February 24 – Ryde

Our last day on the Isle of Wight and a very, very cold one. The “Beast from the East”, a cold Easterly wind, blew all day and although there was no rain or snow, the temperature was very low indeed. Lovely late winter sunshine but bitterly cold.

All Saints, Ryde

There are many caches in Ryde. Our plan was to spend the morning on the outer edges of the town away from the sea. Here, we hoped, and indeed it proved, Ryde’s buildings would protect us from the wind.
The afternoon we cached along the sea-front walking East (and into the wind) and when we got too cold to go on we would head back Westwards to warm up.

With hindsight, our first cache of the day should have been our last, as it was inside.

Inside a church.

We were undertaking a Church Micro Multi based inside All Saints Church Ryde. Frequently with church micros the questions (if there are any at all) are based on exterior noticeboards or gravestones. Here all but one of the answers could be found inside the church. And what a church!

Affectionately known as “The Cathedral of the Island”, the church was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott (who also designed many London landmarks). The foundation stone was laid by one of Queen Victoria’s daughters. The multi took us around various key locations in the church – the font, a beautiful stained glass window, various side chapels, the sanctuary and pulpit. At each location there was information to count or find, and after 40 minutes studying the church in detail we had the co-ordinates of the location for the cache. Here we had a quick find – but our memory will be the sumptuous interior of a wonderful church which many visitors to the Isle of Wight probably never know exists.

Our second cache of the day, another church micro was closer to Ryde Centre.

No clues to find this time, just a simple cache hidden in neighbouring street furniture.

Near to this cache was another multi, with clues set, we thought, IN a garden of Remembrance.

However the garden gates were locked so we couldn’t enter. We’ve subsequently discovered we could have found the cache information without entering the garden – doh!

We walked away from the Town Centre for our next two caches. The first was near a Victorian Water Trough. Now Grade II listed, the lamp-post/trough sits close to a road junction with lots of street signage capable of hiding a cache. The cache was hidden behind one such sign, but right in front of a garden with a loud barking dog. We escaped very quickly once the cache had been found!

Our last find in the morning was at one of Ryde’s three Railway stations. The Isle of Wight Railway line runs between Ryde and Shanklin using (old) London Tube Trains as its rolling stock. We found the ‘Sidetracked’ cache quite easily and then waited a few minutes for a train to arrive!

Here comes the train!

Our last cache of the morning we couldn’t attempt. The cache was hidden behind a seat. However the seat was occupied. We waited as inconspicuously as we could for 10 minutes (sheltering from the cold). But no joy, the person didn’t move! Even worse they were joined by a friend as well as a local caretaker! A Did Not Attempt does sound better than a Did Not Find !

A couple of our morning caches :

We adjourned to the sea front and our first two caches were two more ‘Sidetracked’ caches based on two different Ryde Stations. The first, Ryde Esplanade, was a multi. We had to count items from a plaque to a former, and world renowned, Isle of Wight resident. It was a good job there were two of us counting as we frequently ended up with two different numbers. Eventually we agreed on the numbers, and hence coordinates, and marched towards GZ. Here we searched for some time and failed to find the cache. We double checked our findings again from the plaque and discovered we were in the correct place.. just without the cache!

Our next ‘Sidetracked’ cache was also fruitless. This was at Ryde Pier Head, and is at the end of a half mile walk along the pier. Ryde Pier is one of Britain’s longest piers, but probably the only one which allows road traffic as well as rail traffic. Ryde Pier Head is the disembarkation point for the Portsmouth – Ryde catamaran, and the cars and rail link save the island visitors a half mile walk into Ryde. As we walked along the pier the hovercraft also left from Ryde… this pier is real transport hub!

Catamaran Arriving

Hovercraft Leaving

And so to the cache.

A bolt hidden 2 metres high.

Easy ! Nope!

We looked at every object looking for a bolt, all to no avail.

An interesting, but cacheless walk along the pier!

It was lunchtime.

We hadn’t found a cache for some time and the wind was just beginning to bite. The bus station (again next to Ryde Pier), provided shelter and a bit of warmth (Ed : by ‘a bit of warmth’, we mean ‘less cold’).

Lots of space on the beach!

Suitably refreshed, we found several caches in quick succession as we headed East along the sea front.

Sometimes the caches were attached magnetically, sometimes in flower borders.

Is there a cache here ?

The sea front was busy as despite the bracing wind, people were bravely playing on the beach, dogs were being exercised, kites were being flown. The boating lake was though devoid of people and it was here we had our next failure. The GPS bounced around, and the hint didn’t help much either – and so our rapid finding spree was at an end.

We had arrived on the outskirts of a park where two caches were hidden. One was a puzzle cache we had solved quite quickly at home (It took us longer to find the cache than solve the puzzle!). The other cache was near a small stream, which had to be crossed. Mr Hg137 jumped across, found the cache, but couldn’t open it. He threw it to Mrs Hg137 to try. Our cold, numb hands couldn’t turn the lid. Eventually we opened it, and the contents fell into the stream. We then spent a few minutes ‘fishing’ the items out of the cold water ! An easy find, but 15 minutes to open the cache and replace contents!

Can you open this ?

These should have been our last caches of the day. We wandered back to Ryde – now with the wind at our backs – and re-searched our DNFs. Still no caches to be found. We drove out of Ryde, following an odd one-way system and discovered we were driving along a road we had cached along earlier. Look ! There’s the seat! The one with cache we didn’t attempt! Mrs Hg137 was pushed out of the car, while Mr Hg137 found a car park space. Cache found, log signed ! Phew!

Last cache of the day!

So a mixed day’s caching in Ryde – three DNFs, ten straightforward finds, and a magnificent Church multi. (And two very cold cachers!)


February 23 : Swiss Mountain Cow

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Swiss Mountain Cow

Swiss Mountain Cow

We found this perky little cow in an ammo can in a quiet spot near a cemetery near Havenstreet on the Isle of Wight. But as travelling trackable cows go, she is quite mature, having left Switzerland just over seven years ago, in February 2011, to undertake the following mission:
“I was born in the Swiss mountains at an altitude of 1500 metres above sea level. The place I come from is the paradise on earth. My education is not very high but I am sure that I am very intelligent. So please show me the world.”

The little cow has travelled over 30,000 miles in the last seven years, visiting Germany, extensive travels in the USA, including the East Coast, Alaska, up to the Arctic Circle, and Hawaii), also the Bahamas and Bermuda. The Isle of Wight was the first time this trackable had ever made landfall in the UK, having just returned from New York. A globe-trotting little cow indeed!

February 23 – Havenstreet, Isle of Wight

Havenstreet Church

Every year we play in a weekend Scrabble tournament on the Isle of Wight. Like previous years our plan was to undertake a few Isle of Wight caches before the tournament started, and find a few more on the way home after the tournament had finished.

So much for a plan!

We were within 20 minutes of the ferry crossing when we received a phone call telling us that the tournament had been cancelled due to illness at the hotel. We had to decide whether to turn round and head for home or cross to the Isle of Wight, find an alternative hotel, and find more caches than we had anticipated.

We chose the latter alternative!

Our original itinerary included a couple of caches in the small town of Havenstreet. We had cached (unsuccessfully) there before and wanted to turn a DNF to smiley face on the geocaching map.

Havenstreet station, on the Isle of Wight steam railway – was our destination. We parked the car and wandered over to GZ.

Its not a film canister is it ?

We were expecting to search for a film canister but very visibly on show was a clear plastic container.

Matching the hint.

Containing swag.

Containing a notebook.

But nothing that said “this is a geocache”.

We read the logs on http://www.geocaching.com and saw nothing that said the container had changed. We took photos, signed the notebook and claimed the cache.
There is still a chance our log will be revoked, but it looked and felt like a cache but we had the niggling feeling it wasn’t right. Time will tell!

Our next cache was the Havenstreet Church Micro. This was a multi and required us to find two objects with dates and ages on. We stumbled around a bit too long looking for the first object. But it did give us the opportunity to go inside the church and marvel at the spiral staircase leading to a small bell-ringer’s platform. (If this platform had been in a house, it would have been called a minstrel’s gallery). Eventually we did find the numbers we required to calculate our final destination…a short walk back into the village. Here we saw a few shops, a pub and a bus-stop-turned-book-swap-shop. Mrs Hg137 had to be dragged bodily away from the myriad of titles on display and reminded that she was supposed to be looking for a cache! We did find the small nano … but much more unexpected was the bus stop! Caching does take you near to interesting buildings!

Stop reading – we’ve got to find a cache!

A short distance on was our third Havenstreet cache. This was one we hadn’t prepared for (as – based on our original schedule – we didn’t think we would have time). However we soon discovered the route to “Little Bridges 1140 Blackbridge Brook” was muddier than our footwear would bear, so we retreated. We did though make friends with four horses: Jack, Ginger, Olly and Nagona all of whom came over to check us out for food. Jack even stood on Mrs Hg137 shoe and almost removed it from her foot!

On the outskirts of a cemetery on the Isle of Wight …

Our final cache was a puzzle we had solved from home. The solution was near to Havenstreet next to a cemetery. We spent 10 minutes scouring the trees and undergrowth until Mrs Hg137 caught sight of a good-sized cache. How we hadn’t tripped over it in our searching up to then we shall never know! We even found a trackable in the cache – a Swiss Cow!

So an eventful day – we had got over the tournament cancellation by finding three caches, making friends with four horses, finding a plastic cow, and reading book titles in a bus stop ! Isn’t geocaching surreal!


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.



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.


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!