Friday afternoon, and we’d arrived in Barnstaple, where we would be staying for a few days, seeing the sights, going to the beach and – of course – doing a bit of caching. Having checked into our hotel, the local Premier Inn, we went off to the town for a walk and some caching.
We started from the Seven Brethren car park. The name commemorates the burial place of a family who died from the plague in 1646 after recovering a floating bundle of contaminated bedding from the river, and who were buried on the riverbank on the other side of the river from the town to avoid contamination.
To give ourselves a walking tour of the town, and see some of the ‘best bits’, our first cache was the Barnstaple Heritage Trail, an eight (!) stage multicache. With many stages, there were also many ways we could make a mistake, so we did some extensive Google research beforehand, and thought we knew where the final location was, and it turned out we were correct. Sort of in reverse (normally you find the clues, then find the cache, but we did it the other way round) we then walked into town and visited a good number of the waypoint locations.
The area around the car park is a retail/leisure park with a selection of superstores, DIY outlets and sports facilities. Our next cache was close to one of those DIY stores. As we weren’t familiar with the area, we set off from the car park in hope, and by following the GPS and paths that went in the right direction, found ourselves in the correct place with a second cache find.
After this success, we followed the GPS through a maze of trails, including the Macmillan Way West , Tarka Trail and the South West Coast Path , which led us to a stone and plaque marking the opening of the Barnstaple Western Bypass. Having found the adjacent cache, we turned our attention to the plaque, which seemed to have been defaced. We wondered why? More research followed, and the serious misdemeanour answer is here. And, as for the roundabout at the start of the bypass, that is also a source of contention – the stones in the centre of the roundabout come from Cornwall, not Devon, and the locals are not happy about that!
Finally, we walked back across Barnstaple Long Bridge and onward to Rock Park . It’s named after W F Rock, who donated the land. However, there are just a few rocks, and one conceals a cache, ‘Ready to Rocks’. Yes, it’s under a rock. We found some likely rocks and started looking, but not one looked as if anything could be hidden in, on, or underneath it. We looked again, from a different angle, and a small part of something ‘out of place’ could be glimpsed. Got it!
So that was us done for the day; we use geocaching as a good way to get an overview of an area and see interesting places – not necessarily always on the tourist trail – and that’s how it had been today. We’d done death, crimes, travel, history, and much, much more – a great start to a weekend!
Today’s caching trip took us a few miles into Hampshire to the small town of Headley Down. There are 3 distinct caching trails in the village and a couple of other caches too, we loaded 24 caches into GPS and set off for a varied days caching.
There are two trails to the South of the town, but we started with the Church Micro multi. Unusually we were able to solve the questions using google from home so we had a good idea where the final cache was hidden. We made a quick glance at the Church to verify those online details and walked purposefully to GZ. With a hint of ‘under concrete’ it should have been an easy spot, but we looked for a couple of minutes before we saw how the cache was hidden.
We had 2 more caches in the village before we started our first trail. The first was hidden by a lamppost (and what grated most was the spelling of ‘peice’ in the cache title), the other well-hidden in a bush by a electricity substation.
Our route between the caches took us through tarmacked roads, gravel roads, and even down a dried up stream leading down to a minor road with a green seat. Too early for coffee and we walked on a few yards passing by a woodland car park and onto a small pond to start our first trail, the Hermit series set by Mr Cryptic. Mr Cryptic is renowned for devious puzzle caches, fortunately for us, these were all standard caches. It didn’t stop us making a meal of some the finds though.
Our GPS led us to a tree on a bank above a narrow road. We looked the tree, decided it was a bit ‘dangerous’ to ascend the bank by the road, and found a footpath…which took us further from the cache. We returned to the road, ascended the bank as carefully as we could and looked for the cache. Lots of nooks and crannies, and after few minutes Mrs Hg137 stood in just the right place to see the cache in the roots.
