July 13 : Cache number 2000!

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Cache 2000 !!!

Cache 2000 !!!


Somehow we managed to arrange our 2000th cache on a date that means much to us. (the 137 in our caching name and 13/7 is no coincidence).

After some dedicated cache finding we had got close to our 2000-cache milestone. The previous day we had gone out for a short evening caching trip and had found three caches, taking us to a total of 1,999, and we had carefully chosen another, which was due to be THE milestone cache. (Editor’s note: and we had also carefully checked it was there, because we didn’t want our one milestone cache on a special day to be a failure, definitely not!)

Because of work and social commitments, we didn’t stop being busy until the late evening … the very late evening. At around 23:00 we parked just a short distance from our target, armed ourselves with a torch and a pen, and headed for the cache. Luckily, it was just where we thought it would be (phew, relief!) and we signed the log, celebrated, and returned to the car. We hadn’t even attracted the attention of the people still drinking in the pub garden opposite …

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July 12 : Sandhurst

Time was running out for us to reach 2000 caches by July 13th.

Our schedules had been usurped by work commitments, and the grand plans we’d had for the 13th had been scuppered by various employers.

Yet, we were still 4 caches short.

We devised Plan B. To find 3 local caches on the 12th, reconnoitre the Ground Zero for the 2000th cache, so in what little time we would have on the 13th, it could just be a cache and dash.

Sandhurst

One of the many bridges and football pitches at Sandhurst Memorial Park

Sandhurst Memorial Park is an area of about 28 hectares and includes numerous football pitches, a cricket pitch, tug-of-war practice area, a children’s playground, tennis courts, and most importantly is centrally placed in Sandhurst. Until recently there was only one car park, but another, Pyes Acre has just been built. From the road, the car park looked like it would hold about a dozen cars, but when we drove in, it took more like 50!

This was good news as our 2000th cache was just feet from the car park…but not today!

Instead we wandered around the perimeter of the parkland, crossing a couple of the football pitches and one of the many tiny bridges that criss-cross the park. (One of the reasons for it being such a large park is that the park forms part of the flood plain for the River Blackwater, so is tricky to build on. The tiny streams that the bridges cross are used as drainage channels.)

We arrived at our first cache, deep in a copse well away from the plethora of people enjoying the evening sunshine. Our GPS wouldn’t settle, but with the aid of the hint ‘In the roots of a cut down ivy covered tree stump’ we located our target.

Sandhurst

Somewhere..under there..

Sadly the hint did not add ‘…and surrounded by knee-high stinging nettles’. We hadn’t brought our geo-pole (aka machete) with us! A few branches would do the trick. Just. Cache 1997 signed, just before the stinging nettles started to fight back.

Cache 1998 was a little easier as it was under one of the little bridges we had crossed earlier.
But, in full view of a football training session.

Sometimes it is easy to cache in a busy place, as no-one stands out from the crowd. Two adults, pausing every-so-slightly-too-long on a small bridge, perhaps picking something up, drew no suspicion at all.

Our last cache was in woodland again, but much closer to the busy A321 near to a major traffic light junction. We pass by here every day, and within yards of the road is a well concealed cache. We had been a little concerned as many previous finders had said the co-ordinates were slightly off, and with impeding dusk we didn’t fancy our chances in dark woodland. Fortunately the GPS was bang on! And a quick find for cache 1999!

Roll on July 13!

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.

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 Geocachers Trail Trackable

Sandhurst Geocachers Trail Trackable starts its quest

Sandhurst Geocachers Trail Trackable starts its quest

Normally when we blog about trackables, we blog about those we have found whilst geocaching, and those which we are moving on for their owners.

The Sandhurst Geocachers Trail Trackable is different.

We are using it to show our progress on our ‘Sandhurst to Sandhurst Quest’ we described earlier this year.

For those that are not aware, when a trackable is logged into a geocache location, it produces a marker on the trackable’s location map. As the trackable moves from geocache to geocache these points are joined up into lines and the lines can become very big indeed. For example a trackable that starts its travels in London, visits New York, then Sydney, then Mumbai, then Munich would have lines wrapping across the whole globe.

The problem with these lines is that they are the shortest distance between cache to cache. Most geocachers don’t travel in straight lines cache to cache, so the distance associated with the lines can be a bit distorted.

However that problem aside, we intend to use the Sandhurst Geocachers Trail Trackable to track our progress from Sandhurst to Sandhurst. We intend to ‘dip’ the trackable in every cache on route, thus building up a map showing our route so far. You can visit the route using this link :

https://www.geocaching.com/track/map_gm.aspx?ID=6190539

Each numbered location is a cache we have visited (or attempted to visit). At each visit will generate a ‘trackable dip’.

(Ideally the trackable should be dipped in the ‘actual’ geocache container, but some geocaches are not at the location shown on the http://www.geocaching.com map. For example multis and puzzle caches, so we may just ‘dip’ the trackable at the ‘map start’ location of these geocaches if they are on route.)

The more caches we ‘dip’ along our way, the more accurate our mileage will be. We may also include a couple of cache ‘dips’ off our route (providing we find the cache of course), to add some mileage into the route. This will (hopefully) compensate for any shortages generated by the cache-to-cache route shown on the trackable map.

If this sounds very confusing, don’t worry. click on the map and watch our progress… we are aiming for Sandhurst (Kent) approximately 60 miles SE from our start location, a little further on from Royal Tunbridge Wells and a just beyond a reservoir that has a tripod shape!

Here’s the map again.. we hope you enjoy watching our progress…

https://www.geocaching.com/track/map_gm.aspx?ID=6190539

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:

January 1 : The 2017 Challenge Unveiled

We are frequently asked by our friends, family and caching acquaintances whether we have another Annual Walking / Caching challenge.

Previous challenges (pre caching days) have included walking the South Downs Way, the Ridgeway, and the Three Castles Path. Our caching challenges have been to find 365 caches in a year (we now consistently find 400-430 caches per year) and to walk and cache the Thames Path.

This year we plan something different.

Something relevant to us.

Most of our readers know we live in Sandhurst (hence the blog title), home of the Royal Military Academy.

Few people know there are two other “Sandhurst”s in the UK. One is a small village just North of Gloucester, the other, a larger village, some miles East of Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent.

Coincidentally Sandhurst (Berkshire) is roughly equidistant between the other Sandhursts (about 80-90 miles away by road, and 60-75 miles as the crow flies).

Our challenge is to visit at least one, and hopefully both, other Sandhursts during the year. We will cache our way to them, using footpaths in preference to roads.

This challenge will be harder than other long distant routes we have walked for three reasons :

i) surprisingly (!) the route does NOT have its own guidebook
ii) the route will not be waymarked so will have to self-navigate and hope our map-reading is adequate
iii) some footpaths/bridges are, from time to time, closed. We may not find out about these closures until we are faced with them and will have to problem solve a new route as we go.

Depending on how we fare with one of our Sandhurst visits will determine whether we attempt the other this year.

We will call our route “The Sandhurst Trail” – so watch out Sandhursts… we’re coming to get you!