December 8 : Farnham Park

Farnham Park

Just over 2 years ago, we attempted our first geocaches in Farnham. We attempted the Farnham Ramble, a series of 30+ caches, many of them multis, most of them interconnected to another so the series had to be completed in order. We struggled with the first few caches, and gave up but pledged we would return.

Sadly for us the series was archived shortly afterwards.

So, with fresh eyes we headed to another part of Farnham and undertook a completely different set of caches – this time placed in and around Farnham Park. Farnham Park is a mediaeval deer park of 320 acres and contains secret dells, streams, sports pitches and panoramic views.

Farnham Castle just visible in the tree-line


It is situated just outside the town, near Farnham’s Castle (now a training centre) and has free car parking! We could spend as long as we liked caching and not worry about a ‘ticking’ car park ticket!

The previous days had been wet, and this was the main reason we chose Farnham Park – many of the paths were tarmac. Apart from stepping off to search for a cache, we wouldn’t get too muddy!.


So at 845 am we parked up. The car park was already busy – dogs were being exercised, runners were stretching legs. Our first cache was almost in the car park. The hint did say ‘park side not car park side’…but hey.. our initial investigation yielded nothing.. so we went to the car park side anyway! After a few minutes, we corrected ourselves – stood where we stood before, and glinted at a slightly different angle and of course found the cache! Placed by a local Beaver group and in very good order.

Our caching route was to be relatively short (about 3 miles, including a couple of cul-de-sacs) and contained 9 caches. Each one had been set by a different person or team! How very unusual!

A great place for a cache

The first cache was easy to get to, but hard to spot. Our second cache was the complete reverse! Each to spot – scarcely any camouflage – but we had a stream to jump across with slightly slippery banks. Here we found a travel bug (TravelDog) which we will blog about soon. We tried to remember the last time we found a travel bug, without much success.

One of the many streams that criss-cross the Park

Stream jumping was a feature of the next two caches.

The first was hidden in a small outlying copse of trees; the next – Ancient Oak – was some way from the tarmac path. Fortunately the drainage ditches had done a good job, and the walk was pleasant with the ground being ‘damp’ rather than ‘squelchy’. Our eyes were drawn to an imperious tree in the distance, and we headed there, jumping another drainage ditch, and then realising we were still 50 feet away! We clambered around some undergrowth and arrived ‘behind’ the imperious oak, where the cache was an easy find. All we had to do was retrace our steps back to the tarmac.

The path was much busier now as, almost every 25 yards or so, a runner or dog walker went by. We were slowly climbing about 50 feet, and as we did so we had a lovely view over the park and the Farnham locality.

Is there a cache here ?

As we approached the Northern outskirts of the park, we walked parallel to the village/town of Hale/Upper Hale, and houses could be seen on our right. On the left, were the fine views and two more caches. Both quick finds, one in tree roots and one 5 feet up in a stump. It was at the first of these we found our second travel bug of the day, a delightful geocoin called ‘Les Géopotes à Chausey’. (Having struggled to remember our last time we found one trackable, we struggled even more to remember the last time we found two in one day!).

The tarmac path soon came to an end, and one of the best viewpoints of the day, and it was here we could have headed South, back to the car. But.. there were 2 nearby caches just outside the park.

The first called ‘Read’ had well over 30 favourites. (It acquired another from us too). The cache was hidden in a micro-library ! It wasn’t just books in the library ! A visitor’s book, lego cards, doggie treats and much more besides.

Have you seen a library like this ?

How many libraries contain these ?

The remaining non-Farnham-Park cache was part of the old Farnham Ramble series. This cache has been re-introduced as is now called ‘Farnham Series Remembered’. As one of the easier caches on the original route, it was easy to reinstate without previous multi-cache knowledge. We wanted the cache name in our portfolio as the final letters of the cache name spelt ‘RED’. A colour which we would add to list of ‘colours’ we would need for a caching snooker challenge. (We need to find 15 REDs and we are a little short!)

On the way to the Farnham Ramble Remembered cache


The cache itself was hidden IN a tree stump. But, in front of the tree stump was a lot of bark. Placed to look like ‘barkoflage’ we dismantled it first to no avail. Then we looked in the tree stump, and with a bit of poking and prodding in the Autumn leaf pile, we were able to find the cache.

And so we returned back to the Park. The morning had become greyer, and we one cache left to do. Part of the ‘Hole in One’ series, situated near golf course. (Farnham Park includes a 9 hole par 3 course). When we arrived at Ground Zero, we couldn’t find anywhere where a cache could be hidden. The hint said ‘In the title’, and the penny dropped. We had about 12 items to check, and after checking 7 or 8 of them, we discovered a small bison.

A hole-in-one!


In summary this was a great morning’s caching, not too strenuous, not too wet, and more importantly some good reasonable sized containers all of which were in good order. Well done to the 9 different cache owners!

Other caches we found included :

Advertisements

November 17 : Cranleigh and the Surrey Hills

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Where to go caching? All summer, our caching routes had been determined by our walking quest for the year, from Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) home to Sandhurst (Berkshire). We completed that in early November, and now we had to choose a route for ourselves. After a little thought, we settled on Cranleigh, at the foot of the Surrey Hills. We walked there last year on our route from Sandhurst (Berkshire) to Sandhurst (Kent), and had planned to return one day; today was that day.
We were to tackle the ‘Cranleigh North Walk’ (CNW) series, a four-mile route covering sixteen caches, starting at Smithwood Common. Two other caches, not part of the series, were close to our start point, so we added those, and did them at the beginning.

A Fine Pair

A Fine Pair


It was cool, almost cold, and slightly misty as we soon found the first of those two caches, one from the ‘Fine Pair’ series (themed around a phone box and post box within sight of each other – an increasingly rare thing), and the other called ‘Four Elms’ and named after a now-departed pub. As we walked towards the start of the main walk, something gave us pause: two Remembrance Day crosses in a front garden. Just over a hundred years ago, two residents, a father and son, judging from the ages, had set off for war from that house. Neither returned, and they are buried in different parts of Europe. Very sad.

We looked for the path that would lead to the first of the CNW series, fording a small stream and setting off along a hollow ‘path’. We soon realised we had made a mistake – no way was this a path! – and we hadn’t brought a machete, but we bushwhacked determinedly on, and arrived at the first cache in the series after about twenty minutes, scratched and dishevelled. In hindsight, which is easy, we did the same kind of thing when we first stated caching – we chose the shortest (but not necessarily easiest) route to a cache. It seems we have not fully learnt that lesson!

Hard going ...

Hard going …


... maybe there was an easier path?

… maybe there was an easier path?


It got easier after that, luckily: there weren’t nearly enough hours of daylight left if we’d kept on at that pace. We carried on uphill, along (clear, unscratchy) woodland paths, climbing uphill and stopping briefly for a panoramic view out to the south. It was warmer now, and the sun was breaking through the mist, so we stopped for a coffee and a few minutes to admire the view. Setting off again, we reached a narrow lane, and climbed the hill while being passed by Lycra-clad cyclists; some even had enough spare breath for a brief conversation (though some did not!). After a little while, we turned off the road and onto a track, stopping to talk to a muggle sweeping leaves; she said it’s a great, if remote, place to live, but you do get snowed in sometimes …

We walked on along a track high in the late autumn woods, with golden leaves thinning to bare branches. Once, a tiny broken branch showed us the way to the cache; a few, we couldn’t find; another, we nearly missed till we almost walked into it … there was an excellent variety of things to find (or not find).
Letterbox cache here somewhere ...

Letterbox cache here somewhere …


... found it!

… found it!


Further on, along a woodland path, we arrived at a letterbox cache. It was a distance, and a direction, away from the published coordinates. We each took a bearing, and paced off in what we hoped was the right direction, ending within two arm’s length of each other – and the cache was between us. Teamwork!

The caches kept coming, and a varied selection they were, too. Some of the containers included fake pine cones, mushrooms, and a (very realistic) plastic hedgehog.

We dropped down from the wooded hills, then followed a track onto farmland. Rounding a corner, we suddenly came a large piece of wooden sculpture. While admiring it, two muggles also arrived to look at it. They told us that the sculpture is called Xylem Voices, by Walter Bailey, and it forms part of the ‘Inspiring Views’ trail https://www.surreyhillssociety.org/events/inspiring-views-trail (Editor’s note: we had seen another of the pieces in the series, Perspectives, up on the Greensand Way while walking last year.)

Xylem Voices

Xylem Voices


We were nearly back at the car now, finding the last two caches in the series as we walked through the fields, then along the road for a short distance as the sun dipped and the afternoon cooled.

To sum up: this is a beautiful walk, through woodland, open fields and commons and almost all on paths and tracks, a great way to spend a sunny late autumn day.

Here are some of the other caches we found:

November 3 : Sandhurst geocachers trail trackable

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Finally, the trail trackable comes home!


We dipped the trail trackable in our own cache, Berry Bank cache, as we left home, and the trackable came with us as we left Sandhurst (Berkshire) on a cold January day in 2017, and on past Guildford, through the Surrey Hills to Leith Hill tower.

Leith Hill Tower

Leith Hill Tower


Down into the Weald, we skirted Gatwick Airport and moved on to Ashdown Forest, home of Winnie the Pooh.
Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle


Turning south near Tunbridge Wells, we paused to look at the Flying Scotsman as it steamed by, then carried on through the Sussex countryside as spring progressed, and crossed into Kent, just north of Bodiam Castle, to arrive at Sandhurst (Kent) in late May 2017.

Sandhurst, Kent


Sandhurst, Gloucestershire

Sandhurst, Gloucestershire


Forward in time to early April 2018, and we were now on the soggy banks of the River Severn at Sandhurst (Gloucestershire). We made our way between Gloucester and Cheltenham, over the M5, then climbed up the scarp slope of the Cotswolds to arrive at Crickley Hill. Crossing the busy A419, we continued through the hills, passing through Chedworth, then down the Coln valley to Bibury.
Bibury

Bibury


Crossing the River Thames near Lechlade, we continued into Oxfordshire, across the Vale of the White Horse, and up to and over the Ridgeway during the hottest part of a very warm summer. On the Berkshire side of the Ridgeway, the route carried on down the Lambourn valley as autumn approached, then crossed the Kennet and Avon canal and headed across country to the Roman city of Silchester. From there, the remainder of the route followed the River Blackwater back home to Sandhurst (Berkshire) in early November 2018.
Silchester Amphitheatre

Silchester Amphitheatre


To complete the route, we dipped the travel trackable at Berry bank cache again, and walked the last short distance to home. Job done!

Journey’s End


That’s 180 miles across almost the whole of southern England, a great variety of landscape, agriculture, people and wildlife, but just one large town, Newbury. It’s time for the trackable (and us!) to have a rest now!

November 3 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Swallowfield to Sandhurst

The final day of our epic walk from Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst (Berks); this section completed the line between all 3 Sandhursts – as last year we walked from Berkshire to Sandhurst in Kent.

Eversley Ford

Today’s 13 mile route would take us over very familiar territory.

We have been caching for over 6 years and we, like most cachers we guess, have found most of our caches close to home. Today’s route would pass through several series we had previously undertaken. It was therefore a little surprising we managed to attempt 13 caches that we had never attempted before!

As we left Swallowfield we noted that the village Firework Fiesta would be happening that evening. Our car was parked close to the main event… we needed to be finish our walk and return with our other car well before the fireworks started – otherwise we would be stuck in traffic!

Our first three caches were all on the Swallowfield boundary. The first, intriguingly titled ‘Twists, Turns and Flow’ and was under a bridge over the River Broadwater. With such a scary title we were a little concerned we may get wet, but a close examination of the bridge from the side, meant the retrieval was easy and dry!

Don’t drop the cache!


The River Broadwater is a small river and has two tributaries, the Whitewater and the Blackwater. Today’s walk would be following the River Blackwater all the way to Sandhurst.

Our next cache was a Church Micro at the nearby Swallowfield Church. The previous cacher had logged a DNF, but we found the cache quite easily. A small clip box, with a fine view of the Church. Our last cache in Swallowfield was adjacent to a large oak tree – another easy find.

Swallowfield Church

Pleased with our early successes we then had a 2-3 mile walk to another set of caches close to Eversley Ford.

On the way our path initially followed the River Broadwater quite closely, yet we somehow missed where the Blackwater and Whitewater merged, as we were too busy watching a horse and trap being exercised in an adjacent field!


Prior to Eversley Ford we arrived at Farley Ford. We had been to this spot twice before, once when we undertook the Hampshire Drive series (November 2016), and once when completed the Farley Forage series (August 2017). We desperately tried to remember some of the hides in the Farley Forage series, but we failed to re-find any of the caches based on our recall of the circuit.

Farley Ford…visited for the THIRD time on our caching travels!


We left the Farley Forage series, walked through several fields with horses until we arrived at lane leading to our next cache. Here the hint mentioned a ditch crossing. Once we found the correct ditch (fortunately dry), it was easy to locate the cache. In fact, it hadn’t been hidden that well, so we hid it slightly better.

Our walk so far had been North of the River Blackwater in Berkshire, At Eversley Ford we crossed into Hampshire, where an old county marker hosts a cache. The cache owner requests that the cache is moved ‘to the other county’ after each find. We moved it back to its proper place.. into the Royal County of Berkshire.

The Ford itself was busy – we paused for coffee. During our short stop we saw many a dog-walker, cyclist and rambler use the foot-crossing by the ford. The nearby Eversley Mill was a restaurant until a few years ago – sadly now closed.

