November 30 : Trackable Sawyer Koala Bear

During our exploration of the woods around Sindlesham and Woosehill, we found a trackable, Sawyer Koala Bear.

On the face of it a very simple trackable.

Until you explore its history.

Firstly its a Koala Bear. Did it start from Australia? Does it want to finish its travels in Australia?
No, it started its journey just outside Los Angeles on the Western side of America and wants to travel the world.

Secondly the name. It is listed on the http://www.geocaching.com website as being called ‘Sawyer’. Yet on the reverse of the bear (above the trackable number which is why we’ve not shown it) is the name of the bear…Sydney.

Sawyer (or Sydney) wants to travel the world and from time to time return to Los Angeles. It left LA on the 24 January 2019 and it is therefore under a year old. The bear made its way North Eastwards to Iowa where it skirted around Des Moines, before heading to West Bend, some way north of Milwaukee. Then it headed East to Europe and visited several caches in Czechia, Romania and Serbia.

What follows is the third little conundrum with this trackable. It was marked as ‘missing’ in Serbia after 26th August 2019, yet a couple of weeks later appeared in a British cache. It was found in one of the Loddon Loop caches, a series we completed back in July 2016 when the footpaths were at their most overgrown!
https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/july-16-loddon-loop-sherfield-on-loddon/

Almost immediately Sawyer/Sydney was placed in the cache we found it in.

So although this trackable has been going less than a year.. its got a naming problem, visited at least 5 countries, got lost, found and travelled (apparently) nearly 8000 miles. Quite an adventure for a little bear!

November 30 : Woosehill/Sindlesham

For some reason, November is our lowest caching month by a distance. This year has been different, as we were on our fifth November caching trip, this time primarily in woodland which separates the Wokingham districts of Woosehill and Sindlesham. It was an area that both of us had some knowledge of, as Mr Hg137 used to live in Woosehill, and Mrs Hg137 worked in the Sindlesham area and often frequented the woodland paths on a lunchtime walk.

Welcome to the Woods!


Mr Hg137’s experience counted for nothing at our first cache. A DNF near to Woosehill’s supermarket and part of the ‘Off Yer Trolly’ series. We were looking for a cache in a bole of tree (of which there were surprisingly few) next to the pedestrian walkway known as Smith’s Walk. A busy thoroughfare, given its proximity to the supermarket and doctor’s surgery, and after a few minutes feeling freezing cold ivy leaves we abandoned.

We parked the geo-car at the furthest part of Woosehill next to a Tennis Court. We had parked here a few years ago, when we were the first to find (FTF) the very first Counting Vowels cache. On that occasion (see our blog entry https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2017/11/10/november-10-ftf-wokingham-chestnut-avenue/ ) we drove there twice as the cache owner had made a mistake with the coordinates, and we walked miles to register a DNF in our quest for the FTF.

What is it about that Tennis Court and our caching ability ? Our second cache of the today’s walk was at the Tennis Court (part of the ‘Anyone for Tennis’ series) and having studied the hint we believed we were looking for a magnetic bolt. We searched all ends of the tennis court, but our reward was nothing. Two caches attempted..two DNFs.

We were somewhat demoralised as we walked to ‘The Stones’ – we didn’t want three DNFs.
We didn’t get three DNFs as we found the cache quite easily as a large stone hid the cache.
Phew ! We were away!

Third attempt… first find of the day!

Our route around the woodland had been worked out before we left home. There were three parallel roads/tracks (Chestnut Avenue, a woodland path and Sadler’s End). Our route would weave its way from Chestnut Avenue through minor tracks to the main woodland path, a couple of caches on or near that path, before more minor tracks to reach Sadlers End. Here we would attempt a few caches on its length, before heading back via minor tracks to the main woodland path, then more tracks back to Chestnust Avenue. Of course the route wasn’t a perfect circle, so some backtracking was needed to find the outlier caches.

By and large the tracks were very good, if slightly muddy to walk on. The overnight frost had caused a fresh leaf-fall so many of the muddy bits were covered in leaves. It also meant there were times when we couldn’t see the footpath at all as the whole forest floor was covered in leaves.

Holly


Many of the caches or hints described the nearby foliage (‘Rhododendrons’, ‘Holly’. ‘The Gnarled Old Tree’) which narrowed down the search area considerably. Most of the caches were surviving well in the wet Autumn, with one exception, ‘Power Lines’. Here the cache lid had been broken and the log was only just dry enough to etch our name.

The majority of the caches were small, disappointingly so, as we had a trackable we wanted to drop off. It was at our third cache ‘Come and Disk Over Me’ that we were able to do so and pick up a new trackable in its place (Sawyer Koala Bear).

The woodland paths eventually came out close to Wokingham Tennis Club, and here we found our only seat of the morning – so we sat and drank coffee watching a junior coaching session. The trainer was lobbing balls over the net to about 4 children who had to forehand return the ball back. If they succeeded four times they could award themselves a ‘token’ and we saw differing piles of tokens mount up between the trainees.

Setting up for the training session


Next to the Tennis Court is Wokingham Cricket Club, the home of one of our longest searches. The previous cacher, Amberel, hadn’t found the cache and we were concerned we would get our third DNF of the morning. There really was only one structure to search given a hint of ‘magnetic’, but the cache was not in the obvious place. We then read the logs from previous finders, and these told us to look for a piece of wire. We found the wire..but no cache! It was only after a little more searching did we find a SECOND wire…and then the cache came to hand. Phew!

We had arrived at Sadlers End and we had a longish walk to our next cache. We passed a few houses, and nearly got run down by the parents driving their ‘tennis trainees’ home. Our next cache was called ‘Motorway View’. As our walk had progressed, the distant hum of the M4 had become more noticeable, but it was only as we approached the cache did we see the motorway. The hint for this cache was ‘Stand to right of drain cover. Five paces towards motorway, then look right’. There were two things wrong with this very explicit hint. Firstly we couldn’t see the drain cover! The whole path was covered in leaves – we eventually found the metal cover after some prodding with the geo-pole. Secondly ‘paces’. Our stride lengths are different. Was the cache setter long-strided, medium-strided or tiny-strided ? We both paced a distance and after a little search found the cache. And the view of the motorway.

Motorway View


After finding another cache in Sadlers End we made our way back to the woods. Our shortest, and probably less-legal route was to climb over two 5 bar gates, and walk around a farmer’s track. We were at the furthest point from our car, and felt quite cold. The weak winter sunshine had barely permeated the woodland, so we opted for the quick, over-the gate escape route and followed a series of very minor tracks arriving at our next cache hidden under a decaying log.

We had just a couple more caches to find – including a very old cache – originally hidden in 2004. Hidden under a fallen tree, we spent some time looking at the first fallen tree near Ground Zero, rather than walking on a little further to find a larger tree shielding the cache.

Our penultimate cache was hidden in the Woosehill Estate. Called ‘No Mans Land’ because all the roads in that particular part of the estate are named after battles. The pedestrian walkway which hosted the cache was between all these ‘battle’ roads, and hence was in No Mans Land.

After finding our last cache, ‘Chestnut Avenue’ we headed back to the car near the Tennis Court DNF. As Mrs Hg137 changed from her muddy walking boots to her driving shoes, Mr Hg137 had one final look for the elusive cache. Did he find it ? Of course not!

Still, despite the 2 DNFs we found 13 caches, a variety of cache containers some of which are shown here :

November 24 : Hartley Wintney: all sorts of trees

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Just after Sunday lunch, we set off for an afternoon’s caching in and around Hartley Wintney, on the northern border of Hampshire. As it was a gloomy, dark afternoon, we only had five caches planned. But of those five caches, three were multicaches, two with two stages, and one with three, so that gave us a total of nine things to find/solve, which was plenty to do in the hour or two before sunset (actually, it was fairly dim already).

All Souls, Hartfordbridge

All Souls, Hartfordbridge


Our first cache (and first multicache) was a church micro, All Souls at Hartfordbridge, just off the A30. We’d done some online research before we set off, and reckoned we’d found the information we needed to get the coordinates of the final cache. And we were right; we parked within feet of the final location and had found the cache within 30 seconds! The church is now a private house, but the graveyard is still accessible down a short path, so we went and had a quick look anyway. (Editor’s note: the church is for sale, if you want to move http://www.mackenziesmith.co.uk/view_property/?profileID=100921027628 )
Vaughan Millennium Orchard

Vaughan Millennium Orchard


After driving the short extra distance to Hartley Wintney, we parked the geocar in a lane leading to the Vaughan Millennium Orchard, the starting place for our next multicache, Orchard & Heath. The orchard is a great idea, with well over 100 varieties of cultivated English fruit trees, with varieties grown from the time of the Roman invasion to the present day. It’s used for special events: Apple Day, wassailing, open air theatre, and more http://www.hartleywintney.org.uk/visitor-attractions/vaughan-millennium-orchard It’s not at its best in late November but it must have looked magnificent just a few weeks ago when the leaves were turning and there would have been fruit on the trees. We did wonder: what happens to all the fruit?
Heading for the heath

Heading for the heath


Anyway: Orchard & Heath is an extremely old cache, set in October 2003. We had never, ever, found a cache set in that month. It’s also a big cache, an ammo can, and we had a huge trackable with us, which we hoped would fit in it. The trackable is Keys, which had been going since 2007, acquiring keys as it went, now weighed over a pound, and was now, umm, quite big. Having worked out the coordinates for the final cache location from things in the orchard, we set off for the heath, following a short section of the Three Castles Path out of the village http://threecastlespath.uk/
Orchard & Heath - a very old cache

Orchard & Heath – a very old cache


Keys trackable - moving on

Keys trackable – moving on


Previous logs had said that the cache can take a long time to find, and we were prepared for an extended search in the gloom under the trees. Arriving at the likely area, we each picked a patch of ground and started looking. In less than 10 minutes there was a triumphal cry from Mr Hg137. He had spotted something that ‘didn’t look quite right’ and the cache was hidden underneath. And, yes, the trackable did fit into the cache, and we were pleased to see it on its way.

Returning to the village, we found a cache near the entrance to the golf club, then walked along the main street. The shops were still open and cast a cheery glow over the gathering dusk. We were heading for St John’s Church, the location of our next multicache and next Church Micro.

As before, we’d tried to do some research beforehand to speed up our search time, but we hadn’t got very far, so worked out the coordinates from scratch by finding and counting various things on a noticeboard, the war memorial, and a nearby seat. We struggled with the numbers on the seat, since it was dark, the writing was very small, and neither of us had bothered to bring anything which we could use as a torch. Anyway, we came up with some coordinates that seemed plausible, and set off to the final location, to be confronted with … an oak tree covered in ivy. Our hearts sank. We struggle to find caches in ivy. We struggle even more when the cache is in ivy and isn’t on the ground. We prepared for another long search, but once again we struck lucky and found the cache after a short time. (Editor’s note: much more about oak trees in a minute. In the postscipt at the bottom.)

There was now only one cache left on our list, Beetling Bugs, hidden somewhere in a fallen oak tree. We walked across the common, through the regular lines of oak trees, and found a fallen tree, even in the dark – it was quite big! We circled it, looking for the cache, till I spotted something that looked natural, but not completely natural, and the cache was hidden behind, tucked under the trunk.

Caching over, we walked back to the geocar in darkness. We had finished just in time!

A postscript about oak trees:

Mildmay Oaks

Mildmay Oaks


One thing you notice when you visit Hartley Wintney is the oak trees, rows and rows of large, mature oak trees. They are the Mildmay Oaks, or Trafalgar Oaks, and there is nothing quite like them anywhere else. http://www.hartleywintney.org.uk/visitor-attractions/the-commons-mildmay-oaks

After the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 there was a shortage of timber to build and repair warships. A ship like HMS Victory took around 6000 trees to build, 5000 of them oak trees. https://www.historytoday.com/archive/construction-hms-victory-begins And it needed a lot of repairs after the battle, so lots more trees went into that. Admiral Collingwood, head of the Royal Navy, appealed to landowners to plant oaks so there would be enough for future warships. Lady Mildmay, the owner of the area around Hartley Wintney, responded to the appeal and had the oak trees in Hartley Wintney planted, set out in rows to maximise production. They have survived because warships began to be made from metal before the oaks were fully mature, so they weren’t cut down for ship’s timbers.
(Editor’s note: that’s the end of the history lesson; I was just curious about the trees, so I investigated.)

Here are a few of the caches we found:

November 16 : Trackable : Dark Pirates Heart

During our walk around Grazeley we exchanged one of our trackables for another : Dark Pirates Heart.

Dark Pirates Heart

A metallic skull and crossbones attached to a coloured glass heart. Both pieces attractive, in their own way.

When we got home we checked out the trackable’s journey. Had it come from a location rich in pirates or smuggling ? Perhaps Cornwall or maybe the West Indies ?

Neither.

This small trackable had started its travels by visiting some of the caches in the Crawley Down series in Sussex. (Predominantly visiting low numbers in the series; interestingly we undertook some of the high numbers in the series when we walked from Sandhurst in Berkshire to Sandhurst in Kent in 2016.) Sadly none of the caches the Crawley Down series were big enough to take the trackable and it eventually was dropped off, at the beginning of October 2019, at a cache near to the Bedgebury National Pinetum again in Sussex.

There the mystery starts.

Because we were the next finders of the Dark Pirates Heart – in a cache in Berkshire – some 60 miles away.
We have looked at cachers who have visited the Sussex caches and the Berkshire caches…and there is no overlap, no discernible link that moved the Heart 60 miles.

Maybe the Heart was captured by Pirates in Sussex…and placed as secret booty in Berkshire ?

We will try to move it on quickly…and help it achieve its mission of ‘crossing the seven seas’ !

November 16 : Grazeley Gambol

The Grazeley Gambol is a series of 22 caches and a bonus cache starting from the small village of Grazeley.

Along the Footpath near Grazeley


There are few places to park in the village but we managed to squeeze the geo-car into the edge of a rutted lane adjacent to the school. The lane had many puddles – not surprising as there had been a lot of rain recently – and we hoped the full route wouldn’t be too muddy! This was quite an expectation as the geocaching route criss-crossed various tributaries of the River Kennet.

The first two finds of the day were within yards of the car, the first a very simple find, the second under a bridge. Here the cache owner had cleverly attached the cache to the bridge both with a simple clip and magnet! This cache definitely won’t get washed away by a flooded river.

Foudry Brook


We were congratulating ourselves on our speedy finds, when we failed to see a footpath sign which would have taken us across a farmer’s field. We retraced our steps and walked on a straight line between the two footpath signs, but when we reached the far end of the field it was obvious we were some way off the true route. Our progress across the field was not helped by the freshly ploughed ridges, and the slippery mud we walked through.

Across the Farmer’s Field to Grazeley

The destination footpath sign yielded another cache, and by now we were getting the hang of cache owner’s modus operandi. It was similar to the caches we had found the previous week at Jealott’s Hill. Many of the caches were small, very small, and had been drilled into a natural looking container.

The mud of the farmer’s field was forgotten as we headed south picking up a further 5 caches. (At least one we walked straight by, another was hidden by an ash tree which tested our arboreal skills, as we aren’t that clued up on what a leafless ash looks like!) We were able to place one of the trackables we had with us in one of these 5 caches and pick up another in return.

The path was pleasant with trees and hedges just holding onto their Autumn colours, and under our feet a carpet of fallen coloured leaves protected us from a wet path. The main gripe about this footpath was its proximity to the A33. A busy and noisy dual carriageway. Sometimes we were separated from it by a few trees, other times barely any at all.

Our route headed West for about half a mile without a cache, as it passed through several farm buildings. We noticed cars parked alongside the farm and several people nearby. We assumed they were connected with the farm, so we consulted our map, to walk confidently through on the right of way. But they weren’t farmers in the yard.

What is going on ?


Two girls, immaculately dressed in riding uniform dismounted from their horses, and chatted with their parents. A food van tempted us with aromas of beefburgers and coffee….and then we finally understood. There was a dressage arena and a competition was going on. We chatted quietly to a previous rider who had recently finished her round. She told us every rider had a fixed time slot…they took part and had coffee, and then went home.. It was 10am and we were aware of at least three competitors who had taken part, and a fourth was being scrutinised (‘trot to A…turn right to E … walk to G’ ) as we stood and watched.

Dressage in Progress


Eventually we walked on and found a couple more caches (one was so far off its co-ordinates we are sure it was in the wrong tree) until we reached a road. Our route should have continued Westwards, but just a short distance South was another cache on a bridge over Foudry Brook. A quick find in ivy, and another container that would take another trackable we had brought with us. The bridge provided us with an ideal place to stop for a coffee (our thoughts of coffee had of course been initiated by the burger van).

Throughout the Grazeley Gambol series a number of the caches would contain letters/numbers which help us find the final bonus cache. Up to this point, few of the containers had yielded a number, but the most of the remaining caches gave us all the information we needed. Our next two caches, using oak trees as hosts, provided welcome respite from a slightly muddy grassy field boundary.

And then we had a problem.

The footpath ahead us was closed. A bridge on the footpath ahead was in a state of disrepair and dangerous.
We decided to proceed anyway. However the closure sign had disrupted our caching skills and we failed to find cache 13 ! Unlucky for us! Cache 14 was straightforward and then we saw the rotten bridge.


We found the cache by its side, and then gingerly crossed. Fortunately the handrails were safe-ish and the central plank under the bridge was safe-ish.. so we made our way across.

Carefully does it!



Shortly after we had logged our caches, the cache owner visited the site, and temporarily discontinued the caches on the closed footpath. Fingers crossed it won’t be too long before the bridge is fixed!

Danger lurked at the next cache too as the footpath crossed the Reading Basingstoke/Southampton railway line. Passenger trains and goods trains seemed to go by every 5- 10 minutes so, and on every occasion we were in the wrong position to take a good photo!

The route resumed a familiar feel. Autumnal trees overhanging a leafy path with a stream nearby. The caches came quite quickly too, including a great fun cache hidden in a children’s toy (sorry no spoiler here…but maybe on our caches of the year post!).

We crossed the railway line again (this time under a bridge) and then a rarity – a multi-cache. A simple enough multi (in fact Googlemaps had been of great assistance before we left home) and an imaginary hide too.

Grazeley village was back in sight, the Church Spire beckoning us to the start. The final two caches took slightly longer than expected (the first was magnetic… (yes really! in the middle of a field too!) and the other was hidden amongst the leaf litter.

We could see the car from this final cache, but the bonus (a quick find) took us away from the school and nearer the Church. We discovered the Church was built in 1850 but in 2017 was converted as a holiday let and is listed on Airbnb ! https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/21676937?source_impression_id=p3_1574781488_tEwFjk7u05x8YoyT

Grazeley Church

An interesting end to a great walk and a wonderful selection of caches!

PS We discovered afterwards that the 24 caches was the highest number of caches we had attempted in a day this year, and one of few caching circuits we had completed too. (And we’ve found just under 400 caches in 2019).

Here are some of the caches we found :

November 9 : Jealott’s Hill, Bracknell : tweezers required!

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Saturday started cold and still, with the rising sun peeping through the mist. The weather forecast said it would be wet later. It didn’t seem likely just then, but we decided to go out early just in case.

Not long after, we were at Jealott’s Hill, in the countryside just north of Bracknell. A horse and trap clip-clopped by as we turned off the road into Hawthorndale Lane, an enclosed track between hedges, running parallel with the road. We were looking for the four caches in the Lunchtime Walk series, spaced out along the track. Four different caches, all different sizes and shapes, all hidden differently: we found them all with various degrees of head-scratching and searching, and once, by Mr Hg137 simply picking up a random object, which turned out to be the cache. Two more horses sneaked up behind us, only the voices of their riders giving them away; they passed by, turned a corner, and the sound of drumming hooves receded into the distance on a wider section of track. One of the caches was a little bigger than the others, and we dropped off Maman Souris, one of the five (yes, five!) trackables we had with us; this one is in a race with two other souris (deux autre souris, peut être?) and wants to go home to France. And the tweezers came out several times to extract the cache logs from some of the fiendish containers.

Well, that had been a good and inventive little series, and we were going to extend it by tackling another series by the same setter, called Countryside Walk. Crossing into Pendry’s Lane, we began a gentle downhill walk on a track leading to a ford over a stream. There were four more caches along here, again all different, and some, again, requiring tweezers and other implements to remove the logs.

Is it a cache or simply a stick?

Is it a cache or simply a stick?


