Mudfest, a caching adventure

Stile on the way to caches

Read about Kevin’s journey around his local area. Treasure hunters staying at the Chellington Centre could go and see if they’re up to the challenge. 19km of walks through the North Buckinghamshire countryside. A wonderful way to spend the day outside.

The words “Gordon” and “Bennett” spring to mind. In that order. Why do I say that? Well, let’s just say I’ve had days when I’ve walked further, found more caches, and got back in better shape. The European loops of the Flags of All Nations series begin from a car park near Hazeley School in Milton Keynes. I placed these caches myself in 2017 but adopted them out to Pesh in 2020 during a period when my mojo had gone AWOL. There’s only so many maintenance runs a man can do. Adopting them out means I now have lots of solved but unfound puzzles to do. They are close to home, and fall within the boundary of the “local area” that we’re supposed to stay in during Lockdown. So with all this in mind, the last day of my holiday came around and I set about finding them. It might seem odd to go out and find my own caches, but they needed a maintenance run, and it’s not like I’m logging them from the comfort of my settee.Geocaching Route

The route has a couple of overlapping loops from Hazeley to Stony Stratford, around the west edge of Milton Keynes but mainly “out in the country” rather than urban. Zipping past Hazeley Wood the route comes down onto the road running between Whaddon and Calverton. It was fast going apart from one close to the road which needed some TLC – it was so soggy that the log book was beyond repair. So I signed a fresh one and drained the modest puddle from the container before continuing on my trek.

Geocaching in Buckinghamshire

I followed the road until nearly at the junction in Upper Weald and then backtracked south to join the MK Boundary Walk. The section was planned three overlapping loops, which means a fair amount of doubling back if you’re eager to get them all in one trip. The loop back crosses fields which were full of cows on the day I set the caches, so I left that stretch empty.

Once I got onto the MK Boundary Walk things started to become hard work. Until then it’d mainly been road or paved paths, but here it’s just the edges of agricultural fields. Whilst they still have grass on that is deceptive, because the rain we’d had in the previous three weeks meant it was like walking on a sponge all the way along. It was just exhausting. Wherever the grass was missing it was shin-deep in sludge. Fortunately all of the cache containers were still there. A couple of log changes were needed but nothing major.

As I was walking along the road in the section at Lower Weald I was passed by the good lady wife on her bike. She’d been out to turn her legs over while I was out walking. She’d talked about taking that route but I never assumed she’d pass just at the point I was walking along there. A nice surprise. She was about 30 minutes from home. I wasn’t.

From here I was more or less heading back towards home, but the underfoot conditions were really bad in the bottom of the valley. When I climbed back to the road at Middle Weald I then had to cross a field which had maize in it last summer. It now has mud in it. And the stumps of the crop. That was hard work. I was getting taller and heavier as I walked, if you know what I mean. This stretch took me back to the junction at Upper Weald, and from here it’s necessary to double back a bit and complete a stretch of four caches that cut right across the middle of the loop I’d walked so far. It was 700m downhill to find four caches, and hence 700m back uphill to get out again and then a further 700m across road and field to get to the next cache. By this stage I’d found 50 of the 60 on the walk and had so far spent about 5 hours. I thought the final 10 should take no more than an hour.

The last few caches are along what used to be the North Bucks Way footpath/bridleway. It probably still is, to be honest, but it’s in danger of being absorbed by the new housing estate, as has part of the Oceania loop. Anyway, I had completely forgotten that this stretch is a mud bath even in the summer. The likelihood of losing a boot was growing by the minute, wet socks were a given and there weren’t any stretches of long grass to wipe it all off. I was just getting more and more covered in the stuff.

I was still finding the caches (occasionally replacing caches in the locations I originally set them), but it was slow going and my feet were hurting. When I eventually made it to the last cache (and changed the log) I gleefully phoned the good lady wife and asked her to come and fetch me, but please, please, bring a change of shoes and a put a towel over the seats. She was there in under 10 minutes. That last stretch of 10 caches is under two miles long, but it took me a good hour and a half to walk it, and by the time I finished I was cold, wet and exhausted.

Still, that’s another 60 finds added to the total, and a well-earned beer or two after walking 19 km over a period of 7 hours. I enjoy it really, even though I moan a lot. If I didn’t enjoy it, I’d stop doing it.Geocaching from Chellington Centre Hostel

To read more about Kevin’s adventures in caching you can visit his website. Or go out and find some of his caches yourself!