December 28 : Tilford

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Frensham Little Pond

Frensham Little Pond


Tilford is just south of Farnham in Surrey, where the two main branches of the River Wey meet. The Tilford Traipse cache series had been on our to-do list for a little while, but parts of it had been inaccessible (aka flooded) after heavy rain earlier in the month. After a quite dry week we decided it was a good day to go and cache.
Wey Bridge East - somewhere under the scaffolding

Wey Bridge East – somewhere under the scaffolding


Wey Bridge West

Wey Bridge West


The ‘road closed’ signs on all routes to the village were slightly worrying, but the reason was that Wey Bridge East is closed for some months for major maintenance https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/roads-and-transport/roadworks-and-maintenance/our-major-maintenance-projects/repair-of-tilford-east-bridge-on-tilford-street and in the meantime that branch of the river can only be crossed on a temporary footbridge – and that had just reopened after the floods.
Tilford Village Hall

Tilford Village Hall


Before starting the cache series, we walked down to the village green/cricket pitch (the boundaries are VERY short!). A man was out for a run, crossing the green. Was he Sebastian Coe? (we think he lives in Tilford). But no – definitely not him. We wanted to find a Church Micro, another multicache based on the church, and a third multi centred on the large, impressive, Lutyens-designed Village Hall. http://www.tilfordinstitute.co.uk/?page_id=56 After some hiccups with counting the number of chimneys on the Village Hall, we worked out three locations for the final caches and visited the “other” bridge over the Wey, a location on the edge of the village, and a track leading to Hankley Common, used in 2012 as a location for the Bond film Skyfall https://markoconnell.co.uk/a-day-on-the-set-of-skyfalls-titular-lodge-at-hankley-common-surrey-march-2012/

Eventually we set out on the Tilford Traipse. Our route was all to the west of the village, so we weren’t bothered by bridge closures. We set off on a track, soft and damp and sandy, through pine woods and farmland, heading south and west towards Frensham Little Pond. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/frensham-little-pond We were watched by curious cows, somnolent sheep, and perky pigs, and had to jump smartly off the track several times while groups of four or five off-road motorcyclists rushed by (you can hear them coming, it’s not a problem, you just have to be far enough from the track not to get splashed). We crossed a ford, and stopped to watch bikes (pedalled and motorised) and 4x4s negotiate it; all got across safely (well, no-one fell in while we were watching).


We arrived at the car park for Frensham Little Pond and collected the numbers we needed for the single multicache in the series. It wasn’t strictly part of our route, but we walked down to the edge of the lake and ate our festive ham / turkey, cranberry and stuffing sandwiches (yum) on a bench overlooking the water. It’s a pleasant spot and very popular with walkers and especially popular with dogs, who all like to get in the water; they clearly haven’t read the extensive list of “don’ts” on a nearby sign: no camping, swimming, barbecuing, paddling, boating …

Lunch over, we set out on our return leg, looping to the north of our outward route. One of our first tasks was to cross the River Wey at another ford (there’s a bridge) and it was here that we hoped to find the multicache container. Alas, we failed, undone by bottomless, slippy mud; we have since found out that the cache coordinates are approx. 55 feet out, and we normally search a radius of about 40 feet, so we don’t feel so bad about that. Annoyingly, the cache is probably hidden by one of the fence posts visible in the photo below!

River Wey (South Branch)

River Wey (South Branch)


Up a slight slope from the river, we walked through Pierrepont Farm https://www.countrysiderestorationtrust.com/properties/pierrepont-farm/pierrepont-project/ It already has a brewery (yum) https://www.craftbrews.uk/gallery, it will soon have a cheese factory (yum, yum) https://www.cheeseonthewey.co.uk/ and it has information boards everywhere, about all sorts of random things. One of the most interesting was about two horse chestnut trees, grown from seeds collected from the battlefield at Verdun https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verdun_tree

Climbing away from the farm, we emerged onto a track across sandy heathland at Tankersford Common. We weren’t expecting this, such a contrast to the woods we had walked through earlier. We heard voices and jingling metal behind us, and stepped off the track yet again as a group (herd?) of about ten horses and riders went by, slowing as they passed, then cantering away into the distance.

We emerged from the heathland onto a narrow, but quite busy road; maybe the traffic flows are all different because a bridge is closed? Stopping in a gateway, we realised that we had found all but two of the Tilford Traipse series, and had amassed enough clues from the series to be able to find the bonus cache. Luckily for us, as the grey day was turning steadily darker, it was very near where we had parked the geocar, so we returned to base and found the cache at the same time.

And, as we removed our muddy boots, some of those off-road motorcyclists were packing up. We asked where they had been, and were told that about 150 of them had converged on Haslemere, from all directions, to have their own Christmas meet of mince pies and coffee. They, and us, had spent an enjoyable post-Christmas day out in the country!

Postscript: after logging the caches, we realised that our all-time total was 2996. The 3000-cache milestone was close. Maybe we could get there by the end of the year?

And here are some of the caches we found:

December 14 : Counting Vowels on Wildmoor Heath

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The Counting Vowels geocache series started out in November 2017 and now comprises around 60 caches, and it’s growing all the time. To solve the caches, you need to visit a number of waypoints and note certain words on signs; after a few locations you have a selection of words e.g. ‘weighbridge’, ‘public’, ‘giraffe’ (OK, we haven’t found one of those, yet!), and then add up the vowels in the words, come up with a total for each of A/E/I/O/U and use those numbers to come up with the coordinates of the cache container.

This sign?

This sign?

This one?

This one?

Or maybe this one?

Or maybe this one?


Wildmoor Heath, between Sandhurst and Crowthorne, is the location for three of the Counting Vowels caches, and we thought they would be a good choice for a Saturday morning caching trip. Each had four or five stages over about a mile, plus a walk to the final location, and were described as requiring 45-60 minutes each to complete.

All three caches start from the car park at Wildmoor Heath, then go in different directions and our GPS showed a plethora of waypoints, all mixed up together as the GPS orders them by distance. We decided to solve the caches in numerical order, #34 first, then #35, and finally #57. First was the Wellington Nature Trail (#34), which skirts the edge of Wellington College and heads off westwards along the Three Castles Path https://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Three+Castles+Path+%28England%29 Off we went from the car park, pausing briefly to note the information for one of the stages of a later cache (More about this later …)
It's going to rain in a minute!

It’s going to rain in a minute!



We went through woodland, then out onto open heath. Just as we had collected the last bit of information, and had reached open, treeless ground, the sky darkened, the wind rose, and a squall of rain / snow / sleet rattled through; we backtracked, and sheltered behind the largest tree we could find, and worked out the coordinates for the cache. It passed by after about 15 minutes, leaving blue skies and sunshine, and it was as if it had never happened. We came out from behind the tree and set off for the cache location, finding it very quickly.

Back at the car park, we grabbed a cup of coffee from the thermos we had stashed in the geocar, then set off again for the second cache, the Three Castles Path (Counting Vowels #35). This was the first ever long distance path we walked, back in 2010, and it was good to revisit familiar territory on such a sparkling bright morning. This time round, it didn’t seem to take very long to visit all the required ‘things with words’, to count the vowels, and to find the cache. So far so good …

Just one cache to go, Wildmoor Heath (South), a newish cache placed only a few weeks ago, and number 57 in the Counting Vowels series. We had already noted down the first clue for this cache earlier on, and we decided we would take a short cut to the second waypoint. All proceeded steadily, and we soon had a set of coordinates for the final cache. The coordinates looked plausible and we set off towards them. We arrived at the road, and we still hadn’t arrived at the cache. Oh dear, something wasn’t right. Never mind, maybe the cache was over the road. We crossed, and investigated the boundary of Eagle House School. But we still weren’t quite at the right place, which looked to be on private school land, in the middle of the cricket pitch. This just wasn’t right … we checked our calculations, then checked them again, but couldn’t work out where we had gone wrong. By now, lunchtime was passing by, and we were hungry and grumpy. We had failed. We stumped gloomily up the road and back to the car park, and did a re-check on that first waypoint we had noted down at the start of the day. AND WE HAD WRITTEN IT DOWN WRONGLY! Rats! We re-did our calculations, which gave us a new location … 600 metres away. By now, hunger had overcome our desire to walk an extra 1200m there and back so we returned home for a very late lunch.

But we weren’t giving up …

    The return

Happily, the cache owner had been in touch the previous day to confirm that our revised coordinates were correct. Next morning, we returned to Wildmoor Heath. As there was a 5k and 10k Muddy Welly race taking place close to the Wildmoor Heath car park, we parked elsewhere and walked through woods and across boardwalks to reach the final waypoint for this cache. This time the GPS led us to a place that matched the hint, and, after a short search, the nice new cache was unearthed. The moral is to read (and more importantly, correctly transcribe) what is written on the noticeboards; it went wrong for us because we didn’t.

    The postscript

How do we know that the Counting Vowels series started in November 2017? We were the First to Find (FTF) on the very first cache in the series and spent a morning wandering hither and thither around Wokingham to find it. https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2017/11/10/november-10-ftf-wokingham-chestnut-avenue/

And here are some not especially revealing pictures of caches:

November 24 : Hartley Wintney: all sorts of trees

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Just after Sunday lunch, we set off for an afternoon’s caching in and around Hartley Wintney, on the northern border of Hampshire. As it was a gloomy, dark afternoon, we only had five caches planned. But of those five caches, three were multicaches, two with two stages, and one with three, so that gave us a total of nine things to find/solve, which was plenty to do in the hour or two before sunset (actually, it was fairly dim already).

All Souls, Hartfordbridge

All Souls, Hartfordbridge


Our first cache (and first multicache) was a church micro, All Souls at Hartfordbridge, just off the A30. We’d done some online research before we set off, and reckoned we’d found the information we needed to get the coordinates of the final cache. And we were right; we parked within feet of the final location and had found the cache within 30 seconds! The church is now a private house, but the graveyard is still accessible down a short path, so we went and had a quick look anyway. (Editor’s note: the church is for sale, if you want to move http://www.mackenziesmith.co.uk/view_property/?profileID=100921027628 )
Vaughan Millennium Orchard

Vaughan Millennium Orchard


After driving the short extra distance to Hartley Wintney, we parked the geocar in a lane leading to the Vaughan Millennium Orchard, the starting place for our next multicache, Orchard & Heath. The orchard is a great idea, with well over 100 varieties of cultivated English fruit trees, with varieties grown from the time of the Roman invasion to the present day. It’s used for special events: Apple Day, wassailing, open air theatre, and more http://www.hartleywintney.org.uk/visitor-attractions/vaughan-millennium-orchard It’s not at its best in late November but it must have looked magnificent just a few weeks ago when the leaves were turning and there would have been fruit on the trees. We did wonder: what happens to all the fruit?
Heading for the heath

Heading for the heath


Anyway: Orchard & Heath is an extremely old cache, set in October 2003. We had never, ever, found a cache set in that month. It’s also a big cache, an ammo can, and we had a huge trackable with us, which we hoped would fit in it. The trackable is Keys, which had been going since 2007, acquiring keys as it went, now weighed over a pound, and was now, umm, quite big. Having worked out the coordinates for the final cache location from things in the orchard, we set off for the heath, following a short section of the Three Castles Path out of the village http://threecastlespath.uk/
Orchard & Heath - a very old cache

Orchard & Heath – a very old cache


Keys trackable - moving on

Keys trackable – moving on


Previous logs had said that the cache can take a long time to find, and we were prepared for an extended search in the gloom under the trees. Arriving at the likely area, we each picked a patch of ground and started looking. In less than 10 minutes there was a triumphal cry from Mr Hg137. He had spotted something that ‘didn’t look quite right’ and the cache was hidden underneath. And, yes, the trackable did fit into the cache, and we were pleased to see it on its way.

Returning to the village, we found a cache near the entrance to the golf club, then walked along the main street. The shops were still open and cast a cheery glow over the gathering dusk. We were heading for St John’s Church, the location of our next multicache and next Church Micro.

As before, we’d tried to do some research beforehand to speed up our search time, but we hadn’t got very far, so worked out the coordinates from scratch by finding and counting various things on a noticeboard, the war memorial, and a nearby seat. We struggled with the numbers on the seat, since it was dark, the writing was very small, and neither of us had bothered to bring anything which we could use as a torch. Anyway, we came up with some coordinates that seemed plausible, and set off to the final location, to be confronted with … an oak tree covered in ivy. Our hearts sank. We struggle to find caches in ivy. We struggle even more when the cache is in ivy and isn’t on the ground. We prepared for another long search, but once again we struck lucky and found the cache after a short time. (Editor’s note: much more about oak trees in a minute. In the postscipt at the bottom.)

There was now only one cache left on our list, Beetling Bugs, hidden somewhere in a fallen oak tree. We walked across the common, through the regular lines of oak trees, and found a fallen tree, even in the dark – it was quite big! We circled it, looking for the cache, till I spotted something that looked natural, but not completely natural, and the cache was hidden behind, tucked under the trunk.

Caching over, we walked back to the geocar in darkness. We had finished just in time!

A postscript about oak trees:

Mildmay Oaks

Mildmay Oaks


One thing you notice when you visit Hartley Wintney is the oak trees, rows and rows of large, mature oak trees. They are the Mildmay Oaks, or Trafalgar Oaks, and there is nothing quite like them anywhere else. http://www.hartleywintney.org.uk/visitor-attractions/the-commons-mildmay-oaks

After the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 there was a shortage of timber to build and repair warships. A ship like HMS Victory took around 6000 trees to build, 5000 of them oak trees. https://www.historytoday.com/archive/construction-hms-victory-begins And it needed a lot of repairs after the battle, so lots more trees went into that. Admiral Collingwood, head of the Royal Navy, appealed to landowners to plant oaks so there would be enough for future warships. Lady Mildmay, the owner of the area around Hartley Wintney, responded to the appeal and had the oak trees in Hartley Wintney planted, set out in rows to maximise production. They have survived because warships began to be made from metal before the oaks were fully mature, so they weren’t cut down for ship’s timbers.
(Editor’s note: that’s the end of the history lesson; I was just curious about the trees, so I investigated.)

Here are a few of the caches we found:

November 16 : Grazeley Gambol

The Grazeley Gambol is a series of 22 caches and a bonus cache starting from the small village of Grazeley.

Along the Footpath near Grazeley


There are few places to park in the village but we managed to squeeze the geo-car into the edge of a rutted lane adjacent to the school. The lane had many puddles – not surprising as there had been a lot of rain recently – and we hoped the full route wouldn’t be too muddy! This was quite an expectation as the geocaching route criss-crossed various tributaries of the River Kennet.

The first two finds of the day were within yards of the car, the first a very simple find, the second under a bridge. Here the cache owner had cleverly attached the cache to the bridge both with a simple clip and magnet! This cache definitely won’t get washed away by a flooded river.

Foudry Brook


We were congratulating ourselves on our speedy finds, when we failed to see a footpath sign which would have taken us across a farmer’s field. We retraced our steps and walked on a straight line between the two footpath signs, but when we reached the far end of the field it was obvious we were some way off the true route. Our progress across the field was not helped by the freshly ploughed ridges, and the slippery mud we walked through.

Across the Farmer’s Field to Grazeley

The destination footpath sign yielded another cache, and by now we were getting the hang of cache owner’s modus operandi. It was similar to the caches we had found the previous week at Jealott’s Hill. Many of the caches were small, very small, and had been drilled into a natural looking container.

The mud of the farmer’s field was forgotten as we headed south picking up a further 5 caches. (At least one we walked straight by, another was hidden by an ash tree which tested our arboreal skills, as we aren’t that clued up on what a leafless ash looks like!) We were able to place one of the trackables we had with us in one of these 5 caches and pick up another in return.

The path was pleasant with trees and hedges just holding onto their Autumn colours, and under our feet a carpet of fallen coloured leaves protected us from a wet path. The main gripe about this footpath was its proximity to the A33. A busy and noisy dual carriageway. Sometimes we were separated from it by a few trees, other times barely any at all.

Our route headed West for about half a mile without a cache, as it passed through several farm buildings. We noticed cars parked alongside the farm and several people nearby. We assumed they were connected with the farm, so we consulted our map, to walk confidently through on the right of way. But they weren’t farmers in the yard.

What is going on ?


Two girls, immaculately dressed in riding uniform dismounted from their horses, and chatted with their parents. A food van tempted us with aromas of beefburgers and coffee….and then we finally understood. There was a dressage arena and a competition was going on. We chatted quietly to a previous rider who had recently finished her round. She told us every rider had a fixed time slot…they took part and had coffee, and then went home.. It was 10am and we were aware of at least three competitors who had taken part, and a fourth was being scrutinised (‘trot to A…turn right to E … walk to G’ ) as we stood and watched.

Dressage in Progress


Eventually we walked on and found a couple more caches (one was so far off its co-ordinates we are sure it was in the wrong tree) until we reached a road. Our route should have continued Westwards, but just a short distance South was another cache on a bridge over Foudry Brook. A quick find in ivy, and another container that would take another trackable we had brought with us. The bridge provided us with an ideal place to stop for a coffee (our thoughts of coffee had of course been initiated by the burger van).

Throughout the Grazeley Gambol series a number of the caches would contain letters/numbers which help us find the final bonus cache. Up to this point, few of the containers had yielded a number, but the most of the remaining caches gave us all the information we needed. Our next two caches, using oak trees as hosts, provided welcome respite from a slightly muddy grassy field boundary.

And then we had a problem.

The footpath ahead us was closed. A bridge on the footpath ahead was in a state of disrepair and dangerous.
We decided to proceed anyway. However the closure sign had disrupted our caching skills and we failed to find cache 13 ! Unlucky for us! Cache 14 was straightforward and then we saw the rotten bridge.


We found the cache by its side, and then gingerly crossed. Fortunately the handrails were safe-ish and the central plank under the bridge was safe-ish.. so we made our way across.

Carefully does it!



Shortly after we had logged our caches, the cache owner visited the site, and temporarily discontinued the caches on the closed footpath. Fingers crossed it won’t be too long before the bridge is fixed!

Danger lurked at the next cache too as the footpath crossed the Reading Basingstoke/Southampton railway line. Passenger trains and goods trains seemed to go by every 5- 10 minutes so, and on every occasion we were in the wrong position to take a good photo!

The route resumed a familiar feel. Autumnal trees overhanging a leafy path with a stream nearby. The caches came quite quickly too, including a great fun cache hidden in a children’s toy (sorry no spoiler here…but maybe on our caches of the year post!).

We crossed the railway line again (this time under a bridge) and then a rarity – a multi-cache. A simple enough multi (in fact Googlemaps had been of great assistance before we left home) and an imaginary hide too.

Grazeley village was back in sight, the Church Spire beckoning us to the start. The final two caches took slightly longer than expected (the first was magnetic… (yes really! in the middle of a field too!) and the other was hidden amongst the leaf litter.

We could see the car from this final cache, but the bonus (a quick find) took us away from the school and nearer the Church. We discovered the Church was built in 1850 but in 2017 was converted as a holiday let and is listed on Airbnb ! https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/21676937?source_impression_id=p3_1574781488_tEwFjk7u05x8YoyT

Grazeley Church

An interesting end to a great walk and a wonderful selection of caches!

PS We discovered afterwards that the 24 caches was the highest number of caches we had attempted in a day this year, and one of few caching circuits we had completed too. (And we’ve found just under 400 caches in 2019).

Here are some of the caches we found :

October 27 : South Hill Park, Bracknell

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

South Hill Park

South Hill Park


Saturday had been dark and grey, and then very wet, dark and grey. But Sunday was a completely different day, cold and bright and sunny. We just wanted to get outside … but where to go that wasn’t too soggy? Some quick research by Mr Hg137 flagged up South Hill Park https://www.southhillpark.org.uk as a good place – it has parking, good paths, lots to see plus a newish cache series, JNGC, placed this year, plus a multicache too.
Bull at the Gate

Bull at the Gate


From the entrance to South Hill Park, we admired the sculpture, part of a trail around the building and grounds https://www.bracknell-forest.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/south-hill-park-sculpture-trail.pdf , then set off across the grounds, alongside South Lake, admiring the fountain, and across the footbridge. (Editor’s note: the bridge was due to close for maintenance the next day and scaffolding was already in place, so we were just in time!) Our first cache for the day wasn’t far from here.
South Lake

South Lake


From here we followed the path down the other side of the lake to find our second cache on the edge of the formal gardens surrounding the house, and we remembered sitting here one summer afternoon a few years back watching an outdoor performance of ‘House’ and ‘Garden’ (and we got wet when the cast splashed us with water from the fountain). This autumn morning was much quieter and we found the well concealed cache after a bit of rummaging in firm, well clipped greenery.



So far it seemed as if we had been doing caches in a random order, but we had a plan: the clues for the multicache are intertwined with the JNGC cache series and we had been assembling the clues for the multi as we walked round the lake in the ‘wrong’ direction. Having worked out the final coordinates for the multicache, we walked a short way into trees and found that our workings were correct. We dropped off the trackable ‘Avon Traveller’ here, to continue its journey; we generally try to place trackables in out of the way caches or in oft-found multicaches, as we think they are less likely to go astray that way.

We climbed a short, steep slope and left the grounds of South Hill Park, with the path winding through an area where all the road names began with H … Hillbery … Herondale …Haywood. The next cache was somewhere in here. We arrived at Ground Zero (GZ), where the cache should be, circled it, didn’t spot the cache, took the hint too literally and went off to study the fence near No. 31, didn’t find it there either, then returned to GZ. As the GPS indicated the final location, we realised what the hint meant … doh! And in our passing back and forth through the area we passed a little bit of the South Hill Park estate, the ice house, now not quite as glorious as it once must have been https://www.flickr.com/photos/bracknellforest/8536104515

Autumn colours ...

Autumn colours …


... and autumn fungi

… and autumn fungi


We crossed a road, admiring the autumn colours, and started our return by turning onto a cycle path that looped back towards South Hill Park. In this area, all the road names began with G … Greenham Wood … Gainsborough … There were two more caches along this wooded path, both hidden a little way off the path, among the trees. It was very busy with muggles, all out, like us, enjoying the sparkling clear morning. We found one of the two caches quite easily, but spent a while on the other one. We tried two places, within a few paces of each other, that matched the descriptions in other cache logs in both cases, and which the GPS said was correct in both cases (the curse of tree cover, the GPS can’t see the satellites though the leaves). But only one, the second, contained the cache. And there was one final sting in the tail; on returning to the path, Mr Hg137 impaled himself on a tree branch and cut his leg. (Editor’s note: readers, he said a naughty word, beginning with ‘F’. Editor’s note 2: he’s fine now.)

We returned to the grounds of South Hill Park, and North Lake came into view. Between the lake and the main road, there’s a wildlife area with a reedbed crossed by a boardwalk. Hidden somewhere here, unobtrusively, was our final cache of the day. Neither of us had ever been here, so close to the road, but so different. And from here it was just a short walk in the sunshine along the side of the lake (come here when there’s a fishing competition and admire the myriads of large carp that live in the lake); then back to the geocar. A great morning’s caching.


Two final comments:
– What does JNGC stand for? It’s Jae and Nate’s GeoCache series. The cache owner has been in touch – and we asked.

– Apart from the usual N xx° xx.xxx W xxx° xx.xxx coordinates supplied with caches, this cache series is also identified using What3Words e.g. JNGC6 can also be located using tuck.popped.Friday This is great and more caches should do it!

Here are some of the caches we found:

October 19: Sonning

Sonning is a small picturesque town by the River Thames.

The River Thames, near Sonning

A delightful church, olde-worlde cottages, shops and narrow streets. But it has one serious drawback. Its bridge. There is a bridge at Sonning over the River Thames, a narrow, single-carriageway, traffic-light-controlled bridge. As a result this beautiful village is choked with traffic trying to cross the river.

Picturesque Cottages


Unusual Street Furniture

Sonning also has a collection of caches and our intention was to find as many as we could. Many though were multis with several stages. The multis criss-crossed the town, so we would have to be exceedingly careful to record information as we went. (We remembered a bad day in Chester about 18 months ago, when we circumnavigated the City twice as we got thoroughly confused by the City Centre caches). We would be better prepared today. Each multi was printed out on its own separate sheet of paper; we had reviewed the ‘broad’ route the waypoints took so we knew when to stop one multi and start another.

Sonning does have some standard caches too (a series called ‘Swanning around Sonning’). Within minutes of parking the car we had found Swanning around Sonning #1, a lovely little cache hidden in plain view, and easily accessible by cachers and non-cachers alike.

An easy start, before we embarked on the first of the multis – Sonning Village Trail – a 12 stage multi.
At first the questions were simple as we counted reflectors, ‘pins’ and ascertained that Green Cottage isn’t green!

St Andrew’s Church, Sonning


As we approached the rear of the churchyard, we started the multi connected with the Church Micro. Here we had to find two memorial stones, extract some dates and also find the time of one of the Church Services. Relatively straightforward to calculate the final cache destination – once we realised we had entered the churchyard by a different gate from one we had planned ! The final was some way off, so we filed the Church Micro as ‘Calculated but not Found’.

Before we could continue with the 12 part multi, we found a Victorian Post Box. This was the start of another multi (and a series we were unfamiliar with). We peered at the letter box, extracting key information and soon we added the coordinates to the ‘Calculated but not Found’ pile.

Victorian Post Box


We were heading closer to the river, and the notorious bridge crossing. The roads were becoming more and more clogged and the stages in the 12 part town trail were becoming harder to spot. Spot them we did, including a blue plaque commemorating Terence Rattigan. We were lucky here, as a high-ish wall impeded the sight line to the plaque, but as we approached the property a gentleman left through a large gate and we could see the plaque quite clearly. We chatted with the gentleman (well, we had too, as we were peering far too indiscreetly over his shoulder), and discovered the property was owned by a famous, international celebrity. Opposite we were advised the property was owned by a well known Rock Musician. Sadly we saw neither of these famous celebrities on our travels.

The next waypoint involved a third well known public figure, Theresa May (she too lives in the village). Here, we were misled by the question ‘when did she turn on the lights?’ – expecting to find a plaque stating when she turned on the Christmas lights. However the lights she turned on, were far less ephemeral !

By now we were by the river. We had found one cache early on, 9 stages of a 12 stage multi and calculated the final coordinates for two other caches. We saw a seat on the South Eastern bank and sat there and drank some welcome coffee as we collated our notes. We discovered we were at the start of yet another multi, part of the Counting Vowels series.

The waypoints in this series, take you to noticeboards, plaques, memorials, and you count each of vowels, so that as you have reach the last waypoint you have a cumulative value for A, E, I, O and U.

Lots of vowels to count here…


… and here too – but don’t look at the sign!

Feeling refreshed from our coffee we started this 5 stage multi. A peaceful walk along the riverbank taking us further and further away from the traffic choked approach to Sonning Bridge. As we progressed the path became a bit more muddy, and a bit more slippery – we were grateful for our walking boots. We were a little surprised to discovered that the final co-ordinates we yet further on, as typically having found the last waypoint, we were expecting to turn round and head back from whence we had come. Instead a quick find further away from Sonning.

As we were walking back, we got a good bearing on where the solved Church Micro and Victorian Post Box were. We headed off in that direction but on our way we got very lucky.

A rare boat braves the Thames


Back in 2015 we walked the Thames Path and passed through Sonning during the July of that year. One of the caches we failed to find was hidden behind a noticeboard near the river. We were about to pass that same noticeboard on route to the two multi-finals. We hadn’t loaded this ‘unfound’ cache into our GPS, but we both thought we ought to give the noticeboard host a quick scan… and there was the cache! A brand new log too! Was this a brand new cache we had accidentally become the first-to-find ? Sadly no. We discovered on our return home, that the cache was disabled, as the previous cache had gone missing. A recent cacher (undertaking much the same route as we were taking), had noticed the cache was missing, and knowing who he thought the cache owner was, replaced a cache for him. Sadly the cache owner had changed so a relative stranger now has a new cache placed for them! And of course we got an unexpected find!

A new log, but sadly only a replacement cache


In our excitement of finding a cache we hadn’t even loaded into our GPS, we almost forgot about the two multis we had come to find. Both took a bit a bit of finding, as they we well hidden with differing types of camouflage!

We headed back to Sonning Bridge, the air was full of the Saturday lunch being cooked at The Mill Theatre (Roast Beef, Roast Chicken and some kind of fish).

The Mill at Sonning, Theatre and Restaurant Venue


As the day was going so well we decided to undertake another multi, another Victorian Post Box – this time in a very small village of Sonning Eye. Of all the multis we undertook, this was the quickest. A quick review of the postbox (counting vowels to generate the co-ordinates for the second time today) and a quick walk to GZ. We were grateful for two pairs of eyes for the vowel counting as it took some time for us to both agree the total for E and I !

Back over the river to complete the 12 stage multi, our only remaining unsolved multi of the day. We had to collect more dates – one connected with the adjacent Blue Coat school, the others at Sonning Lock.

Sonning Lock


Here we were lucky enough to see two boats passing through. We sat and performed the calculation for the final coordinates. Unsurprisingly it was back along the river, closer to the Bridge. We filed the coordinates, as we had two, simple, caches to find. Swanning Around Sonning #3 and #4.

We didn’t find #3. Apparently it was a ‘stick cache’ hidden at ground level behind some railings. We searched for some time, and noticed that the previous three cachers hadn’t found it either. Our search was hampered as GZ was a ‘turnround spot’ for a running race. We discovered afterwards, it was wasn’t a distance race, but an endurance race organised by Saturn Running. Runners were undertaking a 7 Hour event, running presumably from Reading to Sonning numerous times in a 7 hour period. No wonder they looked exhausted.

Swanning around Sonning #4 was a lengthy find (coordinates were slightly off) and then back to the lock and to find the final for the Sonning Village Trail. We had several large trees to search, and eventually found the cache in the third one! Phew ! All 5 multis undertaken, and all found successfully !

We had one last cache to find, Swanning around Sonning #2 – close to our car. A tricky find, but a great finish to quite a complicated day !

Caches we found :




August 17 : South Downs Way : the final stage : Exceat to Eastbourne

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Time for the last section of the South Downs Way, a challenging one, down the Cuckmere Valley, then over the ridges of the Seven Sisters to Birling Gap, then up and over Beachy Head and down into Eastbourne. Challenging – yes – but a stunning walk.

But first, we needed to get from where the geocar was parked, close to the end of the South Downs Way at Eastbourne, back to the start of the walk. That meant an additional one-and-a half miles in the “wrong” direction back into central Eastbourne to catch the Coaster bus which would take us to Exceat. We set off along the seafront, stopping twice, briefly, to find caches. Eastbourne would be very busy indeed later on, as it was the third day of the Airbourne air show http://www.eastbourneairshow.com/ which takes place over the sea in front of the pier. Roads were closed, a funfair was set up, plus food stalls aplenty. And a steady and increasing stream of people were heading for the beach to get a good viewpoint.

Cuckmere Haven

Cuckmere Haven


We left all that behind and were at Exceat after a bumpy 20-minute bus ride. We exited the bus just where the South Downs Way sets off down the Cuckmere valley. Even a few steps away from the road, it was less busy. That was good: we wanted a second attempt at finding a cache, after failing last time. To quote our previous post:
…” This view has been immortalised over the years. … The painter Eric Ravilious captured the scene in 1939 and his painting was the inspiration for our next attempted cache. All we had to do was work out where Eric stood to paint his scene in 1939 and we would find a cache! We’ve had success with these type of puzzles before, but all have used 21st century photos rather than an artist’s portrayal 80 years ago. We thought we had lined up Eric’s image with a couple of locations, but sadly didn’t find the cache. We’ve subsequently been told our positioning was off” …

Well, we failed again. Even with a hint from the cache owner, and some nimble scampering around likely places from Mr Hg137, we still couldn’t find the cache, though we were much closer than before to the correct location. Oh, well …
Continuing down the eastern side of the Cuckmere estuary, we found a cache which commemorated the location of the vanished Exceat Church, and one hidden close to a dewpond. This dewpond is unusual; most of these ponds are historic, built long ago for watering stock; this one was built in the 1990s using fees paid for using the beach at Cuckmere Haven for the location of the opening scene in “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves” https://www.reelstreets.com/films/robin-hood-prince-of-thieves/ Nevertheless, it looks as if it has been there for ever, and is well overgrown with vegetation.

Where's the pond?

Where’s the pond?


Then the climbing started, and we made our way up onto the top of the first of the Seven Sisters. We had a longish, *undulating* (aka hilly!) walk to the next cache, a multicache based on the monument on Flagstaff Brow, the fourth of the seven/eight Sisters. And having worked out the coordinates, we decided they were too far off route and continued to Birling Gap. (Editor’s note: there are actually eight, not seven Sisters; erosion has created an extra one after they were named. They are called Haven Brow, Short Brow, Rough Brow, Brass Point, Flagstaff Brow – Flat Hill, the extra one – Bailey’s Hill and Went Hill)
Birling Gap ...

Birling Gap …


... and the doomed coastguard cottages

… and the doomed coastguard cottages


There’s a car park and a tearoom at Birling Gap, access to the beach, and a row of ex-coastguard cottages. They are gradually being demolished, one by one, as the cliffs erode. There were five when we passed by in 2011. And now there are four … another was demolished in 2014. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2584571/Work-starts-demolish-former-coastguards-cottage-left-just-SIX-INCHES-cliff-edge-months-storms.html
Crumbling, cracking cliffs

Crumbling, cracking cliffs


Birling Gap was heaving with muggles. They were so busy with selfies / refreshments /climbing down the steps to the beach / watching aircraft fly by to the airshow that they didn’t notice us looking for four caches, finding two and adding the other two to the “too far away from the route, find another day” list. The aircraft were distracting for us, too; we were watched from above by a circling Spitfire while we found one cache, and a little earlier, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight passed by, and disappeared around Beachy Head, lower than clifftop height.
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight


The Seven Sisters were behind us, and we began the long climb up to Beachy Head. Birling Gap is 30 feet or so above sea level, and, two-and-a-bit miles later, the trig point at the top of Beachy Head is about 500 feet above sea level. Part way along, the route passes Belle Tout lighthouse; it can be seen for miles around, but it wasn’t very effective as it was often enveloped in cloud or fog, which is why the newer lighthouse was built at sea level. We found two caches along here, Belle Tout View and Beachy Head Earth Cache, both with big views and breeziness to match.
Belle Tout View

Belle Tout View



After walking south-east along the Seven Sisters, we had now “turned the corner” and were going north-east towards Eastbourne, which was just coming into view. We had a good view of the last few minutes of the airshow, watching a Dakota, some wingwalkers, and a grandstand view of the of the final aerobatics display by a team of jet aircraft.
We were now dropping, slowly at first, then steeply, down to the esplanade, and to the end of the South Downs Way. We waylaid several passing muggles and inveigled them into taking pictures of us on the final bit of the path, at the noticeboard at the end, and in front of the ‘end of trail’ sign: there – that proved we’d done it!

By now, it was quite cool and windy and getting rather dark. For the first time in a very long time, we needed the heater on as we drove home in the geocar.

And here are some of the geocaches we found:



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Review of the South Downs Way
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We’ve walked it twice now, first in 2011, and now in 2019: what has changed, and was it better the first time or the second time?

First, what has changed after eight years? A little, but not all that much.
– The signage is better, though it was pretty good before.
– The trail now has start/end markers, so there’s a sense of occasion to mark each end of the trail. (But we still think that the Winchester end of the trail should start at the cathedral, not at the City Mill.)
– The route has changed in a few places. The route through Queen Elizabeth Country Park has changed, separating it from other long-distance paths that also pass through. And the route out of Winchester has altered, there is a bit of going round and round before you head up and out of the city. One other blog I read speculated that this was to make the route up to 100 miles for cyclists?

Secondly, was it better the first time or the second time?
– I asked Mr Hg137 and we both thought the first time was better.
– It could have been the weather. Though we are both reasonably hardy, we are fair weather walkers, and don’t generally go out walking if it is pouring with rain. Our photos from 2011 show blue skies and sunshine and us clad in T-shirts, while this year we got wet a fair few times, and spent much of the walk clad in sweaters and waterproofs under grey skies, blown by strong winds.
– I walked the majority of the walk with a torn, or part-healed calf muscle. There were times when it was very, very bad, and I’ve never taken so many painkillers, ever, and it had to affect my view of the walk.
– But it wasn’t really pain, the weather, and the great views haven’t altered. It was that we knew what was coming, there is no AAH moment at discovering a new place, or a great view, such as the sudden surprise vista over the Cuckmere estuary.
– What other things might we have done? We’ve already been to some places just off the route, such as Uppark, West Dean gardens, and the Weald and Downland Museum, but it would be good to investigate some of the others, like Amberley, Bignor Roman villa, Charleston, and the Chantry House at Alfriston. (Or an opera at Glyndebourne???)
– Would we do the walk for a third time? Quite likely, yes, though we might walk in the other direction. It is in beautiful countryside with stunning views. A brilliant walk!