The parallel blog to this is “Gillham’s way with Y Garn“, a wonderful walk in the Eifionydd region of Wales.
29th February 2012
The Whelk and I had booked onto the Anglezarke Amble and right about now, 3pm, we would be setting off for home after we’d each done our respective 16 and 24 mile circuits.
Now, the AA is one of the highlights of the running year but the conditions promised much ice and snow and a 5:15am rising is never that welcome in February. So we wimped out.
I had a really welcome lie-in and watched the Man Utd – Liverpool match, whilst getting ready for a local run. I set off at 3pm, crossed the River Dee and headed out around the large loop of the Meadows, heading down towards Ecclestone.
I’d already decided to extend the run down to the Iron Bridge at Aldford, but had researched a couple of geocaches to act as short breaks along the way. The first, close to the A55, was quickly found and was a real delight – full of superb trackables.
I continued down to the Iron Bridge, the path muddier and with some interesting potholes! The bridge is one of my favourite spots – a lovely view over to the church at Aldford, a slow and majestic stretch of river and fabulous trees and bushes. There’s a cache somewhere here but no phone signal so couldn’t lock-in on it. Must pre-download next time.
I set off back along towards Ecclestone, and very soon was on the path that bypasses the Crook of Dee. Here I met a lady who had lost one of her dogs and looked worried when I said I hadn’t seen a dog since leaving the bridge. She explained that the dog was elderly, had a weak heart and was last seen heading into the large field that comprises the Crook. This is private land and the old access path has been heavily barred with copious barbed wire. I said I’d run round the loop, back to the lodge if I could find a way into the field. I did easily by crossing a stream and circumnavigated the whole field, swamps and all (which cleaned off he mud!) but no dog was seen. Arriving back at the lodge I couldn’t see the missing dog’s owner so I headed back towards Chester.
Feeling a bit cheated re the cache, I recalled there being another cache between here and Ecclestone and, having a good signal now, closed-in on it. I had to clamber up beside a large tree away from the path but starting to read the main description I really began to wonder what I was getting into. I read the description, and decided to leave it until I’d studied it more.
By now I was cold and my muscles were a bit fed-up of hanging around. I pushed on to Ecclestone, through the village and down the road towards Chester before picking up the track through the woods towards the Grosvenor Bridge. I never regained the warmth in my leg muscles and it was heavy going on this return leg. A quick dive in to a shop for some chocolate and I was home.
The next afternoon I took a walk around the walls and picked up caches as the bus station and the Eastgate Clock. I took Lumie with me, a Windows phone, to introduce her to the art of Geocaching. I set the SportsTracker app running to record the route of my walk.
I’d previously downloaded the Geocaching app and used this to navigate to the various locations. Compared to the iPhone app I found the GPS mapping on the Lumia 800 to be jerky – you often had to wait 15-20 seconds for the dot representing yourself to follow your physical movement.
Finally, as a thorough test of the multi-tasking abilities of the phone, I took numerous photos.
Unfortunately, as soon as I switched to the Geocaching app, SportsTracker just closed down and didn’t continue running in the background. Disappointing.
I like the panorama movement of the pages in Windows Phone 7.5 and most of the Geocaching app worked well – just the mapping function felt awkwardly integrated.
Of the two caches, the one at the clock was a thrill to find – a nano, thumb-nail in size, magnetic and painted black. The whole of the clock superstructure and adjoining railings are of black metal. Hmmmm. Nice one.
This is developing into a hobby which sits nicely alongside my other activities, such as running, walking and even visiting other locations whilst on business or vacation.
Basically, Geocaching is Hide and Seek for the 21st Century. People hide things and you have to find them.
There is also a touch of the cloak-and-dagger, dead-letter boxes and of waiting until the coast is clear.
The 21st Century element comes from the integral use of the internet, GPS technology and – generally – mobile devices.
- Scene: 1pm, a busy shopping street. A statue of a local poet faces me as I sit on a sturdy iron bench. Yes, this looks like the spot. With my right hand I reach under the bench and retrieve a small film canister, held in place with a magnet. Inside is a roll of paper listing the previous finders. I add my details and return everything. All that remains is to log the find on my iPhone App and the job is done.
The leading organisation for this hobby is Geocaching.com. The easy site soon draws you in and apps are are available for most devices. I’ve tried both the iPhone and Windows phone versions: the former is superb, whilst the latter needs work.