October 7 : Hatton, Warrington

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

A phone box?  Or a library?

A phone box? Or a library?

We’d spent the weekend playing in the National Scrabble Championships. Neither of us did well … Mr Hg137 just missed out on the prizes in the Plate, while I really struggled in the main event. Anyway, that was over, it was the morning after, and we decided to find a few nearby caches before the long drive home. The weather had also been busy over the weekend, and it had rained a LOT: there was standing water in the surrounding fields, enormous puddles, and soggy trees, bushes and grass. We didn’t want to spend a four hour drive all wet and muddy, so we chose three caches in Hatton, about two miles away, that looked as if they could be found while remaining mostly dry.

First up was ‘The Golden Hind Of Hatton’. The location was easy to find – the Golden Hind was a pub, and the cache location was in a redundant red phone box in front of the pub. This box had been re-purposed to hold a defibrillator as well as a mini library. (Editor’s note: these boxes have been re-used for all sorts of things: museums, coffee shops, art galleries … https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/05/02/bt-offers-iconic-red-phone-boxes-community-adoption-just-1/ ) We’ve done a few caches like this before, and had decided in advance that we would be looking for a film canister, or similar, concealed somewhere in the phone box. It wasn’t. After a bit we turned our attention to the books and began a systematic search. Something about one of the books was different from all the others, so we had a closer look, and we were right! It was a nice big, almost new log book.

We moved the geocar a short way and parked near the superbly named ‘Queastybirch Lane’. After a bit of online research, I think that queasty comes from the old Norse kviga-sti or heifer pen. I never knew that!
Busy M56

Busy M56

We had a trackable to move on, so our next cache was a travel bug hotel, ‘Traditional Cache Motorway Mayhem M56 Jn10 (TB Hotel)’ Travel bug hotels tend to be biggish, easy to find caches where trackables can be dropped off and picked up. And Motorway Mayhem series caches are close to motorways, but NOT on them: this cache was within sight and sound of the motorway, hidden under some motorway bridge furniture. We wished the trackable (Starry Bug) well and sent it on its way. Good luck to it on its journey – we have moved it some way from Beachy Head, where it started / we found it.

Our third and final cache was one from the Wow (Wheels or Walk) series, also picked because it as close to the road and (we hoped) not too wet or muddy. Again, we were lucky, as the cache was in the bole of a tree, well above the sodden ground, in a well wet camo bag with a dry inner container and log.

That completed our caching for the day. Still dry and reasonably presentable, we climbed into the geocar and set off homewards.

October 4 : Stretton, Warrington

A Wedding Guest Arrives at St Matthews Church, Stretton

Many readers of this blog may know that both of us, that is both Mr and Mrs Hg137, play Scrabble relatively competitively as well as geocaching.

During the weekend of the 5/6 October the National Scrabble Championships were being held in Stretton, just outside Warrington, and Mrs Hg137 had qualified for the main finals. (Mr Hg137 had only qualified for the more minor plate competition).

We travelled up to Warrington the day before which gave us time to settle into our hotel, locate the playing venue and find a couple of geocaches (whilst dodging the showers).

Our first cache was a puzzle cache we had solved before we left home. The start co-ordinates were based on/in/near St Matthews Church, Stretton. A large church (given the size of village) which had been rebuilt a couple of times since 1800. The latest structure was designed and built by George Gilbert Scott and the Gothic Revival style for which he was famous oozes from the building. Sadly we couldn’t go in the building as a wedding was due to start when we arrived…(we almost made it into the wedding photos as the official photographer was snapping anyone who approached the church!)

A pleasant walk to the cache

The cache was a short walk away hidden in a bush. This gives nothing away, as this cache hint alludes to this, but the number of bushes at GZ, were quite numerous and very prickly. We searched the bushes for a long time, impeded only by a muddy track surrounding each bush (had we brought walking boots to a Scrabble tournament?… no!). After 20 minutes we gave up. We couldn’t see the cache at all.

The Stretton Fox

We moved to what should have been an easier cache. Called ‘Foxy’ it celebrates the nearby pub called the Stretton Fox. The cache though was up a 10 foot wet, slippery, grassy slope with little space for manoeuvring, near to a busy roundabout. The cache was hidden under tree bark, but at GZ, there wasn’t one piece of bark there were a dozen! Each one was meticulously picked up, checked and replaced until the cache was found! They don’t make caches easy in these parts!

Thank goodness, we didn’t have to search for a magnetic nano here!

So we returned back to the hotel via the prickly hedges we surveyed earlier. We gave ourselves another 5 minutes. Of course this time we found the cache. Visible, but almost unapproachable. (Why hadn’t we brought the geo-pole ?!). So while Mr Hg137 found some long (over 6 foot) sticks, Mrs Hg137 took off her coat, folded it as a cushion and performed the yoga ‘child’ pose (or Balasana). Reaching further and further, she eventually grasped the box, and retrieved it from deep in the bush. Of course we still had to replace it back again…but those 6 foot sticks were useful for that!

So 2 caches found, in about an hour, we’d mixed with a wedding party, and got entangled in various hedges…lets hope its less trouble at the Scrabble tournament!

April 20 : Leicester

We were in Leicester attending a 10 game 2 day Scrabble event. Mrs Hg137 lived near Leicester for many years, and knew many of the Scrabblers at the tournament, so it was a good couple of days catching up with old friends as well as taxing our brains.

College Court Conference Centre

When the Scrabble had finished, and our brains were recovering from the hard work-out, we went geocaching before we drove home.

The College Court Conference Centre, was surrounded by lots of mid-20th houses so we were expecting deviously hidden nanos and micros. We were not disappointed!

We were though disappointed to get a DNF at our first cache!

Our brains must have been asleep. We couldn’t find the cache…there were two trees to check, several signposts, a green communications box and much, more besides. The cache site was on a corner of two streets with several houses overlooking our search area. Despite looking hard, we gave up after 15 minutes searching, and moved on.

Criss-crossing one of Leicester’s suburbs the next cache site was in an alleyway. One muggle came by, but otherwise the alley was quiet. Alleys are notoriously difficult to search as generally they are busy thoroughfares, with few sightlines of oncoming people, and of course are near to houses.

After inspecting the obvious host for several minutes, it was only once we had peered at the street furniture on hands and knees did we spot the hidey-hole.

Phew! Our brains were recovering!

The third cache was near the entrance to a park. We could hear a bowls match going on behind a hedge, the swings and slides in the park though were unused. (It was a very hot afternoon, so the lack of people was no surprise). The hiding place, well indicated by the hint, took some finding. Again we spent a few minutes of fruitless hunting, until we took a step back and noticed the cache from afar! Strategic placement of Mrs Hg137’s handbag made the retrieval unseen by a passing muggle. (Why do muggles always appear at the crucial moment?)

And so onto our final cache. It was named after a former Lido, sited nearby. (A shame, as it was such a hot day a Lido would have been very, very tempting). Here we discovered the estate’s roads were named after towns on the Isle of Wight. As we wandered along, watching the GPS distance dropping with every footstep, we thought about our various holidays on the Isle of Wight and what we had seen in each town.

A relatively quick find awaited us – fortunate as two men and four dogs appeared from nowhere while we were signing the log!

We’d found three caches out of four, but the journey home was a celebratory one as we had both done rather well in the preceding Scrabble tournament. Mr Hg137 had finished well above his start position in Division A, and Mrs Hg137 had finished 2nd in Division B. Only the one DNF spoiled our fun…so it will be a target for us if we return for the Scrabble tournament next year!

February 3 : Shanklin Chine, Isle of Wight

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

We were in Shanklin to play in a Scrabble tournament (20 games over 3 days). The tournament had finished, but our losses had continued to outnumber our wins, and neither of us won any prizes. After the prizegiving, we left the hotel just after sunset, as the light began to fade, heading for – we hoped – the final location of the Smuggler’s Path multicache, based around Shanklin Chine https://www.shanklinchine.co.uk We’d had a look along the beach at lunchtime, and had decided that the tide would be OK to make an attempt on the cache.

Passing the end of the esplanade, and the beach huts, we continued along the beach, hopping over the groynes and skirting large puddles of seawater. It was still dusk but it became much, much darker once we left the beach to scramble into woodland to our destination, an ammo box chained to a tree. We needed to undo a combination padlock to get into the box/cache. And we couldn’t manage it. We put in what we thought was the correct combination (we checked later, yes, it was OK) but we could barely see the numbers on the lock in the gloom, and we couldn’t wrestle the lock open. After a few minutes we gave up and came out onto the beach again.

It was much, much darker now, and the light had faded by the time we returned to the entrance to Shanklin Chine and climbed up to the top of the cliffs, overlooking the beach. There’s a good path along here, and we walked along the clifftop, passing the cliff lift, which is shut in February, and shut anyway at night. There’s another cache along here, and we attempted it in almost total darkness, stopping as muggles loomed out of the night, and getting well scratched by brambles, and before Mr Hg127 finally grabbed the object we were looking for.

Night caching ...

Night caching …

We returned to our hotel, down the steps by the cliff lift, which are ‘interesting’ at night, as they aren’t well lit all the way down, and back onto the seafront for a chance to reflect upon our efforts.

Postscript: if conditions were suitable, we intended to go back to that cache we had failed to unlock. But they weren’t. Next morning, a gale was blowing, and the tide was being pushed high up the beach.

Perhaps we won't go and get that cache this morning?

Perhaps we won’t go and get that cache this morning?

The cache has been added to our ‘caches with a good idea of the solution’ list for a future attempt: perhaps when we return next year?

February 2 : Shanklin, Isle of Wight

On our previous blog we mentioned that we were going to Shanklin to play in a Scrabble Tournament. (20 games over 3 days).

Shanklin Sea Front

Sadly, by Saturday lunchtime, our Scrabble losses far outweighed our wins, so we decided to break off for a few minutes and locate a simple cache just 300 feet from the hotel.

The day was fine, and the warm winter sunshine had brought people flocking to the sea-front. Our plan of a quick ‘cache and dash’ was thwarted by a family at Ground Zero.

We paused.

Admired the view.

We noticed a plethora of plaques nearby.

We read that Shanklin pier was destroyed in the Great Storm of October 1987.

Remnant of Shanklin Pier

We read that from where we stood PLUTO left the UK during WWII. (PLUTO stands for PipeLine Under The Ocean and was used to pump fuel from the UK to France to support the D-Day landings).

PLUTO left the UK here

We read that a time capsule had been placed here in 2000. Not to be opened until 2050.

Although less than 20 years ago, the year 2000 was a different place.
Most people didn’t own a home PC, even less an internet connection.
GPS technology hadn’t been turned on. (And no geocaches had been placed!)
And a mobile phone was.. just a mobile phone.

Where would you hide a cache here ?

As we reminisced (2000 was a special year for Mr and Mrs Hg137 too) GZ had become free.
We stood around – looking as innocent and nonchalant as only geocachers can – grabbed the cache, signed the log, replaced the cache in unseemly haste – and headed back to the Scrabble hotel!

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 http://steephillcove-isleofwight.co.uk/steephill_cove.html 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 http://www.iwsteamrailway.co.uk/ which runs from Wootton to Smallbrook Junction, and the other was at Sandown station, on the Island Line from Ryde pier to Shanklin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_Line,_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!