Monday, 25 November 2013

24/11/13 - Staffordshire Bull Terrier Appreciation Society

Distance - 5.8 Miles
Geocaches - 3
The BrummieRingPhase5
Start - Wednesbury Parkway
Finish - Hamstead

I am back adding a new section to the BrummieRing.

Thanks to a combination of Micky Flanagan performing at the NIA and me having some Holiday Inn points to use up, I am doing this leg in the way that it was intended.  I am starting in the centre of Birmingham, saying my goodbyes to Sonia as she gets the Kidderminster Train from Snow Hill and I get the Tram to Wednesbury Parkway.

With both our modes of transport leaving at 9:30am, we are chasing each other out of the station.  I don't get a wave.

25 minutes later, I am disembarking at Wednesbury.  Its grim on an overcast sunday morning.  To start, I have some road walking to pick up the canal, which is my main walking footpath.

A diversion for a cache brings me to an appreciation society for the most frequently spotted canine on this odyssey.

Most favoured type of dog seen on Brummie Loop
You couldn't make this up, could you.
After passing a pub and a couple of shops (lollipop and water purchase), I pick up the Tame Valley Canal.

Tame Valley
Canal all the way to the end of Phase 5
The canal is my walking superhighway to end of this leg.  It does provide much nicer walking than the previous canal stage.

I am elevated, which often provides good views.  I also cross several aqueducts, the most impressive being the M5 slip road onto the M6.  Countless times I have driven under here without realising a canal crosses it.

Over the M5 on a Canal
A Canal Runs over it
The canal becomes increasingly leafy.  There are two types of fishermen on display, the human worm danglers and a more impressive natural hunter, which I stop and watch for a while.

Great Hunter
As I progress towards Hamstead, I have some great views over Birmingham.  First time we have seen it since stage 2.

Views over BRM
Birmingham - in the Sunshine
Have a bit of a disaster with the last cache of the day.  It is dangling from my exit bridge on a bit of fishing wire.  The wire is all tangled up in a plant on the side of the bridge.  My gentle attempt to retrieve results in a snap and the cache disappears to its doom, never to be seen again.

A log of shame coming up.

Hit Hamstead.  The chance of refreshment is thwarted by it being on only 11:57.  But this is good news, as the trains only run once an hour on a Sunday at 11 minutes past.

Refreshment Stop at End
Too Early on a Sunday
Glad that the next phase has only a little bit of Canal Walking.  They have got a touch monotonous.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

23/11/13 - A response to the Daily Mail

Geocaches - 19
First Cache
Distance - 4.9 Miles

CBA Cache Round

For 20 years my friends have taken the mickey out of me for reading the Daily Mail.  I have defended its narrow mindedness and little Britain mentality by claiming that it always gives you an article that you can use to generate conversation.

Yesterday's paper had such an article.  A complete character assassination on the world's fastest growing past time, Geocaching.  The on-line link does not do justice to the level of vitriol that was contained in the printed edition.  Phrases like "on private land", "geocaches that are buried" and a little side bar with facts, such as four fatalities and the heinous act of having closed down Disney World.  The whole piece suggested something illegal.

I was that vexed I took to twitter to vent my spleen at the journalist but couldn't quite get across what I wanted to say in 140 characters.

So today, there is nothing else for it.  In protest, I am going caching.  And I bought the Times.

There is a new round at Broughton Hackett, near where I have been recently walking on the Millennium Way.  I decide to take a repeat of some paths in the aim of getting some smileys.

And I am so glad that I did.  This is the best round I have done this year.  The caches are all a challenge and the walking is tip top.

Start up at the layby and make my way down the path to March Hare Leisure facility.  I am not going to say too much about the individual caches.... maybe a comment on the handful of DNFs..  and the more unique ones.

Which is certainly the case with number 2.  3254 previous finds and occasionally, I get one that is a new concept.  Laughing with frozen fingers as I signed the log.

The one good thing about walking early in the morning is watching the day change before your eyes.  Quickly went from frost and mist to a glorious day, with beautiful skies.

Cold Start
The Labradoodle can sniff them out.
I get a break from the trail to find an offset multi at Churchill Church.  This is a nice idea, getting cachers to enter the church for the information required to get the cache.  Wonderful.

Churchill.  Church.
Rare that I have to venture inside for a smiley.
My caching senses are in tune, but I think I have taken it too far, when I think I have spotted a couple.

If they're not on your GPS, they are not there

#7 is my first DNF.  I am sure that I am in the right area, but I am balanced on a plank in the middle of a mudpit.  The dog has to be on the lead cause of the sheep and I look at her, forlornly stood knee deep in the mud.  Its not fair to keep her there.  So I tie her up on a fence and come back for another look.  Still no joy!

