May 11 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Bibury to Fairford

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

River Coln, Gloucestershire

River Coln, Gloucestershire


Spring was two weeks further advanced, and we were set to do the next section of our epic walk from Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) home to Sandhurst (Berkshire). This section followed the Coln valley downstream from Bibury to Fairford. And, good for our navigation, the route also followed more of the largest cache series we have ever seen (the Great Cotswold Walk or GCW series) which comprises over 130 caches. Just follow the arrow on the GPS!

Start point of our walk


We set off from the riverside overlooking Arlington Row in Bibury, where we finished our last walk. It was early on a weekday morning, but the tourists were already out in numbers. Luckily, they were all clustered around that one small area, and we were soon away from people as we stepped onto the track leading away from the village. It was about 3 miles to the next village, Quenington, walking roughly parallel to the river, along paths and tracks, through fields and woods, all very attractive and spring-like. By then we had found just under 20 caches, almost all of them from the GCW series, and all straightforward finds with accurate hints to assist our searches.


One of the caches not in the GCW series was Old Ent, a cache set in a venerable hollow tree close to the footpath. We sort of expected the cache to be hidden in the hollow trunk of the tree, but no … a search ensued and we were eventually successful.
Old Ent

Old Ent


Our arrival in Quenington coincided with lunchtime, and we sat on one of the many seats on the village green, ate our sandwiches, and watched the world go by. The green was freshly mown and all was very tidy: it was the village fete the very next day. There were two multicaches in the village: one from the Fine Pair series (where a red telephone box is visible from a post box), and another from the Church Micro series, St. Swithin’s Church https://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=1565. We found them both, criss-crossing the village and the village green several times on the way.
Quenington - village green

Quenington – village green


Quenington - a Fine Pair - red phone box and postbox

Quenington – a Fine Pair – red phone box and postbox


Quenington - St Swithin's Church

Quenington – St Swithin’s Church


Eventually we decided we had ‘done’ the caches of Quenington, striking out towards Fairford. We trundled onwards by the river, finding yet more caches as we went. While finding one cache in the woods, we were passed by a fisherman, who wanted to know what we were doing; a long explanation was provided by Mr Hg137. Later, having just found a cache, we were passed by a lone walker. We stopped to chat about inconsequential things, then both moved on. Strange that he also had a GPS … We looked back, to see the lone walker disappearing into the same hedge that we had just left. Aha! Another cacher: hello, Muriel the Pluriel.
Approaching Fairford

Approaching Fairford


We walked on, more and more caches were found, and we approached Fairford. It turned out that we had been following a permissive path along the river (FYI – it’s closed on Tuesdays!) (Editor’s note: but we had thought we would have at least two miles of road walking and this is MUCH better.) http://ernestcooktrust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/the_pitham_brook_permissive_footpath_map.pdf As we reached the geocar in the (free) car park, we totted up the number we had found that day. Thirty five !!! A new daily record for us (albeit that our previous record had been set only two weeks before, on the very same cache series …)
Our route from Foss Cross to Fairford

Our route from Foss Cross to Fairford


Here are some of the very many caches we found:

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April 7 : Barnwood

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

St Lawrence's Church, Barnwood

St Lawrence’s Church, Barnwood


As it was due to rain, we decided on a morning’s caching close to our hotel, so we could retreat if there was a deluge. As a child, I lived in Barnwood for two years, so I was looking forward to revisiting childhood haunts.

A cycle-cum-footpath led from the hotel towards Barnwood, passing close to a superstore. The first cache of the day was one from the ‘Off Your Trolley’ series. I looked and failed to find, then Mr Hg137 stuck his hand into the same bush and withdrew it, holding a cache. One up to him! Grrr

Springtime

Springtime


Lunchtime sandwiches purchased, we continued, away from superstores and industrial estates, into Barnwood proper. Our next cache was a Church Micro centred on St Lawrence’s church. Here was a place I recognised. I used to attend the local C of E school, and I well remember traipsing from the school to the church at harvest festival time, carrying a giant marrow. It seemed a very long way, but then I was only five … Anyway, I digress. We did several circuits of the churchyard, collecting numbers to use to solve the coordinates of the multi cache, and pausing to chat to a very elderly dog-walking muggle who was eager to describe the very heavy rain earlier in the week; parts of the churchyard were still underwater. Numbers gathered, we had a short and soggy walk to the cache location.

A diversion followed, while we went to look at my old house and my old school, which is now a school for the deaf. I got a bit misty eyed – they both looked a lot smaller than I remembered.

My old house!

My old house!


... and my old school!

… and my old school!


Back to the caching: we entered Barnwood Park to look for more caches, the first on being the oddly named ‘Chris Thistle’ which is close to a weir on the brook that flows through the park. All became clear as we drew near. The title is inscribed on an object close to the cache.
Chris Thistle is here, somewhere

Chris Thistle is here, somewhere


... or maybe Chris Thistle is here, somewhere

… or maybe Chris Thistle is here, somewhere


Walking on through the park, there were many signs that said ‘don’t feed the birds; don’t feed the squirrels’ so we had to disappoint the bold squirrel that leapt into our path and waited for food. We grabbed another cache as we left the park and then it began to rain. Grrr. At least we were expecting it.

But it didn’t last long, and had stopped as we approached the next cache, named ‘Raining Frogs’. We were hoping for an unusual container here, but we couldn’t find anything more interesting than a piece of string at GZ (Ground Zero – the location of the cache) After a long look around we left without success.

Postscript: The next day the cache owner posted this sad little note:
The GZ appears to have been “nuked”. I was amazed to see the tree splayed out and flattened in placed. Could see no sign of the cache, which was upsetting because it was a fairly expensive capsule. Still – that’s the risk I took and in this instance it is lost. Not replacing this – too disheartened! Thanks for doing it, those who did! Sorry!

We had one more cache on our list for the morning, ‘Elizabeth of Barnwood’, named after one of the more colourful residents of the Barnwood Hospital (Asylum) which used to be across the road from the cache site. It (the hospital) is gone now, turned into houses, just like the playground of my old school. Grrr. As with the first cache of the day, I searched confidently, but with no success, while Mr Hg137 put a hand out and grabbed the cache straight away. Grrr again.

Five out of six caches found, we returned to the hotel and lunch, with me wittering on about the past, and Mr Hg137 making non-committal noises. A good use of a damp morning.

Here are some of the caches we found:

February 17 : FAST morning in Farnborough

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

FAST - English Electric Lightning

FAST – English Electric Lightning


On a sparkling bright morning, we set of for Farnborough, not very far away, for a morning’s urban caching.


Our starting point was ‘The FAST and the Furious’, a very popular cache with clues to the coordinates based on numbers on the planes on show outside the FAST aircraft museum in South Farnborough. http://www.airsciences.org.uk You could probably find all the answers for the cache coordinates by peering through the fence in various places. But you would have a much more enjoyable time if you visited the museum and looked round properly. There are loads and loads of things to see and enthusiastic volunteers to explain what you are seeing. There’s a well-stocked shop, parking, refreshments, flight simulators (ever fancied piloting Concorde?) and the chance to climb into the pilot’s seat of iconic aircraft such as the Harrier. The museum is open at weekends and Bank Holidays and it is FREE!

Climb into a Hawker Harrier ...

Climb into a Hawker Harrier …

... or the cockpit of a helicopter

… or the cockpit of a helicopter


Emerging from the museum … you could spend hours there … we worked out the coordinates and walked the short distance to the cache location, finding it just where we had calculated. Result!

Just outside the entrance to the museum is a quite new statue of Samuel Franklin Cody, who made the first heavier than air flight in the UK in 1908 a very few yards from where we were standing. Mr Cody had an eventful life, read about it here http://www.sfcody.org.uk/aero.html

Samuel Franklin Cody

Samuel Franklin Cody

Cody's Flyer - so fragile ...

Cody’s Flyer (a replica) – so fragile …


We had obviously spent too much time looking at aircraft and aviators, or we were distracted by the aircraft whizzing low overhead as they came in to land, as our cache finding skills now vanished. Our next FOUR attempts at cache finding yielded nothing – two DNFs (did not find), one set of coordinates some distance away in the wrong direction, and one complete failure to spot the item which would have directed us to the cache. We decided to finish our morning’s caching and return home. Of course, our finding skills miraculously returned at this point, and we found three caches, including two Church Micros, on our way back to the geocar.

So, a mixed morning, with only four caches found out of eight attempts. At least that means there are still a selection of unfound (unfound by us, anyway) caches in the area for us to find on a second visit!

Church Micro

Church Micro

...and the location of another Church Micro

…and the location of another Church Micro


PS The pictures of the aircraft at the museum are reproduced with the kind permission of Mr Brian Luff from FAST.

PPS And here are some of the other caches we found.

January 27 : Wisley – megaliths, butterflies, and churches

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Butterflies at Wisley

Butterflies at Wisley


In January and February, tropical butterflies fly free in the glasshouse at RHS Wisley Gardens, and we went to see them. http://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/wisley/whats-on/butterflies-in-the-glasshouse We were queuing outside before opening time, were first through the gates, and made it into the greenhouse before it officially opens at 9:30.
A butterfly takes a fancy to my coat

A butterfly takes a fancy to my coat


This gave us about 20 minutes in relative solitude in the warmth – oh, it was so nice and warm! – before the greenhouse began to fill with families and photographers, all there to see the butterflies … and one of the two (grass?) snakes and a robin that have also set up home in there.
Snake!

Snake!


By about 10:30 we left Wisley and, about a mile up the road, stopped to look for the Church Micro cache at Wisley church. http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/SRY/Wisley/WisleyChurch This is a tiny Norman church tucked away behind farm buildings. It would be easy to pass without noticing.
Wisley Church

Wisley Church


The cache was supposed to be at the back of the church, somewhere along a fence. We arrived at the spot the GPS said was the location, and started looking. And looking, and looking. After a few minutes we had to break off to ‘admire the snowdrops’ as a muggle and dogs passed by. We restarted looking, and looking … there were only a finite number of places along this fence that the cache could be. Where was it? On the third / fourth /fifth pass along the fence we turned something over, and there was the cache after all. Phew, we were about to give up.
Found it at last

Found it at last


Another mile or so along a narrow, twisty lane, over the Wey Navigation at the very narrow bridge by the Anchor pub http://www.anchorpyrford.co.uk and we arrived at Pyrford, another church, and another Church Micro (CM). The small Norman church, St Nicholas, has medieval wall paintings inside and used to be visited by Queen Elizabeth I when she came to see her favourite lady in waiting who lived at Pyrford Place. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrford
St Nicholas' Church, Pyrford

St Nicholas’ Church, Pyrford


Wall paintings, Pyrford Church

Wall paintings, Pyrford Church


These two CMs – Wisley and Pyrford – are ten years old, number 53 and 54 in a series that now stretches to over 11,000 caches, and is the largest geocache series in the world https://thegeocachingjunkie.com/2016/05/31/church-micro-the-worlds-largest-cache-series This particular CM was a multicache, where we had to assemble information from items near the church. One stage involved the war memorial, just outside the church gate, and the other was about counting the fish carved on a stone seat, just inside the gate. ‘Cod’ we work out how many fish there were? No, we ‘rudd’y well couldn’t. We came up with some possibilities and took shelter in the church to work out some ‘plaices’ for the cache. We came up with three possibilities and set off up the hill to check them out, striking lucky at our second attempt. ‘Brill’!
Pyrford Stone

Pyrford Stone


By now, we were also halfway to our third and final cache of the day, Lonely Stone. It’s a standing stone, about one Megalithic yard tall, which is about waist height if you aren’t sure about prehistoric measuring systems https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megalithic_Yard

It was moved in the 1970s when the road was widened, and it is reputed not to be happy about that, and it moves around at midnight, contributing to road accidents. Or so they say. This was another multicache, and we derived various numbers based on the plaque which describes the stone. Another short walk to the final location followed, yielding a large cache where we dropped off the ‘Mr Heyday’ trackable we found just after Christmas.
Mr Heyday moves on

Mr Heyday moves on


That finished off a morning of contrasts – ephemeral butterflies, ancient churches, and an even older stone. Time for lunch!

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.

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.