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 18 : River Thames : Remenham and Hambleden Lock

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Temple Island

Temple Island


In 2015 we walked, and cached, the Thames Path from source to sea, but had rarely visited since. After a few days short of five years we returned to Remenham, to walk the big loop of river north of Henley, then returning across the fields. The seventeen cache ‘Round The Bend’ cache series covers this area, and there are also a few other caches along the way.

There’s a small car park opposite Remenham church, within a car’s length of our first cache, one from the ‘Victoria’s Post Box’ series. An inspection of the plate on the postbox gave us some numbers. Next, a Church Micro cache based on Remenham church; we went into the neat, tidy churchyard to collect another set of numbers from noticeboards and gravestones. We turned both those sets of numbers into coordinates. And we had yet a third set of coordinates, from the puzzle cache ‘Frog Logic’ which we had solved a few days earlier (gosh, we looked at a load of frogs to solve that). So that gave us three locations, all in different directions … we worked out a ‘best’ route and went off to find all three. (Editor’s note: one of those three cache containers did make us smile, but we can’t give away which one!)

Eventually, we reached the riverbank, and turned north, following the line of the Henley rowing course back to its start by Temple Island. There’s a plaque there, to mark the start, and it was new to us as it has been placed since 2015 when we last came this way https://www.henleystandard.co.uk/news/henley-on-thames/131856/marble-plaque-marks-royal-regatta-start-line.html A lovely wooden boat was moored right by the plaque, among a few similar ones flying lots of flags and pennants; the owner asked us several times if we wanted to take his picture, we didn’t know why. We found out a little while later what they were all doing …

We walked by more of these smart boats and found another cache. A passing muggle remarked …”so good to see them here” … and we looked again. The clue was in the ADLS written on the stern of one of the boats, plus the plaques on the sides – these were a group of Dunkirk Little Ships, out for an informal get-together. Lovely to see them all. (Editor’s note: some of them do look awfully small to be ferrying people around in the English Channel…)

Dunkirk Little Ships

Dunkirk Little Ships


We looked up the names of some of the little ships; the one furthest downstream was L’Orage; quite a famous boat, it seems, which used to belong to Raymond Baxter, presenter of Tomorrow’s World and founder of the Little Ships association https://www.adls.org.uk/adls
L'Orage

L’Orage


We approached our next cache, the third in the ‘Round The Bend’ series. It’s not often a muggle tells you where to find a cache – but GZ was within feet of where a boat was moored and the owner told us ‘someone was here about an hour ago’ before giving exact directions to the location of the cache. Signing the log, we realised we were following ‘babystarling’ around the circuit, they must have been the previous visitors. We never (knowingly) caught up with them, but their logs showed they enjoyed this series too.

Mooove along!

Mooove along!


The river bent slowly round to the east, and the towpath became a long, thin field. We worked our way along the towpath/field, visiting a well-used cattle trough (to find a cache, not for a drink!), and then dodging ever fresher cowpats as we continued. A herd of placid black cows, presumably the source of the plops, moooved slowly past us, heading for Henley.

As the bend in the river continued and turned south, we reached Hambleden Lock. We found a seat away from the path to eat our picnic lunch while watching the world go by. We saw a lock-full of boats going upstream (including a Dunkirk Little Ship going to meet its friends), then watched the lock fill again with boats galore going downstream, including a canoe. A footpath crosses the lock, and the walkers, runners and cyclists using the path must wait while the lock gates open. It was like a cross between Cowes Week and the Tour de France all at once, bikes, boats and people everywhere. (Editor’s note: we realised how unused we’ve become to seeing lots of people all together at once.)


Leaving the lock behind us, we had three more caches to find alongside the Thames before the return leg ‘inland’. Everyone and everything was messing about on/in/by/above the river; we noted geese (about 50, making a racket), muggles picnicking and playing on the shore – while in the water, boats, paddleboards, swimmers, ducks, cows – and even rooks and kites overhead. It meant we could find those caches while everyone was distracted, looking elsewhere.

At Ferry Lane we turned away from the river and walked up the narrow lane towards the Flower Pot pub https://www.squaremeal.co.uk/restaurants/the-flower-pot_685 There were cars everywhere, rushing down to the pub, the river, or both,plus someone bringing a boat on a trailer down to the slipway to launch. I’m so glad I didn’t choose this spot to park! We found our second cache from the ‘Victoria’s Post Box’ series (wonder why there are so many Victorian post boxes round here?), then climbed on up the hill. No doubt this is normally a quiet little lane – not so today – and it was a relief to reach the footpath across the fields that would take us back to Remenham.

Away from the road, it was a lot more peaceful. Just a short, hot puff up the hill in the blazing summer sunshine, and we were walking along a path between fields. Lots of muggles were out walking, but not nearly so many as by the river, and we could easily find quiet moments to locate caches. Up here, this bit of the cache route has a completely different character to the section by the river – more open, airy, and quieter, with expansive views – you wouldn’t guess that the bustling Thames is just a few fields away.


After only four caches, we were back on the lane leading to Remenham Church, it’s not nearly as far returning as it is walking along the riverbank! And the almost empty car park by the church? Also packed and overflowing, cars all around the church and along the lane to the river. Mr Hg137 had been right (as always) when he said we should get there early!

Remenham Church

Remenham Church


We had found twenty-two caches in all – 17 traditional, 1 puzzle, 2 letterbox, 1 multi and 1 mystery – we’d found them all, which is incredibly rare for us. Many, many thanks to FamousEccles for providing such a great circuit, both for the walk, and for the well-kept caches. And the sun shone on us too!

Here are just some of the caches we found:

July 5 : Fleet : Perseverance, fairies, giant (stone) snakes, and a puzzle

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Basingstoke Canal

Basingstoke Canal


We’d been given a short shopping list of specific items to buy on behalf of a relative, so we set off for Fleet with high hopes and … completely failed to find/buy any of them. We grumbled to ourselves, then put that behind us and set off for our second objective, a short caching trip in the area between Fleet Pond and Church Crookham.

We started in woodland a little to the north of the Basingstoke Canal, and soon found a fairy door at the foot of a tree. Mr Hg137 was convinced that our first cache, the Jewellery Box, was inside, and made great efforts to get inside. Luckily, I managed to find the nearby cache and save the fairies before he evicted them all!

We reached the towpath of the Basingstoke Canal, walked along a little way, and crossed over the canal at Pondtail Bridge. On the bridge, a metal plaque commemorates the restoration of the Basingstoke Canal, much of which was done using the steam dredger ‘Perseverance’ – also the name of the next cache we were to find.
Perseverance

Perseverance


And now, a paragraph of digression simply because I like canals. The Basingstoke Canal, now restored, navigable, and beautiful, was all but abandoned in the 1970s. It was restored by volunteers, using the steam dredger Perseverance. An excavator dug a dredger-shaped hole in the silted up canal, a crane dropped in the dredger, which spent the next 18 years chomping through the mud and digging out the canal; health and safety would be most, most unhappy if this happened today. It was quite a sight both to see and to hear: just see why in this very short video https://basingstoke-canal.org.uk/headline/perseverance-the-dredger-that-helped-restore-the-canal/
And what of Perseverance today? She is dismantled, in the boat museum in Ellesmere Port, with no money for restoration. Sad.

Having found the cache named after the boat, we entered an area of woodland and heath, adjoining army land, where all the rest of our caches were located. One was a snail shell. Two more had been placed by a sea scout group; one was in poor condition and hard to find, the other was better in both finding and condition.

And the other one was described as … “ a challenge and a twist” … We’d read the description, had a fair idea of what might be involved, but had nevertheless come prepared with a variety of tools – magnets / string / water / Swiss Army knife , among others – so that we were prepared for almost anything that didn’t need a canoe or a ladder. After some wandering in the undergrowth, we worked our way to a spot that just had to be the right location, and set about solving the challenge. After a short while of coordinated effort, needing both of us, everything came together and out popped the cache container.

And that was the end of the caching for the morning. We made our way back to the canal towpath and found ourselves passing a long, long line of painted stones. The stone snake has featured in the local news https://www.eagleradio.co.uk/news/local-news/3118089/huge-and-colourful-snake-discovered-in-fleet/ with its very own Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/168888507088796/

And so, back to the canal, completing a morning that started unsuccessfully and ended with caching success, a bit of history, and a giant snake.

Here are some of the caches we found (and no, there is no picture of the challenge/twist!):

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 …

March 21 : Virginia Water : a bad morning’s caching

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

It was Saturday and we wanted to go out while we still could, as the world was closing down around us. The previous day, there had been a government announcement that pubs, bars and restaurants, cinemas and schools were to close.

Earlier in the week, we’d spotted a recent caching series at Virginia Water, where the cache coordinates could be found by solving online jigsaws; we had determinedly solved nine of the puzzles, and constructed a map giving a sort of circuit that we could attempt. At Virginia Water, we squeezed into the only available space in the parking area near the Bailiwick pub, closed down since the night before. (Editor’s note: the car park is incredibly popular because it’s free : the official car park costs £7.50!)


