May 20 : Chester (part 1)

Chester & The River Dee

We had booked a week’s holiday in Chester, as it was an area neither of knew that well, and it would give us a small break from caching the Sandhurst Trail.

Our hotel was about 2 miles outside the City of Chester, and with a station on our doorstep, we took the train. (Saved car parking fees, but didn’t save shoe leather as we later discovered Chester Station was a little distance from our City Centre Caching Targets).

Chester is a former Roman Town, with a 2 mile Roman Wall surrounding the city centre. (The wall has been rebuilt several times since the Romans left!). The station was to the North of these walls, and our target caches was well to the South of the Walls, near the River Dee.

Before we left home we had solved a difficulty 5 puzzle cache called “The Clairvoyant” and we were determined to find it. As its location was some distance from the station, this gave us a chance to find caches on the way.

Can you look into the future and solve this puzzle, before you read whether we discovered the cache ?

We had forgotten that city locations play havoc with the GPS ! Many times we found a cache about 20 feet from its location. The first was attached to some ‘street furniture’ near to the Deva pub (‘Deva’ being the Roman name for Chester).

First Chester Cache

We weren’t so lucky looking for a cache in Grosvenor Park called ‘Park Life’ as we found neither the cache nor the ‘Stump’ alluded to in the clue. We were in a park were squirrels abounded, sadly they didn’t help us.

“Can I help ?”

We even took a ride on the model railway and looked again. Nothing!

Choo-choo !

We did find the other cache in the park, “A Walk in the Park”, and as we sat and completed the logging, a young couple sat on adjacent seat, and fed another squirrel… with a very large chip! To see a squirrel holding and nibbling a chip lengthways (as if a corn-cob) was really cute and funny!

We needed to cross the river, and the Queens Park Suspension Bridge (originally built in 1852, and rebuilt/restored a few times since) provided us with our next cache.

Partway along, we stopped 10 feet after GZ, and looked down. Nothing at our feet. But, as we looked back up… we saw a family of four, 10 feet away, signing a piece of paper! Yes they were cachers! Pleased to meet you Team ELSR, and well done on finding your first 4 geocaches!)

We had a half-mile walk along the River Dee’s Bank to “The Clairvoyant”. Like many puzzle caches, the answer is very obvious when you discover it. Here, a read of the previous finder’s logs, as well as fully understanding every word written about the cache, gave us the solution. (Hint: to solve it will require printing it out, and using at least one tool).

A small, indistinct trail led through knee-high nettles at Clairvoyant’s GZ. An even smaller track lead to a bush which provided excellent camouflage for an ammo can! It is certainly worthwhile to find a large cache when a large amount of brain-power has been used!

As it says on the tin.. “The Clairvoyant”


The flood-plains near the River Dee provided an excellent vantage position for watching a canoe race take place, as well locating one other cache in a very disguised paint tin!

We headed back towards the City, collecting another, much smaller cache, near the former City Mill.

The centre of Chester (ie inside the city walls), has a good mixture of caches. Some standard, easy to find caches; an earthcache based on the former Roman Baths (successfully answered); and two very lengthy multi-caches. It was these multicaches we started work on, as we headed back towards the Station. We realised we didn’t have enough time in one day to complete all the stages, so we stopped about half-way in each, to give us enough stages to make a worthwhile return visit to the City.

Chester’s former Roman Bathhouse

The day was hot, and after several hours wandering around we were tired, so we thought the Chester Cathedral Multicache would give us a chance to relax and cool off. We unfortunately arrived at the Cathedral 20 minutes before the Annual Mayor-Making service was due to start. Seats were named, various several members of the clergy were due to participate, hundreds of guests invited… and we had 20 minutes to find 4 objects and dates to yield the final co-ordinates for the cache. So much for a relaxing few minutes! Fortunately two of the answers were found in a small courtyard adjacent to the Cathedral so we were well away from the pomp and ceremony as it unfolded.

Chester Cathedral


Then we had to find the cache!

For some obscure reason (probably because all the photos on http://www.geocaching.com were of a water feature), we thought the cache was nearby. Indeed it was – 30 feet away. But, after far too long searching inside the courtyard we concluded (with the help of the gift shop staff – who knew where the cache was) the cache was outside the courtyard walls! Once at GZ… we found a container LOCKED to some gates. The numbers we had found formed the number to UNLOCK to cache! The cache was in a relatively high muggle area.. but will never be lost!

Solve the clues correctly..and you can open the cache


Our last cache of the day was close to one of the towers that are situated on the City Walls. An easy find, and in a lovely location with Roman Walls above, and the Shropshire Union Canal nearby.

We had walked about 6 miles, found 9 caches (including an Earthcache) on our first sortie into Chester. We still had lots more find … watch out Chester…we’ll be back!

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April 21 : Barrow Wake

What a day we were having!

Hazy View from Barrow Wake

A glorious walk between Barrow Wake and Colesbourne, and we had found 3 trackables too.

But we had one more cache to find, back at Barrow Wake.

We drove back from Colesbourne to the starting car park at Barrow Wake and our other car.

A few weeks previously we had solved a very clever puzzle cache and its final location was near the car park. (Well nearish, the 3/4 mile seemed an awful lot longer after a long day’s walking).

The puzzle looked like this :

Now there are two ways to solve this puzzle. The first, is to find a Rubik’s Cube you may have about the house, stick 54 small squares on it, so that the original Rubik’s cube has been masked, and then solve as a standard Rubik’s puzzle. (Mr Hg137 can’t do them, Mrs Hg137 can!).

Or… there is another way.

Editorial constraints forbid me from telling you the other way.. but with both of us working simultaneously, after an hour’s brainwork we agreed an answer.

So we wanted to find this cache. After a long day, our aching limbs at first rebelled, but soon recovered especially once we had the cache in hand.

Now, some puzzle caches can be a disappointment. Tremendous effort can be put into the solve and the final container is a nano or a film canister. This cache was different, a bulging container full of goodies!

A great end to a great day!

April 7 : Barnwood

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

St Lawrence's Church, Barnwood

St Lawrence’s Church, Barnwood


As it was due to rain, we decided on a morning’s caching close to our hotel, so we could retreat if there was a deluge. As a child, I lived in Barnwood for two years, so I was looking forward to revisiting childhood haunts.

A cycle-cum-footpath led from the hotel towards Barnwood, passing close to a superstore. The first cache of the day was one from the ‘Off Your Trolley’ series. I looked and failed to find, then Mr Hg137 stuck his hand into the same bush and withdrew it, holding a cache. One up to him! Grrr

Springtime

Springtime


Lunchtime sandwiches purchased, we continued, away from superstores and industrial estates, into Barnwood proper. Our next cache was a Church Micro centred on St Lawrence’s church. Here was a place I recognised. I used to attend the local C of E school, and I well remember traipsing from the school to the church at harvest festival time, carrying a giant marrow. It seemed a very long way, but then I was only five … Anyway, I digress. We did several circuits of the churchyard, collecting numbers to use to solve the coordinates of the multi cache, and pausing to chat to a very elderly dog-walking muggle who was eager to describe the very heavy rain earlier in the week; parts of the churchyard were still underwater. Numbers gathered, we had a short and soggy walk to the cache location.

A diversion followed, while we went to look at my old house and my old school, which is now a school for the deaf. I got a bit misty eyed – they both looked a lot smaller than I remembered.

My old house!

My old house!


... and my old school!

… and my old school!


Back to the caching: we entered Barnwood Park to look for more caches, the first on being the oddly named ‘Chris Thistle’ which is close to a weir on the brook that flows through the park. All became clear as we drew near. The title is inscribed on an object close to the cache.
Chris Thistle is here, somewhere

Chris Thistle is here, somewhere


... or maybe Chris Thistle is here, somewhere

… or maybe Chris Thistle is here, somewhere


Walking on through the park, there were many signs that said ‘don’t feed the birds; don’t feed the squirrels’ so we had to disappoint the bold squirrel that leapt into our path and waited for food. We grabbed another cache as we left the park and then it began to rain. Grrr. At least we were expecting it.

But it didn’t last long, and had stopped as we approached the next cache, named ‘Raining Frogs’. We were hoping for an unusual container here, but we couldn’t find anything more interesting than a piece of string at GZ (Ground Zero – the location of the cache) After a long look around we left without success.

Postscript: The next day the cache owner posted this sad little note:
The GZ appears to have been “nuked”. I was amazed to see the tree splayed out and flattened in placed. Could see no sign of the cache, which was upsetting because it was a fairly expensive capsule. Still – that’s the risk I took and in this instance it is lost. Not replacing this – too disheartened! Thanks for doing it, those who did! Sorry!

We had one more cache on our list for the morning, ‘Elizabeth of Barnwood’, named after one of the more colourful residents of the Barnwood Hospital (Asylum) which used to be across the road from the cache site. It (the hospital) is gone now, turned into houses, just like the playground of my old school. Grrr. As with the first cache of the day, I searched confidently, but with no success, while Mr Hg137 put a hand out and grabbed the cache straight away. Grrr again.

Five out of six caches found, we returned to the hotel and lunch, with me wittering on about the past, and Mr Hg137 making non-committal noises. A good use of a damp morning.

Here are some of the caches we found:

February 24 – Ryde

Our last day on the Isle of Wight and a very, very cold one. The “Beast from the East”, a cold Easterly wind, blew all day and although there was no rain or snow, the temperature was very low indeed. Lovely late winter sunshine but bitterly cold.

All Saints, Ryde


There are many caches in Ryde. Our plan was to spend the morning on the outer edges of the town away from the sea. Here, we hoped, and indeed it proved, Ryde’s buildings would protect us from the wind.
The afternoon we cached along the sea-front walking East (and into the wind) and when we got too cold to go on we would head back Westwards to warm up.

With hindsight, our first cache of the day should have been our last, as it was inside.

Inside a church.

We were undertaking a Church Micro Multi based inside All Saints Church Ryde. Frequently with church micros the questions (if there are any at all) are based on exterior noticeboards or gravestones. Here all but one of the answers could be found inside the church. And what a church!

Affectionately known as “The Cathedral of the Island”, the church was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott (who also designed many London landmarks). The foundation stone was laid by one of Queen Victoria’s daughters. The multi took us around various key locations in the church – the font, a beautiful stained glass window, various side chapels, the sanctuary and pulpit. At each location there was information to count or find, and after 40 minutes studying the church in detail we had the co-ordinates of the location for the cache. Here we had a quick find – but our memory will be the sumptuous interior of a wonderful church which many visitors to the Isle of Wight probably never know exists.

Our second cache of the day, another church micro was closer to Ryde Centre.

No clues to find this time, just a simple cache hidden in neighbouring street furniture.

Near to this cache was another multi, with clues set, we thought, IN a garden of Remembrance.

However the garden gates were locked so we couldn’t enter. We’ve subsequently discovered we could have found the cache information without entering the garden – doh!

We walked away from the Town Centre for our next two caches. The first was near a Victorian Water Trough. Now Grade II listed, the lamp-post/trough sits close to a road junction with lots of street signage capable of hiding a cache. The cache was hidden behind one such sign, but right in front of a garden with a loud barking dog. We escaped very quickly once the cache had been found!

Our last find in the morning was at one of Ryde’s three Railway stations. The Isle of Wight Railway line runs between Ryde and Shanklin using (old) London Tube Trains as its rolling stock. We found the ‘Sidetracked’ cache quite easily and then waited a few minutes for a train to arrive!

Here comes the train!


Our last cache of the morning we couldn’t attempt. The cache was hidden behind a seat. However the seat was occupied. We waited as inconspicuously as we could for 10 minutes (sheltering from the cold). But no joy, the person didn’t move! Even worse they were joined by a friend as well as a local caretaker! A Did Not Attempt does sound better than a Did Not Find !

A couple of our morning caches :

We adjourned to the sea front and our first two caches were two more ‘Sidetracked’ caches based on two different Ryde Stations. The first, Ryde Esplanade, was a multi. We had to count items from a plaque to a former, and world renowned, Isle of Wight resident. It was a good job there were two of us counting as we frequently ended up with two different numbers. Eventually we agreed on the numbers, and hence coordinates, and marched towards GZ. Here we searched for some time and failed to find the cache. We double checked our findings again from the plaque and discovered we were in the correct place.. just without the cache!

Our next ‘Sidetracked’ cache was also fruitless. This was at Ryde Pier Head, and is at the end of a half mile walk along the pier. Ryde Pier is one of Britain’s longest piers, but probably the only one which allows road traffic as well as rail traffic. Ryde Pier Head is the disembarkation point for the Portsmouth – Ryde catamaran, and the cars and rail link save the island visitors a half mile walk into Ryde. As we walked along the pier the hovercraft also left from Ryde… this pier is real transport hub!

Catamaran Arriving

Hovercraft Leaving

And so to the cache.

A bolt hidden 2 metres high.

Easy ! Nope!

We looked at every object looking for a bolt, all to no avail.

An interesting, but cacheless walk along the pier!

It was lunchtime.

We hadn’t found a cache for some time and the wind was just beginning to bite. The bus station (again next to Ryde Pier), provided shelter and a bit of warmth (Ed : by ‘a bit of warmth’, we mean ‘less cold’).

Lots of space on the beach!


Suitably refreshed, we found several caches in quick succession as we headed East along the sea front.

Sometimes the caches were attached magnetically, sometimes in flower borders.

Is there a cache here ?

The sea front was busy as despite the bracing wind, people were bravely playing on the beach, dogs were being exercised, kites were being flown. The boating lake was though devoid of people and it was here we had our next failure. The GPS bounced around, and the hint didn’t help much either – and so our rapid finding spree was at an end.

We had arrived on the outskirts of a park where two caches were hidden. One was a puzzle cache we had solved quite quickly at home (It took us longer to find the cache than solve the puzzle!). The other cache was near a small stream, which had to be crossed. Mr Hg137 jumped across, found the cache, but couldn’t open it. He threw it to Mrs Hg137 to try. Our cold, numb hands couldn’t turn the lid. Eventually we opened it, and the contents fell into the stream. We then spent a few minutes ‘fishing’ the items out of the cold water ! An easy find, but 15 minutes to open the cache and replace contents!

Can you open this ?


These should have been our last caches of the day. We wandered back to Ryde – now with the wind at our backs – and re-searched our DNFs. Still no caches to be found. We drove out of Ryde, following an odd one-way system and discovered we were driving along a road we had cached along earlier. Look ! There’s the seat! The one with cache we didn’t attempt! Mrs Hg137 was pushed out of the car, while Mr Hg137 found a car park space. Cache found, log signed ! Phew!

Last cache of the day!


So a mixed day’s caching in Ryde – three DNFs, ten straightforward finds, and a magnificent Church multi. (And two very cold cachers!)

February 23 – Havenstreet, Isle of Wight

Havenstreet Church

Every year we play in a weekend Scrabble tournament on the Isle of Wight. Like previous years our plan was to undertake a few Isle of Wight caches before the tournament started, and find a few more on the way home after the tournament had finished.

So much for a plan!

We were within 20 minutes of the ferry crossing when we received a phone call telling us that the tournament had been cancelled due to illness at the hotel. We had to decide whether to turn round and head for home or cross to the Isle of Wight, find an alternative hotel, and find more caches than we had anticipated.

We chose the latter alternative!

Our original itinerary included a couple of caches in the small town of Havenstreet. We had cached (unsuccessfully) there before and wanted to turn a DNF to smiley face on the geocaching map.

Havenstreet station, on the Isle of Wight steam railway – was our destination. We parked the car and wandered over to GZ.

Its not a film canister is it ?

We were expecting to search for a film canister but very visibly on show was a clear plastic container.

Matching the hint.

Containing swag.

Containing a notebook.

But nothing that said “this is a geocache”.

We read the logs on http://www.geocaching.com and saw nothing that said the container had changed. We took photos, signed the notebook and claimed the cache.
There is still a chance our log will be revoked, but it looked and felt like a cache but we had the niggling feeling it wasn’t right. Time will tell!

Our next cache was the Havenstreet Church Micro. This was a multi and required us to find two objects with dates and ages on. We stumbled around a bit too long looking for the first object. But it did give us the opportunity to go inside the church and marvel at the spiral staircase leading to a small bell-ringer’s platform. (If this platform had been in a house, it would have been called a minstrel’s gallery). Eventually we did find the numbers we required to calculate our final destination…a short walk back into the village. Here we saw a few shops, a pub and a bus-stop-turned-book-swap-shop. Mrs Hg137 had to be dragged bodily away from the myriad of titles on display and reminded that she was supposed to be looking for a cache! We did find the small nano … but much more unexpected was the bus stop! Caching does take you near to interesting buildings!

Stop reading – we’ve got to find a cache!

A short distance on was our third Havenstreet cache. This was one we hadn’t prepared for (as – based on our original schedule – we didn’t think we would have time). However we soon discovered the route to “Little Bridges 1140 Blackbridge Brook” was muddier than our footwear would bear, so we retreated. We did though make friends with four horses: Jack, Ginger, Olly and Nagona all of whom came over to check us out for food. Jack even stood on Mrs Hg137 shoe and almost removed it from her foot!

On the outskirts of a cemetery on the Isle of Wight …

Our final cache was a puzzle we had solved from home. The solution was near to Havenstreet next to a cemetery. We spent 10 minutes scouring the trees and undergrowth until Mrs Hg137 caught sight of a good-sized cache. How we hadn’t tripped over it in our searching up to then we shall never know! We even found a trackable in the cache – a Swiss Cow!

So an eventful day – we had got over the tournament cancellation by finding three caches, making friends with four horses, finding a plastic cow, and reading book titles in a bus stop ! Isn’t geocaching surreal!

 

February 22 : Cache maintenance with the Wombles

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Womble!

Womble!


On a cold afternoon in late February, we visited our cache, Berry Bank cache, to do some owner maintenance. We planned to replace the camo bag, which had fallen to bits some while before, with the nice strong new bag we had bought months before when we were at the Mega in Devon.

Having found the cache – which moves around a few feet from its original location – we opened it up to check that the cache contents were all dry and in good condition, which they were. Imagine our surprise when we peeled back the lid … hiding in the cache was a Womble! Attached to the Womble were two tags. One was the usual trackable tag, with the trackable number. The other was a keyring with half of a set of coordinates on it. We were intrigued …

We returned the Womble, packed up the cache, and stowed it away in its new bag. After getting home, we did a little bit of research on the Womble. He/she (maybe Madame Cholet from the dress, but we’re not sure), contains half of the coordinates for a cache in Wiltshire, placed way back on January 1st 2004 by cachers The Wombles (obviously!). If you can find another Womble with the other half of the coordinates, you can locate the cache. We shall wait and see what turns up in our future caching adventures!

February 3 : A Cold Camberley Constitutional

Camberley Scultpure

It was one of those cold winter’s days. The sun was nowhere to be seen. There was a coldish breeze blowing, and the clouds were periodically producing light drizzle.

Not the most inspiring day to go cachimg, so we chose somewhere local to us, Camberley Town Centre. About 1.5 miles from where we live, this seemed ideal. If the weather got slightly worse, we could shelter in shops; if the weather got really bad we could retreat to the car and get home very, very quickly.

Fortunately we didn’t need either escape route as we undertook the Camberley Constitutional Cache. This multi-cache took us to 11 different locations near the centre of Camberley. We started just to the south of the Town Centre and had to acquire information about a Grade II listed building associated with Sir Edwin Lutyens. Now without meaning to disrespect Camberley, it is not one of the places one would naturally associate with Lutyens. A truly unexpected find !

Edwin Lutyens House

We headed North towards the Centre, passing under the railway (waypoint 2), and walked to the Station.
Here we paused, to collect our first cache of the day. Another multi, and one where we had to count bicycle racks, platforms and doors to calculate the co-ordinates for the final hiding place. Although the cache was slightly off our Consitutional route, it was only a couple of minutes out of our way. (We discovered Camberley has an inordinate number of green telecoms boxes.. and this hide was the first of three green boxes we were going to cache behind!)

We resumed our Camberley Constitutional walk by passing the Theatre, Council Offices and Museum (a further three waypoints here). Then our route turned in toward the Town Centre, where we had a store name to verify (here, we almost miscounted the letters on the faded sign).

Up to now our route had been quiet, a bit bustly, but then we had to walk along the A30. A major traffic route, and the noise level increased substantially. We collected another waypoint before crossing to the road to Camberley’s War Memorial.

This stands outside the main gates of the Royal Military Academy (Sandhurst). (Interestingly the rear entrance to the RMA is in Sandhurst, Berkshire yards from our house, but the main official entrance is in Camberley, Surrey !). At the War Memorial we had to find the lengths of various names, and derive a set of co-ordinates for our third multi of the day. We made a school-boy error here, as the cache owner had given a checksum for the final co-ordinates for the cache, but we calculated the check-sum on the numbers we had found. We double and indeed triple checked our numbers (to no avail) before heading off to a possible location where we did find the cache! It was only after emailing the cache owner afterwards did he point out our inability to read instructions!

Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst


We had one more waypoint on the Camberley Constitutional to find on the A30. It was at a Church where a standard cache was also hidden (and if truth be told we took a bit too long finding the cache – unearthing cold, wet leaf litter on a freezing day was not our best strategy). The Camberley Constitutional route took us past several churches – some modern, some much older. St Tarcisius Church was erected 100 years ago to commemorate those soldiers trained at the RMA who were killed during the First World War.

St Tarcisius Church


Our Constitutional cache then took us away from the A30 (passing the Sports Centre – another waypoint) and through a park. We took the wrong exit out of the park (we mis-interpreted the term ‘diagonally across’ far too literally) and ended up heading back towards the A30!

Camberley Sculpture

Whoops! We realised out mistake and soon found ourselves collecting the final waypoints on our walk. A swift calculation later and we arrived at the cache! Although the container and its hiding place were not special the tour around Camberley certainly was. Caching really is educational!

We had one more cache to collect. We had solved a puzzle cache before we left home (part of the Surrey School Days series). We correctly identified a person who had been educated in Surrey, before becoming famous in a particular film role, and is still on our TV screens today). We drove 2 miles around the residential streets of Camberley, but a shorter route – had Mr Hg137 turned the car around ! – was only 0.5 miles!

A very entertaining, if cold, afternoon in Camberley. Three multi-caches, one puzzle cache, one standard cache and two very cold cachers! And the rain kept off too!