July 18 : River Thames : Remenham and Hambleden Lock

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Temple Island

Temple Island


In 2015 we walked, and cached, the Thames Path from source to sea, but had rarely visited since. After a few days short of five years we returned to Remenham, to walk the big loop of river north of Henley, then returning across the fields. The seventeen cache ‘Round The Bend’ cache series covers this area, and there are also a few other caches along the way.

There’s a small car park opposite Remenham church, within a car’s length of our first cache, one from the ‘Victoria’s Post Box’ series. An inspection of the plate on the postbox gave us some numbers. Next, a Church Micro cache based on Remenham church; we went into the neat, tidy churchyard to collect another set of numbers from noticeboards and gravestones. We turned both those sets of numbers into coordinates. And we had yet a third set of coordinates, from the puzzle cache ‘Frog Logic’ which we had solved a few days earlier (gosh, we looked at a load of frogs to solve that). So that gave us three locations, all in different directions … we worked out a ‘best’ route and went off to find all three. (Editor’s note: one of those three cache containers did make us smile, but we can’t give away which one!)

Eventually, we reached the riverbank, and turned north, following the line of the Henley rowing course back to its start by Temple Island. There’s a plaque there, to mark the start, and it was new to us as it has been placed since 2015 when we last came this way https://www.henleystandard.co.uk/news/henley-on-thames/131856/marble-plaque-marks-royal-regatta-start-line.html A lovely wooden boat was moored right by the plaque, among a few similar ones flying lots of flags and pennants; the owner asked us several times if we wanted to take his picture, we didn’t know why. We found out a little while later what they were all doing …

We walked by more of these smart boats and found another cache. A passing muggle remarked …”so good to see them here” … and we looked again. The clue was in the ADLS written on the stern of one of the boats, plus the plaques on the sides – these were a group of Dunkirk Little Ships, out for an informal get-together. Lovely to see them all. (Editor’s note: some of them do look awfully small to be ferrying people around in the English Channel…)

Dunkirk Little Ships

Dunkirk Little Ships


We looked up the names of some of the little ships; the one furthest downstream was L’Orage; quite a famous boat, it seems, which used to belong to Raymond Baxter, presenter of Tomorrow’s World and founder of the Little Ships association https://www.adls.org.uk/adls
L'Orage

L’Orage


We approached our next cache, the third in the ‘Round The Bend’ series. It’s not often a muggle tells you where to find a cache – but GZ was within feet of where a boat was moored and the owner told us ‘someone was here about an hour ago’ before giving exact directions to the location of the cache. Signing the log, we realised we were following ‘babystarling’ around the circuit, they must have been the previous visitors. We never (knowingly) caught up with them, but their logs showed they enjoyed this series too.

Mooove along!

Mooove along!


The river bent slowly round to the east, and the towpath became a long, thin field. We worked our way along the towpath/field, visiting a well-used cattle trough (to find a cache, not for a drink!), and then dodging ever fresher cowpats as we continued. A herd of placid black cows, presumably the source of the plops, moooved slowly past us, heading for Henley.

As the bend in the river continued and turned south, we reached Hambleden Lock. We found a seat away from the path to eat our picnic lunch while watching the world go by. We saw a lock-full of boats going upstream (including a Dunkirk Little Ship going to meet its friends), then watched the lock fill again with boats galore going downstream, including a canoe. A footpath crosses the lock, and the walkers, runners and cyclists using the path must wait while the lock gates open. It was like a cross between Cowes Week and the Tour de France all at once, bikes, boats and people everywhere. (Editor’s note: we realised how unused we’ve become to seeing lots of people all together at once.)


Leaving the lock behind us, we had three more caches to find alongside the Thames before the return leg ‘inland’. Everyone and everything was messing about on/in/by/above the river; we noted geese (about 50, making a racket), muggles picnicking and playing on the shore – while in the water, boats, paddleboards, swimmers, ducks, cows – and even rooks and kites overhead. It meant we could find those caches while everyone was distracted, looking elsewhere.

At Ferry Lane we turned away from the river and walked up the narrow lane towards the Flower Pot pub https://www.squaremeal.co.uk/restaurants/the-flower-pot_685 There were cars everywhere, rushing down to the pub, the river, or both,plus someone bringing a boat on a trailer down to the slipway to launch. I’m so glad I didn’t choose this spot to park! We found our second cache from the ‘Victoria’s Post Box’ series (wonder why there are so many Victorian post boxes round here?), then climbed on up the hill. No doubt this is normally a quiet little lane – not so today – and it was a relief to reach the footpath across the fields that would take us back to Remenham.

Away from the road, it was a lot more peaceful. Just a short, hot puff up the hill in the blazing summer sunshine, and we were walking along a path between fields. Lots of muggles were out walking, but not nearly so many as by the river, and we could easily find quiet moments to locate caches. Up here, this bit of the cache route has a completely different character to the section by the river – more open, airy, and quieter, with expansive views – you wouldn’t guess that the bustling Thames is just a few fields away.


After only four caches, we were back on the lane leading to Remenham Church, it’s not nearly as far returning as it is walking along the riverbank! And the almost empty car park by the church? Also packed and overflowing, cars all around the church and along the lane to the river. Mr Hg137 had been right (as always) when he said we should get there early!

Remenham Church

Remenham Church


We had found twenty-two caches in all – 17 traditional, 1 puzzle, 2 letterbox, 1 multi and 1 mystery – we’d found them all, which is incredibly rare for us. Many, many thanks to FamousEccles for providing such a great circuit, both for the walk, and for the well-kept caches. And the sun shone on us too!

