October 21 : Virginia Water (Part 1)

Virginia Water is an area of parkland with a large lake at its centre. It is part of Windsor Great Park, and thus is a Royal Park.

Virginia Water

Back in July, 24 caches had been placed in the grounds of Virginia Water, and these seemed to be excellent caching targets. The caches were of various types – a couple of challenge caches (for which we didn’t qualify), a couple of puzzle caches (which we ought to be able to solve), a couple of multis, but the majority were simple straightforward hides. There were also a few other older caches too, so we had well over 30 caches to attempt.

Virginia Water is a busy attraction. There are runners, dog walkers, cyclists, young families – so finding caches could be tricky. The terrain is broadly flat as the main feature is the 130 acre Virginia Water Lake, and the paths are very good to walk on. To walk around the lake, a well known charity-walking circuit, is 4.5 miles. (Often rounded up to 5 miles for charity purposes!).

Beautiful Autumn Colours

We decided rather than attempt all 30 caches on one visit, we would use Virginia Water as our ‘Winter’ project, and find 6-8 caches per visit. We also decided to utilise the layby on the nearby A30 rather than pay £10 for the (3-hour) car parking.

Dotted around Virginia Water are various attractions. These include ruins, a cascade and today’s target, a totem pole. This is about a 20-30 minute walk from the main entrance, and is probably the most visited attraction in the park. (20-30 minutes being an ideal distance for youngsters to walk with the expectation of seeing something special).

Our first caches were based on the totem pole. Both were of a similar genre, though for some reason were classed as two different types of cache (a puzzle cache and a letter box hybrid). Both required us to read information from the totem pole’s information boards, and derive a BEARING and DISTANCE. (Note, not a set of co-ordinates). Fortunately for us, both bearings were similar, and the difference in distances was less than a quarter of a mile.

Totem Pole on our sunny arrival

We strode purposefully to the first area. Checked our distance and bearing from the totem pole, and searched. A large hole under some tree roots looked inviting, especially as we were looking for an ammo can. Not there.
We searched in the nearby rhododendron bushes (there are a lot of rhododendron bushes in Virginia Water, and we suspect these will be a common feature in our caching quest). Not there. After 20 minutes searching we gave up. We convinced ourselves we must have got some of the calculation wrong, so abandoned and attempted the second totem pole BEARING/DISTANCE hide.

We arrived at a meeting of various footpaths. With the hint of ‘base of large tree’ this should be easy. Nope.
We looked at many of the trees we could see, most of them in rhododendron thickets, all to no avail. Again we doubted our ability to derive the correct BEARING and DISTANCE so we abandoned. (We did give ourselves a further excuse here as the totem pole distance was calculated in metres, and our GPS was measuring in tenths of miles.)

Lovely Leaves

So we had abandoned our first two Virginia Water caches. But we knew we’d be back, and we could double-check our calculations before our next visit.

We decided to attempt a further four caches, as the weather was worsening. Our first find of the day, in a broken stump, was tricky to extricate, made even harder as we were underneath a chestnut tree dropping nuts in the ever-quickening wind.

Our second find was, not unexpectedly, deep in a rhododendron bush. We were looking for an ‘X’, which Mrs HG137 saw, but as the GPS indicated that we were still 60 feet away, we ignored…until of course the GPS settled and we had to burrow our way into the bush a second time.

Our third find, the smallest cache so far, was relatively easy, apart from the slightly damp grass we walked across to find it.

Then the rain started. Cold, autumnal rain. Most of the park has well established trees, but as luck would have it, we found ourselves in an area of 7-10 year old saplings. No cover at all! Eventually we found a suitable tree to use as cover, precariously overlooking a stream. We took great care not to slide downwards!

Totem Pole – after the rain

Eventually the rain cleared, and with even blacker clouds on the horizon we attempted one more cache before leaving the Park. This time in a tree stump, and quite exposed, so we found some leaves and bark and hid it better.

Environmental Checking of the Water

As we had entered the Park we had noticed that a proportion of the car park had been sealed off with TV/Film vehicles inside. Being nosy we ascertained from a ranger that scenes from a forthcoming episode of ‘Silent Witness’ were being shot in the nearby village. Something to look out for!

‘Silent Witness’ filming caravans

We also discovered Virginia Water has been used in many TV programmes and films (including Harry Potter and Tarzan!), so if our photos look familiar its because you’ve seen them in film!

A couple of a caches we found :

Advertisements

July 15 : Hatchlands Park (and surrounding area)

Hatchlands Park

Hatchlands Park, East Clandon Surrey, is a National Trust property with extensive parkland set around a Georgian property. The parkland is open most days, but the Georgian house, with 6 rooms set out in the early Robert Adam style, has limited days opening. Today just the parkland was open, and with it a small circuit of 11 geocaches for us to find.

We’ve discovered before that geocaches on National Trust land are not so well maintained, as the geocaches serve as ‘introduction caches’ to non-geochers – consequently containers are not always as well hidden as they might be.
This has the knockon effect of being moved, picked up by someone else thinking the cache is litter. Hopefully this wouldn’t happen today!

Our first target though was a Church Micro in East Clandon. Unfortunately we drew a blank here, as the cache, we have subsequently found out, went missing. Cache 2001 would have wait!

East Clandon church


We didn’t have to wait long, as the first cache in Hatchlands Park was near to the entrance gate. A large tree, with copious tree roots. We grovelled around for a few minutes before finding the largish container full of goodies. The log book was a National Trust Hatchlands Park notebook. Very posh! Indeed many of the containers we found we similar large pots, each with a NT notebook inside.

Typical cache contents


Our second cache, again in tree roots, was visible from some distance away. Fortunately in a corner of the park rarely visited but we did our best to hide better.

The ‘wetter than we would have liked’ coffee spot


It was here we had our disaster of the day! We had paused for coffee, and we were using a brand new thermos flask. This had an added ‘feature’ of a lipped top to make pouring easier. We had also not verified the base of the thermos was fully tightened. And so it was, as we poured coffee using the lip, the base came apart and boiling hot coffee spilled over maps, pens, haversack and our clothing. We’ve also discovered the ‘lip’ meant coffee could escape from the thermos if the flask wasn’t upright! Our warning to you… a lip might look a good feature…but unless you can guarantee to keep a full flask absolutely upright, do not buy it!

Quiet paths


After much washing down we walked on around the parkland. The path took an oval circuit around paddocks, and grassland. As we walked on, of course the path became busier and busier – invariably as we neared a cache site.


Sometimes the caches were hidden in fallen logs, other times ‘rabbit holes’ and under seats. The most memorable was the last cache we found. A large box container 20 or so film canisters. But which one contained the log to sign? We set about opening a canister at a time, until – about 15 pots in – we found the one with the log! Great fun!

Where’s the log ?


The drizzle which had been with us on and off all day got slightly heavier, and we found with exceptional good fortune the covered picnic area just in time for lunch. A few people looked in on us, but most were exercising dogs and were on a route march to get back to the car without getting too wet.

Is here a good spot for lunch ?


We had one cache to find 500 feet away, again in tree roots. Sadly for us, this was our only DNF at Hatchlands Park. Three very obvious hosts to look at, but the container had gone AWOL. (Reading subsequently logs, someone had taken the cache back to the Picnic Area and left the cache near a tree some 500 feet from where it should have been!) No wonder we didn’t find it!

We left Hatchlands Park via a children’s play area, with fantastic wooden sculptures, a tree house, and a small animal area. This is a good idea, as, it means the ‘boring cultural’ visit can be traded against visiting the animals and play area.

Our caching day was not yet over, as just a couple of miles south of East Clandon we had two more caches to find. ‘A cache with a view’ did indeed have a view, sadly the light drizzle meant the towers of London were not that visible. A week later the ‘Ride London’ bike race would pass this spot, and as we searched for both this cache and a nearby puzzle cache we were aware that many enthusiasts were out training and learning the route.

A view.. sadly the cyclist can’t see it!

Good job we didn’t come a week later!

May 3 : Godstone

From time to time Mr Hg137 gives talks on such diverse subjects as “The South Downs Way” and “Hebridean Hopscotch”. Whenever we get a chance, and if traffic and time allow, these bookings allow us to find a cache before the talk is delivered.

Today, we were in Godstone, just after rush hour on the M25. We had left plenty of time, and of course arrived way too early. The early Summer’s evening should have been light, but rain was forecast and the skies at 7pm were almost dark.

Godstone has a very large village green, clearly a cricket pitch, but probably football, village fetes and much more besides also must take place there. The green is so big it can support two caches easily and probably a further two or three if one tried hard.

We had two caches to find. The first was a magnetic nano hidden in a very architectural, metal seat showing aspects of the different activities that take place on the Green. We fumbled around this seat, in ever-failing light, and in the end abandoned our search. Odd spats of rain were falling and we wanted to find the other cache and return to the sanctity (and dryness) of the car before we got really wet.

Fortunately the second cache (hidden behind a street sign) was a quick find. So quick we were able to have another ‘search around the seat’ before the rain started to fall.

We found one cache, avoided the rain and gave a great talk ! Job done!

March 11 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : Beare Green to Horley/Gatwick Airport

Newdigate Church

Newdigate Church

This year we have been fairly lucky with our caching. We have found nearly every cache we have attempted.

Today…well today..

…was DNF DAY !

It started badly and never really recovered.

The village of Beare Green, as we noted in our last Sandhurst to Sandhurst post, has several caches hidden in its boundaries. We attempted three and failed on each one !

A muddy path.. but will it lead to a cache ?


The first was a Sidetracked Multi. We had collected the information on our prior visit, and set off down a muddy footpath, and arrived at two likely hosts (and since the hint was ‘multi-trunked-tree’) we split up and searched both.

And searched.

And searched.

To no avail. This cache hadn’t been attempted since last October, so maybe the Autumn and Winter had been unkind to it. Sadly the cache would have contained the co-ordinates to another cache..so a double-DNF-whammy!

We moved our car to where we had parked previously on our walk and set off. Our last cache of that walk was ‘Mad Hatter’ and our next three caches were to be part of an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ series. Sadly our attempt to find ‘Caterpillar’ or the ‘Queen of Hearts’ resulted in DNFs. (Both have since been archived as they had both been DNFed by many cachers for the last 8 months!)

It was therefore with some trepidation that we arrived at Ground Zero for ‘White Rabbit’.

Hidden in a camo bag, in a pile of mud was indeed … A WHITE RABBIT. We pulled the rabbit out of the hat, sorry bag, and gratefully signed the log.

White Rabbit

White Rabbit

Our route then took us away from the ‘Alice’ series, and after walking through some very muddy woodland, jumping over a deep drainage ditch onto a lane, walking across a field and then realising the footpath we wanted wasn’t signposted, we somehow found ourselves on a farmyard track. (As well as failing to find caches, we were failing to find footpaths too!).

After a somewhat poor start, we decide to stop for coffee. Compose ourselves, and say..’caching can only get better’.

And it did.

Our next 3 finds were fortunately straightforward. These three caches were part of a 10 cache series between the villages of Newdigate and Capel. There is also a 10 cache series, using different paths back from Capel to Newdigate. What a great idea!

On a late Saturday morning, the village of Newdigate was quite busy. Farm vehicles sortied slowly up and down the main street; parked cars narrowed the road to single line traffic; people were scurrying about their business.

We had two targets in Newdigate. The first a simple Church Micro multi. We ascertained the final cache was on our route out of Newdigate, so went in search of the other cache – (hint : ‘magnetic’). Here the GPS gods decided not to play ball with us. The GPS led us to a metal sign, roadside, in a bush, next to the busy and congested highway. We searched, and failed to find. What we couldn’t see from our ill-chosen and dangerous position that behind a line of trees surrounding the bush was another metal host object which is where the cache was. We only discovered this on our return home.

Churches are great places for lunch. Normally there are seats outside, and here we ate lunch before finding (yes, really!) the Church Micro cache whose co-ordinates we had calculated a few minutes previously. We were grateful for the find, as we had about a mile and half walk before our next cluster of caches.

Newdigate Church

Newdigate Church Micro.. Found!

The mile and a half was predominately tarmac walking, mainly on small lanes. We passed modern barns, a variety of ponds, and a mobile home park before arriving at a grassy field. Here we were met by horses, so we paused while we were sniffed and checked all over.

Modern Barns along the way

No mud here…no caches either

We were eventually allowed to pass by, and we arrived our first (of four) Star Trek themed caches. We had mixed results at these caches as we found two quite easily, but the other two completed eluded us. The cache owner has subsequently told us what we missed, but with the DNF day we were having, we would have missed seeing a red-double-decker bus as well as the minute nanos hidden in both bridge and stile.

Somewhere on or near this stile is a cache! But we didn’t find it!


Charlwood was our last major town/village before the mass sprawl of Gatwick. Here there were plenty of caches for us to try. The first was a Church Micro multi. However the final coordinates, were half-a-mile back in the direction we had just come ! We both decided not to walk back! (More of a Did Not Attempt, rather than Did Not Find, but it still hurt our egos)

The next cache was a pleasant find, part of the ‘Poppies on Parade’ series where the cache was (just about) visible from the war memorial. We continued through Charlwood and then found a long distance footpath that would be the backbone for much of our remaining route to Sandhurst: The Sussex Border Path.

Martlets, Sussex

Martlets, the symbol for Sussex, mark the Sussex Border Path


The path broadly follows the Sussex county boundary, weaving in and out of adjacent counties on its journey of 111 miles. Charlwood is still in Surrey, our destination car was parked in Surrey, but the path would take us today on a short half-mile section into Sussex.

But first we had a few more Charlwood caches to find. The first on a footpath..in a tree, rather too close to a dog-poo bin for comfort. (Definitely a poor day, when caches are either DNFed or next to dog-poo bins.)

We passed on another Church Micro multi as yet again it led us away from our route. However as we left Charlwood we found two caches in the pudding series (we found ‘Mums Apple Pie’ and ‘Rhubarb Crumble’ !). One of which needed careful extrication from under a water trough and through a hedge.

Gatwick

Getting close to Gatwick!


Our last mile of walking took us close to the flight path of Gatwick Airport. Although the noise level had increased, we were pleasantly surprised to find the noise level was not too imposing.

Our last cache of the day was near the car. This was quite a sneaky hide, as the hint mentioned ‘tree roots’. There was a huge fallen tree with a large hole with roots showing. But no cache visible. Next to the fallen tree was a smaller bush, with intricate roots, and hidden amongst it was our final find of the day. We released the ‘Hamburg’ trackable here, as given its proximity to Gatwick Airport, it might get back to Germany quite quickly.

We covered well over 10 miles on our route, but probably just as many miles wandering the pathways looking for a myriad of DNF caches. Roll on next time… when hopefully we will fare a little better.

Surprisingly, given it was a DNF day… we did find these caches :



February / March : Duck Pound II

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

At the end of February, we were just starting a day’s caching high on Winterfold Hill, in Surrey, and came upon the first cache of the day, which was quite large, and contained a small white rubber duck, with red lips. A trackable, we thought.

Winterfold Hill - the duck is found

Winterfold Hill – the duck is found


On returning home, we looked again at our latest trackable find, so we could register it on http://www.geocaching.com But it didn’t have a trackable code written on it, so it wasn’t a trackable. Instead, it had a geocache code – so was it a cache? Hmm, this was out of the ordinary. A little research showed that the cache number belonged to ‘Duck Pound II’, a cache which is some miles away, north-east of Welwyn Garden City. We weren’t sure what the duck should do next, so we messaged the cache owner for suggestions. Should we return it? Or take it on our forthcoming trip to the Isle of Wight?
We soon had a reply, saying:
“How exciting and thank you for letting us know about one of our ducks. They’re not trackables, they’re more like advertising for our cache. When we placed the cache we filled it with these ducks, I also dropped a few off in caches I found to try to spread the word. We have heard about a couple of other ducks, but never one that has travelled so far. I’m sure the duck would love a trip to the Isle of Wight. Would you reply to this just to let us know if you do drop it off please, it would be interesting to know where one of our ducks has got to.
Spread the ducky love.”

The duck won't fit in here!

The duck won’t fit in here!


So the duck came with us on the ferry to the Isle of Wight, and we thought we would place it (hard to tell the sex of a rubber duck!) in a cache next to a creek close to the ferry port. That didn’t work, as the cache was hidden in a snail shell – no room for a duck there! As the weekend went on, we found other caches, but nothing duck-sized. Finally, on the last morning, we came upon a cache that was big enough, overlooking the sea on the steep southern shoreline of the island, close to Ventnor Botanic Gardens, and here we released the duck.
Ventnor - the adventure continues ...

Ventnor – the adventure continues …


Good luck, and keep on advertising your cache!

February 26 : Sandhurst to Sandhurst (Kent) : Winterfold Heath to Beare Green

Firstly, we don’t often do large caching expeditions on Sundays.

As as the weather forecast was less favourable on the Saturday we ventured out on a Sunday. When our double car journey (of driving the end with two cars, parking one, driving to the start with the other) should have been quicker.

Wrong.

Somehow we found the slowest ‘A’ road in Surrey, a bus (on a Sunday, really?!) we couldn’t overtake, then a learner we couldn’t overtake … and so we parked the first car a little later than anticipated.

Then we discovered Storm Doris has blown a tree down within half a mile of where we wanted to park our second car. A 5 mile diversion later and we were then much, much later starting than we had planned.

Our first cache was one we had failed to attempt from our previous visit to Winterfold Heath. Hidden under a pile of logs, we were grateful for a quick find to eventually start our day.

Our next cache was slightly troublesome, but the cache owner had helpfully provided two sets of coordinates and we found the second most useful. However accessing the cache was slightly harder, as a stream of mountain bikers whizzed past. (‘Whizzed’ is a slightly misnomer as the track was exceedingly muddy and the cyclists were going uphill). Being a Sunday, the footpaths and bridleways were much in use. For much of the day we were accompanied by ramblers, runners, cyclists and dog walkers. Not the usual quiet footpaths we are used to on Saturdays.

