September 30 : Popham Perambulation

It had been some weeks since our last all-day geocaching expedition, and with Autumn taking hold, the Popham Perambulation seemed an ideal route to complete before the weather and daylight succumbed to Winter.

Fantastic views around the farmland


Popham is a small village just outside of Basingstoke near to both the M3 and A30. It has an airfield though we only saw one aircraft all day and that was at lunchtime. The Perambulation circuit consists of 16 caches, a bonus cache (based on numbers collected from caches along the way), and also a Church Micro: 18 caches, 5 miles.

The route took us around farmland – we must have gone round at least half a dozen fields, many of which had boundary hedgerows (ideally hiding places!). The route also crossed through several small copses (again ideal caching locations).

While we were on route to cache 1 we were aware of several vehicles driving into the first farm.
What were they going to ?

What is that vehicle doing ?

It was only much later we saw lots of pheasants (doing a good guard job over a cache) and heard guns firing. Then, we realised our route was close to a day’s shoot. Indeed while we were attempting caches 14, 15, and 16 the shooting party were preparing to shoot within yards of where we were looking. Minutes later and we would have been in the firing line! Phew !

The numbers that we needed to find the bonus cache had been placed in various caches on route. We were grateful that the numbers were duplicated in various caches, as we failed to find 4 of the 16 caches! Two of these DNFs were in ivy and after 10-15 minutes searching we gave up at each location. Another of our DNFs had genuinely gone missing and has subsequently been replaced.

Somewhere in the ivy, is a cache. Sadly we didn’t find it!

Many of the caches we found were relatively small and it took us a few cache finds until we found a cache big enough to fit the Schlumpfi trackable inside.

Farewell Schlumpfi!

St James, Woodmancott


The Church Micro was an easy find, as it was out in the open, so we hid it better. Our only disappointment was that the Church was closed, presumably for the following day’s Harvest Festival. The Church did have an unusual way of displaying parish notices!

The Church seats were an ideal place to have lunch, and it was here a light aircraft flew overhead, towing a banner advertising Winchester shopping centre!

After cache 16 we checked the numbers we had found, and discovered more by luck than judgement, our car was parked a few yards from the final hiding place.

Although we didn’t find all the caches which was disappointing, the walk around the chalk farmland around Hampshire was great circuit with some expansive views which we thoroughly enjoyed. Some of the caches we found included :

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August 19 : Farley Forage

Our plans today were the Farley Forage series and a couple of other caches on route. The caches were ‘squeezed’ between two other series we had completed recently – the Hampshire Drive By, and the Cache-as-Cache-can series in Farley Hill.

Passports at the ready!

The Farley Forage series was wholly in Berkshire, but due to quirkiness of the roads – and a troublesome (vehicle) ford crossing of the River Blackwater, we parked in Hampshire. Indeed this closeness of the county boundary was celebrated by our first cache of the day called County (Re) Boundary. This cache was a replacement for a previous one, and we suspect hidden in the same place. In a tree bole, 6 feet above a muddy bank.
Mr Hg137 scrambled up, located the cache and passed it down for Mrs Hg137 to sign the log and retrieve 2 trackables : Monkey Magic and a World Geocoin. What a good start to the day!

Farley Ford, standing in Berkshire, looking into Hampshire

We then started on the Farley Forage route, crossing the River Blackwater not by the ford but via a small concrete bridge and arriving very quickly at Farley Forage #1. We had read that the previous finder had reported the cache container was broken so we had taken along a film canister to provide a further layer of protection. It wasn’t needed as the cache owner had been out and fixed the cache before 9 o’clock!

The cache owner, Twinkandco, places small caches, generally nano sized, sometimes a film container, but nearly always connected to a piece of rural camouflage. Sometimes the container is inside some bark, or a log, sometimes with a ‘tail’ inside a tube.. but always great fun!

All of the caches are easy (ish) to find, but sometimes a bit of bank scrambling is needed for retrieval.

This series had been advertised as ” … very wet and boggy in places after rainy weather and WELLYS ARE HIGHLY RECOMMENDED“. We had worn walking boots, and we were grateful we had, as shortly after cache 4 came the mud. Two hundred yards of it. The path was one giant mudslide. We picked our way between the soft, squelchy mud, the really slippery mud and the much-easier-to-walk-on shaly mud. In fact while we were traversing the mud we almost forget to see how close the next cache was, and nearly walked by it.

Mud, mud..glorious mud!

The Farley Forage series consisted of 16 caches and we had two others to find on our 4 mile walk. The County (Re) Boundary was one, and we were soon at the other, Sandpit Lane. We had several host trees to search here, and it was only after a few minutes that we managed to find the cache.

The Farley Forage series contained one multi, and due to some over-zealous navigation on Mr Hg137’s part we approached the first part from the wrong direction thus meaning we had to retrace our steps for the final find.

We had walked uphill, away from the river and the paths were much, much drier.

Except at cache 7.

We had rounded a blind corner on the footpath, and discovered the cache was hidden behind a tree the other side of a large stretch of mud.

(We knew the cache was there, as a plethora of muddy bootprints pointed towards the tree!).

Mrs Hg137 ventured across, and retrieved the cache at the second attempt. It was just as the log was being signed when 2 people came round the blind corner.

We’d been rumbled!

But no! They were cachers too. Penwood Plodders – another husband and wife team. We made sure they endured the mud by asking them to replace the cache! We walked on with them for a cache or two, chatting about the Devon Mega, the mud and caching in general. It became apparent that their walking pace, and cache administration, was quicker then us, so we allowed them to speed ahead. Nice meeting you!

(Ed: in case you are wondering why it takes longer to write ‘hg137’ on a log rather than ‘Penwood Plodders’, its because we scribble down a brief note about each cache, our experience at it, as well as taking a photo for this blog).

That’s better… a bit drier here !

The next section of the route was relatively uneventful, the cache containers maintained their uniqueness. As we re-approached the River Blackwater we crossed a few stiles (always good hiding places) and well as a cache hidden deep in a nettle bush.

Somewhere.. near to this stile’s signage .. may be a cache!

Several times we thought we were catching up with Penwood Plodders, but every time they were returning to the footpath having left it to find a cache.

Penwood Plodders in the distance

For much of the day we could hear the sound of farm machinery, and as discovered caches 12-14 we were walking alongside the farmer’s field. What he thought of two pairs of ‘ramblers’ walking along the footpath and both pairs stopping mid-field, in the same spot, we shall never know.

I wonder whether he spotted us…

We were expecting more mud on this section as the river was only feet away, but the paths were dry and meant the mud layer on our boots was quickly being walked off.

We found all the caches on route – a very enjoyable 4 mile walk – full of interesting finds and varied countryside. If you are in the areas of Farley Hill.. we recommend the series to you!

Other Caches we found included :

August 12 : Petersfield Plod

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

It was the weekend after the UK Geocaching Mega, and it all seemed a bit flat after the hustle and bustle of Devon. But it would be good to go out and actually search for a cache, instead of being handed the cache container by the previous cacher in the queue! We settled on the Petersfield Plod series, which starts at the south east of the town, then circles clockwise up onto the South Downs Way and back down to the starting point. There are 37 caches in the series, plus a few others along the same route. We decided to do every other cache, to give us a chance to do the rest of the series another time, maybe going around in the opposite direction.

Heath Pond, Petersfield

Heath Pond, Petersfield


We set off from a free car park close to Heath Lake, on Petersfield Common. Finding our first cache, we reached the edge of the common, crossed the road, and set off into farmland. And the stiles started … there were lots of them, some were surrounded by nettles, some were quite tall (and I am NOT tall) and, worst, one crossed an electric fence, with an unprotected strand of barbed wire as the top rail. Oh dear! Mr Hg137 did some careful balancing, and I carefully deployed my geohat as protection.
Watch out for barbed wire!

Watch out for barbed wire!


On we went, across a mixture of fields and very narrow lanes, the sort with moss growing down the centre. We dodged nettles, hunted in trees and behind posts, collected caches, and dropped off the ‘What is the City’ trackable we had picked up the week before.
Setting a trackable free

Setting a trackable free


Suddenly it all got very busy. We were stood, signing a cache log, at the side of a country lane. We looked up. A pony and trap were approaching. We waved, and they waved back. We were about to step out into the road, and thought better of it. A peloton of about twenty cyclists was zooming up, faster than the horse ahead. We waited, and they all passed. We stepped out into the road, and set off towards the South Downs. A huge tractor came into view, travelling at speed and entirely filling the lane. We thought for about one second, then climbed the bank at the roadside to let it rush by. Busy around here!
Watch out for horses!   And cyclists!

Watch out for horses! And cyclists!


Watch out for tractors!

Watch out for tractors!


Crossing a more major road, we set off uphill along another narrow lane leading to the South Downs Way. Part way up the hill was a cache hidden up a tree. Mr Hg137 started upwards, but time passed with him some way up the tree, and with me spotting from the ground, but neither of us could see our target and eventually we gave up. (That was a shame, caches up trees are especially satisfying.)
Couldn't find the cache in here ...

Couldn’t find the cache in here …

We walked up the lane. Large tractors and trailers were still rushing past, hauling grain, for it was a sunny day in the middle of harvest time. Nearly at the top of the hill, we needed to step smartly off the road again, as the combine harvester came down the hill, having finished one field and heading for the next.
Watch out for combine harvesters!

Watch out for combine harvesters!


Eventually we reached the crest of the hill and the South Downs Way. We walked this back in 2011, in the other direction, but neither of us could remember this section very well. Having paused to chat to an ultrarunner, out training, we found another few caches, hidden in the hedgerow, while yet more cyclists sped by oblivious to us.
South Downs Way

South Downs Way


We walked along the SDW for only a mile or so, passing the spot which is the county boundary between Hampshire and West Sussex, which is where the SDW originally finished before it was extended to Winchester a few years later.
County boundary - Hampshire/West Sussex

County boundary – Hampshire/West Sussex


And then we turned away northwards, steeply downhill along a lane, then across more fields towards Buriton village. More caches nestled behind nettles, another was buried under a bridge, and others were hidden in hedgerows. Reaching cache 30 in the series, we were concealed in the foliage, signing the log, when a voice from outside said “Is this number 30?” Nice to meet you, DJ_23! We’ll add you to our ever-lengthening list of cachers met while out in the field.
Found it!

Found it!


We were returning to our start point now, and it was late afternoon. A few caches further on was one which had lots of ‘favourite’ point from other cachers, and included the following instructions:
Note: to retrieve the cache you will need a special tool. This can be made from a length of string or thread about a metre in length with a piece of ferrous metal attached to the end of it. A newi-sh bronze coin would do for this (attached with blutak) or a steel screw (or nail). Check to see that it is attracted by a fridge magnet. Alternatively you could use a gadget often sold in budget shops which is invaluable for picking up certain items from the floor for those with limited mobility. Please return the cache carefully (“sticky” end up) once you have signed the log.

We had dutifully carried a piece of string and a nail around with us all day, and now it was time for some ‘fishing’. We were soon successful (we both tried it), and another cache joined our tally.

And then we had one final cache to find, and with a short walk along by the side of Heath Pond we were back at the geocar, having found nineteen of the twenty-one caches we had attempted, and collected clues for a bonus cache to be found another time, after a great walk and caching series on a lovely August day.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the many caches we found:

May 26 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : Kent border to Sandhurst

PROLOGUE

Our last caching trip on our Sandhurst (Berks) to Sandhurst (Kent) finished yards from the Kent border, and when we drove away we had thoughts of striding purposefully into Kent and onto Sandhurst… however since our last visit we were asked to undertake a small diversion while still in Sussex.

Kent, Sussex

Kent is ahead of us..but we’re not going there, yet!


The last cache we found on our previous trip contained a sheet of paper with the ‘Northings’ for the Great Wigsell Multi. Another cache, unfortunately now archived, contained the ‘Eastings’. This meant the Great Wigsell Multi was unreachable. The cache owner of these three caches contacted us with the missing information and asked, if we had time, to visit the Multi as it contained a trackable which needed to be moved on.

And so instead of heading East into Kent, we headed further South through light woodland for a 1/3 of a mile. We were pleasantly surprised on our arrival. Not only was the cache there after an eight month gap…but it was an ammo can!

We released the trackable and headed back to our car, wondering how many other cache owners we would be helping on the this holiday (see previous blog for more details).

And so to Kent.

THE SANDHURST WALK

Before finding the Great Wigsell Multi our day had not begun well. There had been a major accident and our route to the Kent border had been blocked. A plethora of side roads were also blocked with roadworks so we had had an interesting drive to our start point.

Our route was to take us 2/3 mile along a narrow country lane, unfortunately this was being used as one of the few roads open. We edged our way along, taking care watching out for traffic.

Or at least that was the agreed plan.

Sadly Mr Hg137 decided to check maps/GPS whilst walking up the pavement-less road and failed to spot a large pot-hole.

He landed considerably worse for wear, face down, lying on the tarmac.

Grazed wrists, ripped trousers, and several layers of skin removed from a lower leg. Ouch!

He limped to a gap in the roadside, where a passing motorist provided us with a few tissues which staunched the wounded leg. We both thought that having walked so far on our Sandhurst route, we would fail with just 2.5 miles to walk!

We sat. Annoyed.

Eventually Mr Hg137 stood up. The bleeding had ceased, and he could put weight on the injured leg (hidden behind the ripped trousers).

We tentatively walked on.

Kent countryside


We were following, for the last time, the Sussex Border Path, which up to that point had been brilliantly signposted. Sadly when we needed a post to show us the way to a cache 300 feet away, it was missing. No obvious track through farmland, and with some way still to go, we abandoned our search before it really got going. We knew we were getting close to our destination though as the cache belonged to a series entitled “Sandhurst Cross Circular Walk”.

The route took us through a farm. Clearly the farmer had had trouble with hikers, as there were a plethora of “Keep to the Path”, “Close the Gate” type signs. However the farmer had failed to mark the signpost clearly as we approached his back garden, and the fingerpost was angled for us to walk straight through his garden rather than a tiny path just by the fence line.

You can’t walk through Kent without seeing some of these!


It was shortly after this we found our first Kent cache on the walk. Hidden in tree roots. It had been well over an hour since our finding of the Sussex Multi so were grateful for an easy find.

Kent

Under the tree roots…

Our route took us through woodland, and around farm fields. We crossed far too many stiles for our liking (too tall for Mrs Hg137, too wobbly for Mr Hg137’s now-healing leg).

Kent

A Kentish stile!


And then we arrived at a Roman Road – and another cache. Again hidden in tree roots. Here though we had a long search. Lots of trees, and lots of roots.

Kent

Did the Romans leave this geocache for us to find ?

We were eventually successful and strode/limped purposefully the 1/4 mile into the village of Sandhurst.

A beautiful village green and fabulous clock tower. Our journey was complete.

Sandhurst, Kent

Sandhurst, Kent


Our final cache was under the clock tower, and we waited ages, for a bus driver to vacate the seat on which the cache had been placed.

Our final cache on this walk!


A fabulous setting for the end of our walk!

EPILOGUE

Sandhurst Geocachers Trail Trackable starts its quest

Sandhurst Geocachers Trail Trackable starts its quest

And so our walk was at an end. We finished in high Summer on a boiling hot day. We had started in the height of Winter, with ice on the ground. We had caught trains and buses. We had used many a long distance path including the Blackwater Path, The North Downs Way and the Sussex Border Path. We had walked beside canals, rivers and underneath a major flight path. We’d walked over Surrey’s highest hill, and walked through the claggy clay of the Weald. We’d undertaken quite a few Church Micros and learned about such diverse people as an Astronomer Royal and the founder of Ottawa. We even saw the Flying Scotsman!

The Flying Scotsman

The Flying Scotsman


We’d heard lots of birdsong and been lucky enough to see deer, a heron, an adder and a kingfisher.

Our route would have been approximately 60 miles if we had walked in a straight line but various constraints (Army land, Gatwick Airport, reservoirs) prevented this. Our convoluted route of 86 miles kept to footpaths where we could, avoided major towns and where possible picked a route with caches to find. Our route is visible here https://www.geocaching.com/track/map_gm.aspx?ID=6190539

An excellent adventure which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Sandhurst, Kent

As we noted on January 1, there is another Sandhurst, near Gloucester, a journey which we will undertake probably next year.

Do look out for that!

April 19 – The Ridgeway and an attempt to break our record of caches in a day (Part 1)

Spring and sunshine were definitely in the air and we decided to go further afield for our next caching adventure. The Ridgeway on the Oxfordshire/Berkshire border.

The three remaining towers of Didcot Power Station

The three remaining towers of Didcot Power Station

This was an area we had a fair knowledge of, as we had walked there before (we walked the whole 80+ miles of the Ridgeway in 2012), but had never cached on this section of the Ridgeway. There was a great circuit of 23 caches and another on its route.

We then discovered if we made a diversion or two we could attempt 9 other caches including two mini series of 6 and 2 caches and an easily solved puzzle cache. This would give us a total of 33 caches, which if we found them all, would break our best daily cache haul of 28 (set in August 2013).

Easy eh ?

After an hour’s drive we arrived at a car park on the Ridgeway itself. Without even leaving the car there were great views of farmland to the South, and to the North, the three remaining towers of Didcot Power Station.

As an aside, many people view such buildings as a blot on the landscape, which to an extent is true. But as a landmark, they do give aid in evaluating distance. When we walked the Ridgeway in 2012, the (then 6) towers were visible for at least half the Ridgeway’s length, which definitely gave a “Wow we’ve walked all that way” feeling!

Anyway the remaining 3 towers are due for demolition later this year, so we said “good-bye” to our walking companion of 4 years ago.

The Ridgeway is quite an open landscape as the chalk soil does not lend itself to large wooded areas. There are some trees, but these are in tiny pockets. Most of the caches were found were next to field posts, frequently well hidden in grass, and quite often under burgeoning stinging nettles. (The geo-pole was absolutely essential for these).

The series was entitled a Chocolate Series, though many of the cache names were not obviously chocolate – for example Lemon Mousse, Nougat, and Turkish Delight.

We found the first three caches very easily and thought (mistakenly!) we were in for a very easy day.

Never, never, never think that when put caching!

We failed to find number 4 (Coffee Cream). Every fence post near GZ had been well cleared of vegetation and there was no cache to find. Looking at the cache logs it has not been consistently found since mid-February. An occasional cacher has logged a “Found It” visit, but then written in the log “DNF” ! Standing at GZ does not count ! Logging “Found it” means the cache owner thinks the cache is there and won’t check it! Grr!

Lovely pile of stones.. but no cache underneath!

Lovely pile of stones.. but no cache underneath!

We had a similar experience at cache 7. Here though the cache had been found recently, and the GZ was very obvious (a tell-tale pile of cacher’s stones). That’s 2 DNFs out of 7. Suddenly the daily record attempt seems a long way off!

Our descent off the Ridgeway was completed at caches 8 and 9 (Orange Cream and Hazelnut Noisette… not making you hungry am I ?). We then a very short walk along what should have been a quiet country lane. In the 1/10th of a mile we walked along the road at least 4 vehicles zoomed passed us – we were grateful for the grass verge.

Leaving the road, approaching a farmhouse, we were loudly challenged by the farmer’s dog, shortly pursued by the owner! This was at a critical point of the route in terms of path-finding, so as soon as we were out of sight of the farmhouse, we double-checked that we heading towards the next cache, and more importantly back up to the Ridgeway.

Many easy finds followed, our only distraction from the route was watching a handful of red kites gracefully gliding in the sky, eying the ground for prey. We tried taking pictures of these beautiful birds, but none of the dozen or so photos we took, did them justice (A black blob on a blue background!).

We found every cache on our ascent which left us 8 to find on the Ridge itself. The first was hidden in the back of the memorial stone to the wife of the late John Betjeman. To us it seemed wrong to have a 35mm film canister stuck into a memorial crevice. Admittedly Penelope Betjeman wasn’t famous, but one wouldn’t place a cache in a memorial to say Nelson or Newton so why the wife of former poet Laureate ?

Memorial to Penelope Betjeman

Memorial to Penelope Betjeman


We found the next 4 caches on the Ridge before we descended off the Ridgway (again) to hopefully find enough caches to break our record. So far we’d found 19 from 21 with only 12 more to attempt… things were looking good…will we break our record ?

(to be continued)

Some of the caches found so far :

May 6 – Isle of Wight Walking Festival – Yarmouth/Freshwater… and a ghost hunt

Our last full day on the Isle of Wight and a busy one.

We’d selected 2 Festival walks (one in the morning, the other in the evening), and some geocaching in the afternoon.

Our morning Festival walk was a circular walk from Yarmouth to Freshwater and back (broadly following both sides of the Yar Estuary). We had no prior knowledge of the route beforehand, and it was only part-way through the walk we realised our planned caching was on the same path.

Yarmouth Pier - the start of the walk

Yarmouth Pier – the start of the walk

The focus of the Festival walk was Farming on the Isle of Wight. The leader pointed out different types of crops, different farming systems and talked of the problems of being an island. For example, there is no abattoir on the island, and the cost of transport to the mainland, makes any produce less price competitive against mainland prices. Many farmers are diversifying, enabling small pockets of land to be better capitalised.

Yurts - a great way to make money from a small field

Yurts – a great way to make money from a small field

Our geocaching afternoon started at Freshwater Bay. Or more accurately in it !

Stand a few yards to your right and estimate the cliff size !

Stand a few yards to your right and estimate the cliff size !

Our first target was an Earthcache based on the cliffs rising from the bay. However the position where one had to estimate heights, strata levels was on the beach.

It was high tide.

A very high tide.

Blown onshore by gale-force winds.

We were wet just standing on the promenade. Fortunately the answers we submitted were accepted.

Our next few caches were drive-tos. High on the coast road, just outside Freshwater Bay was a simple cache and dash. But the gale-force wind meant we struggled just to open the car door, and when we did find the cache it needed both sets of our hands to prevent the contents being blown away.

We retreated to the village of Freshwater, and undertook a 5-stage Church multi.
Had our brains been blown out by the wind ? Were the co-ordinates really out ? Either way we failed to find too many of the stages to make the final co-ordinates work. This is not the first time we’ve not completed a large multi… we really must improve !

The river Yar, with Church beyond

The river Yar, with Church beyond

Our final caches were on a familiar footpath … from the morning’s walk. Two simple finds to restore confidence to our wind-tossed bodies !

Spot the Bison !

Spot the Bison !

After a quick meal break we went on our last Festival walk. A Ghost walk.
The venue was Arreton Barns. Now an multi-entertainment centre including craft shops, pubs, shipwreck centre and much more besides. http://www.isleofwight.co.uk/attractions/culture-and-arts/-/arreton-old-village

In former times, the site had been a monastery, a manor and thriving village. These historic venues formed the basis of the ghosts, and unexplained premonitions, which were vividly brought to life in our 2 hour ghost walk. Many of the scenes were acted out by three students, but it was one of those nights when things went a little awry. Axe-heads broke, cowls were blown off, music left playing a bit too long. We’re not sure it should have been funny.. but as entertainment – it was different !