October 1 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Boxford to Thatcham

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Boxford Church

Boxford Church


We’re walking in stages from Sandhurst in Gloucestershire (just north of Gloucester, on the banks of the River Severn) home to Sandhurst in Berkshire (home of the Royal Military Academy). The next leg of our epic walk was to be from Boxford, along the Lambourn valley into Newbury, then along the Kennet and Avon canal to Thatcham. About eleven miles, plus some geocaching on the way to keep us occupied!
The oldest working window in England

The oldest working window in England


We started in Boxford, another of the pretty small villages spaced at intervals down the valley of the River Lambourn. Our first cache of the day was the Church Micro cache at St Andrew’s, which claims to have the ‘oldest working window in England’ (a hole with a wooden shutter, as far as I could see). Having inspected that – it took about ten seconds – we soon found the information we needed to locate the cache, then had a short walk to find it and sign the log.

Next came a rural section along paths and tracks, following the Lambourn Valley Way, sometimes next to the river, sometimes a little higher up the side of the valley. We watched a farmer tilling the fields and passed a long, south-facing slope planted with young grape vines.

We emerged at Bagnor where we had lunch by the river just outside the Watermill Theatre. Of the caches so far that day, some we found, some we didn’t. Some we thought were missing, some we thought were just our ineptitude. We had an excuse for one of our failures as there was logging going on within a few yards and we didn’t want to hang around with heavy machinery in action close by (well, that’s how we rationalised it, anyway).

Watermill Theatre

Watermill Theatre



Once under the A34 Newbury Bypass, we were away from the open landscape and the wide chalk valley and the surroundings were immediately more suburban. We walked behind houses and along paths, crossed the A4, then downhill towards St Mary’s Church, Speen. There’s a cache just outside the churchyard, but we couldn’t search for it because a muggle was tending a grave in the churchyard. We did a slow circuit of the church – tried to look inside, but it was locked – and returned to a now-empty churchyard. We weren’t being watched now so it was easy to hunt for and find the cache. But the cache, ‘Elmore Abbey’, isn’t named after the church – it’s named after the one-time Benedictine monastery immediately behind (the monks have since moved to Salisbury http://father-gerald.blogspot.com/2013/01/stbenedicts-priory-salisbury.html ).
Speen church /Elmore Abbey

Speen church /Elmore Abbey


Mr Hg137 sneaked up the drive for a glance at the now ex-abbey, then we set off along the Speen Moors Walk, https://info.westberks.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=36688&p=0 on a path by small streams, under the viaduct of the Lambourn Valley railway, and gradually heading into Newbury. There’s a series of caches along there, the SMW (named after the walk!) and we found them as we walked. We arrived at Goldwell Park, where we couldn’t the cache located there, and sat at a picnic table to think about where we had gone wrong (we didn’t read all the old logs, we think the coordinates were incorrect). While we ate a banana and drank some coffee, a personal trainer and two trainees (victims?) emerged from the adjacent leisure centre and did some circuits involving ropes, press-ups, and running on the spot. Phew!
A last look at the River Lambourn ...

A last look at the River Lambourn …

... and goodbye to the Lambourn Valley Railway

… and goodbye to the Lambourn Valley Railway


We left the trainees to their efforts and continued to the Kennet and Avon Canal, crossing on the Monkey Bridge. It’s a new(ish) bridge, replaced about 10 years ago, because the previous incarnation was steep and hard to cross. There’s a cache tucked under the bridge and we found it after a short search, banging our heads on the underside of the bridge.

Duck board?

Duck board?


Had we but realised, that was our last find of the day. We walked on to the town centre – the first and only town of any size that we will visiteon this walk. We visited the parish church, St Nicholas, made a diversion to fail to find the associated cache, and failed. At Newbury lock, we stopped to look at the ‘Ebb and Flow’ sculpture which sits a short way from the lock and consists of a large bowl that fills and empties as the lock is used; no boats used the lock so we didn’t see it in operation http://www.peterrandall-page.com/sculptures/ebb-and-flow
Newbury lock

Newbury lock


Ebb and Flow

Ebb and Flow


We followed the canal towpath east out of the town. We failed to find another cache under a bridge – a passing muggle asked us if we were ‘sheltering from the rain’ (it was dry), and finally failed yet again as we left the river/canal to return to the gecoar, parked at the Nature Discovery Centre in Thatcham https://www.bbowt.org.uk/explore/visitor-centres/nature-discovery-centre Not a great end to a long walk, but we were now a lot closer to home.

Here are some of the caches we found:

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May 20 : Chester (part 1)

Chester & The River Dee

We had booked a week’s holiday in Chester, as it was an area neither of knew that well, and it would give us a small break from caching the Sandhurst Trail.

Our hotel was about 2 miles outside the City of Chester, and with a station on our doorstep, we took the train. (Saved car parking fees, but didn’t save shoe leather as we later discovered Chester Station was a little distance from our City Centre Caching Targets).

Chester is a former Roman Town, with a 2 mile Roman Wall surrounding the city centre. (The wall has been rebuilt several times since the Romans left!). The station was to the North of these walls, and our target caches was well to the South of the Walls, near the River Dee.

Before we left home we had solved a difficulty 5 puzzle cache called “The Clairvoyant” and we were determined to find it. As its location was some distance from the station, this gave us a chance to find caches on the way.

Can you look into the future and solve this puzzle, before you read whether we discovered the cache ?

We had forgotten that city locations play havoc with the GPS ! Many times we found a cache about 20 feet from its location. The first was attached to some ‘street furniture’ near to the Deva pub (‘Deva’ being the Roman name for Chester).

First Chester Cache

We weren’t so lucky looking for a cache in Grosvenor Park called ‘Park Life’ as we found neither the cache nor the ‘Stump’ alluded to in the clue. We were in a park were squirrels abounded, sadly they didn’t help us.

“Can I help ?”

We even took a ride on the model railway and looked again. Nothing!

Choo-choo !

We did find the other cache in the park, “A Walk in the Park”, and as we sat and completed the logging, a young couple sat on adjacent seat, and fed another squirrel… with a very large chip! To see a squirrel holding and nibbling a chip lengthways (as if a corn-cob) was really cute and funny!

We needed to cross the river, and the Queens Park Suspension Bridge (originally built in 1852, and rebuilt/restored a few times since) provided us with our next cache.

Partway along, we stopped 10 feet after GZ, and looked down. Nothing at our feet. But, as we looked back up… we saw a family of four, 10 feet away, signing a piece of paper! Yes they were cachers! Pleased to meet you Team ELSR, and well done on finding your first 4 geocaches!)

We had a half-mile walk along the River Dee’s Bank to “The Clairvoyant”. Like many puzzle caches, the answer is very obvious when you discover it. Here, a read of the previous finder’s logs, as well as fully understanding every word written about the cache, gave us the solution. (Hint: to solve it will require printing it out, and using at least one tool).

A small, indistinct trail led through knee-high nettles at Clairvoyant’s GZ. An even smaller track lead to a bush which provided excellent camouflage for an ammo can! It is certainly worthwhile to find a large cache when a large amount of brain-power has been used!

As it says on the tin.. “The Clairvoyant”


The flood-plains near the River Dee provided an excellent vantage position for watching a canoe race take place, as well locating one other cache in a very disguised paint tin!

We headed back towards the City, collecting another, much smaller cache, near the former City Mill.

The centre of Chester (ie inside the city walls), has a good mixture of caches. Some standard, easy to find caches; an earthcache based on the former Roman Baths (successfully answered); and two very lengthy multi-caches. It was these multicaches we started work on, as we headed back towards the Station. We realised we didn’t have enough time in one day to complete all the stages, so we stopped about half-way in each, to give us enough stages to make a worthwhile return visit to the City.

Chester’s former Roman Bathhouse

The day was hot, and after several hours wandering around we were tired, so we thought the Chester Cathedral Multicache would give us a chance to relax and cool off. We unfortunately arrived at the Cathedral 20 minutes before the Annual Mayor-Making service was due to start. Seats were named, various several members of the clergy were due to participate, hundreds of guests invited… and we had 20 minutes to find 4 objects and dates to yield the final co-ordinates for the cache. So much for a relaxing few minutes! Fortunately two of the answers were found in a small courtyard adjacent to the Cathedral so we were well away from the pomp and ceremony as it unfolded.

Chester Cathedral


Then we had to find the cache!

For some obscure reason (probably because all the photos on http://www.geocaching.com were of a water feature), we thought the cache was nearby. Indeed it was – 30 feet away. But, after far too long searching inside the courtyard we concluded (with the help of the gift shop staff – who knew where the cache was) the cache was outside the courtyard walls! Once at GZ… we found a container LOCKED to some gates. The numbers we had found formed the number to UNLOCK to cache! The cache was in a relatively high muggle area.. but will never be lost!

Solve the clues correctly..and you can open the cache


Our last cache of the day was close to one of the towers that are situated on the City Walls. An easy find, and in a lovely location with Roman Walls above, and the Shropshire Union Canal nearby.

We had walked about 6 miles, found 9 caches (including an Earthcache) on our first sortie into Chester. We still had lots more find … watch out Chester…we’ll be back!

June 23 : Annerschter (Simon’s Cat)

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

We found this trackable, Annerschter, in a cache from the ‘Lipchis Canal Wander’ series which follows the semi-derelict Chichester canal from the city to the sea.

Annerschter (with Simon's Cat)

Annerschter (with Simon’s Cat)

The tag/travel companion attached to the cache is a cat, better known as ‘Simon’s Cat’. It was registered on Christmas Eve 2014 and then travelled around 5,000 kilometres around Germany with its owners before being released to travel onward, and it has moved a further 3,000 kilometres since then. Here is a translation of the bug’s mission:

This small traveller, with Simon’s Cat as a travel companion would now like to see the world. He has already experienced a lot with us and now he is ready for his first steps alone. Perhaps he’ll land in England, India, or New Zealand, perhaps he will be around here … the people who will meet him will decide. And who wonders about the name? Well … Mrs. Angeldangel is native Hessin … and when she was asked what the trackable should be called, she said “Annerchter” (Anders auf Hochdeutsch), she was not clear that Mr. Angeldangel would take it so literally. And there he had the name. Take care of him. And maybe you have time for a Buidl (picture on high German) (Mr. Angeldangel, by the way, from Bavaria) on the road.

Editor’s postscript: We dropped Simon’s Cat into a cache in Simon’s Wood. We didn’t realise at the time, but that is quite appropriate!

June 23 : Chichester Marina

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Chichester canal - the last lock

Chichester canal – the last lock


A warm Friday seemed like a good day for lazing around on a beach – and why not wonderful West Wittering? Just short of our destination we paused for some caching, a walk round Chichester Marina and views of Chichester harbour.

There are two caching trails that lead out from Chichester, forming a circuit. The first is the Lipchis Canal Wander,along the partially restored – partially derelict Chichester Ship Canal, which is also part of the Lipchis Way from Liphook to Chichester http://www.newlipchisway.co.uk The return section is appropriately called The Return, along Salterns Way http://www.westsussex.info/salterns-way.shtml to the city, which is an off-road cycle route back to the city. We planned to do the parts of both routes that lay closest to the marina.

We parked, and set off along the canal, derelict at this point, heading back towards Chichester. The canal still holds water, but this section is only used by ducks and moorhens, not boats at present. Guarding the first cache and ignoring us, two swans were a-sleeping on the road; they must do this often, judging by the number of loose feathers lying around and the protective ring of cones around them. We walked on along the canal finding three more caches, and a trackable, as we went. Crossing the busy A286, we had a glance at the next section of the canal, which is still to be restored, then retraced our steps towards the marina. We found another four easy caches as we walked through the marina. There are millions and millions of pounds worth of boats moored here, ranging from tiny motorboats to enormous floating ‘gin palaces’.

LOTS of boats here!

LOTS of boats here!


Nearer the estuary, the canal is used by houseboats as well as ducks, and then there is just a disused lock leading out into the harbour, set off by an interesting sculpture, which just looks like a boulder from one side, but something else from the other direction. Here, too, is the start point for a multicache which ended our first caching series for the day.


We’d now completed our caching along the canal so headed across the marina to look for caches elsewhere, from ‘The Return’ series. First, we had to cross the lock that keeps the marina full of water when the tide is out, and it was at that point in the tide where boats were busily entering and (mostly) leaving. We waited for the semicircular gate to close, walked across the top, and out onto the edge of the harbour.

We paused to eat our picnic lunch overlooking the harbour and the people messing about in boats. Later, walking along Salterns Way, we left the marina and were soon away from the coast amid farmland, hedges, and ripening crops. We found another two caches here, the last in a quiet spot away from the bustle of the marina with expansive views back to Chichester, the South Downs, and Goodwood racecourse.

By now, the beach was calling us, so we retraced our steps, circling the other side of the marina to reach the geocar and to head off to West Wittering for our first swim in the sea for the year. And, no, the water wasn’t cold!

Here are some of the caches we found:

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:

June 26 : Hinckley

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Ashby Canal a little north of Hinckley

Ashby Canal


An unexpected weekend away … I had unexpectedly found out that there was to be a school reunion at my old school, Hinckley Grammar School https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinckley_Academy … so off we went. People I had not seen since I was 17 – and so many of them remembered me – and I them. Some people look pretty much the same, across much of a lifetime, and others change so, so much. All very enjoyable, and thought-provoking too.
Trinity Marina, Hinckley

Trinity Marina, Hinckley


But, before we headed home again, there was a chance for a walk – and a bit of geocaching – along the Ashby Canal. Another of my previous pastimes revisited – there are many, many canals in the Midlands, and I walked a lot of miles of canal towpath during the time I lived in Hinckley. Setting off from our hotel overlooking the canal, we were quickly on the towpath and the first cache was not far away, overlooking the marina. On we went, to another towpath cache, ‘Triumph View’, overlooking the Triumph motorcycle factory, where many a classic motorcycle is built https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumph_Motorcycles_Ltd We couldn’t find it (the cache, that is, not a motorbike). Not a triumph, but not to worry, there would be another chance on our return.
Triumph View - not triumphal for us!

Triumph View – not triumphal for us!


On we went, as the morning warmed – it was a beautiful summer morning- finding another cache concealed in the hedge alongside the towpath, but failing to find another hidden in ivy – never a hiding place we’ve been very good with. There were at least two interlocking series of caches here – one for cyclists along the towpath, and another connected with ‘The Big Bang Theory’ comedy series http://the-big-bang-theory.com/ plus others.
Is this REALLY a footpath?

Is this REALLY a footpath?


We turned away from the canal and onto a footpath. All went well at first, and we found another two caches quite easily, but then we turned south onto another footpath at the side of a wheat field, heading back to the canal and our start point. It was a bit … umm … overgrown. To be fair, much of this was grass and meadow plants bent down over the path by recent sharp showers, but it was really hard work to wade through, and we did cheat a sometimes by walking along the tractor tracks through the growing corn. Twice we dived into the (large, thick) hedge beside the path to find some caches, but we were really quite glad when we navigated our way back to the canal again.
Ashby Canal

Ashby Canal


Time to have another go at that ‘Triumph View’ cache – we failed again, but we note that no one else has found the cache since – or any of the other caches we failed to find – so we feel just a little bit vindicated, but still not very triumphal. Once back on the towpath, it was so, so much easier to walk (phew) and we were back at the marina, our hotel, and the geocar, in not much time at all. Seven caches found, a pleasant morning’s walk, and time to go home …

Here are some of the caches we found:

October 10 : Richmond to Barnes Bridge

Some days are good days, some days are …

The journey started well enough as we caught the train to Richmond – Mr Hg137 even got chatting to someone he recognised on the train (but only remembered her name as we left (tsk, tsk)).
We passed through a deserted Twickenham station and knowing that the Rugby World Cup was on, remarked “It’ll be a lot busier this afternoon”. A short walk through Richmond town centre, in that early morning when shopkeepers haven’t quite got set up, but customers are buying to avoid the queues later.

The river on arrival was quiet. The summer was definitely over, hire boats were out of the water, being sanded, varnished and re-waterproofed. We wandered along the path, dodging the usual array of keep-fit enthusiasts to arrive at Richmond Lock.

End of Season maintenance

End of Season maintenance


To many people this lock is a surprise, as the river is tidal at this point and why would a lock be necessary? Apparently, about 100 years ago, the boat owners complained that the ebbing tide also took more river water out with it, leaving a very shallow body of water. A lock and weir was built to trap river water at low tide. For two hours either side of high tide, boats can ‘ride the weir’ in safety, but for the remaining time boats must use the lock (and, unusually, pay for the privilege!).
Richmond Lock - tide's out .. please pay!

Richmond Lock – tide’s out .. please pay!


Our first cache was on the bridge over the weir. The description mentioned both a key-safe (a slim magnetic playing card type cache) or a magnetic nano. Lots of metal, lot of of muggle dodging, lots of looking. Not a cache to be found. Not a good start!
Low tide

Low tide


We did notice that the tide must have been at low when we were at the lock as various sandbanks were visible in the river. Further down the path the tide was coming in quite quickly as many a rowing crew were being whisked upstream with barely an oar in the water.

We paused close to our next target ( Oh Deer! ).

A terrain 4.5 cache.

A tree climb.

After our success on the previous walk we had thoughts of at least looking at it. But to get to it there was a 6 foot drainage channel to cross. There was a bridge… made of uneven logs. We couldn’t even work out how to get onto the logs! We gave the cache a miss ! (And also realised some time after that neither of us took a photo of this obstacle!). Two caches sort of attempted, none found. Its going to be one of those days…

…and it didn’t improve at the next cache, Swamp Cache. Somewhere in the trees, down a bank, in a slightly muddy, overgrown area was a cache the size of a tennis ball. Was it on the half a dozen trees we examined ? Was it really in the swamp area with indeterminate depth of water just beyond ? We never found it. Three failures out of three – our caching trip was going very well indeed.

A rare success!

A rare success!


Our next two caches were remnants of an old 20-cache series set in October 2009. Now only two remain, numbers 16 and 19. Both, fortunately for us, easily found. But one was in desperate need of maintenance that it can’t be long before only one cache will remain from this series. Looking at logs for the other 18 archived caches, the owner has been negligent with cache maintenance with the whole series. Such a shame the cache owner didn’t maintain them, as the Thames Path does lend itself to lots of good hiding places !
Lots of good hiding places along here

Lots of good hiding places along here


The Thames Path passed behind Richmond Deer Park (hence the ‘oh Deer’ cache earlier, and Kew Gardens. On the other bank Syon House, was clearly visible. Syon House has been in the Percy family (Dukes of Northumberland) since 1594. Although it is still in private hands, it is open for visiting 3 days a week during the Summer.
Syon House

Syon House

One other great moment of interest (well to Mrs Hg137, a canal buff) was where an arm of the Grand Union of Canal meets with the Thames. From here one can travel all the way to Birmingham by boat!

Grand Union Canal

Grand Union Canal


The South Bank of the Thames was devoid of caches for some distance (presumably the 20 cache series had caches on this stretch), so we crossed to the Northern Bank. We had two objectives – firstly to see and photograph the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race Finishing Post. Second to find the cache yards from it!

We failed with both!

The Boat Race Finishing Post SHOULD be here!

The Boat Race Finishing Post SHOULD be here!


Firstly the finishing post had been removed and replaced by a temporary banner for that weekend’s (non-University) racing. Secondly we didn’t find the cache.. but we did find another cacher signing its log!

When we arrived at Ground Zero, the few people that were around were all connected with rowing. They were engaged with packing up, cleaning boats and the like. Except one lady, sitting on a stump, crouched over a piece of paper.

We enquired whether she was a geocacher and whether she was holding a geocache! We were right! A lovely Spanish lady with caching name of doways. Welcome to the UK – and hope you enjoy your caching adventures here!

Doways with the cache

Doways with the cache


So really we didn’t find that cache either!

We completed our walk on the North bank crossing back to the South bank to catch a bus back to Richmond. The bus was late (we think due to Rugby traffic on its outbound route), and we just missed a train home. This gave us plenty of time on Richmond Station to watch hundreds of Welsh and Australian rugby fans descend on the platform, squeeze on the next train, and depart.

Arrive, squeeze, depart.

Arrive, squeeze, depart.

Suddenly the whole station reverberated with the singing of “Cwm Rhondda” – a huge sound got closer and closer. then just six Welshman arrived and they were responsible for the huge sound ! Amazing!

Our train arrived, and like all the others was jam-packed, so much so we could barely get on it! Get on it we did but we were so squashed on the 10 minute journey to Twickenham station we could barely breathe.

An unpleasant end, to a rather poor day’s outing! Still there’s always next time!

Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 5.3 miles
Total distance walked : 161.75 miles

Caches found : 3 (or was it 2.5?)
Total caches found : 289