September 23 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : East Garston to Boxford

East Garston

Plans.

We had great plans for this stretch of our Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst (Berks) walk.

There were loads of caches to find, lots of standard caches, several multis, a puzzle or two and a three location Earthcache to complete (measuring water flow at three very different bridges over the River Lambourn).

Plans.

As the weekend drew nearer, it became obvious it was going to be a wet one.

A very wet one…but there were a few hours on Saturday morning before it was going to rain. We decided we would get up early, and speed round (omitting the multis, the puzzles and the Earthcache) and only look for the easy caches and finish (hopefully) before it rained.

Plans.

When we awoke on Saturday morning and studied copious website weather maps over breakfast (sad, I know, but necessary). We discovered the rain was moving through quicker and our window of fine weather would be closed almost as we started the walk. We abandoned.

What of the weather the next day, Sunday ? Even heavier than Saturday. Groan.

Plans.

Sunday arrived, and so did the heavy rain. As did another breakfast review of weather websites. The rain should clear late morning. Really ?

For most of the morning we looked through the window at the rain, then the weather websites.. rain should be clearing. Window. Web. Window. Web.

At 10:45 we agreed if we saw no appreciable improvement by 11:15 we would abandon for the day.

Suddenly from nowhere at 11:12, the rain eased, it got lighter. We’re on!

We frantically made up a picnic lunch, loaded a haversack, picked up the GPS and cameras off we went. Driving through drizzle. (Our heads collectively sunk, we were going to get very wet…then…just as we were 5 miles from the start of the walk a small azure streak appeared in the sky. It got wider and wider and wider … and as we parked up, the rain had cleared and much of the sky was blue!

The River Lambourn at East Garston

We walked through the quiet village of East Garston, and headed for our first cache. A little off our path, near a water butt. Nettles surrounded the butt on all sides, but a few swipes from the geo-pole and we had access the butt. We searched high and low, but sadly no cache to see. After the adrenalin rush to get walking, this was a let down.

An even bigger let down at our next cache site too, as it was another DNF ! This time the cache should have been in or near a post. Lots of posts to check – metallic ones surrounding an electricity substation, wooden ones making up a stile and field boundary. Many covered in ivy, surrounded by nettles. We didn’t want to DNF the first 2 of the day, but after 15 minutes we agreed to move on. Our enthusiasm for being able to walk and geocache had taken a beating!

The cache site was at a junction of footpaths, and our minds were made up when several dog walkers appeared. (Most people, like us, had been trapped inside all weekend, and our afternoon’s walk was to be heavily punctuated by families and dog walkers all enjoying the September sunshine).

And so we moved to cache three, the first of 8 caches we would attempt in the Lambourn Valley Way series (LVW). This cache had recently been replaced, so we knew it should be there. Somewhere. Several rootles through the leaf litter, and we had a cache in our hand. At last !

Our luck was even better at the next cache! Not only did we find it (as well as a well hidden dog-poo bag) but there was a seat, and we could stop and eat the hastily made picnic we’d assembled earlier.

Surprisingly the seat was dry, less surprising the footpath (the ‘Lambourn Valley Way’) was not muddy. The River Lambourn, and its immediate surrounding banks, are chalk. A very, very porous rock. All the rain over the last 24 hours had disappeared through the chalk almost as soon as it fell. Bonus!

Lambourn Valley Way


We walked on, and found our next cache in an unusual manner. Hidden in an oak’s roots. But accessing the roots was a time consuming business. Over the many years, the oak had grown several low branches which meant to access the roots, we had to walk into a ‘branch cul-de-sac’, look for the cache, walk out of the cul-de-sac and walk into the next. After 4 such cul-de-sacs, the cache found. Lucky too as a family of five fast approached!

Our route took us into the small village of Great Shefford.

The village boasts several multi-caches. As we had started late, we said we wouldn’t attempt them unless they were directly on our route. One was, based on the Great Shefford Village Hall, sadly the final was a 1/3 of a mile back the way we came – we abandoned.

