December 8 : Farnham Park

Farnham Park

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

Sadly for us the series was archived shortly afterwards.

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

Farnham Castle just visible in the tree-line


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

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


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

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

A great place for a cache

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

One of the many streams that criss-cross the Park

Stream jumping was a feature of the next two caches.

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

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

Is there a cache here ?

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

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

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

Have you seen a library like this ?

How many libraries contain these ?

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

On the way to the Farnham Ramble Remembered cache


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

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

A hole-in-one!


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

Other caches we found included :

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October 13 : Smelly Pooch Trackable

We picked up Smelly Pooch on our Sandhurst (Gloucestershire) to Sandhurst (Berkshire) walk.

We had just left Thatcham and yards from both the canal and railway line, was an aptly name cache called ‘Over the Bridge’. Inside the pooch was hankering to be let out, and taken for a walk!

Stinky pooch

Stinky pooch meets our trackable

It was only after we returned home that we read its full mission – it was in a race with two other trackables … to reach Aberdeen. However the winning trackable is not the first trackable to reach Aberdeen. Instead points are awarded (or subtracted) as follows :

– each of the three trackables in the race starts with 100 points

– every cache the trackable visits gains 10 points

– every day it takes to get to Aberdeen a point will be deducted

Now once we read this, we decided to ‘dip’ the trackable in all the caches we visited on our day’s walk (after picking the Pooch up of course). We added 8 caches (80 points) onto its total…and as it had only been placed in the cache just 2 days previously, we didn’t lose it too many points either!

Good luck Pooch… we’ll add some more points to your target before we drop you off!

PS All 3 Trackables started in the Far East in November 2017:

Smelly Pooch is travelling from Thailand to Aberdeen

Tigger (a Tiger) is travelling from Thailand to Shaftesbury

Rocky (a Boar) is travelling from Thailand to Aberdeen

Rocky is trailing in last place at the moment having only visited 14 caches in a year (and is now in Northern Norway). It is very close between Smelly Pooch and Tigger as both have visited about 320 caches each!

Who will win? We don’t know – as both are in the UK at the moment, and anything can happen!

October 13 : Hilly the Hippo

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Hilly the Hippo

Hilly the Hippo

While walking along the Kennet and Avon canal between Thatcham and Aldermaston, we stopped to find a cache, which contained the ‘Hilly the Hippo’ trackable. It’s a special edition trackable, given out as a gift at Mike Hill’s first geocaching event, and printed (I assume) with his photo. Hilly’s mission is to

‘ visit as many different caches as possible both here in the UK and abroad and hopefully return home again one day’

Since May 2017, Hilly the Hippo has travelled just under a thousand miles. We’ll take with us for a little while and then drop it in a suitable cache to send it on its way.

Editor’s note: We found a small tartan elephant keyring in the cache with the trackable. We weren’t sure if they were attached to each other – they weren’t at the time of finding – but we have clipped them together as it is less likely for the trackable to be lost if it is attached to something larger (it’s happened to us!)

August 3 : Birthday buzz tag

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

On a ridiculously hot – 32C – day in early August, we were walking along the Ridgeway and stopped to find a multi-cache. Inside was this trackable. Its simple mission:

To go anywhere and everywhere a man or woman or child may go!! Take me to new exciting places!!

Birthday buzz tag

Birthday buzz tag


It’s doing that rather well. Setting off from Washington, in the north-western USA, in May 2016, it travelled around that area for a bit, visiting Idaho and Seattle. Next, the bee flew 5000 miles east to the Netherlands, circled that country for a little while, then hopped over the English Channel. It went on a grand tour of Cornwall, visiting moors and tin mines, before being picked up by Crumpit’s Dad, and moved on to Dorset, via a visit to Tyneham deserted village, and then a brief trip to Wokingham, just a few miles from us. Crumpit’s Dad is a local cacher – local to us, that is – and we’ve met both him and his wee white dog, Crumpit. Finally, the trackable went for a walk along the Ridgeway in Oxfordshire and was dropped off at the White Horse, overlooking Uffington and the Vale of the White Horse.

And there we found it. I wonder where we Will take it? We have somewhere suitable in mind and it’ll be buzzing along to a new location soon.

August 3 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Uffington to Sparsholt Firs (Ridgeway)

“Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” – Noel Coward

A six mile walk. In a 30+ degree heat. A very steep climb to the Ridgeway. And 26 caches.

Were we mad ?

In fact our first two caches were not part of our six mile route. They were hidden close to the village of Uffington. The first was a cache in the ‘Village Sign’ series. This cache was a multi, and we had worked out the coordinates on our previous visit to Uffington, but not collected the cache. As we entered Uffington, we pulled over in a small car park and wondered whether the car and driver in the car park was another cacher. It wasn’t. It was a salesman busy making call after call while we hunted, just out of his eyesight. A quick find – one down, twenty five to go !!

First cache of the day!

