The Diary of a Geocaching Ferret

by Apollo Ferret

March 2012
Apollo Ferret Netheravon Loop We all went down to visit Camilla and Paul in Netheravon at the beginning of March as it was the NFWS Open Show. I managed to do some Geocaching when mum and me went for a walk with Camilla, Robin and the springer spaniel Frankie. We found two caches Netheravon Loop 5 on the 5th March and Netheravon Loop 4 on the 6th.

Our first event at Thoresby Park in the middle of March was OK but then we had the job of swapping our “Ferret Mobile” for a newer model. We were all loaded into the old ‘un and transported over the Pennines to Queensbury where our replacement vehicle was waiting but first we had to call in at Jean’s in Bradford to off-load some of the fittings and us in our cages.

Mum collected the Mark 6 Transit on the 29th - and then all the fittings had to be transferred… wow what a job that was. John, Jean’s other half helped with the swapping over on the 30th (Saturday). The racking for our cages had to be swapped from the nearside to the offside because of the side door. Then the bunk wouldn’t fit; however, the removal of a lining panel sorted that reasonably well.

April 2012
We went back home early Sunday to pick up some more equipment before heading off to the WWT at Martin Mere where we were appearing as part of the Animal Magic Event over the Easter holidays. By the time we eventually left home on the Sunday evening it was around 10 pm we were only a mile from home when a warning light came on the dash board and mum stopped the van to investigate. Alas the engine wouldn’t start so we had to wait for an AA man. He couldn’t get the van started either and reached the conclusion that the starter motor was faulty. We went back to Jean’s in Bradford on the back of an AA transporter arriving in the early hours of Monday morning. Mum managed to send Victoria an email to let her know that we wouldn’t be arriving in time for us to meet the public on the Monday.

Derek and Steve came out to tow the Ferret Mobile back to the garage in Queensbury. It didn’t take Steve long to fit another starter motor and we were soon on our way to Martin Mere later than we should have been but then we were there until the 12th April so not getting there until late on the Monday afternoon didn’t really matter.

Us inside The Dome When Mum left the M61 at Chorley she was muttering something about the gears being difficult to select. Still we made it to Martin Mere and were transferred from the back of the van into The Dome. Mum couldn’t stay inside the compound with us - something to do with security etc. However, on the Sunday evening when she was waiting for Victoria to unlock the gate the van stalled. Oh dear… the clutch had gone… the van was stuck inside the compound.

On Monday morning Victoria got one of the lads to tow the van backwards to the its usual day parking spot outside The Dome and there it stayed until the 12th when a call to the AA had it towed out into the car park to await the arrival of another AA big truck. It was then back across the Pennines to Jean’s to await the arrival of Derek. The clutch was replaced along with the flywheel - something about it being a complete unit. All the technical, mechanical stuff was a bit too much for a little ferret. Then it was back home just in time for mum to drive to Ann and Bill’s home where mum was going to leave the van and get a lift down with them to attend the postponed AGM down near Tewkesbury. When Mum was getting ready to drive back home after attending the meeting Bill noticed that the van had dropped some oil on his driveway!

The oil leak turned out to be a leaking vacuum pump… and when mum dipped the oil the dipstick came up dry! After checking with the garage in Queensbury it was decided that it would be OK to drive the 30+ miles to get it fixed. We were all loaded into the van for the journey to Derek’s - to get the vacuum pump replaced. Mum had decided to call in at Birch Services on the M62 to check the oil level but about a mile short of the services there was a funny noise and the battery light came on! We reached the services and then called for the AA once again! The fan belt had busted so what with that and the vacuum pump it was big truck time again - at least it saves fuel. We’re all getting used to the noise of mechanics working on the van. Derek had been worried at first that the noise would scare us but mum told him that if we’d been let out of our cages we’d probably start nicking tools, stashing them away and in general cause complete chaos.

Racking for our cages After the van was repaired we then headed off down to Pinxton to stay with a friend whilst he sorted out the fitting in the back of the van. The bunk bed was shortened by an inch so it fitted better. Our racking was fixed firmly in place leaving room for 5 camping tables to be slotted in the gap between the bunk and racking. A table and shelves were fitted to the nearside.

Our next event was at Kedleston (21st/22nd April) the weather wasn’t too bad although it was a bit damp and the ground was soaked. When we left we had to be Keddleston ferret racing with Ian the Puppetman doing the comentary towed the last few yards up the hill onto the road as it was rather muddy, mum nearly made it but the back wheels started spinning about 50’ from the road so she stopped - absolutely no point digging a hole by keep spinning the back wheels.

May 2012
As the event we had been booked for had been cancelled we went to a Geocaching event on the 4th to 7th of May camping at Rivington with some other northwest geocachers. So I increased my number of found caches by two with “Hawaii Five-0 (nandad are 50)” the event and “Aloha Mo!” a traditional.

The event at Lotherton Hall (11th to 13th May) wasn’t all that good - it was very windy and we couldn’t use our gazebo plus we hadn’t been given enough room for a proper set up and we were behind Jean’s caravan with our lean-to tent attached to the side of van. At least it fits better on this transit than the old one as that didn’t have a side door.

After that we started losing events because of the weather - Woburn was cancelled due to a waterlogged show field.

On the Friday the 25th we were loaded up into the van for the journey to a farm where we would spend the night before travelling into Halifax for the Lurcher Link Fun Day mum and I went and found a cache “Ringston #4 - Cockpit View“ in the evening. Fortunately the weather was brilliant for the Saturday but not many folk were interested in the ferret racing.

June 2012
Mum had been wondering about a clunk every time the prop shaft took up the slack after changing gear or accelerating… Tom had checked it out and said that the rear universal joint was shot at and would eventually need replacing - Oh the trials and tribulations of swapping vehicles…

As we’d got a booking for Golcar Carnival on the 23rd June Mum had made arrangements to take the Ferret Mobile in for a replacement UJ on the 21st. Derek was actually pushed to try to fit the van in but as I and my pals were due to travel up to Scotland straight from Golcar Gala and then down to Machen near Newport, South Wales he managed to find a bit of a gap.

Needless to say it hammered it down with rain all night and mum got a text message to say the Gala was cancelled as the school playing field was underwater so that was another show lost to the weather. We went back home for a few days before setting off for Scone Palace and The Scottish Game Fair. It rained during the day on the Friday (29th June) - in fact the racing pipes had to be doubled back so the finish wasn’t in a pool of water. Having flexible pipes can be very useful at times.

Mum’s back was playing up so we all went to bed early on the Friday evening - the barbeque had been called off and everyone was sitting around in The Scottish Ferret Club marquee… It poured with rain all night and at 7am Mum found out that the remaining two days of the Scottish Game Fair had been cancelled! I didn’t see it but apparently our playpen in the gazebo was underwater!

July 2012
We stayed at Scone until the Monday before heading back towards Bolton. Mum then checked with Machen Show but that had been cancelled as well because of the state of the field…

Our next event was down in St David’s West Wales (27th & 28th) - now that was quite a journey, Mum had left home about 7.30 on the 24th telling me that we should get Lake Bala to Lake Bala about 9.30 where we were going to spend the night. Wow… we were fine until we got to the M56 and then the trouble started… it must have taken us two and half hours to travel 6 miles. Needless to say it was dark before we left the motorway… We heard on the van radio something about an Olympic event happening in or near Chester which was causing the problem on the motorway plus there’d also been an accident. Mum decided to call a halt when we reached a lay-by on the outskirts of Mold as she just didn’t fancy driving the twisty road to Ruthin in the dark when she was tired.

At St David's Set up and major excavation We did stop at Lake Bala Wednesday morning for breakfast before continuing on down to St David’s. As soon as we arrived in the show field we were shown our pitch. Mum took her time setting up and getting us out of the van into the awning tent. However, once that was sorted we were allowed out to stretch our paws in the playpen. Captain Jack was very naughty and dug a hole in the lino base… result was we ended up with the pen resting on the grass which was great because we could now dig holes.

We left St David’s on the Monday to head off to Brecon for the Agricultural Show on Saturday the 4th August. We were going to do some geocaching on the way so we weren’t in any rush. We called in a lovely little village, Solva, we hadn’t intended to visit but it looked beautiful we decided to spend a few hours there. We had a look for a cache there but couldn’t find it… we found out later that we weren’t looking in the right place as it’d been moved.

Me at Beach Berm Our first geocache on the 30th July was my first Earthcache “Beach Berms” at Newgale - I had a nice walk on the beach and a dig in the sand, I wasn’t too keen on the sea though. From there it was a short drive up to the next one, “Finest View” in a lay-by with a fantastic view down over the bay. Mum then drove to another lay-by where we parked close to a cache with the strange name of “Roch Gate Motel (The Pink Hotel)”. Mum put out our playpen at the side of the van so we could all stretch our paws and have our cages cleaned out. We spent the night there - in the lay-by that is not the motel!

31st July mum had worked out which caches were on our way and had entered the co-ords into the sat nav. We soon had our first on of the day “Litterbug” - I wanted to keep the container to play with but wasn’t allowed to. Then it was on to St Clare for another couple of caches and a DNF. As the chippy was open we had a fish and chip lunch. We found “Rebecca Riots” and “A 40 Boar” before heading off further along the A40 where we found “MB Litterbug 2” and “Diverted” and then it was a case of finding somewhere to spend the night. We eventually found a sort of a lay-by near a roundabout.

August 2012
After breakfast we set off on the last leg of the journey from St David’s to Brecon. The first geocache of the day was “The oak of chain bridge” - we parked Me at Beach Berm right next to where the oak was and I had a lovely time sniffing around to find the cache. The are some legends attached to the oak one being that if the oak fell then the town would suffer a great flood. Now that wouldn’t surprise me at all considering all the rain we’ve had this year! Onward to next cache in Llandovery itself. A nice easy find in a quite garden area adjoining a car park “Take a pew, admire the view”. Our last and final one of the day was actually in Brecon “River Usk Wildlife”. From there mum drove to the showground and we just parked up next to the rugby pitch.

We had to stay in the van because we weren’t actually on our proper site but at least mum put up the gazebo and got out our playpen so we could all have a short play before bedtime. However, we wouldn’t all be staying in the van that evening, we were waiting for Kate and Michael to visit us to pick up a nice poley hob that they were adopting.

The following morning we moved next to the marquee that had been erected near the arena on the rugby pitch. As soon as the stand alone awning was erected we were moved into to it. The gazebo was put up in front of the awning and we were soon out in the playpen having a bounce around.

Saturday, the day of the show, quite a few people came to visit us and also watched the first race of the day - the first race also turned out to be the last day as around 2pm the heavens opened and it poured with rain which effectively put an end to all further proceedings in the Country Pursuits Arena. Chris couldn’t fly his raptors, Peter, the fisherman, couldn’t do his casting demos, the gundogs couldn’t do their display and us ferrets weren’t able to do any more racing as no one wanted to watch any of the arena displays in the rain.

We left Brecon the following day to head back up to Bolton as we had a really special event booked at Cartmel in Cumbria. I wasn’t able to do any more geocaching on this journey as mum wanted to get home to restock the van after being away from home for 10 days.

On the 7th August after mum had done the washing etc we were off on our travels. We weren’t going to use the M61/M6 to get to Cartmel but were going to take our along the A675 and A6 so I could get some caches on the way.

Our first stop was about 7 miles from home to go and search for “Round the Ruins - Calf Hey Bridge”, I love these caches in old ruins and I soon had my paw on the container and then is off towards the village of Hoghton but first we stopped for a drive-by in Abbey Village, “Withnell Circular #6 - Withnell Station”, not that there is a railway station there any longer - one of the Beeching cuts! The next cache was “”Ask for Cask - Hoghton” (as the name suggests it was near a pub) and then it was a walk up the road to “Hoghton Circular 1 - Lane Side Farm”. A quick walk back to the van and then we were off to the outskirts of Preston for “another riverview”, it was quite a sneaky hide this one. We did have more caches to search for before stopping for the night but were unable to stop due to parking difficulties - mum hates the height restricted car parks.

After we’d driven through Preston mum found a nice quiet lay-by, lots of trucks were parked up for the night, but it was one of those where they’d straightened the A6 so we were off the main road. Well it was quiet until just before 7 am (8th August) when a very noisy engine started up. Mum got up to see what was going on only to discover that a right idiot with one of those mobile café trailers had plonked his very noisy generator just by the back doors of the van and well away from his trailer! Mum got in the cab and drove off up the A6 to the next lay-by to allow us to continue our kip for another hour or so whilst she got her breakfast.

After breakfast mum turned on her Garmin GPSr only to find that we were 70’ away from a drive-by cache: “A Road Anarchy A6 - North Garstang” it was a nice easy find for the first one of the day. Mum had consulted the map, with a bit of help from me; I was really anxious to get to the next cache on the map. “Fylde Ice Cream - 5 (Old Holly) however, mum wouldn’t buy us all an ice cream so we were all very disappointed! There were some lovely donkeys in the field near the cache site. After that we did a couple of caches that had been hidden in telephone boxes one called “cabus north” and the other “forton”. They won’t be available much long because BT have taken exception to caches being stashed in their phone boxes. After collection those mum nipped on the M6 to avoid going through Lancaster.

It was a lovely day but rather too warm for us ferrets in the back of the van so after mum had done a bit of shopping in Carnforth we headed to Warton where there was a lovely car park where mum parked the van in the shade of some trees. Our next View from Crag Rock Oven cache was in a lovely spot overlooking Carnforth and Morecambe Bay - “Warton Crag Rock Oven” an old lime kiln. Then it was quite a walk to the next one where I ended up having to be carried because it involved some rock climbing. It really shouldn’t have done but the cache owner was rather lax with his directions to “Warton Crag” from “Rock Oven”. By the time we got back to the van we were both absolutely shattered and ready for a lie down. Mum decided to stay in the little car park overnight - no noisy generators in this place.

The 9th August, another beautiful day - we left Warton around 10am to make our way to the A65 and one of the events taking place during the week before the 5th Annual Geocaching Mega at Cartmel. The first one we found was a traditional “Owert Fields 1 - Park Up” which was a really clever one where you had to work out how to get the cache to sign the log. After grabbing that one we made for the event “Mega2012: Welcome Cuppa in Cumbria” - by the heck it was really busy in the lay-by near the café, mum had to park half on the grass verge and half on the road. As it was really hot she left the side door open about 6” and the cab windows open. We walked down a bit of a hill to get “Motorway Mayhem M6 J36 - Coffee & cache!” a lovely traditional one. I was allowed in the garden of the café where I met some other Geocachers.

Mum then decided to head for the Mega camp site at Cartmel Racecourse instead of trying to find another lay-by for us to spend the night mainly because it was so hot… When we arrived at the camp site we only had to wait for a short while until it was decided where the Ferret Mobile could park up for a couple of nights. Well we ended up parked under the shade of a big tree and mum used the awning for a Vango tent instead of using our normal awning. Our playpen was set up under the awning and we finally were able to get out to play.

The following day (10th August) mum and I went for a little walk to find “A Mega Ramble 1“ in the woods. We had to cross the racecourse to get there and my heart came up in my mouth when I saw the jumps… but mum said that we would be using our normal racing pipes… “Phew!”

It did take us quite a while to reach the cache as we kept being stopped by the other campers (all geocachers there for the main event on Saturday), who wanted to make a fuss of me. My fame had gone before me and most of them knew who I was and they wanted to have their photos taken with me, ah one of the penalties of being a celebrity! Actually it was part of a Challenge Cache - folk had to have their photos taken with me and post it on the cache page.

We eventually made it to the cache and signed the log book. Then we turned round to make a way back to our pitch. Mike of Team Marizipan gave me a welcome drink of water on our way back.

In the evening we went to a “Mega Camping 2012: The Mega Rodeo” where humans were doing silly things such as riding a bucking bronco and falling off, having space hopper races that involved crossing a waterproof sheet that had been sprayed with water and washing-up liquid to make it really slippery. The small humans really enjoyed getting soaking wet and not being shouted at by their parents. When the loud music started I wasn’t very happy as it hurt my ears so mum and me went back to the van and settled down for the rest of the evening as we had an early start in the morning to get set up for the big event.

(First published in NFWS News - #94 Sept-Dec 2012)