May 13 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : Frant to Tidebrook

As with most of our trip, we had the luxury of two cars, and as usual we drove to our destination, Tidebrook first. Before joining forces and returning to Frant, in one car, we had work to do.

Frant

Frant Village Green


In Tidebrook there were, amongst a couple of other caches, 2 multis. We have been caught out before by multis when we’ve discovered that the final cache is hidden half a mile back where we’ve walked from. So this time we collected the clues to Church Micro, and a Fine Pair and discovered both GZs were within yards of our destination car. Great, save those for later.
Back to Front sorry Frant we went, to undertake our first cache of the day … another Church micro. This one was not a multi and should have been a simple find…

We had noted that the cache had been found early January 2017, and then DNFed several times since. Since our last trip we had messaged the cache owner as to whether the cache was still there, and would they like us to replace the cache if they didn’t have time. Shortly before our visit we had yet to receive a reply so we ‘nudged’ again. This time we did get a response, and authority was given to replace if not found.

So, on the day, when we arrived at St Alban’s church, we were not expecting to find the cache. We did though search lots of places (for about 15 minutes) before deciding we would hide a replacement. We took suitable photos and emailed the cache owner when we got home. That way, if WE had got it in the wrong place, they could move it!

Frant Church


We don’t always go inside every Church we visit, but this had a great history. This included the organ breaking down on Christmas Day 1966, and the subsequent discovery that organ was made by the same person who designed the organ in the Notre Dame. Also, in the Church is a memorial plaque to local resident John By, who founded a small town in Canada, renamed by Queen Victoria as Ottawa!

It was time to move on and walk the 3 miles or so to our next cache. Our route took us along the busy A267, before we turned onto a side-road which became a farm track. We thought these side roads would have no traffic, but being Saturday morning everyone was out and about!

Quiet Road (for once)


Soon though we were in open country, and we could see the valley below. We had picked up the Sussex Border Path and it led us through a field of cows (which seemed more interested in grass than us), and through a very nice wooded glen. A wooden footbridge provided an ideal spot for lunch and as we munched we admired the many insects going about their business in the dense woodland shade.

Lovely bridge, just right for lunch


We crossed the bridge and climbed to another field, again with cows. This time we skirted round the field as, standing steadfast were a mother and calf right on the official footpath. They watched anxiously as we passed by. We went through the farmyard and into another area of woodland. We were greeted with bluebells and wild garlic, which we had seen several times on our journey.

Can you smell garlic ?


The Sussex Border Path (SBP) undulated over a couple more slopes until we arrived at Beech Hill. Here we said goodbye to the SBP as we would be heading south on a minor road to our next cache.

Hidden a 4-trunked tree, this should have been easy.

The GPS took us to one. No sign of the cache. We looked at the adjacent trees.. 1 trunk, 2 trunk..3 trunk where are the 4 trunkers?

Eventually we did find it. As it turned out the ‘fourth’ trunk was behind the other three, so it was only an obvious 4-trunker on close inspection. The cache inside was wet. Sopping wet. We could just sign our name on the log, but we tipped all the water out and took a tissue and dried, as best we could, the container. Two caches down, and two sets of cache maintenance.

We were within a mile of our destination, but we had a quarter mile walk along a busy road first, before walking along a footpath (unsignposted, so we were never sure it was right) to arrive near to the Church we had visited earlier.

100 yards later we found the Church Micro – a cache which should have been 18 inches off the ground, was only 2 inches above it. (Grr, that’s three caches where the cache owner has maybe not been as vigilant as they ight have been).

Our next cache, part of the Tidebrook Trail was our easiest find of the day, under some logs. However to arrive at the cache a heavily barbed wired stile had to crossed. Sadly Mrs Hg137 failed to spot the barbed wire hazard, and her leg came slightly worse off. No major harm done (a bit of blood, a bit of grazing), but enough for us to call a halt after one more cache, the second multi whose location we had calculated earlier. Fortunately for us an easy find.

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October 9 : Earthcache Day

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

I’d noticed that October 9th was to be Earthcache Day. And Mr Hg137 had decamped to Milton Keynes to play in the National Scrabble Championship finals so I was all alone. (Editor’s note: I didn’t do well enough to qualify this year.) So it seemed like a good idea to use my free time to find an earthcache.

The definition of an earthcache, taken from the geocaching web site http://www.geocaching.com , is:
EarthCaches don’t have physical containers, but instead bring you to a unique location and teach you a geological lesson.

There are not so many earthcaches nearby, and the nearest such cache that we hadn’t yet found was ‘Wokingham Without Iridescence’. It’s in St Sebastian’s Cemetery, adjacent to St Sebastian’s Church, a place we’ve visited before to find a Church Micro back in November 2013. (Editor’s note 2: ‘Wokingham Without’ is a place, just south of Wokingham, the name doesn’t mean that something is missing.) Finding the cache involved looking at several of the gravestones in the cemetery and answering questions about the rocks that they are made of, which is larvikite, a type of feldspar mined in Norway.

Larvikite

Larvikite – feldspar from Norway


I duly turned up and parked the geocar in the road leading to the cemetery, next to some depressing signs warning that items were being stolen from the graves. Trying not to look like a grave robber, I walked in. There are lots of large and very ornate graves, but it’s quite easy to spot the area of graves I needed to look at. I walked towards them, but there were a couple of people standing nearby, looking at a grave. I thought that maybe they were also geocachers, but a few moments looking showed that they were muggle visitors, so I walked on, past both the cache site and the visitors, and did a slow circuit of the site, still trying not to look like a grave robber.

Eventually I was alone, so I returned to GZ and sorted out the answers to the questions. I’d have stayed longer, and taken some pictures, but rain seemed imminent, and another muggle family had turned up to visit a grave, so I made my way back to the geocar and away.

I’d loaded one other cache, a mile or so along the road home. This one was a simple cache, or so I hoped. I knew the road very well, having driven along it at least once on most working days for the past ten years – but I had still never noticed the inconspicuous water pumping station set back from the road. I headed to the spot which the description and hint said the cache should be hidden, did a pretty poor search and failed to find it. Next, I believed the GPS, and followed if fifty feet up the road, to peer over the fence into a private front garden. Clearly others had done so, too, as one fence post looked as if it had been searched by cachers. That couldn’t be right – private land is off limits – so I paused to re-read descriptions, hints and logs. They all said that the cache should be where I first looked, though some logs remarked that the GPS signal was not accurate here, under tree cover. That all made sense, so I retraced my steps to the location of my first search, bent down, moved a small piece of concrete … and there was the cache. Doh! Why had it taken me fifteen minutes to think of that!

So that was it – a short but pleasant little caching trip on Earthcache day.

( Editor’s note 3: Mr Hg137 finished 29th )

September 3: South Downs: The Seven Sisters

Our final full day’s walking in the South Downs was over the Seven Sisters.

These are medium-sized hills/cliffs overlooking the sea between Eastbourne and the Cuckmere Estuary of predominantly grass and chalk. The iconic view of them is from the sea, but of course when you are on top of them you don’t get this view!

Our walk started in the tiny village of Friston, by its church and pond. The church is unusual as it has a Tapsell Gate – this type of gate swivels on a central spindle (rather than a fixed post to the side) – enabling easier access for bridal and funeral processions.

Friston Church

Friston Church

The pond, too, is unusual as it listed as an Historic Monument. To our eyes, it looked no different from any other village pond !

Friston Pond - An Ancient Monument

Friston Pond – An Ancient Monument

From the church we headed southwards to reach the top of the first of the Seven Sisters. Depending on which map you read the either the tops or  bottoms are named ranging from tops of Went Hill Brow and Baily’s Hill to bottoms of Short Bottom and Limekiln Bottom.

We had hopes of finding a couple of caches after the church, but our footpath went no closer than a quarter of a mile from a cache.. a bit to far to ‘cache and dash’ while out with a walking party!

The Seven Sisters are devoid of caches – predominantly because there is nowhere to hide a container. Just one field boundary, no trees, and very few scrubby bushes. The rest is well-clipped grass ! This meant we had a few cacheless miles and a lot of up and down! In fact, we had 8 ups and downs! This is because there are actually 8 sisters! Originally there were 7, but since they were named, erosion has taken place and an eighth is now as visible as the rest!

No where to hide a cache here!

No where to hide a cache here!

The Seven Sisters is part of the South Downs Way, and we fully expected to continue along the South Downs Way to our destination, Exceat. However our route took us gently down from the last top, to the Cuckmere Estuary. Here we admired the brackish water – where fresh and sea water combine – and the plants that survive there. Our nature investigations were marred by a large school trip excitedly passing by and the high jinks that happens on geography field trips!

Estuary Plants

Estuary Plants

Estuary Plants

Estuary Plants

The Cuckmere estuary has two parts. The first, a beautiful, slow-moving, meandering river, and a much faster straighter man-made channel. Both are retained, at the moment, by concrete/shingle flood defences. However with rising sea levels, these defences will soon be breached, and the decision has been made NOT to reinforce them. Thus, at some time in the future, the beautiful meanders will be lost forever.

Cuckmere Estuary

Cuckmere Estuary

The chalk cliffs form a great barrier for sea-invaders; the only weakness being the break in the chalk at the Cuckmere Estuary. For this reason, many fortifications were built in the estuary during WWII to provide some defence against an invasion.
The first object we came across was a ‘tank trap’ – whose fierce concrete teeth may well have slowed up a tank. It slowed us up, as we found a cache under one of the teeth!

Tank Trap / Dragon's Teeth (cache site!)

Tank Trap / Dragon’s Teeth (cache site!)

The second fortification we saw was a type 25 pillbox hidden behind some trees. There was a cache here too, but a very quick investigation yielded nothing apart from a bed of stinging nettles. However we were within half a mile of the walk’s conclusion, so while the rest of our party partook of the local tea shop and South Downs Museum, we walked back for a further investigation. This time after a little bit of a search we found the cache and more importantly did so without being stung!

Pill box.. but where's the cache ?

Pill box.. but where’s the cache ?

Our last cache was in a telephone box in Exceat.

We’ve had trouble finding caches in phone boxes before, but this time the useful hint meant we found it within seconds of squeezing into it.

One of the three caches we found

One of the three caches we found

This was the end of our 3 day walking holiday with http://www.hfholidays.co.uk, and with a bit of preparation, a bit of luck we were able to cache while being led round one of England’s more beautiful counties. Our cache per day ratio was small, but still very rewarding.

August 31 : South Downs: Wiggonholt and Pulborough Brooks

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

We were off to the glorious South Downs for a few day’s walking, starting on a Bank Holiday … needless to say it was a cool, dark grey day, and raining hard. Our plan was to get to within a mile or two of our hotel in good time, and then fit in a little light geocaching. Mr Hg137 spotted a geocache series replete with favourite points, so that seemed a good place to choose.

Wiggonholt Church

Wiggonholt Church

But first … a Church Micro, at Wiggonholt, a tiny hamlet with a tiny church ( http://sussexchurchez.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/wiggonholt.html ). We parked right next to the sign which furnished the answers to the clues leading to the final location, and then ate our picnic in the nice dry geocar while doing the sums. We finished our lunch as the rain eased to a drizzle, and walked a short way along a grassy path through fields to find the final cache under an oak tree, and dropped off the geocoin that we found a few days earlier. Before leaving, we had a look inside the church, which is very simple and plain; it has two services per month, when it is lit by candles and oil lamps. (I really like tiny, ancient churches, though I’m not especially religious, they just seem to ooze age and calmness. There are similar ones, also with Church Micro, at Inglesham on the Thames Path, which we visited in the spring.)

Pulborough Brooks - heath

Pulborough Brooks – heath

Pulborough Brooks - heather

Pulborough Brooks – heather

The cache series we tackled next was at the next-door RSPB Pulborough Brooks reserve ( http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/reserves/guide/p/pulboroughbrooks/ ). The website says that all the following can be seen, and we saw some but not all: adders / archaeology / bluebells / butterflies / cattle / deer / ditches / dragonflies / ducks / flooding / heathland / lakes / meadows / nightingales / peregrines / pond / river / wetland / woodland / woodpeckers. There are seven caches in the series spread around a circuit of the heathland and woods around the reserve. The caches are each named, appropriately, after a bird – Lapwing, Buzzard, etc – and there is a variety of containers, from the frequently seen cylindrical screw-top containers and clip-lock boxes to a variety of creatures (yes, creatures), so all those favourite points awarded for this series are well justified. And, to top off the visit, there’s an additional challenge cache to be found near the entrance to the reserve. All in all, these nine caches made for an excellent, if damp, couple of hours caching, a good start to a short holiday.

Here are some of the caches we found:
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July 11 Thames Path : Pangbourne to Reading (and a halfway celebration)

We have walked the Thames Path between Pangbourne to Reading a few times in the past, and as a result knew what to expect.

However this short section taught us that paths change and more importantly can be diverted too!

The number of caches available to find was relatively small compared to the previous section, so before we set off we revisited the scene of our Church DNF in Streatley. Of course we found the cache within seconds!

Busy, busy river near Pangbourne bridge

Busy, busy river near Pangbourne bridge

We are both certain we looked in this particular location last time. What threw us then was the two muggles on a nearby bench. We suspect they had the cache on their hand and didn’t know what to do with it! When we signed the log on July 11th, a pair of names was present for July 4th – the day of our DNF. The cache has never been logged online since 4th July (except us) so we just wonder if they found it.. saw other signatures and then returned it after we have left.

Anyway back to the Thames Path and our longest section to date in Berkshire.

It was a Saturday, and it was going to be quite hot and Pangbourne Meadow was already getting busy. In fact within minutes of walking through the meadow we headed away from the river 100 yards or so to look for a cache. Sadly we couldn’t see or indeed reach it. A thick veil of stinging nettles, brambles and branches prevented us from getting within 30 feet. A wasted diversion.

Anyone fancy bushwhacking through here ?

Anyone fancy bushwhacking through here ?


We were under a little bit of time pressure as we had a 1530 booking at a special cream tea emporium – we should really have walked a bit quicker than we did but as with many of our caching trips we lose more time than we gain!

The busy-ness of Pangbourne Meadow soon disappeared and sometimes we could be alone on the path. It was during this section we deviated again from the path to find the cache Hardwick Haul. Named after the imposing Tudor building on the opposite bank it was a small ammo can. Its always nice to find one of these containers, and to spend a few minutes rummaging in the contents. We removed a trackable, Badgerbaby’s Travel Gift, and will move it elsewhere along the Thames Path. Hardwick House has had a chequered history having been built in Tudor times, damaged in the Civil War, and was apparently one of the inspirations for Toad of Toad Hall. (This actually means very little, as most of the large buildings in the area make this claim!)

Hardwick House

Hardwick House

Onward to Mapledurham Lock. Before we reached the lock, the noise level increased as we heard lots of dogs yapping and barking on the opposite bank. What was going on ? We discovered later it was a flyball competition where dogs run over obstacles and retrieve balls. They love it. But it is quite noisy with owners shouting and cheering and dogs barking and yelping with excitement!

Ducks keeping well away from the noisy flyball competition

Ducks keeping well away from the noisy flyball competition

Mapledurham Lock was busy but tranquil compared to noise level of the flyball competitors. Close to the lock were caches, one a simple find (but hard to get to). and a hard find (but easy to get to).

Here the Thames Path leaves the river and heads south to Purley on Thames (via another cache). Here we walked through a housing estate which confused us. We had walked this route several times before, but this time we were routed a different way. Our instincts were pushing us one way… and the signs the other. Eventually we arrived for a short section on the A329 and here, we believe is the HALFWAY POINT ON THE THAMES PATH. Its not specified in any of the guide books (because we guess the route is always slightly changing) so it is pure speculation on our part. Ironically there is no view of the river at the halfway point! (But there is a cache!)

Halfway... and no river in sight!

Halfway… and no river in sight!

Returning to the river, making our tea booking time was looking doubtful especially when a walker in the opposite direction told us the path was closed by a fallen tree. It wasn’t … but why do people tell such stories ? Had there been a fallen tree, we wouldn’t make our tea-time so we were grateful the story had been made up. However we did make the decision to phone and move our booking for a few minutes later.

There were a few nano caches on this section – one easy find in some fencing, another on a seat which we couldn’t attempt as there were three generations of muggles using it, another in an ivy tree (a DNF from us), a fourth hidden in the decorative ironwork on Caversham Bridge.
There was also a much larger cache some distance from the path which proved unfindable with a tea-clock ticking ever louder.

So we arrived at Reading Bridge slightly late, and in front of us… a Thames Path diversion. We could see our destination but a quarter of a mile diversion away from the river did not help our timing! The diversion bypassed strengthening work for Reading Bridge and the building of a new pedestrian bridge. All essential of course but not when a tea-clock is ticking ever louder…

Eventually we arrived at Whittingtons, a tea barge. A canal boat that serves delicious cream teas. The boat was full and we were grateful we had a reservation. The service and food were a great way to celebrate the first half of our year long odyssey!

Halfway Celebrations!

Halfway Celebrations!

Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 6.9 miles
Total distance walked : 95 miles

Caches found : 8 Total caches found : 194

Caches we found included :


April 18 – Being a Tourist near the Thames Path

We remarked in this blog recently we were approaching our 1000th cache milestone, and with a venue agreed for this auspicious cache we just needed to bolster our cache total a little bit. (We started the day on 991 caches and felt a target of 7 caches would get us close enough to 1000 that we could achieve the milestone in the pre-planned location).

So how to find those 7 caches ?

Well, we realised that as we walked (and cached) the Thames Path, there were locations we didn’t explore properly or indeed see at their best.  The first of these was North Meadow, Cricklade. (Readers may remember the very wet conditions we endured in January on our first visit to Cricklade).

As we noted in our January blog entry – North Meadow is renowned for its Spring Flowers and Snakes Head Fritillaries in particular ( http://www.crickladeinbloom.co.uk/north_meadow.html) and we were treated to a fantastic display on our visit today. Snakes Head Fritillaries are rare in Britain and 80% of them are in North Meadow, Cricklade.

North Meadow Full of Fritillaries

North Meadow Full of Fritillaries


There’s even a cache nearby too! Set by the Scouts it is marked as a ‘multi-stage’ cache.
First Cache of the Day!

First Cache of the Day!

We didn’t find the first part, but did find the cache and a trackable ‘3 Ball’. We’ll take this on our future travels..

Our next stop on our ‘Tourist Trail’ was to visit the village of Kelmscott. We had found 3 caches near to the village back in March and returned to find another 3. Kelmscott Manor was the Oxfordshire retreat of William Morris (of Arts and Crafts movement fame) and is open to the  public on many days during  the year. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelmscott_Manor

Kelmscott Manor

Kelmscott Manor

We’d arrived shortly after a large coach party, so we decided against going round the house, as they work on a timed-ticket policy and we were in for a long wait!

And so to the Kelmscott caches. We enjoyed the 3 Kelmscott caches we had found previously and were again pleased with the variety of containers today… including A RAT!

IT'S A RAT !!!!

IT’S A RAT !!!!

After a quick visit to the Church, paying our respects to the Morris clan buried there….

William Morris Gravestone

William Morris Gravestone

… we left for our third and final location, Bampton.

Bampton ? You’ve never heard of it ? But I’m sure you’ve seen it!

Bampton is where ITV film many of the outside shots for “Downton Abbey”. Just a small corner of Bampton is used for filming and this where the tourists head to. We saw the Church, Mrs Crawley’s Cottage, Downton’s Hospital (aka Bampton’s Library!). We failed to find the Downton pub, which was a necessary part of multi-cache, and despite our best endeavours of guessing an answer based on the missing pub sign, we didn’t find the “Downton Treasure Hunt” cache 🙂

Bampton Church (or maybe the Downton Church)

Bampton Church (or maybe the Downton Church)


With 3 caches still to find for the day, we opted for a multi starting at Downton’s / Bampton’s Church and then walking past gardens, fields and woodland before arriving at a small bridge under which the cache was hidden. We sat there, drinking coffee, thinking we were the only people for miles around. How wrong we were ! In the space of 10 minutes at least 3 groups of people squeezed past us, and one dog nearly ate our biscuits too!

We headed back to the village to complete our caching with 2 simple caches. Our searching at both GZs were impeded by muggles. At the first our diversionary activity meant diving into a butcher’s shop, the next we had to feed greenery to 20+ chickens while a game of Pooh Sticks was finished. (It was while feeding the chickens that Mrs HG137 took one for the team… a chicken peck!)

So our day of tourist activity was complete – Spring Flowers, British social history and TV drama all rolled into the 7 caches we needed to take us to 998 caches, and just a small step from number 1000.

Smallest Cache of the Day

Smallest Cache of the Day

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February 21 Hopkin Easter Bunny Geocoin mk II

As we remarked in our previous post, we found Hopkin the Easter Bunny at Inglesham Church.

Hopkin at Inglesham Church

Hopkin at Inglesham Church

Hopkin should have been one of a limited edition of 100 Easter Bunny Geocoins in Blue / Green measuring approx 45mm diameter and 3mm thick. However over time, it has been lost, and is now a thin piece of laminated card. -:(

On the reverse of the ‘geocoin’ is the message ‘Happy Easter’ which given it is currently Lent, is very apt.

Hopkin’s mission is to hop from cache to cache searching for chocolate eggs and hunting for furry relatives, Hopkin has had all his inoculations and can travel anywhere to meet the wonderful cachers, creatures and peoples of the world. With his goofy smile, Hopkin also loves having his photo taken too!

So where has Hopkin been ? Well since Easter 2012, when Hopkin was released into the wild, he has been to Holland, Germany, Bulgaria and Ibiza hopping a HARE-raising 8600 miles.

We could RABBIT on, about the aBUNdance of caches he has visited, but that list may be as long as “WARREN peace”, so we will TAIL it off there. We are HOPing to place it in a nEARby cache soon, FUR others to find.