23. Jun, 2021

Searching for SpongeBob

SpongeBob is a geoart series of 130 unknown caches cleverly put together by local cacher Thallams and placed south of Chipping Ongar. I had thoughts of completing the series in a day but reality soon set in.πŸ˜€ There were three distinct circular routes and I planned to conquer one comprising of 52 caches. This would give me time to get a few more around Ongar and Blackmore before heading for home. Here’s how the day went.

I had parked up in Little End at the recommended parking place and found the first cache in the series at 0543. I walked down the London Road passing through Stanford Rivers picking up a few more. I passed what I thought had previously been a Workhouse and after some research found that it was indeed the former Ongar Union Workhouse built in 1830 to deal with the destitute of 26 parishes around Chipping Ongar. It ceased being a Workhouse in 1931.

i reached the footpath where I needed to turn off into farmland. There was a cache here next to an old large rundown building which reminded me of a pub. I carried on down the track and had to walk through very wet grass. It was at this point that I realised that my hiking boots were past their best. My socks were soaking wet and I had a long way to go.πŸ₯΄

Thankfully I finished traversing the fields and reached a farm track. I followed this whilst gathering caches down to St Thomas’s Church In Navestock. There was a CM unknown here which was quickly found. I had to follow Shonks Mill Road for a mile or so and I had to have my wits about me. There was a lot of traffic on this minor road with no pavement and drivers were not expecting pedestrians.πŸ₯΄

Luckily I got to the footpath that I wanted but the path went through a field full of a waist high crop that I now know to be oilseed rape. This was also very wet and as well as wet socks, I now had very wet trousers.🀬

I walked on, still collecting caches until I reached Navestock Heath and dry roads, hooray!πŸ˜€ At the junction of Sabine’s Road and Murthering Lane, I took a photo of the road sign, funny how it turned out.

I continued down Murthering Lane for a couple of miles, still successfully finding the Spongebobs until I was in sight and sound of the M25. I had to head north along a farm track but there was a particularly difficult cache here which took me twenty minutes to locate. I was distracted by several hint items but eventually turned up trumps.

This farm track eventually led back to Shonks Mill Road which I had to follow right up to the London Road aka A113. I waited some time to cross this busy road but as soon as I did, I was rewarded with the first trad of the day, the LB ~ London Road.

I headed north but there was the constant drone of light aircraft above me and I realised that I was on the take off path of the Stapleford Abbotts airfield. I looked up at the planes trying to decipher their registration numbers. I started to continue north when I saw a Muntjac deer looking at me. However when I moved, it ran from sight.

When I got to #42, I had my first DNF of the day. It was definitely missing so I moved on to the next cache, the trad LB ~ Three Forests Way. I carried on without mishap, following the footpaths until I reached a field or even fields of oilseed rape.πŸ₯΄ My last cache in this section was #52 and as I checked the previous logs, I could see that the last cacher had given up in despair of ever getting into the search area. I eventually worked my way through the waist high crop thinking that it was like paddling through treacle. I signed the log sheet and took the travel bug.

I still had to negotiate a path back to the A113 but I eventually did and had to walk for a mile and a half back to the car. I passed that old maybe pub that I mentioned earlier and after research found that it was the former White Bear in Stanford Rivers. After some victuals and a change of socks and shoes, I drove up to Marden Ash just outside Ongar for the CM ~ Marden Ash.

Now I knew that there was a cafe just down the hill opposite the Two Brewers pub at the bottom of High Road, Ongar. When I first passed through Ongar in 1966 on the way to Ongar Radio Station (in North WealdπŸ€”) this was a Dairy. I parked nearby and settled down for a coffee. Although I had eaten not long ago, I couldn’t resist the home made bread pudding.

Whilst I was enjoying the currants, I saw that I had a message from deboottednATM. These were a geocaching duo from Clacton who had been following me up on the SpongeBob series this morning. They were commenting on how difficult #52 was and we exchanged notes. I asked if they had found #42 and they had.πŸ€” They had found a new container and log sheet so we surmised that the cache had actually been replaced since my DNF and their find.πŸ₯΄

They suggested that I contact the CO asking for permission to log a find. I thought it a bit cheeky but I did.πŸ˜€ Thallams came straight back saying that he had spotted my DNF and gone right out and replaced it. “Of course, you can claim the cache.” πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ’₯πŸ’₯πŸ’₯

Back in the car, I now embarked on a couple of drive-bys on the way to Blackmore. The CM ~ Kelvedon Hatch unknown was a quick find but now we need a cache at the WM, anybody? There was a bonus cache that had been eluding me for some years but I thought that the new coords that I had were decent. They were and the Blakes7 Bonus - Liberator was finally struck off the list.

I was now in Blackmore and I parked up at the Village Hall which was handy as there was a VHs multi here that was soon sorted. I wasn’t so lucky at the nearby LB trad but the nathanjhunt and Neilandjen team had also dipped it recently so I was confident that it had gone.

Another cache that the above combo had dipped was the bonus of the Blackmore Village AdLab series. I had tried for it on Fathers Day when I was treated to lunch at the nearby tea room. However the official site crashed and I stood no chance. This time, the coords and the hint were spot on and I soon added this one to the tally.

I have recently become aware of a QTF challenge down in Surrey. It’s not a FTF but a Quick TF ie not only find a cache on the second or third day since publication but every month for a year.I had spotted that Oaklands Cache in Chelmsford had been published the day before yesterday so decided to give the challenge a go. I now have a QTF for month one so let’s see how it goes. That was the last cache of the day so it was off home.

2 Multi 3 Traditional 56 Unknown