July 11 : East Worldham, West Worldham and Hartley Mauditt

Our caching trip started from the village of East Worldham perched high on a hill a few miles South West of Farnham. There is always a danger starting a walk from the top of a hill, and we only remembered it some hours later.

East Worldham Church

Initially though we walked even higher from our parked car, to East Worldham’s church (St Mary’s). We collected information from the Church noticeboard, which doubled up as a village history and geography lesson and from a nearby War Memorial. We calculated the co-ordinates for the hiding place of the Church Micro cache…and discovered an error in our maths. Back we went to the noticeboard, retrieved the correct date and went looking. An ideal host, matching the hint, stood proudly at GZ. Sadly for us, so did a large amount of vegetation which shielded every hidey-hole so well that we couldn’t find the cache. Not the best of starts, poor maths.. and a DNF !

We started our main circuit of the day, ‘View the Land’, a series of 15 caches first placed back in 2011. Some of the caches would contain a number, which would help us find a 16th, bonus, cache.

The first cache find was relatively straightforward, though the hint of ‘hanging’ had obviously changed over the cache’s nine years. We were heading towards cache 2, when we remembered the bonus number. We hadn’t checked the first cache for it ! Should we go back or risk missing one number ? We went on with crossed fingers.

On route, some redeveloped oast houses


Our second cache, in one of the more imaginative hides on the route was quite hard to spot. Our searching was not helped by people busying themselves at the neighbouring equestrian centre. Indeed one of the horses did its best to help us sign the log. Again we walked away from the cache, failing to remember to collect any bonus information. This time though, we had only walked a few yards, so retreated to collect our first bonus number – yay !

“You forgot the bonus number!”

The path moved away from the horses and around a farmer’s field. Here we found a couple of caches hidden in very large tree hollows. The hollows were so big, at least 10 ammo boxes could fit in them with space to spare! After allowing a couple of horse-riders go by, we deviated from the ‘View the Land’ circuit to attempt our second Church Micro of the day, at West Worldham.
As we approached the village we went by a largish garden where several Dads were having a socially-distant chat while their teenage boys were kicking a football with great vigour.

West Worldham Church

The church at West Worldham (St Nicholas), presented us with a problem. Notices on the gate prohibited access as building work was going on at the Church. Being Saturday though, there were no workmen, so we ignored the sign and collected the numbers we needed for the Church Micro. We even went inside the church and found this thought-provoking plaque.

The Church Micro cache was hidden by the roadside, which a few minutes earlier has been quiet. But as we approached GZ, and before we could wrestle with ivy protection, car after car went by. It was the fathers and sons from the football garden earlier, now returning home.

During a break in the traffic we found the cache and then returned, via a sunken lane to our main caching series. The sunken lane had dropped quite steeply and we were in a ‘bowl’ with tree cover all around. The GPS danced around, pointing this way and that and with only ‘multi-trunk tree’ as our guide we spent some locating the cache.

Of course we then had to climb out of the ‘bowl’ and a series of about 60 steep, wooden earth steps took us to a barley field. In one corner of the field, presumably as set-aside, was a beautiful wildflower border. We recognized many of the flowers including Phacelia and Poppies, other names eluded us. None of the flowers eluded the multitude of insects enjoying the nectar.

The couple of caches around the field were straightforward finds, including one hidden in a former sunken lane. Here Mr Hg137 retrieved the cache, threw it to Mrs Hg137 to sign, who threw it back for Mr Hg137 to replace. Did we check the bonus number ? Of course not, so the cache was re-opened to ascertain any bonus information. It was as we left this cache site we saw movement ahead of us, clearly not a rabbit or squirrel … our best guess was a stoat.

Mr Hg137, a sunken lane about to find the cache


We arrived at the now-deserted village of Hartley Mauditt to find three caches close to the Church (including our third Church Micro of the day).

Hartley Mauditt Church

Hartley Mauditt, was once a village with a manor church dating back to the Norman Conquest. The manor survived several centuries until the owner, who preferred living in London, pulled down the manor so his wife (who preferred living in the manor) would stay with him in London. The church remains, and is open a few months each year – though during our visit it was closed for renovation. We collected the numbers for the final hiding place of the Church Micro and walked to GZ. A roadside verge deep with 5 feet nettles. Somewhere in the nettlebed was a stump hiding the cache. We gave the nettles a few minutes, and a few swishes of our geopole. Another DNF. (That’s 3 Church Micros attempted, 2 DNFs and 1 we shouldn’t have found as the graveyard had prohibited access!)

The other caches around the Church were easier to find and before we left Hartley Mauditt we paused by the large pond (again dating back to 1066) for some refreshment. We were spotted by a duck (possibly an Indian Runner duck) who wanted to help us eat our sandwiches. It didn’t succeed.

Our break gave us time to check out the details for the next cache. We were grateful we did as the next two caches were only accessible from a footpath and not the roadside. We soon discovered why… the road was a twisty, narrow gorge but the footpath took a more relaxed route. Both caches were hanging ‘above the road’ so we didn’t dare drop them!

“Gorge Road”


After the road gorge had finished we had a short walk along the road before we entered woodland. This was unexpected as the earlier part of the walk had been around farmland. We were on the Hangars Way, a long distance footpath from Alton to Queen Elizabeth Park.

Our route took us on good tracks through woodland until unexpectedly it took a diversion to a much narrower path. This path went round a delightful pond. We saw waterlilies, a coot, several carp anxiously waiting for the many dragonflies to come too close to the water. A beautiful, tranquil spot in a forest.

In wasn’t though. As distant barking could be heard. As we walked on, we discovered why. A young shepherding couple were worming sheep, and their dog, which was tethered to a landrover, wanted to help!

We watched from afar after finding another cache, before continuing through the forest to an easy find behind an oak. There were a junction of footpaths at the tree, and it was here we took our last diversion of the day. Our caching trail was in one of the Northernmost sections of the South Downs National Park, and throughout the Park 30 caches have been placed by the South Downs Authority. We had found a few on our South Downs Way walk last year, and took the opportunity to add another SDA cache to the list. It was though a half mile walk to the cache (and a half mile back). Fortunately an easy find!

Back at the oak tree, we remembered the trouble with starting a walk at the top of a hill. There’s normally an ascent at the end of the day ! We climbed slowly at first through fields (passing another pond), then steeply through woodland, pausing only for breath and to find our last few caches. Somehow we found all the ‘View the Land’ series and all the bonus numbers too!

Then the ascent got very steep. We expected the bonus to be near to our parked car but it wasn’t. It was higher still. And the cache owner somehow had found the steepest route there ! (Telling you how would give the game away).

The Bonus Cache!


So after 9 miles walking (the route should have just over 5, but we did a couple of extra diversions), we beat the final ascent, and found the bonus cache!

A fine series with some great views. The only caches we didn’t find were Church Micros where the undergrowth and nettles beat us. Definitely a good day out!

Here are a few of the caches we found :

July 5 : Fleet : Perseverance, fairies, giant (stone) snakes, and a puzzle

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Basingstoke Canal

Basingstoke Canal


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.
Perseverance

Perseverance


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.

Here are some of the caches we found (and no, there is no picture of the challenge/twist!):

June 28 – Southwood Country Park

Southwood Country Park is based on the grounds of the former Southwood Golf Course, just South of Farnborough. The Golf Course closed a couple of years ago, and the area was made into a country park shortly after. Well maintained paths surround and criss-cross the park and traces of the former golf course still remain.

10 caches have been placed around the park in a series entitled ‘Southwood Lost Links’. Many of the caches had ‘golfing names’ e.g T off, Water Hole, In the Rough etc..

Seven of the caches were traditional but there were three other cache types. The first a puzzle cache, where a jigsaw of the former golf course had to be solved, to reveal the final coordinates. Another cache was a straightforward multi, which we managed to work out the coordinates before we left home.

The third non-traditional cache type was a ‘letter box’ cache where there is an ink-stamp inside. This was also a ‘multi’ which we didn’t fully realise until we read the full cache description. (Actually the hint ‘tree roots’ made no sense when we were standing in front of a memorial bench!)

The walk around the park was very rural, we saw few houses, and nearby roads were surprisingly quiet. We were only a mile or so from Farnborough Airport, and occasional planes were taking off and landing. Between the trees we espied the Frank Whittle Monument, placed outside the parkland.

Sir Frank Whittle Memorial (Gloster Whittle Aircraft)

Many of the caches were very well hidden, and much thought had been given to ensure they weren’t muggled. The park is relatively busy, so a plastic box under a small pile of twigs would soon disappear. We were surprised by many of the caches including a magnetic cache which were expecting to be a small nano… but it was far, far larger! We didn’t find one of the caches – it was the second cache of the day – and a combination of not quite being the the ‘caching zone’ and probably taking the hint too literally meant the cache called ‘Lost Ball!’ wasn’t found by us!

The creative caches involved false tree-logs, and very imaginatively a bug hotel! The pictures below don’t do the caches justice, and of course we are not showing where they are!

June 20 : return to geocaching : Mattingley

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.


After thirteen cache-free weeks, we decided it was time to venture out. We set out, travelling the vast distance of … almost eight miles from home. It was the furthest we had ventured since the start of lockdown and it felt like a very long way away.

We went to Mattingley, a small village in north-east Hampshire, where we had cached exactly a year before https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2019/06/22/june-22-mattingley/ That time we did a circuit to the north. Today we were going south through West Green, then along the Brenda Parker Way to Murrell Green and returning via Dipley, on paths and quiet country roads, with just a few yards beside the busy A30 in the middle.

First cache for a while!

First cache for a while!



From the church (big, free car park) our walk started with a section along quiet country lanes, downhill to the River Whitewater and then on to the hamlet of Hazeley Bottom. Our first cache, Clapper Bridge, was at the bridge; we had a small celebration as we found our first cache for oh so long. (Editor’s note: it hasn’t been a ‘proper’ clapper bridge since 1838.) We continued on towards Hazeley Bottom, another small village. There wasn’t much traffic. Not strictly true; there wasn’t much motorised traffic, but there were LOTS of cyclists, almost all kitted out with bright Lycra and speedy bikes.

On the edge of Hazeley Bottom we turned off the road to follow footpaths south towards West Green. Our lack of caching practice began to show, as we only found one cache out of the next four we visited (one was marked as missing, two we couldn’t find, and a paltry single success). We arrived at West Green Common, a wooded area criss-crossed by paths. Looking for another cache, Message in a Bottle, we bumbled about in the woods for a bit before spotting the tell-tale pile of twigs, and there was the cache. While searching, three other people came wandering through the woods, also off the path; we thought they might be cachers (who else wanders around like this?) so we asked. But no, they were part of the Hampshire Dormouse Group https://hampshiredormousegroup.co.uk and they were checking their 40th box (of 50) for the day. You really never know who you’ll meet while out caching!
Hampshire Dormouse Group in action

Hampshire Dormouse Group in action


We carried on south from West Green, following the Brenda Parker Way towards the A30 https://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Brenda+Parker+Way We arrived at a cache called Defended 2, which is within sight of a pillbox. ‘Defended’ was a good name for this cache! We couldn’t get anywhere near it as two herds of cattle were gathered, surrounding the cache, one each side of the fence, plus the farmer checking on his livestock. We decided it was better not to try and walked on by.
Well defended pillbox

Well defended pillbox


And a hidden pillbox

And a hidden pillbox


The path squeezed alongside the fence around a gas offtake. This used to be my industry and I enthusiastically pointed out the places where 24” and 18” pipelines radiated from the site and the directions they took out into the country … Mr Hg137 was underwhelmed. Oh well.

Suddenly we were out on a pavement alongside the A30 and cars were whizzing by. The road wasn’t especially busy but it was much, much noisier than before. It was good to turn off the road a few yards later to start the return part of our walk. We found another pillbox and another cache, Defended, and wondered exactly what they were put there to defend – maybe the A30 itself, as it’s a major route to the west?

A short and nettle-strewn walk led to a country lane. We walked along this, climbing gently, dodging yet more cyclists. Caches were placed along the road at regular intervals, and we tried to find them all, but actually found about half. Perhaps they were all there and we simply couldn’t find them; but there are lots of logs for those caches and the consensus of opinion is that they are missing and that the cache series needs a little TLC (which might simply be that the cache owners have been unable to get out to do it). The road became a track, then a path, and we arrived at Dipley.


By now it was mid-afternoon, the cool morning had turned into a sunny weekend afternoon, and many a muggle had decided to go out in the sunshine. A large number of them were passing by our next cache, Bamboozled. This area was muggle central – at least three groups of people came by from each direction, plus a few more using the nearby road. Dogwalkers, cyclists, runners, walkers … after a bit we paused, leaned on a gate, opened a bottle of water and just waited for everyone to go away. Once alone, the cache was a quick and easy find – all we needed was a few seconds peace to grab it!
Bamboozled?

Bamboozled?


We left thronging Dipley behind, and took a footpath beside the River Whitewater through some beautiful gardens (but private, and fenced off). We came to a tiny, delightfully wonky bridge over a side stream and wanted to stop there to look for a cache.
Wonky little bridge

Wonky little bridge


But … we thought the last cache site was busy with muggles – it had nothing on this one! We waited and waited and waited, and had a very, very long chat with the plump Shetland ponies in the next field. Eventually, we had a couple of minutes to scour the bridge. And we used all our available time, only finding the cache as the next set of muggles hove into view.

And that left just one more cache, a simple find at another bridge over the Whitewater. A short way on, the path led through the churchyard of Mattingley Church (still closed, sadly) before emerging into the church car park and reaching our start point. The walk had been just under six miles, but it had seemed much, much further: we really are out of practice.

Well, that was it: an excellent trip that had everything: beautiful countryside, rivers, bridges, lanes, pillboxes, trees, nettles and cows (lots of cows!). What a great way to get back into geocaching!

And here are just some of the caches we found:

February 29 : Leap Year Day : Church Crookham and Fleet

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.


Leap Year Day started with rain (again). But by afternoon it had improved into bright sunshine and scattered showers and we decided to risk a drenching and go out for some caching. Off we went to north-east Hampshire, between Church Crookham and Fleet, and parked near Basingbourne Park, roughly in the middle of the area we planned to cache. We had chosen a mixture of ordinary caches and puzzle caches, and had spent some time solving the puzzle caches during a previous rainy day.

Our first cache was a puzzle cache, ‘Square Cache’, one of those we had solved earlier. Counterintuitively, the cache was hidden in a circular place … We left the area and walked towards our second cache and the sun went in and it got colder and darker and then began to hail, then rain. We took refuge behind bushes and trees a short distance from the cache, watched the muggle dog walkers plod, heads down, into the rain, and waited till the squall passed. The rain stopped, we emerged and walked up to the next cache; there was something ‘not quite right’ which just had to be the cache. At first we couldn’t extricate it, and though it was a ‘real’ object. But no, a second attempt removed the cache container. Very cleverly done!

Basingbourne Heath

Basingbourne Heath


Strange springy path!

Strange springy path!


We left the tarmac paths and entered a wooded area. But were we off tarmac? The paths beneath our feet looked like tarmac but were weirdly bouncy – we wondered if they were made from recycled tyres. We weaved through the woods, passing a small patch of rather soggy heathland (we weren’t expecting that!) and also finding two of the three caches in the ‘Basingbourne’ series; two were straightforward finds but we gave up on the third. There had been a great deal of rain recently and the area for some way around the cache was very wet indeed. We tried approaching from a couple of directions but without success. We were wearing walking boots, not wellies, so we decided to keep our feet dry and leave this cache for another day.
Too soggy to go in there!

Too soggy to go in there!


Back to the puzzle caches, and we found three more of these in the area between Basingbourne Park and the B3013 which runs south from Fleet. As before, we had mixed fortunes with finding the caches; the hiding place for one could be spotted from the other end of the street; another required a good rummage among roadside bushes and tree roots; and the third needed a long, scratchy and dispiriting search among bushes and small trees, where we were about to give up at the time we finally, finally spotted the cache. (Editor’s note: no, I’m not saying exactly where they were, you need to solve the puzzles yourselves.)
An unusual pet?

An unusual pet?


And then we got the last cache very wrong. It was a challenge cache and we had checked and knew we qualified (we needed to have found a selection of caches with a connection to water). We were so smug at all this that we had mentally already found the cache and signed the log that we hadn’t read all the way to the bottom of the cache description where the actual location of the cache was specified, not at the published coordinates but at a waypoint listed alongside the cache. And so we searched in the wrong place – then approached from another angle, and searched again – and again – and didn’t find the cache. Eventually we gave up, went home, and found out the real location when we re-read the cache description, properly, at home. Grrr.

Here are some of the caches we found:

February 3 : A Post Box Museum… is this where a Gruffalo lives ? (Isle of Wight)

Ever year we both like attending the Isle oF Wight Scrabble tournament, and if we can, we also like to squeeze in a few geocaching finds. This year, the event was held in Shanklin, but unfortunately for us…we had found all the nearby caches! So on the day after the tournament, we headed for a different part of the Island, just a few miles North of the main Island town, Newport.

Our target was a series called ‘Letterbox Loop’. We managed to park nearby to the start – a relative straightforward multi. All we had to do was extract some details from a postbox, derive the final co-ordinates and go find. But, what made this multi special, was the postbox. It stood proudly outside the Isle of Wight Postal Museum. The museum holds over 200 postboxes and other postal equipment. Admission is by prior arrangement.

As we walked to the final destination to the multi, we glimpsed into a garden and espied row after row of postboxes. These photos don’t do it justice!

We were a little flummoxed at our final destination as we were looking for a ‘post’ (obviously !), and we tried several places before we saw the slightly rusty, broken pole hosting the cache.

Post Box Cache


The ‘Letterbox Loop’ series is broadly rectangular, and in parallel to one of its sides is a smaller series based on the Gruffalo story.

We set off on our first side of the Letterbox Loop rectangle, and only just saw the footpath we needed to follow.
Normally footpaths on the Isle of Wight are well maintained.. this one had suffered from some heavy rain. Water cascaded in the narrow footpath gully.

Sometimes we jumped from ‘bank’ to ‘bank’, other times we ploughed upwards through the moving water. Eventually we arrived at ‘First Past the Post’. Again we took the hint a bit too literally and moved away from GZ to check out the nearby trees. Of course the cache (another post box !) was hidden inside a broken trunk, right next to the water-filled path.

We climbed, and slithered, and in Mrs Hg137’s case slipping down, towards the second cache. Our progress was slow, painfully slow. At the back of our minds was our lunchtime ferry. We had another 7 caches to find in the ‘Letterbox’ series and three ‘Gruffalos’. We decided to abandon the ‘Letterbox Loop’, hack across to a better path, attempt one more ‘Post’ cache before undertaking some of the ‘Gruffalo’ series.

A rare view across the Medina and Solent


Our spirits fell even further, when we had to DNF ‘Pillar Box’. Many of the logs said the GPS was out by 30 feet, so we had a wide area to search. Again, with the lunchtime ferry time ticking ever-louder, we gave up after a 10 minute search.

We headed for the Gruffalo series and noted a very muddy path we would have had to use had we continued the ‘Letterbox’ series. Instead we arrived at a disused railway line, between Havenstreet and Newport. The going was flat, and more importantly…not muddy. A little wet in places with large puddles needing supreme care to negotiate.

The three ‘Gruffalo’ caches were reasonably straightforward finds: under a pile of sticks, wedged in a multi-trunked tree. The third one necessitated a scramble up a small bank. Here the cache was exposed so we hid it better.

The former railway line eventually gave way to a short muddy stretch (overlooking the postal museum), and brief walk back to the car.

We were muddy, and a little disappointed with a haul of 5 finds, when we had planned for at least 10, but ferries don’t wait for cachers, so we left the Isle of Wight promising to return to the postal series, as despite the terrain, and the DNF, it looks a great series to undertake.

December 21 : Wellesley Woodlands

Wellesley Woodlands are on the border of Farnborough and Aldershot on former Army land. Named after the 1st Duke of Wellington (Arthur Wellesley), the woods comprise 110 hectares of mixed woodland (https://thelandtrust.org.uk/space/wellesley-woodlands/?doing_wp_cron=1577458134.5638270378112792968750).

Welcome to Wellesley Woodlands

There are many woodland trails named after the various trees (Oak Trail, Sycamore Trail etc) and our route would follow these around the woods, passing a large monument to Wellington and returning to the car. The woods also extended to, and beyond, the Basingstoke Canal where after moving our car we would look for two more caches.

