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.
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.
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 !
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.
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.
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, 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!
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).
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!