February 4 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : Wanborough to Guildford

Winter had changed from a cold, frosty season to a wet one. Very showery, very cloudy.

But the day was fairly fine with the promise of rain later. Best get on with the plan !

St Bartholomew's Church, Wanborough

St Bartholomew’s Church, Wanborough


The plan was to walk from Wanborough Station to Shalford Station, catch the hourly train from Shalford station to Guildford, then wait 20 minutes for the half-hourly train back from Guildford to Wanborough.

We had walked and cached some of this route before, so it should be straightforward. What could possibly go wrong? Eagle-eyed readers will have noted the blog title does not correlate to the plan so, a bit like caching, expect the unexpected!

It all started well enough. Our previous visit had left a previous multi/puzzle unfound, so before arriving at Wanborough station we parked near to where we had looked before and rummaged. Was it that we were fresher, keener and warmer than when we last looked? Was it the hedgerow seemed to have been trimmed ? Either way an easy find and a great start to our day’s caching.

How-l did we miss this on our previous visit ?

How-l did we miss this on our previous visit ?


Our first real target of the day was a Church Micro in Wanborough. To reach it meant walking for about half a mile on the Fox Way, a 39 circular route circumnavigating Guildford. The route is named after Richard Fox, one of its creators. There are also a number of geocaches on its route too! However our half-mile journey involved walking along a muddy, flooded, barbed-wire enclosed, narrow footpath.
Fox Way, Guildford, Surrey

The (somewhat muddy) Fox Way


We gingerly squelched our way along the track, sometimes using the fence posts as stability, other times a submerged brick was a useful stepping stone in the flooded section. During the summer this path would be really easy, but after a week of winter rain… the semi-submerged path proved tricky!

When we arrived at the Church (St Barthomolew’s) we found a real gem. The Church was built shortly after the Norman Conquest and the answers to the multi-puzzle cache were easy to find and easy to calculate. However a parked van obscured our vision of the optimal footpath sign, so we took a slightly longer route to the cache than we expected. The cache was found with the help of two sheep in the neighbouring field who came over to chat.

Ewe will find the cache here!

Ewe will find the cache here!

We decided to have a coffee stop back at the Church, as our previous knowledge of the area told us there would be no other suitable spot for a while.

We then had the longest section of pavement walking of the Sandhurst-Sandhurst route so far, but this was more to ensure an easy tunnel crossing of the Hogs Back, a notorious dual carriageway (A31).

We arrived at the North Downs Way, another long distance footpath, which links Farnham to Dover. We were only walking 3-4 miles of its 153 miles before turning away from it, to reach Shalford. We had cached twice on the North Downs Way and we had DNF’ed a couple of caches on our previous visit. Today was time to have another search!

And we were lucky with both! The first, discovered behind a fence post and really, really small; Mrs Hg137 also discovered stinging nettles sting even in February. The other was more troublesome since it was in tree roots at the top of a muddy gully. To reach the roots we slipped and slithered, and kept watch as several parties of muggles trudged by, each own complaining of the ankle deep mud. It took three attempts to find this cache (well Mr Hg137 took two, and Mrs Hg137 found it easily!). Still a find is a find !

The North Downs Way was quite busy as there was an afternoon event at the Watts Gallery. This Gallery has been rebuilt using Lottery funding and exhibits the work of Victorian painter and sculptor George Watts.

Watts Gallery, Compton

Watts Gallery, Compton

We also passed two groups of Bronze Duke of Edinburgh parties. (We’ve discovered over time that they spend just as much time having a six-way discussion over the map, as they do walking!).

North Downs Way

A less muddy section of the North Downs Way

Our next caches were just after we had turned away from the North Downs Way both easy finds, hidden in tree roots.

We were aiming for a tiny hamlet at Littleton where another Church Micro awaited. (We also assumed there would be a seat in the Church grounds for lunch). Sadly… there wasn’t.

The Church was originally built as a village school house back in 1843 and turned into a church when the school moved premises. However the granite step into the Church proved a more than adequate seat. Unlike Mr Hg137’s ability to load the Church Micro details into the GPS! He had written down the calculation but failed to load the cache details so that we had no means of finding the location of A,B,C, D and E. We searched unsuccessfully for a wifi signal. Nothing. Then, as were leaving we noticed 5 numbers on two signs which Mr Hg137 remembered being the key. We assigned values in an obvious way and undertook the calculation. We were only 100 feet away!

Littleton, Surrey

Littleton Church


Fab!

Sadly, no!

The Ground Zero had just been re-fenced. New poles had been erected – even a nearby Farm Sign was new! We decided that the cache had been ‘lost’ in the upheaval and marked it down as our first DNF of the day.