After a short while the Hampshire footpath took us into the village of Eversley where a bus stop provided us with a straightforward find. (Readers may remember we struggled with the Silchester Bus Stop cache, so we really grateful for very explicit hint here !)

Our brief sortie into Hampshire was over and we re-crossed the river back into Berkshire, and followed in reverse the Finchampstead Undulations series. This stretch brought back happy memories as it was one of the first series we undertook way back in January 2013 (and one of our first blog entries too!). Of course we couldn’t remember where these caches were either, but we did recall having to jump across a stream to find a cache, but this looked impossible now as there was a wire-fence on the far side of the ditch.

We also remembered a very muddy path, yet ours was dry and the view the river had changed completely. Instead of a muddy grass field, hundred of trees had been planted. This will be quite a forest in years to come!

Future Forest of Tomorrow


The Finchampstead Undulation series has had a couple of changes over the years, notably the addition of a couple of extra caches. The first cleverly hidden close to the ‘Welcome to Wokingham’ sign, the other less-cleverly hidden in a 45 degree angle fence post.

Up to now, we had been following the river, but now we were in lake territory. Over many years, gravel extraction had taken place and the huge pits have been converted into wildlife lakes. The banks between the lakes form an intricate pattern of paths and it was one of these that we chose to make a small diversion from our route. We almost regretted that decision when it took us 15 minutes to find the cache! It was hidden in a hollow tree-trunk, but the GPS wobbled a lot, we needed to jump (another!) ditch, and fight our way past brambles and thorny branches.

After this ordeal, we noticed a seat and we were in need of sustenance. The seat had been placed facing some bird feeders and we watched blue tits, great tits, robins, blackbirds and magpies all come to feed unaware of our presence.

Yateley Lakes

We proceeded along the lake banks for another mile or so and found the best two caches of the day. The first hanging in plain sight, and the second inside a garden gnome!

We’ve found over 2500 caches, and never seen a cache inside a gnome!

Besides the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst has one really (in)famous landmark, “Happy Christmas” bridge

The Blackwater Valley path deviates from the river as it approaches Sandhurst. There is an area of fishing lakes, and private property, so for a mile we had a section of road walking.

We have found many of the Sandhurst caches on our caching exploits over the last 6 years, and today we added 2 more. The first was well protected by a huge fungus, and the second was a small magnetic nano.

The last cache of the day!

Not the most spectacular cache, but it did mean we found 13 caches out of 13! All we had to do was re-cross the river back into Hampshire, walk along the Blackwater (South side), cross back into Berkshire and finish our grand walk at the Sandhurst sign, where we started our walk to Sandhurst (Kent) nearly 2 years ago.

Phew !

Journey’s End

Then a quick drive back to Swallowfield to retrieve our other car before a firework cordon enveloped it ! Accomplished with ease!

EPILOGUE

Our 85+ mile journey was complete.

We had walked from the Sandhurst (Gloucs), close to River Severn, back home.

We had walked through pretty Cotswold villages, climbed hills, walked along the Ridgeway and by a myriad of rivers and canals.

When we started our walk the paths and fields were flooded following the 2018 ‘Beast from the East’, we had endured the 2018 Summer heat and somehow missed the named Autumn storms by a few miles.

We found 250 caches on our way home in phone boxes, bus stops, and Roman amphitheatres. We also managed to break our daily caching record .. twice!

Most of the route had been on footpaths, some of which we would never have found without the geocaches set on them, so thank you to all the cache owners whose caches we have attempted, as you have helped guide us home!

We hope you have enjoyed reading about this year’s Sandhurst to Sandhurst journey – its been quite varied!

Caches in the final section included :

October 26 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Silchester to Swallowfield

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The weather forecast said ‘rain early, dry later on’, which seemed a good omen for our walk from Silchester to Swallowfield, the latest stage of our walk from Sandhurst in Gloucestershire (just north of Gloucester, on the banks of the River Severn) back home to Sandhurst in Berkshire (home of the Royal Military Academy). The omens didn’t seem quite so good as we stood in the pouring rain at the English Heritage car park close to (Roman) Silchester, collecting clues for the ‘Calleva Atrebatum’ multicache. But the rain was easing by the time we parked in (modern) Silchester village. And it had stopped altogether by the time we had found the cache hidden at the adjacent bus stop; we had tried and failed to find it in the twilight at the end of our last walk, but it was easier when we could see what we were looking for!


We set off through the quiet back lanes of Silchester, then followed the Brenda Parker Way to reach the walls encircling the site of the Roman town. The BPW continues atop the walls, making for an atmospheric walk, and a chance to talk to the stonemasons who were clearing and repointing a section of the walls. Read about the history of Silchester here https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/silchester-roman-city-walls-and-amphitheatre/history The sun came out and we made our way around to Silchester church, just inside the walls (and I bet the church was originally constructed from stone ‘liberated’ from those same walls) to find the Church Micro cache there, and stop for coffee. It’s worth a look inside the church, there are wall paintings, which you don’t often see https://www.outdoorlads.com/events/silchester-quester-historic-church-search-hampshire-180402

St Mary the Virgin, Silchester

St Mary the Virgin, Silchester




As we packed up to leave … WHERE’S MY GEOPOLE? … I’d left it behind, part way around the walls (doh!). We backtracked, then went forward again to visit the Roman amphitheatre, found another cache, and had an early lunch sitting where the spectators would have sat, looking down into the arena at some young children playing in the sun, throwing a rugby ball.

After our picnic, we finally left Silchester, walking east along a path which followed the line of the Devil’s Highway, the Roman road leading from Staines-on-Thames to Silchester https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_Highway_(Roman_Britain) In various places, this is a path across fields, or a wide straight track between ditches, or tarmacked road. We were stopped on one of the road sections by two council workers, who’d had a report of fly tipping. We found it, a burned-out van and a load of plumbing waste (yuk) and phoned them.
Devil's Highway

Devil’s Highway


... Devil's Highway misused

… Devil’s Highway misused


We made progress very steadily from here on, partially because the route was dead straight (no navigation to do) and partially because the caches thinned out once away from Silchester, and we only found three more in the next three miles. Then we turned slightly north, to cross the noisy, busy A33 – a big contrast to the quiet and peaceful miles we had just walked – and approached the end of our walk at Swallowfield. There was just one more cache to attempt, which was just off route, close to King’s Bridge over the River Loddon. Well, we spotted the cache, but that was as far as it went; it had fallen to the ground on the far side of a fearsome barbed wire fence and we couldn’t reach it. Slightly disappointed, we walked down into Swallowfield to reach our geocar parked at the village hall.
King's Bridge

King’s Bridge


... unreachable cache

… unreachable cache


Here are some of the caches we found:

October 13 : Smelly Pooch Trackable

We picked up Smelly Pooch on our Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) to Sandhurst (Berkshire) walk.

We had just left Thatcham and yards from both the canal and railway line, was an aptly name cache called ‘Over the Bridge’. Inside the pooch was hankering to be let out, and taken for a walk!

Stinky pooch

Stinky pooch meets our trackable

It was only after we returned home that we read its full mission – it was in a race with two other trackables … to reach Aberdeen. However the winning trackable is not the first trackable to reach Aberdeen. Instead points are awarded (or subtracted) as follows :

– each of the three trackables in the race starts with 100 points

– every cache the trackable visits gains 10 points

– every day it takes to get to Aberdeen a point will be deducted

Now once we read this, we decided to ‘dip’ the trackable in all the caches we visited on our day’s walk (after picking the Pooch up of course). We added 8 caches (80 points) onto its total…and as it had only been placed in the cache just 2 days previously, we didn’t lose it too many points either!

Good luck Pooch… we’ll add some more points to your target before we drop you off!

PS All 3 Trackables started in the Far East in November 2017:

Smelly Pooch is travelling from Thailand to Aberdeen

Tigger (a Tiger) is travelling from Thailand to Shaftesbury

Rocky (a Boar) is travelling from Thailand to Aberdeen

Rocky is trailing in last place at the moment having only visited 14 caches in a year (and is now in Northern Norway). It is very close between Smelly Pooch and Tigger as both have visited about 320 caches each!

Who will win? We don’t know – as both are in the UK at the moment, and anything can happen!

October 13 : Hilly the Hippo

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Hilly the Hippo

Hilly the Hippo

While walking along the Kennet and Avon canal between Thatcham and Aldermaston, we stopped to find a cache, which contained the ‘Hilly the Hippo’ trackable. It’s a special edition trackable, given out as a gift at Mike Hill’s first geocaching event, and printed (I assume) with his photo. Hilly’s mission is to

‘ visit as many different caches as possible both here in the UK and abroad and hopefully return home again one day’

Since May 2017, Hilly the Hippo has travelled just under a thousand miles. We’ll take with us for a little while and then drop it in a suitable cache to send it on its way.

Editor’s note: We found a small tartan elephant keyring in the cache with the trackable. We weren’t sure if they were attached to each other – they weren’t at the time of finding – but we have clipped them together as it is less likely for the trackable to be lost if it is attached to something larger (it’s happened to us!)