December 31 – Review of the Year – Cache highlights

About three-quarters of the caches we found during 2015 were on our walk along the Thames Path. (The majority of the remainder were found on short walks around Surrey and the Isle of Wight).

Here in no particular order are some of the best Thames caches we found. Enjoy!


Thank you for reading our blogs during 2015 – we hope you enjoyed them. We’ve been asked what our next challenge is, at the moment we are undecided. But our biggest challenge is what to do with this blog… as we’ve loaded it so full of pictures we’re nearing 90% full !

Have a great caching 2016!

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

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Allo, allo, allo … we were rumbled!
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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 concious

Westminster Bridge: security concious

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.
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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!
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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!
IMG_0996 paintFurther 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 )
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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:
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Thames Path statistics :

Route length : 3.75 miles
Total distance walked : 171.25 miles

Caches found : 8
Total caches found : 307

October 2 Thames Path : Hampton Court to Richmond

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Up, up and away …

Hampton Court Bridge

Hampton Court Bridge


We had got a good long section of the Thames Path to do, from Hampton Court, past Hampton Court Palace, Kingston on Thames, onto the tidal Thames at Teddington, then Twickenham, and finally to Richmond on Thames. That’s a lot of “stuff” to fit into a walk, even before a few geocaches were added to the mix!

We had (luckily) chosen a beautiful sunny day, just as it was at the end of June when we visited the Hampton Court Flower Show; but it was so, so much cooler; it had been 33C that day and today was much more pleasant, a lovely warm autumn day.

Hampton Court Palace - well hidden behind giant railings

Hampton Court Palace – well hidden behind giant railings


Leaving Hampton Court station, it was but a few yards to the bridge over the Thames, where we grabbed the first cache of the day before setting off on the big loop of towpath past Hampton Court Palace. There was a theme to the first few caches – Catherine of Aragon / Carry on Henry / Anne Boleyn / Hampton Court Garden Gateway – which was all very appropriate with the palace just over the towpath wall.

We swiftly moved on to the next three caches, which we was eagerly anticipated. All three were tree climbs. We are not especially good at any cache that isn’t on the ground, and trees – well, best not to dwell on that. I volunteered for the first tree climb. It was quite some way up, and part of it used a fixed rope; Mr Hg137’s arm had healed well since he broke it in May, but it probably wasn’t yet up to climbing ropes. Up I went. It seemed very much further up than it had from the ground.

It's up there!

It’s up there!


I wasn’t conscious of it, but I’m told that I repeated “you can do this … you can do this … you can do this” over and over throughout the entire episode!
You can do it!

You can do it!


After what seemed like several days but was probably about five minutes, I reached the top of the rope, and then a small extra climb and a couple of desperate lunges allowed me to grab the cache. I was about six metres up the tree (not that I was looking down). Then I dropped the cache lid … ouch. Mr Hg137 ably came to the rescue. I climbed down a bit, and he held up the lid, poised on a fully extended geopole held above his head. After what seemed like several more days, but was probably another five minutes, I had replaced the cache and abseiled back down the rope, and had my feet back on the ground. After some patting myself on the back and congratulating myself, we set off again; but my knees no longer seemed to belong to me, and I was talking gibberish, (even more than normal); I assume it was the spare adrenalin left over from the tree climb; things returned to ‘normal’ after a few minutes.

The other two tree climbs were ably performed by Mr Hg137. He has longer legs than me and could easily manage to jam himself between tree trunks and climb upwards. It seemed as if those caches were retrieved within seconds, but it wasn’t me up the trees! How the perception of time does vary, depending on what you are doing!

Raven's Ait and Kingston

Raven’s Ait and Kingston


Another cache brought us to Kingston Bridge, and here we diverted from the Thames just for a few minutes to take in an Earth cache, ‘Where England Began’, which was a sarsen stone that participated in the coronation of seven Anglo-Saxon kings. We would never have found this by ourselves, and it was an unexpected pleasure to walk through Kingston market on a busy Friday and to see the throngs of people enjoying the riverside.
The Coronation Stone

The Coronation Stone


Teddington Lock is a little way downstream from Kingston. This is a big, big point on the Thames as it marks the point where the Thames becomes tidal, with a big, big lock, too. Here, too, is a terrain 5 cache (the hardest), ‘Treeless T5 in Teddington: Look Out at the Lock’, hidden somewhere on a wooden structure mid-river; we looked, but didn’t attempt, as we hadn’t brought either a boat or waders. Once below the lock, beside tidal water, the river was visibly different, with gravelly shoals at low tide and then filling with fast moving brown water: quite a difference.
Long, long Teddington Lock

Long, long Teddington Lock


There were more caches along the riverside as we walked between Teddington, Twickenham, and Richmond. We didn’t find all of them, only four out of seven, and we assumed at the time that we were flagging / useless / looking in the wrong place / any of those; it wasn’t that, they had gone missing and have since been replaced. Failure is always more tiring than success, and we were really pleased when Richmond Bridge came into sight, and we headed back to the station to start our journey home. It had been a superbly varied caching day (oh, how varied!) on such a beautiful day.
Richmond Bridge

Richmond Bridge


Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 8.5 miles
Total distance walked : 156.45 miles
Caches found : 13 Total caches found : 286
Some of the caches included :
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September 26 – NORMA

During our last section of the Thames Path (Walton to Hampton Court) we found a trackable.

Most of the trackables we’ve found have been a ‘trackable dog tag’ with the unique trackable number etched into it, and an object attached to it.

NORMA

NORMA


This trackable was different as it was only the dog tag. These pieces of metal are relatively small, lightweight, and easily dropped if one empties a cache heavy-handedly.

We took the trackable with the intention of adding something to the keyring. We accept this might not be what the owner wanted… but it might prevent it being lost. (Incidentally, one of our trackables consisting of a large Scrabble rack has not been found or moved on in 6 months. We suspect it might be lost… so maybe size doesn’t matter!)

Anyway NORMA is relatively new, starting its journey near Ipswich back in May 2015. Its mission, like to many trackables, is to visit lots of places but ideally Norway. Its journey from Ipswich to London is clearly in the wrong direction! Whoops!

September 26 Thames Path : Walton to Hampton Court

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Between a Hard Place and a Tricky Place …
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Today’s section of the Thames Path comprised starting at Walton, at the free parking we used last time round, downstream to Hampton Court, and then catching the train back to Walton and walking the mile or so back to the river. Sounded simple.

Charity cyclists

Charity cyclists


Setting off from Walton Bridge on a clear, cool, crisp autumn day, we turned aside almost immediately to look for ‘A Hard Place’, a cache hidden amongst bridge arches. Well, that’s where it’s said to be, but we couldn’t find it. Back to the river, and there were some cyclists about. Actually there were a LOT of cyclists about. Mr Hg137 paused to interview some of them (he does this a lot!) and found that they were cycling, off-road, from London to Brighton to raise money for the BHF charity. After not very long, dodging the waves of cyclists got a bit wearing and we turned gratefully aside to look for a cache just off the towpath. It was ‘Carry on don’t lose your head’, one of the ‘Carry on Caching’ series planted to commemorate the films; this one was placed close to Old Manor House in Walton, which was once owned by one of the people who signed the death warrant of King Charles I – he was beheaded, so it was a neat tie in between cache, film, and location.
Old Manor House, Walton on Thames

Old Manor House, Walton on Thames


Back on the towpath, there were not quite so many people on bikes, and we collected three more caches Weir 1, 2, and 3. This gave Mr Hg137 an opportunity for some grovelling on the ground… While doing this, we found a trackable, Norma, and also found the first stage for a multi-cache, ‘Sunbury Church Ait’.
Where is that cache?

Where is that cache?


