August 9 – Jealott’s Hill – between Bracknell and Maidenhead

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The weather forecast was … mixed. There had been heavy rain the night before, and the arrival of the remnants of Hurricane Bertha were predicted for the next day, but in between was a small patch of nice weather. As forecasts can be wrong, and there was a chance of getting very, very wet, we chose a short set of local caches. We had high hopes for these as they were set by JJEF, two nearby cachers who exercise deviousness and ingenuity in their cache setting – not, for them, the typical film canister under a stone!

Hogoak Lane

Hogoak Lane

Setting off from near the centre of our planned route (just in case a quick retreat from the weather was needed), we set off along the ‘Hogoak Lane’ series, a pleasant country track. Disaster! We failed to find two of the first four caches in the series. We hadn’t got our caching heads on right, or we had failed – not for the first time – to get inside the hiding methods of JJEF. There’s no such thing as a ‘typical’ JJEF cache, but there is often wood involved, are frequently hidden in a completely natural-looking way, and can be very hard to spot.

Things improved as we crossed the Drift Road – lots of fast cars here – and much more searching continued: up trees, in hedges, under bridges, and amongst leaf litter. We were having more success now, until … we got to a cache we couldn’t open. We found a log, cut in two, hinged and closed with a padlock, and with a stick that presumably contained the key sticking out of the log. But the stick just would not come out, though we twiddled and wiggled and pulled it. We weren’t giving up, oh no; out came the Swiss Army knife, the hinges were unscrewed and the log was found and signed, before everything was rebuilt. (And no, nothing is being given away by this description, as we reported the problem to the cache owner and the container has been speedily replaced with an updated model.)

Cache opened at last!

Cache opened at last!

Back across the Drift Road – more fast cars and speeding cyclists – and down another country path. On our way, we found a ‘letterbox’ cache, a sort of cross between a normal geocache and the letterboxes that can be found on Dartmoor. These caches contain an ink pad and stamp in addition to the usual contents: a good chance for me to get covered with red ink while using the elephant stamp inside!
Wildlife spotted ...

Wildlife spotted …

Not so wild life ...

Not so wild life …


Soon we were back to the geocar, with 15 out of 17 caches found. And we were also on our way to completing the ‘7 souvenirs of August’ challenge – the letterbox cache gains us the Collector souvenir, with our other caches today giving us the Explorer souvenir.
Letterbox stamp

Letterbox stamp

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March 29 – Geocacher’s flash mob … and a swing bridge

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here again.

Time for something different: a geocacher’s flash mob.  The location was described on the event cache (a sort of time-limited geocache) with the hint  ‘Look for the big brick thing over the canal.’   And so we arrived in Church Crookham, at Poulter’s Bridge over the Basingstoke Canal, where a motley bunch of geocachers and geodogs were assembling.  We stood around for a chat in the warm spring sunshine – soooo different to yesterday – and talked to friends old and new; we’ve met up with quite a few other geocachers now in various places and ways (in the field, in the pub, via email etc) and it’s always good to put a face to a name.   Then it was time to sign the log, take part in the group photo, and to spread out into the surrounding area to claim some local geocaches.

 

Inventive cache container

Inventive cache container

A short series of five new and unusual geocaches had been released especially for this event and we found them all.  It wasn’t that hard, really, as there was a sort of extended crocodile of geocachers making their way from the flash mob around the circuit.  Many plaudits must go to ‘The Mad Cacher 007’ for such an inventive set of caches.  After finishing the circuit, we walked back along the towpath towards the geocar, arriving at a swing bridge over the canal.

The swing bridge

The swing bridge

Well, we already knew about this swing bridge because we knew that there was a geocache right underneath it, but it is very hard to reach, difficulty 4.5 out of 5.  The approved method is to approach in a boat, though the more agile get to the cache by climbing under the bridge, suspended above the water.  We didn’t have a boat and we didn’t fancy the climb … but I did have a key, which had been languishing on my keyring since the days when I did a lot of walking along canal towpaths … and it opened the padlock on the bridge.  We were thinking about what to do next – bridges are heavy – when a posse of other geocachers came into view.   A unanimous decision was made to go for the cache. The bridge was manhandled open and swung round.

Another discussion followed about where exactly the cache container might be and how to get to it (thanks to ‘Fay, R+R’) and then Mr Hg137 and others crawled underneath, emerging some little while later with the cache and quite a bit of the towpath mud. Log signed, cache replaced, and bridge swung back and locked again.

Job well done. Smiles all round. Teamwork!

PS Mr Hg137 was NOT allowed back into the geocar in his muddy state.  He was required to partially disrobe before entering the car!

March 1 – Hog’s Back reservoir – mud and the first day of spring

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

A crisp, bright March 1st meant it was the perfect day to be out geocaching. We set off early, planning to do a figure-of-eight walk from the Hog’s Back, near Guildford, to and from the nearby village of Compton. Many others were also out enjoying the spring sunshine, and we grabbed a couple of caches before stopping for a long talk with Cocoa, a chocolate labrador, and her chatty master, who told us about the many rock stars who live / were born / are performing nearby (Paul Weller, Brian May, Andy Fairweather Low, Eric Clapton).
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
We slithered down a steep, chalky path, finding more geocaches, to join the North Downs Way. Part way along this track, another cache was said to be hidden some way up a gnarly oak tree. This one took some finding, and I felt rather exposed while clambering around in the tree; the cache was eventually spotted but I was too short and too nervous to reach it – over to Mr Hg137, who is somewhat taller than me.

On we went, heading towards Compton; we took rather too much time over finding/not finding some geocaches along the way and it was around an early lunchtime when we emerged onto the lane near the Watts Gallery ( ) We had planned to be finished by now, so it was a unanimous decision to head for the teashop.
The Watts Gallery tea room describes itself as ‘A delightful café in the old pottery on the North Down’s Way with a changing seasonal menu.’ It merits the description; on the day we visited it was an eclectic mixture of families out for the day, art lovers of every shape, size, and age, a celebration lunch party, lycra-clad cyclists … and two muddy geocachers (us!). A great place to visit, and the warm sausage sandwiches were superb. (And we plan to come back later to visit the gallery, and revisit the Watts Chapel.)

We tore ourselves away and set off on the return leg of our journey. We had just collected another cache when a group of people came into view … somehow they just looked like geocachers (maybe the way their GPS was swiftly hidden was a clue). It was ‘Martin the Meerkat’ and family, out for a walk and to collect previously missed caches.

We headed back to the Hogs Back, collecting more caches along the way, as well as two trackables, which we will move on soon. There were more clever and inventive geocaches, and one more embarrassing DNF (did not find), where we were both futilely climbing around on a steep bank, when a passing walker remarked “I know what you’re doing” …
A great day out, and some superb geocaching – thanks to Kirret who set out the series of very varied caches.

PS I’ve not mentioned how any of the geocaches were set. They were varied and creative and I don’t want to spoil it for others.

PPS The churchyard at the Watts Chapel has just (March 7th) got Grade II listed status

June 18 Day 169 Caches Found 1 Cumulative Total 201 (+1 bonus)

After we failed to find the “Blackwater #12” cache, we received an email from the cache owner, Chilli Pipers, telling us that the cache was still safely in position, so it was our poor finding skills that were the problem.

Early on Tuesday morning Mr Hg137, suited and booted, was on his way to a business breakfast, passed by the cache site and had another look around. Still no joy.

On Tuesday evening Mrs Hg137 was heading off to her yoga class – got to keep supple for all that caching! – and both Mr and Mrs Hg137 parked up near the spot and had yet another search. After searching almost everything at the site, and nearly getting our fingers stuck in a crack in a tree, we found it … we might even have laid hands on it earlier when we were searching. The lesson here is to stick at it and you will find it!

April 26 Day 116 Caches found 8 Cumulative Total 145 IOW Day 1

We were visiting the Isle of Wight to participate in a weekend Scrabble tournament. We decided to extend our visit by catching an earlier ferry and finding some caches first. We decided to find 9 caches in a circular-ish walk near Chillerton.

7 of the caches were placed by once Cache Owner, and 2 by another. The 7 placed by the first Cache Owner were fair, but sneaky. Frequently a small piece of sawn log had been hollowed out, and a film canister placed inside. On another occasion, the cache was a specimen bottle tied on, and dangling behind a tree! Of the 7 we found 6 successfully, but failed on the 7th, as it started to hail right into our faces!

sneaky cache!

Of the 2 caches set by the other Cache Owner, we found both. One of them was found after an extensive search. Our GPS guided us to an ivy bank, and we couldn’t find the cache. Other logs shown in http://www.geocaching.com indicated the cache may have been hidden on the other side of the footpath. It wasn’t there either! We spent some time looking on both sides of the bank, until we eventually found it hidden in ….. (sorry too much of a spoiler). The cache was a plastic box and were able to place Sir Knight Nettle in it, as there were nettles nearby !

Nettles!

The 4 mile walk took us high on one of the Isle of Wight chalk ridges and we were very lucky to have extensive views in all directions.

IOW view

A great start to the weekend… fingers crossed the Scrabble is as good!