November 3: Trackables – so many trackables!

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

On our caching trip around Lightwater, we found five (yes, FIVE!) trackables. They are a varied collection: from the 500g / 1 pound bunch of keys to a tiny little Lego man.

Trackables by the trayful!

Trackables by the trayful!


Welcome to Keys!, Sir Legalot, Great Britain Rocks, I’m GROOT, and Maman Souris. Five trackables with varying ages and missions, and each one will get a post over the next few days.

November 3 : Lightwater

The 2019 Autumn is fast becoming a damp squib, every day seems to have rain forecast, or if not sullen grey skies. Planning a geocaching trip is like playing poker with the weather – and frequently being on the losing side.

Today though we were lucky. We were in Lightwater, a small town in Northern Surrey. It is surrounded by the M3 on one side, a busy dual-carriageway on a second side and a cut-through fast single carriage-way on a third. The fourth side is the edge of MOD Army Ranges. With all these outside influences, we were very surprised how quiet the village is.

We planned on attempting 9 caches, and we parked near the first – a Travel Bug Hotel. We were lucky with our parking, as there were spaces for just 6 cars – we were the fifth – and before we had even left the car two more cars arrived which overfilled the car park.

Most of our route was on pavements but the first half mile or so, was in a bridleway (get the mud out of the way at the beginning). Not unsurprisingly, given the cars in the car park, this bridleway was busy. Dog walkers and toddler walkers all out for a welcome walk in the sunshine. Three dog walkers stood and chatted near to the first cache. We swiftly picked the container from behind a tree and walked on to a side path.

Where have all the dog walkers gone ?


It was a travelbug hotel, but the geocaching website, said there were no trackables inside. This was borne out by an empty large plastic container, marked ‘TBs’ inside the cache. But there was something else in the cache that caught our eye – in fairness we couldn’t miss it. A giant morass of keys! Was this a ‘key cache’ where finders were expected to ‘add a key to the ring’ ? We mused on this for a minute or two, until we noticed that the giant key ring was a trackable!

Cache with keys!


We decided to remove it from the cache and take it on our travels. Unusually we didn’t have a haversack with us, so rather than carry the 1lb key ring on our 3 mile walk, Mr Hg137 returned to the car and left it there.

We continued on the bridlepath, the November sun picking out the Autumn leaf colours. At the far end of the path, there was another cache – part of the National Postcode series. This was cache 89, for the GU18 post area. A quick find, once we saw the hint object, and negotiated a holly tree sapling!

The rest of walk followed a clockwise pavement walk around Lightwater. Our next cache has been marked with a DNF by the previous cacher. We were therefore pleasantly surprised to see the cache in silhouette behind some street furniture yards before arriving at GZ. (We later discovered that the previous cacher had found just 1 cache, so presumably was expecting something more exciting that the magnetic nano).

One of the many copses in Lightwater


Up to now the caches had been easy, but the fourth cache led us a merry dance. Called ‘The Truth is a Lemon Meringue’ it was hidden in one of the many end-of-road corner copses we saw on our walk. The GPS wouldn’t settle and we assumed it would be in the middle of this copse. Fighting our way through branches and rubbish, we couldn’t see the hint item at all (‘Tri-Tree’). Mrs Hg137 left the copse and tried to get an accurate distance and bearing with Mr Hg137 battling his way trying to match Mrs Hg137’s outstretched hand. Still nothing. Then Mr Hg137 saw the tree, on the outside of the copse yards from where Mrs Hg137 was standing ! She managed to retrieve the cache before Mr Hg137 had left the copse! So much for believing it would be hidden deep in the woods!

We were deep in Lightwater’s housing estates now, and the bright Sunday morning had brought several people out busying themselves in their gardens. A surprising number were cutting and trimming trees and hedges.

Our next cache was in a tree – or so we thought. ‘Ivy covered tree’ as the hint, and two trees to search (one each). We groaned. Ivy hides are hard. Mr Hg137 got lucky as the cache was hidden not in the ivy, but close to his tree. Inside … our second trackable of the day – a Lego Man! Considerably smaller than the trackable keys, so we were able to place in a pocket.

Lightwater is criss-crossed by streams


We had a long-ish walk to the centre of the town. Or should that be village ? Because Lightwater has a beautiful village sign (number 1493 in the National Series). Nearby were two seats, and our next cache was under one of them. This should have taken no time at all, but somehow it took two circuits of the seats to find the cache!

All Saints Church, Lightwater


Our only failure of the day was at the nearby All Saints Church. Unusually for a cache in the Church Micro series, it was a standard cache, rather than a multi based on service times or gravestone dates. Yet, we couldn’t find the cache. We read that this cache does have a chequered history as it seems to got missing more often than it is available to be found. It has been replaced twice in the last 2 months ! Reluctantly we moved on to our final caches of the day.

As we did so, we noted that the brilliant sunshine of earlier had been replaced by ever-darkening clouds. Fortunately we were headed towards our car. Our penultimate cache was in another roadside copse. Lots of trees, and a familiar story, of taking far too long to find the tell-tale ‘stickoflage’. It was so well hidden Mr Hg137 stood within a yard of the cache and didn’t notice it!

Cache containing 3 Trackables


A pleasant surprise awaited us … there were three trackables inside. We had found 7 caches, and 5 trackables. What a haul!

The imminent threat of rain had eased slightly but even so we hurried to our last find of the morning – this time hidden behind a road sign. In fact it was so well wedged in the roadsign, Mrs Hg137 used her trusty penknife to release it, and remove the log from the tiny container.

A short walk back the car, laden with trackables, and we drove off. Not a moment too soon as raindrops appeared on the windscreen as we reached the centre of Lightwater. We looked at Village Sign one last time, and noticed by the roadside, waiting to cross the road, in broad daylight was a fox. Great to see …and so unusual to see in the middle of the day. A fantastic end to a morning’s caching in Lightwater.

Some of the caches we found :

April 21 : Barrow Wake

What a day we were having!

Hazy View from Barrow Wake

A glorious walk between Barrow Wake and Colesbourne, and we had found 3 trackables too.

But we had one more cache to find, back at Barrow Wake.

We drove back from Colesbourne to the starting car park at Barrow Wake and our other car.

A few weeks previously we had solved a very clever puzzle cache and its final location was near the car park. (Well nearish, the 3/4 mile seemed an awful lot longer after a long day’s walking).

The puzzle looked like this :

Now there are two ways to solve this puzzle. The first, is to find a Rubik’s Cube you may have about the house, stick 54 small squares on it, so that the original Rubik’s cube has been masked, and then solve as a standard Rubik’s puzzle. (Mr Hg137 can’t do them, Mrs Hg137 can!).

Or… there is another way.

Editorial constraints forbid me from telling you the other way.. but with both of us working simultaneously, after an hour’s brainwork we agreed an answer.

So we wanted to find this cache. After a long day, our aching limbs at first rebelled, but soon recovered especially once we had the cache in hand.

Now, some puzzle caches can be a disappointment. Tremendous effort can be put into the solve and the final container is a nano or a film canister. This cache was different, a bulging container full of goodies!

A great end to a great day!

February 18 – BACK HAMBURG-2

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

While walking along the Downs Link Way, a disused railway, now a long distance footpath, we stopped to find the neatest, tidiest cache ever. And inside was this trackable.

It’s one of three, released in Fuerteventura in the Canary Isles in October 2016 by caching friends Schnitta, Mauerwache, and O.o.Z. The idea was for them to race back home to Hamburg. How did they all do? Unfortunately, ‘our’ trackable has already lost the race. The other two trackables have travelled at least 10,000 miles each, have been back to Hamburg at least once, and are still in Germany.

This trackable has only travelled 2,500 miles and is not back in Germany yet. It was brought to England from the Canary Isles and has been there ever since, travelling via Yorkshire and Dorset to the Surrey Hills where we found it. Though the race is lost, we’ll continue the intention of the race and move the trackable on to somewhere suitable – maybe a travel bug hotel near an airport, possibly Gatwick, if we can find one.

November 26 Fred Bull’s Hamster Tag Blau

Some trackables are really exciting to hold or look at. A beautiful and heavy geocoin, perhaps or even a plastic duck.

Imagine then when the trackable we found in Hampshire Driveby Series, is only a piece of paper!

Fred Bull's Hamster Tag Blau

Fred Bull’s Hamster Tag Blau


The owner, Fred Bull, did in fairness own a geocoin, with a picture of a walking hamster. For about 2 years Fred Bull took the geocoin on their own geocaching adventures. In that time Fred Bull visited many caches throughout the Europe.

Eventually Fred Bull decided to keep the geocoin and send a piece of paper in its place. The paper trackable was then taken around the world, including the last remaining Project APE cache in Brazil.

(There were only 12 Project APE caches released, to tie in with the Planet of the Apes film release in 2001. The majority of the caches are in America, the one in the UK (London/Kent borders) went missing ion 2002.)

In its many adventures, Fred Bull’s Hamster Tag Blau has rarely visited the UK. We will endeavour to place it somewhere iconic.

Travel bugs and how to log them

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here again.

As two of the three trackables we picked up recently have had a ’chequered’ past – going missing for months or years, only to turn up by chance, or in another country, I thought it would be a good idea to post the official geocaching site’s instructions on how to log a Travel Bug, once found. The full description can be found at https://www.geocaching.com/track/howto.aspx but the bit relating to logging a recently found trackable is here:

Picking up a Travel Bug
A Travel Bug is usually a dog tag that is attached to a “hitchhiker,” or an item that travels from place to place. If you found a Travel Bug the first thing you need to do is “grab” it online so you can add your own story to its journey.

Step 1. Get the Tracking Number

In order to log your find and “grab” the Travel Bug, you first need to locate the Bug’s tracking number. The number is normally on the dog tag that is attached to the item, or, in the case of Geocoins, is stamped on the item somewhere. Make sure to write this number down before dropping the item in another cache. You’ll need it to locate and “grab” the Bug online.

Mrs Hg137: The number is usually a five or 6 digit alphanumeric code and it looks something like this:

Tracking number

Tracking number

Step 2. Visit the Travel Bug Trackable’s Page

Each Travel Bug has its own web page. To visit the Bug’s page, either go to the cache page for the geocache where you found the Bug and look for the Trackable in the inventory list, or visit the Travel Bug home page and use the search tool. To use the search tool, enter the tracking number in the supplied box and click the search button.

Mrs Hg137: the travel bug home page can be found at https://www.geocaching.com/track/default.aspx

Step 3. Found it? Log it!

Once you reach the Travel Bug listing, you will need to write a log to let the owner know that you found it. By logging the find you are also ‘grabbing’ the Travel Bug and putting it in your account’s online inventory. This will ultimately allow you to drop the Travel Bug in another cache.

I hope you find this little guide helpful. It’s not original – 95% of it is a straight copy from the geocaching site. Geocachers spend time, money, and ingenuity on buying and personalising trackables, and I think that they deserve to know how their little protogees are faring out in the big wide world.

March 14 Thames Path : Lechlade to Radcot : Locks and (pill) boxes

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Down by the river at Lechlade, it still felt like winter: there was hazy sunshine and a cool breeze. But there were signs of spring: fishermen, very well wrapped up against the cold, and people messing about with boats, preparing them for the boating season.

River Thames at Inglesham

River Thames at Inglesham


Before heading onwards, we backtracked a short distance to take another look at Inglesham Roundhouse. Then we turned back in the ‘right’ direction (towards the sea) and under Ha’penny Bridge.

Ha'penny Bridge, Lechlade

Ha’penny Bridge, Lechlade

Lechlade looked – and sounded – lovely in the morning light, with a peal of bells ringing out from the church. A little way downstream we reached St John’s Lock, the very first/last lock on the Thames. Here is the statue of Old Father Thames, watching over the lock; he used to be at Thames Head but he has moved here where it is busier and there are more folk to watch over him and keep him safe. Here, too, was a lock keeper, painting all the bits on the lock that need to look smart for the summer.

Old Father Thames

Old Father Thames

St. John's Lock

St. John’s Lock

Thames lock keeper

Thames lock keeper


Leaving the Thames Path, we passed the Trout Inn and headed along a footpath to grab two brand new (this month) caches, Lechlade Wander 1 & 2. There are few geocaches on or near this section of the Thames Path and we wanted to get as many as possible! Both are in excellent condition and well placed – well enough to give us a few minutes searching time on each cache. It seemed a good place to leave the trackable, Hopkin the bunny, to continue his conquest of the world.

Back on the trail, we walked on to Buscot Lock, the smallest i.e. shortest lock on the Thames, and where we met another lock keeper, busily painting. Just before arriving, we ‘happened’ on another cache. Strictly speaking, we should have walked into Buscot, solved some clues, and returned to the riverside to claim the cache. Instead, we read the description and the hint ahead of time, and decided to search among the most likely places where a cache could be placed; we got lucky at one of the first few places we checked; the National Trail geocoin was dropped off here. But we did walk into the village, which is owned by the National Trust; it’s slightly over-neat in that way that NT properties often are, but very pretty and a good (though chilly) spot for lunch.

Buscot

Buscot

Buscot Weir

Buscot Weir


By now the sun had gone, and the wind was keener, so hats and gloves went on for the rest of a rather bleak, cold walk. There were no caches to be found till Kelmscott, the next village, so we pressed on into the wind. We were getting cold, so, of the eight caches in the ‘Around Kelmscott’ (AK) series, we just found the three caches along the riverbank and then moved on. Kelmscott is associated with William Morris (of the Arts & Crafts movement) and the cache series has a good number of favourites, so we may come back this way soon to finish off the AK series and do some sightseeing in the attractive village.

The river meandered to and fro, peppered at intervals by pill boxes, part of the WWII defences of ‘Stop Line Red’. Most of them are still in fair condition, and you can get inside some of them. One of the AK series was hidden in a pill box; it was very neatly hidden (though I am short and it was a little out of my reach). This cache turned out to be one of the slipperiest ever – both of us dropped it at least once and much searching was needed for the already ‘found’ cache!

Stopline Red - pill box by the Thames

Stopline Red – pill box by the Thames

Grafton Lock - with boat!

Grafton Lock – with boat!


On along the river, we reached Grafton Lock, where yet again there was wet paint (those lock keepers have been very busy!) And there was a boat in the lock, the first moving craft we’ve seen on the river so far; we stopped to talk to the boaters and their boat-dog; they were heading to Lechlade for the night, then back the next day.

There was just one more geocache to find, close to Radcot bridge, the end of our Thames walk for the day. We made much too much of finding this final cache, and were on the verge of giving up before Mr Hg137 spotted it, hidden in a tree near the bridge. And finally, on to the geocar, which was parked near the Swan Hotel by the bridge.

Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 6 miles Total distance walked : 30 miles
Caches found : 7 Total caches found : 80

Some of the caches found on this walk:

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