February 24 – Ryde

Our last day on the Isle of Wight and a very, very cold one. The “Beast from the East”, a cold Easterly wind, blew all day and although there was no rain or snow, the temperature was very low indeed. Lovely late winter sunshine but bitterly cold.

All Saints, Ryde

There are many caches in Ryde. Our plan was to spend the morning on the outer edges of the town away from the sea. Here, we hoped, and indeed it proved, Ryde’s buildings would protect us from the wind.
The afternoon we cached along the sea-front walking East (and into the wind) and when we got too cold to go on we would head back Westwards to warm up.

With hindsight, our first cache of the day should have been our last, as it was inside.

Inside a church.

We were undertaking a Church Micro Multi based inside All Saints Church Ryde. Frequently with church micros the questions (if there are any at all) are based on exterior noticeboards or gravestones. Here all but one of the answers could be found inside the church. And what a church!

Affectionately known as “The Cathedral of the Island”, the church was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott (who also designed many London landmarks). The foundation stone was laid by one of Queen Victoria’s daughters. The multi took us around various key locations in the church – the font, a beautiful stained glass window, various side chapels, the sanctuary and pulpit. At each location there was information to count or find, and after 40 minutes studying the church in detail we had the co-ordinates of the location for the cache. Here we had a quick find – but our memory will be the sumptuous interior of a wonderful church which many visitors to the Isle of Wight probably never know exists.

Our second cache of the day, another church micro was closer to Ryde Centre.

No clues to find this time, just a simple cache hidden in neighbouring street furniture.

Near to this cache was another multi, with clues set, we thought, IN a garden of Remembrance.

However the garden gates were locked so we couldn’t enter. We’ve subsequently discovered we could have found the cache information without entering the garden – doh!

We walked away from the Town Centre for our next two caches. The first was near a Victorian Water Trough. Now Grade II listed, the lamp-post/trough sits close to a road junction with lots of street signage capable of hiding a cache. The cache was hidden behind one such sign, but right in front of a garden with a loud barking dog. We escaped very quickly once the cache had been found!

Our last find in the morning was at one of Ryde’s three Railway stations. The Isle of Wight Railway line runs between Ryde and Shanklin using (old) London Tube Trains as its rolling stock. We found the ‘Sidetracked’ cache quite easily and then waited a few minutes for a train to arrive!

Here comes the train!

Our last cache of the morning we couldn’t attempt. The cache was hidden behind a seat. However the seat was occupied. We waited as inconspicuously as we could for 10 minutes (sheltering from the cold). But no joy, the person didn’t move! Even worse they were joined by a friend as well as a local caretaker! A Did Not Attempt does sound better than a Did Not Find !

A couple of our morning caches :

We adjourned to the sea front and our first two caches were two more ‘Sidetracked’ caches based on two different Ryde Stations. The first, Ryde Esplanade, was a multi. We had to count items from a plaque to a former, and world renowned, Isle of Wight resident. It was a good job there were two of us counting as we frequently ended up with two different numbers. Eventually we agreed on the numbers, and hence coordinates, and marched towards GZ. Here we searched for some time and failed to find the cache. We double checked our findings again from the plaque and discovered we were in the correct place.. just without the cache!

Our next ‘Sidetracked’ cache was also fruitless. This was at Ryde Pier Head, and is at the end of a half mile walk along the pier. Ryde Pier is one of Britain’s longest piers, but probably the only one which allows road traffic as well as rail traffic. Ryde Pier Head is the disembarkation point for the Portsmouth – Ryde catamaran, and the cars and rail link save the island visitors a half mile walk into Ryde. As we walked along the pier the hovercraft also left from Ryde… this pier is real transport hub!

Catamaran Arriving

Hovercraft Leaving

And so to the cache.

A bolt hidden 2 metres high.

Easy ! Nope!

We looked at every object looking for a bolt, all to no avail.

An interesting, but cacheless walk along the pier!

It was lunchtime.

We hadn’t found a cache for some time and the wind was just beginning to bite. The bus station (again next to Ryde Pier), provided shelter and a bit of warmth (Ed : by ‘a bit of warmth’, we mean ‘less cold’).

Lots of space on the beach!

Suitably refreshed, we found several caches in quick succession as we headed East along the sea front.

Sometimes the caches were attached magnetically, sometimes in flower borders.

Is there a cache here ?

The sea front was busy as despite the bracing wind, people were bravely playing on the beach, dogs were being exercised, kites were being flown. The boating lake was though devoid of people and it was here we had our next failure. The GPS bounced around, and the hint didn’t help much either – and so our rapid finding spree was at an end.

We had arrived on the outskirts of a park where two caches were hidden. One was a puzzle cache we had solved quite quickly at home (It took us longer to find the cache than solve the puzzle!). The other cache was near a small stream, which had to be crossed. Mr Hg137 jumped across, found the cache, but couldn’t open it. He threw it to Mrs Hg137 to try. Our cold, numb hands couldn’t turn the lid. Eventually we opened it, and the contents fell into the stream. We then spent a few minutes ‘fishing’ the items out of the cold water ! An easy find, but 15 minutes to open the cache and replace contents!

Can you open this ?

These should have been our last caches of the day. We wandered back to Ryde – now with the wind at our backs – and re-searched our DNFs. Still no caches to be found. We drove out of Ryde, following an odd one-way system and discovered we were driving along a road we had cached along earlier. Look ! There’s the seat! The one with cache we didn’t attempt! Mrs Hg137 was pushed out of the car, while Mr Hg137 found a car park space. Cache found, log signed ! Phew!

Last cache of the day!

So a mixed day’s caching in Ryde – three DNFs, ten straightforward finds, and a magnificent Church multi. (And two very cold cachers!)

March 3 : Isle of Wight : Wootton to Sandown

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Wootton Creek, Isle of Wight

Wootton Creek, Isle of Wight

We often go to the Isle of Wight in early spring, to take part in a Scrabble tournament held there. So off we went on a dank and rainy morning, catching the 10am ferry from Portsmouth, and arriving Isle of Wight with a few hours free before the start of the tournament. All that remained was for us to make our way to the Trouville Hotel, on the seafront at Sandown near the pier. We thought that we would make our way slowly, and collect a few caches on the way …

The rain had stopped while we were on the boat, but it was still well damp underfoot. Mr Hg137’s forward planning had taken account of this, and caches had been selected that could be found without getting too muddy. (Editor’s note: what Mr Hg137 was probably thinking was that I had slipped in the mud on our previous IoW Scrabble/caching trip, and I had to change in a rainy hilltop car park before arriving at the Scrabble tournament … )

A good omen for the Scrabble tournament?

A good omen for the Scrabble tournament?

The first cache chosen was on the opposite side of Wootton Creek from the ferry terminal at Fishbourne, and was called ‘Down the Pump’. What did that mean? Hmm – what it did mean was that the cache was located at the end of Pump Lane, overlooking the creek, and was found after a short but damp search.

Of the remaining four caches, one was hidden by a gate at the side of a lane, and was duly found without either of us getting dirty. The other three were all from the Sidetracked series, based around railway stations. Two were at Wootton and Havenstreet stations on the Isle of Wight steam railway http://www.iwsteamrailway.co.uk/ which runs from Wootton to Smallbrook Junction, and the other was at Sandown station, on the Island Line from Ryde pier to Shanklin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_Line,_Isle_of_Wight We readily found two of the three, but the third eluded us, in spite of a lengthy search through piles of autumn leaves. (Editor’s note 2 : it has been found several times since, so we clearly didn’t search that well.)
Sandown Station - posh motor!

Sandown Station – posh motor!

And so we arrived at our destination, in good time, and, most importantly, NOT muddy!

January 21 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : North Camp to Wanborough

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Today we had the crisp, sunny winter’s day we had hoped for on our last day. It was a beautiful morning, but, my oh my it was cold!

Starting at North Camp station, we set off south along a diversion from the official Blackwater Valley path. We saw a notice on a post about unauthorised change of use of the land by the rivers, and have also heard (but can’t confirm) that the landowner closed the riverside path around then. Anyway, that meant a walk along a bumpy track, with many an icy puddle, sandwiched between the A331 and some gravel pits. Soon we returned to the river, and went to find out first cache, a puzzle cache called ‘Follow you, follow me’; luckily, we’d got the puzzle correct and were the first to find the cache since September 2016. Like us, most geocachers find fewer caches in the winter than the summer because the weather is darker, colder, and wetter.

The start of the walk - near North Camp

The start of the walk – near North Camp

We went on along the river, enjoying the sunlit morning, seeing mist rising from the river, and watching the local birdlife – ducks on the river and, once, a jay. We stopped to watch a heron – I was so engrossed in taking pictures that I failed to spot a cyclist coming along and nearly got run down… The next two caches were along the riverbank, among trees or a sign overlooking the river (just a bit of creaking from the fence as Mr Hg137 climbed up to collect it). Soon after we left the Blackwater path to climb up onto the Basingstoke Canal. At last our direction was altering, and more in line with our quest; thus far we had been going south, to skirt the nearby, off-limits, army ranges. Just as we reached the foot of the canal aqueduct there was a flash of turquoise, then another – a kingfisher! What a great farewell to the river!

Once up on the aqueduct, we turned aside a few yards to look for the first of three caches in the ‘Oddballs 1st Mission series’. We found it, but it was leaky and the log was frozen stiff, and we couldn’t remove it from the cache, let alone sign it. We did little better with the next two caches, also from the same series, which we couldn’t find at all – some TLC is needed for those caches methinks.
A new friend for Mr Hg137!

A new friend for Mr Hg137!

A coffee break was taken. It felt pleasantly warm in the bright sunshine, though the ground was still frozen and the canal icy. Almost immediately a robin appeared and took a fancy to Mr Hg137. I thought it was the red bobble hat which was the attraction … We succumbed to its blandishments and fed it part of our lunch. Leaving the canal soon after, we walked down through Ash, passing the striking church (why isn’t there a Church Micro cache here?) and eventually turned eastward along a green lane. At last we were heading in roughly the right direction! Along here, we came across three caches all from the same series – based on Italy – Rome/Venice/Pompeii – all very similar neat, tidy caches, mostly not found for a bit.
Basingstoke Canal

Basingstoke Canal

The path changed to a track, then to tarmac, and we were at ‘Christmas Pie’. A good name for a place! There was a puzzle cache here based on information to be found on the village sign. We worked out the puzzle but couldn’t find the cache. We’ve checked our results later, and they were correct, so maybe we’ll stop off for another try at the start of our next walk?

Wanborough station was a little further on, the end of the day’s walk. There was one more cache here, overlooking the railway line, from the ‘Sidetracked’ series (they are near stations). A short wait later, the train took us back to North Camp and the start of our walk. In a few minutes, we retraced a route which had taken us a few hours to travel on foot.

The end of the walk - Wanborough station

The end of the walk – Wanborough station

We found eight of the eleven caches we attempted. Here are some of them, along with our touring trackable:

January 14 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : the first leg to North Camp

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Well, the quest has been published. Time for us to make a start.

Just after dawn on a cold, slightly misty Saturday morning, we set off from Sandhurst (Berkshire) to start our trek to Sandhurst (Kent). We’ve thought of a cunning plan to track our progress. Back on Leap Year Day we had acquired a trackable. We’ve now registered it, and will ‘dip’ it into caches as we go, to mark our progress. (Editor’s note: to ‘dip’ a trackable means taking it to a cache, and making a note that it was there, without leaving it behind.) The first cache that the trackable visited was our own cache, in Berrybank Copse.

River Blackwater

River Blackwater

Shepherd Meadows

Shepherd Meadows

Our first day’s walk was to be part of the Blackwater Valley Path, a route we’ve walked at various times in our pre-caching days http://www.blackwater-valley.org.uk/about_valley.html We went south through Shepherd Meadows, across the A30, and across Hawley Meadows. Apart from dogs and dogwalkers, and an occasional cyclist, the path was empty, muddy and icy by turns, and quiet except for the noise of traffic from the A331 which runs roughly parallel to the River Blackwater.

Hawley Meadows

Hawley Meadows

Going under the M3, we skirted a business park, then crossed over the A331 towards Frimley Green station. Here was our chance to find our first cache of the year, one from the Sidetracked series (they’re near stations http://www.sidetrackedseries.info ). A first search didn’t find it, so we moved on to attempt a challenge cache in a nearby park. The qualification to be able to claim this cache is to have found 25 Sidetracked caches, and we have found just over that. A short bit of rummaging in a tree found us the cache, which was cold but dry, even though it had been unfound for six months, and was well buried in fallen leaves. Returning to the river path, we revisited that cache we hadn’t found earlier, but more determined rummaging worked this time.

We walked on down the river. The ‘bright, sunny, crisp’ winter’s day the weather forecast had predicted just wasn’t happening, and it was getting steadily greyer. We collected another couple of caches, one between lakes made from gravel workings, and one right by the river, found just as a few raindrops began to fall. That wasn’t in the plan! We crossed over the A331 again, noting that the all the cars had lights on now, and turned south down the river once more, stopping to look for a cache concealed under a footbridge. Not much looking was needed, as this was a BIG cache, filled with classy objects, and in wonderful condition, though it hadn’t been found for almost five months.

A well stocked geocache!

A well stocked geocache!

A (still quite dry) picnic bench was a little further on, so we stopped for a picnic lunch, eaten speedily because a cold breeze was now blowing, it was getting greyer and darker, and colder, much colder. After not much debate, we decided to finish our walk at North Camp station, about a mile away. Arriving at the station with 20 minutes to spare before the next train, we bought a ticket, then rushed off to find another Sidetracked cache (that’s 30 from this series now, from as far apart as Liskeard, Cornwall and Waverley, Edinburgh).

Blackwater Path near North Camp

Blackwater Path near North Camp

Catching the train back to Blackwater, we retraced in minutes the route that we had travelled in hours, then walked back home. A few minutes later, we were calculating that the nine miles that we had walked had brought us only four miles closer to Sandhurst (Kent); that’s because there are some army ranges we can’t walk across, so we are taking a slightly longer route to avoid them. And then it began to pour with rain, a short but vicious cold shower. We had given up just in time!

Here are some of the caches we found:

December 16 : London

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

No. 9 London bus

No. 9 London bus

We hadn’t used our Oyster (London travel) cards for some while, and we were worried that they might be disabled, so we set off to London on a caching trip – now there’s a tenuous excuse for a day’s geocaching!

Almost as soon as we left the train at Waterloo we were searching for our first cache, at the entrance to the station. The description said a London landmark would be visible from Ground Zero, the location of the cache. Well, the bottom half of it was, and the top wasn’t; the cloud base was very low, while the Shard is very high …

We made our way down to the Thames, just downstream from the London Eye, with a great view over the river to the Houses of Parliament. Having found the cache hidden there, we signed the log looking out over the river, and got a rare view of much of the riverbed. It was two days after the full moon, and a very, very low spring tide, and the level was lower than we had ever seen it, with the footings of one of the bridge arches exposed to view; even in the few minutes we watched, the tide turned and the riverbed began to disappear.

River Thames - VERY low tide!

River Thames – VERY low tide!

Crossing the river on the Golden Jubilee footbridge, our next target was the Sidetracked cache at the nearby Charing Cross Station. It was tucked away behind a drainpipe close to, but not actually in the station. We did the ‘pretend to tie a shoelace’ mime to retrieve the cache, but we really needn’t have bothered, as everyone in the city is in a hurry, looking at phones, rushing onwards, and not interested in the antics of a couple of oddball cachers.
Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square – lion at Nelson’s Column

Our main objective of the day was the ‘No 9 Routemaster bus: cache route’, which involved a bus ride and the spotting of clues on the way to the final cache location. But before that, we wanted to have a go at the caches in Trafalgar Square. And the first cache was … ‘Trafalgar Square’, a cunningly concealed cache hidden in an item around the square. We moved on to two earthcaches, one based around Nelson’s Column, and one around the statue of Charles I which is placed on the original site of Charing Cross, which is regarded as being the centre of London for measuring of distance. Earthcaches are excellent little teaching aids – in each case we learnt something about the places that we couldn’t have guessed beforehand.
Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square

A number 9 bus duly turned up and we caught it and got prime seats, upstairs, right at the front, where we could watch the route unfold. We were glad that we’d researched the answers to the clues for the cache beforehand so we could concentrate on the travelscape expanding before us. Charing Cross, Trafalgar Square (again), Pall Mall, St James’ Palace, Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park, and the Royal Albert Hall … where we got off and crossed the road to one of the ornate sets of gates leading into Hyde Park. Mr Hg137 stopped to chat with a man from British Gas who was maintaining one of the gaslights on the gate. He told us that there are still over 1500 gaslights in London (!) and that they require regular attention http://londonist.com/2015/11/video-meet-london-s-remaining-gas-lamp-lighters The final cache was very close, and found after some very close inspection of park ‘furniture’. We had brought a trackable with us and had been looking for a suitable cache to place it. We decided on this specific cache as it had needed time and effort to solve, and so was unlikely to be found by chance, meaning that the trackable was likely to be picked up by an experienced geocacher.
Albert Memorial

Albert Memorial

Lunchtime: we sat on a park bench, ate our sandwiches, and people-watched, then did a circuit of the Albert Memorial https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington-gardens/things-to-see-and-do/memorials,-fountains-and-statues/the-albert-memorial , to find ‘The Royal Albert Hall’ cache, the 20th most often found cache in the country (the description says) with well over 4000 visits.
Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall

From here, we walked down to the Natural History Museum, which had two earthcaches in the grounds that we wanted to visit. We hadn’t really thought about this carefully enough: a skating rink is set up just outside the museum at Christmas time. That meant that the route to one of the earthcaches was through the museum, not through the gardens – and the other cache was within feet of the skating rink, so we thought about the answers while skaters whizzed by very, very close behind us http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/ice-rink.html What the earthcaches were about: one is centred on a (very) large fossil, and the other is about details in the memorial stone dedicated to those who were killed in the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004.
Natural History Museum ice rink

Natural History Museum ice rink

There was just one more cache left on our list for today, a Church Micro, but where to find it? We walked up to the Brompton Oratory: was that it? No. Our GPS, and the clues to the cache, led us down a path to the side, to Holy Trinity, Brompton. The noise of traffic from the A4 died away as we walked round the church to the garden at the back, and it was peaceful and quiet, with tree-lined paths, and a squirrel frolicking on the grass, overlooked by small mews houses in cobbled streets. What a contrast to the loud, rushing world so close by!

And that was the end of caching for the day; it was getting darker, and colder, and we were getting tired and hungry. We caught the underground back to Waterloo and headed home in the dark.

May 27 : Devon / Cornwall : Day 6 : Plymouth

After the heavy overnight rain, our bedroom view of distant moorland was blanketed in a thin mist. We were grateful that today was our Town-Trail day, and a visit to the Coastal Town of Plymouth.

Plymouth is actually in Devon and about a 20 minute drive away. We decided though to go by train. This gave us the twin advantages of neither paying the Tamar Bridge Toll nor fighting Plymouth’s one-way system and car parks.

The train journey passed uneventfully, though we did learn the train was on a mammoth 12 hour journey from Penzance to Glasgow via Bristol, Birmingham, Derby, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh!

We had preloaded a number of caches into our GPS and the first on our list was the Sidetracked at Plymouth Station. Initially we took the wrong road to the cache (good start!) but found it easily. In fact it was silhouetted behind some street furniture and visible from some distance.

Our second cache was more troublesome. It was in a park, near to the University Student Accommodation. There were two seats in the park, and the cache was under one of them. That seat though was occupied by a youth, smoking whilst keeping a watchful eye on his dog. We decided to utilise the other seat for coffee and wait … Because of the overnight rain, the seat was wet, so we stood instead. Shortly after a just-graduated-student arrived. He was waiting for someone. He, too, did not want to visit the smoker’s seat. We got chatting, and as he was a Geography graduate, with pleasingly a job lined up, we talked about geocaching.
Eventually the smoker left and we made a swift find at the smoker’s seat. Showed the graduate the cache and re-hid. Whether geocaching has another convert… time will tell!

Our target was the sea-front and Plymouth Hoe in particular. Rather than have a fixed route, we just followed the caches we loaded as we zig-zagged our way through the University Campus, through a shopping centre, passed a sculpture or two, until the lighthouse on the Hoe was visible.

Sir Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake

Many of the caches were named after famous people with a connection to Plymouth. These included Charles Darwin (stayed in Plymouth before his historic fact-finding trip in the Beagle), Oliver Cromwell (Plymouth was one of the few West Country towns that sided with him during the Civil War), Nancy Astor (first woman MP and her constituency was Plymouth) and Oswald Mosley (visited whilst trying to set up his extreme right-wing party.)

These four caches alone provided us with insights into Plymouth’s History which we wouldn’t have found out without geocaching.

And so to the Hoe.

Sculpture near the Hoe 1

Sculpture near the Hoe 1

Sculpture near the Hoe 2

Sculpture near the Hoe 2

A large expanse of park – mainly grass, with flower borders and many a memorial. Mainly to Navy crew, but others to commemorate other diverse worldwide events. There are few caches in the Hoe area (due to the 1/10th of a mile rule no doubt), but we found most.

Our route took us Eastwards around the sea walls, overlooking the sea-water Lido. Last minute cleaning was being undertaken, as the Summer Opening was only days away.. it did look inviting.. if a little chilly!

Anyone care for a swim ?

Anyone care for a swim ?

We arrived at the Mayflower Steps, having found another cache overlooking them, to discover a boat was due to sail to the Royal William Victualling Yard. We rushed on it and very shortly we were looking at the Lido and the Hoe but from the sea!

Mayflower Steps

Mayflower Steps.. from a cache site!

The Royal Victualling Yard was originally used to provide the Navy with Drink (predominantly) and other basic rations. Many of the buildings have been converted to flats, restaurants and the like. Given all this modernisation it was interesting to see an Earthcache on one of the building’s walls. We found the wall, failed to find the stone in question for some minutes, but then spotted the minutiae needed to answer the Cache Owner’s questions. Again, we would never have know about the wall, and its make-up without geocaching!
Finding an Earthcache

Finding an Earthcache

We had a long walk from Plymouth’s Western Edge back to the Centre and our train. The coastal path had a few caches to keep us occupied, including a scramble up the large bouldery sea-defences. This was our first DNF of the day – not helped by Mr Hg137’s phone going off when he had climbed 12 feet above head height.
Somewhere in these defences is a cache...

Somewhere in these defences is a cache…

We weren’t keen on descending the boulder field, so we left by a different route, but this did mean we couldn’t find a path back to locate two more caches. (Grr!)
It's a long way back!

It’s a long way back!

More Plymouth Sculptures

More Plymouth Sculptures

And more!

And more!

We arrived back at the Hoe area, and with enough time to attempt two more caches. The first, another Earthcache, was based on Drakes Island and how it was formed. We were impressed by the mini-sculptures on the handrail overlooking the Island too. Our last cache of the day was the biggest. Nestling near a tennis court it really proves big caches can exist in urban environment!
Drake's Island

Drake’s Island

We really enjoyed our day in Plymouth. We walked over 7 miles and found 10 caches but what we learnt from the cache descriptions really enhanced our knowledge of the Town’s rich and varied history.

Most of the 10 caches we found were either nanos or Earthcaches… but here are two of the larger ones:

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 :