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.

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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!

May 27 : Hastings in the evening, again

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

On a warm Saturday evening, we decided to make the most of our caching time by going back to the seafront at Hastings for a bit of caching, a walk on the beach, and a bit of a paddle too. The tide was well out when we arrived so Mr Hg137’s additional plans for a swim were immediately thwarted, as he’d have needed to wade halfway to France before the water got deep enough.

This time we decided to start at Hastings pier, http://hastingspier.org.uk , but our attempts to get there were barred by a zealous security guard, as an outdoor cinema screen was being set up. Oh well, another time maybe … Instead, we set off west along the promenade towards St Leonards. Our first two caches came from the ‘Toy Series’, and there are at least 42 of these dotted about Hastings. We found numbers #31 and #32, both with small cache containers attached to a toy. They made us smile. Fun caches!


We went down onto the beach, down the steep shingle, and onto the gently shelving sand that appears near low tide. The shoes came off, trousers were rolled up, we finally got our paddle, and it was not nearly as cold as we had feared. Then we walked back to the shore, wading through a small stream of water draining down the beach. Underfoot, it still looked like sand, but it was much finer, and softer, and both of us sank well above our ankles. Aargh, a quicksand moment! We arrived back at the promenade plastered in mud, and spent longer cleaning ourselves than we had paddling. NOT GOOD.

Once slightly tidier, we set off again towards the next cache, which was under a seat. On the seat were … several muggles. We waited, they didn’t move, we waited, we moved on, to find another two caches, one at the place where St Leonards pier used to be http://www.piers.org.uk/pier/st-leonards-pier By now it was cooler, and sunset was approaching, so we turned round and retraced our steps along the promenade, back into Hastings, and had another try at the cache under the seat that we had missed out earlier. This time, no-one was sat on the seat, so we had time for a good search, but we still couldn’t find the cache. (Editor’s note: only one cacher has ‘found’ that cache since our visit, and we are not absolutely convinced about that log.)

We arrived back at the geocar. It was twilight. We thought ‘hmm, maybe we could go and look for that cache we failed to find two days before…’ A quick trip along the seafront to Hastings Old Town, and past the black fishing sheds, and we were again looking for ‘I love it, this Old town’ in the gathering gloom. We were less conspicuous at this hour, but even so, we still couldn’t find that cache.

Twilight, Hastings old Town

Twilight, Hastings old Town


And that was the caching done for our holiday. We drove back to the hotel in the dark, reflecting on the past seven days. Seventy one caches attempted, sixty three found, glorious weather, simply a super week!

PS And one other thing: we finished our Sandhurst to Sandhurst walk, 85 miles, starting in January in freezing winter weather, and finishing in May on a hot early summer afternoon.

For the future (maybe): there is yet another Sandhurst! This one’s in Gloucestershire. We might, perhaps, walk home to Sandhurst, Berkshire, from Sandhurst, Gloucestershire. Time to start planning?

May 27 : Great Dixter

Our last full day in Hastings dawned… with a thunderstorm. The only rain we’d seen all week.

Fortunately the storm didn’t scupper our plans too much, as we had one place to visit, Great Dixter.

Great Dixter

Great Dixter

Great Dixter is a house and garden, situated in Northiam. Although people do visit the house, the garden is the main visitor attraction. Laid out in the early to mid 20th century by not one, but two garden designer luminaries in Edwin Lutyens and Nathaniel Lloyd. But it was a third garden designer, Nathaniel’s son Christopher, that made the gardens really special. The garden is famous for its long borders, and packed border planting. Christopher took the stance… if there is bare earth.. I can put a plant in it!

We had though to await these delights as the gardens weren’t open until late morning.

So to pass the time we geocached in the villages in the Northiam area.

The early morning rain had made footpaths and undergrowth wet and slippery so we were grateful we had selected some drive-bys. These featured two Church Micros and three ‘Phone an Old Friends’. These latter geocaches were hidden in (becoming redundant, if not obsolete) phone boxes.

We have, in the past, struggled to find caches in phone boxes. Why, we don’t know, but we do not a high find ratio crammed inside a relatively small red phone box. Indeed our first attempt, in the village/hamlet of Clayhill yielded nothing.

Can you see the cacher in the phone box ?

Look what we found in the box!

Fortunately our next two boxes were more fruitful, the caches hidden in exactly the same way, which gave us the impression that the Clayhill cache was missing.

Beckley

Beckley Church

Our two Church Micros were in Beckley and Northiam were both extremely hard to find. Both were hidden in dense undergrowth at a stile, and it took well over 15 minutes to find each one.

Northiam Church

Northiam Church

Church Micro Geocache

All the caches we found were relatively standard film containers..so the bright colours and planting that awaited us at Great Dixter were a fabulous contrast to the nettles and brambles of the caching trip!

Great Dixter

Great Dixter

Great Dixter

Great Dixter

Great Dixter

Great Dixter


Great Dixter

Great Dixter

May 26 : Bodiam Castle

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle


We had just finished our unofficial, self-made long-distance path from Sandhurst (just in Berkshire) to Sandhurst (just in Kent). Woo hoo! Mission accomplished, that left a hot, sunny May afternoon free for enjoying ourselves, and we moved a mile or so from Sandhurst to Bodiam, just back over the border in Sussex.

Bodiam Castle really looked the part of a castle, surrounded by a moat, standing square with towers at the corners and gates https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodiam_Castle It was built in 1385 and still looks very complete from the outside. Inside it’s more of a shell but there are rooms and towers to visit and steep spiral staircases inside turrets to climb to the battlements. Once up top, there’s a view out across the nearby countryside with its vineyards, and down into the moat with its large and numerous carp.
Fish!

Fish!


After about two hours we had ‘done’ the castle quite thoroughly, had climbed every uneven winding staircase, walked along the battlements, and visited every room. After a cup of tea, time for some caching! Our first cache lay uphill from the castle, along the Sussex Border Path, at the side of a vineyard. ‘Swine Bovine Equine’ was a very old cache, placed in March 2002 (that is extremely venerable in caching age!) and its name comes from the figures decorating the weather vanes of three nearby oasthouses.
Swine, Bovine, Equine

Swine, Bovine, Equine


There is more history in the grounds of the castle, though much more modern, a World War II pillbox (to be more precise, a pentagonal FW3/28A variant, brick-skinned!) and there is a cache based on that. (More information on this pillbox can be found on this blog: http://wwww.pillbox.org.uk/blog/216726 ) We’d done the research beforehand, so didn’t need to look very closely, and the cache container can be found a little way away, outside the castle grounds. The cache description says that the National Trust expect visitors to pay before entering the castle grounds and walking past the pillbox; we did that anyway as we were visiting the castle … but that path is also a public footpath, part of the Sussex Border Path, and I think you could walk along that anyway, without paying.

Past the castle and moat, we turned uphill away from the castle to look for another cache, hidden behind a decorated village pump, which is also a war memorial. More about this can be found here: http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Sussex/Bodiam.html It was somewhere we had driven by earlier, almost without noticing, and would not have stopped. While researching for this post, I came across a comment on the cache logs which was written on the logs after our visit … ‘Message from a Bodiam resident THIS IS A WAR MEMORIAL Show respect’ I agree: we should, and did, show respect; but from another viewpoint, the cache brings visitors who would not stop here otherwise, and who keep alive the memories of those commemorated there.

Bodiam war memorial

Bodiam war memorial


But there is more to Bodiam than the castle: just over the River Rother lies a station, which forms one end of the Kent & East Sussex railway, the other end being at Tenterden https://www.kesr.org.uk It had its heyday during hop-picking times, and is now a heritage steam railway. And, as there was a station, there was a cache to be found there, from the ‘Sidetracked’ series. Could we find it? We gave it a very long search, staring at every possible place it could be hidden, including a very suspicious large stone tucked behind a fence post. But we couldn’t find it … no-one else has found it since, and it’s been temporarily disabled. It goes missing quite often, according to the logs.
Bodiam Station, K&ES railway

Bodiam Station, K&ES railway


It was now about 5pm, and still very hot, and we were beginning to wilt, as we had been out walking / castle visiting / caching all day in the sunshine. We had just one more cache to attempt, sort of on the way back to the car. Once back at the bridge over the River Rother, we then diverted along the path along the riverbank. A little way along was the final cache, ‘Castle View’, which really did mark the spot for a splendid view back to the castle nesting amongst trees just above the valley. Facing the other way, there was also a splendid view of the station and railway: A well chosen spot indeed.
River Rother

River Rother


And that was it for the day: time to head back to the hotel for a rest, a shower and a meal, in no particular order.

Here are some of the other caches we found: