October 23 – Bracknell Industrial Estate

Some geocaching adventures are in really scenic places.

Some places are scenic all year round – for others seasonal colour makes the place attractive.

And yet, Bracknell – a 1960s/70s New Town, with an industrial area right next to the Domestic Refuse Site (“The Tip”), should not have been scenic… and shouldn’t have yielded good caches… and yet, surprisingly, it did!

Bracknell, Pond

Bracknell’s Lake in an Industrial Estate


Firstly we had good reasons for being in the area, as we were visiting a local DIY emporium. (Trying to get what we wanted from the shop is a different story completely and worthy of at least three blog entries).

Secondly there were five caches all within a short distance of each other.

The weather was fine, and being a late Sunday afternoon, no-one was around.

We parked next to a surprisingly large, attractive fishing pond/lake and headed towards our first cache. (Ed : what is the difference between a ‘pond’ and a ‘lake’ in an industrial setting?)

We passed the local tip, some over-protective fencing and arrived at a narrow footpath (another one of those footpaths we didn’t know existed).

Bracknell

Between a high fence and a railway line

On one side an industrial unit, on the other the London-Reading railway line.
Partway along, in one of the easiest finds ever, was a broken clay pipe, and shining like a beacon was the geocache.

Bracknell, geocache

An easy find

We retraced our steps back to the car – but we passed another cache on the way back. We had speculated about its location as walked on our outbound journey … “I bet its a nano hidden behind that road-sign”, “No, look there’s a roadside cabinet it’ll be there”. Of course it was in neither!

We had noticed the tiny copse nearby, but not noticed the small footpath running alongside it. Following the GPS led us straight to the cache in the roots/bole of the tree ! (In an industrial estate remember!)

We arrived back at the lake and started our circumnavigation around it. Hidden partway round, behind an object only found near water (hint … “its ring shaped”) we found our next target.

Cache, Lake, Trees, Industrial Estate

Cache, Lake, Trees, Industrial Estate

All three caches so far had been surprisingly big – we were expecting nanos, and each one could comfortably hold a little swag. A fisherman was just packing up as we walked passed, and then we walked through a ‘private car park’. During the working week this might have been difficult, but on a Sunday afternoon the 200 yards were troublefree. Ahead was our fourth cache this time hidden more on a cycle path than footpath. It was hidden well over 6 foot high, so as always, we sent our shortest team member (Mrs Hg137) in to retrieve. The retrieve went well until the falling cache landed on Mrs Hg137’s head! Whoops! It was decided that Mr Hg137 should replace it!

"I think we're going to need a bigger cache"

“I think we’re going to need a bigger cache”

So one cache left and a longish walk, back through the ‘private car park’, around the rest of the lake, and then a further quarter of a mile to a solicitor’s office. It looked like private land. But the cache owner had said it wasn’t, and the solicitors knew about the cache. Given it was a Sunday afternoon no-one was around so we could undertake a really good search. The cache was called “LegalBeagles” – and next to the solicitor’s office were a few ‘doggy’ items. We are not going to tell you where the cache was hidden, suffice to say a third of the finders give the cache a favourite point. We did too!

So five surprisingly good caches, in what should have been a dour landscape. It wasn’t for us…so fellow cachers, don’t ignore the bleak locations near you as they may just contain hidden jewels!

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January 10 – Connie the Crab and friend

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

We don’t find many trackables – and then three come along at once!

Connie the Crab and friend

Connie the Crab and friend


The third of the three trackables we found in a cache on Wildmoor Heath was ‘Connie the Crab and friend’. Connie is a red metal crab, accompanied by a brown plastic/rubber crabby friend. She set off from Texas in February 2015, but went ‘walkabout’ for over three months in the summer. She was picked up from a cache in Texas in early June, and next appeared on the last day of September in a cache near Havant in southern England. As the trackable log says,

” Well this little fella has pitched up in a cache in the UK, who knows how it got here from Texas.”

How indeed?

Connie likes beaches, so we plan to drop her off somewhere near the coast on a trip we have planned in the next few weeks.

PS I thought I’d include some instructions (in a separate post) on how to log a trackable, as this has been missed several times for more than one of the trackables we found.

January 10 – Travel Pirate Geocoin

Pirate Geocoin

Pirate Geocoin


“Aha There me ‘earties !

Listen to what treasure we found in a cache recently!

A pirate geocoin!

Made from semi-precious plastic its an angry looking pirate waving a cutlass. A cutlass, lads! Who carries a cutlass these days eh! Cutlasses are for wimps.

I was able to find out about the pirate. It, like us, is on a mission. Whilst we like to plunder gold and silver and doubloons and jewels it wants to travel the world and head back for its owner’s 18th birthday in Poland in 2021. Poland! How many pirates come from Poland ?

Anyway me ‘earties I’ve decided our Polish friend can come with us for a few weeks, see the rough and tumble of real-live pirates.

All those who agree shout “Ay” ”

“Ay-ay Captain”

January 10 – Set Sail

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

We don’t find many trackables – and then three come along at once!

We went to a cache on Wildmoor Heath, Crowthorne, and, on opening up the cache container, found it stuffed with three trackables. We grabbed all of them. Greedy, maybe, but it gives them a chance of a write-up in this blog … Once clear of the cache, we had a good look at our booty. There was a definite maritime theme, with a ship, a pirate and a crab. This post is about the oldest and biggest of the three, ‘Set Sail’.

Set Sail

Set Sail


It’s a biggish, thick, heavy lump of metal with, on one side, Signal the Frog in Viking kit, in a longboat piled high with plunder and flying the Danish flag as a sail. (Editor’s note: Signal the Frog is a geocaching mascot – see our post on August 3 2014 https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2013/08/03/august-3-day-215-caches-found-0-cumulative-total-243-1-bonus-2cachers-meet/ ) The other side is a Viking horned helmet bearing the inscriptions “Denmark 2006 Oct 1 – Oct 31” and “Signal the Frog – Denmark – World Geocaching Series 1”. So this trackable has been out there for over nine years – wow!

Signal’s mission is : to get to water (lakes/rivers/oceans) : to see boats, ships, and other water craft : and to learn about seafaring. He’s travelled over 7000 miles around Europe and has visited many places that fit his mission.

The trackable was nearly lost: it spent FOUR years in a six-stage multicache on the Belgian coast and was only rediscovered in 2011 when the cache owner was clearing up some archived caches and found the trackable inside. There’s a lesson here: don’t put trackables in the final part of a complex, many stage geocache, as not many people will visit it! However, the trackable was eventually found and is still travelling, so we will try to move it to a location befitting its mission.

January 10 : Wildmoor Heath

Ten days into 2016 and we hadn’t been caching!

The gloriously wet weather had kept us in, and we were going stir crazy.

Wildmoor Heath (http://www.bbowt.org.uk/reserves/wildmoor-heath) is not renowned for its dryness, we’ve walked there several times before, but the terrain is quite sandy and around part of its perimeter is a boardwalk keeping the footpath above the mud and water.

The wet terrain of Wildmoor Heath

The wet terrain of Wildmoor Heath

There are six caches to be found on Wildmoor Heath, 5 set by South Berkshire District Scouts and the sixth seemed a large enough cache for us to drop off the ‘Famous Five Dick’ trackable.

So we set off on a reasonably fine day, setting out to dodge the mud as much as possible. We shortly arrived at the first cache, which according to the hint, was hidden in a silver birch. Well we have such a tree in our garden and there really are no hiding places in silver birches . Well those scouts had found a silver birch WITH a hiding place. And very clever it was too!

First cache of the year!

First cache of the year!


Our next cache was the only non-Scout cache and we made a naïve cacher’s mistake heading to it. We strayed away from a curving footpath and headed cross-country following a tiny track wending its way through tufts of heather. Fortunately the sandy nature of the Heath here, meant it wasn’t too muddy, but we did surprise a couple of muggle dog-walkers when we appeared on the main track from between gorse bushes!

We soon found the cache, but never have we seen such a wet cache! A great container, but somehow water had got in and there was over an inch of water deep inside! We decided not to leave the trackable here as ‘Famous Five Dick’ was an electric torch and we thought water and electric really didn’t mix.

Mud and puddles

Mud and puddles


Up to now we had avoided most of the mud, but our journey to the third cache (a cul-de-sac off the Heath’s circuit route) involved mud and puddles. Lots of them. We passed lots of really muddy dogs, and lots of people with muddy wellies with a good session of dog-cleaning when they returned home.

The third cache, a very simple find contained, much to our surprise, THREE trackables. We swapped ‘Dick’ with those three trackables.

Famous 5 Dick swaps places with 3 Trackables : Set Sail, Travel Pirate and Connie the Crab

Famous 5 Dick swaps places with 3 Trackables : Set Sail, Travel Pirate and Connie the Crab


Back through the mud we arrived back on our main circuit – finding our fourth cache (wedged in a tree, seen from some yards away) and our first encounter with the Wildmoor Heath Boardwalk.
The Boardwalk

The Boardwalk

The boardwalk took us around the Eastern Heath bypassing much of ponds and muddy water. Sadly the Southern edge of the Heath is a the base of a slope, and is the muddiest part … and has no boardwalk! We gingerly picked our way along, sometimes using temporary stick bridges, other times clinging to a decidedly unwieldy wire fence.

Once we were clear of this muddy section our final two caches were straightforward finds, in a holly tree and under a rotting log.

So six caches attempted, six found, leaving us one short of 1300 finds.
We finished the walk, surprisingly clean given the adverse conditions, but happy to be caching again after a few days stuck inside watching the rain. Roll on 2016 and please, please be drier!

Total caches found : 6
Year to date total : 6

Other caches we found included :

December 29 Thames Path : Canary Wharf to the Thames Barrier

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Mission accomplished! Thames Path walk complete! Apologies in advance for quite a long post.

Thames Barrier

Thames Barrier


With Christmas gone and 2016 approaching fast, we had just a few days left to complete the Thames Path before our self-imposed deadline of December 31st; we had been keeping an eye on both our social diary and the weather forecast and had decided that December 29th was the day for the final section of the walk.

So we arrived bright and early at Canary Wharf station and exited the Jubilee Line into … a sharp shower of rain. Oh dear! That wasn’t in the plan. But it cleared within 5 minutes, leaving clear air and winter sunshine.

We turned south onto the Thames Path and set off past the skyscrapers and oh-so-expensive apartments overlooking the river. We had lots of caches loaded, but didn’t have high hopes of the first few, as they hadn’t been found for a while. And so it proved. We couldn’t find them either, though our cache searching gave us a chance to inspect various bits of dockland hardware, such as the chains and hydraulic ram at Millwall Old Dock.

By now we were in the Isle of Dogs, and a sudden change in feel; the houses were smaller, the people weren’t all business folk rushing about; London is very curious for this: completely different areas can be just a few yards from each other, or on opposite banks of the Thames. But – we had started finding caches at last. Our first success was cunningly concealed under a post box, and the next was at another unusual feature on the riverside – a ‘park’ made out of planks. Reading the cache notes and the noticeboard, we discovered that this was where IK Brunel had built the Great Eastern, then, and for some time, the biggest ship in the world https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Great_Eastern . It seemed an odd spot to have chosen, very close to some tight bends in the river and without much space around it – but we’re not brilliant inventors.

We found another couple of caches as we walked through Tower Hamlets, though we had to abandon the search for another as a traffic policeman stopped nearby. Oh dear, we really couldn’t risk being stopped by the police twice in three weeks! Then suddenly we entered a small park with a panoramic view across the river to the Cutty Sark and to the old Royal Naval College at Greenwich. Here, too, is the end of the northern bank section of the Thames Path. (Three and a quarter miles to the barrier, said a sign.) The rest of it is on the south bank, though it is not at all a straight line to the finish!

Thames pedestrian tunnel

Thames pedestrian tunnel


The way to the south bank of the Thames is through a 1,215 foot long pedestrian tunnel under the river, and this is also a virtual geocache, one of only 193 left in the UK. Down the stairs, through the tunnel, and up in the lift we went, both of us separately counting away at geocache clues as we went; luckily, our answers matched. It was a well-used walk under the river, but a slightly odd and eerie place; I wouldn’t really want to be down there alone, and it is said that it’s haunted. And all of a sudden we were back out in the light, only yards away from the Cutty Sark and surrounded by crowds of tourists. (Three and a half miles to the barrier, said the next sign; curious, we should be getting closer.) We set off along the Thames Path again, pausing to eat our lunchtime sandwiches on a seat in the sun overlooking the river, looking back at Canary Wharf and watching the tide rushing in.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
After lunch we set off again down the south bank of the Thames. As soon as we had cleared the naval college the crowds melted away and we were almost alone once more, amongst wharves and industrial areas. (Four miles to the barrier, said the third sign; this really didn’t seem right as we knew we were going in the right direction, though fortunately the distances dropped after that!) Every so often we passed an old pub – the Trafalgar, the Cutty Sark, the Anchor and Hope – but, cache-wise, there was little to stop for as almost all the caches between Greenwich and the Thames Barrier are challenge caches, and we haven’t qualified for any of them. So on and on we walked, following a big loop north and then south around the Greenwich Peninsula, better known to most as the home of the O2, formerly the Dome, and where we went to watch the gymnastics during the 2012 Olympics. It was just a little dispiriting to look back across the Thames to Canary Wharf and to realise that we were now only about a mile from where we had started that morning… Part way around the loop in the river we reached a sign telling us that we were now on the Greenwich meridian; we had to check that, so out came the GPS; that was correct, so the rest of our journey would be in a whole new hemisphere! As we rounded a bend in the river and passed under the cable car, the Thames Barrier came into view and in not many more minutes, we were there. Journey’s end!
Greenwich Meridian

