February 22 : Reading

A simple tale of a fox, a lion, a Pokémon player and a modern Thames footbridge

Mr Hg137 gives talks to local clubs and societies. In a couple of weeks he is delivering one on “The Thames Path from Source to Sea”. Since we walked the Thames Path 2015 a new footbridge has been built in Reading and he wanted a picture of it for his presentation.

The Maiwand Lion in Forbury Gardens

So a morning’s caching in Reading was called for.

We arrived by train, and within minutes we were finding our first cache. A small magnetic nano hidden near Reading Station. This was a revival cache in the ‘Sidetracked’ series so although it was a ‘new cache’ it had replaced one we had found in 2015. We each had a memory of finding the original, yet it still took us some time to find the host. Some caches you can remember exactly where you found them, others you totally forget, and this one our joint memories could only picture the area, but not how the cache was hidden.

So many items to check for this tiny nano

The next cache was a multi-cache, which involved visiting several of Reading’s statues and answering simple questions to derive numbers and hence co-ordinates. The walk was listed as 2 miles long, but the cache owner had also produced a website with the statues on.

Statues aplenty in Reading

Statues aplenty in Reading

With a bit of investigation we had calculated a promising set of co-ordinates before arriving in Reading. We did visit a few of the statues, including one of Edward VII, where we had to count ‘harps’ and Queen Victoria (counting ‘feet’).

Edward VII

Queen Victoria

As we approached our pre-calculated GZ, a beautiful fox appeared. It seemed oblivious to people, and did for one brief second lie down next to the cache. Then it wandered past us, giving us access to a very quick find. By the time we had ‘rustled’ the plastic bag containing the cache, the fox was back. ‘Rustling’ equals food wrapping. The fox sat there expecting food, but instead we took its picture with the cache. A beautiful fox we hope you agree.

Seconds later… it started raining! The fox was under the best shelter so we ran for cover in the Forbury Gardens Bandstand. We weren’t alone under the bandstand as rain was quite heavy for about 10 minutes. Our view, if you can call it that, was of a lion’s posterior. The main statue in the Forbury Gardens is the Maiwand Lion. The statue was named after the Battle of Maiwand and was erected in 1884 to commemorate the deaths of 329 men from the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment of Foot during the campaign in the Second Anglo-Afghan War in Afghanistan between 1878 and 1880. The lion formed the basis of one of the questions in the multi-cache we had just completed. It was also part of a multicache set in and around the Forbury Gardens.

When the rain eased we collected the answers for the Forbury Gardens multi, discovering part of Reading’s diverse history along the way, and headed out of the park to a likely location. We were looking a magnetic cache and there two roadside cabinets capable of being host to the cache container. Sadly neither did. In fact both cabinets were 30 feet from GZ. We crossed a dual carriageway to a traffic island, crossed another dual carriageway onto another pavement. No obvious magnetic hiding places…and we were now 30 feet from the cache on the other side of the road. Curious! We returned to our location and re-checked the two cabinets. Nothing. We guessed the cache had been ‘muggled’ so chose to move on.

Reading Abbey

Reading Abbey, stands near Forbury Gardens, and hosts an Earthcache. As well as studying the information boards, we had to study the derelict walls of the once great Abbey. Sadly 800 years of ‘wear and tear’, and the destructive forces of both Henry VIII and the English Civil War, mean only part of the great Abbey Structure remain. We had to review the rocks in the wall as part of the Earthcache questions.

Earthcaches are quite interesting to do, but there is always some doubt … like handing in geography homework at school and hoping one has answered all the questions correctly.

Ancient Abbey, Modern Blade

We headed away from the Abbey to “The Blade and the Archway”, another magnetic cache this time housed between the modern office block known as The Blade, and the ancient Archway over the Holy Brook. The brook was used by the monks of the Abbey as their ‘mill-stream’ to grind wheat for flour. The cache took us ages to find (probably longer than the milling process all those years ago). There were 4 metal objects to check, all with obvious holes etc. It took us 3 passes to find the cache. The good thing was, it was a Saturday, and no-one from the offices were in the walkway having a cigarette break!

Archway over the Holy Brook

Our next target was another Earthcache. This time near Queen Victoria’s statue we had passed earlier. Or at least it should have been our next cache.

We were walking to it when we saw a couple of Pokémon players staring and jabbing at their phones.

Then another two players.
Then a group of three.
Then a group of six.

Where had they come from ?

Then another group of four.
Then another group of two.

We asked what was going on.

Apparently once a month, there are Pokémon ‘events’ in different locations and for a few hours (in this case 11-2) a large number of Pokemons are available to be caught.

Pokemoning in the Park

We said we were geocaching. They had been geocachers too, and they had found all the nearby caches…including a very dangerous cache near the Forbury Gardens in a traffic island! Our ears pricked up!

We wished them well, and headed not for Queen Victoria but for the traffic island where we had been some time before. Searching at ground height for a small magnetic object with traffic going by is not fun – we did find it – but we were very surprised that this cache was allowed to be placed in such a dangerous position.

We still slightly annoyed as we approached Queen Victoria. Here we had to examine details of the brick work of Reading Museum and Town Hall, and answer more scientific questions. Our close, fingertip, inspection of these buildings probably went unnoticed as the only people nearby…were more and more Pokémon players! (still not quite sure how we managed to take this photo without a Pokémon player visible!)

Reading Town Hall and Museum

We had finished our Central Reading caches and headed to the river. Somewhere quieter to eat our sandwiches. We crossed the river over the lock and weir bridges and a detailed look for a cache we had DNFed back in 2015 high over Caversham Weir. After 15 minutes we DNFed again…some caches are just too hard for us!

Caversham Weir

As we ate lunch, on a seat somewhat close to the flooded river, a Great Crested Grebe gamely tried swimming into the ferocious current. We were glad we only had a slightly biting wind to contend with.

Two fairly easy caches to find in Caversham – one very well hidden in a tree in a park (took us some time to find a footpath into the park), and one by the river. Another magnetic cache. Two very large objects to search… and we searched the wrong one first. Very oddly, we both stopped searching at the same time, looked at the other object…and saw the cache together.

Christchurch Bridge

All that remained was to walk over the brand-new (well 5 year old) Christchurch Bridge to catch our train home.
An interesting morning, the low point the horrible magnetic cache in a traffic island…the high point… the Fantastic Mr Fox !

Caches we found included :

October 27 : South Hill Park, Bracknell

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

South Hill Park

South Hill Park

Saturday had been dark and grey, and then very wet, dark and grey. But Sunday was a completely different day, cold and bright and sunny. We just wanted to get outside … but where to go that wasn’t too soggy? Some quick research by Mr Hg137 flagged up South Hill Park https://www.southhillpark.org.uk as a good place – it has parking, good paths, lots to see plus a newish cache series, JNGC, placed this year, plus a multicache too.
Bull at the Gate

Bull at the Gate

From the entrance to South Hill Park, we admired the sculpture, part of a trail around the building and grounds https://www.bracknell-forest.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/south-hill-park-sculpture-trail.pdf , then set off across the grounds, alongside South Lake, admiring the fountain, and across the footbridge. (Editor’s note: the bridge was due to close for maintenance the next day and scaffolding was already in place, so we were just in time!) Our first cache for the day wasn’t far from here.
South Lake

South Lake

From here we followed the path down the other side of the lake to find our second cache on the edge of the formal gardens surrounding the house, and we remembered sitting here one summer afternoon a few years back watching an outdoor performance of ‘House’ and ‘Garden’ (and we got wet when the cast splashed us with water from the fountain). This autumn morning was much quieter and we found the well concealed cache after a bit of rummaging in firm, well clipped greenery.

So far it seemed as if we had been doing caches in a random order, but we had a plan: the clues for the multicache are intertwined with the JNGC cache series and we had been assembling the clues for the multi as we walked round the lake in the ‘wrong’ direction. Having worked out the final coordinates for the multicache, we walked a short way into trees and found that our workings were correct. We dropped off the trackable ‘Avon Traveller’ here, to continue its journey; we generally try to place trackables in out of the way caches or in oft-found multicaches, as we think they are less likely to go astray that way.

We climbed a short, steep slope and left the grounds of South Hill Park, with the path winding through an area where all the road names began with H … Hillbery … Herondale …Haywood. The next cache was somewhere in here. We arrived at Ground Zero (GZ), where the cache should be, circled it, didn’t spot the cache, took the hint too literally and went off to study the fence near No. 31, didn’t find it there either, then returned to GZ. As the GPS indicated the final location, we realised what the hint meant … doh! And in our passing back and forth through the area we passed a little bit of the South Hill Park estate, the ice house, now not quite as glorious as it once must have been https://www.flickr.com/photos/bracknellforest/8536104515

Autumn colours ...

Autumn colours …

... and autumn fungi

… and autumn fungi

We crossed a road, admiring the autumn colours, and started our return by turning onto a cycle path that looped back towards South Hill Park. In this area, all the road names began with G … Greenham Wood … Gainsborough … There were two more caches along this wooded path, both hidden a little way off the path, among the trees. It was very busy with muggles, all out, like us, enjoying the sparkling clear morning. We found one of the two caches quite easily, but spent a while on the other one. We tried two places, within a few paces of each other, that matched the descriptions in other cache logs in both cases, and which the GPS said was correct in both cases (the curse of tree cover, the GPS can’t see the satellites though the leaves). But only one, the second, contained the cache. And there was one final sting in the tail; on returning to the path, Mr Hg137 impaled himself on a tree branch and cut his leg. (Editor’s note: readers, he said a naughty word, beginning with ‘F’. Editor’s note 2: he’s fine now.)

We returned to the grounds of South Hill Park, and North Lake came into view. Between the lake and the main road, there’s a wildlife area with a reedbed crossed by a boardwalk. Hidden somewhere here, unobtrusively, was our final cache of the day. Neither of us had ever been here, so close to the road, but so different. And from here it was just a short walk in the sunshine along the side of the lake (come here when there’s a fishing competition and admire the myriads of large carp that live in the lake); then back to the geocar. A great morning’s caching.

Two final comments:
– What does JNGC stand for? It’s Jae and Nate’s GeoCache series. The cache owner has been in touch – and we asked.

– Apart from the usual N xx° xx.xxx W xxx° xx.xxx coordinates supplied with caches, this cache series is also identified using What3Words e.g. JNGC6 can also be located using tuck.popped.Friday This is great and more caches should do it!

Here are some of the caches we found:

October 19: Sonning

Sonning is a small picturesque town by the River Thames.

The River Thames, near Sonning

A delightful church, olde-worlde cottages, shops and narrow streets. But it has one serious drawback. Its bridge. There is a bridge at Sonning over the River Thames, a narrow, single-carriageway, traffic-light-controlled bridge. As a result this beautiful village is choked with traffic trying to cross the river.

Picturesque Cottages

Unusual Street Furniture

Sonning also has a collection of caches and our intention was to find as many as we could. Many though were multis with several stages. The multis criss-crossed the town, so we would have to be exceedingly careful to record information as we went. (We remembered a bad day in Chester about 18 months ago, when we circumnavigated the City twice as we got thoroughly confused by the City Centre caches). We would be better prepared today. Each multi was printed out on its own separate sheet of paper; we had reviewed the ‘broad’ route the waypoints took so we knew when to stop one multi and start another.

Sonning does have some standard caches too (a series called ‘Swanning around Sonning’). Within minutes of parking the car we had found Swanning around Sonning #1, a lovely little cache hidden in plain view, and easily accessible by cachers and non-cachers alike.

An easy start, before we embarked on the first of the multis – Sonning Village Trail – a 12 stage multi.
At first the questions were simple as we counted reflectors, ‘pins’ and ascertained that Green Cottage isn’t green!

St Andrew’s Church, Sonning

As we approached the rear of the churchyard, we started the multi connected with the Church Micro. Here we had to find two memorial stones, extract some dates and also find the time of one of the Church Services. Relatively straightforward to calculate the final cache destination – once we realised we had entered the churchyard by a different gate from one we had planned ! The final was some way off, so we filed the Church Micro as ‘Calculated but not Found’.

Before we could continue with the 12 part multi, we found a Victorian Post Box. This was the start of another multi (and a series we were unfamiliar with). We peered at the letter box, extracting key information and soon we added the coordinates to the ‘Calculated but not Found’ pile.

Victorian Post Box

We were heading closer to the river, and the notorious bridge crossing. The roads were becoming more and more clogged and the stages in the 12 part town trail were becoming harder to spot. Spot them we did, including a blue plaque commemorating Terence Rattigan. We were lucky here, as a high-ish wall impeded the sight line to the plaque, but as we approached the property a gentleman left through a large gate and we could see the plaque quite clearly. We chatted with the gentleman (well, we had too, as we were peering far too indiscreetly over his shoulder), and discovered the property was owned by a famous, international celebrity. Opposite we were advised the property was owned by a well known Rock Musician. Sadly we saw neither of these famous celebrities on our travels.

The next waypoint involved a third well known public figure, Theresa May (she too lives in the village). Here, we were misled by the question ‘when did she turn on the lights?’ – expecting to find a plaque stating when she turned on the Christmas lights. However the lights she turned on, were far less ephemeral !

By now we were by the river. We had found one cache early on, 9 stages of a 12 stage multi and calculated the final coordinates for two other caches. We saw a seat on the South Eastern bank and sat there and drank some welcome coffee as we collated our notes. We discovered we were at the start of yet another multi, part of the Counting Vowels series.

The waypoints in this series, take you to noticeboards, plaques, memorials, and you count each of vowels, so that as you have reach the last waypoint you have a cumulative value for A, E, I, O and U.

Lots of vowels to count here…

… and here too – but don’t look at the sign!

Feeling refreshed from our coffee we started this 5 stage multi. A peaceful walk along the riverbank taking us further and further away from the traffic choked approach to Sonning Bridge. As we progressed the path became a bit more muddy, and a bit more slippery – we were grateful for our walking boots. We were a little surprised to discovered that the final co-ordinates we yet further on, as typically having found the last waypoint, we were expecting to turn round and head back from whence we had come. Instead a quick find further away from Sonning.

As we were walking back, we got a good bearing on where the solved Church Micro and Victorian Post Box were. We headed off in that direction but on our way we got very lucky.

A rare boat braves the Thames

Back in 2015 we walked the Thames Path and passed through Sonning during the July of that year. One of the caches we failed to find was hidden behind a noticeboard near the river. We were about to pass that same noticeboard on route to the two multi-finals. We hadn’t loaded this ‘unfound’ cache into our GPS, but we both thought we ought to give the noticeboard host a quick scan… and there was the cache! A brand new log too! Was this a brand new cache we had accidentally become the first-to-find ? Sadly no. We discovered on our return home, that the cache was disabled, as the previous cache had gone missing. A recent cacher (undertaking much the same route as we were taking), had noticed the cache was missing, and knowing who he thought the cache owner was, replaced a cache for him. Sadly the cache owner had changed so a relative stranger now has a new cache placed for them! And of course we got an unexpected find!

A new log, but sadly only a replacement cache

In our excitement of finding a cache we hadn’t even loaded into our GPS, we almost forgot about the two multis we had come to find. Both took a bit a bit of finding, as they we well hidden with differing types of camouflage!

We headed back to Sonning Bridge, the air was full of the Saturday lunch being cooked at The Mill Theatre (Roast Beef, Roast Chicken and some kind of fish).

The Mill at Sonning, Theatre and Restaurant Venue

As the day was going so well we decided to undertake another multi, another Victorian Post Box – this time in a very small village of Sonning Eye. Of all the multis we undertook, this was the quickest. A quick review of the postbox (counting vowels to generate the co-ordinates for the second time today) and a quick walk to GZ. We were grateful for two pairs of eyes for the vowel counting as it took some time for us to both agree the total for E and I !

Back over the river to complete the 12 stage multi, our only remaining unsolved multi of the day. We had to collect more dates – one connected with the adjacent Blue Coat school, the others at Sonning Lock.

Sonning Lock

Here we were lucky enough to see two boats passing through. We sat and performed the calculation for the final coordinates. Unsurprisingly it was back along the river, closer to the Bridge. We filed the coordinates, as we had two, simple, caches to find. Swanning Around Sonning #3 and #4.

We didn’t find #3. Apparently it was a ‘stick cache’ hidden at ground level behind some railings. We searched for some time, and noticed that the previous three cachers hadn’t found it either. Our search was hampered as GZ was a ‘turnround spot’ for a running race. We discovered afterwards, it was wasn’t a distance race, but an endurance race organised by Saturn Running. Runners were undertaking a 7 Hour event, running presumably from Reading to Sonning numerous times in a 7 hour period. No wonder they looked exhausted.

Swanning around Sonning #4 was a lengthy find (coordinates were slightly off) and then back to the lock and to find the final for the Sonning Village Trail. We had several large trees to search, and eventually found the cache in the third one! Phew ! All 5 multis undertaken, and all found successfully !

We had one last cache to find, Swanning around Sonning #2 – close to our car. A tricky find, but a great finish to quite a complicated day !

Caches we found :

May 4 : South Downs Way : Harting to Cocking

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Star Wars Day – May the fourth be with you!

On a cool, breezy day in early May, we set off to walk the next section of the South Downs Way, from Harting Down to Cocking Hill. There were a few geocoaches to be found in this section, but no more than half a dozen or so, in a nine mile walk.

We started off by climbing through the woods to the National Trust car park at Harting Down. Mr Hg137 went off to investigate car park charges (it was cash only when we were here last, but things change, and it is now cash or card payments). Meanwhile, I re-found a seat that I had used in 2011, when we first walked the South Downs Way. The seat is still there, but the views over South Harting village are disappearing, as the trees have grown up since then. That seat needs to move further up the hill!

South Harting

South Harting

We walked over Harting Down and skirted Beacon Hill (another Beacon Hill, we had passed one near the start of the South Downs Way); a couple of miles into the walk, we found our first cache of the day, at the edge of the downs overlooking Elstead. Continuing towards Treyford Down, it got a little windier and a little colder (though it hadn’t been windless and warm to start with!) while we collected clues to the coordinates for a multicache. Some of these were at places which were new to us, while we had visited others before, such as the line of barrows known as the Devil’s Jumps https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_Jumps,_Treyford
The Devil's Jumps - barrows

The Devil’s Jumps – barrows

Another place we revisited was a memorial for Joseph Oestermann, a German pilot who was shot down and killed on the very first day of the Battle of Britain in August 1940; there is much more detail about him and his flight on this interesting website. http://www.aircrewremembrancesociety.co.uk/styled-15/styled-17/styled-100/index.html The thing that gives us pause for thought is that this is a remote place, well away from any public road, at least a kilometre from any habitation, and near the top of a steep hill; yet the memorial which is clearly visited and tended.
Memorial to Joseph Oestermann

Memorial to Joseph Oestermann

After finding one more cache, we stopped for lunch. While it was mostly sunny, clouds were bubbling up and it was most definitely not warm. After lunch, we donned our woolly gloves … keeping the fleecy hats in the rucksack as a last resort … it’s spring, it should be warmer!

There followed another airy and beautiful (but cold), cacheless walk along a windy, bare ridge top until we reached Linch Down. We could see the trig point above us, north of our route, seemingly on private land. We knew that there was a cache based on the numbers on the trig point … but luckily for us, we’d done some research beforehand and thought we knew where the final cache location might be. Having considered the distance to the trig point and having looked at the increasingly threatening clouds, we decided to skip the walk to the trig point and to head straight for the cache, which was behind a tree a little way down a track leading away from the South Downs Way (that gives little away, there are lots of tracks and lots of trees). Only as we signed the nice, dry log in a nice, tidy cache, did we realise that we were the first to find the cache for 21 months. Crikey – this made the cache a resuscitator cache and one of the first we had found. (Editor’s note: a resuscitator cache is one that has not been found for at least a year and lists are maintained of these caches so that they can be found/ resuscitated to prove they are still there).
Threatening clouds ...

Threatening clouds …

That was our last cache on the South Downs Way, but we had one more to find close by. In 2014 we had done a cache series, Jaceyb’s Balls, based around the trail of large chalk balls created by artist Andy Goldsworthy https://www.andrewgrahamdixon.com/archive/itp-122-chalk-stones-trail-by-andy-goldsworthy.html Back then, we had been successful with all the caches in the series, except one, so we made a detour from our main route for another try at this cache. We nearly failed again … there is some tree work going on in the area, and the cache may well have been disturbed, there are felled trees around. We’d had a good look and failed to find it, and were standing at the edge of the path deciding what to do next, when a glance downwards showed us the cache, lying, uncovered, in a random place on the ground. Pure luck! Oh, and the chalk ball is looking a little more worn, too.
Chalk Ball, by Andy Goldsworthy

Chalk Ball, by Andy Goldsworthy

We returned to the South Downs Way, beginning the long descent to the car park at the top of Cocking Hill. We reached another chalk ball, better preserved than the one near the cache. As we paused, two cyclists appeared, and requested a picture of themselves. We obliged, then fell into conversation. We told them the story of the chalk balls; it also turned out that one of the two was born in Sandhurst, where we now live, so we swapped memories of the place past and present. Maybe that pause for a chat wasn’t a good idea because, as we descended the last part of the hill, those threatening clouds finally delivered a hailstorm, pelting us at a 45-degree angle as we rushed the last section back to the car.

It was now time to collect the first geocar, back at Harting, then head home. En route between destinations we took time to find one more cache, in an old phone box in East Harting (the phone is still working, if you ever need it). And, sometime during the day, we had found a puzzle cache, Triangles, which has a start point high on the South Downs and a finish point … elsewhere.

Just a few caches found, information collected for another, and a jolly good, if rather cold, walk! And here are pictures of some of those caches:

April 12 : South Downs Way : Butser Hill to Harting

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Butser Hill

Butser Hill

The next section of the South Downs Way (SDW) was calling to us, and we set off from high up, walking up the gentle ascent leading to the summit of Butser Hill, and admiring the views to the west over the Meon Valley. It wasn’t far to the first cache of the day – Hill Bagging Series #7 – Butser Hill Marilyn. Sadly, a muggle was parked up almost on top of the cache, looking at the view while talking on his phone. What to do? We decided to ignore him and had soon found the cache.
Meon Valley

Meon Valley

(Editor’s note: A Marilyn is “a hill of any height with a drop of 150 metres (nearly 500 ft) or more on all sides”. So it is a hill which is relatively high compared to its surroundings. The Marilyns are so-called by the list’s compiler, Alan Dawson, after the more famous mountain list – the Munros.)

Soon we were out on the springy turf of Butser Hill, part of Queen Elizabeth Country Park https://www.hants.gov.uk/thingstodo/countryparks/qecp/explore It seems silly that the SDW bypasses one of the highest spots for miles and miles, so we left the official route to bag the hill-top. Skirting some bickering cattle (a dominance fight between two of them?), and we were soon at the top of the hill with views all round. A couple appeared from another direction, touched the trig point, as did we (you just have to, don’t you?). We stopped for a chat. They were on a short walk to break in their new walking boots before walking the entire SDW in the summer.

Butser Hill trig point

Butser Hill trig point

Chat finished, we assembled the information for the earthcache based upon the summit point (the are usually based around geological things), and stopped for a cup of coffee with a great view before rejoining the SDW and setting off down the hill. The way down the ‘nose’ of the hill towards the A3 is very steep indeed, and my walking pole came out as my knees began to protest. Just as the slope eased, we contoured around the hill to find another cache, on Oxenbourne Down. It was not strictly on our route, but we had been intrigued by the number of favourites given to the cache, so stopped for a look. On arrival, nothing was obvious at first, but another look – and think – suggested that there was something there that needn’t be there – and sure enough, it was the hiding place for the cache, almost invisibly integrated into part of the landscape.
(Editor’s note: The nearby stile and gate are a great viewpoint for photos of Butser Hill. We’ve tried and failed to take decent pictures of it in the past and this is a good spot.)
A3 from Butser Hill

A3 from Butser Hill

Returning to the SDW, we went under the noisy A3 and into the main car park for Queen Elizabeth Country Park. Our next cache was to be another earthcache, this one based upon an old milestone which is now at the entrance to the visitor centre. Or maybe not: we arrived at the appointed spot to find building work going on and no chance of getting anywhere near any milestones. After answering most questions, and a circuit of the building works, we went to the shop to question Beth, the ranger, about the milestone. She made a couple of phone calls and gave us some answers (which turned out to be wrong, but at least we tried). We were not the first to ask, it seems, so we explained why we were asking …
Nice sign!

Nice sign!

About now we checked our GPS and realised that we’d walked around four miles, but were still less than a mile from our geocar, parked on the other side of the A3. That was slightly dispiriting! We walked on through the park and turned away from the A3, going uphill through the woods towards the ridge of the SDW. And it became quiet; it was hard to believe that we were less than a mile from a major road.

There was one more cache to find in the park, hidden among a dark, forbidding grove of yew trees. Thick tree cover is bad news for geocachers as a GPS can’t get an exact fix if it can’t see the sky. We spent a while on a steep slope in the gloom searching tree after tree after tree, before finding the cache in a place we thought we had searched earlier. It happens like that quite often!

The eastern edge of the park is a major crossroads for long distance footpaths: at one point we were stood on the South Downs Way, and the Shipwrights Way, and the Hangers Way, and the Staunton Way. The Shipwrights Way is marked by sculptures relevant to the places they pass though and we passed two, a Hampshire Downs sheep and a Cheese Snail
Shipwrights Way - Hampshire Downs sheep

Shipwrights Way – Hampshire Downs sheep

Shipwrights Way - Cheese Snail

Shipwrights Way – Cheese Snail

Once out of Queen Elizabeth Country Park, we were back on the South Downs Way alone, walking along narrow lanes and chalk surfaced tracks, up on the ridge of the downs at last. We crossed the border from Hampshire into Sussex, the woods fell behind us and the views opened out, which gave us panoramas to admire.

After a long walk, we arrived at the next cache, part of the Petersfield Plod series. We had done some of the caches in this series before, and now we collected a few more. Then there was another cacheless gap before we neared Harting Down and reached the last three caches for our day’s walk. All were by the same setter, two of them placed for the local scout group, and the other, Badgers, a little way down a garlic-fringed side path. On finding this cache and signing the log, we spotted the signature of the last-but-one finder of the cache … the very same cacher we met three weeks earlier in Warwickshire … it’s a small caching world!
Don't tread on the garlic!

Don’t tread on the garlic!

We found the remaining (scouts) caches, but both led us a merry dance. One was hidden in undergrowth by a stile which had been turned into a gate, and the other had been dislodged from its hiding place and was lying out in a field. But find them we did – eventually. And the day’s walk, and the caching, were over for the day, for the geocar was close by.

Here are some of the caches we found:

March 23 : South Downs Way : Cheesefoot Head to Exton

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

River Meon at Exton

River Meon at Exton

On a cool grey Saturday morning, we set off to walk our second leg of the South Downs Way (SDW), starting high on the downs at Cheesefoot Head, near Winchester, and finishing at Exton in the valley of the River Meon.
Cheesefoot Head

Cheesefoot Head

We could hear the sound of revving engines as we parked at Cheesefoot Head and found our first cache of the day in the copse next to the car park. This was ‘Hill Bagging Series #5 – Cheesefoot Head TUMP’. The cache description defines a tump thus:
…” A TUMP is a hill in Scotland, England, Wales or the Isle of Man which is separated from adjacent tops by a height difference of at least 30 metres on all sides. This rather odd name is a corruption of HUMP, another hill bagging term that refers to hills with one HUndred Meters of Prominence.” …

The path went along the edge of the natural amphitheatre of Cheesefoot Head, marked by our next cache, ‘Talking to the Troops (Hampshire)’ which commemorates Eisenhower’s address to Allied troops just before D-Day during World War II https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheesefoot_Head We continued, and stopped to talk to a runner. She was from Sweden, there to support her son at the World Motocross Championships, being held at the nearby Matterley Basin. Aha ! that was the source of the noise. https://www.mxgp.com/

Misty view of Matterley

Misty view of Matterley

We followed the SDW as it skirted the Motocross event, passing between the car park and the campsite. Here there was a block of portable toilets: I was once told by a very, very experienced walker that one should never, ever pass up the opportunity of a toilet while out walking … so I didn’t, and these were of a pretty good standard. We walked on, and passed the throng of people, cars, tents, caravans, and then it was peaceful countryside once more. We passed other walkers and cyclists coming the other way. And told them all about the motocross – and the toilets. Most brightened up noticeably at the mention of those toilets!
Not just us out walking!

Not just us out walking!

There followed a pleasant, but cacheless walk of a few miles, across the downs, then over the A272 and along a track past a farm. The noise of motorbikes gradually faded. It got brighter, and warmer. There were shadows! It had turned into a lovely spring day.

A little later, we reached at the Milburys pub http://themilburyspub.synthasite.com/ We’ve visited it before (for research, obviously!) and it’s a friendly place with good food, and good beer, too. One thing of interest inside is a 100 metre (300 foot) well down through the chalk to the water table, where water can be raised using a treadmill. If you ask the bar staff, they’ll supply an ice cube that you can drop down the well, to wait for the splash. One other thing of interest is that this is one of the very, very few pubs you’ll pass on the SDW, so make the most of it!
The Milburys

The Milburys

Somewhere around the Milburys, we had found three more caches, two of them multicaches, (with a start point somewhere else), but we’d worked out the coordinates earlier on, so we didn’t have to backtrack to find them, and the third a puzzle cache, based on codebreaking, which I had great fun working out. Editor’s note: the locations are deliberately vague – if you want to find the caches, you need to solve the puzzles yourself ….
Sculpture at Lomer Farm

Sculpture at Lomer Farm

Further on, we came to Lomer, which was a village in the 1500s, but is now a single farm, with a few lumps and bumps in a field where the village once was. From there, it wasn’t far to Beacon Hill; there had been a gentle ascent of about 50 metres from the Milburys to Beacon Hill and then a steep, steep descent of more than 100 metres into Exton, in the Meon valley. There were some caches to find along here, which was good, they gave my knees a few chances to rest on that descent!
Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill

Steep descent!

Steep descent!

Exton is a pretty village, with thatched cottages, a flint-walled church, a village pub and shop, and the River Meon flowing through. But we were blind to that, we had more caches to find. Two were from nationwide cache series: one, a Church Micro, the other, from the Fine Pair series (a red phone box and post box within sight of each other).
A Fine Pair

A Fine Pair

For one of these, a parked van shielded us from the drinkers at the Shoe Inn while we did the searching, and for the other, we waited for the local lads to finish their football game in the street before making a quick grab for the cache.
St Peter & St Paul, Exton

St Peter & St Paul, Exton

Almost finished now, we had a short walk alongside the river, stopping for one final cache, a large old ammo can, before returning to the geocar and heading homewards.

Editor’s note: we walked the SDW back in 2011, before we were cachers, and remember that there was a dearth of water taps. We found three ! on this walk alone, though one of them wasn’t working.
Water station near Cheesefoot Head

Water station near Cheesefoot Head

Holden Farm, near the water tap

Holden Farm, near the water tap

Lomer Farm water tap

Lomer Farm water tap

There was one near Cheesefoot Head, at a sort of service station for cyclists, one at Holden Farm near a milestone erected by the farmer (we saw him and asked about it), and one at Lomer Farm, near Beacon Hill.

Here’s a recent blog post about this precise subject: https://threepointsofthecompass.com/2019/03/10/the-south-downs-way-in-winter-water-sources/

To finish, as usual, here are some of the caches we found:

November 17 : Cranleigh and the Surrey Hills

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Where to go caching? All summer, our caching routes had been determined by our walking quest for the year, from Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) home to Sandhurst (Berkshire). We completed that in early November, and now we had to choose a route for ourselves. After a little thought, we settled on Cranleigh, at the foot of the Surrey Hills. We walked there last year on our route from Sandhurst (Berkshire) to Sandhurst (Kent), and had planned to return one day; today was that day.
We were to tackle the ‘Cranleigh North Walk’ (CNW) series, a four-mile route covering sixteen caches, starting at Smithwood Common. Two other caches, not part of the series, were close to our start point, so we added those, and did them at the beginning.

A Fine Pair

A Fine Pair

It was cool, almost cold, and slightly misty as we soon found the first of those two caches, one from the ‘Fine Pair’ series (themed around a phone box and post box within sight of each other – an increasingly rare thing), and the other called ‘Four Elms’ and named after a now-departed pub. As we walked towards the start of the main walk, something gave us pause: two Remembrance Day crosses in a front garden. Just over a hundred years ago, two residents, a father and son, judging from the ages, had set off for war from that house. Neither returned, and they are buried in different parts of Europe. Very sad.

We looked for the path that would lead to the first of the CNW series, fording a small stream and setting off along a hollow ‘path’. We soon realised we had made a mistake – no way was this a path! – and we hadn’t brought a machete, but we bushwhacked determinedly on, and arrived at the first cache in the series after about twenty minutes, scratched and dishevelled. In hindsight, which is easy, we did the same kind of thing when we first stated caching – we chose the shortest (but not necessarily easiest) route to a cache. It seems we have not fully learnt that lesson!

Hard going ...

Hard going …

... maybe there was an easier path?

… maybe there was an easier path?

It got easier after that, luckily: there weren’t nearly enough hours of daylight left if we’d kept on at that pace. We carried on uphill, along (clear, unscratchy) woodland paths, climbing uphill and stopping briefly for a panoramic view out to the south. It was warmer now, and the sun was breaking through the mist, so we stopped for a coffee and a few minutes to admire the view. Setting off again, we reached a narrow lane, and climbed the hill while being passed by Lycra-clad cyclists; some even had enough spare breath for a brief conversation (though some did not!). After a little while, we turned off the road and onto a track, stopping to talk to a muggle sweeping leaves; she said it’s a great, if remote, place to live, but you do get snowed in sometimes …

We walked on along a track high in the late autumn woods, with golden leaves thinning to bare branches. Once, a tiny broken branch showed us the way to the cache; a few, we couldn’t find; another, we nearly missed till we almost walked into it … there was an excellent variety of things to find (or not find).
Letterbox cache here somewhere ...

Letterbox cache here somewhere …

... found it!

… found it!

Further on, along a woodland path, we arrived at a letterbox cache. It was a distance, and a direction, away from the published coordinates. We each took a bearing, and paced off in what we hoped was the right direction, ending within two arm’s length of each other – and the cache was between us. Teamwork!

The caches kept coming, and a varied selection they were, too. Some of the containers included fake pine cones, mushrooms, and a (very realistic) plastic hedgehog.

We dropped down from the wooded hills, then followed a track onto farmland. Rounding a corner, we suddenly came a large piece of wooden sculpture. While admiring it, two muggles also arrived to look at it. They told us that the sculpture is called Xylem Voices, by Walter Bailey, and it forms part of the ‘Inspiring Views’ trail https://www.surreyhillssociety.org/events/inspiring-views-trail (Editor’s note: we had seen another of the pieces in the series, Perspectives, up on the Greensand Way while walking last year.)

Xylem Voices

Xylem Voices

We were nearly back at the car now, finding the last two caches in the series as we walked through the fields, then along the road for a short distance as the sun dipped and the afternoon cooled.

To sum up: this is a beautiful walk, through woodland, open fields and commons and almost all on paths and tracks, a great way to spend a sunny late autumn day.

Here are some of the other 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 …


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:

June 23 : Chichester Marina

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Chichester canal - the last lock

Chichester canal – the last lock

A warm Friday seemed like a good day for lazing around on a beach – and why not wonderful West Wittering? Just short of our destination we paused for some caching, a walk round Chichester Marina and views of Chichester harbour.

There are two caching trails that lead out from Chichester, forming a circuit. The first is the Lipchis Canal Wander,along the partially restored – partially derelict Chichester Ship Canal, which is also part of the Lipchis Way from Liphook to Chichester http://www.newlipchisway.co.uk The return section is appropriately called The Return, along Salterns Way http://www.westsussex.info/salterns-way.shtml to the city, which is an off-road cycle route back to the city. We planned to do the parts of both routes that lay closest to the marina.

We parked, and set off along the canal, derelict at this point, heading back towards Chichester. The canal still holds water, but this section is only used by ducks and moorhens, not boats at present. Guarding the first cache and ignoring us, two swans were a-sleeping on the road; they must do this often, judging by the number of loose feathers lying around and the protective ring of cones around them. We walked on along the canal finding three more caches, and a trackable, as we went. Crossing the busy A286, we had a glance at the next section of the canal, which is still to be restored, then retraced our steps towards the marina. We found another four easy caches as we walked through the marina. There are millions and millions of pounds worth of boats moored here, ranging from tiny motorboats to enormous floating ‘gin palaces’.

LOTS of boats here!

LOTS of boats here!

Nearer the estuary, the canal is used by houseboats as well as ducks, and then there is just a disused lock leading out into the harbour, set off by an interesting sculpture, which just looks like a boulder from one side, but something else from the other direction. Here, too, is the start point for a multicache which ended our first caching series for the day.

We’d now completed our caching along the canal so headed across the marina to look for caches elsewhere, from ‘The Return’ series. First, we had to cross the lock that keeps the marina full of water when the tide is out, and it was at that point in the tide where boats were busily entering and (mostly) leaving. We waited for the semicircular gate to close, walked across the top, and out onto the edge of the harbour.

We paused to eat our picnic lunch overlooking the harbour and the people messing about in boats. Later, walking along Salterns Way, we left the marina and were soon away from the coast amid farmland, hedges, and ripening crops. We found another two caches here, the last in a quiet spot away from the bustle of the marina with expansive views back to Chichester, the South Downs, and Goodwood racecourse.

By now, the beach was calling us, so we retraced our steps, circling the other side of the marina to reach the geocar and to head off to West Wittering for our first swim in the sea for the year. And, no, the water wasn’t cold!

Here are some of the caches we found:

May 25 : Hastings

Hastings was our venue for the week, but our hotel was about 4 miles from the sea and historic parts of town. Today would be the day for exploring !

Warrior Gardens, Hastings

Warrior Gardens, Hastings

We had unsuccessfully attempted to visit Hastings Pier earlier in our stay, so this time we were determined to find the caches hidden in or near it!

But first…where to park the car? Fortunately a bit of online research pointed us to a not-too-expensive car park yards from the sea. We paid for 5 hours, thinking (stupidly), we’d be finished in 3 hours, and we could drive elsewhere to finish the day.

Our main targets were on the seafront, so we started to walk there and almost immediately noticed a church micro. An easy find, but an unplanned one.


Somewhere in the picture is the church and the cache!

Next – to Hastings’ beautiful Warrior Gardens. Here a multi had to be solved, based on the dates of a statue. The final destination took us through both parts of the tiered gardens (a road bisects them) and so we had a fine view. What was slightly frustrating was the cache. A film container, not brilliantly hidden behind a bush and less salubriously, a dog poo bin. There ought to have been better hiding places!

We walked back through the Gardens to arrive at the seafront, and a real gem of a cache.

My Heart Belongs to Hastings

My Heart Belongs to Hastings



My Heart Belongs to Hastings is a sculpture officially unveiled in 2012. Then the sculpture was a piece of driftwood with a few padlocks attached. The idea, as with other ‘love padlock sculptures’ is that people show their love to each other/Hastings/pets.. by placing a padlock on the sculpture. Over its 4 years, many hundreds of padlocks have been added…including a padlock cache! Yes, we had to search hundreds of caches to find a cache! After a few minutes searching, Mrs Hg137 had a good idea and almost immediately found the target. We awarded this cache a favourite as it was so different from what we were expecting.
Hastings Pier

Hastings Pier

...and the view back to shore

…and the view back to shore

The pier was open, and we had time to explore. Noticeboards were placed at strategic intervals telling us of the Hastings Pier Fire, how the pier was rebuilt, major bands that played on the pier etc.. all interesting information. All of which helped us to derived the coordinates for 2 different caches. One was apparently hidden on the pier itself, but we never found it. GZ seemed devoid of hiding places, and the hint bore little or no resemblance to items nearby. (We thought the cache was going to be under a telescope, but there were none at the co-ordinates). The second cache we did find, a small nano hidden just at the pier entrance.

Our Eureka moment, signing the log, was marred by an elderly Hastings resident asking us if we were lost or needed help…we didn’t but shortly chased after him to ask whether there were any bus services between the pier and the ‘Old Town’. There weren’t.

We had taken nearly 2 hours to attempt 5 caches, and we were still yards from the car! We decided to walk along the promenade to the Old Town. Very pleasant, but we did pass several caches we had attempted two nights previously.

The Old Town/Fishing Quarter had several caches. As we had been relatively slow up to that point, we jettisoned the host of multi-caches which seemed to pepper this part of town. Instead we looked for another cache on artwork.



This time we were looking for a nano on a Winkle! This area of town was known as Winkle Island, in honour of the Winkle Club which ran various charity events. Very modern, very metallic and very tactile. Visitors can clamber over it, and we did ! Sadly no cache came to hand! (We discovered after our visit that the cache owner had been checking the cache out not 15 minutes before we arrived!)

We walked on to the edge of the Fishing Quarter, to try to find an even harder cache. No hint. Just a miscellany of slightly worse-for-wear street furniture and pot-holed pavements. We looked long and hard and failed. Two DNFs in a row – not good, and our third of the day!

DNFs are great time stealers, and by now we were grateful we had paid for those 5 car park hours. As the day was hot, and we also decided to casually wander back to the car and finish our exploits mid-afternoon.

As we turned to walk back towards the car, we undertook an Earthcache. Unusually this Earthcache did not test our knowledge of geological rock formations, but of groynes. We had to describe what various groynes were made from and well as their advantages and disadvantages. As we were constructing our answers a fishing boat returned to shore.

Hastings does not have a natural harbour. In days gone by, boats were MANUALLY hauled up and down the shingle beach every time the fishermen sailed in and out. Nowadays a small mechanical digger takes the place of the manual labour.

The Old Town was the location for our last seafront cache. Here the roads were narrow, and twisted and turned up ever steep gradients. The flatter roads contained an unusual array of tourist shops and eateries, but our target was some 100 feet above them. On private property. In a window box! We were looking for a cache inches from someone’s front window! We found it, but so, so unnerving.

Hastings Tourist Town!

Hastings Tourist Town!

So a mixed day on the seafront, a few too many DNFS, but some very varied cache locations.


Window Box Cache

As we arrived back at the hotel we remembered there was a cache in the road opposite. We parked up, and found it immediately (it hadn’t been hidden well)… but it was full of water! We decided to remove the cache, take it to our hotel room and dry it out. It wasn’t on the tourist trail, so we gambled a few hours away drying out would enhance it no end. It did! We were soon able to sign the dried up paper, and we replaced the cache with no other finder being inconvenienced. Our good deed for the day!