January 6 : Virginia Water (part 4)

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.


During October, November, and December 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 a previous visit.

Arriving deliberately early, there was space in the layby opposite the entrance. It is popular and fills quickly. If that had been full, we would have had to use the official car park, which would have cost us £10. (Editors digression: I’m divided on whether that is an extortionate price or not. From one viewpoint, that is a LOT to pay for a car park near a lake. From another viewpoint, Virginia Water is well maintained, has surfaced, solid paths, seats, toilets, rangers, signs, noticeboards, refreshments, maintained gardens etc etc, and it’s churlish to expect all that to come for free. OK: end of digression.)

Just what is a "fooway"?

Just what is a “fooway”?


But, before entering Virginia Water, we had two caches to attempt. The first was ‘But just what is a “fooway”?’, and we had tried and failed to find it a few weeks before. This time was different; we spotted it and signed the log within seconds. How could we have missed that? Next was ‘X’, one of a series of 26 alphabet caches set by Uncle E. Few clues with this one, and a ban on entering information into the cache logs. We arrived at the likely location and had a little bit of a look around, but couldn’t spot anything suitable. Oh well, another time…

And then we were into Virginia Water, past the visitor centre, and turning left along the lakeside. It was not long after dawn, still, slightly misty, quite cold. Not far from the entrance is the cascade, where the River Bourne flows down a man-made waterfall, under the A30, and out of the park https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cm7TWr5DVs

Very close by was ‘VW – Cascade’, a multicache. These are set out with one or more stages, each giving clues to the coordinates of the final cache location. This multicache had a single stage, and the coordinates were determined by collecting numbers from assorted signs near the falls. As we had come to expect, the coordinates led us to a nearby rhododendron thicket. We needed to find a rock, the cache was beside it … we found a rock, but it was not the right one… We went deeper in, and repeated the process at least once more. Eventually, bent double among the branches, we found the cache.

Virginia Water - the cascade

Virginia Water – the cascade


While collecting information for the previous cache, we were also searching for numbers for our next target, a two-stage multicache, ‘Border Crossings #1 – Surrey/Berkshire’. We were, only just, in Surrey, and had two stages to check before going, only just, over the county border into Berkshire to reach the cache container. Some numbers had been found by the waterfall, and there were yet more to be found at the next stage, amongst the ruins of Leptis Magna https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTAf0W9cD0M The location confirmed, over the border we went before diving into yet more woodland to locate the cache. It was an old cache, placed in 2007, and the cache container was very wet, but with a dry logbook in a plastic bag.
Virginia Water - Leptis Magna

Virginia Water – Leptis Magna


And that was as far into Berkshire as we were going on this visit. We turned and retraced our steps along the lakeside, back into Surrey, and past the ruins. As we passed a few minutes earlier, collecting coordinates for one multicache, we were also collecting numbers for another, ‘VW – Leptis Magna’. (Editor’s note: yes, there were a lot of overlapping multicaches going on here. A copious set of field notes, assembled by Mr Hg137, helped a lot here.) Yet again, we had an extended blundering about session in rhododendrons to find the cache.
So many people!

So many people!


We returned to the main path around the lake, now very busy (where had they all come from?), and passed our start point, walking in the direction of the Totem Pole. Walking in a loop back to the visitor centre, we found another four caches from the VW series, Base, A30, Plantations, MTT, and Coppice Growth, to bring our total for the day to nine out of ten.
Grebe

Grebe


And while we were juggling all those coordinates and finding the other caches, we were collecting still more coordinates. We are gradually working our way around the ‘Virginia Water’ multicache – yes, another one – so far we are on stage NINETEEN. We are well over halfway! I wonder what the final cache will be like?

Here are some of the caches we found:

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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!

November 10 : FTF – Wokingham – Chestnut Avenue

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

FTF - First To Find

FTF – First To Find

Unusually for a Friday, neither of us was working, and we (naturally) had some caching planned, on the North Downs south of Guildford. The GPS was loaded, a map was prepared, a thermos of coffee was made, and we were all set to leave.

Just before setting off, we paused to check emails, and … there was a new cache less than 10 miles away, that was still unfound, despite having been published for two days. We ditched our previous plans, loaded the new cache, and set off at speed for Woosehill, on the north-west edge of Wokingham. (Editor’s note: that is incredibly rare, new caches are usually snapped up within minutes or hours of publication. Some cachers make a point of searching out new caches to get that coveted FTF – first to find – and a signature on a blank logsheet. )

Both of us know the area very well, as Mr Hg137 used to live in Woosehill, and it’s close to where I work so I walk there at lunchtimes. (Editor’s note, again: this was what swayed our decision to attempt a FTF on this cache.) We parked close to the likely target, and set off into the woods. The coordinates of the cache could be determined by visiting three noticeboards, counting the vowels on them, and doing a little sum with the answers to get the final coordinates. We did that. We checked the answers, and double-checked just in case. It seemed quite a long way to the final location, over a mile, but hey-ho, sometimes you have to strive to be the first … we set a waypoint in the GPS and set off across Woosehill.

It's a noticeboard - but not the right one!

It’s a noticeboard – but not the right one!


It was a pleasant walk on a sunny late autumn day, and a trip through memory lane for Mr Hg137. We walked through streets, crossed the main road, through Morrison’s supermarket, past the takeaway and the surgery, across a green area, across the Emm Brook and on into Wokingham. We arrived at the given coordinates, by a household hedge, which bore no resemblance whatsoever to the hint on the cache. We checked our arithmetic again. We checked the derived coordinates on the GPS. It all matched. Something had gone wrong, but what? Chastened and disappointed, we trekked back to the geocar and went home.
On the way - to the wrong place

On the way – to the wrong place

Still going the wrong way ...

Still going the wrong way …


Once at home, we logged a note for the cache and sent a note to the cache owner, describing our travails. While doing this, we were thinking about our arithmetic and workings and we wondered if the coordinates in the cache description were maybe wrong. We played around with Google maps, typing in coordinates that were slightly different to the published ones. Eureka! There was a typo in the westings of the published coordinates, which should have read W000 52… instead of W000 51… And that led to a spot not very far away from the noticeboards we had visited earlier.

Back into the geocar, and back again at speed to Woosehill. This time we could park really close, and we scampered across to our destination. And there it was! A new cache and an empty log and we had achieved the coveted ‘First To Find’.

Back home, we reflected on our morning while eating a very, very late lunch. Forty miles, two visits, several miles of walking. Was it worth it … yes!

PS To round off the story, we sent another message to the cache owner explaining the above (or a summary of it, anyway). He was most apologetic and amended the mistake in the cache description almost instantly.

PPS We never did drink that flask of coffee that was made at the start of this post. By the time we rediscovered it, a day later, it had gone cold.

PPPS Here are some more pictures of the cache. They weren’t taken right at the final location, so they show what it looks like, but not where it is!

October 15 : Legends – Swinley Forest

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Swinley Forest

Swinley Forest


Legends. A puzzle cache, set in Swinley Forest.
Five sets of coordinates. That’s all we had to go on.

We thought for a while, and entered some of the coordinates into Google Maps. They led to nowhere in particular. We thought for a bit, and typed in the rest of the coordinates. More thinking. Then light dawned, and we had the connection we needed. A few minutes of searching, we had the answer to the puzzle, and the geochecker confirmed we were correct. Well done to the cache owner, Colin Smudger, another clever puzzle.

We set off for Swinley Forest. Our first choice of parking spot was full, as it was a warm autumn day and cyclists, dogs, runners and walkers were out in force. But we know the area very well and parked a little way further away and made our way into the edge of the woods, and found the cache after a few minutes in the undergrowth.

Legends

Legends


We then went for a short walk. We have an affinity for this particular bit of young woodland and visit it regularly. In May 2011 there was a forest fire in this area of woods and over 100,000 trees were destroyed. Here are some pictures of the fire: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-13285853 We were part of the team of around 300 local residents who replanted about 10,000 of those trees in early 2012. We planted oak, alder, chestnut, western redwood, larch, pine …

Swinley Forest, January 2012

Swinley Forest, January 2012


Swinley Forest, October 2017

Swinley Forest, October 2017


Hence we visit ‘our’ trees from time to time, so see how they are getting on. And my, how they have grown. They were less than a handspan tall then, and many of them are much taller than me now. At the time I said that I would like to walk through the trees when they became a wood, and that ambition has now been achieved.
Into 'my' trees

Into ‘my’ trees

August 19 : Monkey Magic

The second trackable we found on the Hampshire/Berkshire border was this cute monkey.

Who can resist his charming smile and playful demeanour? A real fun trackable.

The Monkey started off its journey back in March 2013 in Leinster, Ireland. Since then, according to its geocaching map, it has staying with Ireland and the UK and travelled nearly 3000 miles.

The furthest south it travelled was only a few miles south of where we found it, but the furthest north was in Grantown on Spey, Central Scotland. But, according to the logs it has been to a mega in Canada, and to Spain, yet these locations don’t appear on the map. Strange !

The Monkey now wants to head back home to Ireland, so hopefully we can move it that direction.

August 19 : Geocacher’s World Geocoin, yellow abatete version (plus a surprise bonus)

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Geocacher's world geocoin, side 1

Geocacher’s world geocoin, side 1


Geocacher's world geocoin, side 2

Geocacher’s world geocoin, side 2


First, my apologies for the not very good pictures. This trackable was really hard to photograph… It’s a copy of a geocoin that looks like a German stamp, with a picture of the Reichstag. To feel and hold it was like a credit card, but a bit smaller and sort of squidgy and rubbery, not at all like most trackables, which are metal. Most of the ones we’ve found have been metal, anyway, usually attached to some larger object as a travel companion and to help it not get lost.

Having found this trackable right on the border of Hampshire and Berkshire, we checked on its mission, which is to “just travel”. As we are planning a walking holiday soon, we contacted the owner to ask if it was OK to take it with us – and we got this reply:
abatete Aug 19, 2017 4:18 PM
Hi hg137,thank you for your nice log for ‘Geocacher’s World Geocoin, yellow abatete version’. To answer your question: I’d be really pleased by having my TB brought to Shropshire. Do you not only like moving TBs, but also discovering? In that case you may like to discover the following one, which I use to thank for nice TB logs: https://www.geocaching.com/track/details.aspx?id=XXXXXXXX with tracking number XXXXXX.Have a nice treasure hunt in Shropshire,Angela alias abatete

So there was a bonus trackable for us to discover and it was this one, Abatete Winter Dream:

Abatete Winter Dream

Abatete Winter Dream


This one lives with its owner in Hessen, Germany, and goes out with them on their caching trips. We got to discover this one too. We haven’t been offered this before, and it was a pleasant surprise.

August 19 : Farley Forage

Our plans today were the Farley Forage series and a couple of other caches on route. The caches were ‘squeezed’ between two other series we had completed recently – the Hampshire Drive By, and the Cache-as-Cache-can series in Farley Hill.

Passports at the ready!

The Farley Forage series was wholly in Berkshire, but due to quirkiness of the roads – and a troublesome (vehicle) ford crossing of the River Blackwater, we parked in Hampshire. Indeed this closeness of the county boundary was celebrated by our first cache of the day called County (Re) Boundary. This cache was a replacement for a previous one, and we suspect hidden in the same place. In a tree bole, 6 feet above a muddy bank.
Mr Hg137 scrambled up, located the cache and passed it down for Mrs Hg137 to sign the log and retrieve 2 trackables : Monkey Magic and a World Geocoin. What a good start to the day!

Farley Ford, standing in Berkshire, looking into Hampshire

We then started on the Farley Forage route, crossing the River Blackwater not by the ford but via a small concrete bridge and arriving very quickly at Farley Forage #1. We had read that the previous finder had reported the cache container was broken so we had taken along a film canister to provide a further layer of protection. It wasn’t needed as the cache owner had been out and fixed the cache before 9 o’clock!

The cache owner, Twinkandco, places small caches, generally nano sized, sometimes a film container, but nearly always connected to a piece of rural camouflage. Sometimes the container is inside some bark, or a log, sometimes with a ‘tail’ inside a tube.. but always great fun!

All of the caches are easy (ish) to find, but sometimes a bit of bank scrambling is needed for retrieval.

This series had been advertised as ” … very wet and boggy in places after rainy weather and WELLYS ARE HIGHLY RECOMMENDED“. We had worn walking boots, and we were grateful we had, as shortly after cache 4 came the mud. Two hundred yards of it. The path was one giant mudslide. We picked our way between the soft, squelchy mud, the really slippery mud and the much-easier-to-walk-on shaly mud. In fact while we were traversing the mud we almost forget to see how close the next cache was, and nearly walked by it.

Mud, mud..glorious mud!

The Farley Forage series consisted of 16 caches and we had two others to find on our 4 mile walk. The County (Re) Boundary was one, and we were soon at the other, Sandpit Lane. We had several host trees to search here, and it was only after a few minutes that we managed to find the cache.

The Farley Forage series contained one multi, and due to some over-zealous navigation on Mr Hg137’s part we approached the first part from the wrong direction thus meaning we had to retrace our steps for the final find.

We had walked uphill, away from the river and the paths were much, much drier.

Except at cache 7.

We had rounded a blind corner on the footpath, and discovered the cache was hidden behind a tree the other side of a large stretch of mud.

(We knew the cache was there, as a plethora of muddy bootprints pointed towards the tree!).

Mrs Hg137 ventured across, and retrieved the cache at the second attempt. It was just as the log was being signed when 2 people came round the blind corner.

We’d been rumbled!

But no! They were cachers too. Penwood Plodders – another husband and wife team. We made sure they endured the mud by asking them to replace the cache! We walked on with them for a cache or two, chatting about the Devon Mega, the mud and caching in general. It became apparent that their walking pace, and cache administration, was quicker then us, so we allowed them to speed ahead. Nice meeting you!

(Ed: in case you are wondering why it takes longer to write ‘hg137’ on a log rather than ‘Penwood Plodders’, its because we scribble down a brief note about each cache, our experience at it, as well as taking a photo for this blog).

That’s better… a bit drier here !

The next section of the route was relatively uneventful, the cache containers maintained their uniqueness. As we re-approached the River Blackwater we crossed a few stiles (always good hiding places) and well as a cache hidden deep in a nettle bush.

Somewhere.. near to this stile’s signage .. may be a cache!

Several times we thought we were catching up with Penwood Plodders, but every time they were returning to the footpath having left it to find a cache.

Penwood Plodders in the distance

For much of the day we could hear the sound of farm machinery, and as discovered caches 12-14 we were walking alongside the farmer’s field. What he thought of two pairs of ‘ramblers’ walking along the footpath and both pairs stopping mid-field, in the same spot, we shall never know.

I wonder whether he spotted us…

We were expecting more mud on this section as the river was only feet away, but the paths were dry and meant the mud layer on our boots was quickly being walked off.

We found all the caches on route – a very enjoyable 4 mile walk – full of interesting finds and varied countryside. If you are in the areas of Farley Hill.. we recommend the series to you!

Other Caches we found included :