April 29 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : Withyham to Frant : deer and snakes

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The next stage of our unofficial, self-made long distance path from Sandhurst (just in Berkshire) to Sandhurst (just in Kent) would take us across the Weald from Withyham to Frant.

We’d checked our route for geocaches – and there weren’t that many – so we couldn’t simply walk from cache to cache, following the GPS. And, for much of the way, we weren’t following an official waymarked route, so a bit more navigation was going to be needed. Plenty of scope for getting lost here!

We set off from the disused Withyham station. There was a cache here – or rather, there was the first part of a multi-cache here, with the final cache location a short walk away, unfortunately not in the direction we planned to go. We backtracked and found the cache after much furtling around in tree roots. While doing this we were passed by a young couple, out walking … then we passed them again, while searching … then again. Eventually we explained what we were doing, as they were probably wondering what we were doing. Close by was another cache; we found that too.

Good, so that was two caches found, and we hadn’t even started the walk properly yet. Now what? Lunch! We’d had a not-very-good journey to the start of the walk – I’d got lost THREE times on the way, mostly in Tunbridge Wells (why are there no useful road signs there, none at all?) so we were rather late setting off, about, ummm, an hour later than we intended. There were no more caches to be found for three miles, so we had a chance to catch up with a cacheless walk. Why are there so few caches in this area? No idea.

Springtime in the Weald

Springtime in the Weald

Leaving the railway line, we headed uphill, over a road and across country to Motts Mill, then joined the High Weald Landscape Trail https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Weald_Landscape_Trail We headed towards Eridge station, which is a curious mixture – one line is a British Rail station, the other is a heritage steam railway. We heard a train arrive then depart, and saw two people walking towards us. One was carrying … it was enormous … what? A mattress? We had no idea, so we stopped to ask, and the ‘mattress’ was duly unzipped and displayed to us. It was a very large foam mat. The people were climbers, heading for Harrison’s Rocks, a well known (not to us!) climbing site http://www.cumc.org.uk/crags/harrisons.html The mat was to provide a softish landing in case the climbing went wrong.

We, too paused at Eridge station, which is an interesting place – as with the trains, one platform is all modern signage, metal seats, automated announcements, today’s world, and the other platform, just the other side of the tracks, has a slightly different colour scheme, wooden seats, signs on chalk boards, and exudes a completely different time and character.

Eridge station

Eridge station

We went under the busy A26, then crossed again (twice) at road level, to find a cache at Eridge rocks, which are tucked away in woods by the road. A good little rocky outcrop, with shapes in the rocks and trees that resemble animals and faces. You really would not know that there was anything unusual there, so well is it hidden. And that was the third and last cache of the day.

But we still had some way to go to Frant, the end of the walk. As soon as we left the A21, the traffic noise died away and it was a bright warm spring afternoon. Loverly! We left the tarmac and walked through woods. Somewhere here Mr Hg137 disturbed a shrew/vole, and let out one of his ‘all purpose distress squeaks’ while the shrew/vole ran away, fast.
Eridge Park

Eridge Park

We went through a gate in a high fence into more open ground. There were isolated trees, bracken, and fenced-off copses of trees, and I was just remarking that this looked quite a lot like a deer park when … some deer ran across our path. Mr Hg137 let out a more muted ‘all purpose distress squeak’, then we went still and quiet and watched the deer for some while before they melted into the trees. A bit of research later on showed that we were in Eridge deer park, which has oodles of history and once belonged to Odo,the brother of William the Conqueror, http://eridgepark.co.uk/the-estate/history
Deer - look carefully, they are there!

Deer – look carefully, they are there!

On we went, climbing steadily towards Frant. Suddenly another, much louder ‘all purpose distress squeak’ rang out, followed by “SNAKE!” A yellow and black snake, about the length of my arm and a little thicker than my thumb, was sunning itself on the dusty path. We watched the adder from a pace or so away, and it slithered away into the grass without urgency. A steep climb out of the deer park brought us to journey’s end, Frant village, where the geocar was parked by the cricket pitch.
Snake !!!

Snake !!!

Not many caches on this walk, but a good, scenic route, with loads of wildlife, varied terrain, and some cracking views, especially from Frant.

Here are a couple 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!