June 10 : Blackwater River Path

Yateley, Sandhurst

One of the many Fishing Lakes

It is quite unusual to find new caches, indeed high quality caches, within 2 miles from home.

Somehow a 5 cache series (BRPW 1-5 – Blackwater River Path Walk) had sneaked under our radar. As had 6 other caches close to them. The series circumnavigates a number of fisherman’s lakes which until a few years ago was private land. Since then a small part of the land has been made into a small car park and also some allotments.

Yateley, Sandhurst

Allotments

Interestingly we looked at placing caches at this location, but never quite got round to getting approval from the land owner, but in all fairness, our caches would have very inferior to those that had been placed.

And so well before 9am, we parked the car, and looked for our first two caches. These were a short distance away from the fishing lakes. One cache camouflaged in a tree, the other, magnetic, overlooking…a sewage plant. Yes ! The wonderfully named Pooh’s Place was a magnetic cache attached to an disused gate, overlooking the ever-turning blades of sewage ponds. Lovely!

Good job you can’t smell photographs!

And so to the lakes. Our first cache was a travel bug hotel. We had two travel bugs with us – a Toy Story Woody (Woody’s Escape) and a metallic Africa. The cache led us a merry dance. The title of the cache included the word ‘Waterside’ but with a lake one side of the footpath, and a fabulous ‘cache friendly’ tree near a river on the other..we looked at the wrong ‘Waterside’ for a very long time.

Eventually we found the cache. Smaller than many travel bug hotels we’ve found and as we couldn’t squash ‘Woody’ in, we deposited ‘Africa’ and walked on.

Yateley, Sandhurst

Onward, onward

The fishing lakes were being well used. Or at least probably were. Many of the anglers were packing up after a night’s fishing, others were slowly waking up and the remainder…well let’s just the snoring would keep the fish away! We tiptoed (in walking boots!) past and in our quietness failed to notice the stump hosting our next find. So we walked back and found the cache just out of what would have been a slumbering angler’s eyeline.

The caches we had found so far were all good, but were not the main event as the next 5 caches were the BRPW series. 4 of these were ‘bird box’ caches, and each had to be opened in a different way. Does the lid move ? What about the pole at the front – does that turn ? What if we press this ? All good fun!

The exception was well concealed cache in a hollowed out branch attached very discreetly to a small trunk.

Away from the road we had the paths and lakes to ourselves and we barely saw anyone for the majority of the walk – but what we did see were hundreds of dragonflies. We stopped several times to take pictures, but taking a picture of a moving dragonfly is very, very difficult.

Yateley, sandhurst

Stay still while we photograph you!

Towards the end of the route, we think our navigation went wrong as the path became narrower and narrower. And nettlier and nettlier. The geo-pole was exceeding useful in cutting a way through to the final two caches. These two were hidden in wood, one found easily. The other, less so. Being the last cache of the day, and no DNF so far for the day, we wanted to find them all and spent 15 minutes looking in totally the wrong place.

Find it we did, and a fine morning’s caching was complete. None of the caches were film canisters under a pile of sticks. Each provided a little moment of euphoria as the cache container was extricated from its natural looking hide. A fine series and well worth the favourite points we awarded.

Here are a few of the caches we found …

Yateley, SandhurstYateley, SandhurstYateley, Sandhurst


One sad note, and one we are very ashamed of.

We took the trackable “Woody’s Escape” out with us. Somehow it didn’t come back. We must have dropped it somewhere on route. We have searched our home, our bags, our car and the car park, all to no avail. Fingers crossed some cacher will find it and re-start it on its journey. To the owner of ‘Woody’ we are very, very sorry.

February / March : Duck Pound II

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

At the end of February, we were just starting a day’s caching high on Winterfold Hill, in Surrey, and came upon the first cache of the day, which was quite large, and contained a small white rubber duck, with red lips. A trackable, we thought.

Winterfold Hill - the duck is found

Winterfold Hill – the duck is found


On returning home, we looked again at our latest trackable find, so we could register it on http://www.geocaching.com But it didn’t have a trackable code written on it, so it wasn’t a trackable. Instead, it had a geocache code – so was it a cache? Hmm, this was out of the ordinary. A little research showed that the cache number belonged to ‘Duck Pound II’, a cache which is some miles away, north-east of Welwyn Garden City. We weren’t sure what the duck should do next, so we messaged the cache owner for suggestions. Should we return it? Or take it on our forthcoming trip to the Isle of Wight?
We soon had a reply, saying:
“How exciting and thank you for letting us know about one of our ducks. They’re not trackables, they’re more like advertising for our cache. When we placed the cache we filled it with these ducks, I also dropped a few off in caches I found to try to spread the word. We have heard about a couple of other ducks, but never one that has travelled so far. I’m sure the duck would love a trip to the Isle of Wight. Would you reply to this just to let us know if you do drop it off please, it would be interesting to know where one of our ducks has got to.
Spread the ducky love.”

The duck won't fit in here!

The duck won’t fit in here!


So the duck came with us on the ferry to the Isle of Wight, and we thought we would place it (hard to tell the sex of a rubber duck!) in a cache next to a creek close to the ferry port. That didn’t work, as the cache was hidden in a snail shell – no room for a duck there! As the weekend went on, we found other caches, but nothing duck-sized. Finally, on the last morning, we came upon a cache that was big enough, overlooking the sea on the steep southern shoreline of the island, close to Ventnor Botanic Gardens, and here we released the duck.
Ventnor - the adventure continues ...

Ventnor – the adventure continues …


Good luck, and keep on advertising your cache!

March 6 : Isle of Wight : Ventnor, a duck, and a ferry port

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The Scrabble tournament was over (Mr Hg137 came second !!!), and our return ferry was not till lunchtime, so we had the morning free. We are gradually working our way around the caches of the Isle of Wight, and the venue we had selected for today was … Ventnor.

Ventnor

Ventnor


We zigzagged our way down the steep road to Ventnor seafront, where there is free parking until 10am in March. So there was no hurry, but also no time to waste. Our first cache was an earthcache, set by Heidi Seekers. Now, we’ve done several earthcaches by the same cacher before, notably one at Freshwater Bay, where we were nearly blown away/drowned/swept out to sea as we tried to get to the right spot. But there were no such dramas today, the wind was light and the sea was calm and gentle, and we solved the earthcache by standing on the beach, in just the right spot, and commented on things underfoot and about us.
Iconic Isle of Wight business!

Iconic Isle of Wight business!


Our second cache in central seafront Ventnor was at the bandstand, where the pier used to start (it was demolished in 1993). We found the location, and looked around. Where was it? Time ticked on towards the end of free parking time and we couldn’t see it. After a while, we climbed on a seat a little way away, and looked again from a higher viewpoint. NOW we could see it now, but oh err, it was very high up. We tried stretching (a lot), giving each other a bunk up (epic fail!) and looking around for a very tall person, monkey, or passing ladder owner (no suitable candidates). Paid parking time was now 2 minutes away and I was sent back to the geocar with instructions to move it and ‘drive around’ if a warden appeared. As I left, Mr Hg137 was removing his shoes. Ho hum. I waited – no warden appeared – and Mr Hg137 appeared a few minutes later, exuding triumph. Turns out that he’d piled up his shoes, stood on them, and they had given him a crucial inch or two of extra reach.

That was central Ventnor done, and we drove off (still no traffic wardens) to try for some more caches close to the Isle of Wight Botanic Gardens. The site has a huge car park, which was virtually empty in early March. We asked if we could park there for about an hour. We were told it would cost £5. We left, and parked, for free, on the roadside almost next door. (Editor’s note: you overpriced, Botanic Gardens, and lost a customer. If it had been 50p, or £1, we would have used the car park, and maybe the café, but we didn’t, and we won’t be back.)
Once parked, we headed off downhill on a path towards the sea, and soon arrived at our next cache. From a few steps away, we couldn’t see where the cache could be, based on the description, but suddenly everything fell into place and the location was obvious. We left something here, ‘Duck Pound II’ but this deserves a blog post to itself.

Skirting the Botanic Gardens, we walked along the coast path for a little way and then came to some steps. We descended, and emerged at sea level in Steephill Cove http://steephillcove-isleofwight.co.uk/steephill_cove.html The description from the website sums it up:
“Arguably the prettiest place on the Island, situated just south of the Victorian seaside town of Ventnor, Steephill Cove is a traditional, unspoilt fishing cove with a safe, sandy beach, nestled between rocky cliffs and smugglers’ coves.”

Once down at sea level, we walked along the path along the sea defences, soon arriving at the location of the next cache. It was behind some gabions (rock filled wire cages). I bravely offered to climb over them to get the cache. No problem at all – just a loss of dignity as I rolled over the gabions. Mr Hg137 didn’t laugh, but he did take a picture …

A slight loss of dignity ...

A slight loss of dignity …


Time was passing, and we had one more cache to find before crossing the island to the ferry terminal. It was further along the bay, and we walked to about a hundred feet from the cache, according to the GPS. At this point, all our caching experience deserted us. What we *should* have done is walk up the nearby path, which would have taken us to just a few short steep paces from our target. What we *actually* did was to launch a full scale, slippery, sliding onslaught on the cliff face, arriving at the correct place out of breath and with all poise gone. It amused two passing dog walkers, anyway … and the cache was hidden in another of those pesky gabions!
View from the cache ...

View from the cache …


By now, ferry time was calling, and we arrived at Fishbourne ferry terminal with exactly 30 minutes to spare. Having parked, we had a quick look to see if a ferry was approaching – it wasn’t – and then rushed back up the hill to look for the cache hidden at the entrance. After a rushed find/sign/replace, we were back at the geocar just as the ferry came into view.
Fishbourne

Fishbourne


Another great morning’s caching on the Wight!

March 5 : Sandown

As we mentioned on our previous posting we were visiting of Isle of Wight to play in a Scrabble tournament.

This was a fairly lengthy affair with 20 1-hour games spread over a 48 hour period. (When you allow for sleeping and eating doesn’t leave much time for caching).

Sandown Pier from our room

Sandown Pier from our room

We had stayed in the hotel before and had managed to find all the caches that time would allow when not playing. Imagine our delight this year to realise that a new cache had been placed in an alleyway right next to the hotel!

The alleyway led from the hotel to the High Street (sandwich lunch), and the hotel car park. We went through the alleyway several times during the Scrabble weekend, each time without a GPS.

The alleyway, and a small cul-de-sac beyond, are not the Isle of Wight’s finest. Looking tired, pipework slightly rusty and with a typical ‘unloved back of buildings’ feel to it. Every time we traversed the alleyway we couldn’t find the cache. We stuck our fingers into every gloriously dirty hidey-hole, looked at every metal/magnetic surface and even tested a few screw heads to see if they were loose. Nothing.

At the end of the tournament (at which Mr Hg137 did quite well finishing second), we decided to take the GPS with us. Now we had a clear fix as to the part of the alleyway to search, and within two minutes had the cache in hand! Isn’t technology wonderful!

We then told a couple of Scrabble friends (one a cacher too) that we had found the cache, and with a little bit of assistance (“It’s between here …. and …. here”), they too had the cache in hand.

Cache in Hand

Cache in Hand

March 3 : Isle of Wight : Wootton to Sandown

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Wootton Creek, Isle of Wight

Wootton Creek, Isle of Wight


We often go to the Isle of Wight in early spring, to take part in a Scrabble tournament held there. So off we went on a dank and rainy morning, catching the 10am ferry from Portsmouth, and arriving Isle of Wight with a few hours free before the start of the tournament. All that remained was for us to make our way to the Trouville Hotel, on the seafront at Sandown near the pier. We thought that we would make our way slowly, and collect a few caches on the way …

The rain had stopped while we were on the boat, but it was still well damp underfoot. Mr Hg137’s forward planning had taken account of this, and caches had been selected that could be found without getting too muddy. (Editor’s note: what Mr Hg137 was probably thinking was that I had slipped in the mud on our previous IoW Scrabble/caching trip, and I had to change in a rainy hilltop car park before arriving at the Scrabble tournament … )

A good omen for the Scrabble tournament?

A good omen for the Scrabble tournament?


The first cache chosen was on the opposite side of Wootton Creek from the ferry terminal at Fishbourne, and was called ‘Down the Pump’. What did that mean? Hmm – what it did mean was that the cache was located at the end of Pump Lane, overlooking the creek, and was found after a short but damp search.

Of the remaining four caches, one was hidden by a gate at the side of a lane, and was duly found without either of us getting dirty. The other three were all from the Sidetracked series, based around railway stations. Two were at Wootton and Havenstreet stations on the Isle of Wight steam railway http://www.iwsteamrailway.co.uk/ which runs from Wootton to Smallbrook Junction, and the other was at Sandown station, on the Island Line from Ryde pier to Shanklin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_Line,_Isle_of_Wight We readily found two of the three, but the third eluded us, in spite of a lengthy search through piles of autumn leaves. (Editor’s note 2 : it has been found several times since, so we clearly didn’t search that well.)
Sandown Station - posh motor!

Sandown Station – posh motor!


And so we arrived at our destination, in good time, and, most importantly, NOT muddy!

January 21 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : North Camp to Wanborough

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Today we had the crisp, sunny winter’s day we had hoped for on our last day. It was a beautiful morning, but, my oh my it was cold!


Starting at North Camp station, we set off south along a diversion from the official Blackwater Valley path. We saw a notice on a post about unauthorised change of use of the land by the rivers, and have also heard (but can’t confirm) that the landowner closed the riverside path around then. Anyway, that meant a walk along a bumpy track, with many an icy puddle, sandwiched between the A331 and some gravel pits. Soon we returned to the river, and went to find out first cache, a puzzle cache called ‘Follow you, follow me’; luckily, we’d got the puzzle correct and were the first to find the cache since September 2016. Like us, most geocachers find fewer caches in the winter than the summer because the weather is darker, colder, and wetter.

The start of the walk - near North Camp

The start of the walk – near North Camp


We went on along the river, enjoying the sunlit morning, seeing mist rising from the river, and watching the local birdlife – ducks on the river and, once, a jay. We stopped to watch a heron – I was so engrossed in taking pictures that I failed to spot a cyclist coming along and nearly got run down… The next two caches were along the riverbank, among trees or a sign overlooking the river (just a bit of creaking from the fence as Mr Hg137 climbed up to collect it). Soon after we left the Blackwater path to climb up onto the Basingstoke Canal. At last our direction was altering, and more in line with our quest; thus far we had been going south, to skirt the nearby, off-limits, army ranges. Just as we reached the foot of the canal aqueduct there was a flash of turquoise, then another – a kingfisher! What a great farewell to the river!

Once up on the aqueduct, we turned aside a few yards to look for the first of three caches in the ‘Oddballs 1st Mission series’. We found it, but it was leaky and the log was frozen stiff, and we couldn’t remove it from the cache, let alone sign it. We did little better with the next two caches, also from the same series, which we couldn’t find at all – some TLC is needed for those caches methinks.
A new friend for Mr Hg137!

A new friend for Mr Hg137!


A coffee break was taken. It felt pleasantly warm in the bright sunshine, though the ground was still frozen and the canal icy. Almost immediately a robin appeared and took a fancy to Mr Hg137. I thought it was the red bobble hat which was the attraction … We succumbed to its blandishments and fed it part of our lunch. Leaving the canal soon after, we walked down through Ash, passing the striking church (why isn’t there a Church Micro cache here?) and eventually turned eastward along a green lane. At last we were heading in roughly the right direction! Along here, we came across three caches all from the same series – based on Italy – Rome/Venice/Pompeii – all very similar neat, tidy caches, mostly not found for a bit.
Basingstoke Canal

Basingstoke Canal


The path changed to a track, then to tarmac, and we were at ‘Christmas Pie’. A good name for a place! There was a puzzle cache here based on information to be found on the village sign. We worked out the puzzle but couldn’t find the cache. We’ve checked our results later, and they were correct, so maybe we’ll stop off for another try at the start of our next walk?


Wanborough station was a little further on, the end of the day’s walk. There was one more cache here, overlooking the railway line, from the ‘Sidetracked’ series (they are near stations). A short wait later, the train took us back to North Camp and the start of our walk. In a few minutes, we retraced a route which had taken us a few hours to travel on foot.

The end of the walk - Wanborough station

The end of the walk – Wanborough station


We found eight of the eleven caches we attempted. Here are some of them, along with our touring trackable:

January 14 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : the first leg to North Camp

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Well, the quest has been published. Time for us to make a start.

Just after dawn on a cold, slightly misty Saturday morning, we set off from Sandhurst (Berkshire) to start our trek to Sandhurst (Kent). We’ve thought of a cunning plan to track our progress. Back on Leap Year Day we had acquired a trackable. We’ve now registered it, and will ‘dip’ it into caches as we go, to mark our progress. (Editor’s note: to ‘dip’ a trackable means taking it to a cache, and making a note that it was there, without leaving it behind.) The first cache that the trackable visited was our own cache, in Berrybank Copse.

River Blackwater

River Blackwater

Shepherd Meadows

Shepherd Meadows

Our first day’s walk was to be part of the Blackwater Valley Path, a route we’ve walked at various times in our pre-caching days http://www.blackwater-valley.org.uk/about_valley.html We went south through Shepherd Meadows, across the A30, and across Hawley Meadows. Apart from dogs and dogwalkers, and an occasional cyclist, the path was empty, muddy and icy by turns, and quiet except for the noise of traffic from the A331 which runs roughly parallel to the River Blackwater.

Hawley Meadows

Hawley Meadows


Going under the M3, we skirted a business park, then crossed over the A331 towards Frimley Green station. Here was our chance to find our first cache of the year, one from the Sidetracked series (they’re near stations http://www.sidetrackedseries.info ). A first search didn’t find it, so we moved on to attempt a challenge cache in a nearby park. The qualification to be able to claim this cache is to have found 25 Sidetracked caches, and we have found just over that. A short bit of rummaging in a tree found us the cache, which was cold but dry, even though it had been unfound for six months, and was well buried in fallen leaves. Returning to the river path, we revisited that cache we hadn’t found earlier, but more determined rummaging worked this time.

We walked on down the river. The ‘bright, sunny, crisp’ winter’s day the weather forecast had predicted just wasn’t happening, and it was getting steadily greyer. We collected another couple of caches, one between lakes made from gravel workings, and one right by the river, found just as a few raindrops began to fall. That wasn’t in the plan! We crossed over the A331 again, noting that the all the cars had lights on now, and turned south down the river once more, stopping to look for a cache concealed under a footbridge. Not much looking was needed, as this was a BIG cache, filled with classy objects, and in wonderful condition, though it hadn’t been found for almost five months.

A well stocked geocache!

A well stocked geocache!

A (still quite dry) picnic bench was a little further on, so we stopped for a picnic lunch, eaten speedily because a cold breeze was now blowing, it was getting greyer and darker, and colder, much colder. After not much debate, we decided to finish our walk at North Camp station, about a mile away. Arriving at the station with 20 minutes to spare before the next train, we bought a ticket, then rushed off to find another Sidetracked cache (that’s 30 from this series now, from as far apart as Liskeard, Cornwall and Waverley, Edinburgh).

Blackwater Path near North Camp

Blackwater Path near North Camp



Catching the train back to Blackwater, we retraced in minutes the route that we had travelled in hours, then walked back home. A few minutes later, we were calculating that the nine miles that we had walked had brought us only four miles closer to Sandhurst (Kent); that’s because there are some army ranges we can’t walk across, so we are taking a slightly longer route to avoid them. And then it began to pour with rain, a short but vicious cold shower. We had given up just in time!

Here are some of the caches we found: