The heat of the 2018 Summer had abated, and temperatures were more pleasant for walking.
Today we would descend from the Ridgeway to a small village just outside Lambourn, called Eastbury. Eastbury is a small, one street village, a pub or two, no shops to speak of, but a church and the beautiful chalk stream/river Lambourn running through it.
We wanted to explore the village before driving to the Ridgeway as it was host to 3 multi-caches. We have been caught out with multis in the past and discovered that we often had to walk back on ourselves to find the final cache. We had been warned in the cache description that at least one of them was out of the village on one of the many downward paths from the Ridgeway.
The first multi was part of the ‘Legends of The Call Series’ based on telephone boxes and post boxes. (A bit like the ‘Fine Pair’ series, but with a different name.) Telephone boxes and post boxes are great sources of numbers, so we spent a minute or two collecting what we needed and established that the final cache was to be collected on our descent from the Ridgeway.
The second multi was a ‘Little Bridge’, a National series where the caches are hidden near little bridges (unsuitable or impossible for traffic to use). We quickly calculated the final location of the cache and determined it was a short walk away from the village on the Southern side. The footpath passed a small paddock with two white horses (who ignored us), and then a short woodland stretch which led to the cache.
We made our way back on the same footpath – the white horses this time came over to greet us – wanting food!
The third multi was a Church Micro. We studied dates on the war memorials inside and outside the churchyard and a church seat. Another quick calculation and we followed a path through the Eastbury Playing Fields arriving at… the paddock containing the two white horses! Why didn’t they tell us where the cache was first the time we went by ? Maybe we should have bribed them with our lunch!
So 2 caches found and we hadn’t even started our walk!
We drove up to Sparsholt Firs car park and took one final look to the North into the Oxfordshire Thames Plain. Then down.. to the South.. and Berkshire! Our destination county! Hurrah!
Why the county boundary isn’t the top of the Ridgeway escapes both of us. Instead, after walking by a couple of farms, and dropping a 100 feet or so we saw a sign with ‘West Berkshire’ on it! We had crossed Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire and now we were only 35 miles (as the crow flies) from home.
Our walk down was cacheless for the first 2 miles. Then we picked up part of a caching loop called the ‘Red Barn’ series named after… a prominent Red Barn. Visible for miles around. Here there was a small area to park a car – indeed we saw a car pull up just was arrived. We paused, to allow a pair of dog-walkers to leave, as our first cache was yards from their parked vehicle. We noticed a woodland burial site and stood and looked at that while we waited.
The ‘Red Barn’ loop has very easy-to-find caches about 700-800 feet apart. No sooner where we done at one cache we were at another. The containers varied from Tupperware boxes, to small tubes, and to a false branch in a hawthorn bush.
Then we arrived at a seat. (A roughly cut log to be more precise). It was lunchtime and it was the first (and as it turned out, the only) seat we would see all day. We munched our sandwiches, taking great care not to antagonise the wasps drinking sap from the far end of the bench.
We were at a crossroads of four paths and our route would turn onto one of the cross-paths. An ideal place for a cache. But our GPS said there was no cache here. Then we remembered we were walking the ‘Red Barn’ series in the reverse direction (ie descending numbers not ascending numbers). The next Red Barn cache was a multi which would contain the coordinates for the final. We pondered… what if the final was near to where we were sitting ? There were a few places to search… behind one of the trees ? at the fence corners ? under the seat ? on a sign ? We gave ourselves 5 minutes… we didn’t need 4 of them … we found the cache in the first place we looked ! We had cracked a multi without finding the first part! We’ve only done that once before when we walking the Thames Path in 2015!
Fully refreshed and quite ecstatic after a surprise find we found a couple more caches before heading down a much smaller footpath…full of nettles. And badger holes! The badger holes had been marked with traffic cones so they were easy to avoid, not so the stinging nettles.
We had moved onto the ‘Eastbury Fields’ circuit which would take us over a steep hill (Ed : really ? I thought we heading down!) and over the Lambourn gallops and into the village of Eastbury itself.
Again the caches were all easy to find, and almost closer together than the ‘Red Barn’ series. Our slight gripe with the ‘Eastbury Fields’ series was the containers were all identical – old drinking chocolate pots. Almost all the hides were under branches or stones at the foot of trees (including some super-spiky hawthorns).
Even though the caching was easy, and very frequent, we did have time to admire the views. Beautiful rolling chalk downland.
Soon the village of Eastbury came into view and we had just a few more caches to collect. These were neither part of the ‘Eastbury Fields’ series nor the ‘Red Barn’ series but the Lambourn Valley Way series. A series of cache following the footpaths near to the River Lambourn. The river wasn’t visible from the two caches we found. We had become used to quick, easy finds and these two caches took a lot longer. A lot, lot longer.
Having not had a DNF all day, we were determined to find these caches, and in the end we did.
That left us with one cache to find. The multi whose coordinates we had calculated at the beginning of the day. Sadly we had walked right down to the valley bottom, and had a short, sharp ascent to find our last cache.
A fine day’s walk, 7 miles, fabulous views, mainly downhill and 27 caches.