July 16 – Loddon Loop, Sherfield-on-Loddon

“Keep persevering…but sooner or later Lady Luck will desert you”

It was a hot day, and a short circuit in the country was planned. The Loddon Loop series looked so short, and so simple (14-18 caches) that Mrs HG137 even suggested NOT taking lunch with us. A good job she was overruled… this circuit was to be an ongoing saga…. (We don’t normally blog about every single cache in turn…but this time…. well, read on to find out more – cache numbers relate to the Loddon Loop series, not the running total for the day)

Sherfield-on-Loddon

Sherfield-on-Loddon


The primary targets were 15 caches in the Loddon Loop series numbered 1-15. Number 5 has been withdrawn from the circuit, but along the way there were another five caches that were either on route or just off it.

We should have realised it was not going to be plain sailing when at cache 1 it took us three attempts to locate a bison attached to the top of a footpath sign. (Our excuse, dear reader, is that the footpath sign and its surround was covered in brambles and stinging nettles.)

The first part of the route was on a very minor road, very quiet, very peaceful. We even passed a house selling unwanted plants. The colour was spectacular. We thought about buying some of the plants, but it was early in our walk and we’d have to carry them around with us.

Plants for Sale, Sherfield-on-Loddon

Plants for Sale, Sherfield-on-Loddon

Cache 2 in the series presented more problems … the GPS was 40 feet out! So two caches down, and two longer-than-expected-searches.

Cache 3 – An easy find ! Phew! Ground Zero was a narrow, metal bridge and here we almost witnessed a slapstick moment as a golfer, heading to the nearby course, clattered his golf bag (and clubs) into the handrails causing him to slip… and only just remain above the wet stream below!

Cache 4 – Sometimes the hints for caches are very clear, others very ambiguous but accurate. This was the latter. The hint was ‘metal’ and there in front of us was a ‘metal’ gate. Was the cache attached to it ? No ! But it was in plain sight and so obvious to see after 10 minutes looking.

Hint : Metal Can you see the cache ?

Hint : Metal Can you see the cache ?


After these long searches we wanted to speed up our progress to the next cache. A brisk walk was needed, but the footpath really tested our perseverance skills. It was barely visible under 6 foot brambles and stinging nettles. We inched past them, we swatted many down with the geo-pole, but we ended up being thoroughly scratched and stung.
Overgrown footpath - one of the easier sections

Overgrown footpath – one of the easier sections


With no cache 5, our next target, cache 6, yet again proved a tad elusive. The hint and co-ordinates pointed to a fallen log just a few yards in front of a bush. Sadly after walking through the stinging nettles to get the fallen log, we discovered the log was not the right place. Instead the cache was hidden in a log BEYOND the bush! Oh what fun!

It was here we decided to regroup. To re-focus our activities and more importantly have a cup of coffee. (If in doubt, stop, think and have a coffee).

We tried to set the GPS for cache 7. Where was it ? Not in the GPS, that’s for sure… somehow Mr HG137 had failed to load caches 7 (and 9) into the GPS. We then spent some time getting an internet connection from our phone to manually enter the missing caches to the GPS. How to stretch a 10 minute coffee break to 30 minutes without really trying. (Ed : It’s all going rather well isn’t it?)

When we did get to Cache 7 it was clearly visible but under brambles. Oh joy!

New bridge over the Loddon

New bridge over the Loddon

Our first bit of favourable luck on this route came shortly after. A huge, brand new wooden bridge. Apparently the winter storms had destroyed the previous bridge and crossing the Loddon was impossible. We strode purposefully over the bridge and headed away from the Loddon Loop series, to an old cache (placed March 2003). Here a familiar scene greeted us, lots of stumps to hide the cache in, lots of stinging nettles, lots of brambles. And lots of time spent looking in the wrong place. We were about to give up, when we saw a stump we hadn’t looked at (in 13 years it was no longer a stump of course!) and there was an ammo can! Phew!

More brambles, more stingers, but an ammo can awaits!

More brambles, more stingers, but an ammo can awaits!

It was by now time for an early lunch and we were barely half-way round. We paused and ate lunch on a seat just-a-bit-too-small for two of us, but we had a good view of the Loddon – we even saw a tiny froglet inching its way through the grass. (Ed : spotting tiny frogs seemed a lot easier than finding a large ammo can).

Tranquil River Loddon

Tranquil River Loddon

We surveyed our heavily stung, scratched bodies and hoped that the second half of the Loddon Loop would be easier. Although we had found every single cache we had attempted, it had been a battle at every location. We decided to just finish the route and not stray away from circuit finding extras.

A rarity at cache 8. A simple find, by a scenic ford, and more importantly no nasty plants attacking us. Indeed our remaining journey had far fewer brambles and nettles. Phew!

Fording the Loddon

Fording the Loddon

Wot ! No stile!

Wot ! No stile!

Cache 9. Hint : Stile. Instead of a stile there was a BRAND NEW GATE! The STILE AND CACHE had been removed and replaced with a gate! Lady Luck was just starting knock our perseverance.

Cache 10 : On or near a bridge – hint : hanging. Obvious.. its hanging from the bridge. We searched the bridge from above, and where possible below. Suffice to say, and I’m sure you’ve guessed by now… it wasn’t on the bridge! But we found it.

Our next cache – an easy find (probably because it wasn’t a Loddon Loop cache) then cache 11…

We found.

In bits.

Roughly where a cache should be hidden.

First we found an unusual plastic toy … then a cache lid … then another piece of plastic… then the cache base… , but no piece of paper to sign. We had a scrap of paper with us so we rebuilt the cache as best we could, hid it in a ‘reasonable place’ and moved on.

Obviously a cache...but where is the rest of it?

Obviously a cache…but where is the rest of it?


Then we made our big navigational error of the day. We were lured (well Mr HG137 was) by a bridge and footpath near the cache… and failed to read the cache route description about keeping near a field boundary. After about a quarter of a mile, the next cache wasn’t getting closer so we returned to the rebuilt cache 11, and started again.

Cache 12 easy enough (although we did walk past it), and cache 13 was found surprisingly easily in ivy. Woohoo.. we’ve nearly beaten the series!

Then the sting in the tail. Cache 14.

Near to a ‘private fishing sign’.

Near to a herd of cows that didn’t like our presence.

Near to a spiky looking bush.

But what made us not really search for the cache was the huge pile of wood chippings at Ground Zero. Yes, the cache was either not present or under a huge pile of chippings. We didn’t even try. Lady Luck had thrown bramble, nettles, gates instead of stiles, broken caches and dodgy navigation at us.. but we decided that this fresh pile of chippings was one obstacle too many.

Somewhere under this mound of chippings MAY be a cache

Somewhere under this mound of chippings MAY be a cache


Our final cache of the day, cache 15 in the series, was thankfully an easy find.

So we finished with 14 finds, 2 DNFs because of replacement stiles/chippings and a thousand and one scratches and stings! An caching adventure we may well remember for some time!

Here are some of the caches we found :

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August 29 : Thames Path Eton (Windsor Bridge) to Old Windsor

We were planning a few days away so today’s walk was a bit shorter than our normal sections. The Thames loops round Windsor Castle on one of its giant meanders, so the 4.8 mile walk was only about 2.5 miles as the crow flies!

We had left the Thames at Eton (Windsor Bridge), but you can’t really go to Windsor and not admire the castle from the centre of town.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

We had stood here before, as it is the start of the Three Castles Path which we walked back in 2010 and links Windsor and Winchester via Odiham Castle. This was before we were geocachers and many of our subsequent geocache finds have been on or near this 60 mile route.

From Windsor Castle we headed to the river via one of Windsor’s two railway stations. Here, not unsurprisingly was a cache in the ‘Sidetracked’ series. Our problem was not the finding… but the coach loads of tourists inhibiting our searching at GZ. We arrived just as 5 coaches must have emptied! That’s well over 200 people! After, what seemed an interminable wait, the cache was a simple find (luckily!).

A small cache, a large castle and a lot of people!

A small cache, a large castle and a lot of people!

Back to the river and we then found in amongst the flowers and railings by the river our second easy cache of the day.

A beautiful corner for a cache

A beautiful corner for a cache

We then decided to cross the bridge and have another go and trying to find ‘Eton Style’. Our previous attempt to find this cache was fruitless 2 weeks ago, but we had read the cache logs on http://www.geocaching.com and realised the cache was there waiting to be found. It is a narrow dark alley, with dirty brickwork, spiders’ webs and lots of places where really shouldn’t stick your fingers… but we did! And to our relief we found the cache on our second sweep of the alley! Its always good to find a cache one has DNFed in the past!

We returned to the river, and no sooner had we walked a few yards on the Thames Path, we walked off it again. This time to find the ‘Sidetracked’ cache for the second Windsor station. As with any tourist town, if you walk a quarter of mile away from the attraction, the roads and pavements are quiet and so it was here and our find was unimpeded by muggles.

This was our last cache away from the river, so after an hour darting around Windsor and Eton we were back on the main event, the Thames Path.

We headed to Windsor Lock, (or more properly called Romney Lock) which is not as accessible to Thames Path walkers as many of the other locks on the river. On our approach to the river we found our 4th cache of the day, in the roots of the tree , quite exposed. We left it better hidden!

The path continued on the Berkshire side of the Thames, until we reached the Victoria Bridge. Here we crossed into Buckinghamshire, but not before we grabbed a cache near one of the bridge parapets.

This was the end of our cache-finding streak as we then had 2 DNFs. Our excuse was that the Buckinghamshire portion of the Thames Path was overgrown. Nettles, brambles and branches hindered our progress along the path. All very disappointing as we could see the well manicured lawns of Home Park on the Berkshire of the river!

Buckinghamshire brambles ...

Buckinghamshire brambles …

... and Brilliant Berkshire grass

… and Brilliant Berkshire grass

Our first DNF was in a tree surrounded by nettles. We ventured in, trying to keep the nettle stings to the minimum (not quite achieved, but the nettles did win!) – all to no avail! Grr! Pain is worthwhile if the cache is found, but hurts even more when the cache is a DNF!

Eventually the overgrown path gave way to the village/town of Datchet. It was here we got our second DNF. The hint clearly indicated it was on or near a park bench. But we failed to find it. The cache had had several DNFs so we decided to highlight ‘maintenance needed’ on our log. The cache owner visited the cache a few days and replaced it as it had indeed gone missing. We do advocate recording DNFs for a cache, because if the cache has gone missing …. how will the owner know ?

Datchet is the home to several caches and we found our third ‘Sidetracked’ cache of the day behind a road sign! A find is always good for flagging morale!

Through Datchet the Thames Path is a pavement walk with a busy road alongside. Eventually we arrived on a footpath again and here met 2 pairs of Thames Path walkers walking in the reverse direction. At Windsor Albert Bridge we crossed back to Berkshire. On the bridge though was a cache. (Are there any bridges that don’t have caches ?) Here the Armco provided the hiding place, but it took us far too long to locate the magnetically attached cache.

Shortly after we encountered 3 caches opposite Ham Island. Ham Island is quite large, 125 acres, and contains well over 30 dwellings. Though many of these houses were abandoned during the 2014 flooding. The three caches all had ‘Ham’ in the title – ‘Ham it up’ being the most outrageous!

Two of the caches were straightforward, but the third involved a long and arduous search in undergrowth looking for the end of an ivy branch.

Fab Final Find!

Fab Final Find!


We were only a short walk from our final cache – a delightfully hidden and disguised stick – when we had some bird experiences. Firstly a fantastic house sculpture in the shape of a bird of prey – the size of it completely overshadowed a pigeon. Our last bird experience was seeing the local Swan Rescue Trusts removing an injured cygnet from the water. Hopefully they can treat the cygnet quickly and return it to Mr and Mrs Swan and its 5 siblings!

2 birds... 1 real!

2 birds… 1 real!

Looking after an injured cygnet

Looking after an injured cygnet

Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 4.8 miles
Total distance walked : 132.75 miles

Caches found : 13 Total caches found : 252

Some of the caches we found included :

September 4 Day 247 Caches Found 13 Cumulative Total 333 (+1 bonus, +2 cachers’ meets)

Good-sized cache!

Good-sized cache!

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

September 4th is an important anniversary for us and we always try to do something special. Last year we went to the Paralympics … this year we had a day’s geocaching on what is likely to be one of the last hot days this summer. (Our recollection is that the weather on September 4th is usually fine, warm and sunny).

We chose Ecchinswell, a few miles south of Newbury, and parked in the large car park by the very smart village hall. Our first cache was a multicache, where clues must be solved to collect numbers on which calculations can be done to yield coordinates. Off we went for a mile’s walk round the outskirts of the very pretty village – babbling clear streams, thatched cottages, pretty sunbaked fields, Royal Oak pub, historic church – and counted things and collected numbers as we went. Having done our calculations, we set off on the main circuit of the day – Honey’s Hack – and collected the first couple of caches, plus the multi cache. While hunting for one cache, we emerged from behind a tree, to be met by a lady and her daughter who were out on a bike ride. It turned out that they were cachers too (you don’t generally get four people clustered round a remote tree unless they are all looking for the same thing … ), and this was just their second day out caching. We had a general talk about caching, spotted the cache while we were talking to them, waited while they found it, and we both signed the log. Good luck to Megan and Tracey in their future caching adventures – there are loads out there to be found.

On the route

On the route

Scary snake

Scary snake


The next three caches were new additions to the series, and harder than the rest. Two involved creatures – remember the ducks, frogs, and snails in earlier caches? And two involved a bit of gymnastics to reach. Mr Hg137 volunteered for the ditch scramble and I (Mrs Hg137) went for the tree climb; I’m not over-tall and am built for comfort, not climbing, so I was very proud of myself for this one. We finished the rest of the series, and made our way back to the car; it was a really hot day by now and we were beginning to flag, although we’d only walked five-and-a-half miles – the geocar claimed 29C and it felt at least as hot as that.

Another excellent day out on September 4th – and another where we ended up tired but happy!

June 29 Day 180 Caches Found 9 Cumulative Total 230 (+1 bonus, +1 cacher’s meet)

The Saturday on our New Forest visit dawned clear and bright (and hot!) so we focused our explorations nearer to the coast. In the morning we visited Highcliffe Castle (http://www.highcliffecastle.co.uk), recently being restored and with access to the beach just 5 miles East of Bournemouth.

Highcliffe Castle

Highcliffe Castle

After lunch we headed back towards Hordle and attempted the Honeylake Wander series about 3 miles (at its closest point) from our base.

The series consisted of 10 caches, and we parked near to cache 1 and cache 10.

As we parking we enquired whether there was access to a beach nearby, as the latter part of the route intimated it would be along a cliff. The gentleman we spoke to, dressed only in shorts, replied “What sort of beach are you after?” – which threw us, and it was only when we completed the circuit we understood the relevance of his question.

We set off, and quickly found Cache 1 in the series. It was a 35mm film container with a magnet stuck to it, so that the cache could be ‘stuck’ underneath a metal stile. Sadly as we were replacing the cache, the magnet broke loose, so we had to undertake some repairs to the cache before replacing it! We did later inform the cache owner.

Caches 2 and 3 were probably the best of the series. One was a small tube attached to a HobGoblin beer top, and the other was hidden in a plastic resin pine cone. This was hidden behind some quite vicious stinging nettles (well so Mrs Hg137 tells me, I was looking elsewhere!).

Fir cone cache

Fir cone cache

We came unstuck at Cache 4. The hint was “Reach Up” – and at Ground Zero there was a telephone box, some road signs, and some trees, loads of parked cars, and lots of vehicles whizzing by. We searched high up for 15 minutes to no avail. It was our only failure of the series, and we suspect it was due to the swift drink we had imbibed in the Royal Oak not 10 minutes earlier.

We continued on our way through a pleasant forest, and over a bridge (bridges make great cache locations !) and eventually through a golf course, arriving at the cliff top overlooking the Solent.
Our walk continued along the cliff top, but prior to turning back to the car, we noticed a scramble down to the shingle beach, where we sat and paddled !

The series was completed by following the path back to the car park, where the last cache was hidden.

There we read the sign indicating that beach access was possible…. and some 100 yards from where we paddled….. a NATURIST beach ! Yes, the guy we spoke to earlier coyly answered our question about the beach, as he didn’t want to advertise the presence of such a beach !

Fancy a paddle ?

Fancy a paddle ?

Bare facts !

Bare facts !

A great walk, great scenery and a couple of great hides too !

April 26 Day 116 Caches found 8 Cumulative Total 145 IOW Day 1

We were visiting the Isle of Wight to participate in a weekend Scrabble tournament. We decided to extend our visit by catching an earlier ferry and finding some caches first. We decided to find 9 caches in a circular-ish walk near Chillerton.

7 of the caches were placed by once Cache Owner, and 2 by another. The 7 placed by the first Cache Owner were fair, but sneaky. Frequently a small piece of sawn log had been hollowed out, and a film canister placed inside. On another occasion, the cache was a specimen bottle tied on, and dangling behind a tree! Of the 7 we found 6 successfully, but failed on the 7th, as it started to hail right into our faces!

sneaky cache!

Of the 2 caches set by the other Cache Owner, we found both. One of them was found after an extensive search. Our GPS guided us to an ivy bank, and we couldn’t find the cache. Other logs shown in http://www.geocaching.com indicated the cache may have been hidden on the other side of the footpath. It wasn’t there either! We spent some time looking on both sides of the bank, until we eventually found it hidden in ….. (sorry too much of a spoiler). The cache was a plastic box and were able to place Sir Knight Nettle in it, as there were nettles nearby !

Nettles!

The 4 mile walk took us high on one of the Isle of Wight chalk ridges and we were very lucky to have extensive views in all directions.

IOW view

A great start to the weekend… fingers crossed the Scrabble is as good!