April 20 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : Forest Row to Withyham

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

It was a ‘short’ walk today, just 6 miles, as we had an evening engagement. And an easy walk too, as virtually all of it was along an old railway line, the Forest Way http://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/leisureandtourism/countryside/walks/forestway

We caught the 291 Metrobus to Forest Row, walked out of the village, collecting the first cache of the day, a black-tape covered pot under a lump of concrete (we would see quite a lot of those!) and we were up on the old line. It was a Thursday and we were expecting it to be quiet, but the path was full of walkers, dogs, joggers, and cyclists, some out for a stroll, and some using the old track as a route to somewhere else. As we cleared the outskirts of Forest Row, the people thinned out and we were nearly alone, save for cyclists, for this is also long-distance cycleway 21, 94 miles from Greenwich to Eastbourne http://www.sustrans.org.uk/ncn/map/route/route-21 and also part of the Avenue Verte which links London to Paris via the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry.

Forest Way aka Cycle route 21 aka Avenue Verte

Forest Way aka Cycle route 21 aka Avenue Verte

And the geocaches … well, there are a lot of excellent cache series around here, which weave in and out of each other. We found caches from the Forest Row, Hartfield, and Withyham Link series, and the Pooh Trail (for this is part of Ashdown Forest, home of Winnie the Pooh, Piglet and Eeyore). Almost the caches were film pots, hidden under bricks, lumps of concrete, or railway clinker, and were very easy to find, but that didn’t matter at all, for it was a glorious spring day with the trees frothing into leaf, bluebells in flower at the side of the track, and spring bursting out all over.
Winnie the Pooh country!

Winnie the Pooh country!

After about four miles walk along the railway, we approached Hartfield, and took a short diversion into the village http://www.hartfieldonline.com As we walked uphill from the old railway line and the valley of the infant River Medway, we were overtaken by six teenagers with huge rucksacks. Aha! Duke of Edinburgh award time again! The village is compact and attractive, with timber and tile-hung houses, and the first oast house we had seen. We were obviously approaching Kent at last!
The first oast house of the walk

The first oast house of the walk

Hartfield church sits atop the hill. We chose this as a good spot to eat lunch, on a seat in the churchyard in the warm spring sun, listening to the children in the adjoining school. We meandered back through the village, passing the pub http://www.anchorhartfield.com and the village shop, then returning to the railway line near the disused Hartfield station, now a private house.
Hartfield Church

Hartfield Church

Unusual local sports!

Unusual local sports!

It was now only a couple of miles to Withyham. Leaving the railway line at another disused station, we walked the short distance back to the geocar for the drive home. Eighteen caches found, and a lovely walk in the Sussex countryside.

Here are some of the caches we found:


July 13 : Bekonscot

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.
July 13th is a special day for both of us, and mostly we try to do something a little bit out of the ordinary. So we both took the day off work, tried to decide what to do … and came up with Bekonscot Model Village. Mr Hg137 was told that he had been here before, as a child, but he has no recollection whatsoever of this. Hence this was a first for both of in some sort of way.

Off we went to Beaconsfield. But, just before journey’s end, there was a cache to be found on the edge of town. We parked, naughtily, in a private road, and set off back to the busy A40. Just a little way along was a footpath, formed out the old main road, and we assumed that our target would be along there. … Wrong … Back to the main road and along the verge and we soon had our hands on the cache, cleverly tucked away in an inconspicuous spot a little way away from the rushing traffic.

Then the main event of the day – the model village http://www.bekonscot.co.uk/ This is a super place!

Bekonscot - dodgy butcher?

Bekonscot – dodgy butcher?

Bekonscot - and a dodgy builder too?

Bekonscot – and a dodgy builder too?

It’s stuck in a ‘30s time warp; loads and loads of little people and animals are out and about in villages, on farms, working and travelling about … Trains trundle, wheels turn, boats sail, and all sorts of things move gently about. For those who like to spot detail, there are lots of visual and written puns to spot. We spent over three hours here, and it didn’t seem long at all.

And what’s there for geocachers? Well, there’s a multi-cache, ‘Giants of Bekonscot’, based on things to be seen in and around the model village. We did at least two circuits before we spotted them all. For a moment, while looking for a clue, we also thought we’d found another cacher – a lady and child scribbling down one of the numbers we were looking for. “Are you geocaching?”, we asked. Umm … no … she looked at us uncomprehendingly … they were doing a completely different quiz.

Clues solved and location derived, we had a short walk to the cache, arriving at a place that seemed reasonable, and which matched with previous logs. And, the pesky cache – we couldn’t find it! We were mindful of previous finders’ descriptions of faulty coordinates, and gave a good length of hedge a good thorough search, ignoring the sidelong glances of passing muggles. But so much time spent, and no result. (We’ve been in touch with the cache owner since, and may well be back for another try; we can’t let so much effort be wasted!)

We had a few extra other caches to collect nearby; a gentle walk in the woods was followed by the much more noisy, urban surroundings of Beaconsfield station (or Causton, if you watch Midsomer Murders) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaconsfield_railway_station – another cache from the Sidetracked series to add to our list.

And that was it for the day; big black clouds were gathering in the distance, and we wanted to go home. But what a cracking day out, and such a magical place in Bekonscot!

Here are some of the caches we found:

May 26 : Devon / Cornwall : Day 5 : poems, surf, and chefs: Greenaway, Polzeath, and Padstow

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Polzeath surfers

Polzeath surfers

Greenaway is my family name. And I well remember the toe-curling, red-cheeked embarrassment at school when we studied John Betjeman’s poem ‘Greenaway’. But this meant that I knew there was a beach in Cornwall of that name, and a little research showed that there was also a cache of the same name near that beach. So there was no way, no way at all, that a visit to Cornwall was not going to include a visit to Greenaway. And here is that poem … it’s not that long if you aren’t into poetry …
South West Coast Path - to Greenaway

South West Coast Path – to Greenaway

by John Betjeman

I know so well this turfy mile,
These clumps of sea-pink withered brown,
The breezy cliff, the awkward stile,
The sandy path that takes me down.

To crackling layers of broken slate
Where black and flat sea-woodlice crawl
And isolated rock pools wait
Wash from the highest tides of all.

I know the roughly blasted track
That skirts a small and smelly bay
And over squelching bladderwrack
Leads to the beach at Greenaway.

Down on the shingle safe at last
I hear the slowly dragging roar
As mighty rollers mount to cast
Small coal and seaweed on the shore,

And spurting far as it can reach
The shooting surf comes hissing round
To heave a line along the beach
Of cowries waiting to be found.

Tide after tide by night and day
The breakers battle with the land
And rounded smooth along the bay
The faithful rocks protecting stand.

But in a dream the other night
I saw this coastline from the sea
And felt the breakers plunging white
Their weight of waters over me.

There were the stile, the turf, the shore,
The safety line of shingle beach
With every stroke I struck the more
The backwash sucked me out of reach.

Back into what a water-world
Of waving weed and waiting claws?
Of writhing tentacles uncurled
To drag me to what dreadful jaws?

The beach at Greenaway

The beach at Greenaway

To return to the post … We parked the geocar on – yes on – Polzeath beach, after Mr Hg137 had reassured himself that it would not be swept away by a wave coming from the distant sea (it wasn’t). It was then a super walk on a sparkling clear May morning, of about a mile along the coast path, to a seat overlooking the little beach of Greenaway. Once there, a mid-morning coffee was drunk, while a gentle search around the seat revealed the cache. Success! But I had an additional plan. I was going down ‘to the beach at Greenaway’. And so we did. There are a few steps down to an unspoilt small sandy beach surrounded by rocks. What a lovely place!
Surfers at Polzeath

Surfers at Polzeath

After that indulgence, we walked back to Polzeath, where there was another cache overlooking the bay. We spent a while looking for it, before re-reading the description and hint and realising what and where we needed to look. Then we turned the geocar south around the Camel estuary to arrive in Padstow. The nearest cache to our parking place was the Church Micro at Padstow, so we set off to find it. We were thwarted … by a wedding, which was about to start, with photographers planning their shots and guests beginning to drift in. It didn’t seem right to intrude on that so we moved on, intending to return later.
I want your lunch!

I want your lunch!

The busy, crowded harbour seemed like a good place to have lunch, so we ate our sandwiches, defending them against a seagull that wanted them, and wondering exactly where the cache we knew was on the other side of the harbour could be. Lunch completed, and the seagull vanquished, and we strolled over to the slipway where the cache would be hidden. But we didn’t find it. More correctly, we couldn’t even look for it, as so many muggles were fishing for crabs off the slipway that we couldn’t make ourselves conspicuous by searching. Once again, we moved on.
Padstow harbour

Padstow harbour – right by a cache – much too busy to search here!

We meandered on, past Rick Stein’s cookery school, the National Lobster hatchery http://www.nationallobsterhatchery.co.uk , and a cycle hire business, heading for the Camel trail http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/cameltrail which is a disused railway line heading inland from Padstow to Wadebridge and eventually to Bodmin. Suddenly the bustle of Padstow was behind us and we were looking out over the river, with only cyclists, runners and walkers for company. There are caches all along this trail, but we had time for just one, from the ‘Benny’s Quest’ series. Luckily, this was just out of view of the trail, so we had time and space to search without attracting attention. We needed that space and time as we hunted around for a while before finding a cache fashioned from a piece of pipe, hidden in the shade in a wall.

We needed to return, so we walked back into Padstow, and through the narrow streets by the harbour, full of trendy shops, galleries, and restaurants, including a couple more of Rick Stein’s restaurants. We arrived back at the churchyard, hoping for another try at that Church Micro, but the wedding wasn’t quite over – the organ was still playing and there were still guests in the churchyard. Yet again, we moved on; we just didn’t time that one right.

It was still only mid-afternoon, but we had an evening appointment, at the open air theatre at the Sterts Centre. Off we went, stopping for a meal at the Cheesewring Hotel http://cheesewringhotel.co.uk/ in Minions, which we had visited three days earlier – it bills itself as the highest pub in Cornwall at 995 feet above sea level. And the play … it poured with rain all evening, and, while it was nice and dry under the theatre canopy, it was really hard to hear anything above the rain. Luckily, we’d mugged up on the plot of ‘The Winter’s Tale’ first … as the only thing we knew about the play was the famous stage direction “Exit, pursued by a bear” … which is what I’m about to do now! Growl!

Here, in no particular order, are the caches we found:

January 2016 : Single Form

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here again.

In mid January 2016, 40 of the UK’s works of post-war public art were listed by Historic England. The BBC described them all here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35352595 One of the statues we saw in 2015 was among them. I think that’s excellent – I like good bits of sculpture and occasionally drag Mr Hg137 around sculpture parks.

Single Form - Barbara Hepworth

Single Form – Barbara Hepworth

The statue stands by one of the lakes in Battersea Park, which we visited in October in the later stages of our walk down the River Thames. It’s a Barbara Hepworth sculpture called ‘Single Form’ and it now has a Grade II* listing. Read about it at http://www.batterseapark.org/art/sculpture/hepworth/

It was created by her as a tribute to one of her friends, Dag Hammarskjold, who was Secretary General of the United Nations and who died in an air crash. This one is the original, but a rather larger version stands outside the United Nations building in New York and is described here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_Form

How interesting to come across something we have seen on our travels, and which has now appeared in a completely different, newsworthy context.

January 23 : Mixed weather and mixed fortunes in Crowthorne

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Crowthorne is replete with our caching failures – we have nicknamed them ‘Nemesis caches’. And on a mixed-weather morning, a local caching trip seemed just right. It was almost exactly two years, and 800 caches, since our last attempts at these caches, so maybe our searching skills have improved in the interval?

Crowthorne Church

Crowthorne Church

Our first Nemesis cache was ‘Sidetracked – Crowthorne’, part of a country-wide series placed close to railway stations. So far we have found 25 of them, from Edinburgh to Lake on the Isle of Wight, and from busy London termini to tiny local stations. Maybe our searching skills really had improved, as we found the cache after only a few minutes. The cache itself was of a design we hadn’t encountered before, and which blended seamlessly into its surroundings; perhaps that was why we didn’t find it last time?

Feeling triumphant, we tackled our next ‘Nemesis cache’, opposite the gates to Wellington College. The college entrance was busy with cars and coaches coming and going to sports events, so we felt a bit … on show. This time we weren’t nearly as efficient at finding the cache, but some minutes of wandering up and down, peering in bushes, reading cache logs and generally bumbling about eventually led us to the target. Two down!

Busy Saturday at Wellington College

Busy Saturday at Wellington College

And here our luck ran out. On down the busy road we went to ‘Nemesis cache’ number 3. The same strategies that had worked twice already that morning were not working now. We gave up after some minutes of furtling around behind a BT box, as we were getting nowhere, and we were a bit conspicuous to folk coming and going from a side road. (Why does the entire population of Crowthorne drive about on Saturday mornings, we wondered?)

We moved on to attempt some new (to us) caches, placed since we last cached here. It didn’t get better. We didn’t find the next two caches either; three failures in a row is not good at all! (Editor’s note: one of those DNFs has now been confirmed as missing by the cache owner.) Fourth time lucky – we found another cache tucked beneath a hedge, though once again we felt slightly uncomfortable as we rootled away so close to people’s houses, which is always a problem with urban/suburban caching.

Eventually we arrived in bustling central Crowthorne, to attempt another newish cache. Once again we were unsuccessful. Actually, we didn’t feel too bad about this failure, as the cache hadn’t been found for five months up to then, and still remains unfound. Maybe it, too, is no longer there?

Where's that cache?  Not here!

Where’s that cache? Not here!

We wanted to finish with a find – it’s always dispiriting when then last (or first) cache of the day is a DNF (did not find), so we re-tried another of our Nemesis caches, ‘Disappearing Berkshire #1 – Buckler Cars’ ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckler_Cars ) . The cache is a short multi, themed around the area where the cars were built; the cache hint had been subtly altered since our last attempt, so we were hopeful. As before, we followed the route to GZ and found ourselves in a familiar alley. Some equally familiar searching followed, followed by another DNF (they were becoming familiar, too). Oh well – Crowthorne remains replete with unfound caches … maybe we’ll return in another two years to try again?

PS Here, as ever, are some of the caches we found.

January 10 – Connie the Crab and friend

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

We don’t find many trackables – and then three come along at once!

Connie the Crab and friend

Connie the Crab and friend

The third of the three trackables we found in a cache on Wildmoor Heath was ‘Connie the Crab and friend’. Connie is a red metal crab, accompanied by a brown plastic/rubber crabby friend. She set off from Texas in February 2015, but went ‘walkabout’ for over three months in the summer. She was picked up from a cache in Texas in early June, and next appeared on the last day of September in a cache near Havant in southern England. As the trackable log says,

” Well this little fella has pitched up in a cache in the UK, who knows how it got here from Texas.”

How indeed?

Connie likes beaches, so we plan to drop her off somewhere near the coast on a trip we have planned in the next few weeks.

PS I thought I’d include some instructions (in a separate post) on how to log a trackable, as this has been missed several times for more than one of the trackables we found.

January 10 – Set Sail

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

We don’t find many trackables – and then three come along at once!

We went to a cache on Wildmoor Heath, Crowthorne, and, on opening up the cache container, found it stuffed with three trackables. We grabbed all of them. Greedy, maybe, but it gives them a chance of a write-up in this blog … Once clear of the cache, we had a good look at our booty. There was a definite maritime theme, with a ship, a pirate and a crab. This post is about the oldest and biggest of the three, ‘Set Sail’.

Set Sail

Set Sail

It’s a biggish, thick, heavy lump of metal with, on one side, Signal the Frog in Viking kit, in a longboat piled high with plunder and flying the Danish flag as a sail. (Editor’s note: Signal the Frog is a geocaching mascot – see our post on August 3 2014 https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2013/08/03/august-3-day-215-caches-found-0-cumulative-total-243-1-bonus-2cachers-meet/ ) The other side is a Viking horned helmet bearing the inscriptions “Denmark 2006 Oct 1 – Oct 31” and “Signal the Frog – Denmark – World Geocaching Series 1”. So this trackable has been out there for over nine years – wow!

Signal’s mission is : to get to water (lakes/rivers/oceans) : to see boats, ships, and other water craft : and to learn about seafaring. He’s travelled over 7000 miles around Europe and has visited many places that fit his mission.

The trackable was nearly lost: it spent FOUR years in a six-stage multicache on the Belgian coast and was only rediscovered in 2011 when the cache owner was clearing up some archived caches and found the trackable inside. There’s a lesson here: don’t put trackables in the final part of a complex, many stage geocache, as not many people will visit it! However, the trackable was eventually found and is still travelling, so we will try to move it to a location befitting its mission.