October 13 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Thatcham to Silchester

Nature Discovery Centre – Thatcham

This section of our Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst(Berks) walk was one of the longest, about 13 miles. Due to various other commitments on other weekends, we were short of alternatives, even though the weather forecast was ‘interesting’. Storm Callum was dropping heavy rain in the West Country (especially near where our walk had started in Gloucestershire). We drove through one exceptionally heavy shower, but thereafter, and surprisingly, the weather remained dry.

We started out from Thatcham’s Nature Discovery Centre https://www.bbowt.org.uk/explore/visitor-centres/nature-discovery-centre and found three caches in a small circular walk around its lakes. The Discovery Centre is now a wildlife haven with a myriad of lakes (filled-in gravel pits), trees and footpaths. There is even a small community orchard.

The three caches we found all had a little ‘something’ about them. The first involved jumping across a, fortunately dry, stream. The second cache was found hanging, in plain view, yards from one of the lakes. The third was hidden in a small enclosed area bounded by a gate, a fence and some trees – a quite tricky retrieval even using the geopole.

Three caches down, and we were still close to the car. We crossed the Great Western Railway line before arriving at the Kennet and Avon Canal. Our previous walk had followed the canal for a couple of miles, and today we would follow it again for about 2 miles to Thatcham Station. The towpath was busy, and we saw many people exercising themselves and their dogs. We paused to admire three kites high above, and three ducks dabbling their way along a reed bed.

There was only one cache to find, and a quick easy find in the bole of tree. Inside we found a trackable, ‘Hilly the Hippo’. When we first retrieved the cloth toy, we initially thought it was an elephant!

Then two rarities ! A seat (great for a quick coffee stop), and a turf-lined lock.

Monkey Marsh Lock (Thatcham)


Mrs Hg137 is the expert on all things canal-related, and apparently turf lined locks are rare (only two survive on the Kennet and Avon canal). Turf locks were cheaper to make, as much of the lock-sides are grass/mud/plants. Boat owners aren’t keen on them as there are fewer places to scramble up and down from a boat, and they are more porous than other locks so the canal loses more water.
As we drank our coffee a duck wandered by, looked at us, and headed to a nearby shallow puddle. It then dabbled at the grass and water edging the puddle for 10-15 minutes, oblivious to us and oblivious to the cyclists and walkers that went by.

“I love puddles…they’re so full of food !”


Shortly after passing the lock we left the canal and headed away from Thatcham. The railway line is nearby, and the barriers descended for a train. We waited and watched. We waited. The queue of traffic got longer. We waited. Eventually we decided to look for an adjacent cache. We dipped just out of eyesight of the stationary motorists and made a quick retrieval. More surprisingly there was another a trackable inside “Smelly Pooch”. Two consecutive caches, and two trackables – not bad!

Somewhere beyond the branch is a cache!


We crossed away from the traffic and picked up a series of caches under the title of “Let’s go Round again” – apparently named after a favourite walk of the cache owners, TurnerTribe. By and large these were easy finds, sometimes there was a small scramble down a ditch, on another we had to lift and separate a large log pile. We struggled with one or two where we overthought the hint, but these were the exception. As we approached one cache we heard a strange squealing sound..and a lady shouting at her dog. The squealing wasn’t a dog noise, it wasn’t a rusty swing… what was it ? Then, as we knelt to retrieve the cache we saw the source of the squealing… a smallholding of pigs!

We were counting caches as our 12th find of the day would be our 2500th find! To mark this auspicious mark, we would have liked a memorable hiding place, or a really special container.. sadly not to be! (Ed: for the record we started in caching in September 2012, so it took us just over 6 years to find 2500 caches).

Cache 2500


We were still celebrating when we arrived at the next cache site. This was set by TadleyTrailblazers (a cacher we met 3-4 years ago). Sadly we couldn’t find the cache. A lovely oak tree, with lots of boles, holes, nooks, crannies… but no cache. Cache 2501 would have to wait a little longer!

Mm.. lets go in the other direction!


We found a couple more of the ‘Let’s go Round again’ series, and arrived at a road. We had been dreading this part of the walk as we had half a mile of road walking and then another two miles on cacheless footpaths. The countryside was reasonable enough, but our navigation was poor. (Once we decided, sorry – Mr Hg137 decided, to ignore a footpath sign and walk for 500 yards into ever-denser undergrowth.

Another sign for us to ignore!

On anther occasion the main footpath was closed for bridge repair works. We ignored the closure sign and 400 yards further on found ourselves impounded in a barbed wire enclosure. Grr!).

It was therefore with some delight we reached a set of caches. We were a couple of miles from Tadley, and it came as no surprise to discover that they had been set by TadleyTrailblazers. We walked across two of his series (TTs Mini tour, and A2B&B (Axmansford to Baughurst and Back!). These were all fairly easy finds – 5ft in a tree, by a gate post, deep in a hedge. The one that we enjoyed most was hidden behind a ‘swinging’ piece of wood. Swing the wood, and find the cache!

We struggled with our next cache (set by Buddy01189). We haven’t done any if his (her?) caches before, and apparently there is frequently an evil twist. The caches are hidden fairly, but with a warped mindset. We couldn’t get into the warped mindset (and after 10-15 minutes we tried really, really hard),so marked it as a DNF.

Having had a failure at one cache, lady luck smiled on us at the next. A Church Micro Multi.To find the final we needed to find dates from a plaque and numbers from a war memorial. We tried to do this before we left home, but no internet photographs gave us the necessary information. We were very concerned the final hide would be half a mile back the way we came. But, we had one other piece of information. The hint. The hint, rather than being ‘base of tree’ or ‘MTT’ or ‘hidden in ivy’, was a very specific number – 57.1.

Tadley Church


As we approached the church we scanned every conceivable lamp-post, telegraph pole, telephony cabinet for such a number. Then as we could just see the church in the distance we spotted an object at ground level. (One pertinent to an allied industry Mrs Hg137 has some dealing with). As we remarked on the object we saw the associated number…57.1. Is there a cache behind? Yes !!! Fab! We wouldn’t need to retrace our steps!

We did visit the outside of the modern church, and the adjacent village green. A good refreshment spot.

It was getting quite late by now and the pleasant temperatures were dropping as were the light levels. We still had a mile to go (one easy cache to find), and walk through ever-darkening wood.

Farewell Tadley

The woodland paths led us out at Silchester Green and we were happy to see, in the early evening gloom, our car in the distance. But first… one more cache. In a bus stop. Our GPS told us which of two shelters the cache was hidden in, but in very poor light, in a dark ‘shed-like’ shelter, we couldn’t find the cache. We did though find lots and lots of spider’s webs! Yuk!

A slightly disappointing end to a strenuous day – 3 DNFs in total, but we did find 20 caches including our 2,500th find. Something we could celebrate!

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October 10 : Richmond to Barnes Bridge

Some days are good days, some days are …

The journey started well enough as we caught the train to Richmond – Mr Hg137 even got chatting to someone he recognised on the train (but only remembered her name as we left (tsk, tsk)).
We passed through a deserted Twickenham station and knowing that the Rugby World Cup was on, remarked “It’ll be a lot busier this afternoon”. A short walk through Richmond town centre, in that early morning when shopkeepers haven’t quite got set up, but customers are buying to avoid the queues later.

The river on arrival was quiet. The summer was definitely over, hire boats were out of the water, being sanded, varnished and re-waterproofed. We wandered along the path, dodging the usual array of keep-fit enthusiasts to arrive at Richmond Lock.

End of Season maintenance

End of Season maintenance


To many people this lock is a surprise, as the river is tidal at this point and why would a lock be necessary? Apparently, about 100 years ago, the boat owners complained that the ebbing tide also took more river water out with it, leaving a very shallow body of water. A lock and weir was built to trap river water at low tide. For two hours either side of high tide, boats can ‘ride the weir’ in safety, but for the remaining time boats must use the lock (and, unusually, pay for the privilege!).
Richmond Lock - tide's out .. please pay!

Richmond Lock – tide’s out .. please pay!


Our first cache was on the bridge over the weir. The description mentioned both a key-safe (a slim magnetic playing card type cache) or a magnetic nano. Lots of metal, lot of of muggle dodging, lots of looking. Not a cache to be found. Not a good start!
Low tide

Low tide


We did notice that the tide must have been at low when we were at the lock as various sandbanks were visible in the river. Further down the path the tide was coming in quite quickly as many a rowing crew were being whisked upstream with barely an oar in the water.

We paused close to our next target ( Oh Deer! ).

A terrain 4.5 cache.

A tree climb.

After our success on the previous walk we had thoughts of at least looking at it. But to get to it there was a 6 foot drainage channel to cross. There was a bridge… made of uneven logs. We couldn’t even work out how to get onto the logs! We gave the cache a miss ! (And also realised some time after that neither of us took a photo of this obstacle!). Two caches sort of attempted, none found. Its going to be one of those days…

…and it didn’t improve at the next cache, Swamp Cache. Somewhere in the trees, down a bank, in a slightly muddy, overgrown area was a cache the size of a tennis ball. Was it on the half a dozen trees we examined ? Was it really in the swamp area with indeterminate depth of water just beyond ? We never found it. Three failures out of three – our caching trip was going very well indeed.

A rare success!

A rare success!


Our next two caches were remnants of an old 20-cache series set in October 2009. Now only two remain, numbers 16 and 19. Both, fortunately for us, easily found. But one was in desperate need of maintenance that it can’t be long before only one cache will remain from this series. Looking at logs for the other 18 archived caches, the owner has been negligent with cache maintenance with the whole series. Such a shame the cache owner didn’t maintain them, as the Thames Path does lend itself to lots of good hiding places !
Lots of good hiding places along here

Lots of good hiding places along here


The Thames Path passed behind Richmond Deer Park (hence the ‘oh Deer’ cache earlier, and Kew Gardens. On the other bank Syon House, was clearly visible. Syon House has been in the Percy family (Dukes of Northumberland) since 1594. Although it is still in private hands, it is open for visiting 3 days a week during the Summer.
Syon House

Syon House

One other great moment of interest (well to Mrs Hg137, a canal buff) was where an arm of the Grand Union of Canal meets with the Thames. From here one can travel all the way to Birmingham by boat!

Grand Union Canal

Grand Union Canal


The South Bank of the Thames was devoid of caches for some distance (presumably the 20 cache series had caches on this stretch), so we crossed to the Northern Bank. We had two objectives – firstly to see and photograph the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race Finishing Post. Second to find the cache yards from it!

We failed with both!

The Boat Race Finishing Post SHOULD be here!

The Boat Race Finishing Post SHOULD be here!


Firstly the finishing post had been removed and replaced by a temporary banner for that weekend’s (non-University) racing. Secondly we didn’t find the cache.. but we did find another cacher signing its log!

When we arrived at Ground Zero, the few people that were around were all connected with rowing. They were engaged with packing up, cleaning boats and the like. Except one lady, sitting on a stump, crouched over a piece of paper.

We enquired whether she was a geocacher and whether she was holding a geocache! We were right! A lovely Spanish lady with caching name of doways. Welcome to the UK – and hope you enjoy your caching adventures here!

Doways with the cache

Doways with the cache


So really we didn’t find that cache either!

We completed our walk on the North bank crossing back to the South bank to catch a bus back to Richmond. The bus was late (we think due to Rugby traffic on its outbound route), and we just missed a train home. This gave us plenty of time on Richmond Station to watch hundreds of Welsh and Australian rugby fans descend on the platform, squeeze on the next train, and depart.

Arrive, squeeze, depart.

Arrive, squeeze, depart.

Suddenly the whole station reverberated with the singing of “Cwm Rhondda” – a huge sound got closer and closer. then just six Welshman arrived and they were responsible for the huge sound ! Amazing!

Our train arrived, and like all the others was jam-packed, so much so we could barely get on it! Get on it we did but we were so squashed on the 10 minute journey to Twickenham station we could barely breathe.

An unpleasant end, to a rather poor day’s outing! Still there’s always next time!

Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 5.3 miles
Total distance walked : 161.75 miles

Caches found : 3 (or was it 2.5?)
Total caches found : 289

June 6 : Thames Path : Clifton Hampden to Day’s Lock (circular)

This was our first expedition since Mr Hg137’s unfortunate arm-breaking accident with the Segway.

We were not sure what affect his injury would have, so we settled on a small circular walk starting from Clifton Hampden. Not many caches and not many miles but enough exercise to see what we might be able to do in the future.

Clifton Hampden Bridge

Clifton Hampden Bridge

Our first cache of the day was within yards of our car, called Pegasus Bridge. What made this unusual was the high terrain rating (4). The cache was hidden up a steep bank, with a 1:1 gradient. The bank was probably 20 feet high and protected a churchyard from any river floods.

Normally Mr Hg137 would have attempted this type of cache – but with only one real balancing arm available it really was too dangerous.

So Mrs Hg137 went for it!

Climbing slowly (in fairness that’s her top speed), bending double both to avoid branches and match the slope, she soon made it to the top. Fortunately an easy find… then the tricky descent.

The path, such as it was, was tinder dry and even with a geo-pole, hands, walking boots and a few choice words the descent was made more slowly than the ascent. Fab effort by Mrs Hg137 – and one Mr Hg137 was really jealous (and pleased) of!

The cache  was placed to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the capture of Pegasus Bridge during the D Day landings. The operation was led by Major John Howard who is buried in the graveyard. (So more by luck than good fortune it seemed a good cache to do today – the 71st anniversary of D Day.)

We crossed the Thames on Clifton Hampden bridge and followed the Thames Path towards Day’s Lock near Little Wittenham.

Initially we walked though elbow-high stinging nettles (difficult to avoid with a broken arm), and then a field with ewes and lambs. We remarked that the ewes needed shearing as we could see the bulk of fleece on them really made look hot and bothered.

We passed several people also walking the Thames Path – some taking a couple of years, others just a few months. Our target was close to the base of Wittenham Clumps and it was reassuring that they became closer and closer as the walk progressed.

Wittenham Clumps

Wittenham Clumps

Our second cache was just before Day’s Lock. Hidden in a tree trunk, but big enough for a trackable swap. Here we left our Smurf friend, Smoulicek, and retrieved Lady Bug. Given the excitement of the previous cache, a nice easy find!

Nice simple cache!

Nice simple cache!

We crossed the weir and lock at Day’s Lock and watched three boats head upstream through it. The quality of boatmanship of the three crews at the lock was extremely variable ranging from the ‘pro’ to ‘downright amateur’. The pros could ‘tie up’ and ‘moor’ without incident, the others took several efforts to even square up within the lock itself!

Day's Lock

Day’s Lock

The Thames Path continued on the bank, but our circular path immediately re-crossed the Thames over Little Wittenham Bridge. Since 1984 this bridge has been host to the World Poohsticks Championships. Sadly because of the sheer numbers the event has now moved to a bridge over the River Windrush in Witney.

Anyone for Poohsticks?

Anyone for Poohsticks?

Now there is only thing to do at this bridge … have a game of Poohsticks. But so does everyone else! There is not a branch or twig for 50 yards either side of the bridge. No wonder the World Championships were moved!

We headed across fields, and a footpath through a very attractive garden and across the only stile of the day (tricky with a broken arm) to the village of Long Wittenham.

Lovely garden.. with a footpath through it!

Lovely garden.. with a footpath through it!

Here we would find our third and final cache, Spice Alley. We guessed that normally there would be cooking aromas from the adjacent Oriental Eating Emporium, but today no such aromas existed. Our search took slightly longer than expected, hidden in an ivy bush.

Spice Alley ...

Spice Alley …

... and its cache !

… and its cache !

Returning via footpaths to the Thames, we then retraced our steps through the field of sheep. Imagine our surprise to find them gone! They were being shorn by three farmers in the far field corner. So we were right.. they did need shearing!

A pleasant day out – and a great way for Mr Hg137 to start his caching recuperation!

Thames Path statistics : Route length : 2.75 miles Total distance walked : 68.55 miles

Caches found : 3 Total caches found : 142