Greenwich Meridian


Appropriately, there’s an earthcache, the Tide Lord, to mark the spot. I think our cache log says it well enough:
“ We did it!!! Finally at the Thames Barrier … and an earthcache to puzzle over. The item that forms the puzzle gave us the chance to reflect on our whole journey … which has been very varied indeed … including multiple tree climbs, paddling through icy water, being stopped by the police … and so much more. “

But we weren’t finished yet; we needed to return to Canary Wharf to catch a train, and we had some more caches planned for the return leg. A bus back to the Cutty Sark, transferring to the Docklands Light Railway and back under the Thames, and we were almost there. We stopped part way back to find a picture puzzle cache, ‘1 Canada Square’ The idea is simple, the finding less so; the cache description is a panoramic view of Canary Wharf, and the cache is located ‘within 20 metres of where the picture was taken’. Again, I’ll let our cache log tell the tale:

”Our Thames Path mission complete, we were making our way back from the Thames Barrier to Canary Wharf station and we thought this should be somewhere on the way. (Well, Mrs Hg137 thought it should be, as she had spent hours … and hours … and hours inspecting assorted electronic views of the area to come to a likely location).

And so we pitched up in the likely place in the gathering gloom. A short search found us this cache. Woo hoo! “

Canary Wharf at night

Canary Wharf at night


Just one more cache to do now, and it was pretty dark by now. On our last caching mission/walk we had tried, and failed, to find a Church Micro based on the floating church in Canary Wharf. But we didn’t give up. A short message session with the cache owner and a slight readjustment of coordinates suggested we had been close, but not that close. So back we went, and ten minutes searching in the dark behind concrete pillars and underneath railway lines found us the cache. The last cache of the year, and a warm sense of achievement at getting this one. Unusually for an urban cache, this one contained a trackable, ‘Dick’. It has an interesting mission but that’s a topic for another blog.

Apart from the satisfaction of completing the Thames Path, today was another landmark caching day: only the second time that we had found five cache types in one day: a traditional, puzzle, earth, virtual, and multi cache. A good note on which to round off our caching for 2015, and time to wish all our long-suffering readers best wishes for the year ahead.

Here are some of the caches we found :
IMG_1324IMG_1277IMG_1314IMG_1312IMG_1278
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Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 6.75 miles
Total distance walked : 184.75 miles
Caches found : 8
Total caches found : 337

December 19 Thames Path : Cannon Street Railway Bridge to Canary Wharf.

We had about 10-11 miles left of our journey down the Thames, and we decided rather than have one long section and poor light to contend with, we would break the last few miles into 2 sections. The first would take us to Canary Wharf, with its gleaming skyscraper office blocks.

Our Destination.. Canary Wharf

Our Destination.. Canary Wharf

Most of the walk would be on the Northern bank, picking up caches from a series entitled “From the Swan to the Canary” a reference to Swan Pier where the series starts and Canary Wharf where the series ends.
We would omit some of the caches in the series as we wanted to attempt some of the Southern bank caches as well.

But first we returned to where we finished our previous walk.

We were UNDER Cannon Street Railway Bridge on the Thames Foreshore.
Hidden against the various chains and holes in a brick wall was a magnetic 35mm container. About 12 foot up! Now, neither of us are giants, but having checked various photos on http://www.geocaching.com we had a likely plan to reach this difficulty 4, terrain 4.5 cache. Just under the cache was a concrete footing, with a 5ft iron pipe rising from it. If one could stand on the pipe – the cache would be within reach…

Heave, heave, pull, pull

Heave, heave, pull, pull


There are two ways to reach the top of the pipe. The first was to ‘crawl around a wall corner’ with a 6 foot drop beneath or to haul oneself up onto the pipe using a chain fixed to a wall. Mr HG137 tried the latter and after 10 minutes gave up. His arms were still weak from his bone-break, and the iron pole was still wet and slippery from the tide. We could have spent some time trying to access the pole top, but with the full day’s walk ahead of us we moved on.
So a slightly disappointing start, but we feared as much so it didn’t seem that bad.

Our first real cache was the first in the Swan to Canary series. The hint alluded to a sign, which we could see, but we couldn’t see the cache! We looked further afield and eventually found the small magnetic film container attached to a gate. Phew!

Then over the river to an unusual cache – a sidetracked Earthcache. Sidetracked caches are part of a National series where the caches are in or near Railway Stations. This one was near London Bridge Station. However what made it special was the Earthcache qualities. At Ground Zero were 2 lumps of granite, from the London Bridge demolished in the late 1960s. These lumps of granite were mined at Haytor in Devon (we have stayed with http://www.hfholidfays.co.uk half a mile from the mine!) so we felt we had a connection with the cache. Being an Earthcache we had to undertake various scientific analysis of the stones and report our findings to claim the cache find.

Granite from the Previous London Bridge

Granite from the Previous London Bridge

Further along the Southern bank we came to HMS Belfast. Here you can see three great London landmarks together : HMS Belfast, The Tower of London and Tower Bridge. And it’s full of tourists. Lots of them. We thought this would make the next cache hard to find, but given a very accurate hint, and an Oscar-winning ‘tourist impression’ (taking lots of pictures!) the cache was retrieved, signed and replaced before we drew suspicion.

3 London Icons

3 London Icons

We returned to the Northern bank over the tourist filled Tower Bridge, pausing to admire the ‘Girl with a Dolphin’ statue – now showing its age a little, and making sure that the Dickens Inn was where we remembered it to be. (We didn’t go in, but we did frequent it on one of our early dates many years ago!).

Girl with a Dolphin

Girl with a Dolphin


Dickens Inn

Dickens Inn

Our next cache was a little away from the Thames Path, but being part of the Swan/Canary series we thought it would be worth attempting. Sadly GZ was on/near/under a number of concrete bridges, and our GPS never gave us an accurate location. The cache hint gave some idea, but we never really got close. Disappointing as we had drifted a little away from our route to attempt the cache!

Thames Barges, the Shard and Tower Bridge

Thames Barges, the Shard and Tower Bridge

The Northern Bank route took us in a zigzag route from the river, to the streets (Wapping High St) going in front of city apartments and behind wharves closed down many years ago. Eventually we arrived at Wapping Old Steps which led down to the Foreshore. Here, another cache awaited us, a very tightly screwed nano which took both us to unscrew. As we remarked in our previous log, the foreshore is very, very quiet and provides a completely different London atmosphere to the London streets just a few yards away. (Wapping Old Stairs and its foreshore still evoke a different era and appeared as a film location in the 2015 Christmas Edition of “Call the Midwife” – we’re quite sure its appeared in many other films and TV episodes).

Wapping Old Stairs

Wapping Old Stairs

Onward we went with Canary Wharf getting larger with every step we took. Our next cache, was a small nano in a seat. But from the seat we could see a hangman’s noose! We were next to one of London’s oldest pubs The Prospect of Whitby, and outside on the foreshore is a mock-noose celebrating the pub being the hostelry of choice for “hanging” Judge Jeffreys.

Don't hang around too long here!

Don’t hang around too long here!

Our next cache in a small London park was far more tranquil… but the next found us in a tricky predicament. The cache was under a small wooden footbridge which had enough wriggle room to go underneath. We had three futile attempts at wriggling underneath avoiding ‘muggle traffic’ before we found the cache, and foolishly we didn’t take the clip-lock box away from GZ to sign the log. (We like to move a few yards away to deflect interest). We had the cache open, signing the log, with all the trinkets on display when we asked by a small (5 year old?) girl, what we doing. Fortunately her mother appeared and we explained about geocaching. The girl wanted many of the trinkets but we settled on a small pink notebook. Fingers crossed she doesn’t tell others of the ‘treasure hidden beneath the bridge’.

The Swan/Canary series took us to many varied locations including a statue celebrating the work of ropemakers as well some very swanky metal-work (where the cache could only be found by looking in one very specific location).

Celebrating the Ropemakers of London

Celebrating the Ropemakers of London

Eventually the towers of the Canary Wharf complex were above us, and we had one more cache to find.. a Church Micro. This Church micro, newly published, was based on St Peter’s Barge, London’s only floating Church. We found the answers to the clues near the church and walked to the final Ground Zero. Concrete pillars, overhead railway lines meant our GPS couldn’t get us close to the location and we gave up! A slightly poor end to an eventful day’s caching.

St Peter's Barge, London's Floating Church

St Peter’s Barge, London’s Floating Church


Here are some of the caches we found :

Thames Path statistics :

Route length : 3.75 miles
Total distance walked : 178 miles

Caches found : 9
Total caches found : 329