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 :

February 7 : A ford, a pub, and a giant strawberry

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

We are wimpy fair-weather folk who don’t really like getting wet if there is an alternative. On yet another weekend with rain forecast, we spotted a few hours on Sunday morning when it was both dry and sunny, and rushed out to do some local caching. Our plan was to collect some puzzle caches that we had solved over the winter, and to accompany that with other nearby caches.

The world's biggest strawberry - resting for the winter

The world’s biggest strawberry – resting for the winter

First was ‘Eleven’, a puzzle cache, which involved investigating a mixture of postcodes and coordinates and deriving an answer which led to the coordinates. We duly turned up at the likely location and found the cache within seconds; it was a rather weatherworn ceramic teddy bear. Next was ‘World’s Biggest Strawberry?’, a traditional (non-puzzle) cache on the fringes of Grays Farm http://www.graysfarm.co.uk/ This is an award winning pick your own fruit and veg business; we’ve been there often (to buy or pick) and the quality and value is brilliant. We wanted to find the cache here while it’s still there, as the farm will be turned into sports fields in 2018 and the cache and all those lovely fruit and veg will be gone http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-28582670 For now, the PYO business has two seasons left to run, and its trademark – the giant strawberry – is resting for the winter.
Ford at Gardener's Green

Ford at Gardener’s Green

Our early confidence became dented as we failed to find our next two caches, but had a pleasant few minutes pottering around the ford at Gardener’s Green – quite deep at this time of year – and sniffing at the delicious Sunday roast smells coming from the Crooked Billet pub http://www.crookedbilletwokingham.co.uk/index.php
We moved on a little way to Barkham for the next part of our little caching trip. We set off down Doles Lane, a muddy and puddle filled track, popular with muggle dogs, walkers and cyclists. All of these meant we took longer than planned to retrieve the first cache we found, amid much diversionary activity (from us) of shoelaces tying, map reading, and answering of imaginary phone calls. Turning off the track onto a quieter path, we quickly found two more puzzle caches – more of those we had solved over Christmas. The next cache, ‘Going to California’, was found even more easily as it was right out in the open and visible to anyone passing. Oops – but it might have been exposed by recent high winds. We signed the log and hid it more carefully.

One more cache to go, and its description suggested that it was teensy tiny. It turned out to be pretty small, but not quite as tiny as that. But still small enough for the geo-penknife to be needed! Final total for the morning: seven caches found out of nine: much more successful than our recent caching efforts: perhaps our searching skills are improving again after a not-especially successful January.

Here, as ever, are some of the caches we found:


January 23 : Mixed weather and mixed fortunes in Crowthorne

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Crowthorne is replete with our caching failures – we have nicknamed them ‘Nemesis caches’. And on a mixed-weather morning, a local caching trip seemed just right. It was almost exactly two years, and 800 caches, since our last attempts at these caches, so maybe our searching skills have improved in the interval?

Crowthorne Church

Crowthorne Church

Our first Nemesis cache was ‘Sidetracked – Crowthorne’, part of a country-wide series placed close to railway stations. So far we have found 25 of them, from Edinburgh to Lake on the Isle of Wight, and from busy London termini to tiny local stations. Maybe our searching skills really had improved, as we found the cache after only a few minutes. The cache itself was of a design we hadn’t encountered before, and which blended seamlessly into its surroundings; perhaps that was why we didn’t find it last time?

Feeling triumphant, we tackled our next ‘Nemesis cache’, opposite the gates to Wellington College. The college entrance was busy with cars and coaches coming and going to sports events, so we felt a bit … on show. This time we weren’t nearly as efficient at finding the cache, but some minutes of wandering up and down, peering in bushes, reading cache logs and generally bumbling about eventually led us to the target. Two down!

Busy Saturday at Wellington College

Busy Saturday at Wellington College

And here our luck ran out. On down the busy road we went to ‘Nemesis cache’ number 3. The same strategies that had worked twice already that morning were not working now. We gave up after some minutes of furtling around behind a BT box, as we were getting nowhere, and we were a bit conspicuous to folk coming and going from a side road. (Why does the entire population of Crowthorne drive about on Saturday mornings, we wondered?)

We moved on to attempt some new (to us) caches, placed since we last cached here. It didn’t get better. We didn’t find the next two caches either; three failures in a row is not good at all! (Editor’s note: one of those DNFs has now been confirmed as missing by the cache owner.) Fourth time lucky – we found another cache tucked beneath a hedge, though once again we felt slightly uncomfortable as we rootled away so close to people’s houses, which is always a problem with urban/suburban caching.

Eventually we arrived in bustling central Crowthorne, to attempt another newish cache. Once again we were unsuccessful. Actually, we didn’t feel too bad about this failure, as the cache hadn’t been found for five months up to then, and still remains unfound. Maybe it, too, is no longer there?

Where's that cache?  Not here!

Where’s that cache? Not here!

We wanted to finish with a find – it’s always dispiriting when then last (or first) cache of the day is a DNF (did not find), so we re-tried another of our Nemesis caches, ‘Disappearing Berkshire #1 – Buckler Cars’ ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckler_Cars ) . The cache is a short multi, themed around the area where the cars were built; the cache hint had been subtly altered since our last attempt, so we were hopeful. As before, we followed the route to GZ and found ourselves in a familiar alley. Some equally familiar searching followed, followed by another DNF (they were becoming familiar, too). Oh well – Crowthorne remains replete with unfound caches … maybe we’ll return in another two years to try again?

PS Here, as ever, are some of the caches we found.

January 16 : Cache 1300 featuring a Nuclear Bunker, a Rescue Dog and a Deer

Caches that cross a multiple of 100 seem significant, and for us the number 13 is also significant so cache 1300 seemed a good one to make special.

Sadly time was a bit precious so we attempted a simple multi-cache just 2 miles from home. Normally we are wary of multis (especially those over 3 or 4 stages, as we invariably go wrong). However this one had a single stage, the questions seemed easy and the cache had received over 20 favourite points (out of 140 finds).

We drove to a car park near Crowthorne on the edge of Swinley Forest. The car park was full! Dog walkers a plenty! We inched our way into a space (avoiding the toddlers and dogs as we parked) and set off. We noticed that a dog search and rescue team were setting up, but given the frenetic nature of the car park we didn’t have time to find out more.

Walking down one of Swinley Forest’s sandy tracks we were accompanied by at least 3 dog owners and 6 dogs. This is when we realised we were perhaps heading on a slightly longer route to our first target, a former Nuclear Bunker.

We turned away from the dogs quite quickly and then passed pine and fir trees we helped to plant 4 years previously (following the great Swinley Forest fire when over 100,000 trees were lost). We turned back to take a photo and suddenly a deer ran across the path where we had been seconds before. Then another!

A lovely sight, and one we’d have missed if we hadn’t left the car park from the wrong exit or indeed looked back at the moment.

Britain is littered with Nuclear Bunkers built primarily during the Cold War, now most have been decommissioned. Mr Hg137 has lived within 5 miles of this site for most of his life and never known of its existence.

The remains of the bunker

The remains of the bunker

What remains in Swinley Forest is a small hole in the ground, filled in with concrete.
To locate the final location of the cache, various questions were asked about the hole, and what can be seen in the neighbourhood. Then its a short walk to find the final cache closer to the centre of Crowthorne. Although this was only a 35mm film container, much thought has been made with its placement.

We arrived back at the car park – much, much quieter now… but the search and rescue dog team had not left! They were about to undertake a training exercise and had sent a ‘dogsbody’ off to hide. Apparently the lowland search and rescue dogs are called out about once every fortnight primarily to look for Amnesia/Alzheimer’s/elderly people who have wandered off. (www.k9-sar.com)

Lexi posing for a photo, before her work starts

Lexi posing for a photo, before her work starts

Before Lexi went off to find the ‘dogsbody’ she kindly posed for a photo and we gave a donation too… one never knows when we are lost (!) and may just need the assistance of search and rescue.

So despite cache 1300 being only a 35mm film canister a bunker, a dog and a deer made it a truly memorable experience!

August 8 Thames Path : Marlow to Maidenhead

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.



For today, we had a plan to park the geocar at the end of the day’s walk, use public transport aka train to get back to the start, and walk back; much searching went on to find somewhere (anywhere) in Maidenhead that had free parking and was close to the river; Google’s Streetview was most useful here and we found a spot in Ray Park Road.

A fifteen minute walk brought us to Maidenhead station and the first cache of the day, one of the Sidetracked series which are hidden near stations.  On the train, we had a few minutes to sort out our walking boots and to chat to the many other walkers who were also on the train; one group of six were off on a two day outing, walking to Goring on the first day, then back along the river; we passed Goring some few weeks ago and it’s a long, long walk along the river, but not nearly so far if you cut off the big loops in the river.

Sidetracked geocache

Sidetracked geocache

Sidetracked geocache

Sidetracked geocache

Sidetracked geocache

Sidetracked geocache

After a twenty minute train ride we disembarked at Marlow, dawdling behind the other passengers so that we could retrieve our next cache, another Sidetracked, without being watched.   The Thames Path was a short walk away, and we walked down to the river, then stepped away almost immediately for a look at Marlow Lock.  This was a busy lock (they all are!) with neat gardens (they mostly are!), a fine view back to Marlow Bridge … and the answers to clues to a multi cache, another with a Dr Who theme, which we found just a little further on our way.   Once under the speeding cars on the A404M we were out in the country and it was a quiet, warm sunny morning.  A couple of miles walk, with not a single cache, and we arrived in Bourne End.  We stepped aside to find the third Sidetracked cache of the day, near Bourne End station; we’d passed close by while we were on the train but we didn’t have quite enough time to find the cache while the train pauses at the station.

Bourne End railway bridge

Bourne End railway bridge

Just here, the Thames Path crosses to the other side of the Thames, and it does so on the railway bridge.  Here, too, somewhere, is another cache.  It’s a multi cache, and the description gives five possible locations, with a clue to work out which is the right one.  We solved the clue, and we tried all five locations.  Could we find the cache?  No, reader, we could not!  We paused for lunch, looking at the river.  Then we had another look.  Could we find the cache?  No!   We reluctantly gave up and moved away downstream across the meadows.  It was rather hot now and we wished there was more shade.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt Cookham, the path diverted from the river, to walk past some expensive houses who had kept their river frontage private.  We passed the Stanley Spencer gallery, then followed the path through the churchyard, where a wedding was in progress; we’d read that Stanley Spencer’s memorial is here but we didn’t spot it.

We went down a leafy track away from the village; part way along a cheer rang out from the village.  We wondered if that was the moment England won the Ashes?  (Checking later, it wasn’t.)

Boulter's Lock

Boulter’s Lock

Busy river!

Busy river!

We arrived back at the river, and the remaining caches for the day were all along the path back to Maidenhead.  It was so pleasant that I walked past one by 400 feet, when I should have been watching the GPS, and we had to backtrack; grumbles, and rightly so, from Mr Hg137!  Another  most notable one was entitled ‘You want me to look there?’ and was close to both a litter bin and a dog poo bin.  We spent some while feeling round in places where we really did not want to feel – and it was a very hot afternoon so things were … aromatic – but we found the cache close by.   The final stages of the walk took us back into Maidenhead and past Boulter’s Lock, which was packed, and past a blue plaque showing that Richard Dimbleby had lived close by (he was a famous war correspondent and factual journalist).

Richard Dimbleby lived here

Richard Dimbleby lived here

Then we were back at the geocar after pausing at this poem etched into a stone by the river:

Old Father Thames goes gliding by
As ripples run he winks his eye
At Cotswold cows and Oxford dons
Nodding to Windsor’s royal swans
He bears our nation’s liquid crown
By lock and weir to London town
May all that know and love his banks
Pause here awhile to offer thanks.

Ian Miles (2002)

Here are some of the caches we found:

Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 7.6
Total distance walked : 121.25 miles

Caches found : 12 Total caches found : 221

August 1 Thames Path : Henley to Marlow

A mixed riverside walk, but only a few caches!

Today we took the car to Marlow, parked near our end point on the Thames Path and then headed off through Marlow Town Centre to a bus stop where a bus would take us to our official start at Henley. We had so few caches on route we grabbed one in Marlow Town Centre first. It was a great start!

Frequently urban caches are magnetic nanos placed on some boring, indeterminate railings. This cache was a magnetic log book tucked away near a golden letter box.

“Read all about it ! – Cache hidden in Marlow”

British readers may recall that the Post Office painted post boxes gold to celebrate the ‘birthplace’ of GB Gold medal winners during the 2012 Olympics/Paralympics.
Marlow has one such post box and it celebrates the achievements of paralympian, Naomi Riches, part of the gold-winning Mixed Coxed Four Rowing crew (LTAMix4+). Well done Naomi (and crew)!

Celebrating Naomi Riches' 2012 Paralympic Gold Medal

Celebrating Naomi Riches’ 2012 Paralympic Gold Medal

Waiting for our bus, we chatted with another rambler expecting him to be starting his day’s walking. No! He had just finished his walk (at 10am) having left Reading at 4am and watched nature take its course as dawn broke. Sounds really romantic…but just think of the lost hours sleep!

We’d found many of the Henley caches on our previous visit, so we headed straight for the Thames Path. What we hadn’t realised was this was the day of the Henley’s Town and Visitor Regatta and there were rowers/scullers from far and wide. Our progress down the path was hampered by the spectators, coaches (on bikes looking at the crews not at the walkers on the Thames Path), and our stopping to watch the constant conveyor belt of races.

With lots of trophies to be won it was very, very competitive!

We got so used to seeing the crews gently paddle to the start, circumnavigating Temple Island, and lining up for the start.. we almost walked past our next cache.

Temple Island

Temple Island

We had a short walk, uphill, away from the river to find it. It was hidden in woodland and we were totally misled by the clue “at the end of some parallel logs”. We looked at the ends of the parallel logs – but no cache to be found. However there was a tell-tale pile of stickoflage a few feet from the ‘parallel logs’ which we eventually saw to yield the cache! Duh! We dropped our the BadgerBaby Trackable here – good luck on your new adventures!

Badgerbaby joins the other swag in the cache!

Badgerbaby joins the other swag in the cache!

Back to the river and after the noise of the racing, we were grateful for the peace and quiet of the riverside walk. We reached Hambleden Lock – another place where people congregate and then onto open fields. Here we saw our first painter of the walk, and a fine picture he had created too !

Painting the view!

Painting the view!

We were in a long cache-less section which took us away from the river at Aston and through a deer park. No caches here .. I’m sure the deer would eat them!

Aston : The Flowerpot pub

Aston : The Flowerpot pub

Aston : Deer

Aston : Deer

This was a surprisingly quiet section but as we have discovered once a lock is approached, so do the people. Near to Hurley Lock many families were picnicking, barbecuing, and having a good time. All we had to look out for was the occasional football being mis-kicked in our direction!

Hurley was slightly off the Thames Path – but it did have a cache ! It was a multi based on a location used in a 1981 Doctor Who episode “The Visitation”. (No we didn’t remember it either!)
We quickly found the all the information and more importantly, the Doctor Who themed cache container (no photo now.. wait until our end of year best-caches blog.. sorry!).

1981 Doctor Who filming location... anyone remember it ?

1981 Doctor Who filming location… anyone remember it ?

Hurley Lock was busy. It was THE place to be on a sunny Saturday afternoon. A campsite. An ice-cream seller. Toilets. Boats. River. Places to sit. People watching the world go by.

Hurley Lock

Hurley Lock

Here we crossed banks from Berkshire to Buckinghamshire and ambled towards Marlow. Just one more cache – magnetically hidden – but some 30 feet from the published co-ordinates. Fortunately we’d read this before we arrived at GZ, but it didn’t make our searching any easier especially as the path was narrow and busy!

So we found all four of our target caches, a gold post box, set a trackable free, and walked a further 8.5 miles down the Thames!

Marlow ... here we come!

Marlow … here we come!

Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 8.75
Total distance walked : 113.65 miles

Caches found : 4 Total caches found : 209

July 18 Thames Path : Sonning to Henley

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The theme for today is entertainment and the arts – with methods of travel thrown in as an extra.

Busy morning near Sonning Bridge ...

Busy morning near Sonning Bridge …

To walk from Sonning to Henley-on-Thames along the river is simple, but getting from one to the other using public transport is not. Bus companies don’t cross the county boundary – the river – and Sonning has no train station. After much thought we decided to park at Twyford (you’re right, that’s not on the river) and catch a bus to Sonning. This gave us the chance to grab a quick cache near Twyford station, and another at a bus stop in Sonning. A stroll through the village and through the churchyard allowed us to collect the final clue for the ‘Border Crossings’ cache (a super multi-cache), where most of the clues are in one county and the final location is over the river in another county.
Border Crossing point

Border Crossing point

Sonning Bridge itself is an old, narrow bridge, built, I think, by committee, as its arches are a range of shapes and sizes, extending over the Thames and its backwaters. It’s controlled by traffic lights and the queues are legendary … An island in the middle houses Sonning Mill, which is now a theatre, specialising in farces; we’ve been there a couple of times and Mr Hg137 hooted with laughter all the way through, enough to scare any local owl!
... quiet moment near Sonning Bridge

… quiet moment near Sonning Bridge

Once across the bridge, we stepped back onto the Thames Path, to look for the ‘Sonning Bridge cache’. Could we find it? No! (It’s not been found since we attempted it.) We sat down on a log to ponder and to look back at the bridge. A passing lady muggle engaged us in conversation; she said George Clooney lived in the house opposite. Now we knew that he lived in Sonning, but didn’t know exactly where. We couldn’t see George anywhere in the gardens of the well-appointed house opposite. Maybe he was out, or was mowing the lawn just out of sight? (We’ve later found out that we were misinformed, and that Mr C’s house is on an island in the river, next to the theatre.)

Abandoning that cache, we set off downstream, and were soon away from the people, cars and cyclists and were in the country. That’s one of the good things about walking – once you are a few yards from any honeypot – it all goes quiet … It was a beautiful warm summer’s day and a pleasure to be out by the river. Near Hallmead Ait (Ait=island) we dropped off a trackable in a nice ammo can, hidden deep in not-so-lovely nettles. Time for Blubbie the fish to swim on; we’d kept him away from the river for far too long.

Shiplake Lock wasn’t much further on, and it was a great spot to eat lunch and watch the river traffic. And it was a busy day. There was a large passenger boat, packed with customers (we kept on seeing that boat all the way to the end of the walk) and many, many smaller boats. A good number of them were ‘older’ boats; the lock keeper told us there was a vintage boat festival going on at Henley. The next part of the Thames Path is away from the river as there is one resident of Shiplake who doesn’t want walkers at the bottom of his garden. We walked through the village, past Shiplake station – which advertises ‘alight here for the Thames Path’ and back towards the river.
We were heading towards a cache called ‘St Moritz-on-Thames’. Having found the cache, and dropped off our other trackable, we turned round … and there was an extensive model railway and a scale model of St Moritz station. Unexpected or what?

Soon after, we were back on the riverside, and soon after that we were at Marsh Lock, on the outskirts of Henley. And suddenly it was heaving, incredibly busy. People and boats everywhere, including that passenger boat we saw earlier. We walked on into Henley. Boats were double and triple moored along the bank, paddle steamers, motor boats, launches and rowing boats paraded up the river, and the banks, cafes, and pubs were packed with people enjoying a perfect summers’ day.

At the bridge, the end of the Thames Path section for the day, we turned aside to find the ‘Church Micro’ cache at Henley church. As so often with geocaching, we came across something we didn’t know; Dusty Springfield is buried in the churchyard and there is an impromptu shrine around her grave. Henley sometimes appears as a location in ‘Midsomer Murders’ and it was good to see an appropriately named boat moored on the river, though it was way too crowded when we were there for any of the dastardly deeds in that programme to be played out.


And finally, back to the geocar: we headed off to Henley station, at the end of the Regatta Line, and caught the train back to Twyford, where we just had time, for one more cache, the ‘Sidetracked’ cache by the station, before heading home, tired and hot and happy. (Editor’s note: Twyford, too, appears as a location in ‘Midsomer Murders’, as so does Sonning and Shiplake.)


Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 6.8 miles
Total distance walked : 104.9 miles

Caches found : 7 Total caches found : 205

And here are some of those caches:

June 9 : Thames Path : Day’s Lock to Shillingford (circular)

We have mentioned before we don’t have much luck with multis when there are several (generally more than 3) waypoints.

So why then did we attempt “Poohsticks” a five mile, five stage multi ?

Well, it seemed a good idea at the time.

The cache description not only listed the waypoints (with co-ordinates derived from information signs found at the previous waypoint) but a helpful description of where you would be. There was a very high correlation between these location descriptions and our planned route. It really did seem silly not to attempt the multi.

The multi starts here..

The multi starts here..

The five mile route multi would take us from Day’s Lock (or more specifically Lower Wittenham Church) away from the Thames for about half-a-mile to count ‘openings’ in a pill-box and then continue on the Thames Path towards Shillingford. At Shillingford we would leave the Thames and ascend the Wittenham Clumps and drop back down to Wittenham Church.

So the first part of the day’s walk saw us collecting waypoint information, from pillboxes, gates, fishing signs, memorial signs and flood levels. These all went well. Indeed we were able to find some true caches on route. One called “BIKERZ – Shortest One Way” was part of a motorbiker’s caching ride. (Think ‘cache and dash’ for motorbikes, where the bikes can be pulled into a small off-road space, and the cache retrieved very quickly without losing sight of the bike.)

Summer flowers on route

Summer flowers on route

Another cache we found on our waypoint collection route was called “Wot’s in the Box”. No obvious boxes around, except a litter bin. A quick rustle yielded… a mouse running away ! So we looked for more boxes until we did find the cache. Interestingly the container was yards away from one the multi’s waypoints. We thought that there was a 1/10 mile exclusion zone between caches and waypoints – here it seemed to be 6 feet! Lucky for us!

Lunch looking downstream...

Lunch looking downstream…

... lunch looking upstream

… lunch looking upstream

As we enjoyed our lunch, and computed our final waypoint, little did we know that this was to be our last piece of good fortune of the day.

Shillingford Bridge

Shillingford Bridge

At Shillingford Bridge we were looking for some ‘licence’ information. We searched high and low. Was it the Shillingford Bridge Hotel’s alcohol licence ? (With all its guests looking at these 2 idiots wandering around the car park?) Was it a fishing licence sign ? We spent ages trying to find the licence sign, and we were getting crosser and crosser. We never did find the sign and so we had the disappointment of another failed multi cache. Why do we do this ? Caching is supposed to be fun, but multis seem to provoke such dis-harmony when they go wrong … it means caching isn’t fun!

We decided to press on, with the certain knowledge we wouldn’t find the final cache. Our disappointment was tempered by our ability to find other caches on our way back to the car. The first, hidden in an ivy stump. The next under a tree on a perilous slope, the third in a tree but loads of large stinging nettles to walk through first. Another, a simple find tucked behind a tree.

Somewhere behind  these large nettles

Somewhere behind these large nettles

We arrived near the top of Wittenham Clumps to try to find “Open Season”. Two trees, the cache must be hidden in one of them. We couldn’t find it. Oh dear! But then we read the logs! A previous finder had commented that they were close to finding the “Poohsticks” multi-cache when they arrived at “Open Season”. Could we find “Poohsticks” without the full set of co-ordinates ?

We knew, from the Poohsticks cache description, that it was near to a memorial seat. All we had to do was find the seat and we’d be close…but where was it? At that moment a muggle-dog-walker came by. We enquired whether they knew of any nearby seats (we put on our best “Oscar-winning exhausted pose”) and we were directed to the memorial seat !! Fab!

A slurp of coffee, a review of what co-ordinates we knew, and a bit of educated guesswork and the cache would be ours. After all, its a large ammo can – it must be easy to spot, surely.

We wandered around the nearby woodland for over 30 minutes looking for this ammo can. We tried various possible numbers, we tried triangulation, we tried everything we could think of.. but we didn’t find the cache!

We were again dispirited. Our trek to car involved just one more cache .. fortunately one of the best caches we’d seen in a very long while. (No photo now, but it will be in our end of year selection) This last cache at least lifted our spirits, but we still had the annoyance of NOT BEING ABLE TO FIND MULTI-WAYPOINTED CACHES. Grr!

Thames Path statistics : Route length : 2.3 miles Total distance walked : 70.85 miles

Caches found : 7 Total caches found : 149

Here are some of the caches we did find

PS We contacted the multi-cache owner when we got home. He checked the waypoint stage a few days later and discovered the ‘licence sign’ missing. So it wasn’t us going mad! The waypoint has now been revised and based on a sign we did see. Too late for us of course, as our trip down the Thames will take us away from the Wittenham Clumps.

April 7 : Thames Path Newbridge to Swinford Lonely Thames (part 2)

Back on the Thames after a couple of weeks away, we continued along the ‘Lonely Thames’. Few people, fewer boats and even fewer caches !   There were, on this 8 mile section, just 2 caches, both of the query/multi type. In both cases, the cache owner expected us to find out information (hooray for Google!) before we arrived at the initial cache site. Here we would then find extra information and using the two sets of information go to another location to find the cache. The information was easily found before we left, but we have gone wrong with multis before, so it is always a relief to find the cache after applying 4 numbers into equations! We were a little surprised with the location of one of the caches (Pinkhill Lock and Weir) as it did seem to be hidden very close to at least one of the structures in the cache title. We were hoping for more caches for the day, but our car journey to the start was impeded by a road closure yards from our destination. This delayed our start, and we never really got the time back! Apart from the two caches, the quietness and solitude were the key features. We heard skylarks singing, woodpeckers knocking and rooks clacking (what is the name for the noise they make?). We followed a cormorant downstream, and a few lonely swans. The celandines were in flower, and catkins hung from trees.





Yet again we passed pill boxes, and locks (including Northmoor Lock which is yet to be modernised from the ‘paddle and rymer’ system). Time has taken its toll at Bablock Hythe. There was a ferry crossing here for over 1000 years, but stopped in the mid-60s. We had our sandwiches there (good job we weren’t relying on the associated pub (closed Tuesdays!)), and saw several people arrive at one bank and look longingly at the other.

Bablock Hythe Crossing Point... or rather was!

Bablock Hythe Crossing Point… or rather was!

Our walk finished at Swinford Toll Bridge. There are only 2 toll bridges on the Thames, and this is the first. The toll has been set by an Act of Parliament since 1770 (to our foreign readers of this blog, Britain does have modern Laws too!) at the small sum of 5p per car. Fortunately as pedestrians there is no charge!

Swinford Bridge ...

Swinford Bridge …

... and its toll house

… and its toll house

Thames Path statistics : Route length : 7.8 miles Total distance walked : 46.8 miles Caches found : 2 Total caches found : 87          The two caches we found! Fingers crossed there are more on the next section!

December 23 – Another First-To-Find Attempt .. this time in Fleet!

I never learn!

Our last geocaching sortie resulted in a failed ‘first-to-find’. Today there was an opportunity to redeem ourselves (well myself as Mrs Hg137 was working and I went solo).

A couple of new caches had been published in Fleet, and overnight one called “MIND YOUR HEAD” had still not been found. It was, a little unusually, an offset multi where the published co-ordinates took you to one site, once there, a further set of numbers to take you to the real cache site.

The Bridge

The Bridge

The first part took me to a bridge. A quick peer underneath this very muddy bridge yielded nothing. No obvious ‘mini-cache’ with some numbers on. After much pondering I decided to give up, and just as I returned to my car, two other cachers came along. They had tried yesterday and failed to get past the first part. They explained that under the bridge was a sign saying “MIND YOUR HEAD” (in fairness I’d seen this, but hadn’t seen the tiny numbers on it). They had established these were not the final co-ordinates.

The three of us looked harder at the sign. This involved crouching, for me at any rate quarter height, in a wet muddy stream and occasionally (euphemism for “often”) losing balance and landing in the brown goo.

After much searching, and me getting wetter and wetter I gave up. At the point I did, one of the other cachers had found what turned out to be a crucial element (sorry guys..no spoilers). He went on to collect the final cache – well done The MadCacher007 for the First-to-Find and thanks for the tip-off on how to solve it next time. (When I say “next time”… it may be Mrs Hg137 I send into the muddy mire!).