February 4 : Shanklin Town, Isle of Wight

St Paul’s Church, Shanklin

Our plans for the morning were thwarted by light drizzle, a gusting wind and a high tide.

We had intended to spend the morning revisiting a multi-cache placed just above the high water tide. But the wind and rain meant the sandy beach was narrower than we would have liked so filed the cache away for a future visit.

Instead we focussed on three town centre caches.

We drove away from the hotel, and found – after several circuits of the local roads – a parking place and headed off for our first cache. It was only 200 feet away, and we were very surprised to find when we arrived it was ON church property. We thought we could see the cache from the pavement, so we entered through the gates of St Paul’s Parish Church. Of course, what we saw from the roadside wasn’t the cache, but we did then spot a nearby piece of camouflage and delightful watertight cache container. We dropped off the Blue Lamb Proxy Geocoin here, as we weren’t sure what other size containers we would find.

Good solid container

We then walked about 1/4 of a mile passing by many a Shanklin house, and more infuriatingly a small supermarket where we could have parked without angst for an hour or two. We took a small footpath between houses and arrived at a piece of woodland. This was the Sibden Hill and Batts Copse Nature Reserve, and hidden just inside was our target. The hint was quite curious “at the base of pipe tree”.

Sibden Hill & Batts Copse

Clearly the cache was near the ground so we searched behind various trees, in roots, in fallen trees all to no avail. Then we saw a tree growing around a metallic pipe. Why the pipe was there, we don’t know, but this was the tree we needed. A small brick covered the cache, and once removed we wondered how we had not see the pipe on our initial inspection.

How did we miss this ?

Another 1/4 mile walk followed, retracing our steps in part but we soon turned off to follow the wonderfully named ‘Red Squirrel Trail’. This is a 32 mile cycleway/footpath primarily following the route of an old Isle of Wight railway. The route starts in the extreme North of the Island at Cowes, and loops round both Sandown and Shanklin in the South East. Such a long trail to follow and we walked about 300 yards!

Red Squirrel Trail


The path should have been tranquil, but waterjet-cleaning was going on in the neighbouring caravan park, which made it quite noisy. This time a hollow tree formed the host, but in our haste to bypass a large puddle we walked right by GZ !

Last cache of the day!

So three caches found, and with time ticking and a ferry waiting, we headed back to car (via the supermarket to buy some sandwiches) for the journey home.

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February 1 : Rookley, Isle of Wight

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

We were on the wonderful Isle of Wight, ready to spend a weekend playing Scrabble in Shanklin. While crossing the island, Mr Hg137 had a business appointment in Rookley, in the centre of the island. He went off to do that, while I … was turfed out into the snow to find the nearby Church Micro cache.

Rookley Methodist Church, Isle of Wight

Rookley Methodist Church, Isle of Wight


Rookley Methodist Church is the starting point for this cache, overlooking the triangular green. This particular cache could be solved by finding seven numbers placed on various items around the green. There didn’t seem to be a best order to do this so I crunched around in the snow, gradually crossing off clues as I went. After a few minutes I’d got all the numbers except one – I just need to find the year that “Les” was born. Just then, Mr Hg137’s appointment had finished, and he joined me in a second snowy circuit of the green, spotting the remaining clue within five minutes. Of course, it was in a place I’d already looked, though clearly not hard enough; in my defence, lots of people have trouble with this specific clue.

We then worked out the coordinates … got them wrong … did them again … and set off for the location of the cache. Arriving at GZ (Ground Zero) we stared hopelessly at the object for a while, then read the hint, looked at the correct place on the object, and spotted the cache almost instantly, a nice dry container inside a rather damp camo bag.

Mondrian was here?

Mondrian was here?


Success! We went back to the geocar, admired the Mondrian-inspired garage door across the road, and set off for Shanklin.

Postscript: later, we checked our tally of Church Micro (CM) cache finds. We were were really pleased to find that we had reached 100 finds. That takes us from Curate to Vicar on the awards list on the Church Micro website http://www.15ddv.me.uk/geo/cm Another small step towards sainthood for us!

January 18 : Ottershaw

Ottershaw is a village on the outskirts of Chertsey and Woking, just minutes away from the M25.
More importantly, from our perspective, Ottershaw is on our route home from RHS Wisley.

So, on a cold-ish Friday morning we set off for a quick visit to Wisley (we were hoping to see the big Lego exhibition – but we were a week early – doh!) and then find a few caches on the return journey.

Wisley provided us with some winter colour with snowdrops and colourful Alpines in the warm greenhouses. So, with no Lego to see, we headed off to find some caches.

We had loaded 12 caches, 8 of which were part of a series called “Eli’s Walk”.

Our first three caches, though, were not part of this series. Instead we started with a very simple church micro (no graves to find, no numbers to calculate, no waypoints to enter into the GPS). This was number 60 in the Church Micro Series – the cache was placed in March 2008. The Church itself, Christ Church, was built in the mid-19th Century and became the Parish Church for the (then) scattered villages between Woking and Chertsey. It was designed in the studio of Gilbert Scott – and his Gothic Revival style is clear to see on the Church.

Christ Church, Ottershaw

Our next two caches could be described as “Cheesy”. One was called “Say Cheese” and the other “Ottershaw Supreme”. Both were hidden just off tracks in woodland. This is a photo of one of the caches…but we recommend finding the other..just for the fun of retrieving the log!

“Who ordered the pizza?”

And so onto Eli’s Walk. We crossed the busy A320 and started the series at cache 3.

We reached a crossroads on an unmade road, the GPS pointed in one direction towards a 5-barred gate. Blocking the route was a van. We asked the driver whether there was a footpath beyond the gate, and he informed us that it was ‘just houses’. We needed another path!

We walked on slightly concerned that the GPS was still pointing away from our route and our map didn’t indicate another path. A lady dog-walker approached. We enquired how we could get to ‘Ottershaw Park’. This was the name of the track that the cache was on.

‘Ottershaw Park ?
No, you can’t go there.
That’s a private estate.
The back entrance is down there but you’re not allowed in’

We were now mightily confused.

We walked on further and looked back. Both the van driver and dog walker had disappeared. We decided to investigate the track that no-one wanted us to walk along.

Ottershaw Chase


As we did so, we saw a swing gate and noticeboard side onto the path. This reassured us, as, to our limited knowledge, not many private estates have such features. In fact there were no houses to see! The noticeboard stated we were in ‘Ottershaw Chase’ not ‘Ottershaw Park’ which was the name shown on the geocaching map.

We were in woodland! And the cache was only 300 feet away!

Our GPS wobbled. A lot. We searched 3 trees before laying claim to our fourth find of the day, a small Tupperware container.

We walked on, accompanied by the sound of woodpeckers thrumming bark, and magpies swooping in and out of branches. An occasional squirrel scampered up a tree as we approached.

As we arrived at our next cache (number 5 in the series) we finally understood the dog-walker’s words. There WAS a private estate of houses, and we couldn’t enter. Nearby though was a cache hidden under a log pile. The GPS was out about 40 feet here, and we walked past the log-pile before widening our search area.

We paused for lunch. It had been a long morning. And a nearby, super-large, stile was just big enough for both of us to sit on without encroaching upon the private housing estate of Ottershaw Park.

We decided at lunch to use this stile as our furthest point of the day. We would have two more caches to find as we returned to the car, and it would leave 5 Ottershaw caches to find when we next visited Wisley.

Our penultimate cache was ‘magnetic’. For some reason we conjectured about the type of magnetic container before we arrived, and of course guessed wrong. Our search was hindered by a Southern Water Van parked nearby with its driver watching us as he chomped on his lunchtime sandwiches. We searched gates, fences, several padlocks, a nearby Southern Water building, more gates, drain covers… all to no avail. Then on our third search of a particular area we found the cache. Very well camouflaged, yet hidden in plain sight.

“Base of tree” – sigh.


Our final cache, like many others, seemed to be a little-bit-out GPS-wise. The hint ‘base of tree’ didn’t help much as we were on the edge of woodland with trees surrounding us. As we searched a number of light aircraft were landing and taking off from the nearby Brooklands Airfield, causing us to look up periodically rather than looking down for caches. After our tenth failed tree search, we saw the host, and the cache neatly hidden.

So, after a slightly false visit to Wisley we found 7 caches out of 7 and left ourselves some more caches to find on another visit!

Here are a couple of the caches we found :

January 5 : Weston Patrick – a cold day in Hampshire

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The first Saturday of 2019 seemed a good time to get out for a walk and some geocaching to counteract the eating excesses of Christmas. As the days were still short, we chose somewhere local (ish), Weston Patrick in Hampshire. We have walked around here before (the Three Castles Path), also cached around here (the Westeros and GOT series). It’s good walking country around here, undulating and rural with woods and tiny villages.

To summarise the route: it’s a great walk of just over five miles along tracks and paths, none of it on roads, starting and finishing at the hamlet of Weston Patrick. There’s a gentle climb over the first half, and a similar descent over the second half. There’s quite a bit of woodland, a nature reserve at Closedown Wood, and, a surprise for us, a gas storage facility tucked away at Humbly Grove https://www.humblyenergy.co.uk There are 24 caches, some easy, some quite hard to find, and a mixture of hides.

Parking in a tiny lay-by, we set off along the WP Country Loop cache series. A track climbed gently away from the road. It was quiet, save for the sound of a distant (pheasant?) shoot. There were caches spaced along the route, so we paused at intervals to search for them. Our searches fell into two categories, which seemed to alternate:
• One: an almost instant find, signing the log, and satisfaction.
• Two: a long, cold search, checking everything at least three times, then finding the cache in an already-searched spot when on the point of giving up, and creeping despair.
A third category crept in a couple of times:
• Three: a long, long, long, cold search, checking everything many times, then not finding the cache, giving up, and despair.


There was a variety of caches to keep our interest and tax our finding skills, and it was great to be out in the open air, but it was grey and dank, with a cool breeze, and the cold gradually seeped in during our category Two (eventually successful) and category Three (never successful) searches. After thirteen caches and eleven finds over about two and a half hours, we decided to head back to the car, leaving us with the second half of the series to complete on another, warmer day. We walked speedily down the hill (we didn’t get any warmer!), not stopping to look for more caches, then diverted very slightly to get a final cache for the day, the Church Micro (CM) at Weston Patrick https://uptongreychurch.co.uk/the-churches/weston-patrick We huddled in the porch to eat our lunch (we didn’t get any warmer!) then found the information we needed to search for the cache. It’s on a memorial just outside the churchyard, which marks a sad wartime event – a Spitfire was being delivered to RAF Tangmere, near Chichester, but crashed near the village.

From there it was a short walk back to the car, a chance to sit and have a warm cup of coffee – or two – before we headed home.

Here are some of the caches we found:

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:

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.