December 8 : Farnham Park

Farnham Park

Just over 2 years ago, we attempted our first geocaches in Farnham. We attempted the Farnham Ramble, a series of 30+ caches, many of them multis, most of them interconnected to another so the series had to be completed in order. We struggled with the first few caches, and gave up but pledged we would return.

Sadly for us the series was archived shortly afterwards.

So, with fresh eyes we headed to another part of Farnham and undertook a completely different set of caches – this time placed in and around Farnham Park. Farnham Park is a mediaeval deer park of 320 acres and contains secret dells, streams, sports pitches and panoramic views.

Farnham Castle just visible in the tree-line


It is situated just outside the town, near Farnham’s Castle (now a training centre) and has free car parking! We could spend as long as we liked caching and not worry about a ‘ticking’ car park ticket!

The previous days had been wet, and this was the main reason we chose Farnham Park – many of the paths were tarmac. Apart from stepping off to search for a cache, we wouldn’t get too muddy!.


So at 845 am we parked up. The car park was already busy – dogs were being exercised, runners were stretching legs. Our first cache was almost in the car park. The hint did say ‘park side not car park side’…but hey.. our initial investigation yielded nothing.. so we went to the car park side anyway! After a few minutes, we corrected ourselves – stood where we stood before, and glinted at a slightly different angle and of course found the cache! Placed by a local Beaver group and in very good order.

Our caching route was to be relatively short (about 3 miles, including a couple of cul-de-sacs) and contained 9 caches. Each one had been set by a different person or team! How very unusual!

A great place for a cache

The first cache was easy to get to, but hard to spot. Our second cache was the complete reverse! Each to spot – scarcely any camouflage – but we had a stream to jump across with slightly slippery banks. Here we found a travel bug (TravelDog) which we will blog about soon. We tried to remember the last time we found a travel bug, without much success.

One of the many streams that criss-cross the Park

Stream jumping was a feature of the next two caches.

The first was hidden in a small outlying copse of trees; the next – Ancient Oak – was some way from the tarmac path. Fortunately the drainage ditches had done a good job, and the walk was pleasant with the ground being ‘damp’ rather than ‘squelchy’. Our eyes were drawn to an imperious tree in the distance, and we headed there, jumping another drainage ditch, and then realising we were still 50 feet away! We clambered around some undergrowth and arrived ‘behind’ the imperious oak, where the cache was an easy find. All we had to do was retrace our steps back to the tarmac.

The path was much busier now as, almost every 25 yards or so, a runner or dog walker went by. We were slowly climbing about 50 feet, and as we did so we had a lovely view over the park and the Farnham locality.

Is there a cache here ?

As we approached the Northern outskirts of the park, we walked parallel to the village/town of Hale/Upper Hale, and houses could be seen on our right. On the left, were the fine views and two more caches. Both quick finds, one in tree roots and one 5 feet up in a stump. It was at the first of these we found our second travel bug of the day, a delightful geocoin called ‘Les Géopotes à Chausey’. (Having struggled to remember our last time we found one trackable, we struggled even more to remember the last time we found two in one day!).

The tarmac path soon came to an end, and one of the best viewpoints of the day, and it was here we could have headed South, back to the car. But.. there were 2 nearby caches just outside the park.

The first called ‘Read’ had well over 30 favourites. (It acquired another from us too). The cache was hidden in a micro-library ! It wasn’t just books in the library ! A visitor’s book, lego cards, doggie treats and much more besides.

Have you seen a library like this ?

How many libraries contain these ?

The remaining non-Farnham-Park cache was part of the old Farnham Ramble series. This cache has been re-introduced as is now called ‘Farnham Series Remembered’. As one of the easier caches on the original route, it was easy to reinstate without previous multi-cache knowledge. We wanted the cache name in our portfolio as the final letters of the cache name spelt ‘RED’. A colour which we would add to list of ‘colours’ we would need for a caching snooker challenge. (We need to find 15 REDs and we are a little short!)

On the way to the Farnham Ramble Remembered cache


The cache itself was hidden IN a tree stump. But, in front of the tree stump was a lot of bark. Placed to look like ‘barkoflage’ we dismantled it first to no avail. Then we looked in the tree stump, and with a bit of poking and prodding in the Autumn leaf pile, we were able to find the cache.

And so we returned back to the Park. The morning had become greyer, and we one cache left to do. Part of the ‘Hole in One’ series, situated near golf course. (Farnham Park includes a 9 hole par 3 course). When we arrived at Ground Zero, we couldn’t find anywhere where a cache could be hidden. The hint said ‘In the title’, and the penny dropped. We had about 12 items to check, and after checking 7 or 8 of them, we discovered a small bison.

A hole-in-one!


In summary this was a great morning’s caching, not too strenuous, not too wet, and more importantly some good reasonable sized containers all of which were in good order. Well done to the 9 different cache owners!

Other caches we found included :

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November 17 : Cranleigh and the Surrey Hills

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Where to go caching? All summer, our caching routes had been determined by our walking quest for the year, from Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) home to Sandhurst (Berkshire). We completed that in early November, and now we had to choose a route for ourselves. After a little thought, we settled on Cranleigh, at the foot of the Surrey Hills. We walked there last year on our route from Sandhurst (Berkshire) to Sandhurst (Kent), and had planned to return one day; today was that day.
We were to tackle the ‘Cranleigh North Walk’ (CNW) series, a four-mile route covering sixteen caches, starting at Smithwood Common. Two other caches, not part of the series, were close to our start point, so we added those, and did them at the beginning.

A Fine Pair

A Fine Pair


It was cool, almost cold, and slightly misty as we soon found the first of those two caches, one from the ‘Fine Pair’ series (themed around a phone box and post box within sight of each other – an increasingly rare thing), and the other called ‘Four Elms’ and named after a now-departed pub. As we walked towards the start of the main walk, something gave us pause: two Remembrance Day crosses in a front garden. Just over a hundred years ago, two residents, a father and son, judging from the ages, had set off for war from that house. Neither returned, and they are buried in different parts of Europe. Very sad.

We looked for the path that would lead to the first of the CNW series, fording a small stream and setting off along a hollow ‘path’. We soon realised we had made a mistake – no way was this a path! – and we hadn’t brought a machete, but we bushwhacked determinedly on, and arrived at the first cache in the series after about twenty minutes, scratched and dishevelled. In hindsight, which is easy, we did the same kind of thing when we first stated caching – we chose the shortest (but not necessarily easiest) route to a cache. It seems we have not fully learnt that lesson!

Hard going ...

Hard going …


... maybe there was an easier path?

… maybe there was an easier path?


It got easier after that, luckily: there weren’t nearly enough hours of daylight left if we’d kept on at that pace. We carried on uphill, along (clear, unscratchy) woodland paths, climbing uphill and stopping briefly for a panoramic view out to the south. It was warmer now, and the sun was breaking through the mist, so we stopped for a coffee and a few minutes to admire the view. Setting off again, we reached a narrow lane, and climbed the hill while being passed by Lycra-clad cyclists; some even had enough spare breath for a brief conversation (though some did not!). After a little while, we turned off the road and onto a track, stopping to talk to a muggle sweeping leaves; she said it’s a great, if remote, place to live, but you do get snowed in sometimes …

We walked on along a track high in the late autumn woods, with golden leaves thinning to bare branches. Once, a tiny broken branch showed us the way to the cache; a few, we couldn’t find; another, we nearly missed till we almost walked into it … there was an excellent variety of things to find (or not find).
Letterbox cache here somewhere ...

Letterbox cache here somewhere …


... found it!

… found it!


Further on, along a woodland path, we arrived at a letterbox cache. It was a distance, and a direction, away from the published coordinates. We each took a bearing, and paced off in what we hoped was the right direction, ending within two arm’s length of each other – and the cache was between us. Teamwork!

The caches kept coming, and a varied selection they were, too. Some of the containers included fake pine cones, mushrooms, and a (very realistic) plastic hedgehog.

We dropped down from the wooded hills, then followed a track onto farmland. Rounding a corner, we suddenly came a large piece of wooden sculpture. While admiring it, two muggles also arrived to look at it. They told us that the sculpture is called Xylem Voices, by Walter Bailey, and it forms part of the ‘Inspiring Views’ trail https://www.surreyhillssociety.org/events/inspiring-views-trail (Editor’s note: we had seen another of the pieces in the series, Perspectives, up on the Greensand Way while walking last year.)

Xylem Voices

Xylem Voices


We were nearly back at the car now, finding the last two caches in the series as we walked through the fields, then along the road for a short distance as the sun dipped and the afternoon cooled.

To sum up: this is a beautiful walk, through woodland, open fields and commons and almost all on paths and tracks, a great way to spend a sunny late autumn day.

Here are some of the other caches we found:

November 3 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Swallowfield to Sandhurst

The final day of our epic walk from Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst (Berks); this section completed the line between all 3 Sandhursts – as last year we walked from Berkshire to Sandhurst in Kent.

Eversley Ford

Today’s 13 mile route would take us over very familiar territory.

We have been caching for over 6 years and we, like most cachers we guess, have found most of our caches close to home. Today’s route would pass through several series we had previously undertaken. It was therefore a little surprising we managed to attempt 13 caches that we had never attempted before!

As we left Swallowfield we noted that the village Firework Fiesta would be happening that evening. Our car was parked close to the main event… we needed to be finish our walk and return with our other car well before the fireworks started – otherwise we would be stuck in traffic!

Our first three caches were all on the Swallowfield boundary. The first, intriguingly titled ‘Twists, Turns and Flow’ and was under a bridge over the River Broadwater. With such a scary title we were a little concerned we may get wet, but a close examination of the bridge from the side, meant the retrieval was easy and dry!

Don’t drop the cache!


The River Broadwater is a small river and has two tributaries, the Whitewater and the Blackwater. Today’s walk would be following the River Blackwater all the way to Sandhurst.

Our next cache was a Church Micro at the nearby Swallowfield Church. The previous cacher had logged a DNF, but we found the cache quite easily. A small clip box, with a fine view of the Church. Our last cache in Swallowfield was adjacent to a large oak tree – another easy find.

Swallowfield Church

Pleased with our early successes we then had a 2-3 mile walk to another set of caches close to Eversley Ford.

On the way our path initially followed the River Broadwater quite closely, yet we somehow missed where the Blackwater and Whitewater merged, as we were too busy watching a horse and trap being exercised in an adjacent field!


Prior to Eversley Ford we arrived at Farley Ford. We had been to this spot twice before, once when we undertook the Hampshire Drive series (November 2016), and once when completed the Farley Forage series (August 2017). We desperately tried to remember some of the hides in the Farley Forage series, but we failed to re-find any of the caches based on our recall of the circuit.

Farley Ford…visited for the THIRD time on our caching travels!


We left the Farley Forage series, walked through several fields with horses until we arrived at lane leading to our next cache. Here the hint mentioned a ditch crossing. Once we found the correct ditch (fortunately dry), it was easy to locate the cache. In fact, it hadn’t been hidden that well, so we hid it slightly better.

Our walk so far had been North of the River Blackwater in Berkshire, At Eversley Ford we crossed into Hampshire, where an old county marker hosts a cache. The cache owner requests that the cache is moved ‘to the other county’ after each find. We moved it back to its proper place.. into the Royal County of Berkshire.

The Ford itself was busy – we paused for coffee. During our short stop we saw many a dog-walker, cyclist and rambler use the foot-crossing by the ford. The nearby Eversley Mill was a restaurant until a few years ago – sadly now closed.

After a short while the Hampshire footpath took us into the village of Eversley where a bus stop provided us with a straightforward find. (Readers may remember we struggled with the Silchester Bus Stop cache, so we really grateful for very explicit hint here !)

Our brief sortie into Hampshire was over and we re-crossed the river back into Berkshire, and followed in reverse the Finchampstead Undulations series. This stretch brought back happy memories as it was one of the first series we undertook way back in January 2013 (and one of our first blog entries too!). Of course we couldn’t remember where these caches were either, but we did recall having to jump across a stream to find a cache, but this looked impossible now as there was a wire-fence on the far side of the ditch.

We also remembered a very muddy path, yet ours was dry and the view the river had changed completely. Instead of a muddy grass field, hundred of trees had been planted. This will be quite a forest in years to come!

Future Forest of Tomorrow


The Finchampstead Undulation series has had a couple of changes over the years, notably the addition of a couple of extra caches. The first cleverly hidden close to the ‘Welcome to Wokingham’ sign, the other less-cleverly hidden in a 45 degree angle fence post.

Up to now, we had been following the river, but now we were in lake territory. Over many years, gravel extraction had taken place and the huge pits have been converted into wildlife lakes. The banks between the lakes form an intricate pattern of paths and it was one of these that we chose to make a small diversion from our route. We almost regretted that decision when it took us 15 minutes to find the cache! It was hidden in a hollow tree-trunk, but the GPS wobbled a lot, we needed to jump (another!) ditch, and fight our way past brambles and thorny branches.

After this ordeal, we noticed a seat and we were in need of sustenance. The seat had been placed facing some bird feeders and we watched blue tits, great tits, robins, blackbirds and magpies all come to feed unaware of our presence.

Yateley Lakes

We proceeded along the lake banks for another mile or so and found the best two caches of the day. The first hanging in plain sight, and the second inside a garden gnome!

We’ve found over 2500 caches, and never seen a cache inside a gnome!

Besides the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst has one really (in)famous landmark, “Happy Christmas” bridge

The Blackwater Valley path deviates from the river as it approaches Sandhurst. There is an area of fishing lakes, and private property, so for a mile we had a section of road walking.

We have found many of the Sandhurst caches on our caching exploits over the last 6 years, and today we added 2 more. The first was well protected by a huge fungus, and the second was a small magnetic nano.

The last cache of the day!

Not the most spectacular cache, but it did mean we found 13 caches out of 13! All we had to do was re-cross the river back into Hampshire, walk along the Blackwater (South side), cross back into Berkshire and finish our grand walk at the Sandhurst sign, where we started our walk to Sandhurst (Kent) nearly 2 years ago.

Phew !

Journey’s End

Then a quick drive back to Swallowfield to retrieve our other car before a firework cordon enveloped it ! Accomplished with ease!

EPILOGUE

Our 85+ mile journey was complete.

We had walked from the Sandhurst (Gloucs), close to River Severn, back home.

We had walked through pretty Cotswold villages, climbed hills, walked along the Ridgeway and by a myriad of rivers and canals.

When we started our walk the paths and fields were flooded following the 2018 ‘Beast from the East’, we had endured the 2018 Summer heat and somehow missed the named Autumn storms by a few miles.

We found 250 caches on our way home in phone boxes, bus stops, and Roman amphitheatres. We also managed to break our daily caching record .. twice!

Most of the route had been on footpaths, some of which we would never have found without the geocaches set on them, so thank you to all the cache owners whose caches we have attempted, as you have helped guide us home!

We hope you have enjoyed reading about this year’s Sandhurst to Sandhurst journey – its been quite varied!

Caches in the final section included :

October 26 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Silchester to Swallowfield

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The weather forecast said ‘rain early, dry later on’, which seemed a good omen for our walk from Silchester to Swallowfield, the latest stage of our walk from Sandhurst in Gloucestershire (just north of Gloucester, on the banks of the River Severn) back home to Sandhurst in Berkshire (home of the Royal Military Academy). The omens didn’t seem quite so good as we stood in the pouring rain at the English Heritage car park close to (Roman) Silchester, collecting clues for the ‘Calleva Atrebatum’ multicache. But the rain was easing by the time we parked in (modern) Silchester village. And it had stopped altogether by the time we had found the cache hidden at the adjacent bus stop; we had tried and failed to find it in the twilight at the end of our last walk, but it was easier when we could see what we were looking for!


We set off through the quiet back lanes of Silchester, then followed the Brenda Parker Way to reach the walls encircling the site of the Roman town. The BPW continues atop the walls, making for an atmospheric walk, and a chance to talk to the stonemasons who were clearing and repointing a section of the walls. Read about the history of Silchester here https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/silchester-roman-city-walls-and-amphitheatre/history The sun came out and we made our way around to Silchester church, just inside the walls (and I bet the church was originally constructed from stone ‘liberated’ from those same walls) to find the Church Micro cache there, and stop for coffee. It’s worth a look inside the church, there are wall paintings, which you don’t often see https://www.outdoorlads.com/events/silchester-quester-historic-church-search-hampshire-180402

St Mary the Virgin, Silchester

St Mary the Virgin, Silchester




As we packed up to leave … WHERE’S MY GEOPOLE? … I’d left it behind, part way around the walls (doh!). We backtracked, then went forward again to visit the Roman amphitheatre, found another cache, and had an early lunch sitting where the spectators would have sat, looking down into the arena at some young children playing in the sun, throwing a rugby ball.

After our picnic, we finally left Silchester, walking east along a path which followed the line of the Devil’s Highway, the Roman road leading from Staines-on-Thames to Silchester https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_Highway_(Roman_Britain) In various places, this is a path across fields, or a wide straight track between ditches, or tarmacked road. We were stopped on one of the road sections by two council workers, who’d had a report of fly tipping. We found it, a burned-out van and a load of plumbing waste (yuk) and phoned them.
Devil's Highway

Devil’s Highway


... Devil's Highway misused

… Devil’s Highway misused


We made progress very steadily from here on, partially because the route was dead straight (no navigation to do) and partially because the caches thinned out once away from Silchester, and we only found three more in the next three miles. Then we turned slightly north, to cross the noisy, busy A33 – a big contrast to the quiet and peaceful miles we had just walked – and approached the end of our walk at Swallowfield. There was just one more cache to attempt, which was just off route, close to King’s Bridge over the River Loddon. Well, we spotted the cache, but that was as far as it went; it had fallen to the ground on the far side of a fearsome barbed wire fence and we couldn’t reach it. Slightly disappointed, we walked down into Swallowfield to reach our geocar parked at the village hall.
King's Bridge

King’s Bridge


... unreachable cache

… unreachable cache


Here are some of the caches we found:

October 13 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Thatcham to Silchester

Nature Discovery Centre – Thatcham

This section of our Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst(Berks) walk was one of the longest, about 13 miles. Due to various other commitments on other weekends, we were short of alternatives, even though the weather forecast was ‘interesting’. Storm Callum was dropping heavy rain in the West Country (especially near where our walk had started in Gloucestershire). We drove through one exceptionally heavy shower, but thereafter, and surprisingly, the weather remained dry.

We started out from Thatcham’s Nature Discovery Centre https://www.bbowt.org.uk/explore/visitor-centres/nature-discovery-centre and found three caches in a small circular walk around its lakes. The Discovery Centre is now a wildlife haven with a myriad of lakes (filled-in gravel pits), trees and footpaths. There is even a small community orchard.

The three caches we found all had a little ‘something’ about them. The first involved jumping across a, fortunately dry, stream. The second cache was found hanging, in plain view, yards from one of the lakes. The third was hidden in a small enclosed area bounded by a gate, a fence and some trees – a quite tricky retrieval even using the geopole.

Three caches down, and we were still close to the car. We crossed the Great Western Railway line before arriving at the Kennet and Avon Canal. Our previous walk had followed the canal for a couple of miles, and today we would follow it again for about 2 miles to Thatcham Station. The towpath was busy, and we saw many people exercising themselves and their dogs. We paused to admire three kites high above, and three ducks dabbling their way along a reed bed.

There was only one cache to find, and a quick easy find in the bole of tree. Inside we found a trackable, ‘Hilly the Hippo’. When we first retrieved the cloth toy, we initially thought it was an elephant!

Then two rarities ! A seat (great for a quick coffee stop), and a turf-lined lock.

Monkey Marsh Lock (Thatcham)


Mrs Hg137 is the expert on all things canal-related, and apparently turf lined locks are rare (only two survive on the Kennet and Avon canal). Turf locks were cheaper to make, as much of the lock-sides are grass/mud/plants. Boat owners aren’t keen on them as there are fewer places to scramble up and down from a boat, and they are more porous than other locks so the canal loses more water.
As we drank our coffee a duck wandered by, looked at us, and headed to a nearby shallow puddle. It then dabbled at the grass and water edging the puddle for 10-15 minutes, oblivious to us and oblivious to the cyclists and walkers that went by.

“I love puddles…they’re so full of food !”


Shortly after passing the lock we left the canal and headed away from Thatcham. The railway line is nearby, and the barriers descended for a train. We waited and watched. We waited. The queue of traffic got longer. We waited. Eventually we decided to look for an adjacent cache. We dipped just out of eyesight of the stationary motorists and made a quick retrieval. More surprisingly there was another a trackable inside “Smelly Pooch”. Two consecutive caches, and two trackables – not bad!

Somewhere beyond the branch is a cache!


We crossed away from the traffic and picked up a series of caches under the title of “Let’s go Round again” – apparently named after a favourite walk of the cache owners, TurnerTribe. By and large these were easy finds, sometimes there was a small scramble down a ditch, on another we had to lift and separate a large log pile. We struggled with one or two where we overthought the hint, but these were the exception. As we approached one cache we heard a strange squealing sound..and a lady shouting at her dog. The squealing wasn’t a dog noise, it wasn’t a rusty swing… what was it ? Then, as we knelt to retrieve the cache we saw the source of the squealing… a smallholding of pigs!

We were counting caches as our 12th find of the day would be our 2500th find! To mark this auspicious mark, we would have liked a memorable hiding place, or a really special container.. sadly not to be! (Ed: for the record we started in caching in September 2012, so it took us just over 6 years to find 2500 caches).

Cache 2500


We were still celebrating when we arrived at the next cache site. This was set by TadleyTrailblazers (a cacher we met 3-4 years ago). Sadly we couldn’t find the cache. A lovely oak tree, with lots of boles, holes, nooks, crannies… but no cache. Cache 2501 would have to wait a little longer!

Mm.. lets go in the other direction!


We found a couple more of the ‘Let’s go Round again’ series, and arrived at a road. We had been dreading this part of the walk as we had half a mile of road walking and then another two miles on cacheless footpaths. The countryside was reasonable enough, but our navigation was poor. (Once we decided, sorry – Mr Hg137 decided, to ignore a footpath sign and walk for 500 yards into ever-denser undergrowth.

Another sign for us to ignore!

On anther occasion the main footpath was closed for bridge repair works. We ignored the closure sign and 400 yards further on found ourselves impounded in a barbed wire enclosure. Grr!).

It was therefore with some delight we reached a set of caches. We were a couple of miles from Tadley, and it came as no surprise to discover that they had been set by TadleyTrailblazers. We walked across two of his series (TTs Mini tour, and A2B&B (Axmansford to Baughurst and Back!). These were all fairly easy finds – 5ft in a tree, by a gate post, deep in a hedge. The one that we enjoyed most was hidden behind a ‘swinging’ piece of wood. Swing the wood, and find the cache!

We struggled with our next cache (set by Buddy01189). We haven’t done any if his (her?) caches before, and apparently there is frequently an evil twist. The caches are hidden fairly, but with a warped mindset. We couldn’t get into the warped mindset (and after 10-15 minutes we tried really, really hard),so marked it as a DNF.

Having had a failure at one cache, lady luck smiled on us at the next. A Church Micro Multi.To find the final we needed to find dates from a plaque and numbers from a war memorial. We tried to do this before we left home, but no internet photographs gave us the necessary information. We were very concerned the final hide would be half a mile back the way we came. But, we had one other piece of information. The hint. The hint, rather than being ‘base of tree’ or ‘MTT’ or ‘hidden in ivy’, was a very specific number – 57.1.

Tadley Church


As we approached the church we scanned every conceivable lamp-post, telegraph pole, telephony cabinet for such a number. Then as we could just see the church in the distance we spotted an object at ground level. (One pertinent to an allied industry Mrs Hg137 has some dealing with). As we remarked on the object we saw the associated number…57.1. Is there a cache behind? Yes !!! Fab! We wouldn’t need to retrace our steps!

We did visit the outside of the modern church, and the adjacent village green. A good refreshment spot.

It was getting quite late by now and the pleasant temperatures were dropping as were the light levels. We still had a mile to go (one easy cache to find), and walk through ever-darkening wood.

Farewell Tadley

The woodland paths led us out at Silchester Green and we were happy to see, in the early evening gloom, our car in the distance. But first… one more cache. In a bus stop. Our GPS told us which of two shelters the cache was hidden in, but in very poor light, in a dark ‘shed-like’ shelter, we couldn’t find the cache. We did though find lots and lots of spider’s webs! Yuk!

A slightly disappointing end to a strenuous day – 3 DNFs in total, but we did find 20 caches including our 2,500th find. Something we could celebrate!

October 1 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Boxford to Thatcham

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Boxford Church

Boxford Church


We’re walking in stages from Sandhurst in Gloucestershire (just north of Gloucester, on the banks of the River Severn) home to Sandhurst in Berkshire (home of the Royal Military Academy). The next leg of our epic walk was to be from Boxford, along the Lambourn valley into Newbury, then along the Kennet and Avon canal to Thatcham. About eleven miles, plus some geocaching on the way to keep us occupied!
The oldest working window in England

The oldest working window in England


We started in Boxford, another of the pretty small villages spaced at intervals down the valley of the River Lambourn. Our first cache of the day was the Church Micro cache at St Andrew’s, which claims to have the ‘oldest working window in England’ (a hole with a wooden shutter, as far as I could see). Having inspected that – it took about ten seconds – we soon found the information we needed to locate the cache, then had a short walk to find it and sign the log.