Multi-caches are, as you’d guess, formed of multiple stages, with clues at each stage which combine together to provide the location of the final cache. This particular cache had just one intermediate stage, for which we were grateful – we don’t have a stunningly good record with multi-caches. And we didn’t have high hopes for this particular cache, as it hadn’t been found for a while. The clue led us onto one of the aits (islands) on the Thames, and into the undergrowth. A not-especially-long search found the cache. We were clever / lucky – hooray!
Gloriana

Gloriana


There was a flash of gold from the river, and, emerging on the bank, we saw … Gloriana, HM the Queen’s royal barge http://www.glorianaqrb.org.uk By the time we had rejoined the towpath and walked to Sunbury Lock, the barge was there, too, waiting for the lock. And it seemed as if the world had stopped, and a reverential hush had fallen; along with the host of people who had appeared, as if from nowhere, we stopped to watch the spectacle of Gloriana descending the lock and moving away towards London. Sometime during this, a man dressed as a Smurf ran by, and folk barely noticed!
A passing Smurf!

A passing Smurf!


We had mixed fortunes on the remainder of the five caches we attempted before arriving at Hampton Court. We found just two, though in mitigation I’d say that one cache was overrun with muggles, we cut short the search for another to rush for a train, and one was hidden in ivy – we’re rubbish with ivy! A train ride brought us back to Walton on Thames, where we failed to find yet another cache, one of the ‘Sidetracked’ series. It seemed a long, long mile back to the river (maybe we were getting tired). We found two more caches, ‘Centenarian plus3’ and ‘Carry on Doctor’ – another in the ‘Carry On’ series’.
Flying by the river

Flying by the river


And then the final cache of the day ‘A Tricky Place’ . Another one we didn’t find. It was quite difficult, a difficulty/terrain 4/4 and we worked out that it was hidden under a footbridge, but we didn’t have waders or a boat with us, so we decided to stay dry and leave that particular cache for others.

Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 3.6 miles
Total distance walked : 147.95 miles
Caches found : 9 Total caches found : 273
Some of the caches included :
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September 13 : Thames Path Staines to Walton

In which we are given an unexpected gift, accidentally prevent a cache from being found and ring a bell to catch a boat!

Staines Bridge, the start of our walk

Staines Bridge, the start of our walk


Prior to most of our caching trips, we undertake research. In the case of the Thames Path we research where to park at the start and/or finish and how to return to any parked cars at the end of the walk – ideally without incurring the large car parking fees associated with being close to the River Thames.
Our research today found several free, yes free, parking spaces near Walton Bridge, our intended destination. Better still there was a bus service that would take us to Staines where our walk would start. Excellent! Not only that but the car parking spot was very easy to drive to (about 5 minutes from the M3!).

While we were waiting at the bus stop – or more correctly double-checking we were at the correct bus stop, we were approached by a local resident in his front garden.

“I’ve something you might like”.
“Oh” we replied unenthusiastically (our minds were thinking about a bus due in a minute or so time).
I see you’ve got a walking pole… would you like two more
Er..”
I’ll just go and get them”

A few seconds passed. We looked at each other anxiously, one eye at each other, one eye looking for a bus and our third(!) eye at the gentleman’s front garden…

Here you are.. some local youths threw them in my garden some weeks back. They didn’t want them..do you?”

We took them. He accepted no money for them. A pair of practically new walking poles. What a start to our day! Just as we were trying to collect our thoughts along came the bus for our short trip to Staines.

At Staines, or as we have mentioned before, Staines-upon-Thames, we made our way from the bus station to the river. But not before our first cache of the day, under a seat near the war memorial. With two seats to choose it shouldn’t have taken us too long to find the nano.. sadly it did!

Within yards of resuming our walk along the Thames Path we encountered several monuments, statues and sculptures. Modern sculptures, the original London Stone marking London’s original jurisdiction of the Thames as well as a heron and a swan-upper .. all with yards of each other. None of them hid any caches though!

Our 8 mile route had few caches on the Thames Path, so after a couple of miles we broke off to visit the town/village of Laleham. Here was a church micro hidden near a very un-church-like location – a litter bin!

Our third cache on was back on the Thames, and quick easy find in a broken pole end. As we sat on a nearby seat, we became aware of runners coming towards us. They were in a race ! (Our previous Thames visit had something similar). This time we could just about read information on the tabards.. it was the Thames Path Challenge. http://www.thamespathchallenge.com. People were running (100km or 50 km) or walking 25km of the Thames Path coming straight for us! We gave a few a cheer as they went by, but our main efforts were dodging out of their way!

Looks hard work to us!

Looks hard work to us!

Nice hats!

Nice hats!


Eventually the path opened out to a wider green area, where our next target cache was to be found. “A bolt with a view” was the description so we knew what we were looking for.. a bolt. We spent ages looking for it, all the time being aware of a set of muggles arriving in the car park. We checked all the obvious metalwork to no avail, then we looked in a tree (really.. we did!) and back to the metalwork. Aha! Got it! Unscrew it, sign the log..and repla…bother the muggles are now trying to get the pay and display machine to work in direct eye-line of the cache. Lets wait!

We waited… and waited.. how long does it take to work a machine ? We waited.. Lets have lunch and replace it later. We made our way to a nearby picnic table and started to munch.

Some time later we were aware of two people with two dogs near the pay machine. Had they just arrived ? Are they paying ? Are they exercising their dogs for a short walk ? No, they are looking for something. They are checking metalwork… and look they are checking the tree too… they must be cachers… and we have the cache next to our Cheese and Onion crisps. Whoops!

We ran over, well Mr Hg137 did, and discovered that they were indeed geocachers. We apologised for holding the cache (explaining why of course) and we jointly replaced it. It had been 5 months since the last geocachers we had seen (in Oxford) so it was a real pleasure to meet huskyhustlers1 and their husky dogs!

HuskyHustlers looking for the cache

HuskyHustlers looking for the cache


We eventually finished our interrupted lunch and then continued on the Thames Path. By now the trickle of charity runners/walkers was a steady flow, which meant finding the next two caches a tad tricky. The path was at its narrowest and only just wide enough for two people to pass – so trying to locate two simple caches (one hidden in Armco, the other in a tree) was a bit of a squeeze.
Shepperton Lock

Shepperton Lock


We then had a long section to our next cache situated at Shepperton Lock (which we would have found a bit quicker if we’d had read the cache title!). Before we got there, we walked around a water meadow (we guess a euphemism for “flood plain”!). These meadows had become much scarcer approaching London, and according to the guide-book we are using, this was to be the last.

Immediately after Shepperton Lock the Thames Path splits for the first time on our journey. The Northern bank route follows paths and pavements, slightly away from the Thames, for about 1.5 miles to Walton Bridge. The Southern bank route is a little shorter and follows the riverside all the way to Walton. The actual river more correctly follows the Northern route but with so many meanders, the flow of the river was so poor in the 1930s that a separate water channel, the Desborough Cut was built.

The Southern bank route follows the Desborough Cut and from our caching perspective, 2 more caches.

However to get to the Southern bank we needed to cross. There is no bridge, just a ferry. Although the ferry runs for much of the day, it is a request service. Every quarter of an hour the ferryman is summoned by ringing a bell. We waited 8 minutes for the appointed time, and rang the bell.

Ring the Bell...Catch the Ferry!

Ring the Bell…Catch the Ferry!


Nobody came. We waited.

Some ten minutes the ferryman appeared and soon our 2 minute boat crossing was complete.

Here's the Ferry!

Here’s the Ferry!


One of the two caches we had to find was a puzzle cache based on a ‘safe combination’ we’d solved before leaving and another hidden somewhere deep in fallen tree-trunk, overgrown, nettly area. This was to be our only DNF of the day.

The Southern route was very much quieter as the charity runners/walkers were on the Northern bank. It was therefore a great shock to see hundreds of walkers going over Walton Bridge when we arrived there! Our last cache, with our best view of the river all day, was found with many of the walkers right behind us!

Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 8.1 miles
Total distance walked : 144.35 miles

Caches found : 9 Total caches found : 264
Some of the caches included :