October 26 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Silchester to Swallowfield

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The weather forecast said ‘rain early, dry later on’, which seemed a good omen for our walk from Silchester to Swallowfield, the latest stage of our walk from Sandhurst in Gloucestershire (just north of Gloucester, on the banks of the River Severn) back home to Sandhurst in Berkshire (home of the Royal Military Academy). The omens didn’t seem quite so good as we stood in the pouring rain at the English Heritage car park close to (Roman) Silchester, collecting clues for the ‘Calleva Atrebatum’ multicache. But the rain was easing by the time we parked in (modern) Silchester village. And it had stopped altogether by the time we had found the cache hidden at the adjacent bus stop; we had tried and failed to find it in the twilight at the end of our last walk, but it was easier when we could see what we were looking for!


We set off through the quiet back lanes of Silchester, then followed the Brenda Parker Way to reach the walls encircling the site of the Roman town. The BPW continues atop the walls, making for an atmospheric walk, and a chance to talk to the stonemasons who were clearing and repointing a section of the walls. Read about the history of Silchester here https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/silchester-roman-city-walls-and-amphitheatre/history The sun came out and we made our way around to Silchester church, just inside the walls (and I bet the church was originally constructed from stone ‘liberated’ from those same walls) to find the Church Micro cache there, and stop for coffee. It’s worth a look inside the church, there are wall paintings, which you don’t often see https://www.outdoorlads.com/events/silchester-quester-historic-church-search-hampshire-180402

St Mary the Virgin, Silchester

St Mary the Virgin, Silchester




As we packed up to leave … WHERE’S MY GEOPOLE? … I’d left it behind, part way around the walls (doh!). We backtracked, then went forward again to visit the Roman amphitheatre, found another cache, and had an early lunch sitting where the spectators would have sat, looking down into the arena at some young children playing in the sun, throwing a rugby ball.

After our picnic, we finally left Silchester, walking east along a path which followed the line of the Devil’s Highway, the Roman road leading from Staines-on-Thames to Silchester https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_Highway_(Roman_Britain) In various places, this is a path across fields, or a wide straight track between ditches, or tarmacked road. We were stopped on one of the road sections by two council workers, who’d had a report of fly tipping. We found it, a burned-out van and a load of plumbing waste (yuk) and phoned them.
Devil's Highway

Devil’s Highway


... Devil's Highway misused

… Devil’s Highway misused


We made progress very steadily from here on, partially because the route was dead straight (no navigation to do) and partially because the caches thinned out once away from Silchester, and we only found three more in the next three miles. Then we turned slightly north, to cross the noisy, busy A33 – a big contrast to the quiet and peaceful miles we had just walked – and approached the end of our walk at Swallowfield. There was just one more cache to attempt, which was just off route, close to King’s Bridge over the River Loddon. Well, we spotted the cache, but that was as far as it went; it had fallen to the ground on the far side of a fearsome barbed wire fence and we couldn’t reach it. Slightly disappointed, we walked down into Swallowfield to reach our geocar parked at the village hall.
King's Bridge

King’s Bridge


... unreachable cache

… unreachable cache


Here are some of the caches we found:

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September 17 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Eastbury to East Garston, along the Lambourn Valley

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The Lambourn Valley and East Garston

The Lambourn Valley and East Garston


Our morning appointment had overrun, and we emerged into early afternoon on a gorgeous clear, sunny September day. Changing our geocaching plans, as we were starting later than planned, we decided on an out-and-back walk between Eastbury and East Garston.
Lambourn Valley Way

Lambourn Valley Way


Following the track of a disused railway, now a path, we soon found two caches, one named Lambourn Valley Way (the route we were following) which had a seat with super views over the valley towards East Garston. After another cache, hidden in a bit of redundant railway ‘stuff’ we reached the church at the edge of East Garston. We diverted off the path to find the Church Micro cache based here, and to pause by a memorial stone by the church door, to the First World War poet Edward Thomas https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/lifestory/4409149 (Editor’s note: Edward Thomas is best known for the poem ‘Adlestrop’. He was killed on Easter Monday 1917, and his widow Helen and their three children settled in Eastbury.)
Lambourn Valley Way

Lambourn Valley Way



The River Lambourn flows through the centre of East Garston, with tiny bridges over the river to paths and houses. Actually, ‘flows’ was not really true as the riverbed was dry after the roasting summer. A cache from the ‘Little Bridges’ series was based on one of those bridges, and there was also another Church Micro cache, where the church is now a private house. (Two Church Micros in such a small village …) The hint for this cache was so cryptic that we had found the cache, driven home, and logged it before we realised what it meant. Doh!
Another Church Micro ...

Another Church Micro …


... and free apples

… and free apples


We started our return journey after stuffing our pockets with free apples which were piled in a trug with a ‘free to a good home’ sign. (Editor’s note: those Worcester Pearmain apples became tasty apple turnovers.) We walked back along the old railway line. On our outward trip, we had been finding caches from the ‘Day of the Jackals’ series, but one had eluded us. It was hidden, we hoped, in ivy, but it hadn’t been found for four months and we wondered if it was still there. We started on another search, without expecting to find anything (and we are rubbish at searching in ivy) but Mr Hg137 spotted something out of place after a few minutes search, and we’d finally got the cache, not missing after all.

And that was it for the day, a short but hugely enjoyable walk in pretty countryside and charming villages on a golden September day. Lovely!

Here are some of the caches we found:

August 31 : Isle of Wight : The Needles and Freshwater Bay

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

So soon, it was the last full day of our week-long walking holiday on the Isle of Wight. The final walk for the week was a cracker, taking us inland from Freshwater Bay, towards the Needles, then a glorious finale along the bouncy turf of Tennyson Down.

Tennyson Down

Tennyson Down


We were walking in a group, so there weren’t many opportunities to sneak off and do a quick bit of caching without being left behind, but there was an opportunity at the Needles, where there is an earthcache. Information was gathered, and the required selfie was taken with the Needles in the background, ready for logging later.
The Needles

The Needles


This was a perfect place for a packed lunch, sat on the cliffs in the sunshine, overlooking the Solent and the New Forest. Well, it was sunny where we were, but dark clouds were forming over the mainland, and a funnel cloud formed and stretched nearly to the ground, before disintegrating as quickly as it had formed. Wow!
Twister!

Twister!


Anyway, the sun was still shining on us, and we began our return trip, eastwards along Tennyson Down, past the monument where we had cached two days before, and down the hill to Freshwater Bay.
St Agnes Church, Freshwater Bay

St Agnes Church, Freshwater Bay


Inside the Thatched Church

Inside the Thatched Church


On the edge of the village is St Agnes Church, known as ‘the Thatched Church’ because … it’s the only thatched church on the island. https://www.visitisleofwight.co.uk/things-to-do/st-agnes-church-p1069431 (Editor’s note: It’s not nearly as old as it looks! It was built just over a hundred years ago.) There’s a Church Micro based on this church, but we hadn’t collected all the information needed on a fleeting visit on the outward leg of the walk. A return visit was needed. With more time, coordinates were quickly derived and we’d soon found the cache, a short walk away.

So that was a superb walk, and two lovely caches, to end a great week’s walking. Tomorrow it was back to the ‘North Island’ – as the islanders call the mainland – and homeward.

August 25 : Isle of Wight : Arreton

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

On the Saturday before the August Bank Holiday, we set off for a week’s walking on the Isle of Wight. We’d mostly been to the island in the winter, when the roads are quiet, the ferries half-empty, and there are not many people about. The number of people heading for the island, and already there, came as a shock …

Garlic ...

Garlic …


... and a vulture!

… and a vulture!


In the centre of the island, in the warm late August sunshine, we stopped at the Garlic Farm https://www.thegarlicfarm.co.uk Lots to taste, more to buy, and loads more to see. In fact, I tried so much garlic that I could guarantee that the garlic fumes would ward off vampires for some while. (Mr Hg137 ate not a single clove!)
St George's Church, Arreton

St George’s Church, Arreton


Nearby is the tiny hamlet of Arreton, and we stopped there to find a couple of caches. The first was a Church Micro based on the church of St George, set on the hill a little way from the main road. It didn’t take us long to find the numbers associated with the cache, but the garlic fumes must have been affecting us both, as the first attempt at working out a location came out with something way out in the English Channel. Several deep breaths, a rethink, and we came out with new coordinates, much closer, back in the direction we had come from. We strolled back and found the cache after a couple of minutes search.

Back past the church again, up the hill again, we were out in the fields. The views opened out to the south as we climbed up Arreton Down. A few cows lazily chewed the cud as we turned back a large stone and uncovered another cache. What a super little caching trip! But by now we were hot, the hotel pool was calling, and we scooted off to Freshwater Bay, leaving behind a few unfound caches for another day.

Here are some caches:

July 21 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Badbury Clump to Uffington: heat, dust and llamas

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Great Coxwell Barn

Great Coxwell Barn


After a short gap – it had been soooo hot – we returned to our epic walk from Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) home to Sandhurst (Berkshire). Our next section was stuffed with history, beginning at Badbury Clump, a tree-covered Iron Age hill fort with links to King Arthur https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Badbury_Hill and ending at Uffington village https://www.berksfhs.org.uk/cms/Berkshire-Places/uffington17.html
Chicory

Chicory


Great Coxwell Barn

Great Coxwell Barn


Leaving Badbury Clump behind us, we set off downhill, crossed a field of chicory, and were soon overlooking our first destination/cache, Great Coxwell Barn. It’s huge! And impressive! And, on a day that started warm and was rapidly heating up, it was nice and cool inside … Somewhere in here is a virtual cache. The GPS was dodgy indoors, and we wandered around inside in the shadows, and eventually stumbled upon the information that was the answer for the cache. An excellent and unexpected place, one we wouldn’t have visited except for our own self-invented Sandhurst-Sandhurst quest. Thank you, National Trust, for looking after both Clump and Barn. https://www.britainexpress.com/counties/oxfordshire/properties/great-coxwell-barn.htm

From the barn, we walked on through pleasant, prosperous Great Coxwell. Our next destination was St Giles church, on

St Giles Church, Great Coxwell

St Giles Church, Great Coxwell

the far edge of the village, and the basis of a Church Micro cache. Somewhere in the churchyard, which is managed as a nature reserve, was the item which would give us the coordinates for the cache. I say ‘somewhere’ because we simply didn’t realise that we had the coordinates, and we wandered round and round the churchyard before we found our target. We made equally heavy weather of finding the cache too, spending about 20 minutes minutely examining a stone wall before spotting something that was obvious all along. Doh!

We left the village across an area marked as ‘Faringdon Golf Club’, but this closed in 2015 and has now been reclaimed by nature. We spotted one of the tees but there is surprisingly little left to see. https://www.derelictplaces.co.uk/main/leisure-sites/34301-faringdon-oxfordshire-golf-course-closed-autumn-15-a.html#.W2biKtJKjIU

We emerged onto the A420, a suddenly busy, noisy place with loads of traffic. About now, Mr Hg137 said it was time for lunch, and nominated a nearby bus stop as the place to eat it. To be fair, there was a seat, and it was in the shade, but, really, it wasn’t the best view. We chose our moment and crossed the busy road, then followed the Vale Way through Little Coxwell and down a hot concrete track towards Longcot http://www.ramblers-oxon.org.uk/thevaleway/valeway.htm There was just one cache along here, where the track crossed a river. We were expecting rather more from the mighty River Ock, but it’s a dried up dribbly little stream right now!

The mighty River Ock

The mighty River Ock


We continued to Longcot – by heck, it was getting really, really hot now – and sat down for a rest. We heard a distant chime … a small boy ran out … and an ice cream van pulled up. How could we refuse? My strawberry mivvi was awesome, and Mr Hg137 enjoyed his icecream, too.

Longcot isn’t a big village, and we were soon out in the fields again, going southwards towards the distant line of the Ridgeway. Our next cache was easy to find, hidden by a gate between fields. Two women and their dogs were walking towards us, so we signed the log quickly and tried to move on … but we couldn’t get the gate open. It had a super-improved latch, which we struggled to open. Getting through eventually, we got chatting to the dog walkers, who turned out to be the owners of the land, and who had modified the latch to make sure that the gate is closed properly. We considered thanking them for allowing the placement of geocaches on their land, then thought again as that’s backfired on us before, so we kept quiet.


The previous cache, and the next half-dozen, form part of the ‘Longcot Loop’ series, which leads all the way to Uffington. We followed the cache series, first along the course of the ‘Darcy Dalton Way https://www.walkingenglishman.com/ldp/darcydaltonway.html , then turning away to head more directly for Uffington. Part way along here we found our 2400th cache and celebrated with some warm, chewy, soft Haribos. Though it was much too hot, around 28C, it was all going well…

… Until it all went wrong. We had been following a very well marked, if arid path, across parched grass and through cracked, dusty fields, through gates and over stiles and bridges. We crossed a stile through a hedge, and came up against … a head-high wire fence, with grazing llamas eyeing us indifferently. We couldn’t go forward, so what to do? We edged slowly between the hedge and the fence and emerged at a farm building with loads of chickens.

Llamas ...

Llamas …


... and chickens

… and chickens

Rounding the chicken shed, we were in a farmyard somewhere where the footpath *should* have emerged, with those llamas eyeing us again. But we couldn’t find it. After some fruitless searching, we knocked on the door of the farmhouse and asked directions. Based on that information, we did some more searching, but just couldn’t find a way out among fields of head high rape, ready for harvest, and electric fences around fields of horses. We returned to the farmyard. The farmer had returned, and he suggested we walk down the drive to the road and thence to Uffington. He was polite enough, but I think he didn’t really want us there, and we had already been there for an hour and we wanted to be somewhere else too.

Down the drive we went, along the road for a bit, then found another footpath – a real one this time – and were soon in Uffington, quite a bit later than intended. (Editor’s note: phew! Got there at last!) We stopped by the large church of St Mary’s http://www.uffington.net/visitor-info/church-history and collected the information we needed for the Church Micro, hidden elsewhere in the village. There was just time for (another) drink of water before a hot drive home.

St Mary's Church, Uffington

St Mary’s Church, Uffington


Here, as ever, are some of the caches we found:

June 8 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Fairford to Lechlade

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Fairford Church - St Mary's

Fairford Church – St Mary’s


After a gap of four weeks, we returned to our epic walk from Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) home to Sandhurst (Berkshire). This section was quite a short one, between Fairford and Lechlade, mostly through the Cotswold Water Park.

Parking one geocar in a layby near Lechlade, we stopped just long enough to find a cache there, then drove to Fairford in the other geocar. There’s a superb free car park close to the church, so we parked there and started our journey by crossing the road to visit St Mary’s Church. It’s a big church, funded by the wool trade, with superb medieval stained glass windows, the only complete set in the country https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairford_stained_glass Our plan was to collect information needed to solve the Church Micro cache associated with the church, have a quick look at the glass, find the cache, and be on our way. It didn’t quite work out like that …

Entering the church, a steward handed us an audio guide which detailed all sorts of things about the windows and the church. It would take well over an hour to see everything – there are 28 windows, and other things. But we needed to get on, and get walking. We compromised and looked at a few selected windows, found the information and left. (Editor’s note: we didn’t have time to do justice to this church interior but it is very well worth visiting and spending a while just looking at the windows; each one contains a wealth of detail and symbolism well covered in the audio guide.)

Leaving the church, we went to look for the cache, which was located very close to where the car was parked. Or should have been. Some nettle stings later, we abandoned our search, and finally set off. Oh dear, it was rather later in the day than we had intended. We walked through the town, skirted some building work, and set out along the track of an abandoned railway, now a path http://www.fairfordbranch.co.uk/Fairford.htm There’s a cache along here too, one from the ‘Sidetracked’ series. (Editor’s note: geocaches really do help with finding a route, we would have struggled to find this path without that location to guide us.)

After a bit, we reached the water park and followed a selection of paths leading round the lakes. Once again, it didn’t go to plan … the lakes are still being dug out, so the map doesn’t match what is on the ground … and we couldn’t find several of the caches we were looking for. They were part of a series planted by a local Scout troop to get their geocaching badge, but we suspect that the interest wanes a bit once the badge is achieved, and the caches aren’t maintained as well as they could have been.

Some day soon, this will be houses ...

Some day soon, this will be houses …


After some bumbling about we arrived at the edge of a housing development in progress, https://www.thelakesbyyoo.com There was a footpath somewhere, but we couldn’t spot it, and there were forbidding signs warning of dire consequences for any trangression. We approached a Gurkha security officer, asked the way, and were efficiently, promptly, and politely given a map (maybe we weren’t the first to ask). Emboldened, we set off, talked our way past some burly security guards, using the map as a talisman, clambered through a live building area, close to a digger, waving the map as a pass, and found our way onto a road leading through the already-built bit of the estate. There were some very large and very expensive houses here, but it didn’t do it for me: some of the lakes were a rather strange colour, and the buildings were a bit “Thames Valley Park” meets “Center Parcs”. I was glad when we emerged onto the Thames and Severn Way, leading us towards Lechlade.
Strange water colour?

Strange water colour?


Almost immediately we were finding caches from another series, the SSS / Seven Stile Stroll, which led us nicely into Lechlade, with only one failure among the five we attempted. Part way along the path we stopped for a welcome coffee break – we couldn’t stop in the building site/housing estate – and watched a small number of escaped sheep frolicking at the other side of the field. They spotted us, became embarrassed, and sheepishly slunk back to their field …
Lechlade

Lechlade


The path ended at the edge of Lechlade and we were soon in the town centre, it’s not a huge place. There are some quirky things to be seen – an all-year round Christmas shop, and a five foot high blue fibreglass hare being just two of them. A large blue hare? Why? Dunno. We went to the church, had a quick look inside – very pleasant, but not on the scale of Fairford – then worked out the answer for the Lechlade Church Micro which was, of course, a place that we had passed as we walked into the town. Then it was just a short walk along a tree-lined path out of town and we were back at the geocar; we’d been here before in March 2015 when we were walking the Thames Path.
It's Christmas all year in Lechlade....

It’s Christmas all year in Lechlade….


... and giant blue hares live in Lechalade too...

… and giant blue hares live in Lechalade too…


We drove back to Fairford to collect the other geocar. We were, once again, very close to the first cache of the day, which we didn’t find earlier. Once again, we braved the nettles. And this time we found a cache! (Editor’s note: when logging the cache, we found that it had been replaced, during the day, with the cache owner’s permission, so we hadn’t missed it on our first visit.)

And here, as ever, are some of the caches we found:

May 25 : Liverpool (part 2)

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Liverpool - Cathedral View

Liverpool – Cathedral View


We’d spent the previous day in Liverpool – travelled on the Mersey ferry – walked along the dock frontage – visited Chinatown and the Anglican cathedral – but we had hardly started on the sights and the geocaches that Liverpool had to offer. So we went back …

Arriving – by train this time, not ferry – we set off once again for the Anglican cathedral. We’d failed to find the cache based on the cathedral the day before, which had occupied most of the afternoon. And we DID NOT want to be beaten, not after all that time and effort. Reader: we were successful, and the cache log says it all:

Our second day in Liverpool, and our second attempt here. Yesterday we had the correct co-ordinates but somehow the checker said ‘no’. We had wandered close to GZ yesterday, but gave up as we thought GZ too impenetrable and as we had not had reassurance from the checker – gave up.

However, after verification from the checker, we set off again. But how to reach GZ ? Yesterday we had eliminated one way, and another. Today it took us another 2 attempts before we were on the correct path. We of course walked past GZ, but eventually the GPS settled and we were staring at something to search. We initially searched the side indicated by the hint…. and of course it was on the other!

So after three circuits of the Cathedral yesterday (two inside, one outside) and a reasonable number of half-circumnavigations yesterday and today, we were there!

(Editor’s notes: geocaching terms: GZ=ground zero= the location of the cache : checker/geochecker=a check supplied with some puzzle caches that lets you know if your calculations are correct.)

Found it!  At last!

Found it! At last!


Brimming over with (false) confidence, we – of course – failed to find the next cache on our list, but its name, ‘Cathedral View’, was correct, and we had a grand view. Slightly miffed, we continued into the Georgian quarter of the city, to find another cache, ‘Almost Famous Falkner Street’. The explanation for this name is that one house in this street was the subject of a recent BBC2 series, ‘A House through Time’, which told ‘the story of Britain spanning a period of seismic social change from the 1840s to the present day, told through the prism of a single terraced house in Liverpool’. (Editor’s note: I borrowed that quote, I didn’t write it myself!) Anyway, we found the cache, we gawped at the house, and it began to rain…

Having seen one cathedral, it behoved us to look at the other. The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King Liverpool is also nicknamed ‘The UFO’ and there is a cache of that name close by, which we found. We were curious about the cathedral and went inside for a short visit, as a service was about to start; it’s much more modern than the other cathedral, but much dimmer inside, though it was quite a gloomy day by now.

The drizzle was thickening now, as we found ‘Harry Potter series no 19 Ministry of Magic’, a big long name for a tiny cache hidden close to the church of St Andrew. The magical connection (I think) comes from the unusual pyramidal tomb visible through the railings in the spooky graveyard http://www.urban75.org/blog/the-curious-pyramidal-tomb-of-william-mackenzie-in-liverpool

St Andrew's church

St Andrew’s church


Out in the rain, we set off to find ‘Train Driver’, which involved answering a question based on railway stations, then going to find a final location with a related theme. Oh, how we wished we had done our research they day before, as we had a wet walk through the city that took us very close to several of the locations we had visited the day before. Doh!
We've been here just yesterday...

We’ve been here just yesterday…


That lack of research had left us soggy and sullen, so we decided we would do just one more cache, then head hotel-wards. The cache, ‘Gizza Job’, was in Williamson Square. And in between us and the square lay Mathew Street, one of THE places to visit in Liverpool. The name meant nothing to me. But I’d heard of the Cavern Club, and that’s in Mathew Street. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathew_Street



The whole street is a shrine to the Liverpool music scene: there’s a statue of John Lennon, and another of Cilla Black, herds of tourists, even on a wet Friday, and a Wall of Fame where each brick carries the name of a band associated with Liverpool. (Editor’s note: there’s a cache associated with this, but it’s a large wall, and there are a LOT of bricks and we didn’t think we had the time/patience/skill to spend over an hour here.)

We arrived in Williamson Square, and several things struck my senses: there was:
– what looked very much like a Banksy, against one edge

– an oh-so busy shop in the square, a Liverpool FC football merchandise shop, doing a great trade https://store.liverpoolfc.com/stores/finder/show/id/5
– and an inflatable installation of a blue whale https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/50ft-whale-williamson-square-mann-14706804

We wandered damply about the square – the GPS just wouldn’t give us a location – we were about to give up when we (again) visited one of the most likely locations, touched something, and it moved … we’d found it!

Triumphant, we went back to the train and set off back to Chester. But there was a sting in the tail: two stops short of our destination, at Hooton station, which is not especially close to the place of Hooton, the train came to a halt, and was going no further. ‘A problem with the points…’ We were turfed out onto the platform in the rain, along with all the other passengers, while the train returned to Liverpool. Some creative phoning, and we were sharing a taxi with a wet postman back to Chester. Not what we’d planned, but an ‘interesting’ end to a caching trip!