Our next few caches in the series were deeper in the woods, The first ‘under a fallen tree’ was eventually found by the constant lowering of the distance on the GPS. This was fortunate as we had originally paused by a wasps nest, and we were on the main trajectory in and out of it! (We left trackable Watercolor Bär from Berlin here)
We had walked through the woods without seeing a soul. We even commented on this, and suddenly within 30 seconds we saw two ladies each with dogs. One of the ladies was clearing overhanging brambles. The two ladies started chatting to each other as we searched for the next cache. Again hidden in tree roots, up a bank. Somehow we found and replaced the cache without being noticed.
Our next cache was again roadside, and again we tried to find a better route to the cache avoiding tarmac. Again, we failed. Fortunately a quick find.
Unlike our final cache in the series, hidden in a multi trunked tree. The GPS took us to an open area with coppiced trees all around, and very few trees capable of hiding a cache. We widened our search quite considerably before Mrs Hg137 spotted the cache in a tree, high up another bank. (After 5 caches, we really should have worked out the modus operandi…!). Mr Hg137 took a run up the slope (twice), before grasping the tree and grabbing the cache. Phew 5/5 … time for lunch.
Many areas of woodland have a proliferation of seats or benches, this woodland had none. We decided there would be seat near the woodland car park we saw earlier…arrived and saw none.
It was here, dear reader, the day deteriorated.
Our obstinacy of trying to find a seat for lunch prevailed over sanity.
We were within half a mile of our next series, but we asked a young couple where the nearest seat was..they replied ‘about 5 minutes away on the common’. Sounded like a plan, after all 5 minutes walking isn’t that far.
15 minutes later we hadn’t reached the common so we asked another couple who told us there was a seat a short walk away up a slope facing the common. After a few minutes we found the seat. Phew !
We had lunch.. and consulted the map. We thought from our geocaching map, we knew where we were and how to find a quick route to the next series of caches.
We even checked with a couple of passers-by where a path went… (clearly we asked the wrong question, or more likely, heard what we wanted to hear). The path didn’t take us where we wanted it to go. Instead we took a 2 mile, diversion to the next series of caches. 2 miles…and yet just before lunch we were within half a mile!
The common, with its sandy tracks, purple heather and yellow gorse was a fine spectacle…but every yard hurt as we went further away from our destination. (We were so annoyed with ineptitude we didn’t take any pictures, except a sign saying an area of woodland had been cleared so that the heather and gorse can return)
Eventually we arrived our next series of caches. (As I’m sure you can imagine, we were tired, annoyed, and a little fractious). Fortunately, and unusually these caches were in a straight line, walking down the ‘spine road’ of an estate. All very easy finds and surprisingly none were tiny magnetic nanos. Of course we had take care with muggles as they maintained their gardens and cleaned their cars.
After our fifth find we walked back to the car. We had thoughts on attempting the third series of caches to the North of the town but the 2 miles detour had deflated us.
It was only after driving home, we remembered the green seat from earlier.
It was yards from the car park where we had asked where the nearest seat was. We had been told of a seat some distance away ‘on the common’ but we had passed the nearest seat on our walk. We had rejected it for coffee, and forgotten about it for lunch. Maybe we should load seats for finding into our GPS, rather than caches!
Our good caching friends W&KdP recently recommended a short cache series to us. It’s in Fleet, comprising six caches plus a bonus.
The series is themed on LOD (Line Of Duty) and, to get the coordinates for the first six caches, you need to solve some online, Line of Duty themed jigsaws – not a problem for us, we like jigsaws. And to get the coordinates for the bonus cache, the coordinate numbers are hidden in the other cache containers. (Should be) simple …
A flurry of jigsaw solving followed and all six jigsaws were duly completed. Some didn’t take long as they did not have many pieces, while others took rather more time.
Armed with six sets of coordinates, we set off for Fleet. Soon we were on the Basingstoke Canal towpath and, a little way along it was our first cache. I’d like to say that it was a simple, triumphant find, but what really happened was that we found the cache, got the mini-container holding the log out of the larger object – then we couldn’t figure out how to open it. By then we’d taken a photo of the cache container and mentally composed a note to the cache owner along the lines of ‘your cache won’t open’. After a bit we gave up, shrugged our shoulders and walked on to caches #2 and #3. At about this time light dawned, and we realised how to open the container (doh!), so we backtracked all the way to #1, got the log out, and signed it. We got there eventually! And that mental note never got sent.
Luckily, the second cache was easy and we’d now amassed two of the six numbers which would make up the bonus cache coordinates. Just before the third cache, we turned away from the canal and set off through woodland beside a small stream. The third cache was a little distance from the path, in tall vegetation. We weren’t sure why till we opened the outer lid and saw that we had a puzzle to solve. What a great cache! We’ve seen similar ideas, but never one quite like this. After only five tries, we got the correct answer and could sign the log. We see now why it was tucked away off the path, you need a bit of quiet time to solve this one.
We found a fourth cache – it was going well – but it all went wrong at cache #5 where we simply couldn’t find the cache, even though we inspected what seemed to be every possible object anywhere near the location. On we went to cache #6 where we found the cache container attached to a ‘thing’ with a smiley face (we smiled, too, but you need to find it yourselves to see what it is!).
Having found five out of six caches, so we had all the numbers, bar one, for the bonus cache. We made some educated guesses and came up with locations some distance away to the east so there was something not correct in our guessing. Nevertheless, we gamely set off, but found our way blocked after a bit, realised our attempt was not going to succeed, and decided to retreat homeward and have a good think about our numbers. Postscript: once home, we found we’d made a simple error (doh! Again). Once that was corrected, we’d solved the bonus. We’ll have to go back and find cache #5 and the bonus another day.
The town of Whitchurch (Hampshire) hosts a surprisingly large number of caches for a town of its size. There are several puzzle caches, a couple of church micros, and three ‘town’ series. One of the series consists of puzzles based on Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series, another called the Brick Kiln series and one based on Whitchurch’s bridges.
Yes, Whitchurch has a surprising number of bridges. Firstly the River Test and its minor streams run through the town. (Whitchurch has 3 claims to fame – its Paper Mill, its Silk Mill and (Bombay Sapphire) Gin Distillery all requiring the clear pure waters of the Test.
Secondly the railway lines. Whitchurch is currently on the West of England Main Line, but historically was on the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway. Railway bridges for both lines criss-cross the town.
Thirdly, the A34 trunk road. A noisy dual carriageway which bypasses the town, but its bridges are on the outer edge.
A caching trail comprising nearly 30 caches visits many of Whitchurch’s bridges.
We loaded them all in our GPS, but knew we would probably attempt a fraction of them.
We parked a little away from the Town Centre, near All Hallows Church and also cache 1 in the series. We decided to collect the information for the Church Micro before setting off, enabling us to collect the cache at an appropriate point. The cache setter had helpfully provided two sets of clues, one based on items in the Church and the other around the graveyard. We collected both and verified the cache coordinates were identical. They were !
Onto cache 1 in the Bridge series. We were midway between 2 bridges (a former railway bridge and the A34 bridge). We were facing the extended cemetery for All Hallows Church, its lych gate and trimmed hedge. The GPS wouldn’t settle and we searched around for 15 minutes without finding the cache. With a long day ahead, we moved on. (Noting, as we always do…a DNF on the first cache does not augur well).
Our route took us under the noisy A34, and into a field. Here cache 1A awaited us. This cache had been added into the series (hence the ‘A’ suffix) to reduce the gap between caches 1 and 2. The cache owner had clearly overlooked the A34 bridge when the original route was set! It took us some time to unveil the cache, as it was well covered by vegetation.
Our caching ‘high’ of finding the first cache of the day quickly diminished.
A metalled squeeze gate had been padlocked shut. We had no alternative but to climb the gate (a tad slippery) and walk on, passing under the A34. Here of course was another cache, a relatively simple find but well marshalled by stinging nettles. Mrs Hg137 discovered they were quite stingy too!
Shortly after we discovered why the gate had been padlocked. A long concrete footbridge over the River Test was ‘closed’. No alternatives were supplied… we either walked back or ‘cross the bridge’. We decided climb over the small wooden fence and gingerly cross the bridge. The concrete was cracked in one place, and the handrail a little wobbly in another, but otherwise safe to cross. We climbed over another fence, ducked under some red-and-white tape and we were ‘safe’ again. Phew! This route is an obstacle course, never mind the bridges!
We were in the tiny hamlet of Tufton. It hosts a Church Micro (the coordinates were collected from a Victorian Post Box and a young girls grave). We were writing down numbers when a villager walked by, and talked about the gravestone and how sad it was (the girl was 9 when she died). We chatted about this and the closed footpath – but out of the corner of our eye was another person acting suspiciously at a nearby phonebox – where we knew a cache was hidden!
We eventually freed ourselves from the villager’s conversation and chatted to ‘telephone box man’ – was he a cacher ? No…but he also looked at the gravestone and the Victorian postbox – very strange.
We paused for coffee – the morning had been long, lots of walking, lots of fence climbing and few caches.
Revitalised we searched the phone box for a cache. . This particular phone box, like many others we’ve seen, had been converted to a mini-library. We’ve undertaken a few phone box caches now, and know where to look. On the door hinge at head height, magnetically attached. Not this time, though. We searched around the phone box, and then remembered the cache title. Suddenly for Mrs Hg137 it all made sense, and the cache was found. This was one of the cleverest caches we have found…
We strode onto the final hiding place for the Church Micro. A large salt bin. The cache behind it was well camouflaged and hard to spot and very hard to retrieve. (Nothing is easy on this route, we are discovering).
We chatted to yet another villager about his well thatched cottage. (Mr Hg137’s opening remark – ‘lovely thatch you have there’ was met with ‘yes, I am having it cut soon’ as he flicked his shoulder length hair in to the morning breeze. A little miscommunication, and laugh too!)
Back to the bridges…and cache 3 was not near a bridge. Apparently in the 1960s there was a bridge, but not now. Shortly after we recrossed the A34..and another bridge.. another cache..and another too long a search.
Then we made it hard for ourselves. The directions said either ‘follow the footpath/pavement by the road’ or ‘cross the field on the footpath – not recommended it’s a bit bumpy’. Up for a challenge we went ‘bumpy’. As footpaths go, it was gently undulating not much more…but what hurt was the stinging nettles. The footpath was reduced in places to a walking boot wide…and the nettles stung every time a leg was left in position too long. Mrs Hg137 paused a bit too long in places and felt the full effect. Ouch!
We were nearing Whitchurch now, and the Millennium Fields. A beautiful area (flood plain we suspect) of the River Test.
We crossed the Test on a delightful bridge (with its associated nearby cache) and then we arrived at the GZ for the Church Micro. We knew a seat was involved as the hint was ‘take a pew’, so it seemed ideal for cache hunting and lunch.
It was a beautiful spot overlooking the river, we saw ducks, moorhens, swans and small fish all vaguely interested in us (or was it our lunch?).
After a short while we moved off, passing cache 1 again – another look… and still a DNF. We were now heading away from the Town Centre in a North West direction. Instead of grassy fields, we walking through a small housing estate. The bridges were ‘tunnels’ where the old railway had been built. A bridge of course meant a cache… and another DNF. Whether it was in the brickwork, or the vegetation we don’t know.
Our next cache was a DNF too. A much larger bridge, and in fairness the cache had been marked as ‘missing’ by a previous cacher – but still worth a look. So that made 3 DNFs in a row. All very depressing.
The problem with this series, is that there are not many footpaths that take you from cache to cache. Our next few caches, would involve walking to a bridge, then walking back on ourselves, before heading a different direction for another bridge/cache.
Our DNFs had deflated us, and our ability to see footpath signs had also diminished. We followed our GPS unwittingly down a road, which became a building site. Our path was blocked by 10 foot metal gates. Aside the road was a 4 foot wooden fence, and the footpath beyond. So, we scrambled over, and followed the path crossing under the A34. The GPS wouldn’t settle and we spent ages, searching and re-searching one of many locations.
