May 26 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : Kent border to Sandhurst

PROLOGUE

Our last caching trip on our Sandhurst (Berks) to Sandhurst (Kent) finished yards from the Kent border, and when we drove away we had thoughts of striding purposefully into Kent and onto Sandhurst… however since our last visit we were asked to undertake a small diversion while still in Sussex.

Kent, Sussex

Kent is ahead of us..but we’re not going there, yet!


The last cache we found on our previous trip contained a sheet of paper with the ‘Northings’ for the Great Wigsell Multi. Another cache, unfortunately now archived, contained the ‘Eastings’. This meant the Great Wigsell Multi was unreachable. The cache owner of these three caches contacted us with the missing information and asked, if we had time, to visit the Multi as it contained a trackable which needed to be moved on.

And so instead of heading East into Kent, we headed further South through light woodland for a 1/3 of a mile. We were pleasantly surprised on our arrival. Not only was the cache there after an eight month gap…but it was an ammo can!

We released the trackable and headed back to our car, wondering how many other cache owners we would be helping on the this holiday (see previous blog for more details).

And so to Kent.

THE SANDHURST WALK

Before finding the Great Wigsell Multi our day had not begun well. There had been a major accident and our route to the Kent border had been blocked. A plethora of side roads were also blocked with roadworks so we had had an interesting drive to our start point.

Our route was to take us 2/3 mile along a narrow country lane, unfortunately this was being used as one of the few roads open. We edged our way along, taking care watching out for traffic.

Or at least that was the agreed plan.

Sadly Mr Hg137 decided to check maps/GPS whilst walking up the pavement-less road and failed to spot a large pot-hole.

He landed considerably worse for wear, face down, lying on the tarmac.

Grazed wrists, ripped trousers, and several layers of skin removed from a lower leg. Ouch!

He limped to a gap in the roadside, where a passing motorist provided us with a few tissues which staunched the wounded leg. We both thought that having walked so far on our Sandhurst route, we would fail with just 2.5 miles to walk!

We sat. Annoyed.

Eventually Mr Hg137 stood up. The bleeding had ceased, and he could put weight on the injured leg (hidden behind the ripped trousers).

We tentatively walked on.

Kent countryside


We were following, for the last time, the Sussex Border Path, which up to that point had been brilliantly signposted. Sadly when we needed a post to show us the way to a cache 300 feet away, it was missing. No obvious track through farmland, and with some way still to go, we abandoned our search before it really got going. We knew we were getting close to our destination though as the cache belonged to a series entitled “Sandhurst Cross Circular Walk”.

The route took us through a farm. Clearly the farmer had had trouble with hikers, as there were a plethora of “Keep to the Path”, “Close the Gate” type signs. However the farmer had failed to mark the signpost clearly as we approached his back garden, and the fingerpost was angled for us to walk straight through his garden rather than a tiny path just by the fence line.

You can’t walk through Kent without seeing some of these!


It was shortly after this we found our first Kent cache on the walk. Hidden in tree roots. It had been well over an hour since our finding of the Sussex Multi so were grateful for an easy find.

Kent

Under the tree roots…

Our route took us through woodland, and around farm fields. We crossed far too many stiles for our liking (too tall for Mrs Hg137, too wobbly for Mr Hg137’s now-healing leg).

Kent

A Kentish stile!


And then we arrived at a Roman Road – and another cache. Again hidden in tree roots. Here though we had a long search. Lots of trees, and lots of roots.

Kent

Did the Romans leave this geocache for us to find ?

We were eventually successful and strode/limped purposefully the 1/4 mile into the village of Sandhurst.

A beautiful village green and fabulous clock tower. Our journey was complete.

Sandhurst, Kent

Sandhurst, Kent


Our final cache was under the clock tower, and we waited ages, for a bus driver to vacate the seat on which the cache had been placed.

Our final cache on this walk!


A fabulous setting for the end of our walk!

EPILOGUE

Sandhurst Geocachers Trail Trackable starts its quest

Sandhurst Geocachers Trail Trackable starts its quest

And so our walk was at an end. We finished in high Summer on a boiling hot day. We had started in the height of Winter, with ice on the ground. We had caught trains and buses. We had used many a long distance path including the Blackwater Path, The North Downs Way and the Sussex Border Path. We had walked beside canals, rivers and underneath a major flight path. We’d walked over Surrey’s highest hill, and walked through the claggy clay of the Weald. We’d undertaken quite a few Church Micros and learned about such diverse people as an Astronomer Royal and the founder of Ottawa. We even saw the Flying Scotsman!

The Flying Scotsman

The Flying Scotsman


We’d heard lots of birdsong and been lucky enough to see deer, a heron, an adder and a kingfisher.

Our route would have been approximately 60 miles if we had walked in a straight line but various constraints (Army land, Gatwick Airport, reservoirs) prevented this. Our convoluted route of 86 miles kept to footpaths where we could, avoided major towns and where possible picked a route with caches to find. Our route is visible here https://www.geocaching.com/track/map_gm.aspx?ID=6190539

An excellent adventure which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Sandhurst, Kent

As we noted on January 1, there is another Sandhurst, near Gloucester, a journey which we will undertake probably next year.

Do look out for that!

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January 1 : The 2017 Challenge Unveiled

We are frequently asked by our friends, family and caching acquaintances whether we have another Annual Walking / Caching challenge.

Previous challenges (pre caching days) have included walking the South Downs Way, the Ridgeway, and the Three Castles Path. Our caching challenges have been to find 365 caches in a year (we now consistently find 400-430 caches per year) and to walk and cache the Thames Path.

This year we plan something different.

Something relevant to us.

Most of our readers know we live in Sandhurst (hence the blog title), home of the Royal Military Academy.

Few people know there are two other “Sandhurst”s in the UK. One is a small village just North of Gloucester, the other, a larger village, some miles East of Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent.

Coincidentally Sandhurst (Berkshire) is roughly equidistant between the other Sandhursts (about 80-90 miles away by road, and 60-75 miles as the crow flies).

Our challenge is to visit at least one, and hopefully both, other Sandhursts during the year. We will cache our way to them, using footpaths in preference to roads.

This challenge will be harder than other long distant routes we have walked for three reasons :

i) surprisingly (!) the route does NOT have its own guidebook
ii) the route will not be waymarked so will have to self-navigate and hope our map-reading is adequate
iii) some footpaths/bridges are, from time to time, closed. We may not find out about these closures until we are faced with them and will have to problem solve a new route as we go.

Depending on how we fare with one of our Sandhurst visits will determine whether we attempt the other this year.

We will call our route “The Sandhurst Trail” – so watch out Sandhursts… we’re coming to get you!

July 2 : Sunningdale

Many of our recent caching trips had been some distance from home. We realised we hadn’t found many caches within 10 miles of our house for some time! Today, with bad weather forecast, was the morning to put that right.

Sunningdale Church

Sunningdale Church


A small series in Sunningdale, Berkshire was our target and what a fine series it was. We loaded lots of other Sunningdale caches into our GPS thinking that if we were quick finders (Ed : wishful thinking !), or the rain held off (Ed : even more wishful thinking!) we would have plenty to do.

Our first target was a puzzle cache in the ‘Famous Berkshire Residents series’. We had solved the puzzle before setting out, and realised the co-ordinates were near a handy parking space yards from the Sunningdale circuit. We parked up, and searched. Read the hint. Searched some more. Re-read the hint. Searched again. Nothing. The advantage of parking so close to the mystery GZ, was that we could have another attempt later.

On route to Coworth Polo

On route to Coworth Polo


And so onto the ‘Sunningdale Circuit’. This was a very well thought out circuit in a predominantly semi-urban area. Most of the route was by roads mainly minor, but did include the notoriously busy A30! There were some footpaths too, most of which were very passable given the rain we had had recently.

The first cache was near a bowling club, and we just about got away with finding the cache while bowlers were arriving at their venue. Our slight problem here, was the cache was embedded in a road sign, we initially looked at the wrong one, and then it was ages before we found the cache in the correct location. (This series wasn’t going to be easy).

Our next WAS an easy find. The cache log was hidden within a very life-like brick. With a small amount of rubble around it, it was very well hidden. Then to a gate. Here again we started our search at the wrong end, but once we had swapped ends, the cache was easy. A disappointing feature of the whole series was the smallness of caches, no space for goodies or trackables.

The gate lead to a footpath, which soon opened out to the Coworth Park Polo fields. Very scenic and totally unexpected given the narrow lanes we had been on earlier. Here there were supposed to be 2 caches, but one had been disabled since 28/5/16 and has yet to be replaced. The other a very devilish bison hanging in a tree. These caches are always really easy to spot when you know where they are, but until you spot them, every branch needs close examination. We felt a bit exposed here, as there was a fete (or similar) being set up and lots of people busy with all the tasks that fetes entail.

Coworth Polo - Fete

Coworth Polo – Fete


We walked around the fete field, and arrived at a beautiful footpath with overhanging trees. This was the best view all day, and best of all there was a cache to find. In amongst tree roots, but so many of the trees had long roots leading into the sunken lane.

Sunningdale

Sunken lane in Sunningdale

The sunken lane led to the A30, and its roar got louder as we approached. Just as stepped out on the A30 pavement we felt rain. At first just a little and we were able to use the many overhanging trees as shelter. A short diversion to find a cache right on the Berkshire/Surrey border and then back to the A30.

Berkshire/Surrey border

Berkshire/Surrey border

Surrey border

Proud of the county history


A very wet A30!

A very wet A30!

Our next cache find was straightforward, but as we removed the cache from its hidey-hole, the heavens well and truly opened. A nearby rhododendron bush yards from the cache provided us with shelter for some 15 minutes. During that time we saw several wet walkers, some very wet dogs, and even wetter runners go by. Most didn’t see us at all, hiding from the intense rain. We decided that we could get to the car by finding just 2 more caches and eventually when the rain eased, we set off again.

Our last footpath of the day was now quite wet and muddy, but we found the next cache fairly easily. Our final cache of the day – one of those false stone caches – was hidden behind other stone objects near to a Sunningdale church.
Not surprisingly given our searching prowess, we yet again we failed to find it on our initial search.

We arrived at the car, and gave the ‘Berkshire Resident’ one final look. But our look was cut short, when a large back cloud came ominously into view.

So with the exception of the puzzle cache, we found all the Sunningdale Circuit caches we attempted, although by the end of the morning it felt more like the Rainingdale circuit!

Caches found included :

May 7 : Cul-de-Sac Caching in Hurst…

… in which Mr Hg137 is befriended by Shetland ponies as well as a hen party… (good job Mrs Hg137 was with him!)

A fine, old oak tree

A fine, old oak tree


Hurst is a small Berkshire village between Wokingham and Twyford. The sort of village you drive through, take a passing look at the village pond, avoid the parked cars by the village shop and suddenly its gone! We’ve driven through it numerous times (well Mr Hg137 has) and never noticed the footpath signs either side of the road.

Today was the day to explore them! It was a gloriously hot day (probably THE DAY of Summer of 2016) and we chose caches off those footpaths. Our route wasn’t circular, and had three cul-de-sacs to walk both there and back. This had the one advantage we could attempt any DNF’s on our return trip !

Our first cache was the most innovative we have seen in a long while.

Can you hear the cache ?

Can you hear the cache ?

Entitled “Deaf as a Post and Thick as a Plank” it was a multi-cache. The first part involved finding a ‘sound device’ affixed to a post. We eventually found it, but it took several attempts to make it work! Eventually we generated an audible sound, and we had seconds to trace the object it was hidden in (hint.. read the cache title). Our job was not over then, as contained therein were various letters which needed unscrambling. Fortunately we noticed a pattern early on, and unscrambled the message quite quickly. Now we had to find the object alluded to in the message ! Phew! After all that hard work, the final container was just a money-bag with a log inside. Although the container was a disappointing one, the thrill and excitement of the multi parts made this cache very memorable.

Our first cul-de-sac was complete, so we returned to the geo-car and headed off in the opposite direction. Our next cache was a disaster! We failed to find it! We even found ourselves the wrong of a ditch and fence boundary which would have put us in a better Ground Zero! Still let’s park that for the journey back shall we ?

Onward to our first ‘normal’ find of the day. A simple container in the roots of a tree. But, and this is a big but, we had to clamber through barbed wire to reach it! Aargh! Fortunately while we finding this cache we noticed the footpath we should have taken to attempt our previous DNF.

Our third find of the day was the easiest – it was fully exposed at a footpath junction in the bole of a tree! We hid it better and then decided which of our remaining two cul-de-sacs we would attempt first.

We headed to a large copse and entered it though a small cacher’s path. Now, where was the cache! Our GPS went wild ! The tree cover played havoc with our signal. One minute we were 4 feet away, then 40 , then 20 then 25..and all without moving from a single spot. Perhaps the hot weather was causing the GPS to mis-behave. Anyway we couldn’t find it! Previous cachers had mentioned ‘magnetic’ and ‘found on the floor’ or ‘shoulder high’ … all too confusing.

We left the copse and re-joined the main path. We’d walked a few yards and we were aware of a large party behind us. Twenty young ladies!

Their leader asked us to confirm their whereabouts and we let them pass. (The path was just a wee bit muddy, and we could learn from their slipping and sliding!) In fact many of them didn’t have walking boots, some wore very light (ballet?) shoes. We asked the ‘Tail End Charley’ which group they were from. We were expecting answer like “The Berkshire Belles Walking Group’.. but no… it was a hen party and the ‘Tail End Charley’ was the bride-to-be. It was good to see so many young ladies enjoying the British countryside, rather than a raucous weekend in a foreign land!

Shetland Ponies and a Hen Party

Shetland Ponies and a Hen Party

Mr Hg137 has some new friends

Mr Hg137 has some new friends


We followed them and suddenly we were in a field with beautiful white Shetland Ponies. At last our target was in sight – a huge oak tree. This must have been over 300 years old and a really fine specimen and an easy find too! Back we went through the pony-field, to the small copse, to attempt the ‘magnetic tree’ cache again. This time, we took a good bearing of where we wanted to be before we entered the copse… and found the cache almost immediately. It was magnetic too!

A Magnetic Tree Cache

A Magnetic Tree Cache

And so we returned to one final cul-de-sac. Two caches to find, but the first one we failed to find! Our third DNF of the day… still there’s always the return journey to have another go! Our last cache was a simple cache by a stile, so what remained was the walk back to the car via two previous DNFs. Could we find them ? No ! Searching high and low we found neither!

We don’t like to finish on 2 DNF’s so we made a quick diversion to one of Hurst’s pubs – “The Elephant and Castle”. Sadly it was lunchtime and the pub garden was full, and every customer was staring at where we believed GZ to be. We had a quick look, but with so many muggle-eyes, we had to pass. So we walked to another cache… we really must find one more cache to finish on a high! Overlooked by gardens, we were a little concerned about access again, but we found it quickly! Phew!

A rather hot, bitty morning – a few too many DNFs but some interesting moments.. its not every day you HEAR a cache, find a magnetic in a tree, see a Hen Party and Shetland Ponies!

April 9 : FLAB in Maidenhead

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

FLAB – not an especially nice term … But FLAB : Footpaths, Lanes And Bridleways is a series of 17 caches over approx. 3.5 miles, sandwiched between the A4, the Bristol-London main railway line, and the A404M. And that description does it no justice at all – it is really easy to get to, has good, free (!) parking, and is in a rural little patch of country.
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First of all: why did we choose it? We had an appointment between home and the cache series, and our plan was to keep the appointment and then move on to the geocaching. And, like all good plans … it went wrong. As we completed our appointment, Mr Hg137 realised he did not have his wallet; it is normally welded to his person when he is not at home, so he began to worry. Thus we returned home, retrieved the wallet, and set off again, passing the venue of our appointment (that saved some mileage, didn’t it?) before arriving at the excellent little parking place at the start of the caching series. At this point I realised I had forgotten to pack my walking boots, so I had a choice of another, much longer, round trip to collect them, or going round the route in my wussy, soft, non-waterproof trainers. I chose the latter. Actually they performed much better than that, so I had no need to worry.

Wussy driving trainers

Wussy driving trainers


Leaving our start point, we set off in the April sunshine into light woodland. The caches were easy to spot in the dappled shade (no rootling in thick undergrowth or head-high nettles needed at this time of year), and after five quick(ish) finds, we emerged from the path onto a country lane. We came upon a seat, placed next to the village noticeboard for White Waltham. It was the first seat we had seen, it was lunchtime, so it was a good spot to sit in the sun, eat our sandwiches, and watch the world go by. After lunch, we went further on down the lane, before turning off the road onto a track across fields. Suddenly it wasn’t so sunny, and the wind was getting up. We dawdled as a muggle family passed, then dived behind a telegraph pole to retrieve a cache; we expected the cache to be on the ground, but it was at head height, so we spent a while in the right place, but looking in the wrong direction. At the end of the track, we were back on a road, this time with a pavement, and pleasant flower-strewn verges, heading towards the railway line and a business park close to White Waltham airfield. Just before the railway, we diverted down a path across fields, accompanied by frequent trains in the shallow cutting alongside, and watching light aircraft practising take-offs and landings. Just here we found another cache – nothing very unusual about it, exactly where the GPS said it should be, and not very hard to find – but the previous logs said that it had not been found for some time and must be missing – that was most definitely wrong!
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On we went, along a quiet section of dead-end road and onto another path. By now, we could both feel occasional raindrops. We tried to ignore them, but had to admit we were likely to get wet. Very soon. And so it proved. Our next cache was hidden amongst bushes and trees on a sheltered section of path, and it began to rain, hard, as we retrieved the cache. But it was a good place to be at that moment – possibly the most sheltered part of the entire walk – so we skulked in relative dryness under the trees while the rain pelted down and gusty winds swirled about. And then the rain was gone, almost as soon as it had arrived. A little further on, we emerged into a residential road, then turned onto a more major road which took us back to the geocar. I was quite happy for the paths to be paved by now, for my wussy driving trainers would not have fared well on those rural paths, once they were wetted by rain.The last two caches took us a while to find, as they weren’t where the description said they should be, but we got them eventually – a full house of 17 caches.

So, a roundup of the 17 caches. We found them all, which is quite rare for us; actually, very rare for us, there is usually something we don’t find. Most were very easy to find (as the description says they should be) though there were a few that weren’t quite where they should be (e.g. one hint said ‘in armpit of tree’ while we found it ‘in toe of tree’) or which needed some attention(e.g. container lid missing). We made notes on those and sent a detailed list out to the cache owner afterwards; as they said, the series is often done by beginner or inexperienced cachers, which might well explain some of the problems. We felt like grizzled old lags at that point!

Here are a selection of the caches we found, in no particular order:
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February 29 – Just Ducky

February 29th started early as we had found our way into the JJEF cache The Bridge House (Tool Required). In this cache we found a squashed soft toy trackable, Just Ducky.

Just Ducky

Just Ducky

We held onto it during our caching adventures that morning, and had it in our possession at the lunchtime Leap Year’s Day meet (just yards from where we had found it). During the meet, JJEF remarked that he had placed Just Ducky in his cache late the night before and yet it gone ! We knew where it was and showed the assembled crowd.

Being a duck, the trackable really wants to visit rivers and ponds so what he was doing in a pub car park is a little strange! Just Ducky has had quite a journey since April 2006 when it was first placed in a cache in Northern Wisconsin, USA. Early on it visited Iceland, and then Switzerland before returning to the States where it criss-crossed from coast to coast from Los Angeles to Washington and much besides. Occasionally it has been in a cache for many months without moving and has on at least one occasion been declared ‘Lost’. Found again relatively recently, it was taken to Northern Ireland, where JJEF found it before placing in his cache.

We will move it on fairly quickly to prevent it being ‘lost’ once again.

February 29 : Leap Year weekend part IV

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Bridge Inn

Bridge Inn

And finally for the Leap weekend extravaganza – a cacher’s meet, at lunchtime on Leap Year’s Day, February 29th, to gain another geocacing souvenir. By now, I was looking forward to a pint … We returned to the Bridge Inn, the starting point for our caching trip that morning. By now, the car park was far from empty. A steady stream of cachers were crowding around the first cache we visited just three hours earlier, then turning aside to file into the pub.

Leap Year Day geocaching souvenir

Leap Year Day geocaching souvenir

Once inside, we soon recognised JJEF, the organiser of the cacher’s meeting, said our hellos and signed the log for the meet. The pub gradually filled with caching faces, both familiar and unfamiliar. The bar staff weren’t expecting this many people. They were overwhelmed. We ordered food and a drink each. Mr Hg137 got his drink, but my pint (that one I had been looking forward to with such eagerness) was not available immediately.

Molemon

Molemon

We sat down and got into conversation with other cachers. Quite a few were going from cacher’s meeting … to cacher’s meeting … to cacher’s meeting. (We hadn’t thought to do that.) Most extreme of these multiple event cachers was Molemon, a slightly shell-shocked looking young couple, who appeared in the pub for a few minutes, and then moved on to caches new – their plan was to visit as many meetings as possible (I think they got to 11) and to visit as many different cache types (they managed 9) as possible in 24 hours. It was just after midday when we saw them, they had started at a few minutes past midnight, and it looked as if the pace was beginning to tell.

Molemon's trackable teddy

Molemon’s trackable teddy

My pint still hadn’t appeared. I went to ask for it. It wasn’t ready yet. Ho hum. More conversation with geocachers and their friends – the impeccably behaved Crumpit, a small white terrier, and then a reviewer, La Lunatica, who described how caches are reviewed and who handed us a free trackable.

Our food arrived, and not long after, my long-awaited pint. My Thai curry was very good indeed, packing a good bit of spice. And that pint was especially welcome!