead of the usual exposed grassy hill, it is actually within a wooded area and covered in trees, and, at this time of year anyway, a beautiful carpet of bluebells!  They were stunning.   The area all around it was interesting too, with a maze of trails for mountain biking which were also fun to explore on foot (no cyclists there today). 

A few caches into the CCC series, we took a slight detour to find #309 Clumping Around (Oxfordshire) – a Wombles cache, they of the giant ammo box and wobbly log J  Close to this cache we spotted this fab tree – it looked like he was sticking his tongue out at us J

About halfway through the series, in the village of Coleshill, we stopped for (a delicious!) lunch at the Radnor Arms – one of the Famous Grouse’s “Famous 100” pubs.  We picked up the leaflet in there with details of the other 99 – I’d like to try and visit some of them.  After lunch we solved a couple of clues for a puzzle/multi cache that started out from the pub – RoobyDoo’s “The Best Ale?” – unfortunately the final co-ordinates turned out to be well out of our way, and we didn’t have time to go and collect the cache, so we set that aside as something to do another day and carried on with the CCC series.

We remembered a good mile PAST Coleshill that we were supposed to collect some information in the village to enable us to find the series’s final bonus cache – doh!  That’s another one we’ll have to go back for another day.

At least we did find all 16 caches on the series proper – taking us up to a total of 323 found - and we had a really great walk in the process.  I was REALLY tired by the end – good work out! 

We weren’t too tired, though, to find one more cache on the way home – only a layby park and grab, but with a fantastic view – this was #324 The Golden Ridge, which we passed on our way home. 

The following Saturday was yet another gloriously sunny day, and we decided to head out and tackle a fun-looking puzzle cache at a local lake, that we’ve had on our to do list for ages, #325  Liden Lagoon . 

The cache requires you to take a nice stroll the whole way around the lake, collecting clues from benches with poetic inscriptions, and then solve a fairly complex but not difficult word puzzle to get the co-ordinates.  It was just the right level of difficulty for the boys, they were able to pretty much work it all out for themselves, which they really enjoyed.  There were lots of nettles around the final approach to the cache, so I was sent in alone, being the only one not in shorts on this hot hot day - and the blooming things managed to sting even through jeans - ouch!  Never mind, at least I found it J

The Liden Lagoon cache took us a while, but everyone was still up for more, so we went after another puzzle cache (I know, we hardly ever do these as most of them out there are waaaaay too difficult for us!, but today we did two! Go us!) - #326 Between the Stiles

To find the location for this one, you had to find a number of geocaching-related words in a wordsearch, and then the remaining letters spelled out the co-ords.  It was really good fun!  Even more fun for the boys was an excellent park close to the cache, where we all played in the sunshine for ages.  It was another one of those perfect afternoons. 

So perfect, in fact, that when we noticed another cache nearby that we wanted to add to our tally, the boys couldn’t be lured away from the perfect park.  So Jay and I left them playing and went and picked up the almost last cache of the day on our own.  This was #327 Medbourne Springs.  I’ve got to say, the kids missed out, as not only was it a lovely little walk (once we had figured out how to get onto the right path) with quite spectacular views, but we also got to meet some friendly horses at GZ.  And it was also fun to see the M4 from high above it, a very different viewpoint onto a road I drive along often.

We weren’t planning on picking up any more caches today, but realised that we were going to walk right past one on the way back to the car - #328 Church Micro 1109 – All Saints – Lyddington – so we duly found it - a tricky little nano.  The church looked gorgeous in the early evening sunlight, it was a pity it was locked as I would have liked to take a look inside.

On the Sunday it was time for #329, another Swindon Soiree event  – and this time there was an Easter egg hunt - fun!  The venue was a pub overlooking Peatmoor Lagoon in West Swindon, and our hosts the Middleleaze Moles had really outdone themselves this time, hiding a huge number of temporary film tub micros around the lake, one for each child attending.  The kids had to track down their own film tub from the co-ordinates provided, and trade the token inside for an easter egg. 

The micros weren’t easy to find – some of the adults helping smaller kids even struggled!  But our two managed to find theirs without any help – eventually (I was getting worried about them, they had been gone so long) – so they were very proud of themselves and their well-earned prizes.

After the event we nipped next door to the Chinese Experience restaurant and filled ourselves up at the delicious all-you-can-eat buffet.  Expensive, but yum!

Monday was a bank holiday, so we capped off our long weekend of caching with a return visit to Oxfordshire to see the Watchfield Windmills up close (cache #330).  I don’t know why people object to these wind farms so violently, I think a field with these windmills in it looks a lot more interesting than a field without, they don’t make a sound, and they are generating clean energy, what’s not to like? 

From Watchfield we walked through some lovely countryside up towards Coleshill to find the final for #331 the Best Ale puzzle cache that we had solved the final location for on my birthday a few days before.   A fantastic cache this one - highly recommended.

And on the way back home we picked up a quick layby cache and dash - #332 A420 – Watching Windmills Westbound – and that was us done for the day.

