January 4 : Staines-upon-Thames

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

I had requested a route with “not too much mud” for our first caching trip of 2020. I was going off mud after our last few caching trips … Mr Hg137 came up with Staines, about a 30-minute drive away on the western edge of London. (Editor’s note: Staines changed its name from “Staines” to “Staines-upon-Thames” in May 2012, as the local council hoped it would boost the local economy by promoting its riverside location. Staines-upon-Thames day is celebrated each year on the last Sunday in June)

We’d walked through here before, in September 2015 when we were walking/caching the Thames Path, but new caches had sprung up since then, so we had a selection of new things to look for.

Staines Methodist Church

Staines Methodist Church


We parked close to the river and the bridge, amongst the caches we planned to find. Our first target was a Church Micro based on Staines Methodist Church, a modern church visible from where we had parked. We collected some numbers from a foundation stone (I’d say from an earlier incarnation of the church) and used them to work out the coordinates for the final cache. That led us away from the park and the river, not far but into a more urban area, and we located the cache tucked behind one of the many metal items in the area.

Next was Staines Bridge, not strictly the next nearest cache, but it was on our way to do a minor bit of shopping in the adjacent superstore. We crossed the bridge and were soon standing within a few feet of the cache. Where was it? Our first search yielded nothing. We read logs from other cachers. Aha! Bridges have more than one level – road level – river level – steps – under the bridge – and we hadn’t tried all of them. We tried several different heights, all within a few feet of the target according to the GPS, and struck lucky at about the third attempt.
The London Stone

The London Stone



Cache found, minor shopping done, we re-crossed the bridge and returned to the riverside and our next multicache, the London Stone https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Stone_(riparian)#Staines It’s one of several stones that mark the boundary of water rights between London and elsewhere, and also where the River Colne reaches the River Thames. The information we wanted was about the history of the stone. The lettering on the stone was very faded and we despaired. But nearby was a noticeboard – aha! – and we had the answers we wanted to generate the coordinates. We walked down the riverside, passing the geocar and dropping off our minor shopping, to find the cache a little way further on along the towpath.
Coal Post #87

Coal Post #87


Next up was a Coal Post, yet another post marking a point where taxes could be levied https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Stone_(riparian)#Staines The coal post was spotted quite easily – it’s not small! – and we were just surveying it when a passing muggle stopped to give us a potted history of the immediate area, including where the coal boats moored, the original name of the Mercure Hotel over the road (once The Packhorse, where loads were transferred and taxed) and all sorts of other interesting stuff. We thanked her – it’s good that people do care about their surroundings and do take the time to pass on the information to others. (Editor’s note: for those who are nerdy about these things, this post, No 87, is a Type 4 post, which is a stone or cast-iron obelisk, about 4.5 metres high, found beside railways.). The post was nestled between the railway line and an empty building looked after by property guardians. These are people who live in empty (often commercial) buildings for low rents in return for keeping an eye on the property https://liveinguardians.com/blog/170/the-ins-and-outs-of-being-a-property-guardian

We returned to the river and followed the Thames Path downstream. Seats were dotted here and there along the path for those who wanted to sit and watch river life. There was a biting wind, so it was too cold for that, but another cache, Staines by the River, was set close to one of these seats, so we sat on the seat, felt around, and tried to look as if we were relaxing, not freezing. After a bit we still hadn’t found the cache, so turned our attention to the area around the seat, and, after a few more minutes, spotted a tiny little bit of wire that just looked “wrong”. Sure enough, there was a cache on the other end of the piece of wire.
St Peter, Staines-upon-Thames

St Peter, Staines-upon-Thames


We were cold after all that sitting around, so we decided to do one more cache, then head home. Our final target was another Church Micro, based around the imposing brick church of St Peter which overlooks the river. The numbers we needed were easily found, one on a stone set into the church, and the other on a memorial plaque in the ground. We exited through the lychgate onto the towpath and were soon at GZ. And we couldn’t find the cache. We read the hint, applied cacher’s logic (“where would I hide it?”) and still came up with nothing. Mr Hg137 sped back to the church to check the numbers – they were correct – from stones with various dates on them, while I paced hopefully up and down, seeking inspiration but not finding a cache. Mr Hg137 returned and we renewed our search; we re-read the hint; magnetic, it said. We had assumed that it would mean the cache was stuck to some metal object, but a fingertip search revealed a protruding nail … and a cache. Mightily relieved, we signed the log and then had the harder job of replacing the cache so it wouldn’t fall off the nail, and would also be invisible to muggles.

That done, we returned to the nice cosy geocar. We had never been more than half a mile from it at any time, yet we had visited a wide variety of locations around the riverside in Staines, and had seen a good selection of life passing by on the towpath and on the river.

Here are some of the caches we found:

December 28 : Tilford

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Frensham Little Pond

Frensham Little Pond


Tilford is just south of Farnham in Surrey, where the two main branches of the River Wey meet. The Tilford Traipse cache series had been on our to-do list for a little while, but parts of it had been inaccessible (aka flooded) after heavy rain earlier in the month. After a quite dry week we decided it was a good day to go and cache.
Wey Bridge East - somewhere under the scaffolding

Wey Bridge East – somewhere under the scaffolding


Wey Bridge West

Wey Bridge West


The ‘road closed’ signs on all routes to the village were slightly worrying, but the reason was that Wey Bridge East is closed for some months for major maintenance https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/roads-and-transport/roadworks-and-maintenance/our-major-maintenance-projects/repair-of-tilford-east-bridge-on-tilford-street and in the meantime that branch of the river can only be crossed on a temporary footbridge – and that had just reopened after the floods.
Tilford Village Hall

Tilford Village Hall


Before starting the cache series, we walked down to the village green/cricket pitch (the boundaries are VERY short!). A man was out for a run, crossing the green. Was he Sebastian Coe? (we think he lives in Tilford). But no – definitely not him. We wanted to find a Church Micro, another multicache based on the church, and a third multi centred on the large, impressive, Lutyens-designed Village Hall. http://www.tilfordinstitute.co.uk/?page_id=56 After some hiccups with counting the number of chimneys on the Village Hall, we worked out three locations for the final caches and visited the “other” bridge over the Wey, a location on the edge of the village, and a track leading to Hankley Common, used in 2012 as a location for the Bond film Skyfall https://markoconnell.co.uk/a-day-on-the-set-of-skyfalls-titular-lodge-at-hankley-common-surrey-march-2012/

Eventually we set out on the Tilford Traipse. Our route was all to the west of the village, so we weren’t bothered by bridge closures. We set off on a track, soft and damp and sandy, through pine woods and farmland, heading south and west towards Frensham Little Pond. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/frensham-little-pond We were watched by curious cows, somnolent sheep, and perky pigs, and had to jump smartly off the track several times while groups of four or five off-road motorcyclists rushed by (you can hear them coming, it’s not a problem, you just have to be far enough from the track not to get splashed). We crossed a ford, and stopped to watch bikes (pedalled and motorised) and 4x4s negotiate it; all got across safely (well, no-one fell in while we were watching).


We arrived at the car park for Frensham Little Pond and collected the numbers we needed for the single multicache in the series. It wasn’t strictly part of our route, but we walked down to the edge of the lake and ate our festive ham / turkey, cranberry and stuffing sandwiches (yum) on a bench overlooking the water. It’s a pleasant spot and very popular with walkers and especially popular with dogs, who all like to get in the water; they clearly haven’t read the extensive list of “don’ts” on a nearby sign: no camping, swimming, barbecuing, paddling, boating …

Lunch over, we set out on our return leg, looping to the north of our outward route. One of our first tasks was to cross the River Wey at another ford (there’s a bridge) and it was here that we hoped to find the multicache container. Alas, we failed, undone by bottomless, slippy mud; we have since found out that the cache coordinates are approx. 55 feet out, and we normally search a radius of about 40 feet, so we don’t feel so bad about that. Annoyingly, the cache is probably hidden by one of the fence posts visible in the photo below!

River Wey (South Branch)

River Wey (South Branch)


Up a slight slope from the river, we walked through Pierrepont Farm https://www.countrysiderestorationtrust.com/properties/pierrepont-farm/pierrepont-project/ It already has a brewery (yum) https://www.craftbrews.uk/gallery, it will soon have a cheese factory (yum, yum) https://www.cheeseonthewey.co.uk/ and it has information boards everywhere, about all sorts of random things. One of the most interesting was about two horse chestnut trees, grown from seeds collected from the battlefield at Verdun https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verdun_tree

Climbing away from the farm, we emerged onto a track across sandy heathland at Tankersford Common. We weren’t expecting this, such a contrast to the woods we had walked through earlier. We heard voices and jingling metal behind us, and stepped off the track yet again as a group (herd?) of about ten horses and riders went by, slowing as they passed, then cantering away into the distance.

We emerged from the heathland onto a narrow, but quite busy road; maybe the traffic flows are all different because a bridge is closed? Stopping in a gateway, we realised that we had found all but two of the Tilford Traipse series, and had amassed enough clues from the series to be able to find the bonus cache. Luckily for us, as the grey day was turning steadily darker, it was very near where we had parked the geocar, so we returned to base and found the cache at the same time.

And, as we removed our muddy boots, some of those off-road motorcyclists were packing up. We asked where they had been, and were told that about 150 of them had converged on Haslemere, from all directions, to have their own Christmas meet of mince pies and coffee. They, and us, had spent an enjoyable post-Christmas day out in the country!

Postscript: after logging the caches, we realised that our all-time total was 2996. The 3000-cache milestone was close. Maybe we could get there by the end of the year?

And here are some of the caches we found:

November 3: Trackable : Great Britain Rocks

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Great Britain Rocks

Great Britain Rocks


The fifth of the five trackables (FIVE! They are like buses, they come along in groups!) that we found on our caching trip around Lightwater was Great Britain Rocks.

This is an old and well travelled trackable. It has been around since April 2011 and has travelled 36,000 miles – that’s one and a half times round the earth – there was a very brief trip to California, early on, but the rest has been in Europe, including the fringes of the continent such as Finland and Cyprus, and also including musical events, like a Linkin Park concert.

Here’s why this trackable was sent out to travel:
I was inspired to release this patriotic guitar as a travel bug after finding The Tin Pan Alley cache in Denmark Street London – GC2C1NN if you’re caching in London, its a must do! This travel bug would like to visit as many caches and places with a musical connection as possible.

Tin Pan Alley cache

Tin Pan Alley cache


We’ve visited the Tin Pan Alley cache, back in December 2014 https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/december-28-paddington-bear-part-2/
It’s one of the caches we’ve visited with the most favourite points – over 1,000. The logbook for the cache was hidden on a noticeboard where hopeful musicians pinned up notices to say what kind of instruments they could play. Our cache logs says I signed up to be 2nd violin, while Mr Hg137 wanted to be the manager! Sadly, the cache was archived in mid-2015 as building work in the area had made it inaccessible.

November 3: Trackable : I’m GROOT!!!

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

I'm GROOT!!!

I’m GROOT!!!

Im Groot!!!!
Groot!!!
Travel around the world!!!

The fourth of the five trackables that we found on our caching trip around Lightwater was I’m GROOT!!!

GROOT hasn’t been travelling very long at all, only since May 2019. And we were only the fourth cachers, after his owners, to look after him. He set off from Spain and was almost immediately taken to England, starting his journeys there in late May. Since then, he has toured around south and southwest England, visiting London, Bath, and Exeter, travelling just over 1000 miles in that time.

For those who haven’t come across GROOT before, here is a short biography:
He is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics, and first appeared in Tales to Astonish #13 (November 1960). An extraterrestrial, sentient tree-like creature, he is a flora colossus from Planet X. Groot went on to star in the film series Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequels, voiced by Vin Diesel. Since his film premiere and animated series debut, Groot has become a pop culture icon, with his repeated line “I am Groot” becoming an Internet meme.

And a final thought: geocaching is an ideal opportunity for GROOT as it gives him the chance to travel the world, meeting other trees like himself!

November 3: Trackable : Maman Souris

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

On our caching trip around Lightwater, we found FIVE trackables. The third of these was Maman Souris.

Maman Souris

Maman Souris


This is one of a trio, Maman Souris, Fils Souris, and Papa Souris. All three are in a race, and the idea is that the all end up back in France. All three were released on Monday 8th May 2017.

Papa Souris went around with the owners for a bit, releasing it at their own event about a month later It’s travelled 10,000 miles and is currently in Bavaria, Germany.

Fils Souris stayed with his owners until early September 2017 before being placed in a cache in journey. 17,000 miles have passed by until now and the trackable is now in Finland.

Famille Souris

Famille Souris


And Maman Souris … also stayed with her owners, travelling round France, before being released at an event in mid-August 2017. She did some more travelling round France, then ‘did’ Belgium, and briefly went to Germany. In June 2019 Maman Souris arrived in England, being placed in a travel bug (TB) hotel on the borders of Kent and Sussex. Since then, she has visited Portsmouth, and London, and finally ended up with us.

And who is truly winning the race? No idea – none of the trackables are in France, and they are all supposed to visit the USA before returning home (none have, yet) so no-one is winning there. Mileage-wise, Maman Souris is in third place, with 9000 miles travelled, with Papa Souris in second place on 10000 miles and Fils Souris way ahead on 17000 miles. But – Fils Souris has been stationary since July 2018 and Papa Souris has been resting since August 2019; meanwhile, Maman Souris is still active and moving, so she is catching all of them up!

November 3 : Trackable : Sir Legalot

The second trackable we found on our trip around Lightwater was a cheeky looking Lego character, Sir Legalot. Even his name made us smile!

Sir Legalot

Like his probable ‘namesake’, Sir Legalot was on a quest.

To reach Legoland in Denmark before two other trackables : R2-LeGo and Leghost.

The quest started way back in May 2005 from San Jose on the far Western Side of America. After visiting a few caches there it arrived in Australia…missing out Denmark completely!

After visiting a few Sydney caches, Sir Legalot was transported into Europe, notably visting the Netherlands and Germany (then more caches in Australia and America before returning to Europe and visiting Legoland in Germany).
Several caches later, Sir Legalot completed his quest and reached Legoland in Denmark. Its not clear whether Sir Legalot won the race, but the journey was completed in 2012 – seven years after the adventure started.

Where to next ? Many European countries were visited, including Austria and Switzerland, but in September 2019 it arrived in the UK for the first time. It was placed in the Lightwater cache where we found it a few weeks later. Lightwater is about 15 miles from Legoland UK in Windsor, so we will endeavour to place it nearer to this location.

Many trackables seem to have a short life before getting lost, but Sir Legalot has travelled the world for over 14 years, and accumulated nearly 80,000 miles. Well done!

November 3 : Trackable – Keys!

Our short caching trip around Lightwater yielded 5 trackables. The first was Keys!

Keys!

This is one the heaviest and possibly largest trackables we have ever found.

It weighs just under 1 Lb, (420g) and is about 3.5 inch round and contains at least 40 metal keys. Some the keys are small (perhaps briefcase keys), others old door keys. Some of the keys reflect the trackable’s journey. There are German keys, Australian keys and one from the Geocaching Association of Great Britain. The trackable started in Los Angeles in May 2007 with just 4 keys attached so it has grown a lot since then.

It is quite remarkable that the trackable still continues to be moved, but in general every few weeks or months the current holder finds a new cache for it to visit. Until about a year ago, when it was placed in a cache on the Oxfordshire/Berkshire border.
Unfortunately the current owner at the time placed it on one cache, but electronically logged it into another.

Keys! were picked up shortly after, but not logged by another cacher, so the journey stopped.

About a month ago, the keys ‘appeared’ in the Lightwater cache, but it is not clear who moved it. We will never know…but what we do know is we have a challenge to find a cache big enough and strong enough to place Keys! in.

Wish us luck!