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!

December 31 : Caches of the Year 2016

Here are some of our caches of the year including dinosaurs, crocodiles and kangaroos ! Some of the pictures you may have seen before, some we have deliberately held back. Thanks for following our blog during 2016 – and happy caching in 2017!

December 27 : West End Common

Two days of feasting, family and festivities were at an end. We needed exercise!

What better than a small geocaching trip followed by a walk around RHS Gardens at Wisley?

West End Common

West End Common


Over the years we had found all the caches near to Wisley so we ventured a little further afield to a relatively new series (October 2016) placed in West End Common. Many of the these caches had already attracted lots of favourite points so we knew it would be special!

There are 10 caches in the series, and one much, much older cache, Leviathan, planted in 2001!

Normally we like to start caching at 930/1000 ish, but today we started late morning so we could arrive at Wisley to see the Christmas Glow light festival at dusk. Late morning though is not the time to arrive at a smallish car park, the morning dog walkers had not yet finished and the car park was full! We managed, just, to fit the geo-car in the last remaining space and set off.

Cache 1 in this series, is, we believe, a tree climb. Leastways, the comments, the hints, and the difficulty/terrain rating all allude to it being a tree climb. But our GPS would not settle and bounced between 2-3 likely (and unlikely) candidates. We could not see a cache, and in most cases how to even get started on a climb. So we left this cache unattempted.

Cache 2 required a ‘nearby tool’. What could this mean ? Our GPS again took us to three different locations. The first a multi-trunk tree… nothing there. Then a pair of silver birches…nothing there. Then another larger tree… not much happening there. Our investigations had been noticed by a passer-by.

“Are you looking for a lens cap ?” . They had clearly found one on the path 20 meters away.

“No, thanks”. We replied. We paused while they walked away.

We re-read the logs, and discovered someone mentioned ‘height’. We had been concentrating on looking low, and suddenly we looked up…straight at the cache. Twenty feet in the air! The cache was attached to a retractable dog lead, the dog lead itself firmly fixed to the tree-trunk. We needed to find a long (sorry, very long,15 foot) branch and attach it to the dog-lead handle and pull. Waving a 15 foot branch in the air, and trying to hook the end through a hole the size of a wrist isn’t easy. But after several attempts we managed it, and pulled the cache to ground. Here we held onto it tightly as we signed the log, and then let go of the branch … watching the cache rise higher and higher. A fun, if tiring, cache!

West End common

Don’t Let Go!

West End common

Log signed – ready to replace!

West end Common

Safely back – 20 feet higher!


We followed the paths to cache 3. We assumed that we were following paths, as the Autumn leaves were still thick on the ground, and it was sometimes tricky to know whether we were on paths or grass.

West end common

On the way to cache 3


Cache 3 was much, much easier to find than cache 2. Hidden in a stump by a yew tree. An easy find, yet it still took us two attempts to locate the well concealed pine cone.
West end common

Cache 3


We were near a BMX track, and sat on one of the ramps and ate lunch. Three caches attempted and each had taken a fair chunk of time. We reviewed the number of caches and time left and decided to shorten our caching trip at about halfway. Even at 1 o’clock the light levels were not good, so with even poorer light, we wouldn’t stand a chance!

Our route to cache 4 can best be described as problematic. Mr HG137 thought the footpath would circle around to the cache, even though the GPS was in the opposite direction. The true path, involved walking a fair way back to cache 2, which for some reason we ignored. Instead we followed the BMX track, then a muddy half track, jumping across a stream, avoiding more mud, climbimg a steepish slope, and arriving somehow at GZ.

Well not quite at GZ.

West end common

A trcky bridge to reach cache 4!

GZ was the other side of a slippery, branch bridge! We both tentatively crossed as we needed 2 sets of hand at the cache… a floater! We’ve never done of these successfully, and today we wanted to change that! Armed with our 2 litres of water Mrs HG137 poured it into the top of the cache. Mr HG137’s hand was firmly wedged at the bottom preventing liquid egress. Slowly, slowly the cache rose. A futile grab by Mrs HG137, and more water was needed. Second time lucky! We would have liked to have taken pictures of our slightly comical manoeuvres but, with all hands busy…even a selfie stick wouldn’t have helped! Log signed, cache replaced and then the slippery bridge to cross. Phew! High fives all round!

West end common

Replacing the floater

Our intention was to undertake two more caches, number 5 in the West End Series, and the old Leviathan cache. When we arrived at cache 5 we decided against retrieval. It required climbing/walking across some branches half-submerged in the River Mole! Not for us!

The footpath continued along the river. Sometimes dry, other times so wet a boardwalk had been erected. It was near to one of these boardwalks we saw a middle-aged man slip right over as he descended from the boards onto the muddy path. How we remained clean as we hauled him up we will never know!

West end common

Boardwalk and the River Mole

Leviathan by name and by nature. It was hidden under an immense tree trunk and was an immense size.. an ammo can! We don’t see too many of these and it was great to see such fabulous old container. Inside were ALL the logs going back to 2001. In those days people wrote about their exploits, the weather, in the log book. A far cry from today’s “sign it, date it”.

West end common

Leviathan and all its log books

West end common

Leviathan and a log from long ago


The light levels were fading fast and our decision to abandon our caching trip proved correct, as we arrived at Wisley at dusk, seemingly with thousands of others, to marvel at Christmas Glow trail around the grounds. A great end to a great day’s caching.

Wisley - Christmas Glow

Wisley – Christmas Glow

Wisley - Christmas Glow

Wisley – Christmas Glow

Wisley - Christmas Glow

Wisley – Christmas Glow

July 2 : Sunningdale

Many of our recent caching trips had been some distance from home. We realised we hadn’t found many caches within 10 miles of our house for some time! Today, with bad weather forecast, was the morning to put that right.

Sunningdale Church

Sunningdale Church


A small series in Sunningdale, Berkshire was our target and what a fine series it was. We loaded lots of other Sunningdale caches into our GPS thinking that if we were quick finders (Ed : wishful thinking !), or the rain held off (Ed : even more wishful thinking!) we would have plenty to do.

Our first target was a puzzle cache in the ‘Famous Berkshire Residents series’. We had solved the puzzle before setting out, and realised the co-ordinates were near a handy parking space yards from the Sunningdale circuit. We parked up, and searched. Read the hint. Searched some more. Re-read the hint. Searched again. Nothing. The advantage of parking so close to the mystery GZ, was that we could have another attempt later.

On route to Coworth Polo

On route to Coworth Polo


And so onto the ‘Sunningdale Circuit’. This was a very well thought out circuit in a predominantly semi-urban area. Most of the route was by roads mainly minor, but did include the notoriously busy A30! There were some footpaths too, most of which were very passable given the rain we had had recently.

The first cache was near a bowling club, and we just about got away with finding the cache while bowlers were arriving at their venue. Our slight problem here, was the cache was embedded in a road sign, we initially looked at the wrong one, and then it was ages before we found the cache in the correct location. (This series wasn’t going to be easy).

Our next WAS an easy find. The cache log was hidden within a very life-like brick. With a small amount of rubble around it, it was very well hidden. Then to a gate. Here again we started our search at the wrong end, but once we had swapped ends, the cache was easy. A disappointing feature of the whole series was the smallness of caches, no space for goodies or trackables.

The gate lead to a footpath, which soon opened out to the Coworth Park Polo fields. Very scenic and totally unexpected given the narrow lanes we had been on earlier. Here there were supposed to be 2 caches, but one had been disabled since 28/5/16 and has yet to be replaced. The other a very devilish bison hanging in a tree. These caches are always really easy to spot when you know where they are, but until you spot them, every branch needs close examination. We felt a bit exposed here, as there was a fete (or similar) being set up and lots of people busy with all the tasks that fetes entail.

Coworth Polo - Fete

Coworth Polo – Fete


We walked around the fete field, and arrived at a beautiful footpath with overhanging trees. This was the best view all day, and best of all there was a cache to find. In amongst tree roots, but so many of the trees had long roots leading into the sunken lane.

Sunningdale

Sunken lane in Sunningdale

The sunken lane led to the A30, and its roar got louder as we approached. Just as stepped out on the A30 pavement we felt rain. At first just a little and we were able to use the many overhanging trees as shelter. A short diversion to find a cache right on the Berkshire/Surrey border and then back to the A30.

Berkshire/Surrey border

Berkshire/Surrey border

Surrey border

Proud of the county history


A very wet A30!

A very wet A30!

Our next cache find was straightforward, but as we removed the cache from its hidey-hole, the heavens well and truly opened. A nearby rhododendron bush yards from the cache provided us with shelter for some 15 minutes. During that time we saw several wet walkers, some very wet dogs, and even wetter runners go by. Most didn’t see us at all, hiding from the intense rain. We decided that we could get to the car by finding just 2 more caches and eventually when the rain eased, we set off again.

Our last footpath of the day was now quite wet and muddy, but we found the next cache fairly easily. Our final cache of the day – one of those false stone caches – was hidden behind other stone objects near to a Sunningdale church.
Not surprisingly given our searching prowess, we yet again we failed to find it on our initial search.

We arrived at the car, and gave the ‘Berkshire Resident’ one final look. But our look was cut short, when a large back cloud came ominously into view.

So with the exception of the puzzle cache, we found all the Sunningdale Circuit caches we attempted, although by the end of the morning it felt more like the Rainingdale circuit!

Caches found included :

April 19 – The Ridgeway and an attempt to break our record of caches in a day (Part 2)

… our daily record breaking attempt continued by descending from the Ridgeway towards the hamlet of East Ginge…

We felt quietly confident as we’d found 19 caches so far and just needed 10 from the remaining 12 caches to break our record.

View from East Ginge looking towards the Ridgeway

View from East Ginge looking towards the Ridgeway

The previous night we had solved a puzzle cache and this was our next target. Themed very overtly on the film franchise which begins “In a Galaxy, far, far away…” we discovered Google was our friend and gave us the answers quickly. Sadly our overnight map management skills were poor. What we had read as a ‘footpath’ turned out to be an impenetrable field boundary. So we lost our third cache of our day due to our poor fact-finding skills. Whoops!

The reason we had dropped down to the hamlet of East Ginge was to undertake a very cleverly constructed series entitled “From Nano to Ammo”. Six caches increasing in size. All hidden along a straight road!

Along this track are 6 differently sized caches... can you find them ?

Along this track are 6 differently sized caches… can you find them ?

If you are new to geocaching, and wonder what all the sizes mean hopefully these pictures will give you a clue :

Nano

Nano

Micro

Micro

Small

Small

Regular

Regular

Ammo

Ammo

Observant readers will note there are only 5 pictures!

The sixth cache type to be found on this mile long route was a ‘Unknown’ type. The container was so unusual it will part of our end of year highlights!

We really enjoyed this mini-series. It just proved with a little imagination a variety of containers could be placed in the same terrain! An excellent idea very well executed.

So our diversion at the foot of the Ridgeway yielded 6 caches out of 7, and our running total of 25. To break our record we need 4 more caches, but we only had 5 left to attempt! Two caches were to be attempted on our second climb up to the Ridgway and then 3 to find on the Ridge itself. Would we complete our mission…

(to be continued)

PS We don’t normally split our caching adventure into 3, but the ‘Nano to Ammo’ series was so different we felt it deserved its own special blog.

May 9 : Thames Path : Abingdon to Clifton Hampden (circular)

After a few days on the Isle of Wight… its back to the Thames Path !

For much of the Thames Path, we have taken two cars and walked linearly between them.

Our next section of the Thames Path (Abingdon to Wallingford) seemed quite long if we were to cache the path too. Instead we chose to break the section at Clifton Hampden which enabled a circular walk… and only one car!

We started at Clifton Hampden and walked away from the river through countryside towards Abingdon. Our first target was a 3-stage multi. (Given our feeble efforts with a 5 stage multi on the Isle of Wight a few days earlier, this was a brave choice). Fortunately the caching gods were with us, as we found all 3 parts and the final part too! The cache container was awkwardly hidden in a tree stump, and it took some minutes to retrieve it.

As we were collecting the 3 parts for the multi, we tried one of the caches we passed on route. It was last found 6 months ago prior to the trees losing their leaves. 6 months of the leaf litter was over a foot deep, and concealed the cache so well we DNF-ed it.

The multi took us close to the high, and slightly intimidating, fence surrounding Culham Science Centre (http://www.culham.org.uk/)

Culham Science Centre

Culham Science Centre


We continued around it before arriving at our next cache, one of the RRR series (Rascal’s River Ramble) of 12 caches we were to follow for much of the day. The particular cache had us fooled momentarily, until we undertook the cachers trick of lifting and moving everything.

The RRR series description quite clearly stated “it is thorns, ivy and stingers free!”. Sadly this piece of information caused us much confusion at several caches, as they were indeed in nettles ! A good variety of containers including sawn-off logs, magnetic nanos, bisons and tupperware made this a very enjoyable and thought provoking series.

We arrived at Abingdon, and thus our Thames Path resumption, at lunchtime. There are many seats by the river and it was pleasant watching the life of the river unfold. A canal boat was being filled for a few days away, another boat went to the fuel station to fill up, other pleasure craft chugged along.

Lunch stop by the river

Lunch stop by the river

We still had a few miles left – and a few caches too – so set off in search of the cache called Ollie the Owl. We weren’t expecting to find it, as it had been disabled as the cache had gone AWOL (or should that be AOWL ?). A shame as the pictures on http://www.geocaching.com showed a really fine creation.

Ollie the Owl... before he flew away (source : www.geocaching.com)

Ollie the Owl… before he flew away (source : http://www.geocaching.com)

We nearly walked passed Freddy the Frog, as were distracted by a game of cricket – fortunately a quick find.

Frog...

Frog…

...Squirrel

…Squirrel


Thereafter we picked more of the RRR caches including a great hide in a squirrel! Nuts eh ?

We had one other DNF, where the cache was hidden in/under/on a deserted bridge.

The river took us close to Didcot Power Station. Built in the late 60s, much of it is now being decommissioned. During the Summer last year, 3 of the 6 cooling towers were demolished. The remaining 3 will be demolished later this year.

This view will change when towers are demolished later this year!

This view will change when towers are demolished later this year!

Our final cache was a puzzle cache we had solved some weeks earlier. We haven’t been tackling many of the puzzle caches, as the final co-ordinates may be some distance from the Thames. This one was dangling in a tree only yards from the water’s edge.

We paused at the last lock of the day, Clifton Lock, and watched a boat pass through. We then noticed the lockkeeper had plants for sale. Sadly no fuschias as Mrs HG137 wanted- but we did buy some Aubrieta, which we’ve subsequently planted. When they flower next year (I have great faith in Mrs Hg137’s green fingers) they will remind us of a great days walking and caching in the Oxfordshire countryside.

Plants for sale

Plants for sale

Here are a few more of the imaginative containers we found on this trip :

Thames Path statistics : Route length : 3 miles Total distance walked : 65.7 miles

Caches found : 14 Total caches found : 139