February 22 : Reading

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

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

The Maiwand Lion in Forbury Gardens

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

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

So many items to check for this tiny nano

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

Statues aplenty in Reading

Statues aplenty in Reading

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

Edward VII

Queen Victoria

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

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

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

Reading Abbey

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

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

Ancient Abbey, Modern Blade

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

Archway over the Holy Brook

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

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

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

Where had they come from ?

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

We asked what was going on.

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

Pokemoning in the Park

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

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

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

Reading Town Hall and Museum

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

Caversham Weir

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

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

Christchurch Bridge

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

Caches we found included :

March 8 South Downs Way : Winchester to Cheesefoot Head

Back in 2011, a year before we started geocaching, we walked, over a period of 6 months, the 100-mile long distance footpath – The South Downs Way. Since then, Mr Hg137 has been asked on numerous occasions to give a one hour talk on our walk and our photos have proved invaluable. However, we were aware those photos are 8 years old!

Winchester Cathedral

So this year we intend to revisit the South Downs Way, review our pictures and our knowledge and, of course, find some caches too!

The South Downs Way runs from the Roman/Saxon city of Winchester to the Seven Sisters at Eastbourne. Our first caching tour would take us around Winchester’s Centre and then a short 3 mile walk to Cheesefoot Head.

Winchester City Centre is relatively small but packed with treasures. At one end of the High Street is the Great Hall (hosting an imitation Arthurian Round Table). Halfway down the same street is St Swithun’s Cathedral and at the end furthest from the Great Hall, King Alfred’s Statue.

Looking down on Winchester

Our caching trip started on the outskirts of the City with elevated views along the High Street. Two simple caches (one under a seat, the other in tree roots). We also found in the general vicinity one of two puzzle caches we had solved. This puzzle consisted of three (straightforward-ish) logic puzzles to derive the final co-ordinates.. and then the fun started. The cache could only be opened by unscrewing the container revealing a hidden maze! Fortunately a nearby seat meant we could sit down during our 20 minute attempt!

After 20 minutes the cache was open..now we have to put it back!

Down at the High Street, we paused by the Museum/Mill where the South Downs Way officially starts. Back in 2011 we had been perturbed as there was no official start point, but this has since been rectified.

Winchester Museum/Mill

Nearby is King Alfred’s Statue. Erected in 1899 to mark the centenary of the warrior king’s death, the 17 foot statue stands on a two granite bases. The different types of granite form the basis of an Earthcache, which we managed to successfully answer.

King Alfred

We had a three more caches to find in the City Centre including another simple puzzle cache (found in a less-than-exciting car park) and a beautiful snail cache close to Winchester Cathedral.

A Snail for a Diver!

This cache was a tribute to the Diver, William Walker. Between 1906 and 1911 he dived 20 feet every day in water under the sinking Cathedral foundations and laid 25,000 bags of concrete, 115,000 concrete blocks and 900.000 bricks. This enabled the excess water to the drained, and the Cathedral re-stabilised. Without his work the Cathedral would probably have fallen down during the 20th Century.

Our final City Centre cache was in the busy High Street. Full of shoppers and tourists. The cache was placed exceedingly high (only Mr Hg137 could reach it), so it was almost impossible to grab it in a nonchalant manner.

There are more caches in the City Centre, many of them puzzles, but 7 finds seemed a reasonable reward for a morning’s exploring the ancient City.

We lunched in a park near King Alfred before setting out on our re-walking of the South Downs Way. Ominously, the skies had become more overcast but we were confident we could walk the 3 miles before the forecast rain was due.

The Start of the South Downs Way

The South Downs Way leads away from the Museum/Mill following the banks of the River Itchen. A very pleasant river, bubbling along between gardens on one bank and ancient Roman walls and Wolvesey Castle on the other.

River Itchen

The remaining Roman Walls of Winchester

Wolvesey Castle, Home of Winchester Bishops

When we walked the path in 2011 we knew we went wrong on this part of the walk and today we understood why. A South Downs Way signpost, set slightly back from our path pointed us away from the river at a very subtle angle. No wonder we missed it before. We walked on, and took a slight diversion to a cunningly concealed cache on a bridge over the River Itchen.

Back on the South Downs Way we had a mile of street walking. A mile we were dreading.

Probably the least scenic mile on the South Downs Way !

By and large the South Downs way is a scenic route…but there is one mile along a residential street – and not the most attractive one either! (This is one of the reasons we recommend walking the South Downs Way from Winchester..it gets this road out of the way early on, rather than the last mile!)

The road leads to the M3, and a small bridge. But as we arrived, the rain started. Should we walk for 20 minutes to our car in Winchester or press on for 45 minutes to our car at Cheesefoot Head ? We choose the latter and regretted the decision for the rest of the walk.

At last ! Beautiful Countryside…in the Rain!

