Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.
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!
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).
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 ).
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!
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.
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
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.