December 11 : College Town Series, Sandhurst

It is not often a brand-new geocaching series has been placed within half a mile from one’s home location.

An ideal opportunity to grab a few of those First-to-Find accolades.

Sadly though, we don’t have “automatic notification of new caches” turned on from http://www.geocaching.com, so we totally failed to spot this new series appearing on a cold Saturday evening. Would we have gone out at 9pm on a frosty evening ? I doubt it.

Instead we undertook the series 8 days after publication and what a fabulous urban series this was.

Branksome Hill Road, Sandhurst

Branksome Hill Road

College Road, Sandhurst

College Road, Sandhurst

We live in Sandhurst (hence our blogging name), and close by is the Royal Military Academy. Running parallel to one of its boundaries are two very long roads Branksome Hill Road and College Road. Each road is about 3/4 mile in length and with two 400 feet shorter lengths at either end; it made for a good 2 mile pavement circuit.

Urban caches can occasionally be exceedingly boring, with minute nanos stuck behind road signs, and admittedly there were a couple such caches on route. The following appropriately road signs may, or may not, be hiding places!

But the majority of caches were well thought through, and very well hidden.

One such hide was screwed into a concrete wall (we guess the cache owner’s house), two more were heavy variants of the plastic stone cache. These caches were actual stone or concrete! We guess a stone grinder had been used to cut out the base to place the logs in.

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Another cache was hidden in half-a-branch. We were surprisingly quick at finding this cache, probably because we had seen a similar one recently on the Hampshire Drive By series.

If the Winter’s rain is driving you away from the countryside and onto an urban series, this route is for you. Many of the caches are simple finds, but others will challenge you a bit! You will need to keep you wits about you though, as all of the caches are in full sight of houses and you never know if you are being watched!

We thoroughly enjoyed this series, and we hope you do too.

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November 27 : Hampshire Drive By part 2

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here again.

The geocar was (hopefully) fixed, so we set out to finish the Hampshire Drive By series that we had started, then abandoned, only the day before. Taking a very slightly different route to the start, we stopped briefly on our way to find Wiggins Copse (no sign of Sir Bradley!); soon after, we were back in Mill Lane, where we had stopped before. The first cache, no 19 in the Drive By series, led us a merry dance. Up and down the lane we walked, searching what seemed like every one of the possible locations, without success. A deer jumped out of the woods onto the lane, surveyed our efforts with disdain, and walked off around the corner. We looked some more, and eventually resorted to reading all the logs. Something from an earlier log just made us think again, and we found the cache after just another few minutes. Damned clever hide!

We found the next few caches with much less angst, and then emerged from the woodland into a more open area of hedges and fields, where the lane crossed the Devil’s Highway (the Roman road from Silchester to London https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_Highway_(Roman_Britain) ). And suddenly we weren’t on our own. Every muggle in Hampshire seemed to be out walking, cycling, or exercising their dogs, and all on this little bit of lane. We found a quiet moment and retrieved the next cache, then signed the log while looking out over the fields to the river.

Our next stop wasn’t for a cache, but to look at Thatcher’s, or Little Ford, which lies on the county boundary between Hampshire and Berkshire, and where the Roman road crosses the River Blackwater. It hadn’t been raining much for some days, and yet there was a good flow on the river and the best part of a metre on the depth gauge … not such a “little” Little Ford! (Editor’s note: if you are walking, there is a footbridge over the river close by – there is no need to wade/swim, but I would definitely not fancy driving through that ford!)

Thatcher's Ford / Little Ford

Thatcher’s Ford / Little Ford


The final three caches in the 26-cache series were along Ford Lane, another narrow country lane. We parked in a less than perfect spot for one cache, and were, rightly, told off by muggles because we had partly blocked the road. Having finished the series, we had a coffee in a layby (off the road!) and celebrated having found every single cache in this varied series.
Post Post

Post Post


And then we set off home … oh, but first … another cache; this one forms part of the ‘Post Post’ series, hidden in and around letterboxes, and one we had looked at briefly and unsuccessfully at the start of the day when setting out. We’d noted that another, very experienced local cacher, El-Jo, had also failed to find this cache so our hopes were not high. A second visit, more searching, more rummaging, and then the geopole dislodged something from a place we had already searched several times. A success to end the day! And another 10 caches to boost our measly November total of just 49 caches in 4 years.

