May 17 : South Downs Way : Bignor to Amberley

Our South Downs adventure continued with a short, and relatively cacheless section between Bignor and Amberley.
We had a mini-break planned staying at the HF Holidays property in Abingworth, 6 miles North of Amberley and we planned to use Friday/Saturday/Sunday/Monday to progress our long distance walk.

Nice, gentle start to the day

Bignor car park mid-morning on a Friday was quiet. We were grateful for this as there is a steep, winding road to the top from the village of Bignor in the valley. We took in the slightly misty view and set off. Bignor car park is just 50 feet from the top of Bignor Hill, and so after 15 minutes we had reached our high point of the day! Downhill the rest of the walk (… probably)!

Murky view of the Weald

Near the top is a mounting block, known on all maps, as Toby’s Stone. It is in memory of James Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, a former secretary of the local hunt. There is often a fine view here, but the day’s mist shortened the visibility considerably.

Toby’s Stone

The South Downs Way continued with open views over the Weald to the North, the Southern views were hampered by the large area of woodland known as Houghton Forest. We descended down a steep, sharply turning, rutted path, and as we tottered downhill, a couple of cyclists zoomed by. We then had another hill to climb (so much for downhill all the way, hope Mrs Hg137 doesn’t notice). Our first cache of the day was at the far end of Houghton Forest. What a contrast to the airy views…the dark forest. Being woodland our GPS wouldn’t settle, and we wandered on forest tracks for a few minutes trying to get the GPS lower than 20 feet.

Houghton Forest


We couldn’t! But as we looked around in exasperation, we saw a tell-tale pile of flint, and the cache underneath.

We returned back to the South Downs Way, and after a short distance crossed the A29 to oversee the town of Amberley. Amberley is exactly half-way on the 100 mile footpath, so it is a welcome sight. (Or it would be, in better weather!)

Somewhere..down in the valley .. is Amberley


Amberley lies on the tidal river Arun and we had to drop all the way down to the river. Fortunately the path zigzags in places, alleviating much of the slope. We crossed the river at large metal bridge, under which was our second cache of the day. There are lots of nooks and crannies in bridges, and we searched a few, before finding the cache. The mist was now turning to rain, so we hurried to Amberley. This was a shame, as the Arun river is pleasant to watch – an egret was picking through the mud as the tide swept in, a family of young coots bobbled from reed to reed.

Bridge over the Arun


Our destination, sheltering from the rain, was Amberley station. It was covered, had seats, and was ideal for lunch. The station mural and other station furniture provided clues to a side-tracked cache (we had solved the co-ordinates when we parked in the Amberley car park earlier). We knew the cache was nearby, so we found it, once the rain stopped.

Amberley Station

There was also another cache to find… in the ‘Fine Pair’ series (a red letter box, and red phone box near each other). It was marked as a ‘letter box’ cache, meaning there was a stamp inside for people to use. Sadly the ‘letter box’ designation meant we didn’t spot it was a multi-cache. Had we realised this earlier, we would have calculated the co-ordinates when we parked our destination car in Amberley car park. Instead we performed the calculation and discovered the cache was … back on the lower section of the South Downs Way. We had walked past the cache earlier in the day! Grr! Grr ! Grr !

The start of Amberley’s Fine Pair

We had finished in Amberley, and so drove back to Bignor using slightly different roads to the one we had planned. We managed to find a layby, close to the South Downs Way, and after a short walk, retrieved the letterbox ‘Fine Pair’ cache. However the stamp and, in particular its ink, had leaked. The inside of the cache was stained blue, the log sheet was blue, and after only a few seconds of handling the cache, Mr Hg137’s fingers were blue too! Yuk!

So four caches found between Bignor and Amberley, but we had two more caches on our radar.

Between Bignor and Amberley are two car parks. Both of these yielded caches – one a simple, straightforward find. The other required the solving of a puzzle and a short woodland walk.

On route to our final cache of the day

We finished our day with 6 cache finds, wet from the rain and covered in blue ink. Our spirits were lifted when we drove to our holiday base just in time for a very welcome, and warming, cream tea.

Five of the caches we found were :

Advertisements

July 12 : Sandhurst

Time was running out for us to reach 2000 caches by July 13th.

Our schedules had been usurped by work commitments, and the grand plans we’d had for the 13th had been scuppered by various employers.

Yet, we were still 4 caches short.

We devised Plan B. To find 3 local caches on the 12th, reconnoitre the Ground Zero for the 2000th cache, so in what little time we would have on the 13th, it could just be a cache and dash.

Sandhurst

One of the many bridges and football pitches at Sandhurst Memorial Park

Sandhurst Memorial Park is an area of about 28 hectares and includes numerous football pitches, a cricket pitch, tug-of-war practice area, a children’s playground, tennis courts, and most importantly is centrally placed in Sandhurst. Until recently there was only one car park, but another, Pyes Acre has just been built. From the road, the car park looked like it would hold about a dozen cars, but when we drove in, it took more like 50!

This was good news as our 2000th cache was just feet from the car park…but not today!

Instead we wandered around the perimeter of the parkland, crossing a couple of the football pitches and one of the many tiny bridges that criss-cross the park. (One of the reasons for it being such a large park is that the park forms part of the flood plain for the River Blackwater, so is tricky to build on. The tiny streams that the bridges cross are used as drainage channels.)

We arrived at our first cache, deep in a copse well away from the plethora of people enjoying the evening sunshine. Our GPS wouldn’t settle, but with the aid of the hint ‘In the roots of a cut down ivy covered tree stump’ we located our target.

Sandhurst

Somewhere..under there..

Sadly the hint did not add ‘…and surrounded by knee-high stinging nettles’. We hadn’t brought our geo-pole (aka machete) with us! A few branches would do the trick. Just. Cache 1997 signed, just before the stinging nettles started to fight back.

Cache 1998 was a little easier as it was under one of the little bridges we had crossed earlier.
But, in full view of a football training session.

Sometimes it is easy to cache in a busy place, as no-one stands out from the crowd. Two adults, pausing every-so-slightly-too-long on a small bridge, perhaps picking something up, drew no suspicion at all.

Our last cache was in woodland again, but much closer to the busy A321 near to a major traffic light junction. We pass by here every day, and within yards of the road is a well concealed cache. We had been a little concerned as many previous finders had said the co-ordinates were slightly off, and with impeding dusk we didn’t fancy our chances in dark woodland. Fortunately the GPS was bang on! And a quick find for cache 1999!

Roll on July 13!

January 21 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : North Camp to Wanborough

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Today we had the crisp, sunny winter’s day we had hoped for on our last day. It was a beautiful morning, but, my oh my it was cold!


Starting at North Camp station, we set off south along a diversion from the official Blackwater Valley path. We saw a notice on a post about unauthorised change of use of the land by the rivers, and have also heard (but can’t confirm) that the landowner closed the riverside path around then. Anyway, that meant a walk along a bumpy track, with many an icy puddle, sandwiched between the A331 and some gravel pits. Soon we returned to the river, and went to find out first cache, a puzzle cache called ‘Follow you, follow me’; luckily, we’d got the puzzle correct and were the first to find the cache since September 2016. Like us, most geocachers find fewer caches in the winter than the summer because the weather is darker, colder, and wetter.

The start of the walk - near North Camp

The start of the walk – near North Camp


We went on along the river, enjoying the sunlit morning, seeing mist rising from the river, and watching the local birdlife – ducks on the river and, once, a jay. We stopped to watch a heron – I was so engrossed in taking pictures that I failed to spot a cyclist coming along and nearly got run down… The next two caches were along the riverbank, among trees or a sign overlooking the river (just a bit of creaking from the fence as Mr Hg137 climbed up to collect it). Soon after we left the Blackwater path to climb up onto the Basingstoke Canal. At last our direction was altering, and more in line with our quest; thus far we had been going south, to skirt the nearby, off-limits, army ranges. Just as we reached the foot of the canal aqueduct there was a flash of turquoise, then another – a kingfisher! What a great farewell to the river!

Once up on the aqueduct, we turned aside a few yards to look for the first of three caches in the ‘Oddballs 1st Mission series’. We found it, but it was leaky and the log was frozen stiff, and we couldn’t remove it from the cache, let alone sign it. We did little better with the next two caches, also from the same series, which we couldn’t find at all – some TLC is needed for those caches methinks.
A new friend for Mr Hg137!

A new friend for Mr Hg137!


A coffee break was taken. It felt pleasantly warm in the bright sunshine, though the ground was still frozen and the canal icy. Almost immediately a robin appeared and took a fancy to Mr Hg137. I thought it was the red bobble hat which was the attraction … We succumbed to its blandishments and fed it part of our lunch. Leaving the canal soon after, we walked down through Ash, passing the striking church (why isn’t there a Church Micro cache here?) and eventually turned eastward along a green lane. At last we were heading in roughly the right direction! Along here, we came across three caches all from the same series – based on Italy – Rome/Venice/Pompeii – all very similar neat, tidy caches, mostly not found for a bit.
Basingstoke Canal

Basingstoke Canal


The path changed to a track, then to tarmac, and we were at ‘Christmas Pie’. A good name for a place! There was a puzzle cache here based on information to be found on the village sign. We worked out the puzzle but couldn’t find the cache. We’ve checked our results later, and they were correct, so maybe we’ll stop off for another try at the start of our next walk?


Wanborough station was a little further on, the end of the day’s walk. There was one more cache here, overlooking the railway line, from the ‘Sidetracked’ series (they are near stations). A short wait later, the train took us back to North Camp and the start of our walk. In a few minutes, we retraced a route which had taken us a few hours to travel on foot.

The end of the walk - Wanborough station

The end of the walk – Wanborough station


We found eight of the eleven caches we attempted. Here are some of them, along with our touring trackable:

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 16 : London

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

No. 9 London bus

No. 9 London bus


We hadn’t used our Oyster (London travel) cards for some while, and we were worried that they might be disabled, so we set off to London on a caching trip – now there’s a tenuous excuse for a day’s geocaching!

Almost as soon as we left the train at Waterloo we were searching for our first cache, at the entrance to the station. The description said a London landmark would be visible from Ground Zero, the location of the cache. Well, the bottom half of it was, and the top wasn’t; the cloud base was very low, while the Shard is very high …

We made our way down to the Thames, just downstream from the London Eye, with a great view over the river to the Houses of Parliament. Having found the cache hidden there, we signed the log looking out over the river, and got a rare view of much of the riverbed. It was two days after the full moon, and a very, very low spring tide, and the level was lower than we had ever seen it, with the footings of one of the bridge arches exposed to view; even in the few minutes we watched, the tide turned and the riverbed began to disappear.

River Thames - VERY low tide!

River Thames – VERY low tide!


Crossing the river on the Golden Jubilee footbridge, our next target was the Sidetracked cache at the nearby Charing Cross Station. It was tucked away behind a drainpipe close to, but not actually in the station. We did the ‘pretend to tie a shoelace’ mime to retrieve the cache, but we really needn’t have bothered, as everyone in the city is in a hurry, looking at phones, rushing onwards, and not interested in the antics of a couple of oddball cachers.
Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square – lion at Nelson’s Column


Our main objective of the day was the ‘No 9 Routemaster bus: cache route’, which involved a bus ride and the spotting of clues on the way to the final cache location. But before that, we wanted to have a go at the caches in Trafalgar Square. And the first cache was … ‘Trafalgar Square’, a cunningly concealed cache hidden in an item around the square. We moved on to two earthcaches, one based around Nelson’s Column, and one around the statue of Charles I which is placed on the original site of Charing Cross, which is regarded as being the centre of London for measuring of distance. Earthcaches are excellent little teaching aids – in each case we learnt something about the places that we couldn’t have guessed beforehand.
Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square


A number 9 bus duly turned up and we caught it and got prime seats, upstairs, right at the front, where we could watch the route unfold. We were glad that we’d researched the answers to the clues for the cache beforehand so we could concentrate on the travelscape expanding before us. Charing Cross, Trafalgar Square (again), Pall Mall, St James’ Palace, Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park, and the Royal Albert Hall … where we got off and crossed the road to one of the ornate sets of gates leading into Hyde Park. Mr Hg137 stopped to chat with a man from British Gas who was maintaining one of the gaslights on the gate. He told us that there are still over 1500 gaslights in London (!) and that they require regular attention http://londonist.com/2015/11/video-meet-london-s-remaining-gas-lamp-lighters The final cache was very close, and found after some very close inspection of park ‘furniture’. We had brought a trackable with us and had been looking for a suitable cache to place it. We decided on this specific cache as it had needed time and effort to solve, and so was unlikely to be found by chance, meaning that the trackable was likely to be picked up by an experienced geocacher.
Albert Memorial

Albert Memorial


Lunchtime: we sat on a park bench, ate our sandwiches, and people-watched, then did a circuit of the Albert Memorial https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington-gardens/things-to-see-and-do/memorials,-fountains-and-statues/the-albert-memorial , to find ‘The Royal Albert Hall’ cache, the 20th most often found cache in the country (the description says) with well over 4000 visits.
Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall


From here, we walked down to the Natural History Museum, which had two earthcaches in the grounds that we wanted to visit. We hadn’t really thought about this carefully enough: a skating rink is set up just outside the museum at Christmas time. That meant that the route to one of the earthcaches was through the museum, not through the gardens – and the other cache was within feet of the skating rink, so we thought about the answers while skaters whizzed by very, very close behind us http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/ice-rink.html What the earthcaches were about: one is centred on a (very) large fossil, and the other is about details in the memorial stone dedicated to those who were killed in the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004.
Natural History Museum ice rink

Natural History Museum ice rink


There was just one more cache left on our list for today, a Church Micro, but where to find it? We walked up to the Brompton Oratory: was that it? No. Our GPS, and the clues to the cache, led us down a path to the side, to Holy Trinity, Brompton. The noise of traffic from the A4 died away as we walked round the church to the garden at the back, and it was peaceful and quiet, with tree-lined paths, and a squirrel frolicking on the grass, overlooked by small mews houses in cobbled streets. What a contrast to the loud, rushing world so close by!

And that was the end of caching for the day; it was getting darker, and colder, and we were getting tired and hungry. We caught the underground back to Waterloo and headed home in the dark.

November 5 : No fireworks in Farnham!

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

In the four years we’ve been geocaching, we’ve found just 26 caches in November. Well, that month had now come around again and it seemed a good idea to increase that total.

Go geocaching and meet 'fun guys'!

Go geocaching and meet ‘fun guys’!


We’d selected a route not too far away, Farnham Rally Ramble, a 34-cache, 8-mile route. A read through of the descriptions suggested that this series would require collecting clues, solving puzzles (and sums), use of tools and other cunning stuff if we were going to find those geocaches, so we decided to split the route into sections and to make this a kind of ‘winter caching project’.

We duly assembled the equipment needed – here is the list as given :

– 2 litres of water (or the means to collect that quantity from local water sources).
– A weedling tool to get the logs out of small caches.
– Some Tape – Gaffer or Duct or PVC Electrical Insulating tape will do
– A few feet of String
– A piece of stiff wire, about 9” long, capable of being bent to form a hook.
– A print out of this cache page is recommended
– A Farnham area OS map would be very useful
(Editor’s note: at least it didn’t mention canoes or climbing equipment – phew!)


Parking near the busy A325 on the outskirts of Farnham, the first cache was almost within touching distance, quickly found, and contained a handy clue for later. So far, so good. But … we needed to find a nearby object with a number on it for us to use later, and we couldn’t find it. Not so good. It turned out that, with a bit of thought, we could derive the numbers. So no problem after all.

A track led away from the road, and almost immediately we were in open fields, close to the River Wey. Stopping to work out some numbers, and solve a bit of code, we used that information to find the site of the next cache, in a large old oak tree next to the river. We couldn’t find the cache, though, but as a large chunk of the tree had fallen off quite recently, we thought that the cache might have disappeared either then or in the subsequent clear up.

Our next mission was to cross the A31 to reach Bishop’s Meadow, heading towards Farnham. Crossing dual carriageways with fast traffic is never on my list of favourite things to do but it was OK and we picked up the riverside path again on the other side of the road.

Another cache was retrieved from a tree, some more numbers, for future use, were noted from a small sign, and we walked on, with the river not far away on one side, and the A31 not far away on the other. We diverged slightly to find another cache, the third of four attempted, stuck with a magnet to the side of a metal footbridge over the A31. And here things began to unravel…

Our next target was supposed to be hidden in a fence, somewhere, but we couldn’t find it (hindsight says that we got the right spot, at least once, but couldn’t work out what we needed to do). Time passed while we wandered fruitlessly up and down, giving up after a while and crossing the river and a side channel to arrive in Bishop’s Meadow ( http://www.bishopsmeadowtrust.org/ ) There were more numerical clues to be found here, somewhere in, on, or under the bridge, and another chance for us to not find them. More unavailing searching went on here, and we got very frustrated, as we couldn’t proceed much further without knowing those numbers to use to find the next cache. Mr Hg137 descended to river level to look for the clues, couldn’t find them, couldn’t get back up the slippery bank, and had to be hauled back up to the path. It was not going so well now.

Bishop's Meadow, Farnham

Bishop’s Meadow, Farnham, on a grey November day


Having found an intermediate stage for the next cache, which gave us a clue, but still without those numbers that would supply the coordinates, we tried to work out roughly were the cache ‘could’ be – somewhere along the edges and hedges of the meadow, and then tried a number of locations without success. The most likely location was by a large, rotting log, but the only thing we unearthed was a medium-sized rat, which scuttled off.

Once again, we gave up – it really wasn’t going so well now – and moved on to our next target. This time we had a location, which was in one of several large willow trees by a ditch and surrounded by … very large and very angry nettles. We tried several approaches, but couldn’t face the pain for long enough to get to the area, let alone search lots of trees. We returned to the other side of the ditch, and realised that we could see the cache, in view in a tree on … the other side of the ditch. Oh well – into the ditch we went, up the bank on the other side, and the cache was retrieved.

Into the ditch!

Into the ditch!


Seven caches attempted, four found, and three hours had gone by. The wind was getting up, and we were getting fed up. We decided to abandon our quest, as we were missing quite a bit of the information we needed to proceed further. We returned home, logged the caches, then contacted the owner, Kitey, to seek more help with the caches and clues we hadn’t found. He got back to us the next day, and it was not good news for our ‘winter caching project’. This cache series isn’t attempted very often, and a number of the caches and clues have gone missing. Kitey has decided to archive the series, and has suggested that we try another one of his series, also based around Farnham but starting in a slightly different place.

A new quest beckons!

PS Here are a couple of the other caches we found:

September 24 – Kissable Fish

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The Kissable Fish has only been on the move since mid-July 2016, with a mission to move from cache to cache. In that time, it has been to a number of fish-appropriate places, such as the Grand Union Canal, Canary Wharf, another canal, the Staffordshire & Worcester, then over the sea for a visit to the Isle of Man, and finally to the place we found it, under a small bridge which forms part of a cache series around Horsell Common, near Woking. Not bad going for just over three months travelling …

Where to place it next? Ho-hum, we’ll have to find somewhere ‘watery’ or ‘fishy’ soon, with a cache big enough to take this super little fish.