So reluctantly we headed away from Littleton, and headed towards Shalford. The path formed the boundary of a Police Dog Training Centre, and it seemed no coincidence to us, that every dog walker seemed to have an Alsatian with them. Fortunately the two caches we had to find on this section were surprisingly straightforward. One hidden in the depths of some horizontal ivy (shame the log book was so wet we could barely write on it), the other not quite so well hidden in a recumbent log.

Lichen this walk a lot!

Lichen this walk a lot!

Time was ticking as were emerged on a main road halfway between Guildford and Shalford… could we walk and cache the last 3/4 mile or so in 30 minutes so we would make the next hourly train ?

All we had to do was cross the River Wey, find a cache on a ‘island’ (more accurately a large piece of land which the River Wey meandered around), cross the River Wey on the far side of island, walk through a cemetery (another cache) and arrive at the station.

St Catherines Lock, River Wey, Guildford

The River Wey from St Catherine’s Lock near Guildford

Our first River Wey crossing was at St Catherine’s Lock. Due to high water levels downstream this was as far as boats could travel (not that we saw any). We arrived at the first cache site, and then read the logs.. it had been DNFed since April last year. We undertook a token search, but decided with time pressing, to move on to locate our second bridge.

Could we find the bridge ? No ! There seemed to be no route off the far side of the island! Even a local dog walker (yet another Alsatian), said there was no bridge. We checked our maps, and although we could see one printed we accepted her word. We quickly concluded we would not have enough time to walk all the back to the lock gates, and walk an even longer route to Shalford station in the 20 minutes before the train was due.

Reluctantly we decided to walk to Guildford instead… we could follow the Wey to the City Centre, find the station, and still catch our connecting train. 40 minutes and 2 miles later we arrived at the Station, breathless and exhausted after an eventful day’s caching.

Our journey is being documented by a trackable which we are ‘dipping’ in found caches or at other cache locations to give a ‘broadly accurate route’.

guildford-tb-route

Here are some of the caches found on today’s route :

January 21 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : North Camp to Wanborough

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Today we had the crisp, sunny winter’s day we had hoped for on our last day. It was a beautiful morning, but, my oh my it was cold!


Starting at North Camp station, we set off south along a diversion from the official Blackwater Valley path. We saw a notice on a post about unauthorised change of use of the land by the rivers, and have also heard (but can’t confirm) that the landowner closed the riverside path around then. Anyway, that meant a walk along a bumpy track, with many an icy puddle, sandwiched between the A331 and some gravel pits. Soon we returned to the river, and went to find out first cache, a puzzle cache called ‘Follow you, follow me’; luckily, we’d got the puzzle correct and were the first to find the cache since September 2016. Like us, most geocachers find fewer caches in the winter than the summer because the weather is darker, colder, and wetter.

The start of the walk - near North Camp

The start of the walk – near North Camp


We went on along the river, enjoying the sunlit morning, seeing mist rising from the river, and watching the local birdlife – ducks on the river and, once, a jay. We stopped to watch a heron – I was so engrossed in taking pictures that I failed to spot a cyclist coming along and nearly got run down… The next two caches were along the riverbank, among trees or a sign overlooking the river (just a bit of creaking from the fence as Mr Hg137 climbed up to collect it). Soon after we left the Blackwater path to climb up onto the Basingstoke Canal. At last our direction was altering, and more in line with our quest; thus far we had been going south, to skirt the nearby, off-limits, army ranges. Just as we reached the foot of the canal aqueduct there was a flash of turquoise, then another – a kingfisher! What a great farewell to the river!

Once up on the aqueduct, we turned aside a few yards to look for the first of three caches in the ‘Oddballs 1st Mission series’. We found it, but it was leaky and the log was frozen stiff, and we couldn’t remove it from the cache, let alone sign it. We did little better with the next two caches, also from the same series, which we couldn’t find at all – some TLC is needed for those caches methinks.
A new friend for Mr Hg137!

A new friend for Mr Hg137!


A coffee break was taken. It felt pleasantly warm in the bright sunshine, though the ground was still frozen and the canal icy. Almost immediately a robin appeared and took a fancy to Mr Hg137. I thought it was the red bobble hat which was the attraction … We succumbed to its blandishments and fed it part of our lunch. Leaving the canal soon after, we walked down through Ash, passing the striking church (why isn’t there a Church Micro cache here?) and eventually turned eastward along a green lane. At last we were heading in roughly the right direction! Along here, we came across three caches all from the same series – based on Italy – Rome/Venice/Pompeii – all very similar neat, tidy caches, mostly not found for a bit.
Basingstoke Canal

Basingstoke Canal


The path changed to a track, then to tarmac, and we were at ‘Christmas Pie’. A good name for a place! There was a puzzle cache here based on information to be found on the village sign. We worked out the puzzle but couldn’t find the cache. We’ve checked our results later, and they were correct, so maybe we’ll stop off for another try at the start of our next walk?


Wanborough station was a little further on, the end of the day’s walk. There was one more cache here, overlooking the railway line, from the ‘Sidetracked’ series (they are near stations). A short wait later, the train took us back to North Camp and the start of our walk. In a few minutes, we retraced a route which had taken us a few hours to travel on foot.

The end of the walk - Wanborough station

The end of the walk – Wanborough station


We found eight of the eleven caches we attempted. Here are some of them, along with our touring trackable:

January 14 : Sandhurst Geocachers Trail Trackable

Sandhurst Geocachers Trail Trackable starts its quest

Sandhurst Geocachers Trail Trackable starts its quest

Normally when we blog about trackables, we blog about those we have found whilst geocaching, and those which we are moving on for their owners.

The Sandhurst Geocachers Trail Trackable is different.

We are using it to show our progress on our ‘Sandhurst to Sandhurst Quest’ we described earlier this year.

For those that are not aware, when a trackable is logged into a geocache location, it produces a marker on the trackable’s location map. As the trackable moves from geocache to geocache these points are joined up into lines and the lines can become very big indeed. For example a trackable that starts its travels in London, visits New York, then Sydney, then Mumbai, then Munich would have lines wrapping across the whole globe.

The problem with these lines is that they are the shortest distance between cache to cache. Most geocachers don’t travel in straight lines cache to cache, so the distance associated with the lines can be a bit distorted.

However that problem aside, we intend to use the Sandhurst Geocachers Trail Trackable to track our progress from Sandhurst to Sandhurst. We intend to ‘dip’ the trackable in every cache on route, thus building up a map showing our route so far. You can visit the route using this link :

https://www.geocaching.com/track/map_gm.aspx?ID=6190539

Each numbered location is a cache we have visited (or attempted to visit). At each visit will generate a ‘trackable dip’.

(Ideally the trackable should be dipped in the ‘actual’ geocache container, but some geocaches are not at the location shown on the http://www.geocaching.com map. For example multis and puzzle caches, so we may just ‘dip’ the trackable at the ‘map start’ location of these geocaches if they are on route.)

The more caches we ‘dip’ along our way, the more accurate our mileage will be. We may also include a couple of cache ‘dips’ off our route (providing we find the cache of course), to add some mileage into the route. This will (hopefully) compensate for any shortages generated by the cache-to-cache route shown on the trackable map.

If this sounds very confusing, don’t worry. click on the map and watch our progress… we are aiming for Sandhurst (Kent) approximately 60 miles SE from our start location, a little further on from Royal Tunbridge Wells and a just beyond a reservoir that has a tripod shape!

Here’s the map again.. we hope you enjoy watching our progress…

https://www.geocaching.com/track/map_gm.aspx?ID=6190539

January 14 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : the first leg to North Camp

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Well, the quest has been published. Time for us to make a start.

Just after dawn on a cold, slightly misty Saturday morning, we set off from Sandhurst (Berkshire) to start our trek to Sandhurst (Kent). We’ve thought of a cunning plan to track our progress. Back on Leap Year Day we had acquired a trackable. We’ve now registered it, and will ‘dip’ it into caches as we go, to mark our progress. (Editor’s note: to ‘dip’ a trackable means taking it to a cache, and making a note that it was there, without leaving it behind.) The first cache that the trackable visited was our own cache, in Berrybank Copse.

River Blackwater

River Blackwater

Shepherd Meadows

Shepherd Meadows

Our first day’s walk was to be part of the Blackwater Valley Path, a route we’ve walked at various times in our pre-caching days http://www.blackwater-valley.org.uk/about_valley.html We went south through Shepherd Meadows, across the A30, and across Hawley Meadows. Apart from dogs and dogwalkers, and an occasional cyclist, the path was empty, muddy and icy by turns, and quiet except for the noise of traffic from the A331 which runs roughly parallel to the River Blackwater.

Hawley Meadows

Hawley Meadows


Going under the M3, we skirted a business park, then crossed over the A331 towards Frimley Green station. Here was our chance to find our first cache of the year, one from the Sidetracked series (they’re near stations http://www.sidetrackedseries.info ). A first search didn’t find it, so we moved on to attempt a challenge cache in a nearby park. The qualification to be able to claim this cache is to have found 25 Sidetracked caches, and we have found just over that. A short bit of rummaging in a tree found us the cache, which was cold but dry, even though it had been unfound for six months, and was well buried in fallen leaves. Returning to the river path, we revisited that cache we hadn’t found earlier, but more determined rummaging worked this time.