The footpath so far had been sandwiched between the River Lambourn and agricultural fields. As we left Great Shefford, we lost the river for company. We went by an old church (and its multi), some distance from our path – we tried to second guess where the final would be…(Hint : ‘magnetic’), but we gave up.

We crossed a ploughed field and arrived at another cache. With the hint of ‘tree roots’, we despaired when we saw how many trees we had to search. Then.. from nowhere we saw the container unhidden perched in the bank of some tree roots. We noticed a dog walker approaching, so we undertook lots of delaying actions (phone calls, boot lace tying, photos) until the dog walker had gone by. There was only 1/10 of a mile between caches so we had to employ every known trick to ensure he passed us, before the next cache.

As we approached GZ, another dog walker strode towards us… it really was getting busy. Fortunately a quick find at GZ meant we didn’t see a third walker in the space of two minutes!

We followed a small tarmac drive, until we saw the river Lambourn again – or rather a multitude of streams or rivulets many of which could have been the main channel.

Seven swans-a-swimming

Having crossed the river we climbed away from it (finding a cache in a tyre – yes really! – and a well hidden hanging nano) before our navigation let us down.

In fairness a combination of circumstances let us down. Firstly the large field had a damaged finger post, so we were unable to determine how we should ascend over a rising grass field. It was not helped because cache LVW22 had been removed from the route. If this cache had been present we would have used that as an interim waypoint. The route we took was thwarted by a fenced enclosure of sheep, and after much consideration we chose the correct way around the field and arrived about 20 yards away from a stile! Phew!

Had we not been concentrating on our navigation, and cursing about lack of signage, we might well have spotted Welford Park in the distance. Famed for its display of early Spring flowers, and also host to the TV series ‘Great British Bake Off’.

We had just 2 caches to find. The first of which was hidden 6 feet up, in ivy. Joy, upon joy.
And it had been DNFed by the previous two cachers. We gave it a few minutes, and somehow we found it – well lodged and well disguised.

The straight lines of the M4 …

… and the straight lines of a farmer’s field

Our day had been tranquil walking for the most part, but as we walked on the roar of the M4 became more apparent. We crossed the motorway, and found shortly after our last cache of the day quite easily.

So, somehow we managed to find 8 caches on our trip; it promised more but, given the weather over the weekend, was 8 caches more than we thought we might get!

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September 1 : Isle of Wight : Freshwater Bay

Our walking holiday was at an end. We had packed our bags and loaded the car. But…

Freshwater Bay

… we had yet to find the three nearest caches to where we were staying. We had a couple of hours before our ferry home, so this was the ideal time to find these caches.

It was early morning (0910) as we walked along the foreshore at Freshwater Bay. (We made a tentative, rockpool scramble towards a terrain 4.5 cache – we had no intention of finding it, as access is only possible at the lowest of low tides) and then headed towards the lifeboat station. Unlike many lifeboat stations around the UK, it is NOT run by the RNLI but independently run and independently funded. As we headed across the beach, we noticed several early morning swimmers. One man charged into the sea, and his dog obediently and joyfully followed. A trio of ladies walked in but their dog was afraid of the waves, and barked incessantly from the dry shore edge.

Beyond these rocks and in some caves lies a difficulty 4.5 cache…


The cache (lifeboat view) was a relatively straightforward find. The hint ‘WD3’ had our minds racing, and since all the footpaths on the Isle of Wight were numbered, we assumed it was attached to a footpath sign. How wrong we were!

We then walked up the grassy slope onto Tennyson Down (for either the third or was it fourth time that week?), to arrive at a fence line, a stile, and some trees. We could see these from our hotel room, and knew the cache (Tennyson’s) was close by.

Up there, at the top of the hill, near the trees. is a cache!

We circled round the small copse (Mrs Hg137 somehow managed to find the largest, heaviest branch to hit her head against!)

Where ‘ouch’ moments occur!

and then a few minutes later found the elusive container we could almost see from our room.

Our final cache was called Julia Margaret Cameron, the 19th century photographer. She lived and undertook much of her pioneering photography at her house, Dimbola Lodge, now a museum.

Dimbola Lodge

We had been fortunate to visit the museum one evening and seen examples of her work. Her style, was very ethereal, Ancient World classical, and involved her subjects being dressed up representing Shakespearean characters as well as Ancient Greek and Roman gods/goddesses. The museum also housed some pictures and accounts from the first three Isle of Wight pop festivals (1968 – 1970). Outside the museum stood a statue of Jimi Hendrix, whose last live performance was at the 1970 festival venue less than a mile from the museum.

Jimi Hendrix

The cache was a multi, and during the week we had collected information about the museum, Julia and Jimi and we discovered that the cache was on the route down from the Tennyson’s cache. A simple find, and a great way to finish a walking holiday – with a bit of geocaching thrown in – on the Isle of Wight.

August 29 : Quarr Abbey, Fishbourne and Tennyson’s Monument

Quarr Abbey

We were on week’s walking holiday on the Isle of Wight, but, as most of the walks were with largish walking parties, it wasn’t easy to cache as we walked.

Our day off enabled us to choose our own route, and select a few interesting caches.

We were staying at Freshwater Bay (on the South West of the Isle of Wight), and we had identified a small number of caches near the ferry terminal at Fishbourne (at the North East of the Island). We had originally thought about finding these while we waited for our homeward ferry, but we brought the expedition forward.

Our first target was at Quarr Abbey (useful free parking). Quarr Abbey is still a working Catholic Benedictine Monastery, but visitors are allowed to wander the grounds, and visit the stunning brick church. The Abbey was originally built in the 12th century, and destroyed during Henry VIII’s Reformation. Monks returned to Quarr in the early 1900s from a temporary home elsewhere on the Island, and over 25 years had the current monastic buildings erected. To enable a level of self-sufficiency there are vegetable plots, fruit trees, chickens and pigs. The monastery layout was shown on a numbered information board, which was the start point for the first multi-cache of the day. (Not many multis start with ‘Orchard – Church’ and ‘Abbey – Pigs’ !)

One of the many Quarr Abbey pigs


A quick solve and fortuitously enough the cache was in the direction of a couple of other caches we had come to collect.

These were part of the Ferry Distraction series of puzzle caches. (Each cache had a puzzle to solve with an Isle-of-Wight twist.) For one of the puzzles we had to find 32 Isle of Wight placenames and match them to pseudo-cryptic clues (‘Oriental Bovines = East Cowes’), another involved solving an online jigsaw puzzle and a third a logic puzzle involving five families, the places they visited and how they got around during their mythical holiday. These puzzles were supposed to be time-fillers for the ferry journey across to the Island, but we solved them before leaving home…(in much longer time than the ferry journey!!!).

Our first puzzle find was deep in a footpath near the Fishbourne Ferry terminal. A path we had driven by many times, and never spotted. The second was near the shore edge, and which took us some minutes to locate. The hint was very clear, and there was only one place to look, but the presence of a mother, a child and a dog made searching tricky. Most people turn right after leaving the Fishbourne Ferry terminal, but turn left and a very tranquil shoreline emerges. A place we would never have found without geocaching.

Fishbourne Ferry Terminal


We returned back to Quarr Abbey, to look around. Many other people were doing the same – the café was full – the stunning brick church was solemnly quiet (once a young family had left), and of course some very friendly pigs !

Our next cache – a relatively rare, standard cache was yards from the Abbey – but we failed to read the instructions and gleefully followed the GPS to a cacheless tree, rather than ‘walk 10 paces from the railings’ mentioned in the hint!

Our route then took as away from the 12th century ruins to the last of the puzzle caches (after vaulting a non-existing stream). An easy find.

One of the puzzle caches

Not so at our final Quarr cache. In an oak tree, in the middle of a field. A huge hole was checked and nothing found, then we spotted, high up at the rear of the tree a narrow hole with the cache poked inside.

Can you see the cache ?

It was 10 foot up with slippery bark as our only means of approach. Then we remembered the geo-pole! We extended it, and with great caution hooked it underneath the Tupperware container. Slowly, slowly we inched the container out until it fell to the grass.

Success.. now how to get back up!

A quick sign of the log and then… how to get it back up there? We sealed three side of the container, and balanced the geo-pole end into the fourth end’s locking mechanism. We slowly raised the pole until we were level and in the hole. Success!

Our caching at Quarr and Fishbourne were complete, so we headed back across the Island to find Tennyson’s Monument. We had the ‘Bee’ (Birthday Buzz) trackable to place, and we had told the trackable owner we would place it somewhere scenic on the Isle of Wight. We knew we would be passing the Monument in one of our walks, but wouldn’t have to time to undertake the multi set around it.

Tennyson Monument


We located a free car park at the foot of Tennyson Down. A steep, stepped ascent led us to the Monument – and the grassy slopes surrounding it. The views were well worth the climbing effort – they were stunning. We could see right across the Solent to the mainland, the tip of the Needles on the Isle of Wight and to the East much of the Island itself.

Looking West to the Needles (Chalk Cliff)


Looking East across the Isle of Wight


The poet Alfred, Lord, Tennyson lived for many years very close by and the monument was placed to commemorate his life. The hill we had climbed was also renamed in his honour too!

We had a quick look round for the necessary information for the multi. A strangely worded set of instructions and we couldn’t find anything matching the clues at all. We waited for a seat to clear, and we imbibed a coffee (at this point Mr Hg137 somehow angered a wasp and it fought back stinging him on his hand). The sting must have caused an adrenalin rush, as when we looked again at the monument the instructions for the multi became clear.

Was it a coincidence we had a ‘Bee’ trackable in our hand and a ‘Wasp’ attacked ? Who knows!

We discovered that the final was close to the car park from where we started so down we went and a quick find at GZ. Farewell ‘Bee’ – hope you enjoyed the view!

To the North : Fishbourne, the Solent, and the Mainland

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

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

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

Were we mad ?

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

First cache of the day!

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

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

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

We are not MOOOving!

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

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

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

Easy.

Apart from the heat.

High on the hillside.. the Uffington White Horse

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

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

Sneaky!

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

Halfway…up this steep slope!


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

A bison.

Hanging on the ‘Ridgeway footpath sign’.

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

Whoops! Just the top half of the bison remains

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

The Manger

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

Is this really a horse ?

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

Mrs Hg137 walks around the ramparts of Uffington Castle

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

The Ridgeway is a Bridleway

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

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

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


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

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

Hot chalk, lots of trees, but little shade

Eventually we stopped and took stock of progress.

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

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

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

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


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

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

Last cache of the day

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

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

Were we mad ?

Probably.

Some of the caches we found included :

July 21 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Badbury Clump to Uffington: heat, dust and llamas

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Great Coxwell Barn

Great Coxwell Barn


After a short gap – it had been soooo hot – we returned to our epic walk from Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) home to Sandhurst (Berkshire). Our next section was stuffed with history, beginning at Badbury Clump, a tree-covered Iron Age hill fort with links to King Arthur https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Badbury_Hill and ending at Uffington village https://www.berksfhs.org.uk/cms/Berkshire-Places/uffington17.html
Chicory

Chicory


Great Coxwell Barn

Great Coxwell Barn


Leaving Badbury Clump behind us, we set off downhill, crossed a field of chicory, and were soon overlooking our first destination/cache, Great Coxwell Barn. It’s huge! And impressive! And, on a day that started warm and was rapidly heating up, it was nice and cool inside … Somewhere in here is a virtual cache. The GPS was dodgy indoors, and we wandered around inside in the shadows, and eventually stumbled upon the information that was the answer for the cache. An excellent and unexpected place, one we wouldn’t have visited except for our own self-invented Sandhurst-Sandhurst quest. Thank you, National Trust, for looking after both Clump and Barn. https://www.britainexpress.com/counties/oxfordshire/properties/great-coxwell-barn.htm

From the barn, we walked on through pleasant, prosperous Great Coxwell. Our next destination was St Giles church, on

St Giles Church, Great Coxwell

St Giles Church, Great Coxwell

the far edge of the village, and the basis of a Church Micro cache. Somewhere in the churchyard, which is managed as a nature reserve, was the item which would give us the coordinates for the cache. I say ‘somewhere’ because we simply didn’t realise that we had the coordinates, and we wandered round and round the churchyard before we found our target. We made equally heavy weather of finding the cache too, spending about 20 minutes minutely examining a stone wall before spotting something that was obvious all along. Doh!

We left the village across an area marked as ‘Faringdon Golf Club’, but this closed in 2015 and has now been reclaimed by nature. We spotted one of the tees but there is surprisingly little left to see. https://www.derelictplaces.co.uk/main/leisure-sites/34301-faringdon-oxfordshire-golf-course-closed-autumn-15-a.html#.W2biKtJKjIU

We emerged onto the A420, a suddenly busy, noisy place with loads of traffic. About now, Mr Hg137 said it was time for lunch, and nominated a nearby bus stop as the place to eat it. To be fair, there was a seat, and it was in the shade, but, really, it wasn’t the best view. We chose our moment and crossed the busy road, then followed the Vale Way through Little Coxwell and down a hot concrete track towards Longcot http://www.ramblers-oxon.org.uk/thevaleway/valeway.htm There was just one cache along here, where the track crossed a river. We were expecting rather more from the mighty River Ock, but it’s a dried up dribbly little stream right now!

The mighty River Ock

The mighty River Ock


We continued to Longcot – by heck, it was getting really, really hot now – and sat down for a rest. We heard a distant chime … a small boy ran out … and an ice cream van pulled up. How could we refuse? My strawberry mivvi was awesome, and Mr Hg137 enjoyed his icecream, too.

Longcot isn’t a big village, and we were soon out in the fields again, going southwards towards the distant line of the Ridgeway. Our next cache was easy to find, hidden by a gate between fields. Two women and their dogs were walking towards us, so we signed the log quickly and tried to move on … but we couldn’t get the gate open. It had a super-improved latch, which we struggled to open. Getting through eventually, we got chatting to the dog walkers, who turned out to be the owners of the land, and who had modified the latch to make sure that the gate is closed properly. We considered thanking them for allowing the placement of geocaches on their land, then thought again as that’s backfired on us before, so we kept quiet.


The previous cache, and the next half-dozen, form part of the ‘Longcot Loop’ series, which leads all the way to Uffington. We followed the cache series, first along the course of the ‘Darcy Dalton Way https://www.walkingenglishman.com/ldp/darcydaltonway.html , then turning away to head more directly for Uffington. Part way along here we found our 2400th cache and celebrated with some warm, chewy, soft Haribos. Though it was much too hot, around 28C, it was all going well…

… Until it all went wrong. We had been following a very well marked, if arid path, across parched grass and through cracked, dusty fields, through gates and over stiles and bridges. We crossed a stile through a hedge, and came up against … a head-high wire fence, with grazing llamas eyeing us indifferently. We couldn’t go forward, so what to do? We edged slowly between the hedge and the fence and emerged at a farm building with loads of chickens.

Llamas ...

Llamas …


... and chickens

… and chickens

Rounding the chicken shed, we were in a farmyard somewhere where the footpath *should* have emerged, with those llamas eyeing us again. But we couldn’t find it. After some fruitless searching, we knocked on the door of the farmhouse and asked directions. Based on that information, we did some more searching, but just couldn’t find a way out among fields of head high rape, ready for harvest, and electric fences around fields of horses. We returned to the farmyard. The farmer had returned, and he suggested we walk down the drive to the road and thence to Uffington. He was polite enough, but I think he didn’t really want us there, and we had already been there for an hour and we wanted to be somewhere else too.

Down the drive we went, along the road for a bit, then found another footpath – a real one this time – and were soon in Uffington, quite a bit later than intended. (Editor’s note: phew! Got there at last!) We stopped by the large church of St Mary’s http://www.uffington.net/visitor-info/church-history and collected the information we needed for the Church Micro, hidden elsewhere in the village. There was just time for (another) drink of water before a hot drive home.

St Mary's Church, Uffington

St Mary’s Church, Uffington


Here, as ever, are some of the caches we found:

June 8 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Fairford to Lechlade

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Fairford Church - St Mary's

Fairford Church – St Mary’s


After a gap of four weeks, we returned to our epic walk from Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) home to Sandhurst (Berkshire). This section was quite a short one, between Fairford and Lechlade, mostly through the Cotswold Water Park.

Parking one geocar in a layby near Lechlade, we stopped just long enough to find a cache there, then drove to Fairford in the other geocar. There’s a superb free car park close to the church, so we parked there and started our journey by crossing the road to visit St Mary’s Church. It’s a big church, funded by the wool trade, with superb medieval stained glass windows, the only complete set in the country https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairford_stained_glass Our plan was to collect information needed to solve the Church Micro cache associated with the church, have a quick look at the glass, find the cache, and be on our way. It didn’t quite work out like that …

Entering the church, a steward handed us an audio guide which detailed all sorts of things about the windows and the church. It would take well over an hour to see everything – there are 28 windows, and other things. But we needed to get on, and get walking. We compromised and looked at a few selected windows, found the information and left. (Editor’s note: we didn’t have time to do justice to this church interior but it is very well worth visiting and spending a while just looking at the windows; each one contains a wealth of detail and symbolism well covered in the audio guide.)

Leaving the church, we went to look for the cache, which was located very close to where the car was parked. Or should have been. Some nettle stings later, we abandoned our search, and finally set off. Oh dear, it was rather later in the day than we had intended. We walked through the town, skirted some building work, and set out along the track of an abandoned railway, now a path http://www.fairfordbranch.co.uk/Fairford.htm There’s a cache along here too, one from the ‘Sidetracked’ series. (Editor’s note: geocaches really do help with finding a route, we would have struggled to find this path without that location to guide us.)

After a bit, we reached the water park and followed a selection of paths leading round the lakes. Once again, it didn’t go to plan … the lakes are still being dug out, so the map doesn’t match what is on the ground … and we couldn’t find several of the caches we were looking for. They were part of a series planted by a local Scout troop to get their geocaching badge, but we suspect that the interest wanes a bit once the badge is achieved, and the caches aren’t maintained as well as they could have been.

Some day soon, this will be houses ...

Some day soon, this will be houses …


After some bumbling about we arrived at the edge of a housing development in progress, https://www.thelakesbyyoo.com There was a footpath somewhere, but we couldn’t spot it, and there were forbidding signs warning of dire consequences for any trangression. We approached a Gurkha security officer, asked the way, and were efficiently, promptly, and politely given a map (maybe we weren’t the first to ask). Emboldened, we set off, talked our way past some burly security guards, using the map as a talisman, clambered through a live building area, close to a digger, waving the map as a pass, and found our way onto a road leading through the already-built bit of the estate. There were some very large and very expensive houses here, but it didn’t do it for me: some of the lakes were a rather strange colour, and the buildings were a bit “Thames Valley Park” meets “Center Parcs”. I was glad when we emerged onto the Thames and Severn Way, leading us towards Lechlade.
Strange water colour?

Strange water colour?


Almost immediately we were finding caches from another series, the SSS / Seven Stile Stroll, which led us nicely into Lechlade, with only one failure among the five we attempted. Part way along the path we stopped for a welcome coffee break – we couldn’t stop in the building site/housing estate – and watched a small number of escaped sheep frolicking at the other side of the field. They spotted us, became embarrassed, and sheepishly slunk back to their field …
Lechlade

Lechlade


The path ended at the edge of Lechlade and we were soon in the town centre, it’s not a huge place. There are some quirky things to be seen – an all-year round Christmas shop, and a five foot high blue fibreglass hare being just two of them. A large blue hare? Why? Dunno. We went to the church, had a quick look inside – very pleasant, but not on the scale of Fairford – then worked out the answer for the Lechlade Church Micro which was, of course, a place that we had passed as we walked into the town. Then it was just a short walk along a tree-lined path out of town and we were back at the geocar; we’d been here before in March 2015 when we were walking the Thames Path.
It's Christmas all year in Lechlade....

It’s Christmas all year in Lechlade….


... and giant blue hares live in Lechalade too...

… and giant blue hares live in Lechalade too…


We drove back to Fairford to collect the other geocar. We were, once again, very close to the first cache of the day, which we didn’t find earlier. Once again, we braved the nettles. And this time we found a cache! (Editor’s note: when logging the cache, we found that it had been replaced, during the day, with the cache owner’s permission, so we hadn’t missed it on our first visit.)

And here, as ever, are some of the caches we found:

May 26 : Farewell to Chester

Before we left Chester for our drive home, we had some unfinished business in Chester.

“An Elephant Never Forgets..and you have some unfound caches near the zoo”

Within yards of the hotel was a cache we had not attempted all week. We had walked past it several times, but had never loaded it in our GPS. Our gut instinct was that the cache was one side of the road, perhaps magnetically attached to a sign. On the same side of the road were some small bushes and trees, again, ideal hiding material.

Imagine our surprise when the GPS locked onto the bus stop furniture on the other side of the road. No-one waiting, so we quickly furtled in and around the bus stop (Ed : are we the only people that use the word ‘furtle’, meaning to ‘poke around’ – its not in any online dictionary!!!) . After a couple of minutes Mrs Hg137 found the small magnetic nano. Then we read the title and description ‘OTB3 Olive Rudge’. The cache owner had set a mini series of 7 caches based on character from the 1960s/1970s ITV Comedy ‘On The Buses’! The bus stop made perfect sense.

Farewell hotel, hello cache!

Our last three caches in Chester were near the Zoo. We parked in the zoo car park, ahead of many of the Saturday morning visitors. Our first target was a 6-stage multi we had investigated 5 days previously. We had the first 4 clues correct, but the other two, in a small nature reserve nearby were baffling. One of the stages needed a sign, which had recently been removed (we could see the groundholes), and the other asked us a question for which the answer was not obvious. So with two unknowns we weren’t fancying our chances. However a bit of reasoned logic, discounting obvious arithmetic anomalies (anything above eleven minus two will not yield a one digit number!) we gave ourselves 4 coordinates to try.

The first was in the warthog house.. unlikely ! The second was promising as it was in the zoo car park by some trees. Nothing there. The third location took us to somewhere where the hint made sense…we just had to be the correct side of a fence! And there it was… a large cache hidden in an apt container! Even with two unknown answers we had found the cache! Yippee!

“The Zoo is Open” and so is the cache!

We crossed the car park to a footpath – actually a cycleway called the Pink Route – as it is one of 11 cycleways emanating from Chester each named after a colour.

The Pink Route.. is very Green

Our success at the previous cache had gone to our heads as the very descriptive hint ‘Half way down the slope on a large tree trunk with some regrowth covered in ivy , at head height’ made no initial sense. We clambered around until we found the tree in question. Even with two pairs of eyes our search of the tree was fruitless. Then, as many caches are, we looked at a very specific angle and saw the cache wedged in its hidey-hole.

We signed the log, took photos, and headed back towards the zoo.

We went underneath the zoo’s train lines and drew level with the rhinoceros enclosure. We could just see, through two types of fence a small baby rhino… the one that was born just a week before! Just as we were about to search for our last cache of our holiday Mrs Hg137 realised she was no longer wearing her sun hat. (One she had owned for over 30 years). She was wearing it earlier, but where was it now ? We quickly found the cache, signed the log and retreated our steps carefully.

Found the cache, but can we find a missing hat?

We were about halfway back along the Pink Route when a man said he had seen our hat a bit further on.. Phew! We walked on, a little faster, and saw the hat… and another man approaching it. Fortunately he also realised it was Mrs Hg137’s hat and gave it to us. We chatted and as it turned out he was also a geocacher so had an inkling as to what we had found !

We could have driven home at that point, but we wanted one more look at the zoo. The entrance to Chester Zoo is staggered, after buying a ticket there is a wide concourse – where presumably large parties gather – before reaching the actual turnstile. We could wander into this concourse, and look into the first exhibit…the ELEPHANTS !

Spot the one week old elephant!

We had a great view – without paying remember – of all the elephants including the week-old elephant which no doubt will appear in the next series of Channel 4’s ‘The Secret Life of the Zoo’ . We were also entertained by zoo keepers parading dressed up as a giraffe! A fun end to a great week!