Back in 2009, I got seriously into geocaching in a big way. It was niche, nerdy and didn’t really have much of a cost other than the travelling around. Perfect for a geek with no money and a car.
Geocaching (see www.geocaching.com), if you didn’t know, is a worldwide game where containers or caches are hidden around the world for people to find, sign or move on. It got very popular in the UK during the noughties and early teenies after The Guardian did an article about how much fun it was to do with kids and spoiled it for everyone.
Geocaches were scored on their difficulty, with 1 being easy peasy and 5 being you need specialist equipment or balls of steel to find it — usually because the cache was hidden on the side of a cliff or on the space station or at the top of a Chilean plateau. You could also get an award for finding one geocache in each category.
At the time I was short of 2, the 4 and the 5. Level 5 geocaches in the UK are not abundant. Health and Safety laws and lack of difficult places to get to see to that, but as luck would have it, one was in the sleepy county of Northamptonshire which seemed to be fairly easily accessible with a bit of bravery — if not with a teaspoon of trespassing. So it made sense to jump in the car and head to Catesby to try and nab it.
The cache was hidden in the old Catesby Tunnel. A Victorian marvel of engineering and once the longest brick lined tunnel in the UK. Northampton was not a great receiver of the railways. Indeed the Tory royalist hotbed was well versed in resisting progress over the centurys and so it is not really surprising to find a great deal of the former railway network in Northamptonshire was ripped up by good old Tory whipping boy Dr Beeching leaving it with as much public transport connectivity as a SCART plug. As a result the line was removed and the tunnel and the viaduct at the other end were left to nature and to return to the landowner.
After scurrying down an old railway embankment, dodging farmers and getting wet from the sodden grass, eventually the portal for the tunnel was reached. The dark insides seemingly swallowing the light less than 5 feet away. It was creepy. It was also disappointingly sealed off by a metal fence.
This meant no getting a level 5 geocache and mega disappointment all round. However it seemed that a previous visitor to the location had some fun though….
A few years after this adventure I moved to Daventry which is about 5 miles away from the tunnel. I often drive past the area on my way into Banbury. But now, the cache is no more. Geocaching got expensive and inaccessible and the tunnel is now part of the Catesby Tunnel Vehicle Testing Facility — https://catesbytunnel.com/