Winter had changed from a cold, frosty season to a wet one. Very showery, very cloudy.
But the day was fairly fine with the promise of rain later. Best get on with the plan !
The plan was to walk from Wanborough Station to Shalford Station, catch the hourly train from Shalford station to Guildford, then wait 20 minutes for the half-hourly train back from Guildford to Wanborough.
We had walked and cached some of this route before, so it should be straightforward. What could possibly go wrong? Eagle-eyed readers will have noted the blog title does not correlate to the plan so, a bit like caching, expect the unexpected!
It all started well enough. Our previous visit had left a previous multi/puzzle unfound, so before arriving at Wanborough station we parked near to where we had looked before and rummaged. Was it that we were fresher, keener and warmer than when we last looked? Was it the hedgerow seemed to have been trimmed ? Either way an easy find and a great start to our day’s caching.
Our first real target of the day was a Church Micro in Wanborough. To reach it meant walking for about half a mile on the Fox Way, a 39 circular route circumnavigating Guildford. The route is named after Richard Fox, one of its creators. There are also a number of geocaches on its route too! However our half-mile journey involved walking along a muddy, flooded, barbed-wire enclosed, narrow footpath.
We gingerly squelched our way along the track, sometimes using the fence posts as stability, other times a submerged brick was a useful stepping stone in the flooded section. During the summer this path would be really easy, but after a week of winter rain… the semi-submerged path proved tricky!
When we arrived at the Church (St Barthomolew’s) we found a real gem. The Church was built shortly after the Norman Conquest and the answers to the multi-puzzle cache were easy to find and easy to calculate. However a parked van obscured our vision of the optimal footpath sign, so we took a slightly longer route to the cache than we expected. The cache was found with the help of two sheep in the neighbouring field who came over to chat.
We decided to have a coffee stop back at the Church, as our previous knowledge of the area told us there would be no other suitable spot for a while.
We then had the longest section of pavement walking of the Sandhurst-Sandhurst route so far, but this was more to ensure an easy tunnel crossing of the Hogs Back, a notorious dual carriageway (A31).
We arrived at the North Downs Way, another long distance footpath, which links Farnham to Dover. We were only walking 3-4 miles of its 153 miles before turning away from it, to reach Shalford. We had cached twice on the North Downs Way and we had DNF’ed a couple of caches on our previous visit. Today was time to have another search!
And we were lucky with both! The first, discovered behind a fence post and really, really small; Mrs Hg137 also discovered stinging nettles sting even in February. The other was more troublesome since it was in tree roots at the top of a muddy gully. To reach the roots we slipped and slithered, and kept watch as several parties of muggles trudged by, each own complaining of the ankle deep mud. It took three attempts to find this cache (well Mr Hg137 took two, and Mrs Hg137 found it easily!). Still a find is a find !
The North Downs Way was quite busy as there was an afternoon event at the Watts Gallery. This Gallery has been rebuilt using Lottery funding and exhibits the work of Victorian painter and sculptor George Watts.
We also passed two groups of Bronze Duke of Edinburgh parties. (We’ve discovered over time that they spend just as much time having a six-way discussion over the map, as they do walking!).
Our next caches were just after we had turned away from the North Downs Way both easy finds, hidden in tree roots.
We were aiming for a tiny hamlet at Littleton where another Church Micro awaited. (We also assumed there would be a seat in the Church grounds for lunch). Sadly… there wasn’t.
The Church was originally built as a village school house back in 1843 and turned into a church when the school moved premises. However the granite step into the Church proved a more than adequate seat. Unlike Mr Hg137’s ability to load the Church Micro details into the GPS! He had written down the calculation but failed to load the cache details so that we had no means of finding the location of A,B,C, D and E. We searched unsuccessfully for a wifi signal. Nothing. Then, as were leaving we noticed 5 numbers on two signs which Mr Hg137 remembered being the key. We assigned values in an obvious way and undertook the calculation. We were only 100 feet away!
The Ground Zero had just been re-fenced. New poles had been erected – even a nearby Farm Sign was new! We decided that the cache had been ‘lost’ in the upheaval and marked it down as our first DNF of the day.
So reluctantly we headed away from Littleton, and headed towards Shalford. The path formed the boundary of a Police Dog Training Centre, and it seemed no coincidence to us, that every dog walker seemed to have an Alsatian with them. Fortunately the two caches we had to find on this section were surprisingly straightforward. One hidden in the depths of some horizontal ivy (shame the log book was so wet we could barely write on it), the other not quite so well hidden in a recumbent log.
Time was ticking as were emerged on a main road halfway between Guildford and Shalford… could we walk and cache the last 3/4 mile or so in 30 minutes so we would make the next hourly train ?
All we had to do was cross the River Wey, find a cache on a ‘island’ (more accurately a large piece of land which the River Wey meandered around), cross the River Wey on the far side of island, walk through a cemetery (another cache) and arrive at the station.
Our first River Wey crossing was at St Catherine’s Lock. Due to high water levels downstream this was as far as boats could travel (not that we saw any). We arrived at the first cache site, and then read the logs.. it had been DNFed since April last year. We undertook a token search, but decided with time pressing, to move on to locate our second bridge.
Could we find the bridge ? No ! There seemed to be no route off the far side of the island! Even a local dog walker (yet another Alsatian), said there was no bridge. We checked our maps, and although we could see one printed we accepted her word. We quickly concluded we would not have enough time to walk all the back to the lock gates, and walk an even longer route to Shalford station in the 20 minutes before the train was due.
Reluctantly we decided to walk to Guildford instead… we could follow the Wey to the City Centre, find the station, and still catch our connecting train. 40 minutes and 2 miles later we arrived at the Station, breathless and exhausted after an eventful day’s caching.
Our journey is being documented by a trackable which we are ‘dipping’ in found caches or at other cache locations to give a ‘broadly accurate route’.