Messing about on the river
On Sunday 7th November I got another year older! 😦 However it meant that as it was my birthday I got to pick something to do to celebrate. Me being me, I obviously hadn’t worked out that on your birthday you’re meant to relax and put your feet up so that you can be spoilt rotten and nstead, caching was the order of the day! I had had my eye on a special set of caches for months and my birthday seemed to be the perfect excuse to stay up in Lincoln for a few days to complete the TOTRB (Tales of the Riverbank) trail there. So after the fireworks had finished in Peterborough we headed up to Lincoln and stayed up there for the Sunday and Monday to do the trail which was linear long the river and totalled about 60 miles (30 there, 30 back). This trail was so special because all of the caches are letterboxe hybrids. With letterboxes you don’t just sign the logbook, instead you stamp the logbook or doodle in it. The boxes also contain a stamp that you can put in your own personal book. They are on the whole just more a lot more creative. I loved that idea and designed my own stamp and sent it off for creation. So armed with our stamp and or bikes we headed off down the river…
TOTRB Series 1 – 3
We didn’t really know what to expect from the trail. In the cache description we had been told to print out a little grid which was labelled with numbers and letters. We found the first cache and opened it up to find a homemade stamp. We stamped it in square A1 and placed the cache back. I then read the description for the next cache in the series and realised I was meant to stamp it in certain squares a certain amount of times. Ah! I retrieved the cache again and read the front of the logbook. We knew what to do now! The majority of the caches were easy finds, which after last weekend’s DNF-littered trip down the river was very welcome! The boxes were all of a reasonable size meaning we didn’t have to dig down too often to retrieve the treasure. Despite the odd blob of rain it was also a really lovely day weather-wise. The sun was shining, and I was smiling. I remember thinking to myself “THIS is what caching is all about!”
There were some lovely, random sculptures along the river path. The first things that really caught our eyes were the metal cows made from scraps. We stopped to admire how brilliant they were. Little did I know that later on I would be sticking my hand up their arse in the dark to retrieve a cache… To be continued…
There was also a little wooden “snake” near the cows that we stopped to find a cache on.
Along the trail are puzzle caches that you have to solve at home before finding. These were all at the large bridges that crossed the river. I had solved them all with not too much effort so we were able to incorporate these into our trip.
Before heading off to get the first bridge puzzle we bumped into another Little Quest hide. This was really strange as it was our second ever LQ after only finding our first the day before! It was hidden in a pretty good spot, but it didn’t fool me and I managed to go straight to it although I had to duck all the way down. When I emerged out of the other end I found a plastic duck that someone had dumped. I thought it’d make a good cache container, however didn’t really want to lug it around with us all day.
After grabbing the bridge puzzle cache we carried along the lovely cycle path past some more interesting features. From a distance it looked like a random arch over the path, however when we got closer we noticed that it was corn. We stopped to take a photo and realised that we were at GZ for our next cache. What luck!
It wasn’t long before a marker informed us that Lincoln was 7 miles away. We felt quite pleased with ourselves and after completing both series 1 and 2 we sat down near a fish for a bite to eat.
We continued along to series 3 after happily finding yet another bridge puzzle. This meant joining the road for a little bit as we passed through Bardney. Luckily it was easy to navigate through as the cycle route was well marked. I however didn’t take much notice to the cycle route sign that said “Summer route” and merrily followed it. It was clear that we were taking the “back roads” to the caches as the path was full of pot holes. We merrily weaved in and out. Then we got to certainly the muddiest paths we had biked through. Big holes, deep puddles, mushy ground and thick tyre marks made for quite an uncomfortable ride to the first couple of caches. We made it through alive and realised why it was labelled the Summer Route! Our focus was then on getting the rest of the series done with enough time before it got dark to get back across the muddy path.
Thankfully only a short leg of series 3 was through muddy field paths. We were on the lovely cycle path soon and back on track.
Near the end of series 3 we bumped into some more metallic animals. This time they were sheep. We stopped to take a photograph and again realised that we were at GZ! More luck! Our luck however ran out at this point as we were unable to find the cache. A good 15 minutes of searching revealed nothing, but it was the first DNF of the day so morale was still very high.
We completed series 3 and decided that it was a good time to call it a day. It was about 4pm which gave us about an hour get get past the fields before it was too dark. We cycled as fast as our legs could carry us and managed to get through the mud, past the road and back onto the cycle path that led us straight back to the car. It did, however get really quite dark. There was myst coming off of the river to the left of us and the lovely statues along the river turned into scary monsters! To make things worse our brand new bike lights with brand new batteries lasted all of 15 minutes before completely dying!!! We couldn’t believe it. However, I was well prepared and put my headtorch on. We also had another torch which we could hold for light. There was one final, dark stop off before the car however. Remember those metal cows? Well after we’d done a multi a little further up the track we now knew where the final was. It took a lot of searching and turned out that the reason we couldn’t find it was because it wasn’t where it was supposed to be, it was instead on the ground. Luckily I managed to find it by shining my headtorch on it. Phew! There was definitely an advantage of searching for this cache in the dark, because at high muggle times I should imagine one or two people would wonder why I had my hand up a metal cow’s arse! HAHA! What fun!
We finally arrived back at the car at around 6:20pm, just enough time to celebrate my birthday in the way that a normal person would! After biking 30 miles today I definitely deserved the slap-up meal and celebrations that followed in the evening. The relaxation, however, was short lived as we were by this time only half way through the trail…
TOTRB Series 4 – 6
The following day was miserable. The weather wizard knew that my birthday was over and took his sunshine back and replaced it with rain clouds. 😦 I wanted to complete the TOTRB trail though and we carried on! Not only was it rainy, grey and miserable, it was also pretty damn cold. So I layered up, covered myself in waterproofs, put on my hat, scarf, and gloves and ended up looking like the dwarf version of the Michellan Man!!! The show must go on…
We stopped off first to grab the next bridge puzzle that I’d solved. It was near some rather unfriendly sheep that we hadn’t noticed until after signing the cache when mummy sheep ran over to the fence and had a right go at me, teeth and all! We then realised why when her cute little one followed behind and came to the fence. We watched the sheep for a bit, but decided to call it a day when mummy sheep started climbing up the fence to try and get at me! Yowza! Can’t say I’ve ever encountered aggresive sheep before.
Thankfully series 4 to 5 were along a part of the cycle path that was also a quiet road. This drive-by section suited us just fine as the weather still wasn’t playing ball. The caches along this stretch were also really spaced with the longest distance from one to another being 3 miles. Series 4 was quite a disappointment as it seemed that most of the caches were gone. Lots of them were in very obvious positions and our DNFs followed a string of DNF’s. We were glad that we were driving this part as we would have been quite disappointed if we had biked all of those miles. The focus of our attention today was a VERY important cache. It was “The Otter”. This cache was a 4 difficulty/4 terrain rating that we needed. To get to it however, it involved finding 2 bridge puzzles, a cache from series 4, a cache from series 5 and all caches in series 6 (So that you could get the number for it from the series 6 finale cache) A tall order, but we were focused!
We found the next bridge puzzle and our Otter coordinates were eventually taking shape. We managed to find nearly all of the caches in series 5 and things were looking up. It was then on to our last bridge puzzle, Lanrick Bridge. For this one you had to follow photos to the final location. It was pretty easy as we drove past the final photo on the way to find a safe parking spot. We left the bikes and walked to it, to the exact location. Despite finding lots of rubbish there was no cache and looked like it had been muggled as there weren’t many places that it could be. I was hoping this wouldn’t spoil our chances with The Otter, but as there were coordinates in the previous 2 bridge puzzles it was likely that there were coordinates in it 😦
We headed back to the car and grabbed our bikes to start series 6. We had more good sized caches which we had to stamp onto our grid again so that we could work out the coordinates for the finale.
There were more random scultpures along the side of the river including the nice hand carving below and a random construction of steps that lead to nowhere (Apart from perhaps a nice view of the river!)
The rain hammered down as we sat and worked out our coordinates for the finale. It showed to be back at the start of the trail so we hopped on our bikes and pedalled frantically back. The coordinates pointed to an area full of ivy covered trees and rotten logs. The cache could have been absolutely anywhere. 5 minutes later and we still hadn’t found it. I read through some logs and it seemed that we weren’t the only ones who were confused. To work out the final you had to count the number of stamps that you had. The instructions in each log book told you how many times to stamp something on your grid, however some stamps had more than 1 picture on them. In one of the logs someone mentioned trees. We split up and went to the clump of multitrunked trees either side of the ivy/log area. I was the lucky one and spotted the stick-o-flague. It was the cache! I was delighted! We opened up the logbook which confirmed our fears. We got an otter coordinate, but we were still one number away from knowing where it was and to make it worse it was the second number in the westings, the really important one. I read a few of the Otter logs and others had mentioned being one or two numbers short. They said that they plotted some likely coordinates and as it showed that the cache wasn’t far away they went and had a look. That sounded like a good plan and I did the same. Sure enough one likely spot was a quarter of a mile away. We packed the bikes back into the car and took a chance on it. We waded through a muddy footpath and got very excited as the coordinates pointed to a tree. I tried not to get my hopes up, but spotted some stick-o-flage… could it be??? It was! It was the Otter cache. I was so pleased! 🙂
We headed back to the car over Lanrick Bridge and took a quick peek for the final time at the grey, miserable landscape.
It had been a lovely trip away for caching and we’d managed to find 3 of our missing terrain/difficulty combinations, which I was really pleased about. Only 33 combinations to go!!! 😉
We also finished the trip on 1925 finds with the knowledge that the all important 2000 milestone is not all that far away…