July 31 : Chedworth – a village, a villa, a railway and a bat

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

We were off for a long weekend’s walking and caching (hooray, at last!), staying in the Cotswolds. Near the end of our journey, we stopped for a short walk and a little bit of caching. But scorchio! It was already 30C as the geocar was parked in the (free, National Trust) car park in the woods close to Chedworth Roman Villa.

We planned to follow the Monarch’s Way over the hill to Chedworth village, just over a mile away (no caches until the outskirts of Chedworth) then return, over the hill again, along the Macmillan Way to the Roman Villa, following the Chedworth Wood Ramble (CWR) cache series. This had seemed like a wonderful idea when we planned the walk, but it was much cooler then…

Anyway, it was a pleasant, if hot, walk up through the woods, then over the hilltop to the outskirts of Chedworth. It was so very quiet, the birds were barely singing and there was not an animal to be heard.

Church view

Church view


We arrived at our first cache, ‘Church View’, which does indeed have a fine view of the church. As for the cache – we struggled to locate it and it took two goes from both of us before we finally laid our fingers on the cache container. It was hot and our brains were fried…

Moving on steeply downhill, we were on the village streets, and could see our next target, ‘Green’ (a grit bin), as we plodded along the blazing hot tarmac. A search again produced no cache, just an ‘out of place’ object and it was only a second look at that which told us it was the cache. All this while being watched by the postman and one of the residents – slightly embarrassing!

Chedworth  church

Chedworth church


... sundial on the side of the church

… sundial on the side of the church


There was a nice shady patch of grass by the churchyard wall and we sat down to eat our picnic lunch and watch the world go by. We’d passed by this spot before in April 2018 when we were walking between Sandhurst, Gloucestershire, and Sandhurst, Berkshire https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2018/04/22/april-22-sandhurst-gloucs-to-sandhurst-colesbourne-to-foss-cross/ Reluctantly, we stepped back into the sunshine to start the walk back to the Roman Villa. It was not far to the edge of the village, and we were out in open fields with the hill stretching before us (sigh). Part way across the field was a cache, which managed to be part of two series at once, the CWR series we had been following, and also the Little Bridges Series https://littlebridgesseries.wordpress.com/about-series/ It looked like a bridge across grass, but maybe there is a stream in the winter? I searched for the cache, which was protected by some of the angriest and stingiest nettles in Gloucestershire, and emerged with it, tingling, cursing and grumbling. (And I pushed it back using a walking pole, one set of stings was plenty.)
Little Bridge

Little Bridge


With me still tingling, we walked across the field, slope steepening as we went, till we reached a belt of trees. The slope steepened still further into steps, and we panted our way up to the top. And that was it, the climb was done, and we were on the top of the hill again. Another cache was there, and two more followed as we descended gently into the woods.

The path turned right and began to descend more steeply, this bit must be muddy in the winter. The embankment for the disused Midland and South Western Junction Railway loomed up ahead https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chedworth_Halt_railway_station This area doesn’t seem the most obvious for building such a thing, it’s rather hilly. We found another cache, ‘Can you hear the ghost train?’, then dived into the cool tunnel under the old track. There were great acoustics in the tunnel – we tried train noises, howling wolf noises and a few owl hoots and all worked very well! (FYI we are both – supposedly – mature, sensible adults – but it had to be done!)

Chedworth Roman Villa

Chedworth Roman Villa


Emerging on the downhill side of the tunnel, we were immediately at Chedworth Roman Villa https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chedworth_Roman_Villa Pre-booked tickets only, no cafe, and no ice-creams (oh, how we would have loved an ice-cream). Disappointed, we continued through the car park to find two National Trust people staring at something on the ground. It was a baby short-eared bat, about the size of a mouse, and it shouldn’t have been there, it should have been in the cooler bushes rather than being hot and confused in the sun. The NT people tried, futilely, to get the little bat to climb onto a stick, but it didn’t want to, and bit the stick (FYI, you can’t touch bats without a licence, they’re protected). So Mrs Hg137 exercised her bat herding skills and drove/shepherded the little bat into the hedge using a couple of large leaves and a bit of looming over it, but absolutely no touching. (Editor’s note: we’ve both held bats before during nature talks and they are NOT scary, they are warm and velvety and really rather nice.)
Short eared bat

Short eared bat


There was a final cache to find, ‘Roman Villa’ (seemed appropriate) before returning to the geocar, which now said it was 34C, and went on our way to our weekend destination, Bourton on the Water.

Here are some of the caches we found:

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 11 : East Worldham, West Worldham and Hartley Mauditt

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

East Worldham Church

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

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

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

On route, some redeveloped oast houses


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

“You forgot the bonus number!”

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

West Worldham Church

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

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

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

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

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

Mr Hg137, a sunken lane about to find the cache


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

Hartley Mauditt Church

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

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

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

“Gorge Road”


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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bonus Cache!


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

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

Here are a few of the caches we found :

June 28 – Southwood Country Park

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

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

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

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

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

Sir Frank Whittle Memorial (Gloster Whittle Aircraft)

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

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

June 20 : return to geocaching : Mattingley

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.


After thirteen cache-free weeks, we decided it was time to venture out. We set out, travelling the vast distance of … almost eight miles from home. It was the furthest we had ventured since the start of lockdown and it felt like a very long way away.

We went to Mattingley, a small village in north-east Hampshire, where we had cached exactly a year before https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2019/06/22/june-22-mattingley/ That time we did a circuit to the north. Today we were going south through West Green, then along the Brenda Parker Way to Murrell Green and returning via Dipley, on paths and quiet country roads, with just a few yards beside the busy A30 in the middle.

First cache for a while!

First cache for a while!



From the church (big, free car park) our walk started with a section along quiet country lanes, downhill to the River Whitewater and then on to the hamlet of Hazeley Bottom. Our first cache, Clapper Bridge, was at the bridge; we had a small celebration as we found our first cache for oh so long. (Editor’s note: it hasn’t been a ‘proper’ clapper bridge since 1838.) We continued on towards Hazeley Bottom, another small village. There wasn’t much traffic. Not strictly true; there wasn’t much motorised traffic, but there were LOTS of cyclists, almost all kitted out with bright Lycra and speedy bikes.

On the edge of Hazeley Bottom we turned off the road to follow footpaths south towards West Green. Our lack of caching practice began to show, as we only found one cache out of the next four we visited (one was marked as missing, two we couldn’t find, and a paltry single success). We arrived at West Green Common, a wooded area criss-crossed by paths. Looking for another cache, Message in a Bottle, we bumbled about in the woods for a bit before spotting the tell-tale pile of twigs, and there was the cache. While searching, three other people came wandering through the woods, also off the path; we thought they might be cachers (who else wanders around like this?) so we asked. But no, they were part of the Hampshire Dormouse Group https://hampshiredormousegroup.co.uk and they were checking their 40th box (of 50) for the day. You really never know who you’ll meet while out caching!
Hampshire Dormouse Group in action

Hampshire Dormouse Group in action


We carried on south from West Green, following the Brenda Parker Way towards the A30 https://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Brenda+Parker+Way We arrived at a cache called Defended 2, which is within sight of a pillbox. ‘Defended’ was a good name for this cache! We couldn’t get anywhere near it as two herds of cattle were gathered, surrounding the cache, one each side of the fence, plus the farmer checking on his livestock. We decided it was better not to try and walked on by.
Well defended pillbox

Well defended pillbox


And a hidden pillbox

And a hidden pillbox


The path squeezed alongside the fence around a gas offtake. This used to be my industry and I enthusiastically pointed out the places where 24” and 18” pipelines radiated from the site and the directions they took out into the country … Mr Hg137 was underwhelmed. Oh well.

Suddenly we were out on a pavement alongside the A30 and cars were whizzing by. The road wasn’t especially busy but it was much, much noisier than before. It was good to turn off the road a few yards later to start the return part of our walk. We found another pillbox and another cache, Defended, and wondered exactly what they were put there to defend – maybe the A30 itself, as it’s a major route to the west?

A short and nettle-strewn walk led to a country lane. We walked along this, climbing gently, dodging yet more cyclists. Caches were placed along the road at regular intervals, and we tried to find them all, but actually found about half. Perhaps they were all there and we simply couldn’t find them; but there are lots of logs for those caches and the consensus of opinion is that they are missing and that the cache series needs a little TLC (which might simply be that the cache owners have been unable to get out to do it). The road became a track, then a path, and we arrived at Dipley.


By now it was mid-afternoon, the cool morning had turned into a sunny weekend afternoon, and many a muggle had decided to go out in the sunshine. A large number of them were passing by our next cache, Bamboozled. This area was muggle central – at least three groups of people came by from each direction, plus a few more using the nearby road. Dogwalkers, cyclists, runners, walkers … after a bit we paused, leaned on a gate, opened a bottle of water and just waited for everyone to go away. Once alone, the cache was a quick and easy find – all we needed was a few seconds peace to grab it!
Bamboozled?

Bamboozled?


We left thronging Dipley behind, and took a footpath beside the River Whitewater through some beautiful gardens (but private, and fenced off). We came to a tiny, delightfully wonky bridge over a side stream and wanted to stop there to look for a cache.
Wonky little bridge

Wonky little bridge


But … we thought the last cache site was busy with muggles – it had nothing on this one! We waited and waited and waited, and had a very, very long chat with the plump Shetland ponies in the next field. Eventually, we had a couple of minutes to scour the bridge. And we used all our available time, only finding the cache as the next set of muggles hove into view.

And that left just one more cache, a simple find at another bridge over the Whitewater. A short way on, the path led through the churchyard of Mattingley Church (still closed, sadly) before emerging into the church car park and reaching our start point. The walk had been just under six miles, but it had seemed much, much further: we really are out of practice.

Well, that was it: an excellent trip that had everything: beautiful countryside, rivers, bridges, lanes, pillboxes, trees, nettles and cows (lots of cows!). What a great way to get back into geocaching!

And here are just some of the caches we found:

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:

March 14 : Eton Wick


Eton Wick is a village on the outskirts of Slough and Windsor. It is where, for the first 7.5 years of Mr Hg137s life, he lived. Even after he moved away, he would return to visit his grandparents, uncle, aunt and cousins.

A series of 9 caches has been placed around Eton Wick and today’s trip was to find the caches…and bring back some childhood memories….

Normally a cache series has the car parking near the start point of the route, but Eton Wick is relatively self-contained so that it was only a short walk from the village centre to the edge. Eton Wick is just in Berkshire and the first cache of the day was yards inside the county boundary. At the end of the village was the village sign, a lovely flower box, and a wildlife noticeboard. Three great hiding places… and we took too long to find the simply placed cache. (This was to be an underlying feature of the day, as we frequently didn’t seem to be on the same wavelength as the cache owner’s hints).

The county boundary


Each of the eight village caches would contain a number, which we would need to yield the coordinates for the ninth ‘bonus’ cache. We had noted beforehand that previous cachers had found it extremely difficult to locate the bonus without finding all the caches. We made sure every location was double, triple and even quadruple checked before we gave up.

Growing up as a small boy, and visiting relatives, meant that some roads were more well known than others. It was one of the less well-known roads we found our second cache (a relatively easy find). It was at this point it started to rain – and as none had been forecast – this was slightly annoying. We pondered whether to head for the car or press on. We opted for the latter and the rain eased. As it did so we approached a play park which Mr Hg137 remarked he didn’t know about.

Let’s hope the horse doesn’t tread on the cache


Just away from the park, on a bridleway junction was our third cache. There was much to search here, several trees, broken wire fences, footpath gates, horse gates, field posts and lots of undergrowth. We spent ages here, dodging runners, walkers, horse riders. We searched. We kept searching..we didn’t want to lose our ability to find the bonus cache.
After about 20 minutes (maybe more, possibly 30), we gave up. We wrote ‘DNF’ on a piece of paper (we write notes as we go for the geocaching log and for the this blog). We set our GPS to number 4 in the series. Then Mrs Hg137 went quiet. Another walker was heading our way. He passed. Then she said “I can see the cache!”. Amazing! We hastily unclipped the box, signed the log, wrote down the bonus number and moved on.

As we did so, our route took us into a narrow road. Made narrower by cars parked either side. Suddenly Mr Hg137 knew where he was…at his grandparent’s house. The park he now remembered as he was now standing where he stood as a youngster… Sadly his grandparent’s house had been knocked down and replaced by a much more modern version. From what he could see the apple trees in the large back garden had gone too.

Are there still tiddlers in this stream ?


The twisting roads led to a stream (Mr Hg137 vaguely remembers catching ‘tiddlers’ here) and a large tree. The tree hosted our next cache and unusually for a terrain 2 cache, involved a small tree climb. There were two ways to gain about 4-6 feet of the ground, and we both went up simultaneously. Even with two pairs of eyes, this cache took far longer than it should.

Before visiting our next cache we took a small diversion to a parade of shops. For many years one of the shops was run by Hg137’s uncle and aunt. First as a home-brew shop and latterly as a post office. Now it is a party shop. Mr Hg137 is in that industry himself, so went in and chatted at length with the shop owner – we even made a purchase too !

From home-brew to a Post Office … and now a Party Shop


Before we resumed our caching trip we paused for coffee on a nearby memorial seat. There are lots of seats in Eton Wick, many with memorial names on…but this one was of a gentleman Mr Hg137 had actually heard of !
Our route took us down some more roads Mr Hg137 was unfamiliar with and another tree cache. This tree though was special as it was planted in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and a fine tree it is now!

Queen Victoria’s Oak


Finally our route took us to the main road that bisects Eton Wick and a magnetic nano. Lots of places to hide it, and we got lucky with a quick find.

A very full river Thames


About half a mile south of Eton Wick is the River Thames, and our seventh cache. Mr Hg137 frequently came here as a child as it was a short walk from his house. Part of his family history is that when he was very, very young he removed one of his bootees and threw it in the river…never to be seen again!

The cache we were looking for by the river had disappeared too and we spent a long time peering at the undergrowth. We paused often for the many families passing by (replicating the walk Mr Hg137 had taken all those years ago). We resumed our searching to no avail. A friendly robin came to help, but was unable to communicate to us where the cache was. Similarly a swan couldn’t help either ! We gave up and hoped our missing bonus number wouldn’t be too crucial.

“I don’t know where the cache is”


“and I don’t either”


Cache 8, was back in the village. Mr Hg137 remembered a quick route across the football pitch, into a small alley and arrived….at his former house! Yards from it was the cache! While he was reminiscing about who lived in each of the houses…Mrs Hg137 reminded him of the bonus cache and its calculation.

Mr Hg137 used to live in one of these houses!


The missing cache would have yielded a very useful number, as it was, using some basic maths and a working knowledge of map coordinates…we derived three sets of plausible co-ordinates. The first two were both in back gardens, but the third led us close to the start of our walk.

There were trees, plenty of them. We searched for 10 minutes, aware we were close to houses. Sadly we didn’t find the bonus cache. As we were not 100% we were in the right place, we gave up.

So we found 7 out of 9 caches and revisited Mr Hg137’s history. A good morning’s work!

PS We’ve subsequently discovered that cache 7, by the river, has disappeared and that we were looking in the right place for the bonus – meaning our maths and logic skills are better than our caching skills!

Caches we did find (in no particular order) :

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:

February 22 : Reading

A simple tale of a fox, a lion, a Pokémon player and a modern Thames footbridge

Mr Hg137 gives talks to local clubs and societies. In a couple of weeks he is delivering one on “The Thames Path from Source to Sea”. Since we walked the Thames Path 2015 a new footbridge has been built in Reading and he wanted a picture of it for his presentation.

The Maiwand Lion in Forbury Gardens


So a morning’s caching in Reading was called for.

We arrived by train, and within minutes we were finding our first cache. A small magnetic nano hidden near Reading Station. This was a revival cache in the ‘Sidetracked’ series so although it was a ‘new cache’ it had replaced one we had found in 2015. We each had a memory of finding the original, yet it still took us some time to find the host. Some caches you can remember exactly where you found them, others you totally forget, and this one our joint memories could only picture the area, but not how the cache was hidden.

So many items to check for this tiny nano


The next cache was a multi-cache, which involved visiting several of Reading’s statues and answering simple questions to derive numbers and hence co-ordinates. The walk was listed as 2 miles long, but the cache owner had also produced a website with the statues on.

Statues aplenty in Reading

Statues aplenty in Reading

With a bit of investigation we had calculated a promising set of co-ordinates before arriving in Reading. We did visit a few of the statues, including one of Edward VII, where we had to count ‘harps’ and Queen Victoria (counting ‘feet’).

Edward VII


Queen Victoria

As we approached our pre-calculated GZ, a beautiful fox appeared. It seemed oblivious to people, and did for one brief second lie down next to the cache. Then it wandered past us, giving us access to a very quick find. By the time we had ‘rustled’ the plastic bag containing the cache, the fox was back. ‘Rustling’ equals food wrapping. The fox sat there expecting food, but instead we took its picture with the cache. A beautiful fox we hope you agree.

Seconds later… it started raining! The fox was under the best shelter so we ran for cover in the Forbury Gardens Bandstand. We weren’t alone under the bandstand as rain was quite heavy for about 10 minutes. Our view, if you can call it that, was of a lion’s posterior. The main statue in the Forbury Gardens is the Maiwand Lion. The statue was named after the Battle of Maiwand and was erected in 1884 to commemorate the deaths of 329 men from the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment of Foot during the campaign in the Second Anglo-Afghan War in Afghanistan between 1878 and 1880. The lion formed the basis of one of the questions in the multi-cache we had just completed. It was also part of a multicache set in and around the Forbury Gardens.

When the rain eased we collected the answers for the Forbury Gardens multi, discovering part of Reading’s diverse history along the way, and headed out of the park to a likely location. We were looking a magnetic cache and there two roadside cabinets capable of being host to the cache container. Sadly neither did. In fact both cabinets were 30 feet from GZ. We crossed a dual carriageway to a traffic island, crossed another dual carriageway onto another pavement. No obvious magnetic hiding places…and we were now 30 feet from the cache on the other side of the road. Curious! We returned to our location and re-checked the two cabinets. Nothing. We guessed the cache had been ‘muggled’ so chose to move on.

Reading Abbey


Reading Abbey, stands near Forbury Gardens, and hosts an Earthcache. As well as studying the information boards, we had to study the derelict walls of the once great Abbey. Sadly 800 years of ‘wear and tear’, and the destructive forces of both Henry VIII and the English Civil War, mean only part of the great Abbey Structure remain. We had to review the rocks in the wall as part of the Earthcache questions.

Earthcaches are quite interesting to do, but there is always some doubt … like handing in geography homework at school and hoping one has answered all the questions correctly.

Ancient Abbey, Modern Blade


We headed away from the Abbey to “The Blade and the Archway”, another magnetic cache this time housed between the modern office block known as The Blade, and the ancient Archway over the Holy Brook. The brook was used by the monks of the Abbey as their ‘mill-stream’ to grind wheat for flour. The cache took us ages to find (probably longer than the milling process all those years ago). There were 4 metal objects to check, all with obvious holes etc. It took us 3 passes to find the cache. The good thing was, it was a Saturday, and no-one from the offices were in the walkway having a cigarette break!

Archway over the Holy Brook


Our next target was another Earthcache. This time near Queen Victoria’s statue we had passed earlier. Or at least it should have been our next cache.

We were walking to it when we saw a couple of Pokémon players staring and jabbing at their phones.

Then another two players.
Then a group of three.
Then a group of six.

Where had they come from ?

Then another group of four.
Then another group of two.

We asked what was going on.

Apparently once a month, there are Pokémon ‘events’ in different locations and for a few hours (in this case 11-2) a large number of Pokemons are available to be caught.

Pokemoning in the Park


We said we were geocaching. They had been geocachers too, and they had found all the nearby caches…including a very dangerous cache near the Forbury Gardens in a traffic island! Our ears pricked up!

We wished them well, and headed not for Queen Victoria but for the traffic island where we had been some time before. Searching at ground height for a small magnetic object with traffic going by is not fun – we did find it – but we were very surprised that this cache was allowed to be placed in such a dangerous position.

We still slightly annoyed as we approached Queen Victoria. Here we had to examine details of the brick work of Reading Museum and Town Hall, and answer more scientific questions. Our close, fingertip, inspection of these buildings probably went unnoticed as the only people nearby…were more and more Pokémon players! (still not quite sure how we managed to take this photo without a Pokémon player visible!)

Reading Town Hall and Museum


We had finished our Central Reading caches and headed to the river. Somewhere quieter to eat our sandwiches. We crossed the river over the lock and weir bridges and a detailed look for a cache we had DNFed back in 2015 high over Caversham Weir. After 15 minutes we DNFed again…some caches are just too hard for us!

Caversham Weir


As we ate lunch, on a seat somewhat close to the flooded river, a Great Crested Grebe gamely tried swimming into the ferocious current. We were glad we only had a slightly biting wind to contend with.

Two fairly easy caches to find in Caversham – one very well hidden in a tree in a park (took us some time to find a footpath into the park), and one by the river. Another magnetic cache. Two very large objects to search… and we searched the wrong one first. Very oddly, we both stopped searching at the same time, looked at the other object…and saw the cache together.

Christchurch Bridge


All that remained was to walk over the brand-new (well 5 year old) Christchurch Bridge to catch our train home.
An interesting morning, the low point the horrible magnetic cache in a traffic island…the high point… the Fantastic Mr Fox !

Caches we found included :