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!

Advertisements

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 :

July 29 Simons Wood, Wokingham

This was week 3 of the Mary Hyde challenge. This week to gain the Mary Hyde souvenir one had to find or deposit a trackable. Finding trackables can often be tricky, as frequently caches are listed as ‘containing a trackable’ but due to various reasons, the trackable is missing. We were therefore grateful we had a trackable in our possession, Annerschter (aka Henry’s Cat). But where to place it ? The weather was forecast to very wet so a short caching trip was planned in Simons Wood on the border of Wokingham/Crowthorne/Finchampstead. Fingers crossed we would finish before it rains!

Simons Wood is owned the National Trust, and is a heavily wooded, and in places heavily rhododendron-ed. The National Trust are slowly removing many of these large invasive plants, but it will still take some time until Simons Wood loses its ‘jungle’ feel.

Is it a jungle or is it Simon’s Wood?


We’ve cached here before – way back in July 2014 when we found one the UK’s oldest geocaches, first hidden in 2003.
Today would be on the other side of the Wood and we would circumnavigate a property known as ‘The Heritage Club’.

Our first find, was well hidden under a fallen tree. We quickly discovered though, it was not a simple find. The cache had been procured from cache maker JJEF, and we had to work out how to open the cache! Like many of JJEF’s caches, it only takes a minute or two..but it gave our ‘little grey cells’ a light work out. As the cache was quite big, it was here placed Annerschter in.

No prizes for guessing where the cache is …

…here!

The second and third caches were harder to find. The hints were ‘near a circular clearing’ and ‘in the roots of a silver birch’. Well, woodland is always changing. Clearings are not clearings for long, silver birches tend to form a mini forest of their own.

For both caches we spent 10-15 minutes looking at a myriad of hiding places, and came close to DNFing both.

Amost a DNF !


Fortunately persistence paid off, and we were successful at each.

Our route back to the car passed the gates of ‘The Heritage Club’, a grandiose title which can easily be mistaken. It is not some 17th century building, or 19th century steam railway.. it is in fact a nudist holiday camp.

The Heritage Club

The Heritage Club

This accounts for the very high, prison-like fences surrounding the property. Given our struggles to find the last two caches we probably wouldn’t have seen anything if the fences weren’t so high!

Last cache of the day

The skies were darkening and cars had headlights on (at 11 am on a July morning!) we had a quarter of a mile yomp along a pavement back to the car. One cache to find – magnetic behind a road sign – and we would have finished. Yards from the car park, the first raindrops fell and we reached the car without getting too wet but having gained another Mary Hyde souvenir.

July 22 : Teddy the Hamster

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

On a short (just four) caching trip, we acquired a trackable as part of the prize for solving one of the devilish caches.

Teddy the Hamster

Teddy the Hamster


This trackable has a simple mission, and I can’t possibly comment on whether this is a good mission!

“Out of Bracknell and as far as possible! “

The trackable started off in autumn 2015, but became inactive around the end of the same year. It was relaunched, with a new owner, in June 2017, and was then placed in a cache somewhere in Bracknell. Wherever that was, it wasn’t where we found it, and we’re uncertain how it got to the Green Hill cache series in another part of Bracknell.

No matter, we have hold of the trackable now, and it would be churlish of us not to help it with its mission, so we plan to take it to the UK Mega in Devon in early August.