September 24 – Yorkshire Mega 2018

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Geocachers are sociable people and they like to meet each other at events, as well as searching for caches furtively and alone. We’ve been to a few of these events: pub meals, flash mobs, etc. Occasionally, once or twice a year in the UK, there is a much bigger gathering, known as the Mega.

What is a Mega Event?
Mega events are the ultimate gatherings for geocachers. Officially, events must surpass the 500 attendees to qualify for “Mega” status. Many Mega events are held annually, offer plenty of planned activities and attract geocachers from all over the world. Traditionally the Annual UK Mega has a week long run up of side events building up to Mega Day itself.

We’ve been to two mega-events, one back in August 2013, and the recent Geolympix at the end of July this year. Next year’s event is in Devon, and the one after that … is in Yorkshire. The 2018 event is the tenth one – there have been eight Mega events and two Geolympix in the UK up to now.

The 2018 Yorkshire Mega is well advertised:

It’s got a website: http://www.mega2018.org.uk
It’s got a Facebook page too: http://www.facebook.com/groups/YorkshireMega2018
And it’s also on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ukmega2018

And the calling card we found is yet another way of spreading the word among the geocaching community.

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August 6 : Ascot and Cranbourne

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Sandy Lane, Ascot

Sandy Lane, Ascot


On a beautiful, hot Saturday afternoon, perfect for caching, what were our plans? To visit some private gardens, which were open for charity, to raise money for St Peter’s Church, Cranbourne. One of those gardens belongs to someone we know, so we went along to provide support, and also to visit some of the other gardens. Well, every one was pristine – we spotted one owner removing a miniscule feather from his immaculate lawn. And there was a lot to see, including llamas, waterfalls, astroturf and endless statues. What with all of that, it was well after 4pm when we finished our fifth garden visit. As thay are all private gardens, we haven’t got photos – sorry.

With the heat of the day just beginning to wane, we had sorted out a handful of caches to do in the area. The first was the intriguingly named ‘TGP1 – Gold Cup / Cranbourne Tower’. The cache was placed to commemorate two nearby pubs which are now no more – and TGP=”time, gentlemen, please”. The cache was a small micro on a busy roadside, hidden close to the building site that has replaced the Gold Cup pub.

Our remaining four caches were all hidden along Sandy Lane, a wooded track that can be used as a short cut between Bracknell and Ascot. These caches were all set by JJEF, one of our favourite setters. His caches are all different, never ordinary, often made of wood, and just – different. They are usually fairly easy to find, but that’s just the first part of the challenge – having located the cache, you then have to get into it to retrieve the log … and that is often just as hard. FYI – JJEF has started a little business making and selling those clever caches and his website is at http://www.quirkycaches.co.uk

We had a pleasant walk along the track, and back, in welcome shade, and an equally pleasant time searching for, finding, and opening the four bespoke caches. To say much more would spoil the fun.

And what of St Peter’s Church, which was the focus for our afternoon out? It has a Church Micro, but it’s a relatively complicated multicache, and we hadn’t got it on our list as we knew we wouldn’t have time to solve it. One for another day!

July 31 : Geolympix MEGA, Ashridge Estate

Bridgewater Monument, Ashridge Estate

Bridgewater Monument, Ashridge Estate

Caching Mega

Geolympix banner

Four years ago, the UK held its first Geolympix event in Oxford. That event was so successful that, this year, again coinciding with the Summer Olympic Games, the second Geolympix event was held.

Like the previous event this soon reached MEGA status with well over 500 cachers attending. The Ashridge estate near Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire is a large area (5000 acres) of woodland and open fields – ideal for geocaching. The estate is owned by the National Trust event and all the caches were placed with their consent.

Cachers gathering

Cachers gathering

Visitors from the USA

Visitors from the USA


A duck (on the back of bike) - yes really!

A duck (on the back of a bike) – yes really!

Cachers came from far and wide, including USA, Finland, Ireland, Cornwall and Yorkshire to our knowledge. Many of the cachers had t-shirts with trackable numbers on, others had bags and even plastic ducks with trackable numbers waiting to be discovered!

Lots of different events had been put on including caching exhibitors, a film festival, a talk on caching efficiency, National Geocaching Awards, and much besides. To give the event an ‘Olympic’ feel there were certain challenges that could be undertaken – could you find 26 caches in a day beginning with each letter of the alphabet, could you spell your caching name with the cache initials, could you find 11 caching types (icons) in 24 hours ? Reading the online logs after the event many people did undertake some of these challenges.

For sale :Quirky Caches aka JJEF caches

For sale :Quirky Caches aka JJEF caches

Adam Redshaw and his UK Cache Mag

Adam Redshaw and his UK Cache Mag

There were of course straightforward caches to be found and also some lab caches to undertake. Lab caches were a new concept to us, but primarily we visited a location, solved a simple puzzle to derive a code word, and then to claim the lab cache find enter the ‘code word’ into the lab cache website. We managed to find the code words hidden in a crossword, the underside of a rubber duck, locating and reading a QR code and solving a simple number substation code. All good fun but no actual caching container to find!

Many of the caches available to be found had been set out in the weeks preceding the event. We had loaded over 30 and we knew some more would be ‘released’ at midday. Our plan was to be alone in the woods at midday, and see if we could be the First-to-Find for one of these caches.

We starting caching at around 1015 and for the first few caches we didn’t need much geocaching skill. We were following the crowd! Every Ground Zero, had a cluster of cachers passing the log from person to person. As midday approached we did achieve our aim of being alone. We turned on our phone and tried for an internet connection. None. We tried again. Nope. And again.. our plans of attempting a First-to-Find were being thwarted by a poor broadband signal. In the end we gave up and continued our caching trail around the estate.

The next cache we found after this, was Britain’s Oldest Log. Apparently this was Britain’s second oldest cache, placed hours after Britain’s first cache back in 2001, but this cache was the first cache to be found – hence it has the oldest log!

Eventually the further we got from the Mega Hub, we saw fewer and fewer people. Caching was more relaxed, we could search in our own way, cursing the GPS signal, cursing the tree cover and generally having a relaxed walk finding caches.

Standing on a log, Mrs Hg137 just reaches this cache

Standing on a log, Mrs Hg137 just reaches this cache

There were three main series we attempted caches from : Cyclerama, Cyclerama Cross-Country and Home of the Fallen Trees. Of these the Home of the Fallen Trees had the more ingenious hides. Generally hidden in a fallen tree/log .. and lots of places to search!

Fallen tree location

Fallen tree location


We found two multicaches on route – both we made a bit of mistake with. Normally we transcribe the questions/formula for multi-caches so we can easily write down the answer. However we didn’t do it this time, and as a result were totally unprepared when we arrived at multi-cache. It was lucky that there cachers around at one of them, as we needed a phone to swipe a ‘yellow post’ to derive the final co-ordinates.
Ashridge Estate - lots of cache hiding places

Ashridge Estate – lots of cache hiding places

Ashridge Estate - lots of cache hiding places

Ashridge Estate – lots of cache hiding places


We finished our caching route about 330 ish and headed back to the hub. We hoping to meet with ‘Washknight’ You may have read his ‘Geocaching Blind’ blogs (see also left of this blog). He lives near to the site and had been nominated for one of the Geocaching awards. We sat on a log, drinking a well earned cup of coffee. Had we missed him ? We were wearing bright orange, sorry VERY BRIGHT ORANGE, T-shirts so we might be spotted. But we saw his party first. We had a great chat, and we wished him well for the Award Ceremony (sadly he didn’t win).. but it was great to meet someone whose adventures we have enjoyed reading
for the last year or so. (Ed : if you want to see how orange those T-shirts were, visit washknight’s blog).
Sam, Shar and Paul aka Washknight

Sam, Shar and Paul aka Washknight


We took a different route back to the car and found two more caches. One was almost a ‘gimme’ as we saw two cachers emerging from the bushes who told us the hint and where to look. We went over and found it… it was one of the caches released that day! So not exactly the first to find…but definitely in the top 20!
A very enjoyable, exhausting day. We walked about 7 miles, attended one event (the Mega), logged 4 lab caches, 2 multicaches and 19 standard caches. A great haul…but we discovered when we got home this made our total cache count..1599! If only we had attempted one more!

Some of the caches :

Footnote : We have subsequently read Washknight’s blog. They found a cache, which we found very early on in the morning. It wasn’t too hard to find (it was technically a puzzle cache), as it was behind large letters spelling the word “GEOCACHE” ! However the paper log had no reference as to what the cache number was so we couldn’t log it online. We now have that number, so we have logged the cache online giving us the magic 1600 caches. Woo hoo!

December 31 – Review of the Year – Cache highlights

About three-quarters of the caches we found during 2015 were on our walk along the Thames Path. (The majority of the remainder were found on short walks around Surrey and the Isle of Wight).

Here in no particular order are some of the best Thames caches we found. Enjoy!


Thank you for reading our blogs during 2015 – we hope you enjoyed them. We’ve been asked what our next challenge is, at the moment we are undecided. But our biggest challenge is what to do with this blog… as we’ve loaded it so full of pictures we’re nearing 90% full !

Have a great caching 2016!

March 21 : Thames Path Radcot to Newbridge : Lonely Thames

This stretch of the Thames Path is often called the ‘Lonely Thames’ for its remoteness. There are no villages (a few pubs though) and just one road crosses the Thames during the entire 10 mile section.

Lonely Thames

Lonely Thames

All the caches were in the first and last miles of the walk, the middle section (some 7-8 miles) has no caches at all! This must be one of the longest sections of a National Trail where there are so few caches! Yet, there are plenty of obvious hiding-places with bridges, gnarled trees, and ivy bushes abounding. Perhaps the remote location puts Cache Owners off, or maybe the land-owners have not given permission. Understandably there are no caches in the 2 mile Chimney Meadows Nature Reserve section, but much of the remainder of the path is well equipped to hold large and small geocaches. For those cachers with a sense of adventure, there is though a difficulty 5, terrain 5 cache. The hardest possible type of cache. The cache is hidden underwater, under Old Man’s Bridge. We did look at the cache site, to see if the cache was visible, but even it was, we had no boat to retrieve it. (And we really didn’t want to swim in the cold, chilly waters either!)

Somewhere under this bridge, in the cold, cold water is a 5/5 cache!

Somewhere under this bridge, in the cold, cold water is a 5/5 cache!

Even though there weren’t many caches, the River Thames had much to offer. Meander after meander gave us an ever changing view. Sometimes we espied more of the WWII pillboxes we had found on the previous section, sometimes we saw ducks, geese, swans all vying for the same quarter mile of river. We passed by three locks with lock-keepers busy at work preparing for the new season. The primary purpose of a lock-keeper is not, as many think, to help boats through the locks, but to maintain the flow of water on the river using the associated weirs. The weir at Rushey Lock was of particular interest, as the old system of paddle-and-rymer had recently been replaced by a more, modern system. The paddles are a listed structure (yes, really!) and can be seen alongside the modern system in the photo below.

Rushey Weir, modern and old controls together

Rushey Weir, modern and old controls together

Also at Rushey Lock... a topiary frog!

Also at Rushey Lock… a topiary frog!

The lock-keepers weren’t the only people who had been busy. Many trees had been chopped, either as part of on an ongoing pollarding programme, or presumably to clear low branches from the river. The harshness of this was in contrast to the beautiful spring flowers and blossom that peppered our journey.

Chopped Trees

Chopped Trees

Spring Flowers

Spring Flowers

Apart from a few startled ducks, we saw little wildlife in Chimney Meadows Nature Reserve, which was slightly disappointing as we had been told that otters can sometimes be seen. We did notice the monitoring boxes that the Wardens use to ascertain what wildlife frequents the river. Nature doesn’t just live in the river, as a small copse was full of bat boxes/bird boxes. We were told by a lock-keeper that one of the boxes contained a hornet’s nest last year!

Has an otter been through here ?

Has an otter been through here ?

What lived here ? Bird, Bat, Bee or Hornet ?

What lived here ? Bird, Bat, Bee or Hornet ?

But the most amazing wildlife scene we encountered was late on in our walk. Forty, yes 40, swans were lined up in the river and the path. Never before had we seen so many wild swans in one place together. A truly memorable sight, which this picture inadequately shows.

Finishing in Newbridge, a misnomer since the bridge was built in the 13th century, we found our last cache near a Mosaic of Fish. This is part of a much longer Mosaic Trail, which we may well return to.

Newbridge

Newbridge

Fish Mosaic

Fish Mosaic

Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 10 miles Total distance walked : 39 miles
Caches found : 5 Total caches found : 85

Some of the caches we found included :
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of the other caches was so good we are only publishing it in our end of year highlights!

March 15 – Rack Race H – race won!

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Rack Race G and Rack Race H

Rack Race G and Rack Race H

Back in February 2014 we released two trackables, Rack Race G and Rack Race H. We both play Scrabble so we thought that this was a good theme for the trackables, hence the name. The idea was that they would have a race and that they would return home to Sandhurst. Here’s how we created the trackables https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/february-13-travel-bug-race-rack-race-g-rack-race-h/

They were both released on a grey day in mid-February in Shanklin, on the Isle of Wight, as in this post https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/february-17-travel-bug-race-theyre-off/ And then we waited … how hard could it be for them to travel 50 miles north, we thought? Quite hard, was how things turned out.

Rack Race H shot off to Rushden, in Northamptonshire (oops, overshot a bit). Then a bit of dithering around Oxford, followed by an extended tour of Devon. Next it passed by again and toured Essex, then Kent. A few circuits of London followed – it seemed it was a bit too big for many caches – and once it got as close to home as Lightwater, in Surrey, only a few miles away. I nearly went to get it, but I wasn’t quick enough and it was away to London again. By now a year had gone by and I was beginning to despair.

And then, on March 14th, we read a log for our own cache, Berry Bank Cache, to say that local cachers, Moore4us, had tried to place the trackable in its final destination but couldn’t find the cache. Oh no, failed at the final moment! But there was a message to say that Rack Race H had been placed in a nearby cache. Next day, we went out for a check on our own cache – yes, it’s still there – and then around the corner to retrieve Rack Race H and take it home.

So it’s back. A little dirtier, with a sticker saying ‘travelling to Sandhurst’. (Many thanks to whoever added that extra note.) It’s travelled 1725 miles in 13 months. It’s home, and I WIN THE RACE!

PS What of Rack Race G, the other participant in the race? In December 2014 it headed to Ireland, and is currently near Killarney. I wish the trackable well and hope it makes its way back home soon, so we can have another race.

March 15 : another nemesis cache found – and a VERY special trackable

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.
This was to be a short and (hopefully) simple caching mission.

First of all, we were going to check on ‘Berry Bank Cache’, our own cache, because we’d received a report that it couldn’t be found and that there was some work (tree clearance?) going on near Ground Zero, the site of the cache. Luckily, a very quick check of GZ showed that all was well and the cache was tucked away just where we expected it to be.

Our next mission was to find a local cache ‘Off your trolly’. This has been a nemesis cache for us. We’ve had, oh, maybe six, maybe more, attempts at finding it, some armed with GPS and map, and some just speculative searching (once, I seem to remember, on Christmas Day!), but we have never laid hands or eyes on it until now. Shame, really, as it’s the cache which is nearest of all to our house. But we’d read that the cache had been moved because there was work (more tree/shrub clearance) going on in the area. And, more important, we’d also read that a very important trackable had been placed in the cache.

We found the cache very quickly, hidden in its new home. And the trackable was there! It was one of ours! Woo hoo! More about it here: https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/february-13-travel-bug-race-rack-race-g-rack-race-h/ Read the whole story in the next post…