June 10 : Blackwater River Path

Yateley, Sandhurst

One of the many Fishing Lakes

It is quite unusual to find new caches, indeed high quality caches, within 2 miles from home.

Somehow a 5 cache series (BRPW 1-5 – Blackwater River Path Walk) had sneaked under our radar. As had 6 other caches close to them. The series circumnavigates a number of fisherman’s lakes which until a few years ago was private land. Since then a small part of the land has been made into a small car park and also some allotments.

Yateley, Sandhurst

Allotments

Interestingly we looked at placing caches at this location, but never quite got round to getting approval from the land owner, but in all fairness, our caches would have very inferior to those that had been placed.

And so well before 9am, we parked the car, and looked for our first two caches. These were a short distance away from the fishing lakes. One cache camouflaged in a tree, the other, magnetic, overlooking…a sewage plant. Yes ! The wonderfully named Pooh’s Place was a magnetic cache attached to an disused gate, overlooking the ever-turning blades of sewage ponds. Lovely!

Good job you can’t smell photographs!

And so to the lakes. Our first cache was a travel bug hotel. We had two travel bugs with us – a Toy Story Woody (Woody’s Escape) and a metallic Africa. The cache led us a merry dance. The title of the cache included the word ‘Waterside’ but with a lake one side of the footpath, and a fabulous ‘cache friendly’ tree near a river on the other..we looked at the wrong ‘Waterside’ for a very long time.

Eventually we found the cache. Smaller than many travel bug hotels we’ve found and as we couldn’t squash ‘Woody’ in, we deposited ‘Africa’ and walked on.

Yateley, Sandhurst

Onward, onward

The fishing lakes were being well used. Or at least probably were. Many of the anglers were packing up after a night’s fishing, others were slowly waking up and the remainder…well let’s just the snoring would keep the fish away! We tiptoed (in walking boots!) past and in our quietness failed to notice the stump hosting our next find. So we walked back and found the cache just out of what would have been a slumbering angler’s eyeline.

The caches we had found so far were all good, but were not the main event as the next 5 caches were the BRPW series. 4 of these were ‘bird box’ caches, and each had to be opened in a different way. Does the lid move ? What about the pole at the front – does that turn ? What if we press this ? All good fun!

The exception was well concealed cache in a hollowed out branch attached very discreetly to a small trunk.

Away from the road we had the paths and lakes to ourselves and we barely saw anyone for the majority of the walk – but what we did see were hundreds of dragonflies. We stopped several times to take pictures, but taking a picture of a moving dragonfly is very, very difficult.

Yateley, sandhurst

Stay still while we photograph you!

Towards the end of the route, we think our navigation went wrong as the path became narrower and narrower. And nettlier and nettlier. The geo-pole was exceeding useful in cutting a way through to the final two caches. These two were hidden in wood, one found easily. The other, less so. Being the last cache of the day, and no DNF so far for the day, we wanted to find them all and spent 15 minutes looking in totally the wrong place.

Find it we did, and a fine morning’s caching was complete. None of the caches were film canisters under a pile of sticks. Each provided a little moment of euphoria as the cache container was extricated from its natural looking hide. A fine series and well worth the favourite points we awarded.

Here are a few of the caches we found …

Yateley, SandhurstYateley, SandhurstYateley, Sandhurst


One sad note, and one we are very ashamed of.

We took the trackable “Woody’s Escape” out with us. Somehow it didn’t come back. We must have dropped it somewhere on route. We have searched our home, our bags, our car and the car park, all to no avail. Fingers crossed some cacher will find it and re-start it on its journey. To the owner of ‘Woody’ we are very, very sorry.

May 26 : Bodiam Castle

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle


We had just finished our unofficial, self-made long-distance path from Sandhurst (just in Berkshire) to Sandhurst (just in Kent). Woo hoo! Mission accomplished, that left a hot, sunny May afternoon free for enjoying ourselves, and we moved a mile or so from Sandhurst to Bodiam, just back over the border in Sussex.

Bodiam Castle really looked the part of a castle, surrounded by a moat, standing square with towers at the corners and gates https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodiam_Castle It was built in 1385 and still looks very complete from the outside. Inside it’s more of a shell but there are rooms and towers to visit and steep spiral staircases inside turrets to climb to the battlements. Once up top, there’s a view out across the nearby countryside with its vineyards, and down into the moat with its large and numerous carp.
Fish!

Fish!


After about two hours we had ‘done’ the castle quite thoroughly, had climbed every uneven winding staircase, walked along the battlements, and visited every room. After a cup of tea, time for some caching! Our first cache lay uphill from the castle, along the Sussex Border Path, at the side of a vineyard. ‘Swine Bovine Equine’ was a very old cache, placed in March 2002 (that is extremely venerable in caching age!) and its name comes from the figures decorating the weather vanes of three nearby oasthouses.
Swine, Bovine, Equine

Swine, Bovine, Equine


There is more history in the grounds of the castle, though much more modern, a World War II pillbox (to be more precise, a pentagonal FW3/28A variant, brick-skinned!) and there is a cache based on that. (More information on this pillbox can be found on this blog: http://wwww.pillbox.org.uk/blog/216726 ) We’d done the research beforehand, so didn’t need to look very closely, and the cache container can be found a little way away, outside the castle grounds. The cache description says that the National Trust expect visitors to pay before entering the castle grounds and walking past the pillbox; we did that anyway as we were visiting the castle … but that path is also a public footpath, part of the Sussex Border Path, and I think you could walk along that anyway, without paying.

Past the castle and moat, we turned uphill away from the castle to look for another cache, hidden behind a decorated village pump, which is also a war memorial. More about this can be found here: http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Sussex/Bodiam.html It was somewhere we had driven by earlier, almost without noticing, and would not have stopped. While researching for this post, I came across a comment on the cache logs which was written on the logs after our visit … ‘Message from a Bodiam resident THIS IS A WAR MEMORIAL Show respect’ I agree: we should, and did, show respect; but from another viewpoint, the cache brings visitors who would not stop here otherwise, and who keep alive the memories of those commemorated there.

Bodiam war memorial

Bodiam war memorial


But there is more to Bodiam than the castle: just over the River Rother lies a station, which forms one end of the Kent & East Sussex railway, the other end being at Tenterden https://www.kesr.org.uk It had its heyday during hop-picking times, and is now a heritage steam railway. And, as there was a station, there was a cache to be found there, from the ‘Sidetracked’ series. Could we find it? We gave it a very long search, staring at every possible place it could be hidden, including a very suspicious large stone tucked behind a fence post. But we couldn’t find it … no-one else has found it since, and it’s been temporarily disabled. It goes missing quite often, according to the logs.
Bodiam Station, K&ES railway

Bodiam Station, K&ES railway


It was now about 5pm, and still very hot, and we were beginning to wilt, as we had been out walking / castle visiting / caching all day in the sunshine. We had just one more cache to attempt, sort of on the way back to the car. Once back at the bridge over the River Rother, we then diverted along the path along the riverbank. A little way along was the final cache, ‘Castle View’, which really did mark the spot for a splendid view back to the castle nesting amongst trees just above the valley. Facing the other way, there was also a splendid view of the station and railway: A well chosen spot indeed.
River Rother

River Rother


And that was it for the day: time to head back to the hotel for a rest, a shower and a meal, in no particular order.

Here are some of the other caches we found:

February 18 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : Guildford to Winterfold Heath

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

We resumed our walk from Sandhurst (Berkshire) to Sandhurst (Kent). We were away from train lines, with no obvious bus route or other transport between the two ends of the route, so we planned to park a car at each end, then to walk between them. Simple, but the car shuffling does take time. This meant we could start the day with a first cache at the Park & Ride south of Guildford, overlooked by curious shoppers catching the bus into town.

First cache of the day

First cache of the day


Rejoining our past trail, we set off south on the banks of the Wey at St Catherine’s Lock, on a cold and misty morning. A round pillbox on a little knoll overlooked the river and the railway beyond and we climbed up to look in and around it, then scrambled around on the bank to find the cache hidden nearby.
Pillbox, watching over the River Wey

Pillbox, watching over the River Wey


A little distance on we passed the boat moorings in the entrance to the derelict Wey & Arun Canal, then left the river to join a disused railway line, now part of a long-distance path, the Downs Link Way https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downs_Link , which runs from Guildford all the way to Shoreham-on-Sea on the coast.

Downs Link Way

Downs Link Way


It meant level, well-surfaced walking for a few miles, but only an occasional cache to distract us. To break up the long, cache-free section, we added in one extra cache, up a busy and pavementless road, from the ‘Fine Pair’ series (a post box and phone box in view of each other, an interesting but increasingly rare series as phone boxes disappear).
Small letters only!

Small letters only!


Back on the railway track, all was peaceful … Suddenly, a muddy mountain biker sped past us … then another … then another two … then some more. Oh dear, we hadn’t unwittingly stepped into some sort of charity event, had we? It turned out that we hadn’t – it’s a well-established trail ride – http://www.trailbreak.co.uk/bramley-trail-ride – and the riders were respectful of the many other path users.
Watch out for cyclists!

Watch out for cyclists!


The end of the trail ride was at Bramley. This was also our lunch stop, and a chance for us to search for (and find) two unusual multicaches (those with multiple stages to the final cache). The first was one from the ‘Church Micro’ series. We had a quick look at the church, but didn’t hang around as people were gathering for a 70th birthday party. Instead we moved off to a seating area nearby – once the village animal pound – where there were seats and we could eat our lunch and solve the Church Micro. The early mist had now disappeared and it was a bright warm spring day, with daffodils and crocuses sprouting.
Bramley church

Bramley church – birthday party about to start


And there had been another multi cache based on Bramley and Wonersh station. We collected the numbers for that and solved that too. The station is now disused, as the line was decommissioned during the Beeching cuts in the 1960s. And before that, the station had come to notice during World War 2 when a train was bombed and lots of passengers were killed or injured http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/70/a3379070.shtml That’s another bit of local history I wouldn’t know about without geocaching.
Bramley and Wonersh station

Bramley and Wonersh station



Picnic lunch eaten, we set off to find the final locations of the two caches. One was the neatest, tidiest cache we had ever seen; even the sticks covering the cache were regular, even, and tidy. And the second cache was the newest we have ever found (so far) as it was only placed 12 days before we found it. Good result; we usually do very badly indeed with multicaches: our options for failure multiply exponentially as the number of steps increase.

After another couple of miles on the railway track, we turned off to join yet another long-distance path, the Greensand Way https://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Greensand+Way

We were headed for Shamley Green, and as we approached, we started to find caches from the SGB series (Shamley Green Bipedal-motion). And there was a great place to stop for an afternoon coffee, on a sunny seat by the church, not far away from the matching Church Micro cache.

Shamley Green church

Shamley Green church


A steady – and warm! ascent followed, taking us up to the ridge line of the Surrey Hills, among the birch trees and heathland of Winterfold Heath https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winterfold_Forest with expansive views towards the South Downs: we thought we could just make out Chanctonbury Ring, hazy on the horizon. There were caches nearby. But somewhere here our finding methods took a wobble. Mr Hg137 set off confidently into a bramble thicket, announcing that it ‘was only 300 feet away’. Minutes later, we weren’t any closer. We struggled back to the path and tried again. Soon we were standing on a near-vertical slope, peering at a birch tree – it was the wrong one. Mr Hg137 scrambled on, and was soon removing a cache container from the entrails of a plastic lizard…

We walked on along the ridge, and suddenly came across a structure that resembled a curled-up pangolin. We looked and wondered, and did some research later.
Perspectives - 1

Perspectives – 1

Perspectives - 2

Perspectives – 2

Perspectives - 3

Perspectives – 3


It’s called ‘Perspectives’ http://gilesmiller.com/artworks/perspectives A steady stream of muggles appeared through the woods to visit the peaceful spot looking out from the ridge.

By now the sun was near the horizon and it was noticeably cooler. We walked the remaining mile to the other car, set about some reverse car shuffling, and headed home in the dusk.

A most interesting and varied walk!

Here are some of the many caches we found:

February 4 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : Wanborough to Guildford

Winter had changed from a cold, frosty season to a wet one. Very showery, very cloudy.

But the day was fairly fine with the promise of rain later. Best get on with the plan !

St Bartholomew's Church, Wanborough

St Bartholomew’s Church, Wanborough


The plan was to walk from Wanborough Station to Shalford Station, catch the hourly train from Shalford station to Guildford, then wait 20 minutes for the half-hourly train back from Guildford to Wanborough.

We had walked and cached some of this route before, so it should be straightforward. What could possibly go wrong? Eagle-eyed readers will have noted the blog title does not correlate to the plan so, a bit like caching, expect the unexpected!

It all started well enough. Our previous visit had left a previous multi/puzzle unfound, so before arriving at Wanborough station we parked near to where we had looked before and rummaged. Was it that we were fresher, keener and warmer than when we last looked? Was it the hedgerow seemed to have been trimmed ? Either way an easy find and a great start to our day’s caching.

How-l did we miss this on our previous visit ?

How-l did we miss this on our previous visit ?


Our first real target of the day was a Church Micro in Wanborough. To reach it meant walking for about half a mile on the Fox Way, a 39 circular route circumnavigating Guildford. The route is named after Richard Fox, one of its creators. There are also a number of geocaches on its route too! However our half-mile journey involved walking along a muddy, flooded, barbed-wire enclosed, narrow footpath.
Fox Way, Guildford, Surrey

The (somewhat muddy) Fox Way


We gingerly squelched our way along the track, sometimes using the fence posts as stability, other times a submerged brick was a useful stepping stone in the flooded section. During the summer this path would be really easy, but after a week of winter rain… the semi-submerged path proved tricky!

When we arrived at the Church (St Barthomolew’s) we found a real gem. The Church was built shortly after the Norman Conquest and the answers to the multi-puzzle cache were easy to find and easy to calculate. However a parked van obscured our vision of the optimal footpath sign, so we took a slightly longer route to the cache than we expected. The cache was found with the help of two sheep in the neighbouring field who came over to chat.

Ewe will find the cache here!

Ewe will find the cache here!

We decided to have a coffee stop back at the Church, as our previous knowledge of the area told us there would be no other suitable spot for a while.

We then had the longest section of pavement walking of the Sandhurst-Sandhurst route so far, but this was more to ensure an easy tunnel crossing of the Hogs Back, a notorious dual carriageway (A31).

We arrived at the North Downs Way, another long distance footpath, which links Farnham to Dover. We were only walking 3-4 miles of its 153 miles before turning away from it, to reach Shalford. We had cached twice on the North Downs Way and we had DNF’ed a couple of caches on our previous visit. Today was time to have another search!

And we were lucky with both! The first, discovered behind a fence post and really, really small; Mrs Hg137 also discovered stinging nettles sting even in February. The other was more troublesome since it was in tree roots at the top of a muddy gully. To reach the roots we slipped and slithered, and kept watch as several parties of muggles trudged by, each own complaining of the ankle deep mud. It took three attempts to find this cache (well Mr Hg137 took two, and Mrs Hg137 found it easily!). Still a find is a find !

The North Downs Way was quite busy as there was an afternoon event at the Watts Gallery. This Gallery has been rebuilt using Lottery funding and exhibits the work of Victorian painter and sculptor George Watts.

Watts Gallery, Compton

Watts Gallery, Compton

We also passed two groups of Bronze Duke of Edinburgh parties. (We’ve discovered over time that they spend just as much time having a six-way discussion over the map, as they do walking!).

North Downs Way

A less muddy section of the North Downs Way

Our next caches were just after we had turned away from the North Downs Way both easy finds, hidden in tree roots.

We were aiming for a tiny hamlet at Littleton where another Church Micro awaited. (We also assumed there would be a seat in the Church grounds for lunch). Sadly… there wasn’t.

The Church was originally built as a village school house back in 1843 and turned into a church when the school moved premises. However the granite step into the Church proved a more than adequate seat. Unlike Mr Hg137’s ability to load the Church Micro details into the GPS! He had written down the calculation but failed to load the cache details so that we had no means of finding the location of A,B,C, D and E. We searched unsuccessfully for a wifi signal. Nothing. Then, as were leaving we noticed 5 numbers on two signs which Mr Hg137 remembered being the key. We assigned values in an obvious way and undertook the calculation. We were only 100 feet away!

Littleton, Surrey

Littleton Church


Fab!

Sadly, no!

The Ground Zero had just been re-fenced. New poles had been erected – even a nearby Farm Sign was new! We decided that the cache had been ‘lost’ in the upheaval and marked it down as our first DNF of the day.

So reluctantly we headed away from Littleton, and headed towards Shalford. The path formed the boundary of a Police Dog Training Centre, and it seemed no coincidence to us, that every dog walker seemed to have an Alsatian with them. Fortunately the two caches we had to find on this section were surprisingly straightforward. One hidden in the depths of some horizontal ivy (shame the log book was so wet we could barely write on it), the other not quite so well hidden in a recumbent log.

Lichen this walk a lot!

Lichen this walk a lot!

Time was ticking as were emerged on a main road halfway between Guildford and Shalford… could we walk and cache the last 3/4 mile or so in 30 minutes so we would make the next hourly train ?

All we had to do was cross the River Wey, find a cache on a ‘island’ (more accurately a large piece of land which the River Wey meandered around), cross the River Wey on the far side of island, walk through a cemetery (another cache) and arrive at the station.

St Catherines Lock, River Wey, Guildford

The River Wey from St Catherine’s Lock near Guildford

Our first River Wey crossing was at St Catherine’s Lock. Due to high water levels downstream this was as far as boats could travel (not that we saw any). We arrived at the first cache site, and then read the logs.. it had been DNFed since April last year. We undertook a token search, but decided with time pressing, to move on to locate our second bridge.

Could we find the bridge ? No ! There seemed to be no route off the far side of the island! Even a local dog walker (yet another Alsatian), said there was no bridge. We checked our maps, and although we could see one printed we accepted her word. We quickly concluded we would not have enough time to walk all the back to the lock gates, and walk an even longer route to Shalford station in the 20 minutes before the train was due.

Reluctantly we decided to walk to Guildford instead… we could follow the Wey to the City Centre, find the station, and still catch our connecting train. 40 minutes and 2 miles later we arrived at the Station, breathless and exhausted after an eventful day’s caching.

Our journey is being documented by a trackable which we are ‘dipping’ in found caches or at other cache locations to give a ‘broadly accurate route’.

guildford-tb-route

Here are some of the caches found on today’s route :

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.