Sunday, 2 February 2014

Where's Lady Magpie Gone

I know all you readers have been wondering what happen to that mad pensioner Lady Magpie, that used to write on this blog. Has she finally gone on to caches new or just faded away in the lost valley of Geocaching. Well I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I'm live and well and still kicking, although perhaps at a reduced rate.

It was way back in November 2012 and I had just completed an arduous 7 cache walk along a very a rugged green track, approx. 5 miles all together solo. Well who needs men to get the GPS wrong anyway.

The following morning I awoke in discomfort having discovered an abscess in a place that you really wouldn't want an abscess. A visit to the old doc followed, where he poked, prodded and generally made me more uncomfortable than when I arrive. It's incredible how all those years of training can give them the medical knowledge to utter the words "You've got an abscess", when in fact that's just what I said when I walked into his surgery. A prescription was issued and I hoped that was that.

Gloucester Hospital Tower.
Well by the time that abscess disappeared another had entered my world of ailments, thus curtailed my caching activities once again. Suddenly I discovered that I was having problems sitting on any chairs due to a serious pain that had started in my groin, and also an infection was starting right through my stomach, liver etc. By Christmas I had become very ill with nobody able to find what was wrong. Suddenly, on Boxing Day, I was rushed into Gloucester Royal Hospital by ambulance after being found by my brother in distress, Santa Claus had to wait this year.

I have hated this hospital since both my parents died here in the 90's and 00's. Not that I'm blaming our brilliant NHS (National Health Services), but the ward I was in was so understaffed it was ridicules, similar to when they were in there.

My room of gloom,  everyone else had left.
OK they were treating me with antibiotics, but within a few days they had kindly given my a serious bout of the Nora-virus. Now I don't know if any of you have had this, but for a few days it felt as if the world had dropped out of every orifice in my body, I will say no more. Due to this virus being so contagious our ward was shut down. We therefore had no visitors and even the nursing staff wouldn't come in, they just left what food they could by the ward doorway for us to pick up. I was not a happy Magpie, because I had no internet, no good television and was just lucky enough to get a slight signal on my mobile phone.

I was really fed up by now and all I wanted to do was get home again which I did after ten days. Yes they had stopped all the infections in my stomach, liver etc, but they had not found the reason why I felt I had on one of Tiger Woods' golf balls in my groin (Don't you dare say it must have been a hole in one).

Mo will be remembered by many.
The following year has been one of hospital visit, followed by more hospital visits, as they searched for the problem, I'm certain Mystic Meg would have solved my problems quicker.

Unfortunately I was also taking my my beloved Sister Mo to a cancer hospital every 4 weeks (chemotherapy) as she battled with the disease for a second year. Mind you, although the long journeys back and forth was teddious, I did sneak in a few geocaches in when I could. Her hospital was in the famous town of Cheltenham with many splendid Georgian Terraces, The picture below shows just what Cheltenham is all about and the cache I found was one of those little magnet nano's on the fencing.

My dear Sister Mo, who was my life, lost her battle and past away peacefully at home in October 2013. As you can imagine it was hard to actually get through each day let alone go out caching, but this did show one thing to me, my medical problems were nothing in comparison to what she had to go through.

The Spender of Georgian Cheltenham
By now the doctors have given up and decided what I needed was lots of medication. Now I'm sure the amount they have given me could kill all the buffalo on the prairies of North America. let alone ease my pain. I'm also sure that I now rattle as I walk around with the amount of pills I'm taking. This has caused me even more problems, well being such an old fart, I keep forgetting to take the flipping things. My Niece, Kernowboo, that's her caching name, came up with a fantastic idea. She has made me set up my mobile phone with an alarm that goes off every time I have to take some tablets. Very clever, but she didn't appreciate me asking if she could now ring me up to remind me to switch my phone on.

So where am I now in terms of geocaching after being limited to only 59 during 2013. I do plan to get back as much as I can, even if muggles can hear me rattles as I walk along. I have also started getting into photograph, combined with the caching, and have a few websites where my photos have been viewed. I leave you with a few of them and a reminder, look out THE MAGPIE IS BACK.

A few examples of what an old pensioner can do if found with a camera in hand, enjoy.

The Home of the Woolly Jumper.

The heart of a poinsettia.

Very close to my home.


Monday, 17 September 2012

The Big Black Hairy Monster under my Table

This is a true story, so beware - It was a late evening and I had spent the day out geocaching to such a degree that I was tired and exhausted. Unfortunately, since I retired from the rat race called work, I tend to stay up until midnight, or as my Mother used to say in the old days, "You've stopped up until the dot on the TV disappeared".

I have the same routine for retiring to my "Boudoir", via the "Salle de Bain" that's the bathroom and bedroom to you mere mortals. I always keep the lights dimmed, probable not wanting to catch sight of myself in the mirrors as the birthday suit does need a bit of an iron. So after stripping off I noticed that my bedside water container was empty and needed topping up, so I made my way to the kitchen through the dinning room just feeling my way around the furniture.

Suddenly I froze, fear gripped me and I took a large step back, there in the semi-light, just under the table was this big hairy monster, I could feel my body chill and my breathing quickened and I know I had to do something. Yes it was the biggest "Aranaide" I have ever seen, this monster was the size of a tea-plate and there was no way I was going to share my little house with it. We are talking S_P_I_D_E_R and I have a total fear of these creatures whether small or large. What on earth do they get up to while we are asleep, do they have wild parties and spin webs while grinning at us all snoozing away in the darkness.

I have a rule in life, I do not kill anything because I think God has a clipboard for all of us and slowly ticks off the creatures we kill. Example (Heather) - 1 fly, 1 ant, 3 spiders and so on. When we finally meet him, out comes the clipboard and depending how many ticks you have he then designated your area of goodness.

I needed to get this monster outside but I had to catch it first. I decided that the large tankard and coaster plan would work so grabbing the largest appliqué tankard and quickly slammed it down on top of this thing. Why appliqué you may ask, well I didn't want it looking at me, I was naked remember, and I didn't need to look at it, horrible thing. I found a large stiff coaster and slid it underneath with a sighed of relief.

Reproduction in daylight.
I needed to go and get some clothes on as I share a courtyard with two other families, I'm sure they wouldn't be impressed if they spotted a naked old pension prancing around outside at 12.30am. in fact they might even order men in white coats to come and take me away. All the time I was dressing I was sure this monster would be lifting up the glass and escaping so I dressed as quickly as possible, haven't a clue what I had put on or whether it was inside out or back to front.

I lifted the glass tankard and coaster at arms length and carefully made my way to the back door, oh dear I had to put this monster down again to get the keys. Walking outside I jumped as my security light flashed on and with the count of : one, two, three, I throw this creature as far away as I could. Usually they have the audacity to run straight at me so I was all prepared. I was getting worried that I might have hurt it, possible trapped one of it's legs under the glass rim because it didn't move at all. I reached for a long stick and prodded my foe but again it didn't bat an eyelid, do they have them?
It looks peaceful in daylight, but not in the darkness.

I was worried now that another big tick was coming my way on God's clipboard, so I went inside to find my glasses that I had taken off ready for bed. I left the stick pointing towards the large spider so that I could locate it. By now it was a quarter to one in the morning so returning to the moonlight yard I got closer and closer, my heart was beating faster and faster, but then I suddenly realised:

I had spent 3/4 hour getting dressed while in terrible fear of this large creature I had caught, I had en-prisoned it, thrown it away without a parachute and finally prodded it to death. Why hadn't it moved became clearer when I found that I had actually captured a large ball of black cotton with strands that had looked like a monster spider. Moral of my story: 


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Lee's Memorial Travel Bug Journey. - The Start.

If there is one thing in life that must cause more stress than anything else it's the loss of a child, taken when they have so much more life and  potential ahead of them. That day happen in January 2007 when young Lee had his terrible accident which left his parents, Shaun and Carol with nothing more that total devastation and the rest of the family completely shocked.

As a Grandparent I knew that I wanted to do something to keep his memory alive, not that he would have been forgotten anyway, so the idea of a memorial TB seemed a great idea for me to send off, therefore giving and all the family a chance to watch Lee's journey around the world.

I think that my Son's comment on Lee's Memorial TB page is the very best way to understand Lee, his hobbies his loves and what a really lovely boy he was.


On the 2nd July 2009 my Son joined me at St. Swithun's Church in Leonard Stanley where I had placed a cache a few feet from Lee resting place, this was just on the outer side of the churchyard hedge. The TB was placed inside the box and we retired to our homes to watch what happens, yes with some trepidation.

Within days it was on it's way via a few local caches when an incredible fate took over his travels. A cacher called Little White Collie found it and the lady was in fact Lee's Cub Scout Mistress, she wrote,

"knew Lee, we just had to retrieve and move on this TB. He was a smashing lad and a great loss. Will find a cache in a place that he would have liked for the TB's next stop."

 I came to meet Louise & Graham soon after and we became good geocaching friends.

His bigger journey had started as they took the TB down to the South Wales coast and a place called Swanlake Bay, Lee had been here camping in his cub scout days so LWC had made this special journey for him.

Within 24 hours Lee was to make a move across the Atlantic landing in New York State and rested in a Quaker House, well it was a leap of 3,300 miles.

Connecticut came next where he had to wait patiently for 5 months in one cache, giving all of us back home the worry that he had been lost.

January 2010 and someone took pity on him by picking him up and moved it to her own cache whilst making the comment, 

"Handsome boy and I love curry to, will placed him in my cache called Treasures of Love since it appears he was very very much loved."

Another nice person in Connecticut picked the TB up and again added such a wonderful comment,

"How touching a memorial, how often God recalls his best children early, thank you for sharing."

It is so heartening that cachers make an effort and I decided to send each person a quick message of thanks from then onwards.

New Hampshire and Vermont followed where cacher Al81 was running "The Harpoon Brewery Octoberfest Road Race for The Norris Cotton Cancer Centre", a distance of 3.6 miles with Lee also tagging along, not sure if that was a lot of exercise for him, but after the fest he was dropped off in a lovely quiet park to rest a while.

I'm sorry to report that the next person, who again I appreciate took the time to pick up the TB, commented that they were going home to Colorado and will drop it off ASAP. Obviously I don,t know the circumstances, but they didn't place Lee Memorial TB in a cache for 9 months (19/10/10 to 11/7/11). We had given up hope and believed he had gone for good. How wrong we were!!(To be continued)

Lee's incredable Journey continues in the next episode, and oh! boy did some great geocachers give him a good time with lots of travelling, especially for his birthday and Christmas during 2011.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

The Ramblings of a Mad Pensioner - Then and Now No. 3

Lets go back to my "Then and Now" series which combines my geocaching hobby with photography and history. As previously mention, my local paper "The Stroud News & Journal" ran these articles for over a year and today people still asking me if am I going to produce some more. Another example of how it appeared in the paper is seen below, just click on it to read this article about the small Cotswold village called Minchinhampton.

This village is one of the most picaresque around this area, with all the buildings being uniquely built in Cotswold stone with matching slate roofs. I don't think that any are younger than 100 years old and most are very much older. The original photo was dated from 1902, when children could play in the streets without fear of being knocked down by traffic, in fact there wasn't any traffic. Your note from the new picture that the centre of the village was demolished and replaced with a WW1 monument, dedicated to all the villages killed in the conflict, this has been added to as more wars have occurred over time. As for geocaches, there are 4 or 5 very good ones in the area.

Origin of Symmetry. (GC2RYRZ).  I live in an area known as The Five Valleys, and I can tell you it's impossible to go anywhere without climbing hills, in fact I'm sure that living here for 50 years has caused me  to grow hoofed feet like a mountain goat - Baaaa!!

This urban cache was half way up a switchback road, and hidden inside a natural spring that used to supply water to the locals, today it's blocked off for health and safety reasons. Being one of the first cachers to find it, I had to inform the young owner that his container was already waterlogged and not suitable at all, he did improve it straight away.

This old photo was taken about 1910 with the photographer standing right next to the spring, which at one time was probably served all the house owners. Dorrington Terrace was built by a local mill owner to house it's workers, but by the 1911 census there were various individuals living there, and yes I had to investigate who they were in the archives.

In No.1 was a Mr. Samual William Smart (born 1856) and his wife Mary Ann (Born 1854). The most interesting was living in No. 2, Charles Ernest Young (born 1868) who was a Colporteur Evangelist born in nearby Rodborough. Well that made me scratch my head, what on earth did he do? Thankfully a quick search reviled he was a seller of bibles door to door. These people are more than likely in this old photo when a camera was a novelty.

The only change your notice is the white house at the end has been built and some of the original railings have gone, taken in the war time to be melted down for ammunitions, plus there are some alteration to windows and doors.

Five-mile Fanfare. (GC1T9CQ). - A nice little multi-cache owned by my good caching friend Sly2 that takes you around the streets and hills in the town of Nailsworth. It wasn't 5 miles long but celebrated the fact that she had completed all caches within a 5 mile radius. It started at a library and included the Town Hall, a meeting room and a Baptist Church before finishing off out in the countryside.

This is a bit of old Nailsworth and the lane in the centre is called "Butcher's Hill Lane", I just love some of the street names and I'm told that it's a great place for sledging in winter. On the right was "The Red Lion" public house, now a private home. In 1903 a report stated that it was a place of much drunkenness with the landlord, Thomas Blake, unable to control the conduct. On one occasion a policeman was called to a disturbance and was brutally assaulted with the landlord doing nothing about it. He lost his drinks licence quite often. 

On the left I was wondering if the lady shop owner was looking outside and wondering who has pinched the postbox or just perhaps in the new picture it's a very clever geocache. If you look closely at the middle cottage your notice that the building has had an extra floor added, but you will have to look closely.

Time goes by so quickly for all of us, we grow up and change, just like everything around us, in fact where did that fir tree come from in the new picture. Geocaching gives us all the chance to get out and about to see these changes whilst enjoy the environment we all live in. Enjoy it, I do.

Friday, 29 June 2012

The Mad Geocaching Pensioner - A Walk on the Canal Side.

Does anyone remember the original 1972 song by Lou Reed called "A Walk on the Wild Side", yes I know most of you weren't born then, but it was a famous song and copied by various other artists over the years. What's this got to do with geocaching you might be thinking, well every time I'm out on my own it's like a walk on the wild side for me.

The other week I decided to do a small series of caches along the Stroudwater Canal, built around 1776 it has laid abandoned since 1954. At last it is beginning to be restored for everyone to enjoy and so to complete this beautiful series was a "Walk on the Canalside" that I hope you enjoy.

GC3MZ1G - Newtown Lock. The start of my walk and a very clever hide indeed, it certainly got me searching for a while. The container was craftily hidden using a magnets on the underside of an information box, well out of anyone's sight.  Nice start and it was a good hint as to how good this series was going to be, onwards to the next.

GC3MZ2M - Bonds Mill. Before you all ask, no this is not the "Leaning Tower of Stonehouse" and I hadn't been drinking, just a poor photograph as I tried to dodged the vehicles coming across the canal bridge. During World War 2 this little mill across the bridge was building secret equipment, early radar scanners I believe making it an important place. The building was a guard post and was well armed in case of invasion. Also in the fields around the mill were hidden several pill boxes, still there today and as kids we had great fun playing in them. Another crafty hide with a film canister suspended by a thin wire inside an old rusty pipe, and just to make it more difficult it was deep in the ivy covered hedgerow.

GC3MZ3F - Nutshell Bridge. A unique arched bridge made from red bricks in 1778, it contains two other buildings being Nutshell Cottage and Nutshell House which also have a connecting tunnel between them running under the old cart track, the bridge and buildings were renovated in 1988. As I left the cache area I bumped into another cacher, geocachingscott who I had met a few years ago. After a quick chat I detoured to stand on top of the bridge whilst I watched his search of trees on the canal side for the spoils.

GC3MZ3Z - Skew Bridge. Next on my walk I approach Skew Bridge, not it's real name may I say but because it doesn't cross the canal at 90% the cache owner is suggesting that it's skewif, (North Irish name for crooked). It's fantastic what rubbish I can teach you on here, isn't it. A little railway line was built in 1867 to run to Nailsworth, it was completely closed in 1966 and is now a wonderful country footpath of about 4 miles, and yes there are several caches along it's route. For some reason this was a tricky search with the GPS almost sending down a bank and into a nearby river. (Phew!!! there was no big splash today).

GC3MZ6H - Ryeford Footbridge. I'm now on the final stages and a part of the canal that has been expertly restored, a few days before several canal barges were lowered into this section to celebrate the restoration, hence the flag. For me a nice place to rest on a bench, right next to the cache, to watch the wildlife.

GC3MZ73 - Ryeford Double Lock. Another restoration success story which is incredible when you think it's all done by volunteers. Can I give you a link where you can see all the work going on:

Another nice easy find but for me it's the beauty of the whole place that give geocaching so much enjoyment. While a stood there soaking it all in, a group of 4 runners rushed by and I wondered, with all that energy and exercise, did they really take any notice of our great countryside.

GC3MZ7W - Oil Mill Bridge. The final cache of this little series, although as the canal is restored I believe further are planned. The actual bridge was another 800yds away, but I just had to take a photo of this weeping willow tree opposite the actual cache site. A nice shade for the ducks who had made their nests away from the tow-path. I found this little series a delight, but in the end I had one question:-


It's OK, don't worry this pensioner's not daft, I did do it in 3 sections.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Mad Geocaching Pensioner - Clever Cache 2

Are you all sitting comfortable, then I shall begin. One upon a time there was a famous poem or song, it went:

If you go down in the woods today,
You're sure of a big surprise.
If you go down in the woods today,
You'd better go in disguise.

For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain because
Today's the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic.

Well I didn't see any teddies today but there was certainly a surprise to the cache I found located in a hillside wood. So Bare with me and I'm going to share all the fun and games in locating this one, needless to say as usual it wasn't trouble free for me, and I didn't have a Picnic either.

I knew it was going to be a tricky and unusual one, firstly it had been awarded 8 favourite points out of only 9 finds, secondly it hadn't been found for over a month, even though it was just above a large town.

It was surprising that the recommended car parking spot was in an housing estate and therefore didn't give any indication of the fun ahead. A small footpath between a garage and hedge lead away, so I donned the  now famous Lady-Magpie hat, grabbed my kit and walking pole and set off for the fun.

After a short while the tarmacked path joined a very rough path that just went up and up, I certainly should have had teddies porridge this morning as I had to pause several times just to get my breath back.

At last the wood opened up and what a lovely place it was, quiet, tranquill with plenty of wildlife to view. Don't worry readers, this is England and we don't actually have an bears here, well perhaps the odd bare streaker but not in these woods. I didn't take the track under the tree in the photograph as my GPS indicated to go left up a bank and follow a narrow trail. This is when my troubles started:

Now I class my self as being vertically challenged, or as my good friends would say "A bit of a short-ass", so you can imagine the problems I had that after a month of rain, followed by a long hot spell, the track became a stinging jungle.with the nettles each side of the track being over five feet tall. I was forced to walk with my arms in the air, shouldn't have warn a short sleeves shirt with bare arms.

I located the cache down a bank after chopping down the undergrowth and moving a log to one side, easy I thought as I prised the long square plastic container out of it's hideaway. WRONG !! Not easy at all as the contents didn't hold anything that I was expecting, no log book, no swaps  and no clues. All it contained was a card that said ALMOST and believe it or not a door bell-push.

OK, this must be the surprise as I kept pushing the button and wandered around the other tree's and bushes and like a headless chicken. Now not being unkind, I suddenly thought that the geocaching website didn't have a icon that said "Not suitable for the deaf or hard of hearing".

I couldn't hear a sound other than the wind in the trees, birds and small wildlife movements, so after about 15 minutes of searching I decided to give up and wandered back to the original spot, just to put the bell-push back in it's container for another cacher.
Suddenly, without me pushing the button I heard a ding, that's it but where did it come from. I again waved my arms around point the gadget in all directions whilst pushing the button, then after a few seconds I heard the noise again. Unless a bird has the same call as a door bell I had found it.

As you can see from the photo I had unearthed an old tree stump by chopping down the stinging nettles and then climbed down to a hollow beneath it. I had forgotten all the tingling feelings I had from stings, more a case of finding the cache made the pain less.

There was the cache container, including the main part of the door-bell, relief that all my efforts weren't in vain, although it had tested my patience.  The cache owner was the same person as my last clever cache story, but I think that the maintenance on this one will be continues what with replacing batteries etc. Thankfully I was able to sign the log and return both containers to their hiding places.

As for me I was then able to enjoy the views over the local town from near GZ before returning home to recharge my batteries as well. I must admit my log report on the website was very long and I moaned bitterly about the terrain and all the nettles. I had been stung through jeans and my shoes, but I also award a favourite point while writing "WHAT A BLOODY GOOD CACHE". 

- Oh and the name of this clever cache was "DING-DONG".

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Mad Geocaching Pensioner - Why and How.

Many people ask me why and how did  I take up geocaching, "Come on,  your'e a pensioner you know, put your feet up and take up knitting" , well lets try and answer these questions, and what benefits it can give us all, whether young or old.

Early days, a 100 yards was an effort !!
My job as a Quality Manager in the Oil & Gas exploration industry took me to various places in Europe, America and Canada. Yes I know, your all thinking what a lovely life jetting around the world, well perhaps on the odd occasion when I did manage to get time to myself, but usually it just involved airports, hotels, factories and then even more airports, it certainly took it's toll on my health and I was more than pleased to retire from the rat-race in 2007.

Well this is when my problems started. Being home all the time I'm sure my fridge turned into a very clever machine because everytime I got within a few feet of it, the door would automatically opened and shout out "EAT ME", well that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. I began to balloon in size so much so that I was almost the same height lying down as stand up, I knew I had to do something after I went swimming in the sea and someone tried to harpoon me. (wink). Joking apart my doctor warned me my heart was in danger and I had to do something urgently.

I desperately needed exercise and my Niece had spotted geocaching but still hadn't tried it yet. I did all the reading about it on the website and registered straight away thinking I would be able to use my car TomTom satnav.

GC1R4QE - Church Micro St. Georges, King's Stanley.  I rushed out for my first find which was at my local parish church, (should have read all the rules of the cache hides) as I spent an hour falling all over the overgrowth in the rear churchyard, hitting my legs on old gravestones and scratching myself with the brambles. My TomTom kept wanting me to go back to the roads, because that's what it was designed for and not geocaching away from roads.

My faith in this sport was knocked back as I returned home rethink this geocaching whilst sticking several plasters on my arms and legs. (Let me say straight away I didn't know the rules not allowing hides inside church grounds or ancient monuments).

GCVWD4 - Motorway Mayhem M5 Junction 13 - I few days later I decided to try a cache and dash on a roadside not far from home and up near a motorway. Fortunately I didn't need the GPS which was just as well as I still only had my car TomTom. After a little search I discovered a film canister, found under a stone, my first ever find and the euphoric feeling was fantastic, I was hooked straight away and haven't looked back ever since. (May 2009)

Slimmer, Fitter and The Prized Hat
Within days I had purchased my first hand-held GPS, an Etrex Venture HC, and I was on my way. I made sure I had learnt all the rules of finding and placing a cache and I returned to the church to find that first attempt, this time without all the pain and trouble.

As those who have read my "Perils of a Geocaching Pensioner" blogs I have had several mishaps and injuries, but these have all been caused by myself and being unfit, yes I admit it. As for the benefits, I have had a wonderful retirement finding fantastic places that I have never seen before. I have made many new friends in the Caching world and, the most important thing of all, my weight has dropped a total of 6 1/2 stone, that's 91 lbs or as I like to say 45 bags of sugar. As for that clever fridge, it can open it's door all it likes, I'm not there but in the countryside lapping in all this wonderful world and wildlife that my previous jobs kept me from. If you haven't tried it you don't know what your missing.

Oh - and that Lady-Magpie's hat, given to me by my Sister stays, it has become my trademark and when meeting other cachers they all recognise me without having to ask.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Mad Geocaching Pensioner - Clever Caches.

I'm all for getting out in the countryside and getting away from those magnetic nanos in towns and cities, well I look a right plonker walking around the town with Lady-Magpie's hat on, walking pole and rucksack on my back, it certainly turns heads. What I do enjoy is the cache that someone has really taken time thinking out with clever hides and then going about organising it.

So lets look at one great example that I have recently found. Not only did this give me a headache but resulted in me making several visits and finally a desperate phone-call to a caching colleague.

Now here we have what looks like a simple little bridge crossing a stream, it then goes over a stile before entering a field. I have  been to many such bridges with clues like "Don't let The Troll get you" or " Where else would you hide it". Simple answer - IT'S UNDER THE BRIDGE !!

Visit No. 1 - I resorted to the Clue "Look under and then look over". I took my mature, old rotund body as close to the stream as possible waiting for the loud splash as I fall in. Lowering my head I looking left and right to the underside ends of the bridge. Nothing at all, OK I better fumble around the vegetation around the ends of the bridge, first by the water hydrant sign (yellow H), and ended up sting my arms everywhere. Plan two was go over to the other end and climbed the stile, more fondling of vegetation followed where I ripped my arms to shreds this time with the hawthorn bushes. I'm not giving up I ranted under my breath, I will not be defeated I'm British, well until 20 minutes later I uttered my ladylike words "Sod it" and decided to go home just to tend to my wounds.

Visit No. 2 - I will not be defeated and reading other logs I knew it's still there, how are they finding it ? I began to realise this must be something special as the first 5 finds had award a favourite point, and comments like, "That's different", or "What a clever idea" had been log, what was I missing.

Again I pushed my head under the bridge but couldn't see anything again, both looking left and right. It can't be on top of the bridge because the clue said look under !! Another long search and I decided to phone a friend who I knew had found it (I know I shouldn't, but I am a lone caching pensioner. Would you believe it Sods Law took over and my mobile didn't have a signal in that area, good job I hadn't fallen in the brook then wasn't it. I therefore departed to find my car and drive to a village where there was a signal to make my desperate call to Sly2. Now we don't like to give too much help to each other so all she said was you need to get right down in the stream and stand on a stone to get a good view of the underside of the bridge.

Visit No. 3 - I returned to the flipping bridge and carefully climbed into the stream bed while standing on a stone to keep my feet above water, there was something there and how the hell hadn't I seen it. Well every time I had looked under the bridge, the top of my head was in line with it and every time I turned my head left and right I wouldn't have seen it.

Fixed to the underside were 2 clips that held this tool, was this the cache or not. I retrieved it and after examination I stood looking at the bridge to see what I could do with it. Now come on you readers, behave yourselves with your ideas and keep this clean. My brain went into overload as it suddenly came to me.

The metal end of the gadget was just smaller than the inside diameter of the handrail, I've always been someone who doesn't mind sticking things into dark orifices just to see what happens. I slowly slide the tool up until I felt a little click and when I pulled it out again there was a 35mm film canister with a magnet fixed to the bottom. The cache was found and with great satisfaction I signed the log, you then had to reverse the tool using the plastic end to push the cache back up the tube to it's hidding place.

Remembering to return the tool to the clips under the bridge I also decided to give it a favourite post, even though it had given me so much hassle.

What would you believe was the name of this cache - "Bridge or Poker", the name of two extremely hard card games and also reference to the actual bridge and the tool the owner had called  a poker. If you enjoyed this story I am soon going out for another known crafty cache, watch this space.

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Mad Geocaching Pensioner - Then and Now (Part 2)

As you fellow blog readers may have noticed, I love to combining geocaching with my love of history and photograph, so much so that our local newspaper ran my series called "Then & Now" for just over a year. Not for any financial gain may I cry being a poor pensioner, but just for a retirement hobby and the enjoyment for others. Below you can see an example of how it appeared in the newspaper.

Click on any photo to enlarge.

The church is just along from a cache that was in a private garden and in my article I noted the removal of the large pinnacles, a fact I knew well as my Brother-in-Law was the builder that had to remove them. Lets look at a couple more places that I found whilst out and about with my GPS, camera and history knowledge.

The Lawns. (GC2M2NZ.) The Lawns was a 9 bedroom Victorian mansion just behind the shop on the left of the old picture. It had servants, a kitchen garden and fabulous grounds with a pond where the cache is now placed, the mansion was pulled down in the 60's for road improvements - my pet hate !!

Everything on the right of the photo remains although your see that castellations have been added to the front of the house, note the bricked up window at the top which comes from a window tax imposed in 1696. If you couldn't afford the tax you bricked up a window. This was repealed in 1851 when it was argued it had become a health tax.

The old chemists shop was pulled down to be replaced by a monstrosity of a building that was used by the Ministry of Work and Pensions in the 60's, if you were unemployed this was the place you went to sign on for benefits . Today this building has laid derelict for some 20 years and there has been a local campaign to get it pulled down, at least the older buildings remain, which is good because my hairdresser's is down on the right in an old butchers shop. We wouldn't want to say "Hair today gone tomorrow", or have your hair butchered.

Termites in a Log (GCZ1X5). This cache is located in the village of Frampton-on-Severn, and as the name suggests is just yards from the great River Severn. The photo shows the village green which is said to be the longest village green in England, being about 22 acres in size. Cricket is played on The Green outside the Bell Inn, one of two pubs along its length, the other being The Three Horseshoes at the opposite end of the Green. The area around The Green has been designated a Conservation Area, with a range of Architecture spanning several centuries ranges from “ Cruck Cottages” to impressive Tudor and Georgian houses.

For years the village pond was used for bathing, or as the old photo states "Mixed Bathing" no less, disgusting. The scene is just like any beach photo, with ladies on a picnic blanket while the children paddle on the shore. There is even a horse and carriage in the middle of the bathing activities.

Today I wouldn't want to bathe in the pond that is full of water reeds and beautiful wildlife there were in fact three small children fishing but not catching any monsters. In the 17th century the green was known as Rosamund's Green, named after Rosamund Clifford who was born at Frampton Manor and was suggested was Henry II's mistress, lovingly known to him as Fair Rosamund. Whatever the history of the village if your a lover of geocaching in spendid nature and wildlife, this is the area.

I do hope you enjoy these short blogs on geocaching along with historical photographs, let me know I have many more to come.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Mad Geocaching Pensioner - Then and Now.

If there has been one thing that geocaching has given me, not including the weight loss, it's the fact that I have been able to enjoy 3 hobbies all at the same time. Firstly caching, second photography and thirdly local history.

The new photo is at the start of the Nailsworth Cycle Track (using the old track) and  6 caches.

For eighteen months I produced a weekly article in our local paper, The Stroud News & Journal, called "Then & Now", which involved taking a very old photograph and going out and standing exactly where the original photographer stood and reproduce the same picture. I would then write an article on the history and any changes that had happened during that time. So lets look at a couple of the caching sites and how they have changed from times gone by.

Nothing Personal (GC333ZX) This was a puzzle cache that finally lead you to the top of the old part of  Stroud. A very busy muggled area that needed plenty of stealth. The original photograph was taken about 1900 and show Horns Road where there are mostly Victorian houses. They were built by George Holloway for the workers at his woollen mill nearby.

The laurel tree still stands on the left where the beautiful ladies in their long dresses stand, the perambulator would be a collectors piece today. Shockingly someone made the decision to pebble-dash the first set of terraced houses therefore ruining a classic Victorian frontage.

One thing is for certain, not only do the cars ruin a wonderful view but the horse manure in the middle of the road then was much better for the roses. Today and 100 years later it's snow in the middle of the road. As for the cache, it was in the owners front garden towards the end of the street and you had to grab it over the wall.

Strawberry Bank (GC1XW8M).  One of my favourite caches and a place where I was forced into a backward somersault over a style to avoid a very friendly couple of horse, nah I wasn't injured although the old lady walking her dog nearby looked a little concerned as I leapt back to my feet.

There had been a wartime story regarding a German Junkers 88 bomber that had crashed near the village of Oakridge. It just so happened that I was geocaching in the exact area where the crash had taken place 70 years ago. Strawberry Bank lies just south of the village and when the bomber was shot down by a spitfire and a hurricane, it was reported that it just scraped the bell tower of the nearby school.

The old picture shows aircrew climbing over the wreckage, three of the German crew members did survive but one didn't. Today, as can be seen in my up to date photo, there is no clue to what happened here during that terrible war, in fact this is one of the most tranquil spots I've ever visited. The whole area is now a nature reserve and a site of special scientific interest with unique flowers and butterflies, any thought of the past now faded into history. The cache was neatly hidden in a hole in a tree next to a pretty stream at the bottom of the bank.

The tranquil glade at the bottom of the bank where the cache was found.

Much more geocaching stories of "Then and Now" to come, but I must not bore you all with history in England.