Here are just some of the caches we found:

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:

October 19: Sonning

Sonning is a small picturesque town by the River Thames.

The River Thames, near Sonning

A delightful church, olde-worlde cottages, shops and narrow streets. But it has one serious drawback. Its bridge. There is a bridge at Sonning over the River Thames, a narrow, single-carriageway, traffic-light-controlled bridge. As a result this beautiful village is choked with traffic trying to cross the river.

Picturesque Cottages


Unusual Street Furniture

Sonning also has a collection of caches and our intention was to find as many as we could. Many though were multis with several stages. The multis criss-crossed the town, so we would have to be exceedingly careful to record information as we went. (We remembered a bad day in Chester about 18 months ago, when we circumnavigated the City twice as we got thoroughly confused by the City Centre caches). We would be better prepared today. Each multi was printed out on its own separate sheet of paper; we had reviewed the ‘broad’ route the waypoints took so we knew when to stop one multi and start another.

Sonning does have some standard caches too (a series called ‘Swanning around Sonning’). Within minutes of parking the car we had found Swanning around Sonning #1, a lovely little cache hidden in plain view, and easily accessible by cachers and non-cachers alike.

An easy start, before we embarked on the first of the multis – Sonning Village Trail – a 12 stage multi.
At first the questions were simple as we counted reflectors, ‘pins’ and ascertained that Green Cottage isn’t green!

St Andrew’s Church, Sonning


As we approached the rear of the churchyard, we started the multi connected with the Church Micro. Here we had to find two memorial stones, extract some dates and also find the time of one of the Church Services. Relatively straightforward to calculate the final cache destination – once we realised we had entered the churchyard by a different gate from one we had planned ! The final was some way off, so we filed the Church Micro as ‘Calculated but not Found’.

Before we could continue with the 12 part multi, we found a Victorian Post Box. This was the start of another multi (and a series we were unfamiliar with). We peered at the letter box, extracting key information and soon we added the coordinates to the ‘Calculated but not Found’ pile.

Victorian Post Box


We were heading closer to the river, and the notorious bridge crossing. The roads were becoming more and more clogged and the stages in the 12 part town trail were becoming harder to spot. Spot them we did, including a blue plaque commemorating Terence Rattigan. We were lucky here, as a high-ish wall impeded the sight line to the plaque, but as we approached the property a gentleman left through a large gate and we could see the plaque quite clearly. We chatted with the gentleman (well, we had too, as we were peering far too indiscreetly over his shoulder), and discovered the property was owned by a famous, international celebrity. Opposite we were advised the property was owned by a well known Rock Musician. Sadly we saw neither of these famous celebrities on our travels.

The next waypoint involved a third well known public figure, Theresa May (she too lives in the village). Here, we were misled by the question ‘when did she turn on the lights?’ – expecting to find a plaque stating when she turned on the Christmas lights. However the lights she turned on, were far less ephemeral !

By now we were by the river. We had found one cache early on, 9 stages of a 12 stage multi and calculated the final coordinates for two other caches. We saw a seat on the South Eastern bank and sat there and drank some welcome coffee as we collated our notes. We discovered we were at the start of yet another multi, part of the Counting Vowels series.

The waypoints in this series, take you to noticeboards, plaques, memorials, and you count each of vowels, so that as you have reach the last waypoint you have a cumulative value for A, E, I, O and U.

Lots of vowels to count here…


… and here too – but don’t look at the sign!

Feeling refreshed from our coffee we started this 5 stage multi. A peaceful walk along the riverbank taking us further and further away from the traffic choked approach to Sonning Bridge. As we progressed the path became a bit more muddy, and a bit more slippery – we were grateful for our walking boots. We were a little surprised to discovered that the final co-ordinates we yet further on, as typically having found the last waypoint, we were expecting to turn round and head back from whence we had come. Instead a quick find further away from Sonning.

As we were walking back, we got a good bearing on where the solved Church Micro and Victorian Post Box were. We headed off in that direction but on our way we got very lucky.

A rare boat braves the Thames


Back in 2015 we walked the Thames Path and passed through Sonning during the July of that year. One of the caches we failed to find was hidden behind a noticeboard near the river. We were about to pass that same noticeboard on route to the two multi-finals. We hadn’t loaded this ‘unfound’ cache into our GPS, but we both thought we ought to give the noticeboard host a quick scan… and there was the cache! A brand new log too! Was this a brand new cache we had accidentally become the first-to-find ? Sadly no. We discovered on our return home, that the cache was disabled, as the previous cache had gone missing. A recent cacher (undertaking much the same route as we were taking), had noticed the cache was missing, and knowing who he thought the cache owner was, replaced a cache for him. Sadly the cache owner had changed so a relative stranger now has a new cache placed for them! And of course we got an unexpected find!

A new log, but sadly only a replacement cache


In our excitement of finding a cache we hadn’t even loaded into our GPS, we almost forgot about the two multis we had come to find. Both took a bit a bit of finding, as they we well hidden with differing types of camouflage!

We headed back to Sonning Bridge, the air was full of the Saturday lunch being cooked at The Mill Theatre (Roast Beef, Roast Chicken and some kind of fish).

The Mill at Sonning, Theatre and Restaurant Venue


As the day was going so well we decided to undertake another multi, another Victorian Post Box – this time in a very small village of Sonning Eye. Of all the multis we undertook, this was the quickest. A quick review of the postbox (counting vowels to generate the co-ordinates for the second time today) and a quick walk to GZ. We were grateful for two pairs of eyes for the vowel counting as it took some time for us to both agree the total for E and I !

Back over the river to complete the 12 stage multi, our only remaining unsolved multi of the day. We had to collect more dates – one connected with the adjacent Blue Coat school, the others at Sonning Lock.

Sonning Lock


Here we were lucky enough to see two boats passing through. We sat and performed the calculation for the final coordinates. Unsurprisingly it was back along the river, closer to the Bridge. We filed the coordinates, as we had two, simple, caches to find. Swanning Around Sonning #3 and #4.

We didn’t find #3. Apparently it was a ‘stick cache’ hidden at ground level behind some railings. We searched for some time, and noticed that the previous three cachers hadn’t found it either. Our search was hampered as GZ was a ‘turnround spot’ for a running race. We discovered afterwards, it was wasn’t a distance race, but an endurance race organised by Saturn Running. Runners were undertaking a 7 Hour event, running presumably from Reading to Sonning numerous times in a 7 hour period. No wonder they looked exhausted.

Swanning around Sonning #4 was a lengthy find (coordinates were slightly off) and then back to the lock and to find the final for the Sonning Village Trail. We had several large trees to search, and eventually found the cache in the third one! Phew ! All 5 multis undertaken, and all found successfully !

We had one last cache to find, Swanning around Sonning #2 – close to our car. A tricky find, but a great finish to quite a complicated day !

Caches we found :




July 13 : The South Bank, London

July 13th is a special day for us. (Our caching name is hg137). To celebrate this year, a trip to London was planned.

The Globe


We had tickets to see ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the Globe Theatre. The Globe is about 3/4 mile from Waterloo Station so it seemed a good excuse to find a couple of London caches too.

Welcome to the South Bank


On our last visit to London, way back in December 2016, we had started a multi-cache, but never finished it. The multi required finding a paving stone on the South Bank, near Waterloo, locating a particular engraved key word, and using it to convert to numerical co-ordinates.

We scoured our photos before we left, and worked out the co-ordinates and discovered the cache was hidden on our route to the Globe.

Great views across the Thames


The South Bank, on a hot Saturday in July is busy. Mainly tourists, but a good mixture of Londoners out and about.

A large second-hand book market, a group of morning joggers, another group of cyclists. An array of street performers, from singers, to bespoke poets, to a floating Yoda.

A Selection of Street Entertainers

Ordinarily caching is hard when people are watching, but with so many people around – all doing their own ‘unusual’ thing, leaning over a parapet to find a magnetic nano is natural.

Its Busy !


Our second cache, closer to the Tate Modern, was similarly easy. A well defined hint and cache title ‘Squeezed in at the Tate’ and we could see GZ well before we arrived. A quick swoop down (well an exaggerated shoe-lace tie), and we were soon signing the log.

The area around the Tate Modern was particularly busy as a new exhibition had opened days before https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/olafur-eliasson , and many people were crossing the Millennium Bridge and not walking along the South Bank.

A few yards further on, we arrived at the Globe. The Globe was opened in 1997, and founded and built by actor/director Sam Wanamaker. The names of many of the project’s contributors can be seen as paving stones around the theatre concourse. (Technically the theatre complex is known as Shakespeare’s Globe, to differentiate it from the original Shakespearean building pulled down by the Puritans in the 1640s.). We had a multi to complete which would take us between the two Globes.

The Original Globe was here!

While the modern building is busy with people, the older building, or rather a few information boards and a cobbled pavement was much, much quieter enabling a quick find.

We still had an hour before our matinee performance so we headed back to the Tate Modern. We ate lunch on one of the many seats, and wandered inside. We were expecting to see some artworks in the ‘hall’ area, but all the free/paid for exhibits are now on various different levels.

Turbine Hall, Tate Modern


Instead of heading back to the Globe, we hatched a plan. We would sit on a seat, near to, but not overlooking the cache ‘Squeezed in at the Tate’ which we found earlier. Would anyone visit it while we watched ? Typically this cache, especially on a Summer Saturday, has 5 or 6 finders so we might be lucky.

A person approached slowly…was he a cacher…nope, he was using a nearby rubbish bin.
Hang on.. what about these two. Clearly they are together, they are walking in unison, both looking at some electronic equipment and…what an elegant swoop (far better than Mr Hg137’s shoe-lace tying). We had waited probably 3 minutes and 2 cachers came by! We went over to introduce ourselves and we had a chat. Welcome to London Dombies and Topanga_ugh !

Dombies and Topanga_ugh


They were part of the crew from a Belgian ship moored near HMS Belfast, so we said goodbye to our new Belgian friends to have a look at their ship.

Can you see the Belgian Ship nestling behind HMS Belfast ?

The South Bank had got busier, and it took us longer to walk there than we imagined.. so we just had time to take a quick photo before rushing back to the Globe arriving minutes before the performance started. Unsurprisingly a well acted, very funny production and one that made our day very special.

We couldn’t take pictures while the play was on, so this was the band warming up, the three seating tiers (we were in one of them) and some of the ‘groundlings’ who stood for the whole performance.

Inside the Globe


Welcome to the Band!

A cracking day out…Shakespeare, the Globe, 3 caches and 2 Belgian cachers!

December 16 : London

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

No. 9 London bus

No. 9 London bus


We hadn’t used our Oyster (London travel) cards for some while, and we were worried that they might be disabled, so we set off to London on a caching trip – now there’s a tenuous excuse for a day’s geocaching!

Almost as soon as we left the train at Waterloo we were searching for our first cache, at the entrance to the station. The description said a London landmark would be visible from Ground Zero, the location of the cache. Well, the bottom half of it was, and the top wasn’t; the cloud base was very low, while the Shard is very high …

We made our way down to the Thames, just downstream from the London Eye, with a great view over the river to the Houses of Parliament. Having found the cache hidden there, we signed the log looking out over the river, and got a rare view of much of the riverbed. It was two days after the full moon, and a very, very low spring tide, and the level was lower than we had ever seen it, with the footings of one of the bridge arches exposed to view; even in the few minutes we watched, the tide turned and the riverbed began to disappear.

River Thames - VERY low tide!

River Thames – VERY low tide!


Crossing the river on the Golden Jubilee footbridge, our next target was the Sidetracked cache at the nearby Charing Cross Station. It was tucked away behind a drainpipe close to, but not actually in the station. We did the ‘pretend to tie a shoelace’ mime to retrieve the cache, but we really needn’t have bothered, as everyone in the city is in a hurry, looking at phones, rushing onwards, and not interested in the antics of a couple of oddball cachers.
Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square – lion at Nelson’s Column


Our main objective of the day was the ‘No 9 Routemaster bus: cache route’, which involved a bus ride and the spotting of clues on the way to the final cache location. But before that, we wanted to have a go at the caches in Trafalgar Square. And the first cache was … ‘Trafalgar Square’, a cunningly concealed cache hidden in an item around the square. We moved on to two earthcaches, one based around Nelson’s Column, and one around the statue of Charles I which is placed on the original site of Charing Cross, which is regarded as being the centre of London for measuring of distance. Earthcaches are excellent little teaching aids – in each case we learnt something about the places that we couldn’t have guessed beforehand.
Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square


A number 9 bus duly turned up and we caught it and got prime seats, upstairs, right at the front, where we could watch the route unfold. We were glad that we’d researched the answers to the clues for the cache beforehand so we could concentrate on the travelscape expanding before us. Charing Cross, Trafalgar Square (again), Pall Mall, St James’ Palace, Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park, and the Royal Albert Hall … where we got off and crossed the road to one of the ornate sets of gates leading into Hyde Park. Mr Hg137 stopped to chat with a man from British Gas who was maintaining one of the gaslights on the gate. He told us that there are still over 1500 gaslights in London (!) and that they require regular attention http://londonist.com/2015/11/video-meet-london-s-remaining-gas-lamp-lighters The final cache was very close, and found after some very close inspection of park ‘furniture’. We had brought a trackable with us and had been looking for a suitable cache to place it. We decided on this specific cache as it had needed time and effort to solve, and so was unlikely to be found by chance, meaning that the trackable was likely to be picked up by an experienced geocacher.
Albert Memorial

Albert Memorial


Lunchtime: we sat on a park bench, ate our sandwiches, and people-watched, then did a circuit of the Albert Memorial https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington-gardens/things-to-see-and-do/memorials,-fountains-and-statues/the-albert-memorial , to find ‘The Royal Albert Hall’ cache, the 20th most often found cache in the country (the description says) with well over 4000 visits.
Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall


From here, we walked down to the Natural History Museum, which had two earthcaches in the grounds that we wanted to visit. We hadn’t really thought about this carefully enough: a skating rink is set up just outside the museum at Christmas time. That meant that the route to one of the earthcaches was through the museum, not through the gardens – and the other cache was within feet of the skating rink, so we thought about the answers while skaters whizzed by very, very close behind us http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/ice-rink.html What the earthcaches were about: one is centred on a (very) large fossil, and the other is about details in the memorial stone dedicated to those who were killed in the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004.
Natural History Museum ice rink

Natural History Museum ice rink


There was just one more cache left on our list for today, a Church Micro, but where to find it? We walked up to the Brompton Oratory: was that it? No. Our GPS, and the clues to the cache, led us down a path to the side, to Holy Trinity, Brompton. The noise of traffic from the A4 died away as we walked round the church to the garden at the back, and it was peaceful and quiet, with tree-lined paths, and a squirrel frolicking on the grass, overlooked by small mews houses in cobbled streets. What a contrast to the loud, rushing world so close by!

And that was the end of caching for the day; it was getting darker, and colder, and we were getting tired and hungry. We caught the underground back to Waterloo and headed home in the dark.

January 2016 : Single Form

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here again.

In mid January 2016, 40 of the UK’s works of post-war public art were listed by Historic England. The BBC described them all here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35352595 One of the statues we saw in 2015 was among them. I think that’s excellent – I like good bits of sculpture and occasionally drag Mr Hg137 around sculpture parks.

Single Form - Barbara Hepworth

Single Form – Barbara Hepworth

The statue stands by one of the lakes in Battersea Park, which we visited in October in the later stages of our walk down the River Thames. It’s a Barbara Hepworth sculpture called ‘Single Form’ and it now has a Grade II* listing. Read about it at http://www.batterseapark.org/art/sculpture/hepworth/

It was created by her as a tribute to one of her friends, Dag Hammarskjold, who was Secretary General of the United Nations and who died in an air crash. This one is the original, but a rather larger version stands outside the United Nations building in New York and is described here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_Form

How interesting to come across something we have seen on our travels, and which has now appeared in a completely different, newsworthy context.

December 29 Thames Path : Canary Wharf to the Thames Barrier

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Mission accomplished! Thames Path walk complete! Apologies in advance for quite a long post.

Thames Barrier

Thames Barrier


With Christmas gone and 2016 approaching fast, we had just a few days left to complete the Thames Path before our self-imposed deadline of December 31st; we had been keeping an eye on both our social diary and the weather forecast and had decided that December 29th was the day for the final section of the walk.

So we arrived bright and early at Canary Wharf station and exited the Jubilee Line into … a sharp shower of rain. Oh dear! That wasn’t in the plan. But it cleared within 5 minutes, leaving clear air and winter sunshine.

We turned south onto the Thames Path and set off past the skyscrapers and oh-so-expensive apartments overlooking the river. We had lots of caches loaded, but didn’t have high hopes of the first few, as they hadn’t been found for a while. And so it proved. We couldn’t find them either, though our cache searching gave us a chance to inspect various bits of dockland hardware, such as the chains and hydraulic ram at Millwall Old Dock.

By now we were in the Isle of Dogs, and a sudden change in feel; the houses were smaller, the people weren’t all business folk rushing about; London is very curious for this: completely different areas can be just a few yards from each other, or on opposite banks of the Thames. But – we had started finding caches at last. Our first success was cunningly concealed under a post box, and the next was at another unusual feature on the riverside – a ‘park’ made out of planks. Reading the cache notes and the noticeboard, we discovered that this was where IK Brunel had built the Great Eastern, then, and for some time, the biggest ship in the world https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Great_Eastern . It seemed an odd spot to have chosen, very close to some tight bends in the river and without much space around it – but we’re not brilliant inventors.

We found another couple of caches as we walked through Tower Hamlets, though we had to abandon the search for another as a traffic policeman stopped nearby. Oh dear, we really couldn’t risk being stopped by the police twice in three weeks! Then suddenly we entered a small park with a panoramic view across the river to the Cutty Sark and to the old Royal Naval College at Greenwich. Here, too, is the end of the northern bank section of the Thames Path. (Three and a quarter miles to the barrier, said a sign.) The rest of it is on the south bank, though it is not at all a straight line to the finish!

Thames pedestrian tunnel

Thames pedestrian tunnel


The way to the south bank of the Thames is through a 1,215 foot long pedestrian tunnel under the river, and this is also a virtual geocache, one of only 193 left in the UK. Down the stairs, through the tunnel, and up in the lift we went, both of us separately counting away at geocache clues as we went; luckily, our answers matched. It was a well-used walk under the river, but a slightly odd and eerie place; I wouldn’t really want to be down there alone, and it is said that it’s haunted. And all of a sudden we were back out in the light, only yards away from the Cutty Sark and surrounded by crowds of tourists. (Three and a half miles to the barrier, said the next sign; curious, we should be getting closer.) We set off along the Thames Path again, pausing to eat our lunchtime sandwiches on a seat in the sun overlooking the river, looking back at Canary Wharf and watching the tide rushing in.
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After lunch we set off again down the south bank of the Thames. As soon as we had cleared the naval college the crowds melted away and we were almost alone once more, amongst wharves and industrial areas. (Four miles to the barrier, said the third sign; this really didn’t seem right as we knew we were going in the right direction, though fortunately the distances dropped after that!) Every so often we passed an old pub – the Trafalgar, the Cutty Sark, the Anchor and Hope – but, cache-wise, there was little to stop for as almost all the caches between Greenwich and the Thames Barrier are challenge caches, and we haven’t qualified for any of them. So on and on we walked, following a big loop north and then south around the Greenwich Peninsula, better known to most as the home of the O2, formerly the Dome, and where we went to watch the gymnastics during the 2012 Olympics. It was just a little dispiriting to look back across the Thames to Canary Wharf and to realise that we were now only about a mile from where we had started that morning… Part way around the loop in the river we reached a sign telling us that we were now on the Greenwich meridian; we had to check that, so out came the GPS; that was correct, so the rest of our journey would be in a whole new hemisphere! As we rounded a bend in the river and passed under the cable car, the Thames Barrier came into view and in not many more minutes, we were there. Journey’s end!
Greenwich Meridian

Greenwich Meridian


Appropriately, there’s an earthcache, the Tide Lord, to mark the spot. I think our cache log says it well enough:
“ We did it!!! Finally at the Thames Barrier … and an earthcache to puzzle over. The item that forms the puzzle gave us the chance to reflect on our whole journey … which has been very varied indeed … including multiple tree climbs, paddling through icy water, being stopped by the police … and so much more. “

But we weren’t finished yet; we needed to return to Canary Wharf to catch a train, and we had some more caches planned for the return leg. A bus back to the Cutty Sark, transferring to the Docklands Light Railway and back under the Thames, and we were almost there. We stopped part way back to find a picture puzzle cache, ‘1 Canada Square’ The idea is simple, the finding less so; the cache description is a panoramic view of Canary Wharf, and the cache is located ‘within 20 metres of where the picture was taken’. Again, I’ll let our cache log tell the tale:

”Our Thames Path mission complete, we were making our way back from the Thames Barrier to Canary Wharf station and we thought this should be somewhere on the way. (Well, Mrs Hg137 thought it should be, as she had spent hours … and hours … and hours inspecting assorted electronic views of the area to come to a likely location).

And so we pitched up in the likely place in the gathering gloom. A short search found us this cache. Woo hoo! “

Canary Wharf at night

Canary Wharf at night


Just one more cache to do now, and it was pretty dark by now. On our last caching mission/walk we had tried, and failed, to find a Church Micro based on the floating church in Canary Wharf. But we didn’t give up. A short message session with the cache owner and a slight readjustment of coordinates suggested we had been close, but not that close. So back we went, and ten minutes searching in the dark behind concrete pillars and underneath railway lines found us the cache. The last cache of the year, and a warm sense of achievement at getting this one. Unusually for an urban cache, this one contained a trackable, ‘Dick’. It has an interesting mission but that’s a topic for another blog.

Apart from the satisfaction of completing the Thames Path, today was another landmark caching day: only the second time that we had found five cache types in one day: a traditional, puzzle, earth, virtual, and multi cache. A good note on which to round off our caching for 2015, and time to wish all our long-suffering readers best wishes for the year ahead.

Here are some of the caches we found :

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Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 6.75 miles
Total distance walked : 184.75 miles
Caches found : 8
Total caches found : 337

December 19 Thames Path : Cannon Street Railway Bridge to Canary Wharf.

We had about 10-11 miles left of our journey down the Thames, and we decided rather than have one long section and poor light to contend with, we would break the last few miles into 2 sections. The first would take us to Canary Wharf, with its gleaming skyscraper office blocks.

Our Destination ... Canary Wharf

Our Destination … Canary Wharf

Most of the walk would be on the Northern bank, picking up caches from a series entitled “From the Swan to the Canary” a reference to Swan Pier where the series starts and Canary Wharf where the series ends.
We would omit some of the caches in the series as we wanted to attempt some of the Southern bank caches as well.

But first we returned to where we finished our previous walk.

We were UNDER Cannon Street Railway Bridge on the Thames Foreshore.
Hidden against the various chains and holes in a brick wall was a magnetic 35mm container. About 12 foot up! Now, neither of us are giants, but having checked various photos on http://www.geocaching.com we had a likely plan to reach this difficulty 4, terrain 4.5 cache. Just under the cache was a concrete footing, with a 5ft iron pipe rising from it. If one could stand on the pipe – the cache would be within reach…

Heave, heave, pull, pull

Heave, heave, pull, pull


There are two ways to reach the top of the pipe. The first was to ‘crawl around a wall corner’ with a 6 foot drop beneath or to haul oneself up onto the pipe using a chain fixed to a wall. Mr HG137 tried the latter and after 10 minutes gave up. His arms were still weak from his bone-break, and the iron pole was still wet and slippery from the tide. We could have spent some time trying to access the pole top, but with the full day’s walk ahead of us we moved on.
So a slightly disappointing start, but we feared as much so it didn’t seem that bad.

Our first real cache was the first in the Swan to Canary series. The hint alluded to a sign, which we could see, but we couldn’t see the cache! We looked further afield and eventually found the small magnetic film container attached to a gate. Phew!

Then over the river to an unusual cache – a sidetracked Earthcache. Sidetracked caches are part of a National series where the caches are in or near Railway Stations. This one was near London Bridge Station. However what made it special was the Earthcache qualities. At Ground Zero were 2 lumps of granite, from the London Bridge demolished in the late 1960s. These lumps of granite were mined at Haytor in Devon (we have stayed with http://www.hfholidfays.co.uk half a mile from the mine!) so we felt we had a connection with the cache. Being an Earthcache we had to undertake various scientific analysis of the stones and report our findings to claim the cache find.

Granite from the Previous London Bridge

Granite from the Previous London Bridge

Further along the Southern bank we came to HMS Belfast. Here you can see three great London landmarks together : HMS Belfast, The Tower of London and Tower Bridge. And it’s full of tourists. Lots of them. We thought this would make the next cache hard to find, but given a very accurate hint, and an Oscar-winning ‘tourist impression’ (taking lots of pictures!) the cache was retrieved, signed and replaced before we drew suspicion.

3 London Icons

3 London Icons

We returned to the Northern bank over the tourist filled Tower Bridge, pausing to admire the ‘Girl with a Dolphin’ statue – now showing its age a little, and making sure that the Dickens Inn was where we remembered it to be. (We didn’t go in, but we did frequent it on one of our early dates many years ago!).

Girl with a Dolphin

Girl with a Dolphin


Dickens Inn

Dickens Inn

Our next cache was a little away from the Thames Path, but being part of the Swan/Canary series we thought it would be worth attempting. Sadly GZ was on/near/under a number of concrete bridges, and our GPS never gave us an accurate location. The cache hint gave some idea, but we never really got close. Disappointing as we had drifted a little away from our route to attempt the cache!

Thames Barges, the Shard and Tower Bridge

Thames Barges, the Shard and Tower Bridge

The Northern Bank route took us in a zigzag route from the river, to the streets (Wapping High St) going in front of city apartments and behind wharves closed down many years ago. Eventually we arrived at Wapping Old Steps which led down to the Foreshore. Here, another cache awaited us, a very tightly screwed nano which took both us to unscrew. As we remarked in our previous log, the foreshore is very, very quiet and provides a completely different London atmosphere to the London streets just a few yards away. (Wapping Old Stairs and its foreshore still evoke a different era and appeared as a film location in the 2015 Christmas Edition of “Call the Midwife” – we’re quite sure its appeared in many other films and TV episodes).

Wapping Old Stairs

Wapping Old Stairs

Onward we went with Canary Wharf getting larger with every step we took. Our next cache, was a small nano in a seat. But from the seat we could see a hangman’s noose! We were next to one of London’s oldest pubs The Prospect of Whitby, and outside on the foreshore is a mock-noose celebrating the pub being the hostelry of choice for “hanging” Judge Jeffreys.

Don't hang around too long here!

Don’t hang around too long here!

Our next cache in a small London park was far more tranquil… but the next found us in a tricky predicament. The cache was under a small wooden footbridge which had enough wriggle room to go underneath. We had three futile attempts at wriggling underneath avoiding ‘muggle traffic’ before we found the cache, and foolishly we didn’t take the clip-lock box away from GZ to sign the log. (We like to move a few yards away to deflect interest). We had the cache open, signing the log, with all the trinkets on display when we asked by a small (5 year old?) girl, what we doing. Fortunately her mother appeared and we explained about geocaching. The girl wanted many of the trinkets but we settled on a small pink notebook. Fingers crossed she doesn’t tell others of the ‘treasure hidden beneath the bridge’.

The Swan/Canary series took us to many varied locations including a statue celebrating the work of ropemakers as well some very swanky metal-work (where the cache could only be found by looking in one very specific location).

Celebrating the Ropemakers of London

Celebrating the Ropemakers of London

Eventually the towers of the Canary Wharf complex were above us, and we had one more cache to find.. a Church Micro. This Church micro, newly published, was based on St Peter’s Barge, London’s only floating Church. We found the answers to the clues near the church and walked to the final Ground Zero. Concrete pillars, overhead railway lines meant our GPS couldn’t get us close to the location and we gave up! A slightly poor end to an eventful day’s caching.

St Peter's Barge, London's Floating Church

St Peter’s Barge, London’s Floating Church


Here are some of the caches we found :

Thames Path statistics :

Route length : 3.75 miles
Total distance walked : 178 miles

Caches found : 9
Total caches found : 329

December 4 Thames Path : Vauxhall Bridge to Cannon Street Railway Bridge

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Allo, allo, allo … we were rumbled!

On a bright December morning we resumed our walk down the Thames Path.  It had been so long … assorted commitments had kept us from our Thames Path mission for a whole month … but we were back.

Getting quickly under way with two caches around Vauxhall Bridge and Station, we joined the Thames Path, soon arriving at a small patch of grass, with some seats, overlooking the Thames.  There was a cache here somewhere; but the GPS wouldn’t settle and we spent quite a few minutes searching in, on, and under various likely locations.  We were on the point of giving up when …”Excuse me Sir, what are you doing?”  Oops! We’d been stopped by the police … two of them, a policeman and policewoman.  The geocache description had told us what to do if this should happen …

“This cache is located within an area frequently patrolled by Police & Security. Avoid acting suspiciously when searching, if challenged, explain about Geocaching”

Helping with our enquiries!

Helping with our enquiries!


… so we explained … and then they offered to help us in our search for the cache!  An unexpected outcome, we’d been thinking that a caution was coming!  With so many eyes and hands searching, the cache was soon found.

Westminster Bridge: busy, busy busy

Westminster Bridge: busy, busy busy

Westminster Bridge: security conscious

Westminster Bridge: security conscious

Towards Westminster, the path became busier and busier with throngs of tourists, so busy that we didn’t manage to find the next two caches.  Turning onto Westminster Bridge, there was a HUGE security presence – this was a couple of days after the government decision to take military action in the Middle East.   We turned away from the Houses of Parliament and all those police and roadblocks to set off along the north bank of the Thames.  A little way ahead were red phone boxes; we knew there was a cache inside one of them, but what was happening outside?  A camera was being fixed to a tree, a presenter was doing a piece to another camera, and filming chaos was in progress.  Diversionary activity was called for (from us), so Mr Hg137 engaged the film crew in conversation (it turned out to be a shoot for a fashion blog) while I slipped into the phone box and retrieved and replaced the cache.

Geocache - or fashion shoot?

Geocache – or fashion shoot?

Looking across at the London Eye – we’ve had good times on that before – we strolled on a little way to Cleopatra’s Needle, site of another cache and of an earthcache too.  Once again, this made us look much closer at a monument we’d seen many times before; quite a bit of the questions posed for this cache centre on a bomb which exploded very close to the base of the monument, and caused some damage.   Answers calculated, we paused for lunch in the nearby Embankment Gardens; there was a multicache here, too, but we couldn’t even attempt it as the statue (of a camel) which would have provided the answers had been boarded up to protect it from a nearby Christmas event; there was just the camel’s nose showing above the hoarding; with hindsight, we could have done the research beforehand and not needed the statue.

Spot the camel!

Spot the camel!

After lunch, we crossed back over the river at Waterloo Bridge.  There were caches both sides of the river, but there were two on the south bank that we especially wanted to attempt. They were down on the foreshore, so only accessible at low tide, using metal steps to get down to the shore. We’d checked the tide tables and knew we would be OK (always best to check; there’s a big tidal range on the Thames and the tide comes in – and goes out – at a ferocious speed).  The first was another earthcache, involving “things” to do with rocks on the foreshore, and the second was a conventional cache, but hidden away well below the high tide mark, lashed securely to the bank.  Both were easy to do, but neither of us had anticipated how different it would feel when down on the shore.  The noise of traffic and people dies away, so it is surprisingly quiet … and there is sand!  We weren’t expecting sand.

Back up on the Queen’s Walk and back with the crowds and the noise, we walked on till we reached Tate Modern, with an iconic (and protected) view of St Paul’s Cathedral across the Millenium Bridge.  There was a cache near here, appropriately called ‘Wobbly Bridge’ – the bridge gained that nickname just after it opened, when it swayed rather too much, and had to be speedily closed for strengthening.   We walked across the bridge – it didn’t wobble – as there was a virtual cache just the other side of the bridge, or more correctly, just under the other side of the bridge.  Here was another place we wouldn’t have known about had it not been for geocaching, a new piece of sculpture with at least one item on it that is of interest to geocachers – and that’s the answer to the cache, so no spoilers here!  And that was our last success of the day; we tried, and failed to find a few more caches, ending up once again, in the gathering gloom, on the Thames foreshore very close to Cannon Street Railway Bridge; more about this in the next post; we came back to try again!

Here, in no particular order, are some of the caches we found:
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It seemed like much longer, but it was just three miles!

Thames Path statistics :

Route length : 3 miles
Total distance walked : 174.25 miles

Caches found : 13
Total caches found : 320

October 30 Thames Path : Battersea Railway Bridge to Vauxhall Bridge

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Autumn had well and truly arrived and the plan for this section of the Thames Path geocaching odyssey was to walk downstream towards Westminster, allowing for the usual geocaching diversions, and to see how far we got before weather, dusk or tiredness called an end to the day.

Barbara Hepworth sculpture in Battersea Park

Barbara Hepworth sculpture in Battersea Park


Rejoining the river at Barnes railway bridge, we soon reached our first caching target of the day, Power Station view, which had a good view of the disused Lots Road power station across the river, which used to power the London Undergound. And, admiring the view from just where we wanted to be, was a muggle. We sat down on the nearest bench we could find, and waited … and waited … and finally he picked up his shopping bag and strolled off. Then we moved across to this viewing place and had a very thorough search around before finding the cache thoroughly concealed, just where the muggle had sat!
Further along the towpath, we came to Battersea Park. Having never been there before, I’d imagined it would be just a big flat piece of grass, maybe a bit soggy as it was next to the river. But it is much, much better that that. Yes, there are open areas of grass, but also tree-lined paths, nature areas, a petting zoo, lakes, cafes, boating, statues, the whole lot. There were a few caches of various sizes dotted around the park; some we found, and some we didn’t; this wasn’t a huge surprise, as some of them had been missing for a while, but we felt we had to try …
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And there was one other cache in the park. The starting point was the other side of the river, and the idea was that, if a projectile was fired with a particular velocity, direction, and angle, it would land at GZ. We decided to ‘reverse engineer’ this, and work out the correct location from a reverse bearing and from careful study of previous logs and pictures. It was a good idea, badly carried out; we did a sort of death spiral round the park, taking about an hour, gradually narrowing in on the cache, and doing rather more than one circuit as we did so. It kept us well occupied – what a great idea for a cache!
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Rejoining the towpath where we had entered the park, just two hours after we went in – honour says that we can’t miss out bits of the Thames Path – we set off again, passing between Battersea Park and the Thames on a wide promenade, and pausing in front of a large pagoda. Pagoda??? A little bit of research later told us that it’s one of about 80 around the world, and was offered to London in 1984 by an order of Buddhist monks. ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/content/articles/2008/09/25/battersea_pagoda_feature.shtml )

There was just one more cache to find before leaving the park. It should have been hidden in the wall that separates promenade from riverbank. it wasn’t. We found it on the ground and in the open. Oops – not sure how it could have moved there by itself; we replaced it where it should have been and made sure it was well wedged.

We emerged into the noise and bustle of Chelsea Bridge Road. Immediately ahead, on this south side of the river, was Battersea Power Station, and the Thames Path makes a fairly big diversion around that, so much of the Thames Path down to Vauxhall Bridge isn’t actually by the river; and there aren’t many caches either. Therefore, our plan was to cross the river, to walk along the north side of the river, and then cross back at Vauxhall. Across Chelsea Bridge we went, turning right to walk along Grosvenor Road, with occasional glimpses of the river over a wall. I can’t really say that this was the best half-mile of the walk so far … We paused part way along to grab a Church Micro, Pimlico St Saviour, hidden along the railings of one of those typical London Squares.

As we approached Vauxhall Bridge, we were entering spy territory; the security services are based around here, and many of the caches hereabouts include

“This cache is located within an area frequently patrolled by Police & Security. Avoid acting suspiciously when searching, if challenged, explain about Geocaching”

in their description. So ‘Carry on Spying’, another from the series inspired by the Carry On films, was most appropriate. And we probably looked a bit suspicious while we were searching. The GPS just would not come up with a fixed location (other cachers have wondered if something ‘odd’ happens to GPS signals around here) and we spent a while feeling behind likely objects, before finding the cache within an arm’s length of where the hint said it should be.

To finish the day, we crossed back over the river and made for Vauxhall station, diverting just once more onto the Thames towpath to find ‘Traditional Cache I Spy (A 5th London Landmark)’ As with the first cache today, the last cache also had a muggle, standing just where the cache was likely to be. We decamped to a seat a little way off where we could keep an eye on him from a distance. Eventually he went away and we swooped on the cache.
A good, though not outstanding, day’s caching – and a splendid park.

As usual, here, in no particular order, are some of the caches we found this time:

Thames Path statistics :

Route length : 3.75 miles
Total distance walked : 171.25 miles

Caches found : 8
Total caches found : 307