March 6 : Isle of Wight : Ventnor, a duck, and a ferry port

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The Scrabble tournament was over (Mr Hg137 came second !!!), and our return ferry was not till lunchtime, so we had the morning free. We are gradually working our way around the caches of the Isle of Wight, and the venue we had selected for today was … Ventnor.



We zigzagged our way down the steep road to Ventnor seafront, where there is free parking until 10am in March. So there was no hurry, but also no time to waste. Our first cache was an earthcache, set by Heidi Seekers. Now, we’ve done several earthcaches by the same cacher before, notably one at Freshwater Bay, where we were nearly blown away/drowned/swept out to sea as we tried to get to the right spot. But there were no such dramas today, the wind was light and the sea was calm and gentle, and we solved the earthcache by standing on the beach, in just the right spot, and commented on things underfoot and about us.
Iconic Isle of Wight business!

Iconic Isle of Wight business!

Our second cache in central seafront Ventnor was at the bandstand, where the pier used to start (it was demolished in 1993). We found the location, and looked around. Where was it? Time ticked on towards the end of free parking time and we couldn’t see it. After a while, we climbed on a seat a little way away, and looked again from a higher viewpoint. NOW we could see it now, but oh err, it was very high up. We tried stretching (a lot), giving each other a bunk up (epic fail!) and looking around for a very tall person, monkey, or passing ladder owner (no suitable candidates). Paid parking time was now 2 minutes away and I was sent back to the geocar with instructions to move it and ‘drive around’ if a warden appeared. As I left, Mr Hg137 was removing his shoes. Ho hum. I waited – no warden appeared – and Mr Hg137 appeared a few minutes later, exuding triumph. Turns out that he’d piled up his shoes, stood on them, and they had given him a crucial inch or two of extra reach.

That was central Ventnor done, and we drove off (still no traffic wardens) to try for some more caches close to the Isle of Wight Botanic Gardens. The site has a huge car park, which was virtually empty in early March. We asked if we could park there for about an hour. We were told it would cost £5. We left, and parked, for free, on the roadside almost next door. (Editor’s note: you overpriced, Botanic Gardens, and lost a customer. If it had been 50p, or £1, we would have used the car park, and maybe the café, but we didn’t, and we won’t be back.)
Once parked, we headed off downhill on a path towards the sea, and soon arrived at our next cache. From a few steps away, we couldn’t see where the cache could be, based on the description, but suddenly everything fell into place and the location was obvious. We left something here, ‘Duck Pound II’ but this deserves a blog post to itself.

Skirting the Botanic Gardens, we walked along the coast path for a little way and then came to some steps. We descended, and emerged at sea level in Steephill Cove The description from the website sums it up:
“Arguably the prettiest place on the Island, situated just south of the Victorian seaside town of Ventnor, Steephill Cove is a traditional, unspoilt fishing cove with a safe, sandy beach, nestled between rocky cliffs and smugglers’ coves.”

Once down at sea level, we walked along the path along the sea defences, soon arriving at the location of the next cache. It was behind some gabions (rock filled wire cages). I bravely offered to climb over them to get the cache. No problem at all – just a loss of dignity as I rolled over the gabions. Mr Hg137 didn’t laugh, but he did take a picture …

A slight loss of dignity ...

A slight loss of dignity …

Time was passing, and we had one more cache to find before crossing the island to the ferry terminal. It was further along the bay, and we walked to about a hundred feet from the cache, according to the GPS. At this point, all our caching experience deserted us. What we *should* have done is walk up the nearby path, which would have taken us to just a few short steep paces from our target. What we *actually* did was to launch a full scale, slippery, sliding onslaught on the cliff face, arriving at the correct place out of breath and with all poise gone. It amused two passing dog walkers, anyway … and the cache was hidden in another of those pesky gabions!
View from the cache ...

View from the cache …

By now, ferry time was calling, and we arrived at Fishbourne ferry terminal with exactly 30 minutes to spare. Having parked, we had a quick look to see if a ferry was approaching – it wasn’t – and then rushed back up the hill to look for the cache hidden at the entrance. After a rushed find/sign/replace, we were back at the geocar just as the ferry came into view.


Another great morning’s caching on the Wight!


March 5 : Sandown

As we mentioned on our previous posting we were visiting of Isle of Wight to play in a Scrabble tournament.

This was a fairly lengthy affair with 20 1-hour games spread over a 48 hour period. (When you allow for sleeping and eating doesn’t leave much time for caching).

Sandown Pier from our room

Sandown Pier from our room

We had stayed in the hotel before and had managed to find all the caches that time would allow when not playing. Imagine our delight this year to realise that a new cache had been placed in an alleyway right next to the hotel!

The alleyway led from the hotel to the High Street (sandwich lunch), and the hotel car park. We went through the alleyway several times during the Scrabble weekend, each time without a GPS.

The alleyway, and a small cul-de-sac beyond, are not the Isle of Wight’s finest. Looking tired, pipework slightly rusty and with a typical ‘unloved back of buildings’ feel to it. Every time we traversed the alleyway we couldn’t find the cache. We stuck our fingers into every gloriously dirty hidey-hole, looked at every metal/magnetic surface and even tested a few screw heads to see if they were loose. Nothing.

At the end of the tournament (at which Mr Hg137 did quite well finishing second), we decided to take the GPS with us. Now we had a clear fix as to the part of the alleyway to search, and within two minutes had the cache in hand! Isn’t technology wonderful!

We then told a couple of Scrabble friends (one a cacher too) that we had found the cache, and with a little bit of assistance (“It’s between here …. and …. here”), they too had the cache in hand.

Cache in Hand

Cache in Hand

March 3 : Isle of Wight : Wootton to Sandown

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Wootton Creek, Isle of Wight

Wootton Creek, Isle of Wight

We often go to the Isle of Wight in early spring, to take part in a Scrabble tournament held there. So off we went on a dank and rainy morning, catching the 10am ferry from Portsmouth, and arriving Isle of Wight with a few hours free before the start of the tournament. All that remained was for us to make our way to the Trouville Hotel, on the seafront at Sandown near the pier. We thought that we would make our way slowly, and collect a few caches on the way …

The rain had stopped while we were on the boat, but it was still well damp underfoot. Mr Hg137’s forward planning had taken account of this, and caches had been selected that could be found without getting too muddy. (Editor’s note: what Mr Hg137 was probably thinking was that I had slipped in the mud on our previous IoW Scrabble/caching trip, and I had to change in a rainy hilltop car park before arriving at the Scrabble tournament … )

A good omen for the Scrabble tournament?

A good omen for the Scrabble tournament?

The first cache chosen was on the opposite side of Wootton Creek from the ferry terminal at Fishbourne, and was called ‘Down the Pump’. What did that mean? Hmm – what it did mean was that the cache was located at the end of Pump Lane, overlooking the creek, and was found after a short but damp search.

Of the remaining four caches, one was hidden by a gate at the side of a lane, and was duly found without either of us getting dirty. The other three were all from the Sidetracked series, based around railway stations. Two were at Wootton and Havenstreet stations on the Isle of Wight steam railway which runs from Wootton to Smallbrook Junction, and the other was at Sandown station, on the Island Line from Ryde pier to Shanklin,_Isle_of_Wight We readily found two of the three, but the third eluded us, in spite of a lengthy search through piles of autumn leaves. (Editor’s note 2 : it has been found several times since, so we clearly didn’t search that well.)
Sandown Station - posh motor!

Sandown Station – posh motor!

And so we arrived at our destination, in good time, and, most importantly, NOT muddy!

April 17 – Southampton (Scrabble and Caching)

As regular readers of this blog may know, both of us (Mr and Mrs Hg137) enjoy playing Scrabble and often play in tournaments.

Today was the Annual Tournament being held in Southampton (Hedge End district) and as we have done for the previous few years… we decided to hunt a cache before we started to play.

Last year we noted that all the obvious, on route, cache and dashes had either been found by us, or removed. It was with great surprise this year to discover a new cache had been placed within yards of the venue!

It was named after local resident John Edgar who ran a Cleansing and Decorating service in the area. The find was easy, and in direct eye-line of every other competitor arriving! Fortunately we weren’t spotted, replaced the cache as found and went on to play.

We had mixed results, with Mrs Hg137 finishing just below half-way in the top division, but Mr Hg137 finished 8th which won him a place in the National Scrabble Finals in Milton Keynes in October. Good news for him.. but bad news as that’s a day less caching in October!

PS Sorry no pictures this time. We didn’t have a camera with us, and the cache was a typical small urban find!

March 8 – Another Scrabble Tournament, another Geocache

Regular readers are no doubt aware that as well as geocaching, we play a certain amount of competition Scrabble. In fact less than a month previously we were double prize-winners on the Isle of Wight.

Thus it was with high expectation we attended the Swindon one-day tournament. Our geo-car, sorry scrabble-car, knew the way there, as the Swindon area was very close to the Thamespath, and playing Scrabble all day meant we couldn’t continue our year-long caching expedition along it.

However we did notice a geocache hidden yards from the Scrabble venue. Too good to miss! Well, we almost did miss it! On arrival we turned on our GPS to lead us to GZ. We waited for the satellites to spot us.

We waited some more.

We decided to start walking in the right direction.

Still no satellite.

Keep on walking…. Eventually our GPS locked into a satellite (or is it the other way round?) – we’d already overshot by 200 feet! Back we went to find the cache very, very easily. A beautiful camo bag, nestling under some branches in the bowl of a tree.

Sadly this success was not replicated on the Scrabble boards. About half of our opponents were WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP class and we finished well short of any prizes.

Still, we can’t win them all!

February 15 – Isle of Wight – a champion day

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

There was nearly some geocaching today, but it was warm and sunny and the sea was sparkling and we decided on a walk along the beach and sandwiches on a seat overlooking the sea instead.

And what of the Scrabble tournament? Mixed fortunes on Saturday: I hadn’t done so well and had been relegated from Division A, and Mr Hg137 had done slightly better, and had just missed the drop. (If only I had beaten him, that would have been reversed!) But now, on the final day, we were both well placed in our respective divisions.

By the end of the tournament it had gone even better: Mr Hg137 had won Division A, and the tournament, and I had won Division B. Woo-hoo, double champions!!! We each won some (a little) money and two weighty trophies, which are pictured; they each weigh about 2.5Kg and meant that the ferry had a slight list on the way home. And Mr Hg137 also won free accommodation for us back on the Isle of Wight next year, as well as free entry to the National Scrabble Championships (jammy g*t).

Isle of Wight Scrabble champions 2015!

Isle of Wight Scrabble champions 2015!

And it meant that I’ve had to suffer out-of-tune renditions of ‘We are the Champions’ all week long. Ho hum. (Luckily, that’s dying down now, at last…)

February 14 – Isle of Wight – Sandown and Scrabble

… the Scrabble weekend was actually 2 9-game tournaments back to back. There was also promotion and relegation between the two tournaments.

Both of us were playing in the highest division and by Saturday lunchtime were lying just above the relegation zone, with 3 games still to go. (Not good!)

The timetable was being adhered too, and we also finished our pre-lunch games early so a quick dash to the hotel room to grab the GPS, find a sandwich-shop on route, and head to the cache site.

The cache we had chosen was part of the ‘Nostalgia’ series set by a group of people all of whom attended the same Junior school on the Island, way back in the 1970s. This cache was called ‘Battery Gardens’. The Gardens are named after the former Battery station on the site

Lunch overlooking Sandown Bay

Lunch overlooking Sandown Bay

With limited time, we were hoping for a quick find. The cache was in a bush, and after 15 minutes searching we gave up and had lunch overlooking the sea. There are only a finite number of places ‘in a bush’ so we went back for a further 5 minute look, and found it! Cleverly hidden, using a new-to-us method of placement ‘under a bush’.
Log book and bush... but how did we retrieve it ?

Log book and bush… but how did we retrieve it ?

A brisk walk back along the cliff top, and then back to the Scrabble… would we survive in the top division or would we be relegated ?