Just to the East of the Hampshire town of Basingstoke is a village known as Old Basing.
Dotted around the village are various caches, about 15-20 in various mini-series. We loaded all the caches in our GPS, but knew we wouldn’t get round them all.
We parked by some impressive gates known as the Bolton Arch. Many years ago, when the Basingstoke area was developed the Arch was the entrance to a hunting estate called the Crab Tree Plantation on the Hackwood Estate. The estate has all but disappeared and survives as parkland either side of the noisy, and mainly invisible M3.
Our first cache of the day was by the Arch. The GPS and a very strong hint lead us to a very obvious corner. We were expecting to find a nano cache here, attached to some metalwork. When will we learn.. never assume anything! We looked and couldn’t find.
We checked the GPS, checked the corresponding mirror location in the Arch..nothing. We searched the original again…and eventually saw something we had overlooked the first time. Log signed, after far too long a search.
Thinking about it, the first cache of the day, seems to set the tone for the remainder. And it was fair to say, that we struggled on our circuit of the Crab Tree Plantation.
Some of our struggles were due to the vast number of dog-walkers out and about. The cache owner of 4 of the caches clearly knew it was a dog-walking area, as they had named caches with an anagram of dog names (CHURLER, IVER TREE and LOE POD.. but we disagreed with the spelling with DROBA LOLICE!).
It took us some time to reach IVER TREE as a dog was being exercised with a chewy ball near to GZ. We didn’t fancy crossing the wet,winter grass in front such energetic canine fun, so took a longer route, keeping to a footpath. We found the cache (second tree we looked in, of course) and walked away unnoticed.
The next cache took us to a very small, young copse. A circle of young-ish silver birches surrounded a picnic bench, and few oak saplings stood some feet away. The GPS and indeed the clue hinted at the saplings, but as Mr HG137 approached them he saw something unusual at the base of one the birches.
At the same time two dog walkers were coming close to the copse. We decided to wait.
Rather than walk around the copse, the dog walkers came towards us. Whoops ! We’d been rumbled ! And we hadn’t even got the cache in hand!
“Are you geocachers?” one of the dog walkers asked.
“Er, Yes” we replied.
“What you want is down there” – the man pointed at the base of silver birch Mr Hg137 had seen earlier.
It turns out they were geocachers too.
We had a good natter, socially distanced of course, and discovered they were CelticTykers. We also discovered they run the public list of ‘Counting Vowels’ caches..we told them of our FTF in that series, just a few days earlier!
Our problem at the cache was that the log was wedged in its container. We tried tweezers, twigs, cocktail sticks and ear-rings (!) to remove the log but couldn’t. But with CelticTykers to prove our find we felt we could still log the find. Nice meeting you CelticTykers.
We headed downward and in the distance we saw a car parked on the grass and people surrounding it. We discovered they were Black Dam and Crab Tree volunteers who look after the Plantation and were about to undertake some bush removal.
Volunteers about to start work
Our next cache was the other side of the River Loddon. The source of the River Loddon is about half a mile upstream, so the ‘River’ was more like a ‘Babbling Brook’. The water was clear, we speculated that this section of river must pass over chalk to keep it so clear.
Juvenile River Loddon
What wasn’t clear was the bridge we had to cross. Mud, mud, mud ! We slipped and slithered our way across heading to ‘Jubi’s Cache’ – a non-dog-name cache.
We crossed this bridge after a few minutes slithering
Sadly our searching was in vain. Hidden in ivy, and we think with some clever mechanism (hanging on string?) we couldn’t find it. We gave up, had another look at the clear waters of the Loddon and paused for coffee.
The morning had not gone well. The finds had been slow, and our chats with CelticTykers and the Nature Volunteers had been longer than we thought. We decided to attempt the last two ‘dog’ caches and leave. We could leave the remaining Old Basing caches for another day.
Would we have been quicker if we had run around ?
CHURLER was an easy find, at a vacant seat (first bit of luck all day), and then a trek through some woodland to our last cache BRODA LOLICE. The cache was apparently visible from the path in some logs. We searched the logs copiously. We squinted our eyes against the low winter sun to the log pile – to no avail. After 15 minutes we gave up.
We returned to the car, disappointed with our haul of 4 caches from 6, but then remembered the remainder we hadn’t attempted. Old Basing…we will be back!