November 3 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Swallowfield to Sandhurst

The final day of our epic walk from Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst (Berks); this section completed the line between all 3 Sandhursts – as last year we walked from Berkshire to Sandhurst in Kent.

Eversley Ford

Today’s 13 mile route would take us over very familiar territory.

We have been caching for over 6 years and we, like most cachers we guess, have found most of our caches close to home. Today’s route would pass through several series we had previously undertaken. It was therefore a little surprising we managed to attempt 13 caches that we had never attempted before!

As we left Swallowfield we noted that the village Firework Fiesta would be happening that evening. Our car was parked close to the main event… we needed to be finish our walk and return with our other car well before the fireworks started – otherwise we would be stuck in traffic!

Our first three caches were all on the Swallowfield boundary. The first, intriguingly titled ‘Twists, Turns and Flow’ and was under a bridge over the River Broadwater. With such a scary title we were a little concerned we may get wet, but a close examination of the bridge from the side, meant the retrieval was easy and dry!

Don’t drop the cache!


The River Broadwater is a small river and has two tributaries, the Whitewater and the Blackwater. Today’s walk would be following the River Blackwater all the way to Sandhurst.

Our next cache was a Church Micro at the nearby Swallowfield Church. The previous cacher had logged a DNF, but we found the cache quite easily. A small clip box, with a fine view of the Church. Our last cache in Swallowfield was adjacent to a large oak tree – another easy find.

Swallowfield Church

Pleased with our early successes we then had a 2-3 mile walk to another set of caches close to Eversley Ford.

On the way our path initially followed the River Broadwater quite closely, yet we somehow missed where the Blackwater and Whitewater merged, as we were too busy watching a horse and trap being exercised in an adjacent field!


Prior to Eversley Ford we arrived at Farley Ford. We had been to this spot twice before, once when we undertook the Hampshire Drive series (November 2016), and once when completed the Farley Forage series (August 2017). We desperately tried to remember some of the hides in the Farley Forage series, but we failed to re-find any of the caches based on our recall of the circuit.

Farley Ford…visited for the THIRD time on our caching travels!


We left the Farley Forage series, walked through several fields with horses until we arrived at lane leading to our next cache. Here the hint mentioned a ditch crossing. Once we found the correct ditch (fortunately dry), it was easy to locate the cache. In fact, it hadn’t been hidden that well, so we hid it slightly better.

Our walk so far had been North of the River Blackwater in Berkshire, At Eversley Ford we crossed into Hampshire, where an old county marker hosts a cache. The cache owner requests that the cache is moved ‘to the other county’ after each find. We moved it back to its proper place.. into the Royal County of Berkshire.

The Ford itself was busy – we paused for coffee. During our short stop we saw many a dog-walker, cyclist and rambler use the foot-crossing by the ford. The nearby Eversley Mill was a restaurant until a few years ago – sadly now closed.

After a short while the Hampshire footpath took us into the village of Eversley where a bus stop provided us with a straightforward find. (Readers may remember we struggled with the Silchester Bus Stop cache, so we really grateful for very explicit hint here !)

Our brief sortie into Hampshire was over and we re-crossed the river back into Berkshire, and followed in reverse the Finchampstead Undulations series. This stretch brought back happy memories as it was one of the first series we undertook way back in January 2013 (and one of our first blog entries too!). Of course we couldn’t remember where these caches were either, but we did recall having to jump across a stream to find a cache, but this looked impossible now as there was a wire-fence on the far side of the ditch.

We also remembered a very muddy path, yet ours was dry and the view the river had changed completely. Instead of a muddy grass field, hundred of trees had been planted. This will be quite a forest in years to come!

Future Forest of Tomorrow


The Finchampstead Undulation series has had a couple of changes over the years, notably the addition of a couple of extra caches. The first cleverly hidden close to the ‘Welcome to Wokingham’ sign, the other less-cleverly hidden in a 45 degree angle fence post.

