Saturday was the day for a very special event, Goldhanger West Meet and Cache Trail Launch (West). This was an event in Essex organised by cachers schoolfrenz and The Kitty Cachers which preceded a new cache trail launch… with a twist…
The new Goldhanger West trail that was launched consisted of 23 caches over around 6 miles, plus 3 new multis in Chigborough Lakes Nature Reserve. This all added up to around 8 miles of walking. We all met at the pub at 9am for a bacon roll and cuppa to give us some energy and whilst we were there we had the chance to catch up with some old friends and new ones too. It was particularly nice for us to meet stones2005 at long last as they live very literally just down the road and if it hadn’t been for all of their caches in our area, then we wouldn’t have had many caches to find to get us started when we were newbies. It was also lovely to finally meet Jane and Simon of Silver Horde as they live in San Diego and Jane often comments on my blog. Brilliant to meet in person (And Hi Jane if you’re reading, hope you had a safe flight back) as there probably won’t be many more chances. Although you never know, we may be caching in San Diego one day and bump into them! 🙂
For the new trail it wasn’t like everyone could just go off and find the caches, it was more of a competition. Each cacher/cache team started at 2 minute intervals starting at 9:44am. The start time was in order of number of caches found, with cachers with the least finds starting first to give them more time. We were quite near the back and started at 10:32am. We also didn’t have coordinates, or hints. Instead we had little poems which would tell us where to go from the previous cache. We had 23 caches to find and 30 poems (some red herrings) and each were numbered from 1-30. When we found a cache it would have a number in it and we would then look at our poem list and match the number which would tell us where to go next. The poems were great and very creative, much better than standard hints! Here are some examples…
“Pretend you’re a young horse and do no wrongs.
Gallop the path for 1.1 furlongs.
Down the steps to a rusty pole.
Find the cache my little foal.”
“Follow the footpath, keet left at the ‘T’,
200 yards later you’ll see a big tree.
Another few yards and the start of a wall.
Look behind for a cache thin and tall”
“Follow footpath through the crop,
Then 500 yards at the next bridge, STOP!”
If we couldn’t follow the poems then we had a set of “Panic Envelopes” for each cache. This told us the precise coordinates, plus a hint. The panic envelopes were checked once we finished and if any had been opened then we would have a penalty added to our score. To keep track of our score we had scorecards. Once we found a cache we noted the time of finding, plus the number that was inside to prove that we did indeed find it.
We gathered around the starting point after first picking up some lovely cake that The Kitty Cachers had kindly baked to help us on our way around.
10:32am soon came around and it was our time to dash off from the starting point. I was perhaps a little bit too eager as I nearly got hit by a car rushing off from the start line, oops, all fine though and on with the race!
We got off to quite a good start finding the first few caches quite easily. Helennbrian left 2 minutes after us and they were hot on our heels with their two little ones in tow (or rather in front!!!) so we had to be quick with our signing and replacing. In one of the first few caches, however I found a “The Kitty Cachers” path tag. I was quite surprised that no-one had taken it, however I bet they never even noticed as they were frantically rushing ahead! 😉 We now have 3 path tags, a schoolfrenz one, a The Kitty Cachers one, and a Silver Horde one that Jane kindly passed on to me. I think they’re brilliant and am thinking of looking into getting some done for us.
It was on with the race. On the way to cache number 5 we noticed a group of cachers heading back our way in the distance. They must have gone wrong, and it was very tempting to go up the path that they were up, however we quickly grabbed the OS maps on the phone and it showed a footpath ahead. Doubting ourselves we carried along until it all looked very right and on we went. That was a good feeling and our first (And only!!!) thought of “Ooh, we might stand a chance of winning if some people went wrong”.
After cache 6 we headed to the Chigborough Nature Reserve where pretty much all of the cachers were. We had to go around finding 12 posts which each had numbers at the bottom. We could then work out the final coordinates for 3 caches in here. We were a little bit lucky after the 6th post, however as we noticed a group of cachers emerging from a tree. Either they had just been for a mass toilet break or there was something worth looking for. So we had a look on the off chance, and BINGO! So that was one less cache to find. At this point we met up with our good friends mel-ray who we stuck with for the rest of the trail. The next stop was back to the Goldhanger trail, and cache 7. This cache led to a fair bit of confusion, but eventually another cacher grabbed it and we joined the queue for signing.
The next cache was however where it went really wrong and us and nearly every single other cacher on the trail ended up stuck here. The poem told us:
“Follow field edge to gravel track,
Turn left by now you have the knack,
Walk 125 metres to the footpath sign,
The forked tree to the north will do just fine.
Your goal. Is in a bowl.”
It must have been the case of everyone mis-reading the poem and following the first person who took the path left on to the gravel track. Everyone wandered 125 meters up the track and then stood floating around hunting for the non-existant footpath sign!!! AndyK! came to our rescue and opened his panic envelope and eventually we were able to join back on the trail. After re-reading the poem it only says to follow the field edge to the gravel track and then turn left (i.e. around the field). It never told us to walk onto the gravel track!!! I think this was the cache where a few cachers were then able to get a good lead, and others fell behind a little. We stayed in the middle with a mini group that had formed. The trail then took us up along the sea with lovely views of the boats as we walked along the wall grabbing a few caches.
It all went quite well along this stretch and we formed a mini-group with mel-ray, a1nnie, vanguard3, gspleo, AndyK!, cookie-cook, stephia4, and landda which meant there were 11 of us in total. And then came the dreaded cache number 17. We were told that it was “a bit evil”. A BIT??? We searched for about 10 minutes where others obviously had done as well in grass around a rusty gate. Could we find the blasted thing? NO! (More on this one later) I took one for the team and volunteered to open the panic envelope. This envelope gave us the coordinates for the next so that we could move on.
At this cache we also saw the road to Osea Island. Not being from this area we didn’t really know what this was, but now we know that when the tide is out you can access the track road to it, and when the tide is in you can’t. There is a rehab centre on it where the celebrities go. I think someone mentioned that Amy Winehouse came to this one.
It went well again until we all hit cache number 20. The poem for this one was very precise and we knew we were exactly in the right place, but all 11 of us couldn’t spot it and after at least 10 minutes here someone else opened a panic envelope so we could head to the next cache.
Finally, we grabbed cache 23, and it was the end of the trail. AndyK! and I stood signing the final cache and then I noticed the others running off in the distance. Well! We couldn’t have that! I put my foot down and did a bit of a sprint to get to the finish line. We handed in our score cards, and remaining panic envelopes and our mission was complete.
We settled down at the pub for a nice cold drink and waited for others to return. After a little while the majority were all back and it was time for schoolfrenz and The Kitty Cachers to announce the results. A big congratulations to HollynCharlie who scooped up 1st prize, HelennBrian for 2nd prize, and mel-ray for 3rd prize. We finished 5th behind vanguard3/gspleo (I knew we should have made them open the panic envelope at #17 ;)) Our time at the end was 4 hours and 2 minutes which I was really pleased with. We asked schoolfrenz about that evil cache #17 and he gave us quite a precise hint on its location. We also found out that everyone else had no problems with cache #20.
Well, we couldn’t leave it at that and after resting our feet and having one more slice of Kitty’s lovely cake we pulled ourselves together and went back. It was about 0.6 miles to cache #20 which we spotted immediately as we approached it. It doesn’t make sense as to why our group of 11 people could find it. I can only guess that it must have been pushed into the ground and covered well as I searched that area for ages! Feeling pleased with ourselves we headed another half mile to cache #17 only to spot 2 other cachers having a go. It was Dixie lily1 who also fancied their chances finding it. So all 6 of us searched, and searched, and searched, and searched AND SEARCHED! And we found absolutely nothing. The only thing that makes this DNF better is that nobody could find it and there are currently 24 DNF’s on it. I also bet that when schoolfrenz goes to try and find it, as he says he will, he will have one hell of a job locating it!!! And after that, it was the end of our fun day of caching. All that’s left to say is that we can’t wait until the other half of the trail is published next year (Goldhanger East) and we will have another go. You really couldn’t beat the fun that everyone had doing it.
I would like to say the most memorable part of the day was the great company, or maybe the great sunshine, or maybe the wonderfully creative poems, or the deliciously scrummy cakes, or the amazingly well organised cache trail, but although I hate to admit it, the most memorable part was… CACHE NUMBER SEVENTEEN! Ahhh! We weren’t there that long… Were we? 😉