August 4 : UK Mega 2017, Devon – Day 1, Otterton, Ladram Bay and elsewhere

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

I had finally been permitted a day off work. So, bright and early, we were heading down the A303 towards Devon, towards the 2017 UK Mega Geocaching event at Bicton College.

Close by Bicton College lies the River Otter, Otterton village and Ladram Bay, with its red cliffs and sandstone stacks. The bay is one of my favourite places – ever, ever – we last visited in May 2016 and posted about the caches then. But, for the Mega event, LOTS of new caches had been placed and we planned to do quite a few of them.

Jurassic Coast

Jurassic Coast


We parked in Otterton and switched on the GPS. Mr Hg137 had spent several hours loading up 76 caches for the weekend and we were fully prepared. The GPS fired up … and there were just two (yes, two) caches visible. Aargghh! Something had gone wrong, and we didn’t have a caching route for today, or the rest of the weekend. We thought … how to load some more caches … we had a GPS, we had a laptop, where to find some wifi? Aha! The village pub. We grabbed GPS, laptop and cable, and rushed to the village pub, the Kings Arms http://www.kingsarmsotterton.co.uk where we bought a drink, asked for the wifi password and sat outside, loading caches. The village seemed to be quite busy, and suspiciously many of the folk wandering around seemed to be carrying GPSs. Hmm, a lot of geocachers about!

Mission accomplished, we walked back to the start of our day’s caching route which would lead us out of Otterton, over tracks to Ladram Bay, then up Peak Hill for a view across to Sidmouth, then back along a green lane to the village. We would usually have parked at the car park at Ladram Bay, but the price for doing this has risen to a rip off price of £10, and that is way, way too much for an afternoon’s parking. Oh well, another customer lost forever.

Slippery, slidy path down to the bay

Slippery, slidy path down to the bay


Our first couple of caches were from the ‘Strolling around Otterton’ series which had been recently placed, ready for the Mega event. Mr Hg137 became confused when one of the hints read ‘behind TP’ and he spent a little while looking for a tepee rather than a telegraph pole. Never mind, he worked it out soon enough. Then we left the village and walked towards the coast along a muddy, sunken lane leading downhill towards the bay. We had joined the route of the ‘Mega Byways’ series and found some more caches as we slipped and slid and eventually emerged into Ladram Bay Holiday Park.
Ladram Bay

Ladram Bay


The South West Coast Path crosses here, and we joined it to walk up the hill to the east of the bay, pausing for lunch at a picnic bench overlooking the beach. Here’s a video of the super little bay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9e5nTQvGgY
As we set off uphill away from the bay, we stopped to read a noticeboard, and for a chat to two people coming from the other direction. Their GPS gave them away as geocachers. They were Lydford Locators, and we found more than 50 of their caches as we worked our way down the upper reaches of the Thames in early 2015. We were duly awed to meet them and they were … puzzled by us two fans.

We carried on up the hill on a path between the cliff edge and a cornfield, finding caches as we went. We recognised another geocacher, Simply Paul, who we had last seen at the 2016 Geolympix in Ashridge Forest. And we kept spotting people behaving oddly, stopping at regular intervals or disappearing into hedges and bushes. Cachers, cachers everywhere! (Goodness knows what the locals and muggles made of all this ….)

Peak Hill, Devon: view west

Peak Hill, Devon: view west


We reached the top edge of the field and went into woodland, then spent a little while searching around in ivy before finding our next cache. All the time a family were approaching up the hill, and we just managed to replace the cache before they arrived. Hello to caching family, BECKS RLLR plus geodog, and we kept on bumping into them for the next mile or so. Leaving them to look for the cache we had just re-hidden, we huffed and puffed our way to the very top of the hill, 157 metres above sea level, leaving the woods for heathland and for a fine view out to sea. A short way further on, the south-west coast path began to drop towards Sidmouth, and the view opened out.
SWCP Panorama

SWCP Panorama


Mr Hg137 suddenly realised that there was a cache, named ‘SWCP Panorama’, that he had omitted to load during our earlier, rushed episode at the pub. He cast around like a bloodhound on a scent, and the cache was soon found. It was under a pile of large pebbles that looked as if they had been regularly disturbed – that’s the thing about Mega events, the caches are found a lot in a short time, and there are usually signs of searching, or even a cacher holding the cache!
Bars Lane, Otterton

Bars Lane, Otterton


We turned back inland and down Bars Lane, a sunken tree-lines track which turned into a lane, and with a few stops for cache finding and a few diversions down side paths for more cache finding, we made our way back to Otterton. As we reached the cache where Mr Hg137 had searched earlier for a tepee, we bumped into yet another group of cachers – this group were clearly from Scotland and they were the organising committee for the 2019 Mega event, which is to be in Ayrshire. So many cachers!

Arriving back at the car, we decided to attempt one more cache. This one was called ‘Spoiler’. You get some coordinates as a start point, are told that the cache is within a two-mile radius, and are given a photo taken from the cache site. And that is all the information you get. We’d done one of these before, in London’s Docklands, and hours, days and weeks of research had gone on to find the right place. This one was a bit easier. We knew that the cache was inside a circle based on given coordinates – we drew a circle on the map. We perused likely places using every kind of online map – and got a few candidate places. We researched further – bingo! Mr Hg137 found some drone footage. We had found the place. We drove there, down some very narrow Devon lanes. Walking round the location, we found the cache at the third attempt, when we had finally managed to line up the photo and the view exactly. Phew! Success. We headed off to Honiton and our hotel, to rest up, load some more caches, and prepare for the rigours of the Mega Day on the morrow.
A secret location somewhere in Devon!

A secret location somewhere in Devon!


Here are just some of the many caches we found:

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July 29 Simons Wood, Wokingham

This was week 3 of the Mary Hyde challenge. This week to gain the Mary Hyde souvenir one had to find or deposit a trackable. Finding trackables can often be tricky, as frequently caches are listed as ‘containing a trackable’ but due to various reasons, the trackable is missing. We were therefore grateful we had a trackable in our possession, Annerschter (aka Henry’s Cat). But where to place it ? The weather was forecast to very wet so a short caching trip was planned in Simons Wood on the border of Wokingham/Crowthorne/Finchampstead. Fingers crossed we would finish before it rains!

Simons Wood is owned the National Trust, and is a heavily wooded, and in places heavily rhododendron-ed. The National Trust are slowly removing many of these large invasive plants, but it will still take some time until Simons Wood loses its ‘jungle’ feel.

Is it a jungle or is it Simon’s Wood?


We’ve cached here before – way back in July 2014 when we found one the UK’s oldest geocaches, first hidden in 2003.
Today would be on the other side of the Wood and we would circumnavigate a property known as ‘The Heritage Club’.

Our first find, was well hidden under a fallen tree. We quickly discovered though, it was not a simple find. The cache had been procured from cache maker JJEF, and we had to work out how to open the cache! Like many of JJEF’s caches, it only takes a minute or two..but it gave our ‘little grey cells’ a light work out. As the cache was quite big, it was here placed Annerschter in.

No prizes for guessing where the cache is …

…here!

The second and third caches were harder to find. The hints were ‘near a circular clearing’ and ‘in the roots of a silver birch’. Well, woodland is always changing. Clearings are not clearings for long, silver birches tend to form a mini forest of their own.

For both caches we spent 10-15 minutes looking at a myriad of hiding places, and came close to DNFing both.

Amost a DNF !


Fortunately persistence paid off, and we were successful at each.

Our route back to the car passed the gates of ‘The Heritage Club’, a grandiose title which can easily be mistaken. It is not some 17th century building, or 19th century steam railway.. it is in fact a nudist holiday camp.

The Heritage Club

The Heritage Club

This accounts for the very high, prison-like fences surrounding the property. Given our struggles to find the last two caches we probably wouldn’t have seen anything if the fences weren’t so high!

Last cache of the day

The skies were darkening and cars had headlights on (at 11 am on a July morning!) we had a quarter of a mile yomp along a pavement back to the car. One cache to find – magnetic behind a road sign – and we would have finished. Yards from the car park, the first raindrops fell and we reached the car without getting too wet but having gained another Mary Hyde souvenir.

July 22 : Green Hill, Bracknell

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Caution: this blog contains some pictures that may spoil your enjoyment of these caches if you plan to do them yourself!

“The Lost Treasure of Mary Hyde: Spanning the globe and the seven seas, we introduce you to the infamous Captain Mary Hyde. Her ship, The Golden Cache, was the fiercest, and the bearded buccaneers and sea legged sailors reported to her. Legend has it that she ruled the high seas for many years, and found no shortage of riches throughout her reign.

Avast ye! Join us for a swashbuckling geocaching adventure through daring feats and stormy seas. Make yer way through a four week souvenir journey to find the lost treasure of Mary Hyde.”

I was on standby for work, which meant I couldn’t venture very far from home. Normally we would stay at home and catch up on domestic things. But the geocaching people had launched their summer challenge, ‘The Lost Treasure of Mary Hyde”, and our caching trips of the weeks before had qualified us for the first part of the challenge.

Green Hill, Bracknell

Green Hill, Bracknell


Week 2 of said challenge was to find some geocaches which had been nominated as favourites by many previous finders. We pondered … where could we go to find a group of these … not too far from home … who places caches that are much liked by others? A-ha! Light dawned. The local cacher JJEF places interesting caches with nifty puzzles, often built from wood. We looked around for some of those caches, and found a small series of four, ‘Green Hill’, on the edge of Bracknell.
Maybe there's a cache in here?

Maybe there’s a cache in here? Maybe not!


Parking the geocar in a handy spot near a park, we crossed a busy road and were immediately in woodland. At intervals there were metal pipes, each with a padlocked cap; this was a reclaimed landfill site, and the pipes were venting points. We knew that the first cache we were looking for was close to the way into the woods, but we couldn’t get our GPS to give us an accurate fix, and we spent a while investigating those metal pipes. A rethink had us looking elsewhere and we were soon unravelling the first puzzle, and signing the cache log.
Up there?

Up there?


We soon spotted the next cache, up high in a tree. After lowering it, we realised we had to unlock a padlock to reach the cache log. Out came a piece of paper and a pen, and we fiddled about with combinations of numbers until we had the answer. The third cache, too, was amongst the trees. ‘Amongst’ meant just that, and I took a full scrub-bashing, branch-ducking route to the cache, while Mr Hg137 … took an easier route around the back. Once again, we had to hunt around for something nearby which would give us the method of opening the cache; another few minutes, has another cache log signed.

The fourth and final cache of this little series also needed us to find a tool to unlock the outer cache container to get to the inner cache container to sign the log. This time, the cache container was chained to one tree, while the other part of the cache was chained to another. Shenanigans ensued, and we managed to get the two close (enough) to each other.

That was the series complete, and it had been a good and thought-provoking morning. Before going back, we had just one other thing to do. A little way on, we emerged onto the A329. Mr Hg137’s father used to work just here, at Polysius, and we crossed over the road to look at the site. It’s closed now, and surrounded by fencing. Doubtless it will be converted into ‘executive apartments’ (aka flats) soon. And on that sad little note we returned to the geocar, the next part of our treasure quest safely achieved.

Polysius

Polysius


Here are some of the caches we found (remember the spoiler warning and don’t look if you want to keep the mystery for your caching trip!):

July 15 : Hatchlands Park (and surrounding area)

Hatchlands Park

Hatchlands Park, East Clandon Surrey, is a National Trust property with extensive parkland set around a Georgian property. The parkland is open most days, but the Georgian house, with 6 rooms set out in the early Robert Adam style, has limited days opening. Today just the parkland was open, and with it a small circuit of 11 geocaches for us to find.

We’ve discovered before that geocaches on National Trust land are not so well maintained, as the geocaches serve as ‘introduction caches’ to non-geochers – consequently containers are not always as well hidden as they might be.
This has the knockon effect of being moved, picked up by someone else thinking the cache is litter. Hopefully this wouldn’t happen today!

Our first target though was a Church Micro in East Clandon. Unfortunately we drew a blank here, as the cache, we have subsequently found out, went missing. Cache 2001 would have wait!

East Clandon church


We didn’t have to wait long, as the first cache in Hatchlands Park was near to the entrance gate. A large tree, with copious tree roots. We grovelled around for a few minutes before finding the largish container full of goodies. The log book was a National Trust Hatchlands Park notebook. Very posh! Indeed many of the containers we found we similar large pots, each with a NT notebook inside.

Typical cache contents


Our second cache, again in tree roots, was visible from some distance away. Fortunately in a corner of the park rarely visited but we did our best to hide better.

The ‘wetter than we would have liked’ coffee spot


It was here we had our disaster of the day! We had paused for coffee, and we were using a brand new thermos flask. This had an added ‘feature’ of a lipped top to make pouring easier. We had also not verified the base of the thermos was fully tightened. And so it was, as we poured coffee using the lip, the base came apart and boiling hot coffee spilled over maps, pens, haversack and our clothing. We’ve also discovered the ‘lip’ meant coffee could escape from the thermos if the flask wasn’t upright! Our warning to you… a lip might look a good feature…but unless you can guarantee to keep a full flask absolutely upright, do not buy it!

Quiet paths


After much washing down we walked on around the parkland. The path took an oval circuit around paddocks, and grassland. As we walked on, of course the path became busier and busier – invariably as we neared a cache site.


Sometimes the caches were hidden in fallen logs, other times ‘rabbit holes’ and under seats. The most memorable was the last cache we found. A large box container 20 or so film canisters. But which one contained the log to sign? We set about opening a canister at a time, until – about 15 pots in – we found the one with the log! Great fun!

Where’s the log ?


The drizzle which had been with us on and off all day got slightly heavier, and we found with exceptional good fortune the covered picnic area just in time for lunch. A few people looked in on us, but most were exercising dogs and were on a route march to get back to the car without getting too wet.

Is here a good spot for lunch ?


We had one cache to find 500 feet away, again in tree roots. Sadly for us, this was our only DNF at Hatchlands Park. Three very obvious hosts to look at, but the container had gone AWOL. (Reading subsequently logs, someone had taken the cache back to the Picnic Area and left the cache near a tree some 500 feet from where it should have been!) No wonder we didn’t find it!

We left Hatchlands Park via a children’s play area, with fantastic wooden sculptures, a tree house, and a small animal area. This is a good idea, as, it means the ‘boring cultural’ visit can be traded against visiting the animals and play area.

Our caching day was not yet over, as just a couple of miles south of East Clandon we had two more caches to find. ‘A cache with a view’ did indeed have a view, sadly the light drizzle meant the towers of London were not that visible. A week later the ‘Ride London’ bike race would pass this spot, and as we searched for both this cache and a nearby puzzle cache we were aware that many enthusiasts were out training and learning the route.

A view.. sadly the cyclist can’t see it!

Good job we didn’t come a week later!

July 1 : Elvetham

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Elvetham Heath: nature reserve

Elvetham Heath: nature reserve


Our 2000-cache milestone was not far off, and we had a date planned/hoped for when we wanted to reach it, but we needed to get closer first. So we were out again, heading back close to Fleet again. On a warm, cloudy, muggy Saturday, we parked in the centre of Elvetham, a suburb of Fleet, unnoticed among the many shoppers. Our main objective was the ‘Nature Reserve’ series, placed in and around the many green spaces in Elvetham. But first, something different, neither green nor spacious, a cache from the ‘Off Yer Trolley’ series, which are based around supermarkets. We followed the GPS to the likely location, which was … somewhere in the recycling area. We poked around behind metal bins and fences, and eventually found the cache, while getting puzzled glances from the man emptying the clothes recycling container.
Our start point!

Our start point!


After that, it wasn’t far till we were off the roads and into the nature reserve, an area of trees and heathland, criss-crossed by good paths. There are about a dozen caches, plus a bonus, spread about the reserve and some of the suburban residential area. I’ll describe the bonus cache first (though we didn’t necessarily do it first, I’m just concealing its exact position!) It was a puzzle cache, with three cryptic clues. We had managed to solve two of the three, which left us with a not-too-big rectangular area to search. Luckily for us, just one path crossed this patch, and a detailed search by both of us all along the sides of the path eventually found the cache. We never have worked out what the third clue meant …

Now for the rest of the series. We set off past a small pond, with interesting carved picnic tables, through trees and along gravel paths and boardwalks over boggy areas. There were lots of muggles out and about, walking dogs, accompanying their scooter-riding children, and just taking the air. It was good to see it so well used, but it did make it harder to find an undisturbed moment to retrieve each cache as we arrived at it. After three successful finds, it all went wrong at the fourth cache, when we spent an unproductive few minutes furtling in the roots of birch trees and finding nothing.

Moving on, the next cache had the intriguing name ‘Doris the Destroyer’. Who or what, we wondered, was Doris, and should we worry? It turned out that storm Doris felled a tree, making a hiding place for a cache …

On again, we got closer to the M3, and it got noisier. The next cache was called ‘Puzzle Box’ and a LOT of other finders had marked it as a favourite, so we felt it must have something special. The other finders also said that the published co-ordinates were not quite right. Both of those comments were true: we spent another few minutes pootling about at the edge of some trees before finding – literally – a box which was a puzzle. After some false starts, sliding, and pressing, we finally made it to the inner place that held the log. Ho hum: if we had known this cache existed, we might have set it up to be our milestone 2000th cache.

We walked on, past the edge of the nature reserve, away from the motorway, and back into roads and houses. Another cache was found. A previous cacher’s log said it all: “Easy for us, invisible to muggles”. A little further on, we approached another cache, named ‘Vertically Challenged’. Perfectly named, no way could I reach that! Mr Hg137 was delegated to swarm up a fence, and then a pole. At a stretch he just, just reached the cache container.

Vertically challenged

Vertically challenged


As we had been walking in a circle (ish), we were getting back to our starting point and had only one more cache, Redwood, to attempt. We like Redwoods! Well Mr Hg137 does! He can barely walk by one without knuckle thumping it (do it, it’s different from other trees). Also SEQUOIA, its true name, is one of only a few 7 letter words which contain 5 different vowels. None of that helped us: all the possible hiding places on the tree were either empty or were twelve feet in the air. We used a couple of branches to try to ascertain if anything lurked within. Nope. Sadly for us it was a DNF (did not find) – especially as we wanted the ‘RED’ for a ‘snooker challenge’ cache. (Editor’s note: the cache was missing and has since been replaced.)

To sum up: it’s always sad to end on a failure, but overall this is an excellent little series with well-kept caches hidden in creative ways over surprisingly varied terrain, in yet another place close to where we live, but have never visited.

Here are some of the caches we found:

June 29 : WWSW (Fleet)

Mrs HG137 had had an idea.

We were about 40 or so caches away from 2000 finds, and with 13 July (13/7) less than 2 weeks away, she thought it would be a good idea to see if we could get the 2000th cache on that date (our caching name includes 13 7).

Idyllic grassland near Fleet


The WWSW series in Fleet would provide a good opportunity to get over half of those caches. (WWSW stands for Westie’s Walks, Sloshed Walker and was first laid out nearly 10 years ago in 2008. It is relatively close to our house and we always said it would be a good winter’s walk, but as we have never done it in the winter, today seemed a good day.)

The route crosses Army land, and is occasionally ‘red flagged’ if the Army are on manoeuvres. Fortunately for us, the Army were elsewhere, and the full route was open to us.

We initially parked in an industrial park, and somehow managed to find a half mile longwinded route to cache 1, when a simple footpath was yards from our car.

Cache 1 was behind a sign deep in some woodland. The log though had suffered in the rain and was very wet. We decided the remove the log, and leave it out (behind the sign) in the sun for the duration of our walk. It was a Thursday, on a old circuit, so the chances of anyone else finding the cache today was very low indeed.

Onwards (over the noisy M3 motorway) to cache 2 and just as we approached the site, we were surrounded by dog walkers. Diversionary activity needed! Out came a mobile phone and a fictitious phone call ! Maybe not an Oscar-winning performance, but definitely enough to give us time for the muggles to pass. Then wrestle with a large cache and some small Armco before we could sign the log.

Woodland track


The next 2 caches were a lot harder. They had been placed on the far side of a stream (fortunately fairly dry), but the stream was guarded by 4 foot stinging nettles! Swipe! Swipe! The caching pole was being used wisely! Swipe! Swipe! Jump! Caches retrieved, logs signed… now to jump back and avoid those nettles again!

The next few caches were relatively straightforward, and to the trained eye visible from the path..It was searching for one these that Mr HG137 DID receive a phone call, so Mrs Hg137 did some sole retrieving and log signing!

The path was easy going and the lightly woodland soon gave way to a magnificent view of Minley Manor. This building was once owned by the MOD, but is possibly being turned into a hotel. It has also been used as a film location on a couple of occasions.

Minley Manor

Minley Manor


We walked onwards and suddenly the nice track gave way to grassland (or at least the most direct route to the next cache did). We made heavy weather of trying to find the right tree but eventually we did. We should, at this point, have walked back to the path, but instead we walked through a grassy meadow stopping for coffee on a large fallen tree-trunk. As we drank, we were aware of the myriad of butterflies visiting the meadow. A beautiful sight.

Butterflies

Butterflies


Our route out of the meadow led us up a slight hill, to an easy cache find, and then towards a pub where we found a another simple find (and a suit of armour!).
Is this the pub's bouncer ?

Is this the pub’s bouncer ?

We had walked 2 or so miles and now had our first road crossing. A fast single carriageway. A few minutes later we were in woodland, and the next cache didn’t take much searching as it had been poorly hidden by the previous finder.

Pleasant path through woodland


We then found our first non WWSW cache of the day – a Motorway Mayhem cache yards from the M3 Junction 4a. Over the years we’ve seen caches under twigs, leaves, bark but never under such a large piece of concrete! It took two of us to lift it!

More effort at the next cache too..as it was 7ft up a post. Mr HG137 was definitely getting a bending and stretching workout!

We recrossed the M3, pausing to see a steam train being taken to a festival on the Watercress line. Yes, a steam train on a motorway!

Express Delivery!


Our next cache was our first troublesome cache of the day. Hidden in Armco, but the coordinates were some 40 feet out. We both felt gingerly in various parts of the Armco – finding spiders, cobwebs, dust, grime until we found the cache. Finding caches like this, are often a ‘hard sell’ to the non-geocaching community!

A pleasant path down a woodland path followed. Well it would have been pleasant, except for its proximity to the noisy M3. We grateful for some quick finds and after about a quarter of a mile or so, the path turned away and became quieter.

Is there a cache here ?


Then we saw the digger. A JCB. On a footpath. It was undertaking ditch clearing, and was scooping mud/debris out of a ditch one side of the footpath, and building a mound on the other side. The dry, unrutted paths we had been following – were a quagmire…and somewhere near the JCB was a cache. We decided to have one quick look for it, and if it wasn’t found immediately we would move on. Fortunately the coordinates were spot on, and while the JCB driver was looking deep in the ditch, the log was signed.

Dredging a ditch…

…and Mrs Hg137 the other side of the dredging


The path gave way to a tarmac road and some farmland fields. Each field had a stile leading to it, and the cache was near one of them. We fruitlessly searched each stile for our next cache, but to no avail. Our first DNF of the day. We even paused for lunch near one of the stiles, and undertook a second search after eating, but nothing was found.

The cache containers on the route had been quite varied from small Tupperware boxes, to larger ones, a rat’s tail cache in a pipe, to a fake stone. The final few containers included a film canister as well as a letterbox hybrid. For us, this is what makes a series interesting, a variety of containers, and a variety of hiding locations.

The route finished by walking alongside some heathland. Before we reached our final caches we passed by some rangers from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife who were undertaking a survey on birds-foot-trefoil. We told them we were geocachers, which yielded no surprise whatsoever. We were glad we did as our next 2 finds were undertaken very close to their parked vehicles.

I think the rangers may have seen us!

We returned to cache 1, and replaced the now-dry log back in the cache, and returned to the car.

This was a very varied walk, heathland, expansive views, tree lined path, noisy motorways! Amazing what can be packed into a 4 mile walk! We’d also found 25 caches.. suddenly our 2000th cache is much nearer!

June 23 : Chichester Marina

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Chichester canal - the last lock

Chichester canal – the last lock


A warm Friday seemed like a good day for lazing around on a beach – and why not wonderful West Wittering? Just short of our destination we paused for some caching, a walk round Chichester Marina and views of Chichester harbour.

There are two caching trails that lead out from Chichester, forming a circuit. The first is the Lipchis Canal Wander,along the partially restored – partially derelict Chichester Ship Canal, which is also part of the Lipchis Way from Liphook to Chichester http://www.newlipchisway.co.uk The return section is appropriately called The Return, along Salterns Way http://www.westsussex.info/salterns-way.shtml to the city, which is an off-road cycle route back to the city. We planned to do the parts of both routes that lay closest to the marina.

We parked, and set off along the canal, derelict at this point, heading back towards Chichester. The canal still holds water, but this section is only used by ducks and moorhens, not boats at present. Guarding the first cache and ignoring us, two swans were a-sleeping on the road; they must do this often, judging by the number of loose feathers lying around and the protective ring of cones around them. We walked on along the canal finding three more caches, and a trackable, as we went. Crossing the busy A286, we had a glance at the next section of the canal, which is still to be restored, then retraced our steps towards the marina. We found another four easy caches as we walked through the marina. There are millions and millions of pounds worth of boats moored here, ranging from tiny motorboats to enormous floating ‘gin palaces’.

LOTS of boats here!

LOTS of boats here!


Nearer the estuary, the canal is used by houseboats as well as ducks, and then there is just a disused lock leading out into the harbour, set off by an interesting sculpture, which just looks like a boulder from one side, but something else from the other direction. Here, too, is the start point for a multicache which ended our first caching series for the day.


We’d now completed our caching along the canal so headed across the marina to look for caches elsewhere, from ‘The Return’ series. First, we had to cross the lock that keeps the marina full of water when the tide is out, and it was at that point in the tide where boats were busily entering and (mostly) leaving. We waited for the semicircular gate to close, walked across the top, and out onto the edge of the harbour.

We paused to eat our picnic lunch overlooking the harbour and the people messing about in boats. Later, walking along Salterns Way, we left the marina and were soon away from the coast amid farmland, hedges, and ripening crops. We found another two caches here, the last in a quiet spot away from the bustle of the marina with expansive views back to Chichester, the South Downs, and Goodwood racecourse.

By now, the beach was calling us, so we retraced our steps, circling the other side of the marina to reach the geocar and to head off to West Wittering for our first swim in the sea for the year. And, no, the water wasn’t cold!

Here are some of the caches we found: