Monday 2nd January
Our first caching day of 2012 was 2nd January. We have a selection of stickers that we place in logbooks when we find caches and I had designed a new selection for 2012 so I was very eager to go and put them in some logbooks!
We headed north east towards Mildenhall, for a series placed in the Forestry Commission owned Mildenhall Woods. There were 3 short series plus a night cache in there and the plan was to get the timings right so that we finished the 3rd series just as it got dark so that we could do the night cache…
On the way to the series we stopped off for 3 quick caches along the river. The sun was shining and as soon as we joined the river 2 swans came and swam past. They ignored us though. Although the first cache was just a little one contained in a glass spice jar, the second two caches were in very decent sized containers and I was very pleased that I could use my new stickers to sign the logbook (It’s the little things in life…)
It was then straight on to Mildenhall where we started with the Warren Lodge series. We didn’t expect anything too special from it, but it was actually a brilliant choice of series to start the new year with as the series was placed along an “official” 2 mile circular trail with well maintained paths, many plaques with information, and the ruins of Warren Lodge. The sun was shining and the sky very blue, so the scenery of the wood looked very pleasant for our trip around.
On our way to the 2nd cache and the lodge we passed by a pit with a sign which told us that the pit was home to a rare British plant, the Breckland Mugwort (or “Artemisia Campestris”). We had a snoop inside, but couldn’t see any!
All of a sudden I got a glipse of a stone building in the distance, and I was very excited! I skipped off to have a look in a big well that was outside the lodge, and then in the lodge, leaving poor Andy looking for the cache!!! We read on a plaque outside the lodge that inside the Warreners used to hang the carcasses of rabbits that they caught in the woods ready for transporting to London. The inside of the lodge had been preserved (or perhaps made to look like it had been preserved) with a bed frame and stove. There were bars up just in the entrance so that you couldn’t venture too far in.
We continued our little journey through the woods. It was quite a busy muggle location, but luckily we were able to grab all of the caches without too many problems.
There were some interesting mushrooms growing around the woods, including one that looked very much like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors (My favourite film ever!) I found out later that these were “Puffball” mushrooms which have a hole in the top of the cap which is called an ostiole. Spores are released from the hole when the puffball ruptures.
Nearer the end of the series we learned that the Forestry Commission bought the woods in 1934 and that up until the 1950’s they employed 30 Warreners to help keep the rabbit population down to try and prevent rabbits from eating the young shoots and seedlings of trees. That was until myxomatosis decimated the rabbit population.
The Warren Lodge series was our favourite in the Mildenhall Woods and also had some custom caches thrown in. After this one we did the Rambler’s Delight series which was a linear route for 4 caches. The ground in this area of the woods all seemed very mossy, unlike the previous section we had been exploring and it had a very different character to it with the paths being unmaintained and taking us ducking and diving through the trees. The highlight of this series was definitely the 3rd cache, which was a nice ammo box, complete with an army-style bag around it.
Our final series, WoodPecker Trail was the largest of all and in the woodland where our final destination (the nightcache) was. This series was very close to Mildenhall airbase and we saw a couple of planes fly right over us. They seemed dangerously close! As soon as we started the series we realised that it wouldn’t be your standard cache series, as we found a great custom cache at the beginning. The custom caches followed thick and fast and it was very enjoyable (but sometimes frustrating, as some were quite tricky) finding them. We were very impressed when we came across a Kid’s playground in the middle of the woods where we saw some great wood carvings. It was quite cloudy by this time and some of them looked quite dark and spooky! There was a climbing wall and loads of fun aparatus in the play area. I know if I would have loved to play there when I was younger.
By the time we reached cache #11 it was pitch black and we had our little head torches on. I’ll be the first to admit that we are AWFUL at finding caches in the dark. #11 had to be a DNF. We continued on to #12 which promised to be a Regular ammo can. You can’t DNF one of those even in the dark… can you? Well, yes! However it turned out that the CO had been and visited earlier on in the day and removed the cache to take home for maintenance. We didn’t feel too bad about that DNF, however until we got to #13 and had to DNF that! Oh dear…
So on to the nightcache, Demon Eyes. Surely no problems with that one because it’s meant to be found in the dark, right? Well, the idea was that you stood at the coords and shone your light into the trees to catch the white eyes. Once you’d found them, you walked to them and shone your light to find the red eyes. Once you found them and walked to them you shone your light to find eyes where one was white and one was red and then would find the cache. That was the theory, anyway. In reality, we spent 15 minutes shining light into the trees until I shouted “I can see them, I can see them” only for the bliking eyes to run away!!! 5 minutes later and I squealed another “I can see them” [wait for eyes to run… no they’re still there…must be them] “I can see them, it’s definitely…” And they ran away!!! We tried to skip the white eyes and just find red eyes, but we had no luck and concluded that we needed brighter torches. I emailed the CO who went to investigate the cache and said that someone/something had been messing with the reflectors (squirrels?). The cache is back up and running now so we will go and try again armed with a brighter torch and to clear up our other DNF’s.
Even though we ended our first caching day of the new year with 4 DNFs it didn’t spoil the rest of the day as we’d had such fun exploring the woods in the daylight.
Saturday 7th January
On the Saturday we headed down towards Crawley, Sussex to try a couple of Geocaching series with mel-ray. We started with a rather interesting series, NCiS. The cache descriptions told us we needed to take some tools with us:
Telescopic magnetic retriever
We had most of this in our caching bag anyway so headed off all prepared. None of the caches had hints on them so we were prepared for a slightly more tricky series. The first cache was found after a few moments, however we then got blocked in by two inquisitive horses! They wanted fuss and weren’t prepared to move until they had got it. Eventually they got startled and galloped off, but decided to follow us to the stile and watch us.
There was one cache after this that required us to use our tools, however that was all so it was a little bit disappointing as we had hoped for something a bit more like Devil’s Dyke. We carried on the series and picked up Church Micro 44…Burstow en route.
Another additional cache on the series was X Marks the Spot XII: Pioneer and Designator which required us to get clues from inside a church. We were quite surprised at the place we found the final cache as it was within a few hundred feet of another, but even though the proximity was questionable the cache was there and it was a big one too!
At cache #11 we were greeted by some very friendly doggies. They ran up to the fence and barked at us, but at the same time tried to get over the fence for fuss. They followed us up the side of the fence and one jumped on some rolled up wire fencing and started bouncing to try and get over to get stroked!!!
We continued along the series and were able to find all apart from #19 which was rated a difficulty 5 and had a string of DNFs. We gave it a respectible amount of time, but decided to head off to the next series…
We headed off to the Crawley Down Crawl, a series of 24 caches over 6.5 miles by Flatcoatwalker. There were some really nice features on this series which we didn’t realise we would be seeing. The first was a gushing weir between caches #5 and #6. We thought at first that we were the only ones on the bridge, but when we looked down by the stream we saw a girl in a camoflagued hide with a camera who must have been taking photos of the birds. The weir was amazing and we spent a while admiring it from the bridge.
There were some nice woodland sections along the series and some interesting mushrooms growing around them.
Our absolute favourite cache along the series was #17. We were all walking down a hill and Ray rushed ahead to a tree and put his head in the tree hole to grab the cache, however the rest of Ray disappeared as well like the tree had swallowed him! It was definitely the most awesome tree to hide a cache that we had ever found and after Ray had been in and brought the cache out I volunteered to go back in and hide it. It was great fun!
There was some really nice scenery on the walk and on a couple of occasions we could see the downs in the distance.
The final highlight of this lovely little walk was Mill Micro 2. It was placed by a lovely water mill which had been converted into a house and was surrounded by massive fishing lakes. It was very picturesque.
We were really glad that we chose to do this series in the end. There were so many in the area that we could have chosen, but this was an amazing choice due to the scenery along the way and the tree hide was a firm favourite.
We finished off by grabbing a few cache and dashes as the light faded and grabbed what I think must be my most favourite Church Micro ever, Church Micro 1840… New Chapel. This CM has the “Recommended at night” attribute selected, and I couldn’t agree more. The church looked truely magnificent all illuminated.
Sunday 8th January
On the Sunday we stayed close to home and did the “Return Of Sophie’s Rainbow” series. The original series placed nearby was one of the very first series that we ever attempted. We were real caching newbies and used my iPhone to find the caches. We weren’t very well equipped and didn’t take a pen so signed the caches that didn’t have one in with a stick dipped in mud! There was also a bonus on the series and we jotted down the numbers and letters, but had no idea what to do with them at the end and were puzzled as to why there was no cache where the ? on the map was! We had to work it out at home and then return another day. More experienced, this time we returned with a proper GPS, a pen/stickers, and the knowledge of what to do when you have bonus numbers!
We started the series by parking up by the church and bagging Church Micro 1773 – Brent Pelham which was at the parking location.
The GPS was being very stubborn and wouldn’t budge so we had to guess where the paths were. We guessed right and came out by a sty with two pigs. The started oinking when they saw us and one was particularly interested in Teddy and there was a bit of a confrontation where the pig and Teddy just stared at each other.
The caches were all small or regular containers and mostly easy to find, but in nice hiding places.
There were also some very nice views on the series.
Along the series was another cache which had been hidden in 2006, but we hadn’t retrieved it due to having issues finding a parking spot to get to it. We hadn’t returned until today when we walked straight past it. It was The Meeting Place, hidden in 2006. It was placed where there was a footpath sign with 9 arrows on it showing all of the different paths. It was a nice sized container and great to see the original logbook with the CO’s welcome message in it.
There was a soft snowman ball in the cache and we swapped so that Teddy could have something from the cache. He proudly carried his new toy along the path for a few caches before getting distracted by the smell of rabbits and dropped it for us to pick up and take home!
We completed the series without a problem and even managed to get the bonus on the same day! 😉 It was a really lovely Sunday stroll and Teddy really enjoyed himself and got covered in mud! On the way home we passed by a footpath sign with an owl sitting on top. It was quite unexpected to see one out in the daylight and the first time we had seen an owl out in the wild, so we were really glad that we came to the area on that day.
We’ve had a great couple of days Geocaching to start the new year and awarded quite a few favourite points. A very promising start to 2012! 🙂