In which we are given an unexpected gift, accidentally prevent a cache from being found and ring a bell to catch a boat!
Prior to most of our caching trips, we undertake research. In the case of the Thames Path we research where to park at the start and/or finish and how to return to any parked cars at the end of the walk – ideally without incurring the large car parking fees associated with being close to the River Thames.
Our research today found several free, yes free, parking spaces near Walton Bridge, our intended destination. Better still there was a bus service that would take us to Staines where our walk would start. Excellent! Not only that but the car parking spot was very easy to drive to (about 5 minutes from the M3!).
While we were waiting at the bus stop – or more correctly double-checking we were at the correct bus stop, we were approached by a local resident in his front garden.
“I’ve something you might like”.
“Oh” we replied unenthusiastically (our minds were thinking about a bus due in a minute or so time).
“I see you’ve got a walking pole… would you like two more”
“I’ll just go and get them”
A few seconds passed. We looked at each other anxiously, one eye at each other, one eye looking for a bus and our third(!) eye at the gentleman’s front garden…
“Here you are.. some local youths threw them in my garden some weeks back. They didn’t want them..do you?”
We took them. He accepted no money for them. A pair of practically new walking poles. What a start to our day! Just as we were trying to collect our thoughts along came the bus for our short trip to Staines.
At Staines, or as we have mentioned before, Staines-upon-Thames, we made our way from the bus station to the river. But not before our first cache of the day, under a seat near the war memorial. With two seats to choose it shouldn’t have taken us too long to find the nano.. sadly it did!
Within yards of resuming our walk along the Thames Path we encountered several monuments, statues and sculptures. Modern sculptures, the original London Stone marking London’s original jurisdiction of the Thames as well as a heron and a swan-upper .. all with yards of each other. None of them hid any caches though!
Our 8 mile route had few caches on the Thames Path, so after a couple of miles we broke off to visit the town/village of Laleham. Here was a church micro hidden near a very un-church-like location – a litter bin!
Our third cache on was back on the Thames, and quick easy find in a broken pole end. As we sat on a nearby seat, we became aware of runners coming towards us. They were in a race ! (Our previous Thames visit had something similar). This time we could just about read information on the tabards.. it was the Thames Path Challenge. http://www.thamespathchallenge.com. People were running (100km or 50 km) or walking 25km of the Thames Path coming straight for us! We gave a few a cheer as they went by, but our main efforts were dodging out of their way!
Eventually the path opened out to a wider green area, where our next target cache was to be found. “A bolt with a view” was the description so we knew what we were looking for.. a bolt. We spent ages looking for it, all the time being aware of a set of muggles arriving in the car park. We checked all the obvious metalwork to no avail, then we looked in a tree (really.. we did!) and back to the metalwork. Aha! Got it! Unscrew it, sign the log..and repla…bother the muggles are now trying to get the pay and display machine to work in direct eye-line of the cache. Lets wait!
We waited… and waited.. how long does it take to work a machine ? We waited.. Lets have lunch and replace it later. We made our way to a nearby picnic table and started to munch.
Some time later we were aware of two people with two dogs near the pay machine. Had they just arrived ? Are they paying ? Are they exercising their dogs for a short walk ? No, they are looking for something. They are checking metalwork… and look they are checking the tree too… they must be cachers… and we have the cache next to our Cheese and Onion crisps. Whoops!
We ran over, well Mr Hg137 did, and discovered that they were indeed geocachers. We apologised for holding the cache (explaining why of course) and we jointly replaced it. It had been 5 months since the last geocachers we had seen (in Oxford) so it was a real pleasure to meet huskyhustlers1 and their husky dogs!
We eventually finished our interrupted lunch and then continued on the Thames Path. By now the trickle of charity runners/walkers was a steady flow, which meant finding the next two caches a tad tricky. The path was at its narrowest and only just wide enough for two people to pass – so trying to locate two simple caches (one hidden in Armco, the other in a tree) was a bit of a squeeze.
We then had a long section to our next cache situated at Shepperton Lock (which we would have found a bit quicker if we’d had read the cache title!). Before we got there, we walked around a water meadow (we guess a euphemism for “flood plain”!). These meadows had become much scarcer approaching London, and according to the guide-book we are using, this was to be the last.
Immediately after Shepperton Lock the Thames Path splits for the first time on our journey. The Northern bank route follows paths and pavements, slightly away from the Thames, for about 1.5 miles to Walton Bridge. The Southern bank route is a little shorter and follows the riverside all the way to Walton. The actual river more correctly follows the Northern route but with so many meanders, the flow of the river was so poor in the 1930s that a separate water channel, the Desborough Cut was built.
The Southern bank route follows the Desborough Cut and from our caching perspective, 2 more caches.
However to get to the Southern bank we needed to cross. There is no bridge, just a ferry. Although the ferry runs for much of the day, it is a request service. Every quarter of an hour the ferryman is summoned by ringing a bell. We waited 8 minutes for the appointed time, and rang the bell.
Nobody came. We waited.
Some ten minutes the ferryman appeared and soon our 2 minute boat crossing was complete.
One of the two caches we had to find was a puzzle cache based on a ‘safe combination’ we’d solved before leaving and another hidden somewhere deep in fallen tree-trunk, overgrown, nettly area. This was to be our only DNF of the day.
The Southern route was very much quieter as the charity runners/walkers were on the Northern bank. It was therefore a great shock to see hundreds of walkers going over Walton Bridge when we arrived there! Our last cache, with our best view of the river all day, was found with many of the walkers right behind us!
Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 8.1 miles
Total distance walked : 144.35 miles