June 10 : Blackwater River Path

Yateley, Sandhurst

One of the many Fishing Lakes

It is quite unusual to find new caches, indeed high quality caches, within 2 miles from home.

Somehow a 5 cache series (BRPW 1-5 – Blackwater River Path Walk) had sneaked under our radar. As had 6 other caches close to them. The series circumnavigates a number of fisherman’s lakes which until a few years ago was private land. Since then a small part of the land has been made into a small car park and also some allotments.

Yateley, Sandhurst

Allotments

Interestingly we looked at placing caches at this location, but never quite got round to getting approval from the land owner, but in all fairness, our caches would have very inferior to those that had been placed.

And so well before 9am, we parked the car, and looked for our first two caches. These were a short distance away from the fishing lakes. One cache camouflaged in a tree, the other, magnetic, overlooking…a sewage plant. Yes ! The wonderfully named Pooh’s Place was a magnetic cache attached to an disused gate, overlooking the ever-turning blades of sewage ponds. Lovely!

Good job you can’t smell photographs!

And so to the lakes. Our first cache was a travel bug hotel. We had two travel bugs with us – a Toy Story Woody (Woody’s Escape) and a metallic Africa. The cache led us a merry dance. The title of the cache included the word ‘Waterside’ but with a lake one side of the footpath, and a fabulous ‘cache friendly’ tree near a river on the other..we looked at the wrong ‘Waterside’ for a very long time.

Eventually we found the cache. Smaller than many travel bug hotels we’ve found and as we couldn’t squash ‘Woody’ in, we deposited ‘Africa’ and walked on.

Yateley, Sandhurst

Onward, onward

The fishing lakes were being well used. Or at least probably were. Many of the anglers were packing up after a night’s fishing, others were slowly waking up and the remainder…well let’s just the snoring would keep the fish away! We tiptoed (in walking boots!) past and in our quietness failed to notice the stump hosting our next find. So we walked back and found the cache just out of what would have been a slumbering angler’s eyeline.

The caches we had found so far were all good, but were not the main event as the next 5 caches were the BRPW series. 4 of these were ‘bird box’ caches, and each had to be opened in a different way. Does the lid move ? What about the pole at the front – does that turn ? What if we press this ? All good fun!

The exception was well concealed cache in a hollowed out branch attached very discreetly to a small trunk.

Away from the road we had the paths and lakes to ourselves and we barely saw anyone for the majority of the walk – but what we did see were hundreds of dragonflies. We stopped several times to take pictures, but taking a picture of a moving dragonfly is very, very difficult.

Yateley, sandhurst

Stay still while we photograph you!

Towards the end of the route, we think our navigation went wrong as the path became narrower and narrower. And nettlier and nettlier. The geo-pole was exceeding useful in cutting a way through to the final two caches. These two were hidden in wood, one found easily. The other, less so. Being the last cache of the day, and no DNF so far for the day, we wanted to find them all and spent 15 minutes looking in totally the wrong place.

Find it we did, and a fine morning’s caching was complete. None of the caches were film canisters under a pile of sticks. Each provided a little moment of euphoria as the cache container was extricated from its natural looking hide. A fine series and well worth the favourite points we awarded.

Here are a few of the caches we found …

Yateley, SandhurstYateley, SandhurstYateley, Sandhurst


One sad note, and one we are very ashamed of.

We took the trackable “Woody’s Escape” out with us. Somehow it didn’t come back. We must have dropped it somewhere on route. We have searched our home, our bags, our car and the car park, all to no avail. Fingers crossed some cacher will find it and re-start it on its journey. To the owner of ‘Woody’ we are very, very sorry.

April 22: Fifield

**** PLEASE NOTE : UNLIKE MANY OF OUR BLOGS, THIS ONE CONTAINS A LOT OF SERIOUS SPOILERS ****

April 22/23 has a lot of meaning to us, and we like to undertake some sort of celebration.

Where will today take us?

Our celebration this year … was to go geocaching ! We decided though, not to continue caching on our Sandhurst to Sandhurst trail, but to stay local(-ish) and find some caches set by our favourite Cache Owner, JJEF.

We have often remarked on this blog about the inventiveness of JJEF caches, sometimes a work of art, other times a fiendish puzzle – nearly always made of wood. This would be a great way to celebrate!

We travelled to the small village of Fifield just south of the M4 near Maidenhead. We parked up and headed to our first cache location. This was to be the sole non-JJEF cache of the day…and we made a meal of it! Originally ‘Once a Fine Pair’ had been part of the ‘Fine Pair’ series where both a red telephone box and red letter box are adjacent to each other. Sadly, the telephone box has been removed, but the cache lives on with a slight renaming. Anyway, it was a multi-cache, so we scribbled down some numbers and performed some arithmetic a child of five would be proud of. We strode purposefully towards GZ. We went by a item that matched the hint, but since we were still 200 feet away, we didn’t stop. Sadly that was as close as we got, as we had no means of getting closer than 150 feet, as private property blocked our path. Mmm. Perhaps there is another way to GZ.

We left pondering this (passing the hint item again), tried various side roads looking for non-existent tiny alleyways that would get us to the cache. All to no avail.

Disheartened we embarked on the JJEF series.

6 caches and as JJEF wrote in the description : This series contains all manner of cache types, if you know my MO then you will manage with these hides which are meant to be fun but achievable by everyone.

The first cache hadn’t been found for a while so we were expecting a second DNF of the day. We had about half a mile to walk to start the series; as we walked we watched groundsmen manicuring two polo pitches, riders giving light exercise to their (polo) horses. Red Kites performed balletic movements above us. There was no-one else on the footpath.

Anyone for polo ?

Anyone for polo ?

Until we approached the first cache.

Where had that young couple and two dogs appeared from? Why did they spend several minutes on the footbridge we wanted to stop at ? Why did they furtively look behind as we stopped at the footbridge too ?

Yep, they were geocachers. We chatted to Team VP. They had not found the cache. Our hearts sank, as this meant we were unlikely to either.

Team VP (and doggy helpers)

Team VP (and doggy helpers)

We said we would give the location a good look, and maybe see them later. (JJEF caches really do need to be savoured, and this gave them a 10 minute head start for all future caches, meaning both of us could enjoy JJEF’s inventiveness)

We explored the footbridge in fine detail. Every screw, every plank, and every little ledge. There was however one part of the bridge that was harder to access and (here’s the big hint), let’s just say we were glad it hadn’t rained much! We found the cache…or rather we found a 4 foot long tube. The cache was inside, and to release it we had to solve a mini-maze. JJEF had constructed a mini-maze which had to be solved by means of twisting and turning the outer tube which surrounded a central pole. As we twisted and turned the outer casing more and more of the maze (and its dead ends) were visible. Until, eventually a film canister was revealed containing the log. We’d found the cache… and got to the log! Yay!

Undoing the Mini-Maze

Undoing the Mini-Maze

Of course such a contraption has to be put back together again, fortunately this was easier as the maze was visible prior to being twisted back into its tube.

We didn’t see Team VP at cache 2 of the Fifield series. This required a pencil to spring open a bird-box. Unfortunately the spring didn’t work, so we set about dismantling the bird-box with a Swiss Army knife. Another log signed.

Birdbox 1

Birdbox 1

We did see Team VP at cache 3. They hadn’t found it. They left us to search GZ. Three or four fallen huge tree trunks. Lots of bramble and prickly bushes. We scoured the area, but failed to find the cache. Most other cache owners would have hidden a cache in one of the many trunk holes, we searched those too, even though JJEF caches tend to be ‘out in the open’.

We moved on. The next cache was the easiest find of the day, in a sawn off log.

Easy -  as falling off a log!

Easy – as falling off a log!

We caught up again with Team VP at cache 5. We had to find a padlocked box, and nearby a number to unlock it. Before we tried to search Team VP realised that they had hidden the ‘number’ in an incorrect way. They told us this and what the correction should be. All very well, but this assumed we would find the box and the nearby number. Fortunately we did!

Here's the cache..now where's the code number ?