One was well enough concealed that I handed the cache container to Mr Hg137 and he STILL couldn’t spot it! (Editor’s note: I was beginning to wonder if the cache owner spent their spare time collecting hollow objects and containers, or, failing that, sitting at home making holes in solid things – sticks, stones, fence posts, paving slabs, logs, posts, rocks – it was certainly making for an interesting walk, and I admire the determination of the owner to create holes in so many different things!)
Something with a hole drilled in it?

Something with a hole drilled in it?


Another quirky thing we found was a series of painted stones, each titled ‘Bracknell Rocks’. We swapped them around between the larger caches, and brought one home to display in the blog, then move on elsewhere,
Bracknell Rocks

Bracknell Rocks

We reached the Cut, a small tributary of the Thames, crossed the ford on a footbridge, and emerged on a very minor road by some stables. More horses!

Westley Mill Ford

Westley Mill Ford


The Cut

The Cut


We were planning a one-cache diversion from our circuit to look for Pick ‘n’ Mix. We chose the diversion to this cache because it has loads of favourites, and the reason is here in this extract form the cache description:

Find the real cache log amongst a selection to choose from!

The cache contains a variety of cache types … Only one of the containers has the log inside it. The others have a message saying “This is not the cache you are looking for”!


The outer container was easy to find, and then the fun began. We opened the box and there were a host of cache containers. Readers, we tried every single one before we found the log in the very last container – grrr! And we dropped off another trackable here – I’m GROOT – we hope he has a good time amongst all those caches and moves on soon.



We returned to the ford and commenced our return journey along Hazelwood Lane. The sun was still shining weakly through the mist, but a bank of dark grey cloud was visible near the horizon and that weather forecast was now looking accurate. We found yet more devious containers along the lane. For one of them, I had my nose within a finger-length of the cache, but still failed to spot it – Mr Hg137 reached forward and grabbed it, to my chagrin. But for another cache, Mr Hg137 failed to spot it before I bent down and retrieved it from beside one of his footprints. Funny how you can just spot things sometimes, but fail to spot the completely obvious at other times !


For the final part of our walk, we turned into Goughs Barn Lane and headed for the car. The sun had gone by now, the wind was getting up, and it was suddenly a cold, bleak winter’s morning. Yet another horse went by, decked out in high-vis, and we found another two deviously hidden caches. That was thirteen out of thirteen, a very lucky morning for us.


Postscript one: it started to rain about 30 minutes after we finished. That weather forecast was spot on after all!

Postscript two: after logging the caches, and allocating favourite points to the best – it was hard to choose – we were contacted by the cache owner, profstuart, to thank us for our logs. That was good; we put a bit of effort into writing something more than TFTC (thanks for the cache) on our logs and it’s great to be appreciated.

Normally, we include lots of pictures of the caches we find. Not so today – it would be unfair to give away the cunning and secret ways in which the caches have been hidden. So here are a couple of pictures of caches, carefully chosen to not give too much away …

November 3: Trackable : Great Britain Rocks

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Great Britain Rocks

Great Britain Rocks


The fifth of the five trackables (FIVE! They are like buses, they come along in groups!) that we found on our caching trip around Lightwater was Great Britain Rocks.

This is an old and well travelled trackable. It has been around since April 2011 and has travelled 36,000 miles – that’s one and a half times round the earth – there was a very brief trip to California, early on, but the rest has been in Europe, including the fringes of the continent such as Finland and Cyprus, and also including musical events, like a Linkin Park concert.

Here’s why this trackable was sent out to travel:
I was inspired to release this patriotic guitar as a travel bug after finding The Tin Pan Alley cache in Denmark Street London – GC2C1NN if you’re caching in London, its a must do! This travel bug would like to visit as many caches and places with a musical connection as possible.

Tin Pan Alley cache

Tin Pan Alley cache


We’ve visited the Tin Pan Alley cache, back in December 2014 https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/december-28-paddington-bear-part-2/
It’s one of the caches we’ve visited with the most favourite points – over 1,000. The logbook for the cache was hidden on a noticeboard where hopeful musicians pinned up notices to say what kind of instruments they could play. Our cache logs says I signed up to be 2nd violin, while Mr Hg137 wanted to be the manager! Sadly, the cache was archived in mid-2015 as building work in the area had made it inaccessible.