January 27 : Wisley – megaliths, butterflies, and churches

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Butterflies at Wisley

Butterflies at Wisley


In January and February, tropical butterflies fly free in the glasshouse at RHS Wisley Gardens, and we went to see them. http://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/wisley/whats-on/butterflies-in-the-glasshouse We were queuing outside before opening time, were first through the gates, and made it into the greenhouse before it officially opens at 9:30.
A butterfly takes a fancy to my coat

A butterfly takes a fancy to my coat


This gave us about 20 minutes in relative solitude in the warmth – oh, it was so nice and warm! – before the greenhouse began to fill with families and photographers, all there to see the butterflies … and one of the two (grass?) snakes and a robin that have also set up home in there.
Snake!

Snake!


By about 10:30 we left Wisley and, about a mile up the road, stopped to look for the Church Micro cache at Wisley church. http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/SRY/Wisley/WisleyChurch This is a tiny Norman church tucked away behind farm buildings. It would be easy to pass without noticing.
Wisley Church

Wisley Church


The cache was supposed to be at the back of the church, somewhere along a fence. We arrived at the spot the GPS said was the location, and started looking. And looking, and looking. After a few minutes we had to break off to ‘admire the snowdrops’ as a muggle and dogs passed by. We restarted looking, and looking … there were only a finite number of places along this fence that the cache could be. Where was it? On the third / fourth /fifth pass along the fence we turned something over, and there was the cache after all. Phew, we were about to give up.
Found it at last

Found it at last


Another mile or so along a narrow, twisty lane, over the Wey Navigation at the very narrow bridge by the Anchor pub http://www.anchorpyrford.co.uk and we arrived at Pyrford, another church, and another Church Micro (CM). The small Norman church, St Nicholas, has medieval wall paintings inside and used to be visited by Queen Elizabeth I when she came to see her favourite lady in waiting who lived at Pyrford Place. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrford
St Nicholas' Church, Pyrford

St Nicholas’ Church, Pyrford


Wall paintings, Pyrford Church

Wall paintings, Pyrford Church


These two CMs – Wisley and Pyrford – are ten years old, number 53 and 54 in a series that now stretches to over 11,000 caches, and is the largest geocache series in the world https://thegeocachingjunkie.com/2016/05/31/church-micro-the-worlds-largest-cache-series This particular CM was a multicache, where we had to assemble information from items near the church. One stage involved the war memorial, just outside the church gate, and the other was about counting the fish carved on a stone seat, just inside the gate. ‘Cod’ we work out how many fish there were? No, we ‘rudd’y well couldn’t. We came up with some possibilities and took shelter in the church to work out some ‘plaices’ for the cache. We came up with three possibilities and set off up the hill to check them out, striking lucky at our second attempt. ‘Brill’!
Pyrford Stone

Pyrford Stone


By now, we were also halfway to our third and final cache of the day, Lonely Stone. It’s a standing stone, about one Megalithic yard tall, which is about waist height if you aren’t sure about prehistoric measuring systems https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megalithic_Yard

It was moved in the 1970s when the road was widened, and it is reputed not to be happy about that, and it moves around at midnight, contributing to road accidents. Or so they say. This was another multicache, and we derived various numbers based on the plaque which describes the stone. Another short walk to the final location followed, yielding a large cache where we dropped off the ‘Mr Heyday’ trackable we found just after Christmas.
Mr Heyday moves on

Mr Heyday moves on


That finished off a morning of contrasts – ephemeral butterflies, ancient churches, and an even older stone. Time for lunch!

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January 13 : Virginia Water (Part 5) … and few yards of Windlesham

During the Autumn and Winter months we had been visiting Virginia Water to collect the 30 or so caches placed in or around its environs. We had just one more visit planned, and to be honest, we almost didn’t make this our final visit.

Virginia Water – Obelisk Pond


We had cached there just 7 days previously, and thought long and hard about a different location. The dozen or so caches at Windlesham were in top spot, until we realised the paths would be a little on the wet side, and the majority of the paths at Virginia Water had been relatively dry. So Virginia Water… the conclusion – it was!

But, we had solved one of the Windlesham puzzle caches. This was part of the alphabet series set by UncleE. ‘L’ was in Windlesham, and relatively quickly solved… well Mr Hg137 saw what was needed, and Mrs Hg137 applied the maths. We discovered that the cache was on our route to Virginia Water, and had a handy parking spot too!

So well before 845am we had parked up, and located our first cache of the day! Surprisingly it was very dry inside especially as it hadn’t been found for 6 months!

L

We arrived at Virginia Water with a full morning’s itinerary : to complete the 21 stage multi and find 11 fairly standard caches.

A sample question from the 21 stage multi (some text has been obliterated!)


We were starting the 21 stage multi at stage 19, and the co-ordinates led us to a very pretty bridge (one seemingly only the locals knew about), and we had to count the planks. There were a surprising number of these, and we both traversed the bridge and fortunately we arrived at the same number. We keyed that into the website and we were presented with the coordinates for another location. We worked out where that was, and decided to find some simple caches on our way there.

“…12,13,14,15,16…”


And, in fairness, the first three caches we found were relatively simple (behind some holly, well hidden in a rotting log, and tucked behind a Redwood (sequoia). The Redwood plantation was tucked away in a part of the parkland less frequently visited, and was very dark and atmospherically gloomy. It was here we found a trackable.

Redwood Plantation


We discovered when we got home, the trackable tag had not been initialised (part of the ‘code’ when the trackable is released). We were unable to (electronically) retrieve the trackable from the cache and, at the time of writing, are awaiting instructions from the trackable’s owner.

Three straightforward caches, three straightforward finds.

Then VW-Stream.

We were expecting something ‘interesting’ as the cache had acquired a large number of favourite points. We were not disappointed.

Across the ‘stream’ was a huge log. We had to cross the log to reach the multi-trunked tree where the cache was hidden. Mr Hg137 nobly volunteered and proceeded to walk/wobble/totter/slip across the log….TO THE WRONG TREE!
Mrs Hg137 pointed this out and Mr Hg137’s return journey was more slip/totter/slip/wobble. After a few minutes searching at the correct tree, the cache has not been found, so reinforcements were summoned. Mrs Hg137 traversed the log slightly better and even with two pairs of eyes the cache took 10 minutes to find! How frustrating a reasonable sized container in a relatively small tree!

Mr Hg137 traversing the log…

“…come back..its the wrong tree”


Then of course we had the return journey. Mr Hg137 decided to crawl his way along the log, but Mrs Hg137 expertly showed her yoga agility by rising from a crouch position to a standing position with no real angst at all.

Both of us re-crossed safely without getting our feet wet! Phew!

We walked on, pleased with our accomplishments and arrived at the location we needed for the 21 stage multi. We knew the question, and speculated on two answers before our arrival – of course, it was neither! A nearby seat did provide an excellent coffee spot, where we could calm the adrenalin pumping around our bodies after our log clambering adventure.

We now had the coordinates for the hiding place of the 21 stage multi and it was (sort of) on the way to our next simple cache. We decide to find it.

We have mentioned before on our Virginia Water trip about the volume of rhododendron bushes. The final was planted deep in such a thicket. We even had a picture of coppiced branches that the cache was hidden in. Deep in the bushes, the GPS is useless, and there must have been a dozen or more ‘coppiced’ trees to check. After 20 multi-stages were not going to fail now! Eventually Mrs Hg137 did find the cache and with it the end to our longest multi – 21 stages! Hooray! (This cache is well worth the effort – set aside a good half/three quarter day and a 5 mile walk.. you will visit places around Virginia Water you know and some you don’t.)

The cache at the end of the 21 stage multi!

Our route then took us North to a number of fairly simple finds – two by the side of fallen logs and third deep in bog and rhododendrons. We gave up on our first attempt here, as the thicket and bog were a bit too unpenetrable, so we skirted round the bushes and eventually (after a stream crossing jump) found an easy route to GZ.

We should then have reversed our route away from the cache, but instead walked forward to our last ‘VW’ cache. We realised a bit too late, we had to criss-cross a few too many streams, and fight slightly too many bushes but we made it eventually to our last VW cache. A simple find tucked in some tree roots.

Most of the VW caches have been black cylinders, room enough for a log book and a small number of swaps. This would be our only negative comment about the series, as we always knew what the container would be. Again for new cachers, most are simple finds, and provides an excellent opportunity to explore the less-visited parts of Virginia Water.

A typical VW container…and contents

We had two more caches to find. These were not part of the VW series, but were situated in close proximity to the entrance to Savill Garden. One was very close the Obelisk, the other in the car park. Both in very muggle-heavy areas, so a bit of stealth was needed here.

These caches completed a great half-day, we’d found a puzzle cache, completed a 21 stage multi, and found 10 other caches too. The other Virginia Water caches that remain are three challenge caches for which we don’t qualify and 20 foot tree climb. Time we think to give Virginia Water a rest… you’ve been a great source of winter caches.

December 28 : Mr Heyday (anag)

During our third visit to Virginia Water we found a trackable, Mr Heyday (anag), and it took us just a few minutes to realise the anagram was of Mary Hyde.

Mr Heyday

Mr Heyday


During July/August this year, we had taken part in the Mary Hyde challenge finding a certain number or certain type of caches each week. It was only after the challenge was over that we realised we hadn’t completed the final online task …and as a result we didn’t qualify for gaining a trackable code (leastways, we are speculating that was the outcome).

Mr Heyday (anag) was released mid September 2017 and since then has travelled just less than 100 miles. In fairness, this is due to its (his?/her?) mission statement – “to keep within Surrey and Sussex”. Virginia Water, where we found the trackable has a county boundary running through it…Surrey and ..Berkshire! Fortunately we found the trackable on the Surrey side..we must remember not to place the Mr Heyday (anag) , on the Berkshire side!

Incidentally whilst researching this trackable’s adventures we noted it had been deposited by EL-JO – a local cacher to us, who had written in the log “Our Mr Heyday is holed up in a snow covered TB hotel in Canada”. We investigated further, and discovered that over 20 local cachers have a trackable race competition with their booty from the Mary Hyde challenge. If you see any of these when out and about… please move them on !

December 28 : Virginia Water (part 3)

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Virginia Water

Virginia Water


During October and November 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 our previous two visits. (Editors note: that’s re-re-attempt, then.)
Which way?

Which way?


We parked at the roadside in Wick Lane. It was early, and very cold indeed (minus 5C!), so there was lots of space to park as most people must have stayed snuggled up in bed. Well wrapped up, we passed the Bailiwick pub http://www.brunningandprice.co.uk/bailiwick and went through the gate into the park. Just past the entrance, the GPS needle pointed off into the undergrowth and we followed it. Crossing a small stream on slippery logs, we arrived at GZ. Carefully reading the hint, we poked and prodded in likely hidey-holes. Nothing. After checking everything once, we went round again, and Mr Hg137 found the first cache of the day in a place I thought I’d already searched. Grrr.

We continued along Wick Lane through the almost empty parktowards our next target, VW – Totem Pole. Our previous two attempts at finding this cache had failed, but this time we had (re)done the calculations, had done much more research and were armed with what we thought were perfect coordinates and a map with a large ‘X’ in a suitable spot. We knew to the leaf where that cache should be! Inevitably, that was right in the middle of a rhododendron thicket. As Mr Hg137 was wearing a rucksack, I nobly volunteered to fight my way in. My running commentary went something like this:
“I see a pile of sticks….I’ve got the cache…opening the cache… ooh there’s a trackable inside..I’m signing the log…I’m coming out now…where are you ?”

The next couple of hours were taken up by collecting more clues for the 21-part multi Virginia Water (yes, twenty-one). For each part, there is a clue to be found at a given location, you answer a question based on that using an internet connection, and are then supplied with the co-ordinates for the next stage. In no particular order, we looked at tree tags, found memorial plaques, counted things, and worked out the colour of various structures, going to places in the park that we already knew, and places we never knew existed, stopping at regular intervals for warming cups of coffee and snacks of jelly babies, chocolate, and toffees.



By late morning, it was much, much busier, and runners, cyclists, and walkers were out in numbers. On our return leg, we passed a cottage called the Flying Barn. A recently erected memorial stone explained the unusual name … this was an airfield for about 25 years in the early 20th century.
Flying Barn

Flying Barn


Skirting Smith’s Lawn polo fields, we entered woodland, with regularly spaced obstacles that would be used for horse trials. One of these, VW – Jump, was to be our next cache. But there was a snag. ‘Our’ jump was already occupied by a family of six, three adults, three children, so searching was going to be tricky.

Mr HG137 asked if they had heard of gecoaching. They hadn’t – he explained it was a ‘treasure hunt’. and there was ‘treasure here’. The three children were excited and searched every piece of timber for us. Nothing, of course, as we had failed to see the smaller jump nearby. The three children charged over and very quickly Martha had the cache in hand. We had described the cache perfectly, and it had a few bits of swag in it too. Martha was really, really pleased. We signed the log “HG137 + Martha”. Maybe we did enough to convert them!

Leaving the family behind, we walked to our next cache, VW – Smith’s Lawn. We most definitely didn’t take the best route to the cache and walked about half a mile in a sort of death spiral, before arriving at yet another impenetrable rhododendron thicket. This time, we both pushed our way into the centre, and blundered around for some little while before finding the cache and emerging, somewhat dishevelled and grubby.

Our final cache of the day was to be VW – Holly, just off the path leading to Obelisk Pond. We came, we saw, we looked up the tree, but couldn’t spot the cache. Mr Hg137 climbed up a branch or two, but we still couldn’t spot anything, and we retreated. We should have read the cache description first:
“I don’t really know what came over me, I was going to put it at the bottom but somehow or other it ended up at the top. It’s a horrible climb, with loads of branches close together making it difficult to squeeze through. And the bigger you are, the harder it will be. And it’s a holly tree, it’s going to be prickly. If you have any sense you will just walk on past this one.”

Obelisk Pond

Obelisk Pond


Then there was time for lunch, and yet more warming coffee, on a seat overlooking Obelisk Pond and a short walk back to the car park. This was not so deserted now, there were cars and people abounding. Another part of the VW mega-multi has been completed, and we are over halfway now. There should be more instalments in 2018!

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 :

September 7 : Schlumpfi on Tour

As we mentioned on our last blog, at the top of Long Mynd, hidden in the Pole Bank cache, was a trackable – “Schlumpfi on Tour”.

Schlumpfi is a German trackable, hence its name. The English for “Schlumpfi”, is “Smurf” which is of course what we recognised this charming character as. Our knowledge of Smurfs is not that great, so we are unable to identify which Smurf it is! (Regular readers may remember we have found another Smurf trackable, Smoulicek, which we blogged about in April 2015).

Schlumpfi started his journey near Dresden just under three years ago, and has criss-crossed Germany several times. Unusually for a Smurf he has not visited Holland or Belgium, but has visited Switzerland, Spain and a fleeting visit to America. He arrived in Britain in August 2017 starting his UK journey at Edinburgh Castle!

Enjoy the UK, Schlumpfi !

September 7 : Long Mynd – Pole Bank

Long Mynd, looking down Townbrook Valley

Long Mynd, looking down Townbrook Valley


Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.
Pole Bank, highest point of the Long Mynd

Pole Bank, highest point of the Long Mynd


It seemed as if we had hardly arrived, but we had reached the last day of our walking holiday with HF at Church Stretton. The final walk for the week took us up the side of the Long Mynd and along the broad ridge at the top.
The highest point of the Long Mynd, at an airy, windswept 516 m or 1693 feet, is Pole Bank. A few paces from the trig point, hidden in the heather, is a cache of the same name. As the rest of the party clustered round a nearby information board, I set off into the undergrowth and found the cache under a pile of stones.


But there was not one cache, but two. One was older, and damper, and the other was newer, drier, and hidden in a camo bag. I signed the log in the older cache, and left two trackables. In return, I removed the Smurf trackable that was already in the cache.
Carding Mill Valley

Carding Mill Valley


I turned around and my walking companions were already leaving. I raced back, grabbed my rucksack and caught them up. We walked back along the ridge and then down the beautiful Carding Mill valley to the teashop that marked the end of the walk.