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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November 27 : Hampshire Drive By part 2

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here again.

The geocar was (hopefully) fixed, so we set out to finish the Hampshire Drive By series that we had started, then abandoned, only the day before. Taking a very slightly different route to the start, we stopped briefly on our way to find Wiggins Copse (no sign of Sir Bradley!); soon after, we were back in Mill Lane, where we had stopped before. The first cache, no 19 in the Drive By series, led us a merry dance. Up and down the lane we walked, searching what seemed like every one of the possible locations, without success. A deer jumped out of the woods onto the lane, surveyed our efforts with disdain, and walked off around the corner. We looked some more, and eventually resorted to reading all the logs. Something from an earlier log just made us think again, and we found the cache after just another few minutes. Damned clever hide!

We found the next few caches with much less angst, and then emerged from the woodland into a more open area of hedges and fields, where the lane crossed the Devil’s Highway (the Roman road from Silchester to London https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_Highway_(Roman_Britain) ). And suddenly we weren’t on our own. Every muggle in Hampshire seemed to be out walking, cycling, or exercising their dogs, and all on this little bit of lane. We found a quiet moment and retrieved the next cache, then signed the log while looking out over the fields to the river.

Our next stop wasn’t for a cache, but to look at Thatcher’s, or Little Ford, which lies on the county boundary between Hampshire and Berkshire, and where the Roman road crosses the River Blackwater. It hadn’t been raining much for some days, and yet there was a good flow on the river and the best part of a metre on the depth gauge … not such a “little” Little Ford! (Editor’s note: if you are walking, there is a footbridge over the river close by – there is no need to wade/swim, but I would definitely not fancy driving through that ford!)

Thatcher's Ford / Little Ford

Thatcher’s Ford / Little Ford


The final three caches in the 26-cache series were along Ford Lane, another narrow country lane. We parked in a less than perfect spot for one cache, and were, rightly, told off by muggles because we had partly blocked the road. Having finished the series, we had a coffee in a layby (off the road!) and celebrated having found every single cache in this varied series.
Post Post

Post Post


And then we set off home … oh, but first … another cache; this one forms part of the ‘Post Post’ series, hidden in and around letterboxes, and one we had looked at briefly and unsuccessfully at the start of the day when setting out. We’d noted that another, very experienced local cacher, El-Jo, had also failed to find this cache so our hopes were not high. A second visit, more searching, more rummaging, and then the geopole dislodged something from a place we had already searched several times. A success to end the day! And another 10 caches to boost our measly November total of just 49 caches in 4 years.

Here are some of the caches we found:

August 21 : Coombe Catastrophe!

Just to the South West of Wokingham is a heavily wooded area known as the Coombes. There are footpaths through the wood, but the main footpath forms the edge of the wood. The path adjoins some houses, and a golf course so on a warm Sunday afternoon it was quite busy.

Coombes Lane- Arborfield Ford

At the end of the Coombes – Arborfield Ford

We set off with 7 caches to attempt, all mainly within yards of the path.

In fact we parked within 20 yards of our first destination, a small tree climb. It only required a small 3-4 foot heave, a careful balance, a reach and the cache was ours. A very nice basket holding a film container. We undertook our normal arrangements of the climber throwing the cache down to the ground for the other to sign. All easy enough, but there was a car parked under the tree, making the tree climb just that little bit harder. Even so, an easy enough start… (Ed : We so cramped for space, the photo of the retrieval didn’t do it justice, so please paint your own picture)

Our next find was a little fortunate. As we arrived at GZ, the GPS swung wildly and pointed over the other side of the path to a youngish sapling. Surely its not there ? We dithered about and just as we were about to cross the path a horse and rider came by, followed by a family with a dog. This gave us a bit of time to check out the better looking tree on OUR side of the path. There the cache was! Never trust a GPS!

Our next cache, Liam and the Coombes was in a clearing, just off the path. We were looking for reasonably sized container somewhere near a dead tree. Guess what! There were loads of dead trees! We searched them all and found….nothing! However we consoled ourselves that today’s walk was linear so we would be passing this area on the way back. We could search again later on. (Ed: famous last words).

After a DNF it is always nice to find the next one. Here we made a quarter of a mile diversion from the main path to Lily and the Coombes. An easy find, mainly as the barkoflage wasn’t quite doing enough to hide the cache in a tree trunk – we did our best to hide it better. We dropped off the trackable (Estonia Mega) here, and signed one of the three log books inside. (Why three ?)

Back to the main Coombe track to look for At the Beech. An ammo can, hidden in tree roots. Or so we thought! Lots of fallen trees, lots of roots, few places for an ammo can. (The only real place we found was huge – so big we could both lie down in the space…no sign of the ammo can though!). That’s 5 caches attempted and 2 DNFs. Oh dear!

Our next cache we didn’t attempt. We only loaded into our GPS to admire the handiwork of setter, AmayaTom. He had climbed 20 feet up a tree to place a cache. We could see how to climb to the 12 foot mark, but the last 8 foot…no way!

Tree climb

20 feet up … but not for us!


And so we arrived at our terminus of the day, Arborfield Ford. The Coombes had now given way to farm land, and we were now much closer to the small town/village of Arborfield (no longer an Army Garrison town). The cache was hidden not too far away, but could we find it ?…. no!

Sheep at Arborfield

Baaa ! Baaa!

So our catastrophic caching trip ended with just 3 finds out of 6 real attempts. Time was pressing as we’d spent for too-long looking for each of the DNFs, and so we decided not to re-visit them on the return walk to the car. We could save those caches for another day…maybe…or maybe not!