2020’s summer holiday had finally arrived – almost a year late. But we had finally, finally made it to the Isles of Scilly, flying in on a tiny plane with 17 seats (full) and 3 dog kennels (not full). FYI – it’s the “Isles of Scilly”, or “Scilly” – it is not, most definitely not, the “Scilly Isles” – you will be gently rebuked if you get it wrong!
We were going for a walking holiday, visiting all the inhabited islands, and staying on for a couple of days afterwards. Fresh off the plane on St Mary’s, the largest of the islands, we found our hotel, the Bell Rock in the centre of Hugh Town, dumped our bags, and set off for a recce to get our bearings.
Having found two of the most vital places on the island, the quay (for inter-island travel) and the Co-op (the only supermarket on the islands and an extremely popular place), we walked around the town, the beaches, and the harbour (with the Scillonian at the quay), admiring the sub-tropical vegetation, the granite buildings, and the sea views. After a while we’d done enough wandering and decided on attempting two Church Micro caches, both located a little way apart on Church Street, just over the road from our hotel.
The first cache featured the Methodist Church. Mr Hg137 collated numbers and came up with coordinates while I wandered around, taking pictures of the harbour. With a final location decided, we went for a short walk around the coast path overlooking the beach (there are two beaches with 200m to the north and south of the Methodist Church so this is not much of a hint!). We arrived at GZ, a spot with an excellent sea view (lots of those on the islands!) and spotted the cache very quickly.
We returned to Church Street and headed for the second church, a little way up the hill. This, like the Methodist Church and most of the older buildings in the town, is built with granite, the island rock. On arrival, some muggles were deep in conversation on the church steps. We went away for a bit (there were plenty of interesting things to look at). On our return, we assembled almost all the numbers but simply couldn’t spot a blue door mentioned in one of the questions. Anyway, we did some thinking, derived some plausible coordinates, and went off for another walk by the sea. On arrival, there was another lovely sea view and another cache found very quickly.
It was only mid-afternoon, but we were tiring. The early start, a lot of travelling and the host of new things had worn us out. We went back to the hotel for a nap. Tomorrow, away to the off islands …
Just to the south of Church Crookham and the adjoining village of Ewshot, two relatively new series had been published – the CP (Crookham Park) and SANGS (Suitable Alternative Greenspace) series. Both series are through fields, woodland and houses. The land was once Army land (Queen Elizabeth Barracks), and once the Army vacated in the early 2000s, the developers moved in, and created housing as well as protecting some of the countryside.
The first series we attempted was the CP series, which took us North from the Church Crookham allotments through woodland, finishing by walking through the housing estate. The circuit consisted of 11 caches, and a 12th, just off the route.
As we were leaving the allotments we got chatting to some local beekeepers. They were visiting their 4 hives, and checking the welfare of nearly 250,000 bees. The bees hadn’t been that active over the recent days, as it had been too cold and too wet to collect the pollen and nectar available from the spring flowers.
Most of the hides on the CP series, were ‘clever’ consisting of well hidden small nano containers.. For that reason this blog won’t be too specific about the containers or the hiding places. The caches weren’t that easy to find and searching became a problem as more and more dog walkers came by.
There were caches in a road sign (hard), an ivy covered tree (we searched the wrong one to start with), and one under a bridge where our initial searching only located the concrete stanchion!
The largest cache we found on this circuit was the only non-CP cache (Alice’s School Treasures) hidden very well in a chopped tree-trunks.
The former Army land was remembered part-way round as we encountered a Gurkha statue ‘Guardian of the Orchard’. We speculated how fine the blossom in the orchard had been a few weeks before.
We were surprised to find no seating close to the statue, as it would be a fine place to sit and remember. Instead we found a small bench a little distance away on the edge of the housing estate. We could just see the statue as well as a teenager practising his basketball tricks.
Our next cache was unusual. Not because of what it was (a nano), or because of where it was hidden (road sign), but the hint (it was in Spanish). We subsequently discovered the relevance of the hint and the road sign when we used Google’s dictionary at home!
The housing estate was very new looking (not surprising) and many of the roads comprised three storey town houses. The pavements became footpaths and took us by a small pond, which the May rainfall had yet to fill.
As we found the last couple of caches we passed several wooden sculptures – all very well carved. In fact Mr Hg137 was so pleased to find the ‘woodpecker’ statue had a corresponding hole (caused by the woodpecker) that he failed to realise Mrs Hg137 had found the last cache of the series!
We were by now back at the allotments, which also housed a ‘Mens Shed’ where people take broken items along for repairing.
We had done so well on the CP circuit we felt ultra-confident as we strode out on the SANGS circuit. Here there were 7 SANGS caches and 4 others including a couple in the small village of Ewshot.
Our ultra-confidence ebbed away within yards of starting the circuit. We were starting from the last cache in the CP series rather than the car park) and chose to follow the GPS, rather than use a tarmac road which we thought led in the wrong direction. Our ‘direct’ route took us to a fence which we had to scramble over. Not good!
The SANGS series had been set by the same setter as the CP series, and again we had to find well hidden small-ish containers. The first ‘non SANGS’ cache, with hindsight should have been attempted after SANGS 1, but we attempted it after SANGS 2. A big mistake as we had to circumnavigate 2 fields and a winding road to find a slightly damp cache guarded by stinging nettles. Had we realised, we may not have made the diversion.
The former Army land was predominantly grassland and Highland Cattle are rotated around the fields to keep the grass levels low. Some fields also have horses which unusually were more interested in eating, than coming over to see what two dishevelled walkers might have to offer.
In many of the fields were WWII pillboxes, an unused defensive line stretching from Hook to Salisbury. Inside one of the these pillboxes a cache was hidden (we somehow missed the very obvious hint item – and spent far too much time feeling, in darkness for something that wasn’t there).
After traversing, and partially avoiding a flooded field we arrived at Ewshot, a pleasant village. A cache, part of the Village Hall series, was hidden unsurprisingly near the Village Hall. A tricky find, made harder as a child’s event was just finishing and parents were waiting in the adjoining car park.
We had a quick coffee break on a neighbouring seat, and looked South. A large bank of dark, forbidding cloud was close to where we were heading next. Our next 2 caches were in a ‘cul de sac’ away from the Village Hall. One by the ‘Windmill Pub’ and with the hint ‘Phone call for Windy Miller’, there really was only place the cache was hidden.
Then a little further on a Church Micro multi. We had to count various letters (A,B, C and D) on a war memorial. We counted them and our total was 31. It should be been 32. We counted again, just as that ominous black cloud started the inevitable downpour. We still made it 31, but realised that a ‘G’ could have been interpreted as a C. We were getting very wet, so headed into the small church. We applied some maths to the numbers we had calculated and arrived a plausible set of coordinates for the final cache. We waited for the rain to ease for some time.
At last the rain eased, and we had a reassuring quick find yards from the Church door. We strode back to the Village Hall, slightly damp, and still confused by the C/G anomaly. Our mindset was clearly elsewhere, as we were very slow at observing a lady, standing yards from the Village Hall cache, using a phone and checking on directions. By the time we had walked a few yards we both thought ‘I wonder if she is a cacher?’.
Our next cache was our only DNF of the day. Hidden in/on/around a neglected post – we couldn’t see it at all. Which left 2 caches left in the series – one hidden a tad too close to some hawthorn for comfort, and one in an inviting hole in an oak.
As we signed this final log of the day, we noted another cacher had signed the log that day. Intriguing.. the only cacher-like person we had seen was the Village Hall lady.
When we returned home, we could see a lady (Pheobie1983) had logged some finds on the SANGS route. We messaged her, more in hope than expectation, but we discovered she was the cacher at the Village Hall – she had ‘half-clocked’ us as cachers too, but neither of us were quick enough to chat to other! Incidentally Pheobie1983 had found the cache we DNF’ed – so it was our ineptitude at that cache that prevented a full house of 23 caches.
Two fine circuits, the CP circuit probably the better, and some excellent containers too!
Saturday was much more like October than May, wet and very windy. By the afternoon, the wind was still blowing strongly, but the rain had stopped, and we decided that we should go out for a short geocaching trip close to home. Staying local meant it wouldn’t be too much of a disaster if we had to cut the trip short.
We chose Rowhill Copse which is on the border between Aldershot and Farnham, also the county boundary between Hampshire and Surrey. We’d visited here before a couple of times, first when we walked the Blackwater Valley Path back in 2008, but it was a while since we’d been here. There’s a series of five caches dotted about the nature reserve, called the Rowhill Mini Beasts Walk and the hints listed in the cache description give the Latin name of the mini-beast you are searching for. Hint: we didn’t do enough research; I didn’t study Latin and Mr Hg137’s schoolboy Latin, which dwelt heavily on Caesar’s Gallic wars, wasn’t much use here …
We set off from the free (but small) car park by the nature reserve Field Centre and climbed uphill to the first cache on Hallimore Hill. We had no clear idea what we were looking for (we didn’t understand the Latin hint) and a selection of trees to search, all as likely as each other, so we wandered around for a bit before I happened on something which made me go ‘oooh’ and that was most definitely it.
