June 8 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Fairford to Lechlade

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Fairford Church - St Mary's

Fairford Church – St Mary’s


After a gap of four weeks, we returned to our epic walk from Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) home to Sandhurst (Berkshire). This section was quite a short one, between Fairford and Lechlade, mostly through the Cotswold Water Park.

Parking one geocar in a layby near Lechlade, we stopped just long enough to find a cache there, then drove to Fairford in the other geocar. There’s a superb free car park close to the church, so we parked there and started our journey by crossing the road to visit St Mary’s Church. It’s a big church, funded by the wool trade, with superb medieval stained glass windows, the only complete set in the country https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairford_stained_glass Our plan was to collect information needed to solve the Church Micro cache associated with the church, have a quick look at the glass, find the cache, and be on our way. It didn’t quite work out like that …

Entering the church, a steward handed us an audio guide which detailed all sorts of things about the windows and the church. It would take well over an hour to see everything – there are 28 windows, and other things. But we needed to get on, and get walking. We compromised and looked at a few selected windows, found the information and left. (Editor’s note: we didn’t have time to do justice to this church interior but it is very well worth visiting and spending a while just looking at the windows; each one contains a wealth of detail and symbolism well covered in the audio guide.)

Leaving the church, we went to look for the cache, which was located very close to where the car was parked. Or should have been. Some nettle stings later, we abandoned our search, and finally set off. Oh dear, it was rather later in the day than we had intended. We walked through the town, skirted some building work, and set out along the track of an abandoned railway, now a path http://www.fairfordbranch.co.uk/Fairford.htm There’s a cache along here too, one from the ‘Sidetracked’ series. (Editor’s note: geocaches really do help with finding a route, we would have struggled to find this path without that location to guide us.)

After a bit, we reached the water park and followed a selection of paths leading round the lakes. Once again, it didn’t go to plan … the lakes are still being dug out, so the map doesn’t match what is on the ground … and we couldn’t find several of the caches we were looking for. They were part of a series planted by a local Scout troop to get their geocaching badge, but we suspect that the interest wanes a bit once the badge is achieved, and the caches aren’t maintained as well as they could have been.

Some day soon, this will be houses ...

Some day soon, this will be houses …


After some bumbling about we arrived at the edge of a housing development in progress, https://www.thelakesbyyoo.com There was a footpath somewhere, but we couldn’t spot it, and there were forbidding signs warning of dire consequences for any trangression. We approached a Gurkha security officer, asked the way, and were efficiently, promptly, and politely given a map (maybe we weren’t the first to ask). Emboldened, we set off, talked our way past some burly security guards, using the map as a talisman, clambered through a live building area, close to a digger, waving the map as a pass, and found our way onto a road leading through the already-built bit of the estate. There were some very large and very expensive houses here, but it didn’t do it for me: some of the lakes were a rather strange colour, and the buildings were a bit “Thames Valley Park” meets “Center Parcs”. I was glad when we emerged onto the Thames and Severn Way, leading us towards Lechlade.
Strange water colour?

Strange water colour?


Almost immediately we were finding caches from another series, the SSS / Seven Stile Stroll, which led us nicely into Lechlade, with only one failure among the five we attempted. Part way along the path we stopped for a welcome coffee break – we couldn’t stop in the building site/housing estate – and watched a small number of escaped sheep frolicking at the other side of the field. They spotted us, became embarrassed, and sheepishly slunk back to their field …
Lechlade

Lechlade


The path ended at the edge of Lechlade and we were soon in the town centre, it’s not a huge place. There are some quirky things to be seen – an all-year round Christmas shop, and a five foot high blue fibreglass hare being just two of them. A large blue hare? Why? Dunno. We went to the church, had a quick look inside – very pleasant, but not on the scale of Fairford – then worked out the answer for the Lechlade Church Micro which was, of course, a place that we had passed as we walked into the town. Then it was just a short walk along a tree-lined path out of town and we were back at the geocar; we’d been here before in March 2015 when we were walking the Thames Path.
It's Christmas all year in Lechlade....

It’s Christmas all year in Lechlade….


... and giant blue hares live in Lechalade too...

… and giant blue hares live in Lechalade too…


We drove back to Fairford to collect the other geocar. We were, once again, very close to the first cache of the day, which we didn’t find earlier. Once again, we braved the nettles. And this time we found a cache! (Editor’s note: when logging the cache, we found that it had been replaced, during the day, with the cache owner’s permission, so we hadn’t missed it on our first visit.)

And here, as ever, are some of the caches we found:

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April 22 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Colesbourne to Foss Cross

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

A night (staying nearby in Great Witcombe) had passed, and it was time for the fifth section of our epic walk from Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) home to Sandhurst (Berkshire). Starting at Colesbourne, where we finished the last walk, we were going up and across the hill tops to Chedworth, then finishing the walk where our route crossed the Fosse Way at Foss Cross (and yes, there is no consistency at all in those place names – almost everywhere else it’s ‘Fosse’ but not at ‘Foss’ Cross).

But first … a slight diversion on our way to Colesbourne. There is a puzzle cache based on the village called ‘When were these Coles Born?’ and we had solved the puzzle based on that neat turn of phrase, and stopped off to collect the cache on our way to the village. We planned to park one car at Colesbourne Church. Silly me – I had forgotten it was Sunday. No spaces at the church. We rethought, backtracked, and parked the car next to a wine wholesaler, having first checked it was closed on Sundays (unlike churches!) And off we went. The first cache on the walking route for the day was ‘Two Degrees West’, very close indeed to our starting point. The cache name made no sense till we inspected our GPS at the cache site – it was exactly 2 degrees west.

Colesbourne - 2 degrees west (exactly)

Colesbourne – 2 degrees west (exactly)

After a little bit of road walking, we headed onto tracks and into the countryside (and uphill). We found several caches as we climbed, all in good condition though some had not been found all winter. There was a bit of scrambling up banks, a bit of wildlife watching (a herd of about a dozen roe deer running across a field, and buzzards overhead), and a very, very pleasant walk through the Gloucestershire country while spring frothed and flowered around us. On the downside, Mr Hg137 snagged himself on barbed wire (the same piece, twice – he can be a slow learner!) and we both got stung by evil nettles, but that didn’t matter too much.


Spot the running deer!

Spot the running deer!


Very pleasant woodland walk

Very pleasant woodland walk


There was about a mile of road walking approaching Chedworth where there were no caches, not one, so we sped up and hastened along. Coming to a road junction, we spotted a parked car. It was a Porsche. Next to it was … another Porsche, and another, five in all. Mr Hg137 couldn’t miss this chance and rushed over to the drivers to ask what they were doing. It turned out to be a photoshoot, which will be featured in 911 & Porsche World magazine in June 2018 http://www.911porscheworld.com At least that explained why all those cars were so incredibly clean!
Porsches everywhere!

Porsches everywhere!


There was a steep descent down from the hilltops into Chedworth, and its church, almost the first dwellings of any kind that we’d seen since the start of the day’s walk. Chedworth church has an easy-to-find church micro, but the inside of the church is also worth a visit, with lots of material detailing the exploits and awards of the bellringers, and information on Elizabeth of York, Henry VII’s queen, who visited Chedworth and is depicted on a ceiling boss in the church (an early form of photo, maybe?). Elizabeth appeared again for our last cache of the day, which was based on the village sign, which included pictures of all sorts of things related to the village – Roman mosaics … English queens …
Chedworth church

Chedworth church



Chedworth village sign

Chedworth village sign



The last leg was a cacheless walk over the flat top of the Cotswolds, passing a gymkhana, over fields, under a disused railway and out onto the busy Fosse Way by the Hare and Hounds pub at Foss Cross.

And here are some of the caches we found:

April 21 : MAGGIE – Misty the Maine Coon Travel Tag

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

On our caching walk between Barrow Wake, overlooking Gloucester, and Colesbourne, in the Churn valley, we found not one, not two, but THREE trackables. This is almost unheard of! One of the three was this nice shiny new trackable, pictured meeting our own trail trackable, which we use to mark our progress on long walks.

MAGGIE – Misty the Maine Coon Travel Tag

MAGGIE – Misty the Maine Coon Travel Tag


Maggie the Maine Coon cat has been around since August 2017, starting off near Lothwithiel in Cornwall. She hasn’t travelled far since then – caches are visited much less in winter, so there is less chance of them being found – but she has been to some great places – to Truro, then to Oare on Exmoor, and thence to the Cotswolds.

All this sits well with Maggie’s own stated mission:
‘To explore past my little garden where I am allowed to roam. I love an adventure, take me far!’

And here is Maggies’s mission, in more detail, as given by her owner:
‘Our little Maggie trackable is in honour of our little cat who watches us leave very regularly with the geopooch to find geocaches. If we could take her geocaching with us we most certaintly would! Maggie loves climbing trees and anywhere green. Please help me to explore!!’

April 21 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Barrow Wake to Colesbourne

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

A week had passed, and we were ready for the fourth section of our epic walk from Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) home to Sandhurst (Berkshire). We *should* have driven straight along the A417 to Barrow Wake, overlooking Gloucester. But the road was closed after an accident, and a scenic tour of Gloucestershire followed, via Cirencester, Stratton, Seven Springs, Crickley and Birdlip, and arrived at our start point later than planned. Just then the traffic started flowing again…

Crossing the A417, we set off up Shab Hill past the telecoms masts and down a country lane. We were high up, following the Gloucestershire Way, with good views all round, and caches spaced at regular intervals. But, if road building programmes have their way, this will all look very different soon http://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/news/cheltenham-news/cotswold-motorway-plan-flatten-air-1393656

This could be a road soon!

This could be a road soon!


Our success at finding those first few caches was mixed – we found some, not others, and at least one was out in the open in an adjacent field! We spotted a seat – the first one we had seen – so stopped for an early lunch overlooking the Churn valley and Coberley long barrow. Just then a curly-haired, ginger dog appeared, soon followed by a muggle lady. We were sitting on ‘her’ seat. We shuffled up, and chatted, while the curly-haired ginger dog made covert attempts to get into our rucksack and steal our lunch leftovers.

Dog and owner walked on, and we followed them after a pause, as it gave us privacy to search for caches. It was cooler now, and not so sunny, and was that a drop of rain in the air? We reached the valley bottom, crossed the river, then the A435, and set off uphill across one of the biggest and dreariest fields we’ve ever crossed. Luckily, there was a cache at the far side of it … Unluckily, it was well wedged, and a few minutes of cursing and un-wedging ensued before we got to sign the log.
Upper Coberley

Upper Coberley


Climbing still, we walked through Upper Coberley, a prosperous looking hamlet (we looked much too shabby and muddy to be walking through here!). At the top of the hill we turned right, and the Gloucestershire Way turned left; it had served us well, but it was heading north and we were now going east.

We started on an undulating walk on tracks through the Pinswell plantation, along a ridge, through woods sprinkled with bluebells, primroses, daffodils and dandelions, and gently downhill towards Colesbourne, slowly losing the views as we went. Along our way, at regular intervals, were caches (they do help to keep you on the right track!), which were part of the Pinswell Loop series.

Expansive views ...

Expansive views …


... amid lovely old trees

… amid lovely old trees


Two caches are worthy of longer descriptions. One was sodden: water dripped onto our feet as we opened it. Inside was a geocoin: its subject – U-boats – sort of appropriate that it was underwater!

The other had many favourites: we didn’t know why. On arrival, we walked through some impressive stone gateposts and started looking for the cache. We couldn’t find it, and after about ten minutes admitted we were stuck and looked online for a spoiler photo (cheating, maybe?) We realised we had walked over the cache container several times …

We skirted the edge of the Colesbourne estate which is known for its snowdrops https://www.colesbournegardens.org.uk/ though they had finished by time of our visit. Crossing the Churn again – it was bigger now – we walked into the village and the end of this day’s walk.
River Churn, Colesbourne

River Churn, Colesbourne


We’d found thirteen of the fifteen caches we had attempted, and the threatened rain hadn’t happened. Superb walk, and a lovely bit of the Cotwolds, off the tourist trail.

Here are some of the caches we found:

April 8 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Shurdington to Barrow Wake

After two day’s walking through the Severn Valley and the outskirts of the Cotswolds, our third day included climbing Crickley Hill. Approximately 500 feet of it.

Shurdington is at the bottom of Crickley Hill and our route would take us to the top, and then we would descend about half way to the Air Balloon pub, and then another short climb to the Barrow Wake car park overlooking the village of Birdlip.

Lots of ascent and with 10 caches to find – and heavy rain forecast for mid-afternoon – we couldn’t loiter too long.

After a short walk we left (cacheless) Shurdington and arrived at a track. This would be our route for the next hour or so. Initially flat, but rising steeply before flattening out nearer the top.

The first flat section yielded three caches. The first, GWYTHERS FARM, was part of a FARM series where cache container had a dairy connection. We had found a similar container the day before at REDDINGS FARM, but it was still a surprise to find a relatively unusual cache container.

One pint or two ?

Our next two caches were even more unusual. They were two caches in a ten cache trail based on the ‘Ships of the Culture’ series of books. (We were unaware of this series, but discovered many of the caches were based on names of spaceships in those books). The author, Ian M Banks, must have a real sense of humour as the first cache we found in the series was…a Carrot.

A Large Plastic Orange Carrot.

One of your seven a day

The second cache we found was a toilet. Yes, a small toilet. The toilet paper was of course used for logging.

Flushed with success!

Still chuckling, we started our climb started in earnest. The track became stonier and stonier. A small stream criss-crossed our path, and as we walked higher we were enclosed by trees on one side and a six foot muddy bank on the other. This muddy bank had to be climbed to reach our next cache.

Armed only with a geo-pole, a bit of endeavour and large amount of effort, Mrs Hg137 failed to climb the slippery six foot slope. Mr Hg137 noticed a slightly easier ascent route, found the cache, threw it down for Mrs Hg137 to sign, before the return throw and re-hide. That was our only scramble up the bank, as it soon became a typical Cotswold Stone Wall.

Our next two caches were relatively straightforward, one required pulling a small piece of string to extricate the cache from a hole, the other was hidden under a familiar cacher’s pile of sticks. The log of this cache was particularly wet, so we decided to have lunch and let the paper dry out for 10 minutes or so.

Pull the string!

We turned onto the Cotswold Way which would lead us to the top of Crickley Hill.

One of the flatter paths!

But first, two more caches which were some way from the main, busy footpath. One was hidden in an old bale twiner, the other in a hollow tree reached by descending a slightly too muddy path.

Eventually we arrived at the top of Crickley Hill. There are three caches at the top – a multi (which we didn’t undertake as its 9 waypoints would take us well away from out intended route), an earthcache and a standard cache.

With hindsight (Ed : hindsight being only useful when things don’t quite go to plan) we should have attempted the earthcache first. But we didn’t.

We headed straight for the standard cache, possibly on a footpath, but in all fairness not, straight down a steep, wet grassy bank. Using only a wire fence (and a geo-pole) for support we inched down the hillside to find GLORIOUS GLOUCESTERSHIRE. An easy find, once at GZ, and it was only when we were at GZ that we noticed a very much simpler footpath leading from the where the earthcache started! Whoops!

View from Glorious Gloucestershire

It was when we logged the cache, later that night, we appreciated the age of the GLORIOUS GLOUCESTERSHIRE cache. It was first hidden in August 2001. It is the UK’s 20th oldest cache, and is classified as ‘Ancient’. Our labours had found a very old cache indeed.

New container.. but an ANCIENT cache!

The other reason we should have completed the earthcache first, was not only did we have to answer questions about how a landslip had occurred, but we had to look at the many hills that we could see from Crickley Hill. Sadly, the rain clouds were rolling in, and we could barely appreciate the (what should have been) expansive view.

We rushed down the hill, passing the Air Balloon pub and arrived at our car just as the heavens opened. (The unusually named pub is allegedly named after the final landing place of one of the first UK balloon flights in 1784).

The rain deterred our visit to a puzzle cache we had solved near Barrow Wake.. that will have to wait for another day.

A couple of the other caches we found :

March 14 Thames Path : Lechlade to Radcot : Locks and (pill) boxes

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Down by the river at Lechlade, it still felt like winter: there was hazy sunshine and a cool breeze. But there were signs of spring: fishermen, very well wrapped up against the cold, and people messing about with boats, preparing them for the boating season.

River Thames at Inglesham

River Thames at Inglesham


Before heading onwards, we backtracked a short distance to take another look at Inglesham Roundhouse. Then we turned back in the ‘right’ direction (towards the sea) and under Ha’penny Bridge.

Ha'penny Bridge, Lechlade

Ha’penny Bridge, Lechlade

Lechlade looked – and sounded – lovely in the morning light, with a peal of bells ringing out from the church. A little way downstream we reached St John’s Lock, the very first/last lock on the Thames. Here is the statue of Old Father Thames, watching over the lock; he used to be at Thames Head but he has moved here where it is busier and there are more folk to watch over him and keep him safe. Here, too, was a lock keeper, painting all the bits on the lock that need to look smart for the summer.

Old Father Thames

Old Father Thames

St. John's Lock

St. John’s Lock

Thames lock keeper

Thames lock keeper


Leaving the Thames Path, we passed the Trout Inn and headed along a footpath to grab two brand new (this month) caches, Lechlade Wander 1 & 2. There are few geocaches on or near this section of the Thames Path and we wanted to get as many as possible! Both are in excellent condition and well placed – well enough to give us a few minutes searching time on each cache. It seemed a good place to leave the trackable, Hopkin the bunny, to continue his conquest of the world.

Back on the trail, we walked on to Buscot Lock, the smallest i.e. shortest lock on the Thames, and where we met another lock keeper, busily painting. Just before arriving, we ‘happened’ on another cache. Strictly speaking, we should have walked into Buscot, solved some clues, and returned to the riverside to claim the cache. Instead, we read the description and the hint ahead of time, and decided to search among the most likely places where a cache could be placed; we got lucky at one of the first few places we checked; the National Trail geocoin was dropped off here. But we did walk into the village, which is owned by the National Trust; it’s slightly over-neat in that way that NT properties often are, but very pretty and a good (though chilly) spot for lunch.

Buscot

Buscot

Buscot Weir

Buscot Weir


By now the sun had gone, and the wind was keener, so hats and gloves went on for the rest of a rather bleak, cold walk. There were no caches to be found till Kelmscott, the next village, so we pressed on into the wind. We were getting cold, so, of the eight caches in the ‘Around Kelmscott’ (AK) series, we just found the three caches along the riverbank and then moved on. Kelmscott is associated with William Morris (of the Arts & Crafts movement) and the cache series has a good number of favourites, so we may come back this way soon to finish off the AK series and do some sightseeing in the attractive village.

The river meandered to and fro, peppered at intervals by pill boxes, part of the WWII defences of ‘Stop Line Red’. Most of them are still in fair condition, and you can get inside some of them. One of the AK series was hidden in a pill box; it was very neatly hidden (though I am short and it was a little out of my reach). This cache turned out to be one of the slipperiest ever – both of us dropped it at least once and much searching was needed for the already ‘found’ cache!

Stopline Red - pill box by the Thames

Stopline Red – pill box by the Thames

Grafton Lock - with boat!

Grafton Lock – with boat!


On along the river, we reached Grafton Lock, where yet again there was wet paint (those lock keepers have been very busy!) And there was a boat in the lock, the first moving craft we’ve seen on the river so far; we stopped to talk to the boaters and their boat-dog; they were heading to Lechlade for the night, then back the next day.

There was just one more geocache to find, close to Radcot bridge, the end of our Thames walk for the day. We made much too much of finding this final cache, and were on the verge of giving up before Mr Hg137 spotted it, hidden in a tree near the bridge. And finally, on to the geocar, which was parked near the Swan Hotel by the bridge.

Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 6 miles Total distance walked : 30 miles
Caches found : 7 Total caches found : 80

Some of the caches found on this walk:

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February 21 Thames Path : Castle Eaton to Lechlade

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Only a few days after our last walk, we were back on the Thames Path. This time there would be quite a lot of “Path” and not very much “Thames” as this part of the walk is mostly several fields distance away from the river. The Thames Rangers are working with local landowners to fix that, but it’s not settled yet.

Blackford Lane, Castle Eaton

Blackford Lane, Castle Eaton


Setting off from the lychgate near Castle Eaton church, the first mile of the walk was along a quiet country lane, with not a single geocache. At the end of the lane, the geocaches started, as we had reached the Hannington Wick (HW) circuit. We had already decided to step away from the Thames Path, find some of the caches in the series, then head back to the Path, and then to diverge again a little further on to find the remaining HW caches. The first part of the plan worked well, though it was quite wet and muddy underfoot (was this a portent of things to come?) and we returned to the Thames Path with several caches safely found.

Finally we reached the Thames itself, which we last saw before we reached Castle Eaton, and arrived at the site of another cache. But where could it be? Some hedging and tree clearance had taken place and the cache site no longer looked like its description. We searched around unsuccessfully for some while, then paused for refreshment and reflection. Coffee works! Success at last! We found the misplaced cache after a little more searching.

For a short distance we followed the main course of the river, then a side channel, and then we doubled back along the a wooded track to complete the HW circuit. With just one cache left to find in the series, it got damper and damper beneath our feet, and then the track disappeared under some inches of flowing water; oh dear, this was so horribly reminiscent of our freezing paddle through the Cotswold Water Park a month earlier.

Watery Lane - now I wonder why it got that name?

Watery Lane – now I wonder why it got that name?

This time round we decided NOT to get wet and returned to the Thames Path. If only we had done the HW series in the correct order, we would have realised that the track, Watery Lane, is aptly named (isn’t hindsight wonderful?)
Thames Path near Upper Inglesham

Thames Path near Upper Inglesham


Back on the Thames Path, we collected more caches along an attractive but muddy bridleway leading to Upper Inglesham. We had found 17 caches out of 18 up to now, a good haul, and had one more cache to go. But first: the not so fun part of the walk. To get back to the river, just over a mile of the busy A361 needs to be travelled. The guidebooks strongly advise against walking this section, and suggest a bus or taxi instead. We had decided to walk, though we weren’t looking forward to it at all. After psyching ourselves up, we set off into the traffic. It turned out to be not as bad as we feared, as traffic was fairly light, the weather was dry, and the verges and hedges had been recently cut back, but we were still very glad indeed to step off the main road and head down the quiet, narrow lane to the hamlet of Inglesham.
'Quiet' moment on the A361

‘Quiet’ moment on the A361


Inglesham is the site of a lost village where only a farm and an 11th century church remain. The church is much as it was five, six, seven hundred years ago and is well, well worth a visit as it is like stepping back in time. And just outside is a Church Micro, our final cache of the day, where we found another trackable to move on its way – hello to “Hopkin the Bunny”.
Inglesham Church

Inglesham Church


Finally we got back to the River Thames, which had grown since we saw it briefly a few miles earlier. Across the river was Inglesham Roundhouse, once the lock-keeper’s cottage where the (currently derelict) Thames and Severn Canal ended. And, in the river itself, were … boats! We had reached the head of navigation on the Thames. From now on it will be boats, locks, weirs, and more boats all the way to the tidal river at Teddington.
Inglesham Roundhouse

Inglesham Roundhouse


Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 6.2 miles Total distance walked : 24 miles
Caches found : 18 Total caches found : 73

Someof the caches found on this walk:
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