April 8 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Shurdington to Barrow Wake

After two day’s walking through the Severn Valley and the outskirts of the Cotswolds, our third day included climbing Crickley Hill. Approximately 500 feet of it.

Shurdington is at the bottom of Crickley Hill and our route would take us to the top, and then we would descend about half way to the Air Balloon pub, and then another short climb to the Barrow Wake car park overlooking the village of Birdlip.

Lots of ascent and with 10 caches to find – and heavy rain forecast for mid-afternoon – we couldn’t loiter too long.

After a short walk we left (cacheless) Shurdington and arrived at a track. This would be our route for the next hour or so. Initially flat, but rising steeply before flattening out nearer the top.

The first flat section yielded three caches. The first, GWYTHERS FARM, was part of a FARM series where cache container had a dairy connection. We had found a similar container the day before at REDDINGS FARM, but it was still a surprise to find a relatively unusual cache container.

One pint or two ?

Our next two caches were even more unusual. They were two caches in a ten cache trail based on the ‘Ships of the Culture’ series of books. (We were unaware of this series, but discovered many of the caches were based on names of spaceships in those books). The author, Ian M Banks, must have a real sense of humour as the first cache we found in the series was…a Carrot.

A Large Plastic Orange Carrot.

One of your seven a day

The second cache we found was a toilet. Yes, a small toilet. The toilet paper was of course used for logging.

Flushed with success!

Still chuckling, we started our climb started in earnest. The track became stonier and stonier. A small stream criss-crossed our path, and as we walked higher we were enclosed by trees on one side and a six foot muddy bank on the other. This muddy bank had to be climbed to reach our next cache.

Armed only with a geo-pole, a bit of endeavour and large amount of effort, Mrs Hg137 failed to climb the slippery six foot slope. Mr Hg137 noticed a slightly easier ascent route, found the cache, threw it down for Mrs Hg137 to sign, before the return throw and re-hide. That was our only scramble up the bank, as it soon became a typical Cotswold Stone Wall.

Our next two caches were relatively straightforward, one required pulling a small piece of string to extricate the cache from a hole, the other was hidden under a familiar cacher’s pile of sticks. The log of this cache was particularly wet, so we decided to have lunch and let the paper dry out for 10 minutes or so.

Pull the string!

We turned onto the Cotswold Way which would lead us to the top of Crickley Hill.

One of the flatter paths!

But first, two more caches which were some way from the main, busy footpath. One was hidden in an old bale twiner, the other in a hollow tree reached by descending a slightly too muddy path.

Eventually we arrived at the top of Crickley Hill. There are three caches at the top – a multi (which we didn’t undertake as its 9 waypoints would take us well away from out intended route), an earthcache and a standard cache.

With hindsight (Ed : hindsight being only useful when things don’t quite go to plan) we should have attempted the earthcache first. But we didn’t.

We headed straight for the standard cache, possibly on a footpath, but in all fairness not, straight down a steep, wet grassy bank. Using only a wire fence (and a geo-pole) for support we inched down the hillside to find GLORIOUS GLOUCESTERSHIRE. An easy find, once at GZ, and it was only when we were at GZ that we noticed a very much simpler footpath leading from the where the earthcache started! Whoops!

View from Glorious Gloucestershire

It was when we logged the cache, later that night, we appreciated the age of the GLORIOUS GLOUCESTERSHIRE cache. It was first hidden in August 2001. It is the UK’s 20th oldest cache, and is classified as ‘Ancient’. Our labours had found a very old cache indeed.

New container.. but an ANCIENT cache!

The other reason we should have completed the earthcache first, was not only did we have to answer questions about how a landslip had occurred, but we had to look at the many hills that we could see from Crickley Hill. Sadly, the rain clouds were rolling in, and we could barely appreciate the (what should have been) expansive view.

We rushed down the hill, passing the Air Balloon pub and arrived at our car just as the heavens opened. (The unusually named pub is allegedly named after the final landing place of one of the first UK balloon flights in 1784).

The rain deterred our visit to a puzzle cache we had solved near Barrow Wake.. that will have to wait for another day.

A couple of the other caches we found :

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