July 6 : Longhill Park, Bracknell

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

First, a disclaimer: this blog post is mostly about caches which are great fun to solve, but which take time and ingenuity, patience and problem solving. We *could* show you pictures of how the caches work and how we managed to open them, eventually, but this would spoil the fun for others, so all you will see, picture-wise, are some bland pictures of wooden boxes, of trees, and parkland.

Longhill Park, Bracknell

Longhill Park, Bracknell


We wanted to test our new GPS. Our old GPS had stopped working during our last caching trip, so we had mourned it – see the previous post – then bought a near-identical replacement. Hello to our new Etrex 10, all new and shiny, with crisp edges and clicky buttons!

A while ago, we had done the ‘Green Hill’ series in Bracknell, set by JJEF, a local cacher who has a talent for devious and clever caches, often made from wood and always worth finding (Editor’s note: he sells them, too! https://www.quirkycaches.co.uk/apps/webstore/products ) Mr Hg137 had noticed that the series had been removed, but had been replaced with six new caches from the same setter. Now, the point about JJEF’s caches isn’t that they are especially hard to locate – the challenge is to get inside the pesky things once found – so we were prepared with tools … notebook, Swiss Army knife, magnet, piece of string, torch, etc, etc … so that we hoped we could cope with most challenges the caches would throw at us. And many of those tools were put to use at some point. (Editor’s note: we’d checked the map and decided we wouldn’t need wellies or a canoe, and fortunately, we were right.)

After crossing the road by the car park, we were soon looking at an anonymous brown box fixed to a tree. Having examined all visible surfaces, Mr Hg137, being the taller, was delegated to do the opening of the container and managed it after a little while. Aha! A good start. We continued amongst trees grown up over a reclaimed landfill site (much, much nicer than the description suggests). The second cache was near one of the fences; this one was much easier to open, but corresponding much harder to spot; JJEF has a knack of placing things, often wooden things, that look as if they belong where placed, but aren’t …

An anonymous wooden box

An anonymous wooden box


The path continued through hollies and rhododendrons. This was unfortunate,as the next cache was behind an impenetrable leafy, bushy wall. We backtracked and found a way round the back, to find another anonymous wooden box. Safely hidden from muggle eyes, we needed a few minutes to think. How to get into this one? We looked at the box, we thought, we surveyed the tools we had, and an idea came to us. After a few more minutes, we worked the mechanism to open the box, and out popped the cache container. Result! (Editor’s note: and then we tried the mechanism a few times more to admire its cleverness.)
Another anonymous wooden box

Another anonymous wooden box


The next cache was also hidden in the bushes, which was good for us as it took us about Thirty minutes to solve. It’s called ‘Trio of Fun’, and the ‘Trio’ bit indicates that there are three parts to the puzzle. We arrived at yet another anonymous wooden box – aha – we’d seen one of those before – we thought, so set about trying to open it. We turned, we twiddled, we pushed, we pulled, we passed it between ourselves for more turning, twiddling, pushing, pulling, and slowly, slowly, we got it open. Maybe twenty minutes had elapsed, and we were glad to be concealed in bushes. The end of the first part gave us a clue to part two, which we achieved after a few attempts, and this in turn helped with part three, and another few minutes had us triumphantly holding the cache log. Now to put it all back together; we turned, we twiddled, we pushed, we pulled, even drawing some pictures for ourselves to help with reassembly; and, another few minutes later, all was back as it was before. Phew! (Editor’s note: sorry that this is all a bit vague, but it would spoil the puzzle if we said exactly what we did.)

We had just one more JJEF cache to find. It was under thick tree cover so it took a while to locate, as the GPS didn’t settle, so spent a while wandering in the general area before spotting the cache, within fifteen feet or so of where the GPS said it was. Other finders have mentioned that the cache contains a surprise, so I was prepared for (almost) anything and only let out a little squeak as all was revealed.

And yet another anonymous wooden box

And yet another anonymous wooden box


We retraced our steps to the geocar, parked near the skate park in Longhill Park. This, too, is a reclaimed landfill site, but there’s little to see except a few ventilation cowls and patches of bumpy ground. There are two caches in the park, so we decided to find those, too. The first, ‘That Special Club’, was a puzzle cache, which we had solved at home, had checked the answers, and taken due note of other logs which said that some aspects of the hide have had to change. So – we approached GZ and found what was likely to have been the original home of the cache, now no longer standing. We then cast around the general area, looking at possible hiding places, but didn’t spot the cache. Oh dear, a failure to add to our list of successes for the day.

It was not going to improve: our final cache attempt for the day was a cache from the ‘Counting Vowels’ series. The clever idea for this series is that you count the vowels on (some or all words on) signs and noticeboards in the area and derive the coordinates for the cache from the answers. This one was number 21 in the series; in the past, we were the first to find number 1 in the series, having a lively discussion with the cache owner when there was a problem with the coordinates. Anyway, we counted the vowels, checked that the number we had derived was correct, and set off to the final location, a short walk away. We arrived, and … there was nothing, nothing that could house a cache, except for signs of very recent path maintenance; we speculated that the cache could have gone missing. Back home, we got in touch with the cache owner for another lively discussion (we bet he was glad to hear from us again – not!), described the cache location in detail and supplied him with a photo. He has since been out to check; the cache had indeed vanished and he has replaced it nearby, adjusting the vowel counting suitably.

No cache here any more!

No cache here any more!


Summary of the day:
– We tested our new GPS, it worked perfectly, a slightly updated model from its predecessor
– We found all the caches that JJEF has placed
– We still have a reason to return, to find those two caches in the park

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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.

July 22 : Green Hill, Bracknell

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Caution: this blog contains some pictures that may spoil your enjoyment of these caches if you plan to do them yourself!

“The Lost Treasure of Mary Hyde: Spanning the globe and the seven seas, we introduce you to the infamous Captain Mary Hyde. Her ship, The Golden Cache, was the fiercest, and the bearded buccaneers and sea legged sailors reported to her. Legend has it that she ruled the high seas for many years, and found no shortage of riches throughout her reign.

Avast ye! Join us for a swashbuckling geocaching adventure through daring feats and stormy seas. Make yer way through a four week souvenir journey to find the lost treasure of Mary Hyde.”

I was on standby for work, which meant I couldn’t venture very far from home. Normally we would stay at home and catch up on domestic things. But the geocaching people had launched their summer challenge, ‘The Lost Treasure of Mary Hyde”, and our caching trips of the weeks before had qualified us for the first part of the challenge.

Green Hill, Bracknell

Green Hill, Bracknell


Week 2 of said challenge was to find some geocaches which had been nominated as favourites by many previous finders. We pondered … where could we go to find a group of these … not too far from home … who places caches that are much liked by others? A-ha! Light dawned. The local cacher JJEF places interesting caches with nifty puzzles, often built from wood. We looked around for some of those caches, and found a small series of four, ‘Green Hill’, on the edge of Bracknell.
Maybe there's a cache in here?

Maybe there’s a cache in here? Maybe not!


Parking the geocar in a handy spot near a park, we crossed a busy road and were immediately in woodland. At intervals there were metal pipes, each with a padlocked cap; this was a reclaimed landfill site, and the pipes were venting points. We knew that the first cache we were looking for was close to the way into the woods, but we couldn’t get our GPS to give us an accurate fix, and we spent a while investigating those metal pipes. A rethink had us looking elsewhere and we were soon unravelling the first puzzle, and signing the cache log.
Up there?

Up there?


We soon spotted the next cache, up high in a tree. After lowering it, we realised we had to unlock a padlock to reach the cache log. Out came a piece of paper and a pen, and we fiddled about with combinations of numbers until we had the answer. The third cache, too, was amongst the trees. ‘Amongst’ meant just that, and I took a full scrub-bashing, branch-ducking route to the cache, while Mr Hg137 … took an easier route around the back. Once again, we had to hunt around for something nearby which would give us the method of opening the cache; another few minutes, has another cache log signed.

The fourth and final cache of this little series also needed us to find a tool to unlock the outer cache container to get to the inner cache container to sign the log. This time, the cache container was chained to one tree, while the other part of the cache was chained to another. Shenanigans ensued, and we managed to get the two close (enough) to each other.

That was the series complete, and it had been a good and thought-provoking morning. Before going back, we had just one other thing to do. A little way on, we emerged onto the A329. Mr Hg137’s father used to work just here, at Polysius, and we crossed over the road to look at the site. It’s closed now, and surrounded by fencing. Doubtless it will be converted into ‘executive apartments’ (aka flats) soon. And on that sad little note we returned to the geocar, the next part of our treasure quest safely achieved.

Polysius

Polysius


Here are some of the caches we found (remember the spoiler warning and don’t look if you want to keep the mystery for your caching trip!):

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!

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.

August 20 – Geocaching – rated E for everyone

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

No, I didn’t come up with that description of geocaching. It was the logo on a trackable that we picked up at the cacher’s meet on 20th August. I think it sums up the pastime / hobby / obsession very well indeed (even if it might be a bit cheesy) and it’s the kind of slogan you might see on a geocacher’s T-shirt.

IMG_8134
The real name of the trackable is ‘Tag-a-Bondz geocoin’, it’s from Niedersachsen, Germany, and its stated mission, translated to English, is ‘a shirt goes on a journey … travel from cache to cache’. We have plans for an adventure for this trackable in the next few weeks; I wonder what we can come up with?

August 20 Souvenir Hunting

… with just 2 souvenirs to find… we needed a Puzzle Cache and an Event Cache….

Fortunately events were springing up all around, one was scheduled for Farnborough, another Bracknell and much more besides. The Event in Bracknell looked tempting especially as it was being organised by JJEF whose caches we had recently encountered (and you may remembered dismembered with a Swiss Army knife!). The pub, The Boot, rang lots of nostalgic bells as it was visited many years ago by Mr Hg137 (well over 25 years ago!).

Now could we find a nearby puzzle to solve! Yes!!

Although puzzles don’t generally give anything away about the destination, one puzzle cache called “Can you unlock this” stated the final cache was 300 yards away and broadly near the Boot. But could we solve it in time ? We only had four images to look at in order to derive a full set of co-ordinates : a key, a white door, and two head shots of people we couldn’t initially recognise. We stared and we stared… scratched our heads… and stared some more. Eventually a light bulb moment struck (well at 11:45pm one night) and the cache was resolved. It was definitely on route to the Boot!

The Boot is situated in Park Road where Mr HG137 used to work. Reminiscing about his time working for International Stores (now the Avis building) Mr Hg137 could look out of the window and could see the Met Office (now a block of flats). Even the scruffy park had changed with statues and gravel paths… and it now hosted the puzzle cache!

Who said statues were boring ?

Who said statues were boring ?

Found with ease (fingers crossed the muggle footballers didn’t see us!).

Watch the ball... not the cachers!

Watch the ball… not the cachers!

Puzzle solved and found … a short car journey to the Boot – signed the log book and we’d cracked the 7 Souvenirs!

The Boot was heaving with well over 60 cachers present – including a business acquaintance who I didn’t know cached – and about 30 of JJEF’s famous wooden caches to examine!

A great end to a simple quest to achieve THE 7 SOUVENIRS OF AUGUST!

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