January 6 : Virginia Water (part 4)

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.


During October, November, and December 2017 we visited Virginia Water and each time attempted a small number of the 30 or so caches placed in the parkland surrounding the lake. Today we were going back to attempt some more of the caches, also to re-attempt a cache that we had failed to find on a previous visit.

Arriving deliberately early, there was space in the layby opposite the entrance. It is popular and fills quickly. If that had been full, we would have had to use the official car park, which would have cost us £10. (Editors digression: I’m divided on whether that is an extortionate price or not. From one viewpoint, that is a LOT to pay for a car park near a lake. From another viewpoint, Virginia Water is well maintained, has surfaced, solid paths, seats, toilets, rangers, signs, noticeboards, refreshments, maintained gardens etc etc, and it’s churlish to expect all that to come for free. OK: end of digression.)

Just what is a "fooway"?

Just what is a “fooway”?


But, before entering Virginia Water, we had two caches to attempt. The first was ‘But just what is a “fooway”?’, and we had tried and failed to find it a few weeks before. This time was different; we spotted it and signed the log within seconds. How could we have missed that? Next was ‘X’, one of a series of 26 alphabet caches set by Uncle E. Few clues with this one, and a ban on entering information into the cache logs. We arrived at the likely location and had a little bit of a look around, but couldn’t spot anything suitable. Oh well, another time…

And then we were into Virginia Water, past the visitor centre, and turning left along the lakeside. It was not long after dawn, still, slightly misty, quite cold. Not far from the entrance is the cascade, where the River Bourne flows down a man-made waterfall, under the A30, and out of the park https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cm7TWr5DVs

Very close by was ‘VW – Cascade’, a multicache. These are set out with one or more stages, each giving clues to the coordinates of the final cache location. This multicache had a single stage, and the coordinates were determined by collecting numbers from assorted signs near the falls. As we had come to expect, the coordinates led us to a nearby rhododendron thicket. We needed to find a rock, the cache was beside it … we found a rock, but it was not the right one… We went deeper in, and repeated the process at least once more. Eventually, bent double among the branches, we found the cache.

Virginia Water - the cascade

Virginia Water – the cascade


While collecting information for the previous cache, we were also searching for numbers for our next target, a two-stage multicache, ‘Border Crossings #1 – Surrey/Berkshire’. We were, only just, in Surrey, and had two stages to check before going, only just, over the county border into Berkshire to reach the cache container. Some numbers had been found by the waterfall, and there were yet more to be found at the next stage, amongst the ruins of Leptis Magna https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTAf0W9cD0M The location confirmed, over the border we went before diving into yet more woodland to locate the cache. It was an old cache, placed in 2007, and the cache container was very wet, but with a dry logbook in a plastic bag.
Virginia Water - Leptis Magna

Virginia Water – Leptis Magna


And that was as far into Berkshire as we were going on this visit. We turned and retraced our steps along the lakeside, back into Surrey, and past the ruins. As we passed a few minutes earlier, collecting coordinates for one multicache, we were also collecting numbers for another, ‘VW – Leptis Magna’. (Editor’s note: yes, there were a lot of overlapping multicaches going on here. A copious set of field notes, assembled by Mr Hg137, helped a lot here.) Yet again, we had an extended blundering about session in rhododendrons to find the cache.
So many people!

So many people!


We returned to the main path around the lake, now very busy (where had they all come from?), and passed our start point, walking in the direction of the Totem Pole. Walking in a loop back to the visitor centre, we found another four caches from the VW series, Base, A30, Plantations, MTT, and Coppice Growth, to bring our total for the day to nine out of ten.
Grebe

Grebe


And while we were juggling all those coordinates and finding the other caches, we were collecting still more coordinates. We are gradually working our way around the ‘Virginia Water’ multicache – yes, another one – so far we are on stage NINETEEN. We are well over halfway! I wonder what the final cache will be like?

Here are some of the caches we found:

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December 16 : Newlands Corner, Guildford

Usually we cache on the morning, when we were are alert and at this time of year, when there is longer daylight.

Today, though, would be different. We cached in the afternoon in ever-fading light.

Newlands Corner

We were at Newlands Corner, on the North Downs just East of Guildford. We had planned to visit the dozen or so caches in November, but the lure of a First-to-Find took precedence over the Newlands Corner caches.

Our first target wasn’t at Newlands Corner but close to a nearby Golf Course. It was a puzzle cache entitled “Tower of Babel” and it involved converting “limayksiegyerbghaczterysjuyedi” into usable coordinates. We strode purposefully alongside one of the greens as a foursome completed the hole. Whether they wondered what we were doing, we never ascertained as we quickly took a sidepath into some woodland. Here we circled for some time, until we narrowed the GZ to two host trees. We searched one apiece, and after a few minutes the cache was ours!

We parked in the spacious Newlands Corner Car park fully expecting to pay. According to the Surrey County Council website parking machines would have been during 2017, yet we saw none. We checked in the Information Centre – and yes, there was no charge to park. Fab!

Close to the Information Centre was a straightforward cache which we found nestling in some bark, midway up a tree trunk.

Overlooking the Surrey Hills


Then our luck ran out.

We attempted a two stage multi needing to find a memorial seat and a numbered ‘stone’ which would yield the required Northings and Westings. What Mrs Hg137 hadn’t realised was that a third waypoint had been loaded… the middle of the car park. We spent some time looking for seats and stones in the car park before the penny dropped ! Doh!

Once realisation dawned we quickly found the two objects, and created coordinates for the final cache. Since it was on route back to the car, we decided to try for another cache or two first.

A yew tree provided the GZ for our next cache. This yew had splayed itself in different directions and provided a simple climbing route to the myriad of nooks of crannies 8-10 feet above the ground. Muggles passed heading the car park – had they noticed Mr Hg137 tree-climbing in dark December gloom ? The cache was not in one of those holes but one Mrs Hg137 nonchalantly found from the ground!

We attempted one more cache with a hint of ‘magnetic’. We were on the outskirts of woodland, by a muddy path leading to fields. A notice board and a gate stood as the objects to search. The notice board was totally wooden, but the wooden gate had metal reinforcements and hinges. We searched. To no avail. People came by the gate, we searched again. Some of the people returned as their wellington boots could not cope with the ‘mud-fest’ beyond. In the end, we gave up as the light was fading fast, and we still had the multi to find.

Our walk back included the ‘mud-fest’. Really slippery mud. A couple exercising their dog nearly toppled over in front of us, but with stout walking boots on we overtook them quite quickly and had their dog as our companion for a few yards.

We hadn’t realised but we had been walking on the North Downs Way, which links Farnham to Canterbury. If we ever undertake to walk this 156 mile route, we must remember to walk this section in the height of Summer!

The coordinates for the multi were close to the car park. With a quite detailed hint, we failed to find the cache. We assume we were in the right place, as there were several places matching the hint.. but we saw no sign of the cache.

Any caches here ?


Two DNFs to finish…but reassuringly still a large of cache to collect if, (when?) we return.

But why were we caching in such appalling light ?

The reason was we wanted to visit the Wisley Glow trail at dusk. Wisley was a short car journey away, and when we arrived all the car parks were full. Everyone else in Southern England had had the same idea of visiting Wisley to see the illuminated trail (including Mr Hg137’s brother and sister-in-law though we never saw them!). Fortunately the coach park was being opened as we arrived and we secured a prime spot within it.

The Wisley Glow was fantastic, and these pictures don’t do it justice..Its open until early January – do visit if you can!

December 9 : Yateley

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

On a frosty, crisp, sunny winter’s morning, we decided to get out into the fresh air and do a spot of caching. Mr Hg137 had spotted six caches, close together, a short drive away that all appeared to be well thought of by previous finders. (Editor’s note: you can award a ‘favourite’ point to a cache that you especially enjoy – for the location, for the cache container, or for any especially fun aspect of the cache. )


Having parked the geocar, we set off up Cricket Hill Lane for our first cache, ‘Pond View’. Both of us have driven along this road many times and have both failed to spot the little wildlife pond and the wooden carvings of various animals and plants. Geocaching does take you to new places … or makes you see familiar ones in a new light … The cache was nearby, in a container made from natural materials that blended well into the background.


Turning off the main road onto a narrow lane, we were immediately past the edge of Yateley and into countryside, and soon reached our next target, ‘Leap Of Faith’. We weren’t sure what that might imply, but it turned out to involve a large tree, lots of roots, many fallen leaves, and a bit of scrambling up and down a bank. After lots of searching, the cache was uncovered in a spot that both of us had already searched. Oh well. A little further on was ‘Outpost’, a cache with a hint that said (‘title should do it”). So we searched every conceivable object that could possibly be the place, but without success. (Editor’s note: the cache had gone missing and has subsequently been replaced.)

Can't find that cache!

Can’t find that cache!

Next up was ‘Long Forgotten St Barnabas’. Until 1980 a corrugated iron chapel (aka ‘Tin Tabernacle’) stood near here, and the cache name commemorates this. http://yateleylocalhistory.pbworks.com/f/TiceReminiscencesA5Bookletformat.pdf (Editor’s note: my – limited – local knowledge has just expanded a little.) Anyway, the actual cache wasn’t made of tin, but was another of those clever items built out of natural materials that blend seamlessly into the area around them. More rootling in trees and bushes, and we found it.

We crossed the road and set off up Prior’s Lane. Most of the roads around here seem to be called ‘Lane’ regardless of how large or small, busy or quiet they are! This one was both small and quiet, a narrow road that passed a few houses, became a track and then a footpath. Along here were our last two caches of the day. The first, ‘Crossword’ was somewhere outside a scout hut, where all the clues were in the puzzle supplied in the cache description. We arrived at the destination and surveyed various likely items. One kept catching my eye. It just looked … overconstructed … for what it needed to be. I prodded it and felt it and tried to find loose bits, and eventually something moved, and there was the cache. Well done to the cache setter – we’ve never seen one quite like that before.
(Editor’s note: it’s hard to describe caches without spoiling it for future finders! There is much, much more that I could have said here.)
(Editor’s note 2: a picture of this cache will very likely appear in our end of year post ‘Caches of the Year’ where we show some of the most interesting, exciting, unusual, or just plain daft caches that we have come across.)

Then it was time to find our last cache of the day, ‘Old Man Dawson’ (no, we don’t know who he was!). We had to determine some numbers – we had done the research on that beforehand – and then use those to open the cache. We arrived at the appointed place. I searched briefly and unsuccessfully at the foot of a tree. Mr Hg137 fell about laughing, and pointed to an item at about chest height. Doh! The cache was right there in plain view. And then it was just a matter of applying those numbers and opening the cache, simple enough, except that it was quite stiff and I broke a nail while opening it. Doh again!

And that was it for the morning. Five out of six caches found and time for a late lunch.

Here are some of the caches we found:

November 25 : Virginia Water (Part 2)

During October 2017 we visited Virginia Water and attempted a small number of the 30 or so caches placed in the parkland surrounding the lake.

“Botany Bay” – Virginia Water

Today we were going to revisit Virginia Water and attempt some more of the caches. We also wanted to re-attempt a couple of our DNFs from our previous visit. Additionally on our radar was a puzzle cache, based on a photo.

We’ve attempted these sort of caches before, and really enjoyed them. For this cache, the Cache Owner had taken a photograph of a sign containing the printing mistake “Fooway”. Find the sign, find the nearby cache.

We found the sign quite easily, but finding the cache was harder. So hard, we gave up. Of course, we knew we would be returning to Virginia Water, so we could have another attempt but a DNF still hurts.

Cold Frosty Morning

Our first real cache of the day was part of the 24 VW series called “VW Holly Stem”. It was well concealed behind a small holly bush which had somehow got its roots near some tree roots. It took us some time to find the cache – due to a few other holly bushes nearby – and because the holly stem acted as a fierce shield and extraction was only possible from one direction. After our early DNF we were grateful for this success!

A reassuring find !


Our main target was the Totem Pole.

On our previous visit we had tried to find two caches which had been placed as an offset using BEARING and DISTANCE. We had found neither previously, so today we would attempt each again.

Our first target, we arrived at quickly, and recognised it as a location we had searched quite well on our previous visit. We were looking for an ammo can, and this time … within 5 minutes we had the cache in hand. We were only 5 or so yards off in our previous visit – how annoying!

After 2 attempts.. we found the ammo can!

Our second attempt at the second BEARING/DISTANCE cache was less fruitful. This cache was behind a large tree. We arrived, again at an area we searched previously, and this time extended our search even further. However, we were still unable to find the cache! Grr! These Virginia Water caches are not going to be easy!

We returned the totem pole, as we wanted to start a third cache from that location.

A 21 (TWENTY-ONE) stage multi.

This cache would take us around the lake and all we had to do was visit a location, answer a question using an internet connection, we would then be supplied the co-ordinates for the next location. Answer another question, get another set of co-ordinates. We had ‘cheated’ on question 1 as we knew the answer without visiting the location, question 2 required knowing what this picture on the totem pole represented.

Who is this ?

Once we had this answer we then set off for part 3. Once we knew the direction for cache 3, we determined we were going to pass 2 other VW caches.

The first was a straightforward find behind a fallen log, the second a bit harder in a rhododendron bush. (We looked at stem/branch/bole arrangement several times but it was only when we viewed it from one particular direction did we see the container).

A cold walk through the undergrowth


We made good progress with the 21 stage multi as we found stage 3 (after initially dismissing where to look for the required information). Once we had answered the question correctly, stage 4 was quickly reached and answered.

We had walked some distance from the car, and stage 5 was taking us further away so we decided to stop for the day.

4 caches found, 2 DNFs and a quarter of a large multi complete. This is going to be a long winter!

Farewell Virginia Water … see you in a few weeks!

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!

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 :