December 8 : Farnham Park

Farnham Park

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

Sadly for us the series was archived shortly afterwards.

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

Farnham Castle just visible in the tree-line


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

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


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

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

A great place for a cache

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

One of the many streams that criss-cross the Park

Stream jumping was a feature of the next two caches.

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

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

Is there a cache here ?

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

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

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

Have you seen a library like this ?

How many libraries contain these ?

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

On the way to the Farnham Ramble Remembered cache


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

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

A hole-in-one!


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

Other caches we found included :

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November 17 : Cranleigh and the Surrey Hills

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

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

A Fine Pair

A Fine Pair


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

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

Hard going ...

Hard going …


... maybe there was an easier path?

… maybe there was an easier path?


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

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

Letterbox cache here somewhere …


... found it!

… found it!


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

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

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

Xylem Voices

Xylem Voices


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

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

Here are some of the other caches we found:

October 13 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Thatcham to Silchester

Nature Discovery Centre – Thatcham

This section of our Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst(Berks) walk was one of the longest, about 13 miles. Due to various other commitments on other weekends, we were short of alternatives, even though the weather forecast was ‘interesting’. Storm Callum was dropping heavy rain in the West Country (especially near where our walk had started in Gloucestershire). We drove through one exceptionally heavy shower, but thereafter, and surprisingly, the weather remained dry.

We started out from Thatcham’s Nature Discovery Centre https://www.bbowt.org.uk/explore/visitor-centres/nature-discovery-centre and found three caches in a small circular walk around its lakes. The Discovery Centre is now a wildlife haven with a myriad of lakes (filled-in gravel pits), trees and footpaths. There is even a small community orchard.

The three caches we found all had a little ‘something’ about them. The first involved jumping across a, fortunately dry, stream. The second cache was found hanging, in plain view, yards from one of the lakes. The third was hidden in a small enclosed area bounded by a gate, a fence and some trees – a quite tricky retrieval even using the geopole.

Three caches down, and we were still close to the car. We crossed the Great Western Railway line before arriving at the Kennet and Avon Canal. Our previous walk had followed the canal for a couple of miles, and today we would follow it again for about 2 miles to Thatcham Station. The towpath was busy, and we saw many people exercising themselves and their dogs. We paused to admire three kites high above, and three ducks dabbling their way along a reed bed.

There was only one cache to find, and a quick easy find in the bole of tree. Inside we found a trackable, ‘Hilly the Hippo’. When we first retrieved the cloth toy, we initially thought it was an elephant!

Then two rarities ! A seat (great for a quick coffee stop), and a turf-lined lock.

Monkey Marsh Lock (Thatcham)


Mrs Hg137 is the expert on all things canal-related, and apparently turf lined locks are rare (only two survive on the Kennet and Avon canal). Turf locks were cheaper to make, as much of the lock-sides are grass/mud/plants. Boat owners aren’t keen on them as there are fewer places to scramble up and down from a boat, and they are more porous than other locks so the canal loses more water.
As we drank our coffee a duck wandered by, looked at us, and headed to a nearby shallow puddle. It then dabbled at the grass and water edging the puddle for 10-15 minutes, oblivious to us and oblivious to the cyclists and walkers that went by.

“I love puddles…they’re so full of food !”


Shortly after passing the lock we left the canal and headed away from Thatcham. The railway line is nearby, and the barriers descended for a train. We waited and watched. We waited. The queue of traffic got longer. We waited. Eventually we decided to look for an adjacent cache. We dipped just out of eyesight of the stationary motorists and made a quick retrieval. More surprisingly there was another a trackable inside “Smelly Pooch”. Two consecutive caches, and two trackables – not bad!

Somewhere beyond the branch is a cache!


We crossed away from the traffic and picked up a series of caches under the title of “Let’s go Round again” – apparently named after a favourite walk of the cache owners, TurnerTribe. By and large these were easy finds, sometimes there was a small scramble down a ditch, on another we had to lift and separate a large log pile. We struggled with one or two where we overthought the hint, but these were the exception. As we approached one cache we heard a strange squealing sound..and a lady shouting at her dog. The squealing wasn’t a dog noise, it wasn’t a rusty swing… what was it ? Then, as we knelt to retrieve the cache we saw the source of the squealing… a smallholding of pigs!

We were counting caches as our 12th find of the day would be our 2500th find! To mark this auspicious mark, we would have liked a memorable hiding place, or a really special container.. sadly not to be! (Ed: for the record we started in caching in September 2012, so it took us just over 6 years to find 2500 caches).

Cache 2500


We were still celebrating when we arrived at the next cache site. This was set by TadleyTrailblazers (a cacher we met 3-4 years ago). Sadly we couldn’t find the cache. A lovely oak tree, with lots of boles, holes, nooks, crannies… but no cache. Cache 2501 would have to wait a little longer!

Mm.. lets go in the other direction!


We found a couple more of the ‘Let’s go Round again’ series, and arrived at a road. We had been dreading this part of the walk as we had half a mile of road walking and then another two miles on cacheless footpaths. The countryside was reasonable enough, but our navigation was poor. (Once we decided, sorry – Mr Hg137 decided, to ignore a footpath sign and walk for 500 yards into ever-denser undergrowth.

Another sign for us to ignore!

On anther occasion the main footpath was closed for bridge repair works. We ignored the closure sign and 400 yards further on found ourselves impounded in a barbed wire enclosure. Grr!).

It was therefore with some delight we reached a set of caches. We were a couple of miles from Tadley, and it came as no surprise to discover that they had been set by TadleyTrailblazers. We walked across two of his series (TTs Mini tour, and A2B&B (Axmansford to Baughurst and Back!). These were all fairly easy finds – 5ft in a tree, by a gate post, deep in a hedge. The one that we enjoyed most was hidden behind a ‘swinging’ piece of wood. Swing the wood, and find the cache!

We struggled with our next cache (set by Buddy01189). We haven’t done any if his (her?) caches before, and apparently there is frequently an evil twist. The caches are hidden fairly, but with a warped mindset. We couldn’t get into the warped mindset (and after 10-15 minutes we tried really, really hard),so marked it as a DNF.

Having had a failure at one cache, lady luck smiled on us at the next. A Church Micro Multi.To find the final we needed to find dates from a plaque and numbers from a war memorial. We tried to do this before we left home, but no internet photographs gave us the necessary information. We were very concerned the final hide would be half a mile back the way we came. But, we had one other piece of information. The hint. The hint, rather than being ‘base of tree’ or ‘MTT’ or ‘hidden in ivy’, was a very specific number – 57.1.

Tadley Church


As we approached the church we scanned every conceivable lamp-post, telegraph pole, telephony cabinet for such a number. Then as we could just see the church in the distance we spotted an object at ground level. (One pertinent to an allied industry Mrs Hg137 has some dealing with). As we remarked on the object we saw the associated number…57.1. Is there a cache behind? Yes !!! Fab! We wouldn’t need to retrace our steps!

We did visit the outside of the modern church, and the adjacent village green. A good refreshment spot.

It was getting quite late by now and the pleasant temperatures were dropping as were the light levels. We still had a mile to go (one easy cache to find), and walk through ever-darkening wood.

Farewell Tadley

The woodland paths led us out at Silchester Green and we were happy to see, in the early evening gloom, our car in the distance. But first… one more cache. In a bus stop. Our GPS told us which of two shelters the cache was hidden in, but in very poor light, in a dark ‘shed-like’ shelter, we couldn’t find the cache. We did though find lots and lots of spider’s webs! Yuk!

A slightly disappointing end to a strenuous day – 3 DNFs in total, but we did find 20 caches including our 2,500th find. Something we could celebrate!

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!

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 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 3 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Uffington to Sparsholt Firs (Ridgeway)

“Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” – Noel Coward

A six mile walk. In a 30+ degree heat. A very steep climb to the Ridgeway. And 26 caches.

Were we mad ?

In fact our first two caches were not part of our six mile route. They were hidden close to the village of Uffington. The first was a cache in the ‘Village Sign’ series. This cache was a multi, and we had worked out the coordinates on our previous visit to Uffington, but not collected the cache. As we entered Uffington, we pulled over in a small car park and wondered whether the car and driver in the car park was another cacher. It wasn’t. It was a salesman busy making call after call while we hunted, just out of his eyesight. A quick find – one down, twenty five to go !!

First cache of the day!

Our second Uffington cache was a puzzle cache we had solved a few days previously. With very little information supplied in ‘Terse Puzzle’ GC36970 we had somehow solved it quite quickly. Parking the car, locating the cache and driving away took much, much, longer…

We parked the car easily enough and walked into the wood containing the cache. We arrived within 10 feet of the cache and looked at several host items. The first three were barely large enough to hold anything, let alone a cache, and it took us sometime to see the actual host. Guarded by 3 foot, slightly desiccated, stinging nettles.
A few minutes search and the cache was ours. It was last found at the beginning of March, and the previous finder had remarked about snow… we remarked about the 30 degree heat !

Then we heard voices. We tidied away the cache quickly and walked out of the woods to the voices. It was a farmer and his wife trying to coax 70+ cows from one field, across a road, passing our car, and into another field. The cows didn’t want to. Whether it our parked car that spooked them… we don’t know. After a few minutes we offered to help – we blocked one side of the road and the farmer stood the other and the wife coaxed the cows across. Some cows looked at us suspiciously … especially Mrs Hg137’s red shirt!

We are not MOOOving!

And so after two caches, one salesman and 70+ cows we parked the car at the start of the walk.

It was 1030 and although we hadn’t ‘started’ our walk, there was a seat and a quick coffee break was agreed. It was at this point Mr Hg137 realised there was no milk in the coffee! It was black! And we both take it white!
For once, lady luck smiled upon us. Next to the car park, was the village shop. We decided against buying a pint of milk, since it would have to be carried in a rucksack all day and it would be cheese by midday. So, powdered milk it was.

Sitting, drinking our coffee we could see much of our route. A flattish mile or so’s walk to the Ridgeway slope, a fierce up, a walk WESTWARDS to White Horse Hill and Uffington Castle, then retracing our steps heading EASTWARDS to the car.

Easy.

Apart from the heat.

High on the hillside.. the Uffington White Horse

We set off, through a playing field and then numerous farmer’s fields. Each separated to the next by a mixed bag of stiles. Some tall, some wobbly, some covered in brambles, all different. The White Horse (high above us) became closer and more distinct, until we lost it, when we entered woodland and our next cache. We didn’t really have to search for it, as it hadn’t been well hidden. Fortunately a quick find, as a dog walker was yards behind us. She only caught us up as we were ‘finishing business’ at the next cache (a false stone). She headed off across a campsite, where a mixture of brightly coloured tents and tepees had been pitched.

We crossed the not-very-busy B4507 and started to climb. Within yards should have been a cache 5 feet up a tree. We failed to find it. We took on water, as our very steep ascent was about to start.

Sneaky!

About halfway up was another cache, cleverly hidden in a ‘false branch’ – welcome respite from the puffing and panting of a 400 foot steep (at times 45 degree) ascent.

Halfway…up this steep slope!


The path levelled near a gate and – as one comes to expect – so does a cache. Not quite where we were expecting it to be, but a straightforward find. A few more feet of climbing on a far gentler slope and we arrived at the Ridgeway… and another cache.

A bison.

Hanging on the ‘Ridgeway footpath sign’.

Mr Hg137’s hands were sweaty, and as he unscrewed the base…it slipped through his fingers. Amongst stinging nettles and brambles. We searched the ground. We parted the brambles. We poked and prodded the nettles. But no bison base could we find. The bison base, contained the log, which we had yet to sign. Twenty minutes later we gave up our search. We would be returning past here later so we could search again.

Whoops! Just the top half of the bison remains

We headed West, to the top of White Horse Hill. A fabulous viewpoint. We undertook two caches at the top – the first an Earthcache based on the formation of The Manger – a curious dry valley formation.

The Manger

Our second cache, a multi, involved collecting numbers from three different signs, and calculating a set of co-ordinates. Fortunately the final cache was only a short walk away, and a large container too. We found a ‘bee’ trackable which we hived off for release elsewhere on our journey. We had loaded a couple of other caches near the White Horse Hill, but the high temperature put us off walking further than we absolutely had to.

Is this really a horse ?

The White Horse we had seen from afar is barely visible at the top of the hill. The chalk body is roped off (to prevent vandals/erosion), so we couldn’t get close to it. Uffington Castle is an Iron Age hillfort surrounded by ditches. It is still very impressive to walk around, and with views in all directions one can see why it was so important in years gone by.

Mrs Hg137 walks around the ramparts of Uffington Castle

Our route back to the car was a 3 mile walk along the Ridgeway. It is an ancient trackway, perhaps 5,000 years old linking Avebury (in Wiltshire) to Ivinghoe Beacon (Buckinghamshire).

The Ridgeway is a Bridleway

We walked the full 87 miles back in 2012. Indeed we found our first geocache towards the Eastern end of the Ridgeway (a large ammo can hidden in yew tree roots).

The Ridgeway is predominantly a chalk ridge with extensive views over Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Much of the Oxfordshire views has one, major feature – Didcot Power Station. Originally it had 6 towers, – three were brought down a few years ago, the remaining three are due for demolition shortly.

The 3 remaining towers of Didcot Power Station are just visible in the haze


Despite the Ridgeway being a chalk ridge – frequently the views are obscured by trees either side of the track. These trees provided excellent hiding places for our remaining caches. Sometimes in the boles, sometimes in ivy, and because of the quantity of trees, frequently hard to find the correct tree.

We had searched (unsuccessfully) a second time for our dropped bison, but fortunately found the other caches we attempted. Looking for a cache in a tree was an excellent way of finding cool shadows on this baking hot day.

Hot chalk, lots of trees, but little shade

Eventually we stopped and took stock of progress.

We had a just over a mile to go, and 10 caches to find. We were hot, our water bottles were getting low, and time had slipped by as the day had gone on (the cow crossing, buying milk, a lost bison, and slower and slower searches). We decided to change our searching strategy.

We would attempt every third cache until we reached our car. This would increase our walking pace, and our search time would be reduced.

We walked by, and looked longingly at, two likely hosts and arrived at our first ‘third’ cache. Could we find it ? No. We searched high, low, in ivy, in branches. Nothing. We agreed to attempt the next cache, in its place. Same again.. high, low, nothing. So much for saving time and energy.

The next cache was successful as well as the very next one (the second ‘third’). A final push and we’d be near the car for our final cache of the day..until…until… we saw a waterbutt. Next to the path. Waterbutts are often used to hide caches… yes we were 10 feet from a cache (hint ‘underwater’). Our fried brains meant it took us two circuits of the butt to find the cache and as we did so, we noticed above the butt… a tap. A drinking water tap.
We filled our bottles, doused our hair, drank and drank and drank.


The tap was a memorial to Peter Wren, who died at the very tender age of 14.

Revived, we had bounce in our step for the last quarter of a mile. A final quick find under a signpost and we collapsed in a heap by our car.

Last cache of the day

“Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”

A six mile walk. In a 30+ degree heat. A very steep climb to the Ridgeway. 21 caches attempted, 18 found.

Were we mad ?

Probably.

Some of the caches we found included :