8 October 2012 (Monday) - The Gypsum Gyratory
Up with the lark, a swift bit of brekkie, and with a bit of time to kill I wasted it doing some on-line surveys until Steve arrived. Last Friday I'd seen that a whole new series of geocaches had gone live near Robertsbridge in Sussex. One hundred caches in two loops covering over twenty three miles. We'd had this plan to do the lot in one hit. However Steve had to pop into town so with discretion being the better part of valour we thought we'd settle for doing just one loop of eleven miles and fifty caches.
We arrived at the suggested parking spot and set off at 10.30am,confidently expecting to be done by mid-afternoon. We fell at the first hurdle. We couldn't get to the first cache. There was no footpath crossing the hedge that was in our way, so with idiot enthusiasm we found a point where hedge gave way to thicket and we bounced to where we thought we should be.
This proved to be a feature of the day. Having been an active walker since my days in the Boys Brigade over thirty years ago, I'm afraid to say I've never seen such poorly marked footpaths as those we struggled with today.
We found the first cache, struggled with the second, and found ourselves relying more on GPS and ordnance survey far more than footpath markings. But we had a good time, even though the heavens opened. Several times. The GPS co-ordinates for the seventh cache were a bit squafty, but we found it. And we found the scarecrow too. At the eleventh cache we each picked up a travel bug, and I dropped one off.
In fact it wasn't until the twelfth cache that we failed to find. Don't get me wrong - the Gypsum Gyratory is a wonderful set of caches, and I will not hear a word said against anyone who has made such an excellent guided walk. But rummaging in a hedge looking for a bit of wood is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack.
We could have stayed looking for a lot longer, but by now it was 12.30pm and we were only a quarter of the way round. So we conceded defeat and pushed on. By now we were rather wet, and the rain was getting more persistent. We abandoned the idea of stopping for a picnic; scoffing our sandwiches as we walked. Despite the rain and the mud we were quite successful with our hunting, and found all the caches from then on up to cache seventeen. And then it all went pear-shaped.
I won't regale my loyal readers with chapter and verse of all the wrong turns we took, the swamps we traversed, the times we gave up and went back to cache seventeen to start again. Suffice it to say that if t he local council had marked the footpaths it would have saved us the best part of an hour and a couple of miles of wasted effort. And to add insult to injury, when we got to the designated co-ordinates there was nothing resembling the hint we'd got, and we couldn't find the cache.
We pressed on. The nineteenth cache was a multi-cache. The GPS took us to a sign from which we counted the words, did some sums and worked out the co-ordinates of where we needed to be. And worked them out wrongly. had we more time we would have gone back and checked our calculations, but time was pressing. We called up the information for the twentieth cache, found we were only a few yards from it, and found it almost immediately. Finding that cache restored our enthusiasm. To be honest, most people who are soaked to the skin, tired and lost tend to get somewhat down-hearted, but in my world idiot enthusiasm usually triumphs over common sense. And again it did so. We pressed on; finding the next dozen caches with little problem.
Cache thirty three was a problem. I've claimed it as a "find" because the last chap there did so. The instructions told us to find the tool we would need to get the cache. We found the tool. We found the cache - we could see it. But the tool broke in our hands. Well, Steve's hands (not that I'm assigning blame here!). I shall email the nice man and tell him what happened.
Cache thirty four was another failure. As I mentioned earlier, I don't relish rummaging in hedges. and it was now about the sort of time that we had thought we'd be finished, we were wet, and we were little over half way done.
We pressed on. Cache thirty seven was fun. It was in a field with pigs. Pigs! I've never seen them loose in a field before. They were really friendly, and they had a good sniff of Steve's bum as he looked for the cache. We made our way on along what wee thought was a footpath, and were pleased to find that it was. And so the general standard of footpath marking (which was already rather iffy) deteriorated. On the way to cache forty four we entered Darwell woods. Perhaps we took a wrong turn. Perhaps we completely missed where we should have gone. Suffice it to say that we were in "Indiana Jones" territory with bracken over my head at one point.
Caches forty five and forty seven eluded us too. Had we more time and more daylight and if we weren't soaked to the skin we might have been more inclined to have tried for longer. But it was getting dark, and the earlier light mist had become thick fog. We found cache fifty at 6.30pm, and, having done half of the Gypsum Gyratory and being within five minutes of the car we decided to call it a day. I had naively hoped to have done all one hundred caches today...
If any of my loyal readers would like to try a day's geocaching, having done several cache routes I feel that I can't recommend the Gypsum Gyratory highly enough. Beautiful scenery, a range of terrains, very varied caching along the way. We shall do caches fifty one to one hundred as soon as is feasible. Which bearing in mind the mud we faced today will be next year. And bearing in mind how long today took us we shall have an earlier start too...