Monday, 31 December 2018

2018's caching in review

Hello!

This is my first post in twelve months... apologies for not keeping this blog up to date.

Another year is almost over, which means that it's time for me to look back at the best caches I've found, assess what I've achieved, and set some goals for the year ahead.

My Cache of the Year is Tibi Dabo Claves. I first came across this cache in January while using Project-GC's D/T Matrix tool. I skimmed through the cache page and was hooked. After working out the first part, I put it aside for a few months and returned to it in the summer. As things became clearer, I managed to work out the final two stages and obtain the coordinates. The journey to the cache was challenging, but very memorable. Once at GZ, the elusive cache was finally found! I felt a great sense of achievement! It's one of those caches I know I'll remember forever.

The competition was close this year, with The Ghost of The Corpus Clock taking second place. A brilliant and surprising method was used to provide the information required to calculate the coordinates. I have no idea how the CO managed to make this work. This is a VERY special cache, and I suggest you add it to your To Do list to understand what I'm talking about!

Runners up include More Christmas Crackers and Secret Santa. These were my only FTFs of the year. The first one was in a stunning location with fantastic views. The second was reached following a good walk, and was also in a nice spot. Both caches were filled to the brim - I won't spoil it by saying what was inside them.

I have also enjoyed several series' this year. These include: SFGrantchester Grind and the Little Compton extra loop. The latter was placed for our tenth CacheWalker Twixmas Bash, which was a great success - there were over 50 of us on the group walk!

I found my first caches in the Americas this year. I visited Colombia (South America) over the summer, and managed to find three (well, there aren't very many there...). The first was Santuario de Monserrate, placed in a special location overlooking the city of Bogotá. I was waiting for a new cache to be published there... I've now been FTF on at least one cache in three countries (UK, Spain, Italy) and a fourth would have been great! Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be...

There are lots of things I didn't manage to do which are on my list for next year. I'm keen to finally complete my D/T grid. I would also like to find my 3000th cache. With just 182 caches to go, it's certainly an achievable goal. Above all, I want to focus on finding quality caches. Finally, I promise that I'll make more of an effort to post on this blog!

So, I've thoroughly enjoyed geocaching in 2018. I've found some excellent caches, many of which have taken me to new places. Bring on 2019!

Happy New Year.

Griff Grof

Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017's caching in review

Hello!

Firstly, apologies for the lack of posts on my blog this year. I haven't been caching much, so there hasn't been much to write about!

However, I decided it was still worth writing my annual 'In Review' blog post.

In August, we went on holiday to Italy, and found some fantastic caches. These included some Earthcaches in Rome, including in tourist hot-spots like the Trevi Fountain; the Earthcache within Vatican City was also great. I'm not really a fan of urban caching, but I do enjoy finding Virtuals/Earthcaches/Webcams in cities.

The main highlight of the holiday was our stay further south. Our visit to Pompeii was particularly notable. I was pleased to see that there were several caches within the ruins; the first one I found was inside the Theatre of Pompeii. It was tucked away inside the theatre itself - I have no idea how it's still there with so many muggles around! We also found a cache within the Amphitheatre of Pompeii, which is the oldest surviving Roman amphitheatre in the world. It was brilliant to find these great caches in such a beautiful and historic location.

A few days later, I had a surprise FTF! It wasn't planned at all. We were in the area, and I checked the Geocaching app to see whether there were any caches nearby. There was one a few hundred feet away called Pictum Ferratum. After searching for a few minutes, I decided to check the recent logs to see whether the last finder had logged a DNF. I was shocked to see that it had never been logged before - despite being published in 2015! We kept searching and eventually I spotted it. The log was indeed blank - I couldn't believe that I was FTF on a foreign cache so long after its publication. This, in addition to the fact that it was in a breathtaking location, made it a very memorable and special find.

In the months that followed, I completed several series' and found a few more special caches.

The CacheWalker Twixmas Bash is always a highlight for me. This year's event (held today) was organised by Hogshunters, and they did a fantastic job. The walk was very enjoyable, with some good new caches to find along the way (see GC7FYQ0). The event itself was great as always - it was nice to continue geochatting and putting faces to names. Two reviewers were in attendance, and they kindly handed out some special trackable tags to all the attendees. Perfect to use for our CacheWalker TB race! It was also nice to receive a gift from our hosts - CacheWalker pens! Overall, it was a throughly enjoyable day - big thanks to Hogshunters for organising CacheWalker's ninth Twixmas/Twinew event!

Last month, I was re-elected as a GAGB committee member. Thank you to everyone who voted for me! I will continue to oversee the GAGB's website and social media channels.

Having considered all the caches I've found in 2017, one more has been now been added to my 'Cache of the Year' bookmark list: Pictum Ferratum. Why? It's in a stunning location, with breathtaking views, and the unexpected FTF made it particularly memorable.

In sum, I haven't found many caches this year, but I've been on some nice walks and found some quality caches. And that's what geocaching is all about.

Happy New Year and all the best for 2018.

Griff Grof

Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016's caching in review

Hello!

This is my first post in months, sorry about that! I haven't been caching very much as I've been busy studying. However, I've still been on some fantastic walks and found some great caches this year. I've written several articles for the GAGB's Seeker Magazine about a few of them but sadly never got round to writing anything here.

This is my annual 'in review' blog post in which I recount the highlights of 2016's caching and assess the degree to which I've met the goals I set myself at the start of the year.

These were my goals:

  1. Reach 3,000 finds
  2. Find more than 576 caches (my current record)
  3. Find more quality caches 
  4. Complete more of my D/T grid
  5. Place my next series

At time of writing, I've found 2,535 caches - so I am still not near to 3,000. I've found 258 caches this year. Whilst not my best count, it's still more than I found in 2013 and 2014. I filled in only one more space in my D/T grid with GC5X3MZ. However, it's not all doom and gloom! Far from it!

I have found some excellent, quality caches this year - and that's what matters most. I have just updated my Cache of the Year bookmark list highlighting my favourite finds. This year's winner is Mont Tendre: le sommet 1679m (GC59HC1). It's placed at the summit of Mont Tendre, which is the highest point of the Jura Mountains in Switzerland. The walk up was fantastic; the sun was out and our surroundings were simply beautiful. It was a unique experience to see so many friendly cows up there and hear their bells ringing, from both near and afar. The views were gobsmacking from the summit. We could see across Lac Leman to France and Mont Blanc, which is the highest mountain in the Alps. The sense of achievement was great and finding a nice cache container in good condition was the icing on the cake. We had a great walk back down the other side of the mountain too. You can read my article about this trip in a recent issue of the GAGB's Seeker Magazine.

The competition for my Cache of the Year has never been closer, with Amour Series Bonus (GC6D641) as the runner up. This was an immense ammo container that served as the finale of a super series of Multi caches. Each Multi had an ingenious first stage, each of which put a smile on my face. The caches themselves were all ammo cans. Other notable caches include Pi In The Sky (GC446E2)Magic Eye View (GCTV41) and Reloader's Cache#20 - RomainmĂ´tier & le Nozon (GCQ8YJ).

I also thoroughly enjoyed various events. The Geolympix Mega was excellent and so was the GPS Maze, which was in the UK for the first time. I also had a great time at the CacheWalker Twixmas Bash yesterday. We were very lucky with the sunny weather for the pre-event group walk! Next year is CacheWalker's 10th anniversary so I'm excited to see how we'll celebrate it - I'm sure I'll have a lot to report in next year's 'in review' post!

In addition to meeting my goal to find quality caches, I managed to achieve my final one - to place a new series. It's called Brailes Bonanza and consists of 20 caches on a hilly route of 6 miles. I first walked the route back in May 2015, so I already had an idea of where I was going to place the caches. I really love the route - it's my favourite of all the series' I have placed! The views are fantastic and the area is so quiet. I chose the final route and designed the cache placements to reflect what I perceive to be the perfect formula for a series. Obviously this is subjective! I'm happy that several of the caches have quite a few favourite points now. I'm really looking forward to walking the route again and maintaining the caches in 2017.

Once again, I can conclude that finding quality caches is far more rewarding than seeking numbers and improving stats. The fact that I've managed to write a reasonably blog post having not found many caches or improved any stats is a testament to this.

Happy New Year and all the best to all for 2017.

Griff Grof

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Ilmington Jubilee Walk

ILmington Jubilee Walk, 3.5 miles, 11 caches, Ilmington, Warwickshire
The cache page links to this walk guide

Hello,

I knew that we'd be a little busier this weekend so I decided that a shorter series would be ideal. Clearly, we were very pleased to see this new series being published on Thursday, as it certainly fitted the bill. After a day of relentless rain, and more forecasted for later today, we decided to head out to complete the series in the morning as a sunny interval had been forecasted.

Arrived in Ilmington where we initially struggled somewhere to park. It was then along some pretty streets and past the idyllic church, which had its bells ringing for its Sunday service. We were soon on the footpath, which was flooded! The little stream running across the field had burst its banks so we had to dodge the water to get to the first cache, which was quickly spotted.

Before too long, we made an ascent up the northern face of the Cotswold Edge. We were rewarded with some spectacular views and we stopped to have a snack whilst we admired them for a little longer. There were plenty of other people up here today, from fellow walkers, to cyclists - great to see people enjoying the outdoors as well, and the sunshine whilst it's still here!

Looking back: some nice views

We spent ages searching for the fourth cache. The hint stated that it was in the bottom of a wall, which confused us as one of the cache placing guidelines says that caches should never be placed there. Knowing this, we widened out search but eventually, having almost given up, we spotted somewhere where the cache could be and I can confirm that there is no reason to move any stone associated with the wall whatsoever - I'll make a note of this in my log. How did we miss it to begin with?!

It was then across a couple of crop fields, and, with the recent rain, our boots were extremely muddy by the time we got to the other side. There wasn't really a path through the field either, so hopefully people will still be able to find their way across in the summer months once the crops are fully grown.

A nice lane with some great views
The next section of the walk led us down a quiet lane, where we enjoyed the great panoramic views ahead of us. It was surprising to see daffodils and snowdrops in flower, just goes to show that we really have had an unusually mild (and wet) winter.

It was very interesting to pass a healing well, which people used to heal their eyes in. It's a shame that a landowner diverted a stream into the pond in the eighteenth century which muddied the water! Unfortunately, we didn't finish the series soon enough as the rain caught us. Luckily, it didn't last for too long, and the sun was soon out again - talk about changeable weather!

The old healing pond
We were soon back at the car, having completed a good, pleasant walk in some lovely Cotswold countryside. The views were great and the caches were good, some were even a little challenging as they took longer to find than they should have. The route was quite muddy, though, but as you'll gather from my other recent posts - it's muddy everywhere! We really enjoyed the series.

Griff Grof


Saturday, 30 January 2016

Walking in Warwickshire

Hi,

As some of you may know I really enjoy caches set by Wrighty. So, as you can imagine, it was a nice surprise to spot that he had a series called 'Wrighty's Warwickshire Walk' I had never really noticed! We decided to complete the walk today, in the sunshine.

WWW and part of the WeeW series, 14 caches, 5/6 miles, near Weethley, Warwickshire.

The walk took us through some very pleasant countryside, although the paths were certainly muddy to begin with. Of course, this is expected at this time of year, and it was no where near as muddy as our walk last week! It was an added bonus to be able to pick up some of the WeeW caches along the way, and these had been recently maintained which made them all the better!

Unfortunately, we got a DNF on WWW #1. The hint stated that the cache was near to a bridge, yet there wasn't one at GZ which threw us a little. I decided to read the recent logs, and noticed that the previous two finders had found it on the floor within the mud. We looked around for a little, both in the obvious places and on the ground around us, but we came away empty handed. One of the recent finders said they had replaced it within a tree, yet the next said they found it on the ground, so we decided to move on to avoid looking for a needle in a haystack. However, I later realised that these cachers had been caching together, thus the cache must have been in a tree - I shouldn't have dismissed the idea! A very annoying DNF; we'll be back!

Very pleasant Warwickshire countryside

Luckily the next few caches didn't cause us any trouble, although we also DNFed GC5WCTX, which was part of the WeeW series. The countryside was very pleasant and we were soon walking uphill through a ploughed field - you can imagine what our boots were like by the time we got to the other side. I tried to clean them in a puddle, but it was a little deeper than anticipated - which made us laugh!

Some fantastic views began to emerge, as expected from any good Wrighty walk. We found the final WeeW cache of the day as we continued towards the picturesque church ahead of us; unfortunately we decided to skip the Church Micro as there were people in the church when we passed by. We thought we had seen the best of the views, but once we crossed the road and joined another footpath the camera came out again as they were truly stunning, especially under the sunshine. Nice to have a change in terrain too, as it was no longer as muddy and we were soon walking on a lovely path through the Ragley estate, finding more Wrighty caches.

Some of the great views

All too soon, the walk was over and we were back at the car. It was a great route, taking us through some very pleasant countryside, with some nice views and great caches. It's a shame about the DNFs, but the good thing, as with all DNFs, is that it's another reason to come back.

Griff Grof

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Caching in South Gloucestershire

Hello!

This is my first post of 2016, so I'd like to wish everyone a Happy New Year!

I hadn't been caching since the CacheWalker Twinew event a couple of weeks ago. That was an enjoyable but wet experience, it's a shame that it's the second CacheWalker Twixmas/Twinew event to see the rain - the sun has shone for the others. Let's hope the weather's better for this year's event.

We fancied visiting a new area today; I noticed the 'Toy Story' series, which is in a part of South Gloucestershire we had not been to before.

Toy Story series, 10 miles, 39 caches, Tytherington, South Glos

It was unusually warm today due to the tropical air mass which was blown up to the UK. Unfortunately it wasn't sunny, but at least it was dry, unlike the day of the CacheWalker event! Our first find was a Church Micro; in fact, today was the day for finding caches from several nationwide series'. Overall, I found 5 Little Bridges, 2 Fine Pair's and 2 Church Micro's. Several of these were incorporated into the Toy Story series whilst a couple were extras.

St. James, Tytherington - opposite the first Church Micro of the day.
We were soon out on the trail; the footpaths were incredibly muddy and the ground was generally waterlogged, which meant that walking was difficult to begin with. However, we soon got used to it and some stretches were better than others. Luckily, we had good boots and gaters on - essential if you too decide to complete this series during the winter!

What I loved about it was the thought that went into the caches. There were hardly any Micros, and the Small/Regular caches were very well stocked. In fact, some were extremely generous in size whilst others were ingenious, with GC5ERP1 particularly coming to mind - it was one of those caches where you instantly decide they're deserving of a favourite point!

Everything was going well until #17, where the cache was quickly spotted at the base of an oak prior to a swarm of bees, or even wasps, emerging from the tree hollow. I was surprised that no one had mentioned the fact that there is a nest in any of the previous logs, so we reckon the cacher ahead of us must have unintentionally disturbed them earlier. I'm sure that you'll agree that it is odd to see bees/wasps at this time of year!

There were various Multi's to complete throughout the walk and none of these were too difficult, which was a relief. We were soon walking along some pleasant tracks and country lanes finding more caches before it was time to calculate the coordinates for the Bonus. We had missed a value in one of the caches and we tried our best but the coords we came up with weren't logical. After tweaking them we thought we had a more likely location, and the cache was found - it was huge, and the twist within was a great surprise!

Nice views on the way back to Tytherington
It was then back to Tytherington, concluding a pleasant walk through some quiet countryside, finding some good caches along the way. Overall, a nice series which was made even more fun by its theme. We reckon that a lot of the fields will be filled with livestock in the summer, but we only encountered one field, with sheep, today. Looking forward to doing more long walks this year; in fact, I've already got the next one planned.

Unfortunately, life continues to get in the way of Geocaching, so it might be a case of finding a couple of special caches closer to home over the next couple of weeks - which is just as good!

Griff Grof

Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015's caching in review

Hello!

It has been a while since my last post. I had begun to take a different attitude towards this blog - I thought there was no point posting about older cache loops since the majority of people have already completed them. I've been finding these older ones over the last couple of months. I thought it was more worthwhile reviewing newer caches on here.

Last week I realised I was wrong! There are almost 3 million caches in the world, and no one is anywhere near to finding all of them. A cacher may stumble across this blog who has never been anywhere near these supposedly old series', but wants to know if they're worth completing. So, rest-assured that in 2016 I will be blogging a lot more after caching.

Some of you may recognise a pattern here. New Year's Eve. "In review". Cache of the Year. Yep, it's time for my annual post reviewing my caching throughout the year - what I achieved, what I failed miserably at and what I hope to gain from Geocaching next year.

A good place to start is by looking at the goal I set myself earlier this year:

"This year I hope to get to 2,000 finds; it'd be nice to find than 522 caches (my current record) throughout the year. However, I will be concentrating on QUALITY caches, as I hope to truly rediscover what I have loved about Geocaching. Along the way, I'll be trying to beat previous stats records, as well as hopefully filling in more of my D/T grid. Most of all, I hope to have even more time to go caching this year. I also hope to place a new series, my first in three years."

Well, I have certainly achieved many of these things. I found my 2000th cache back in July. It was a fantastic walk along a beautiful stretch of coastal footpath and I couldn't have picked a better cache given the fact that I was in the area at the time and rapidly approaching the milestone. As I wrote in a blog post at the time, I had hoped to find a cache called Montserrat for my 2000th. This is the oldest cache in Spain, on a mountain of the same name. Unfortunately I didn't even find it when holidaying in Spain a month later - maybe next year - maybe I can get a move on and make it my 3000th! Despite this, I am still glad that I got to find a quality cache for the occasion!

The view from my 2000th, Start Point

It feels like 2015's caching was all about the summer. I found almost 100 caches the week I found my 2000th, and I beat my most in a month throughout August, setting 159 as my new record. I had a great time walking the final two loops of the GMS series in the Chilterns (see 2012 post), caching on Dartmoor and completing what I consider to be my favourite series of the year, TRotAM (see #1).

But there were also some great walks during the winter months, such as the Great Cotswold Walk which I wrote quite a bit about on this blog earlier this year. All these great trips helped me notch up more cache finds to finally beat my 2012 record of 522 for a calendar year - this year I found 576! So, my goal has been achieved in that I have beaten some previous stat records. I haven't been so successful in terms of filling in more of my D/T grid. I had trips to the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia planned to fill in some rare squares but these never happened. However, I filled in 9 spaces in my grid, the most I've filled in since 2010. I hope to complete a lot more of my grid next year as one of my main goals.

Views along the TRotAM series - Mam Tor ridge

I also said that I wanted to place my first series in three years. This hasn't happened. I walked the route way back in MAY but never got round to placing the caches - I guess I was concentrating on finding this year more than hiding. However, I've got everything in place to set the series next year - as long as someone doesn't beat me to it - fingers crossed! I reckon that I will wait until June/July as it's a good walk for the summer. Watch this space!

Finally, I recall that a year ago today I said that I hoped to "rediscover Geocaching". Have I? Of course I have! Every year I update my Cache of the Year Bookmark List, and this year the title goes to TWW - The Worcestershire Whopper! - it is a fantastic, quality cache which I will remember for some time. Not far behind it are Santa Margarida (GCQ9C4), When Santa Got Stuck Up The Chimney (GC6738V) and the caches I found whilst visiting Imber last week, GC434WG and GCKCJV. Obviously I didn't find all the "gems" I had wanted to this year with several trips not materialising, but there's always next year. I have rediscovered Geocaching - every cache I've found this year has oozed quality in one way or another, and none have been found simply for the numbers. I hope you too have played the game in the way you most enjoy it - whether you prefer quality, quantity or a bit of both.

So, in summary, next year I hope to find more great caches, possibly beat my best in one year again and fill in more of my D/T grid. 3000 would be nice, but I know it's going to be a busy year, and you've got to be realistic - I'll try though!

Keep your eye out for washknight's Interrogation questions soon - he sent them to me several months ago and I've been meaning to post my answers - it'll happen, I haven't forgotten.

All I have left to say is Happy New Year. Thanks to all of you who have been a part of my Geocaching in 2015, it has been my best caching year yet. It was an honour to be elected onto the GAGB committee last month, thanks to all of you who voted for me. I'm joint webmaster, and I look forward to helping out in other ways as well over the next year.

Bring on 2016 with even more quality walks and caches

Griff Grof