On we went, downhill to cache #2, passing the source of the River Blackwater on our way. The river rises in a boggy patch of land on the eastern end of the hill, emerges into a small pond and trickles away as a tiny stream. We took what seemed to be a very long way round to the cache, which was supposed to be somewhere near a footbridge called Roy’s Bridge, named after one of the reserve volunteers. ‘Supposed to be’: we couldn’t find it, even after a very good look around.
Slightly disappointed, we carried on downhill to cache #3, towards the eastern end of the copse. We’d forgotten how hilly it was; oh well, uphill all the way back! Once again, Mr Hg137 put his rusty Latin to the test and decided we were looking for a … mussel shell … time passed, we searched and searched, spotted a tiny tell-tale sign and we retrieved something that was most definitely not a shellfish!
Having reached the far end of the copse, we were returning gently uphill and arrived at cache #4, close to a small lake, at a spot which is very popular with muggle dogs and muggle walkers. This time, we’d done the research and we thought we knew what we were looking for. Sadly, the info was of no help as we couldn’t find anything at all in the area we searched that might have been the cache.
Walking back along the northern perimeter of the nature reserve, with the infant River Blackwater tinkling away to our right, we arrived at the final cache in the series, #5 – and this time we weren’t looking for a mini-beast. Even so, this one led us a merry dance! We’d taken due note of the hint, and cast around the foot of various objects, looking for something that might be suitable, and pausing every minute or so to let muggles pass by. Mr Hg137 honed in on one particular object, and circled it endlessly, while Mrs Hg137 widened the search and peered around every likely object within the search area. We were on the verge of giving up when … Mr Hg137 looked again from a very slightly different angle and could see the cache. We suspect that this cache has got a lot harder to spot over the last couple of weeks as the spring vegetation sprouts! … And it will be well nigh impossible to see by the time this post is published. That was it, and we returned uphill to the geocar. We’d only found three out of five caches, which wasn’t a wonderful success rate. But, on logging the caches, we found we’d done as well as everyone else – there are a lot of DNFs (Did Not Finds) marked against caches #2 and #4 so it’s quite possible that they have gone missing – or maybe the mini-beasts have run away?
And here are some of the mini-beasts, caches, and mini-beast homes we spotted on our walk:
One of our earliest geocaching expeditions was to undertake a 20+cache series around Pirbright called the ‘High and Low’ series. Caches were indeed hidden High and Low.
That series has been replaced by a similar, but different trail, the ABBA Puzzle Series.
19 Puzzles have been set (and a bonus puzzle) – loosely based on the 19 song titles on the ABBA Gold Album. It took us about 3 weeks to solve the 19 puzzles, and they involved a range of puzzle solving techniques. If you want to solve the puzzles yourself, you may want to skip the next few paragraphs, as there may be some unintentional spoilers. One or two of the pictures may be of cache locations – or might just have an ABBA tie-in!
Most of the puzzles had a link to a song on the Album. For many the connection was a straightforward leap – “Waterloo” being an obvious example. But invariably, that’s when the fun started. Most geocaching puzzles require one level of solve, but these puzzles often require 2 or 3 steps.
An example was “Dancing Queen”. The puzzle involved a picture of former Prime Minster May entering (I don’t want to use the word ‘dancing’) the Conservative Party conference to the Dancing Queen soundtrack. Underneath the picture were some ‘squiggles’. Ordinarily identifying the squiggles would lead to some numbers. But no, the squiggles could be made into words, odd words, but after a while a pattern appeared which meant a ‘sequence’ could be obtained, and hence some co-ordinates. In general, the cache page contained subtle clues to help with the solve… the trick was finding them.
A few of the puzzles had one single step. One of these was “Take a Chance on Me”. This was a test of probability as the puzzle hinged on three loaded dice and the relative probabilities of rolling certain totals. Between us, we have a fair expertise in maths, but it took us some time (Ed : 4-5 days) to unwind the 30-40 years of rustiness before an answer manifested itself. The highlight of this solve was the false Eureka moment by Mrs Hg137 when she pronounced the probability of rolling a 3 was 11/81 !
The other single solve was “Super Trouper”. Here a drone had been used to show the placing of the cache (in the roots of a tree). The drone then flew up, away, rotating left, right before landing again. All we had to do, was identify the features in the drone’s footage, align them to a map..and find the tree! Easier said than done.
As each puzzle was solved (and a useful geochecker was provided), a clue to the bonus puzzle cache was provided. The bonus puzzle was a logic puzzle based on the 4 ABBA members, what order they were standing in, and what they were wearing. Of course any one piece of information gave little away, and it was only after the 19th puzzle was solved, were we able to fully solve the bonus puzzle.
If you are unfamiliar with the songs of ABBA, this shouldn’t stop you solving the puzzles. In fact only one puzzle required knowledge of their songs.