#11 is simply genius.  I didn't think I would have a hope in hell when I saw some of the local geocaching royalty who had recorded a DNF.  But something looked not quite right and there is was.  Good job I have a load of favs to dish out.  Chickowee, I salute you.

The sun is starting to peep.

Break on Through
Come on Sun - you know you want to
#15.  What can I say?  There is a decoy, which the logs allude to.  There are also a gang of kids brushing the horse in the field.  I think I am tucked enough away for a good hunt, but when I emerge over the barrier unsuccesful, I have an audience.  Three kids and a horse gawping at me.

Run off before the Mail have another story and fail on #16 as well.

From this point one, I clear the rest.  The day has turned glorious.

I do like this hill.  Seen it many times on the Millennium Way
As we count down to number 24, I realise that I haven't found the co-ords for the bonus.  I reckon it was in 15 :-)

Get to 24 and I do have an audience to cheer my brave solo attempt.

My fans salute my brave attempt
Good Solo Attempt, Mappiman
2.5 hours out in the beautiful British countryside.  Fresh air, history and exercise. 

Come on Daily Mail, just what is there that is causing you so much worry?

Sunday, 17 November 2013

16/11/13 - Loopy for London

Distance - 8.5 Miles
Geocaches - 17 and few that were not there.
Start - Erith
Finish - Bexley
Walk Inspiration

On 28/9/13, I completed the Capital Ring.  On 29/9/13, I booked the tickets for my next Circular capital adventure, the London Loop.

This is a little longer and a little further out but an identical concept.  It becomes another long term goal to tick off in 24 bite sized chunks.  Mrs Mappiman has expressed an interest, so a day trip to the smoke is undertaken.

The great thing about booking in advance, is you can get an absolute bargain on the trains.  Birmingham International to Erith for £9.50.  The problem is you have no idea what the weather will hold but on this leg, we struck monumentally lucky.

You also have to get up early to get the cheap deals.  So 5:30am alarm clock and we are at London Bridge by 9am.  Sonia comes up with the great idea of getting an organic sausage sandwich from Borough Market.

The price of two comes to more than it costs to travel 140 miles on British trains.  Still, it did come with onions.  And the option of cheese.  Sonia spills most of it down her light blue soft shell and updates her facebook status to say that she "has got sausage juice all down her front".  I can only assume that Jane Jacques is off-line.

Navigate London Bridge (just where is Platform 1?) and arrive at Erith.  Line up for the traditional start of an adventure shot and we see that another couple are doing the exact same thing.  We follow them, but the geocaches mean they are soon out of sight.

Let us begin
Not the only loopy people out
Now I love walking with Sonia.  We have developed this shared purpose of adventure and she buys into these wacky schemes.  However, after a long journey, she always provides me with the challenge of finding her toilets.  It did give us the opportunity to explore Erith.

The guidebook promised the grandeur of attempts to turn it into a Victorian holiday resort.  It is one of the bleakest places I have ever been to.  And last week I was in Tipton on the Brummie Ring.  Toilets nearly become a challenge too far, but fortunately, there is a Morrisons at the start of the walk.

After sorting out the Sausage Juice, we can get on our way.

Path Proper
Thames Side
The start of the walk is a shocker.  We are in an industrial wasteland of wreckers yards.  Boy racers charge past us in souped up M3's, scaring the beejesus out of us.  Two men are pushing a wheely bin down the main road with a purpose that can only be described as "removing evidence".

We wonder what we have done.

There is good news.  There is a cache trail that comes very frequently.  There is further good news after a mile and we work through the last industrial complex.  We pick up a path on high bank that runs with the Thames on our left and Salt Marshes (between wreckers yards) on our right.  It is like nowhere I have walked before and strangely beautiful in its own way.

Lots of walking like this
Our Path
Thames Estuary
Better to the Left
The caches are frequent, although could do with a bit of TLC.  Many of the logs are too wet to sign, some are missing but I am still pleased with the high volume of numbers.  Its been a slow start to November.

Dartford Creek becomes our turning inland point.  We are in the shadow of the Dartford Bridge Crossing and a strange flood defence construction that looks like a Stalinistic take on Tower Bridge.

Dartford Bridge
The horse is guarding a GZ of a former DNF.  We didn't want to disturb him.

Marshlands.  We are strategically placed to block out the Power Station.

The walking is similar, river side.  At a junction, we follow the River Cray, which brings us to Crayford.  This is the first civilisation on the walk and we around 6 miles in.  Its 12:10pm and can only mean one thing.

First pint of the Loop
First pint on the Loop.
The half a cider that my fellow adventurer imbibed led the the suggestion that "we could catch the bus Bexley and no one will know".  Tempting, but we would be cheating only ourselves.

