July 31 : Chedworth – a village, a villa, a railway and a bat

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

We were off for a long weekend’s walking and caching (hooray, at last!), staying in the Cotswolds. Near the end of our journey, we stopped for a short walk and a little bit of caching. But scorchio! It was already 30C as the geocar was parked in the (free, National Trust) car park in the woods close to Chedworth Roman Villa.

We planned to follow the Monarch’s Way over the hill to Chedworth village, just over a mile away (no caches until the outskirts of Chedworth) then return, over the hill again, along the Macmillan Way to the Roman Villa, following the Chedworth Wood Ramble (CWR) cache series. This had seemed like a wonderful idea when we planned the walk, but it was much cooler then…

Anyway, it was a pleasant, if hot, walk up through the woods, then over the hilltop to the outskirts of Chedworth. It was so very quiet, the birds were barely singing and there was not an animal to be heard.

Church view

Church view


We arrived at our first cache, ‘Church View’, which does indeed have a fine view of the church. As for the cache – we struggled to locate it and it took two goes from both of us before we finally laid our fingers on the cache container. It was hot and our brains were fried…

Moving on steeply downhill, we were on the village streets, and could see our next target, ‘Green’ (a grit bin), as we plodded along the blazing hot tarmac. A search again produced no cache, just an ‘out of place’ object and it was only a second look at that which told us it was the cache. All this while being watched by the postman and one of the residents – slightly embarrassing!

Chedworth  church

Chedworth church


... sundial on the side of the church

… sundial on the side of the church


There was a nice shady patch of grass by the churchyard wall and we sat down to eat our picnic lunch and watch the world go by. We’d passed by this spot before in April 2018 when we were walking between Sandhurst, Gloucestershire, and Sandhurst, Berkshire https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2018/04/22/april-22-sandhurst-gloucs-to-sandhurst-colesbourne-to-foss-cross/ Reluctantly, we stepped back into the sunshine to start the walk back to the Roman Villa. It was not far to the edge of the village, and we were out in open fields with the hill stretching before us (sigh). Part way across the field was a cache, which managed to be part of two series at once, the CWR series we had been following, and also the Little Bridges Series https://littlebridgesseries.wordpress.com/about-series/ It looked like a bridge across grass, but maybe there is a stream in the winter? I searched for the cache, which was protected by some of the angriest and stingiest nettles in Gloucestershire, and emerged with it, tingling, cursing and grumbling. (And I pushed it back using a walking pole, one set of stings was plenty.)
Little Bridge

Little Bridge


With me still tingling, we walked across the field, slope steepening as we went, till we reached a belt of trees. The slope steepened still further into steps, and we panted our way up to the top. And that was it, the climb was done, and we were on the top of the hill again. Another cache was there, and two more followed as we descended gently into the woods.

The path turned right and began to descend more steeply, this bit must be muddy in the winter. The embankment for the disused Midland and South Western Junction Railway loomed up ahead https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chedworth_Halt_railway_station This area doesn’t seem the most obvious for building such a thing, it’s rather hilly. We found another cache, ‘Can you hear the ghost train?’, then dived into the cool tunnel under the old track. There were great acoustics in the tunnel – we tried train noises, howling wolf noises and a few owl hoots and all worked very well! (FYI we are both – supposedly – mature, sensible adults – but it had to be done!)

Chedworth Roman Villa

Chedworth Roman Villa


Emerging on the downhill side of the tunnel, we were immediately at Chedworth Roman Villa https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chedworth_Roman_Villa Pre-booked tickets only, no cafe, and no ice-creams (oh, how we would have loved an ice-cream). Disappointed, we continued through the car park to find two National Trust people staring at something on the ground. It was a baby short-eared bat, about the size of a mouse, and it shouldn’t have been there, it should have been in the cooler bushes rather than being hot and confused in the sun. The NT people tried, futilely, to get the little bat to climb onto a stick, but it didn’t want to, and bit the stick (FYI, you can’t touch bats without a licence, they’re protected). So Mrs Hg137 exercised her bat herding skills and drove/shepherded the little bat into the hedge using a couple of large leaves and a bit of looming over it, but absolutely no touching. (Editor’s note: we’ve both held bats before during nature talks and they are NOT scary, they are warm and velvety and really rather nice.)
Short eared bat

Short eared bat


There was a final cache to find, ‘Roman Villa’ (seemed appropriate) before returning to the geocar, which now said it was 34C, and went on our way to our weekend destination, Bourton on the Water.

Here are some of the caches we found:

July 25 : A circumnavigation of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst

A few weeks ago, when lockdown was easing but we felt geocaching still had some inherent dangers, Mrs Hg137 proposed a walk circumnavigating the Royal Military Academy. We never got round to undertaking the walk before we resumed geocaching, so today we thought we could combine both.

Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst


The whole Academy is fenced, sometimes double fenced, and well protected. However roads and footpaths pass near to the perimeter. Sadly though there aren’t many caches right next to the perimeter, so in order to make the circumnavigation a caching walk, we extended the perimeter by about half/three quarters of a mile. This gave us a 9 mile walk, and options on 10 caches.

The first part of our walk was on pavements, firstly behind the Meadows Shopping Centre and then along the A30 heading towards Camberley. Behind the Meadows is the Wish Stream which marks the border between Berkshire and Surrey.

Wish Stream

The day was grey, with slight drizzle in the air, and a trudge along the A30 was not the most scenic couple of miles we would walk this year. We walked by a stone marking Arthur Sullivan (now on the wall of Macdonald’s Drive Thru) and the main entrance to the RMA itself.

As we drew level with Camberley Town Centre we turned away from the A30 into Kings Ride. More pavements, but quieter and uphill. Partway along we reminisced about a first-to-find we had made many years ago in this road (part of the ‘Fine Pair’ series). Sadly the red telephone box half of the Fine Pair has been removed, as has the cache.

What we did find though a was large grassy meadow. Hidden behind an estate of houses, it supplied us with our first cache find of the day. As we left the meadow a lady with 3 dogs entered. Two of the dogs, of medium size, were off-lead and ran by us. The other, still on a lead gave us several deep barks. It was huge (and we discovered, still only quite young). The Caucasian Shepherd Dog barked again, pseudo-aggressively. The owner told us that the dog was barking because we were wearing sun hats (‘aka drizzle protectors’). We removed the hats, and the dog stopped barking. We moved on, thinking that the young dog will be very big and strong in later life.

At the end of Kings Ride, the road became a footpath. (Shown confusingly on some maps as ‘Kings Ride’ !). Here was the start of a three part multi-cache. We had looked at the waypoints before we left, and decided it would add a mile on our walk. We had a quick look at the first waypoint, tried doing the complex arithmetic, gave up, and moved on.

We were intrigued by soldiers running hither and thither yards ahead of us. Barossa Nature Reserve is owned by the Ministry of Defence, but maintained by Surrey Wildlife Trust so it seemed reasonable for soldiers to be there. We had walked in Barossa many times before but never seen any soldiers.

We soon discovered what they were doing. A timed navigational exercise. Pairs of soldiers and sometimes individual soldiers were running from electronic checkpoint to electronic checkpoint.

We could hear the pressure as the soldiers ran by…’where’s the checkpoint ?…where’s the checkpoint ?… is that B ?… is that B ? ‘

Wish Stream


As we climbed into the woods, re-crossing the Wish Stream back into Berkshire, we were passed by more soldiers, until we came upon hundreds of them. All socially distanced, all waiting their turn to be briefed on the exercise!

We climbed even further to a large crossroads of footpaths, called Lower Star Post. Nearby was our second find of the day, a barely hidden cache. Our problem was taking the correct path from the Star Post. The cache, SP6, is over 18 years old!

Lower Star Post


Eventually we reached the Devil’s Highway, a former Roman route that linked Silchester with London. We had walked part of the Silchester section on our Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) to Sandhurst (Berkshire) expedition a couple of years ago. We joined the Devil’s Highway at the Upper Star Post and a cluster of caches were a short distance from it. One, a puzzle cache, was placed close to the nearby Crowthorne Reservoir. Another puzzle cache took us closer to the RMA perimeter, before we returned to the Devils Highway to find DC6 – Devil in Disguise. Here we walked through a curtain of ferns to find a log protecting the cache. Also protecting the cache was an ants nest, and it took some minutes to retrieve the cache without disturbing the myriad of insects.

Near to the RMA fence


The Devils Highway is very straight and goes under the busy A3095. Before the tunnel was another cache DC 5 – The sign of the Devil. The co-ordinates pointed deep in woodland where the hint of ‘magnetic’ made no sense. But reading previous cacher’s logs we guessed we had to lift a lid to find the cache. On the Devils Highway were a couple of ‘cache friendly’ hosts. As Hr Hg137 lifted the lid off one, a clunking, cascading sound could be heard. We surmised that was the cache. Sadly we couldn’t reach where the cache, if indeed it was the cache, fell. We walked away disconsolate, hoping we hadn’t wrecked a cache.

We went under the A3095 and had a fine view of the Broadmoor Hospital from Joshua Jubb Way. The Hospital has recently been rebuilt, and Joshua Jubb Way is a new road, built for construction traffic. Joshua Jubb was the original designer of Broadmoor in the 19th Century.

Broadmoor Hospital


Nearby was an area known as Butter Bottom, and the area gave its name to well-hidden cache. The hint required knowledge of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ – a book we had both read, as well as seeing the film. Sadly we couldn’t remember how the ‘hobbits hid from the Black Riders’ so did a detailed search of the trees and bushes nearby.

Private lake near Butter Bottom


Butter Bottom became a lane and then farmland and passed by Crowthorne Rugby Club (we didn’t know that even existed!). Soon we were on the Northern Edge of Sandhurst, at the top of Owlsmoor Road. Owlsmoor is a district of Sandhurst, built during the latter half of the 20th century. We had two caches to find in Owlsmoor Road, the first took us to a small park we didn’t know existed, and the second to an ivy-covered tree. Suffice to say we found the cache in the park quite easily, and the ivy hide thwarted us.

We were still about 3/4 mile from home and rain, which had eased from the morning’s drizzle but had returned with a vengeance.

We just about made it back before the rain got too heavy, passing the side gates of the RMA.

The varied walk (pavements, woodland, farmland) was just over 9 miles. We found 7 caches out of 10 and found some places we didn’t know existed.

The caches we did find included :

July 18 : River Thames : Remenham and Hambleden Lock

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Temple Island

Temple Island


In 2015 we walked, and cached, the Thames Path from source to sea, but had rarely visited since. After a few days short of five years we returned to Remenham, to walk the big loop of river north of Henley, then returning across the fields. The seventeen cache ‘Round The Bend’ cache series covers this area, and there are also a few other caches along the way.

There’s a small car park opposite Remenham church, within a car’s length of our first cache, one from the ‘Victoria’s Post Box’ series. An inspection of the plate on the postbox gave us some numbers. Next, a Church Micro cache based on Remenham church; we went into the neat, tidy churchyard to collect another set of numbers from noticeboards and gravestones. We turned both those sets of numbers into coordinates. And we had yet a third set of coordinates, from the puzzle cache ‘Frog Logic’ which we had solved a few days earlier (gosh, we looked at a load of frogs to solve that). So that gave us three locations, all in different directions … we worked out a ‘best’ route and went off to find all three. (Editor’s note: one of those three cache containers did make us smile, but we can’t give away which one!)

Eventually, we reached the riverbank, and turned north, following the line of the Henley rowing course back to its start by Temple Island. There’s a plaque there, to mark the start, and it was new to us as it has been placed since 2015 when we last came this way https://www.henleystandard.co.uk/news/henley-on-thames/131856/marble-plaque-marks-royal-regatta-start-line.html A lovely wooden boat was moored right by the plaque, among a few similar ones flying lots of flags and pennants; the owner asked us several times if we wanted to take his picture, we didn’t know why. We found out a little while later what they were all doing …

We walked by more of these smart boats and found another cache. A passing muggle remarked …”so good to see them here” … and we looked again. The clue was in the ADLS written on the stern of one of the boats, plus the plaques on the sides – these were a group of Dunkirk Little Ships, out for an informal get-together. Lovely to see them all. (Editor’s note: some of them do look awfully small to be ferrying people around in the English Channel…)

Dunkirk Little Ships

Dunkirk Little Ships


We looked up the names of some of the little ships; the one furthest downstream was L’Orage; quite a famous boat, it seems, which used to belong to Raymond Baxter, presenter of Tomorrow’s World and founder of the Little Ships association https://www.adls.org.uk/adls
L'Orage

L’Orage


We approached our next cache, the third in the ‘Round The Bend’ series. It’s not often a muggle tells you where to find a cache – but GZ was within feet of where a boat was moored and the owner told us ‘someone was here about an hour ago’ before giving exact directions to the location of the cache. Signing the log, we realised we were following ‘babystarling’ around the circuit, they must have been the previous visitors. We never (knowingly) caught up with them, but their logs showed they enjoyed this series too.

Mooove along!

Mooove along!


The river bent slowly round to the east, and the towpath became a long, thin field. We worked our way along the towpath/field, visiting a well-used cattle trough (to find a cache, not for a drink!), and then dodging ever fresher cowpats as we continued. A herd of placid black cows, presumably the source of the plops, moooved slowly past us, heading for Henley.

As the bend in the river continued and turned south, we reached Hambleden Lock. We found a seat away from the path to eat our picnic lunch while watching the world go by. We saw a lock-full of boats going upstream (including a Dunkirk Little Ship going to meet its friends), then watched the lock fill again with boats galore going downstream, including a canoe. A footpath crosses the lock, and the walkers, runners and cyclists using the path must wait while the lock gates open. It was like a cross between Cowes Week and the Tour de France all at once, bikes, boats and people everywhere. (Editor’s note: we realised how unused we’ve become to seeing lots of people all together at once.)


Leaving the lock behind us, we had three more caches to find alongside the Thames before the return leg ‘inland’. Everyone and everything was messing about on/in/by/above the river; we noted geese (about 50, making a racket), muggles picnicking and playing on the shore – while in the water, boats, paddleboards, swimmers, ducks, cows – and even rooks and kites overhead. It meant we could find those caches while everyone was distracted, looking elsewhere.

At Ferry Lane we turned away from the river and walked up the narrow lane towards the Flower Pot pub https://www.squaremeal.co.uk/restaurants/the-flower-pot_685 There were cars everywhere, rushing down to the pub, the river, or both,plus someone bringing a boat on a trailer down to the slipway to launch. I’m so glad I didn’t choose this spot to park! We found our second cache from the ‘Victoria’s Post Box’ series (wonder why there are so many Victorian post boxes round here?), then climbed on up the hill. No doubt this is normally a quiet little lane – not so today – and it was a relief to reach the footpath across the fields that would take us back to Remenham.

Away from the road, it was a lot more peaceful. Just a short, hot puff up the hill in the blazing summer sunshine, and we were walking along a path between fields. Lots of muggles were out walking, but not nearly so many as by the river, and we could easily find quiet moments to locate caches. Up here, this bit of the cache route has a completely different character to the section by the river – more open, airy, and quieter, with expansive views – you wouldn’t guess that the bustling Thames is just a few fields away.


After only four caches, we were back on the lane leading to Remenham Church, it’s not nearly as far returning as it is walking along the riverbank! And the almost empty car park by the church? Also packed and overflowing, cars all around the church and along the lane to the river. Mr Hg137 had been right (as always) when he said we should get there early!

Remenham Church

Remenham Church


We had found twenty-two caches in all – 17 traditional, 1 puzzle, 2 letterbox, 1 multi and 1 mystery – we’d found them all, which is incredibly rare for us. Many, many thanks to FamousEccles for providing such a great circuit, both for the walk, and for the well-kept caches. And the sun shone on us too!

Here are just some of the caches we found:

June 6 : Non-physical geocaches

In our previous blog we talked about ‘physical’ geocaches, ie containers that have to be found, opened, and signed.

However there are non-physical geocaches too, of which we have ‘found’ three different types.

Firstly, meets. These could small-ish gatherings in a pub, perhaps a flash mob (though these are currently not allowed by http://www.geocaching.com), or perhaps a much larger event (Megas) where in excess of 500 people attend. There will be stalls selling geocaching gadgets, perhaps live events too. To accompany the larger events new (physical) caches will have set which means much of the surrounding countryside is swarming with geocachers!

Bicton Park – home of 2017 Devon Mega


Caching Mega

Geolympix banner

The second sort of non-physical cache is a virtual cache. For some years, no new virtuals were allowed to be set, but there are a few more to be found recently. These are typically in a busy, ‘touristy’ location where there is something notable to see. To claim the virtual, the geocacher typically has to stand at Ground Zero, and write a message to the cache owner answering a few questions about the notable object or its general vicinity. The information may be on a noticeboard, the colour of a nearby object, or perhaps a date. Many virtuals require photographic evidence that you were actually there! We have so far found 9 virtuals ranging from a Paddington Bear statue, to one on the Liverpool Dockside to one in a Imber, a Ghost (Army controlled) Village on Salisbury Plain.

Paddington – and lots of friends


Then there are Earthcaches.
These tend to be more involved, and often seem like a geography or geology exam.
Many earth cache owners, provide a lengthy preamble in the cache description perhaps describing how different rocks form, or different types of erosion. To log a find involves looking at an object, frequently natural like a rock face, or sometimes man-made like a statue, and answering questions. Typically the answer is documented, or at least partially documented in the preamble. Again, some times the cache owners require a photo as proof of attendance. Some cache owners often require a measurement, or at least a guess. (How high is the rocky outcrop ? How wide is the river at its narrowest point ?)

Finding an Earthcache


EarthCache


For most of the caches above, we had to email our answers to the cache owner prior to claiming a find. The cache owner will confirm the answers before the find can be logged formally.

There are other ‘non physical’ cache types too, the most interesting is probably a ‘webcam’ cache.
Webcams are everywhere, and one of the most famous locations is the Abbey Road Zebra Crossing. The webcam captures, and uploads to the internet, people in the vicinity, and on, the zebra crossing. To claim a find, the cacher must stand on the crossing, be photographed by the webcam, and then upload the web picture to the geocaching website. Not easy – but fun !

May 26 : So what is a geocache ?

Geocaches are usually physical containers to find, or less-commonly location-based (ie non-physical containers).
This blog will focus on the physical containers.

These containers can be any size, though the finder generally has some idea before they arrive at Ground Zero what the size will be. As a broad rule, the more urban the location.. the smaller the cache.

The smallest caches, nanos are frequently very small magnetic tubes, not much bigger than a fingernail. The largest caches, or at least the largest we have found are metallic ammunition boxes.

All physical caches must contain a log – a piece of paper that the finder must sign. The logs in nanos tend to be very small, the logs in larger ammo cans can be exercise books. In the early days of geocaching many finders would use the exercise book to give a detailed explanation of the find, the weather, the terrain – and it is often fun to read these historic commentaries.

The size of cache larger than the nano is the 35ml film canister. Normally black by design, these are great for cache owners to wedge into ivy..and the film canister comes invisible.

Both nanos and film pots are easily hidden but don’t provide much storage other than for the log. One of the selling points of geoecaching is the aspect of ‘treasure hunting’ and this where the larger containers are useful. Typically a Tupperware sandwich box is good for holding a log book and ‘swag’. Swag items are left in the cache by previous finders (or the cache owner) for the next finder to REPLACE with something of better value. Swag items can’t be food (wild animals love food and will always find a way into a cache) but could be playing cards, cracker-toys, keyrings, marbles etc. We tend to have a small selection of such items with us, so that if we see something in a cache we would like, we can swap our item into the cache.


Clearly the larger caches, ammo boxes in particular, have space for much larger items and sometimes it is difficult finding the logbook in amongst the swag!

Then there are the unusual containers.

Amongst our travels we have encountered various toy animals hosting a cache, wooden owls, Halloween ghosts, stone frogs, fake rocks. a fried egg, a plastic carrot and many more.

Some cache owners make the entry into the cache a bit of fun too.

A local cache hider to us, JJEF, builds wooden structures similar to bird-boxes but with a twist. The cache is inside the birdbox but it isn’t always obvious how to get in to sign the log!
Another cache container with a puzzle twist is the maze container. Here the finder has to unscrew the top from the bottom of the cache, finding lots of maze dead-ends along the way. It is only when the container is fully opened that the log is revealed which will enable the find to logged. (Then there is process of rebuilding the cache back to its original state).

The method of hiding a cache varies too. Sometimes the cache has been placed in a bole of tree, perhaps placed behind a tree and placed under a pile of sticks or stones. Sometimes a magnetic cache, perhaps a ‘false bolt’ is well concealed on metalwork (‘hidden in plain sight’). We have also found caches high up in trees, either after a tree climb or preferably for us, with a rope/pulley mechanism aiding the lowering and subsequent raising of the container.

The novel hides and the novel containers frequently make us smile when we are caching, as it means the cache owner has taken some trouble in setting and placing the cache, adding to the fun of the find.

February 22 : Reading

A simple tale of a fox, a lion, a Pokémon player and a modern Thames footbridge

Mr Hg137 gives talks to local clubs and societies. In a couple of weeks he is delivering one on “The Thames Path from Source to Sea”. Since we walked the Thames Path 2015 a new footbridge has been built in Reading and he wanted a picture of it for his presentation.

The Maiwand Lion in Forbury Gardens


So a morning’s caching in Reading was called for.

We arrived by train, and within minutes we were finding our first cache. A small magnetic nano hidden near Reading Station. This was a revival cache in the ‘Sidetracked’ series so although it was a ‘new cache’ it had replaced one we had found in 2015. We each had a memory of finding the original, yet it still took us some time to find the host. Some caches you can remember exactly where you found them, others you totally forget, and this one our joint memories could only picture the area, but not how the cache was hidden.

So many items to check for this tiny nano


The next cache was a multi-cache, which involved visiting several of Reading’s statues and answering simple questions to derive numbers and hence co-ordinates. The walk was listed as 2 miles long, but the cache owner had also produced a website with the statues on.

Statues aplenty in Reading

Statues aplenty in Reading

With a bit of investigation we had calculated a promising set of co-ordinates before arriving in Reading. We did visit a few of the statues, including one of Edward VII, where we had to count ‘harps’ and Queen Victoria (counting ‘feet’).

Edward VII


Queen Victoria

As we approached our pre-calculated GZ, a beautiful fox appeared. It seemed oblivious to people, and did for one brief second lie down next to the cache. Then it wandered past us, giving us access to a very quick find. By the time we had ‘rustled’ the plastic bag containing the cache, the fox was back. ‘Rustling’ equals food wrapping. The fox sat there expecting food, but instead we took its picture with the cache. A beautiful fox we hope you agree.

Seconds later… it started raining! The fox was under the best shelter so we ran for cover in the Forbury Gardens Bandstand. We weren’t alone under the bandstand as rain was quite heavy for about 10 minutes. Our view, if you can call it that, was of a lion’s posterior. The main statue in the Forbury Gardens is the Maiwand Lion. The statue was named after the Battle of Maiwand and was erected in 1884 to commemorate the deaths of 329 men from the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment of Foot during the campaign in the Second Anglo-Afghan War in Afghanistan between 1878 and 1880. The lion formed the basis of one of the questions in the multi-cache we had just completed. It was also part of a multicache set in and around the Forbury Gardens.

When the rain eased we collected the answers for the Forbury Gardens multi, discovering part of Reading’s diverse history along the way, and headed out of the park to a likely location. We were looking a magnetic cache and there two roadside cabinets capable of being host to the cache container. Sadly neither did. In fact both cabinets were 30 feet from GZ. We crossed a dual carriageway to a traffic island, crossed another dual carriageway onto another pavement. No obvious magnetic hiding places…and we were now 30 feet from the cache on the other side of the road. Curious! We returned to our location and re-checked the two cabinets. Nothing. We guessed the cache had been ‘muggled’ so chose to move on.

Reading Abbey


Reading Abbey, stands near Forbury Gardens, and hosts an Earthcache. As well as studying the information boards, we had to study the derelict walls of the once great Abbey. Sadly 800 years of ‘wear and tear’, and the destructive forces of both Henry VIII and the English Civil War, mean only part of the great Abbey Structure remain. We had to review the rocks in the wall as part of the Earthcache questions.

Earthcaches are quite interesting to do, but there is always some doubt … like handing in geography homework at school and hoping one has answered all the questions correctly.

Ancient Abbey, Modern Blade


We headed away from the Abbey to “The Blade and the Archway”, another magnetic cache this time housed between the modern office block known as The Blade, and the ancient Archway over the Holy Brook. The brook was used by the monks of the Abbey as their ‘mill-stream’ to grind wheat for flour. The cache took us ages to find (probably longer than the milling process all those years ago). There were 4 metal objects to check, all with obvious holes etc. It took us 3 passes to find the cache. The good thing was, it was a Saturday, and no-one from the offices were in the walkway having a cigarette break!

Archway over the Holy Brook


Our next target was another Earthcache. This time near Queen Victoria’s statue we had passed earlier. Or at least it should have been our next cache.

We were walking to it when we saw a couple of Pokémon players staring and jabbing at their phones.

Then another two players.
Then a group of three.
Then a group of six.

Where had they come from ?

Then another group of four.
Then another group of two.

We asked what was going on.

Apparently once a month, there are Pokémon ‘events’ in different locations and for a few hours (in this case 11-2) a large number of Pokemons are available to be caught.

Pokemoning in the Park


We said we were geocaching. They had been geocachers too, and they had found all the nearby caches…including a very dangerous cache near the Forbury Gardens in a traffic island! Our ears pricked up!

We wished them well, and headed not for Queen Victoria but for the traffic island where we had been some time before. Searching at ground height for a small magnetic object with traffic going by is not fun – we did find it – but we were very surprised that this cache was allowed to be placed in such a dangerous position.

We still slightly annoyed as we approached Queen Victoria. Here we had to examine details of the brick work of Reading Museum and Town Hall, and answer more scientific questions. Our close, fingertip, inspection of these buildings probably went unnoticed as the only people nearby…were more and more Pokémon players! (still not quite sure how we managed to take this photo without a Pokémon player visible!)

Reading Town Hall and Museum


We had finished our Central Reading caches and headed to the river. Somewhere quieter to eat our sandwiches. We crossed the river over the lock and weir bridges and a detailed look for a cache we had DNFed back in 2015 high over Caversham Weir. After 15 minutes we DNFed again…some caches are just too hard for us!

Caversham Weir


As we ate lunch, on a seat somewhat close to the flooded river, a Great Crested Grebe gamely tried swimming into the ferocious current. We were glad we only had a slightly biting wind to contend with.

Two fairly easy caches to find in Caversham – one very well hidden in a tree in a park (took us some time to find a footpath into the park), and one by the river. Another magnetic cache. Two very large objects to search… and we searched the wrong one first. Very oddly, we both stopped searching at the same time, looked at the other object…and saw the cache together.

Christchurch Bridge


All that remained was to walk over the brand-new (well 5 year old) Christchurch Bridge to catch our train home.
An interesting morning, the low point the horrible magnetic cache in a traffic island…the high point… the Fantastic Mr Fox !

Caches we found included :


February 3 : A Post Box Museum… is this where a Gruffalo lives ? (Isle of Wight)

Ever year we both like attending the Isle oF Wight Scrabble tournament, and if we can, we also like to squeeze in a few geocaching finds. This year, the event was held in Shanklin, but unfortunately for us…we had found all the nearby caches! So on the day after the tournament, we headed for a different part of the Island, just a few miles North of the main Island town, Newport.

Our target was a series called ‘Letterbox Loop’. We managed to park nearby to the start – a relative straightforward multi. All we had to do was extract some details from a postbox, derive the final co-ordinates and go find. But, what made this multi special, was the postbox. It stood proudly outside the Isle of Wight Postal Museum. The museum holds over 200 postboxes and other postal equipment. Admission is by prior arrangement.

As we walked to the final destination to the multi, we glimpsed into a garden and espied row after row of postboxes. These photos don’t do it justice!

We were a little flummoxed at our final destination as we were looking for a ‘post’ (obviously !), and we tried several places before we saw the slightly rusty, broken pole hosting the cache.

Post Box Cache


The ‘Letterbox Loop’ series is broadly rectangular, and in parallel to one of its sides is a smaller series based on the Gruffalo story.

We set off on our first side of the Letterbox Loop rectangle, and only just saw the footpath we needed to follow.
Normally footpaths on the Isle of Wight are well maintained.. this one had suffered from some heavy rain. Water cascaded in the narrow footpath gully.

Sometimes we jumped from ‘bank’ to ‘bank’, other times we ploughed upwards through the moving water. Eventually we arrived at ‘First Past the Post’. Again we took the hint a bit too literally and moved away from GZ to check out the nearby trees. Of course the cache (another post box !) was hidden inside a broken trunk, right next to the water-filled path.

We climbed, and slithered, and in Mrs Hg137’s case slipping down, towards the second cache. Our progress was slow, painfully slow. At the back of our minds was our lunchtime ferry. We had another 7 caches to find in the ‘Letterbox’ series and three ‘Gruffalos’. We decided to abandon the ‘Letterbox Loop’, hack across to a better path, attempt one more ‘Post’ cache before undertaking some of the ‘Gruffalo’ series.

A rare view across the Medina and Solent


Our spirits fell even further, when we had to DNF ‘Pillar Box’. Many of the logs said the GPS was out by 30 feet, so we had a wide area to search. Again, with the lunchtime ferry time ticking ever-louder, we gave up after a 10 minute search.

We headed for the Gruffalo series and noted a very muddy path we would have had to use had we continued the ‘Letterbox’ series. Instead we arrived at a disused railway line, between Havenstreet and Newport. The going was flat, and more importantly…not muddy. A little wet in places with large puddles needing supreme care to negotiate.

The three ‘Gruffalo’ caches were reasonably straightforward finds: under a pile of sticks, wedged in a multi-trunked tree. The third one necessitated a scramble up a small bank. Here the cache was exposed so we hid it better.

The former railway line eventually gave way to a short muddy stretch (overlooking the postal museum), and brief walk back to the car.

We were muddy, and a little disappointed with a haul of 5 finds, when we had planned for at least 10, but ferries don’t wait for cachers, so we left the Isle of Wight promising to return to the postal series, as despite the terrain, and the DNF, it looks a great series to undertake.

January 25 : Jennett’s Park, Bracknell

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

We had lots to do : things to collect and deliver : things to buy and prepare and plan : plus a brief, local geocaching expedition. We drove a few miles to Jennett’s Park, on the western edge of Bracknell https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jennett%27s_Park Here’s a description of Jennett’s Park, taken from one of the caches we attempted:
“Jennets Park is a new development located in the heart of Berkshire, between Bracknell and Wokingham, built by a consortium comprising Persimmon Homes and Redrow Homes (Southern) Ltd.
Jennett’s Park has been chosen as the new name for the development, previously known as Peacock Farm, as it strongly reflects the topography and history of the local area. Jennett’s is taken from the existing landmark, Jennett’s Hill, which is at the highest point on the development and ‘Park’ accurately reflects the fact that this area was once parkland within the Easthampstead Estate, which in the Middle Ages was part of the Windsor Great Forest and reserved for royal pastimes.
The new housing and community development will cover 270 acres where between 1300 and 1500 homes will be built over the next 5-6 years. In contrast to many developments in the area, Jennett’s Park will offer residents a unique living experience with homes just a few minutes’ walk away from significant areas of open space, which form an integral part of the development. These include retained woodland areas such as Tarman’s Copse and West Garden Copse, the open landscape of Jennett’s Hill and, in time, Jennett’s Country Park, which will account for some 91 acres – about a third of the development as a whole. Once complete, footpaths and cycleways will run throughout Jennett’s Park and residents or visitors will be able to move from one open area to the next along ‘wildlife corridors’, which will provide natural habitats for wildlife and plants”.
(Pardon the marketing blurb, but it shows why there is a lot of easily accessible public open space in this area).


We had both driven along Peacock Lane many times, and past Peacock Farm from when it was scruffy farmland, then a building site, and then houses, but we had never ventured off the road and into the estate. Today was that day. From Peacock Lane we turned into Sparrowhawk Way, then into Merlin Way, and finally Swift Fields, arriving at a car park overlooking a large green area. (Editor’s note: all the streets are named after birds in homage to Peacock Farm).

We set off across the open space on a well surfaced and non-muddy path and arrived at an older footpath between trees (maybe this was one of the footpaths we walked in the past?). The cache we were looking for was along this path and was easy to spot – a bit too easy as it was uncovered and in the open. But all was well with the container and contents, and we signed the log and covered everything up.

On to the main cache of the day, from the Counting Vowels series – the idea with the caches in this series is that you visit a number of information boards / signs / sculptures , make a note of word(s) to be seen, and count up the vowels in the various word(s), and the numbers form the coordinates of the final cache. We like these caches and have done several of these before, including being the first-to-find on the very first one in the series (it’s a greatly celebrated caching feat to achieve this, you don’t have nearly as much information and as many clues as with older, much-found caches). But we’ve also had epic failures, e.g. when we failed to write down the correct words, leading to Mr Hg137 insisting that a cache was in the middle of a cricket pitch, and preparing for a pitch invasion … So we checked and double checked each word and each vowel and arrived at some coordinates that seemed possible. Off we went, just outside the boundary of Jennett’s Park, and found the cache tucked away, nice and dry, even though it hadn’t been found for the three preceding months.

Lots of signs ...

Lots of signs …


... so many signs ...

… so many signs …


... to choose from

… to choose from


We only had two more caches planned, both kind of on the way back to the geocar. Sadly, we couldn’t find the first, though we searched in every possible and not-so-possible location – the owners have since said that it had gone missing and have replaced it.

The final one was called ‘Post 22’ : an odd name for a cache, we thought. We trotted off to where the GPS said the cache should be located, but couldn’t find it. We searched a variety of unlikely spots at a variety of distances from the GPS location, but without success. After a bit of head scratching and hard thinking, it dawned on us that we were on a path with a fence alongside, and there were a lot of fence posts … we started counting posts, and arrived at a spot within feet of our previous efforts, but this time standing next to the cache. Simple – if you think about it!

All too soon, that was the end of our little caching trip. It had been great to get out into the open air for an hour or so, but it was to return to our day of ‘things to do’.

Here are some of the caches we found:

January 18 : Puzzled in mid-Berkshire

Note : many of the caches mentioned in this blog are puzzle caches. By their nature, puzzles need solving before attempting to find the cache. We have tried to minimise the amount of information about these caches in this blog, but clearly some spoiler information may be given accidentally.

Great Hollands Community Centre

The day had arrived to collect a number of local puzzle caches we had solved previously. Our journey would take us from South Bracknell, along the Bracknell/Wokingham/Crowthorne borders, to South Wokingham before finishing on the Finchampstead/Sandhurst border. We had 5 puzzles to collect, and two additional caches close by.

The first puzzle cache ‘Stating the Obvious’ was near to a major Bracknell roundabout. Fortunately a nearby housing estate provided a place to park, within yards of the cache. The hint mentioned ‘magnetic’ and ‘wooden posts’ which didn’t really make sense until we approached GZ. Here on a very quiet footpath, we could search without interruption. And, after looking at three or four magnetic wooden posts (!) we had the cache in hand.

Nice and quiet at GZ !

At our next location, close to Bracknell’s Crematorium we had two caches to find. The first, a puzzle cache, requires specialist knowledge to solve (or, as it is known these days, Google). Some simple maths, and the coordinates led us to only one host, and once there it took us just a couple of minutes to locate the small container.

Before we headed to the second cache we spotted a nearby building we had never seen. Great Hollands Pavilion was new, almost brand new, as it had only been opened since July 2019. There was a medium sized function room, toilets and a cafeteria. (We were too early for a coffee, by a matter of minutes). A great looking Community Centre with ample parking too.

The second cache, our only standard cache of the day, was a shortish walk away from the Centre in some nearby woodland. A pine forest – typical of the trees grown on Bracknell’s natural heath – which also acted as a noise barrier. We could barely hear traffic until we got closer to our next cache site. Here the hint instructions ‘under a fallen tree’ seemed reasonable, but of course there were a couple of candidates to check. We took far too long here, and eventually found the cache not quite where we had interpreted the hint.

After a short car ride, our next pair of caches involved walking down a muddy footpath. Our aim was to collect a multi-cache using the details we had collected (when we visited Crowthorne on a small caching trip the day before). Also on the footpath was our third puzzle cache of the day. Our plan was to find the multi first, but we were following a dog walker along the path and realised we would be overtaking him at the site of the multi-cache. We paused, and realised we were at GZ of the puzzle cache! Spooky!

Quick.. no-ones around lets go searching!

As we stood in amazement at our good fortune, a runner went by and checked whether we were lost or not. We weren’t of course, and as soon as he was out of sight, we started searching. An obvious host which we checked. Nothing. We went to a less obvious host. Again nothing. We returned to the original, and then saw a tell tale pile of sticks wedged in a roothole!

We continued on the muddy path, until we reached the multi-cache. A fine example and well worth the walk around Crowthorne’s post boxes the day previously. We twizzled the cache-lock to the appropriate numbers, and with only the smallest of jerks, the lock and cache was opened. A plastic ammo can, yielding quite a lot of goodies! One of the goodies was a disposable camera, and cachers are invited to take photos of themselves with the GZ. Quite what the owner will make of the photos after is beyond us. Blackmail maybe ?

Mrs Hg137 hiding behind the disposable camera!


Our penultimate cache of the day was another puzzle cache we had solved so long ago we’ve totally forgotten how we did it! We have a good idea, as the question was about large numbers, and the cache title hinted as how to interpret them! After the mud-fest of the previous caches we were able to park at GZ, cross a road with no interruption at all. We know the cache location can get congested, we’ve sat in a traffic queue here several times, so we were grateful for no superfluous traffic as we searched.


And so to the last location of the day. The puzzle here was part of the ‘Famous Berkshire Residents’ series. Using a series of clues one had to work out who the person was, and thus a date of birth, length of middle names etc. This person, although still alive, has dropped someway down the public radar, although a close relative has not.

We were a bit thwarted at GZ. Firstly numerous roads were marked as ‘closed’ but we were able to drive through. At the cache site itself, we had a hunch the cache was not there as there had been a string of DNFs by previous cachers. We had pre-agreed with the cache owner we would replace the cache with one of our own. Which seemed straightforward enough except..the hint was ‘under stone’. There were no stones. Barely a piece of shingle. We spent some time looking for a stone to use, and in the end hid the cache in a slightly different position and alerted the cache owner.

So 7 caches attempted, 6 found and 1 replaced. 5 puzzles removed from our list of puzzles solved and a mini-tour of mid Berkshire! A good morning’s work!

Some of the caches included :

December 31 : Sulham (Reading)…including a First-to-Find and our 3000th cache!

Our previous caching trip had left us on 2996 caching finds, and we were wondering where to cache to claim our 3000th find before the year was out.

As we mused, some days previously, we noticed a brand new series published in the area of Sulham just West of Reading. It was an area we had not cached in, so we looked at the caches. They were all mystery caches…and all online jigsaws. 21 online jigsaws varying in size from 80 pieces to 440 pieces.

Here are the pieces…

Lovely pictures, but a little mono-chrome (a sunlit Autumn leaf path, a long view over farmers-fields to a folly). Many contained dogs, or possibly the same dog, so we guessed they celebrated the life of the owner’s dog(s). (One of the dog jigsaws was called ‘In Memoriam’). On completion of a jigsaw the co-ordinates of the associated cache would be displayed.

…. getting there!


These jigsaws were published on the 28th December. We saw them on the same evening and set about trying to solve the myriad of online jigsaws. If we could solve 4 jigsaws we would drive to Sulham, and find the caches needed to reach the 3000 milestone. We may even be the first-to-find (FTF) the caches!

We spent several hours looking at several jigsaws, honing our online skills late into the early hours of the following morning. We awoke, and discovered another cacher had solved many of the puzzles and had already claimed many of the first-to-finds (about 16 of the 21 on offer). We continued our solving realising we might need to solve 5 or 6 jigsaws to give us a couple of caches as contingency (to allow for a did-not-find) in order to reach the magic 3000 finds.

Over the 29th and 30th of December, we solved quite a few jigsaws, and focussed our attention on those where the FTF hadn’t been claimed. Of course as we solved a puzzle, the 5 remaining unfound caches were slowly being found (including the bonus 22nd cache). Until only one cache hadn’t been found….

..so early on the 31st December we drove to Sulham, parking up by 9am. We surveyed the other early morning visitors to the car park. Were they cachers ? Were they dog walkers ? We walked down a muddy, tree-lined path, checking our GPS making sure we were heading as quickly and as accurately as we could.

More people. More dog walkers. A couple of litter pickers. We arrived close to Ground Zero for the unfound cache (cache 19 in the series). We had passed no-one resembling a geocacher. Would we be the first to sign the log?

We headed to a likely looking host. No cache to see, then we espied another a better example … wandered over to see a tell-tale pile of sticks guarding a container.

With trepidation we opened the cache, a cute dog to reveal….


…a blank log! We were the first to find!!

Hooray!

(our last First-Find was way back in November 2017, and before that, spookily, exactly three years ago on 31st December 2016!)

We took copious photos and left the cache grinning. We now had 3 caches to find to reach 3000 caches.

Of the puzzles we had solved cache 17 was the next nearest. We had plotted the coordinates on a map (somewhere between two footpaths and a road) and headed there. Suddenly the path became very, very muddy and a field of 19 horses looked on as we slipped and slithered our way past. The cache was still not any closer so we walked along the road and then we turned around to walk back along the second muddy footpath..the cache was still 60 yards away. We gave up..we couldn’t see how to get to the Cache 17.

Good job we had a few caches in reserve!

Our next cache was number 5. (We’re quite sure if we had solved all the jigsaws our route to the caches would have been in a better sequence). We trudged through more muddy paths and arrived a large grassy field. Here a stile/gate guarded the entrance to a large wooded area, and the cache was quickly found. (Our only delay was caused by a dog walker with 4 dogs going by). That was cache 2998.

We were going to attempt cache 3 and cache 1 to reach 3000 finds, but as our contingency had disappeared looking for cache 17, we realised cache 14 was quite close. More mud. But a quick find. 2999.

So we headed for cache 3. In the middle of woodland, and probably where the GPS would wobble. We followed tracks as best we could, but eventually went ‘cross-country’ jumping minor water-courses until a very large hint item came into view. There a pile of sticks and piece of stone shielding a camouflaged bag. We undid the bag.. there was cache 3000! Hooray !

Then the fun started! It was a maze cache! To open the container we needed to slide the upper and lower part around a maze. It took us some time to do this but once opened we signed our names for the 3000th time!

We’ve encountered maze caches before, so we drew the maze out on a sheet of paper, and followed it in reverse to close the cache! A fantastic puzzle cache – first the jigsaw, then the cache container. What a way to reach 3000!

We didn’t try to find any other caches. We had achieved a First-to-Find (only the fourth time we had done this), and found four caches including a fabulous cache for 3000. Why find another? It would wait for another day!

PS If you are wondering why we went wrong at cache 17. we mis-transcribed the co-ordinates when we solved the associated jigsaw. We had to redo the jigsaw to get the correct coordinates!