April 29 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : Withyham to Frant : deer and snakes

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The next stage of our unofficial, self-made long distance path from Sandhurst (just in Berkshire) to Sandhurst (just in Kent) would take us across the Weald from Withyham to Frant.

We’d checked our route for geocaches – and there weren’t that many – so we couldn’t simply walk from cache to cache, following the GPS. And, for much of the way, we weren’t following an official waymarked route, so a bit more navigation was going to be needed. Plenty of scope for getting lost here!

We set off from the disused Withyham station. There was a cache here – or rather, there was the first part of a multi-cache here, with the final cache location a short walk away, unfortunately not in the direction we planned to go. We backtracked and found the cache after much furtling around in tree roots. While doing this we were passed by a young couple, out walking … then we passed them again, while searching … then again. Eventually we explained what we were doing, as they were probably wondering what we were doing. Close by was another cache; we found that too.

Good, so that was two caches found, and we hadn’t even started the walk properly yet. Now what? Lunch! We’d had a not-very-good journey to the start of the walk – I’d got lost THREE times on the way, mostly in Tunbridge Wells (why are there no useful road signs there, none at all?) so we were rather late setting off, about, ummm, an hour later than we intended. There were no more caches to be found for three miles, so we had a chance to catch up with a cacheless walk. Why are there so few caches in this area? No idea.

Springtime in the Weald

Springtime in the Weald


Leaving the railway line, we headed uphill, over a road and across country to Motts Mill, then joined the High Weald Landscape Trail https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Weald_Landscape_Trail We headed towards Eridge station, which is a curious mixture – one line is a British Rail station, the other is a heritage steam railway. We heard a train arrive then depart, and saw two people walking towards us. One was carrying … it was enormous … what? A mattress? We had no idea, so we stopped to ask, and the ‘mattress’ was duly unzipped and displayed to us. It was a very large foam mat. The people were climbers, heading for Harrison’s Rocks, a well known (not to us!) climbing site http://www.cumc.org.uk/crags/harrisons.html The mat was to provide a softish landing in case the climbing went wrong.

We, too paused at Eridge station, which is an interesting place – as with the trains, one platform is all modern signage, metal seats, automated announcements, today’s world, and the other platform, just the other side of the tracks, has a slightly different colour scheme, wooden seats, signs on chalk boards, and exudes a completely different time and character.

Eridge station

Eridge station


We went under the busy A26, then crossed again (twice) at road level, to find a cache at Eridge rocks, which are tucked away in woods by the road. A good little rocky outcrop, with shapes in the rocks and trees that resemble animals and faces. You really would not know that there was anything unusual there, so well is it hidden. And that was the third and last cache of the day.


But we still had some way to go to Frant, the end of the walk. As soon as we left the A21, the traffic noise died away and it was a bright warm spring afternoon. Loverly! We left the tarmac and walked through woods. Somewhere here Mr Hg137 disturbed a shrew/vole, and let out one of his ‘all purpose distress squeaks’ while the shrew/vole ran away, fast.
Eridge Park

Eridge Park


We went through a gate in a high fence into more open ground. There were isolated trees, bracken, and fenced-off copses of trees, and I was just remarking that this looked quite a lot like a deer park when … some deer ran across our path. Mr Hg137 let out a more muted ‘all purpose distress squeak’, then we went still and quiet and watched the deer for some while before they melted into the trees. A bit of research later on showed that we were in Eridge deer park, which has oodles of history and once belonged to Odo,the brother of William the Conqueror, http://eridgepark.co.uk/the-estate/history
Deer - look carefully, they are there!

Deer – look carefully, they are there!


On we went, climbing steadily towards Frant. Suddenly another, much louder ‘all purpose distress squeak’ rang out, followed by “SNAKE!” A yellow and black snake, about the length of my arm and a little thicker than my thumb, was sunning itself on the dusty path. We watched the adder from a pace or so away, and it slithered away into the grass without urgency. A steep climb out of the deer park brought us to journey’s end, Frant village, where the geocar was parked by the cricket pitch.
Snake !!!

Snake !!!


Not many caches on this walk, but a good, scenic route, with loads of wildlife, varied terrain, and some cracking views, especially from Frant.

Here are a couple of the caches we found:

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April 15 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Berks) : Crawley Down to Forest Row

PROLOGUE :

“That was nice to see”.

We were travelling on a bus, from Forest Row to Crawley Down to start our days walk. Two lads, both less than 10, had got on the bus, unaccompanied, paid their fare, placed their pedestrian scooters in the luggage rack and climbed to the top deck with no fuss at all.

Before Mrs Hg137 could reply, an elderly lady in front us replied “Did you see the Flying Scotsman then?”

We looked at her strangely, and marked her down as one of those weird, old, women of Sussex.

The Flying Scotsman

The Flying Scotsman

The bus dropped us at the centre of Crawley Down. Next to a small war memorial. Crawley Down appears to have two war memorials, one is a traditional six foot cross about half a mile away, but this smaller memorial has been used for the last 3 years to mark the centenary of each individual Crawley Down soldier’s death during WWI. Indeed a service had taken place, just the day before. A sobering thought that a 100 years previously there was much sadness in the village, and we, a hundred years later, were out in a bright Spring morning enjoying ourselves.

Crawley Down War Memorial

Crawley Down War Memorial

We initially climbed out of the village on a tarmacked private road. Lots of big houses, and occasional views of advancing new housing estates on the edge of village. We found a couple of caches on the road (double wrapped film pots) and then suddenly we were in open country. A wide vista of fields and downland opened up and we felt we had the countryside to ourselves. We retrieved the next cache (and unearthed a small one inch frog too) and no sooner than we were replacing the cache then we saw an approaching family.

We rushed the to the next cache (another double film pot, easily found) but let the family pass shortly after. They were on a mission.. to feed the ducks and swans at a nearby fishing lake. We overtook them as slice upon slice of bread was being inexpertly tossed into the water by the two young sons. Out of view of the family we approached our next cache. One that had been reported missing a few days earlier. We failed to find it either – our first fail of the day.

Bluebells

Bluebells

Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic

Orchid

Orchid

Our route then took us through woodland (with bluebells and wild garlic in abundance) and farmland, where we were able to find two more caches. One of these caches was part of the Sussex ABC Series – we found ‘K’ (Kingscote). As we approached this cache we became aware of lots of ‘Police No Parking’ signs. Most seemed centred on Kingscote Station (one of the stations on the vintage railway, the Bluebell Line.)

We took a slight route deviation to the Station Car Park to find out what was going on.. (we suspected a wedding, or charity cycle event), but we were told THE FLYING SCOTSMAN is coming through today!

Kingscote Station

Kingscote Station

So the weird, old woman of Sussex was not so weird after all. It all made sense. She knew about the train, and assumed the statement “That was nice to see” related to the train and not the two lads.

We enquired when the Flying Scotsman would be next passing. We had an hour to wait. Fortunately our route would take us parallel to the tracks for the next half-mile or so, and we would be in prime spotting position. This gave us time to find another cache (an ammo box, placed in March 2007), have our picnic lunch and wait. We waited, with 50 or so train fiends, each armed with various notebooks, cameras and air of expectation. We were not disappointed. At 1315 it came past. We took photos, we waved, we snapped some more! An unexpected bonus on our geocaching trip.

We had lots more caches to undertake, so we decided NOT to wait until the Flying Scotsman’s return journey at 1400. As we proceeded we passed various people waiting by the line, others rushing to the line to see the 1400 steam-by. As you can imagine the paths were unusually busy, and for once we were grateful we had a mile without caches, as it meant we didn’t have to play ‘dodge the muggle’.

The terrain suddenly changed from open countryside with clay soil to sandstone. Now Sussex is not renowned for sandstone, but suddenly sandstone abounded. Huge stacks were being assaulted by climbers, and our next cache was near the top of one such stack. We hadn’t bought our climbing boots with us, but we found a grassy pathway to the top avoiding a precarious climb. Here, a small cache had been wedged into a tree-trunk, and with a bright orange cap should have been easy to find. It wasn’t, and after about 10 minutes perched over a sandstone ‘cliff’ we saw the flash of orange, and the log was signed.

Somewhere up there... is a cache!

Somewhere up there… is a cache!

The sandstone was to provide us with another ‘cache’ too, an Earthcache. We had to visit 4 separate sandstone outcrops compare the colours, strata layers and in one case guess what animal the sandstone shape made! All very interesting, but as we went from outcrop to outcrop we were passing two other caches, and somehow we had to keep track of what we were actually doing (and in fairness, we didn’t do it that well, as we failed to take a single picture of a sandstone outcrop… whoops!)

The caches we attempted during the Earthcache were part of a ‘Trick or Treat’ series. Each one was themed on a ‘Halloween’ theme… we had flying witches, scary door knockers etc as well as a spider. The spider was scary in its own right, as it was in a grassy corridor between two fields. As we were replacing the cache, a herd of cows, including calves and a bull, decided they wanted to use the corridor and move from one field to the next. Some of the cows went by peacefully, others gave us the ‘hard look of doom’ and with nowhere for us to run to, it was all just a little unsettling. We are quite sure that cache owner didn’t mean that sort of scary when the caches were placed.

We were now walking along the banks of a reservoir, but with dense undergrowth between us and the water we barely got to see it. Our eyes though were watching the GPS very, very carefully. Somewhere soon we would cross the Greenwich Meridian and into the Eastern Hemisphere. We walked ever slower, waiting, watching and the finally all the Westerly (or was it Easterly) co-ordinates read zero!

Crossing the Meridian

Crossing the Meridian

We still had a couple of miles to reach Forest Row and another few caches to undertake. The first, an old ice cream container was hidden under a log in shortish undergrowth. In a few weeks this cache will be tricky to reach, so we were glad we arrived before the main Spring/Summer hedgerow growth.

We undertook a multi based on the ruins of Brambletye House (a Grade II* very ruined mansion built during the reign of James I) and finished the day with a series of double-wrapped film pots in exactly the same way as the day had started.

Brambletye House

Brambletye House


We walked about 10 miles, crossed into the Eastern Hemisphere, found 18 caches, including an Earthcache, a flying witch, a 10 year old Ammo can and of course… saw The Flying Scotsman! Phew!

Don’t see many of these!

September 9 : Farewell to Somerset

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Holnicote House, Somerset

Holnicote House, Somerset


Our walking week on Exmoor was already over – so soon – and it was time to head home. But we planned to hang around for a few minutes and get a few caches, putting off the time when we would probably spend more than a few minutes on the A303.

We had loaded the cache nearest to our holiday destination before we set off: it’s a handy reference point if we can’t find our destination! It would have been rude not to find it … and Mr Hg137 had done a recce on one of his walks and he knew how to get to there. (Editor’s note: we tend to do different walks on holiday – I like to wander along, look at the view, take pictures – Mr Hg137 likes to pile in the miles and the ascent… )

So, having packed, we took a footpath from Holnicote House, where we had stayed – https://www.hfholidays.co.uk/country-houses/selworthy – crossed a couple of fields, and along a very minor road. A little way along, just off the road, was a bird hide, overlooking water meadows – our destination. The cache, a good-sized yellow Tupperware container, was lightly concealed ‘in plain view’ in a pleasant and tranquil spot.

Returning to the car, our return journey started. Having taken the West Somerset Railway (WSR) earlier in the week, we knew that there were caches along the route that we hadn’t found. We turned off the A39, to arrive at Blue Anchor http://www.fowsr.org.uk/stations-and-line/blue-anchor From the seafront, it was but a short walk to the WSR level crossing, and a short search to find another good-size cache, another one from the ‘Will Something Run’ series. And, we’d timed our arrival just right to watch the arrival of the first train of the day from Minehead – and our chance to wave at people on trains.

West Somerset Railway - Blue Anchor

West Somerset Railway – Blue Anchor


Blue Anchor station - signalbox

Blue Anchor station – signalbox


Editor’s note: ‘Will Something Run’ is an unusual name for a cache series, but it comes from the initials of the railway and a nickname it acquired during the time when volunteers were trying to save the line http://www.fowsr.org.uk/flyers/172-steve-martin-operating-superintendent-on-the-west-somerset-railway

Once back on the A39, we stopped after a short distance to search for another cache, hidden at the start of a footpath leading away from the road. This cache led us a merry dance; we searched everywhere (or so we thought) and were on the point of giving up when a careful re-read of the description, hint, and logs made us look again, and we found a tiny, tiny magnetic cache attached to some metalwork.

A little way on again, we stopped at Washford station to find another from the WSR series, this one hidden right at the end of the very long platform. It also gave us a chance to have a coffee, watch another train steam through, and to wave at more people on trains.

West Somerset Railway - Washford Station

West Somerset Railway – Washford Station


But the day was passing, and we weren’t getting much nearer to home, so we pressed on to Taunton and onto the busy A358, leading to the even busier A303. There are caches along the route, and we stopped at one of these, ‘Geo Pitstop’, in the car park of a Toby Carvery , and most cunningly hidden in a structure on the ground. And we stopped for another cache in the same series, ‘Manor on High’ a couple of miles further on, but we didn’t understand the clue, and we didn’t find the cache. Editor’s note: after recording our lack of success, the cache owner visited and has reported that the cache is no longer there; it was a meerkat, which explained the cache name.

And that was all the caching for that day, and for the holiday, for we joined the A303 soon after and made our way home.

September 5 : Steaming on the West Somerset Heritage Railway

Our holiday in Somerset was based on Exmoor with HF Holidays Ltd who organise and lead various rambles every day. Sadly for us, being part of a large party means it is quite difficult to geocache on these walks. (Everyone asks “What are you doing ?” and in the 2-5 minutes it normally takes to find a cache, open it, find the vacant line in the log book, fold the log book back to its original size, close the cache and re-hide it….the group has moved on quite some way.)

Bishops Lydeard Station

Bishops Lydeard Station


So we decided to use the non-walking day as an excuse for geocaching. We based our day’s caching on the West Somerset Heritage Railway.

This Railway line, a original spur of the Great Western Railway originally ran between Taunton and Minehead. It was closed as part of the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, and has never been fully reopened, but covers 20 miles (about two-thirds of that original journey) from Minehead to a small village at Bishops Lydeard.

Getting Steamed up at Minehead!

Getting Steamed up at Minehead!


We boarded at Minehead armed with our Rover tickets, which meant we could jump on and off the trains all day. We were slightly limited in options as there were just 5 trains in each direction that day.. but still a fun day out.

The first caches we found were at Bishops Lydeard. Here we had 3 caches to attempt. One was part of a small series entitled “Will Something Run” with a cache based at most of the Heritage stations (there are 9). This was a quick easy find overlooking the station. (A vintage diesel was about to leave).

Cache at Bishops Lydeard

Cache at Bishops Lydeard


We then walked the full distance of the village to find a Church Micro – hidden in a drainage pipe. The church looked splendid, but with less than an hour we couldn’t loiter too long. We did try for another cache, but this was hidden in larger culvert – apparently with easy access – but we couldn’t find out how, so we skipped the cache before catching the train back to Minehead.
Church Micro Bishops Lydeard

Church Micro Bishops Lydeard


We decided to break our journey at Watchet. A pleasant seaside town, and former thriving fishing port. Here there were three caches and with 2 hours until the next train plenty of time to find them all…
Steaming to Watchet

Steaming to Watchet


The first attempt was called “Sit and Watchet” . However this was under a seat, which was occupied. We moved on. We admired the harbour (now marina), various statues, and followed alleyways and byways until we reached a packhorse bridge. The site of another cache. We looked at the obvious locations, avoiding where possible muggle eyes, but failed to find. We saw another couple undertaking a town trail who were busy counting dragons on a nearby door (yes, really!). Eventually after much re-searching we found the cache well hidden in a flower border.
Watchet Marina

Watchet Marina

"The Ancient Mariner" at Watchet

“The Ancient Mariner” at Watchet


The third cache in Watchet was called “Choo Choo and View”. We (wrongly) assumed it would have a good view of the railway line. So we followed well made footpaths, rather than believing the GPS which pointed us up a pavement-less road to a small housing estate…with a minute distant view of the railway line. When we did arrive at the very unremarkable hiding place, we had just put the cache back, when a resident asked us whether we were looking for that “geo-catch thing”. Clearly this cache has had muggle awareness stamped all over it!

So two caches found, all we needed was the “Sit and Watchet” seat to be empty … which it was! We both groped underneath, in the way only cachers can and found the magnetic nano fairly quickly.

Watchet Nano!

Watchet Nano!

Watchet Packhorse Cache

Watchet Packhorse Cache

Watchet Choo Choo View

Watchet Choo Choo View


So after three mini-adventures at each cache site, we were grateful for the 2 hours we had in Watchet.

Our final cache of the day “Will Something Run – Minehead” was a quick find at the end of great day on the heritage railway!

Minehead Station

Final Cache of the Day