Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.
I had requested a route with “not too much mud” for our first caching trip of 2020. I was going off mud after our last few caching trips … Mr Hg137 came up with Staines, about a 30-minute drive away on the western edge of London. (Editor’s note: Staines changed its name from “Staines” to “Staines-upon-Thames” in May 2012, as the local council hoped it would boost the local economy by promoting its riverside location. Staines-upon-Thames day is celebrated each year on the last Sunday in June)
We’d walked through here before, in September 2015 when we were walking/caching the Thames Path, but new caches had sprung up since then, so we had a selection of new things to look for.
We parked close to the river and the bridge, amongst the caches we planned to find. Our first target was a Church Micro based on Staines Methodist Church, a modern church visible from where we had parked. We collected some numbers from a foundation stone (I’d say from an earlier incarnation of the church) and used them to work out the coordinates for the final cache. That led us away from the park and the river, not far but into a more urban area, and we located the cache tucked behind one of the many metal items in the area.
Next was Staines Bridge, not strictly the next nearest cache, but it was on our way to do a minor bit of shopping in the adjacent superstore. We crossed the bridge and were soon standing within a few feet of the cache. Where was it? Our first search yielded nothing. We read logs from other cachers. Aha! Bridges have more than one level – road level – river level – steps – under the bridge – and we hadn’t tried all of them. We tried several different heights, all within a few feet of the target according to the GPS, and struck lucky at about the third attempt.
Cache found, minor shopping done, we re-crossed the bridge and returned to the riverside and our next multicache, the London Stone https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Stone_(riparian)#Staines It’s one of several stones that mark the boundary of water rights between London and elsewhere, and also where the River Colne reaches the River Thames. The information we wanted was about the history of the stone. The lettering on the stone was very faded and we despaired. But nearby was a noticeboard – aha! – and we had the answers we wanted to generate the coordinates. We walked down the riverside, passing the geocar and dropping off our minor shopping, to find the cache a little way further on along the towpath.
Next up was a Coal Post, yet another post marking a point where taxes could be levied https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Stone_(riparian)#Staines The coal post was spotted quite easily – it’s not small! – and we were just surveying it when a passing muggle stopped to give us a potted history of the immediate area, including where the coal boats moored, the original name of the Mercure Hotel over the road (once The Packhorse, where loads were transferred and taxed) and all sorts of other interesting stuff. We thanked her – it’s good that people do care about their surroundings and do take the time to pass on the information to others. (Editor’s note: for those who are nerdy about these things, this post, No 87, is a Type 4 post, which is a stone or cast-iron obelisk, about 4.5 metres high, found beside railways.). The post was nestled between the railway line and an empty building looked after by property guardians. These are people who live in empty (often commercial) buildings for low rents in return for keeping an eye on the property https://liveinguardians.com/blog/170/the-ins-and-outs-of-being-a-property-guardian
We returned to the river and followed the Thames Path downstream. Seats were dotted here and there along the path for those who wanted to sit and watch river life. There was a biting wind, so it was too cold for that, but another cache, Staines by the River, was set close to one of these seats, so we sat on the seat, felt around, and tried to look as if we were relaxing, not freezing. After a bit we still hadn’t found the cache, so turned our attention to the area around the seat, and, after a few more minutes, spotted a tiny little bit of wire that just looked “wrong”. Sure enough, there was a cache on the other end of the piece of wire.
We were cold after all that sitting around, so we decided to do one more cache, then head home. Our final target was another Church Micro, based around the imposing brick church of St Peter which overlooks the river. The numbers we needed were easily found, one on a stone set into the church, and the other on a memorial plaque in the ground. We exited through the lychgate onto the towpath and were soon at GZ. And we couldn’t find the cache. We read the hint, applied cacher’s logic (“where would I hide it?”) and still came up with nothing. Mr Hg137 sped back to the church to check the numbers – they were correct – from stones with various dates on them, while I paced hopefully up and down, seeking inspiration but not finding a cache. Mr Hg137 returned and we renewed our search; we re-read the hint; magnetic, it said. We had assumed that it would mean the cache was stuck to some metal object, but a fingertip search revealed a protruding nail … and a cache. Mightily relieved, we signed the log and then had the harder job of replacing the cache so it wouldn’t fall off the nail, and would also be invisible to muggles.
That done, we returned to the nice cosy geocar. We had never been more than half a mile from it at any time, yet we had visited a wide variety of locations around the riverside in Staines, and had seen a good selection of life passing by on the towpath and on the river.