Here’s the cache..now where’s the code number ?

The last cache in the series was another bird box, and again opened in a way only a JJEF cache can!

Birdbox 2

Birdbox 2

So we walked back to the car, and then remembered the multi-cache from earlier. We re-checked our calculation! Whoops! So much for a simple sum a five year old could do.. we failed miserably! The corrected sum took us back to where we had been before…and who was ahead of us … Team VP ! We both signed the logs, and parted. Farewell Team VP .. happy caching in the future.

Stumped by our arithmetic!

Stumped by our arithmetic!

Arguably that was the last cache, but we knew of one more JJEF cache a short drive (sort of) on the way home. As we drove, we tried to remember the last time we had seen geocachers ‘on the cache’ (excluding meets) and decided it was October 2015. We wondered whether it would be another 18 months before we saw another cacher.

The cache we were driving to was called ‘Mini Elevator’ set on the junction of a footpath and a small one-car layby. As we approached the layby we saw a car already parked in it. Plan B. Park in the nearby cricket club. How can we bluff our way past the over-officious groundsman to park our car ? Since we had travelled in Mrs HG137’s car, that would be her problem. Meanwhile…back at the layby, what are those two ladies doing ? Are they looking for something?

Yes, they were.

They were looking for the cache we had come to seek. Foxscout and Doggwalker had come all the way from Essex to cache for the day, and attend a cacher’s meet in Windsor the day after. They had 30 or 40 caches ahead of them for the day, and we joined them in the search. Doggywalker found JJEF’s (non-wooden) construction and we both signed the log.

Having gone 18 months between seeing geocachers out and about, we had barely gone 18 minutes! Amazing!

So a really fun morning, we met 4 geocachers (and two dogs), found 6 JJEF caches, and got sent to the bottom of the class for some really poor arithmetic!

Bluebells to finish!

Bluebells to finish!

January 14 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : the first leg to North Camp

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Well, the quest has been published. Time for us to make a start.

Just after dawn on a cold, slightly misty Saturday morning, we set off from Sandhurst (Berkshire) to start our trek to Sandhurst (Kent). We’ve thought of a cunning plan to track our progress. Back on Leap Year Day we had acquired a trackable. We’ve now registered it, and will ‘dip’ it into caches as we go, to mark our progress. (Editor’s note: to ‘dip’ a trackable means taking it to a cache, and making a note that it was there, without leaving it behind.) The first cache that the trackable visited was our own cache, in Berrybank Copse.

River Blackwater

River Blackwater

Shepherd Meadows

Shepherd Meadows

Our first day’s walk was to be part of the Blackwater Valley Path, a route we’ve walked at various times in our pre-caching days http://www.blackwater-valley.org.uk/about_valley.html We went south through Shepherd Meadows, across the A30, and across Hawley Meadows. Apart from dogs and dogwalkers, and an occasional cyclist, the path was empty, muddy and icy by turns, and quiet except for the noise of traffic from the A331 which runs roughly parallel to the River Blackwater.

Hawley Meadows

Hawley Meadows


Going under the M3, we skirted a business park, then crossed over the A331 towards Frimley Green station. Here was our chance to find our first cache of the year, one from the Sidetracked series (they’re near stations http://www.sidetrackedseries.info ). A first search didn’t find it, so we moved on to attempt a challenge cache in a nearby park. The qualification to be able to claim this cache is to have found 25 Sidetracked caches, and we have found just over that. A short bit of rummaging in a tree found us the cache, which was cold but dry, even though it had been unfound for six months, and was well buried in fallen leaves. Returning to the river path, we revisited that cache we hadn’t found earlier, but more determined rummaging worked this time.

We walked on down the river. The ‘bright, sunny, crisp’ winter’s day the weather forecast had predicted just wasn’t happening, and it was getting steadily greyer. We collected another couple of caches, one between lakes made from gravel workings, and one right by the river, found just as a few raindrops began to fall. That wasn’t in the plan! We crossed over the A331 again, noting that the all the cars had lights on now, and turned south down the river once more, stopping to look for a cache concealed under a footbridge. Not much looking was needed, as this was a BIG cache, filled with classy objects, and in wonderful condition, though it hadn’t been found for almost five months.

A well stocked geocache!

A well stocked geocache!

A (still quite dry) picnic bench was a little further on, so we stopped for a picnic lunch, eaten speedily because a cold breeze was now blowing, it was getting greyer and darker, and colder, much colder. After not much debate, we decided to finish our walk at North Camp station, about a mile away. Arriving at the station with 20 minutes to spare before the next train, we bought a ticket, then rushed off to find another Sidetracked cache (that’s 30 from this series now, from as far apart as Liskeard, Cornwall and Waverley, Edinburgh).

Blackwater Path near North Camp

Blackwater Path near North Camp



Catching the train back to Blackwater, we retraced in minutes the route that we had travelled in hours, then walked back home. A few minutes later, we were calculating that the nine miles that we had walked had brought us only four miles closer to Sandhurst (Kent); that’s because there are some army ranges we can’t walk across, so we are taking a slightly longer route to avoid them. And then it began to pour with rain, a short but vicious cold shower. We had given up just in time!

Here are some of the caches we found:

December 11 : College Town Series, Sandhurst

It is not often a brand-new geocaching series has been placed within half a mile from one’s home location.

An ideal opportunity to grab a few of those First-to-Find accolades.

Sadly though, we don’t have “automatic notification of new caches” turned on from http://www.geocaching.com, so we totally failed to spot this new series appearing on a cold Saturday evening. Would we have gone out at 9pm on a frosty evening ? I doubt it.

Instead we undertook the series 8 days after publication and what a fabulous urban series this was.

Branksome Hill Road, Sandhurst

Branksome Hill Road

College Road, Sandhurst

College Road, Sandhurst

We live in Sandhurst (hence our blogging name), and close by is the Royal Military Academy. Running parallel to one of its boundaries are two very long roads Branksome Hill Road and College Road. Each road is about 3/4 mile in length and with two 400 feet shorter lengths at either end; it made for a good 2 mile pavement circuit.

Urban caches can occasionally be exceedingly boring, with minute nanos stuck behind road signs, and admittedly there were a couple such caches on route. The following appropriately road signs may, or may not, be hiding places!

But the majority of caches were well thought through, and very well hidden.

One such hide was screwed into a concrete wall (we guess the cache owner’s house), two more were heavy variants of the plastic stone cache. These caches were actual stone or concrete! We guess a stone grinder had been used to cut out the base to place the logs in.

img_2908

Another cache was hidden in half-a-branch. We were surprisingly quick at finding this cache, probably because we had seen a similar one recently on the Hampshire Drive By series.

If the Winter’s rain is driving you away from the countryside and onto an urban series, this route is for you. Many of the caches are simple finds, but others will challenge you a bit! You will need to keep you wits about you though, as all of the caches are in full sight of houses and you never know if you are being watched!

We thoroughly enjoyed this series, and we hope you do too.

October 23 – Bracknell Industrial Estate

Some geocaching adventures are in really scenic places.

Some places are scenic all year round – for others seasonal colour makes the place attractive.

And yet, Bracknell – a 1960s/70s New Town, with an industrial area right next to the Domestic Refuse Site (“The Tip”), should not have been scenic… and shouldn’t have yielded good caches… and yet, surprisingly, it did!

Bracknell, Pond

Bracknell’s Lake in an Industrial Estate


Firstly we had good reasons for being in the area, as we were visiting a local DIY emporium. (Trying to get what we wanted from the shop is a different story completely and worthy of at least three blog entries).

Secondly there were five caches all within a short distance of each other.

The weather was fine, and being a late Sunday afternoon, no-one was around.

We parked next to a surprisingly large, attractive fishing pond/lake and headed towards our first cache. (Ed : what is the difference between a ‘pond’ and a ‘lake’ in an industrial setting?)

We passed the local tip, some over-protective fencing and arrived at a narrow footpath (another one of those footpaths we didn’t know existed).

Bracknell

Between a high fence and a railway line

On one side an industrial unit, on the other the London-Reading railway line.
Partway along, in one of the easiest finds ever, was a broken clay pipe, and shining like a beacon was the geocache.

Bracknell, geocache

An easy find

We retraced our steps back to the car – but we passed another cache on the way back. We had speculated about its location as walked on our outbound journey … “I bet its a nano hidden behind that road-sign”, “No, look there’s a roadside cabinet it’ll be there”. Of course it was in neither!

We had noticed the tiny copse nearby, but not noticed the small footpath running alongside it. Following the GPS led us straight to the cache in the roots/bole of the tree ! (In an industrial estate remember!)

We arrived back at the lake and started our circumnavigation around it. Hidden partway round, behind an object only found near water (hint … “its ring shaped”) we found our next target.

Cache, Lake, Trees, Industrial Estate

Cache, Lake, Trees, Industrial Estate

All three caches so far had been surprisingly big – we were expecting nanos, and each one could comfortably hold a little swag. A fisherman was just packing up as we walked passed, and then we walked through a ‘private car park’. During the working week this might have been difficult, but on a Sunday afternoon the 200 yards were troublefree. Ahead was our fourth cache this time hidden more on a cycle path than footpath. It was hidden well over 6 foot high, so as always, we sent our shortest team member (Mrs Hg137) in to retrieve. The retrieve went well until the falling cache landed on Mrs Hg137’s head! Whoops! It was decided that Mr Hg137 should replace it!

"I think we're going to need a bigger cache"

“I think we’re going to need a bigger cache”

So one cache left and a longish walk, back through the ‘private car park’, around the rest of the lake, and then a further quarter of a mile to a solicitor’s office. It looked like private land. But the cache owner had said it wasn’t, and the solicitors knew about the cache. Given it was a Sunday afternoon no-one was around so we could undertake a really good search. The cache was called “LegalBeagles” – and next to the solicitor’s office were a few ‘doggy’ items. We are not going to tell you where the cache was hidden, suffice to say a third of the finders give the cache a favourite point. We did too!

So five surprisingly good caches, in what should have been a dour landscape. It wasn’t for us…so fellow cachers, don’t ignore the bleak locations near you as they may just contain hidden jewels!

October 9 : Earthcache Day

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

I’d noticed that October 9th was to be Earthcache Day. And Mr Hg137 had decamped to Milton Keynes to play in the National Scrabble Championship finals so I was all alone. (Editor’s note: I didn’t do well enough to qualify this year.) So it seemed like a good idea to use my free time to find an earthcache.

The definition of an earthcache, taken from the geocaching web site http://www.geocaching.com , is:
EarthCaches don’t have physical containers, but instead bring you to a unique location and teach you a geological lesson.

There are not so many earthcaches nearby, and the nearest such cache that we hadn’t yet found was ‘Wokingham Without Iridescence’. It’s in St Sebastian’s Cemetery, adjacent to St Sebastian’s Church, a place we’ve visited before to find a Church Micro back in November 2013. (Editor’s note 2: ‘Wokingham Without’ is a place, just south of Wokingham, the name doesn’t mean that something is missing.) Finding the cache involved looking at several of the gravestones in the cemetery and answering questions about the rocks that they are made of, which is larvikite, a type of feldspar mined in Norway.

Larvikite

Larvikite – feldspar from Norway


I duly turned up and parked the geocar in the road leading to the cemetery, next to some depressing signs warning that items were being stolen from the graves. Trying not to look like a grave robber, I walked in. There are lots of large and very ornate graves, but it’s quite easy to spot the area of graves I needed to look at. I walked towards them, but there were a couple of people standing nearby, looking at a grave. I thought that maybe they were also geocachers, but a few moments looking showed that they were muggle visitors, so I walked on, past both the cache site and the visitors, and did a slow circuit of the site, still trying not to look like a grave robber.

Eventually I was alone, so I returned to GZ and sorted out the answers to the questions. I’d have stayed longer, and taken some pictures, but rain seemed imminent, and another muggle family had turned up to visit a grave, so I made my way back to the geocar and away.

