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 :

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:

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 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: