October 13 : Hilly the Hippo

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Hilly the Hippo

Hilly the Hippo

While walking along the Kennet and Avon canal between Thatcham and Aldermaston, we stopped to find a cache, which contained the ‘Hilly the Hippo’ trackable. It’s a special edition trackable, given out as a gift at Mike Hill’s first geocaching event, and printed (I assume) with his photo. Hilly’s mission is to

‘ visit as many different caches as possible both here in the UK and abroad and hopefully return home again one day’

Since May 2017, Hilly the Hippo has travelled just under a thousand miles. We’ll take with us for a little while and then drop it in a suitable cache to send it on its way.

Editor’s note: We found a small tartan elephant keyring in the cache with the trackable. We weren’t sure if they were attached to each other – they weren’t at the time of finding – but we have clipped them together as it is less likely for the trackable to be lost if it is attached to something larger (it’s happened to us!)

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October 13 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Thatcham to Silchester

Nature Discovery Centre – Thatcham

This section of our Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst(Berks) walk was one of the longest, about 13 miles. Due to various other commitments on other weekends, we were short of alternatives, even though the weather forecast was ‘interesting’. Storm Callum was dropping heavy rain in the West Country (especially near where our walk had started in Gloucestershire). We drove through one exceptionally heavy shower, but thereafter, and surprisingly, the weather remained dry.

We started out from Thatcham’s Nature Discovery Centre https://www.bbowt.org.uk/explore/visitor-centres/nature-discovery-centre and found three caches in a small circular walk around its lakes. The Discovery Centre is now a wildlife haven with a myriad of lakes (filled-in gravel pits), trees and footpaths. There is even a small community orchard.

The three caches we found all had a little ‘something’ about them. The first involved jumping across a, fortunately dry, stream. The second cache was found hanging, in plain view, yards from one of the lakes. The third was hidden in a small enclosed area bounded by a gate, a fence and some trees – a quite tricky retrieval even using the geopole.

Three caches down, and we were still close to the car. We crossed the Great Western Railway line before arriving at the Kennet and Avon Canal. Our previous walk had followed the canal for a couple of miles, and today we would follow it again for about 2 miles to Thatcham Station. The towpath was busy, and we saw many people exercising themselves and their dogs. We paused to admire three kites high above, and three ducks dabbling their way along a reed bed.

There was only one cache to find, and a quick easy find in the bole of tree. Inside we found a trackable, ‘Hilly the Hippo’. When we first retrieved the cloth toy, we initially thought it was an elephant!

Then two rarities ! A seat (great for a quick coffee stop), and a turf-lined lock.

Monkey Marsh Lock (Thatcham)


Mrs Hg137 is the expert on all things canal-related, and apparently turf lined locks are rare (only two survive on the Kennet and Avon canal). Turf locks were cheaper to make, as much of the lock-sides are grass/mud/plants. Boat owners aren’t keen on them as there are fewer places to scramble up and down from a boat, and they are more porous than other locks so the canal loses more water.
As we drank our coffee a duck wandered by, looked at us, and headed to a nearby shallow puddle. It then dabbled at the grass and water edging the puddle for 10-15 minutes, oblivious to us and oblivious to the cyclists and walkers that went by.

“I love puddles…they’re so full of food !”


Shortly after passing the lock we left the canal and headed away from Thatcham. The railway line is nearby, and the barriers descended for a train. We waited and watched. We waited. The queue of traffic got longer. We waited. Eventually we decided to look for an adjacent cache. We dipped just out of eyesight of the stationary motorists and made a quick retrieval. More surprisingly there was another a trackable inside “Smelly Pooch”. Two consecutive caches, and two trackables – not bad!

Somewhere beyond the branch is a cache!


We crossed away from the traffic and picked up a series of caches under the title of “Let’s go Round again” – apparently named after a favourite walk of the cache owners, TurnerTribe. By and large these were easy finds, sometimes there was a small scramble down a ditch, on another we had to lift and separate a large log pile. We struggled with one or two where we overthought the hint, but these were the exception. As we approached one cache we heard a strange squealing sound..and a lady shouting at her dog. The squealing wasn’t a dog noise, it wasn’t a rusty swing… what was it ? Then, as we knelt to retrieve the cache we saw the source of the squealing… a smallholding of pigs!

We were counting caches as our 12th find of the day would be our 2500th find! To mark this auspicious mark, we would have liked a memorable hiding place, or a really special container.. sadly not to be! (Ed: for the record we started in caching in September 2012, so it took us just over 6 years to find 2500 caches).

Cache 2500


We were still celebrating when we arrived at the next cache site. This was set by TadleyTrailblazers (a cacher we met 3-4 years ago). Sadly we couldn’t find the cache. A lovely oak tree, with lots of boles, holes, nooks, crannies… but no cache. Cache 2501 would have to wait a little longer!

Mm.. lets go in the other direction!


We found a couple more of the ‘Let’s go Round again’ series, and arrived at a road. We had been dreading this part of the walk as we had half a mile of road walking and then another two miles on cacheless footpaths. The countryside was reasonable enough, but our navigation was poor. (Once we decided, sorry – Mr Hg137 decided, to ignore a footpath sign and walk for 500 yards into ever-denser undergrowth.

Another sign for us to ignore!

On anther occasion the main footpath was closed for bridge repair works. We ignored the closure sign and 400 yards further on found ourselves impounded in a barbed wire enclosure. Grr!).

It was therefore with some delight we reached a set of caches. We were a couple of miles from Tadley, and it came as no surprise to discover that they had been set by TadleyTrailblazers. We walked across two of his series (TTs Mini tour, and A2B&B (Axmansford to Baughurst and Back!). These were all fairly easy finds – 5ft in a tree, by a gate post, deep in a hedge. The one that we enjoyed most was hidden behind a ‘swinging’ piece of wood. Swing the wood, and find the cache!

We struggled with our next cache (set by Buddy01189). We haven’t done any if his (her?) caches before, and apparently there is frequently an evil twist. The caches are hidden fairly, but with a warped mindset. We couldn’t get into the warped mindset (and after 10-15 minutes we tried really, really hard),so marked it as a DNF.

Having had a failure at one cache, lady luck smiled on us at the next. A Church Micro Multi.To find the final we needed to find dates from a plaque and numbers from a war memorial. We tried to do this before we left home, but no internet photographs gave us the necessary information. We were very concerned the final hide would be half a mile back the way we came. But, we had one other piece of information. The hint. The hint, rather than being ‘base of tree’ or ‘MTT’ or ‘hidden in ivy’, was a very specific number – 57.1.

Tadley Church


As we approached the church we scanned every conceivable lamp-post, telegraph pole, telephony cabinet for such a number. Then as we could just see the church in the distance we spotted an object at ground level. (One pertinent to an allied industry Mrs Hg137 has some dealing with). As we remarked on the object we saw the associated number…57.1. Is there a cache behind? Yes !!! Fab! We wouldn’t need to retrace our steps!

We did visit the outside of the modern church, and the adjacent village green. A good refreshment spot.

It was getting quite late by now and the pleasant temperatures were dropping as were the light levels. We still had a mile to go (one easy cache to find), and walk through ever-darkening wood.

Farewell Tadley

The woodland paths led us out at Silchester Green and we were happy to see, in the early evening gloom, our car in the distance. But first… one more cache. In a bus stop. Our GPS told us which of two shelters the cache was hidden in, but in very poor light, in a dark ‘shed-like’ shelter, we couldn’t find the cache. We did though find lots and lots of spider’s webs! Yuk!

A slightly disappointing end to a strenuous day – 3 DNFs in total, but we did find 20 caches including our 2,500th find. Something we could celebrate!

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:

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: