December 28 : Guildford – The Chantries

The excesses of Christmas needed to be walked off and the Chantries seemed an ideal circuit.

The Chantries (or Chantry Wood) to give it is proper title is situated a few miles South East of Guildford and comprises 78 hectares of mixed woodland. It is also an Area of High Ecological Value within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The North Downs Way runs in its Northern boundary.

There are lots of paths (mainly running West/East) and plenty of hiding places for geocaches. Indeed there are just under 20 geocaches in the area, we chose to attempt 14 of them. We omitted a couple of terrain 4/5 tree climbs, a couple of puzzle caches we couldn’t solve and two quite detailed Earthcaches.

This left us a Compass series set by ===sgb (8 caches had been placed at strategic compass points around the wood) and 6 caches placed by The Perkins Family.

The wood is served by a smallish free car park, and at 9am it was already half-full. Our first cache (NORTHWEST) was hidden in a small hollow just off the main path. In order to get to the cache we had to walk past it on the path, and then pick up a small track and walk back. This was a recurring feature of our walk : get a good fix on the location, and then find the sometimes indistinct cacher’s path a short distance away.

We hadn’t got into this routine at cache 2 (WEST) as the GPS pointed straight up a steep bank. Armed with geopole, Mrs Hg137 hauled herself up the bank, grabbing tree after tree as she climbed. Meanwhile Mr Hg137 scoured the footpath just in case the GPS was wrong. It wasn’t .. and soon the ‘Found it !” cry was heard. This gave Mr Hg137 the opportunity to see if there was an easier route to descend. There was ! A few yards further on, a set of steps yielded easy access to the cache site.

Our next cache was our first failure of the day. Located in a wooden Den.
We lifted every log we could. We sat in the Den looking up, down, left, right. We walked around the Den but all to no avail. A great place for a cache, but clearly too clever for us.

The Den


Somewhat frustrated we walked on and were grateful for an easy find (SOUTHWEST). Then a longish walk leaving the wood to find SOUTH (stopping only to admire three roe deer as they ran within yards of us).

We didn’t find SOUTH.

It was hidden close to a stile, now very unused as it was surrounded by brambles and branches. The hint made little sense (‘Raccoon’) and after 10 minutes of being attacked by thorns we left defeated.

Five caches attempted, and only three finds. Several cuts and grazes accumulated. Time for a coffee, on one of the few seats we saw all day.

A fine view from a rare seat

Our next caches, set by the Perkins Family, were on ‘An Impassable Path’. Over time an official path had become very overgrown. This did not stop the Perkins Family placing three caches on its route, with a view that if cachers walked the path, the brambles, nettles would be cleared and the footpath usable again. This plan had worked as the path was very clear and not impassable at all. Our only problem was locating the start of it, but once we found the middle, we went up and down it quite quickly collecting three caches.

The Impassable Path


We returned then to the Compass series and found SOUTHEAST. Initially our GPS swung from tree to tree but we found it lodged between stones. Broken and with a gnawed logbook. We reported as needs maintenance, but this cache has had several such comments since August 2018. (Ed : It is always slightly disappointing if cache owners don’t respond to ‘needs maintenance’ requests – even adding a note stating when the maintenance will happen at least proves the maintenance request has been noted).

We were at the furthest point from the car park and this meant there were fewer people. In fact we probably went 45 minutes or so without seeing anyone. Our solitude was broken as we headed to EAST (straightforward once the cacher’s path was located), and then onto NORTHEAST.

Here we the cache was seemingly placed between two footpaths. We, of course, took the wrong one and had to walk back and find the cache (easily) from the other direction. Our last cache in the Compass series involved another longish walk to NORTH found under a very heavy log, which needed one of us to lift as the other grabbed the cache.

We then had a couple more Perkins Family caches to attempt.

The first was just off the North Downs Way. Up a slope. A fearsome slope. The tree cover caused the GPS to wobble. We precariously went up and down the slope, searching trees and logs until the GPS finally settled. The distance dropped from 24 feet (a major achievement after 10 minutes searching) to 20 feet, to 16 feet..to 12 to 10. We were there! Phew!

One cache left, and our longest and hardest walk yet.

The Chantries is riddled with dry river valleys. Several of these valleys are the subject of one of the Earthcaches we decided against so we were slightly annoyed at having to climb up a valley slope, down to the valley bottom and re-climb again to reach our final cache.

Exhausted we made our way back to the car. We’d found 12 out of 14 caches, walked nearly 4 miles and climbed 750 feet. Not bad for a post-Christmas workout.

Many of the caches were 1 or 2 litre food containers… two notable exceptions will appear in our ‘caches of the year’ which will be published in a day or so.

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December 8 : Les Géopotes à Chausey

The beautiful geocoin was found on our morning’s caching in Farnham, Surrey.

It is a souvenir coin from the Islands of Chausey, Northern France. From a geographical perspective they are part of the ‘Channel Islands’ but the Les Iles Chausey are French and approximately 30 people live there. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chausey.

This geocoin is owned by several cachers, Maroliv, SergeLB, Les Trolls, Les Pinsons, JLL50 , and La Team P’Tits Del. The first cache the geocoin visited (Autumn 2017) was on mainland France, Maroliv took it to Chausey shortly after.

Since then the coin has circled Northern France (mainly the Cherbourg Peninsula), before a very short visit to Washington DC and then to Southern England.

It has no mission so we will try to place it somewhere that it hasn’t visited.

December 8 : TravelDog

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

TravelDog

TravelDog


Early on our caching walk round Farnham Park, we found this trackable. Once we’d got back home, we logged the trackable and did a little research on what it has been doing.

• It’s a border terrier.
• It set off from Worthing, very close to the south coast of England, in April 2016.
• It wants to travel to its ancestral home in the Scottish Borders. And then back home again.

Well, the dog has certainly travelled. But not much in the direction of the border with England and Scotland. Leaving Worthing, it was off to Trafalgar Square in central London, then to Sofia, Bulgaria, back to Sussex, then Lefkas, one of the Greek islands, then the Netherlands, then Germany, then on to Sweden by late autumn 2017 (none of this is heading for Scotland, is it?). By September 2018 it was back in England, at a cacher’s meet in Essex, then went on another tour of southern England, ending up in Farnham Park, where we found it.

We can’t promise to move it to Scotland, but we shall aim for a dog-friendly place north of where we found it, and it can (maybe) progress from there.

December 8 : Farnham Park

Farnham Park

Just over 2 years ago, we attempted our first geocaches in Farnham. We attempted the Farnham Ramble, a series of 30+ caches, many of them multis, most of them interconnected to another so the series had to be completed in order. We struggled with the first few caches, and gave up but pledged we would return.

Sadly for us the series was archived shortly afterwards.

So, with fresh eyes we headed to another part of Farnham and undertook a completely different set of caches – this time placed in and around Farnham Park. Farnham Park is a mediaeval deer park of 320 acres and contains secret dells, streams, sports pitches and panoramic views.

Farnham Castle just visible in the tree-line


It is situated just outside the town, near Farnham’s Castle (now a training centre) and has free car parking! We could spend as long as we liked caching and not worry about a ‘ticking’ car park ticket!

The previous days had been wet, and this was the main reason we chose Farnham Park – many of the paths were tarmac. Apart from stepping off to search for a cache, we wouldn’t get too muddy!.


So at 845 am we parked up. The car park was already busy – dogs were being exercised, runners were stretching legs. Our first cache was almost in the car park. The hint did say ‘park side not car park side’…but hey.. our initial investigation yielded nothing.. so we went to the car park side anyway! After a few minutes, we corrected ourselves – stood where we stood before, and glinted at a slightly different angle and of course found the cache! Placed by a local Beaver group and in very good order.

Our caching route was to be relatively short (about 3 miles, including a couple of cul-de-sacs) and contained 9 caches. Each one had been set by a different person or team! How very unusual!

A great place for a cache

The first cache was easy to get to, but hard to spot. Our second cache was the complete reverse! Each to spot – scarcely any camouflage – but we had a stream to jump across with slightly slippery banks. Here we found a travel bug (TravelDog) which we will blog about soon. We tried to remember the last time we found a travel bug, without much success.

One of the many streams that criss-cross the Park

Stream jumping was a feature of the next two caches.

The first was hidden in a small outlying copse of trees; the next – Ancient Oak – was some way from the tarmac path. Fortunately the drainage ditches had done a good job, and the walk was pleasant with the ground being ‘damp’ rather than ‘squelchy’. Our eyes were drawn to an imperious tree in the distance, and we headed there, jumping another drainage ditch, and then realising we were still 50 feet away! We clambered around some undergrowth and arrived ‘behind’ the imperious oak, where the cache was an easy find. All we had to do was retrace our steps back to the tarmac.

The path was much busier now as, almost every 25 yards or so, a runner or dog walker went by. We were slowly climbing about 50 feet, and as we did so we had a lovely view over the park and the Farnham locality.

Is there a cache here ?

As we approached the Northern outskirts of the park, we walked parallel to the village/town of Hale/Upper Hale, and houses could be seen on our right. On the left, were the fine views and two more caches. Both quick finds, one in tree roots and one 5 feet up in a stump. It was at the first of these we found our second travel bug of the day, a delightful geocoin called ‘Les Géopotes à Chausey’. (Having struggled to remember our last time we found one trackable, we struggled even more to remember the last time we found two in one day!).

The tarmac path soon came to an end, and one of the best viewpoints of the day, and it was here we could have headed South, back to the car. But.. there were 2 nearby caches just outside the park.

The first called ‘Read’ had well over 30 favourites. (It acquired another from us too). The cache was hidden in a micro-library ! It wasn’t just books in the library ! A visitor’s book, lego cards, doggie treats and much more besides.

Have you seen a library like this ?

How many libraries contain these ?

The remaining non-Farnham-Park cache was part of the old Farnham Ramble series. This cache has been re-introduced as is now called ‘Farnham Series Remembered’. As one of the easier caches on the original route, it was easy to reinstate without previous multi-cache knowledge. We wanted the cache name in our portfolio as the final letters of the cache name spelt ‘RED’. A colour which we would add to list of ‘colours’ we would need for a caching snooker challenge. (We need to find 15 REDs and we are a little short!)

On the way to the Farnham Ramble Remembered cache


The cache itself was hidden IN a tree stump. But, in front of the tree stump was a lot of bark. Placed to look like ‘barkoflage’ we dismantled it first to no avail. Then we looked in the tree stump, and with a bit of poking and prodding in the Autumn leaf pile, we were able to find the cache.

And so we returned back to the Park. The morning had become greyer, and we one cache left to do. Part of the ‘Hole in One’ series, situated near golf course. (Farnham Park includes a 9 hole par 3 course). When we arrived at Ground Zero, we couldn’t find anywhere where a cache could be hidden. The hint said ‘In the title’, and the penny dropped. We had about 12 items to check, and after checking 7 or 8 of them, we discovered a small bison.

A hole-in-one!


In summary this was a great morning’s caching, not too strenuous, not too wet, and more importantly some good reasonable sized containers all of which were in good order. Well done to the 9 different cache owners!

Other caches we found included :

November 17 : Cranleigh and the Surrey Hills

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Where to go caching? All summer, our caching routes had been determined by our walking quest for the year, from Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) home to Sandhurst (Berkshire). We completed that in early November, and now we had to choose a route for ourselves. After a little thought, we settled on Cranleigh, at the foot of the Surrey Hills. We walked there last year on our route from Sandhurst (Berkshire) to Sandhurst (Kent), and had planned to return one day; today was that day.
We were to tackle the ‘Cranleigh North Walk’ (CNW) series, a four-mile route covering sixteen caches, starting at Smithwood Common. Two other caches, not part of the series, were close to our start point, so we added those, and did them at the beginning.

A Fine Pair

A Fine Pair


It was cool, almost cold, and slightly misty as we soon found the first of those two caches, one from the ‘Fine Pair’ series (themed around a phone box and post box within sight of each other – an increasingly rare thing), and the other called ‘Four Elms’ and named after a now-departed pub. As we walked towards the start of the main walk, something gave us pause: two Remembrance Day crosses in a front garden. Just over a hundred years ago, two residents, a father and son, judging from the ages, had set off for war from that house. Neither returned, and they are buried in different parts of Europe. Very sad.

We looked for the path that would lead to the first of the CNW series, fording a small stream and setting off along a hollow ‘path’. We soon realised we had made a mistake – no way was this a path! – and we hadn’t brought a machete, but we bushwhacked determinedly on, and arrived at the first cache in the series after about twenty minutes, scratched and dishevelled. In hindsight, which is easy, we did the same kind of thing when we first stated caching – we chose the shortest (but not necessarily easiest) route to a cache. It seems we have not fully learnt that lesson!

Hard going ...

Hard going …


... maybe there was an easier path?

… maybe there was an easier path?


It got easier after that, luckily: there weren’t nearly enough hours of daylight left if we’d kept on at that pace. We carried on uphill, along (clear, unscratchy) woodland paths, climbing uphill and stopping briefly for a panoramic view out to the south. It was warmer now, and the sun was breaking through the mist, so we stopped for a coffee and a few minutes to admire the view. Setting off again, we reached a narrow lane, and climbed the hill while being passed by Lycra-clad cyclists; some even had enough spare breath for a brief conversation (though some did not!). After a little while, we turned off the road and onto a track, stopping to talk to a muggle sweeping leaves; she said it’s a great, if remote, place to live, but you do get snowed in sometimes …

We walked on along a track high in the late autumn woods, with golden leaves thinning to bare branches. Once, a tiny broken branch showed us the way to the cache; a few, we couldn’t find; another, we nearly missed till we almost walked into it … there was an excellent variety of things to find (or not find).
Letterbox cache here somewhere ...

Letterbox cache here somewhere …


... found it!

… found it!


Further on, along a woodland path, we arrived at a letterbox cache. It was a distance, and a direction, away from the published coordinates. We each took a bearing, and paced off in what we hoped was the right direction, ending within two arm’s length of each other – and the cache was between us. Teamwork!

The caches kept coming, and a varied selection they were, too. Some of the containers included fake pine cones, mushrooms, and a (very realistic) plastic hedgehog.

We dropped down from the wooded hills, then followed a track onto farmland. Rounding a corner, we suddenly came a large piece of wooden sculpture. While admiring it, two muggles also arrived to look at it. They told us that the sculpture is called Xylem Voices, by Walter Bailey, and it forms part of the ‘Inspiring Views’ trail https://www.surreyhillssociety.org/events/inspiring-views-trail (Editor’s note: we had seen another of the pieces in the series, Perspectives, up on the Greensand Way while walking last year.)

Xylem Voices

Xylem Voices


We were nearly back at the car now, finding the last two caches in the series as we walked through the fields, then along the road for a short distance as the sun dipped and the afternoon cooled.

To sum up: this is a beautiful walk, through woodland, open fields and commons and almost all on paths and tracks, a great way to spend a sunny late autumn day.

Here are some of the other caches we found:

November 3 : Sandhurst geocachers trail trackable

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Finally, the trail trackable comes home!


We dipped the trail trackable in our own cache, Berry Bank cache, as we left home, and the trackable came with us as we left Sandhurst (Berkshire) on a cold January day in 2017, and on past Guildford, through the Surrey Hills to Leith Hill tower.

Leith Hill Tower

Leith Hill Tower


Down into the Weald, we skirted Gatwick Airport and moved on to Ashdown Forest, home of Winnie the Pooh.
Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle


Turning south near Tunbridge Wells, we paused to look at the Flying Scotsman as it steamed by, then carried on through the Sussex countryside as spring progressed, and crossed into Kent, just north of Bodiam Castle, to arrive at Sandhurst (Kent) in late May 2017.

Sandhurst, Kent


Sandhurst, Gloucestershire

Sandhurst, Gloucestershire


Forward in time to early April 2018, and we were now on the soggy banks of the River Severn at Sandhurst (Gloucestershire). We made our way between Gloucester and Cheltenham, over the M5, then climbed up the scarp slope of the Cotswolds to arrive at Crickley Hill. Crossing the busy A419, we continued through the hills, passing through Chedworth, then down the Coln valley to Bibury.
Bibury

Bibury


Crossing the River Thames near Lechlade, we continued into Oxfordshire, across the Vale of the White Horse, and up to and over the Ridgeway during the hottest part of a very warm summer. On the Berkshire side of the Ridgeway, the route carried on down the Lambourn valley as autumn approached, then crossed the Kennet and Avon canal and headed across country to the Roman city of Silchester. From there, the remainder of the route followed the River Blackwater back home to Sandhurst (Berkshire) in early November 2018.
Silchester Amphitheatre

Silchester Amphitheatre


To complete the route, we dipped the travel trackable at Berry bank cache again, and walked the last short distance to home. Job done!

Journey’s End


That’s 180 miles across almost the whole of southern England, a great variety of landscape, agriculture, people and wildlife, but just one large town, Newbury. It’s time for the trackable (and us!) to have a rest now!

March 3 : Frustrating failures in Frimley

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

After a freezing week when the ‘Beast from the East’ storm spread ice and snow across England, we just wanted to get outside. Anywhere. Though it was still cold and grey, a local caching trip seemed a good idea, so we chose Frimley, a very short drive away. It was going to be mostly caching around a suburban estate, as we didn’t fancy sodden undergrowth, slush and mud out in the countryside.

Tomlin's Pond, Frimley

Tomlin’s Pond, Frimley


Our first target was somewhere on the banks of Tomlin’s Pond, one of several ponds large and small dotted around Frimley. And we couldn’t find it. Oh well, there would be another chance at the end of the expedition. At least we didn’t fall into the frozen pond … Grumpily – it’s always dispiriting to fail at the first cache – we moved on to another, smaller pond for a second attempt. After looking in vain at ground level, we read the cache logs to see that the container had been replaced. We resumed our search at head height, looking for a different kind of container, and soon found a slightly rusty tin with a very tight lid. After a tussle, we opened it to sign the log. I hope the rust marks on my hands will wear off in time!
Still some snow ...

Still some snow …


Our next three caches were all placed by the ‘Kaos family’. We had mixed results – we couldn’t find one of them, another was found, but was very soggy, and retrieved and replaced in full view of some car washing muggles, and the third was easy to spot as its contents were spread about the woodland where it was hidden. We collected them up, wiped them off, and rebuilt and re-hid the cache.
Cache as discovered ...

Cache as discovered …


Cache tidied up and replaced ...

Cache tidied up and replaced …


Returning to the car, we had another attempt at the first cache of the day – we still didn’t find it – then set off home. To try to finish on a success, we stopped part way home to find a cache, from the ‘Postcode Cache’ series – this one was Golf Uniform 16 (GU16). Even this cache wasn’t to be easily found. It was likely to be hidden on or around a piece of street furniture, and there were a lot of possible places. We tried all of them, at least twice, and found the cache when we were on the point of giving up, in a place we (thought) we had already searched. (Editor’s note: This series of caches is placed in different postcode districts throughout the UK. The series originated in Scotland but is now spreading further south. There are a few near us, but it’s the first one we’ve found.)

So that was it: four caches found out of six attempted, not the best of find/fail ratios. And, part way round the route, my camera stopped working, which is why there are not so many pictures as usual. Drat! But I’ve replaced the SD card and all now seems well.

Postscript:
Quite close to our last cache find is an earthcache, ‘How the earth was made’, which is about rocks and geology. We found it back in August 2014. It’s still there, but it has changed quite a bit since we found it. Here’s how it is now, and how it was before.

Earthcache then …


Earthcache now ...

Earthcache now …