July 1 : Elvetham

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Elvetham Heath: nature reserve

Elvetham Heath: nature reserve


Our 2000-cache milestone was not far off, and we had a date planned/hoped for when we wanted to reach it, but we needed to get closer first. So we were out again, heading back close to Fleet again. On a warm, cloudy, muggy Saturday, we parked in the centre of Elvetham, a suburb of Fleet, unnoticed among the many shoppers. Our main objective was the ‘Nature Reserve’ series, placed in and around the many green spaces in Elvetham. But first, something different, neither green nor spacious, a cache from the ‘Off Yer Trolley’ series, which are based around supermarkets. We followed the GPS to the likely location, which was … somewhere in the recycling area. We poked around behind metal bins and fences, and eventually found the cache, while getting puzzled glances from the man emptying the clothes recycling container.
Our start point!

Our start point!


After that, it wasn’t far till we were off the roads and into the nature reserve, an area of trees and heathland, criss-crossed by good paths. There are about a dozen caches, plus a bonus, spread about the reserve and some of the suburban residential area. I’ll describe the bonus cache first (though we didn’t necessarily do it first, I’m just concealing its exact position!) It was a puzzle cache, with three cryptic clues. We had managed to solve two of the three, which left us with a not-too-big rectangular area to search. Luckily for us, just one path crossed this patch, and a detailed search by both of us all along the sides of the path eventually found the cache. We never have worked out what the third clue meant …

Now for the rest of the series. We set off past a small pond, with interesting carved picnic tables, through trees and along gravel paths and boardwalks over boggy areas. There were lots of muggles out and about, walking dogs, accompanying their scooter-riding children, and just taking the air. It was good to see it so well used, but it did make it harder to find an undisturbed moment to retrieve each cache as we arrived at it. After three successful finds, it all went wrong at the fourth cache, when we spent an unproductive few minutes furtling in the roots of birch trees and finding nothing.

Moving on, the next cache had the intriguing name ‘Doris the Destroyer’. Who or what, we wondered, was Doris, and should we worry? It turned out that storm Doris felled a tree, making a hiding place for a cache …

On again, we got closer to the M3, and it got noisier. The next cache was called ‘Puzzle Box’ and a LOT of other finders had marked it as a favourite, so we felt it must have something special. The other finders also said that the published co-ordinates were not quite right. Both of those comments were true: we spent another few minutes pootling about at the edge of some trees before finding – literally – a box which was a puzzle. After some false starts, sliding, and pressing, we finally made it to the inner place that held the log. Ho hum: if we had known this cache existed, we might have set it up to be our milestone 2000th cache.

We walked on, past the edge of the nature reserve, away from the motorway, and back into roads and houses. Another cache was found. A previous cacher’s log said it all: “Easy for us, invisible to muggles”. A little further on, we approached another cache, named ‘Vertically Challenged’. Perfectly named, no way could I reach that! Mr Hg137 was delegated to swarm up a fence, and then a pole. At a stretch he just, just reached the cache container.

Vertically challenged

Vertically challenged


As we had been walking in a circle (ish), we were getting back to our starting point and had only one more cache, Redwood, to attempt. We like Redwoods! Well Mr Hg137 does! He can barely walk by one without knuckle thumping it (do it, it’s different from other trees). Also SEQUOIA, its true name, is one of only a few 7 letter words which contain 5 different vowels. None of that helped us: all the possible hiding places on the tree were either empty or were twelve feet in the air. We used a couple of branches to try to ascertain if anything lurked within. Nope. Sadly for us it was a DNF (did not find) – especially as we wanted the ‘RED’ for a ‘snooker challenge’ cache. (Editor’s note: the cache was missing and has since been replaced.)

To sum up: it’s always sad to end on a failure, but overall this is an excellent little series with well-kept caches hidden in creative ways over surprisingly varied terrain, in yet another place close to where we live, but have never visited.

Here are some of the caches we found:

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June 29 : WWSW (Fleet)

Mrs HG137 had had an idea.

We were about 40 or so caches away from 2000 finds, and with 13 July (13/7) less than 2 weeks away, she thought it would be a good idea to see if we could get the 2000th cache on that date (our caching name includes 13 7).

Idyllic grassland near Fleet


The WWSW series in Fleet would provide a good opportunity to get over half of those caches. (WWSW stands for Westie’s Walks, Sloshed Walker and was first laid out nearly 10 years ago in 2008. It is relatively close to our house and we always said it would be a good winter’s walk, but as we have never done it in the winter, today seemed a good day.)

The route crosses Army land, and is occasionally ‘red flagged’ if the Army are on manoeuvres. Fortunately for us, the Army were elsewhere, and the full route was open to us.

We initially parked in an industrial park, and somehow managed to find a half mile longwinded route to cache 1, when a simple footpath was yards from our car.

Cache 1 was behind a sign deep in some woodland. The log though had suffered in the rain and was very wet. We decided the remove the log, and leave it out (behind the sign) in the sun for the duration of our walk. It was a Thursday, on a old circuit, so the chances of anyone else finding the cache today was very low indeed.

Onwards (over the noisy M3 motorway) to cache 2 and just as we approached the site, we were surrounded by dog walkers. Diversionary activity needed! Out came a mobile phone and a fictitious phone call ! Maybe not an Oscar-winning performance, but definitely enough to give us time for the muggles to pass. Then wrestle with a large cache and some small Armco before we could sign the log.

Woodland track


The next 2 caches were a lot harder. They had been placed on the far side of a stream (fortunately fairly dry), but the stream was guarded by 4 foot stinging nettles! Swipe! Swipe! The caching pole was being used wisely! Swipe! Swipe! Jump! Caches retrieved, logs signed… now to jump back and avoid those nettles again!

The next few caches were relatively straightforward, and to the trained eye visible from the path..It was searching for one these that Mr HG137 DID receive a phone call, so Mrs Hg137 did some sole retrieving and log signing!

The path was easy going and the lightly woodland soon gave way to a magnificent view of Minley Manor. This building was once owned by the MOD, but is possibly being turned into a hotel. It has also been used as a film location on a couple of occasions.

Minley Manor

Minley Manor


We walked onwards and suddenly the nice track gave way to grassland (or at least the most direct route to the next cache did). We made heavy weather of trying to find the right tree but eventually we did. We should, at this point, have walked back to the path, but instead we walked through a grassy meadow stopping for coffee on a large fallen tree-trunk. As we drank, we were aware of the myriad of butterflies visiting the meadow. A beautiful sight.

Butterflies

Butterflies


Our route out of the meadow led us up a slight hill, to an easy cache find, and then towards a pub where we found a another simple find (and a suit of armour!).
Is this the pub's bouncer ?

Is this the pub’s bouncer ?

We had walked 2 or so miles and now had our first road crossing. A fast single carriageway. A few minutes later we were in woodland, and the next cache didn’t take much searching as it had been poorly hidden by the previous finder.

Pleasant path through woodland


We then found our first non WWSW cache of the day – a Motorway Mayhem cache yards from the M3 Junction 4a. Over the years we’ve seen caches under twigs, leaves, bark but never under such a large piece of concrete! It took two of us to lift it!

More effort at the next cache too..as it was 7ft up a post. Mr HG137 was definitely getting a bending and stretching workout!

We recrossed the M3, pausing to see a steam train being taken to a festival on the Watercress line. Yes, a steam train on a motorway!

Express Delivery!


Our next cache was our first troublesome cache of the day. Hidden in Armco, but the coordinates were some 40 feet out. We both felt gingerly in various parts of the Armco – finding spiders, cobwebs, dust, grime until we found the cache. Finding caches like this, are often a ‘hard sell’ to the non-geocaching community!

A pleasant path down a woodland path followed. Well it would have been pleasant, except for its proximity to the noisy M3. We grateful for some quick finds and after about a quarter of a mile or so, the path turned away and became quieter.

Is there a cache here ?


Then we saw the digger. A JCB. On a footpath. It was undertaking ditch clearing, and was scooping mud/debris out of a ditch one side of the footpath, and building a mound on the other side. The dry, unrutted paths we had been following – were a quagmire…and somewhere near the JCB was a cache. We decided to have one quick look for it, and if it wasn’t found immediately we would move on. Fortunately the coordinates were spot on, and while the JCB driver was looking deep in the ditch, the log was signed.

Dredging a ditch…

…and Mrs Hg137 the other side of the dredging


The path gave way to a tarmac road and some farmland fields. Each field had a stile leading to it, and the cache was near one of them. We fruitlessly searched each stile for our next cache, but to no avail. Our first DNF of the day. We even paused for lunch near one of the stiles, and undertook a second search after eating, but nothing was found.

The cache containers on the route had been quite varied from small Tupperware boxes, to larger ones, a rat’s tail cache in a pipe, to a fake stone. The final few containers included a film canister as well as a letterbox hybrid. For us, this is what makes a series interesting, a variety of containers, and a variety of hiding locations.

The route finished by walking alongside some heathland. Before we reached our final caches we passed by some rangers from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife who were undertaking a survey on birds-foot-trefoil. We told them we were geocachers, which yielded no surprise whatsoever. We were glad we did as our next 2 finds were undertaken very close to their parked vehicles.

I think the rangers may have seen us!

We returned to cache 1, and replaced the now-dry log back in the cache, and returned to the car.

This was a very varied walk, heathland, expansive views, tree lined path, noisy motorways! Amazing what can be packed into a 4 mile walk! We’d also found 25 caches.. suddenly our 2000th cache is much nearer!

August – Paddington Bear – part 5

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Paddington - Bear Humbug

Paddington – Bear Humbug at Fleet Library


This isn’t a post about geocaching – it’s about something we came across while in London on a geocaching / Paddington Bear statue spotting trip at Christmas 2014 and which we have followed ever since. (Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the Paddington story appeared in this blog in December 2014, January 2015 and April 2015, or can easily be found by clicking on the ‘Paddington’ tag associated with this post.)

Late in 2014 the excellent film ‘Paddington’ was released, and 50 statues of Paddington Bear were put on show around London to publicise the film. A few days after Christmas 2014 we went to find some of them (and of course a few geocaches too, but we’ve already blogged about that). The statues were collected up and auctioned to raise money for the NSPCC charity, producing almost a million pounds. One of them, Bear Humbug, was bought by a local town – Fleet – after money was raised via crowdfunding. His name comes from his humbug stripes, very like the colours of Newcastle United, and were devised by Ant and Dec (both from Newcastle). We originally saw him on display in Oxford Street, London, among the busy shoppers in the New Year sales.

In April 2015, he arrived at his new home, Fleet Library http://www.fleethants.com/homepagelinks/humbugbear.htm Bear Humbug has not been idle since then – he has a presence on Facebook ( @abearcalledhumbug ), Twitter and Instagram. He makes charitable and educational appearances, and when he’s not busy doing that, he can often be found in Fleet Library – he’s increased the footfall in there – and it’s a popular thing to pose with him and then upload the picture #‎humbugselfie‬

Some time had passed since all of the above, and we hadn’t been to see our old friend. One day we were in Fleet, buying new walking boots, rucksacks, and other essential geocaching kit. We had time to drop into Fleet library and make our re-acquaintance.

He looks really at home – right inside the entrance, stood on his packing crate signed by Ant and Dec. Great to see you again!

April 30 – Paddington Bear – part 4

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Paddington - Bah Humbug

Paddington – Bah Humbug


This isn’t a post about geocaches or trackables – it’s about something we came across while in London on a geocaching / Paddington Bear statue spotting trip at Christmas and which we have followed ever since. (Parts 1, 2, and 3 of the Paddington story appeared in this blog in December 2014 and January 2015, or can easily be found by clicking on the ‘Paddington’ tag associated with this post.)

Late in 2014 the excellent film ‘Paddington’ was released, and, to mark the launch, 50 statues of Paddington Bear were put on show around London. Just after Christmas we went to find some of them (and of course a few geocaches too!) All the statues were collected up on 30th December and were auctioned to raise money for a charity, for the NSPCC; £930,000 was raised which is a LOT of money! One of them – Bear Humbug – was bought by a local town – Fleet – after 2,500 people contributed money to buy him. His colours were devised by Ant and Dec (both from Newcastle) and he was originally on display in Oxford Street, where we saw him.

And, on April 29th, he arrived !!! Fleet went wild, and a special event was held to unveil him. Even better, his old friends Ant and Dec made a special ultra secret trip to Hampshire to unveil him http://www.gethampshire.co.uk/news/local-news/ant-dec-make-surprise-visit-9149795

Nor has Bear Humbug been idle since then – he has his own website http://www.bearhumbug.co.uk and a presence on Facebook, twitter and Instagram. He’s looked after by ‘Humbug Guardians’ (honestly – he has seven) and he does charitable and educational work – phew! When he’s not busy with all that, he can often be found in Fleet Library where it’s a popular thing to pose with him and then upload the picture #‎humbugselfie‬ (Mmm, I wonder when we are next going to Fleet …?)

January 9 – Paddington Bear – part 3

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

This isn’t strictly a post about geocaching – there are no geocache finds in here – but it’s about something we came across while in London on a geocaching / Paddington Bear statue spotting trip a few days ago.

All the Paddington Bear statues were collected up on 30th December and have now been auctioned to raise money for charity, the NSPCC. One of them has been bought by a local town – Fleet – after money was raised to buy the bear on a crowdfunding platform https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-paddington-bear-for-fleet–2 Our totally anonymous source in Fleet thinks that the bear might go on display in or near Fleet Library, sometime after the end of January.

Paddington - Bear Humbug

Paddington – Bear Humbug


Here is what they bought – one of the bears that we saw! It’s ‘Bear Humbug’ – a fine black and white striped bear devised by Ant and Dec – which was originally on display in Oxford Street. And, as a geocaching link, this location is very close to the ‘Cachers 5K’ series which we did in early October 2014.

December 23 – Another First-To-Find Attempt .. this time in Fleet!

I never learn!

Our last geocaching sortie resulted in a failed ‘first-to-find’. Today there was an opportunity to redeem ourselves (well myself as Mrs Hg137 was working and I went solo).

A couple of new caches had been published in Fleet, and overnight one called “MIND YOUR HEAD” had still not been found. It was, a little unusually, an offset multi where the published co-ordinates took you to one site, once there, a further set of numbers to take you to the real cache site.

The Bridge

The Bridge

The first part took me to a bridge. A quick peer underneath this very muddy bridge yielded nothing. No obvious ‘mini-cache’ with some numbers on. After much pondering I decided to give up, and just as I returned to my car, two other cachers came along. They had tried yesterday and failed to get past the first part. They explained that under the bridge was a sign saying “MIND YOUR HEAD” (in fairness I’d seen this, but hadn’t seen the tiny numbers on it). They had established these were not the final co-ordinates.

The three of us looked harder at the sign. This involved crouching, for me at any rate quarter height, in a wet muddy stream and occasionally (euphemism for “often”) losing balance and landing in the brown goo.

After much searching, and me getting wetter and wetter I gave up. At the point I did, one of the other cachers had found what turned out to be a crucial element (sorry guys..no spoilers). He went on to collect the final cache – well done The MadCacher007 for the First-to-Find and thanks for the tip-off on how to solve it next time. (When I say “next time”… it may be Mrs Hg137 I send into the muddy mire!).

October 24 – Interrogated by ‘Washknight’ – part 2

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.
We have finally finished our answers to Washknight’s interrogation – see http://washknight.wordpress.com/tag/washknight-interrogates. Here are the answers: they are an amalgam of both our views; where we couldn’t agree, both our answers are given.

GeoBlogger 20 Questions
1. When and how did you first get into geocaching?
Mrs Hg137: about 2 years ago, a landmark birthday was approaching for Mr Hg137 ; I bought him a GPS as a present. I’d heard of geocaching, and, as we both like puzzles and both like walking, it seemed like it might be a good idea.

2. Do you remember your first find?
Mrs Hg137: Yes – it was on the Ridgeway, the long-distance path we were walking at the time. It was in woodland, hidden in a camo bag in yew tree roots. I was really, really chuffed that we’d managed to find something!
Mr Hg137 : …. and later that same day we found England’s Oldest Surviving Geocache (“View from Coombe Hill”, placed January 2001) so we were very, very fortunate to find a historic cache so early on in our caching career. Incidentally we also lucky our first few caches were ammo-size containers so a really great start for us (I’m not sure we’d have been so hooked if our first few caches had been magnetic nanos!)

First cache!

First cache!

3. What device(s) do you use for locating caches?
It’s a Garmin Etrex 10 – the cheapest possible GPS available. We chose it together (Mrs Hg137: no, I wasn’t being cheapskate with the birthday money!) as we thought that if we didn’t like geocaching, or dropped/broke/lost the GPS it wouldn’t be too great a loss. And it turned out to be great fun.

4. Where do you live and what is your local area like for geocaching? (density / quality / setting etc)

We live in Sandhurst; there are LOADS of caches around and about.
Many of the immediate caches are puzzle caches, which are very slowly working our way around. Within a short-ish drive we’ve been able to find several routes in local footpaths with about 15-20 caches. There is a lot of Army land near us, which prevents certain access, indeed the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst is almost visible from our doorstep!

5. What has been your most memorable geocache to date, and why?

The cache was called “Basingstoke Canal Swing Bridge”, a terrain 3, difficulty 4.5 cache. We knew it existed but never had a canoe to go under the bridge. …. but let’s rewind the clock 2 hours earlier..
We attended a cacher’s meet to celebrate ‘Cacher’s Maker Day’ in Fleet/Church Crookham. After the meet, we then undertook a few caches placed for the occasion. We arrived at the canal bridge with the intent of crossing it and returning to our car. Mrs HG137 then realised she had a key which unlocked the swing bridge! (Don’t ask why !). While we were discussing whether to unlock the bridge along came a few other cachers. As a team we unlocked the bridge, manhandled the bridge open so it was over a bank and clambered underneath. Very muddy, very smelly, and after a few minutes the skinny under-bridge crawlers (including Mr Hg137) were triumphant. Teamwork.. but probably not how the cache was to be found!

6. List 3 essential things you take on a geocaching adventure excluding GPS, pen and swaps.

Camera (to take pictures for the blog), a Swiss Army knife (well, you never know), and a map/screen print of where all the caches are, so we know their relative positions to each other (and we can make notes on the back). (We zigzagged around far too often early on!) (One of our cameras has identical batteries to the GPS so we’ve tended not to take spare batteries).

7. Other than geocaches and their contents, What is the weirdest thing you have discovered whilst out caching?
A jar of frankfurters (one of our Nemesis caches is ‘Wisley Trailblazer’, and close to its GZ is an opened jar of frankfurters with 2 frankfurters still inside !)

but for something more scary… we discovered a fire in a Farnborough park during a caching trip. We needed to call the fire brigade to attend; but it was also one of the few occasions when we didn’t have a mobile phone with us, and it took 20 minutes to find someone to lend us a phone…

Fire, Fire!    Fire! Fire!

Fire, Fire! Fire! Fire!

8. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is I am obsessed by numbers and 10 is I am all about the experience and the quality of each individual cache. Where do you put yourself?
Mrs Hg137 : 3 (its what a Maths Degree does for you)
Mr Hg137 : 5 (as I’ve found many footpaths I never knew existed)

9. Describe one incident that best demonstrates the level of your geocaching obsession.
Mrs Hg137: it’s got to be Mr Hg137 driving, fruitlessly, repeatedly, around Hampshire and Surrey on missions to bag ‘Jacob’s Moving Cache’.

10. Have you picked up any caching injuries along the way?
Only the usual cuts, bruises, wet feet and muddiness, and (once) mild hypothermia.

11. What annoys you most about other geocachers?
A minor one: the way some cachers use up large amounts of a small cache log with large signatures, stamps, stickers …

12. What is the dumbest thing you have done whilst out caching?
See Canal Bridge earlier… (Mrs Hg137’s car is still filthy 6 months on!)

13. What do your non caching family and friends think of your hobby?

Some get it, some don’t. We also play a certain amount of competitive Scrabble (that’s how we met) so we are accustomed to having an unusual hobby!

14. What is your default excuse you give to muggles who ask what you are up to or if you need help?
Because we cache as a pair, invariably we can ‘cover’ for each other. Taking a camera helps, as we can always be posing to take a photo for a “Wildlife” competition ?

15. What is your current geocaching goal, if you have one?
We set a goal for 2013 to complete an average of a cache a day for the year, which we achieved by September 2013. That’s why we started the blog, as an online diary of this goal.

16. Do you have a nemesis cache that despite multiple attempts you have been unable to find?

There are two current ones: ‘Wisley Trailblazer’ and ‘Off your trolley’ (Sandhurst). We’ve had several goes at both of these and we just cannot find them. ‘Wisley Trailblazer’ was originally published with no hint, and is the RHS Wisley Car Park. It took almost a month for the FTF, and we’ve tried to find it on at least three occasions all to no avail.

The ‘Off your trolley’ is one of our closest caches just off a muggle-rich supermarket car park. We’ve tried on numerous occasions including the muggle-less day of Christmas Day!

17. What 3 words or phrases best sum up what geocaching means to you.

Treasure hunt; walking; unexpected interesting places

We did find this on our travels in Wiltshire and I think it says it better than we can !

This sculpture says it all...  "The Greatest Secrets are Always Hidden in the Most Unlikely Places"

This sculpture says it all…
“The Greatest Secrets are Always Hidden in the Most Unlikely Places”


18. What prompted you to start blogging about geocaching?

see 15.

19. Which of your own blog entries are you most proud of.
Mr Hg137: Reading back over some of our early blogs, our writing style has changed, and has possibly become more light-hearted. We also blog about the trackables we find, this draws many readers in (mainly from Germany!) who try to use our blog to log trackables virtually.
Mrs Hg137: The best blog posts, and the easiest to write, are those where something unexpected has happened when out on our caching trip … calling the fire brigade … forgetting the GPS … having to ford a river … The ones where everything goes to plan are much harder to write about.

Let's go Bananas !

Let’s go Bananas !

The One that Got Away

The One that Got Away

20. Which other geocaching blogs do you enjoy reading?
Geocass – http://geocass.wordpress.com
Geo Mumma Kel – http://geomumma.wordpress.com
The bitchy cacher – http://thebitchycacher.wordpress.com
The Coastal Path: One family’s walk around the coast of Britain http://thecoastalpath.wordpress.com – not strictly a geocaching blog, but the writer is a cacher and geocaching gets a mention now and then