April 22: Fifield

**** PLEASE NOTE : UNLIKE MANY OF OUR BLOGS, THIS ONE CONTAINS A LOT OF SERIOUS SPOILERS ****

April 22/23 has a lot of meaning to us, and we like to undertake some sort of celebration.

Where will today take us?

Our celebration this year … was to go geocaching ! We decided though, not to continue caching on our Sandhurst to Sandhurst trail, but to stay local(-ish) and find some caches set by our favourite Cache Owner, JJEF.

We have often remarked on this blog about the inventiveness of JJEF caches, sometimes a work of art, other times a fiendish puzzle – nearly always made of wood. This would be a great way to celebrate!

We travelled to the small village of Fifield just south of the M4 near Maidenhead. We parked up and headed to our first cache location. This was to be the sole non-JJEF cache of the day…and we made a meal of it! Originally ‘Once a Fine Pair’ had been part of the ‘Fine Pair’ series where both a red telephone box and red letter box are adjacent to each other. Sadly, the telephone box has been removed, but the cache lives on with a slight renaming. Anyway, it was a multi-cache, so we scribbled down some numbers and performed some arithmetic a child of five would be proud of. We strode purposefully towards GZ. We went by a item that matched the hint, but since we were still 200 feet away, we didn’t stop. Sadly that was as close as we got, as we had no means of getting closer than 150 feet, as private property blocked our path. Mmm. Perhaps there is another way to GZ.

We left pondering this (passing the hint item again), tried various side roads looking for non-existent tiny alleyways that would get us to the cache. All to no avail.

Disheartened we embarked on the JJEF series.

6 caches and as JJEF wrote in the description : This series contains all manner of cache types, if you know my MO then you will manage with these hides which are meant to be fun but achievable by everyone.

The first cache hadn’t been found for a while so we were expecting a second DNF of the day. We had about half a mile to walk to start the series; as we walked we watched groundsmen manicuring two polo pitches, riders giving light exercise to their (polo) horses. Red Kites performed balletic movements above us. There was no-one else on the footpath.

Anyone for polo ?

Anyone for polo ?

Until we approached the first cache.

Where had that young couple and two dogs appeared from? Why did they spend several minutes on the footbridge we wanted to stop at ? Why did they furtively look behind as we stopped at the footbridge too ?

Yep, they were geocachers. We chatted to Team VP. They had not found the cache. Our hearts sank, as this meant we were unlikely to either.

Team VP (and doggy helpers)

Team VP (and doggy helpers)

We said we would give the location a good look, and maybe see them later. (JJEF caches really do need to be savoured, and this gave them a 10 minute head start for all future caches, meaning both of us could enjoy JJEF’s inventiveness)

We explored the footbridge in fine detail. Every screw, every plank, and every little ledge. There was however one part of the bridge that was harder to access and (here’s the big hint), let’s just say we were glad it hadn’t rained much! We found the cache…or rather we found a 4 foot long tube. The cache was inside, and to release it we had to solve a mini-maze. JJEF had constructed a mini-maze which had to be solved by means of twisting and turning the outer tube which surrounded a central pole. As we twisted and turned the outer casing more and more of the maze (and its dead ends) were visible. Until, eventually a film canister was revealed containing the log. We’d found the cache… and got to the log! Yay!

Undoing the Mini-Maze

Undoing the Mini-Maze

Of course such a contraption has to be put back together again, fortunately this was easier as the maze was visible prior to being twisted back into its tube.

We didn’t see Team VP at cache 2 of the Fifield series. This required a pencil to spring open a bird-box. Unfortunately the spring didn’t work, so we set about dismantling the bird-box with a Swiss Army knife. Another log signed.

Birdbox 1

Birdbox 1

We did see Team VP at cache 3. They hadn’t found it. They left us to search GZ. Three or four fallen huge tree trunks. Lots of bramble and prickly bushes. We scoured the area, but failed to find the cache. Most other cache owners would have hidden a cache in one of the many trunk holes, we searched those too, even though JJEF caches tend to be ‘out in the open’.

We moved on. The next cache was the easiest find of the day, in a sawn off log.

Easy -  as falling off a log!

Easy – as falling off a log!

We caught up again with Team VP at cache 5. We had to find a padlocked box, and nearby a number to unlock it. Before we tried to search Team VP realised that they had hidden the ‘number’ in an incorrect way. They told us this and what the correction should be. All very well, but this assumed we would find the box and the nearby number. Fortunately we did!

Here's the cache..now where's the code number ?

Here’s the cache..now where’s the code number ?

The last cache in the series was another bird box, and again opened in a way only a JJEF cache can!

Birdbox 2

Birdbox 2

So we walked back to the car, and then remembered the multi-cache from earlier. We re-checked our calculation! Whoops! So much for a simple sum a five year old could do.. we failed miserably! The corrected sum took us back to where we had been before…and who was ahead of us … Team VP ! We both signed the logs, and parted. Farewell Team VP .. happy caching in the future.

Stumped by our arithmetic!

Stumped by our arithmetic!

Arguably that was the last cache, but we knew of one more JJEF cache a short drive (sort of) on the way home. As we drove, we tried to remember the last time we had seen geocachers ‘on the cache’ (excluding meets) and decided it was October 2015. We wondered whether it would be another 18 months before we saw another cacher.

The cache we were driving to was called ‘Mini Elevator’ set on the junction of a footpath and a small one-car layby. As we approached the layby we saw a car already parked in it. Plan B. Park in the nearby cricket club. How can we bluff our way past the over-officious groundsman to park our car ? Since we had travelled in Mrs HG137’s car, that would be her problem. Meanwhile…back at the layby, what are those two ladies doing ? Are they looking for something?

Yes, they were.

They were looking for the cache we had come to seek. Foxscout and Doggwalker had come all the way from Essex to cache for the day, and attend a cacher’s meet in Windsor the day after. They had 30 or 40 caches ahead of them for the day, and we joined them in the search. Doggywalker found JJEF’s (non-wooden) construction and we both signed the log.

Having gone 18 months between seeing geocachers out and about, we had barely gone 18 minutes! Amazing!

So a really fun morning, we met 4 geocachers (and two dogs), found 6 JJEF caches, and got sent to the bottom of the class for some really poor arithmetic!

Bluebells to finish!

Bluebells to finish!

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May 24 : Devon / Cornwall : Day 3 : Looe

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Looe Station

Looe Station


It was a fine day in Cornwall, so why not spend a day at the seaside, in Looe, and what better way to travel than the Looe Valley train line? http://greatscenicrailways.co.uk/lines/looe-valley-line/ This is a single track line which runs only from Liskeard to Looe, down the East Looe river valley, then alongside the estuary. Apart from the two ends of the line, Looe and Liskeard, all the stations are request stops. Great views all the way!
Liskeard station - Sidetracked

Liskeard station – Sidetracked geocache


Before the little train left, we had a few minutes free at Liskeard so we took an early cache, the ‘Sidetracked’ at Liskeard station. This was easy to find, sandwiched between Liskeard’s two stations, the main line to Penzance and the entirely separate branch line to Looe. There are not so very many caches to find in Looe, and we thought about expanding the number by getting off part way e.g. at the quaintly named St Kerye Wishing Well halt, and doing some extra caching along the way. But there weren’t many caches there, either, and several of the descriptions contained the instruction …’then a short drive to the final location’ … not really an option on foot.
The train left on time at 10am and just under half an hour later we were in Looe, walking down past the bridge, and through the village to the sea, pausing to buy lunch along the way, and looking at all the shops selling things to tourists – nice stuff, not so nice stuff and ‘why?’ stuff.
Looe - high tide

Looe – high tide


After a walk to the edge of the sea, we headed out along the banjo-shaped pier https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banjo_Pier to look at the very small entrance to the river and harbour. But a geocache was calling, the only one near us in East Looe. It was a really new cache, which had only been placed in early May. It was also part of the ‘Fine Pair’ series. These must have a phone box and a post box (both red, in view of each other, and not more than 100 feet apart); there are not so many of these around now, as phone boxes began to disappear at around the same time that geocaching became more popular. This particular pair were just behind the sea front and a little faded and careworn from the salt winds. We found the cache really quickly – and what an appropriate cache container!
Looe - a Fine Pair

Looe – a Fine Pair

A super geocache container!

A super geocache container!


There were no more nearby caches on this side of the river so we mucked about on the beach, climbed on the rocks, had lunch, tried to fly a kite, went for paddles – oh crikey it was cold!!! The tide went out, the sun came out and everything was clean and warm and sparkly. As the tide was out, the passenger ferry (aka small boat) across the river wasn’t running so it was a walk up to the bridge and back along the other side of the river in West Looe. Just over the bridge was another cache, scarily concealed in a bit of street furniture near the end of the bridge. We tried to look inconspicuous while retrieving it in full view of a busy road.
Looe - low tide no ferry!

Looe – low tide no ferry!


It was immediately quieter on the other side of the river. East Looe is full of tourist shops, the fish market, and hustle and bustle. West Looe is much more peaceful.
West Looe - Church Micro

West Looe – Church Micro


Our final cache in West Looe is currently our most southerly, AND it was a Church Micro. The cache itself was a little way from the church, on the riverside. Nearby is a statue to one of Looe’s characters, a battle-scarred, one-eyed seal called Nelson who made the harbour his home.
Nelson the seal at Looe

Nelson the seal at Looe


Having run out of nearby caches, we headed back to the station to catch the little train back to Liskeard. Once there, we took in the other cache at Liskeard station, ‘ Rosie and Jim’. It was cunningly hidden in the station car park, and we spent some little while looking in various wrong places before finding it.
Even now, it wasn’t too late in the day, so we set off to find a few more caches from the Compass series before returning to the hotel. That will be covered in another post in a few days.

September 4: farewell to the South Downs: a day by the sea in Worthing

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Worthing Pier

Worthing Pier


Our mini-break in the South Downs National Park in Sussex was already over and we were going home. But not immediately. September 4th is an important date for us; it’s our wedding anniversary, and we generally try to do something slightly out of the usual run of things – so we had planned a day at the seaside before going home to everyday life. The nearest bit of seaside to where we were staying was Worthing … so that was our destination.

But first, we knew there was a cache just outside where we had stayed. (We had used it as a waypoint to find our destination on arrival when we did a sort of death spiral to arrive at our destination.) We hadn’t had time to search for it before, but we had time now, and a short search found us the first cache for the day (we hoped).

First cache of the day

First cache of the day


On to the main event for the day, and we drove down to the seafront at Worthing. There are many, many caches along the front, and we had loaded a selection, and would find as many as time allowed. Free parking was available at the western end of the promenade and we parked the geocar and set off towards the pier. The caches came steadily, and we found them steadily; all the caches were hidden differently and inventively, in signs, in flowerbeds, palm trees and walls, under beach huts, behind boxes; one was an especially clever hide, where the cache was hidden on a stick (think firework / rocket) pushed into a flowerbed. We stopped for lunch on the pier, having forgotten to load the cache that was there (oops). As we ate, an aircraft wheeled overhead, in and out of the clouds, and people looked up. It was a Spitfire, the second we had seen in the week.
Unusual cache fixing!

Unusual cache fixing!


Moving on to the east, past the pier, we took in a few more caches. One of them came from the ‘Fine Pair’ series, where a post box and a telephone box are within sight of each other; the final cache was ‘hidden’ (actually we could see it from some distance away) under a seat, and we took care to tuck it back well out of sight. The caches went on to both the east and west, but there were only so many we could do, and eventually we turned back along the promenade, towards and beyond the geocar, to pick up just a few more caches. It was getting cloudier and cooler, and we returned to the geocar to end our holiday and set off home into the Friday rush hour.
There's a cache somewhere in here!

There’s a cache somewhere in here!


But first … the ceremonial anniversary activity … we took off our shoes, rolled up our trousers and went for a paddle. We haven’t done that for a bit … and the water was clear, but cold and a bit seaweedy. We stuck it out for about 15 minutes before retreating to the shore.

(PS Worthing and its surrounding areas are absolutely stuffed with caches. If you want to spend a few days on a caching break, this is the place to go!)

Here are a few of the caches and cache sites we came across:

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September 1 : South Downs : Ditchling

As we mentioned on a previous post, we were having a mini-break holiday in the South Downs National Park (Sussex). We were staying with the walking holiday group http://www.hfholidays.co.uk.
Each day there were three guided walks to choose from, each with different lengths and difficulty.

On each day we opted for the easiest walk, for three main reasons.
The first was that Mr Hg137’s healed-but-not-quite-fully-recovered-broken-arm meant he occasionally struggled with a haversack.
Secondly Mr Hg137 visits local groups talking about the South Downs Way (SDW) , and he would learn more about the SDW on the easiest walks rather than the hardest walks.
Thirdly the pace would be slower enabling a few ‘cache and dashes’ !

Caching when in a muggle-walking party is difficult, so we agreed that we would not attempt multis unless there was a lot of time available, and also if the cache wasn’t in the first place we looked, we would pass it over. (Just finding a cache takes time : for example remove hiding camouflage, open container, remove log, find end of log, sign log, re-roll log, place back into container, re-hide).

The first walk started at the village of Clayton at the Northern foot of the South Downs. There are a couple of caches in Clayton – including a Church micro multi – which we didn’t have time to attempt.

Clayton Church

Clayton Church


Inside the church were fabulous wall paintings – the photo doesn’t really do it justice!

Wall paintings inside Clayton Church

Wall paintings inside Clayton Church

Our first real attempt at a cache ‘on the move’ was after the ascent onto the South Downs Way. At the top were the famous pair of windmills, Jack and Jill. Sadly for us, BOTH were undergoing sail renovation and both buildings looked like were triangular domes. Our first cache should have been alongside the SDW next to the windmills. We arrived at a post, overturned the likely stone and …. nothing there ! No time to search the immediate neighbourhood so we moved on! Not a great start!

Windmill under repair!

Windmill under repair!


Fortunately for us, another cache was within a short walk. Entitled ‘Windmill View’ – we should have been able to see Jack and Jill, but because they had no sails, we couldn’t see either! Anyway this was a quick find for which we were grateful.

The South Downs ridge has splendid views and we enjoyed these for the next mile or so. Our next likely cache was at a ‘dew-pond’ and after some mild arm-twisting we were able to convince the leader to have lunch at the pond. This gave us a few extra minutes to find the cache! An easy find with a dew-pond full of wildlife.

South Downs, dew-pond

Here’s the dew-pond, but where’s the cache?


Dew-ponds are a South Downs characteristic. The Downs are predominantly chalk, a very porous material, which means there are no natural lakes. Centuries ago, when shepherds kept sheep high on the hills, they needed water (for themselves and the sheep). Enterprising shepherds would excavate large depressions in the chalk and then fill the base of each depression with clay from the Weald below. The ponds would then hold water whenever it rained, enabling the shepherds to maintain their existence on the hill-tops. The Victorians labelled these water features as ‘dew-ponds’ as they believed they were filled by the overnight dew!

Our walk continued along the ridge, passing the trig point of Ditchling Beacon. (The third highest hill on the South Downs, and the equal highest on the South Downs Way long-distance path). Shortly we descended to the village of Ditchling to finish the walk.

South downs, Weald

Hill-top view of the Weald below


We had 30-45 minutes in Ditchling before our return coach journey which gave us time to attempt a multi based on its ‘Fine Pair’ of red letter box and red post box.
Ditchling's Fine Pair

Ditchling’s Fine Pair

We quickly worked out the final co-ordinates and discovered… it was at the coach pick-up point! Result! An easy win to end a great day’s walking.