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
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
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
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
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:
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: