January 4 : Berry Bank cache : maintenance needed

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The first weekend of 2019 was approaching, and we had a caching circuit in mind. But first … a visit to our own cache, Berry Bank cache, to collect a trackable. It’s a Womble, which has been resident in our cache since early 2018 and which we planned to move on in a few days. But – disaster – there was water inside the cache, the Womble was wet, and the logbook was soggy. This was not good, and some cache maintenance was needed. The cache was marked as ‘needing maintenance’ on the Geocaching website.

Cache and contents were transported home and spread out. We found a second trackable – PT Le Pays du der – so now we had two trackables to take on to our caching trip. On to the cache maintenance: most of the cache contents could be wiped dry, leving just three wet things. These were: the camo bag containing the cache container, the logbook, and Shansi the Womble. All three spent the night on the kitchen radiator, drying out.

Come the morning, the dry clean cache was reassembled and returned to its home, Berry Bank, and re-enabled on the Geocaching website. All was now well and the two trackables were coming on an adventure with us!

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December 22 : Buckler’s Park : Crowthorne and the TRL

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

It was the Saturday before Christmas, and we had loads of things we *should* be doing. So – obviously – we found ourselves in Crowthorne, parking the geocar for a morning’s geocaching. As the December days are short, the paths are now muddy, and we had (ahem) loads to do, we chose somewhere local, and likely to have good paths. The venue was Buckler’s Park, a new housing development in progress on the site of the old Transport Research Laboratory http://www.landghomes.com/developments/bucklers-park The houses are/will mostly be on the side of the site where the TRL buildings were, and a large part of the rest of the site, where the test track was, has been turned into a country park. (Editor’s note: The name comes from Buckler’s cars, which were made in Crowthorne in the 1950s-1960s.)

Buckler's Park

Buckler’s Park


There’s parking here, overlooking the new houses on one side and the park on the other, and we started the morning by finding a puzzle cache based on the history of the TRL, which we had looked up before setting out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_Research_Laboratory After reading some well put-together noticeboards telling us about the history of the site (among many other things, part of the film ‘Quadrophenia’ was filmed here), we set off along a well surfaced and unmuddy path into woods.

There are two new cache series here, ‘New Buckler’s Forest TRL Series’ parts 1 and 2, both placed during the autumn of 2018. The caches are set at regular intervals, close to well surfaced paths, and all are made of/hidden in materials derived from the site or chosen to blend in with the places they are hidden; there are no ill-disguised film canisters or out-in-the-open plastic boxes to be found here; I’m trying not to spoil it by giving away exactly what we found, or where. The country park has retained some parts of the old test site, and there are loads and loads of newly planted trees, lots of varieties, several ponds, and streams newly unearthed from being culverted under the concrete. On this morning, at probably at many other times, this park is hugely popular with walkers, runners, cyclists of all speeds, and dogs in all sizes, shapes and muddiness; it’s hard to find a quiet moment to search for a geocache!
The Pan

The Pan


Hill Start Hill

Hill Start Hill


We walked past the site of ‘The Pan’, which makes for both interesting signposts and some old and obvious jokes, past ‘Hill Start Hill’, and on to a section of old tarmac which must have been an experimental cycle lane junction, complete with road signs (they were tested on this site), and on towards the northern edge of the park.
Out of position road sign?

Out of position road sign?


The trees thinned, and we emerged onto a wide section of tarmac which turned away from us, the ‘Banked Curve’. This is part of the test circuit from the TRL, where cars used to hurtle around at very high speeds. It’s 10m from bottom to top of the banking, and we both tried, and failed to climb it, though, annoyingly, dogs have no problems. Around the edges of the banking are small green boxes (a bit like telecoms boxes), monitoring boxes left over from testing days, and these have all been kept, some re-used as minibeast hotels, some to become mini-museums or libraries.
Banked Curve

Banked Curve


Minibeast hotel

Minibeast hotel


Bird box?  Bat box?

Bird box? Bat box?


Turning back towards the car park, we passed the old fire ponds and fire tower, plus a relic of something automotive … a winner’s podium … strange.
No races near here recently!

No races near here recently!


After a few more minutes we were back at the car park, and two hours had vanished in a flash. Ten caches attempted, ten found, and an interesting country park. It’s good now, though very, very new. Come the spring, with new growth, it’ll be lovely, and even better with a few year’s maturity, a good place to return to as it develops.

And here is just one of the caches we found (but every single one was special):

November 3 : Sandhurst geocachers trail trackable

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Finally, the trail trackable comes home!


We dipped the trail trackable in our own cache, Berry Bank cache, as we left home, and the trackable came with us as we left Sandhurst (Berkshire) on a cold January day in 2017, and on past Guildford, through the Surrey Hills to Leith Hill tower.

Leith Hill Tower

Leith Hill Tower


Down into the Weald, we skirted Gatwick Airport and moved on to Ashdown Forest, home of Winnie the Pooh.
Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle


Turning south near Tunbridge Wells, we paused to look at the Flying Scotsman as it steamed by, then carried on through the Sussex countryside as spring progressed, and crossed into Kent, just north of Bodiam Castle, to arrive at Sandhurst (Kent) in late May 2017.

Sandhurst, Kent


Sandhurst, Gloucestershire

Sandhurst, Gloucestershire


Forward in time to early April 2018, and we were now on the soggy banks of the River Severn at Sandhurst (Gloucestershire). We made our way between Gloucester and Cheltenham, over the M5, then climbed up the scarp slope of the Cotswolds to arrive at Crickley Hill. Crossing the busy A419, we continued through the hills, passing through Chedworth, then down the Coln valley to Bibury.
Bibury

Bibury


Crossing the River Thames near Lechlade, we continued into Oxfordshire, across the Vale of the White Horse, and up to and over the Ridgeway during the hottest part of a very warm summer. On the Berkshire side of the Ridgeway, the route carried on down the Lambourn valley as autumn approached, then crossed the Kennet and Avon canal and headed across country to the Roman city of Silchester. From there, the remainder of the route followed the River Blackwater back home to Sandhurst (Berkshire) in early November 2018.
Silchester Amphitheatre

Silchester Amphitheatre


To complete the route, we dipped the travel trackable at Berry bank cache again, and walked the last short distance to home. Job done!

Journey’s End


That’s 180 miles across almost the whole of southern England, a great variety of landscape, agriculture, people and wildlife, but just one large town, Newbury. It’s time for the trackable (and us!) to have a rest now!

November 3 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Swallowfield to Sandhurst

The final day of our epic walk from Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst (Berks); this section completed the line between all 3 Sandhursts – as last year we walked from Berkshire to Sandhurst in Kent.

Eversley Ford

Today’s 13 mile route would take us over very familiar territory.

We have been caching for over 6 years and we, like most cachers we guess, have found most of our caches close to home. Today’s route would pass through several series we had previously undertaken. It was therefore a little surprising we managed to attempt 13 caches that we had never attempted before!

As we left Swallowfield we noted that the village Firework Fiesta would be happening that evening. Our car was parked close to the main event… we needed to be finish our walk and return with our other car well before the fireworks started – otherwise we would be stuck in traffic!

Our first three caches were all on the Swallowfield boundary. The first, intriguingly titled ‘Twists, Turns and Flow’ and was under a bridge over the River Broadwater. With such a scary title we were a little concerned we may get wet, but a close examination of the bridge from the side, meant the retrieval was easy and dry!

Don’t drop the cache!


The River Broadwater is a small river and has two tributaries, the Whitewater and the Blackwater. Today’s walk would be following the River Blackwater all the way to Sandhurst.

Our next cache was a Church Micro at the nearby Swallowfield Church. The previous cacher had logged a DNF, but we found the cache quite easily. A small clip box, with a fine view of the Church. Our last cache in Swallowfield was adjacent to a large oak tree – another easy find.

Swallowfield Church

Pleased with our early successes we then had a 2-3 mile walk to another set of caches close to Eversley Ford.

On the way our path initially followed the River Broadwater quite closely, yet we somehow missed where the Blackwater and Whitewater merged, as we were too busy watching a horse and trap being exercised in an adjacent field!


Prior to Eversley Ford we arrived at Farley Ford. We had been to this spot twice before, once when we undertook the Hampshire Drive series (November 2016), and once when completed the Farley Forage series (August 2017). We desperately tried to remember some of the hides in the Farley Forage series, but we failed to re-find any of the caches based on our recall of the circuit.

Farley Ford…visited for the THIRD time on our caching travels!


We left the Farley Forage series, walked through several fields with horses until we arrived at lane leading to our next cache. Here the hint mentioned a ditch crossing. Once we found the correct ditch (fortunately dry), it was easy to locate the cache. In fact, it hadn’t been hidden that well, so we hid it slightly better.

Our walk so far had been North of the River Blackwater in Berkshire, At Eversley Ford we crossed into Hampshire, where an old county marker hosts a cache. The cache owner requests that the cache is moved ‘to the other county’ after each find. We moved it back to its proper place.. into the Royal County of Berkshire.

The Ford itself was busy – we paused for coffee. During our short stop we saw many a dog-walker, cyclist and rambler use the foot-crossing by the ford. The nearby Eversley Mill was a restaurant until a few years ago – sadly now closed.

After a short while the Hampshire footpath took us into the village of Eversley where a bus stop provided us with a straightforward find. (Readers may remember we struggled with the Silchester Bus Stop cache, so we really grateful for very explicit hint here !)

Our brief sortie into Hampshire was over and we re-crossed the river back into Berkshire, and followed in reverse the Finchampstead Undulations series. This stretch brought back happy memories as it was one of the first series we undertook way back in January 2013 (and one of our first blog entries too!). Of course we couldn’t remember where these caches were either, but we did recall having to jump across a stream to find a cache, but this looked impossible now as there was a wire-fence on the far side of the ditch.

We also remembered a very muddy path, yet ours was dry and the view the river had changed completely. Instead of a muddy grass field, hundred of trees had been planted. This will be quite a forest in years to come!

Future Forest of Tomorrow


The Finchampstead Undulation series has had a couple of changes over the years, notably the addition of a couple of extra caches. The first cleverly hidden close to the ‘Welcome to Wokingham’ sign, the other less-cleverly hidden in a 45 degree angle fence post.

Up to now, we had been following the river, but now we were in lake territory. Over many years, gravel extraction had taken place and the huge pits have been converted into wildlife lakes. The banks between the lakes form an intricate pattern of paths and it was one of these that we chose to make a small diversion from our route. We almost regretted that decision when it took us 15 minutes to find the cache! It was hidden in a hollow tree-trunk, but the GPS wobbled a lot, we needed to jump (another!) ditch, and fight our way past brambles and thorny branches.

After this ordeal, we noticed a seat and we were in need of sustenance. The seat had been placed facing some bird feeders and we watched blue tits, great tits, robins, blackbirds and magpies all come to feed unaware of our presence.

Yateley Lakes

We proceeded along the lake banks for another mile or so and found the best two caches of the day. The first hanging in plain sight, and the second inside a garden gnome!

We’ve found over 2500 caches, and never seen a cache inside a gnome!

Besides the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst has one really (in)famous landmark, “Happy Christmas” bridge

The Blackwater Valley path deviates from the river as it approaches Sandhurst. There is an area of fishing lakes, and private property, so for a mile we had a section of road walking.

We have found many of the Sandhurst caches on our caching exploits over the last 6 years, and today we added 2 more. The first was well protected by a huge fungus, and the second was a small magnetic nano.

The last cache of the day!

Not the most spectacular cache, but it did mean we found 13 caches out of 13! All we had to do was re-cross the river back into Hampshire, walk along the Blackwater (South side), cross back into Berkshire and finish our grand walk at the Sandhurst sign, where we started our walk to Sandhurst (Kent) nearly 2 years ago.

Phew !

Journey’s End

Then a quick drive back to Swallowfield to retrieve our other car before a firework cordon enveloped it ! Accomplished with ease!

EPILOGUE

Our 85+ mile journey was complete.

We had walked from the Sandhurst (Gloucs), close to River Severn, back home.

We had walked through pretty Cotswold villages, climbed hills, walked along the Ridgeway and by a myriad of rivers and canals.

When we started our walk the paths and fields were flooded following the 2018 ‘Beast from the East’, we had endured the 2018 Summer heat and somehow missed the named Autumn storms by a few miles.

We found 250 caches on our way home in phone boxes, bus stops, and Roman amphitheatres. We also managed to break our daily caching record .. twice!

Most of the route had been on footpaths, some of which we would never have found without the geocaches set on them, so thank you to all the cache owners whose caches we have attempted, as you have helped guide us home!

We hope you have enjoyed reading about this year’s Sandhurst to Sandhurst journey – its been quite varied!

Caches in the final section included :

October 26 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Silchester to Swallowfield

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The weather forecast said ‘rain early, dry later on’, which seemed a good omen for our walk from Silchester to Swallowfield, the latest stage of our walk from Sandhurst in Gloucestershire (just north of Gloucester, on the banks of the River Severn) back home to Sandhurst in Berkshire (home of the Royal Military Academy). The omens didn’t seem quite so good as we stood in the pouring rain at the English Heritage car park close to (Roman) Silchester, collecting clues for the ‘Calleva Atrebatum’ multicache. But the rain was easing by the time we parked in (modern) Silchester village. And it had stopped altogether by the time we had found the cache hidden at the adjacent bus stop; we had tried and failed to find it in the twilight at the end of our last walk, but it was easier when we could see what we were looking for!


We set off through the quiet back lanes of Silchester, then followed the Brenda Parker Way to reach the walls encircling the site of the Roman town. The BPW continues atop the walls, making for an atmospheric walk, and a chance to talk to the stonemasons who were clearing and repointing a section of the walls. Read about the history of Silchester here https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/silchester-roman-city-walls-and-amphitheatre/history The sun came out and we made our way around to Silchester church, just inside the walls (and I bet the church was originally constructed from stone ‘liberated’ from those same walls) to find the Church Micro cache there, and stop for coffee. It’s worth a look inside the church, there are wall paintings, which you don’t often see https://www.outdoorlads.com/events/silchester-quester-historic-church-search-hampshire-180402

St Mary the Virgin, Silchester

St Mary the Virgin, Silchester




As we packed up to leave … WHERE’S MY GEOPOLE? … I’d left it behind, part way around the walls (doh!). We backtracked, then went forward again to visit the Roman amphitheatre, found another cache, and had an early lunch sitting where the spectators would have sat, looking down into the arena at some young children playing in the sun, throwing a rugby ball.

After our picnic, we finally left Silchester, walking east along a path which followed the line of the Devil’s Highway, the Roman road leading from Staines-on-Thames to Silchester https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_Highway_(Roman_Britain) In various places, this is a path across fields, or a wide straight track between ditches, or tarmacked road. We were stopped on one of the road sections by two council workers, who’d had a report of fly tipping. We found it, a burned-out van and a load of plumbing waste (yuk) and phoned them.
Devil's Highway

Devil’s Highway


... Devil's Highway misused

… Devil’s Highway misused


We made progress very steadily from here on, partially because the route was dead straight (no navigation to do) and partially because the caches thinned out once away from Silchester, and we only found three more in the next three miles. Then we turned slightly north, to cross the noisy, busy A33 – a big contrast to the quiet and peaceful miles we had just walked – and approached the end of our walk at Swallowfield. There was just one more cache to attempt, which was just off route, close to King’s Bridge over the River Loddon. Well, we spotted the cache, but that was as far as it went; it had fallen to the ground on the far side of a fearsome barbed wire fence and we couldn’t reach it. Slightly disappointed, we walked down into Swallowfield to reach our geocar parked at the village hall.
King's Bridge

King’s Bridge


... unreachable cache

… unreachable cache


Here are some of the caches we found:

October 13 : Smelly Pooch Trackable

We picked up Smelly Pooch on our Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) to Sandhurst (Berkshire) walk.

We had just left Thatcham and yards from both the canal and railway line, was an aptly name cache called ‘Over the Bridge’. Inside the pooch was hankering to be let out, and taken for a walk!

Stinky pooch

Stinky pooch meets our trackable

It was only after we returned home that we read its full mission – it was in a race with two other trackables … to reach Aberdeen. However the winning trackable is not the first trackable to reach Aberdeen. Instead points are awarded (or subtracted) as follows :

– each of the three trackables in the race starts with 100 points

– every cache the trackable visits gains 10 points

– every day it takes to get to Aberdeen a point will be deducted

Now once we read this, we decided to ‘dip’ the trackable in all the caches we visited on our day’s walk (after picking the Pooch up of course). We added 8 caches (80 points) onto its total…and as it had only been placed in the cache just 2 days previously, we didn’t lose it too many points either!

Good luck Pooch… we’ll add some more points to your target before we drop you off!

PS All 3 Trackables started in the Far East in November 2017:

Smelly Pooch is travelling from Thailand to Aberdeen

Tigger (a Tiger) is travelling from Thailand to Shaftesbury

Rocky (a Boar) is travelling from Thailand to Aberdeen

Rocky is trailing in last place at the moment having only visited 14 caches in a year (and is now in Northern Norway). It is very close between Smelly Pooch and Tigger as both have visited about 320 caches each!

Who will win? We don’t know – as both are in the UK at the moment, and anything can happen!

October 13 : Hilly the Hippo

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Hilly the Hippo

Hilly the Hippo

While walking along the Kennet and Avon canal between Thatcham and Aldermaston, we stopped to find a cache, which contained the ‘Hilly the Hippo’ trackable. It’s a special edition trackable, given out as a gift at Mike Hill’s first geocaching event, and printed (I assume) with his photo. Hilly’s mission is to

‘ visit as many different caches as possible both here in the UK and abroad and hopefully return home again one day’

Since May 2017, Hilly the Hippo has travelled just under a thousand miles. We’ll take with us for a little while and then drop it in a suitable cache to send it on its way.

Editor’s note: We found a small tartan elephant keyring in the cache with the trackable. We weren’t sure if they were attached to each other – they weren’t at the time of finding – but we have clipped them together as it is less likely for the trackable to be lost if it is attached to something larger (it’s happened to us!)