From a walking perspective, we would not have missed out on too much.  Its a meandering journey across sports fields, along the river Cray and under the A2 (thankfully an underpass exists).  The caches have dried up, but there is one that involves crawling 20ft up a storm tunnel, that is so small, you have to crawl out backwards.  I can see the headlines now, so pass up.

Through some strange woodland and we arrive at Bexley.  I have done my research and my favourite pub website has most of them rated at 3 out of 10.  This is not promising.  We use Google Maps and they are mainly in the highstreet.  The reviews were correct.  I am always put off by any establishment that boasts of its XVth century credentials along with a long list of behaviours that will not be tolerated.

However, the pebble dashed church is rather nice.

Best Bit
Footpath brings us to Bexley Church

Bexley High Street - My life mission is to find a nice pub with "Railway" in the Name
Despite being starving, we find nothing suitable at lunchtime, although there is an interesting row of Morrocan, Indian, Italian and Greek restaurants.

We head back to London Bridge and see what the metropolis can provide.

Next leg in Early Jan 2014.  I wonder if it will be a solo engagement.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

10/11/13 - Blue Skies at Piddle Brook

Distance - 7.77 Miles
Geocaches - 3
Walk Inspiration

Simply a gorgeous day and beautiful walk.  Last month's leg on the Millennium Way was completed in a downpour.  I am rewarded this time with perfect walking weather.... cool, blue skies and wonderful sunshine.  I need to soak up as much as possible, as we head into another British Winter.

Just as last time, we start at the Oak Pub, heading West, rather than East.

Instantly hit Upton Snodsbury, which is perfect picture book middle England.

Molly has taken a look at the Church
We take a short detour to find the cache in the Church Grounds.  An alley between the houses delivers us into the fields, and the vista opens up of what I have in store for this walk.

I am heading into this countryside
Heading out into the Green
Make the most of the this
Too much to expect for November
The Malverns
Superb views over the Malverns
That's the story for the walk.  Doesn't sound much, but it is terrific walking.  Work my way across the fields, through an orchard, across Piddle Brook and through North Piddle.

Flyford Flavell is the half way point.  I skirt the edges of the town and will be going through it on Stage 7.  There are a load of caches in this area, but I have found them all before, so have to make do with a single micro that is in an unusual container.

The way back offers alternative terrain.  We pick up the Wychavon way and have woodland to walk through.  Grafton Wood leads to Bow Wood, where there is the third and final cache of the day.  There is nothing better than a clue that says "hole and you need really long arms".  Caching gets you doing things that you would not normally entertain.

Emerge out of Bow Wood and I have the only field with live stock other than sheep to negotiate.  This one has chickens, cockerels, cows and some young bulls.  We try and make ourselves inconspicuous, like cowboys walking through sacred Indian burial grounds.  One of the bulls starts hollering.  This sets off the farm dogs and then the other cows join in.  At least they don't stampede.

2hrs 45 Minutes after setting out, I am back at the car.  Unusually, I don't fancy a post walk pint.

Another great leg of the Millennium Way.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

09/11/13 - Canalysis

Distance - 6.2 Miles
Geocaches - 3
Start - Tipton
Finish - Wednesbury

Stage 4 of the Brummie Ring

Adventures come in many guises.  I have been reading about the Yorkshire 3 peaks, the welsh 3000's and the people bagging Wainwrights.

This week's adventure has been working out how to catch the bus from Wednesbury Parkway to Tipton.

Buses scare me.  Only the old truly understand them.  Getting them to stop to get on is a challenge... knowing where to get off, an impossibility.

Things couldn't go better though.  We drive to Wednesbury Parkway tram station and come out the car park.  The 313 is due at 9:06.  It is 9:05 when we hit the shleter.  Immediately the bus comes.  Two singles to Tipton is not a phrase Sonia thought she would ever say out loud, but we are on and away.  Sat Nav is turned on, so that I can have an idea of where we need to get off.  The concentration means that I miss all the sights.

At the right place, I ding the bell and we are off, picking up the BCN main line canal to our official start at Tipton Station.

The Tipton Terror
Let's start the Brummie Ring, Phase 4
Not too much to say about the walk.  The BCN Main Line is an OK canal.  There is a lot of litter and the rainy conditions mean that we are probably not seeing it in it's best light.

We have a slight detour down the Gower Branch line to get our first cache of the day.  A distraction from the weather.

We continue and leave the BCN Main Line to pick up the Walsall canal.  This means coming off the Towpath and taking the road bridge.  Its the half way point and we hope for refreshments.

Looks promising.

A sign to a cafe.... and a car wash
It's the Log Cabin Cafe
Sonia had higher hopes of the Log Cabin Cafe.  She was expecting seats and a roaring fire.  She made do with Bacon Sarnie to complement my sausage and black pudding.  To get out of the rain, we head under the bridge on the Walsall Canal. 

There are fishermen there.  We experience black country humour in all its glory as they ask we have bought them any and they say "never mind, we are having fish and chips" when they land a gudgeon.

We say bye to our new friends and continue north on the Walsall Canal.  The rubbish gets us down.  Cans of every sort of Polish Beer ever invented break up the mounds of dog poo. 

At cache location number 2, we find the culprits (beer not poo).  A gang of half a dozen al fresco 10am boozers, who on completion of a Tyskie, lob the empty into the cut.   And there are a lot of empties.

Find the cache and move onto number 3 for the day.  A previous DNF, is found today.  Just as a youth on a motorbike with no helmet comes whizzing paste.

Sonia is kind of relieved when the walk comes to an end.  Will she come for BrummieRing Stage 5?

Submerged Shopping Trolley
If she doesn't, she will miss submerged shopping trolleys.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

03/11/13 - Cacheless Clarkson Country

Distance - 10 Miles
Geocaches - 2
Walk From - Country Walking Magazine - Walk 32 - Nov 1999

Bledington and Kingham

Some signs to tell you are in the Cotswolds...

  1. Everyone drives a 4x4
  2. The bus stop has a poem on the bench
  3. The hen houses provide better accommodation than we see on the Brummie Ring
  4. A man is carrying a box.  Labeled "Quail Eggs"
And this is not just any ordinary part of the Cotswolds.  This is Kingham... home to the Cotswold royalty of Clarkson, Cameron and Rebekah Brookes.  Higher in the popularity stakes, we also pass the bass player from Blur's cheese factory.

Even Sonia is tempted to come along, despite the fact that I have picked a ten miler.  The dog, having missed us on our international break, also shows a degree of excitement.  So, apart from a 6:30am revising GCSE student, we have a full quota of Mappimen for the walk.

Park up at Bledington.  The place looks familiar.  We come to the conclusion that we stopped here on the way back from a weekend away in Oxford. 

Head out into the countryside, admiring the pastoral views and the sunshine.

Whenever I go to Europe, I long for the Cotswolds
After a reasonable start, we hit some serious mud at Bledington Heath.  Just how much rain have you had over the last couple of weeks?

No sign of a lake on the OS Map
Almost a relief to pick up the road at Daylesford.  We follow this past the church and into the grounds of Adlestrop.

This hamlet was immortalised in the poem by Edward Thomas, one of the famous WW1 poets.  His train made an unscheduled stop here and he wrote all about it.  The train station is no longer here, but they have put the old sign and bench to good use in the bus shelter.

Bus Shelter with a Poem
Cache GZ
The Poem
Bus Shelter with Poem
I am happy, as nearly half way through the walk, I have my first cache to find.  I am hunting whilst the quail egg delivery man walks on by.

We have a loop around the grounds of Daylesford House.  More pleasant walking you could not hope to find anywhere else. 

Daylesford Grounds
Views and Sculptures
The loop is soon completed and we are back at Daylesford.  The farm shop looks suspiciously as though it may have a tea room but I want to save liquid refreshment for later.

We have a very straight south easterly path to follow for a mile to Kingham.  The only thing of interest is a rather special hen house.

Chicken Hut
Happy Chickens in a Chicken Manor House
We arrive at Kingham.  It's 11:45 - a touch too early for the pub to be open.  We spend the time on the village bench eating sandwiches.  Sonia rues the fact that I didn't bring enough cash for the Sunday lunch.  Checking out the on-line reviews, where I see lunch for two cost £130, I think I need plastic.  Still, they did have a cheeky glass of champers to start.

Kingham - a village favourite
Still clinging to that honour?
Alex James' local
Alex James' Local
Now mine
We are much happier than on display.  Timer went off quicker than expected.
Then we complete our walk through the village.  Next destination is the railway station, which is on the London mainline, with the capital only 1hr 20 away.  A nice looking house is for sale.  It could do for me and work.  We play guess the price.  Sonia, an ex estate agent, was only £400,000 and two bedrooms out in her estimate.  Looks like I will still be going to the Smoke via Birmingham International.

Kingham Station has the second and last cache on the round.  Very surprising to have such a low number on such a lengthy route in prime walking country.  I know Clarkson has tried to get public footpaths on his property diverted.  Maybe he has also been sabotaging the caches.

A fingertip search of everything metallic eventually produces joy.

With weary legs, we only have to make our way back to Bledington.  This is quite a spot and does offer the chance for more refreshments.

An alternative watering whole in Bledington
The King's Head - Lunch was less than £130 when we came last.
And then its strikes me as why I remember it so well - this was the starting point for a 40 cache trail called the BBC trail that was my previous best ever caching day.  They must all be archived now.