Our second Uffington cache was a puzzle cache we had solved a few days previously. With very little information supplied in ‘Terse Puzzle’ GC36970 we had somehow solved it quite quickly. Parking the car, locating the cache and driving away took much, much, longer…

We parked the car easily enough and walked into the wood containing the cache. We arrived within 10 feet of the cache and looked at several host items. The first three were barely large enough to hold anything, let alone a cache, and it took us sometime to see the actual host. Guarded by 3 foot, slightly desiccated, stinging nettles.
A few minutes search and the cache was ours. It was last found at the beginning of March, and the previous finder had remarked about snow… we remarked about the 30 degree heat !

Then we heard voices. We tidied away the cache quickly and walked out of the woods to the voices. It was a farmer and his wife trying to coax 70+ cows from one field, across a road, passing our car, and into another field. The cows didn’t want to. Whether it our parked car that spooked them… we don’t know. After a few minutes we offered to help – we blocked one side of the road and the farmer stood the other and the wife coaxed the cows across. Some cows looked at us suspiciously … especially Mrs Hg137’s red shirt!

We are not MOOOving!

And so after two caches, one salesman and 70+ cows we parked the car at the start of the walk.

It was 1030 and although we hadn’t ‘started’ our walk, there was a seat and a quick coffee break was agreed. It was at this point Mr Hg137 realised there was no milk in the coffee! It was black! And we both take it white!
For once, lady luck smiled upon us. Next to the car park, was the village shop. We decided against buying a pint of milk, since it would have to be carried in a rucksack all day and it would be cheese by midday. So, powdered milk it was.

Sitting, drinking our coffee we could see much of our route. A flattish mile or so’s walk to the Ridgeway slope, a fierce up, a walk WESTWARDS to White Horse Hill and Uffington Castle, then retracing our steps heading EASTWARDS to the car.

Easy.

Apart from the heat.

High on the hillside.. the Uffington White Horse

We set off, through a playing field and then numerous farmer’s fields. Each separated to the next by a mixed bag of stiles. Some tall, some wobbly, some covered in brambles, all different. The White Horse (high above us) became closer and more distinct, until we lost it, when we entered woodland and our next cache. We didn’t really have to search for it, as it hadn’t been well hidden. Fortunately a quick find, as a dog walker was yards behind us. She only caught us up as we were ‘finishing business’ at the next cache (a false stone). She headed off across a campsite, where a mixture of brightly coloured tents and tepees had been pitched.

We crossed the not-very-busy B4507 and started to climb. Within yards should have been a cache 5 feet up a tree. We failed to find it. We took on water, as our very steep ascent was about to start.

Sneaky!

About halfway up was another cache, cleverly hidden in a ‘false branch’ – welcome respite from the puffing and panting of a 400 foot steep (at times 45 degree) ascent.

Halfway…up this steep slope!


The path levelled near a gate and – as one comes to expect – so does a cache. Not quite where we were expecting it to be, but a straightforward find. A few more feet of climbing on a far gentler slope and we arrived at the Ridgeway… and another cache.

A bison.

Hanging on the ‘Ridgeway footpath sign’.

Mr Hg137’s hands were sweaty, and as he unscrewed the base…it slipped through his fingers. Amongst stinging nettles and brambles. We searched the ground. We parted the brambles. We poked and prodded the nettles. But no bison base could we find. The bison base, contained the log, which we had yet to sign. Twenty minutes later we gave up our search. We would be returning past here later so we could search again.

Whoops! Just the top half of the bison remains

We headed West, to the top of White Horse Hill. A fabulous viewpoint. We undertook two caches at the top – the first an Earthcache based on the formation of The Manger – a curious dry valley formation.

The Manger

Our second cache, a multi, involved collecting numbers from three different signs, and calculating a set of co-ordinates. Fortunately the final cache was only a short walk away, and a large container too. We found a ‘bee’ trackable which we hived off for release elsewhere on our journey. We had loaded a couple of other caches near the White Horse Hill, but the high temperature put us off walking further than we absolutely had to.

Is this really a horse ?

The White Horse we had seen from afar is barely visible at the top of the hill. The chalk body is roped off (to prevent vandals/erosion), so we couldn’t get close to it. Uffington Castle is an Iron Age hillfort surrounded by ditches. It is still very impressive to walk around, and with views in all directions one can see why it was so important in years gone by.

Mrs Hg137 walks around the ramparts of Uffington Castle

Our route back to the car was a 3 mile walk along the Ridgeway. It is an ancient trackway, perhaps 5,000 years old linking Avebury (in Wiltshire) to Ivinghoe Beacon (Buckinghamshire).

The Ridgeway is a Bridleway

We walked the full 87 miles back in 2012. Indeed we found our first geocache towards the Eastern end of the Ridgeway (a large ammo can hidden in yew tree roots).

The Ridgeway is predominantly a chalk ridge with extensive views over Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Much of the Oxfordshire views has one, major feature – Didcot Power Station. Originally it had 6 towers, – three were brought down a few years ago, the remaining three are due for demolition shortly.