On to Thursday 28th April – which despite being a Friday was a casual dress day at work, because of the Friday being a national holiday for Kate & Wills’ royal wedding.  So I took advantage of being in jeans and trainers and headed out for a lunchtime caching sesh.  There were two relatively new caches not too far away, hidden by Gackt whose previous hides I have enjoyed, so they were an easy choice.  The first, #333 Doggles, was a very clever one, I won’t spoil it by explaining – and the second,  #334 A Purple Cow, involved a nice walk through the fields.  It was a lovely day, and to be honest I would have happily stayed out there all afternoon just wandering around in the sunshine, it was an effort to convince myself to go back to the office.  Only 20-something more years till I can retire, sigh.

view from inside one of the birdwatching hides
Just the one cache for us on Royal Wedding Friday – we had had a fairly busy day, but with the weather still being gorgeous in the early evening, we set out to find a brand new multi cache that had been listed at Lower Moor Farm nature reserve in the Cotswold Water Park, around 15 minutes drive from home - #335 Back To Nature.  We spent at least two hours going around the nature reserve (which was lovely), gathering the clues for the multi, and checking out the bird hides and brass rubbing points (luckily I had some spare paper and a crayon on me, so the boys were able to do some brass rubbings each which they really enjoyed). 

brass rubbing....
Given how long we were ambling around, and the fact that the new cache had been listed much earlier that day – a good 8 hours before we found it – we were very surprised and pleased to find a virgin log book when we got to the end!  The boys found it before we did, so this was their first FTF (they have their own caching account separate from us old parents).  They were delighted, as you can imagine!  To this day, the cache only has 10 finds, way under average for a cache around these parts over a 5 month period - people really don’t know what they are missing!  I guess it’s because it’s an hour or so’s “work” for just the one smiley, in this day and age of power trails and series.  Such a pity that’s the way the game seems to be heading L  Ah well, we’ll continue to play it our way.

And so we come to the last day in April – and therefore the last set of caches covered by this super long post (I’ll write up May – September another day – maybe some time next year!). 

The 30th was a gloriously sunny Saturday, and we decided to make use of our National Trust family membership before it ran out and check out the famous house and gardens at Stourhead.    I’d been kind of putting off taking the family to this one as, well, it’s just fancy gardens, how good could it be??  Answer – bloody amazing!  What a wonderful, wonderful place!  The house was interesting, but the grounds were absolutely breathtaking.    

There are trees and flowers and wonderful Roman/Grecian style follies galore surrounding a beautiful man made, but very natural looking, lake.  And all sorts of other fascinating bits to explore like a shell lined grotto and a huge obelisk topped with a gorgeous sun decoration (that I wanted to steal – it would look fab on my kitchen wall J ). 

Here are lots of photos, that hopefully give you some idea of what a beautiful place it is.  I’d love to go back in the autumn as apparently at this time of year the colouring of the trees around the lake is spectacular, but sadly our membership has run out now L

Anyway, enough of my gushing, what about the geocaches?  Well, the first we found today was up by the aforementioned obelisk - #336 Stourhead 2 the Obelisk.  It was hidden slightly outside the National Trust owned grounds, but it was easy enough to get to.  Nice view of the grand house from the cache site:

The next - #337 Alfred’s Tower - was a few miles up the road, at the site of a wonderful triangular folly, built in the 1700s.  Luckily we got to the tower just in time to go inside, and climb the 200+ steps to the top – ooof! 

slightly out of breath at the top of the steps :)
It was VERY hard going on our poor tired legs, already complaining from exploring the house and gardens all day – but the view from the top was WELL worth the bother!  Wow.  Also while we were up there, we were able to pick up some vital info for the multi cache Towers and Tors of Somerset which I’d love to complete one day (in fact, I’ve made it one of the family’s Project Zero goals, to make sure we do….)

view from the top
And our final cache for April was #338 Stonehenge – a virtual that we’ve been meaning to tick off for some time – and as we were driving right past the stones on our way home, and they looked magnificent in the golden evening sunshine, this was our perfect opportunity.

So there you have it, a VERY long overdue write up.  I’m glad I can finally cross this off my ever growing to do list J


Psychodiva said...

after drooling over your geocaches the past few years and now being well enough again i have downloaded an app and joined the geocaching site and will go out tramping for the first couple of easy ones near calne- then I'm off to Carnforth for a weekend in November so will go for a couple up there :) the long post was well worth reading!!!!!!

Jimjams said...

WOW - I love caching, but have never quite managed to enthuse my family so I'm rather envious of all the family fun you've been having. A lovely enthusiastic post full of great photos and lovely memories!

John (Oakers) said...

great to read another geocaching post from you - I always enjoy reading them - don't keep us waiting so long for the next one!

Whisper said...

I did it!!1 I have found five now :)

Jennifer Stumpf said...

I read it all! What fun! We hope to get back into geocaching soon as we can catch up on everything (if that is ever possible...). What a great post. I enjoyed all of it!

Morti said...

Heheheheh - yup that was a long, but VERY interesting and fab post. Long overdue though! Don't leave it so long next time! Try doing May this month, and June next and so on, and try to catch up... ;-) Lil Miss B joined us for her first couple of caches recently - we've only done local cos the big car is poorly and we can't get all of us (dogs included) into the small one. Half term beckons though...

BTW - Well done on being the only person to guess it's Carl... :-D

Lorraine said...

great photos like reading all about your geocaching adventures

Carmen said...

I've said it before - I'm SURE my family would love doing this and I agree with your point about it being a good way to find local areas you wouldn't normally find - good way to get some exercise too. Trouble is I can't have a swanky phone like that - I kill them to often (think I'm on my 4th phone this year) so will have to think about it :D

Great post :D

Eddie said...

Seems like a log time since I've seen some geocaching activity here...have you given up on the sport? :)

Sarah said...

Hi Eddie .... we still do cache, but not as frequently as we used to, and I don't blog about it any more. I decided a while back to keep this blog as an art thing specifically. All the best, Sarah