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 11 : East Worldham, West Worldham and Hartley Mauditt

Our caching trip started from the village of East Worldham perched high on a hill a few miles South West of Farnham. There is always a danger starting a walk from the top of a hill, and we only remembered it some hours later.

East Worldham Church

Initially though we walked even higher from our parked car, to East Worldham’s church (St Mary’s). We collected information from the Church noticeboard, which doubled up as a village history and geography lesson and from a nearby War Memorial. We calculated the co-ordinates for the hiding place of the Church Micro cache…and discovered an error in our maths. Back we went to the noticeboard, retrieved the correct date and went looking. An ideal host, matching the hint, stood proudly at GZ. Sadly for us, so did a large amount of vegetation which shielded every hidey-hole so well that we couldn’t find the cache. Not the best of starts, poor maths.. and a DNF !

We started our main circuit of the day, ‘View the Land’, a series of 15 caches first placed back in 2011. Some of the caches would contain a number, which would help us find a 16th, bonus, cache.

The first cache find was relatively straightforward, though the hint of ‘hanging’ had obviously changed over the cache’s nine years. We were heading towards cache 2, when we remembered the bonus number. We hadn’t checked the first cache for it ! Should we go back or risk missing one number ? We went on with crossed fingers.

On route, some redeveloped oast houses

Our second cache, in one of the more imaginative hides on the route was quite hard to spot. Our searching was not helped by people busying themselves at the neighbouring equestrian centre. Indeed one of the horses did its best to help us sign the log. Again we walked away from the cache, failing to remember to collect any bonus information. This time though, we had only walked a few yards, so retreated to collect our first bonus number – yay !

“You forgot the bonus number!”

The path moved away from the horses and around a farmer’s field. Here we found a couple of caches hidden in very large tree hollows. The hollows were so big, at least 10 ammo boxes could fit in them with space to spare! After allowing a couple of horse-riders go by, we deviated from the ‘View the Land’ circuit to attempt our second Church Micro of the day, at West Worldham.
As we approached the village we went by a largish garden where several Dads were having a socially-distant chat while their teenage boys were kicking a football with great vigour.

West Worldham Church

The church at West Worldham (St Nicholas), presented us with a problem. Notices on the gate prohibited access as building work was going on at the Church. Being Saturday though, there were no workmen, so we ignored the sign and collected the numbers we needed for the Church Micro. We even went inside the church and found this thought-provoking plaque.

The Church Micro cache was hidden by the roadside, which a few minutes earlier has been quiet. But as we approached GZ, and before we could wrestle with ivy protection, car after car went by. It was the fathers and sons from the football garden earlier, now returning home.

During a break in the traffic we found the cache and then returned, via a sunken lane to our main caching series. The sunken lane had dropped quite steeply and we were in a ‘bowl’ with tree cover all around. The GPS danced around, pointing this way and that and with only ‘multi-trunk tree’ as our guide we spent some locating the cache.

Of course we then had to climb out of the ‘bowl’ and a series of about 60 steep, wooden earth steps took us to a barley field. In one corner of the field, presumably as set-aside, was a beautiful wildflower border. We recognized many of the flowers including Phacelia and Poppies, other names eluded us. None of the flowers eluded the multitude of insects enjoying the nectar.

The couple of caches around the field were straightforward finds, including one hidden in a former sunken lane. Here Mr Hg137 retrieved the cache, threw it to Mrs Hg137 to sign, who threw it back for Mr Hg137 to replace. Did we check the bonus number ? Of course not, so the cache was re-opened to ascertain any bonus information. It was as we left this cache site we saw movement ahead of us, clearly not a rabbit or squirrel … our best guess was a stoat.

Mr Hg137, a sunken lane about to find the cache

We arrived at the now-deserted village of Hartley Mauditt to find three caches close to the Church (including our third Church Micro of the day).

Hartley Mauditt Church

Hartley Mauditt, was once a village with a manor church dating back to the Norman Conquest. The manor survived several centuries until the owner, who preferred living in London, pulled down the manor so his wife (who preferred living in the manor) would stay with him in London. The church remains, and is open a few months each year – though during our visit it was closed for renovation. We collected the numbers for the final hiding place of the Church Micro and walked to GZ. A roadside verge deep with 5 feet nettles. Somewhere in the nettlebed was a stump hiding the cache. We gave the nettles a few minutes, and a few swishes of our geopole. Another DNF. (That’s 3 Church Micros attempted, 2 DNFs and 1 we shouldn’t have found as the graveyard had prohibited access!)

The other caches around the Church were easier to find and before we left Hartley Mauditt we paused by the large pond (again dating back to 1066) for some refreshment. We were spotted by a duck (possibly an Indian Runner duck) who wanted to help us eat our sandwiches. It didn’t succeed.

Our break gave us time to check out the details for the next cache. We were grateful we did as the next two caches were only accessible from a footpath and not the roadside. We soon discovered why… the road was a twisty, narrow gorge but the footpath took a more relaxed route. Both caches were hanging ‘above the road’ so we didn’t dare drop them!

“Gorge Road”

After the road gorge had finished we had a short walk along the road before we entered woodland. This was unexpected as the earlier part of the walk had been around farmland. We were on the Hangars Way, a long distance footpath from Alton to Queen Elizabeth Park.

Our route took us on good tracks through woodland until unexpectedly it took a diversion to a much narrower path. This path went round a delightful pond. We saw waterlilies, a coot, several carp anxiously waiting for the many dragonflies to come too close to the water. A beautiful, tranquil spot in a forest.

In wasn’t though. As distant barking could be heard. As we walked on, we discovered why. A young shepherding couple were worming sheep, and their dog, which was tethered to a landrover, wanted to help!

We watched from afar after finding another cache, before continuing through the forest to an easy find behind an oak. There were a junction of footpaths at the tree, and it was here we took our last diversion of the day. Our caching trail was in one of the Northernmost sections of the South Downs National Park, and throughout the Park 30 caches have been placed by the South Downs Authority. We had found a few on our South Downs Way walk last year, and took the opportunity to add another SDA cache to the list. It was though a half mile walk to the cache (and a half mile back). Fortunately an easy find!

Back at the oak tree, we remembered the trouble with starting a walk at the top of a hill. There’s normally an ascent at the end of the day ! We climbed slowly at first through fields (passing another pond), then steeply through woodland, pausing only for breath and to find our last few caches. Somehow we found all the ‘View the Land’ series and all the bonus numbers too!

Then the ascent got very steep. We expected the bonus to be near to our parked car but it wasn’t. It was higher still. And the cache owner somehow had found the steepest route there ! (Telling you how would give the game away).

The Bonus Cache!

So after 9 miles walking (the route should have just over 5, but we did a couple of extra diversions), we beat the final ascent, and found the bonus cache!

A fine series with some great views. The only caches we didn’t find were Church Micros where the undergrowth and nettles beat us. Definitely a good day out!

Here are a few of the caches we found :

June 28 – Southwood Country Park

Southwood Country Park is based on the grounds of the former Southwood Golf Course, just South of Farnborough. The Golf Course closed a couple of years ago, and the area was made into a country park shortly after. Well maintained paths surround and criss-cross the park and traces of the former golf course still remain.

10 caches have been placed around the park in a series entitled ‘Southwood Lost Links’. Many of the caches had ‘golfing names’ e.g T off, Water Hole, In the Rough etc..

Seven of the caches were traditional but there were three other cache types. The first a puzzle cache, where a jigsaw of the former golf course had to be solved, to reveal the final coordinates. Another cache was a straightforward multi, which we managed to work out the coordinates before we left home.

The third non-traditional cache type was a ‘letter box’ cache where there is an ink-stamp inside. This was also a ‘multi’ which we didn’t fully realise until we read the full cache description. (Actually the hint ‘tree roots’ made no sense when we were standing in front of a memorial bench!)

The walk around the park was very rural, we saw few houses, and nearby roads were surprisingly quiet. We were only a mile or so from Farnborough Airport, and occasional planes were taking off and landing. Between the trees we espied the Frank Whittle Monument, placed outside the parkland.

Sir Frank Whittle Memorial (Gloster Whittle Aircraft)

Many of the caches were very well hidden, and much thought had been given to ensure they weren’t muggled. The park is relatively busy, so a plastic box under a small pile of twigs would soon disappear. We were surprised by many of the caches including a magnetic cache which were expecting to be a small nano… but it was far, far larger! We didn’t find one of the caches – it was the second cache of the day – and a combination of not quite being the the ‘caching zone’ and probably taking the hint too literally meant the cache called ‘Lost Ball!’ wasn’t found by us!

The creative caches involved false tree-logs, and very imaginatively a bug hotel! The pictures below don’t do the caches justice, and of course we are not showing where they are!

March 21 : Trackable : The Rock

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

While on our truncated caching trip around Virginia Water, we came upon a trackable, and here it is:

The Rock

The Rock

A brief description of the trackable is that it set off from Saxony (Sachsen) in eastern Germany in early May 2018, has travelled just under 8,000 miles in that time, and has the simple mission:
…”The Rock would like to see the World and is happy if you take him on your journey”…

But where has the trackable been recently? That’s harder to answer. It had appeared at a cacher’s meet – ‘Meet the French’ – in central London in mid-February. Several cachers noted that they had seen the item, and one of them, not sure which, took it away from the meet and moved it to Virginia Water a few weeks later. Before that it had been on a tour of puzzle caches and multi caches (stations and churches) in Kent and Sussex. And before that it had arrived in the UK from Germany and seen the tourist sights – Edinburgh – the Lake District – Liverpool – before travelling south. The earlier part of its travels comprised a tour of central Europe, with visits to France, Italy, Denmark, and Germany, where it started.

For now, the trackable is with us, and will stay that way for a few weeks. The country is in lockdown and many caches have been temporarily disabled to discourage geocachers from going to find them. So the trackable will have a short holiday on our mantelpiece, ready to go out when the world opens up again …

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 :

January 17 : Crowthorne

Winters, especially wet and windy ones, provide distinctly uninspiring weather for geocaching. There is a high likelihood of getting wet and footpaths are giant morasses of mud.

So we decided to undertake many of the puzzle caches we had ‘solved but not found’. Many of these we assumed would be ‘cache and dashes’ minimising the risk of getting a soaking and squelching through mud.

There’s a cache in these woods…shame about the mud!

Then we discovered many of the puzzle caches we had solved over the years had been archived. We had the co-ordinates but the cache had been removed. Our list for ‘caching and dashing’ had been severely depleted due to our tardiness in finding them!

We formed a series of puzzles we could collect, and found a couple of caches nearby. One of which was an unusual multi. Most multis require the cacher to visit at least one or two places, sometimes many more, before acquiring the co-ordinates to finding the cache. This multi, called ‘Post Code’, was different. The cache co-ordinates were given. The cache was a padlocked box, but to unlock the cache, one had to visit four post boxes in the Crowthorne area. Find a particular number on each post box (generally the post code of the area the post box stood in) and use the numbers on the padlock. Easy !

“I can’t read the number from here”

Except…these post boxes formed a 2 mile walk! Now, dear reader, we were in a quandary .. should we drive round the roads of Crowthorne to each post box in about 20 minutes… or take a separate walking expedition … and locate a couple of caches near the four post boxes?

We, of course, opted for the latter.

There were only two caches on our ‘post box’ route…the first in a alleyway adjacent to a relatively new estate in Crowthorne. As we approached GZ, a dog walker approached the path from the estate. (We say ‘dog walker’, but the size, weight and momentum of the dog meant it was more like ‘dog taking man for walk’. We wished him well as he was dragged by, and we searched a couple of likely host items. We were looking for a ‘man-made’ structure hiding the cache..and we were very surprised when eventually we found it !

Our second cache was one we had ‘attempted’ back in May 2013. We blogged about that day here, and we remember it well as we left home with maps with geocaches marked, pens, etc… but no GPS! We tried to find caches with no GPS and hints! ‘Grimmetts Grotto’ we never found. Today, even with a hint (‘Base of tree- leave no stone or brick unturned!’) and no leaf cover interfering with GPS reception, we had trouble getting close to anything useful. So we searched every tree in the copse, turning over every stone and brick we could see. Eventually we located the correct tree and stone and signed the log.

Then we started our post box walk.

The Crowthorne estate we walked around was mixed in age.

New Houses

Some bungalows, possibly 1930s in style, and where these had been knocked down large 5 (or more) bedroomed, houses behind metal gates.

A new estate being built on the old Transport Road Research brought the houses into the 21st century. A pleasant pavement walk and at each ‘post box’ we peered at the box to acquire the numbers we needed. Fortunately there were few people around to quiz us, otherwise it may have been just a tad suspicious!

Four posts boxes found.. four numbers acquired…the multi cache awaits!

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: