January 6 : Virginia Water (part 4)

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

During October, November, and December 2017 we visited Virginia Water and each time attempted a small number of the 30 or so caches placed in the parkland surrounding the lake. Today we were going back to attempt some more of the caches, also to re-attempt a cache that we had failed to find on a previous visit.

Arriving deliberately early, there was space in the layby opposite the entrance. It is popular and fills quickly. If that had been full, we would have had to use the official car park, which would have cost us £10. (Editors digression: I’m divided on whether that is an extortionate price or not. From one viewpoint, that is a LOT to pay for a car park near a lake. From another viewpoint, Virginia Water is well maintained, has surfaced, solid paths, seats, toilets, rangers, signs, noticeboards, refreshments, maintained gardens etc etc, and it’s churlish to expect all that to come for free. OK: end of digression.)

Just what is a "fooway"?

Just what is a “fooway”?

But, before entering Virginia Water, we had two caches to attempt. The first was ‘But just what is a “fooway”?’, and we had tried and failed to find it a few weeks before. This time was different; we spotted it and signed the log within seconds. How could we have missed that? Next was ‘X’, one of a series of 26 alphabet caches set by Uncle E. Few clues with this one, and a ban on entering information into the cache logs. We arrived at the likely location and had a little bit of a look around, but couldn’t spot anything suitable. Oh well, another time…

And then we were into Virginia Water, past the visitor centre, and turning left along the lakeside. It was not long after dawn, still, slightly misty, quite cold. Not far from the entrance is the cascade, where the River Bourne flows down a man-made waterfall, under the A30, and out of the park https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cm7TWr5DVs

Very close by was ‘VW – Cascade’, a multicache. These are set out with one or more stages, each giving clues to the coordinates of the final cache location. This multicache had a single stage, and the coordinates were determined by collecting numbers from assorted signs near the falls. As we had come to expect, the coordinates led us to a nearby rhododendron thicket. We needed to find a rock, the cache was beside it … we found a rock, but it was not the right one… We went deeper in, and repeated the process at least once more. Eventually, bent double among the branches, we found the cache.

Virginia Water - the cascade

Virginia Water – the cascade

While collecting information for the previous cache, we were also searching for numbers for our next target, a two-stage multicache, ‘Border Crossings #1 – Surrey/Berkshire’. We were, only just, in Surrey, and had two stages to check before going, only just, over the county border into Berkshire to reach the cache container. Some numbers had been found by the waterfall, and there were yet more to be found at the next stage, amongst the ruins of Leptis Magna https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTAf0W9cD0M The location confirmed, over the border we went before diving into yet more woodland to locate the cache. It was an old cache, placed in 2007, and the cache container was very wet, but with a dry logbook in a plastic bag.
Virginia Water - Leptis Magna

Virginia Water – Leptis Magna

And that was as far into Berkshire as we were going on this visit. We turned and retraced our steps along the lakeside, back into Surrey, and past the ruins. As we passed a few minutes earlier, collecting coordinates for one multicache, we were also collecting numbers for another, ‘VW – Leptis Magna’. (Editor’s note: yes, there were a lot of overlapping multicaches going on here. A copious set of field notes, assembled by Mr Hg137, helped a lot here.) Yet again, we had an extended blundering about session in rhododendrons to find the cache.
So many people!

So many people!

We returned to the main path around the lake, now very busy (where had they all come from?), and passed our start point, walking in the direction of the Totem Pole. Walking in a loop back to the visitor centre, we found another four caches from the VW series, Base, A30, Plantations, MTT, and Coppice Growth, to bring our total for the day to nine out of ten.


And while we were juggling all those coordinates and finding the other caches, we were collecting still more coordinates. We are gradually working our way around the ‘Virginia Water’ multicache – yes, another one – so far we are on stage NINETEEN. We are well over halfway! I wonder what the final cache will be like?

Here are some of the caches we found:


December 28 : Virginia Water (part 3)

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Virginia Water

Virginia Water

During October and November 2017 we visited Virginia Water and each time attempted a small number of the 30 or so caches placed in the parkland surrounding the lake. Today we were going back to attempt some more of the caches, also to re-attempt a cache that we had failed to find on our previous two visits. (Editors note: that’s re-re-attempt, then.)
Which way?

Which way?

We parked at the roadside in Wick Lane. It was early, and very cold indeed (minus 5C!), so there was lots of space to park as most people must have stayed snuggled up in bed. Well wrapped up, we passed the Bailiwick pub http://www.brunningandprice.co.uk/bailiwick and went through the gate into the park. Just past the entrance, the GPS needle pointed off into the undergrowth and we followed it. Crossing a small stream on slippery logs, we arrived at GZ. Carefully reading the hint, we poked and prodded in likely hidey-holes. Nothing. After checking everything once, we went round again, and Mr Hg137 found the first cache of the day in a place I thought I’d already searched. Grrr.

We continued along Wick Lane through the almost empty parktowards our next target, VW – Totem Pole. Our previous two attempts at finding this cache had failed, but this time we had (re)done the calculations, had done much more research and were armed with what we thought were perfect coordinates and a map with a large ‘X’ in a suitable spot. We knew to the leaf where that cache should be! Inevitably, that was right in the middle of a rhododendron thicket. As Mr Hg137 was wearing a rucksack, I nobly volunteered to fight my way in. My running commentary went something like this:
“I see a pile of sticks….I’ve got the cache…opening the cache… ooh there’s a trackable inside..I’m signing the log…I’m coming out now…where are you ?”

The next couple of hours were taken up by collecting more clues for the 21-part multi Virginia Water (yes, twenty-one). For each part, there is a clue to be found at a given location, you answer a question based on that using an internet connection, and are then supplied with the co-ordinates for the next stage. In no particular order, we looked at tree tags, found memorial plaques, counted things, and worked out the colour of various structures, going to places in the park that we already knew, and places we never knew existed, stopping at regular intervals for warming cups of coffee and snacks of jelly babies, chocolate, and toffees.

By late morning, it was much, much busier, and runners, cyclists, and walkers were out in numbers. On our return leg, we passed a cottage called the Flying Barn. A recently erected memorial stone explained the unusual name … this was an airfield for about 25 years in the early 20th century.
Flying Barn

Flying Barn

Skirting Smith’s Lawn polo fields, we entered woodland, with regularly spaced obstacles that would be used for horse trials. One of these, VW – Jump, was to be our next cache. But there was a snag. ‘Our’ jump was already occupied by a family of six, three adults, three children, so searching was going to be tricky.

Mr HG137 asked if they had heard of gecoaching. They hadn’t – he explained it was a ‘treasure hunt’. and there was ‘treasure here’. The three children were excited and searched every piece of timber for us. Nothing, of course, as we had failed to see the smaller jump nearby. The three children charged over and very quickly Martha had the cache in hand. We had described the cache perfectly, and it had a few bits of swag in it too. Martha was really, really pleased. We signed the log “HG137 + Martha”. Maybe we did enough to convert them!

Leaving the family behind, we walked to our next cache, VW – Smith’s Lawn. We most definitely didn’t take the best route to the cache and walked about half a mile in a sort of death spiral, before arriving at yet another impenetrable rhododendron thicket. This time, we both pushed our way into the centre, and blundered around for some little while before finding the cache and emerging, somewhat dishevelled and grubby.

Our final cache of the day was to be VW – Holly, just off the path leading to Obelisk Pond. We came, we saw, we looked up the tree, but couldn’t spot the cache. Mr Hg137 climbed up a branch or two, but we still couldn’t spot anything, and we retreated. We should have read the cache description first:
“I don’t really know what came over me, I was going to put it at the bottom but somehow or other it ended up at the top. It’s a horrible climb, with loads of branches close together making it difficult to squeeze through. And the bigger you are, the harder it will be. And it’s a holly tree, it’s going to be prickly. If you have any sense you will just walk on past this one.”

Obelisk Pond

Obelisk Pond

Then there was time for lunch, and yet more warming coffee, on a seat overlooking Obelisk Pond and a short walk back to the car park. This was not so deserted now, there were cars and people abounding. Another part of the VW mega-multi has been completed, and we are over halfway now. There should be more instalments in 2018!

November 25 : Virginia Water (Part 2)

During October 2017 we visited Virginia Water and attempted a small number of the 30 or so caches placed in the parkland surrounding the lake.

“Botany Bay” – Virginia Water

Today we were going to revisit Virginia Water and attempt some more of the caches. We also wanted to re-attempt a couple of our DNFs from our previous visit. Additionally on our radar was a puzzle cache, based on a photo.

We’ve attempted these sort of caches before, and really enjoyed them. For this cache, the Cache Owner had taken a photograph of a sign containing the printing mistake “Fooway”. Find the sign, find the nearby cache.

We found the sign quite easily, but finding the cache was harder. So hard, we gave up. Of course, we knew we would be returning to Virginia Water, so we could have another attempt but a DNF still hurts.

Cold Frosty Morning

Our first real cache of the day was part of the 24 VW series called “VW Holly Stem”. It was well concealed behind a small holly bush which had somehow got its roots near some tree roots. It took us some time to find the cache – due to a few other holly bushes nearby – and because the holly stem acted as a fierce shield and extraction was only possible from one direction. After our early DNF we were grateful for this success!

A reassuring find !

Our main target was the Totem Pole.

On our previous visit we had tried to find two caches which had been placed as an offset using BEARING and DISTANCE. We had found neither previously, so today we would attempt each again.

Our first target, we arrived at quickly, and recognised it as a location we had searched quite well on our previous visit. We were looking for an ammo can, and this time … within 5 minutes we had the cache in hand. We were only 5 or so yards off in our previous visit – how annoying!

After 2 attempts.. we found the ammo can!

Our second attempt at the second BEARING/DISTANCE cache was less fruitful. This cache was behind a large tree. We arrived, again at an area we searched previously, and this time extended our search even further. However, we were still unable to find the cache! Grr! These Virginia Water caches are not going to be easy!

We returned the totem pole, as we wanted to start a third cache from that location.

A 21 (TWENTY-ONE) stage multi.

This cache would take us around the lake and all we had to do was visit a location, answer a question using an internet connection, we would then be supplied the co-ordinates for the next location. Answer another question, get another set of co-ordinates. We had ‘cheated’ on question 1 as we knew the answer without visiting the location, question 2 required knowing what this picture on the totem pole represented.

Who is this ?

Once we had this answer we then set off for part 3. Once we knew the direction for cache 3, we determined we were going to pass 2 other VW caches.

The first was a straightforward find behind a fallen log, the second a bit harder in a rhododendron bush. (We looked at stem/branch/bole arrangement several times but it was only when we viewed it from one particular direction did we see the container).

A cold walk through the undergrowth

We made good progress with the 21 stage multi as we found stage 3 (after initially dismissing where to look for the required information). Once we had answered the question correctly, stage 4 was quickly reached and answered.

We had walked some distance from the car, and stage 5 was taking us further away so we decided to stop for the day.

4 caches found, 2 DNFs and a quarter of a large multi complete. This is going to be a long winter!

Farewell Virginia Water … see you in a few weeks!

October 21 : Virginia Water (Part 1)

Virginia Water is an area of parkland with a large lake at its centre. It is part of Windsor Great Park, and thus is a Royal Park.

Virginia Water

Back in July, 24 caches had been placed in the grounds of Virginia Water, and these seemed to be excellent caching targets. The caches were of various types – a couple of challenge caches (for which we didn’t qualify), a couple of puzzle caches (which we ought to be able to solve), a couple of multis, but the majority were simple straightforward hides. There were also a few other older caches too, so we had well over 30 caches to attempt.

Virginia Water is a busy attraction. There are runners, dog walkers, cyclists, young families – so finding caches could be tricky. The terrain is broadly flat as the main feature is the 130 acre Virginia Water Lake, and the paths are very good to walk on. To walk around the lake, a well known charity-walking circuit, is 4.5 miles. (Often rounded up to 5 miles for charity purposes!).

Beautiful Autumn Colours

We decided rather than attempt all 30 caches on one visit, we would use Virginia Water as our ‘Winter’ project, and find 6-8 caches per visit. We also decided to utilise the layby on the nearby A30 rather than pay £10 for the (3-hour) car parking.

Dotted around Virginia Water are various attractions. These include ruins, a cascade and today’s target, a totem pole. This is about a 20-30 minute walk from the main entrance, and is probably the most visited attraction in the park. (20-30 minutes being an ideal distance for youngsters to walk with the expectation of seeing something special).

Our first caches were based on the totem pole. Both were of a similar genre, though for some reason were classed as two different types of cache (a puzzle cache and a letter box hybrid). Both required us to read information from the totem pole’s information boards, and derive a BEARING and DISTANCE. (Note, not a set of co-ordinates). Fortunately for us, both bearings were similar, and the difference in distances was less than a quarter of a mile.

Totem Pole on our sunny arrival

We strode purposefully to the first area. Checked our distance and bearing from the totem pole, and searched. A large hole under some tree roots looked inviting, especially as we were looking for an ammo can. Not there.
We searched in the nearby rhododendron bushes (there are a lot of rhododendron bushes in Virginia Water, and we suspect these will be a common feature in our caching quest). Not there. After 20 minutes searching we gave up. We convinced ourselves we must have got some of the calculation wrong, so abandoned and attempted the second totem pole BEARING/DISTANCE hide.

We arrived at a meeting of various footpaths. With the hint of ‘base of large tree’ this should be easy. Nope.
We looked at many of the trees we could see, most of them in rhododendron thickets, all to no avail. Again we doubted our ability to derive the correct BEARING and DISTANCE so we abandoned. (We did give ourselves a further excuse here as the totem pole distance was calculated in metres, and our GPS was measuring in tenths of miles.)

Lovely Leaves

So we had abandoned our first two Virginia Water caches. But we knew we’d be back, and we could double-check our calculations before our next visit.

We decided to attempt a further four caches, as the weather was worsening. Our first find of the day, in a broken stump, was tricky to extricate, made even harder as we were underneath a chestnut tree dropping nuts in the ever-quickening wind.

Our second find was, not unexpectedly, deep in a rhododendron bush. We were looking for an ‘X’, which Mrs HG137 saw, but as the GPS indicated that we were still 60 feet away, we ignored…until of course the GPS settled and we had to burrow our way into the bush a second time.

Our third find, the smallest cache so far, was relatively easy, apart from the slightly damp grass we walked across to find it.

Then the rain started. Cold, autumnal rain. Most of the park has well established trees, but as luck would have it, we found ourselves in an area of 7-10 year old saplings. No cover at all! Eventually we found a suitable tree to use as cover, precariously overlooking a stream. We took great care not to slide downwards!

Totem Pole – after the rain

Eventually the rain cleared, and with even blacker clouds on the horizon we attempted one more cache before leaving the Park. This time in a tree stump, and quite exposed, so we found some leaves and bark and hid it better.

Environmental Checking of the Water

As we had entered the Park we had noticed that a proportion of the car park had been sealed off with TV/Film vehicles inside. Being nosy we ascertained from a ranger that scenes from a forthcoming episode of ‘Silent Witness’ were being shot in the nearby village. Something to look out for!

‘Silent Witness’ filming caravans

We also discovered Virginia Water has been used in many TV programmes and films (including Harry Potter and Tarzan!), so if our photos look familiar its because you’ve seen them in film!

A couple of a caches we found :

May 28 : Devon / Cornwall : Day 7 : Bodmin Moor

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Golitha Falls

Golitha Falls

It was the final day of our full-on geocaching/walking/sightseeing holiday before we headed home (to recover?), and we thought we would do a ‘proper’ day’s caching, rather than caches found as we saw the sights. But first – how to reach Bolventor without ending up in a Bank Holiday traffic queue? We went the back way, past Golitha Falls (http://www.bedknobs.co.uk/golitha-falls.htm very pretty, worth a visit, but needing scrambling as well as walking skills for the last bit) and then beside the River Fowey up to Jamaica Inn. A car driver stopped us near the Inn. ‘The A30’s rammed!’ he said. He was right.
Where's the cache?  Just visible!

Where’s the cache? Just visible!

We pulled in to an equally rammed car park at Jamaica Inn http://www.jamaicainn.co.uk and pulled up near a granite post. Crikey, we were at GZ, and it was less than 3 feet from our geocar bumper! It didn’t take long to locate the cache, and we also retrieved a trackable (it wanted to stay in Cornwall – we have honoured that). A good start to the caching day!
Busy day on the A30!

Busy day on the A30! The geocache at Jamaica Inn

‘A Drive on the Moor’, a series of about 60 caches, was our main goal for the day; all the caches are billed as being within 50 feet of the road/car park, and this was true. We planned to do the northernmost half of the series, heading south first of all, then looping back to the north to finish not far from our start point. It had been billed as having ‘next to non-existent traffic’ and we were looking forward to empty roads. It was not to be. Car after van after trailer after caravan was heading away from the stationary traffic on the A30. We found a small spot to park and retrieved the first cache, and a hedgehog trackable from Holland, as the cars went by. Trackables are like buses – you don’t see one for ages, then two turn up within minutes of each other… We couldn’t even attempt the next cache as the stream of traffic escaping the A30 went by and we couldn’t stop.
Dozmary Pool

Dozmary Pool

A little further on was a cache a little way away from the road and across the moor, overlooking Dozmary Pool http://www.legendofkingarthur.co.uk/cornwall/dozmary.htm This is alleged to be the place where King Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, was thrown after Arthur was mortally wounded in battle. The pool is variously described as mysterious / enchanted / atmospheric, and that is probably so on a misty day, but on this day the bright sunshine and extra traffic meant it wasn’t overly mysterious, but it is a beautiful spot with good views over the pool and the moor.

The next two caches were: drive-find-log-dash on, and the third was in such a busy spot that I was sent to find the cache while Mr Hg137 cowered by the geocar. There were good views over Colliford Lake and up to the A30 where the traffic jam still stretched from horizon to horizon. For the next cache, the roles were reversed, and Mr Hg137 did the finding. During the few minutes it took to find those two caches, maybe one-eighth of a mile apart, twenty-seven cars, one Land Rover, and a caravan came by – this really wasn’t the quiet road we had hoped for! After bypassing the next two caches – the traffic was way too much for this little country road – the next two finds were quick and simple, and, better, we had now moved away from the section of road that was being used as a rat run by all those drivers … and it was now much quieter (phew, that was a relief).

By now we had passed by the dam at the bottom of the lake (actually, it’s a reservoir https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colliford_Lake ) and there was a handy car park where we could stop for a pleasant picnic lunch, then search for the next cache in the series. Well, the lunch and the car park were agreeable, but we didn’t find the cache (and it hasn’t been found since). And another less agreeable thing – the area where the cache was likely to be looked to be used for something else – “walking the dog” – a colleague helpfully described it – as there were racy magazines and other …items … dotted about. We moved on.

Don't frighten the horses!

Don’t frighten the horses!

Heading north now back towards the A30, we followed the western side of the lake without always being close to it. The scenery became more open moorland, and we stopped to find (or sometimes, not find) caches at intervals. At one point, one of us acted as decoy to keep the attention of some ponies and foals while the other sneaked in behind to find a cache.
Colliford Lake

Colliford Lake

And then there was another car park, with a view down over the lake. We pulled in for a coffee break, to take in the view, and find another cache. But this one was special. It was to be our 1500th cache. Woo hoo! We approached, subtly, so as not to excite notice from a couple picnicking nearby. It didn’t work; as we got closer and bent to retrieve the cache … ‘We know what you’re doing!’ We’d been rumbled – those picnickers were two other cachers, Squirrel &Stinky, on their way home after a holiday … so that’s six geocachers we’d met this week … We swapped tales of caching adventures – (they’ve been MUCH further afield than us) and offered them the log to sign; they did so, but never did log the cache; they did say that it wasn’t ‘proper’ to log something they hadn’t found.
Geocache number 1500!

Geocache number 1500!

On we went, heading north back towards the A30, finding more caches as we went. We met more traffic, but this time it was coming from the opposite direction, and the road was wider, so it was less troublesome. Except for one moment while I was signing a cache log while tucked into a storm drain as traffic rushed past, uncomfortably close.

The sunshine had turned hazy, cumulus clouds were massing to the north, and it was appreciably cooler and windier; if we didn’t hurry, we would get very wet. We sped up our caching; we could hear rumbles of thunder, and it got darker; the traffic escaping the A30 now had lights on. Once again, a passing muggle driver stopped to chat. We found out from him that it was possible to turn right onto the A30 at the end of this lane – we weren’t sure it was possible till then, didn’t want to join the holiday traffic jam, and were preparing to turn round – so that was good to know. We were close to the A30 now, and could see all the queuing holiday traffic – not a good afternoon for them at all. The last two caches in the series were accomplished in gathering gloom amid rumbles of thunder; we had finished just in time. This was a super series in beautiful countryside and equally beautiful weather (except at the very end). Our one mistake was to choose the Saturday before a Bank Holiday to attempt the series, when the lanes are much busier than usual!

The A30's still rammed ...

The A30’s still rammed …

By now, it was late afternoon and we were heading back to our hotel in Liskeard, having found 26 caches, a good haul. About this time we both realised that our record number of caches for a day was 29 – and we were passing very close to the ‘Compass 360’ cache series. Suddenly there were extra caches available. And the rest of this post is elsewhere, in the forthcoming ‘Compass 360 post’. Did we break our record? Wait and see…

Here are some of the caches we found:

February 16 – Isle of Wight – Lake and Shanklin

After the rigours (and success) of the 18 game Scrabble tournament, it was back to the caching before catching the ferry home.

Heavy rain had been forecast so we selected 5 caches all within a short distance of each other (aka a quick run back to the geocar!).

Our first, Sidetracked – Lake Station – was probably our hardest find of the day. A small magnetic nano somehow tucked into an underleaf of a railway sign. Many people don’t realise the Isle of Wight has a railway, but the line runs from the Ryde PierHead in the North to Shanklin in the South. The rolling stock consists of 1930s London Underground Tube Trains!

This way to the Station! (and the cache!)

This way to the Station! (and the cache!)

Lake is one of many misnomers in the Isle of Wight. The village of Lake, has NO Lake!
(The Isle of Wight also has Needles you cannot thread, Ryde where you walk, Cowes you cannot milk amongst others).

Our search at Lake station was not helped by 2 railway workers checking out the station forecourt as we arrived. A bit of decoy action, and after they drove away, we had the cache in hand.

We drove on further into Shanklin and picked up 3 caches in a circular walk. Two of them were part of the “Nostalgia” series, we had found caches from before (see February 14’s blog). Indeed one of the caches was next to the school the friends were taught at all those years ago. Another cache was near the sea wall, newly built when our cache owners were at school. They were escorted, as a school trip out, to see the new wall – the trip was memorable as one of their school-friends fell off the wall and bumped his head!!

Cache dangling from the lifebuoy.. but its not the GZ!

Cache dangling from the lifebuoy.. but its not the GZ!

Our last cache was near the railway line. Another cunning hide, and given the amount of metal at Ground Zero, we were surprised that the cache wasn’t magnetic!!

We arrived back to the car just as the rain started – giving just time for one more cache. Last year, when we visited the island, we failed to find the cache at Beautiful Beaches – Shanklin. Our reason for our failure – driving wind and torrential rain – we were soaked within 10 seconds arriving at Ground Zero. Today, even though it was gently raining, the find was easy especially as the hidey-hole was just a little exposed. Its amazing how much harder caches are to find, when the weather conditions are against you!

Wind, Rain, Tides..cachers in the dry!

Wind, Rain, Tides..cachers in the dry!

A bit better this year!

A bit better this year!

So our expedition to the Isle of Wight was over, 2 winners cheques, and 9 caches. A pretty good weekend’s work!