When we decided to walk between the Sandhursts (and this included the Sandhurst (Berks) to Sandhurst (Kent) route we undertook last year), we wanted to avoid, as much as possible footpaths we had walked previously. We ‘broke’ this rule a couple of times of the Berks-Kent section as we had to walk on footpaths near our home. Today was the first time on the Gloucs-Berks section we were to repeat a route.
The first mile was on the Thames Path. A long distance path we walked back in 2015. Today we started at St John’s Lock, Lechlade which we visited back in March 2015. Then the lock-keeper was busy painting the locks for the Easter season, today there was no sign of the lock-keeper – instead a couple of boat owners using the lock. Old Father Thames looked on as always. The Head of Navigation is only a couple of miles upstream so this is one of the least used locks on the river – and yet at 10 o’clock on a warm Friday morning we saw three boats!
We reminisced about our walk in 2015, as we crossed an ever-so-slightly-too-large bridge, examined in detail a WW2 pill-box guarding the river, and tried to remember a couple of the hiding places where we found caches.
At Buscot Weir we crossed to the south side of the river for our first cache of the day. An camouflaged tube hidden in ivy. Now, like many cachers, we struggled with ivy… and this morning was no exception. After 20 minutes fruitless searching we left with the cache unfound. (Interestingly, preceding our visit there were a series of DNFs, followed by 2 logged finds, by people with less than 50 finds each, and after us a further 3 DNFs. So is the cache actually there ?)
Before entering the National Trust village of Buscot we turned off onto a footpath (least ways, we missed the footpath at first and then returned to it once we realised our error). Here we quickly came across our first find of the day – a tube wedged in an old, hollow tree-trunk.
From then the finds were relatively straightforward. Sometimes the caches were ‘hanging’ from a wire fence, sometimes a false rock between posts. On another occasion, underneath some very prickly brambles. The footpath had taken us away from the river and towards the busy A417 (another cache under some heavy concrete). At this point we turned away from the road and headed, at an acute angle, back to the river.
We crossed a newly-mown hay field with a barely distinct footpath through it. As we crossed through the field, we noticed two ramblers walking AROUND the field boundary. Should we have done that? Were they cachers ? We arrived at our exit point of the field and looked back. We had missed the footpath by 10 feet (whoops!) and the ramblers…were genuine ramblers as they made no effort to find our previous find.
A couple more caches followed (more brambles) and then a highlight cache of the walk. An ammo can. Most large ammo cans we have found have been placed on the ground, but this one had the hint of ‘chest high on a fallen branch’. And it was! Covered with stickoflage, but hidden wedged in tree branches. It’s not often one finds an ammo can, especially on a newish series (just over 3 years old).
The hiding place and caches had been straightforward but different. It is all too easy to place a film canister under a stone behind a tree, but Mashcast, the cache owner of the Buscot Bunker Bimble (BBB) series, had given thought to different hiding places, and hidden appropriate and different containers.
Our last three finds were under some pipes, another wire dangler, another wedged in a hedge.
Before our path took as back the A417, we had lunch overlooking the river. A varied few minutes as we munched our sandwiches. A few ramblers went by, a couple of planes took off noisily from nearby Fairford Airfield, and then – just as we were about to leave – two kingfishers appeared. We think it was a parent feeding a youngster, but within seconds both birds had disappeared. We readied our cameras and waited to see if they would reappear – sadly, our wait was in vain.
Our last 2-3 miles of the day had just one cache on the route, near our car at Badbury Clump. And, of all the sections of our Sandhurst Trail, this was one of the least interesting. We were walking the d’Arcy Dalton Way, names after Colonel d’Arcy Dalton who campaigned for and preserved rights of way in Oxfordshire. This trail links two long distance paths in North Oxfordshire (Oxford Canal Walk, Oxfordshire Way) with two paths in the South of the county (the Thames Path and the Ridgeway). The section consisted of relentless tarmac leading up to two farms.
As we walked through the second of the farmyards we were greeted in Orwellian tones with ‘We are watching you, we are watching you, we are watching you’ – we had set off the security cameras! The farmer, though, was out in the fields, spraying crops, and we paused to ensure we weren’t sprayed too, as we started our ascent up Badbury Clump.
Many paths criss-cross the Clump and we wanted to make sure we took the correct one. Fortunately for us a rambler appeared from nowhere as we approached a junction of paths. He started to descend, we got chatting, and he realised he shouldn’t have gone downhill to meet us! We though had gleaned where a contouring footpath was, and walked the 300 yards to the cache.
Imagine our surprise to find…another ammo can! Our second of the day ! We have never found two ammo cans in the same day! Whoop! Whoop!
Inside though amongst the goodies and swaps, was a Womble. (We then realised the cache owner was The Wombles).
The Womble had some coordinates attached…it was the Westing Co-ordinates for the Wombles Signature Cache. we had the Northing Co-ordinates from another Womble as it is in our own cache, in Berry Bank Copse! We had all the information for find the Signature Cache! Wowser!
We took loads of photos, and wrote the co-ordinates in triplicate. We really didn’t want to lose these magic numbers.
Then a short walk followed over the crest of Badbury Clump to the car park. Badbury Clump, a former Iron Age Hill fort, has fine views over the Oxfordshire landscape and is allegedly where King Arthur defeated the Anglo-Saxons!
We had no fighting today – just good memories of a double-ammo-can day !
Caches we found included :