February 3 : Shanklin Chine, Isle of Wight

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

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

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

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

Night caching ...

Night caching …

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

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

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

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

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

February 2 : Shanklin, Isle of Wight

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

Shanklin Sea Front

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

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

We paused.

Admired the view.

We noticed a plethora of plaques nearby.

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

Remnant of Shanklin Pier

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

PLUTO left the UK here

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

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

Where would you hide a cache here ?

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

September 1 : Isle of Wight : Freshwater Bay

Our walking holiday was at an end. We had packed our bags and loaded the car. But…

Freshwater Bay

… we had yet to find the three nearest caches to where we were staying. We had a couple of hours before our ferry home, so this was the ideal time to find these caches.

It was early morning (0910) as we walked along the foreshore at Freshwater Bay. (We made a tentative, rockpool scramble towards a terrain 4.5 cache – we had no intention of finding it, as access is only possible at the lowest of low tides) and then headed towards the lifeboat station. Unlike many lifeboat stations around the UK, it is NOT run by the RNLI but independently run and independently funded. As we headed across the beach, we noticed several early morning swimmers. One man charged into the sea, and his dog obediently and joyfully followed. A trio of ladies walked in but their dog was afraid of the waves, and barked incessantly from the dry shore edge.

Beyond these rocks and in some caves lies a difficulty 4.5 cache…

The cache (lifeboat view) was a relatively straightforward find. The hint ‘WD3’ had our minds racing, and since all the footpaths on the Isle of Wight were numbered, we assumed it was attached to a footpath sign. How wrong we were!

We then walked up the grassy slope onto Tennyson Down (for either the third or was it fourth time that week?), to arrive at a fence line, a stile, and some trees. We could see these from our hotel room, and knew the cache (Tennyson’s) was close by.

Up there, at the top of the hill, near the trees. is a cache!

We circled round the small copse (Mrs Hg137 somehow managed to find the largest, heaviest branch to hit her head against!)

Where ‘ouch’ moments occur!

and then a few minutes later found the elusive container we could almost see from our room.

Our final cache was called Julia Margaret Cameron, the 19th century photographer. She lived and undertook much of her pioneering photography at her house, Dimbola Lodge, now a museum.

Dimbola Lodge

We had been fortunate to visit the museum one evening and seen examples of her work. Her style, was very ethereal, Ancient World classical, and involved her subjects being dressed up representing Shakespearean characters as well as Ancient Greek and Roman gods/goddesses. The museum also housed some pictures and accounts from the first three Isle of Wight pop festivals (1968 – 1970). Outside the museum stood a statue of Jimi Hendrix, whose last live performance was at the 1970 festival venue less than a mile from the museum.

Jimi Hendrix

The cache was a multi, and during the week we had collected information about the museum, Julia and Jimi and we discovered that the cache was on the route down from the Tennyson’s cache. A simple find, and a great way to finish a walking holiday – with a bit of geocaching thrown in – on the Isle of Wight.

February 24 – Ryde

Our last day on the Isle of Wight and a very, very cold one. The “Beast from the East”, a cold Easterly wind, blew all day and although there was no rain or snow, the temperature was very low indeed. Lovely late winter sunshine but bitterly cold.

All Saints, Ryde

There are many caches in Ryde. Our plan was to spend the morning on the outer edges of the town away from the sea. Here, we hoped, and indeed it proved, Ryde’s buildings would protect us from the wind.
The afternoon we cached along the sea-front walking East (and into the wind) and when we got too cold to go on we would head back Westwards to warm up.

With hindsight, our first cache of the day should have been our last, as it was inside.

Inside a church.

We were undertaking a Church Micro Multi based inside All Saints Church Ryde. Frequently with church micros the questions (if there are any at all) are based on exterior noticeboards or gravestones. Here all but one of the answers could be found inside the church. And what a church!

Affectionately known as “The Cathedral of the Island”, the church was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott (who also designed many London landmarks). The foundation stone was laid by one of Queen Victoria’s daughters. The multi took us around various key locations in the church – the font, a beautiful stained glass window, various side chapels, the sanctuary and pulpit. At each location there was information to count or find, and after 40 minutes studying the church in detail we had the co-ordinates of the location for the cache. Here we had a quick find – but our memory will be the sumptuous interior of a wonderful church which many visitors to the Isle of Wight probably never know exists.

Our second cache of the day, another church micro was closer to Ryde Centre.

No clues to find this time, just a simple cache hidden in neighbouring street furniture.

Near to this cache was another multi, with clues set, we thought, IN a garden of Remembrance.

However the garden gates were locked so we couldn’t enter. We’ve subsequently discovered we could have found the cache information without entering the garden – doh!

We walked away from the Town Centre for our next two caches. The first was near a Victorian Water Trough. Now Grade II listed, the lamp-post/trough sits close to a road junction with lots of street signage capable of hiding a cache. The cache was hidden behind one such sign, but right in front of a garden with a loud barking dog. We escaped very quickly once the cache had been found!

Our last find in the morning was at one of Ryde’s three Railway stations. The Isle of Wight Railway line runs between Ryde and Shanklin using (old) London Tube Trains as its rolling stock. We found the ‘Sidetracked’ cache quite easily and then waited a few minutes for a train to arrive!

Here comes the train!

Our last cache of the morning we couldn’t attempt. The cache was hidden behind a seat. However the seat was occupied. We waited as inconspicuously as we could for 10 minutes (sheltering from the cold). But no joy, the person didn’t move! Even worse they were joined by a friend as well as a local caretaker! A Did Not Attempt does sound better than a Did Not Find !

A couple of our morning caches :

We adjourned to the sea front and our first two caches were two more ‘Sidetracked’ caches based on two different Ryde Stations. The first, Ryde Esplanade, was a multi. We had to count items from a plaque to a former, and world renowned, Isle of Wight resident. It was a good job there were two of us counting as we frequently ended up with two different numbers. Eventually we agreed on the numbers, and hence coordinates, and marched towards GZ. Here we searched for some time and failed to find the cache. We double checked our findings again from the plaque and discovered we were in the correct place.. just without the cache!

Our next ‘Sidetracked’ cache was also fruitless. This was at Ryde Pier Head, and is at the end of a half mile walk along the pier. Ryde Pier is one of Britain’s longest piers, but probably the only one which allows road traffic as well as rail traffic. Ryde Pier Head is the disembarkation point for the Portsmouth – Ryde catamaran, and the cars and rail link save the island visitors a half mile walk into Ryde. As we walked along the pier the hovercraft also left from Ryde… this pier is real transport hub!

Catamaran Arriving

Hovercraft Leaving

And so to the cache.

A bolt hidden 2 metres high.

Easy ! Nope!

We looked at every object looking for a bolt, all to no avail.

An interesting, but cacheless walk along the pier!

It was lunchtime.

We hadn’t found a cache for some time and the wind was just beginning to bite. The bus station (again next to Ryde Pier), provided shelter and a bit of warmth (Ed : by ‘a bit of warmth’, we mean ‘less cold’).

Lots of space on the beach!

Suitably refreshed, we found several caches in quick succession as we headed East along the sea front.

Sometimes the caches were attached magnetically, sometimes in flower borders.

Is there a cache here ?

The sea front was busy as despite the bracing wind, people were bravely playing on the beach, dogs were being exercised, kites were being flown. The boating lake was though devoid of people and it was here we had our next failure. The GPS bounced around, and the hint didn’t help much either – and so our rapid finding spree was at an end.

We had arrived on the outskirts of a park where two caches were hidden. One was a puzzle cache we had solved quite quickly at home (It took us longer to find the cache than solve the puzzle!). The other cache was near a small stream, which had to be crossed. Mr Hg137 jumped across, found the cache, but couldn’t open it. He threw it to Mrs Hg137 to try. Our cold, numb hands couldn’t turn the lid. Eventually we opened it, and the contents fell into the stream. We then spent a few minutes ‘fishing’ the items out of the cold water ! An easy find, but 15 minutes to open the cache and replace contents!

Can you open this ?

These should have been our last caches of the day. We wandered back to Ryde – now with the wind at our backs – and re-searched our DNFs. Still no caches to be found. We drove out of Ryde, following an odd one-way system and discovered we were driving along a road we had cached along earlier. Look ! There’s the seat! The one with cache we didn’t attempt! Mrs Hg137 was pushed out of the car, while Mr Hg137 found a car park space. Cache found, log signed ! Phew!

Last cache of the day!

So a mixed day’s caching in Ryde – three DNFs, ten straightforward finds, and a magnificent Church multi. (And two very cold cachers!)

August 4 : UK Mega 2017, Devon – Day 1, Otterton, Ladram Bay and elsewhere

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

I had finally been permitted a day off work. So, bright and early, we were heading down the A303 towards Devon, towards the 2017 UK Mega Geocaching event at Bicton College.

Close by Bicton College lies the River Otter, Otterton village and Ladram Bay, with its red cliffs and sandstone stacks. The bay is one of my favourite places – ever, ever – we last visited in May 2016 and posted about the caches then. But, for the Mega event, LOTS of new caches had been placed and we planned to do quite a few of them.

Jurassic Coast

Jurassic Coast

We parked in Otterton and switched on the GPS. Mr Hg137 had spent several hours loading up 76 caches for the weekend and we were fully prepared. The GPS fired up … and there were just two (yes, two) caches visible. Aargghh! Something had gone wrong, and we didn’t have a caching route for today, or the rest of the weekend. We thought … how to load some more caches … we had a GPS, we had a laptop, where to find some wifi? Aha! The village pub. We grabbed GPS, laptop and cable, and rushed to the village pub, the Kings Arms http://www.kingsarmsotterton.co.uk where we bought a drink, asked for the wifi password and sat outside, loading caches. The village seemed to be quite busy, and suspiciously many of the folk wandering around seemed to be carrying GPSs. Hmm, a lot of geocachers about!

Mission accomplished, we walked back to the start of our day’s caching route which would lead us out of Otterton, over tracks to Ladram Bay, then up Peak Hill for a view across to Sidmouth, then back along a green lane to the village. We would usually have parked at the car park at Ladram Bay, but the price for doing this has risen to a rip off price of £10, and that is way, way too much for an afternoon’s parking. Oh well, another customer lost forever.

Slippery, slidy path down to the bay

Slippery, slidy path down to the bay

Our first couple of caches were from the ‘Strolling around Otterton’ series which had been recently placed, ready for the Mega event. Mr Hg137 became confused when one of the hints read ‘behind TP’ and he spent a little while looking for a tepee rather than a telegraph pole. Never mind, he worked it out soon enough. Then we left the village and walked towards the coast along a muddy, sunken lane leading downhill towards the bay. We had joined the route of the ‘Mega Byways’ series and found some more caches as we slipped and slid and eventually emerged into Ladram Bay Holiday Park.
Ladram Bay

Ladram Bay

The South West Coast Path crosses here, and we joined it to walk up the hill to the east of the bay, pausing for lunch at a picnic bench overlooking the beach. Here’s a video of the super little bay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9e5nTQvGgY
As we set off uphill away from the bay, we stopped to read a noticeboard, and for a chat to two people coming from the other direction. Their GPS gave them away as geocachers. They were Lydford Locators, and we found more than 50 of their caches as we worked our way down the upper reaches of the Thames in early 2015. We were duly awed to meet them and they were … puzzled by us two fans.

We carried on up the hill on a path between the cliff edge and a cornfield, finding caches as we went. We recognised another geocacher, Simply Paul, who we had last seen at the 2016 Geolympix in Ashridge Forest. And we kept spotting people behaving oddly, stopping at regular intervals or disappearing into hedges and bushes. Cachers, cachers everywhere! (Goodness knows what the locals and muggles made of all this ….)

Peak Hill, Devon: view west

Peak Hill, Devon: view west

We reached the top edge of the field and went into woodland, then spent a little while searching around in ivy before finding our next cache. All the time a family were approaching up the hill, and we just managed to replace the cache before they arrived. Hello to caching family, BECKS RLLR plus geodog, and we kept on bumping into them for the next mile or so. Leaving them to look for the cache we had just re-hidden, we huffed and puffed our way to the very top of the hill, 157 metres above sea level, leaving the woods for heathland and for a fine view out to sea. A short way further on, the south-west coast path began to drop towards Sidmouth, and the view opened out.
SWCP Panorama

SWCP Panorama

Mr Hg137 suddenly realised that there was a cache, named ‘SWCP Panorama’, that he had omitted to load during our earlier, rushed episode at the pub. He cast around like a bloodhound on a scent, and the cache was soon found. It was under a pile of large pebbles that looked as if they had been regularly disturbed – that’s the thing about Mega events, the caches are found a lot in a short time, and there are usually signs of searching, or even a cacher holding the cache!
Bars Lane, Otterton

Bars Lane, Otterton

We turned back inland and down Bars Lane, a sunken tree-lines track which turned into a lane, and with a few stops for cache finding and a few diversions down side paths for more cache finding, we made our way back to Otterton. As we reached the cache where Mr Hg137 had searched earlier for a tepee, we bumped into yet another group of cachers – this group were clearly from Scotland and they were the organising committee for the 2019 Mega event, which is to be in Ayrshire. So many cachers!

Arriving back at the car, we decided to attempt one more cache. This one was called ‘Spoiler’. You get some coordinates as a start point, are told that the cache is within a two-mile radius, and are given a photo taken from the cache site. And that is all the information you get. We’d done one of these before, in London’s Docklands, and hours, days and weeks of research had gone on to find the right place. This one was a bit easier. We knew that the cache was inside a circle based on given coordinates – we drew a circle on the map. We perused likely places using every kind of online map – and got a few candidate places. We researched further – bingo! Mr Hg137 found some drone footage. We had found the place. We drove there, down some very narrow Devon lanes. Walking round the location, we found the cache at the third attempt, when we had finally managed to line up the photo and the view exactly. Phew! Success. We headed off to Honiton and our hotel, to rest up, load some more caches, and prepare for the rigours of the Mega Day on the morrow.
A secret location somewhere in Devon!

A secret location somewhere in Devon!

Here are just some of the many caches we found:

May 26 : Devon / Cornwall : Day 5 : poems, surf, and chefs: Greenaway, Polzeath, and Padstow

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Polzeath surfers

Polzeath surfers

Greenaway is my family name. And I well remember the toe-curling, red-cheeked embarrassment at school when we studied John Betjeman’s poem ‘Greenaway’. But this meant that I knew there was a beach in Cornwall of that name, and a little research showed that there was also a cache of the same name near that beach. So there was no way, no way at all, that a visit to Cornwall was not going to include a visit to Greenaway. And here is that poem … it’s not that long if you aren’t into poetry …
South West Coast Path - to Greenaway

South West Coast Path – to Greenaway

by John Betjeman

I know so well this turfy mile,
These clumps of sea-pink withered brown,
The breezy cliff, the awkward stile,
The sandy path that takes me down.

To crackling layers of broken slate
Where black and flat sea-woodlice crawl
And isolated rock pools wait
Wash from the highest tides of all.

I know the roughly blasted track
That skirts a small and smelly bay
And over squelching bladderwrack
Leads to the beach at Greenaway.

Down on the shingle safe at last
I hear the slowly dragging roar
As mighty rollers mount to cast
Small coal and seaweed on the shore,

And spurting far as it can reach
The shooting surf comes hissing round
To heave a line along the beach
Of cowries waiting to be found.

Tide after tide by night and day
The breakers battle with the land
And rounded smooth along the bay
The faithful rocks protecting stand.

But in a dream the other night
I saw this coastline from the sea
And felt the breakers plunging white
Their weight of waters over me.

There were the stile, the turf, the shore,
The safety line of shingle beach
With every stroke I struck the more
The backwash sucked me out of reach.

Back into what a water-world
Of waving weed and waiting claws?
Of writhing tentacles uncurled
To drag me to what dreadful jaws?

The beach at Greenaway

The beach at Greenaway

To return to the post … We parked the geocar on – yes on – Polzeath beach, after Mr Hg137 had reassured himself that it would not be swept away by a wave coming from the distant sea (it wasn’t). It was then a super walk on a sparkling clear May morning, of about a mile along the coast path, to a seat overlooking the little beach of Greenaway. Once there, a mid-morning coffee was drunk, while a gentle search around the seat revealed the cache. Success! But I had an additional plan. I was going down ‘to the beach at Greenaway’. And so we did. There are a few steps down to an unspoilt small sandy beach surrounded by rocks. What a lovely place!
Surfers at Polzeath

Surfers at Polzeath

After that indulgence, we walked back to Polzeath, where there was another cache overlooking the bay. We spent a while looking for it, before re-reading the description and hint and realising what and where we needed to look. Then we turned the geocar south around the Camel estuary to arrive in Padstow. The nearest cache to our parking place was the Church Micro at Padstow, so we set off to find it. We were thwarted … by a wedding, which was about to start, with photographers planning their shots and guests beginning to drift in. It didn’t seem right to intrude on that so we moved on, intending to return later.
I want your lunch!

I want your lunch!

The busy, crowded harbour seemed like a good place to have lunch, so we ate our sandwiches, defending them against a seagull that wanted them, and wondering exactly where the cache we knew was on the other side of the harbour could be. Lunch completed, and the seagull vanquished, and we strolled over to the slipway where the cache would be hidden. But we didn’t find it. More correctly, we couldn’t even look for it, as so many muggles were fishing for crabs off the slipway that we couldn’t make ourselves conspicuous by searching. Once again, we moved on.
Padstow harbour

Padstow harbour – right by a cache – much too busy to search here!

We meandered on, past Rick Stein’s cookery school, the National Lobster hatchery http://www.nationallobsterhatchery.co.uk , and a cycle hire business, heading for the Camel trail http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/cameltrail which is a disused railway line heading inland from Padstow to Wadebridge and eventually to Bodmin. Suddenly the bustle of Padstow was behind us and we were looking out over the river, with only cyclists, runners and walkers for company. There are caches all along this trail, but we had time for just one, from the ‘Benny’s Quest’ series. Luckily, this was just out of view of the trail, so we had time and space to search without attracting attention. We needed that space and time as we hunted around for a while before finding a cache fashioned from a piece of pipe, hidden in the shade in a wall.

We needed to return, so we walked back into Padstow, and through the narrow streets by the harbour, full of trendy shops, galleries, and restaurants, including a couple more of Rick Stein’s restaurants. We arrived back at the churchyard, hoping for another try at that Church Micro, but the wedding wasn’t quite over – the organ was still playing and there were still guests in the churchyard. Yet again, we moved on; we just didn’t time that one right.

It was still only mid-afternoon, but we had an evening appointment, at the open air theatre at the Sterts Centre. Off we went, stopping for a meal at the Cheesewring Hotel http://cheesewringhotel.co.uk/ in Minions, which we had visited three days earlier – it bills itself as the highest pub in Cornwall at 995 feet above sea level. And the play … it poured with rain all evening, and, while it was nice and dry under the theatre canopy, it was really hard to hear anything above the rain. Luckily, we’d mugged up on the plot of ‘The Winter’s Tale’ first … as the only thing we knew about the play was the famous stage direction “Exit, pursued by a bear” … which is what I’m about to do now! Growl!

Here, in no particular order, are the caches we found:

May 24 : Devon / Cornwall : Day 3 : Looe

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Looe Station

Looe Station

It was a fine day in Cornwall, so why not spend a day at the seaside, in Looe, and what better way to travel than the Looe Valley train line? http://greatscenicrailways.co.uk/lines/looe-valley-line/ This is a single track line which runs only from Liskeard to Looe, down the East Looe river valley, then alongside the estuary. Apart from the two ends of the line, Looe and Liskeard, all the stations are request stops. Great views all the way!
Liskeard station - Sidetracked

Liskeard station – Sidetracked geocache

Before the little train left, we had a few minutes free at Liskeard so we took an early cache, the ‘Sidetracked’ at Liskeard station. This was easy to find, sandwiched between Liskeard’s two stations, the main line to Penzance and the entirely separate branch line to Looe. There are not so very many caches to find in Looe, and we thought about expanding the number by getting off part way e.g. at the quaintly named St Kerye Wishing Well halt, and doing some extra caching along the way. But there weren’t many caches there, either, and several of the descriptions contained the instruction …’then a short drive to the final location’ … not really an option on foot.
The train left on time at 10am and just under half an hour later we were in Looe, walking down past the bridge, and through the village to the sea, pausing to buy lunch along the way, and looking at all the shops selling things to tourists – nice stuff, not so nice stuff and ‘why?’ stuff.
Looe - high tide

Looe – high tide

After a walk to the edge of the sea, we headed out along the banjo-shaped pier https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banjo_Pier to look at the very small entrance to the river and harbour. But a geocache was calling, the only one near us in East Looe. It was a really new cache, which had only been placed in early May. It was also part of the ‘Fine Pair’ series. These must have a phone box and a post box (both red, in view of each other, and not more than 100 feet apart); there are not so many of these around now, as phone boxes began to disappear at around the same time that geocaching became more popular. This particular pair were just behind the sea front and a little faded and careworn from the salt winds. We found the cache really quickly – and what an appropriate cache container!
Looe - a Fine Pair

Looe – a Fine Pair

A super geocache container!

A super geocache container!

There were no more nearby caches on this side of the river so we mucked about on the beach, climbed on the rocks, had lunch, tried to fly a kite, went for paddles – oh crikey it was cold!!! The tide went out, the sun came out and everything was clean and warm and sparkly. As the tide was out, the passenger ferry (aka small boat) across the river wasn’t running so it was a walk up to the bridge and back along the other side of the river in West Looe. Just over the bridge was another cache, scarily concealed in a bit of street furniture near the end of the bridge. We tried to look inconspicuous while retrieving it in full view of a busy road.
Looe - low tide no ferry!

Looe – low tide no ferry!

It was immediately quieter on the other side of the river. East Looe is full of tourist shops, the fish market, and hustle and bustle. West Looe is much more peaceful.
West Looe - Church Micro

West Looe – Church Micro

Our final cache in West Looe is currently our most southerly, AND it was a Church Micro. The cache itself was a little way from the church, on the riverside. Nearby is a statue to one of Looe’s characters, a battle-scarred, one-eyed seal called Nelson who made the harbour his home.
Nelson the seal at Looe

Nelson the seal at Looe

Having run out of nearby caches, we headed back to the station to catch the little train back to Liskeard. Once there, we took in the other cache at Liskeard station, ‘ Rosie and Jim’. It was cunningly hidden in the station car park, and we spent some little while looking in various wrong places before finding it.
Even now, it wasn’t too late in the day, so we set off to find a few more caches from the Compass series before returning to the hotel. That will be covered in another post in a few days.

May 22 : Devon / Cornwall : Day 1 : Ladram Bay

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.
Ladram Bay
We were off on holiday for a week in east Cornwall. But it’s a long drive, so we stopped for lunch in Devon. We (well, I) chose Ladram Bay, near Sidmouth, as it’s one of my favourite places on earth and I’ve been returning there on and off ever since 1985. But I have found that there’s an earthcache there, so (for once) I don’t have to drag Mr Hg137 there – he came along willingly! And, as insurance, we had loaded a couple of back-up caches – we haven’t cached in Devon before and we wanted to get at least one cache.

We found the usual parking place just above the bay … and in the 5 years since we last visited, the price of parking has risen from £2 to £5 … seems just a bit above inflation, that.
Ladram Bay - boats for hire
We walked down the steep path to the beach. There was a new coffee spot, and a place selling lobster and crab; we stopped by, and saw the lobsters and crabs swimming in a tank of seawater, while their unluckier cousins boiled gently in a pot. Down on the beach, we settled on the picnic benches … they, too, weren’t there 5 years ago. As we got comfortable, we noticed a big bank of grey cloud obscuring the sunshine, and it got colder, windier, and darker. We beat a hasty retreat back to the geocar just as the first large drops of rain began to fall, then ate our lunch while the rain pelted down. Oh well…

Then the rain cleared, and, apart from the puddles, it was as if the downpour had never happened. We set off to find the information needed for the earthcache, which involved visiting the beach, posing for a picture, and walking a little way along the coast path on both sides of the bay, and noting and counting various items and measurements. (We later found out that our answers were correct).
Otterton: Brick Cross
Leaving the bay, we stopped for two drive-by caches (ie stop nearby, leap out of the car, find and sign the cache and move on quickly). One was near the brick cross at the crossroads which lead down to Otterton village, the nearest settlement to Ladram Bay, and the other was near the gates of Bicton Park, an agricultural college and gardens. Both caches were succesfully found, though one – not saying which, was brilliantly camouflaged and faded into the background …

Well matched!

Well matched!

After that little (two-and-a-half hour) diversion, we set off again and arrived at our destination, Liskeard, about 10 miles on from the Tamar bridge, in the late afternoon. We were tired, but looking forward to the rest of the holiday.

February 22 : A wet morning on the Wight

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

St Helen's Old Church

St Helen’s Old Church

Before boarding the ferry to take us back from the Isle of Wight back to the ‘Big Island’ to the north, we had a morning in which to fit … some more caching. We headed north-east in the drizzle along the coast from Sandown, stopping first at the ‘Up and over TB hotel’. This cache is right next to Bembridge airfield, a grass strip where one plane had also done an ‘up and over’ !
Bad landing?

Bad landing?

A mile or so away is the village of Bembridge, where we found another two caches. On the second, we had just started our search, when a muggle came out of his house to move his dustbin, spotted us, and came over to see what we were up to. We had been rumbled! But he was friendly and we explained about geocaching, found the cache, and showed it to him (it was hidden by the wall of next door’s garden). For the future, he will know what is up when suspicious-looking folk appear and start rootling around at the end of his drive.
Bembridge Church

Bembridge Church

Leaving Bembridge, we moved onwards to St Helens, heading for the harbour but stopping along the way to find a cache at St Helen’s Quay. This is a new record for us; at -1 metres, this cache has the lowest elevation we have yet done. (Editor’s note: it seemed above sea level to me!) The drizzle had now turned to rain, the cloud base was not much higher than us, and it was a high spring tide, so we never found out if the next cache merited its title ‘Beautiful Beaches’. Nearby, right by the sea, is an interesting building, half church tower, half whitewashed landmark. This is the remaining part of old St Helen’s Church http://www.sthelensparishcouncil.org.uk/history.php and legend says that it was Admiral Lord Nelson’s last view of England, as HMS Victory anchored here to take on water before sailing off to the Battle of Trafalgar.
A wet morning's caching

A wet morning’s caching

‘The Old Links’ was our next cache. A number of the previous logs had mentioned MUD, so we were prepared, with walking boots, geopole, etc. Those logs were not wrong; we slithered and sploshed around for some minutes before finding the cache right where the GPS said it should be. Covered in mud we arrived back at the geocar; I’d seen quite a bit of the island’s geology over the weekend, and mostly it had ended up stuck to me! Luckily, I had stayed upright, so the mud was only on my feet, and not everywhere else too. (Editor’s note 1: my walking trousers are not nearly as waterproof as I would like them to be!) (Editor’s note 2: mud is very cold indeed if you sit down in it on a cold rainy day!)


We had time for one final cache, and a coffee break, in a pleasant spot overlooking Bembridge harbour, before driving back to Fishbourne to catch the 13:00 ferry. We arrived a bit early and asked if we could catch the 12:30 ferry instead – there wasn’t one, so we sat and watched the rain through a steamed up car windscreen, reflecting on a successful, though wet, morning’s efforts.

Here are a few of the caches we found during the morning:

February 19 : Isle of Wight ‘Wonky’ Caching

We have mentioned before on our blog that both of us are keen Scrabblers, and every year we attend a weekend event on the Isle of Wight. Most of the other competitors arrive a couple of hours before the tournament and leave almost immediately afterwards. But we are, geocachers, too. And so we arrived Friday lunchtime on the Isle of Wight to undertake a few caches on the East of the Island before the forecast rain set in.

Whitecliff Bay

Whitecliff Bay

Our principal target was a cache set by Robb Inn (whose blog we follow, see left panel). This was apparently hidden in, or near to, a building known as “The Wonky Café” in Whitecliff Bay. Easy enough so far… but there is no public road access to the Café! The recommended parking is high on the cliffs above, and then a short (probably half-a-mile) down a narrow footpath.
(The fact that we failed to find the footpath from the car park for 10 minutes, and squeezed our way over and around a locked gate when we did gives some indication that the footpath really didn’t want to be used)

The British Winter had not treated this footpath well. It was very muddy indeed. In some places logs had been placed to be used a ‘tightrope’ to traverse long patches of mud.
As we neared the end of our tricky descent, Mrs Hg137 slipped and went down. Mud all over her clothes! Some nearby grass cleaned some of the mud off, but it was of little use.

A little less mud on the path, and its on Mrs Hg137!

A little less mud on the path, and its on Mrs Hg137!

Fortunately there were few other muddy sections to pass and we arrived at a glorious beach, and in front of us stood… The Wonky Café. (www.wonkycafe.com)
Hint : The cache ISN'T behind the sign!

Hint : The cache ISN’T behind the sign!

The Wonky Cafe overlooking the beach

The Wonky Cafe overlooking the beach

We were greeted by the two owners (whose names sadly have escaped us). They were busy painting steps and picnic tables ready for a March 1st opening. They were hard at work  pretty close to Ground Zero!!

Fortunately they knew about the cache. They knew where it was hidden, but gave little away. We searched in a few obvious places – being fully aware that 2 pairs of eyes were watching our every move. Our searching concentration was broken periodically by the owners’ dog wanting to play ball, so we obliged.. still the search went on.

And on! It took us ages. Our excuse, if indeed one is needed, is that any task is harder when people are watching you. Our task was also made harder as those people owned the property. One feels a lot more cautious at pulling/tugging etc at objects when the people who own the structure are watching!

Eventually we did find it! But to this day we are still trying to understand the hint “Aye, Aye Captain!”.

We had lunch on one of the (now dry) picnic tables and checked out the beach. We were told that some circular wooden struts had appeared, we surmise that they may have been fish traps.

Look what the tide has exposed! But what is it ?

Look what the tide has exposed! But what is it ?

Anyway the clouds were beginning to thicken and we had more caches to find (not to mention a climb back UP the cliff).

Our next cache find, just a tenth of a mile from the Wonky Café was in a bush, in a caravan park. Very easy to find and definitely large enough for us to deposit one of the trackables we had brought  with us. Farewell “Set Sail”, enjoy your view of the sea and your future adventures!

Before climbing the muddy path up to the cliff, we decided to consult the map. We could construct another way back to the car, and avoiding the slipping and sliding of the morning. However we didn’t realise we had to walk through a private road (through the camp site –   luckily no-one noticed) and then along another muddy footpath.

Its amazing how different muddy footpaths can be! The morning’s footpath was wet and greasy. The afternoon’s path was the oozy type of mud that sucked boots in, and left tidemarks around the ankles. Every step meant lifting our heavier and heavier boots out of gloop and into more gloop. We chose the wrong path back!

Eventually we neared the car and another cache. A fairly easy find of a camouflaged container where we placed our two remaining trackables , “Connie the Crab” and  a Pirate Geocoin. Good luck both – we’ve enjoyed your company!

Arriving at the car, the rain and wind had set in. Our boots were caked in mud. We were getting cold. Fortunately our thermos of coffee revived us enough and provided us with the sustenance to go for our fourth cache of the day near Bembridge Fort. (We had intended walking to it, but as the weather really was worsening, we drove car to its Ground Zero, and made it a very simple cache and dash.) We’re quite sure the cache owner would have wanted us to have stayed longer and admire the Palmerston Fort built in 1860, but the weather was deteriorating rapidly and the lure of a warm hotel room beckoned.

So three easy finds and another where our caching skills were definitely ‘Wonky’.

Here are some of our finds :