September 17 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Eastbury to East Garston, along the Lambourn Valley

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The Lambourn Valley and East Garston

The Lambourn Valley and East Garston


Our morning appointment had overrun, and we emerged into early afternoon on a gorgeous clear, sunny September day. Changing our geocaching plans, as we were starting later than planned, we decided on an out-and-back walk between Eastbury and East Garston.
Lambourn Valley Way

Lambourn Valley Way


Following the track of a disused railway, now a path, we soon found two caches, one named Lambourn Valley Way (the route we were following) which had a seat with super views over the valley towards East Garston. After another cache, hidden in a bit of redundant railway ‘stuff’ we reached the church at the edge of East Garston. We diverted off the path to find the Church Micro cache based here, and to pause by a memorial stone by the church door, to the First World War poet Edward Thomas https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/lifestory/4409149 (Editor’s note: Edward Thomas is best known for the poem ‘Adlestrop’. He was killed on Easter Monday 1917, and his widow Helen and their three children settled in Eastbury.)
Lambourn Valley Way

Lambourn Valley Way



The River Lambourn flows through the centre of East Garston, with tiny bridges over the river to paths and houses. Actually, ‘flows’ was not really true as the riverbed was dry after the roasting summer. A cache from the ‘Little Bridges’ series was based on one of those bridges, and there was also another Church Micro cache, where the church is now a private house. (Two Church Micros in such a small village …) The hint for this cache was so cryptic that we had found the cache, driven home, and logged it before we realised what it meant. Doh!
Another Church Micro ...

Another Church Micro …


... and free apples

… and free apples


We started our return journey after stuffing our pockets with free apples which were piled in a trug with a ‘free to a good home’ sign. (Editor’s note: those Worcester Pearmain apples became tasty apple turnovers.) We walked back along the old railway line. On our outward trip, we had been finding caches from the ‘Day of the Jackals’ series, but one had eluded us. It was hidden, we hoped, in ivy, but it hadn’t been found for four months and we wondered if it was still there. We started on another search, without expecting to find anything (and we are rubbish at searching in ivy) but Mr Hg137 spotted something out of place after a few minutes search, and we’d finally got the cache, not missing after all.

And that was it for the day, a short but hugely enjoyable walk in pretty countryside and charming villages on a golden September day. Lovely!

Here are some of the caches we found:

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.

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:

April 19 – The Ridgeway and an attempt to break our record of caches in a day (Part 3)

… with 25 caches found so far we needed just 4 more caches to break our record… but we only had 5 caches left to attempt !

We've been here before!

We’ve been here before!


What lay ahead us, was a climb to the Ridgeway footpath. Earlier on in the day we had ascended from the South, now, much later in the day our tired limbs had to climb from the North. The Southern side was on footpaths, sometimes grassy, sometimes chalky. The Northern ascent was on a road.. a hard, tarmac road. The road led to a couple of farms and a car park, and should have been empty, but in a half mile section we dodged various items of traffic.

Fortunately the tarmac was punctuated with 2 caches to find. Named very strangely, JSW40.02 and JSW40.01. Most cache names have some relevance like the location, the type of container or in the case of the ‘Chocolate’ series we had still yet to finish, set by cachers known as the ‘Coffee and Cake Club’. But JSW40.02 and JSW40.01 completely baffled us!

The first we found (02), was an easy find – the film canister was hidden in a small piece of log, just away from the roadside.

However JSW40.01 was completely different. Needing to break our record, we couldn’t afford not to find the cache. At ground zero, there was huge log with lots of crevices for hiding a cache.

We looked.

We looked.

We looked again.

We couldn’t find.

We widened our search, and still couldn’t find. After some 30 minutes we were about to give up, when amongst the leaf litter there was a 35mm film canister! It contained a log book, which we signed and replaced where we thought it should be.

(It was only when we returned home that we noticed the cache had been visited that day by another cacher. They found a ‘clip lock box’ not a film canister.. since this double finding day farmers have cleared much of the area at GZ so its not clear to us whether we found the true cache or not. Still a cache was found and a log signed – that seems good enough for us).

Our climb up the hill continued, until the very welcome sight of the geo-car in the distance. We has three caches to find all on the flat. Phew!

The first, right next to the car !, was the ‘worst cache of the day’. Part of the chocolate series, the lid no longer kept water out. The cache had well over an inch of water at the bottom. The log was sodden. We decided to dry everything as best we could by laying everything on the hot metalwork of the car. We had a drink (needed after the steep hill climb) and then moved the whole cache contents inside the car while we spent 10 minutes (!), looking for our two remaining caches.

The first was hidden near the Ancient Monument of Scutchamer Knob. Originally called Cwichelmeshlaew or Cwichelm’s Barrow, it is recorded as having been the place where King Edwin of Northumbria killed Cwichelm of Wessex in AD 636 and, in the Middle Ages, became the meeting point of the Shire Moot (or market) which was abolished in 1620. It was long thought to be the actual burial place of Cwichelm but the mound has been excavated several times without serious finds. In 1006, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states that the Danes marched to Cuckhamsley Hill as they believed that if they reached the Hill, they would never return to the sea.

Last look at the Ridgeway

Last look at the Ridgeway


The cache was hidden some distance from the ‘Knob’ and although our GPS was bouncing around, we though we’d found GZ. A youngish tree, with a hollow root ball and more importantly a pile of sticks. But no cache! No sign. We searched around and about … no sign. We gave up. Our record breaking attempt depending on finding the last cache of the day (Raspberry Cream).
No cache here !

No cache here !

A short walk and we were there.. would it be there ? Given the difficulty we’d had with the last few caches, would we finish on a high…. another fence post.. a quick swish of the geo-pole and voila! We found it! Our 29th cache of the day!

Our Record Breaking Cache!

Our Record Breaking Cache!


We could go home happy (and quite exhausted) !

April 19 – The Ridgeway and an attempt to break our record of caches in a day (Part 2)

… our daily record breaking attempt continued by descending from the Ridgeway towards the hamlet of East Ginge…

We felt quietly confident as we’d found 19 caches so far and just needed 10 from the remaining 12 caches to break our record.

View from East Ginge looking towards the Ridgeway

View from East Ginge looking towards the Ridgeway

The previous night we had solved a puzzle cache and this was our next target. Themed very overtly on the film franchise which begins “In a Galaxy, far, far away…” we discovered Google was our friend and gave us the answers quickly. Sadly our overnight map management skills were poor. What we had read as a ‘footpath’ turned out to be an impenetrable field boundary. So we lost our third cache of our day due to our poor fact-finding skills. Whoops!

The reason we had dropped down to the hamlet of East Ginge was to undertake a very cleverly constructed series entitled “From Nano to Ammo”. Six caches increasing in size. All hidden along a straight road!

Along this track are 6 differently sized caches... can you find them ?

Along this track are 6 differently sized caches… can you find them ?

If you are new to geocaching, and wonder what all the sizes mean hopefully these pictures will give you a clue :

Nano

Nano

Micro

Micro

Small

Small

Regular

Regular

Ammo

Ammo

Observant readers will note there are only 5 pictures!

The sixth cache type to be found on this mile long route was a ‘Unknown’ type. The container was so unusual it will part of our end of year highlights!

We really enjoyed this mini-series. It just proved with a little imagination a variety of containers could be placed in the same terrain! An excellent idea very well executed.

So our diversion at the foot of the Ridgeway yielded 6 caches out of 7, and our running total of 25. To break our record we need 4 more caches, but we only had 5 left to attempt! Two caches were to be attempted on our second climb up to the Ridgway and then 3 to find on the Ridge itself. Would we complete our mission…

(to be continued)

PS We don’t normally split our caching adventure into 3, but the ‘Nano to Ammo’ series was so different we felt it deserved its own special blog.

April 19 – The Ridgeway and an attempt to break our record of caches in a day (Part 1)

Spring and sunshine were definitely in the air and we decided to go further afield for our next caching adventure. The Ridgeway on the Oxfordshire/Berkshire border.

The three remaining towers of Didcot Power Station

The three remaining towers of Didcot Power Station – a changing view


This was an area we had a fair knowledge of, as we had walked there before (we walked the whole 80+ miles of the Ridgeway in 2012), but had never cached on this section of the Ridgeway. There was a great circuit of 23 caches and another on its route.

We then discovered if we made a diversion or two we could attempt 9 other caches including two mini series of 6 and 2 caches and an easily solved puzzle cache. This would give us a total of 33 caches, which if we found them all, would break our best daily cache haul of 28 (set in August 2013).

Easy eh ?

After an hour’s drive we arrived at a car park on the Ridgeway itself. Without even leaving the car there were great views of farmland to the South, and to the North, the three remaining towers of Didcot Power Station.

As an aside, many people view such buildings as a blot on the landscape, which to an extent is true. But as a landmark, they do give aid in evaluating distance. When we walked the Ridgeway in 2012, the (then 6) towers were visible for at least half the Ridgeway’s length, which definitely gave a “Wow we’ve walked all that way” feeling!

Anyway the remaining 3 towers are due for demolition later this year, so we said “good-bye” to our walking companion of 4 years ago.

The Ridgeway is quite an open landscape as the chalk soil does not lend itself to large wooded areas. There are some trees, but these are in tiny pockets. Most of the caches were found were next to field posts, frequently well hidden in grass, and quite often under burgeoning stinging nettles. (The geo-pole was absolutely essential for these).

The series was entitled a Chocolate Series, though many of the cache names were not obviously chocolate – for example Lemon Mousse, Nougat, and Turkish Delight.

We found the first three caches very easily and thought (mistakenly!) we were in for a very easy day.

Never, never, never think that when put caching!

We failed to find number 4 (Coffee Cream). Every fence post near GZ had been well cleared of vegetation and there was no cache to find. Looking at the cache logs it has not been consistently found since mid-February. An occasional cacher has logged a “Found It” visit, but then written in the log “DNF” ! Standing at GZ does not count ! Logging “Found it” means the cache owner thinks the cache is there and won’t check it! Grr!

Lovely pile of stones.. but no cache underneath!

Lovely pile of stones.. but no cache underneath!

We had a similar experience at cache 7. Here though the cache had been found recently, and the GZ was very obvious (a tell-tale pile of cacher’s stones). That’s 2 DNFs out of 7. Suddenly the daily record attempt seems a long way off!

Our descent off the Ridgeway was completed at caches 8 and 9 (Orange Cream and Hazelnut Noisette… not making you hungry am I ?). We then a very short walk along what should have been a quiet country lane. In the 1/10th of a mile we walked along the road at least 4 vehicles zoomed passed us – we were grateful for the grass verge.

Leaving the road, approaching a farmhouse, we were loudly challenged by the farmer’s dog, shortly pursued by the owner! This was at a critical point of the route in terms of path-finding, so as soon as we were out of sight of the farmhouse, we double-checked that we heading towards the next cache, and more importantly back up to the Ridgeway.

Many easy finds followed, our only distraction from the route was watching a handful of red kites gracefully gliding in the sky, eying the ground for prey. We tried taking pictures of these beautiful birds, but none of the dozen or so photos we took, did them justice (A black blob on a blue background!).

We found every cache on our ascent which left us 8 to find on the Ridge itself. The first was hidden in the back of the memorial stone to the wife of the late John Betjeman. To us it seemed wrong to have a 35mm film canister stuck into a memorial crevice. Admittedly Penelope Betjeman wasn’t famous, but one wouldn’t place a cache in a memorial to say Nelson or Newton so why the wife of a former poet Laureate ?

Memorial to Penelope Betjeman

Memorial to Penelope Betjeman


We found the next 4 caches on the Ridge before we descended off the Ridgway (again) to hopefully find enough caches to break our record. So far we’d found 19 from 21 with only 12 more to attempt… things were looking good…will we break our record ?

(to be continued)

Some of the caches found so far :

October 24 – Interrogated by ‘Washknight’ – part 2

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.
We have finally finished our answers to Washknight’s interrogation – see http://washknight.wordpress.com/tag/washknight-interrogates. Here are the answers: they are an amalgam of both our views; where we couldn’t agree, both our answers are given.

GeoBlogger 20 Questions
1. When and how did you first get into geocaching?
Mrs Hg137: about 2 years ago, a landmark birthday was approaching for Mr Hg137 ; I bought him a GPS as a present. I’d heard of geocaching, and, as we both like puzzles and both like walking, it seemed like it might be a good idea.

2. Do you remember your first find?
Mrs Hg137: Yes – it was on the Ridgeway, the long-distance path we were walking at the time. It was in woodland, hidden in a camo bag in yew tree roots. I was really, really chuffed that we’d managed to find something!
Mr Hg137 : …. and later that same day we found England’s Oldest Surviving Geocache (“View from Coombe Hill”, placed January 2001) so we were very, very fortunate to find a historic cache so early on in our caching career. Incidentally we also lucky our first few caches were ammo-size containers so a really great start for us (I’m not sure we’d have been so hooked if our first few caches had been magnetic nanos!)

First cache!

First cache!

3. What device(s) do you use for locating caches?
It’s a Garmin Etrex 10 – the cheapest possible GPS available. We chose it together (Mrs Hg137: no, I wasn’t being cheapskate with the birthday money!) as we thought that if we didn’t like geocaching, or dropped/broke/lost the GPS it wouldn’t be too great a loss. And it turned out to be great fun.

4. Where do you live and what is your local area like for geocaching? (density / quality / setting etc)

We live in Sandhurst; there are LOADS of caches around and about.
Many of the immediate caches are puzzle caches, which are very slowly working our way around. Within a short-ish drive we’ve been able to find several routes in local footpaths with about 15-20 caches. There is a lot of Army land near us, which prevents certain access, indeed the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst is almost visible from our doorstep!

5. What has been your most memorable geocache to date, and why?

The cache was called “Basingstoke Canal Swing Bridge”, a terrain 3, difficulty 4.5 cache. We knew it existed but never had a canoe to go under the bridge. …. but let’s rewind the clock 2 hours earlier..
We attended a cacher’s meet to celebrate ‘Cacher’s Maker Day’ in Fleet/Church Crookham. After the meet, we then undertook a few caches placed for the occasion. We arrived at the canal bridge with the intent of crossing it and returning to our car. Mrs HG137 then realised she had a key which unlocked the swing bridge! (Don’t ask why !). While we were discussing whether to unlock the bridge along came a few other cachers. As a team we unlocked the bridge, manhandled the bridge open so it was over a bank and clambered underneath. Very muddy, very smelly, and after a few minutes the skinny under-bridge crawlers (including Mr Hg137) were triumphant. Teamwork.. but probably not how the cache was to be found!

6. List 3 essential things you take on a geocaching adventure excluding GPS, pen and swaps.

Camera (to take pictures for the blog), a Swiss Army knife (well, you never know), and a map/screen print of where all the caches are, so we know their relative positions to each other (and we can make notes on the back). (We zigzagged around far too often early on!) (One of our cameras has identical batteries to the GPS so we’ve tended not to take spare batteries).

7. Other than geocaches and their contents, What is the weirdest thing you have discovered whilst out caching?
A jar of frankfurters (one of our Nemesis caches is ‘Wisley Trailblazer’, and close to its GZ is an opened jar of frankfurters with 2 frankfurters still inside !)

but for something more scary… we discovered a fire in a Farnborough park during a caching trip. We needed to call the fire brigade to attend; but it was also one of the few occasions when we didn’t have a mobile phone with us, and it took 20 minutes to find someone to lend us a phone…

Fire, Fire!    Fire! Fire!

Fire, Fire! Fire! Fire!

8. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is I am obsessed by numbers and 10 is I am all about the experience and the quality of each individual cache. Where do you put yourself?
Mrs Hg137 : 3 (its what a Maths Degree does for you)
Mr Hg137 : 5 (as I’ve found many footpaths I never knew existed)

9. Describe one incident that best demonstrates the level of your geocaching obsession.
Mrs Hg137: it’s got to be Mr Hg137 driving, fruitlessly, repeatedly, around Hampshire and Surrey on missions to bag ‘Jacob’s Moving Cache’.

10. Have you picked up any caching injuries along the way?
Only the usual cuts, bruises, wet feet and muddiness, and (once) mild hypothermia.

11. What annoys you most about other geocachers?
A minor one: the way some cachers use up large amounts of a small cache log with large signatures, stamps, stickers …

12. What is the dumbest thing you have done whilst out caching?
See Canal Bridge earlier… (Mrs Hg137’s car is still filthy 6 months on!)

13. What do your non caching family and friends think of your hobby?

Some get it, some don’t. We also play a certain amount of competitive Scrabble (that’s how we met) so we are accustomed to having an unusual hobby!

14. What is your default excuse you give to muggles who ask what you are up to or if you need help?
Because we cache as a pair, invariably we can ‘cover’ for each other. Taking a camera helps, as we can always be posing to take a photo for a “Wildlife” competition ?

15. What is your current geocaching goal, if you have one?
We set a goal for 2013 to complete an average of a cache a day for the year, which we achieved by September 2013. That’s why we started the blog, as an online diary of this goal.

16. Do you have a nemesis cache that despite multiple attempts you have been unable to find?

There are two current ones: ‘Wisley Trailblazer’ and ‘Off your trolley’ (Sandhurst). We’ve had several goes at both of these and we just cannot find them. ‘Wisley Trailblazer’ was originally published with no hint, and is the RHS Wisley Car Park. It took almost a month for the FTF, and we’ve tried to find it on at least three occasions all to no avail.

The ‘Off your trolley’ is one of our closest caches just off a muggle-rich supermarket car park. We’ve tried on numerous occasions including the muggle-less day of Christmas Day!

17. What 3 words or phrases best sum up what geocaching means to you.

Treasure hunt; walking; unexpected interesting places

We did find this on our travels in Wiltshire and I think it says it better than we can !

This sculpture says it all...  "The Greatest Secrets are Always Hidden in the Most Unlikely Places"

This sculpture says it all…
“The Greatest Secrets are Always Hidden in the Most Unlikely Places”


18. What prompted you to start blogging about geocaching?

see 15.

19. Which of your own blog entries are you most proud of.
Mr Hg137: Reading back over some of our early blogs, our writing style has changed, and has possibly become more light-hearted. We also blog about the trackables we find, this draws many readers in (mainly from Germany!) who try to use our blog to log trackables virtually.
Mrs Hg137: The best blog posts, and the easiest to write, are those where something unexpected has happened when out on our caching trip … calling the fire brigade … forgetting the GPS … having to ford a river … The ones where everything goes to plan are much harder to write about.

Let's go Bananas !

Let’s go Bananas !

The One that Got Away

The One that Got Away

20. Which other geocaching blogs do you enjoy reading?
Geocass – http://geocass.wordpress.com
Geo Mumma Kel – http://geomumma.wordpress.com
The bitchy cacher – http://thebitchycacher.wordpress.com
The Coastal Path: One family’s walk around the coast of Britain http://thecoastalpath.wordpress.com – not strictly a geocaching blog, but the writer is a cacher and geocaching gets a mention now and then

April 26 Nuffield – Grims Ditch and Bluebells!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We first started geocaching in the September of 2012 when we were finishing our walk along the 87-mile long-distance footpath, The Ridgeway. Today was our first return visit to part of that route.

We decided on combining two circular walks together Turtle’s Trail (16 caches) and Bluebell Loop (8 caches), and the Nuffield Church Micro.

The effect of joining the routes together, and parking in a reasonable place, meant we walked both these circuits the wrong way. This sometimes has advantages, as caches are often ‘behind’ something when approached in order and ‘in front’ when approached from the rear!

It also meant our walk started by walking 3 miles along Grim’s Ditch.

When we walked the Ridgeway previously we HATED Grim’s Ditch. Grim by name and Grim by nature. It was very muddy, the Summer canopy of trees made it very dark and its was… well.. Grim.

Today was different. The canopy hadn’t closed in, and although it had rained in the previous 24 hours, the path was not muddy. In fact the whole footpath was a Spring delight. Rabbits, squirrels, kites, and bluebells – loads of them.

Grim's Ditch

Grim’s Ditch

The caches were fairly easy to find (well most of them, there was one we didn’t find, and another we took 15 minutes to find!). Most were simple plastic pots hidden under/in stumps/log or flint.

One of the smaller caches we found!

One of the smaller caches we found!


Our return took us through farmland (where the farmer was washing his tractor), and some managed woodland where many trees had recently been felled. By counting tree ring rings we estimate most of the trees were 25-50 years old.

After the last cache we embarked on the Bluebell Loop. After passing through farmland and a smithy (with a metal elephant in the garden!), we had a final mile or so in a glorious woodland with millions of bluebells.

Can you spot the Elephant?

Can you spot the Elephant?

We ended up at Nuffield Church, where we collected the clue for our location of our final cache of the day. For a small village church it’s remarkable that there are 2 famous people buried there – the founder of Morris Motors and David Frost. With hindsight we should have collected the clues first as we then had to walk half a mile back round our original route.

A brilliant and exhausting days caching – about 8 miles, 24 caches and millions of bluebells!

What no stile! An interesting Ground Zero!

What no stile! An interesting Ground Zero!

Another Ground Zero - but where's the cache ?

Another Ground Zero – but where’s the cache ?