11 April 2016 (Monday) - Damp in Dartford
Over brekkie I saw something which disappointed me. The astro club has been offered the option of having a stall at Ashford's Festival in the Park. We would be running something which would need to be staffed from (about) 7-8 am until (about) 8-9 pm. Obviously this would need volunteers to help run the stall. And so the committee asked the club membership for help via the club's Facebook page.
Out of the over three hundred people who could have offered we have had offers from five. And those five were people who already get their hands dirty for the club on a regular basis.
Needless to say this stall won't now be going ahead.
I scoffed brekkie, then set off to Teynham to the shop that sells workmen's clothing. Having picked up three hi-vis vests (rather cheaply) I went on to Dartford where I met up with Jo and Susan. The plan for today was a spot of rather specialised geocaching.
Every geocache had two numbers associated with it - D and T. D is difficulty; how hard the thing is to find. T is terrain; how hard it is to get to where the thing is hidden. Both numbers range from 1 (easy) to 5 (fiendish).
Today we were hunting some high-T low-D ones. Ones which were rather obvious but not that easy to get to. We had six geo-targets and thought we'd pick up any other caches we might be walking past.
Bearing in mind that we were going to be looking *very* suspicious we put on our hi-vis vests. Have you ever worn a hi-vis vest? They are just like Harry Potter's cloak of invisibility. No one ever looks twice at what anyone in a hi-vis vest is doing. They were ideal for today.
Our first target was T5 D1.5. Very difficult to get to; but when you are there easy to find. We got to where our GPS said the thing was.... we looked about. then realised we were on a boardwalk. We retreated a little, put on wellies then walked along the riverside to underneath where we'd been standing.
A quick geo-find and on to the next target.
The next target was only a minute's walk away. T5 D1. Very difficult to get to but one of the the easiest to find caches there are. This one was incredibly easy to find - we saw it from twenty yards away. But...
In all honesty we went to this one knowing we probably wouldn't actually be able to claim a find. The rules are that you have to get to the thing and sign the piece of paper inside. We'd planned today to be at the first cache at low tide. That worked; at low tide that one was an very easy find. However this second target was different. It was on the other side of the river at the top of a rather odd wooden structure. I thought about swimming over the river, but had I done so i would still have had to scramble up the wooden thingy.
The other side of the river wasn't easily accessible; there were a lot of industrial units and metal fences in the way. But I had an idea. We walked to the nearest bridge (picking up the cache that was on the bridge), crossed over and walked to as close as we could to the cache. I then went up to the nearest site office (in my hi-vis vest), waved my sat-nav at the site foreman and loudly asked if I could get to the river though his yard. I gave him a load of old flannel about it only being fifty yards away and the tide was too low for a boat.
The foreman waved us on without batting an eyelid.
We got to within ten yards of the cache but couldn't get to it. However having seen it from every angle we now know how to get to it... with a ladder and a boat... Next time...
We then drove for ten minutes to get to our next two targets. Target three was T5 D2. Very difficult to get to, but not quite that easy to find. I saw it right away; underneath a footbridge. But could I reach it?
I handed my phone to Susan. Not so much for heer to keep it dry as for her to use it to collect evidence. She did that very well.
I'd come along with my swimming trunks under my trousers so I popped my trousers off and put on a pair of wet-shoes. Jo put on her waders. They were very high waders. (You'd be amazed how much water you can get into a pair of waders). I gently tested the river for depth; I had this theory that although the edges were shallow, the sides might slope away rather quickly. But before I could expound this theory Jo proved it was right. I won't say she fell in; technically she didn't actually fall in. But there was a rather spectacular slip and skid (accompanied by a most impressive squeal) after which she was waist deep in the river and almost (but not quite) perpendicular to how she had been standing two seconds previously.
It was as well I had one hand on the bridge's girders and one hand holding her.
I did laugh!
With Jo rescued I thought I might continue gently testing the depth myself. One moment I was shin-deep in the river, then next I was armpit deep. It was at this point that I saw the problem faced by the aquatic geocacher. For all that I was now directly under the cache I sought, it was four feet too high for me to reach. But I had a plan. Jo had brought some steps along...
It wasn't the best plan I've ever had. I won't say that Jo's steps sank beyond trace, but recovering them wasn't easy. There was talk of Jo sitting on my shoulders to reach the cache (presumably whilst I drowned) but fortunately that idea wasn't followed up.
Some people read this drivel to get spoilers on finding geocaches so I won't say exactly how we got to the thing. But I will say that we signed the log and did the happy dance in five feet of rather smelly water to the tune of pints of water being emptied from waders.
The day's fourth target was a little way further along the river. T4.5 D2. Rather difficult to get at; not that easy a find when you get there.
This cache was in a tunnel which took a river underground. Getting into (and out of) the water took some clambering; it was as well that I'd not left Jo's steps to drown. And once in the tunnel the going wasn't easy. I had this naive idea that I would just march down the middle of the tunnel.
There was a five minute delay whilat I retrieved my shoe from the mud. The mud in the middle of the tunnel was three feet deep in places. We got through by keeping to the sides of the tunnel. The cache itself was quite obvious; hanging in clear view some forty yards inside this tunnel. I quite liked this cache find if only for the fact that the clean running water washed some of the stagnant smell off of me.
I'll allow myself a little whinge here - don't get me wrong - I'm in no way being critical of this cache but I would respectfully disagree with the grading it has been given. The cache itself was visible from quite a way away so I would give it a D rating of 1 or 1.5. But the terrain... 4.5 is perhaps an under-estimate. I certainly couldn't have got into or out of the river without help. T5 wouldn't be unfair.
At this point the plan had been to relocate to do two more river-based caches. But I was rather damp, and I was reliably informed that what had once been a nice pair of white knickers was now rather black and silty. Turning your white knickers black and silty is God's way of saying "Go Home!" So we did.
In retrospect it was as well that we went home when we did; within five minutes of saying our goodbyes the rain started.
We'll do those two other caches another time. Probably when we go back for the one we didn't get today.
I'd asked Susan to take a few photos as we'd splashed about in the water. Once home, showered and disinfected I put them on-line. Whilst we were out we'd picked up eight caches in total. I was aware that I'd clouted my head on one of the easier ones. Looking at the photos I seem to have done three caches on which I risked life and limb without injury and given myself an inch-long scar from a film pot under a rock.
I then took "Furry Face TM" round the park. We didn't go quite as far as we usually do; the rain was against us. We came home and watched "Upstairs Downstairs" - that show never gets old.
"er indoors TM" boiled up a decent bit of dinner, then as she set off bowling I spent the evening designing an advert for the astro club to stick in the programme for Ashford's Festival in the Park.
It took some designing...