July 13 : The South Bank, London

July 13th is a special day for us. (Our caching name is hg137). To celebrate this year, a trip to London was planned.

The Globe


We had tickets to see ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the Globe Theatre. The Globe is about 3/4 mile from Waterloo Station so it seemed a good excuse to find a couple of London caches too.

Welcome to the South Bank


On our last visit to London, way back in December 2016, we had started a multi-cache, but never finished it. The multi required finding a paving stone on the South Bank, near Waterloo, locating a particular engraved key word, and using it to convert to numerical co-ordinates.

We scoured our photos before we left, and worked out the co-ordinates and discovered the cache was hidden on our route to the Globe.

Great views across the Thames


The South Bank, on a hot Saturday in July is busy. Mainly tourists, but a good mixture of Londoners out and about.

A large second-hand book market, a group of morning joggers, another group of cyclists. An array of street performers, from singers, to bespoke poets, to a floating Yoda.

A Selection of Street Entertainers

Ordinarily caching is hard when people are watching, but with so many people around – all doing their own ‘unusual’ thing, leaning over a parapet to find a magnetic nano is natural.

Its Busy !


Our second cache, closer to the Tate Modern, was similarly easy. A well defined hint and cache title ‘Squeezed in at the Tate’ and we could see GZ well before we arrived. A quick swoop down (well an exaggerated shoe-lace tie), and we were soon signing the log.

The area around the Tate Modern was particularly busy as a new exhibition had opened days before https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/olafur-eliasson , and many people were crossing the Millennium Bridge and not walking along the South Bank.

A few yards further on, we arrived at the Globe. The Globe was opened in 1997, and founded and built by actor/director Sam Wanamaker. The names of many of the project’s contributors can be seen as paving stones around the theatre concourse. (Technically the theatre complex is known as Shakespeare’s Globe, to differentiate it from the original Shakespearean building pulled down by the Puritans in the 1640s.). We had a multi to complete which would take us between the two Globes.

The Original Globe was here!

While the modern building is busy with people, the older building, or rather a few information boards and a cobbled pavement was much, much quieter enabling a quick find.

We still had an hour before our matinee performance so we headed back to the Tate Modern. We ate lunch on one of the many seats, and wandered inside. We were expecting to see some artworks in the ‘hall’ area, but all the free/paid for exhibits are now on various different levels.

Turbine Hall, Tate Modern


Instead of heading back to the Globe, we hatched a plan. We would sit on a seat, near to, but not overlooking the cache ‘Squeezed in at the Tate’ which we found earlier. Would anyone visit it while we watched ? Typically this cache, especially on a Summer Saturday, has 5 or 6 finders so we might be lucky.

A person approached slowly…was he a cacher…nope, he was using a nearby rubbish bin.
Hang on.. what about these two. Clearly they are together, they are walking in unison, both looking at some electronic equipment and…what an elegant swoop (far better than Mr Hg137’s shoe-lace tying). We had waited probably 3 minutes and 2 cachers came by! We went over to introduce ourselves and we had a chat. Welcome to London Dombies and Topanga_ugh !

Dombies and Topanga_ugh


They were part of the crew from a Belgian ship moored near HMS Belfast, so we said goodbye to our new Belgian friends to have a look at their ship.

Can you see the Belgian Ship nestling behind HMS Belfast ?

The South Bank had got busier, and it took us longer to walk there than we imagined.. so we just had time to take a quick photo before rushing back to the Globe arriving minutes before the performance started. Unsurprisingly a well acted, very funny production and one that made our day very special.

We couldn’t take pictures while the play was on, so this was the band warming up, the three seating tiers (we were in one of them) and some of the ‘groundlings’ who stood for the whole performance.

Inside the Globe


Welcome to the Band!

A cracking day out…Shakespeare, the Globe, 3 caches and 2 Belgian cachers!

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June 22 : Mattingley

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.


Today was a day off from walking the South Downs Way; it was the local gardening summer show, and we needed to stage our entries in the morning (photos, plus one token flower), then to return, late afternoon, to collect our winnings (we hoped). It was a glorious sunny summer’s day and we decided on a short, local caching trip to fill in the space in between.

There are lots of newish caches north of Hartley Wintney and Hook, which can be divided up into several circuits. We chose a set of fifteen caches starting and finishing at Mattingley church, looping out north and west to Hound Green. We parked outside the church, as it seemed to be the best (only) place to park in the whole village. Our first cache was the nearby Church Micro. The church is an interesting wooden-beamed, herringbone-bricked structure, which seems, Tardis-like, to be much bigger on the inside than on the outside. The clues to the actual cache can be answered by looking around in the churchyard and the final cache container is a short walk away under the gaze of many curious cows, both large and small.

Mattingley church

Mattingley church


Our next cache was a short walk along a lane, hidden behind a bus shelter. But not simply a bus stop, and not something we have seen elsewhere … it is also a war memorial, and some of the names mentioned in this shelter are the same as those also commemorated inside the church. https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/190775


Our walk continued with a short, noisy walk, and not much fun along the B3349, and we were very glad to leave the road and turn up a track, with another cache to mark the exit from the road. The track became a path, the path became narrower, and overgrown with brambles and head high nettles. We arrived at a broken stile and clambered over it with various amounts of elegance and grace (it was a bit high for me, so I managed neither!) And then we realised that the way to find the next cache was to balance on the top rail of the broken stile and reach far, far up. Mr Hg137 tried this – he is taller than me – but all the reaching and searching didn’t find us the cache. Our only failure of the day, as it happened ☹

Spot the stile!  In the middle of the 'path'!

Spot the stile! In the middle of the ‘path’!


We bushwhacked our way along, and the vegetation got less as we entered some woods. (Phew, it would have been very hard work if it had been like that last bit all the way round the route!) We found several more caches, swapped a trackable, and were just leaving the last of these when we espied a walker coming from the opposite direction. He asked if we were geocachers. It was pretty obvious that we were, so we fessed up. And, from the map he was carrying, it was also obvious that he was a cacher, too. Nice to meet you, Uncle E! It’s a while since we’ve bumped into any cachers except at meets. We swapped tales about the route, then went our way, leaving him to tackle the nettles and brambles.

Emerging onto a minor road at Hound Green, we admired the village noticeboard. A little way along a quiet lane, another cache marked the place where we were to turn back into the fields. We walked through head high barley, so much softer than stingers and thorns, then reached the edge of a cool, dark wood and plunged in, looking for yet another cache. Uncle E did not find this cache and we made very hard work of it, too. We left the path to search in the woods much too early, while we SHOULD have continued along the path till we were as close as possible before diving in. Every single tree looked alike, and had a pile of sticks at the base, but we got as close as the GPS would let us, then eventually found the cache under some weeny stickoflage. But we found it!

At the other end of the wood was another cache, much more easily found, then on, around field edges, towards a farm (a clue may have been the cache name – ‘farm view’ !). It was obvious where we were intended to go as there were ‘Private’ and ‘Keep Out’ signs stuck on every other possible turning; previous cache logs have said that the landowner isn’t friendly. On reaching the farm buildings, we were directed round a complex series of kissing gates, stiles, turnings, back and forth, round and round, till we reached the far side of the farm, just a few yards from where we had started. We felt we weren’t wanted here. (Editor’s note: we would have been away from that farm and out of the landowner’s way more quickly if we could simply have walked along the natural line of the path down the farm drive.)


It was now a straight walk of about a mile and a half back to Mattingley, along the edges of fields and across a little stream. The cache names describe it well – ‘Mossy’ – ‘Green Fields’ – Hawthorn Row’. Then we emerged into the lane that led to the church and arrived back at the geocar. We had left one final cache for the day, ‘Mattingley Church’, to provide a point to navigate back to if we had got lost, and it turned out that we had parked almost on top of the cache! The car provided cover while we searched, finding a tiny, tiny container unobtrusively concealed in a tree.

And what of our entries in the show? Our carefully chosen photographs won no prizes; the token flower, picked just before we set out – won its class!

And here are some of the caches and other items we found on our way:

A geocoin:

Wood geocoin

Wood geocoin

And some caches:

May 19 : South Downs Way : Washington to Botolphs

The Washington to Botolphs section of the South Downs Way, is about 7 miles, of which the first mile or two is up quite a steep slope to Chanctonbury Ring, and then the remaining five miles is all down hill!
We were still staying just a few miles away with HF Holidays, which meant we were parking our destination car shortly after 9. The relatively spacious layby at Botolphs on the A283 was practically full at this time! Fortunately though we squeezed a car into the layby, and drove our other car back to the start at Washington.

Our target… Chanctonbury Ring

A steep ascent up to Chanctonbury Ring awaited us, but partway up we had a cache to find. It was a multi, which we thought we had resolved before setting off. Part of the ‘Sussex Trig Point’ series, it involved working out the co-ordinates based on the metal numbered ‘base plate’ fixed to the trig point. These base plate numbers can be found using Google, and it was a good that we used that tool before we set off, as we wouldn’t have liked the long walk back downhill if we had attempted the cache without the aid of the internet.

Sadly for us, we didn’t find the cache. It was supposed to be an ammo can, hidden under sticks. There were lots of piles of sticks, logs and leaf litter for us to rummage around, but after 15 minutes we gave up. During that time we’d been asked by three separate SDW walkers what we were doing, and disturbed a tiny wren.

Near to the top of Chanctonbury Ring, and yards from the trig point is a Dew pond. This was also our first find of the day and part of the ‘Ponds, Dew Ponds and Lakes of Sussex’ series of caches. We paused for coffee – fully merited by the steep ascent – and attempted to dry out the wet log sheet on a nearby hawthorn bush.
As we stood drinking, various dog walkers passed by and each of the canines charged to the lip of the pond expecting to run into, and drink from, a pond full of water. Sadly the pond was dry, and we could see each of the dog’s faces droop when their anticipated water reward was not forthcoming.

A cache.. and a dry dew pond!


The reason the Dew Pond was dry, was, we discovered from one of the dog walkers, that the South Downs Authority have established a few of the dew-ponds as ‘wildlife havens’ by planting bushes around the outside. A great idea, but the roots of the bushes extract what little water the Dew Pond holds. Meaning that there is little water to see at the surface.

Chanctonbury Ring Trig Point


Our highpoint, Chanctonbury Ring, was clearly visible. Although it is a few yards away from the SDW we walked inside the prominent tree feature. Planted as a series of concentric rings back in 1760, by the then land-owner Charles Goring, the rings are very dark and allegedly haunted.

Inside Chanctonbury Ring

Various legends abound about the ring … if you walk anti-clockwise around the ring 7 times on a moonless night, the Devil will appear and serve you porridge. Alternatively if you count all the trees Julius Caesar will appear or thirdly, if you run clockwise around the trees three times a lady on a white horse will appear and you can ride down! I know which I’d prefer!

Sadly the trees today are not the original trees. The Great Storm of October 1987 blew down every tree at the summit and for a few years the top was tree-less. Since then the Goring family have replanted, and the trees visible are the result of the planting 30 years ago.

Farewell Chanctonbury Ring

A little further down the hill from Chanctonbury ring was another cache. This one tucked into a small, less-imposing copse which we took an age to find. The GPS wobbled, there were several hint items, but eventually we found the cache.

Our long downhill awaited, punctuated by many caches in very quick succession. These were all marked as ‘letter box’ caches and each contained a stamp and some ink as well as a log book. Most were relatively small in size, but all were part of a ‘Sealed with a Loving Kiss’ series. Each of the caches was named after a stamp from around the world. We found caches named after an 1852 25 centime Blue, Louis Napoleon from France, an 1871 Telegraph stamp from Brazil, a 1913 Albanian stamp and many more. It would fun to Google these stamps and see the differences across the world (but with over 150 caches in the full series, this could take some time!). We found 15 ‘stamp caches’ during the day so there are many more for us to find. (It should have been 16 but one of the stiles, used as a hiding place for one of the caches, was being used for a rambler’s lunch, so we didn’t even try finding the cache!)

A Rocket Stamp

We paused ourselves for lunch next to a cache. As we ate, a group of Duke of Edinburgh teenagers stopped. Paused for a drink and walked on. We chatted with them, they were aiming for Cissbury Ring (an ancient Iron Age hill-fort a few miles away). We wished them well…little did we know our paths would touch again later…

Duke of Edinburgh Group heading to Cissbury Ring
(we have deliberately blanked a face).

One of the few other non-stamp caches we found was another ‘Trig Series’ multi. Here, the Trig Point was no longer accessible to read the ‘base plate’ so the cache owner provided the final co-ordinates without us having to do any arithmetical calculations. The final cache was adjacent to a farmer’s field, where the farming team were busy penning, and sorting, sheep. It was a little distance from the South Downs Way and as we turned away a small animal – we guess a stoat – ran across our path. We were grateful of the diversion, as another stamp cache awaited us at a busy memorial ‘bench’ which we passed by, but minutes later as we returned, was free for us to pause for a welcome drink.

Memorial to Walter and Mollie Langmead

The next mile or so of our walk skirted around Steyning Bowl, a dry chalk bowl presumably gouged by the last Ice Age.

Looking across Steyning Bowl…

… and the top of the bowl in the other direction

Part way along, we had an Earthcache to answer. Unusually the questions were not geared around the geology of the area, but of the agriculture (or lack of!), and industry. Besides the agriculture of crop growing, we were yards away from a large, noisy pig farm. Sty upon sty, sow upon sow, piglet upon piglet. Some running around, most lying down, resting. Never have we seen so many pigs!


We descended further until the track gave way to a tarmac road, and here we spotted several sheets of paper lying by the roadside. We picked them up, as they looked important. They were. Described over a number of sheets of paper was a Duke of Edinburgh expedition from Botolphs to Cissbury Ring. It belonged to the DoE party we saw earlier!

There was a contact number on the sheets, which we phoned. The organisers said that the group had just finished and admitted to their crime (!) and asked us to shred the sheets, which we did.

Peaceful River Adur


Our final mile was walking along the River Adur, and here we found our last ‘stamp’ cache, and a tiny nano hidden around the Adur footbridge.

A great 7 mile walk – with loads of caches, lots of myths, legends and… pigs! Oink ! Oink ! Oink !

April 20 : Leicester

We were in Leicester attending a 10 game 2 day Scrabble event. Mrs Hg137 lived near Leicester for many years, and knew many of the Scrabblers at the tournament, so it was a good couple of days catching up with old friends as well as taxing our brains.

College Court Conference Centre


When the Scrabble had finished, and our brains were recovering from the hard work-out, we went geocaching before we drove home.

The College Court Conference Centre, was surrounded by lots of mid-20th houses so we were expecting deviously hidden nanos and micros. We were not disappointed!

We were though disappointed to get a DNF at our first cache!

Our brains must have been asleep. We couldn’t find the cache…there were two trees to check, several signposts, a green communications box and much, more besides. The cache site was on a corner of two streets with several houses overlooking our search area. Despite looking hard, we gave up after 15 minutes searching, and moved on.

Criss-crossing one of Leicester’s suburbs the next cache site was in an alleyway. One muggle came by, but otherwise the alley was quiet. Alleys are notoriously difficult to search as generally they are busy thoroughfares, with few sightlines of oncoming people, and of course are near to houses.

After inspecting the obvious host for several minutes, it was only once we had peered at the street furniture on hands and knees did we spot the hidey-hole.

Phew! Our brains were recovering!

The third cache was near the entrance to a park. We could hear a bowls match going on behind a hedge, the swings and slides in the park though were unused. (It was a very hot afternoon, so the lack of people was no surprise). The hiding place, well indicated by the hint, took some finding. Again we spent a few minutes of fruitless hunting, until we took a step back and noticed the cache from afar! Strategic placement of Mrs Hg137’s handbag made the retrieval unseen by a passing muggle. (Why do muggles always appear at the crucial moment?)

And so onto our final cache. It was named after a former Lido, sited nearby. (A shame, as it was such a hot day a Lido would have been very, very tempting). Here we discovered the estate’s roads were named after towns on the Isle of Wight. As we wandered along, watching the GPS distance dropping with every footstep, we thought about our various holidays on the Isle of Wight and what we had seen in each town.

A relatively quick find awaited us – fortunate as two men and four dogs appeared from nowhere while we were signing the log!

We’d found three caches out of four, but the journey home was a celebratory one as we had both done rather well in the preceding Scrabble tournament. Mr Hg137 had finished well above his start position in Division A, and Mrs Hg137 had finished 2nd in Division B. Only the one DNF spoiled our fun…so it will be a target for us if we return for the Scrabble tournament next year!

March 8 South Downs Way : Winchester to Cheesefoot Head

Back in 2011, a year before we started geocaching, we walked, over a period of 6 months, the 100-mile long distance footpath – The South Downs Way. Since then, Mr Hg137 has been asked on numerous occasions to give a one hour talk on our walk and our photos have proved invaluable. However, we were aware those photos are 8 years old!

Winchester Cathedral

So this year we intend to revisit the South Downs Way, review our pictures and our knowledge and, of course, find some caches too!

The South Downs Way runs from the Roman/Saxon city of Winchester to the Seven Sisters at Eastbourne. Our first caching tour would take us around Winchester’s Centre and then a short 3 mile walk to Cheesefoot Head.

Winchester City Centre is relatively small but packed with treasures. At one end of the High Street is the Great Hall (hosting an imitation Arthurian Round Table). Halfway down the same street is St Swithun’s Cathedral and at the end furthest from the Great Hall, King Alfred’s Statue.

Looking down on Winchester

Our caching trip started on the outskirts of the City with elevated views along the High Street. Two simple caches (one under a seat, the other in tree roots). We also found in the general vicinity one of two puzzle caches we had solved. This puzzle consisted of three (straightforward-ish) logic puzzles to derive the final co-ordinates.. and then the fun started. The cache could only be opened by unscrewing the container revealing a hidden maze! Fortunately a nearby seat meant we could sit down during our 20 minute attempt!

After 20 minutes the cache was open..now we have to put it back!


Down at the High Street, we paused by the Museum/Mill where the South Downs Way officially starts. Back in 2011 we had been perturbed as there was no official start point, but this has since been rectified.

Winchester Museum/Mill

Nearby is King Alfred’s Statue. Erected in 1899 to mark the centenary of the warrior king’s death, the 17 foot statue stands on a two granite bases. The different types of granite form the basis of an Earthcache, which we managed to successfully answer.

King Alfred

We had a three more caches to find in the City Centre including another simple puzzle cache (found in a less-than-exciting car park) and a beautiful snail cache close to Winchester Cathedral.

A Snail for a Diver!

This cache was a tribute to the Diver, William Walker. Between 1906 and 1911 he dived 20 feet every day in water under the sinking Cathedral foundations and laid 25,000 bags of concrete, 115,000 concrete blocks and 900.000 bricks. This enabled the excess water to the drained, and the Cathedral re-stabilised. Without his work the Cathedral would probably have fallen down during the 20th Century.

Our final City Centre cache was in the busy High Street. Full of shoppers and tourists. The cache was placed exceedingly high (only Mr Hg137 could reach it), so it was almost impossible to grab it in a nonchalant manner.

There are more caches in the City Centre, many of them puzzles, but 7 finds seemed a reasonable reward for a morning’s exploring the ancient City.

We lunched in a park near King Alfred before setting out on our re-walking of the South Downs Way. Ominously, the skies had become more overcast but we were confident we could walk the 3 miles before the forecast rain was due.

The Start of the South Downs Way


The South Downs Way leads away from the Museum/Mill following the banks of the River Itchen. A very pleasant river, bubbling along between gardens on one bank and ancient Roman walls and Wolvesey Castle on the other.

River Itchen


The remaining Roman Walls of Winchester

Wolvesey Castle, Home of Winchester Bishops

When we walked the path in 2011 we knew we went wrong on this part of the walk and today we understood why. A South Downs Way signpost, set slightly back from our path pointed us away from the river at a very subtle angle. No wonder we missed it before. We walked on, and took a slight diversion to a cunningly concealed cache on a bridge over the River Itchen.

Back on the South Downs Way we had a mile of street walking. A mile we were dreading.

Probably the least scenic mile on the South Downs Way !

By and large the South Downs way is a scenic route…but there is one mile along a residential street – and not the most attractive one either! (This is one of the reasons we recommend walking the South Downs Way from Winchester..it gets this road out of the way early on, rather than the last mile!)

The road leads to the M3, and a small bridge. But as we arrived, the rain started. Should we walk for 20 minutes to our car in Winchester or press on for 45 minutes to our car at Cheesefoot Head ? We choose the latter and regretted the decision for the rest of the walk.

At last ! Beautiful Countryside…in the Rain!


What should have been views of light-rolling chalk downland was instead wet-slippery chalk shrouded in low cloud mist. To compound our misery, our final cache of the day – the first genuine South Downs Way cache – had gone missing.

A rather wet Mr Hg137


The rain was so heavy we decided against visiting Chilcomb Church to attempt a 3 stage Church Micro, and also the cache hidden yards from our car at Cheesefoot Head. That cache will wait for our next expedition.

Last view of Winchester


So our 2019 quest has started – revisiting a walk we undertook 8 years ago. As yet no South Downs Caches found, but we did enjoy the variety and history of Winchester before we left.

Some of the caches we found included :

February 9 : Brainwork needed for National Series caches in Bagshot

Bagshot is only a few miles from home, we’d never cached there and with Storm Erik due to blow in bad weather later, it seemed the ideal place to go.

St Anne’s Church, Bagshot


We were attempting 6 caches and all of them (unusually) were part of National Series :

– 2 were Church Micro caches (numbers 186 and 1326)
– 1 was a War Memorial cache (number 618)
– 1 was a Postcode cache (number 90)
– 1 was a Drinking Fountain/Trough (number 26)

The Centre of Bagshot

Of the six caches only one was a standard cache (the post code cache). The coordinates for this were very exact, and – apart from being in a very public space,opposite a supermarket on a Saturday morning (!) – should have been a straightforward find. It did though take us two attempts to find the magnetic nano hidden under some street furniture.

Where is this ?


Two of the other caches were mystery caches. One (the Drinking Fountain) involved finding a Drinking Fountain/Trough in Bagshot – from a picture, and then finding a cache nearby. Mr Hg137 has driven by the Trough on many occasions, but had never seen it! (Probably concentrating on his driving … is his excuse!)

The other mystery cache was one of the Church Micros. The only information we had, was that the cache was within 100 metres of the supplied coordinates. We both walked 100 metres in opposite directions searching any appropriate hiding place. When we met up minutes later, we hadn’t found the cache. Mrs Hg137 had then read a few logs, and this sparked Mr Hg137’s brain into overdrive as suddenly the hint became clear. Disappointingly Mr Hg137 had been very close to the cache minutes before.. and while Mrs Hg137 was still mentioning other logs, Mr Hg137 purposefully strode to the cache!

A pleasant change from pavements!


The three other caches were multis. Two were very simple – visit one location transcribe a few numbers, calculate a new set of coordinates.

Bagshot’s War Memorial

Simple! Well, simple for one cache… as it led down a small footpath to a quick find.

St Anne’s Chapel


As for the other simple cache…our maths was correct…but our transcription was wrong. We misread a digit from a gravestone and walked half a mile looking for a non-existent cache. We tried a simple correction, without re-visiting the graveyard, but this yielded nothing, so in the end we walked back the graveyard and discovered the true correction to our error. Grr!

The cache is definitely NOT here!


The remaining multi cache (the Village Hall) was a six stage multi. We were able to see from the geocache waypoint map, where many of the stages were, and this enabled us to combine the stages with two other caches. We did cheat a bit with the six stage multi, as we never looked for stage 1 (!). It required extracting two dates, but because the cache owner had provided a handy checksum we could make an educated guess for the final hiding place. We were right!

St Anne’s Village Hall, Bagshot

So a brain-achy morning in Bagshot – lots of calculations, lots of ‘where would we hide a cache’, and all complete before Storm Erik blew through!

Three of the caches we found were :

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!