The 3 remaining towers of Didcot Power Station are just visible in the haze


Despite the Ridgeway being a chalk ridge – frequently the views are obscured by trees either side of the track. These trees provided excellent hiding places for our remaining caches. Sometimes in the boles, sometimes in ivy, and because of the quantity of trees, frequently hard to find the correct tree.

We had searched (unsuccessfully) a second time for our dropped bison, but fortunately found the other caches we attempted. Looking for a cache in a tree was an excellent way of finding cool shadows on this baking hot day.

Hot chalk, lots of trees, but little shade

Eventually we stopped and took stock of progress.

We had a just over a mile to go, and 10 caches to find. We were hot, our water bottles were getting low, and time had slipped by as the day had gone on (the cow crossing, buying milk, a lost bison, and slower and slower searches). We decided to change our searching strategy.

We would attempt every third cache until we reached our car. This would increase our walking pace, and our search time would be reduced.

We walked by, and looked longingly at, two likely hosts and arrived at our first ‘third’ cache. Could we find it ? No. We searched high, low, in ivy, in branches. Nothing. We agreed to attempt the next cache, in its place. Same again.. high, low, nothing. So much for saving time and energy.

The next cache was successful as well as the very next one (the second ‘third’). A final push and we’d be near the car for our final cache of the day..until…until… we saw a waterbutt. Next to the path. Waterbutts are often used to hide caches… yes we were 10 feet from a cache (hint ‘underwater’). Our fried brains meant it took us two circuits of the butt to find the cache and as we did so, we noticed above the butt… a tap. A drinking water tap.
We filled our bottles, doused our hair, drank and drank and drank.


The tap was a memorial to Peter Wren, who died at the very tender age of 14.

Revived, we had bounce in our step for the last quarter of a mile. A final quick find under a signpost and we collapsed in a heap by our car.

Last cache of the day

“Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”

A six mile walk. In a 30+ degree heat. A very steep climb to the Ridgeway. 21 caches attempted, 18 found.

Were we mad ?

Probably.

Some of the caches we found included :

July 13 : Mega Devon 2017 Trackable Tag

We discovered this trackable in the Wombles Signature Cache.

In fact there were two other trackables in the cache, and we were spoilt for choice. Which should we take ? Should we take all 3 ? In the end we decided to take this trackable for 2 reasons – it was the smallest (and therefore easiest to hide in a cache), and we had been to the Devon Mega last year – and really enjoyed it!

The Devon Mega had taken place early August 2017 at Bicton Park near Otterton and we had spent a couple of days caching both on our own and following the hundreds of cachers from cache to cache.

Bicton Park – home of 2017 Devon Mega

The trackable we found was used to promote the event and started its journey nearly 18 months ago. It was initially placed in a cache near Princeton on Dartmoor. There it remained for 2 months, unfound, but then got discovered and visited various caches in Devon and Cornwall (Including Bude, Sennen Cove near Land’s End, and Combe Martin about halfway between Ilfracombe and Lynton.) It had one objective to attend the Devon Mega in August.

Did it achieve its objective ?

Sadly no.

In mid July 2017, it had been placed in a cache in Dartmoor – close to where it started – but sadly it stayed there for a month and missed the Mega! Thereafter the trackable stayed in the West Country with two exceptions, brief trips to Northern France and Turkey! This return journey to Turkey added nearly 4000 miles to its distance – which is the majority of its 5300 miles it has so far travelled.

One other interesting fact about the tag was that it was initially found by cacher ‘Chudleigh Traveller’ who enjoyed its company for its first month (before placing it in a cache in May 2017). Chudleigh Traveller re-found the trackable at an cacher’s meet in November 2017, and again took it caching for a few weeks. Amazingly Chudleigh Traveller found the tag a third time in March 2018, and once again, a few weeks later placed it in a cache – this time the Wombles Signature cache, where it has been for the last few months.

We can’t promise to take you to Devon, little tag… but we will move you on soon!

May 22 : Fearless Traveler !

During our second visit to Chester we discovered this delightful trackable ‘Fearless Traveler! ‘

Fearless Traveler!

As you may guess from the title, it emanates from America. It started its journey in Illinois back in April 2015 and quickly galloped to the Western side of Canada based in and around Vancouver. It also visited caches not too far from the American border, before heading to Ottawa where it pranced for some time from cache to cache. Interestingly the trackable never made it back into America, but instead headed for the UK.

The first British cache it was placed in, was one we had found back in March 2015 when we walked the Thames Path. It had been placed in a cache called ‘Mosaic Trail – Fishes’ at Newbridge. (Interestingly the cache, if our memory is correct, is a 35mm film canister..so how the horse got into its British Stable, we are not sure).

Thereafter its British journey headed North West to the Chester area where we found it!

We will release it when we find a suitably large cache for it to enjoy the British Countryside!