September 23 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : East Garston to Boxford

East Garston

Plans.

We had great plans for this stretch of our Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst (Berks) walk.

There were loads of caches to find, lots of standard caches, several multis, a puzzle or two and a three location Earthcache to complete (measuring water flow at three very different bridges over the River Lambourn).

Plans.

As the weekend drew nearer, it became obvious it was going to be a wet one.

A very wet one…but there were a few hours on Saturday morning before it was going to rain. We decided we would get up early, and speed round (omitting the multis, the puzzles and the Earthcache) and only look for the easy caches and finish (hopefully) before it rained.

Plans.

When we awoke on Saturday morning and studied copious website weather maps over breakfast (sad, I know, but necessary). We discovered the rain was moving through quicker and our window of fine weather would be closed almost as we started the walk. We abandoned.

What of the weather the next day, Sunday ? Even heavier than Saturday. Groan.

Plans.

Sunday arrived, and so did the heavy rain. As did another breakfast review of weather websites. The rain should clear late morning. Really ?

For most of the morning we looked through the window at the rain, then the weather websites.. rain should be clearing. Window. Web. Window. Web.

At 10:45 we agreed if we saw no appreciable improvement by 11:15 we would abandon for the day.

Suddenly from nowhere at 11:12, the rain eased, it got lighter. We’re on!

We frantically made up a picnic lunch, loaded a haversack, picked up the GPS and cameras off we went. Driving through drizzle. (Our heads collectively sunk, we were going to get very wet…then…just as we were 5 miles from the start of the walk a small azure streak appeared in the sky. It got wider and wider and wider … and as we parked up, the rain had cleared and much of the sky was blue!

The River Lambourn at East Garston

We walked through the quiet village of East Garston, and headed for our first cache. A little off our path, near a water butt. Nettles surrounded the butt on all sides, but a few swipes from the geo-pole and we had access the butt. We searched high and low, but sadly no cache to see. After the adrenalin rush to get walking, this was a let down.

An even bigger let down at our next cache site too, as it was another DNF ! This time the cache should have been in or near a post. Lots of posts to check – metallic ones surrounding an electricity substation, wooden ones making up a stile and field boundary. Many covered in ivy, surrounded by nettles. We didn’t want to DNF the first 2 of the day, but after 15 minutes we agreed to move on. Our enthusiasm for being able to walk and geocache had taken a beating!

The cache site was at a junction of footpaths, and our minds were made up when several dog walkers appeared. (Most people, like us, had been trapped inside all weekend, and our afternoon’s walk was to be heavily punctuated by families and dog walkers all enjoying the September sunshine).

And so we moved to cache three, the first of 8 caches we would attempt in the Lambourn Valley Way series (LVW). This cache had recently been replaced, so we knew it should be there. Somewhere. Several rootles through the leaf litter, and we had a cache in our hand. At last !

Our luck was even better at the next cache! Not only did we find it (as well as a well hidden dog-poo bag) but there was a seat, and we could stop and eat the hastily made picnic we’d assembled earlier.

Surprisingly the seat was dry, less surprising the footpath (the ‘Lambourn Valley Way’) was not muddy. The River Lambourn, and its immediate surrounding banks, are chalk. A very, very porous rock. All the rain over the last 24 hours had disappeared through the chalk almost as soon as it fell. Bonus!

Lambourn Valley Way


We walked on, and found our next cache in an unusual manner. Hidden in an oak’s roots. But accessing the roots was a time consuming business. Over the many years, the oak had grown several low branches which meant to access the roots, we had to walk into a ‘branch cul-de-sac’, look for the cache, walk out of the cul-de-sac and walk into the next. After 4 such cul-de-sacs, the cache found. Lucky too as a family of five fast approached!

Our route took us into the small village of Great Shefford.

The village boasts several multi-caches. As we had started late, we said we wouldn’t attempt them unless they were directly on our route. One was, based on the Great Shefford Village Hall, sadly the final was a 1/3 of a mile back the way we came – we abandoned.

The footpath so far had been sandwiched between the River Lambourn and agricultural fields. As we left Great Shefford, we lost the river for company. We went by an old church (and its multi), some distance from our path – we tried to second guess where the final would be…(Hint : ‘magnetic’), but we gave up.

We crossed a ploughed field and arrived at another cache. With the hint of ‘tree roots’, we despaired when we saw how many trees we had to search. Then.. from nowhere we saw the container unhidden perched in the bank of some tree roots. We noticed a dog walker approaching, so we undertook lots of delaying actions (phone calls, boot lace tying, photos) until the dog walker had gone by. There was only 1/10 of a mile between caches so we had to employ every known trick to ensure he passed us, before the next cache.

As we approached GZ, another dog walker strode towards us… it really was getting busy. Fortunately a quick find at GZ meant we didn’t see a third walker in the space of two minutes!

We followed a small tarmac drive, until we saw the river Lambourn again – or rather a multitude of streams or rivulets many of which could have been the main channel.

Seven swans-a-swimming

Having crossed the river we climbed away from it (finding a cache in a tyre – yes really! – and a well hidden hanging nano) before our navigation let us down.

In fairness a combination of circumstances let us down. Firstly the large field had a damaged finger post, so we were unable to determine how we should ascend over a rising grass field. It was not helped because cache LVW22 had been removed from the route. If this cache had been present we would have used that as an interim waypoint. The route we took was thwarted by a fenced enclosure of sheep, and after much consideration we chose the correct way around the field and arrived about 20 yards away from a stile! Phew!

Had we not been concentrating on our navigation, and cursing about lack of signage, we might well have spotted Welford Park in the distance. Famed for its display of early Spring flowers, and also host to the TV series ‘Great British Bake Off’.

We had just 2 caches to find. The first of which was hidden 6 feet up, in ivy. Joy, upon joy.
And it had been DNFed by the previous two cachers. We gave it a few minutes, and somehow we found it – well lodged and well disguised.

The straight lines of the M4 …

… and the straight lines of a farmer’s field

Our day had been tranquil walking for the most part, but as we walked on the roar of the M4 became more apparent. We crossed the motorway, and found shortly after our last cache of the day quite easily.

So, somehow we managed to find 8 caches on our trip; it promised more but, given the weather over the weekend, was 8 caches more than we thought we might get!

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September 17 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Eastbury to East Garston, along the Lambourn Valley

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The Lambourn Valley and East Garston

The Lambourn Valley and East Garston


Our morning appointment had overrun, and we emerged into early afternoon on a gorgeous clear, sunny September day. Changing our geocaching plans, as we were starting later than planned, we decided on an out-and-back walk between Eastbury and East Garston.
Lambourn Valley Way

Lambourn Valley Way


Following the track of a disused railway, now a path, we soon found two caches, one named Lambourn Valley Way (the route we were following) which had a seat with super views over the valley towards East Garston. After another cache, hidden in a bit of redundant railway ‘stuff’ we reached the church at the edge of East Garston. We diverted off the path to find the Church Micro cache based here, and to pause by a memorial stone by the church door, to the First World War poet Edward Thomas https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/lifestory/4409149 (Editor’s note: Edward Thomas is best known for the poem ‘Adlestrop’. He was killed on Easter Monday 1917, and his widow Helen and their three children settled in Eastbury.)
Lambourn Valley Way

Lambourn Valley Way



The River Lambourn flows through the centre of East Garston, with tiny bridges over the river to paths and houses. Actually, ‘flows’ was not really true as the riverbed was dry after the roasting summer. A cache from the ‘Little Bridges’ series was based on one of those bridges, and there was also another Church Micro cache, where the church is now a private house. (Two Church Micros in such a small village …) The hint for this cache was so cryptic that we had found the cache, driven home, and logged it before we realised what it meant. Doh!
Another Church Micro ...

Another Church Micro …


... and free apples

… and free apples


We started our return journey after stuffing our pockets with free apples which were piled in a trug with a ‘free to a good home’ sign. (Editor’s note: those Worcester Pearmain apples became tasty apple turnovers.) We walked back along the old railway line. On our outward trip, we had been finding caches from the ‘Day of the Jackals’ series, but one had eluded us. It was hidden, we hoped, in ivy, but it hadn’t been found for four months and we wondered if it was still there. We started on another search, without expecting to find anything (and we are rubbish at searching in ivy) but Mr Hg137 spotted something out of place after a few minutes search, and we’d finally got the cache, not missing after all.

And that was it for the day, a short but hugely enjoyable walk in pretty countryside and charming villages on a golden September day. Lovely!

Here are some of the caches we found:

September 1 : Isle of Wight : Freshwater Bay

Our walking holiday was at an end. We had packed our bags and loaded the car. But…

Freshwater Bay

… we had yet to find the three nearest caches to where we were staying. We had a couple of hours before our ferry home, so this was the ideal time to find these caches.

It was early morning (0910) as we walked along the foreshore at Freshwater Bay. (We made a tentative, rockpool scramble towards a terrain 4.5 cache – we had no intention of finding it, as access is only possible at the lowest of low tides) and then headed towards the lifeboat station. Unlike many lifeboat stations around the UK, it is NOT run by the RNLI but independently run and independently funded. As we headed across the beach, we noticed several early morning swimmers. One man charged into the sea, and his dog obediently and joyfully followed. A trio of ladies walked in but their dog was afraid of the waves, and barked incessantly from the dry shore edge.

Beyond these rocks and in some caves lies a difficulty 4.5 cache…


The cache (lifeboat view) was a relatively straightforward find. The hint ‘WD3’ had our minds racing, and since all the footpaths on the Isle of Wight were numbered, we assumed it was attached to a footpath sign. How wrong we were!

We then walked up the grassy slope onto Tennyson Down (for either the third or was it fourth time that week?), to arrive at a fence line, a stile, and some trees. We could see these from our hotel room, and knew the cache (Tennyson’s) was close by.

Up there, at the top of the hill, near the trees. is a cache!

We circled round the small copse (Mrs Hg137 somehow managed to find the largest, heaviest branch to hit her head against!)

Where ‘ouch’ moments occur!

and then a few minutes later found the elusive container we could almost see from our room.

Our final cache was called Julia Margaret Cameron, the 19th century photographer. She lived and undertook much of her pioneering photography at her house, Dimbola Lodge, now a museum.

Dimbola Lodge

We had been fortunate to visit the museum one evening and seen examples of her work. Her style, was very ethereal, Ancient World classical, and involved her subjects being dressed up representing Shakespearean characters as well as Ancient Greek and Roman gods/goddesses. The museum also housed some pictures and accounts from the first three Isle of Wight pop festivals (1968 – 1970). Outside the museum stood a statue of Jimi Hendrix, whose last live performance was at the 1970 festival venue less than a mile from the museum.

Jimi Hendrix

The cache was a multi, and during the week we had collected information about the museum, Julia and Jimi and we discovered that the cache was on the route down from the Tennyson’s cache. A simple find, and a great way to finish a walking holiday – with a bit of geocaching thrown in – on the Isle of Wight.

August 31 : Isle of Wight : The Needles and Freshwater Bay

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

So soon, it was the last full day of our week-long walking holiday on the Isle of Wight. The final walk for the week was a cracker, taking us inland from Freshwater Bay, towards the Needles, then a glorious finale along the bouncy turf of Tennyson Down.

Tennyson Down

Tennyson Down


We were walking in a group, so there weren’t many opportunities to sneak off and do a quick bit of caching without being left behind, but there was an opportunity at the Needles, where there is an earthcache. Information was gathered, and the required selfie was taken with the Needles in the background, ready for logging later.
The Needles

The Needles


This was a perfect place for a packed lunch, sat on the cliffs in the sunshine, overlooking the Solent and the New Forest. Well, it was sunny where we were, but dark clouds were forming over the mainland, and a funnel cloud formed and stretched nearly to the ground, before disintegrating as quickly as it had formed. Wow!
Twister!

Twister!


Anyway, the sun was still shining on us, and we began our return trip, eastwards along Tennyson Down, past the monument where we had cached two days before, and down the hill to Freshwater Bay.
St Agnes Church, Freshwater Bay

St Agnes Church, Freshwater Bay


Inside the Thatched Church

Inside the Thatched Church


On the edge of the village is St Agnes Church, known as ‘the Thatched Church’ because … it’s the only thatched church on the island. https://www.visitisleofwight.co.uk/things-to-do/st-agnes-church-p1069431 (Editor’s note: It’s not nearly as old as it looks! It was built just over a hundred years ago.) There’s a Church Micro based on this church, but we hadn’t collected all the information needed on a fleeting visit on the outward leg of the walk. A return visit was needed. With more time, coordinates were quickly derived and we’d soon found the cache, a short walk away.

So that was a superb walk, and two lovely caches, to end a great week’s walking. Tomorrow it was back to the ‘North Island’ – as the islanders call the mainland – and homeward.

August 29 : Quarr Abbey, Fishbourne and Tennyson’s Monument

Quarr Abbey

We were on week’s walking holiday on the Isle of Wight, but, as most of the walks were with largish walking parties, it wasn’t easy to cache as we walked.

Our day off enabled us to choose our own route, and select a few interesting caches.

We were staying at Freshwater Bay (on the South West of the Isle of Wight), and we had identified a small number of caches near the ferry terminal at Fishbourne (at the North East of the Island). We had originally thought about finding these while we waited for our homeward ferry, but we brought the expedition forward.

Our first target was at Quarr Abbey (useful free parking). Quarr Abbey is still a working Catholic Benedictine Monastery, but visitors are allowed to wander the grounds, and visit the stunning brick church. The Abbey was originally built in the 12th century, and destroyed during Henry VIII’s Reformation. Monks returned to Quarr in the early 1900s from a temporary home elsewhere on the Island, and over 25 years had the current monastic buildings erected. To enable a level of self-sufficiency there are vegetable plots, fruit trees, chickens and pigs. The monastery layout was shown on a numbered information board, which was the start point for the first multi-cache of the day. (Not many multis start with ‘Orchard – Church’ and ‘Abbey – Pigs’ !)

One of the many Quarr Abbey pigs


A quick solve and fortuitously enough the cache was in the direction of a couple of other caches we had come to collect.

These were part of the Ferry Distraction series of puzzle caches. (Each cache had a puzzle to solve with an Isle-of-Wight twist.) For one of the puzzles we had to find 32 Isle of Wight placenames and match them to pseudo-cryptic clues (‘Oriental Bovines = East Cowes’), another involved solving an online jigsaw puzzle and a third a logic puzzle involving five families, the places they visited and how they got around during their mythical holiday. These puzzles were supposed to be time-fillers for the ferry journey across to the Island, but we solved them before leaving home…(in much longer time than the ferry journey!!!).

Our first puzzle find was deep in a footpath near the Fishbourne Ferry terminal. A path we had driven by many times, and never spotted. The second was near the shore edge, and which took us some minutes to locate. The hint was very clear, and there was only one place to look, but the presence of a mother, a child and a dog made searching tricky. Most people turn right after leaving the Fishbourne Ferry terminal, but turn left and a very tranquil shoreline emerges. A place we would never have found without geocaching.

Fishbourne Ferry Terminal


We returned back to Quarr Abbey, to look around. Many other people were doing the same – the café was full – the stunning brick church was solemnly quiet (once a young family had left), and of course some very friendly pigs !

Our next cache – a relatively rare, standard cache was yards from the Abbey – but we failed to read the instructions and gleefully followed the GPS to a cacheless tree, rather than ‘walk 10 paces from the railings’ mentioned in the hint!

Our route then took as away from the 12th century ruins to the last of the puzzle caches (after vaulting a non-existing stream). An easy find.

One of the puzzle caches

Not so at our final Quarr cache. In an oak tree, in the middle of a field. A huge hole was checked and nothing found, then we spotted, high up at the rear of the tree a narrow hole with the cache poked inside.

Can you see the cache ?

It was 10 foot up with slippery bark as our only means of approach. Then we remembered the geo-pole! We extended it, and with great caution hooked it underneath the Tupperware container. Slowly, slowly we inched the container out until it fell to the grass.

Success.. now how to get back up!

A quick sign of the log and then… how to get it back up there? We sealed three side of the container, and balanced the geo-pole end into the fourth end’s locking mechanism. We slowly raised the pole until we were level and in the hole. Success!

Our caching at Quarr and Fishbourne were complete, so we headed back across the Island to find Tennyson’s Monument. We had the ‘Bee’ (Birthday Buzz) trackable to place, and we had told the trackable owner we would place it somewhere scenic on the Isle of Wight. We knew we would be passing the Monument in one of our walks, but wouldn’t have to time to undertake the multi set around it.

Tennyson Monument


We located a free car park at the foot of Tennyson Down. A steep, stepped ascent led us to the Monument – and the grassy slopes surrounding it. The views were well worth the climbing effort – they were stunning. We could see right across the Solent to the mainland, the tip of the Needles on the Isle of Wight and to the East much of the Island itself.

Looking West to the Needles (Chalk Cliff)


Looking East across the Isle of Wight


The poet Alfred, Lord, Tennyson lived for many years very close by and the monument was placed to commemorate his life. The hill we had climbed was also renamed in his honour too!

We had a quick look round for the necessary information for the multi. A strangely worded set of instructions and we couldn’t find anything matching the clues at all. We waited for a seat to clear, and we imbibed a coffee (at this point Mr Hg137 somehow angered a wasp and it fought back stinging him on his hand). The sting must have caused an adrenalin rush, as when we looked again at the monument the instructions for the multi became clear.

Was it a coincidence we had a ‘Bee’ trackable in our hand and a ‘Wasp’ attacked ? Who knows!

We discovered that the final was close to the car park from where we started so down we went and a quick find at GZ. Farewell ‘Bee’ – hope you enjoyed the view!

To the North : Fishbourne, the Solent, and the Mainland

August 25 : Isle of Wight : Arreton

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

On the Saturday before the August Bank Holiday, we set off for a week’s walking on the Isle of Wight. We’d mostly been to the island in the winter, when the roads are quiet, the ferries half-empty, and there are not many people about. The number of people heading for the island, and already there, came as a shock …

Garlic ...

Garlic …


... and a vulture!

… and a vulture!


In the centre of the island, in the warm late August sunshine, we stopped at the Garlic Farm https://www.thegarlicfarm.co.uk Lots to taste, more to buy, and loads more to see. In fact, I tried so much garlic that I could guarantee that the garlic fumes would ward off vampires for some while. (Mr Hg137 ate not a single clove!)
St George's Church, Arreton

St George’s Church, Arreton


Nearby is the tiny hamlet of Arreton, and we stopped there to find a couple of caches. The first was a Church Micro based on the church of St George, set on the hill a little way from the main road. It didn’t take us long to find the numbers associated with the cache, but the garlic fumes must have been affecting us both, as the first attempt at working out a location came out with something way out in the English Channel. Several deep breaths, a rethink, and we came out with new coordinates, much closer, back in the direction we had come from. We strolled back and found the cache after a couple of minutes search.

Back past the church again, up the hill again, we were out in the fields. The views opened out to the south as we climbed up Arreton Down. A few cows lazily chewed the cud as we turned back a large stone and uncovered another cache. What a super little caching trip! But by now we were hot, the hotel pool was calling, and we scooted off to Freshwater Bay, leaving behind a few unfound caches for another day.

Here are some caches:

August 17 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Sparsholt Firs (Ridgeway) to Eastbury

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.

Eastbury

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.

Eastbury’s Little Bridge


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.

Cache number 1

We made our way back on the same footpath – the white horses this time came over to greet us – wanting food!

Eastbury Church


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!

We’re in Berkshire !!!!!!


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

Eventually the dog-walkers left and we could make a very easy find in the corner of fence and a good large container. We quickly moved on, and quickly found cache upon cache.

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.

A welcome lunch spot!


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.

All-Weather Gallops

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.

One of many drinking chocolate caches!

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.

A Lambourn Valley Way cache…no wonder it took some time to find!


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.