July 6 : Longhill Park, Bracknell

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

First, a disclaimer: this blog post is mostly about caches which are great fun to solve, but which take time and ingenuity, patience and problem solving. We *could* show you pictures of how the caches work and how we managed to open them, eventually, but this would spoil the fun for others, so all you will see, picture-wise, are some bland pictures of wooden boxes, of trees, and parkland.

Longhill Park, Bracknell

Longhill Park, Bracknell


We wanted to test our new GPS. Our old GPS had stopped working during our last caching trip, so we had mourned it – see the previous post – then bought a near-identical replacement. Hello to our new Etrex 10, all new and shiny, with crisp edges and clicky buttons!

A while ago, we had done the ‘Green Hill’ series in Bracknell, set by JJEF, a local cacher who has a talent for devious and clever caches, often made from wood and always worth finding (Editor’s note: he sells them, too! https://www.quirkycaches.co.uk/apps/webstore/products ) Mr Hg137 had noticed that the series had been removed, but had been replaced with six new caches from the same setter. Now, the point about JJEF’s caches isn’t that they are especially hard to locate – the challenge is to get inside the pesky things once found – so we were prepared with tools … notebook, Swiss Army knife, magnet, piece of string, torch, etc, etc … so that we hoped we could cope with most challenges the caches would throw at us. And many of those tools were put to use at some point. (Editor’s note: we’d checked the map and decided we wouldn’t need wellies or a canoe, and fortunately, we were right.)

After crossing the road by the car park, we were soon looking at an anonymous brown box fixed to a tree. Having examined all visible surfaces, Mr Hg137, being the taller, was delegated to do the opening of the container and managed it after a little while. Aha! A good start. We continued amongst trees grown up over a reclaimed landfill site (much, much nicer than the description suggests). The second cache was near one of the fences; this one was much easier to open, but corresponding much harder to spot; JJEF has a knack of placing things, often wooden things, that look as if they belong where placed, but aren’t …

An anonymous wooden box

An anonymous wooden box


The path continued through hollies and rhododendrons. This was unfortunate,as the next cache was behind an impenetrable leafy, bushy wall. We backtracked and found a way round the back, to find another anonymous wooden box. Safely hidden from muggle eyes, we needed a few minutes to think. How to get into this one? We looked at the box, we thought, we surveyed the tools we had, and an idea came to us. After a few more minutes, we worked the mechanism to open the box, and out popped the cache container. Result! (Editor’s note: and then we tried the mechanism a few times more to admire its cleverness.)
Another anonymous wooden box

Another anonymous wooden box


The next cache was also hidden in the bushes, which was good for us as it took us about Thirty minutes to solve. It’s called ‘Trio of Fun’, and the ‘Trio’ bit indicates that there are three parts to the puzzle. We arrived at yet another anonymous wooden box – aha – we’d seen one of those before – we thought, so set about trying to open it. We turned, we twiddled, we pushed, we pulled, we passed it between ourselves for more turning, twiddling, pushing, pulling, and slowly, slowly, we got it open. Maybe twenty minutes had elapsed, and we were glad to be concealed in bushes. The end of the first part gave us a clue to part two, which we achieved after a few attempts, and this in turn helped with part three, and another few minutes had us triumphantly holding the cache log. Now to put it all back together; we turned, we twiddled, we pushed, we pulled, even drawing some pictures for ourselves to help with reassembly; and, another few minutes later, all was back as it was before. Phew! (Editor’s note: sorry that this is all a bit vague, but it would spoil the puzzle if we said exactly what we did.)

We had just one more JJEF cache to find. It was under thick tree cover so it took a while to locate, as the GPS didn’t settle, so spent a while wandering in the general area before spotting the cache, within fifteen feet or so of where the GPS said it was. Other finders have mentioned that the cache contains a surprise, so I was prepared for (almost) anything and only let out a little squeak as all was revealed.

And yet another anonymous wooden box

And yet another anonymous wooden box


We retraced our steps to the geocar, parked near the skate park in Longhill Park. This, too, is a reclaimed landfill site, but there’s little to see except a few ventilation cowls and patches of bumpy ground. There are two caches in the park, so we decided to find those, too. The first, ‘That Special Club’, was a puzzle cache, which we had solved at home, had checked the answers, and taken due note of other logs which said that some aspects of the hide have had to change. So – we approached GZ and found what was likely to have been the original home of the cache, now no longer standing. We then cast around the general area, looking at possible hiding places, but didn’t spot the cache. Oh dear, a failure to add to our list of successes for the day.

It was not going to improve: our final cache attempt for the day was a cache from the ‘Counting Vowels’ series. The clever idea for this series is that you count the vowels on (some or all words on) signs and noticeboards in the area and derive the coordinates for the cache from the answers. This one was number 21 in the series; in the past, we were the first to find number 1 in the series, having a lively discussion with the cache owner when there was a problem with the coordinates. Anyway, we counted the vowels, checked that the number we had derived was correct, and set off to the final location, a short walk away. We arrived, and … there was nothing, nothing that could house a cache, except for signs of very recent path maintenance; we speculated that the cache could have gone missing. Back home, we got in touch with the cache owner for another lively discussion (we bet he was glad to hear from us again – not!), described the cache location in detail and supplied him with a photo. He has since been out to check; the cache had indeed vanished and he has replaced it nearby, adjusting the vowel counting suitably.

No cache here any more!

No cache here any more!


Summary of the day:
– We tested our new GPS, it worked perfectly, a slightly updated model from its predecessor
– We found all the caches that JJEF has placed
– We still have a reason to return, to find those two caches in the park

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April 10 : Farnborough cacher’s meet

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Plough and Horses, Cove, Farnborough

Plough and Horses, Cove, Farnborough


When did we last attend a geocacher’s meet? We thought about it, and it had been a while, years, Leap Year Day 2016. We’d noticed that there was a meet coming to a place near us, the Plough and Horses at Cove, Farnborough. A little bit of research showed us that there were two Church Micro multicaches very close to the pub. As we didn’t fancy an extended search of a graveyard later on, in failing light, and so we didn’t get lost, searching fruitlessly in the dark, we also did a daytime recce of the area, spotted the pub, and collected all the information we needed to find the caches later.

Early in the evening, we returned to Cove, and stopped a little way short of the pub, to look for the Church Micro based on St. John the Baptist. We parked near a parade of shops, then walked off a little way to wait for a gap in the dog walkers and joggers to dive, hopefully unsuspiciously, behind a tree to find the cache: our research was correct.

St John the Baptist, Cove, Farnbourough

St John the Baptist, Cove, Farnbourough


From there it wasn’t far to the pub. There were no spaces in the car park: that was a good sign. We went in, past the group of people watching football on a big screen in the bar, to a dining area at the rear. It was FULL of cachers, some we recognised, and some new to us. We were greeted by the organiser, Reggiecat, and signed the attendance log to claim our cache find. After getting drinks and a bowl of chips to share, we joined a table, to have a chat to Woking Wonders (we’ve done lots of their caches, many of them Church Micros) and DTJM (we’d done one of their caches earlier that evening). JJEF was there, to showcase his fiendishly clever wooden caches (take a look at them here https://www.quirkycaches.co.uk/apps/webstore/products )

Buzio, a cacher new to us, stood up and gave a short talk on caching in Myanmar. Those at our table joined in with tales of derring do, including, I think, a story about setting sail on the Thames dressed as a pirate to find a cache on an island. The pirate costume was a disguise as it was ‘Children in Need’ weekend – at least I think that’s the excuse that was given! Adam Redshaw turned up, accompanied by Tabzcake and Barry the very well-behaved geodog. Adam publishes a geocaching magazine and does loads of other caching related stuff http://www.ukcachemag.com/

Anyway, enough caching name-dropping, we still had one more cache to find, so we said our goodbyes and left. It was pretty dark now, a good cover to find our second Church Micro of the day (Cove – Baptist), hidden in some street furniture. … No-one spotted us …

A good evening – pleasant company – great stories.

Here are two Church Micro caches, against bland backgrounds, for anonymity.

April 8 : Horsbere Nature Reserve

We planned a third day’s walking on our Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) to Sandhurst (Berkshire) route, but we discovered our overnight hotel was nowhere near any outlets where we could buy a sandwich before we set off. So we no alternative but to wait until the nearest supermarket opened at 10 am. We had time to kill …

… and then we spotted across the road from our hotel was a Nature Reserve, the Horsbere Nature Reserve and its series of caches placed by the Reserve Rangers. The nearest cache to the hotel, intrigued us most.. it had attracted over 40 favourite points since being placed in January 2017. This cache would be our time-killing target!

The Nature Reserve had only been established since 2010 as a part of flood protection scheme. Prior to that 300 Gloucestershire homes were regularly flooded after sustained heavy rain. Back in 2010 a huge ‘depression’ was created that would hold 70 Olympic Sized pools-worth of water. Rain would be collected in the ‘depression’ and slowly released into local drainage channels after the rain had passed. Surrounding the depression (aka lake) is is mixed vegetation so of course wildlife has moved in.

We saw a couple of ducks and a pair of swans (Mrs Swan was sitting slightly uncomfortably on her eggs, while Mr Swan was out dabbling in the lake). But other, rarer wildlife has also been spotted from otters to penduline tits. A video showing a penduline tit in the reserve can be seen here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwmuHj58k4s

But what of the cache ? It was called “Ranger’s Walk – Little House On Horsbere” – what could that mean ?

And then we saw it, near to a weir – a ‘closed’ bird box.

Hanging beneath were two cords. Careful pulling on one of them caused a bison tube to appear from the bird-box base. Very clever! We unscrewed the bison, taking great care not to let go of the cord, removed the log and signed it. Pulling the other cord caused the bison to rise.. and the cache was hidden again!

A beautiful cache in a very peaceful setting. Well worth attempting while the shops were closed!

December 31 : Caches of the Year

We found well over 400 caches this year – here are some of the best, the ones that made us smile or those that meant something to us when we were out and about… we hope you’ve enjoyed your caching in 2017, we have and we wish you some great finds in 2018!



July 22 : Green Hill, Bracknell

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Caution: this blog contains some pictures that may spoil your enjoyment of these caches if you plan to do them yourself!

“The Lost Treasure of Mary Hyde: Spanning the globe and the seven seas, we introduce you to the infamous Captain Mary Hyde. Her ship, The Golden Cache, was the fiercest, and the bearded buccaneers and sea legged sailors reported to her. Legend has it that she ruled the high seas for many years, and found no shortage of riches throughout her reign.

Avast ye! Join us for a swashbuckling geocaching adventure through daring feats and stormy seas. Make yer way through a four week souvenir journey to find the lost treasure of Mary Hyde.”

I was on standby for work, which meant I couldn’t venture very far from home. Normally we would stay at home and catch up on domestic things. But the geocaching people had launched their summer challenge, ‘The Lost Treasure of Mary Hyde”, and our caching trips of the weeks before had qualified us for the first part of the challenge.

Green Hill, Bracknell

Green Hill, Bracknell


Week 2 of said challenge was to find some geocaches which had been nominated as favourites by many previous finders. We pondered … where could we go to find a group of these … not too far from home … who places caches that are much liked by others? A-ha! Light dawned. The local cacher JJEF places interesting caches with nifty puzzles, often built from wood. We looked around for some of those caches, and found a small series of four, ‘Green Hill’, on the edge of Bracknell.
Maybe there's a cache in here?

Maybe there’s a cache in here? Maybe not!


Parking the geocar in a handy spot near a park, we crossed a busy road and were immediately in woodland. At intervals there were metal pipes, each with a padlocked cap; this was a reclaimed landfill site, and the pipes were venting points. We knew that the first cache we were looking for was close to the way into the woods, but we couldn’t get our GPS to give us an accurate fix, and we spent a while investigating those metal pipes. A rethink had us looking elsewhere and we were soon unravelling the first puzzle, and signing the cache log.
Up there?

Up there?


We soon spotted the next cache, up high in a tree. After lowering it, we realised we had to unlock a padlock to reach the cache log. Out came a piece of paper and a pen, and we fiddled about with combinations of numbers until we had the answer. The third cache, too, was amongst the trees. ‘Amongst’ meant just that, and I took a full scrub-bashing, branch-ducking route to the cache, while Mr Hg137 … took an easier route around the back. Once again, we had to hunt around for something nearby which would give us the method of opening the cache; another few minutes, has another cache log signed.

The fourth and final cache of this little series also needed us to find a tool to unlock the outer cache container to get to the inner cache container to sign the log. This time, the cache container was chained to one tree, while the other part of the cache was chained to another. Shenanigans ensued, and we managed to get the two close (enough) to each other.

That was the series complete, and it had been a good and thought-provoking morning. Before going back, we had just one other thing to do. A little way on, we emerged onto the A329. Mr Hg137’s father used to work just here, at Polysius, and we crossed over the road to look at the site. It’s closed now, and surrounded by fencing. Doubtless it will be converted into ‘executive apartments’ (aka flats) soon. And on that sad little note we returned to the geocar, the next part of our treasure quest safely achieved.

Polysius

Polysius


Here are some of the caches we found (remember the spoiler warning and don’t look if you want to keep the mystery for your caching trip!):

June 10 : Blackwater River Path

Yateley, Sandhurst

One of the many Fishing Lakes

It is quite unusual to find new caches, indeed high quality caches, within 2 miles from home.

Somehow a 5 cache series (BRPW 1-5 – Blackwater River Path Walk) had sneaked under our radar. As had 6 other caches close to them. The series circumnavigates a number of fisherman’s lakes which until a few years ago was private land. Since then a small part of the land has been made into a small car park and also some allotments.

Yateley, Sandhurst

Allotments

Interestingly we looked at placing caches at this location, but never quite got round to getting approval from the land owner, but in all fairness, our caches would have very inferior to those that had been placed.

And so well before 9am, we parked the car, and looked for our first two caches. These were a short distance away from the fishing lakes. One cache camouflaged in a tree, the other, magnetic, overlooking…a sewage plant. Yes ! The wonderfully named Pooh’s Place was a magnetic cache attached to an disused gate, overlooking the ever-turning blades of sewage ponds. Lovely!

Good job you can’t smell photographs!

And so to the lakes. Our first cache was a travel bug hotel. We had two travel bugs with us – a Toy Story Woody (Woody’s Escape) and a metallic Africa. The cache led us a merry dance. The title of the cache included the word ‘Waterside’ but with a lake one side of the footpath, and a fabulous ‘cache friendly’ tree near a river on the other..we looked at the wrong ‘Waterside’ for a very long time.

Eventually we found the cache. Smaller than many travel bug hotels we’ve found and as we couldn’t squash ‘Woody’ in, we deposited ‘Africa’ and walked on.

Yateley, Sandhurst

Onward, onward

The fishing lakes were being well used. Or at least probably were. Many of the anglers were packing up after a night’s fishing, others were slowly waking up and the remainder…well let’s just the snoring would keep the fish away! We tiptoed (in walking boots!) past and in our quietness failed to notice the stump hosting our next find. So we walked back and found the cache just out of what would have been a slumbering angler’s eyeline.

The caches we had found so far were all good, but were not the main event as the next 5 caches were the BRPW series. 4 of these were ‘bird box’ caches, and each had to be opened in a different way. Does the lid move ? What about the pole at the front – does that turn ? What if we press this ? All good fun!

The exception was well concealed cache in a hollowed out branch attached very discreetly to a small trunk.

Away from the road we had the paths and lakes to ourselves and we barely saw anyone for the majority of the walk – but what we did see were hundreds of dragonflies. We stopped several times to take pictures, but taking a picture of a moving dragonfly is very, very difficult.

Yateley, sandhurst

Stay still while we photograph you!

Towards the end of the route, we think our navigation went wrong as the path became narrower and narrower. And nettlier and nettlier. The geo-pole was exceeding useful in cutting a way through to the final two caches. These two were hidden in wood, one found easily. The other, less so. Being the last cache of the day, and no DNF so far for the day, we wanted to find them all and spent 15 minutes looking in totally the wrong place.

Find it we did, and a fine morning’s caching was complete. None of the caches were film canisters under a pile of sticks. Each provided a little moment of euphoria as the cache container was extricated from its natural looking hide. A fine series and well worth the favourite points we awarded.

Here are a few of the caches we found …

Yateley, SandhurstYateley, SandhurstYateley, Sandhurst


One sad note, and one we are very ashamed of.

We took the trackable “Woody’s Escape” out with us. Somehow it didn’t come back. We must have dropped it somewhere on route. We have searched our home, our bags, our car and the car park, all to no avail. Fingers crossed some cacher will find it and re-start it on its journey. To the owner of ‘Woody’ we are very, very sorry.

April 22: Fifield

**** PLEASE NOTE : UNLIKE MANY OF OUR BLOGS, THIS ONE CONTAINS A LOT OF SERIOUS SPOILERS ****

April 22/23 has a lot of meaning to us, and we like to undertake some sort of celebration.

Where will today take us?

Our celebration this year … was to go geocaching ! We decided though, not to continue caching on our Sandhurst to Sandhurst trail, but to stay local(-ish) and find some caches set by our favourite Cache Owner, JJEF.

We have often remarked on this blog about the inventiveness of JJEF caches, sometimes a work of art, other times a fiendish puzzle – nearly always made of wood. This would be a great way to celebrate!

We travelled to the small village of Fifield just south of the M4 near Maidenhead. We parked up and headed to our first cache location. This was to be the sole non-JJEF cache of the day…and we made a meal of it! Originally ‘Once a Fine Pair’ had been part of the ‘Fine Pair’ series where both a red telephone box and red letter box are adjacent to each other. Sadly, the telephone box has been removed, but the cache lives on with a slight renaming. Anyway, it was a multi-cache, so we scribbled down some numbers and performed some arithmetic a child of five would be proud of. We strode purposefully towards GZ. We went by a item that matched the hint, but since we were still 200 feet away, we didn’t stop. Sadly that was as close as we got, as we had no means of getting closer than 150 feet, as private property blocked our path. Mmm. Perhaps there is another way to GZ.

We left pondering this (passing the hint item again), tried various side roads looking for non-existent tiny alleyways that would get us to the cache. All to no avail.

Disheartened we embarked on the JJEF series.

6 caches and as JJEF wrote in the description : This series contains all manner of cache types, if you know my MO then you will manage with these hides which are meant to be fun but achievable by everyone.

The first cache hadn’t been found for a while so we were expecting a second DNF of the day. We had about half a mile to walk to start the series; as we walked we watched groundsmen manicuring two polo pitches, riders giving light exercise to their (polo) horses. Red Kites performed balletic movements above us. There was no-one else on the footpath.

Anyone for polo ?

Anyone for polo ?

Until we approached the first cache.

Where had that young couple and two dogs appeared from? Why did they spend several minutes on the footbridge we wanted to stop at ? Why did they furtively look behind as we stopped at the footbridge too ?

Yep, they were geocachers. We chatted to Team VP. They had not found the cache. Our hearts sank, as this meant we were unlikely to either.

Team VP (and doggy helpers)

Team VP (and doggy helpers)

We said we would give the location a good look, and maybe see them later. (JJEF caches really do need to be savoured, and this gave them a 10 minute head start for all future caches, meaning both of us could enjoy JJEF’s inventiveness)

We explored the footbridge in fine detail. Every screw, every plank, and every little ledge. There was however one part of the bridge that was harder to access and (here’s the big hint), let’s just say we were glad it hadn’t rained much! We found the cache…or rather we found a 4 foot long tube. The cache was inside, and to release it we had to solve a mini-maze. JJEF had constructed a mini-maze which had to be solved by means of twisting and turning the outer tube which surrounded a central pole. As we twisted and turned the outer casing more and more of the maze (and its dead ends) were visible. Until, eventually a film canister was revealed containing the log. We’d found the cache… and got to the log! Yay!

Undoing the Mini-Maze

Undoing the Mini-Maze

Of course such a contraption has to be put back together again, fortunately this was easier as the maze was visible prior to being twisted back into its tube.

We didn’t see Team VP at cache 2 of the Fifield series. This required a pencil to spring open a bird-box. Unfortunately the spring didn’t work, so we set about dismantling the bird-box with a Swiss Army knife. Another log signed.

Birdbox 1

Birdbox 1

We did see Team VP at cache 3. They hadn’t found it. They left us to search GZ. Three or four fallen huge tree trunks. Lots of bramble and prickly bushes. We scoured the area, but failed to find the cache. Most other cache owners would have hidden a cache in one of the many trunk holes, we searched those too, even though JJEF caches tend to be ‘out in the open’.

We moved on. The next cache was the easiest find of the day, in a sawn off log.

Easy -  as falling off a log!

Easy – as falling off a log!

We caught up again with Team VP at cache 5. We had to find a padlocked box, and nearby a number to unlock it. Before we tried to search Team VP realised that they had hidden the ‘number’ in an incorrect way. They told us this and what the correction should be. All very well, but this assumed we would find the box and the nearby number. Fortunately we did!

Here's the cache..now where's the code number ?

Here’s the cache..now where’s the code number ?

The last cache in the series was another bird box, and again opened in a way only a JJEF cache can!

Birdbox 2

Birdbox 2

So we walked back to the car, and then remembered the multi-cache from earlier. We re-checked our calculation! Whoops! So much for a simple sum a five year old could do.. we failed miserably! The corrected sum took us back to where we had been before…and who was ahead of us … Team VP ! We both signed the logs, and parted. Farewell Team VP .. happy caching in the future.

Stumped by our arithmetic!

Stumped by our arithmetic!

Arguably that was the last cache, but we knew of one more JJEF cache a short drive (sort of) on the way home. As we drove, we tried to remember the last time we had seen geocachers ‘on the cache’ (excluding meets) and decided it was October 2015. We wondered whether it would be another 18 months before we saw another cacher.

The cache we were driving to was called ‘Mini Elevator’ set on the junction of a footpath and a small one-car layby. As we approached the layby we saw a car already parked in it. Plan B. Park in the nearby cricket club. How can we bluff our way past the over-officious groundsman to park our car ? Since we had travelled in Mrs HG137’s car, that would be her problem. Meanwhile…back at the layby, what are those two ladies doing ? Are they looking for something?

Yes, they were.

They were looking for the cache we had come to seek. Foxscout and Doggwalker had come all the way from Essex to cache for the day, and attend a cacher’s meet in Windsor the day after. They had 30 or 40 caches ahead of them for the day, and we joined them in the search. Doggywalker found JJEF’s (non-wooden) construction and we both signed the log.

Having gone 18 months between seeing geocachers out and about, we had barely gone 18 minutes! Amazing!

So a really fun morning, we met 4 geocachers (and two dogs), found 6 JJEF caches, and got sent to the bottom of the class for some really poor arithmetic!

Bluebells to finish!

Bluebells to finish!