Various wood walks


That was the plan.

We got off to a very inauspicious start as we made a couple of navigational errors driving to the car park (‘We were never lost …just not sure of where we were”). We eventually booted up and strode away from the car, and headed for our first cache – a travel bug hotel. We had just entered the woodland when it started to rain. Now, common sense would have said..’head back to the car and wait for it to pass over’.

Nope. Let’s continue.

The rain stopped. Clearly we had made the right decision. Onwards.

Then the rain started again, heavier, colder this time. Almost hail. Aaargh! The bare winter trees provided no shelter at all! We got absolutely soaked.

No shelter here …


… or here !


The footpaths became quagmires, and the dog walkers we passed were all wrapped up and their dogs were more like bundles of fur covered in mud. They all had the right idea…head to the car. We seemingly had no sense whatsoever.

We arrived the travel bug hotel, and found the log almost too wet to sign – not due to the prevailing weather, but months previously the cache had let water in, and had still not dried out. We etched our signature and headed back to join our main target, the 5 cache Wellesley Woodlands series.

Travel Bug Hotel


Some distance away a few park runners/fun runners jogged by (how protective their Santa hats were we weren’t sure) and one lone dog walker passed us. The rain had eased slightly, but we were still very cold.

We joined the Wellesley Woodlands series at cache 4 and it should have been a simple find. The GPS took us the correct tree, but we decided to overthink the hint, and walk 10 yards further to examine a different, and better looking host. (What does ‘double tree’ mean ? Two adjacent trees or a twin-trunked tree ?)

Eventually we trusted the GPS and found the cache under its tell-tale pile of sticks.

We were cold, wet, and bordering on the irritable. The car was relatively close by so we adjourned for some coffee and took stock. After surveying different options, we decided on abandoning the Wellesley Woodlands series (we had numbers 1,2,3 and 5 left which formed a good discrete mini-series for another day) and drove the mile or so to another car park to find two caches by the canal.

Footbridge over the canal…


…and the peaceful canal underneath


The first of these caches was a Challenge/Mystery cache with a Beatles theme. Qualification for finding the cache was depending on finding 20 caches each with a word with a Beatles connection. (There were over 60 words to select from and we had spent some time the night before validating our 2950+ finds against this master list. We subsequently discovered there was a Challenge Checker on https://project-gc.com/ which would have saved us time.) The words we had in our cache finds included ‘John’, ‘George’, ‘Beatles’, ‘Liverpool’, ‘Help!’, ‘Lady’ (Madonna), ‘Yellow’ (Submarine), ‘Abbey’ (Road).

The cache was hidden next to the canal towpath next in, according to the hint, some silver birches. This is quite an old cache (January 2014), and since then various silver birches have been cut down. It took us some time to locate the correct location and then several prods of the geopole to find the superb, and apt, cache container.


We walked along the towpath to our final cache. As we did so, we saw a couple of geese, and couple of runners, and some speeding kayakers.

Graceful and slow…


…graceful and fast

The cache was called for some reason ‘Yesterdays Onions’ and was again hidden in a silver birch. We hadn’t learnt any lessons, as for the third time in as many caches, we looked at the most obvious location first, oblivious to a better host nearby.

Still find it we did, which brought our finds for the day to 4 out of 4. Although the weather had brightened, we were still damp and slightly cold, and had left a mini-series for better caching weather.

November 24 : Hartley Wintney: all sorts of trees

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Just after Sunday lunch, we set off for an afternoon’s caching in and around Hartley Wintney, on the northern border of Hampshire. As it was a gloomy, dark afternoon, we only had five caches planned. But of those five caches, three were multicaches, two with two stages, and one with three, so that gave us a total of nine things to find/solve, which was plenty to do in the hour or two before sunset (actually, it was fairly dim already).

All Souls, Hartfordbridge

All Souls, Hartfordbridge


Our first cache (and first multicache) was a church micro, All Souls at Hartfordbridge, just off the A30. We’d done some online research before we set off, and reckoned we’d found the information we needed to get the coordinates of the final cache. And we were right; we parked within feet of the final location and had found the cache within 30 seconds! The church is now a private house, but the graveyard is still accessible down a short path, so we went and had a quick look anyway. (Editor’s note: the church is for sale, if you want to move http://www.mackenziesmith.co.uk/view_property/?profileID=100921027628 )
Vaughan Millennium Orchard

Vaughan Millennium Orchard


After driving the short extra distance to Hartley Wintney, we parked the geocar in a lane leading to the Vaughan Millennium Orchard, the starting place for our next multicache, Orchard & Heath. The orchard is a great idea, with well over 100 varieties of cultivated English fruit trees, with varieties grown from the time of the Roman invasion to the present day. It’s used for special events: Apple Day, wassailing, open air theatre, and more http://www.hartleywintney.org.uk/visitor-attractions/vaughan-millennium-orchard It’s not at its best in late November but it must have looked magnificent just a few weeks ago when the leaves were turning and there would have been fruit on the trees. We did wonder: what happens to all the fruit?
Heading for the heath

Heading for the heath


Anyway: Orchard & Heath is an extremely old cache, set in October 2003. We had never, ever, found a cache set in that month. It’s also a big cache, an ammo can, and we had a huge trackable with us, which we hoped would fit in it. The trackable is Keys, which had been going since 2007, acquiring keys as it went, now weighed over a pound, and was now, umm, quite big. Having worked out the coordinates for the final cache location from things in the orchard, we set off for the heath, following a short section of the Three Castles Path out of the village http://threecastlespath.uk/
Orchard & Heath - a very old cache

Orchard & Heath – a very old cache


Keys trackable - moving on

Keys trackable – moving on


Previous logs had said that the cache can take a long time to find, and we were prepared for an extended search in the gloom under the trees. Arriving at the likely area, we each picked a patch of ground and started looking. In less than 10 minutes there was a triumphal cry from Mr Hg137. He had spotted something that ‘didn’t look quite right’ and the cache was hidden underneath. And, yes, the trackable did fit into the cache, and we were pleased to see it on its way.

Returning to the village, we found a cache near the entrance to the golf club, then walked along the main street. The shops were still open and cast a cheery glow over the gathering dusk. We were heading for St John’s Church, the location of our next multicache and next Church Micro.

As before, we’d tried to do some research beforehand to speed up our search time, but we hadn’t got very far, so worked out the coordinates from scratch by finding and counting various things on a noticeboard, the war memorial, and a nearby seat. We struggled with the numbers on the seat, since it was dark, the writing was very small, and neither of us had bothered to bring anything which we could use as a torch. Anyway, we came up with some coordinates that seemed plausible, and set off to the final location, to be confronted with … an oak tree covered in ivy. Our hearts sank. We struggle to find caches in ivy. We struggle even more when the cache is in ivy and isn’t on the ground. We prepared for another long search, but once again we struck lucky and found the cache after a short time. (Editor’s note: much more about oak trees in a minute. In the postscipt at the bottom.)

There was now only one cache left on our list, Beetling Bugs, hidden somewhere in a fallen oak tree. We walked across the common, through the regular lines of oak trees, and found a fallen tree, even in the dark – it was quite big! We circled it, looking for the cache, till I spotted something that looked natural, but not completely natural, and the cache was hidden behind, tucked under the trunk.

Caching over, we walked back to the geocar in darkness. We had finished just in time!

A postscript about oak trees:

Mildmay Oaks

Mildmay Oaks


One thing you notice when you visit Hartley Wintney is the oak trees, rows and rows of large, mature oak trees. They are the Mildmay Oaks, or Trafalgar Oaks, and there is nothing quite like them anywhere else. http://www.hartleywintney.org.uk/visitor-attractions/the-commons-mildmay-oaks

After the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 there was a shortage of timber to build and repair warships. A ship like HMS Victory took around 6000 trees to build, 5000 of them oak trees. https://www.historytoday.com/archive/construction-hms-victory-begins And it needed a lot of repairs after the battle, so lots more trees went into that. Admiral Collingwood, head of the Royal Navy, appealed to landowners to plant oaks so there would be enough for future warships. Lady Mildmay, the owner of the area around Hartley Wintney, responded to the appeal and had the oak trees in Hartley Wintney planted, set out in rows to maximise production. They have survived because warships began to be made from metal before the oaks were fully mature, so they weren’t cut down for ship’s timbers.
(Editor’s note: that’s the end of the history lesson; I was just curious about the trees, so I investigated.)

Here are a few of the caches we found:

September 28: Avon Traveller

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Our short caching trip around the disused part of Blackbushe Airport yielded a trackable: Avon Traveller, which we found in a largeish cache placed between the airport and the Castle Bottom nature reserve.

Avon Traveller

Avon Traveller


Avon Traveller was dropped off in August, 2016, just south-east of Bratislava, Slovakia, with a mission to reach Salzburg in Austria. It was picked up just one day later and spent some weeks touring the area, being dropped off four months later and just 20 miles away. A year later, it had travelled to the Tatra Mountains, and a few days before Christmas, it had reached Vidov in Czechia.

By mid 2018 it had reached the Three States Border Cache, placed high up in the Sumava mountains (Böhmerwald) , just 50 metres from the border stone of three states: Czech Republic – Germany – Austria. By September 2018 it had reached Salzburg, its target.

What then? It moved a lot in the next month, visiting Germany, northern Italy, and San Marino, before being dropped in Ljubljana, Slovenia. From there it was taken to England, first arriving near the (new) Severn Bridge, just north of Bristol. It has stayed in England ever since then, and has ‘done’ Kent and Cambridge thoroughly, otherwise it has travelled up and down the Thames Valley, roughly where we found it. What next for it? We’re not sure, but will carry it around for a little, then place it so it can continue on its way.

September 28 : Blackbushe : planes, cars and karts

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Blackbushe

Blackbushe


The summer weather had vanished immediately after our previous caching trip, on 21st September, and it had rained every single day since then. After a week, a day dawned when the rain was still falling, but as showers with sunshine between them.
Disused runway at Blackbushe

Disused runway at Blackbushe


We set off for Blackbushe, scene of one of our earliest ever caching trips in January 2013. My abiding memory of that day was the cold: it was snowing, there was a biting wind, and we gave up after a bit as our extremities (and everything else) began to freeze. This was a chance to see the area in warmer conditions. We parked close to some houses and had a short walk through trees to reach one of the perimeter roads from the old airport. We were close to one of the caches we had found on our last visit, and Mr Hg137 spotted a family lurking, in just that way that cachers do when they don’t want to be spotted. He walked back to talk to them, and his instinct was right, they were indeed (newish) cachers. After a bit he returned, and we went on our way, out in open space among the grass and gorse, walking down one of the disused runways, with cars visible on the A30 in the distance, and light aircraft landing at Blackbushe Airport ahead of us. These runways are a big draw for runners, or dogs, which can run free, or a good place to learn to ride a bike; we saw all of those. At the end of the old runway, we turned off to follow the airport fence and almost immediately found our first cache, hidden in a thorny bush. We signed the log as quickly as we could, for the family we had seen earlier were approaching, and we didn’t want to be caught ‘on the cache’.
So many cars!

So many cars!


Going away from the airport, we walked along the edge of the car auction site, also based at the airport https://www.british-car-auctions.co.uk/Auction-centres/Blackbushe/ So many cars! We reached a wooded area and dived inside to search for our next cache; no-one could hear any noise we made as there was go-kart racing going on close by, you could smell the fuel and most certainly hear the noise. (Editor’s note: Camberley Kart Club have races on the fourth Saturday of each month http://www.camberleykartclub.com ) (Editor’s second note: there is a lot going on at this airport!)

Emerging from the woods, we set straight off for our third cache. “Straight” meant that we bushwhacked our way the direct way through heather, gorse, and brambles, rather than following the not much longer, and more obvious paths along the old runways and roads. We used to do this when we first started caching and I thought we now knew better – clearly not!
This way?

This way?


Our last cache was just outside the airport, on the edge of Castle Bottom nature reserve https://www.hants.gov.uk/thingstodo/countryside/finder/castlebottom Once again we were under trees, which played havoc with the accuracy of our GPS (it can’t get a good fix if it can’t see the GPS satellites) so we blundered about in the bushes for a few minutes before finding the cache in a tree stump atop a bank. To end, we retraced our steps, back through the trees to the airport perimeter road, and thence to the geocar. A final success was that we had stayed dry throughout, which had not seemed very likely when we set off!

Here are some of the caches we found: