August 17 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Sparsholt Firs (Ridgeway) to Eastbury

The heat of the 2018 Summer had abated, and temperatures were more pleasant for walking.

Today we would descend from the Ridgeway to a small village just outside Lambourn, called Eastbury. Eastbury is a small, one street village, a pub or two, no shops to speak of, but a church and the beautiful chalk stream/river Lambourn running through it.

Eastbury

We wanted to explore the village before driving to the Ridgeway as it was host to 3 multi-caches. We have been caught out with multis in the past and discovered that we often had to walk back on ourselves to find the final cache. We had been warned in the cache description that at least one of them was out of the village on one of the many downward paths from the Ridgeway.

The first multi was part of the ‘Legends of The Call Series’ based on telephone boxes and post boxes. (A bit like the ‘Fine Pair’ series, but with a different name.) Telephone boxes and post boxes are great sources of numbers, so we spent a minute or two collecting what we needed and established that the final cache was to be collected on our descent from the Ridgeway.

Eastbury’s Little Bridge


The second multi was a ‘Little Bridge’, a National series where the caches are hidden near little bridges (unsuitable or impossible for traffic to use). We quickly calculated the final location of the cache and determined it was a short walk away from the village on the Southern side. The footpath passed a small paddock with two white horses (who ignored us), and then a short woodland stretch which led to the cache.

Cache number 1

We made our way back on the same footpath – the white horses this time came over to greet us – wanting food!

Eastbury Church


The third multi was a Church Micro. We studied dates on the war memorials inside and outside the churchyard and a church seat. Another quick calculation and we followed a path through the Eastbury Playing Fields arriving at… the paddock containing the two white horses! Why didn’t they tell us where the cache was first the time we went by ? Maybe we should have bribed them with our lunch!

So 2 caches found and we hadn’t even started our walk!

We drove up to Sparsholt Firs car park and took one final look to the North into the Oxfordshire Thames Plain. Then down.. to the South.. and Berkshire! Our destination county! Hurrah!

We’re in Berkshire !!!!!!


Why the county boundary isn’t the top of the Ridgeway escapes both of us. Instead, after walking by a couple of farms, and dropping a 100 feet or so we saw a sign with ‘West Berkshire’ on it! We had crossed Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire and now we were only 35 miles (as the crow flies) from home.

Our walk down was cacheless for the first 2 miles. Then we picked up part of a caching loop called the ‘Red Barn’ series named after… a prominent Red Barn. Visible for miles around. Here there was a small area to park a car – indeed we saw a car pull up just was arrived. We paused, to allow a pair of dog-walkers to leave, as our first cache was yards from their parked vehicle. We noticed a woodland burial site and stood and looked at that while we waited.

The Red Barn

Eventually the dog-walkers left and we could make a very easy find in the corner of fence and a good large container. We quickly moved on, and quickly found cache upon cache.

The ‘Red Barn’ loop has very easy-to-find caches about 700-800 feet apart. No sooner where we done at one cache we were at another. The containers varied from Tupperware boxes, to small tubes, and to a false branch in a hawthorn bush.

Then we arrived at a seat. (A roughly cut log to be more precise). It was lunchtime and it was the first (and as it turned out, the only) seat we would see all day. We munched our sandwiches, taking great care not to antagonise the wasps drinking sap from the far end of the bench.

A welcome lunch spot!


We were at a crossroads of four paths and our route would turn onto one of the cross-paths. An ideal place for a cache. But our GPS said there was no cache here. Then we remembered we were walking the ‘Red Barn’ series in the reverse direction (ie descending numbers not ascending numbers). The next Red Barn cache was a multi which would contain the coordinates for the final. We pondered… what if the final was near to where we were sitting ? There were a few places to search… behind one of the trees ? at the fence corners ? under the seat ? on a sign ? We gave ourselves 5 minutes… we didn’t need 4 of them … we found the cache in the first place we looked ! We had cracked a multi without finding the first part! We’ve only done that once before when we walking the Thames Path in 2015!

Fully refreshed and quite ecstatic after a surprise find we found a couple more caches before heading down a much smaller footpath…full of nettles. And badger holes! The badger holes had been marked with traffic cones so they were easy to avoid, not so the stinging nettles.

All-Weather Gallops

We had moved onto the ‘Eastbury Fields’ circuit which would take us over a steep hill (Ed : really ? I thought we heading down!) and over the Lambourn gallops and into the village of Eastbury itself.

One of many drinking chocolate caches!

Again the caches were all easy to find, and almost closer together than the ‘Red Barn’ series. Our slight gripe with the ‘Eastbury Fields’ series was the containers were all identical – old drinking chocolate pots. Almost all the hides were under branches or stones at the foot of trees (including some super-spiky hawthorns).

Even though the caching was easy, and very frequent, we did have time to admire the views. Beautiful rolling chalk downland.

Soon the village of Eastbury came into view and we had just a few more caches to collect. These were neither part of the ‘Eastbury Fields’ series nor the ‘Red Barn’ series but the Lambourn Valley Way series. A series of cache following the footpaths near to the River Lambourn. The river wasn’t visible from the two caches we found. We had become used to quick, easy finds and these two caches took a lot longer. A lot, lot longer.

A Lambourn Valley Way cache…no wonder it took some time to find!


Having not had a DNF all day, we were determined to find these caches, and in the end we did.

That left us with one cache to find. The multi whose coordinates we had calculated at the beginning of the day. Sadly we had walked right down to the valley bottom, and had a short, sharp ascent to find our last cache.

A fine day’s walk, 7 miles, fabulous views, mainly downhill and 27 caches.

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August 3 : Birthday buzz tag

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

On a ridiculously hot – 32C – day in early August, we were walking along the Ridgeway and stopped to find a multi-cache. Inside was this trackable. Its simple mission:

To go anywhere and everywhere a man or woman or child may go!! Take me to new exciting places!!

Birthday buzz tag

Birthday buzz tag


It’s doing that rather well. Setting off from Washington, in the north-western USA, in May 2016, it travelled around that area for a bit, visiting Idaho and Seattle. Next, the bee flew 5000 miles east to the Netherlands, circled that country for a little while, then hopped over the English Channel. It went on a grand tour of Cornwall, visiting moors and tin mines, before being picked up by Crumpit’s Dad, and moved on to Dorset, via a visit to Tyneham deserted village, and then a brief trip to Wokingham, just a few miles from us. Crumpit’s Dad is a local cacher – local to us, that is – and we’ve met both him and his wee white dog, Crumpit. Finally, the trackable went for a walk along the Ridgeway in Oxfordshire and was dropped off at the White Horse, overlooking Uffington and the Vale of the White Horse.

And there we found it. I wonder where we Will take it? We have somewhere suitable in mind and it’ll be buzzing along to a new location soon.

August 3 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Uffington to Sparsholt Firs (Ridgeway)

“Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” – Noel Coward

A six mile walk. In a 30+ degree heat. A very steep climb to the Ridgeway. And 26 caches.

Were we mad ?

In fact our first two caches were not part of our six mile route. They were hidden close to the village of Uffington. The first was a cache in the ‘Village Sign’ series. This cache was a multi, and we had worked out the coordinates on our previous visit to Uffington, but not collected the cache. As we entered Uffington, we pulled over in a small car park and wondered whether the car and driver in the car park was another cacher. It wasn’t. It was a salesman busy making call after call while we hunted, just out of his eyesight. A quick find – one down, twenty five to go !!

First cache of the day!

Our second Uffington cache was a puzzle cache we had solved a few days previously. With very little information supplied in ‘Terse Puzzle’ GC36970 we had somehow solved it quite quickly. Parking the car, locating the cache and driving away took much, much, longer…

We parked the car easily enough and walked into the wood containing the cache. We arrived within 10 feet of the cache and looked at several host items. The first three were barely large enough to hold anything, let alone a cache, and it took us sometime to see the actual host. Guarded by 3 foot, slightly desiccated, stinging nettles.
A few minutes search and the cache was ours. It was last found at the beginning of March, and the previous finder had remarked about snow… we remarked about the 30 degree heat !

Then we heard voices. We tidied away the cache quickly and walked out of the woods to the voices. It was a farmer and his wife trying to coax 70+ cows from one field, across a road, passing our car, and into another field. The cows didn’t want to. Whether it our parked car that spooked them… we don’t know. After a few minutes we offered to help – we blocked one side of the road and the farmer stood the other and the wife coaxed the cows across. Some cows looked at us suspiciously … especially Mrs Hg137’s red shirt!

We are not MOOOving!

And so after two caches, one salesman and 70+ cows we parked the car at the start of the walk.

It was 1030 and although we hadn’t ‘started’ our walk, there was a seat and a quick coffee break was agreed. It was at this point Mr Hg137 realised there was no milk in the coffee! It was black! And we both take it white!
For once, lady luck smiled upon us. Next to the car park, was the village shop. We decided against buying a pint of milk, since it would have to be carried in a rucksack all day and it would be cheese by midday. So, powdered milk it was.

Sitting, drinking our coffee we could see much of our route. A flattish mile or so’s walk to the Ridgeway slope, a fierce up, a walk WESTWARDS to White Horse Hill and Uffington Castle, then retracing our steps heading EASTWARDS to the car.

Easy.

Apart from the heat.

High on the hillside.. the Uffington White Horse

We set off, through a playing field and then numerous farmer’s fields. Each separated to the next by a mixed bag of stiles. Some tall, some wobbly, some covered in brambles, all different. The White Horse (high above us) became closer and more distinct, until we lost it, when we entered woodland and our next cache. We didn’t really have to search for it, as it hadn’t been well hidden. Fortunately a quick find, as a dog walker was yards behind us. She only caught us up as we were ‘finishing business’ at the next cache (a false stone). She headed off across a campsite, where a mixture of brightly coloured tents and tepees had been pitched.

We crossed the not-very-busy B4507 and started to climb. Within yards should have been a cache 5 feet up a tree. We failed to find it. We took on water, as our very steep ascent was about to start.

Sneaky!

About halfway up was another cache, cleverly hidden in a ‘false branch’ – welcome respite from the puffing and panting of a 400 foot steep (at times 45 degree) ascent.

Halfway…up this steep slope!


The path levelled near a gate and – as one comes to expect – so does a cache. Not quite where we were expecting it to be, but a straightforward find. A few more feet of climbing on a far gentler slope and we arrived at the Ridgeway… and another cache.

A bison.

Hanging on the ‘Ridgeway footpath sign’.

Mr Hg137’s hands were sweaty, and as he unscrewed the base…it slipped through his fingers. Amongst stinging nettles and brambles. We searched the ground. We parted the brambles. We poked and prodded the nettles. But no bison base could we find. The bison base, contained the log, which we had yet to sign. Twenty minutes later we gave up our search. We would be returning past here later so we could search again.

Whoops! Just the top half of the bison remains

We headed West, to the top of White Horse Hill. A fabulous viewpoint. We undertook two caches at the top – the first an Earthcache based on the formation of The Manger – a curious dry valley formation.

The Manger

Our second cache, a multi, involved collecting numbers from three different signs, and calculating a set of co-ordinates. Fortunately the final cache was only a short walk away, and a large container too. We found a ‘bee’ trackable which we hived off for release elsewhere on our journey. We had loaded a couple of other caches near the White Horse Hill, but the high temperature put us off walking further than we absolutely had to.

Is this really a horse ?

The White Horse we had seen from afar is barely visible at the top of the hill. The chalk body is roped off (to prevent vandals/erosion), so we couldn’t get close to it. Uffington Castle is an Iron Age hillfort surrounded by ditches. It is still very impressive to walk around, and with views in all directions one can see why it was so important in years gone by.

Mrs Hg137 walks around the ramparts of Uffington Castle

Our route back to the car was a 3 mile walk along the Ridgeway. It is an ancient trackway, perhaps 5,000 years old linking Avebury (in Wiltshire) to Ivinghoe Beacon (Buckinghamshire).

The Ridgeway is a Bridleway

We walked the full 87 miles back in 2012. Indeed we found our first geocache towards the Eastern end of the Ridgeway (a large ammo can hidden in yew tree roots).

The Ridgeway is predominantly a chalk ridge with extensive views over Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Much of the Oxfordshire views has one, major feature – Didcot Power Station. Originally it had 6 towers, – three were brought down a few years ago, the remaining three are due for demolition shortly.

The 3 remaining towers of Didcot Power Station are just visible in the haze


Despite the Ridgeway being a chalk ridge – frequently the views are obscured by trees either side of the track. These trees provided excellent hiding places for our remaining caches. Sometimes in the boles, sometimes in ivy, and because of the quantity of trees, frequently hard to find the correct tree.

We had searched (unsuccessfully) a second time for our dropped bison, but fortunately found the other caches we attempted. Looking for a cache in a tree was an excellent way of finding cool shadows on this baking hot day.

Hot chalk, lots of trees, but little shade

Eventually we stopped and took stock of progress.

We had a just over a mile to go, and 10 caches to find. We were hot, our water bottles were getting low, and time had slipped by as the day had gone on (the cow crossing, buying milk, a lost bison, and slower and slower searches). We decided to change our searching strategy.

We would attempt every third cache until we reached our car. This would increase our walking pace, and our search time would be reduced.

We walked by, and looked longingly at, two likely hosts and arrived at our first ‘third’ cache. Could we find it ? No. We searched high, low, in ivy, in branches. Nothing. We agreed to attempt the next cache, in its place. Same again.. high, low, nothing. So much for saving time and energy.

The next cache was successful as well as the very next one (the second ‘third’). A final push and we’d be near the car for our final cache of the day..until…until… we saw a waterbutt. Next to the path. Waterbutts are often used to hide caches… yes we were 10 feet from a cache (hint ‘underwater’). Our fried brains meant it took us two circuits of the butt to find the cache and as we did so, we noticed above the butt… a tap. A drinking water tap.
We filled our bottles, doused our hair, drank and drank and drank.


The tap was a memorial to Peter Wren, who died at the very tender age of 14.

Revived, we had bounce in our step for the last quarter of a mile. A final quick find under a signpost and we collapsed in a heap by our car.

Last cache of the day

“Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”

A six mile walk. In a 30+ degree heat. A very steep climb to the Ridgeway. 21 caches attempted, 18 found.

Were we mad ?

Probably.

Some of the caches we found included :

July 21 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Badbury Clump to Uffington: heat, dust and llamas

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Great Coxwell Barn

Great Coxwell Barn


After a short gap – it had been soooo hot – we returned to our epic walk from Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) home to Sandhurst (Berkshire). Our next section was stuffed with history, beginning at Badbury Clump, a tree-covered Iron Age hill fort with links to King Arthur https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Badbury_Hill and ending at Uffington village https://www.berksfhs.org.uk/cms/Berkshire-Places/uffington17.html
Chicory

Chicory


Great Coxwell Barn

Great Coxwell Barn


Leaving Badbury Clump behind us, we set off downhill, crossed a field of chicory, and were soon overlooking our first destination/cache, Great Coxwell Barn. It’s huge! And impressive! And, on a day that started warm and was rapidly heating up, it was nice and cool inside … Somewhere in here is a virtual cache. The GPS was dodgy indoors, and we wandered around inside in the shadows, and eventually stumbled upon the information that was the answer for the cache. An excellent and unexpected place, one we wouldn’t have visited except for our own self-invented Sandhurst-Sandhurst quest. Thank you, National Trust, for looking after both Clump and Barn. https://www.britainexpress.com/counties/oxfordshire/properties/great-coxwell-barn.htm

From the barn, we walked on through pleasant, prosperous Great Coxwell. Our next destination was St Giles church, on

St Giles Church, Great Coxwell

St Giles Church, Great Coxwell

the far edge of the village, and the basis of a Church Micro cache. Somewhere in the churchyard, which is managed as a nature reserve, was the item which would give us the coordinates for the cache. I say ‘somewhere’ because we simply didn’t realise that we had the coordinates, and we wandered round and round the churchyard before we found our target. We made equally heavy weather of finding the cache too, spending about 20 minutes minutely examining a stone wall before spotting something that was obvious all along. Doh!

We left the village across an area marked as ‘Faringdon Golf Club’, but this closed in 2015 and has now been reclaimed by nature. We spotted one of the tees but there is surprisingly little left to see. https://www.derelictplaces.co.uk/main/leisure-sites/34301-faringdon-oxfordshire-golf-course-closed-autumn-15-a.html#.W2biKtJKjIU

We emerged onto the A420, a suddenly busy, noisy place with loads of traffic. About now, Mr Hg137 said it was time for lunch, and nominated a nearby bus stop as the place to eat it. To be fair, there was a seat, and it was in the shade, but, really, it wasn’t the best view. We chose our moment and crossed the busy road, then followed the Vale Way through Little Coxwell and down a hot concrete track towards Longcot http://www.ramblers-oxon.org.uk/thevaleway/valeway.htm There was just one cache along here, where the track crossed a river. We were expecting rather more from the mighty River Ock, but it’s a dried up dribbly little stream right now!

The mighty River Ock

The mighty River Ock


We continued to Longcot – by heck, it was getting really, really hot now – and sat down for a rest. We heard a distant chime … a small boy ran out … and an ice cream van pulled up. How could we refuse? My strawberry mivvi was awesome, and Mr Hg137 enjoyed his icecream, too.

Longcot isn’t a big village, and we were soon out in the fields again, going southwards towards the distant line of the Ridgeway. Our next cache was easy to find, hidden by a gate between fields. Two women and their dogs were walking towards us, so we signed the log quickly and tried to move on … but we couldn’t get the gate open. It had a super-improved latch, which we struggled to open. Getting through eventually, we got chatting to the dog walkers, who turned out to be the owners of the land, and who had modified the latch to make sure that the gate is closed properly. We considered thanking them for allowing the placement of geocaches on their land, then thought again as that’s backfired on us before, so we kept quiet.


The previous cache, and the next half-dozen, form part of the ‘Longcot Loop’ series, which leads all the way to Uffington. We followed the cache series, first along the course of the ‘Darcy Dalton Way https://www.walkingenglishman.com/ldp/darcydaltonway.html , then turning away to head more directly for Uffington. Part way along here we found our 2400th cache and celebrated with some warm, chewy, soft Haribos. Though it was much too hot, around 28C, it was all going well…

… Until it all went wrong. We had been following a very well marked, if arid path, across parched grass and through cracked, dusty fields, through gates and over stiles and bridges. We crossed a stile through a hedge, and came up against … a head-high wire fence, with grazing llamas eyeing us indifferently. We couldn’t go forward, so what to do? We edged slowly between the hedge and the fence and emerged at a farm building with loads of chickens.

Llamas ...

Llamas …


... and chickens

… and chickens

Rounding the chicken shed, we were in a farmyard somewhere where the footpath *should* have emerged, with those llamas eyeing us again. But we couldn’t find it. After some fruitless searching, we knocked on the door of the farmhouse and asked directions. Based on that information, we did some more searching, but just couldn’t find a way out among fields of head high rape, ready for harvest, and electric fences around fields of horses. We returned to the farmyard. The farmer had returned, and he suggested we walk down the drive to the road and thence to Uffington. He was polite enough, but I think he didn’t really want us there, and we had already been there for an hour and we wanted to be somewhere else too.

Down the drive we went, along the road for a bit, then found another footpath – a real one this time – and were soon in Uffington, quite a bit later than intended. (Editor’s note: phew! Got there at last!) We stopped by the large church of St Mary’s http://www.uffington.net/visitor-info/church-history and collected the information we needed for the Church Micro, hidden elsewhere in the village. There was just time for (another) drink of water before a hot drive home.

St Mary's Church, Uffington

St Mary’s Church, Uffington


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

June 22 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Lechlade to Badbury Clump

Old Father Thames

When we decided to walk between the Sandhursts (and this included the Sandhurst (Berks) to Sandhurst (Kent) route we undertook last year), we wanted to avoid, as much as possible footpaths we had walked previously. We ‘broke’ this rule a couple of times of the Berks-Kent section as we had to walk on footpaths near our home. Today was the first time on the Gloucs-Berks section we were to repeat a route.

The first mile was on the Thames Path. A long distance path we walked back in 2015. Today we started at St John’s Lock, Lechlade which we visited back in March 2015. Then the lock-keeper was busy painting the locks for the Easter season, today there was no sign of the lock-keeper – instead a couple of boat owners using the lock. Old Father Thames looked on as always. The Head of Navigation is only a couple of miles upstream so this is one of the least used locks on the river – and yet at 10 o’clock on a warm Friday morning we saw three boats!

A rare event … a boat leaving St John’s Lock !

Our route took us downstream along the river to Buscot. The route, and caches, hadn’t changed much in 3 years so we had nothing new to find.

We reminisced about our walk in 2015, as we crossed an ever-so-slightly-too-large bridge, examined in detail a WW2 pill-box guarding the river, and tried to remember a couple of the hiding places where we found caches.

At Buscot Weir we crossed to the south side of the river for our first cache of the day. An camouflaged tube hidden in ivy. Now, like many cachers, we struggled with ivy… and this morning was no exception. After 20 minutes fruitless searching we left with the cache unfound. (Interestingly, preceding our visit there were a series of DNFs, followed by 2 logged finds, by people with less than 50 finds each, and after us a further 3 DNFs. So is the cache actually there ?)

Before entering the National Trust village of Buscot we turned off onto a footpath (least ways, we missed the footpath at first and then returned to it once we realised our error). Here we quickly came across our first find of the day – a tube wedged in an old, hollow tree-trunk.

The caching is easy…but the footpath is hard work!

From then the finds were relatively straightforward. Sometimes the caches were ‘hanging’ from a wire fence, sometimes a false rock between posts. On another occasion, underneath some very prickly brambles. The footpath had taken us away from the river and towards the busy A417 (another cache under some heavy concrete). At this point we turned away from the road and headed, at an acute angle, back to the river.

We crossed a newly-mown hay field with a barely distinct footpath through it. As we crossed through the field, we noticed two ramblers walking AROUND the field boundary. Should we have done that? Were they cachers ? We arrived at our exit point of the field and looked back. We had missed the footpath by 10 feet (whoops!) and the ramblers…were genuine ramblers as they made no effort to find our previous find.

A couple more caches followed (more brambles) and then a highlight cache of the walk. An ammo can. Most large ammo cans we have found have been placed on the ground, but this one had the hint of ‘chest high on a fallen branch’. And it was! Covered with stickoflage, but hidden wedged in tree branches. It’s not often one finds an ammo can, especially on a newish series (just over 3 years old).

The hiding place and caches had been straightforward but different. It is all too easy to place a film canister under a stone behind a tree, but Mashcast, the cache owner of the Buscot Bunker Bimble (BBB) series, had given thought to different hiding places, and hidden appropriate and different containers.

Our last three finds were under some pipes, another wire dangler, another wedged in a hedge.

Before our path took as back the A417, we had lunch overlooking the river. A varied few minutes as we munched our sandwiches. A few ramblers went by, a couple of planes took off noisily from nearby Fairford Airfield, and then – just as we were about to leave – two kingfishers appeared. We think it was a parent feeding a youngster, but within seconds both birds had disappeared. We readied our cameras and waited to see if they would reappear – sadly, our wait was in vain.

Moo-ve along now, moo-ve on..


Our last 2-3 miles of the day had just one cache on the route, near our car at Badbury Clump. And, of all the sections of our Sandhurst Trail, this was one of the least interesting. We were walking the d’Arcy Dalton Way, names after Colonel d’Arcy Dalton who campaigned for and preserved rights of way in Oxfordshire. This trail links two long distance paths in North Oxfordshire (Oxford Canal Walk, Oxfordshire Way) with two paths in the South of the county (the Thames Path and the Ridgeway). The section consisted of relentless tarmac leading up to two farms.

Part of the d’Arcy Dalton Way


As we walked through the second of the farmyards we were greeted in Orwellian tones with ‘We are watching you, we are watching you, we are watching you’ – we had set off the security cameras! The farmer, though, was out in the fields, spraying crops, and we paused to ensure we weren’t sprayed too, as we started our ascent up Badbury Clump.

Many paths criss-cross the Clump and we wanted to make sure we took the correct one. Fortunately for us a rambler appeared from nowhere as we approached a junction of paths. He started to descend, we got chatting, and he realised he shouldn’t have gone downhill to meet us! We though had gleaned where a contouring footpath was, and walked the 300 yards to the cache.

Imagine our surprise to find…another ammo can! Our second of the day ! We have never found two ammo cans in the same day! Whoop! Whoop!

Another ammo can…and a very useful Womble!


Inside though amongst the goodies and swaps, was a Womble. (We then realised the cache owner was The Wombles).
The Womble had some coordinates attached…it was the Westing Co-ordinates for the Wombles Signature Cache. we had the Northing Co-ordinates from another Womble as it is in our own cache, in Berry Bank Copse! We had all the information for find the Signature Cache! Wowser!

We took loads of photos, and wrote the co-ordinates in triplicate. We really didn’t want to lose these magic numbers.

Surveying the view from Badbury Clump

Then a short walk followed over the crest of Badbury Clump to the car park. Badbury Clump, a former Iron Age Hill fort, has fine views over the Oxfordshire landscape and is allegedly where King Arthur defeated the Anglo-Saxons!

We had no fighting today – just good memories of a double-ammo-can day !

Caches we found included :

October 15 : Geolympix Series (Buckinghamshire) Ring A

Earlier this year (July 31) we attended the Geolympix Mega Caching event in Hertfordshire. The Geolympix is a 4 year event coinciding, not surprisingly, with the main Olympics. Today we would attempt to find caches from a legacy series from four years ago in Buckinghamshire.

Autumn Colours in the Chilterns

Autumn Colours in the Chilterns


One of the series that was placed in 2012 ago was called GMS (Geolympics Marathon Series). It is actually 5 circular walks or (Olympic) RINGS, with a total distance between them of 26.2 miles. (The official MARATHON distance). We decided to undertake the ‘A’ series which contained 24 caches. The caches were named very imaginatively GMS A 01, GMS A 02, etc..

The series started in the tiny village of Skirmett a few miles North of Hambledon, and just a few miles from the Oxfordshire border town of Henley-on-Thames. Skirmett is devoid of obvious parking places so rather than start our walk at cache 1, we drove up a narrow lane to park under some beech trees near cache 7.

Beech Woodland

Beech Woodland


This part of Buckingham is classed as the Chilterns, and about one fifth if it is covered in woodland. Predominantly beech, but we saw oak, yew and many others on our walk. Autumn was just starting to take effect, and many of the trees were showing rich red, yellow and brown colours.

Autumn Colours in the Chilterns

Autumn Colours in the Chilterns

At times it was all too easy to admire the colourful countryside rather than stop and search for a cache. Fortunately for us, the caches were, by and large, easy to find. (All the caches had a difficulty rating of 2.5, which seemed exceedingly high as most of the time we stopped at GZ, saw a tree, and nestling in its roots was a large piece of flint covering the cache!)

Ground Zero

Typical hiding place


Most of the containers were the same, black plastic containers, big enough for small swag and trackables. We placed the trackables we had in our possession at different parts of the route. We even found a very old trackable, US Geocoin, on route too.

Our route started at the top a hill, initially on a flat path, but then after crossing a meadow, descended sharply downhill. Crossing the meadow we espied, some distance away a balloon gently being carried by the mid-morning breeze. We stopped and watched before remembering there was a cache just yards away.

Oh Look ! A Balloon!

Oh Look ! A Balloon!


The Chiltern footpaths are well used by walkers, cyclists and equestrians. Walking downhill after the meadow, we gave way to two rather-fit mountain bikers cycling to the summit. On a later path, just as we were replacing a cache, three horse riders trotted towards us, but as they passed us, went into a full gallop! We heard a bird-shoot going off in the distance, and far-away church bells heralded the arrival of a wedding party.
Footpath

Along here !


We saw a Roe Deer making its way from a corn-field to a narrow strip of woodland. We saw Red Kites swooping high above, checking the ground for prey.

The countryside was alive with activity and yet we were barely spotted looking for caches. It helped of course that all the caches were easy finds. There were only about 5 which gave us a real challenging search.

The first of these was in a yew tree. When we did find the cache is was very wedged in the tree’s bark and then covered, fairly recently, by Autumn leaves.

The second troublesome cache was the only cache not on the GMS series. Nestling in a tree near a picturesque footbridge and stream, we spent far too long looking in the wrong place. We were slightly disappointed at this location, as the stream had dried up! Photos on http://www.geocaching.com showed a beautiful bubbling stream – all we saw was a dried up river bed full of cow muck!

We were in the valley now, and we saw a lot more walkers. Some clearly were experienced ramblers, others were out with just a ‘easy local walks’ book as their guide. Another couple were walking in flip-flops! The caches continued to be easily found. One was 20 yards from a house, and we watched by the owner’s dog for the full duration of cache location, log signing and replacement.

We paused for an early lunch in the valley, on one of the few seats on the walk. (The other seat, in Skirmett, we earmarked for a second late lunch). We ate our sandwiches and watched a pair of pheasants fly slightly ungracefully across the field. (They must have avoided the earlier bird-shoot).

Our third troublesome cache of the day was at a set of double gates. We had so many posts and poles to look at that when we did see the cache, we had to walk back through the gates to undertake the retrieval.

Beautiful house in beautiful scenery

Beautiful house in beautiful scenery


We arrived in Skirmett as large walking party went by, and as our eyes glanced to the promised second-lunchtime-seat, we discovered it was taken by a young family settling down to their lunch. We walked on, to cache 1 (actually our 19th cache of the day) and sat on some staddle stones instead.
Autumn Colours in the Chilterns

Autumn Colours in the Chilterns

Although most of the route was on footpaths, we now had a short section of road walking. A fairly busy narrow road. We scurried along the road as quickly as we could, pausing for traffic to pass, and occasionally wedging ourselves in roadside bushes. As we stepped off the road we began our search for what was to be our fourth troublesome cache.
After much searching at ground level, we read the previous cachers’ logs and discovered we needed to be looking higher. In fact the cache was in plain view the whole time! Duh!

Is there a cache down there ?

Is there a cache down there ?


One of the disadvantages with parking at the top of the hill was that the final mile or so was uphill. Some of the route through beech woodland. Many of the trees had been marked with white arrows, so it was almost impossible to get lost until…

…until we crossed a small thin rectangular piece of grassland. The footpath sign pointing across the grass was ‘vague’ in its angle, so we followed the GPS bearing to find a cache under stinging nettles and a waterbutt. What we then failed to notice was a tiny footpath sign covered with ivy. Because we missed the sign we walked on the GPS bearing towards the next cache. We walked passed a vineyard, and then a light aircraft went whizzing past us, just yards from our faces. We were walking up a light airfield!!!! We saw at least 6 more aircraft, some in hangars, some parked outside, before were politely told where the footpath was!

Footpath sign

Can’t get lost here!

We had two caches to find, and the penultimate cache was the hardest of the day. We were looking for the hint of ‘catseye’. In a wood. Yep. a ‘catseye’ in a wood. We searched everywhere and eventually some 30 feet from where the GPS originally pointed, found ‘the catseye in the wood’.

Cats Eye

Cats Eye Cache


Our last cache was quickly found, and we realised we had found every single one of the 25 caches we had attempted.

A glorious day’s caching in glorious Autumn weather!

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June 21 – Geo-Achievement Hides 10 Coin

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Geo-Achievement Hides 10 Coin

Geo-Achievement Hides 10 Coin


As the equinox approached, this coin was trapped inside the mouth of a dinosaur in a wood in deepest Oxfordshire. There it had sat for almost two weeks, having been spotted, but not retrieved by others a few days before. How could it escape, to continue the 600-mile journey it had started on Christmas Day 2015? But all was not lost – two friendly geocachers arrived, prised open the mouth of the dinosaur, and freed it, distracting the dinosaur by feeding it another travel bug, Tilly the hedgehog. Bad news for Tilly, but good news for the coin.
I'm a scary dinosaur!

I’m a scary dinosaur!


The coin made good its escape from the scary dinosaur, safely tucked in their rucksack, and hopes to find a less disquieting homein the near future. First, it needs to calm down, having nearly been a dino meal!