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.

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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:

June 8 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Fairford to Lechlade

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Fairford Church - St Mary's

Fairford Church – St Mary’s


After a gap of four weeks, we returned to our epic walk from Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) home to Sandhurst (Berkshire). This section was quite a short one, between Fairford and Lechlade, mostly through the Cotswold Water Park.

Parking one geocar in a layby near Lechlade, we stopped just long enough to find a cache there, then drove to Fairford in the other geocar. There’s a superb free car park close to the church, so we parked there and started our journey by crossing the road to visit St Mary’s Church. It’s a big church, funded by the wool trade, with superb medieval stained glass windows, the only complete set in the country https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairford_stained_glass Our plan was to collect information needed to solve the Church Micro cache associated with the church, have a quick look at the glass, find the cache, and be on our way. It didn’t quite work out like that …

Entering the church, a steward handed us an audio guide which detailed all sorts of things about the windows and the church. It would take well over an hour to see everything – there are 28 windows, and other things. But we needed to get on, and get walking. We compromised and looked at a few selected windows, found the information and left. (Editor’s note: we didn’t have time to do justice to this church interior but it is very well worth visiting and spending a while just looking at the windows; each one contains a wealth of detail and symbolism well covered in the audio guide.)

Leaving the church, we went to look for the cache, which was located very close to where the car was parked. Or should have been. Some nettle stings later, we abandoned our search, and finally set off. Oh dear, it was rather later in the day than we had intended. We walked through the town, skirted some building work, and set out along the track of an abandoned railway, now a path http://www.fairfordbranch.co.uk/Fairford.htm There’s a cache along here too, one from the ‘Sidetracked’ series. (Editor’s note: geocaches really do help with finding a route, we would have struggled to find this path without that location to guide us.)

After a bit, we reached the water park and followed a selection of paths leading round the lakes. Once again, it didn’t go to plan … the lakes are still being dug out, so the map doesn’t match what is on the ground … and we couldn’t find several of the caches we were looking for. They were part of a series planted by a local Scout troop to get their geocaching badge, but we suspect that the interest wanes a bit once the badge is achieved, and the caches aren’t maintained as well as they could have been.

Some day soon, this will be houses ...

Some day soon, this will be houses …


After some bumbling about we arrived at the edge of a housing development in progress, https://www.thelakesbyyoo.com There was a footpath somewhere, but we couldn’t spot it, and there were forbidding signs warning of dire consequences for any trangression. We approached a Gurkha security officer, asked the way, and were efficiently, promptly, and politely given a map (maybe we weren’t the first to ask). Emboldened, we set off, talked our way past some burly security guards, using the map as a talisman, clambered through a live building area, close to a digger, waving the map as a pass, and found our way onto a road leading through the already-built bit of the estate. There were some very large and very expensive houses here, but it didn’t do it for me: some of the lakes were a rather strange colour, and the buildings were a bit “Thames Valley Park” meets “Center Parcs”. I was glad when we emerged onto the Thames and Severn Way, leading us towards Lechlade.
Strange water colour?

Strange water colour?


Almost immediately we were finding caches from another series, the SSS / Seven Stile Stroll, which led us nicely into Lechlade, with only one failure among the five we attempted. Part way along the path we stopped for a welcome coffee break – we couldn’t stop in the building site/housing estate – and watched a small number of escaped sheep frolicking at the other side of the field. They spotted us, became embarrassed, and sheepishly slunk back to their field …
Lechlade

Lechlade


The path ended at the edge of Lechlade and we were soon in the town centre, it’s not a huge place. There are some quirky things to be seen – an all-year round Christmas shop, and a five foot high blue fibreglass hare being just two of them. A large blue hare? Why? Dunno. We went to the church, had a quick look inside – very pleasant, but not on the scale of Fairford – then worked out the answer for the Lechlade Church Micro which was, of course, a place that we had passed as we walked into the town. Then it was just a short walk along a tree-lined path out of town and we were back at the geocar; we’d been here before in March 2015 when we were walking the Thames Path.
It's Christmas all year in Lechlade....

It’s Christmas all year in Lechlade….


... and giant blue hares live in Lechalade too...

… and giant blue hares live in Lechalade too…


We drove back to Fairford to collect the other geocar. We were, once again, very close to the first cache of the day, which we didn’t find earlier. Once again, we braved the nettles. And this time we found a cache! (Editor’s note: when logging the cache, we found that it had been replaced, during the day, with the cache owner’s permission, so we hadn’t missed it on our first visit.)

And here, as ever, are some of the caches we found:

May 11 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Bibury to Fairford

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

River Coln, Gloucestershire

River Coln, Gloucestershire


Spring was two weeks further advanced, and we were set to do the next section of our epic walk from Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) home to Sandhurst (Berkshire). This section followed the Coln valley downstream from Bibury to Fairford. And, good for our navigation, the route also followed more of the largest cache series we have ever seen (the Great Cotswold Walk or GCW series) which comprises over 130 caches. Just follow the arrow on the GPS!

Start point of our walk


We set off from the riverside overlooking Arlington Row in Bibury, where we finished our last walk. It was early on a weekday morning, but the tourists were already out in numbers. Luckily, they were all clustered around that one small area, and we were soon away from people as we stepped onto the track leading away from the village. It was about 3 miles to the next village, Quenington, walking roughly parallel to the river, along paths and tracks, through fields and woods, all very attractive and spring-like. By then we had found just under 20 caches, almost all of them from the GCW series, and all straightforward finds with accurate hints to assist our searches.


One of the caches not in the GCW series was Old Ent, a cache set in a venerable hollow tree close to the footpath. We sort of expected the cache to be hidden in the hollow trunk of the tree, but no … a search ensued and we were eventually successful.
Old Ent

Old Ent


Our arrival in Quenington coincided with lunchtime, and we sat on one of the many seats on the village green, ate our sandwiches, and watched the world go by. The green was freshly mown and all was very tidy: it was the village fete the very next day. There were two multicaches in the village: one from the Fine Pair series (where a red telephone box is visible from a post box), and another from the Church Micro series, St. Swithin’s Church https://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=1565. We found them both, criss-crossing the village and the village green several times on the way.
Quenington - village green

Quenington – village green


Quenington - a Fine Pair - red phone box and postbox

Quenington – a Fine Pair – red phone box and postbox


Quenington - St Swithin's Church

Quenington – St Swithin’s Church


Eventually we decided we had ‘done’ the caches of Quenington, striking out towards Fairford. We trundled onwards by the river, finding yet more caches as we went. While finding one cache in the woods, we were passed by a fisherman, who wanted to know what we were doing; a long explanation was provided by Mr Hg137. Later, having just found a cache, we were passed by a lone walker. We stopped to chat about inconsequential things, then both moved on. Strange that he also had a GPS … We looked back, to see the lone walker disappearing into the same hedge that we had just left. Aha! Another cacher: hello, Muriel the Pluriel.
Approaching Fairford

Approaching Fairford


We walked on, more and more caches were found, and we approached Fairford. It turned out that we had been following a permissive path along the river (FYI – it’s closed on Tuesdays!) (Editor’s note: but we had thought we would have at least two miles of road walking and this is MUCH better.) http://ernestcooktrust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/the_pitham_brook_permissive_footpath_map.pdf As we reached the geocar in the (free) car park, we totted up the number we had found that day. Thirty five !!! A new daily record for us (albeit that our previous record had been set only two weeks before, on the very same cache series …)
Our route from Foss Cross to Fairford

Our route from Foss Cross to Fairford


Here are some of the very many caches we found:

April 28 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Foss Cross to Bibury

Bibury

The next section of our walk back to Sandhurst would pass through Fairford. As the crow flies it was a distance of about 8 miles. To reach Fairford would mean walking through one of the largest cache series we have seen (the Great Cotswold Walk or GCW series) comprising over 130 caches!

Foss Cross to Fairford caches


What to do ? Do we walk to Fairford and ignore every cache on our way ?

Do we walk to Fairford and attempt every other cache ?

We did neither. We decided to break our route at about the 4 mile mark in Bibury. This would give us about 30 caches to find and a reasonable walk too.

Coln Rogers Church

Of course there were a few other non-GCW caches to find, and after about half-a mile’s walk we reached one of these. A Church Micro set in the tiny village of Coln Rogers. A small Saxon church. In the foyer, there was a memorial plaque to the villagers who fought in WWI. But, almost as interesting was another plaque. This village lost no-one during the fighting in WWI. Such villages are known as “Thankful Villages”.

Our route away from Coln Rogers was tricky. Some of the ‘public footpath’ signage was obscured by verdant Spring hedge growth, which meant we started to walk through someone’s front garden! Whoops!

Then the sting. A fierce uphill climb, up a muddy path to reach a bridleway. The path was muddy and slippery and the tree branches were excellent tools to aid ascent.

At the bridleway we had a choice. To head South to Bibury, or North to a village called Calcot before taking a different path to Bibury. We again did neither. We headed South to find three caches (one had a high number of favourite points, but actually was a cache on a stick hidden in ivy) then return and head for Calcot. The bridleway was very muddy, but no so muddy that a horse rider galloped past us while we searching for a cache.

The bridleway yielded 4 caches, all very easy finds. In fact all the GCW series were easy finds. The cache owner gave very specific hints for each which made every find very quick. The payback for these quick and easy finds is that the majority of the caches were small film canisters, with perhaps half-a-dozen exceptions.

The highlight find of the day was in Calcot. The cache was part of the ‘Fine Pair’ series, where both a red telephone box and red post box are in very close proximity to each other. Like many of the post boxes we had seen recently this was now a mini library. Second hand books festooned shelves, and on the floor of the telephone box, was a large metal box used by children to put money in. It took us a couple of minutes to realise that this was the cache!

A Fine Pair.. and its cache!


From Calcot we walked on a small road at first, then a track, then open fields.

Mmm… best not to ask!

The GCW finds came relatively frequently and quickly found. One of the trickiest to reach was screwed into the ‘orange hat’ used to mark the underground gas pipes. We wondered how the permission had been granted for placement on such a structure!

A field of slightly-interested cows were passed, and then.. a lake. A large expanse of water covered the footpath. We had seen pictures on http://www.geocaching.com, but didn’t realise it was a semi-permanent feature. The cache owner knowing this, had placed the next cache some way from the ‘true’ footpath, so that it could be used a bearing to guide cachers around the lake. Very thoughtful.

Has anyone got a boat ?


We had seen no-one all day, then suddenly there was loud barking. We were approaching some kennels and the dogs were barking at a Duke of Edinburgh’s party heading in the opposite direction to us. As usual a collection of teenagers exhibiting little map-craft were being ‘guided’ by a leader some yards behind. We warned them of the lake and the cows!

The kennels were just outside the small village of Ablington, where we decided to go slightly off route and collect a couple of extra GCW caches. Here a bus stop seat provided us with the opportunity for a breather, and to sign the log of an adjacent cache – wedged in a squashed film canister tucked behind the village notice board, in a concrete bus shelter.

Coln Valley


We had been following, albeit from afar, the River Coln from the North, but at Ablington we crossed the river to walk on the river’s Southern bank to Bibury. We struggled with a couple of these caches – our brains must have been fading – or the GPS wasn’t as accurate as it could have been, but we arrived in Bibury having found every cache attempted.

Bibury is one of THE tourist honeypots in the Cotswolds and it was mid-afternoon, and visitors were everywhere. (You can even get a Cotswold Tuk-Tuk ride in the Cotswolds! https://www.cotswoldtuktuktours.co.uk )

Fortunately for us we could bypass the town and head in from a different direction. A cache under a horse trough and another next to the Cricket Field both retrieved with minimal muggle interference.

Bibury Church


Our final cache on our walk was, like our first, a Church Micro. This time we had some memorial stones to find and undertake a simple calculation to acquire the co-ordinates for the final hide. (The term ‘simple calculation’ doesn’t apply if its the last cache of the day!). We then discovered we had walked by GZ some 15 minutes earlier. Grr! However what a find! The cache was hidden in a coffin shaped container! A macabre end to the day’s very successful walk.

As we headed to the car, we took the obligatory photos of Bibury (now thankfully much quieter), and we realised we had equalled our best ever day’s caching. Then we remembered, there was another cache parked in a layby not far from where our other car was parked back at Foss Cross. So, on the way home, we pulled into this layby, and found, not for the first time, a film canister.. yielding us a record breaking number of 31 caches! Woo ! Woo!

Making progress through the GCW series!

Some of the caches we found :

April 22 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Colesbourne to Foss Cross

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

A night (staying nearby in Great Witcombe) had passed, and it was time for the fifth section of our epic walk from Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) home to Sandhurst (Berkshire). Starting at Colesbourne, where we finished the last walk, we were going up and across the hill tops to Chedworth, then finishing the walk where our route crossed the Fosse Way at Foss Cross (and yes, there is no consistency at all in those place names – almost everywhere else it’s ‘Fosse’ but not at ‘Foss’ Cross).

But first … a slight diversion on our way to Colesbourne. There is a puzzle cache based on the village called ‘When were these Coles Born?’ and we had solved the puzzle based on that neat turn of phrase, and stopped off to collect the cache on our way to the village. We planned to park one car at Colesbourne Church. Silly me – I had forgotten it was Sunday. No spaces at the church. We rethought, backtracked, and parked the car next to a wine wholesaler, having first checked it was closed on Sundays (unlike churches!) And off we went. The first cache on the walking route for the day was ‘Two Degrees West’, very close indeed to our starting point. The cache name made no sense till we inspected our GPS at the cache site – it was exactly 2 degrees west.

Colesbourne - 2 degrees west (exactly)

Colesbourne – 2 degrees west (exactly)

After a little bit of road walking, we headed onto tracks and into the countryside (and uphill). We found several caches as we climbed, all in good condition though some had not been found all winter. There was a bit of scrambling up banks, a bit of wildlife watching (a herd of about a dozen roe deer running across a field, and buzzards overhead), and a very, very pleasant walk through the Gloucestershire country while spring frothed and flowered around us. On the downside, Mr Hg137 snagged himself on barbed wire (the same piece, twice – he can be a slow learner!) and we both got stung by evil nettles, but that didn’t matter too much.


Spot the running deer!

Spot the running deer!


Very pleasant woodland walk

Very pleasant woodland walk


There was about a mile of road walking approaching Chedworth where there were no caches, not one, so we sped up and hastened along. Coming to a road junction, we spotted a parked car. It was a Porsche. Next to it was … another Porsche, and another, five in all. Mr Hg137 couldn’t miss this chance and rushed over to the drivers to ask what they were doing. It turned out to be a photoshoot, which will be featured in 911 & Porsche World magazine in June 2018 http://www.911porscheworld.com At least that explained why all those cars were so incredibly clean!
Porsches everywhere!

Porsches everywhere!


There was a steep descent down from the hilltops into Chedworth, and its church, almost the first dwellings of any kind that we’d seen since the start of the day’s walk. Chedworth church has an easy-to-find church micro, but the inside of the church is also worth a visit, with lots of material detailing the exploits and awards of the bellringers, and information on Elizabeth of York, Henry VII’s queen, who visited Chedworth and is depicted on a ceiling boss in the church (an early form of photo, maybe?). Elizabeth appeared again for our last cache of the day, which was based on the village sign, which included pictures of all sorts of things related to the village – Roman mosaics … English queens …
Chedworth church

Chedworth church



Chedworth village sign

Chedworth village sign



The last leg was a cacheless walk over the flat top of the Cotswolds, passing a gymkhana, over fields, under a disused railway and out onto the busy Fosse Way by the Hare and Hounds pub at Foss Cross.

And here are some of the caches we found: