November 10 : FTF – Wokingham – Chestnut Avenue

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

FTF - First To Find

FTF – First To Find

Unusually for a Friday, neither of us was working, and we (naturally) had some caching planned, on the North Downs south of Guildford. The GPS was loaded, a map was prepared, a thermos of coffee was made, and we were all set to leave.

Just before setting off, we paused to check emails, and … there was a new cache less than 10 miles away, that was still unfound, despite having been published for two days. We ditched our previous plans, loaded the new cache, and set off at speed for Woosehill, on the north-west edge of Wokingham. (Editor’s note: that is incredibly rare, new caches are usually snapped up within minutes or hours of publication. Some cachers make a point of searching out new caches to get that coveted FTF – first to find – and a signature on a blank logsheet. )

Both of us know the area very well, as Mr Hg137 used to live in Woosehill, and it’s close to where I work so I walk there at lunchtimes. (Editor’s note, again: this was what swayed our decision to attempt a FTF on this cache.) We parked close to the likely target, and set off into the woods. The coordinates of the cache could be determined by visiting three noticeboards, counting the vowels on them, and doing a little sum with the answers to get the final coordinates. We did that. We checked the answers, and double-checked just in case. It seemed quite a long way to the final location, over a mile, but hey-ho, sometimes you have to strive to be the first … we set a waypoint in the GPS and set off across Woosehill.

It's a noticeboard - but not the right one!

It’s a noticeboard – but not the right one!


It was a pleasant walk on a sunny late autumn day, and a trip through memory lane for Mr Hg137. We walked through streets, crossed the main road, through Morrison’s supermarket, past the takeaway and the surgery, across a green area, across the Emm Brook and on into Wokingham. We arrived at the given coordinates, by a household hedge, which bore no resemblance whatsoever to the hint on the cache. We checked our arithmetic again. We checked the derived coordinates on the GPS. It all matched. Something had gone wrong, but what? Chastened and disappointed, we trekked back to the geocar and went home.
On the way - to the wrong place

On the way – to the wrong place

Still going the wrong way ...

Still going the wrong way …


Once at home, we logged a note for the cache and sent a note to the cache owner, describing our travails. While doing this, we were thinking about our arithmetic and workings and we wondered if the coordinates in the cache description were maybe wrong. We played around with Google maps, typing in coordinates that were slightly different to the published ones. Eureka! There was a typo in the westings of the published coordinates, which should have read W000 52… instead of W000 51… And that led to a spot not very far away from the noticeboards we had visited earlier.

Back into the geocar, and back again at speed to Woosehill. This time we could park really close, and we scampered across to our destination. And there it was! A new cache and an empty log and we had achieved the coveted ‘First To Find’.

Back home, we reflected on our morning while eating a very, very late lunch. Forty miles, two visits, several miles of walking. Was it worth it … yes!

PS To round off the story, we sent another message to the cache owner explaining the above (or a summary of it, anyway). He was most apologetic and amended the mistake in the cache description almost instantly.

PPS We never did drink that flask of coffee that was made at the start of this post. By the time we rediscovered it, a day later, it had gone cold.

PPPS Here are some more pictures of the cache. They weren’t taken right at the final location, so they show what it looks like, but not where it is!

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October 21 : Virginia Water (Part 1)

Virginia Water is an area of parkland with a large lake at its centre. It is part of Windsor Great Park, and thus is a Royal Park.

Virginia Water

Back in July, 24 caches had been placed in the grounds of Virginia Water, and these seemed to be excellent caching targets. The caches were of various types – a couple of challenge caches (for which we didn’t qualify), a couple of puzzle caches (which we ought to be able to solve), a couple of multis, but the majority were simple straightforward hides. There were also a few other older caches too, so we had well over 30 caches to attempt.

Virginia Water is a busy attraction. There are runners, dog walkers, cyclists, young families – so finding caches could be tricky. The terrain is broadly flat as the main feature is the 130 acre Virginia Water Lake, and the paths are very good to walk on. To walk around the lake, a well known charity-walking circuit, is 4.5 miles. (Often rounded up to 5 miles for charity purposes!).

Beautiful Autumn Colours

We decided rather than attempt all 30 caches on one visit, we would use Virginia Water as our ‘Winter’ project, and find 6-8 caches per visit. We also decided to utilise the layby on the nearby A30 rather than pay £10 for the (3-hour) car parking.

Dotted around Virginia Water are various attractions. These include ruins, a cascade and today’s target, a totem pole. This is about a 20-30 minute walk from the main entrance, and is probably the most visited attraction in the park. (20-30 minutes being an ideal distance for youngsters to walk with the expectation of seeing something special).

Our first caches were based on the totem pole. Both were of a similar genre, though for some reason were classed as two different types of cache (a puzzle cache and a letter box hybrid). Both required us to read information from the totem pole’s information boards, and derive a BEARING and DISTANCE. (Note, not a set of co-ordinates). Fortunately for us, both bearings were similar, and the difference in distances was less than a quarter of a mile.

Totem Pole on our sunny arrival

We strode purposefully to the first area. Checked our distance and bearing from the totem pole, and searched. A large hole under some tree roots looked inviting, especially as we were looking for an ammo can. Not there.
We searched in the nearby rhododendron bushes (there are a lot of rhododendron bushes in Virginia Water, and we suspect these will be a common feature in our caching quest). Not there. After 20 minutes searching we gave up. We convinced ourselves we must have got some of the calculation wrong, so abandoned and attempted the second totem pole BEARING/DISTANCE hide.

We arrived at a meeting of various footpaths. With the hint of ‘base of large tree’ this should be easy. Nope.
We looked at many of the trees we could see, most of them in rhododendron thickets, all to no avail. Again we doubted our ability to derive the correct BEARING and DISTANCE so we abandoned. (We did give ourselves a further excuse here as the totem pole distance was calculated in metres, and our GPS was measuring in tenths of miles.)

Lovely Leaves

So we had abandoned our first two Virginia Water caches. But we knew we’d be back, and we could double-check our calculations before our next visit.

We decided to attempt a further four caches, as the weather was worsening. Our first find of the day, in a broken stump, was tricky to extricate, made even harder as we were underneath a chestnut tree dropping nuts in the ever-quickening wind.

Our second find was, not unexpectedly, deep in a rhododendron bush. We were looking for an ‘X’, which Mrs HG137 saw, but as the GPS indicated that we were still 60 feet away, we ignored…until of course the GPS settled and we had to burrow our way into the bush a second time.

Our third find, the smallest cache so far, was relatively easy, apart from the slightly damp grass we walked across to find it.

Then the rain started. Cold, autumnal rain. Most of the park has well established trees, but as luck would have it, we found ourselves in an area of 7-10 year old saplings. No cover at all! Eventually we found a suitable tree to use as cover, precariously overlooking a stream. We took great care not to slide downwards!

Totem Pole – after the rain

Eventually the rain cleared, and with even blacker clouds on the horizon we attempted one more cache before leaving the Park. This time in a tree stump, and quite exposed, so we found some leaves and bark and hid it better.

Environmental Checking of the Water

As we had entered the Park we had noticed that a proportion of the car park had been sealed off with TV/Film vehicles inside. Being nosy we ascertained from a ranger that scenes from a forthcoming episode of ‘Silent Witness’ were being shot in the nearby village. Something to look out for!

‘Silent Witness’ filming caravans

We also discovered Virginia Water has been used in many TV programmes and films (including Harry Potter and Tarzan!), so if our photos look familiar its because you’ve seen them in film!

A couple of a caches we found :

September 30 : Popham Perambulation

It had been some weeks since our last all-day geocaching expedition, and with Autumn taking hold, the Popham Perambulation seemed an ideal route to complete before the weather and daylight succumbed to Winter.

Fantastic views around the farmland


Popham is a small village just outside of Basingstoke near to both the M3 and A30. It has an airfield though we only saw one aircraft all day and that was at lunchtime. The Perambulation circuit consists of 16 caches, a bonus cache (based on numbers collected from caches along the way), and also a Church Micro: 18 caches, 5 miles.

The route took us around farmland – we must have gone round at least half a dozen fields, many of which had boundary hedgerows (ideally hiding places!). The route also crossed through several small copses (again ideal caching locations).

While we were on route to cache 1 we were aware of several vehicles driving into the first farm.
What were they going to ?

What is that vehicle doing ?

It was only much later we saw lots of pheasants (doing a good guard job over a cache) and heard guns firing. Then, we realised our route was close to a day’s shoot. Indeed while we were attempting caches 14, 15, and 16 the shooting party were preparing to shoot within yards of where we were looking. Minutes later and we would have been in the firing line! Phew !

The numbers that we needed to find the bonus cache had been placed in various caches on route. We were grateful that the numbers were duplicated in various caches, as we failed to find 4 of the 16 caches! Two of these DNFs were in ivy and after 10-15 minutes searching we gave up at each location. Another of our DNFs had genuinely gone missing and has subsequently been replaced.

Somewhere in the ivy, is a cache. Sadly we didn’t find it!

Many of the caches we found were relatively small and it took us a few cache finds until we found a cache big enough to fit the Schlumpfi trackable inside.

Farewell Schlumpfi!

St James, Woodmancott


The Church Micro was an easy find, as it was out in the open, so we hid it better. Our only disappointment was that the Church was closed, presumably for the following day’s Harvest Festival. The Church did have an unusual way of displaying parish notices!

The Church seats were an ideal place to have lunch, and it was here a light aircraft flew overhead, towing a banner advertising Winchester shopping centre!

After cache 16 we checked the numbers we had found, and discovered more by luck than judgement, our car was parked a few yards from the final hiding place.

Although we didn’t find all the caches which was disappointing, the walk around the chalk farmland around Hampshire was great circuit with some expansive views which we thoroughly enjoyed. Some of the caches we found included :

September 8 : Shropshire – Craven Arms – the way home

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Our holiday was over. We were going home. Rather than face the traffic jams on the M6, we chose to travel south across country, past Craven Arms and Ludlow, joining the motorway at Worcester, and stopping for caches on the way (obviously!).

Our first two targets were in, or close to, lay-bys on the A49. The first was ‘Treasy Peasy’, and was found … behind a tree. The second was ‘Bush’, and was found … erm … near a bush.

In a tree?

In a tree?


We continued south, reaching Craven Arms, a town named after a pub! Four of the caches here are placed along the main roads which radiate from the centre and are called ‘Craven Arms – Gateway to the Marches’ north / south / east / west – a very neat idea for a cache series. We opted to find ‘north’ and ‘south’ as we passed through.

Close to the southern edge of Craven Arms is the chocolate-box pretty Stokesay Castle http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/stokesay-castle We parked in the English Heritage car park and walked a short way along the path into the churchyard of Stokesay Church, which leads to the castle. After a few minutes of gazing at both castle and church, and taking many, many pictures – it is soooo photogenic, we realised that we should desist and should instead look for the Church Micro cache which was close by. After a little more wandering about, we found the cache inside the churchyard, in a yew tree. That was a first for us, as all the other sixty of so Church Micro caches we’ve found elsewhere are outside the boundary of the church.
Stokesay Castle

Stokesay Castle


And that was the end of the caching, and the end of the holiday. We got back into the car and started the long drive home…

And here are two more of the caches we found:

September 2 : All Stretton

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Shropshire Hills

Shropshire Hills – from Caer Caradoc to the Wrekin


Just as September started, we were away for a week’s walking in the glorious countryside around Church Stretton. I had opted for an easier walk – ‘only’ 1,200 feet of ascent around the slopes of Caer Caradoc and back along the lower slopes of the Long Mynd, while Mr Hg137 had gone off to do a harder walk with many more miles and feet of climbing. And a very fine walk it was, too, on a sunny warm day that was still very much like summer.

Towards the end of the walk, my party of about fifteen were walking through All Stretton, making our way back to Church Stretton a mile or two to the south. I knew that there was a cache in the village – from the ‘Fine Pair’ series placed where there are a post box and a red telephone box placed within sight of each other – and I hoped that our walk would go close to the cache so that I could stop to get it. I was lucky; we turned out onto the main street in the village and I could see the phone box a little way away, in the direction we were heading. I speeded up, and rushed past many of my companions to arrive at the box, dive behind it and retrieve the cache before everyone else had reached the spot.

Fine Pair - All Stretton

Fine Pair – All Stretton


Two things happened then, one expected, and one not so : some of the other members in my group looked at me strangely (understandable, and expected) so I explained what I was doing : then the walk leader arrived and asked me to sign the log for her too – hello to MoJoBrad, another cacher met in the field (unexpected)!

Footnote: Almost simultaneously with me finding this cache, about a mile to the East, Mr HG137 was also attempting to find a cache too. High on the side of the hill Caer Caradoc, is a cave, allegedly where British Chieftain, Caratacus, hid whilst plotting his attack on the invading Roman army. A picture of the summit and the cave is shown here. Sadly Mr HG137 only had a couple of minutes to search for his cache, and he was unsuccessful. One up to me!

August 19 : Farley Forage

Our plans today were the Farley Forage series and a couple of other caches on route. The caches were ‘squeezed’ between two other series we had completed recently – the Hampshire Drive By, and the Cache-as-Cache-can series in Farley Hill.

Passports at the ready!

The Farley Forage series was wholly in Berkshire, but due to quirkiness of the roads – and a troublesome (vehicle) ford crossing of the River Blackwater, we parked in Hampshire. Indeed this closeness of the county boundary was celebrated by our first cache of the day called County (Re) Boundary. This cache was a replacement for a previous one, and we suspect hidden in the same place. In a tree bole, 6 feet above a muddy bank.
Mr Hg137 scrambled up, located the cache and passed it down for Mrs Hg137 to sign the log and retrieve 2 trackables : Monkey Magic and a World Geocoin. What a good start to the day!

Farley Ford, standing in Berkshire, looking into Hampshire

We then started on the Farley Forage route, crossing the River Blackwater not by the ford but via a small concrete bridge and arriving very quickly at Farley Forage #1. We had read that the previous finder had reported the cache container was broken so we had taken along a film canister to provide a further layer of protection. It wasn’t needed as the cache owner had been out and fixed the cache before 9 o’clock!

The cache owner, Twinkandco, places small caches, generally nano sized, sometimes a film container, but nearly always connected to a piece of rural camouflage. Sometimes the container is inside some bark, or a log, sometimes with a ‘tail’ inside a tube.. but always great fun!

All of the caches are easy (ish) to find, but sometimes a bit of bank scrambling is needed for retrieval.

This series had been advertised as ” … very wet and boggy in places after rainy weather and WELLYS ARE HIGHLY RECOMMENDED“. We had worn walking boots, and we were grateful we had, as shortly after cache 4 came the mud. Two hundred yards of it. The path was one giant mudslide. We picked our way between the soft, squelchy mud, the really slippery mud and the much-easier-to-walk-on shaly mud. In fact while we were traversing the mud we almost forget to see how close the next cache was, and nearly walked by it.

Mud, mud..glorious mud!

The Farley Forage series consisted of 16 caches and we had two others to find on our 4 mile walk. The County (Re) Boundary was one, and we were soon at the other, Sandpit Lane. We had several host trees to search here, and it was only after a few minutes that we managed to find the cache.

The Farley Forage series contained one multi, and due to some over-zealous navigation on Mr Hg137’s part we approached the first part from the wrong direction thus meaning we had to retrace our steps for the final find.

We had walked uphill, away from the river and the paths were much, much drier.

Except at cache 7.

We had rounded a blind corner on the footpath, and discovered the cache was hidden behind a tree the other side of a large stretch of mud.

(We knew the cache was there, as a plethora of muddy bootprints pointed towards the tree!).

Mrs Hg137 ventured across, and retrieved the cache at the second attempt. It was just as the log was being signed when 2 people came round the blind corner.

We’d been rumbled!

But no! They were cachers too. Penwood Plodders – another husband and wife team. We made sure they endured the mud by asking them to replace the cache! We walked on with them for a cache or two, chatting about the Devon Mega, the mud and caching in general. It became apparent that their walking pace, and cache administration, was quicker then us, so we allowed them to speed ahead. Nice meeting you!

(Ed: in case you are wondering why it takes longer to write ‘hg137’ on a log rather than ‘Penwood Plodders’, its because we scribble down a brief note about each cache, our experience at it, as well as taking a photo for this blog).

That’s better… a bit drier here !

The next section of the route was relatively uneventful, the cache containers maintained their uniqueness. As we re-approached the River Blackwater we crossed a few stiles (always good hiding places) and well as a cache hidden deep in a nettle bush.

Somewhere.. near to this stile’s signage .. may be a cache!

Several times we thought we were catching up with Penwood Plodders, but every time they were returning to the footpath having left it to find a cache.

Penwood Plodders in the distance

For much of the day we could hear the sound of farm machinery, and as discovered caches 12-14 we were walking alongside the farmer’s field. What he thought of two pairs of ‘ramblers’ walking along the footpath and both pairs stopping mid-field, in the same spot, we shall never know.

I wonder whether he spotted us…

We were expecting more mud on this section as the river was only feet away, but the paths were dry and meant the mud layer on our boots was quickly being walked off.

We found all the caches on route – a very enjoyable 4 mile walk – full of interesting finds and varied countryside. If you are in the areas of Farley Hill.. we recommend the series to you!

Other Caches we found included :

August 12 : Petersfield Plod

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

It was the weekend after the UK Geocaching Mega, and it all seemed a bit flat after the hustle and bustle of Devon. But it would be good to go out and actually search for a cache, instead of being handed the cache container by the previous cacher in the queue! We settled on the Petersfield Plod series, which starts at the south east of the town, then circles clockwise up onto the South Downs Way and back down to the starting point. There are 37 caches in the series, plus a few others along the same route. We decided to do every other cache, to give us a chance to do the rest of the series another time, maybe going around in the opposite direction.

Heath Pond, Petersfield

Heath Pond, Petersfield


We set off from a free car park close to Heath Lake, on Petersfield Common. Finding our first cache, we reached the edge of the common, crossed the road, and set off into farmland. And the stiles started … there were lots of them, some were surrounded by nettles, some were quite tall (and I am NOT tall) and, worst, one crossed an electric fence, with an unprotected strand of barbed wire as the top rail. Oh dear! Mr Hg137 did some careful balancing, and I carefully deployed my geohat as protection.
Watch out for barbed wire!

Watch out for barbed wire!


On we went, across a mixture of fields and very narrow lanes, the sort with moss growing down the centre. We dodged nettles, hunted in trees and behind posts, collected caches, and dropped off the ‘What is the City’ trackable we had picked up the week before.
Setting a trackable free

Setting a trackable free


Suddenly it all got very busy. We were stood, signing a cache log, at the side of a country lane. We looked up. A pony and trap were approaching. We waved, and they waved back. We were about to step out into the road, and thought better of it. A peloton of about twenty cyclists was zooming up, faster than the horse ahead. We waited, and they all passed. We stepped out into the road, and set off towards the South Downs. A huge tractor came into view, travelling at speed and entirely filling the lane. We thought for about one second, then climbed the bank at the roadside to let it rush by. Busy around here!
Watch out for horses!   And cyclists!

Watch out for horses! And cyclists!


Watch out for tractors!

Watch out for tractors!


Crossing a more major road, we set off uphill along another narrow lane leading to the South Downs Way. Part way up the hill was a cache hidden up a tree. Mr Hg137 started upwards, but time passed with him some way up the tree, and with me spotting from the ground, but neither of us could see our target and eventually we gave up. (That was a shame, caches up trees are especially satisfying.)
Couldn't find the cache in here ...

Couldn’t find the cache in here …

We walked up the lane. Large tractors and trailers were still rushing past, hauling grain, for it was a sunny day in the middle of harvest time. Nearly at the top of the hill, we needed to step smartly off the road again, as the combine harvester came down the hill, having finished one field and heading for the next.
Watch out for combine harvesters!

Watch out for combine harvesters!


Eventually we reached the crest of the hill and the South Downs Way. We walked this back in 2011, in the other direction, but neither of us could remember this section very well. Having paused to chat to an ultrarunner, out training, we found another few caches, hidden in the hedgerow, while yet more cyclists sped by oblivious to us.
South Downs Way

South Downs Way


We walked along the SDW for only a mile or so, passing the spot which is the county boundary between Hampshire and West Sussex, which is where the SDW originally finished before it was extended to Winchester a few years later.
County boundary - Hampshire/West Sussex

County boundary – Hampshire/West Sussex


And then we turned away northwards, steeply downhill along a lane, then across more fields towards Buriton village. More caches nestled behind nettles, another was buried under a bridge, and others were hidden in hedgerows. Reaching cache 30 in the series, we were concealed in the foliage, signing the log, when a voice from outside said “Is this number 30?” Nice to meet you, DJ_23! We’ll add you to our ever-lengthening list of cachers met while out in the field.
Found it!

Found it!


We were returning to our start point now, and it was late afternoon. A few caches further on was one which had lots of ‘favourite’ point from other cachers, and included the following instructions:
Note: to retrieve the cache you will need a special tool. This can be made from a length of string or thread about a metre in length with a piece of ferrous metal attached to the end of it. A newi-sh bronze coin would do for this (attached with blutak) or a steel screw (or nail). Check to see that it is attracted by a fridge magnet. Alternatively you could use a gadget often sold in budget shops which is invaluable for picking up certain items from the floor for those with limited mobility. Please return the cache carefully (“sticky” end up) once you have signed the log.

We had dutifully carried a piece of string and a nail around with us all day, and now it was time for some ‘fishing’. We were soon successful (we both tried it), and another cache joined our tally.

And then we had one final cache to find, and with a short walk along by the side of Heath Pond we were back at the geocar, having found nineteen of the twenty-one caches we had attempted, and collected clues for a bonus cache to be found another time, after a great walk and caching series on a lovely August day.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the many caches we found: