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!

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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 !