We walked on down the river. The ‘bright, sunny, crisp’ winter’s day the weather forecast had predicted just wasn’t happening, and it was getting steadily greyer. We collected another couple of caches, one between lakes made from gravel workings, and one right by the river, found just as a few raindrops began to fall. That wasn’t in the plan! We crossed over the A331 again, noting that the all the cars had lights on now, and turned south down the river once more, stopping to look for a cache concealed under a footbridge. Not much looking was needed, as this was a BIG cache, filled with classy objects, and in wonderful condition, though it hadn’t been found for almost five months.

A well stocked geocache!

A well stocked geocache!

A (still quite dry) picnic bench was a little further on, so we stopped for a picnic lunch, eaten speedily because a cold breeze was now blowing, it was getting greyer and darker, and colder, much colder. After not much debate, we decided to finish our walk at North Camp station, about a mile away. Arriving at the station with 20 minutes to spare before the next train, we bought a ticket, then rushed off to find another Sidetracked cache (that’s 30 from this series now, from as far apart as Liskeard, Cornwall and Waverley, Edinburgh).

Blackwater Path near North Camp

Blackwater Path near North Camp



Catching the train back to Blackwater, we retraced in minutes the route that we had travelled in hours, then walked back home. A few minutes later, we were calculating that the nine miles that we had walked had brought us only four miles closer to Sandhurst (Kent); that’s because there are some army ranges we can’t walk across, so we are taking a slightly longer route to avoid them. And then it began to pour with rain, a short but vicious cold shower. We had given up just in time!

Here are some of the caches we found:

January 1 : The 2017 Challenge Unveiled

We are frequently asked by our friends, family and caching acquaintances whether we have another Annual Walking / Caching challenge.

Previous challenges (pre caching days) have included walking the South Downs Way, the Ridgeway, and the Three Castles Path. Our caching challenges have been to find 365 caches in a year (we now consistently find 400-430 caches per year) and to walk and cache the Thames Path.

This year we plan something different.

Something relevant to us.

Most of our readers know we live in Sandhurst (hence the blog title), home of the Royal Military Academy.

Few people know there are two other “Sandhurst”s in the UK. One is a small village just North of Gloucester, the other, a larger village, some miles East of Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent.

Coincidentally Sandhurst (Berkshire) is roughly equidistant between the other Sandhursts (about 80-90 miles away by road, and 60-75 miles as the crow flies).

Our challenge is to visit at least one, and hopefully both, other Sandhursts during the year. We will cache our way to them, using footpaths in preference to roads.

This challenge will be harder than other long distant routes we have walked for three reasons :

i) surprisingly (!) the route does NOT have its own guidebook
ii) the route will not be waymarked so will have to self-navigate and hope our map-reading is adequate
iii) some footpaths/bridges are, from time to time, closed. We may not find out about these closures until we are faced with them and will have to problem solve a new route as we go.

Depending on how we fare with one of our Sandhurst visits will determine whether we attempt the other this year.

We will call our route “The Sandhurst Trail” – so watch out Sandhursts… we’re coming to get you!

December 31 : Camberley – FTF !!!

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Late breaking news … we had assumed that our caching for 2016 was over … but some time after 8pm, Mr Hg137 spotted that a new cache had been placed in Camberley AND THAT IT HAD NOT BEEN FOUND. By just after 9pm we had assembled a range of equipment – mostly torches – though it did look a little as if we were going out housebreaking – and set out in the geocar for the next county, and a nearby town. There weren’t many people about, and the roads were spookily quiet – wonder where everyone was?

FTF

FTF


Very soon we had parked and were training a multiplicity of torches onto the first clue … and then the second … then the third. We did the sums in the dark by the light of a torch, and found they didn’t add up to the checksum. We re-read the description, realised we had misread them in our haste, and did them again, correctly this time. A further walk in the dark, some rummaging around GZ, and we had found it! ‘Football Micro Series 010 – Camberley Town‘ – only our second ever ‘first to find’ (FTF) We are rubbish at night caching, multi-caches, AND the kind of location described in the hint, so we were more than pleasantly surprised.
It only remained to retrace our steps to the car. Part way back, the ‘hound of the Baskervilles’ (an Alsatian) appearing from nowhere to bark at us. Scary!

We were back home by just after 10pm, still buoyed up by adrenalin. A fantastic end to a year’s geocaching! Happy New Year to everyone, and to geocachers in particular!

December 31 : Caches of the Year 2016

Here are some of our caches of the year including dinosaurs, crocodiles and kangaroos ! Some of the pictures you may have seen before, some we have deliberately held back. Thanks for following our blog during 2016 – and happy caching in 2017!