We were following the Greensand Way which zigzagged its away across the ridge line. The waymarking could be best described as ‘haphazard’, and frequently we found ourselves on a similar, but wrong, path. Fortunately it did take us past Ewhurst Mill.

Ewhurst Mill

Ewhurst Mill


Almost in the shadow of the white mill was our next target cache, under a fallen white trunk of a silver birch. An easy find, but quite a hard approach through ankle high brambles.

Our fourth cache of the day was in a tree hole. The tree was on a slight slope so access was tricky, the hole was deep and Mrs HG137 was up to her elbows retrieving the small plastic container. We walked away from the cache and paused for coffee.

Then we heard the father of a young family exclaim “There’s Treasure nearby… shall we go and find it ?”
The two children shouted “yes” unanimously and off they ran.
We just had time to tell the father that we had just found the cache, and it roughly where it was.

We finished our coffee, but it was obvious that the family had NOT found the cache. It couldn’t have gone missing in the short time we had been away so Mr Hg137 ran up to them and nudged them towards the dark forbidding hole in the tree. At first the young son didn’t want to put his hands in the hole, but he did, but sadly his small arms weren’t big enough to fully retrieve the cache. The father though, was able to, and the family eventually found the cache!

Green Sand Rock

Green Sand Rock


That was to be our last cache for some while, as the Greensand Way undulated for 2 miles with no caches for us to attempt. (There were a couple of unsolved puzzle caches and some very long multis, but no ‘easy’ traditionals). The path yielded fine views across the Weald to the South Downs as well as dropping steeply through the grounds of the Duke of Kent School only for us to climb steeply up the far side of the valley.

Across the Weald to the South Downs

Across the Weald to the South Downs


Eventually we arrived at a cache to find. The GPS and the hint item seemed at first out by 100 feet, so we walked on, but after much futile searching arrived back at the hint item, where the GPS now said 6 feet! A large yew, and a small film canister. What a shame a larger container couldn’t have been hidden.

We were now on flattish, but gently rising terrain. We claimed a quick find for our next cache, and even added some new paper as the log book was full. A few short strides later and we arrived at the top of Leith Hill and Leith Tower in particular. Leith Hill is the highest point in Southern England and 14 counties should have been visible. By now low cloud was forming over the South Downs some 15-20 miles away, so not the best day for county-counting.

Leith Hill Tower

Leith Hill Tower

We had 2 caches to find near the top of the hill.. but Mr Hg137 made a schoolboy error in the order we attempted them …

First we attempted to find a puzzle cache, one we had solved a few days earlier and involved solving several “Christmas Cracker Riddles” :

“What do you call a Polar Bear in a Desert ?
Answer : Lost.

To find the cache we had to walk a fair way down one of the Leith Hill slopes. It was then we discovered that a traditional cache was back at the top! So we re-climbed the slope, and found that cache too. We admired the view for the second time, only to discover the low cloud had enveloped much of the Weald and there was no view at all from the top of the hill!

We still had two miles to walk, in ever worsening gloom. We descended the hill for the second time and walked across roads, very muddy fields, crossing a railway line – pausing only to go over stiles (one of which was being impressively guarded by a horse).

Thank goodness – no more mud!

Eventually gloom gave way to the lights of Beare Green, and we knew our 10 mile walk would soon be concluded. We had one more cache to find, underneath a small footbridge. An easy find, and a pleasant end to the walk. There are a few more caches to find in Beare Green, but we will leave those for another time when hopefully Sunday traffic and gloomy weather won’t conspire against us.

February 18 – BACK HAMBURG-2

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

While walking along the Downs Link Way, a disused railway, now a long distance footpath, we stopped to find the neatest, tidiest cache ever. And inside was this trackable.

It’s one of three, released in Fuerteventura in the Canary Isles in October 2016 by caching friends Schnitta, Mauerwache, and O.o.Z. The idea was for them to race back home to Hamburg. How did they all do? Unfortunately, ‘our’ trackable has already lost the race. The other two trackables have travelled at least 10,000 miles each, have been back to Hamburg at least once, and are still in Germany.

This trackable has only travelled 2,500 miles and is not back in Germany yet. It was brought to England from the Canary Isles and has been there ever since, travelling via Yorkshire and Dorset to the Surrey Hills where we found it. Though the race is lost, we’ll continue the intention of the race and move the trackable on to somewhere suitable – maybe a travel bug hotel near an airport, possibly Gatwick, if we can find one.