After 3 weeks solving we were ready to find the caches!
We arrived at Pirbright, and the recommended car park was already full, as it was close to sports fields and various games were underway. We drove on, and parked closer to the Church, in the same space we used back in 2013.
Our first cache though, was not the ABBA series, but a multi based on various monuments in Pirbright. Many of them had been erected to celebrate the life of, or the Jubilees of, various monarchs. All we had to do was visit each, write down a few dates and calculate the final coordinates. We were a little surprised that we had to walk a far way to find the cache, but on arrival at GZ, the hint made sense. Our only obstacles were some chest high railings and some early Spring stinging nettles.
We had worked out a walking route for the ABBA caches, but the Pirbright multi, had changed our start point, so a quick decision was made to start from a different location. A quick find at a roundabout, and we were away…singing as we went. (As most people do when they undertake this series).
Many of the Pirbright footpaths we remembered from our previous visit, others were new to us. (It didn’t help that last time we walked anticlockwise around the village, and today we were walking clockwise).
On our route we saw lots of wildlife – horses, alpacas, lots of birds including a nuthatch and squirrels. The spring flowers were on the cusp between daffodils and bluebells – we saw wood anemones too.
The caches were, by and large, relatively easy finds, with fairly accurate coordinates. Our earliest troublesome find was ‘behind large tree’. This involved scampering up a bank to look ‘behind the tree’. However the tree had a root system in the front of the bank, and the cache was hidden behind the roots, in the hollow.
We followed paths for much of the time, though there was some road walking. One was relatively busy, as several horseboxes passed us, heading for a parking area, where the horses could be unloaded and exercised.
We criss-crossed fields, and looped round to the back of Pirbright church, where we re-visited Henry Morton Stanley’s grave before arriving close to the car for a picnic lunch. As we sat, an Army convoy passed by (Pirbright has an associated army camp). We had completed about 2/3 of the caches, and a smallish section remained.
These caches took us a lot closer to houses, but fortunately few people were around to enquire what we were doing. We had three caches to find when we found the bonus cache, and what a bonus – an ammo can! We don’t see many of them, and they do make great containers.
A couple more quick-ish finds later and the route was complete – all caches found, and with “Thank you for the Music” being hummed noisily we returned to the car after a fine day’s caching.
Ankerwycke … a historic place. On the northern bank of the River Thames, just downstream from Windsor, it lies just over the river from Runnymede. It’s a landscape of trees and meadows, under the care of the National Trust. Scattered around the area, is a series of fourteen geocaches, ‘Ankerwycke Priory’, placed in September 2020 by Amberel, an experienced and respected local cacher. Lockdowns, travel restrictions, winter flooding, and life in general had prevented us from visiting until now.
On a beautifully bright April morning, we arrived early at the little National Trust car park and set out into the fields. We found the first three caches in the series very quickly; all were where the GPS said they should be (though we weren’t always convinced till we spotted them), a good size (big enough for the Lego cards we were dropping off), and in good condition (no sopping wet logs here, or cache containers to bail out).
As we walked across the level fields, the views opened out to the RAF memorial atop the hill on the other side of the river. Crossing a streamlet, we arrived at an impressive double row of trees lining the track to the highlight of the day – the Ankerwycke Yew and St. Mary’s Priory.
The Ankerwycke Yew is said to be about 2,500 years old so it would have already been old when the priory was founded in the 12th century. It is said that the Magna Carta was signed in the shadow of the tree (probably most locations close by could also claim the same), also that King Henry VIII courted Anne Boleyn here. Whatever the truth of those things, it’s a great big old tree, very dark under the canopy, and broad in girth, all held together by some heavy-duty straps.
Outside the branches, there are a selection of plaques and information boards, which can be used to derive the coordinates of the headline cache of the series, a Church Micro based on the priory. Fortunately, the means of solving the puzzle and getting those numbers became clear to Mr Hg137 more quickly than it did to me – I would have been there for some while! The cache itself was hidden in some nearby vegetation (no, not the Yew!) and requires an amount of delving to locate. As I extracted the cache, I speared my head on a branch and emerged, sore, grumbling, and remembering why I normally wear a hat while caching (sun hat in the summer, woolly hat in the winter). The caching hat went on, and we went for a look at the Priory. It’s not very big, and there really isn’t much of it left at all, but there’s a definite sense of history around this spot.
We found another three caches in the big trees scattered through the fields, then made our way to the riverbank and took the long way round to the next two caches, so we could watch goings on. The other side of the river, on Runnymede Meadows, was already packed with cars / walkers / dogs / picnickers, all enjoying the beautiful bright day. A Salters paddleboat trundled by, then a dragon boat with outriggers – oh, it’s such a long time since we’ve been down to the Thames!
After too short a walk along the river, we followed the path into some trees, hoping to find a cache under a little footbridge. We approached … we could see the bridge … then a scatty spaniel appeared and ran in rings around us … and then a second. We waited, and an owner arrived … by now the first dog had found an unfeasibly large stick and wanted it to be thrown. We waited for all this to pass … Now we had the bridge to ourselves, and the cache wasn’t immediately obvious. Mr Hg137 looked, and couldn’t see it. Then I climbed under the bridge, and spotted something tucked away. A bit of fishing with the geopole ensued, and the container came out into view. Hardest hide of the series so far, and very satisfying! And luckily it went back into place much more easily than it had come out.
After another two caches hidden in those large trees dotting the fields, we emerged onto Magna Carta Lane. We took a short diversion down the lane to see if we could get to Magna Carta Island, another of those places where King John could have signed the treaty. FYI – it’s now hidden behind locked gates, and is a private house
We were approaching the end of the series, and so far we had found every cache. But … we could see no sign of the penultimate cache of the series. We widened our search and still couldn’t find anything, except that one fence post had a bit of cord tied to it. Hmm, but we weren’t giving up. Reading the logs, we found that the cache was no longer hidden as described, but had instead been tucked behind the fence post. We looked there instead; success – there it was! Mr Hg137 made a valiant attempt to reattach the cache in a way that matched the original description, but we’re not sure how long that will last.
As we neared the final cache in the series, there was even more pressure to find it and get a clean sweep of finds. But once again we couldn’t anything looking like a cache of the description of how it was hidden, although the GPS said we were within ten feet of it. As before, we read through previous logs and one of them provided a cryptic little bit of extra information. We used that information and found ourselves standing in a slightly different spot, but now with a view of something that matched the hint, and there, too was the cache. Hooray – full house of caches – we don’t do that very often!
Hawley Meadows is an area of grass flood plain on the county boundary between Hampshire and Surrey. We have occasionally wandered around the meadows after some shopping at a nearby supermarket. The area also caught our eye as somewhere where we could place our second cache.
We have enjoyed the ‘Counting Vowels ‘ multi-cache series and thought we could add one of own at Hawley Meadows. Over a number of trips we evaluated the noticeboards we could use as waypoints, and also ascertained an ideal location for a cache. As we left our ‘nominal’ hiding place (the roots of a tree, in an avenue of trees), we saw a man cross a footbridge, walk 3 strides in one direction and then abruptly turn towards us. Stupidly we didn’t look behind us after he went by. We arrived home, and reviewed Hawley Meadows again on http://www.geoecaching.com. Imagine our horror to realise a small series of caches had been placed around the Meadows…including one yards away from our chosen location. The person we had seen less than hour earlier…was a cacher off to collect a find! Grr!
On the positive side, the mini-series did give us an opportunity to go and collect a few caches without travelling too far from home. So we set off following the River Blackwater upstream through Shepherd Meadows, crossing the busy A30, walking behind a small trading estate before arriving at the Northern end of Hawley Meadows.
Hawley Meadows is the confluence of the River Blackwater, the Cove Brook, and the outflow from a nearby sewage works. After a lot of rain, the paths can be is very muddy, but today the paths were dry. Our GPS put the coordinates for the first cache a little off (the other side of the river in the Trading estate!), so we scouted around looking for appropriate hint items (‘logs’). After turning over a couple we found the container. The previous cacher had somehow wedged the log deep in the container and it took us some minutes (several sticks and a penknife later) to retrieve the sheet of paper for signing. The second cache was again very well hidden. Here, we didn’t understand the hint (‘Banana Tree’) so had to rely on the GPS. As the coordinates at the previous cache had been a little off, we had some concerns that this cache could take some time. Fortunately we located it within a few minutes. The cache container was identical to the first – a bison. The only difference was the colour.
Our next cache was not part of the Hawley Meadows series, but a puzzle cache that told of the history of a small railway branch line that ran through the Meadows. It was a fairly easy solve (thanks Google), and we learnt the line was open for barely a year just prior to WWII.
The hint for this cache involved counting posts – but didn’t specify direction ! Mrs Hg137’s counting ended in a blackberry bush, but Mr Hg137’s counting yielded a tiny, but visible cacher’s path – leading to a quick find.
We were passing the main Hawley Meadows Car Park and more and more people were out and about. Some runners, some walkers, some with dogs, some with children. Fortunately our next cache was at the far end of another meadow. From our own cache research we knew that there was seat close to the next hidden cache, and this was an ideal place to remove the log (another well wedged piece of paper), and sign it without too much attention.
From the seat we could see the avenue of trees we had ‘earmarked’ for a cache, and we strode over. We passed ‘our tree’, and walked on a few more yards, until we found the cache tucked away exactly as we would have done!
We had 2 more Hawley Meadows caches to find. Whether we were getting tired or not we found them harder to find. One was attached, unhidden, to a leafless branch. An obvious spot if you standing in the correct position. We couldn’t remove it easily from the branch and we had to wait several minutes for people to pass by, before we could acquire the log.
The last cache was, by contrast, well away from prying eyes, but it took us some time to find the post the cache was under. So 7 caches attempted, 7 caches found but all frustratingly close to where we were going to hide our own cache.
Besides caching, there is a small walking trail for children and every so often a noticeboard telling a story of Water Nymphs and a Boggart. So if you have young ones, not into caching, Hawley Meadows may be for you!
All but one of the caches we found were coloured bisons…
Eversley means “Wild Boar Clearing” and a boar appears on the village sign, prettily located next to the green, duckpond and cricket pitch, and opposite the Frog and Wicket pub. A very new cache, “Village Sign Eversley”, is here, maybe only ten days old at the time we visited.
Having parked nearby, we circled the pond, admiring the ducks and collecting information for the coordinates of that cache. While doing this, we also retrieved another cache placed close to the edge of the pond. Oops, the cache hadn’t been found during lockdown and the log was rather damp. But we solved that one: we re-hid the container and took the log with us to our next cache. On returning a few minutes later, the log had dried out in the sunshine and the breeze and the cache could be reunited with its newly dried out log.
Ah – that second cache, the Village Sign. Nothing cache-like was obvious at first glance, but we are gradually becoming better at spotting the devious hiding methods used by this particular cache setter (VR7), and fairly soon we spotted something that looked absolutely natural, but … it was the cache.
Leaving pond, sign, and cricket pitch behind, we passed the Chequers pub, and were soon on paths and lanes on the edge of the village. We had mixed fortunes with the next few caches; for one, we tiptoed carefully through the bluebells; for another, Mr Hg137 poised himself precariously in a bush over a ditch; and two escaped us entirely, though we felt in tree roots, scrambled up and down laneside banks, and poked around under footbridges and fences.
We emerged onto the main road near Kingsley Road, passed another road called Westward Ho and arrived at our final cache, another newly placed one, this time based on the Village Hall; to get the coordinates, an online jigsaw needs to be solved, which was done a few days before. The cache was quite close to Charles Kingsley’s C of E Primary School, but luckily it was school holiday time and the school was deserted.
By now lunchtime was close and our caching was done for the morning. We walked back along the main road towards our start point, passing yet another pub, the Golden Pot, and the Kingsley restaurant. By now, reader, there have been several references to Charles Kingsley and his works; he lived in the village for many years, and was rector of St. Mary’s Church. In return, the village commemorates him … all over the place. (I never spotted a “Water Babies Lane” or “Hereward House” but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there are there somewhere!)
We passed the Chequers pub again and arrived back at the geocar. The staff at the pub were posing outside with a lifesize model pig – we thought it best not to enquire too closely.
As we got back into the geocar, now parked among others, a man was emerging from another car, ready to go for a walk with his dog. He set off, at no great pace, clutching a map, and turned towards the pond. Mr Hg137’s suspicions were aroused. He scooted out of the geocar and observed from a distance. Aha! The man had paused at the village sign and was writing something down. Mr Hg137 hailed him, and his hunch was correct. Nice to meet you mikes54, and also your lovely and patient dog. We had been in contact only a few days before and it was great to put a face to the cacher’s handle. We chatted for a few minutes and gathered some hints about those caches we hadn’t found earlier (we looked in the right places, but not hard enough), plus some conversation about the Counting Vowels series (one of our favourite series, and he’s the creator of that).
Our original plan was to undertake a small caching trip in Hartley Wintney on the Bank Holiday Monday, but with a chilly day forecast we opted for a trip in the warm-ish Sunday sunshine.
St Mary’s Church, Hartley Wintney
We had 6 caches on our route, a Church Micro and then a series of 5 caches to the South of the town. We had found caches before in Hartley Wintney – in fading November light way back in 2018. The afternoon this time was bright and clear, and being Easter, the churchyard was busy.
People were dotted around various gravestones, paying respects to family members. All we wanted to do was find an unusual gravestone, and extract a couple of numbers from it. We managed this without being too suspicious (probably) and continued around the graveyard visiting a couple more graves collecting numbers.
Sad sign about the Church
We sat on a seat to calculate the final co-ordinates. We then discovered our mistake at the unusual gravestone. we needed a ‘middle name’ too. Whoops! So Mr Hg137 walked around the churchyard again – fortunately slightly less people – and collected the missing info. A quick calculation later and we walked boldly away from the Church.
The Church is on the Three Castles Path, and as we left, we reminisced about the time we walked the full distance from Windsor to Winchester way back in the late noughties. On that occasion the paths were wet and muddy, today they were bone dry.
As we arrived at Ground Zero to find the cache (and awkward hint of ‘ivy’ !) we were aware of a young family approaching. We paused and let them pass. We collected the cache, signed the log and strode away.
We were initially confused as to the next nearest cache, as we had marked the locations on a map…but not named them. We set off in the direction of one cache, and it was only Mrs Hg137’s suggestion to check the GPS, they we had arrived, somewhat fortuitously as a different Ground Zero.
Unfortunately for us, the young family were now behind us. (We had overtaken them when ‘Albie’ had a strop in the middle of a footpath, and wasn’t going to go any further). The young family eventually caught us up – they had come to admire the cows in a field, and walk away. Albie wasn’t interested in the cows… just going home.
‘Quick grab the cache…now Albie’s gone!’
After a few minutes of very poor loitering by us, the family left, and we set about looking for the cache. Under a bridge, and very well hidden. So well hidden that Mr Hg137 dropped the cache as he returned it to its rightful place. A walking couple hove into view as all this happening, fortunately no questions were asked!
Our route then took us into a lovely green park, QE2 Fields. The fields were dedicated on the Jubilee weekend in 2012. An arched seat, and olive trees from a semi-circle overlooking the park. Hidden in the area was a cache, which took us far too long to find!
Where would you hide a cache here ?
We left the fields and walked by a new-ish estate to some woodland. Our next cache hidden in trees, and our GPS led us in circles. Eventually the needle settled and the cache was found. Like many of the others in the series it was a ‘hanging bison’ – and this one was tricky to remove from its hiding place.
The Mitchell Oaks hosted a cache… but where is it ?
We walked on, and we were following the route of King John in 1215. He travelled from Odiham Castle to meet with the Barons at Runnymede. A large commemorative seat describes the route.
The seat was near to our penultimate find of the day, tucked away in the roots of an oak tree. Our final cache was back close to the Church, yards from the gravestone we visited twice earlier in the afternoon. As we arrived at a likely location we were aware of a rambler approaching. We just had time to make a ‘dive and grab’ for the cache, before nonchalantly admiring the view, cache firmly clenched out of sight.
A very pleasant walk, the caches made harder by the warm Easter weather which had brought people out for a walk in the sunshine.
We have stayed faithful to the “stay at home” rule since the latest lockdown started, only venturing out for the occasional cache as part of our daily exercise. But the rule has recently changed to “stay local”, so, with a slight feeling of naughtiness, we went caching a bit further away from home … ooh, maybe as far away as seven miles!
A local cacher, hartk001, had contacted us to ask for help with a cache they couldn’t find (it seems to have gone missing). This reminded us of their cache series, the ‘Blue Mountain Bimble’. There were also a few other good caches nearby and this seemed just the day to do all of them.
Our start point was Jocks Lane Park on the northern edge of Bracknell. We set off into a chilly breeze, adding woolly hats and gloves as we went. Other folk, hardier than us, were already out, playing table tennis on an outdoor table, or, braver still, dressed in shorts while playing tennis (ouch, their knees must have been very cold!). To start with, we went east into Garth Meadows a thin strip of green fields that follows the line of the Cut (FYI, it’s a small river in case you were wondering). Our first cache of the morning was from the ‘Counting Vowels’ series, which we have enjoyed ever since we got the FTF on the very first one a loooong time ago in November 2017. The second, on the return leg to the park, was simply called ‘Garth View’; and, yes, there was a fine view southwards over the centre of town. We admired the view, chatted with some muggle dogwalkers, complimented their dog’s coat (entitled ‘K9 Unit’), and all the while carried on a detailed search/retrieve on the cache there, which was tiny and which had been hidden so as to blend in with the furniture. And, on the plus side, it had got brighter, and warmer, and the woolly gloves could be removed.
But most of the caches we’d come to find were in the ‘Blue Mountain Bimble’ Series. It had been on our to-do list ever since it was placed at the end of 2020, but it’s not really local so it’s been off limits during lockdown. It contains ten caches, mostly set out round the perimeter of what used to be Blue Mountain Golf Club ; it closed in 2016 and 400 houses are being built on the site.
There’s open space and lots of paths, and it’s still possible to make out the shape of some of the fairways and bunkers in places. There are also lakes and streams: the golf course was quite challenging and was known for its water hazards. Nearby are also some patches of old woodland, Jock’s Copse, Tinker’s Copse, and Temple Copse . All this makes a good walk, and the mixture of trees, paths, parkland and lanes is also great terrain for placing a variety of caches in a good variety of locations. The description accompanying the series said that all the caches were different – it’s true – and we found caches in, on, and behind trees, by fence posts, on bridges, hidden in signs, and a couple in bespoke wooden creations. It was a jolly pleasant walk, especially as the sun had now come out, the birds were singing, the sky was bright blue, and it was a beautiful spring morning.
Towards the end of the series, we came to the area where the clubhouse used to be. We’d both been there before, but in times past, when the golf course was in use. Mrs Hg137 could recall visiting the clubhouse for a work meeting, probably not long after the course opened in 1993, and Mr Hg137 could remember attending a trade fair at the same place maybe 10 years ago. The area has changed quite a lot in between! It’s now a school, the King’s Academy
While reminiscing about exactly which bit of the golf course had been located where, we passed a group of muggles with a lugubrious-looking bulldog. Then we stepped in to retrieve the next cache once they were safely by. On opening the cache to sign the log – others had been there already that morning! We wondered if that group of muggles, or even the lugubrious bulldog, were actually cachers? They were the only group of people we had seen on the whole route. Mr Hg137 ran back a little way to see if they had stopped at another cache, but couldn’t quite see. But, if not them, who else?
Coppicing in the copses
Still musing, we left the old golf course and walked back through woodland towards the park, collecting the final two caches in the set of ten as we did so. Great – all ten caches in the series found!
We finished the morning as we had started, with a ‘Counting Vowels’ cache. This one is based around items to be found in Jock’s Copse and Tinker’s Copse. One of the two copses is carpeted with white anemones, a sign of ancient woodland, and the other will be filled with bluebells in just a week or so, they are just emerging. And the strip of ground in between, now covered with houses, used to be an airstrip in the 1930s.
What a great morning’s caching, all caches found and it was so good to be a little less “local” than of late!
We were returning from Reading (jab day for Mr Hg137) , via the far end of Sandhurst and we set off to collect a Church Micro multi-cache.
Sandhurst Methodist Church
Sandhurst Methodist Church was built in the early 20th century and hosts regular services each week. Today, being Palm Sunday, may well have had a bustling congregation, but being in pandemic lockdown the Church was quiet.
We quickly found some dates on the Church walls, and used them to calculate the final co-ordinates for the multi-cache. So far, so good.
Lots of potential number and letters!
The cache had been set by local cache owners VR7, and we struggle with their hides. Normally quite small containers, tucked away in very well concealed places.
We arrived at GZ, ready for a long search. The cache was ‘attached’ and with a chain-link fence on one side of footpath and a solid wooden fence the other, we only had one area to search. Despite checking every chain thoroughly, we couldn’t find the cache. Beyond the chain link a large amount of greenery had been cleared and moved to one side. We were concerned the cache had been moved too.
Here ? Really ?
Our search continued, pausing occasionally to let runners and dog-walkers go by. As the frequency of interruptions became greater, we decided to abandon, walk away from GZ in a half-mile loop, and return for another search.
So after our exercise loop, we returned and checked again. Again nothing, we gave up.. a DNF.
We logged the DNF on http://www.geocaching.com, and messaged the cache owners, VR7, about the vegetation clearing, just to ensure they were aware the cache may have gone missing.
And that, we thought, was it for the day. One cache attempted, one DNF.
Stunning Sandhurst Cottage
But as the day wore on…
…we were made aware of several other DNFs with some connection to us….
Because we had messaged VR7, we periodically logged back into http://www.geocaching.com during the day to see if there had been a response.
They did reply to our message and said they would check the cache in the forthcoming days. Good news!
But also that morning, another caching team, Team Wixi, undertook the Church Micro. They, too, failed to find the cache. Maybe, the cache has gone missing. (Ed : at the time of writing, it is not clear if the cache is missing or not).
Later that day we received a log on our cache, BerryBank Copse. Someone had tried to find it, and couldn’t. They DNFed it. In fairness, the cache is hidden in a melee of bushes. The container is in a very convincing camo bag, and easily missed. We notified the cachers and said we would check it later. (Ed : We did and the cache is hidden in its normal location)
Finally, we had yet another DNF message. A cache we had found in February wasn’t where a new finder was expecting to find it. They contacted us, to verify where we hid it, so that they could check again. We replied we would check over the coming days and let them know. (Ed : Sadly this cache has disappeared).
So in the space of less than 12 hours we DNFed a cache, another cacher DNFed the same cache, our own cache was DNFed and a cache we were last finders of, had been DNFed too. All very coincidental!