Up to now, we had been following the river, but now we were in lake territory. Over many years, gravel extraction had taken place and the huge pits have been converted into wildlife lakes. The banks between the lakes form an intricate pattern of paths and it was one of these that we chose to make a small diversion from our route. We almost regretted that decision when it took us 15 minutes to find the cache! It was hidden in a hollow tree-trunk, but the GPS wobbled a lot, we needed to jump (another!) ditch, and fight our way past brambles and thorny branches.

After this ordeal, we noticed a seat and we were in need of sustenance. The seat had been placed facing some bird feeders and we watched blue tits, great tits, robins, blackbirds and magpies all come to feed unaware of our presence.

Yateley Lakes

We proceeded along the lake banks for another mile or so and found the best two caches of the day. The first hanging in plain sight, and the second inside a garden gnome!

We’ve found over 2500 caches, and never seen a cache inside a gnome!

Besides the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst has one really (in)famous landmark, “Happy Christmas” bridge

The Blackwater Valley path deviates from the river as it approaches Sandhurst. There is an area of fishing lakes, and private property, so for a mile we had a section of road walking.

We have found many of the Sandhurst caches on our caching exploits over the last 6 years, and today we added 2 more. The first was well protected by a huge fungus, and the second was a small magnetic nano.

The last cache of the day!

Not the most spectacular cache, but it did mean we found 13 caches out of 13! All we had to do was re-cross the river back into Hampshire, walk along the Blackwater (South side), cross back into Berkshire and finish our grand walk at the Sandhurst sign, where we started our walk to Sandhurst (Kent) nearly 2 years ago.

Phew !

Journey’s End

Then a quick drive back to Swallowfield to retrieve our other car before a firework cordon enveloped it ! Accomplished with ease!

EPILOGUE

Our 85+ mile journey was complete.

We had walked from the Sandhurst (Gloucs), close to River Severn, back home.

We had walked through pretty Cotswold villages, climbed hills, walked along the Ridgeway and by a myriad of rivers and canals.

When we started our walk the paths and fields were flooded following the 2018 ‘Beast from the East’, we had endured the 2018 Summer heat and somehow missed the named Autumn storms by a few miles.

We found 250 caches on our way home in phone boxes, bus stops, and Roman amphitheatres. We also managed to break our daily caching record .. twice!

Most of the route had been on footpaths, some of which we would never have found without the geocaches set on them, so thank you to all the cache owners whose caches we have attempted, as you have helped guide us home!

We hope you have enjoyed reading about this year’s Sandhurst to Sandhurst journey – its been quite varied!

Caches in the final section included :

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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.

July 19 – WHY revisited!

You may remember from our July 6 we visited the Wick Hill Yomp series (WHY) and accidentally walked off with one of the logs.

This was the day we would return it.

Like most geocachers we didn’t want to just go to the one cache – especially one we had already claimed – so we planned a different route to it – via Simon’s Wood.

Simon’s Wood (and the adjoining Heath Pond) are managed by the National Trust consist of mixed woodland, numerous paths and tracks (most of which are not on maps) and is listed as an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The day was very hot, though they had been an overnight thunderstorm, which meant that some of the paths had some large puddles to negotiate.

Cache 1 – “Stumpy” was closest to the car park. First placed back in February 2003 it was hidden not in a stump but behind one. Finding the stump was quite hard as the tree cover made direction finding quite difficult. We were grateful for the two notable hints of 7 and 8 trunked Sweet Chestnuts as this did ensure we were well on target. One of the lrgest caches we’d seen in a long while – these cache sizes seemed to be the norm back in 2003.

Big Cache.. even bigger spelling error!

Big Cache.. even bigger spelling error!

Cache 2 – “Heath Pool”. Our walk through Simon’s Wood took us towards the triangular Heath Pool. Here we paused several times to allow for dog-walkers to pass, before our search started “in a fallen tree”. Typically we started at the wrong end of the ‘fallen tree’ but a few minutes later the log was signed.

Heath Pool

Heath Pool

Cache 2 ... some big log!

Cache 2 … some big log!

Our plan now was to visit WHY 2 to re-deploy the log book.

On our way we passed another cache- this time involving a tree climb. We looked long and hard, but in the end we decided not to attempt climbing 20 feet up wet slippery branches !

So which way to the WHY 2 cache ? We decided to follow the most obvious looking path. It broadly followed the correct direction, and providing it turned left, we’d have done our duty. The path didn’t – it turned right and went behind a row of houses we were fairly certain were on the WHY route… but no way through the large gardens. So we back-tracked and took a small side turning to a little clearing containing 3 large fallen trees. A great place to hide a cache.. but our task was to find WHY 2.
So we walked back to the ‘cache in the tree’ and followed a every-decreasing footpath until it turned through 90 degrees, where it became a bridleway. Pity the horses which come along here ! Steep, slippery, overhanging rhododendrons, and barbed wire on the paths edge. Using our best balancing skills we made it through these obstacles, and arrived at WHY 2 where we eventually replaced the log. As we said in our previous post … sorry we took it!

So one cache left to find .. “One of Three”. Guess what! We had to retrace our steps through the obstacle course, and back to “the cache in the tree” which even on our third visit still didn’t look inviting. The GPS signalled us down a path previously walked… to the clearing with 3 large fallen trees! Grr .. if we looked our GPS earlier we’d have found the cache without undue walking in what was becoming very extreme heat.

Still all we had to do then was head back to the car (passing of course “the cache in the tree” for the fourth (!) time.

Three caches found – and one returned log.. and one cool shower to look forward to.

July 6 – Signseekers Geo Achievement Coin 250

sunseeker coin

As we mentioned in our previous post, we collected a fresh trackable on our walk around Wick Hill.

This was a relatively large geo-coin which had been released to celebrate the owners 250th geocache find. (Given we are on nearly 700 finds, clearly we must have missed this opportunity somehow!).

It started its journey in December 2013 in Tennessee, and since then spent the first month in and around Nashville and Chattanooga before reaching the UK in January 2014.It spent most of its time in the UK visiting Devon, Cornwall and Somerset before branching out to visiting South Wales and Gloucester prior to arriving in Berkshire where we found it.

We have a trip to Brighton planned so fingers crossed we can find a cache that it will fit in.

The geocoin’s mission is to travel the world… its got someway to go as its only completed two very small corners of two different countries! Good luck in your future travels!

July 6 – Wick Hill Yomp (WHY)

Many times, when you are caching, you have unexpected pleasures.

These could be because the cache trail is unexpectedly scenic, on local footpaths that one didn’t know existed, or very well constructed hides.

The Wick Hill Yomp (11 caches WHY1 – WHY11) provided us with the last two pleasures. The route was within 5 miles of home, on footpaths we had never/rarely used, and the hides were very well thought through.

(It is all too easy for a cache to be a plastic film container hidden under a pile of twigs behind a tree).

These caches had that little bit extra, and some careful searching was needed throughout.

The circuit itself was about 3 miles long, mainly footpaths and not-quite-fully-tarmacked roads and after about a half a mile walk from the car we arrived at WHY 1. The hint alluded to ‘stickoflage and a multi-trunk tree’. Ground Zero contained only one such tree… let the search begin! 20 minutes later we had still not found the cache.. we had looked at EVERY tree nearby and poked every crevice (Really ?!). We gave up ! Not the start we wanted!

We arrived at cache 2. We looked for the hint item (‘roots of a fallen tree’) – nothing near GZ. Were we really losing it ?! We searched a bit longer, and then, much to our relief the cache was spotted. A medium sized container, quickly opened, log taken out and signed, we placed the Proximity Trackable inside the cache before replacing it in its hidey-hole. (Ed : if you are an experienced cacher reading this, re-read the last sentence and think about what we did)

Our success continued for several other WHY caches – many were very well hidden in the trees and fences along the way.

We like these Ivy Trees... not much Ivy!

We like these Ivy Trees… not much Ivy!

We diverted off-route part-way round to visit Finchampstead’s War Memorial or at least a cache at some seats nearby. Another fail! However reading the logs, many others have failed here, possibly due to a large fallen tree at GZ!

Finchampstead War Memorial

Finchampstead War Memorial

Back the WHY trail and our finds kept coming, some underneath oak trees, others under metal gates. On reaching cache 10, we swapped trackables! We left the Earth Geocoin and collected the Sunseekers Geo Achievement Coin 250.

After the finding WHY 11 – we had found all the WHY series bar number 1. We decided to go back and look again. We returned to the multi-trunk tree and searched for a second time. After 10 minutes we found a small hidey-hole that must have been missed 90 minutes earlier. Phew – the series was complete!

WHY 1 ... but where is the cache ?

WHY 1 … but where is the cache ?

Our walk back to the car went by our 12th find of the day… leaving us on a total of 699 caches! (If only we had not had the one DNF we would have found 700 caches!)

So did you spot the mistake at WHY 2 ? We didn’t until 10 days later !!! We didn’t put the logbook back in the cache! We accidentally took it home with us! We have let the cache owner know and we will replace it back in the cache shortly. Whoops! …. Do let us know if you’ve ever done this!

August 3 Day 215 Caches Found 0 Cumulative Total 243 (+1 bonus, +2cacher’s meet)

We attended the UKMega Event in Gaydon, Warwickshire !

Each year there are Mega Events all over the UK (though I’m not sure of the number of people needed to make it ‘Mega’, but this event qualified). This year a week long series of events had been held in the Midlands ranging from Kite Flying , a Ghost walk and a Circus Night.

The Mega was held at the Heritage Motor Museum at Gaydon and included a combination of sales exhibits,
seminars (ranging from an introduction to Geo-caching to First Aid), trackable swapping, some CITO (cache in trash out) and some hunting of caches (see separate post for this).

We believe close on 2000 people attended including children, who were well catered for with events including bouncy castles, magicians and zorbing! Dogs weren’t exempt and there was a wide range of breeds present. (Pity the dachshund which we think went on a 5 mile walk!)

What was very prevalent was that many people had trackable codes attached to them, their cars, their dogs, their teddy bears. Many of the cachers present ‘collect’ or ‘discover’ trackable numbers and were busy writing these numbers that were just walking past every single minute.

We had a great day and probably our photos don’t do it justice…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Queueing to get in!

Queueing to get in!

Signal The Frog Opens the MEGA

Signal The Frog Opens the MEGA

Part of 12 ft signing in board!

Part of 12 ft signing in board!

]
Trackables sorted by destination

Trackables sorted by destination

... off to Africa

… off to Africa

The trackables we took to the MEGA!

The trackables we took to the MEGA!

July 20 Day 201 Caches Found 4 Cumulative Total 238 (+1 bonus, +1cacher’s meet)

Another hot day so a big day’s caching seemed like hard work! (As well as that we were out celebrating the Sandhurst Gardening 50th Anniversary in the evening (http://www.sandhurstgardeningclub.co.uk/) so wanted to preserve energy.)

We settled 4 local-ish caches, 3 of which were puzzle caches.

Puzzle caches have to be solved to yield a series of numbers which are then used as co-ordinates for the cache. We have solved a couple of “Famous Berkshire Residents” caches before, where pertinent dates/ages have been used as co-ordinates. Today was no exception.

The 2 Residents we found, had similarities in that both were wealthy; but great differences in that one had recently died and also the manner in which they had acquired their wealth.

The third puzzle cache had Scrabble as its central theme, which tied in with the fourth cache we visited as it was within half a mile of where we regularly play Scrabble (http://www.eastberksscrabbleclub.org.uk/Welcome.html)

Sorry no pictures this time… as the locations weren’t in truth that scenic, and also other cachers can enjoy the puzzles too !

It was good to see that yet another bridge was used for the deployment of a cache, and at another location we were able to release the trackable “Quackers and Her Egg” as the cache size was big enough for her to squeeze into (just!).