Sunday, 23 February 2014

23/02/14 - Asking Questions of Myself

Distance - 8 Miles
Geocaches - 13 Found, 4 DNF

Cutnall Green at EveryTrail

Now, I am the sort of person that does not like losing things.  This has been borne out today by a lost magazine before I got going on the day and then only being able to find one shoe when I got home and had to de-mud both myself and the trusty geohound.

The magazine was found.  The other shoe remains elusive.

So why do I spend my weekends out in the great outdoors looking for treasure that has been deliberately lost?

Initially, this was to be a rare walk free weekend.  I had too much on.  However, a change of plan caused mainly by old age, meant that I am free and available for a Sunday walk.  Initially, I was planning a trip over to Warwickshire but the planned walk had zero caches.  Not one.  And I couldn't bare what would be 14 days without recording a smiley.

So instead of the walking books, I look at the geomap and see that there are a few around Cutnall Green that have not been explored.  Hastily assemble them into some sort of walk and head out, finding parking around the back of the village store shop.

Ends at a Pub
Pub Car park totally empty, but not in the mood for post walk pint today.
Short walk down the lane to pick up the Monarch's Way.  Cache one of the day is here.  I have my head in various bushes as the wind picks up in this exposed part of Worcestershire.  Its always the first of the day that causes the most problem and as I am passing this way on my way back, I decide to leave it for when my cacher's eye is in.

This part of the walk is as good as it gets.  The Monarch's way is a long distance path that follows the route that Charles II was meant to have taken on his escape during the English Civil War.  I am constantly bumping into it, including the part where it meets the tree that he hid in.  Today's stretch weaves through woodland, past fishing pools and strangely through peoples' back gardens.

Monarch's Way - Someone's Garden
Feeling like a trespasser but signs give me confidence
Find my first cache of the day but fail at the next.  1-2.  Worse than the Albion.  Things pick up where I find an amusing one in Lunnon Lane, that is worthy of both a TB drop off and a Fav point.

Make my way towards Rushock Church, famous as the burial place of John Bonham, Led Zep's drummer.

Rushock Church
Head for a Rock and Roll Shrine.  Grave always adorned with drumsticks
It's at the point, the walk take a turn for the worse, even if the caches take a turn for the better.

The wind has been picking up all walk.  Then it starts to rain.  The terrain goes from slippy to gloopy on the mud Richter scale.  The stiles, which are frequent, are worthy of an olympic event.  Its bad enough for me, but almost impossible for a dog.  Especially an 11 year old one.  She valiantly plods on, requires only occasional assistance, but the unspoken words between hound and master are "We could be reading the paper and eating bacon sarnies".

At least the caches have shown plenty of imagination and the series is a challenge.

Only Drama
After nothing but farmhouses - some drama.  Its also a GZ for one of the best of the day.
I don't know if it was the misery of the stiles, mud and weather or just that the caches were getting harder but it seems strangely apt that the last three of the day, including a repeat of number one, are all DNFs.

As we slop back to the car, our bottom 30% covered in mud, I fail to find the answer as to why I cache. 

I just know that I will be back again next week.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

15/02/14 - #UKStorm

Miles - 10.3 Miles
Walk Inspiration - Time Out - London Walks - Volume 2
Geocaches - 8

Putney at EveryTrail

Monthly London Loop Time.  To get cheap rail tickets, these plans need to be put into place long before additional information - such as end of the world weather fronts - are available.

On the Friday night, I am glued to Sky News, checking the rail web sites and searching Twitter for the hashtag UKSTORMS.  By god it's rough.  32 valentines days diners are evacuated from a beach side restaurant.  Somehow, I think this would have drama if it had been 33.  Cornwall is underwater.  South East Trains have cancelled all services until 10am at the earliest. 

I am meant to be on the 8:15am from London Bridge to Hayes.  Hasty re-planning is required and I look to complete one of those long distance walks from the Time Out books that I would have no chance of completing on a week night.  My rail tickets might have been cheap, but they are not going to be wasted.

And besides, I have always wanted to go to Putney.

A futile attempt at sleeping - too worried about the trains running at all and it sounds like the roof is being ripped off.  Up before the alarm at 5am and postive tweets back from Virgin and National Rail suggest my 6:40am from Birmingham International is running.

And it is, with a minor delay because of congestion around Milton Keynes.  Tube is all good, so at 9 am, I looking for my first cache on a drainpipe in Putney.

No signs of the flood here.

Putney Bridge
Looking Eastbound from Putney Bridge
The first part of the walk is uphill, through the town.  Some incredibly good looking pubs in this part of the world.  I have a strong feeling I will be back sometime on a future evening.

The Telegraph
Perhaps the best of the lot - cache site two
I leave the tarmac behind and enter Putney Heath.  This is part of Wimbledon Common, a wild heathland.  The only noise is the aircraft overhead and the squelch of my boots through the mud.

King's Mere
King's Mere - Bench provides a good opportunity to gaiter up.  And a sarnie.
I complete a winding walk across the common, attempting to pick up the caches that it contains.  It's amazing to think that I have only travelled to Zone 2 on the underground and I literally in the middle of nowhere.

Queen's Mere
You've seen King's Mere - Might as well see Queen's Mere
I exit the common at the memorial next to the University playing grounds.  This is where we have the first of two intense downpours.  I would call them showers, but that does not do them justice.  I take shelter by the side of a huge oak to get the waterproof trousers over the top of the waterproof gaiters.  I might as well walk in a wet suit.

By the time I have them on, the clouds have blown away.  I cross into Richmond Park at Robin Hood's Gate.  Think this looks familiar but then I cannot understand why I missed the cache.

Capital Ring
Hello Capital Ring - I finished you and then started on the London Loop
Richmond Park is a joy to walk through.  Hunting ground created by Charles I.  Acres and acres to explore.  Today, I am in a new stretch, taking me to White Lodge.

Richmond Park
You could explore for a long time
White Lodge
White Lodge.  Subject to Noise Pollution
The walk takes a turn for the strange now.  Having walked through some real wilderness - the walk author, Nigel Williams - takes us back through the seemingly endless high rise estate of Roehampton.  Nothing but tower blocks.  And me, in gaiters, waterproof everything and a dainty little goretex mountain cap, cutting a curious figure for the locals.

There is no logical reason for this stretch, other than for the author to recount a tale of how he saw his own volvo being driven by a thief in this area.

Most interesting thing in Roehampton
To make up for the tower blocks, I am rewarded with another muddy blast across Putney Heath.  Caching gets interrupted by a man on a horse - who just nips into the bushes at GZ and waits.  For a long time.  Not sure what the definition for cottaging on horseback is, but rest assured, there will be one.

Second deluge of the day comes, so I hide in a bus shelter at the top Tibbet's Ride.  Who is Tibbet you ask - a local highwayman, I can inform.  The book has a lot of information. 

A bus comes, emblazoned with "Warren Street".  This would have done me, getting me back to Euston, but after a 10 miler, I have beer in mind.  And my second guide book of the day, fancyapint, has some recommendations.

First, I have to walk back down Putney High Street, taking a diversion through suburbia.  The clouds go again and I am rewarded with a superb rainbow.

Spooky Rainbow
In front of some spooky trees
An interesting meander through the streets and I am delivered to where I want to be.

Bricklayers Arms
Just look at those accolades
My book suggests this is a little piece of Yorkshire in SW15, containing the full range of that my favourite brewer and best friend - Timothy Taylor - has to offer.  A nice central bar area is adorned with TT beer mats and bar towels. 

"What would like?", offers the friendly landlord and I ask for a pint of Landlord.

"We don't have it" was not the answer I was expecting.

I borrow the wi-fi password to tell the world.

Bricklayer's Arms
Not Landlord but nicely monogrammed
All pleasant enough though but I cannot spend all day here.  I need to get back to the trains.  I need to find the final piece of a multi cache near Victoria Station that I worked out a month ago.

Putney Bridge
But First - A different perspective of Putney Bridge
Stage 4 of the London Loop put back a few weeks.  I will finish this and order the tickets.  Let's hope our storm factory has finally blown itself out.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

09/02/14 - Contrasting Farmer Attitudes

Distance - 6.17 Miles
Geocaches - 8
Walk Inspiration

In hindsight, it was an ambitious plan to go walking today.

The weather was checked and gales were as promising as we could expect.  Rain not forecast until midday - co-incidently, when the pub opens.  I can squeeze in February's blast along the Millennium Way.

The promise of a pub lunch even convinces Mrs Mappiman to come along.  Spirits are high when we park up at the Old Bull in Inkberrow and see that they have a two course Sunday lunch for £9.95.

Of course, what I haven't taken fully into account is the effect that a month of storms has had on the ground.  This was a mud-bath.  A horrible, up to your knees slop around flooded fields of Worcestershire, under battleship gray skies.  And to make matters worse, when you hit an exposed bit, the gales tried to put you face first into the goo.

Where is the joy in this you ask?  All I can say is the Pub, which we will come to.

Gaitered and Goretexed, we slop out way out of Inkberrow.  A muddy (I promise not to use this word again) slop across the football pitches towards an elevated section with good views over Worcestershire.

Water, Water, Everywhere
One of the many big puddles
Sonia notices that the route takes us down the hill, only to walk back up the same hill in the next field.  Stop moaning, if you want lunch, is all I can think to say.

We find the first cache of the day.  It is hidden in a tree but the farmer has built a new fences all around the said item.  We expected that the cache would have been binned, but no, the farmer has left it next to said tree, so that you can lean over to recover and sign.

Friendly Farmer saved the cache
Tree, cache and new fence
A short stretch on towards Holt Farm and we find the second cache of the day and then meet the lady who owns the farm.

I am working out how to get across the field.  The first tentative step had me disappear up to my knees.  I try a little further down when she pipes up "The right of way is that way".  I reply that "I know, I am just trying to find a way that avoids trench foot".

She replies with "Well, you have to expect this on farmland".

Check out the photos, lady farmer.  I am head to toe in goretex and so is my wife.  We have maps.  We have Sat Navs.  We have a dainty little hiking rucksack with a water bottle.  Do we look like amateurs?

We go on our way, in the correct direction, through the worst of the conditions.  And she just stands there and watches - making sure that we don't deviate from the right of way.  I spot this lack of trust and give her a cheery wave.  She heads off to the farmhouse to rouse her big handed sons.

I nearly lost my faith with country folk, but it will be restored.

Not going to bore you anymore with the conditions but we nearly weeped with joy when we hit the tarmac of The Bouts.

Tarmac never looked so good
On a day like this, give me a road please.
The route takes us into the farmland of the Bouts Farm.  The path has recently been diverted.  After a cheerful hello, the farmer here spends a couple of minutes explaining this and pointing us in the correct direction.

Now that is more like it.

Skirt Mearse Farm.  The wind picks up and adds a little rain to complete the misery.  I look at the map and I can save a 2 mile loop from the suggested route and add it to Stage 10.  I suggest this to Sonia.  She answered a bit sharpish, so I asked if she needs more time to consider her reply.

We head back to the pub. 

It was possibly the best decision I have ever made.

A long miserable stretch between Knowl Fields Barn Farm and Lench Farm has us sticking to the lanes for the return to Inkberrrow.

For god's sake, take me to the pub.
Slow Down, the table isn't booked until 1pm
A last couple of caches, including getting the Church Multi, where I collected the co-ords on Stage 8 and we are back to the pub.

Change of Clothes Required
We have even brought a change of clothes
During the walk, if you had asked me to describe my dream pub, it would not have been far from what the Old Bull actually offered.  Its also really rather famous, as the inspiration for the pub in Radio 4's soap, the Archers.

On walking through the door, we are presented with a choice of two roaring open fires.  We are 75 minutes early but the landlady greets us and seats us and we are presented with the menu.  Drinks are delivered to the table whilst we peruse.  The food is all home cooked with what you would expect and a couple of options that you wouldn't.

Do you know what Clootie Dumpling is?  I do now and let me tell you... fruit cake with ice-cream and a drizzle of Whisky is the future.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

08/02/14 - Penultimate

Distance - 8 Miles
Geocaches - 8
Start - Solihull Train Station
Finish - Earlswood Train Station

The Brummie Ring


The adventure nearly draws to a close.  I have one leg to go.  Sonia is coming with me on that for the celebration slap up dinner in Alvechurch.  Before that, I have got to devise and deliver a leg from Solihull.

Initially, I was going to have this leg end at "The Lakes" station.  However, in the 21st Century, this is a request stop.  I have no idea how this works.  If you are on the train, do you pull the emergency cord to make it stop?  Ding a bell?  If you want to get on it, do you have to lie down on the tracks and hope the driver sees you?

I have enough trouble getting on a bus, so I decide to make the end of the walk at Earlswood Station.  They only go every hour, but at least there is no boarding complexity.

Spend most of the week checking the weather.  Looks like I will miss the rain and just have gales to deal with.  I can cope with that.  Train from Kidderminster to Solihull and alight to get the nearby sidetracked cache.  I did not have time to do this at the end of the last leg, as I was rushing for the train.

Someone has dumped their stash of cassettes in the undergrowth at GZ.  You have to despair of humanity.  Daniel O' Donnell, for god's sake.  No wonder he didn't want to throw them in his own bin.  Garbage men talk.

Cache GZ
Unbelievable - why use a bin, when the woods will do?
After a good rook for tunage, I get into the walk proper.  Skirt the edges of Solihull, going past the Holiday Inn, Courts, Cop Shop and then pick up the now defunct Solihull Way.

Solihull Way
A Dead LDP
This provides nice walking, as I go along alleys and green lanes.  2nd cache of the day is a cheekily hidden and not aided by the number of dog walkers around.  3rd takes me by surprise at its size.

First bit of greenery today is Hillfield Park.  A nice expanse of football pitches, play areas (with zip wire) and a lake.

Hillfield Park Pool
Hillfield Lake
The 4th cache is meant to be huge, but I get my first DNF.  I am sure it is around, just couldn't find it.  Arrive at the Shirley's outskirts and nip down a footpath into proper countryside.  With cows.  And Sheep.

I am in Hall Green
Shirley - so good, Billy Bragg wrote a song about it.
This brings me to the village of Cheswick Green.  It has some history, first recorded in 1250 as Chesewic, which means Cheese Farm.  It all looked rather disappointingly 1970's to me, although it did have a cache and a new build pub called the Saxon.

There is some road walking next, but its all very pleasant with a proper footpath and limited traffic.  At last, I get a cache with a TB.  This is the first of the year.  I must have been looking in the wrong places.

The highlight of the walk is easily Earlswood Lakes.  On the OS Map, they look exactly like a pair of jeans.  They are even denim blue.  I get to walk alongside and then through the middle of them, meeting Clowes Wood at the tip of the right hand leg.

I look at the time on my GPS and realise that I can make the 11:54, if I get a wriggle on.  The trains only come once an hour, so it is reasonably important.  Especially as there is no pub at the station.

I go as fast as my legs will carry me but I am challenged by ill defined paths and plenty of flooding.  Eventually, I get my bearings which are alongside the track, but I still cannot make rapid progress because of the mud and floods. 

With just another couple of minutes rapid walking to the station, along comes Mr Train.  Punctual as ever.  I resign myself to missing in it and take solace in a cache that I was going to do on the next leg.

Get to the station at 11:58.  What to do?  No pub but there is a garden centre.  I may be thirsty, but I am not mental, so I decide to go and look for another cache.  Think about walking to Wythall, the next station up, but the rain starts.  Get the cache, and return to the station for a half hour wait.

Missed the Train by 2mins
30 minutes is a long time in the Earlswood Tundra.
I do get company at 12:52.  But it is the local nutter.  The blog is not the right place to record the conversation but it continued on the train.  I thought I had lost him,  but he came and found me and proceeded to ask me several more questions about car maintenance, bus services and the depth of flood water in the Worcestershire, Berskshire and Surrey areas.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

01/02/14 - Since Records Began

Distance - 5.1 Miles
Geocaches - 21 Found, 1 DNF

Kemberton Geocaching at EveryTrail

Us Brits love keeping our pointless records.  Case in point, its officially been the "Wettest January since Records Began".  There is plenty of evidence of this on my drive along the Severn this morning.

January was also the worst month for caching since my records began when I got a premium membership in 2009.  I managed a paltry 24 all month.

I can't even blame the rain.  I got out for plenty of walks but the routes (The Brummine Ring, The London Loop and the Millennium Way) have been pre-ordained and contained limited treasure. 

With the calendar clicking over to a new month, this lack of smileys needed to be addressed.

This is what I have missed
I have missed fun treasure

I had a good look at where to go.  The abysmal January weather also clicks over and rain is predicted at 11am.  Initially, I considered a trail in the Cotswolds but there are a couple that are missing and I would not have completed by the time of rain.  Then I looked north and realised I could finish off a trail that I started in August 2012.

At least this time, I know where to park.

There are few people out at 8:30am and I get my first find with no difficulty.  I am pleased to report that the conditions are much better than expected, or have any right to be.  In fact, the only problem underfoot is a frost and some icy patches.

Not as muddy as expected
Not as muddy underfoot as expected
First six are found with no dramas.  Apart from the fact that I think I am being tailed by muggle dog walkers.  However, they mysteriously disappear, so I have the countryside to myself.

The highlight of the walking is down by Wesley Brook.  Hidden paths and strange water systems that eventually lead to weirs and pools.  This part of Shropshire is famous for these mysterious former industries.

Wesley Brook
Wesley Brook - at its most undramatic

In the Woods
Made up for with a suitably dramatic photo of Mappiman looking heroic
The third of six down this stretch results in my only DNF of the day.  I don't mind this, shows that I am not cheating.

At Kemberton Mill, I retrace my steps along a path that has turned into a stream.  Gaiters do their job and I emerge with dry feet.

Across fields and along lanes, I bag another 7.  At the Grove, I check the time and look at the skies.

10:45 and no rain
10:45 and no sign of the rain
I am arriving back at the village but there are three left along another lane.  I could attempt them as drive-bys but decide to walk out and back to complete the caching.

Get back to the Village Hall and it starts to rain.

Starts 10 minutes after predicted
Only 10 minutes after predicted
That's this area more or less done for me.  I have left a few unfound.  Thanks to Younggunz:-) & nozi parkerz  for the caches.  I had forgotten that socks can make suitable camo :-)