Here are some of the caches we found:

November 26 : Hampshire Drive By – part 1

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Starting near Eversley, about halfway between Wokingham and Basingstoke, we set off to undertake the Hampshire Drive By series. It comprises twenty-six caches spread over about 10 miles, each with somewhere to park nearby – a perfect choice for a cold, misty November day. I volunteered to drive. Mr HG137 had driven previous drive by series we had attempted, but thought I should experience the adrenalin rush of parking in odd places as traffic whizzed by … I wasn’t entirely sure about that!

Misty morning in Hampshire

Misty morning in Hampshire

The first four caches lived up to the billing perfectly, with impressively large parking places and caches that were easy to find, but all different and hidden in a variety of ways. We turned into a much narrower single track lane, much of it through woods. The parking spots became smaller too, including one that I didn’t spot underneath fallen leaves, so Mr Hg137 had to leap out of the car to find the cache while I drove on, found somewhere to turn, and came back to collect him. But he managed just fine without me … At the end of the lane, just before emerging onto a ‘bigger’ road, we found another cache and paused for coffee, with the geocar parked on a slope with the handbrake firmly applied. Or so I thought. On our return to the car, it seemed to have moved a bit. Odd. And when Mr Hg137 climbed in it began to roll gently down the slope. No harm done, but a bit disquieting.

I overshot the next cache, too, and had to retrace our route to find the parking spot at the end of a farm drive. While retrieving the cache on the other side of the road, I turned around to see a cement mixer edging past my geocar. Oh no! But there was enough room for all. One of the next caches was hidden by a rural post box, with a teeny tiny pull-in where the postie parks his van. I stayed in the car, close to the road, on a bend, and quivered with fear as the traffic rushed by very close, and Mr Hg137 seemed to take a very long time finding the cache.

After finding one more cache on this busy main road, this one with a giant layby for parking (five stars for that!), we turned off once again down a narrow country lane. And once again Mr Hg137 needed to trot off down the lane to find the cache while I loitered, engine running, in the driveway of a house. This time I didn’t have to wait so long before I was waved onwards to collect him. Further on, parked on the very narrow lane, I was away from the car, searching under a log for the cache when a car appeared. Mr Hg137 moved the geocar to let it pass, but commented to me that he ‘couldn’t make the handbrake work’. Odd again. When I got back into the driving seat to drive on, I saw that the button on the end of the handbrake had disappeared and there was no way to lock the brake in position. Not good at all. That went some way to explaining the problem we had earlier, when parking on a slope.

We did just one more cache, quickly, before abandoning the series at cache number eighteen of twenty-six and rushing back to our local garage to see if they could help with the non-working handbrake. They duly did some magic – thanks to http://sandhurstmot.com – and they didn’t even charge for it!

That leaves a bit of the cache series to do. Hmm, I wonder when we could do that?

PS Here are some of the caches we found:

November 5 : No fireworks in Farnham!

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

In the four years we’ve been geocaching, we’ve found just 26 caches in November. Well, that month had now come around again and it seemed a good idea to increase that total.

Go geocaching and meet 'fun guys'!

Go geocaching and meet ‘fun guys’!


We’d selected a route not too far away, Farnham Rally Ramble, a 34-cache, 8-mile route. A read through of the descriptions suggested that this series would require collecting clues, solving puzzles (and sums), use of tools and other cunning stuff if we were going to find those geocaches, so we decided to split the route into sections and to make this a kind of ‘winter caching project’.

We duly assembled the equipment needed – here is the list as given :

– 2 litres of water (or the means to collect that quantity from local water sources).
– A weedling tool to get the logs out of small caches.
– Some Tape – Gaffer or Duct or PVC Electrical Insulating tape will do
– A few feet of String
– A piece of stiff wire, about 9” long, capable of being bent to form a hook.
– A print out of this cache page is recommended
– A Farnham area OS map would be very useful
(Editor’s note: at least it didn’t mention canoes or climbing equipment – phew!)


Parking near the busy A325 on the outskirts of Farnham, the first cache was almost within touching distance, quickly found, and contained a handy clue for later. So far, so good. But … we needed to find a nearby object with a number on it for us to use later, and we couldn’t find it. Not so good. It turned out that, with a bit of thought, we could derive the numbers. So no problem after all.

A track led away from the road, and almost immediately we were in open fields, close to the River Wey. Stopping to work out some numbers, and solve a bit of code, we used that information to find the site of the next cache, in a large old oak tree next to the river. We couldn’t find the cache, though, but as a large chunk of the tree had fallen off quite recently, we thought that the cache might have disappeared either then or in the subsequent clear up.

Our next mission was to cross the A31 to reach Bishop’s Meadow, heading towards Farnham. Crossing dual carriageways with fast traffic is never on my list of favourite things to do but it was OK and we picked up the riverside path again on the other side of the road.

Another cache was retrieved from a tree, some more numbers, for future use, were noted from a small sign, and we walked on, with the river not far away on one side, and the A31 not far away on the other. We diverged slightly to find another cache, the third of four attempted, stuck with a magnet to the side of a metal footbridge over the A31. And here things began to unravel…

Our next target was supposed to be hidden in a fence, somewhere, but we couldn’t find it (hindsight says that we got the right spot, at least once, but couldn’t work out what we needed to do). Time passed while we wandered fruitlessly up and down, giving up after a while and crossing the river and a side channel to arrive in Bishop’s Meadow ( http://www.bishopsmeadowtrust.org/ ) There were more numerical clues to be found here, somewhere in, on, or under the bridge, and another chance for us to not find them. More unavailing searching went on here, and we got very frustrated, as we couldn’t proceed much further without knowing those numbers to use to find the next cache. Mr Hg137 descended to river level to look for the clues, couldn’t find them, couldn’t get back up the slippery bank, and had to be hauled back up to the path. It was not going so well now.

Bishop's Meadow, Farnham

Bishop’s Meadow, Farnham, on a grey November day


Having found an intermediate stage for the next cache, which gave us a clue, but still without those numbers that would supply the coordinates, we tried to work out roughly were the cache ‘could’ be – somewhere along the edges and hedges of the meadow, and then tried a number of locations without success. The most likely location was by a large, rotting log, but the only thing we unearthed was a medium-sized rat, which scuttled off.

Once again, we gave up – it really wasn’t going so well now – and moved on to our next target. This time we had a location, which was in one of several large willow trees by a ditch and surrounded by … very large and very angry nettles. We tried several approaches, but couldn’t face the pain for long enough to get to the area, let alone search lots of trees. We returned to the other side of the ditch, and realised that we could see the cache, in view in a tree on … the other side of the ditch. Oh well – into the ditch we went, up the bank on the other side, and the cache was retrieved.

Into the ditch!

Into the ditch!


Seven caches attempted, four found, and three hours had gone by. The wind was getting up, and we were getting fed up. We decided to abandon our quest, as we were missing quite a bit of the information we needed to proceed further. We returned home, logged the caches, then contacted the owner, Kitey, to seek more help with the caches and clues we hadn’t found. He got back to us the next day, and it was not good news for our ‘winter caching project’. This cache series isn’t attempted very often, and a number of the caches and clues have gone missing. Kitey has decided to archive the series, and has suggested that we try another one of his series, also based around Farnham but starting in a slightly different place.

A new quest beckons!

PS Here are a couple of the other caches we found:

September 24 – Kissable Fish

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The Kissable Fish has only been on the move since mid-July 2016, with a mission to move from cache to cache. In that time, it has been to a number of fish-appropriate places, such as the Grand Union Canal, Canary Wharf, another canal, the Staffordshire & Worcester, then over the sea for a visit to the Isle of Man, and finally to the place we found it, under a small bridge which forms part of a cache series around Horsell Common, near Woking. Not bad going for just over three months travelling …

Where to place it next? Ho-hum, we’ll have to find somewhere ‘watery’ or ‘fishy’ soon, with a cache big enough to take this super little fish.

September 24: HG137 undertake part of the HG Ring!

September was drawing on and our caching had been light. We had also not visited RHS Wisley recently and its annual 5-week sculpture trail was coming to an end! We needed to fit them all in !

We arrived at Wisley and looked at the 60+ sculptures, many were very sinuous or etheral and perhaps aimed at the corporate market. However this year there seemed to be more ‘garden art’ and these three provided us with the most pleasure : a door to nowhere, a pig and a woodpecker!
Sculpture at WisleySculpture at WisleySculpture at Wisley
The flowers at Wisley were still holding onto their summer resplendency but with a cache trail to undertake we didn’t look at every flower or vegetable!

We had cached all the trails near to Wisley, so we drove to an area North West of Woking and undertook part of the HG Ring series. The cache owners, Woking Wonders, named the HG series after Horsell Common and Goldsworth Park which the trail linked. HG, in the context of Woking, could also have meant HG Wells who lived there, as well as his novel ‘The War of the Worlds’ which he set there too.
Of course to us, who cache as HG137, the cache series had an entirely different meaning!

The HG Ring consists of 20 caches in a figure of 8, we undertook 12 caches on the Western loop, and deliberately left a couple of connecter caches to make the Eastern half more cache-heavy for a future visit.

We started at Goldsworth Park at cache 5A. Nearby two games of hockey were being played, and spectators, if they looked behind, would have seen us, peering at every tree we could find. Although there was only a couple of trees meeting the exact hint, the preceding cacher had hidden the cache extremely well, and we only found it after a 15 minute search.

Onto cache 6. Another long search. Several good candidate trees, but not much else. We searched long and hard. We were about to give up when two events happened simultaneously. Mrs HG137 noticed the tree bark was much, much smoother in one area and we were accosted by a muggle.

“What are you looking for?”. We explained. Fortunately as we were explaining, Mrs HG137’s eyes were drawn back to the smooth bark, and there hanging was the tiny cache. We showed it to our muggle acquaintance, rehung it, and moved on. Two very long searches.
Geocache in treeCache in tree!
Our next cache was almost as long, but here we managed to find the appropriate mossy log after only 5 minutes. We had left Goldsworth Park and for the rest of the walk barely saw anyone else on our journey. A few people washing cars, and children playing, but no-one to interrupt our (sometimes inept) searching.

We prayed for a quick find at our next location, but here too it took us ages. In fairness, tree cover caused the GPS to wobble, but 4 caches down and every one we had spent far too long at each location.

Many of the cache containers were film containers and the next few were easily found (thank goodness!) near stiles, under posts, in tree roots.

Is there a cache here?

Is there a cache here?

The route had taken us from a recreational ground, through woodland to an small open field. Here, as we walked along one edge of the field, a kestrel hovered on the far side. We marvelled at its ability to remain in flight with so little effort.

Woking

Onward, onward

We arrived at a road, and no obvious footpath to follow. Left ? Right ? We guessed wrong! Then after consulting our OS Map, we corrected ourselves and walked through the worst footpath of the day. Stinging nettles and thistles snapped at our ankles and every pace we took was accompanied by a wince and a groan.

Two farmers watched our movements, each driving a tractor or JCB. They had flattened 2 electric fences, and drove off as we approached. This was useful as we had a cache to find – this time hidden under a bridge. Not only did we find the cache, but 2 trackables too. (A beautiful geocoin fish, and business card to the 2018 Yorkshire Mega).

There's not mush room on this path!

There’s not mush room on this path!

We were turning for home, and a bit more tricky navigation, first through a farmyard, and second through woodland. We were not totally sure we followed the best (legal) route through Horsell Common, but we arrived at, and found each cache in turn. Many cache owners place caches at significant changes of direction – it was unclear to us why this hadn’t been done on this route.

Tree lined paths

Tree lined paths

Three caches from the end was an unexpected location. The cache was hidden in a small tree, right in the middle of the path. We were so astounded by this, our initial search had been at the larger tree at the side of the path! How this cache has remained in place without being muggled, is a testament to the good-folk of Woking no doubt.

A couple more road crossings, and we returned back into Goldsworth Park. Yet more games of hockey were being played. Fortunately our last cache was a quick find (reaching 6 foot up to a bole in a tree) and our route was complete. After a slow start we found all 12 caches we attempted !

Goldsworth Park

Goldsworth Park