Thirty five consecutive DNFs on just six Skir Hill Trail caches made me think it was time to take a look! A spot of maintenance was clearly needed – or was it? This is the story of today’s walk up the O Brook and on to Skir Hill.
As might be expected after weeks and weeks of rain, Dartmoor is saturated and the O Brook, if not in spate, is at least challenging – when is a brook no longer a brook
The caches which have been causing problems are those along the brook which requires multiple crossings. Many times there have been several consecutive DNFs, but almost always the caches have been there. Would today be different?
I splashed up the path to No 2 which was clearly visible metres away despite 5 consecutive DNFs, not to mention the cachers’ path which is gradually forming!
Up stream to No 4, which may well be missing, as this is an easy find in plain view and has disappeared before.
What’s that a spoiler – I must really be getting soft
But, it had gone so a new cache placed in a slightly more secure location – hopefully it will stay there.
No 6 is another easy find in plain view and rarely gives any problems. It’s hanging about knee height and you are looking for this (photo left).
No 8 is always the most problematic and is on a run of 13 DNFs dating back to May 2015! I added a hint after I last visited “No need to touch anything – just use your eyes! Cache at ground level.” I will add another hint here – try around the tree roots. It really is not that difficult
So far only one cache missing, which was much as I expected.
Now it was time to leave the O Brook which is one of my favourite Dartmoor streams. I have carefully crossed it 4 times today – and I still have totally dry feet
Up the valley towards Skir Hill and the first stop is at No 5 with 6 consecutive DNFs. But I couldn’t find it either. I was certain I knew where this was but there was a beautiful clump of mushrooms growing there! But it was there, the mushrooms had grown up and hidden it. I’ve now moved it away from the mushrooms, but once again it is in plain view.
In case you are wondering what you are looking for, both No 8 and No 5 are the same type of cache and look like the photo right.
Further up the valley we reach No 7 (Replaced). I have no idea what happened to the original cache, one day it was there, the next it had vanished
The replacement cache was in position for over 4 months before it was found and had 9 DNFs before FTF. Currently it has 4 DNFs, but once again I was sure that it would be there and it was!
No 7 (Replaced) still has more DNFs than finds but once again I checked the coordinates and they are spot on. It’s just a normal “small” cache under a rock – you just need to find the right rock.
Today was a superb day for walking on Dartmoor and this was the view from the cache site
The last cache to be checked on the Skir Hill Trail today was No 19. This is situated in a clitter field with numerous hides and has caused a few problems since it was placed, but as expected I soon found it. I also have to search for these caches, because if I had taken a spoiler photo I didn’t have it with me. It is a 900ml box, so not small and it hadn’t even been well hidden and I soon spotted it poking out! Once again I checked the coordinates and they are spot on!
I checked on a few other caches, dropped off a couple of travel bugs, but the main task of the day was complete – and only one of the caches was missing
A late journey to New York from New Zealand made Christine an easy winner in this year’s Dartmoor Geocoin Race. The trip of nearly 9,000 miles took Christine’s coin from 3rd place to first for an easy win by nearly 7,00 miles.
Unfortunately the previous leader’s coin, owned by Justine, has not been seen since 25th September and has now been marked as missing, but might still reappear as coins often do.
Considering that Kevin’s and Sue’s coin didn’t even get placed until August, it is amazing they they managed to finish third with Tammie’s coin fourth. The top 4 coins have a total mileage of over 63,000 miles and visited places all over the world, including two going to New Zealand and one to Hawaii. Trips to Europe and America by the race participants were almost common place, with almost all the coins reaching foreign countries at some stage.
What is really amazing is that out of 27 coins which started the race, it appears that 20 of them are still being moved around, which is excellent considering the quality of these coins and all the bad news stories that are always being circulated regarding trackables. Two of these 20 coins did reappear after it was thought likely that they had been lost, so you should never give up hoping.
I did say that I would offer 4 prizes if we received 30 entries, and it is no fault of those participating that some coins never got activated or placed. I will therefore honour that and award 2016 Dartmoor Geocoins to the first 4 in the race.
So that’s all for the 2015 race, we will start the 2016 one some time in the new year and hope for the same great support that we had this year. Many thanks indeed!
I don’t normally release the design for the new coin but tonight I spotted the Devon Mega request to help fundraising just as the final factory die art arrived on my desk. So here’s the deal – for the first 50 coins sold before Christmas I will donate £2 to the Devon Mega funds
I have been promised the coins by the beginning of December, so they should make excellent Christmas presents. The cost is the same as the previous 2 years, £15 including £2 p&p or £28 for 2 coins. The Devon Mega will receive £2 for each of the first 50 coins sold!
Our busy Summer season at The Cherrybrook is drawing to an end which means that I can once again turn my attention to caching
There’s so much occurring at the moment it’s difficult to know where to start!
Update on the Dartmoor 2015 Geocoin Race
Another great month for the race with coins moving all over the world! We now have coins in New Zealand, Canada, California, Nepal and at least 5 different European countries. The vast majority of the coins have moved recently and only a handful seem to be stuck or maybe lost.
Both Christine’s and Kevin & Sue’s coins have gone to New Zealand, but the race leader is now Justine’s coin which has gone to Hawaii and back – amazing.
Zara’s coin was lost for two and a half months but was then found and is now in Amsterdam.
This web site always had a very active user forum where many topics have been discussed over the years. However, it is very clear that most now prefer Facebook and the use of the forum has declined severely. I therefore thought that it was time that we had our own Facebook group which I have now set up. Please click on the Facebook icon to visit the group.
Please join the group and enter a draw to win a Dartmoor Geocoin
The first 50 cachers to join the group will be entered into a draw to win one of the Limited Edition Dartmoor Geocoins. A second draw for another coin will be made once we have reached a total of 100 cachers. Please do join our group today
Family Friendly Series for Half Term
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was planning a new family friendly series for half term. I have now mapped out the route completely and have final locations for over half the caches. In total there will be 32 caches on a route of 7.5 miles but with a couple of opportunities to shorten this. There will be several largish caches which hopefully I can fill with swag and many others will be novelty type caches. None of the caches will be too difficult and my hope is that everyone will have lots of fun with no DNFs
Over the next few days I should complete the planning and all will be submitted for review (in dribs and drabs Heather has requested). The plan is to have these available for Wednesday 28th October. I am not certain what would be the best time to have these published and are very happy to receive your views on this?
For now I will tell you that the route will take in Bellever Tor and much of Bellever Forest, but I am not given any other clues as to the route. However, I will publish a map of the route on this web site before publication of the caches to allow you to plan your day and parking etc.
2016 New Year Cream Tea Event
The event listing for our Annual New Year Cream Tea Event has now been published, but it doesn’t tell you very much! As you will all be aware, there are restrictions on what can be placed in an event listing, so it is left to Facebook and this web site to fill in the missing details. It will be of a very similar format to last year where Judy and I donated the Cream Teas and ALL proceeds from the event went to the Devon Air Ambulance Trust. However, this year we will be also be raising funds for the Devon Mega. At the moment I would see a raffle for the DAAT and an auction for the Devon Mega, which will also get a third of charge we are making for the cream teas. Last year we raised a total of £337 for the DAAT, can I suggest that we target £500 this year
Due to popular demand, I’ve organised another race for 2015 and it’s about to get under way with 27 entries. As last year, I don’t want a complicated set of rules and hope that everybody will play fair. However, a couple of changes from last year:
I’m going to ignore the number of times a coin is PLACED in a cache. Last year some coins were placed in a cache and retrieved by the same cacher. This makes no sense at all and is clearly just a VISIT. It was also very time consuming to count the number of times a coin was placed.
Please do not give coins to friends to take somewhere. All coins must be released into a cache to be picked up by anybody, not somebody known to you.
This year I will award 2016 Dartmoor Geocoins for the coins with the top 3 mileages. However, if we can get 30 confirmed entries I will increase that to the top 4!
Some things to consider which were learnt last year:
You can get a really good start by placing your geocoin in a travel bug hotel. However, these could be more at risk than a normal cache. You also may want to avoid a cache & dash or place it in a PM only cache. However, after it has been retrieved you will have no control.
Take time to explain on the trackable page all about the race that it is in. Also include a photo of the geocoin (you can use my one if you wish). Also attach something to the coin itself explaining exactly what is expected of the finder. We have so many new cachers and many will not know what they should do when they find it.
Constantly track your coin and ensure that it is immediately logged when it is retrieved. Send emails to chase this up if it doesn’t happen quickly. Don’t let cachers forget they have it!
The geocoin will remain your property and you can set whatever goals you would like on the geocoin page. I would ask you NOT to remove the geocoin’s name but to add to it, e.g. it comes named as Dartmoor National Park 2015 Geocoin, so you could add Sue’s ….. to the front of it. That way everybody can still search for it and I can produce some race details.
Please also note that the original coin must be used. Copies and proxies, etc. cannot be used in the race.
The race will start this coming weekend and will run until 31st October 2015 which is the end of the busy period for caching. After this things slow down considerably and we will not see much movement.
Please check the list of entries. Please let me know which coin you are entering in the race if you have more than one and please let me know your caching name if I haven’t included it.
Having many remote caches, is something of a double edged sword when it comes to maintenance. Generally, caches that only get visited 10 to 20 times a year seldom go missing and provided that cachers are careful when logging them, they should require little maintenance. A maintenance visit once every 2 years should suffice unless there are reported problems. Having just adopted several caches from ELDitton I knew I ought to start checking on them, and today was that day.
Because much of my walk would be in the Okehampton range I had to pick a day when there was no firing and at this time of the year that means a Monday, whatever the weather! Fortunately today was forecast as misty but dry with temperatures close to freezing most of the day. To access this part of the moor it is best to park at Fernworthy, but not in the car park but at the very end of the road. A good forest track then takes you right into the moor near Teignhead Farm. As I overlooked the moor visibility wasn’t great, but it was very atmospheric – just how I love Dartmoor to be! The first thing you come to is a fantastic clapper bridge, in my opinion one of the best on Dartmoor, but it only gets one thousandth of the visitors of Postbridge.
Following the Teign upstream I soon came to the first adopted cache, Blacksmith’s Shop. I haven’t found this for several years and needed the very explicit spoiler photo. The cache container was a mess and full of damp rubbish. The log inside its film box was dry, but totally full, so I replaced the whole cache with a new clip lock box. The Blacksmith’s Shop is recorded as a Blowing Mill and has a fine example of a Tinner’s Mould Stone, see photo.
I followed the Teign upstream a little further and then headed cross-country for my cache Fernworthy Forest View – not that there would be any view today. I came across this spot a couple of years ago but only had a micro with me, so placed that. Of course I couldn’t find the micro, but on checking some earlier logs saw that it had been moved, not far, but far enough. I placed the micro in another small clip lock box and hid it under a stone. Next stop was the adopted cache at Quintin’s Man, but everything was good there. Since I have lived on Dartmoor I have visited the heads of many of the great rivers, and I had three lined up for today. The first was Teign Head which was a real disappointment given the great river it becomes. Maybe we need some more rain!
Next, I needed to pick up the East Dart as I have two caches here, one of which hasn’t been found since October 2013. This cache was placed in June 2011 and I have only visited it once since. I couldn’t immediately spot it, so resorted to the usual “now where would I hide it”. Obviously I had a slight advantage here and the cache was soon found, once again in excellent condition. I have now added a spoiler photo! I actually had more difficulty in finding my next cache, but eventually did so and once again all was in order. If Teign Head was a disappointment East Dart Head was just the opposite and the finest river head I have seen on Dartmoor. Although almost no water present, it was clear where the river had cut huge winding channels through the peat, some of which had then collapsed. Above that was a dainty little stream – the East Dart as you have never seen it!
Being so close to the Cranmere pool Letterbox it is impossible not to visit once again, my second visit in a few weeks! I didn’t need to check on my adopted cache here as I had done so on my last visit. This time I couldn’t resist signing the logbook once again and even managed a selfie with me sitting on the letterbox
The area between East Dart Head and Taw Head is of course, a watershed, but not a sharp ridge but a very flat and boggy area. Fortunately I had chosen my trusted Muck Boots for today’s trek, a decision I was thankful for many times over. Taw Head was my third new head of the day and although again with little water it does have a nice winding valley which would probably look good with a good flow of water.
I next headed up to check on my caches at Hangingstone Hill and Whitehorse Hill. Neither were a problem to find and both were in excellent condition. The Whitehorse Hill cist is a bronze age burial site and well worth the visit, although I was disappointed to see that the cairn behind it has totally disappeared. I then had to check on my adopted cache at the south end of the peat pass as I knew from the logs that this had problems. Once again a damaged outer container but this time an inner micro with a sodden logbook. So, another new cache was required here. By this time I was a little behind schedule and headed for the most direct route back to Fernworthy. This was a mistake as I followed the Manga Brook for its whole length resulting in a continous paddle for nearly a kilometre! Next time I will keep to my normal route of Manga Hill. By the time I got back to the forest it was almost dark, but I didn’t need my torch. In all my total route was just on 11 miles, almost none of it on paths, except that through Fernworthy. However a great day and much useful maintenance completed and caches checked.
A unique event is taking place this year in the form of a nationwide Easter Egg Hunt, making use of the untapped method of ‘geocaching’. If you’re not familiar with geocaching, in its simplest form it’s a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices such as your mobile phone. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the treasure hidden at that location. In this instance the lucky hunters will be rewarded with a very special treasure in the form of a Free Easter Egg from Thorntons.
There are currently 50+ free Easter Eggs hidden across the United Kingdom, all of which were placed by the geocaching community themselves so expect them to be well hidden, they come in the form of fake rocks, pine cones and little easter egg chicks so you’ll need to keep your wits about you.
I was fortunate enough to be chosen to place one of these caches, so naturally I placed it in my favourite location – the wonderful Dartmoor National Park. If you are able to come and find my cache you will need to walk about 1km from the car park and these are the views you should be fortunate enough to experience.
Last month I wrote my first Dartmoor Blog – my trip to the Cranmere Pool Letterbox. Yesterday I visited the other famous letterbox at Duck’s Pool, but that wasn’t the main reason for my trek into Dartmoor’s South Moor. As many of you will know, I’ve set myself the task of placing a major series of caches on Dartmoor and it was time I got on with it. But for me, caching is so much more than finding and placing caches. Dartmoor is such a wonderful location and I am happy to use caching to try to attract more visitors to enjoy what I am privileged to wake up to, every single day.
For any Dartmoor trek, the first problem is what to wear. The forecast for Devon was 9C, but I knew better than that. On the moor it is always 2 or 3 degrees colder (altitude alone) and given a wind chill factor of 5 or 6 degrees, the reality would be about zero! So I chose full thermals and did not regret it. Paramo waterproof trousers and two layers of Paramo tops was everything else I needed, plus my trusted Muck Boots (neoprene wellies), gloves, hat and scarf. So many query why I wear Muck Boots instead of normal boots, but after well over 100mm of rain in the last week, I knew how wet the moor would be, and I can easily walk 10 miles in them.
My route was to go via Fox Tor and the best parking is by the Devonport Leat just up from Whiteworks. The leat was flowing fast and clear after all the rain, but it is so interesting to note the features built into it. A narrow bridge to allow the rabbits to cross (Dartmoor was famous for its warrening) and a sheep leap to allow the sheep to cross! This route to Fox Tor avoids the Fox Tor Mire – also known as the Great Grimpen Mire in The Hounds of the Baskervilles. One reason to go via Fox Tor was to check on the Fox Tor hybrid. A cache for which I was FTF in 2011 but has had a checkered history since. Unfortunately I couldn’t find it, so it may have vanished once again! Another reason to visit Fox Tor was another photo opportunity with Toby’s Tor Hopper. I acquired this TB about a year ago and it’s aim is to be photographed on top of every Dartmoor Tor. So far I have taken him to about 50 tors, with a photo on top of each!
I had with me about 9 new caches. I didn’t intend to place them all but I had to carry a variety of sizes as I didn’t know where each could be placed. Most think that placing caches on Dartmoor is easy – it is not. In reality there are few hides. You have to avoid the dry stone walls, the hut circles and all the other protected monuments. Much of Dartmoor is just grass, with no decent hides, and most of the tors already have caches on them. I wanted to take a 5 litre cache and had to take a bigger rucksack to get it in. However, I couldn’t find a suitable hide around Fox Tor, but did manage to conceal a 2 litre box. I did eventually manage to hide the 5 litre cache, and it needs a very big hide, but I’m not telling you where.
On my last trip in this area I found a very unusual item. A huge rain gauge! We have one in our front garden which gets emptied and the contents recorded every day. I have no idea how often this one gets emptied but it has to be huge to take all the water. Last time when I first found it, it was too heavy to lift, but it has since been emptied and is now half full. I guess that they just bring some scales and weigh it, otherwise they would need an enormous measure.
Not only was I out to place caches, but to find a couple as well. These were originally puzzle caches which I had solved, but for which the final coordinates have now been published. One of these is on Naker’s Hill which is a huge expanse of nothing but grass. It is totally featureless and very difficult to walk in a straight line, as there is nothing to set your course for. As I was walking across here it occurred to me that there probably wasn’t another human being within 2 miles of me! What a scary thought, and very few places in England where that could be true. This is truly a wilderness!
Another task was to check on my Place a Remote Dartmoor Cache Challenge cache. The idea of this challenge cache was to encourage others to place remote caches on Dartmoor. However, the silly Groundspeak rules don’t allow you to set a challenge of placing caches, so there had to be another criteria to allow you to find them. How stupid. This cache is over 4km from the nearest road and was in good condition.
My return trip took me back to another of my caches, that at Duck’s Pool. This was the second of the famous letterboxes to be placed on Dartmoor after Cranmere Pool. It was first placed in 1938 as a memorial to the famous Dartmoor author, William Crossing, who died in 1928. Not so well known as Cranmere Pool, but a great spot to aim for nonetheless. All the guidebooks tell you that there is no pool at Duck’s Pool, but that is rubbish. There has always been a pool here on my visits and yesterday there was a pair of Mallards on it – so ducks’ pool indeed!
Duck’s Pool is still nearly 3 miles from my starting point but you can walk in almost a straight line to Nunn’s Cross Farm, where you can pick up the Devonport Leat to return to the parking spot. In all I walked just over 9 miles, but it took me over 7 hours to do it, achieving an average speed of just 1.25 mph. The reason it took so long was that I placed a number of caches. As mentioned earlier, the main difficulty is finding a suitable hide. And I am not looking to hide micros. I normally aim to use a minimum size of 450ml but for this series I am hoping to use boxes up to 900ml, 2l and 5l and managed to place all of those sizes yesterday. Coordinates are taken with 2 GPSrs, one a single reading, the other averaged over a minute. I then walk away a couple of hundred metres and return to repeat. Once at home I manually average the 4 readings to get the coordinates that will be published.
So a very successful and enjoyable day, and this time I am pleased to say, that unlike my trip to Cranmere Pool, all objectives were achieved.
I was very keen to get out and do a major Dartmoor walk and Friday looked the best day of the weekend, even though there was going to be a huge windchill factor and NW winds gusting up to 40mph!
I choose Cranmere Pool for three reasons, first there were 7 caches to be found on the way there and back, second I wanted to place a couple of caches in my new Dartmoor Challenge series and third there was a 2014 Dartmoor geocoin to be retrieved from the cache. The planned route was just over 8 miles, mostly on easy Army roads so should be no problem.
I parked above Okement Farm which is as far as you can get. I’ve no idea why the COs for the caches chose a parking spot down near the camp, but it will add nearly another 2 miles to your route. As I was going south, the cold icy wind was almost behind me and going was easy down the Army road. There was a little snow lying around, but nothing really to cause a problem. The first two road caches were found and I diverted off for the OP17 cache before returning to the road.
This was where my problems started. When you climb up to Okement Hill you are at 564m. That is higher than all of the surrounding tors, except Yes Tor and High Willhays and you are only about 50m below them. As I climbed above the 500m contour the Army road was covered in snow and ice and the snow was thicker on the ground everywhere. The East Okement Head cache was in an area covered by snow and I was lucky to spot it.
It was then up past OP15 and the Q Datum cache which I had already found. Stupidly I was strutting down the Army road and completely missed the turning to Ockerton Court so that meant a cross country trudge to get back to the track. Once at Ockerton Court the track ends and being a huge plateau from there to Cranmere Pool, it is one kilometre full of Dartmoor bogs!
Dartmoor bogs can normally easily be avoided provided you watch your feet all the time. However, when the ground is covered in snow to about 6 inches, you cannot see them. The secret is to walk only on grass which sticks above the snow and avoid all areas of melted snow, as they are surely bogs. It was a very long, slow and laborious trudge of that kilometre and the sky in all directions was black! A sensible person would have turned back at Ockerton Court, but I rarely give up on a mission.
Eventually the Cranmere Pool Letterbox appeared in sight and what a relief that was! Of course at this point it started snowing and sleeting and I sheltered under the peat near the cache to have some hot coffee and lunch. I looked for the cache but couldn’t find it until I remebered that I had the spoiler with me. Unfortunately the geocoin was not in the cache!
My gloves were soaking wet and my fingers were frozen. Fortunately I had brought spare gloves but decided that I would never be able to place any caches because of the snow. I had intended to move further on to place the caches, but I quickly made the decision to return immediately. Even had I placed the caches, my fingers were too cold to write out what was needed and to check the coordinates. So, I had actually failed on 2 of the 3 reasons for the trip.
I decided that as I hadn’t fallen into any bogs on the way here, all I had to do was follow my footsteps to get back. Easier said than done and I constantly wandered off and had to use the GPSr to get back on the previous track. On the way back it was a mixture of sleet & snow and patches of sunshine, but the wind was now firmly in my face. A short rest at OP15 and then I continued around the Army road to pick up the remaining caches.
All went well until the very last cache when I realised I had to cross a small stream twice. Normally this would have presented few problems but with the melting snow the stream was a raging torrent and the banks slippery. Not something to be jumped! I found a good crossing place about 50m upstream from the cache and returned to the same place having found the cache.
Now it was just a short walk back to the car and I was very relieved to get there. Although only a walk of 8.5 miles, it had taken 5 and a half hours and was probably one of the most challenging walks I have done on Dartmoor. Or maybe I’m just getting old!