December 22 : Buckler’s Park : Crowthorne and the TRL

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

It was the Saturday before Christmas, and we had loads of things we *should* be doing. So – obviously – we found ourselves in Crowthorne, parking the geocar for a morning’s geocaching. As the December days are short, the paths are now muddy, and we had (ahem) loads to do, we chose somewhere local, and likely to have good paths. The venue was Buckler’s Park, a new housing development in progress on the site of the old Transport Research Laboratory http://www.landghomes.com/developments/bucklers-park The houses are/will mostly be on the side of the site where the TRL buildings were, and a large part of the rest of the site, where the test track was, has been turned into a country park. (Editor’s note: The name comes from Buckler’s cars, which were made in Crowthorne in the 1950s-1960s.)

Buckler's Park

Buckler’s Park


There’s parking here, overlooking the new houses on one side and the park on the other, and we started the morning by finding a puzzle cache based on the history of the TRL, which we had looked up before setting out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_Research_Laboratory After reading some well put-together noticeboards telling us about the history of the site (among many other things, part of the film ‘Quadrophenia’ was filmed here), we set off along a well surfaced and unmuddy path into woods.

There are two new cache series here, ‘New Buckler’s Forest TRL Series’ parts 1 and 2, both placed during the autumn of 2018. The caches are set at regular intervals, close to well surfaced paths, and all are made of/hidden in materials derived from the site or chosen to blend in with the places they are hidden; there are no ill-disguised film canisters or out-in-the-open plastic boxes to be found here; I’m trying not to spoil it by giving away exactly what we found, or where. The country park has retained some parts of the old test site, and there are loads and loads of newly planted trees, lots of varieties, several ponds, and streams newly unearthed from being culverted under the concrete. On this morning, at probably at many other times, this park is hugely popular with walkers, runners, cyclists of all speeds, and dogs in all sizes, shapes and muddiness; it’s hard to find a quiet moment to search for a geocache!
The Pan

The Pan


Hill Start Hill

Hill Start Hill


We walked past the site of ‘The Pan’, which makes for both interesting signposts and some old and obvious jokes, past ‘Hill Start Hill’, and on to a section of old tarmac which must have been an experimental cycle lane junction, complete with road signs (they were tested on this site), and on towards the northern edge of the park.
Out of position road sign?

Out of position road sign?


The trees thinned, and we emerged onto a wide section of tarmac which turned away from us, the ‘Banked Curve’. This is part of the test circuit from the TRL, where cars used to hurtle around at very high speeds. It’s 10m from bottom to top of the banking, and we both tried, and failed to climb it, though, annoyingly, dogs have no problems. Around the edges of the banking are small green boxes (a bit like telecoms boxes), monitoring boxes left over from testing days, and these have all been kept, some re-used as minibeast hotels, some to become mini-museums or libraries.
Banked Curve

Banked Curve


Minibeast hotel

Minibeast hotel


Bird box?  Bat box?

Bird box? Bat box?


Turning back towards the car park, we passed the old fire ponds and fire tower, plus a relic of something automotive … a winner’s podium … strange.
No races near here recently!

No races near here recently!


After a few more minutes we were back at the car park, and two hours had vanished in a flash. Ten caches attempted, ten found, and an interesting country park. It’s good now, though very, very new. Come the spring, with new growth, it’ll be lovely, and even better with a few year’s maturity, a good place to return to as it develops.

And here is just one of the caches we found (but every single one was special):

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July 29 Simons Wood, Wokingham

This was week 3 of the Mary Hyde challenge. This week to gain the Mary Hyde souvenir one had to find or deposit a trackable. Finding trackables can often be tricky, as frequently caches are listed as ‘containing a trackable’ but due to various reasons, the trackable is missing. We were therefore grateful we had a trackable in our possession, Annerschter (aka Henry’s Cat). But where to place it ? The weather was forecast to very wet so a short caching trip was planned in Simons Wood on the border of Wokingham/Crowthorne/Finchampstead. Fingers crossed we would finish before it rains!

Simons Wood is owned the National Trust, and is a heavily wooded, and in places heavily rhododendron-ed. The National Trust are slowly removing many of these large invasive plants, but it will still take some time until Simons Wood loses its ‘jungle’ feel.

Is it a jungle or is it Simon’s Wood?


We’ve cached here before – way back in July 2014 when we found one the UK’s oldest geocaches, first hidden in 2003.
Today would be on the other side of the Wood and we would circumnavigate a property known as ‘The Heritage Club’.

Our first find, was well hidden under a fallen tree. We quickly discovered though, it was not a simple find. The cache had been procured from cache maker JJEF, and we had to work out how to open the cache! Like many of JJEF’s caches, it only takes a minute or two..but it gave our ‘little grey cells’ a light work out. As the cache was quite big, it was here placed Annerschter in.

No prizes for guessing where the cache is …

…here!

The second and third caches were harder to find. The hints were ‘near a circular clearing’ and ‘in the roots of a silver birch’. Well, woodland is always changing. Clearings are not clearings for long, silver birches tend to form a mini forest of their own.

For both caches we spent 10-15 minutes looking at a myriad of hiding places, and came close to DNFing both.

Amost a DNF !


Fortunately persistence paid off, and we were successful at each.

Our route back to the car passed the gates of ‘The Heritage Club’, a grandiose title which can easily be mistaken. It is not some 17th century building, or 19th century steam railway.. it is in fact a nudist holiday camp.

The Heritage Club

The Heritage Club

This accounts for the very high, prison-like fences surrounding the property. Given our struggles to find the last two caches we probably wouldn’t have seen anything if the fences weren’t so high!

Last cache of the day

The skies were darkening and cars had headlights on (at 11 am on a July morning!) we had a quarter of a mile yomp along a pavement back to the car. One cache to find – magnetic behind a road sign – and we would have finished. Yards from the car park, the first raindrops fell and we reached the car without getting too wet but having gained another Mary Hyde souvenir.

February 28 : Leap Year weekend part II

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Leap Year Weekend Caching Souvenir

Leap Year Weekend Caching Souvenir


Our original plan for caching on the Leap Year weekend was to find a cache – any cache – on February 29th, to fill that one day in the caching calendar that is only up for grabs once every four years. But somewhere in our planning, there had been a bit of ‘scope creep’ and out we went again, on the second day in the weekend, to look for geocaches.
Puzzle cache solved

Puzzle cache solved


Once more, we had decided on just two local caches. The first was another puzzle cache from the ‘Berkshire Residents’ series, with the final cache somewhere off a path leading from Nine Mile Ride. (Editor’s note: that’s not a very big clue as Nine Mile Ride is about seven and a half miles long!) Some of the cryptic clues which had enabled us to solve this puzzle involved ‘sports champion’ and ‘multiple jobs’. We left the geocar and headed off down a track, then grovelled around in the trees on either side, eventually finding the cache some little way from where the GPS said it should be. Ho hum. As we headed back to the geocar, we had to step aside smartly as a 4×4 came trundling up the track, before stopping to move a fallen branch. This didn’t seem quite right – surely this wasn’t a road? But the 4×4 driver assured us that he was in the right and we didn’t feel inclined to argue. Ho hum again.
Somewhere along Nine Mile Ride ...

Somewhere along Nine Mile Ride …


Back to the geocar, and time for the next cache, which was also along Nine Mile Ride. This cache is one that Mr Hg137 has covertly attempted, without a GPS (and without success) on previous occasions when passing by while working. Time for a concerted attempt by team Hg137. The cache title is ‘It’s with 20m of the coordinates specified’, so we stood at the spot of said coordinates and then fanned out to search for the cache. Mr Hg137 struck lucky and had the cache, seemingly within seconds, while I was still staring vaguely at the nearest tree to the coordinates. Ho hum for a third time. So, two caches, two successes, and another day bagged in the Leap Year weekend.

January 23 : Mixed weather and mixed fortunes in Crowthorne

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Crowthorne is replete with our caching failures – we have nicknamed them ‘Nemesis caches’. And on a mixed-weather morning, a local caching trip seemed just right. It was almost exactly two years, and 800 caches, since our last attempts at these caches, so maybe our searching skills have improved in the interval?

Crowthorne Church

Crowthorne Church


Our first Nemesis cache was ‘Sidetracked – Crowthorne’, part of a country-wide series placed close to railway stations. So far we have found 25 of them, from Edinburgh to Lake on the Isle of Wight, and from busy London termini to tiny local stations. Maybe our searching skills really had improved, as we found the cache after only a few minutes. The cache itself was of a design we hadn’t encountered before, and which blended seamlessly into its surroundings; perhaps that was why we didn’t find it last time?

Feeling triumphant, we tackled our next ‘Nemesis cache’, opposite the gates to Wellington College. The college entrance was busy with cars and coaches coming and going to sports events, so we felt a bit … on show. This time we weren’t nearly as efficient at finding the cache, but some minutes of wandering up and down, peering in bushes, reading cache logs and generally bumbling about eventually led us to the target. Two down!

Busy Saturday at Wellington College

Busy Saturday at Wellington College


And here our luck ran out. On down the busy road we went to ‘Nemesis cache’ number 3. The same strategies that had worked twice already that morning were not working now. We gave up after some minutes of furtling around behind a BT box, as we were getting nowhere, and we were a bit conspicuous to folk coming and going from a side road. (Why does the entire population of Crowthorne drive about on Saturday mornings, we wondered?)

We moved on to attempt some new (to us) caches, placed since we last cached here. It didn’t get better. We didn’t find the next two caches either; three failures in a row is not good at all! (Editor’s note: one of those DNFs has now been confirmed as missing by the cache owner.) Fourth time lucky – we found another cache tucked beneath a hedge, though once again we felt slightly uncomfortable as we rootled away so close to people’s houses, which is always a problem with urban/suburban caching.

Eventually we arrived in bustling central Crowthorne, to attempt another newish cache. Once again we were unsuccessful. Actually, we didn’t feel too bad about this failure, as the cache hadn’t been found for five months up to then, and still remains unfound. Maybe it, too, is no longer there?

Where's that cache?  Not here!

Where’s that cache? Not here!


We wanted to finish with a find – it’s always dispiriting when then last (or first) cache of the day is a DNF (did not find), so we re-tried another of our Nemesis caches, ‘Disappearing Berkshire #1 – Buckler Cars’ ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckler_Cars ) . The cache is a short multi, themed around the area where the cars were built; the cache hint had been subtly altered since our last attempt, so we were hopeful. As before, we followed the route to GZ and found ourselves in a familiar alley. Some equally familiar searching followed, followed by another DNF (they were becoming familiar, too). Oh well – Crowthorne remains replete with unfound caches … maybe we’ll return in another two years to try again?

PS Here, as ever, are some of the caches we found.

January 16 : Cache 1300 featuring a Nuclear Bunker, a Rescue Dog and a Deer

Caches that cross a multiple of 100 seem significant, and for us the number 13 is also significant so cache 1300 seemed a good one to make special.

Sadly time was a bit precious so we attempted a simple multi-cache just 2 miles from home. Normally we are wary of multis (especially those over 3 or 4 stages, as we invariably go wrong). However this one had a single stage, the questions seemed easy and the cache had received over 20 favourite points (out of 140 finds).


We drove to a car park near Crowthorne on the edge of Swinley Forest. The car park was full! Dog walkers a plenty! We inched our way into a space (avoiding the toddlers and dogs as we parked) and set off. We noticed that a dog search and rescue team were setting up, but given the frenetic nature of the car park we didn’t have time to find out more.

Walking down one of Swinley Forest’s sandy tracks we were accompanied by at least 3 dog owners and 6 dogs. This is when we realised we were perhaps heading on a slightly longer route to our first target, a former Nuclear Bunker.

We turned away from the dogs quite quickly and then passed pine and fir trees we helped to plant 4 years previously (following the great Swinley Forest fire when over 100,000 trees were lost). We turned back to take a photo and suddenly a deer ran across the path where we had been seconds before. Then another!


A lovely sight, and one we’d have missed if we hadn’t left the car park from the wrong exit or indeed looked back at the moment.

Britain is littered with Nuclear Bunkers built primarily during the Cold War, now most have been decommissioned. Mr Hg137 has lived within 5 miles of this site for most of his life and never known of its existence.

The remains of the bunker

The remains of the bunker


What remains in Swinley Forest is a small hole in the ground, filled in with concrete.
To locate the final location of the cache, various questions were asked about the hole, and what can be seen in the neighbourhood. Then its a short walk to find the final cache closer to the centre of Crowthorne. Although this was only a 35mm film container, much thought has been made with its placement.

We arrived back at the car park – much, much quieter now… but the search and rescue dog team had not left! They were about to undertake a training exercise and had sent a ‘dogsbody’ off to hide. Apparently the lowland search and rescue dogs are called out about once every fortnight primarily to look for Amnesia/Alzheimer’s/elderly people who have wandered off. (www.k9-sar.com)

Lexi posing for a photo, before her work starts

Lexi posing for a photo, before her work starts


Before Lexi went off to find the ‘dogsbody’ she kindly posed for a photo and we gave a donation too… one never knows when we are lost (!) and may just need the assistance of search and rescue.

So despite cache 1300 being only a 35mm film canister a bunker, a dog and a deer made it a truly memorable experience!

January 10 – Connie the Crab and friend

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

We don’t find many trackables – and then three come along at once!

Connie the Crab and friend

Connie the Crab and friend


The third of the three trackables we found in a cache on Wildmoor Heath was ‘Connie the Crab and friend’. Connie is a red metal crab, accompanied by a brown plastic/rubber crabby friend. She set off from Texas in February 2015, but went ‘walkabout’ for over three months in the summer. She was picked up from a cache in Texas in early June, and next appeared on the last day of September in a cache near Havant in southern England. As the trackable log says,

” Well this little fella has pitched up in a cache in the UK, who knows how it got here from Texas.”

How indeed?

Connie likes beaches, so we plan to drop her off somewhere near the coast on a trip we have planned in the next few weeks.

PS I thought I’d include some instructions (in a separate post) on how to log a trackable, as this has been missed several times for more than one of the trackables we found.

January 10 – Travel Pirate Geocoin

Pirate Geocoin

Pirate Geocoin


“Aha There me ‘earties !

Listen to what treasure we found in a cache recently!

A pirate geocoin!

Made from semi-precious plastic its an angry looking pirate waving a cutlass. A cutlass, lads! Who carries a cutlass these days eh! Cutlasses are for wimps.

I was able to find out about the pirate. It, like us, is on a mission. Whilst we like to plunder gold and silver and doubloons and jewels it wants to travel the world and head back for its owner’s 18th birthday in Poland in 2021. Poland! How many pirates come from Poland ?

Anyway me ‘earties I’ve decided our Polish friend can come with us for a few weeks, see the rough and tumble of real-live pirates.

All those who agree shout “Ay” ”

“Ay-ay Captain”