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 (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 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 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, 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 The return section is appropriately called The Return, along Salterns Way 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!

February 18 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : Guildford to Winterfold Heath

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

We resumed our walk from Sandhurst (Berkshire) to Sandhurst (Kent). We were away from train lines, with no obvious bus route or other transport between the two ends of the route, so we planned to park a car at each end, then to walk between them. Simple, but the car shuffling does take time. This meant we could start the day with a first cache at the Park & Ride south of Guildford, overlooked by curious shoppers catching the bus into town.

First cache of the day

First cache of the day

Rejoining our past trail, we set off south on the banks of the Wey at St Catherine’s Lock, on a cold and misty morning. A round pillbox on a little knoll overlooked the river and the railway beyond and we climbed up to look in and around it, then scrambled around on the bank to find the cache hidden nearby.
Pillbox, watching over the River Wey

Pillbox, watching over the River Wey

A little distance on we passed the boat moorings in the entrance to the derelict Wey & Arun Canal, then left the river to join a disused railway line, now part of a long-distance path, the Downs Link Way , which runs from Guildford all the way to Shoreham-on-Sea on the coast.

Downs Link Way

Downs Link Way

It meant level, well-surfaced walking for a few miles, but only an occasional cache to distract us. To break up the long, cache-free section, we added in one extra cache, up a busy and pavementless road, from the ‘Fine Pair’ series (a post box and phone box in view of each other, an interesting but increasingly rare series as phone boxes disappear).
Small letters only!

Small letters only!

Back on the railway track, all was peaceful … Suddenly, a muddy mountain biker sped past us … then another … then another two … then some more. Oh dear, we hadn’t unwittingly stepped into some sort of charity event, had we? It turned out that we hadn’t – it’s a well-established trail ride – – and the riders were respectful of the many other path users.
Watch out for cyclists!

Watch out for cyclists!

The end of the trail ride was at Bramley. This was also our lunch stop, and a chance for us to search for (and find) two unusual multicaches (those with multiple stages to the final cache). The first was one from the ‘Church Micro’ series. We had a quick look at the church, but didn’t hang around as people were gathering for a 70th birthday party. Instead we moved off to a seating area nearby – once the village animal pound – where there were seats and we could eat our lunch and solve the Church Micro. The early mist had now disappeared and it was a bright warm spring day, with daffodils and crocuses sprouting.
Bramley church

Bramley church – birthday party about to start

And there had been another multi cache based on Bramley and Wonersh station. We collected the numbers for that and solved that too. The station is now disused, as the line was decommissioned during the Beeching cuts in the 1960s. And before that, the station had come to notice during World War 2 when a train was bombed and lots of passengers were killed or injured That’s another bit of local history I wouldn’t know about without geocaching.
Bramley and Wonersh station

Bramley and Wonersh station

Picnic lunch eaten, we set off to find the final locations of the two caches. One was the neatest, tidiest cache we had ever seen; even the sticks covering the cache were regular, even, and tidy. And the second cache was the newest we have ever found (so far) as it was only placed 12 days before we found it. Good result; we usually do very badly indeed with multicaches: our options for failure multiply exponentially as the number of steps increase.

After another couple of miles on the railway track, we turned off to join yet another long-distance path, the Greensand Way

We were headed for Shamley Green, and as we approached, we started to find caches from the SGB series (Shamley Green Bipedal-motion). And there was a great place to stop for an afternoon coffee, on a sunny seat by the church, not far away from the matching Church Micro cache.

Shamley Green church

Shamley Green church

A steady – and warm! ascent followed, taking us up to the ridge line of the Surrey Hills, among the birch trees and heathland of Winterfold Heath with expansive views towards the South Downs: we thought we could just make out Chanctonbury Ring, hazy on the horizon. There were caches nearby. But somewhere here our finding methods took a wobble. Mr Hg137 set off confidently into a bramble thicket, announcing that it ‘was only 300 feet away’. Minutes later, we weren’t any closer. We struggled back to the path and tried again. Soon we were standing on a near-vertical slope, peering at a birch tree – it was the wrong one. Mr Hg137 scrambled on, and was soon removing a cache container from the entrails of a plastic lizard…

We walked on along the ridge, and suddenly came across a structure that resembled a curled-up pangolin. We looked and wondered, and did some research later.
Perspectives - 1

Perspectives – 1

Perspectives - 2

Perspectives – 2

Perspectives - 3

Perspectives – 3

It’s called ‘Perspectives’ A steady stream of muggles appeared through the woods to visit the peaceful spot looking out from the ridge.

By now the sun was near the horizon and it was noticeably cooler. We walked the remaining mile to the other car, set about some reverse car shuffling, and headed home in the dusk.

A most interesting and varied walk!

Here are some of the many caches we found:

May 27 : Devon / Cornwall : Day 6 : Plymouth

After the heavy overnight rain, our bedroom view of distant moorland was blanketed in a thin mist. We were grateful that today was our Town-Trail day, and a visit to the Coastal Town of Plymouth.

Plymouth is actually in Devon and about a 20 minute drive away. We decided though to go by train. This gave us the twin advantages of neither paying the Tamar Bridge Toll nor fighting Plymouth’s one-way system and car parks.

The train journey passed uneventfully, though we did learn the train was on a mammoth 12 hour journey from Penzance to Glasgow via Bristol, Birmingham, Derby, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh!

We had preloaded a number of caches into our GPS and the first on our list was the Sidetracked at Plymouth Station. Initially we took the wrong road to the cache (good start!) but found it easily. In fact it was silhouetted behind some street furniture and visible from some distance.

Our second cache was more troublesome. It was in a park, near to the University Student Accommodation. There were two seats in the park, and the cache was under one of them. That seat though was occupied by a youth, smoking whilst keeping a watchful eye on his dog. We decided to utilise the other seat for coffee and wait … Because of the overnight rain, the seat was wet, so we stood instead. Shortly after a just-graduated-student arrived. He was waiting for someone. He, too, did not want to visit the smoker’s seat. We got chatting, and as he was a Geography graduate, with pleasingly a job lined up, we talked about geocaching.
Eventually the smoker left and we made a swift find at the smoker’s seat. Showed the graduate the cache and re-hid. Whether geocaching has another convert… time will tell!

Our target was the sea-front and Plymouth Hoe in particular. Rather than have a fixed route, we just followed the caches we loaded as we zig-zagged our way through the University Campus, through a shopping centre, passed a sculpture or two, until the lighthouse on the Hoe was visible.

Sir Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake

Many of the caches were named after famous people with a connection to Plymouth. These included Charles Darwin (stayed in Plymouth before his historic fact-finding trip in the Beagle), Oliver Cromwell (Plymouth was one of the few West Country towns that sided with him during the Civil War), Nancy Astor (first woman MP and her constituency was Plymouth) and Oswald Mosley (visited whilst trying to set up his extreme right-wing party.)

These four caches alone provided us with insights into Plymouth’s History which we wouldn’t have found out without geocaching.

And so to the Hoe.

Sculpture near the Hoe 1

Sculpture near the Hoe 1

Sculpture near the Hoe 2

Sculpture near the Hoe 2

A large expanse of park – mainly grass, with flower borders and many a memorial. Mainly to Navy crew, but others to commemorate other diverse worldwide events. There are few caches in the Hoe area (due to the 1/10th of a mile rule no doubt), but we found most.

Our route took us Eastwards around the sea walls, overlooking the sea-water Lido. Last minute cleaning was being undertaken, as the Summer Opening was only days away.. it did look inviting.. if a little chilly!

Anyone care for a swim ?

Anyone care for a swim ?

We arrived at the Mayflower Steps, having found another cache overlooking them, to discover a boat was due to sail to the Royal William Victualling Yard. We rushed on it and very shortly we were looking at the Lido and the Hoe but from the sea!

Mayflower Steps

Mayflower Steps.. from a cache site!

The Royal Victualling Yard was originally used to provide the Navy with Drink (predominantly) and other basic rations. Many of the buildings have been converted to flats, restaurants and the like. Given all this modernisation it was interesting to see an Earthcache on one of the building’s walls. We found the wall, failed to find the stone in question for some minutes, but then spotted the minutiae needed to answer the Cache Owner’s questions. Again, we would never have know about the wall, and its make-up without geocaching!
Finding an Earthcache

Finding an Earthcache

We had a long walk from Plymouth’s Western Edge back to the Centre and our train. The coastal path had a few caches to keep us occupied, including a scramble up the large bouldery sea-defences. This was our first DNF of the day – not helped by Mr Hg137’s phone going off when he had climbed 12 feet above head height.
Somewhere in these defences is a cache...

Somewhere in these defences is a cache…

We weren’t keen on descending the boulder field, so we left by a different route, but this did mean we couldn’t find a path back to locate two more caches. (Grr!)
It's a long way back!

It’s a long way back!

More Plymouth Sculptures

More Plymouth Sculptures

And more!

And more!

We arrived back at the Hoe area, and with enough time to attempt two more caches. The first, another Earthcache, was based on Drakes Island and how it was formed. We were impressed by the mini-sculptures on the handrail overlooking the Island too. Our last cache of the day was the biggest. Nestling near a tennis court it really proves big caches can exist in urban environment!
Drake's Island

Drake’s Island

We really enjoyed our day in Plymouth. We walked over 7 miles and found 10 caches but what we learnt from the cache descriptions really enhanced our knowledge of the Town’s rich and varied history.

Most of the 10 caches we found were either nanos or Earthcaches… but here are two of the larger ones:

September 13 : Thames Path Staines to Walton

In which we are given an unexpected gift, accidentally prevent a cache from being found and ring a bell to catch a boat!

Staines Bridge, the start of our walk

Staines Bridge, the start of our walk

Prior to most of our caching trips, we undertake research. In the case of the Thames Path we research where to park at the start and/or finish and how to return to any parked cars at the end of the walk – ideally without incurring the large car parking fees associated with being close to the River Thames.
Our research today found several free, yes free, parking spaces near Walton Bridge, our intended destination. Better still there was a bus service that would take us to Staines where our walk would start. Excellent! Not only that but the car parking spot was very easy to drive to (about 5 minutes from the M3!).

While we were waiting at the bus stop – or more correctly double-checking we were at the correct bus stop, we were approached by a local resident in his front garden.

“I’ve something you might like”.
“Oh” we replied unenthusiastically (our minds were thinking about a bus due in a minute or so time).
I see you’ve got a walking pole… would you like two more
I’ll just go and get them”

A few seconds passed. We looked at each other anxiously, one eye at each other, one eye looking for a bus and our third(!) eye at the gentleman’s front garden…

Here you are.. some local youths threw them in my garden some weeks back. They didn’t want you?”

We took them. He accepted no money for them. A pair of practically new walking poles. What a start to our day! Just as we were trying to collect our thoughts along came the bus for our short trip to Staines.

At Staines, or as we have mentioned before, Staines-upon-Thames, we made our way from the bus station to the river. But not before our first cache of the day, under a seat near the war memorial. With two seats to choose it shouldn’t have taken us too long to find the nano.. sadly it did!

Within yards of resuming our walk along the Thames Path we encountered several monuments, statues and sculptures. Modern sculptures, the original London Stone marking London’s original jurisdiction of the Thames as well as a heron and a swan-upper .. all with yards of each other. None of them hid any caches though!

Our 8 mile route had few caches on the Thames Path, so after a couple of miles we broke off to visit the town/village of Laleham. Here was a church micro hidden near a very un-church-like location – a litter bin!

Our third cache on was back on the Thames, and quick easy find in a broken pole end. As we sat on a nearby seat, we became aware of runners coming towards us. They were in a race ! (Our previous Thames visit had something similar). This time we could just about read information on the tabards.. it was the Thames Path Challenge. People were running (100km or 50 km) or walking 25km of the Thames Path coming straight for us! We gave a few a cheer as they went by, but our main efforts were dodging out of their way!

Looks hard work to us!

Looks hard work to us!

Nice hats!

Nice hats!

Eventually the path opened out to a wider green area, where our next target cache was to be found. “A bolt with a view” was the description so we knew what we were looking for.. a bolt. We spent ages looking for it, all the time being aware of a set of muggles arriving in the car park. We checked all the obvious metalwork to no avail, then we looked in a tree (really.. we did!) and back to the metalwork. Aha! Got it! Unscrew it, sign the log..and repla…bother the muggles are now trying to get the pay and display machine to work in direct eye-line of the cache. Lets wait!

We waited… and waited.. how long does it take to work a machine ? We waited.. Lets have lunch and replace it later. We made our way to a nearby picnic table and started to munch.

Some time later we were aware of two people with two dogs near the pay machine. Had they just arrived ? Are they paying ? Are they exercising their dogs for a short walk ? No, they are looking for something. They are checking metalwork… and look they are checking the tree too… they must be cachers… and we have the cache next to our Cheese and Onion crisps. Whoops!

We ran over, well Mr Hg137 did, and discovered that they were indeed geocachers. We apologised for holding the cache (explaining why of course) and we jointly replaced it. It had been 5 months since the last geocachers we had seen (in Oxford) so it was a real pleasure to meet huskyhustlers1 and their husky dogs!

HuskyHustlers looking for the cache

HuskyHustlers looking for the cache

We eventually finished our interrupted lunch and then continued on the Thames Path. By now the trickle of charity runners/walkers was a steady flow, which meant finding the next two caches a tad tricky. The path was at its narrowest and only just wide enough for two people to pass – so trying to locate two simple caches (one hidden in Armco, the other in a tree) was a bit of a squeeze.
Shepperton Lock

Shepperton Lock

We then had a long section to our next cache situated at Shepperton Lock (which we would have found a bit quicker if we’d had read the cache title!). Before we got there, we walked around a water meadow (we guess a euphemism for “flood plain”!). These meadows had become much scarcer approaching London, and according to the guide-book we are using, this was to be the last.

Immediately after Shepperton Lock the Thames Path splits for the first time on our journey. The Northern bank route follows paths and pavements, slightly away from the Thames, for about 1.5 miles to Walton Bridge. The Southern bank route is a little shorter and follows the riverside all the way to Walton. The actual river more correctly follows the Northern route but with so many meanders, the flow of the river was so poor in the 1930s that a separate water channel, the Desborough Cut was built.

The Southern bank route follows the Desborough Cut and from our caching perspective, 2 more caches.

However to get to the Southern bank we needed to cross. There is no bridge, just a ferry. Although the ferry runs for much of the day, it is a request service. Every quarter of an hour the ferryman is summoned by ringing a bell. We waited 8 minutes for the appointed time, and rang the bell.

Ring the Bell...Catch the Ferry!

Ring the Bell…Catch the Ferry!

Nobody came. We waited.

Some ten minutes the ferryman appeared and soon our 2 minute boat crossing was complete.

Here's the Ferry!

Here’s the Ferry!

One of the two caches we had to find was a puzzle cache based on a ‘safe combination’ we’d solved before leaving and another hidden somewhere deep in fallen tree-trunk, overgrown, nettly area. This was to be our only DNF of the day.

The Southern route was very much quieter as the charity runners/walkers were on the Northern bank. It was therefore a great shock to see hundreds of walkers going over Walton Bridge when we arrived there! Our last cache, with our best view of the river all day, was found with many of the walkers right behind us!

Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 8.1 miles
Total distance walked : 144.35 miles

Caches found : 9 Total caches found : 264
Some of the caches included :