Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.
After thirteen cache-free weeks, we decided it was time to venture out. We set out, travelling the vast distance of … almost eight miles from home. It was the furthest we had ventured since the start of lockdown and it felt like a very long way away.
We went to Mattingley, a small village in north-east Hampshire, where we had cached exactly a year before https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2019/06/22/june-22-mattingley/ That time we did a circuit to the north. Today we were going south through West Green, then along the Brenda Parker Way to Murrell Green and returning via Dipley, on paths and quiet country roads, with just a few yards beside the busy A30 in the middle.
From the church (big, free car park) our walk started with a section along quiet country lanes, downhill to the River Whitewater and then on to the hamlet of Hazeley Bottom. Our first cache, Clapper Bridge, was at the bridge; we had a small celebration as we found our first cache for oh so long. (Editor’s note: it hasn’t been a ‘proper’ clapper bridge since 1838.) We continued on towards Hazeley Bottom, another small village. There wasn’t much traffic. Not strictly true; there wasn’t much motorised traffic, but there were LOTS of cyclists, almost all kitted out with bright Lycra and speedy bikes.
On the edge of Hazeley Bottom we turned off the road to follow footpaths south towards West Green. Our lack of caching practice began to show, as we only found one cache out of the next four we visited (one was marked as missing, two we couldn’t find, and a paltry single success). We arrived at West Green Common, a wooded area criss-crossed by paths. Looking for another cache, Message in a Bottle, we bumbled about in the woods for a bit before spotting the tell-tale pile of twigs, and there was the cache. While searching, three other people came wandering through the woods, also off the path; we thought they might be cachers (who else wanders around like this?) so we asked. But no, they were part of the Hampshire Dormouse Group https://hampshiredormousegroup.co.uk and they were checking their 40th box (of 50) for the day. You really never know who you’ll meet while out caching!
We carried on south from West Green, following the Brenda Parker Way towards the A30 https://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Brenda+Parker+Way We arrived at a cache called Defended 2, which is within sight of a pillbox. ‘Defended’ was a good name for this cache! We couldn’t get anywhere near it as two herds of cattle were gathered, surrounding the cache, one each side of the fence, plus the farmer checking on his livestock. We decided it was better not to try and walked on by.
The path squeezed alongside the fence around a gas offtake. This used to be my industry and I enthusiastically pointed out the places where 24” and 18” pipelines radiated from the site and the directions they took out into the country … Mr Hg137 was underwhelmed. Oh well.
Suddenly we were out on a pavement alongside the A30 and cars were whizzing by. The road wasn’t especially busy but it was much, much noisier than before. It was good to turn off the road a few yards later to start the return part of our walk. We found another pillbox and another cache, Defended, and wondered exactly what they were put there to defend – maybe the A30 itself, as it’s a major route to the west?
A short and nettle-strewn walk led to a country lane. We walked along this, climbing gently, dodging yet more cyclists. Caches were placed along the road at regular intervals, and we tried to find them all, but actually found about half. Perhaps they were all there and we simply couldn’t find them; but there are lots of logs for those caches and the consensus of opinion is that they are missing and that the cache series needs a little TLC (which might simply be that the cache owners have been unable to get out to do it). The road became a track, then a path, and we arrived at Dipley.
By now it was mid-afternoon, the cool morning had turned into a sunny weekend afternoon, and many a muggle had decided to go out in the sunshine. A large number of them were passing by our next cache, Bamboozled. This area was muggle central – at least three groups of people came by from each direction, plus a few more using the nearby road. Dogwalkers, cyclists, runners, walkers … after a bit we paused, leaned on a gate, opened a bottle of water and just waited for everyone to go away. Once alone, the cache was a quick and easy find – all we needed was a few seconds peace to grab it!
We left thronging Dipley behind, and took a footpath beside the River Whitewater through some beautiful gardens (but private, and fenced off). We came to a tiny, delightfully wonky bridge over a side stream and wanted to stop there to look for a cache.
But … we thought the last cache site was busy with muggles – it had nothing on this one! We waited and waited and waited, and had a very, very long chat with the plump Shetland ponies in the next field. Eventually, we had a couple of minutes to scour the bridge. And we used all our available time, only finding the cache as the next set of muggles hove into view.
And that left just one more cache, a simple find at another bridge over the Whitewater. A short way on, the path led through the churchyard of Mattingley Church (still closed, sadly) before emerging into the church car park and reaching our start point. The walk had been just under six miles, but it had seemed much, much further: we really are out of practice.
Well, that was it: an excellent trip that had everything: beautiful countryside, rivers, bridges, lanes, pillboxes, trees, nettles and cows (lots of cows!). What a great way to get back into geocaching!