November 30 : Woosehill/Sindlesham

For some reason, November is our lowest caching month by a distance. This year has been different, as we were on our fifth November caching trip, this time primarily in woodland which separates the Wokingham districts of Woosehill and Sindlesham. It was an area that both of us had some knowledge of, as Mr Hg137 used to live in Woosehill, and Mrs Hg137 worked in the Sindlesham area and often frequented the woodland paths on a lunchtime walk.

Welcome to the Woods!


Mr Hg137’s experience counted for nothing at our first cache. A DNF near to Woosehill’s supermarket and part of the ‘Off Yer Trolly’ series. We were looking for a cache in a bole of tree (of which there were surprisingly few) next to the pedestrian walkway known as Smith’s Walk. A busy thoroughfare, given its proximity to the supermarket and doctor’s surgery, and after a few minutes feeling freezing cold ivy leaves we abandoned.

We parked the geo-car at the furthest part of Woosehill next to a Tennis Court. We had parked here a few years ago, when we were the first to find (FTF) the very first Counting Vowels cache. On that occasion (see our blog entry https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2017/11/10/november-10-ftf-wokingham-chestnut-avenue/ ) we drove there twice as the cache owner had made a mistake with the coordinates, and we walked miles to register a DNF in our quest for the FTF.

What is it about that Tennis Court and our caching ability ? Our second cache of the today’s walk was at the Tennis Court (part of the ‘Anyone for Tennis’ series) and having studied the hint we believed we were looking for a magnetic bolt. We searched all ends of the tennis court, but our reward was nothing. Two caches attempted..two DNFs.

We were somewhat demoralised as we walked to ‘The Stones’ – we didn’t want three DNFs.
We didn’t get three DNFs as we found the cache quite easily as a large stone hid the cache.
Phew ! We were away!

Third attempt… first find of the day!

Our route around the woodland had been worked out before we left home. There were three parallel roads/tracks (Chestnut Avenue, a woodland path and Sadler’s End). Our route would weave its way from Chestnut Avenue through minor tracks to the main woodland path, a couple of caches on or near that path, before more minor tracks to reach Sadlers End. Here we would attempt a few caches on its length, before heading back via minor tracks to the main woodland path, then more tracks back to Chestnust Avenue. Of course the route wasn’t a perfect circle, so some backtracking was needed to find the outlier caches.

By and large the tracks were very good, if slightly muddy to walk on. The overnight frost had caused a fresh leaf-fall so many of the muddy bits were covered in leaves. It also meant there were times when we couldn’t see the footpath at all as the whole forest floor was covered in leaves.

Holly


Many of the caches or hints described the nearby foliage (‘Rhododendrons’, ‘Holly’. ‘The Gnarled Old Tree’) which narrowed down the search area considerably. Most of the caches were surviving well in the wet Autumn, with one exception, ‘Power Lines’. Here the cache lid had been broken and the log was only just dry enough to etch our name.

The majority of the caches were small, disappointingly so, as we had a trackable we wanted to drop off. It was at our third cache ‘Come and Disk Over Me’ that we were able to do so and pick up a new trackable in its place (Sawyer Koala Bear).

The woodland paths eventually came out close to Wokingham Tennis Club, and here we found our only seat of the morning – so we sat and drank coffee watching a junior coaching session. The trainer was lobbing balls over the net to about 4 children who had to forehand return the ball back. If they succeeded four times they could award themselves a ‘token’ and we saw differing piles of tokens mount up between the trainees.

Setting up for the training session


Next to the Tennis Court is Wokingham Cricket Club, the home of one of our longest searches. The previous cacher, Amberel, hadn’t found the cache and we were concerned we would get our third DNF of the morning. There really was only one structure to search given a hint of ‘magnetic’, but the cache was not in the obvious place. We then read the logs from previous finders, and these told us to look for a piece of wire. We found the wire..but no cache! It was only after a little more searching did we find a SECOND wire…and then the cache came to hand. Phew!

We had arrived at Sadlers End and we had a longish walk to our next cache. We passed a few houses, and nearly got run down by the parents driving their ‘tennis trainees’ home. Our next cache was called ‘Motorway View’. As our walk had progressed, the distant hum of the M4 had become more noticeable, but it was only as we approached the cache did we see the motorway. The hint for this cache was ‘Stand to right of drain cover. Five paces towards motorway, then look right’. There were two things wrong with this very explicit hint. Firstly we couldn’t see the drain cover! The whole path was covered in leaves – we eventually found the metal cover after some prodding with the geo-pole. Secondly ‘paces’. Our stride lengths are different. Was the cache setter long-strided, medium-strided or tiny-strided ? We both paced a distance and after a little search found the cache. And the view of the motorway.

Motorway View


After finding another cache in Sadlers End we made our way back to the woods. Our shortest, and probably less-legal route was to climb over two 5 bar gates, and walk around a farmer’s track. We were at the furthest point from our car, and felt quite cold. The weak winter sunshine had barely permeated the woodland, so we opted for the quick, over-the gate escape route and followed a series of very minor tracks arriving at our next cache hidden under a decaying log.

We had just a couple more caches to find – including a very old cache – originally hidden in 2004. Hidden under a fallen tree, we spent some time looking at the first fallen tree near Ground Zero, rather than walking on a little further to find a larger tree shielding the cache.

Our penultimate cache was hidden in the Woosehill Estate. Called ‘No Mans Land’ because all the roads in that particular part of the estate are named after battles. The pedestrian walkway which hosted the cache was between all these ‘battle’ roads, and hence was in No Mans Land.

After finding our last cache, ‘Chestnut Avenue’ we headed back to the car near the Tennis Court DNF. As Mrs Hg137 changed from her muddy walking boots to her driving shoes, Mr Hg137 had one final look for the elusive cache. Did he find it ? Of course not!

Still, despite the 2 DNFs we found 13 caches, a variety of cache containers some of which are shown here :

November 16 : Grazeley Gambol

The Grazeley Gambol is a series of 22 caches and a bonus cache starting from the small village of Grazeley.

Along the Footpath near Grazeley


There are few places to park in the village but we managed to squeeze the geo-car into the edge of a rutted lane adjacent to the school. The lane had many puddles – not surprising as there had been a lot of rain recently – and we hoped the full route wouldn’t be too muddy! This was quite an expectation as the geocaching route criss-crossed various tributaries of the River Kennet.

The first two finds of the day were within yards of the car, the first a very simple find, the second under a bridge. Here the cache owner had cleverly attached the cache to the bridge both with a simple clip and magnet! This cache definitely won’t get washed away by a flooded river.

Foudry Brook


We were congratulating ourselves on our speedy finds, when we failed to see a footpath sign which would have taken us across a farmer’s field. We retraced our steps and walked on a straight line between the two footpath signs, but when we reached the far end of the field it was obvious we were some way off the true route. Our progress across the field was not helped by the freshly ploughed ridges, and the slippery mud we walked through.

Across the Farmer’s Field to Grazeley

The destination footpath sign yielded another cache, and by now we were getting the hang of cache owner’s modus operandi. It was similar to the caches we had found the previous week at Jealott’s Hill. Many of the caches were small, very small, and had been drilled into a natural looking container.

The mud of the farmer’s field was forgotten as we headed south picking up a further 5 caches. (At least one we walked straight by, another was hidden by an ash tree which tested our arboreal skills, as we aren’t that clued up on what a leafless ash looks like!) We were able to place one of the trackables we had with us in one of these 5 caches and pick up another in return.

The path was pleasant with trees and hedges just holding onto their Autumn colours, and under our feet a carpet of fallen coloured leaves protected us from a wet path. The main gripe about this footpath was its proximity to the A33. A busy and noisy dual carriageway. Sometimes we were separated from it by a few trees, other times barely any at all.

Our route headed West for about half a mile without a cache, as it passed through several farm buildings. We noticed cars parked alongside the farm and several people nearby. We assumed they were connected with the farm, so we consulted our map, to walk confidently through on the right of way. But they weren’t farmers in the yard.

What is going on ?


Two girls, immaculately dressed in riding uniform dismounted from their horses, and chatted with their parents. A food van tempted us with aromas of beefburgers and coffee….and then we finally understood. There was a dressage arena and a competition was going on. We chatted quietly to a previous rider who had recently finished her round. She told us every rider had a fixed time slot…they took part and had coffee, and then went home.. It was 10am and we were aware of at least three competitors who had taken part, and a fourth was being scrutinised (‘trot to A…turn right to E … walk to G’ ) as we stood and watched.

Dressage in Progress


Eventually we walked on and found a couple more caches (one was so far off its co-ordinates we are sure it was in the wrong tree) until we reached a road. Our route should have continued Westwards, but just a short distance South was another cache on a bridge over Foudry Brook. A quick find in ivy, and another container that would take another trackable we had brought with us. The bridge provided us with an ideal place to stop for a coffee (our thoughts of coffee had of course been initiated by the burger van).

Throughout the Grazeley Gambol series a number of the caches would contain letters/numbers which help us find the final bonus cache. Up to this point, few of the containers had yielded a number, but the most of the remaining caches gave us all the information we needed. Our next two caches, using oak trees as hosts, provided welcome respite from a slightly muddy grassy field boundary.

And then we had a problem.

The footpath ahead us was closed. A bridge on the footpath ahead was in a state of disrepair and dangerous.
We decided to proceed anyway. However the closure sign had disrupted our caching skills and we failed to find cache 13 ! Unlucky for us! Cache 14 was straightforward and then we saw the rotten bridge.


We found the cache by its side, and then gingerly crossed. Fortunately the handrails were safe-ish and the central plank under the bridge was safe-ish.. so we made our way across.

Carefully does it!



Shortly after we had logged our caches, the cache owner visited the site, and temporarily discontinued the caches on the closed footpath. Fingers crossed it won’t be too long before the bridge is fixed!

Danger lurked at the next cache too as the footpath crossed the Reading Basingstoke/Southampton railway line. Passenger trains and goods trains seemed to go by every 5- 10 minutes so, and on every occasion we were in the wrong position to take a good photo!

The route resumed a familiar feel. Autumnal trees overhanging a leafy path with a stream nearby. The caches came quite quickly too, including a great fun cache hidden in a children’s toy (sorry no spoiler here…but maybe on our caches of the year post!).

We crossed the railway line again (this time under a bridge) and then a rarity – a multi-cache. A simple enough multi (in fact Googlemaps had been of great assistance before we left home) and an imaginary hide too.

Grazeley village was back in sight, the Church Spire beckoning us to the start. The final two caches took slightly longer than expected (the first was magnetic… (yes really! in the middle of a field too!) and the other was hidden amongst the leaf litter.

We could see the car from this final cache, but the bonus (a quick find) took us away from the school and nearer the Church. We discovered the Church was built in 1850 but in 2017 was converted as a holiday let and is listed on Airbnb ! https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/21676937?source_impression_id=p3_1574781488_tEwFjk7u05x8YoyT

Grazeley Church

An interesting end to a great walk and a wonderful selection of caches!

PS We discovered afterwards that the 24 caches was the highest number of caches we had attempted in a day this year, and one of few caching circuits we had completed too. (And we’ve found just under 400 caches in 2019).

Here are some of the caches we found :

October 7 : Hatton, Warrington

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

A phone box?  Or a library?

A phone box? Or a library?


We’d spent the weekend playing in the National Scrabble Championships. Neither of us did well … Mr Hg137 just missed out on the prizes in the Plate, while I really struggled in the main event. Anyway, that was over, it was the morning after, and we decided to find a few nearby caches before the long drive home. The weather had also been busy over the weekend, and it had rained a LOT: there was standing water in the surrounding fields, enormous puddles, and soggy trees, bushes and grass. We didn’t want to spend a four hour drive all wet and muddy, so we chose three caches in Hatton, about two miles away, that looked as if they could be found while remaining mostly dry.

First up was ‘The Golden Hind Of Hatton’. The location was easy to find – the Golden Hind was a pub, and the cache location was in a redundant red phone box in front of the pub. This box had been re-purposed to hold a defibrillator as well as a mini library. (Editor’s note: these boxes have been re-used for all sorts of things: museums, coffee shops, art galleries … https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/05/02/bt-offers-iconic-red-phone-boxes-community-adoption-just-1/ ) We’ve done a few caches like this before, and had decided in advance that we would be looking for a film canister, or similar, concealed somewhere in the phone box. It wasn’t. After a bit we turned our attention to the books and began a systematic search. Something about one of the books was different from all the others, so we had a closer look, and we were right! It was a nice big, almost new log book.

We moved the geocar a short way and parked near the superbly named ‘Queastybirch Lane’. After a bit of online research, I think that queasty comes from the old Norse kviga-sti or heifer pen. I never knew that!
Busy M56

Busy M56


We had a trackable to move on, so our next cache was a travel bug hotel, ‘Traditional Cache Motorway Mayhem M56 Jn10 (TB Hotel)’ Travel bug hotels tend to be biggish, easy to find caches where trackables can be dropped off and picked up. And Motorway Mayhem series caches are close to motorways, but NOT on them: this cache was within sight and sound of the motorway, hidden under some motorway bridge furniture. We wished the trackable (Starry Bug) well and sent it on its way. Good luck to it on its journey – we have moved it some way from Beachy Head, where it started / we found it.

Our third and final cache was one from the Wow (Wheels or Walk) series, also picked because it as close to the road and (we hoped) not too wet or muddy. Again, we were lucky, as the cache was in the bole of a tree, well above the sodden ground, in a well wet camo bag with a dry inner container and log.

That completed our caching for the day. Still dry and reasonably presentable, we climbed into the geocar and set off homewards.

October 4 : Stretton, Warrington

A Wedding Guest Arrives at St Matthews Church, Stretton

Many readers of this blog may know that both of us, that is both Mr and Mrs Hg137, play Scrabble relatively competitively as well as geocaching.

During the weekend of the 5/6 October the National Scrabble Championships were being held in Stretton, just outside Warrington, and Mrs Hg137 had qualified for the main finals. (Mr Hg137 had only qualified for the more minor plate competition).

We travelled up to Warrington the day before which gave us time to settle into our hotel, locate the playing venue and find a couple of geocaches (whilst dodging the showers).

Our first cache was a puzzle cache we had solved before we left home. The start co-ordinates were based on/in/near St Matthews Church, Stretton. A large church (given the size of village) which had been rebuilt a couple of times since 1800. The latest structure was designed and built by George Gilbert Scott and the Gothic Revival style for which he was famous oozes from the building. Sadly we couldn’t go in the building as a wedding was due to start when we arrived…(we almost made it into the wedding photos as the official photographer was snapping anyone who approached the church!)

A pleasant walk to the cache


The cache was a short walk away hidden in a bush. This gives nothing away, as this cache hint alludes to this, but the number of bushes at GZ, were quite numerous and very prickly. We searched the bushes for a long time, impeded only by a muddy track surrounding each bush (had we brought walking boots to a Scrabble tournament?… no!). After 20 minutes we gave up. We couldn’t see the cache at all.

The Stretton Fox



We moved to what should have been an easier cache. Called ‘Foxy’ it celebrates the nearby pub called the Stretton Fox. The cache though was up a 10 foot wet, slippery, grassy slope with little space for manoeuvring, near to a busy roundabout. The cache was hidden under tree bark, but at GZ, there wasn’t one piece of bark there were a dozen! Each one was meticulously picked up, checked and replaced until the cache was found! They don’t make caches easy in these parts!

Thank goodness, we didn’t have to search for a magnetic nano here!


So we returned back to the hotel via the prickly hedges we surveyed earlier. We gave ourselves another 5 minutes. Of course this time we found the cache. Visible, but almost unapproachable. (Why hadn’t we brought the geo-pole ?!). So while Mr Hg137 found some long (over 6 foot) sticks, Mrs Hg137 took off her coat, folded it as a cushion and performed the yoga ‘child’ pose (or Balasana). Reaching further and further, she eventually grasped the box, and retrieved it from deep in the bush. Of course we still had to replace it back again…but those 6 foot sticks were useful for that!


So 2 caches found, in about an hour, we’d mixed with a wedding party, and got entangled in various hedges…lets hope its less trouble at the Scrabble tournament!

April 5 : South Downs Way : Exton to Butser Hill

The next section of our South Downs Way walk would take us from Exton to a small off-road car parking space just a little distance from the top of Butser Hill (part of the Queen Elizabeth Country Park estate).

Meon Valley


The route would take us away from Exton, briefly following the River Meon, and then climbing and contouring around Old Winchester Hill, descending to cross the River Meon before ascending once more towards Butser Hill.

When we walked the South Downs Way (SDW) seven years ago, today’s section was one of those which enthralled us least. Today though was different. Early spring, verdant green colours abounded. Birds sang from the tree tops.
The slightly-hazy views were far reaching. And what we both remembered as a traveller’s caravan site had disappeared revealing farmer’s fields.

No caches in this tree!

The path out of Exton is quite tricky terrain. Following recent rain, the path was slightly muddy, narrow and covered with tree roots. We picked our way carefully, aware that the River Meon was only feet away. We were slowly climbing, and eventually reached the Meon Valley Cycle Trail. As we did so, we heard voices behind us, and two gentleman were approaching quite quickly.

They too, were walking the South Downs Way, and also paused at the Cycle Way. This was a slight problem as there was (or at least could have been) a cache for us to find. The cache had had many DNF’s as well as being temporarily archived. We thought it would be good to give a quick search anyway. After the two men disappeared, we undertook our search – but, of course, to no avail.

The next section of our walk involved the steep climb up Old Winchester Hill. Like our preceding visit, 7 years previously, the path was wet following the recent rain, and being chalk was very, very slippery. It was a case of two steps forward and one slither back !

Steep up, slippery mud!

About two thirds up the hill, the South Downs Way contours away the top, and the highest point of the hill is not visited. (Editor’s note : probably because the hill is Iron Age Fort and Bronze Age Cemetery). As we contoured round we passed a field full of sheep and new lambs.

Busy counting sheep!

A farmer on a quad-bike was zooming around the field, subconsciously checking the sheep, but not going close to any of them. We wondered how he was going to leave the field, as we was roaring at speed to the footpath near us. As he approached the wire fence, he stuck leg out, pushed the wire down with his foot, and drove straight over. Clearly its not always walkers that damage wire fences!

A bit higher now!

We proceeded onwards and arrived at a seat. Sadly for us, the two men we had seen earlier were there, having a brief stop. We cast our eyes further and saw another bench about 100 yards away…we went to this bench and paused ourselves for coffee. It was fortunate we were ‘forced’ to use this bench as it was a cache host! We’d walked close on 2 miles and this was our first cache of the day! The cache was called ‘Life of Bryan’ and we were expecting to find a snail cache. (We knew ‘Bryan’ was a mis-spelling, but we’ve seen worse).


But no, it was a cleverly attached cache. The reference to ‘Bryan’ was the bench marked the life, and passing, of Bryan.

Having found our first cache we had several more to find in the next mile and a half.

Is there a cache nearby ?

The first a multi which we had researched before we left. We had read the logs and discovered that if we had solved it on the walk we would have had a half-mile back-tracking to reach the final. However the cache owner had just given enough away in the cache description we could google our way to the two answers. So we arrived at GZ hopeful our internet research was correct, and when the cache hint matched our locale all we had to do was search! We found it after a couple of minutes – quite pleased we had saved ourselves a half-mile walk!

A simple descent to the farm below

As we left the Old Winchester Hill, the South Downs Way takes a large V shape to avoid a steep descent. We walked along a road, passing an enterprising man selling coffee from a van (Mon-Fri 10-3), before we had a more simple descent towards a farm by the River Meon. Halfway down we found another cache, and at the farm too our fourth find of the day was our simplest.

Lunch at the River Meon

This way!

As we crossed the River Meon, we espied some picnic tables, close to the Meon Springs Fishing Club. We chose a table furthest away from the club, as the club sold food, and we had our own. The Fishing Club, is part of the Meon Springs Experience. You can glamp in yurts or shepherds huts. You can clay pigeon shoot as well as fish. The South Downs are available to explore. There’s even self-storage units too ! A good little sideline for the farmer whose land the various activities are held on!

More up, more mud!

We saw the yurts from afar, as replete from lunch we slowly climbed out of the Meon Valley. Three caches broke our climb, one placed by the South Downs Authority, another was cracked, and broken it was full of water. The other, an ammo can, placed way back in 2006 by Esscafe. We met Esscafe at cacher’s meet in Imber shortly after we started geocaching. She was a prolific geocacher (the cacher with the most finds the UK at the time of her untimely early passing a few years ago).

Somewhere in this valley is the source of the River Meon


Esscafe’s Ammo Can

The effort climbing away from the River Meon was worth it, a slightly hazy, but recognisable view of the Solent and the Isle of Wight were visible.

Towards the top of our climb, near a pair of transmission towers, were two more caches. One was magnetic and stuck to a gatepost, the other well camouflaged as something unsavoury!

The remainder of our walk, was broadly flat, with views over the Meon Valley to the North. We passed the Sustainability Centre, which promotes greener living with various courses and wildlife sessions.

And then a major landmark on our 100 mile South Downs Walk. The 20 mile marker! Placed again by the South Downs Authority, this was the cleverest hide of the day and worthy of the favourite point we gave it.

20 mile marker!

Three of our last four caches were part of mini-trail called SOUTHDOWNS MEON VIEW 1, 2 and 3. These varied in difficulty from a barely hidden container, to a film canister squashed into a tree crack. The cache that gave us most difficulty was a bison. There were two main reasons for our problems at this cache; firstly we were expecting a film canister, secondly a family of three and two dogs parked right next to us as were searching and we had to wait some minutes for them to move on.

Our last cache, ‘The Box in a Box’ had recently been checked out by the cache owner, and the two boxes were pristine.

So in the end we found well over a dozen caches. Most yielded a great view, over the very scenic Meon Valley.

Some of the caches we found :

April 28 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Foss Cross to Bibury

Bibury

The next section of our walk back to Sandhurst would pass through Fairford. As the crow flies it was a distance of about 8 miles. To reach Fairford would mean walking through one of the largest cache series we have seen (the Great Cotswold Walk or GCW series) comprising over 130 caches!

Foss Cross to Fairford caches


What to do ? Do we walk to Fairford and ignore every cache on our way ?

Do we walk to Fairford and attempt every other cache ?

We did neither. We decided to break our route at about the 4 mile mark in Bibury. This would give us about 30 caches to find and a reasonable walk too.

Coln Rogers Church

Of course there were a few other non-GCW caches to find, and after about half-a mile’s walk we reached one of these. A Church Micro set in the tiny village of Coln Rogers. A small Saxon church. In the foyer, there was a memorial plaque to the villagers who fought in WWI. But, almost as interesting was another plaque. This village lost no-one during the fighting in WWI. Such villages are known as “Thankful Villages”.

Our route away from Coln Rogers was tricky. Some of the ‘public footpath’ signage was obscured by verdant Spring hedge growth, which meant we started to walk through someone’s front garden! Whoops!

Then the sting. A fierce uphill climb, up a muddy path to reach a bridleway. The path was muddy and slippery and the tree branches were excellent tools to aid ascent.

At the bridleway we had a choice. To head South to Bibury, or North to a village called Calcot before taking a different path to Bibury. We again did neither. We headed South to find three caches (one had a high number of favourite points, but actually was a cache on a stick hidden in ivy) then return and head for Calcot. The bridleway was very muddy, but no so muddy that a horse rider galloped past us while we searching for a cache.

The bridleway yielded 4 caches, all very easy finds. In fact all the GCW series were easy finds. The cache owner gave very specific hints for each which made every find very quick. The payback for these quick and easy finds is that the majority of the caches were small film canisters, with perhaps half-a-dozen exceptions.

The highlight find of the day was in Calcot. The cache was part of the ‘Fine Pair’ series, where both a red telephone box and red post box are in very close proximity to each other. Like many of the post boxes we had seen recently this was now a mini library. Second hand books festooned shelves, and on the floor of the telephone box, was a large metal box used by children to put money in. It took us a couple of minutes to realise that this was the cache!

A Fine Pair.. and its cache!


From Calcot we walked on a small road at first, then a track, then open fields.

Mmm… best not to ask!

The GCW finds came relatively frequently and quickly found. One of the trickiest to reach was screwed into the ‘orange hat’ used to mark the underground gas pipes. We wondered how the permission had been granted for placement on such a structure!

A field of slightly-interested cows were passed, and then.. a lake. A large expanse of water covered the footpath. We had seen pictures on http://www.geocaching.com, but didn’t realise it was a semi-permanent feature. The cache owner knowing this, had placed the next cache some way from the ‘true’ footpath, so that it could be used a bearing to guide cachers around the lake. Very thoughtful.

Has anyone got a boat ?


We had seen no-one all day, then suddenly there was loud barking. We were approaching some kennels and the dogs were barking at a Duke of Edinburgh’s party heading in the opposite direction to us. As usual a collection of teenagers exhibiting little map-craft were being ‘guided’ by a leader some yards behind. We warned them of the lake and the cows!

The kennels were just outside the small village of Ablington, where we decided to go slightly off route and collect a couple of extra GCW caches. Here a bus stop seat provided us with the opportunity for a breather, and to sign the log of an adjacent cache – wedged in a squashed film canister tucked behind the village notice board, in a concrete bus shelter.

Coln Valley


We had been following, albeit from afar, the River Coln from the North, but at Ablington we crossed the river to walk on the river’s Southern bank to Bibury. We struggled with a couple of these caches – our brains must have been fading – or the GPS wasn’t as accurate as it could have been, but we arrived in Bibury having found every cache attempted.

Bibury is one of THE tourist honeypots in the Cotswolds and it was mid-afternoon, and visitors were everywhere. (You can even get a Cotswold Tuk-Tuk ride in the Cotswolds! https://www.cotswoldtuktuktours.co.uk )

Fortunately for us we could bypass the town and head in from a different direction. A cache under a horse trough and another next to the Cricket Field both retrieved with minimal muggle interference.

Bibury Church


Our final cache on our walk was, like our first, a Church Micro. This time we had some memorial stones to find and undertake a simple calculation to acquire the co-ordinates for the final hide. (The term ‘simple calculation’ doesn’t apply if its the last cache of the day!). We then discovered we had walked by GZ some 15 minutes earlier. Grr! However what a find! The cache was hidden in a coffin shaped container! A macabre end to the day’s very successful walk.

As we headed to the car, we took the obligatory photos of Bibury (now thankfully much quieter), and we realised we had equalled our best ever day’s caching. Then we remembered, there was another cache parked in a layby not far from where our other car was parked back at Foss Cross. So, on the way home, we pulled into this layby, and found, not for the first time, a film canister.. yielding us a record breaking number of 31 caches! Woo ! Woo!

Making progress through the GCW series!

Some of the caches we found :

April 8 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Shurdington to Barrow Wake

After two day’s walking through the Severn Valley and the outskirts of the Cotswolds, our third day included climbing Crickley Hill. Approximately 500 feet of it.

Shurdington is at the bottom of Crickley Hill and our route would take us to the top, and then we would descend about half way to the Air Balloon pub, and then another short climb to the Barrow Wake car park overlooking the village of Birdlip.

Lots of ascent and with 10 caches to find – and heavy rain forecast for mid-afternoon – we couldn’t loiter too long.

After a short walk we left (cacheless) Shurdington and arrived at a track. This would be our route for the next hour or so. Initially flat, but rising steeply before flattening out nearer the top.

The first flat section yielded three caches. The first, GWYTHERS FARM, was part of a FARM series where cache container had a dairy connection. We had found a similar container the day before at REDDINGS FARM, but it was still a surprise to find a relatively unusual cache container.

One pint or two ?

Our next two caches were even more unusual. They were two caches in a ten cache trail based on the ‘Ships of the Culture’ series of books. (We were unaware of this series, but discovered many of the caches were based on names of spaceships in those books). The author, Ian M Banks, must have a real sense of humour as the first cache we found in the series was…a Carrot.

A Large Plastic Orange Carrot.

One of your seven a day

The second cache we found was a toilet. Yes, a small toilet. The toilet paper was of course used for logging.

Flushed with success!

Still chuckling, we started our climb started in earnest. The track became stonier and stonier. A small stream criss-crossed our path, and as we walked higher we were enclosed by trees on one side and a six foot muddy bank on the other. This muddy bank had to be climbed to reach our next cache.

Armed only with a geo-pole, a bit of endeavour and large amount of effort, Mrs Hg137 failed to climb the slippery six foot slope. Mr Hg137 noticed a slightly easier ascent route, found the cache, threw it down for Mrs Hg137 to sign, before the return throw and re-hide. That was our only scramble up the bank, as it soon became a typical Cotswold Stone Wall.

Our next two caches were relatively straightforward, one required pulling a small piece of string to extricate the cache from a hole, the other was hidden under a familiar cacher’s pile of sticks. The log of this cache was particularly wet, so we decided to have lunch and let the paper dry out for 10 minutes or so.

Pull the string!

We turned onto the Cotswold Way which would lead us to the top of Crickley Hill.

One of the flatter paths!

But first, two more caches which were some way from the main, busy footpath. One was hidden in an old bale twiner, the other in a hollow tree reached by descending a slightly too muddy path.

Eventually we arrived at the top of Crickley Hill. There are three caches at the top – a multi (which we didn’t undertake as its 9 waypoints would take us well away from out intended route), an earthcache and a standard cache.

With hindsight (Ed : hindsight being only useful when things don’t quite go to plan) we should have attempted the earthcache first. But we didn’t.

We headed straight for the standard cache, possibly on a footpath, but in all fairness not, straight down a steep, wet grassy bank. Using only a wire fence (and a geo-pole) for support we inched down the hillside to find GLORIOUS GLOUCESTERSHIRE. An easy find, once at GZ, and it was only when we were at GZ that we noticed a very much simpler footpath leading from the where the earthcache started! Whoops!

View from Glorious Gloucestershire

It was when we logged the cache, later that night, we appreciated the age of the GLORIOUS GLOUCESTERSHIRE cache. It was first hidden in August 2001. It is the UK’s 20th oldest cache, and is classified as ‘Ancient’. Our labours had found a very old cache indeed.

New container.. but an ANCIENT cache!

The other reason we should have completed the earthcache first, was not only did we have to answer questions about how a landslip had occurred, but we had to look at the many hills that we could see from Crickley Hill. Sadly, the rain clouds were rolling in, and we could barely appreciate the (what should have been) expansive view.

We rushed down the hill, passing the Air Balloon pub and arrived at our car just as the heavens opened. (The unusually named pub is allegedly named after the final landing place of one of the first UK balloon flights in 1784).

The rain deterred our visit to a puzzle cache we had solved near Barrow Wake.. that will have to wait for another day.

A couple of the other caches we found :