What should have been views of light-rolling chalk downland was instead wet-slippery chalk shrouded in low cloud mist. To compound our misery, our final cache of the day – the first genuine South Downs Way cache – had gone missing.

A rather wet Mr Hg137

The rain was so heavy we decided against visiting Chilcomb Church to attempt a 3 stage Church Micro, and also the cache hidden yards from our car at Cheesefoot Head. That cache will wait for our next expedition.

Last view of Winchester

So our 2019 quest has started – revisiting a walk we undertook 8 years ago. As yet no South Downs Caches found, but we did enjoy the variety and history of Winchester before we left.

Some of the caches we found included :

August – Paddington Bear – part 5

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Paddington - Bear Humbug

Paddington – Bear Humbug at Fleet Library

This isn’t a post about geocaching – it’s about something we came across while in London on a geocaching / Paddington Bear statue spotting trip at Christmas 2014 and which we have followed ever since. (Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the Paddington story appeared in this blog in December 2014, January 2015 and April 2015, or can easily be found by clicking on the ‘Paddington’ tag associated with this post.)

Late in 2014 the excellent film ‘Paddington’ was released, and 50 statues of Paddington Bear were put on show around London to publicise the film. A few days after Christmas 2014 we went to find some of them (and of course a few geocaches too, but we’ve already blogged about that). The statues were collected up and auctioned to raise money for the NSPCC charity, producing almost a million pounds. One of them, Bear Humbug, was bought by a local town – Fleet – after money was raised via crowdfunding. His name comes from his humbug stripes, very like the colours of Newcastle United, and were devised by Ant and Dec (both from Newcastle). We originally saw him on display in Oxford Street, London, among the busy shoppers in the New Year sales.

In April 2015, he arrived at his new home, Fleet Library http://www.fleethants.com/homepagelinks/humbugbear.htm Bear Humbug has not been idle since then – he has a presence on Facebook ( @abearcalledhumbug ), Twitter and Instagram. He makes charitable and educational appearances, and when he’s not busy doing that, he can often be found in Fleet Library – he’s increased the footfall in there – and it’s a popular thing to pose with him and then upload the picture #‎humbugselfie‬

Some time had passed since all of the above, and we hadn’t been to see our old friend. One day we were in Fleet, buying new walking boots, rucksacks, and other essential geocaching kit. We had time to drop into Fleet library and make our re-acquaintance.

He looks really at home – right inside the entrance, stood on his packing crate signed by Ant and Dec. Great to see you again!

April 30 – Paddington Bear – part 4

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Paddington - Bah Humbug

Paddington – Bah Humbug

This isn’t a post about geocaches or trackables – it’s about something we came across while in London on a geocaching / Paddington Bear statue spotting trip at Christmas and which we have followed ever since. (Parts 1, 2, and 3 of the Paddington story appeared in this blog in December 2014 and January 2015, or can easily be found by clicking on the ‘Paddington’ tag associated with this post.)

Late in 2014 the excellent film ‘Paddington’ was released, and, to mark the launch, 50 statues of Paddington Bear were put on show around London. Just after Christmas we went to find some of them (and of course a few geocaches too!) All the statues were collected up on 30th December and were auctioned to raise money for a charity, for the NSPCC; £930,000 was raised which is a LOT of money! One of them – Bear Humbug – was bought by a local town – Fleet – after 2,500 people contributed money to buy him. His colours were devised by Ant and Dec (both from Newcastle) and he was originally on display in Oxford Street, where we saw him.

And, on April 29th, he arrived !!! Fleet went wild, and a special event was held to unveil him. Even better, his old friends Ant and Dec made a special ultra secret trip to Hampshire to unveil him http://www.gethampshire.co.uk/news/local-news/ant-dec-make-surprise-visit-9149795

Nor has Bear Humbug been idle since then – he has his own website http://www.bearhumbug.co.uk and a presence on Facebook, twitter and Instagram. He’s looked after by ‘Humbug Guardians’ (honestly – he has seven) and he does charitable and educational work – phew! When he’s not busy with all that, he can often be found in Fleet Library where it’s a popular thing to pose with him and then upload the picture #‎humbugselfie‬ (Mmm, I wonder when we are next going to Fleet …?)

January 9 – Paddington Bear – part 3

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

This isn’t strictly a post about geocaching – there are no geocache finds in here – but it’s about something we came across while in London on a geocaching / Paddington Bear statue spotting trip a few days ago.

All the Paddington Bear statues were collected up on 30th December and have now been auctioned to raise money for charity, the NSPCC. One of them has been bought by a local town – Fleet – after money was raised to buy the bear on a crowdfunding platform https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-paddington-bear-for-fleet–2 Our totally anonymous source in Fleet thinks that the bear might go on display in or near Fleet Library, sometime after the end of January.

Paddington - Bear Humbug

Paddington – Bear Humbug

Here is what they bought – one of the bears that we saw! It’s ‘Bear Humbug’ – a fine black and white striped bear devised by Ant and Dec – which was originally on display in Oxford Street. And, as a geocaching link, this location is very close to the ‘Cachers 5K’ series which we did in early October 2014.

December 28 – Paddington Bear – part 2

…Hello, Mrs Hg137 here again.

‘Life begins at Oxford Circus’: it’s a very popular place, but also the name of a cache we wanted to find. We strolled casually up to GZ (ground zero), to find someone leaning on it, smoking a newly-lit cigarette. What now? We wandered around for a few minutes, and when we returned the cache was accessible. Or was it? There was someone hanging around the cache. Another geocacher? Yes! Jesus, from Portugal, with a friend. Nice to meet you!

Paddington - Thread Bear

Paddington – Thread Bear

Paddington - Andrew Lloyd Webbear

Paddington – Andrew Lloyd Webbear

Paddington - Bear Humbug

Paddington – Bear Humbug

There are 50 Paddington Bear statues to see. They were created to publicise the ‘Paddington’ film which was released in late November. They have been placed at various interesting locations around London, mostly in the centre of London, but there is one as far away as Heathrow Airport; many are in places that Paddington would know (Paddington Station, or Bond Street, after the author of the series of books, Michael Bond). For more information, see http://www.visitlondon.com/paddington But be quick, they are only on show until December 30th. After that, they are being auctioned off for charity, to raise money for the NSPCC.

Along bustling Oxford Street we went, to find some more Paddington Bear statues. They were harder to spot now because of the crowds, but each one still had a knot of excited children surrounding it. We diverted into Mayfair – much quieter – and quickly grabbed the ‘Tiggopoly’ cache while everyone else was looking the other way at the ‘Thread Bear’ Paddington statue. Then it was on into Soho, past yet more Paddingtons, to claim another couple of caches; both of these were notable in their own ways – one because much subterfuge and “reading” the menu of an Ecuadorian (!) restaurant was needed whilst retrieving the cache, the other because of the interesting container (pictured below).

Unusual cache container

Unusual cache container

Finally we were at THE caching destination of the day. It’s a geocache with around 3000 finds and around 1200 favourite points, so it has to be something special. It’s ‘The Tin Pan Alley Band’: a noticeboard where aspiring bands and band members can get in touch with each other. Yet another cigarette-smoking muggle was nearby as we signed the cache log, which is a notice amongst many others on the board, and where you can add your caching handle / band position you want to fill (I’m going for 2nd violin, Mr Hg137 is applying to be the manager!)
The Tin Pan Alley Band

The Tin Pan Alley Band

By now it was getting colder, and we were getting tired, so we meandered back to Piccadilly Circus, via Chinatown, spotting a few more caches and a few more Paddingtons en route. Then homewards – eighteen Paddingtons and thirteen caches; a good day out.

December 28 – Paddington Bear – part 1

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

A few weeks ago we went to see ‘Paddington’ (the film, which was excellent). To mark the film’s release, 50 statues of Paddington Bear have been put on show around London. We decided to go to see some of them, and to take in a few geocaches along the way.

Paddington - and lots of friends

Paddington – and lots of friends

Paddington - again

Paddington – again

We started, of course, at Paddington station, which is home to an existing statue of Paddington (also the subject of a geocache, so we claimed that one!) and the first of the Paddington statues; it was designed by the author of the books, Michael Bond, and is the traditional bear with hat, duffel coat, and case. Statues, both old and new, were festooned with children and other onlookers, and neither bear was alone for long!
Little Venice

Little Venice

While tracking the bears – we found 8 in and around Paddington – we diverted from the trail to take in three of the Side Tracked series – they are near stations (railway / underground). On our way, we walked along the towpath of the Grand Union Canal, near Little Venice, and on to Paddington Basin. LOTS of money has been spent on the surroundings here: expensive paving, many statues (not only temporary ones of bears!) and on some very cool bridges. Two of them move and they are very clever indeed: Heatherwick’s Rolling Bridge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0Dj7XA77hw and the Fan Bridge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OsnjEs9Bmc
Paddington Basin - rolling bridge - unrolled

Paddington Basin – rolling bridge – unrolled

Paddington - at Paddington Basin - and the fan bridge

Paddington – at Paddington Basin – and the fan bridge

After finding six caches in and around Paddington, it was time to move on. Next stop – Oxford Circus, some more bears and some more caches. We had struggled with trying to find a moment to retrieve some of the caches already, as London, and especially stations, are just so busy with muggles (non cachers). It was going to be so much harder in Oxford Street …

September 12/13 – The end of a Scottish Trip

We said goodbye to the calmness of Cramond, and the elegance of Edinburgh and hello to


We stayed overnight on the 12th, with the primary objective of seeing the Blackpool Illimunations and wandering around Blackpool (i.e caching) on the morning of the 13th prior to journeying home.

Blackpool was a ultra-sensory experience. The lights of the Illuminations, hotel neon signs and white car lights formed the overriding experience. Overlaying this was the sound of people screaming on funfair rides, clanking trams, and clip-clop of horse rides… and then the aroma of fish and chips, burgers, onions…

Blackpool Illuminations

Blackpool Illuminations

Everyone seemed to be in Blackpool, not just to see the Illuminations but one of the heats of the World Fireworks Competition. We ambled along the promenade from the South Pier (Blackpool has 3 Piers!) past the Central Pier to the Comedy Carpet, on which a puzzle cache has been set.

Comedy Carpet

Comedy Carpet

Ed: if you can’t read the text, click the image to enlarge and then try to read ALL the catchphrases listed! We can’t!

Our brains were addled, and we decided we knew less comedy than we realised so retired back to our hotel.

The following day we returned to the Comedy Carpet and went up the Blackpool Tower (315ft) to see commanding views…. of sea mist! (Yep, that’s 3 days in a row!). A great experience though, and one can imagine on a clear crisp day what a fantastic panorama one would get.

Misty view from near the top of the Tower!

Misty view from near the top of the Tower!

We had already found our first cache of the day (underneath South Pier), and took a shorter route back to the hotel car park by picking up the Tangerine Trail of caches. These caches were set in remembrance of the Famous Footballers who played and managed Blackpool Town (aka “The Tangerines”). Each cache gave a potted history of a player/manager and it included the likes of World Cup Winner Alan Ball, as well as Jimmy Armfield. I know many people are not Football fans, but the series did highlight how a cache series can be used to educate on more diverse subject matter than the Natural World.
Jimmy Armfield

Jimmy Armfield

So our mini-tour of Britain came to an end, caching in a range of environments from Service Stations to Football Grounds, from Islands to Castles and with a couple of ‘political’ caches and Earth caches thrown in too.. What a week!

September 11 – Edinburgh Day 3 (Leith)

HMY Britannia

HMY Britannia

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here again.

After the exertions of yesterday it was to be a slightly quieter day. We wanted to see the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is now permanently moored at Leith, the port of Edinburgh, so we jumped into the geocar and took a slightly wayward route across northern Edinburgh to arrive at the docks. It was a grey, misty morning and the tops of the fancy new dockside apartments were disappearing into the clouds.

HMY Britannia is a fascinating place to visit and a whole morning sped by while we inspected state rooms, engine rooms, and royal bedrooms, including an extended elevenses in the tea-room on board; though a little pricy, this delivered everything that should be expected – an immaculate setting, cheerful, smart, efficient staff, elegant crockery and cutlery, monogrammed napkins …and lemon drizzle cake to die for!

The Queen's Bedroom

The Queen’s Bedroom

The State Dining Room

The State Dining Room

A bit different for the crew!

A bit different for the crew!

And how the tourists are served!

And how the tourists are served!

Close to Britannia’s berth lay the first of our caches for the day ‘MV Windsor Castle’, named after a ship that’s moored around the corner. Mr Hg137 retrieved the cache – a nice easy one – while I acted as a diversion by taking lots of pictures of a nearby Anthony Gormley statue.

Then we were tempted by a 12-stage multicache ‘Leith Old & New’. The sun had broken through the mist by now and we whiled away rather too much time enjoying the Leith waterside (a lovely place) finding all the clues and doing the sums. On our route about Leith waterside we discovered connections with King George IV, Walter Scott, Mary Guise (mother of Mary Queen of Scots) and a beautiful War Memorial.

Part of the Leith War Memorial - can you determine the different trades ?

Part of the Leith War Memorial – can you determine the different trades ?

Then – disaster – the coordinates we had derived seemed wrong and we couldn’t get the geochecker to work (we checked later and our answer was wrong). We couldn’t figure out our mistake, and time was passing, so we gave up on that one. A big shame as we had expended a certain amount of effort collecting our answers.

Another item to cross off our bucket list was a crossing of the Forth Bridge. Neither of us had been across this before. It’s impressive, even in nose-to-tail traffic caused by a breakdown on the bridge itself. Once across, we turned into North Queensferry to inspect the Road Bridge, the Forth Rail Bridge, and the partly constructed new road bridge from the ground. Mr Hg137 started tapping away at his phone and very quickly had the location of a nearby cache to hand. A quick scramble around on the foreshore and we had the cache : it must be quite a wet place to be at a very high tide or in stormy weather, but today was calm and still. And this is yet another record for our most northerly cache!

Large red object=bridge, small white object=geocache!

Large red object=bridge, small white object=geocache!