Sunday, 14 April 2013

Back to Belgium

Back to Belgium ( by Mark)

We were keen to do the Brugge Mega event as soon as we saw it published last year but as it got closer, due to other commitments, we realised it was going to have to be a flying visit and probably just me on my own.  I was also really keen to increase the number of cache types in France as we’d only found four different types.

There is only one Letterbox Hybrid within fairly easy reach of Calais and even that one is a 40 mile drive. OK, so I decided to do it. Now to identify an easy Multi and a Puzzle. No problem with a puzzle because there are quite a few Challenge caches in the area for which we already qualified. Next  a  Multi. A lot of Multis in the area have a lot of stages but I managed to identify two which were very short. One of them was in Calais and it was possible to solve it beforehand. I emailed the owner who very kindly confirmed that I had the correct final co-ordinates but unfortunately  it would not be accessible at half past one in the morning. Half past one?  Oh, didn’t I mention that?  I was planning to catch the Eurotunnel at 23:30 arriving in Calais at 01:15. Plan B for the Multi was La plaine au bois, a straightforward 'read a plaque and go to the final location'.  It was possible at 2am albeit a little creepy!

After finding the Multi I headed towards the start point for the Letterbox but this was to be a 3.5km walk so I decided to park in the middle of the little town of Herzeele and get some sleep for  a couple of hours and arrived at the start point at 06:00.  The instructions are in Dutch and French and although I put them through Google Translate, they still didn’t make much sense so I had contacted the cache owner explaining that my Dutch & French wasn’t very good so could they send me the final co-ordinates.  They sent me an English version of the text instead!  Oh well, it was worth a try.  Even this version didn’t seem to make much sense so I was a little apprehensive especially as the cache hadn’t been found for ten months.  In the end it was all very straight forward and had no problems at all.

The Puzzle I’d selected was no problem at all. I then realised that the route to Brugge took me within a few miles of Tyne Cot.  This is a virtual cache at the First World War cemetery which our daughter Pegz had actually done a few years ago while on a school trip.  She was not best pleased when I texted to tell her where I was as never misses an opportunity to tell us that she had found a cache that we hadn't.  Oh well she'll just have to go and find another then!

Now to head to Brugge and the Mega.

I’d made a list of caches I wanted to do in Brugge.  Mainly 7 Icons Challenge cache which you needed to find caches of seven different cache types and the cache itself all in one day.  I thought this was a really clever way of side-stepping the usual ‘previous finds must be allowed’ rule!

The list of caches consisted of the Multi, a Letterbox and Puzzle listed above plus I had  a ‘spare’ French Multi and Puzzle lined up just in case.  I’d decided on an EarthCache and Wherigo in the middle of Brugge so I decided to take my trusty mountain bike with me.  
Brugse Beer is in its third year and in this short space of time has grown to Mega status so has more in common with Piratmania back home than the other 'UK Mega Events' which were designed to be big from teh start.  Arrived at the Mega, and after chatting to some other cachers headed  into Brugge to do the cycle Wherigos and the EarthCache.  The Wherigos were hard work but made a very nice tour of the town. 

I then returned to the car, found the 7 icon Challenge cache and went to do a new Wherigo about 15 miles away.  This was a really pleasant walk in a lovely little village of Bekegem. Now back to a McDonalds for the short evening Event - that's definitely a first, never been to an event at a Maccys before. I  hadn’t planned to do any more caches but I spotted Het Gele Bussie  in the car park. This a moving cache in the shape of a VW campervan.

All too soon it was time to leave and head back to Calais.  I actually arrived at Calais just in time to catch the earlier crossing and was soon back in England arriving home at 00:30

Some numbers: 29 hours from home to home,  610 miles and 15 caches!
We have now found seven cache types in France and ten in Belgium!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

A Bike Ride Around Redditch

Redditch Ring

His 'n' Hers
A circular route around Redditch in Worcestershire consisting of 39 caches.  The whole route is bike friendly as it follows bus routes and cycle paths. 

As soon as we saw this series published a couple of weeks ago we thought it would be perfect to do on our bikes, so we pencilled it onto the calendar for this weekend as it finally looked like Spring was going to arrive!
Bartleet Fountain
The series takes you through Redditch Town Centre and if you stop off to do the Church Micro at St Stephen's Church you will see The Bartleet fountain which is an interesting piece of history as it was presented to the town in 1883 by Mr Bartleet, a prominent figure in the local needle and fishing tackle industry, to commemorate the town's new fresh water supply.  It's made of cast iron by the Coalbrookdale company in Shropshire.  It was extensively restored in 2003 by a specialist company using historical records.  The team made  carvings and castings in order to reproduce damaged or missing components and to reinstate original details which had been lost through corrosion.

On the series you will pass some very decorative bus shelters and most of them are part of a Bus Art cache series.
Bus Art
We met the Hardy Clan on the way round and also spotted StormyStorm's cachemobile so think Butttercup and Stormy must've been out on the series somewhere.

Is that a cachemobile?
If you stick to the series it's 8.5 miles but we took in a few detours along the way for additional caches so we made it nearer to 12 miles.

All the caches were fairly straightforward to find with good hints where necessary.

An enjoyable bike ride on a beautiful Spring day.

Redditch Ring

Monday, 1 April 2013

An Easter Break in West Sussex

Happy Easter

Back in January we were planning our time off work for the year and decided it was about time for another trip to West Sussex as it's been a couple of years since our last visit.  So we checked out the prices for Travelodge and decided to book a stay in Horsham for Easter from Weds-Sun.  We'd enjoyed our stay there before as the rooms are large and modern, the location is central to the places we want to visit and not as expensive as the coastal Travelodges.  Also there's free overnight parking only a short walk away (as long as you are out before 8am).

All the plans were in place and Easter was getting closer but then our daughter came down with shingles a few days before and our yellow lab Whisper got an eye ulcer and was having to have medication 3 times a day - so it started to not look very hopeful for our trip to go ahead and we decided maybe it was best to cancel.  After a few days our daughter was starting to feel much better and right up to Wednesday tea-time we were unsure whether to go ahead but our son was at home and he insisted we go promising to ring us straight away if we needed to come home and that he'd medicate Whisper and sister as required (hmm in a bit of a hurry to get rid of us, very suspicious!)  So after tea on Wednesday night we headed down to Horsham, arriving at our room around 11pm.
What are those strange yellow symbols for?

The forecast for Easter was for freezing cold temperatures but dry and some sunny spells.  Well it certainly was cold, up on the more exposed areas on the South Downs the wind was bitterly cold but the sun did put in an appearance a couple of times and we were treated to a couple of very nice sun rises and sunsets.
Sunset on Shoreham Beach
During our 4 day break we found many great caches and passed our 13,000th milestone!

13,000th Cache!
Here are the main series that we did:-

Wiston Wobble -

A series of 68 caches on approx 12 mile walk.  A really enjoyable walk, all caches were easy to find with good hints, the only downside of the series was a short section did involve walking along a very busy road but luckily this was only for part of the series and on the whole it was set on good paths and only quiet roads.

Sullington Heights -

A circular walk of just over 3 miles with 18 caches plus a bonus.  Quite a steep climb up to the top of Sullington Hill and then back down again.  Fab views to be had from the top, we can imagine they'd be even better on a clear day.

Findon Sheep Fair -

A 40 cache (plus a few others) circular walk of approx 10 miles which includes the Winsome Church Hill Series.  Another great walk on good paths, some road walking but all were quiet roads.  All caches were really straightforward with good hints.

Winsome Church Hill -

We did this one with the Findon Sheep Fair series so we did it as part of a 10 mile walk.

13 caches plus a couple of others.  On our way round the walk we met a man that was looking for his dog, he looked quite upset, we're not sure how long he'd been searching but he looked exhausted.  We kept our eye out on the rest of the walk for the brown spaniel but didn't see it.  A while later we'd repositioned the car a couple of miles away to do the series in Clapham Woods and when we returned to the car a woman called over to us asking if we'd lost our dog, she was holding a brown spaniel on a lead - she was waiting for someone to come and collect it as she'd found it!! We were so pleased to hear the dog had been found as it had been playing on my mind after we'd met the man - I know only too well that feeling when your dogs run off and you can't find it anywhere!  Not nice!  .... Anyway, we really enjoyed the walk, all on good paths with caches easy to find.

Clapham Woods -

18 caches plus a couple of others on a circular walk of approx. 3 miles. A pleasant walk, all caches were easy to find apart from #1 which seems to be missing and all paths were good and well marked.

Crazy Crossings around Crossbush -

We realised we'd found 84 caches today so another 16 would make a nice round 100 before tea.  Spotted this series of 16 and thought it looked ideal.  It was a bit further than we'd estimated by looking at memory map, we made it to be 4.3 miles but all caches were easy to find.  An enjoyable walk in the evening sunshine

This blue sky has not been photo-shopped!

D2D -

A series of 48 caches plus others on the way - set on a 10 mile circular walk.
The cache is there somewhere!

This one was probably our favourite of the trip, mainly for the views and places of interest along the way.  Although as we set off across the South Downs in the bleak cold wind we wondered if we'd made the right decision.  All the caches were easy to find and the paths were all good.

Henfield Hike -

A 16 caches series set on approx 4 miles.  An enjoyable walk in lovely countryside which involved walking through a deer park.  Unfortunately the series isn't very well maintained and we didn't realise until we'd set off that quite a few of the caches had had DNFs and nearly all the log books were in need of replacing as they were soaking wet.  A funny story......
When we got back to the car I took off my gaiters and walking boots and got into the car to change out of my muddy trousers before heading off to find somewhere to eat for tea. Guess what?  About two miles down the road I realised that I had left my boots, socks and gaiters in the car park! Luckily, they were still there when we got back Well... it's easily done: it must be; it's not the first time this has happened.... Unfortunately it's not the second time either.............

Walliswood Wander -

This was our last walk of our break and weather-wise was probably the best day.  Finally it felt like Spring.  A very pleasant walk through pretty woodland.  All caches were easy to find with good hints, apart from a couple of tricky ones along the way but that just helped keep things interesting.  Don't be put off by the cows they were safely behind a fence.  All the paths were good and well marked.

The area really is fabulous for caching.  All the walks we did were on good paths, none of them involved trudging through cowfields and any livestock we did come across was suitably fenced in.  A few of the paths we walked on were designated bridleways so were a little hard-going in places but nothing too serious, the scenery and views in the area are just stunning!  There are many Church Micro caches and we managed to find 12, lots of great old churches to visit in the area.

Buncton Chapel
Our favourite of the Church Micros we did was All Saints Church at Buncton.  A delightful little chapel that was accessed only by foot via a winding wooded path up a hill to a secluded building.

The only way you knew it was there was by the small sign on the roadside.

Shoreham beach at dusk

On the Thurs and Fri evenings, after tea, we went down to Shoreham and Lancing to do some of the excellent seafront caches along the promenade.  Really enjoyable walks along the promenade but at one point we realised we'd walked 2 miles in one direction so had a 2 mile walk back to the car!

My only complaint is that the time went too fast and before we knew it we were heading back home.......... hmm, hope everything is still in one piece.

STOP PRESS:  Daughter well on the mend now and Whisper has been back to the vets this morning and the vet is very pleased with her progress.... and house all in one piece!

Whisper on the mend