Once in the park, we were soon turning off the path and thrashing around in the rhododendrons, looking for our first cache. We’d loaded all the cache coordinates as waypoints, but had come out without the cache hints, so without much information, we had to rely on our caching experience (??!?) to find the cache. Find it we did – and also found a shortcut out of the bushes.

Moving on, we headed towards Obelisk Pond, surprising a deer which was crossing the path ahead of us. We got close – distance wise – to our next cache, before realising that we couldn’t bushwhack through a boggy thicket, so we backtracked and walked in a wide circle to approach from an easier direction. After a few minutes of poking behind trees and under logs, the second cache was ours as well.

Spot the deer!

Spot the deer!


And here it all went wrong. We couldn’t find our way into the next thicket to find our third cache and spent about 20 minutes clambering around without ever getting nearer than about 50 feet from the cache. I got thumped in the face by a branch – and somewhere in the thicket I also lost part of my beloved and vital geopole. (Editor’s note: if anyone finds the gold-coloured bottom half of a Leki Makalu walking pole, it’s mine, I’ve had it for a while, and I’d like to have it back!)
Obelisk Pond

Obelisk Pond


We walked as far as Obelisk Pond and had a coffee. But our hearts weren’t in it any more. We had no caching hints.
We only had half a geopole. My face was hurting. We gave up and went home. It wasn’t our day.

Here are pictures of some of the caches we found:

February 29 : Leap Year Day : Church Crookham and Fleet

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.


Leap Year Day started with rain (again). But by afternoon it had improved into bright sunshine and scattered showers and we decided to risk a drenching and go out for some caching. Off we went to north-east Hampshire, between Church Crookham and Fleet, and parked near Basingbourne Park, roughly in the middle of the area we planned to cache. We had chosen a mixture of ordinary caches and puzzle caches, and had spent some time solving the puzzle caches during a previous rainy day.

Our first cache was a puzzle cache, ‘Square Cache’, one of those we had solved earlier. Counterintuitively, the cache was hidden in a circular place … We left the area and walked towards our second cache and the sun went in and it got colder and darker and then began to hail, then rain. We took refuge behind bushes and trees a short distance from the cache, watched the muggle dog walkers plod, heads down, into the rain, and waited till the squall passed. The rain stopped, we emerged and walked up to the next cache; there was something ‘not quite right’ which just had to be the cache. At first we couldn’t extricate it, and though it was a ‘real’ object. But no, a second attempt removed the cache container. Very cleverly done!

Basingbourne Heath

Basingbourne Heath


Strange springy path!

Strange springy path!


We left the tarmac paths and entered a wooded area. But were we off tarmac? The paths beneath our feet looked like tarmac but were weirdly bouncy – we wondered if they were made from recycled tyres. We weaved through the woods, passing a small patch of rather soggy heathland (we weren’t expecting that!) and also finding two of the three caches in the ‘Basingbourne’ series; two were straightforward finds but we gave up on the third. There had been a great deal of rain recently and the area for some way around the cache was very wet indeed. We tried approaching from a couple of directions but without success. We were wearing walking boots, not wellies, so we decided to keep our feet dry and leave this cache for another day.
Too soggy to go in there!

Too soggy to go in there!


Back to the puzzle caches, and we found three more of these in the area between Basingbourne Park and the B3013 which runs south from Fleet. As before, we had mixed fortunes with finding the caches; the hiding place for one could be spotted from the other end of the street; another required a good rummage among roadside bushes and tree roots; and the third needed a long, scratchy and dispiriting search among bushes and small trees, where we were about to give up at the time we finally, finally spotted the cache. (Editor’s note: no, I’m not saying exactly where they were, you need to solve the puzzles yourselves.)
An unusual pet?

An unusual pet?


And then we got the last cache very wrong. It was a challenge cache and we had checked and knew we qualified (we needed to have found a selection of caches with a connection to water). We were so smug at all this that we had mentally already found the cache and signed the log that we hadn’t read all the way to the bottom of the cache description where the actual location of the cache was specified, not at the published coordinates but at a waypoint listed alongside the cache. And so we searched in the wrong place – then approached from another angle, and searched again – and again – and didn’t find the cache. Eventually we gave up, went home, and found out the real location when we re-read the cache description, properly, at home. Grrr.

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 31 : Sulham (Reading)…including a First-to-Find and our 3000th cache!

Our previous caching trip had left us on 2996 caching finds, and we were wondering where to cache to claim our 3000th find before the year was out.

As we mused, some days previously, we noticed a brand new series published in the area of Sulham just West of Reading. It was an area we had not cached in, so we looked at the caches. They were all mystery caches…and all online jigsaws. 21 online jigsaws varying in size from 80 pieces to 440 pieces.

Here are the pieces…

Lovely pictures, but a little mono-chrome (a sunlit Autumn leaf path, a long view over farmers-fields to a folly). Many contained dogs, or possibly the same dog, so we guessed they celebrated the life of the owner’s dog(s). (One of the dog jigsaws was called ‘In Memoriam’). On completion of a jigsaw the co-ordinates of the associated cache would be displayed.

…. getting there!


These jigsaws were published on the 28th December. We saw them on the same evening and set about trying to solve the myriad of online jigsaws. If we could solve 4 jigsaws we would drive to Sulham, and find the caches needed to reach the 3000 milestone. We may even be the first-to-find (FTF) the caches!

We spent several hours looking at several jigsaws, honing our online skills late into the early hours of the following morning. We awoke, and discovered another cacher had solved many of the puzzles and had already claimed many of the first-to-finds (about 16 of the 21 on offer). We continued our solving realising we might need to solve 5 or 6 jigsaws to give us a couple of caches as contingency (to allow for a did-not-find) in order to reach the magic 3000 finds.

Over the 29th and 30th of December, we solved quite a few jigsaws, and focussed our attention on those where the FTF hadn’t been claimed. Of course as we solved a puzzle, the 5 remaining unfound caches were slowly being found (including the bonus 22nd cache). Until only one cache hadn’t been found….

..so early on the 31st December we drove to Sulham, parking up by 9am. We surveyed the other early morning visitors to the car park. Were they cachers ? Were they dog walkers ? We walked down a muddy, tree-lined path, checking our GPS making sure we were heading as quickly and as accurately as we could.

More people. More dog walkers. A couple of litter pickers. We arrived close to Ground Zero for the unfound cache (cache 19 in the series). We had passed no-one resembling a geocacher. Would we be the first to sign the log?

We headed to a likely looking host. No cache to see, then we espied another a better example … wandered over to see a tell-tale pile of sticks guarding a container.

With trepidation we opened the cache, a cute dog to reveal….


…a blank log! We were the first to find!!

Hooray!

(our last First-Find was way back in November 2017, and before that, spookily, exactly three years ago on 31st December 2016!)

We took copious photos and left the cache grinning. We now had 3 caches to find to reach 3000 caches.

Of the puzzles we had solved cache 17 was the next nearest. We had plotted the coordinates on a map (somewhere between two footpaths and a road) and headed there. Suddenly the path became very, very muddy and a field of 19 horses looked on as we slipped and slithered our way past. The cache was still not any closer so we walked along the road and then we turned around to walk back along the second muddy footpath..the cache was still 60 yards away. We gave up..we couldn’t see how to get to the Cache 17.

Good job we had a few caches in reserve!

Our next cache was number 5. (We’re quite sure if we had solved all the jigsaws our route to the caches would have been in a better sequence). We trudged through more muddy paths and arrived a large grassy field. Here a stile/gate guarded the entrance to a large wooded area, and the cache was quickly found. (Our only delay was caused by a dog walker with 4 dogs going by). That was cache 2998.

We were going to attempt cache 3 and cache 1 to reach 3000 finds, but as our contingency had disappeared looking for cache 17, we realised cache 14 was quite close. More mud. But a quick find. 2999.

So we headed for cache 3. In the middle of woodland, and probably where the GPS would wobble. We followed tracks as best we could, but eventually went ‘cross-country’ jumping minor water-courses until a very large hint item came into view. There a pile of sticks and piece of stone shielding a camouflaged bag. We undid the bag.. there was cache 3000! Hooray !

Then the fun started! It was a maze cache! To open the container we needed to slide the upper and lower part around a maze. It took us some time to do this but once opened we signed our names for the 3000th time!

We’ve encountered maze caches before, so we drew the maze out on a sheet of paper, and followed it in reverse to close the cache! A fantastic puzzle cache – first the jigsaw, then the cache container. What a way to reach 3000!

We didn’t try to find any other caches. We had achieved a First-to-Find (only the fourth time we had done this), and found four caches including a fabulous cache for 3000. Why find another? It would wait for another day!

PS If you are wondering why we went wrong at cache 17. we mis-transcribed the co-ordinates when we solved the associated jigsaw. We had to redo the jigsaw to get the correct coordinates!