Next came a rural section along paths and tracks, following the Lambourn Valley Way, sometimes next to the river, sometimes a little higher up the side of the valley. We watched a farmer tilling the fields and passed a long, south-facing slope planted with young grape vines.

We emerged at Bagnor where we had lunch by the river just outside the Watermill Theatre. Of the caches so far that day, some we found, some we didn’t. Some we thought were missing, some we thought were just our ineptitude. We had an excuse for one of our failures as there was logging going on within a few yards and we didn’t want to hang around with heavy machinery in action close by (well, that’s how we rationalised it, anyway).

Watermill Theatre

Watermill Theatre



Once under the A34 Newbury Bypass, we were away from the open landscape and the wide chalk valley and the surroundings were immediately more suburban. We walked behind houses and along paths, crossed the A4, then downhill towards St Mary’s Church, Speen. There’s a cache just outside the churchyard, but we couldn’t search for it because a muggle was tending a grave in the churchyard. We did a slow circuit of the church – tried to look inside, but it was locked – and returned to a now-empty churchyard. We weren’t being watched now so it was easy to hunt for and find the cache. But the cache, ‘Elmore Abbey’, isn’t named after the church – it’s named after the one-time Benedictine monastery immediately behind (the monks have since moved to Salisbury http://father-gerald.blogspot.com/2013/01/stbenedicts-priory-salisbury.html ).
Speen church /Elmore Abbey

Speen church /Elmore Abbey


Mr Hg137 sneaked up the drive for a glance at the now ex-abbey, then we set off along the Speen Moors Walk, https://info.westberks.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=36688&p=0 on a path by small streams, under the viaduct of the Lambourn Valley railway, and gradually heading into Newbury. There’s a series of caches along there, the SMW (named after the walk!) and we found them as we walked. We arrived at Goldwell Park, where we couldn’t the cache located there, and sat at a picnic table to think about where we had gone wrong (we didn’t read all the old logs, we think the coordinates were incorrect). While we ate a banana and drank some coffee, a personal trainer and two trainees (victims?) emerged from the adjacent leisure centre and did some circuits involving ropes, press-ups, and running on the spot. Phew!
A last look at the River Lambourn ...

A last look at the River Lambourn …

... and goodbye to the Lambourn Valley Railway

… and goodbye to the Lambourn Valley Railway


We left the trainees to their efforts and continued to the Kennet and Avon Canal, crossing on the Monkey Bridge. It’s a new(ish) bridge, replaced about 10 years ago, because the previous incarnation was steep and hard to cross. There’s a cache tucked under the bridge and we found it after a short search, banging our heads on the underside of the bridge.

Duck board?

Duck board?


Had we but realised, that was our last find of the day. We walked on to the town centre – the first and only town of any size that we will visiteon this walk. We visited the parish church, St Nicholas, made a diversion to fail to find the associated cache, and failed. At Newbury lock, we stopped to look at the ‘Ebb and Flow’ sculpture which sits a short way from the lock and consists of a large bowl that fills and empties as the lock is used; no boats used the lock so we didn’t see it in operation http://www.peterrandall-page.com/sculptures/ebb-and-flow
Newbury lock

Newbury lock


Ebb and Flow

Ebb and Flow


We followed the canal towpath east out of the town. We failed to find another cache under a bridge – a passing muggle asked us if we were ‘sheltering from the rain’ (it was dry), and finally failed yet again as we left the river/canal to return to the gecoar, parked at the Nature Discovery Centre in Thatcham https://www.bbowt.org.uk/explore/visitor-centres/nature-discovery-centre Not a great end to a long walk, but we were now a lot closer to home.

Here are some of the caches we found:

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

East Garston

Plans.

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

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

Plans.

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

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

Plans.

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

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

Plans.

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

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

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

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

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

The River Lambourn at East Garston

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lambourn Valley Way


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seven swans-a-swimming

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

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

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

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

The straight lines of the M4 …

… and the straight lines of a farmer’s field

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

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