Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.
We’d been given a short shopping list of specific items to buy on behalf of a relative, so we set off for Fleet with high hopes and … completely failed to find/buy any of them. We grumbled to ourselves, then put that behind us and set off for our second objective, a short caching trip in the area between Fleet Pond and Church Crookham.
We started in woodland a little to the north of the Basingstoke Canal, and soon found a fairy door at the foot of a tree. Mr Hg137 was convinced that our first cache, the Jewellery Box, was inside, and made great efforts to get inside. Luckily, I managed to find the nearby cache and save the fairies before he evicted them all!
We reached the towpath of the Basingstoke Canal, walked along a little way, and crossed over the canal at Pondtail Bridge. On the bridge, a metal plaque commemorates the restoration of the Basingstoke Canal, much of which was done using the steam dredger ‘Perseverance’ – also the name of the next cache we were to find.
And now, a paragraph of digression simply because I like canals. The Basingstoke Canal, now restored, navigable, and beautiful, was all but abandoned in the 1970s. It was restored by volunteers, using the steam dredger Perseverance. An excavator dug a dredger-shaped hole in the silted up canal, a crane dropped in the dredger, which spent the next 18 years chomping through the mud and digging out the canal; health and safety would be most, most unhappy if this happened today. It was quite a sight both to see and to hear: just see why in this very short video https://basingstoke-canal.org.uk/headline/perseverance-the-dredger-that-helped-restore-the-canal/
And what of Perseverance today? She is dismantled, in the boat museum in Ellesmere Port, with no money for restoration. Sad.
Having found the cache named after the boat, we entered an area of woodland and heath, adjoining army land, where all the rest of our caches were located. One was a snail shell. Two more had been placed by a sea scout group; one was in poor condition and hard to find, the other was better in both finding and condition.
And the other one was described as … “ a challenge and a twist” … We’d read the description, had a fair idea of what might be involved, but had nevertheless come prepared with a variety of tools – magnets / string / water / Swiss Army knife , among others – so that we were prepared for almost anything that didn’t need a canoe or a ladder. After some wandering in the undergrowth, we worked our way to a spot that just had to be the right location, and set about solving the challenge. After a short while of coordinated effort, needing both of us, everything came together and out popped the cache container.
And that was the end of the caching for the morning. We made our way back to the canal towpath and found ourselves passing a long, long line of painted stones. The stone snake has featured in the local news https://www.eagleradio.co.uk/news/local-news/3118089/huge-and-colourful-snake-discovered-in-fleet/ with its very own Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/168888507088796/
And so, back to the canal, completing a morning that started unsuccessfully and ended with caching success, a bit of history, and a giant snake.