April 19 – The Ridgeway and an attempt to break our record of caches in a day (Part 1)

Spring and sunshine were definitely in the air and we decided to go further afield for our next caching adventure. The Ridgeway on the Oxfordshire/Berkshire border.

The three remaining towers of Didcot Power Station

The three remaining towers of Didcot Power Station – a changing view

This was an area we had a fair knowledge of, as we had walked there before (we walked the whole 80+ miles of the Ridgeway in 2012), but had never cached on this section of the Ridgeway. There was a great circuit of 23 caches and another on its route.

We then discovered if we made a diversion or two we could attempt 9 other caches including two mini series of 6 and 2 caches and an easily solved puzzle cache. This would give us a total of 33 caches, which if we found them all, would break our best daily cache haul of 28 (set in August 2013).

Easy eh ?

After an hour’s drive we arrived at a car park on the Ridgeway itself. Without even leaving the car there were great views of farmland to the South, and to the North, the three remaining towers of Didcot Power Station.

As an aside, many people view such buildings as a blot on the landscape, which to an extent is true. But as a landmark, they do give aid in evaluating distance. When we walked the Ridgeway in 2012, the (then 6) towers were visible for at least half the Ridgeway’s length, which definitely gave a “Wow we’ve walked all that way” feeling!

Anyway the remaining 3 towers are due for demolition later this year, so we said “good-bye” to our walking companion of 4 years ago.

The Ridgeway is quite an open landscape as the chalk soil does not lend itself to large wooded areas. There are some trees, but these are in tiny pockets. Most of the caches were found were next to field posts, frequently well hidden in grass, and quite often under burgeoning stinging nettles. (The geo-pole was absolutely essential for these).

The series was entitled a Chocolate Series, though many of the cache names were not obviously chocolate – for example Lemon Mousse, Nougat, and Turkish Delight.

We found the first three caches very easily and thought (mistakenly!) we were in for a very easy day.

Never, never, never think that when put caching!

We failed to find number 4 (Coffee Cream). Every fence post near GZ had been well cleared of vegetation and there was no cache to find. Looking at the cache logs it has not been consistently found since mid-February. An occasional cacher has logged a “Found It” visit, but then written in the log “DNF” ! Standing at GZ does not count ! Logging “Found it” means the cache owner thinks the cache is there and won’t check it! Grr!

Lovely pile of stones.. but no cache underneath!

Lovely pile of stones.. but no cache underneath!

We had a similar experience at cache 7. Here though the cache had been found recently, and the GZ was very obvious (a tell-tale pile of cacher’s stones). That’s 2 DNFs out of 7. Suddenly the daily record attempt seems a long way off!

Our descent off the Ridgeway was completed at caches 8 and 9 (Orange Cream and Hazelnut Noisette… not making you hungry am I ?). We then a very short walk along what should have been a quiet country lane. In the 1/10th of a mile we walked along the road at least 4 vehicles zoomed passed us – we were grateful for the grass verge.

Leaving the road, approaching a farmhouse, we were loudly challenged by the farmer’s dog, shortly pursued by the owner! This was at a critical point of the route in terms of path-finding, so as soon as we were out of sight of the farmhouse, we double-checked that we heading towards the next cache, and more importantly back up to the Ridgeway.

Many easy finds followed, our only distraction from the route was watching a handful of red kites gracefully gliding in the sky, eying the ground for prey. We tried taking pictures of these beautiful birds, but none of the dozen or so photos we took, did them justice (A black blob on a blue background!).

We found every cache on our ascent which left us 8 to find on the Ridge itself. The first was hidden in the back of the memorial stone to the wife of the late John Betjeman. To us it seemed wrong to have a 35mm film canister stuck into a memorial crevice. Admittedly Penelope Betjeman wasn’t famous, but one wouldn’t place a cache in a memorial to say Nelson or Newton so why the wife of a former poet Laureate ?

Memorial to Penelope Betjeman

Memorial to Penelope Betjeman

We found the next 4 caches on the Ridge before we descended off the Ridgway (again) to hopefully find enough caches to break our record. So far we’d found 19 from 21 with only 12 more to attempt… things were looking good…will we break our record ?

(to be continued)

Some of the caches found so far :


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