We were at the point in the route where we could walk further North Westwards away from the Town Centre, or head back to the Town Centre, the River Test and the car.
In light of the DNFs, the nettles, the closed footpaths, we opted to finish the route early, collect one more cache in the center of the town, admire the River Test one more time and head home – exhausted !
There are so many caches in Whitchurch, it is very likely we will be back!
We had an errand to run in Crowthorne and decided to combine that with a short afternoon caching trip. It had been a showery weekend and we hoped to fit our activities between showers. The errand went smoothly, so we were then free to grovel around in bushes looking for caches …
Our first target was from the ‘Counting Vowels ’ series, in Napier Woods. On checking previous logs, we saw that the cache had not been found for about six months, with a previous log saying it might be missing. We contacted the cache owner, mikes54, who was part way through a maintenance run on his caches, but hadn’t reached this one yet. He gave us detailed information on the cache and its location, and permission to replace it if missing.
We found the entrance to the woods very easily – we didn’t know this was here – and walked through the woods checking the waypoints. All was present and correct so far, and we paused to work out the coordinates and set a location into the GPS. Then we set off to walk to the cache location, and it began to rain hard. We took shelter under a tree, then moved to bigger trees as the rain continued. After it stopped, we went on our merry way to the cache location. There were two possible locations, one more likely than the other, and we checked them both thoroughly. No cache in either. We replaced the cache with a like-for-like of what was there before, and sent photos to the cache owner showing what we did. (The cache has been found since, so we helped things along.)
We returned to the centre of Crowthorne, for another attempt on a cache we had failed to find five and a half years before, ‘This piece of road is below 30’. We hoped our finding skills had grown in that time. (Hmmm- maybe!) At the location – the vegetation seems to have grown a bit in the interim – we rummaged around with no success. After a bit we gave up and walked away. And then I made a casual remark about the location, which set Mr Hg17 thinking. We returned, and rummaged around some more. I spotted something mentioned in the cache details, but didn’t find the cache. Mr Hg137 searched around and retired, bleeding, after some of the prickly vegetation spiked him. Again, we have been in touch with the cache owner, have done some detailed searching on Google, and now have some additional information which will enable us to have a third attempt, when we’ve assembled some PPE against that dastardly vegetation!
So far, so not-so-good; we’d tried two caches, replacing one and not finding the other. We went for a third attempt – a puzzle cache, ‘Down Two then Left’. We’d solved this one a few days ago: a combination of the title and some of the less obvious pictures led to an ‘aha’ moment, and the rest of the solution was quick and easy. We walked off to the cache location, soon spotted the cache container, and signed the log. Finally, a cache log we could sign!
More rain clouds approaching, so we scooted back to the geocar, hiding in a bus shelter when it rained, again. An interesting but not entirely successful afternoon!
The last of the three trackables we found on our caching trip around Dorney Lake was the oldest, ‘Medweds Wandercache-Coin’. It has a clearly stated mission, which it has been following for some time:
…” This coin should only visit multicaches in Germany that require a longer hike. The Sweden-Coin 2011 shows the outline of Sweden along with the relief and the three largest cities in the country. On the back, in addition to the Swedish flag, the crown, Dala horse, Viking ship and elk are depicted. The north of Europe is my preferred holiday region, and geocaching can be combined with longer hiking and trekking tours, especially on Swedish hiking trails, so I have chosen this coin to visit hiking caches. “ …
It set out – before we had started geocaching – at the very end of 2011, when it was placed in a cache near Koblenz. Its first cache was a very special and appropriate one, ‘Lahnwanderweg – Das Wandern ist des Cachers Lust’ (‘Lahnwanderweg – hiking is the cacher’s delight’); this is a multicache with approximatately 15 stages spread over 65 kilometres (gulp!) That’s just part of the Lahnwanderweg hiking trail, which runs to almost 300 kilometres in all.
It travelled around Germany for some years, then made a short trip to Bergen, Norway, in August 2019. By the end of 2019 it had reached England, where it has been ever since. Since setting off, it has travelled 29,000 kilometres (18,000 miles). That is a long, long way! We’re not yet sure how we can help the trackable’s mission; we think we will try to place it in a multicache somewhere near one of England’s national trails.
The second trackable we found near to Dorney Lake was Worsley Wombles – #5 Don’t be a Tosser.
A simple trackable with an important message. DON’T BE A TOSSER. A Litter Tosser.
We know the Wombles will be around to pick up and use the litter, but they shouldn’t have to.
In fact Worsley Wombles are a family based in Worsley (North West England) and frequently go litter picking in their local area and beyond. Much can be seen on their facebook page here. They are also keen geocachers.
To celebrate Ledz’s 50th birthday (Ledz being the Mr Worsley Womble), he was given 50 trackables. They are now being distributed into caches far and wide. Some have yet to be placed – about half have already started their geocaching adventures. Their mission is to encourage geocachers to pick up some rubbish and place the rubbish in nearby bins.
Trackable #4 has so far travelled the furthest as it has crossed to the Western side of America and back again!
Trackable #5, this trackable, has had some ‘rubbish’ logging at the start of its journey.
It was placed at the end of May 2021 in a cache in Kinlochleven in the Glencoe area of Scotland. Kinlochleven is a small town at the far end of Loch Leven and is on the West Highland Way.
The trackable was picked up a week later and headed for Hertfordshire (North London). But, the retriever placed it into a cache before they had undertaken the ‘online paperwork’ and the trackable was being moved on by another geocacher while apparently only just having been retrieved from the original Kinlochleven cache!
As a result the online logs show a ‘zigzag’ journey around the outskirts of London!
We will endeavour to keep our logs in check, move the trackable on soon, and pick up some rubbish too.
“Remember you’re a Womble, remember you’re a Womble” and #dontbeatosser !
Our caching trip around Dorney Lake, aka Eton Rowing Club Lake aka London’s Olympic Rowing Lake, yielded three (three!) trackables. It’s rare to find one trackable, still rarer to find three, we think we have only done so once before.
Anyway, what of this trackable? This one, ‘Watercolour bear’, began its journey in November 2016 near Bremerhaven, in north-western Germany. Its original mission was to:
… “Journey from cache to cache to Berlin. Take me on and on, to Berlin. There I want to be photographed with the sights. Please post pictures of my stations on the trip. I bought this ReiseBaer on my last trip to Berlin. Then at home I noticed that I didn’t take any pictures of our capital. Please help the bear accomplish its mission. “ …
Since then, it has travelled an impressive 20,500 miles. It reached Berlin in June 2018, where it did, indeed, see the sights, including Checkpoint Charlie, the Zoo, and the Brandenburg Gate. As well as Berlin, it has also visited Hamburg, Kiel, Switzerland, and Tenerife, and arrived in England at a Leap Day event in Sussex. Since then, it has been travelling around southern England.
Where, we wondered, should we drop the trackable? It has already been to Berlin, so its original mission is complete. We asked the owner of the trackable. He responded, and has subsequently changed the mission of the trackable:
…” After seeing Berlin the journey continues. I would like to get to know the UK in this way. My next way is to go to London. Once there, I want to see everything worth seeing, please take pictures and post them. The pictures can also be of places of interest where there is not necessarily a cache. Don’t keep it longer than necessary. Help me see the world. “ …
We have no plans to visit London in the very near future, so we shall drop off the trackable in a cache which will allow it to go on its way to the capital.
We hadn’t undertaken a longish cache series for some time, and the series ‘Dorney Loop’ caught our eye. Approximately 20 caches circumnavigating Dorney Lake (aka Eton Rowing Club Lake aka London’s Olympic Rowing Lake). Part of the route also went by the River Thames, so the boats on the river would provide added interest.
We had walked beside Dorney Lake before, when we walked the Thames Path back in 2015 and had had a quick peek inside. We hoped to do the same today.
We could have started the cache series at Dorney Loop #1, near St James the Less Church. Parking there is limited so instead we parked in the ramblers car park nearer to cache #10.
Cache #10 was one of the hardest searches of the day (Ed : either that or we weren’t quite in the ‘caching zone’). There were only three places to hide a cache : in a very open-boled multi-trunk tree, in a garden gate entrance or in a very gnarly tree. We dismissed the first two very quickly and concentrated on the gnarly tree. After quite some time Mrs Hg137 stood in just the right position to see a hidey-hole and the cache.
We had two choices of route to either walk ‘clockwise’ around the series (starting with the River Thames section) or the Northern section away from the River. We chose the Northern Section first, and with hindsight this was a mistake, as the footpaths are less frequented, and the caches more interesting. The more usual cache containers were placed nearer to the busier, Thames-side footpath.
Sadly for us Dorney Lake is now fully fenced off, and a 12 foot chain link fence surrounds it. Dorney Lake is now used not just for Rowing, but also Triathlons (and probably Biathlons). Our path took us close to the fence boundary, before dividing into 2. The better, made-up path kept close to the fence, our route was on a much older, overgrown path. This provided excellent places for hides, as the prying eyes of the dog walkers, cyclists and runners on the made-up path were some distance away.
The hides varied from small micros wedged into tree crevices, to false stones. Partway along the Northern Loop was a caching highlight. Hidden 8 foot deep in a hollowed out tree-trunk was a cache with a hook. The cache owner had also placed a long pole with a hook so that all we had to do was ‘go fishing’ or more correctly ‘hook a duck’ ! A real fun cache !
We were still chuckling as we walked to our next cache. On route we were accosted by a gentleman on the other path.
“Do you know anything about insects ?”
We paused just a bit too long. We should replied ‘no’ quickly, but didn’t.
“There are no butterflies…”
He continued.. and we were forced to listen.
“…there’s no butterflies, on the stinging nettles over there… no butterflies…do you know why ?”
Of course we didn’t. But we conjectured about the Summer weather (or lack of), or perhaps the Winter weather. Maybe the butterflies or chrysalises had been eaten.. All we could do was bluster with possible solutions. After 5 minutes, we had run out of conjectures, and moved on.
A few more quick finds, and a muddy stretch or two or footpath, and we were at cache #1. This cache is near the security checkpoint. A magnetic nano. With only a few metallic posts to check, this should be easy. Some cachers are helped by the security guard as he knows where the cache is. He enquires to ‘hapless geocachers’ what they are looking for, and takes them to the correct metal pole. We didn’t have Mr Helpful on duty. We checked post after post after post. Eventually we found it, signed the log and moved on.
Our next cache was a little distance away at Dorney Church. We needed numbers from a sign and a very particular gravestone. While we were searching for the stone we were aware of a wedding being prepared. The hustle and bustle that happens in the 1-2 hours before a wedding when people bringing items into reception venue.
With the gravestone found, we sat on a very rickety bench just outside the open Church Door and calculated the final cache coordinates. We decided not to go into the Church, but instead have lunch on a slightly less rickety picnic table hidden behind the church. As we finished our lunch the strains of ‘I Vow to thee, My country’ were emanating from the Church Organ. By the time we arrived at the church door, the groom, the best man and a couple of guests were standing outside. Our chance to go inside the church had gone!
What they thought of 2 scruffy geocachers, when they were so exquisitely dressed is another matter. We wished them well and sneaked away. On the way to the cache we passed a few more ushers, directing traffic, directing people. Fortunately a quick find at GZ, and more surprisingly the cache contained a trackable, Watercolor Bär from Berlin .
We struggled to remember the last trackable we found, so we were very pleased.
We returned to the Dorney series. Our cache numbers were now going down from #25. We rounded the end of Dorney Lake, wondered why there was no cache numbers #23 and 22, and arrived at the Riverside. Our last 10 or so caches would all be near the Thames Path. We had walked the Thames Path back in 2015. Separating us from the river on the right were trees, reeds and bushes. The cache owner stated there were no caches ‘riverside’. Instead all the caches were in the woodland strip between us and Dorney Lake. This strip was sometimes 3-4 trees deep, others 15-20, so lots of places to hide a cache.
We found another couple of Dorney caches, before hunting for a puzzle cache we had solved before we left home. We were opposite Oakley Court , the former home of Hammer Horror Films and is now a hotel. The puzzle required us to find the release years for certain Hammer films, and use them to derive coordinates. Easy to do, especially as the cache owner had told us which website to refer to ! The cache as a relatively large container (it was placed in 2005, when this was the norm), and inside was another trackable – Worsley Wombles – #5 Don’t be a Tosser . Two trackables in less than an hour – we can’t remember the last time that happened!
Two caches later – we found a third trackable ! We think we’ve only ever found 3 in one day once before, but we had found 3 in less than 90 minutes ! This trackable was Medweds Wandercache-Coin . Each of these trackables has a different mission of course, and we will endeavour to move them constructively on their journey.
Surprisingly for Summer time the Thames was surprisingly quiet (possibly change over day for boat hire, and all the boats were moored awaiting new holidaymakers) .
Occasionally the woodland strip surrounding Dorney Lake was narrow, and we caught glimpses of the former Olympic Venue. One of the caches was placed on the fenceline and we got our best view yet.
We had found every cache so far… until we approached #13. (Unlucky, superstitious?) Yep, you’ve guessed it – it was our only DNF. Hidden behind a sign, high in an ivy tree. We had several attempts of reaching and grovelling behind the sign, but found nothing. A big shame as we found the remaining caches, before pausing for an end-of-walk coffee. We didn’t pause long, as suddenly a heavy shower started, and we ran for the car !
An unusual end to a great circuit – some interesting caches…and of course three trackables !
SANG = Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace, an area such as a country park located adjacent to new housing developments (in this case Hartland Village) to provide a recreational space for the residents. There are some rules: the open space must be at a ratio of 1 hectare or more per 125 residents, and there must be enough space to allow a circular footpath of at least 2.3km. It seems to be an idea which started in south-east England, though it’s now spreading, and, around Hampshire / Berkshire / Surrey it seems to involve mostly ex-MOD land. And, for geocachers, these areas also provide nice accessible countryside ideally suited to the placement of geocaches.
We decided to attempt the nine caches scattered around Hartland Country Park, so we arrived and were quickly on our way to our first cache, ‘Quarter of a pine’. Which quarter, we wondered? Answer: the bottom quarter! – the rest has gone missing. Things started badly, and we couldn’t find the cache; we did find a biro, a large selection of sticks, and a very, very surprised slow-worm!
Our next cache, ‘Key to the Door’, was just outside the country park. It’s a challenge cache, with the requirement that the finder should also have found other caches containing the words/numbers 1,2,3 … 21. We had stirred a lot of happy memories while trawling through our past logs, and decided we qualified. Taking a short-cut through the fence, the cache was easy to find. Hooray, off the mark. (FYI: For challenge caches, some finders sign the cache log and then register the find online later on if/when they meet the challenge qualification; we did the checking first so we could sign the log and register the find at the same time.)
Next, over the road to Fleet Spurs football ground. There was a match in progress – the season has either started early, or finished late – but it meant that no-one was watching us as we sneaked around the edge of the ground to find the cache hidden there.
Feeling more confident (we had found some caches now!), we returned to the country park and set about finding the remaining eight caches hidden there. Overall, we did pretty well (we thought), finding seven of the nine caches hidden around the park. The caches were dotted around the park, some close to intriguing ruined structures.
For us, these places were the real interest of the caching session, and we didn’t know what these things might be. At the time, we speculated on all kinds of things, including that they were a training area for trench warfare (they weren’t). Afterwards, we did some did some research. These are the remnants of the National Gas Turbine Establishment (NGTE). All sorts of engines were tested here, including those for Concorde (it must have been very noisy indeed at times!). The ruined structures are striking, and spooky; they were even more of a sight before they were demolished (see these photos)
After a couple of hours, we were done: we’d exercised our thinking and finding skills on the caches, stirred our memories while working out our qualification for the challenge cache, had a good walk around the wooded country park, and seen some unexpected recent history, too. A well-rounded afternoon out!