I’d loaded one other cache, a mile or so along the road home. This one was a simple cache, or so I hoped. I knew the road very well, having driven along it at least once on most working days for the past ten years – but I had still never noticed the inconspicuous water pumping station set back from the road. I headed to the spot which the description and hint said the cache should be hidden, did a pretty poor search and failed to find it. Next, I believed the GPS, and followed if fifty feet up the road, to peer over the fence into a private front garden. Clearly others had done so, too, as one fence post looked as if it had been searched by cachers. That couldn’t be right – private land is off limits – so I paused to re-read descriptions, hints and logs. They all said that the cache should be where I first looked, though some logs remarked that the GPS signal was not accurate here, under tree cover. That all made sense, so I retraced my steps to the location of my first search, bent down, moved a small piece of concrete … and there was the cache. Doh! Why had it taken me fifteen minutes to think of that!

So that was it – a short but pleasant little caching trip on Earthcache day.

( Editor’s note 3: Mr Hg137 finished 29th )

August 21 : Coombe Catastrophe!

Just to the South West of Wokingham is a heavily wooded area known as the Coombes. There are footpaths through the wood, but the main footpath forms the edge of the wood. The path adjoins some houses, and a golf course so on a warm Sunday afternoon it was quite busy.

Coombes Lane- Arborfield Ford

At the end of the Coombes – Arborfield Ford

We set off with 7 caches to attempt, all mainly within yards of the path.

In fact we parked within 20 yards of our first destination, a small tree climb. It only required a small 3-4 foot heave, a careful balance, a reach and the cache was ours. A very nice basket holding a film container. We undertook our normal arrangements of the climber throwing the cache down to the ground for the other to sign. All easy enough, but there was a car parked under the tree, making the tree climb just that little bit harder. Even so, an easy enough start… (Ed : We so cramped for space, the photo of the retrieval didn’t do it justice, so please paint your own picture)

Our next find was a little fortunate. As we arrived at GZ, the GPS swung wildly and pointed over the other side of the path to a youngish sapling. Surely its not there ? We dithered about and just as we were about to cross the path a horse and rider came by, followed by a family with a dog. This gave us a bit of time to check out the better looking tree on OUR side of the path. There the cache was! Never trust a GPS!

Our next cache, Liam and the Coombes was in a clearing, just off the path. We were looking for reasonably sized container somewhere near a dead tree. Guess what! There were loads of dead trees! We searched them all and found….nothing! However we consoled ourselves that today’s walk was linear so we would be passing this area on the way back. We could search again later on. (Ed: famous last words).

After a DNF it is always nice to find the next one. Here we made a quarter of a mile diversion from the main path to Lily and the Coombes. An easy find, mainly as the barkoflage wasn’t quite doing enough to hide the cache in a tree trunk – we did our best to hide it better. We dropped off the trackable (Estonia Mega) here, and signed one of the three log books inside. (Why three ?)

Back to the main Coombe track to look for At the Beech. An ammo can, hidden in tree roots. Or so we thought! Lots of fallen trees, lots of roots, few places for an ammo can. (The only real place we found was huge – so big we could both lie down in the space…no sign of the ammo can though!). That’s 5 caches attempted and 2 DNFs. Oh dear!

Our next cache we didn’t attempt. We only loaded into our GPS to admire the handiwork of setter, AmayaTom. He had climbed 20 feet up a tree to place a cache. We could see how to climb to the 12 foot mark, but the last 8 foot…no way!

Tree climb

20 feet up … but not for us!


And so we arrived at our terminus of the day, Arborfield Ford. The Coombes had now given way to farm land, and we were now much closer to the small town/village of Arborfield (no longer an Army Garrison town). The cache was hidden not too far away, but could we find it ?…. no!

Sheep at Arborfield

Baaa ! Baaa!

So our catastrophic caching trip ended with just 3 finds out of 6 real attempts. Time was pressing as we’d spent for too-long looking for each of the DNFs, and so we decided not to re-visit them on the return walk to the car. We could save those caches for another day…maybe…or maybe not!