April 7 : Barnwood

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

St Lawrence's Church, Barnwood

St Lawrence’s Church, Barnwood


As it was due to rain, we decided on a morning’s caching close to our hotel, so we could retreat if there was a deluge. As a child, I lived in Barnwood for two years, so I was looking forward to revisiting childhood haunts.

A cycle-cum-footpath led from the hotel towards Barnwood, passing close to a superstore. The first cache of the day was one from the ‘Off Your Trolley’ series. I looked and failed to find, then Mr Hg137 stuck his hand into the same bush and withdrew it, holding a cache. One up to him! Grrr

Springtime

Springtime


Lunchtime sandwiches purchased, we continued, away from superstores and industrial estates, into Barnwood proper. Our next cache was a Church Micro centred on St Lawrence’s church. Here was a place I recognised. I used to attend the local C of E school, and I well remember traipsing from the school to the church at harvest festival time, carrying a giant marrow. It seemed a very long way, but then I was only five … Anyway, I digress. We did several circuits of the churchyard, collecting numbers to use to solve the coordinates of the multi cache, and pausing to chat to a very elderly dog-walking muggle who was eager to describe the very heavy rain earlier in the week; parts of the churchyard were still underwater. Numbers gathered, we had a short and soggy walk to the cache location.

A diversion followed, while we went to look at my old house and my old school, which is now a school for the deaf. I got a bit misty eyed – they both looked a lot smaller than I remembered.

My old house!

My old house!


... and my old school!

… and my old school!


Back to the caching: we entered Barnwood Park to look for more caches, the first on being the oddly named ‘Chris Thistle’ which is close to a weir on the brook that flows through the park. All became clear as we drew near. The title is inscribed on an object close to the cache.
Chris Thistle is here, somewhere

Chris Thistle is here, somewhere


... or maybe Chris Thistle is here, somewhere

… or maybe Chris Thistle is here, somewhere


Walking on through the park, there were many signs that said ‘don’t feed the birds; don’t feed the squirrels’ so we had to disappoint the bold squirrel that leapt into our path and waited for food. We grabbed another cache as we left the park and then it began to rain. Grrr. At least we were expecting it.

But it didn’t last long, and had stopped as we approached the next cache, named ‘Raining Frogs’. We were hoping for an unusual container here, but we couldn’t find anything more interesting than a piece of string at GZ (Ground Zero – the location of the cache) After a long look around we left without success.

Postscript: The next day the cache owner posted this sad little note:
The GZ appears to have been “nuked”. I was amazed to see the tree splayed out and flattened in placed. Could see no sign of the cache, which was upsetting because it was a fairly expensive capsule. Still – that’s the risk I took and in this instance it is lost. Not replacing this – too disheartened! Thanks for doing it, those who did! Sorry!

We had one more cache on our list for the morning, ‘Elizabeth of Barnwood’, named after one of the more colourful residents of the Barnwood Hospital (Asylum) which used to be across the road from the cache site. It (the hospital) is gone now, turned into houses, just like the playground of my old school. Grrr. As with the first cache of the day, I searched confidently, but with no success, while Mr Hg137 put a hand out and grabbed the cache straight away. Grrr again.

Five out of six caches found, we returned to the hotel and lunch, with me wittering on about the past, and Mr Hg137 making non-committal noises. A good use of a damp morning.

Here are some of the caches we found:

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March 3 : Frustrating failures in Frimley

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

After a freezing week when the ‘Beast from the East’ storm spread ice and snow across England, we just wanted to get outside. Anywhere. Though it was still cold and grey, a local caching trip seemed a good idea, so we chose Frimley, a very short drive away. It was going to be mostly caching around a suburban estate, as we didn’t fancy sodden undergrowth, slush and mud out in the countryside.

Tomlin's Pond, Frimley

Tomlin’s Pond, Frimley


Our first target was somewhere on the banks of Tomlin’s Pond, one of several ponds large and small dotted around Frimley. And we couldn’t find it. Oh well, there would be another chance at the end of the expedition. At least we didn’t fall into the frozen pond … Grumpily – it’s always dispiriting to fail at the first cache – we moved on to another, smaller pond for a second attempt. After looking in vain at ground level, we read the cache logs to see that the container had been replaced. We resumed our search at head height, looking for a different kind of container, and soon found a slightly rusty tin with a very tight lid. After a tussle, we opened it to sign the log. I hope the rust marks on my hands will wear off in time!
Still some snow ...

Still some snow …


Our next three caches were all placed by the ‘Kaos family’. We had mixed results – we couldn’t find one of them, another was found, but was very soggy, and retrieved and replaced in full view of some car washing muggles, and the third was easy to spot as its contents were spread about the woodland where it was hidden. We collected them up, wiped them off, and rebuilt and re-hid the cache.
Cache as discovered ...

Cache as discovered …


Cache tidied up and replaced ...

Cache tidied up and replaced …


Returning to the car, we had another attempt at the first cache of the day – we still didn’t find it – then set off home. To try to finish on a success, we stopped part way home to find a cache, from the ‘Postcode Cache’ series – this one was Golf Uniform 16 (GU16). Even this cache wasn’t to be easily found. It was likely to be hidden on or around a piece of street furniture, and there were a lot of possible places. We tried all of them, at least twice, and found the cache when we were on the point of giving up, in a place we (thought) we had already searched. (Editor’s note: This series of caches is placed in different postcode districts throughout the UK. The series originated in Scotland but is now spreading further south. There are a few near us, but it’s the first one we’ve found.)

So that was it: four caches found out of six attempted, not the best of find/fail ratios. And, part way round the route, my camera stopped working, which is why there are not so many pictures as usual. Drat! But I’ve replaced the SD card and all now seems well.

Postscript:
Quite close to our last cache find is an earthcache, ‘How the earth was made’, which is about rocks and geology. We found it back in August 2014. It’s still there, but it has changed quite a bit since we found it. Here’s how it is now, and how it was before.

Earthcache then …


Earthcache now ...

Earthcache now …

February 17 : FAST morning in Farnborough

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

FAST - English Electric Lightning

FAST – English Electric Lightning


On a sparkling bright morning, we set of for Farnborough, not very far away, for a morning’s urban caching.


Our starting point was ‘The FAST and the Furious’, a very popular cache with clues to the coordinates based on numbers on the planes on show outside the FAST aircraft museum in South Farnborough. http://www.airsciences.org.uk You could probably find all the answers for the cache coordinates by peering through the fence in various places. But you would have a much more enjoyable time if you visited the museum and looked round properly. There are loads and loads of things to see and enthusiastic volunteers to explain what you are seeing. There’s a well-stocked shop, parking, refreshments, flight simulators (ever fancied piloting Concorde?) and the chance to climb into the pilot’s seat of iconic aircraft such as the Harrier. The museum is open at weekends and Bank Holidays and it is FREE!

Climb into a Hawker Harrier ...

Climb into a Hawker Harrier …

... or the cockpit of a helicopter

… or the cockpit of a helicopter


Emerging from the museum … you could spend hours there … we worked out the coordinates and walked the short distance to the cache location, finding it just where we had calculated. Result!

Just outside the entrance to the museum is a quite new statue of Samuel Franklin Cody, who made the first heavier than air flight in the UK in 1908 a very few yards from where we were standing. Mr Cody had an eventful life, read about it here http://www.sfcody.org.uk/aero.html

Samuel Franklin Cody

Samuel Franklin Cody

Cody's Flyer - so fragile ...

Cody’s Flyer (a replica) – so fragile …


We had obviously spent too much time looking at aircraft and aviators, or we were distracted by the aircraft whizzing low overhead as they came in to land, as our cache finding skills now vanished. Our next FOUR attempts at cache finding yielded nothing – two DNFs (did not find), one set of coordinates some distance away in the wrong direction, and one complete failure to spot the item which would have directed us to the cache. We decided to finish our morning’s caching and return home. Of course, our finding skills miraculously returned at this point, and we found three caches, including two Church Micros, on our way back to the geocar.

So, a mixed morning, with only four caches found out of eight attempts. At least that means there are still a selection of unfound (unfound by us, anyway) caches in the area for us to find on a second visit!

Church Micro

Church Micro

...and the location of another Church Micro

…and the location of another Church Micro


PS The pictures of the aircraft at the museum are reproduced with the kind permission of Mr Brian Luff from FAST.

PPS And here are some of the other caches we found.

December 11 : College Town Series, Sandhurst

It is not often a brand-new geocaching series has been placed within half a mile from one’s home location.

An ideal opportunity to grab a few of those First-to-Find accolades.

Sadly though, we don’t have “automatic notification of new caches” turned on from http://www.geocaching.com, so we totally failed to spot this new series appearing on a cold Saturday evening. Would we have gone out at 9pm on a frosty evening ? I doubt it.

Instead we undertook the series 8 days after publication and what a fabulous urban series this was.

Branksome Hill Road, Sandhurst

Branksome Hill Road

College Road, Sandhurst

College Road, Sandhurst

We live in Sandhurst (hence our blogging name), and close by is the Royal Military Academy. Running parallel to one of its boundaries are two very long roads Branksome Hill Road and College Road. Each road is about 3/4 mile in length and with two 400 feet shorter lengths at either end; it made for a good 2 mile pavement circuit.

Urban caches can occasionally be exceedingly boring, with minute nanos stuck behind road signs, and admittedly there were a couple such caches on route. The following appropriately road signs may, or may not, be hiding places!

But the majority of caches were well thought through, and very well hidden.

One such hide was screwed into a concrete wall (we guess the cache owner’s house), two more were heavy variants of the plastic stone cache. These caches were actual stone or concrete! We guess a stone grinder had been used to cut out the base to place the logs in.

img_2908

Another cache was hidden in half-a-branch. We were surprisingly quick at finding this cache, probably because we had seen a similar one recently on the Hampshire Drive By series.

If the Winter’s rain is driving you away from the countryside and onto an urban series, this route is for you. Many of the caches are simple finds, but others will challenge you a bit! You will need to keep you wits about you though, as all of the caches are in full sight of houses and you never know if you are being watched!

We thoroughly enjoyed this series, and we hope you do too.

September 2 : Wincanton

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Having arranged a walking holiday on beautiful Exmoor, we set off westwards along the ‘Road to the Sun’ (aka A303). We’d selected a spot about halfway along the route, close to the road, but not right on it, with (free) parking, and – very important – with a couple of caches, to break up the journey. And that place was … Wincanton. Turning off the main road, we arrived in an area of business parks, trading estates and supermarkets. We chose a place in a superstore car park, settled down and ate our lunch. (Editor’s note: we always seem to pick not-especially-scenic spots for our picnic lunches, and this was no exception.)

Off Yer Trolley - Wincanton

Off Yer Trolley – Wincanton

Sandwiches consumed, we turned our attention to caching. One of the two that we had selected was from the ‘Off your Trolley’ series, and this was quickly found, a neat, dry, tidy film canister on the boundary of one of those previously mentioned supermarkets. Crossing the road, we followed a path through mown grass and trees, searching for ‘Wincanton rec’. We found it, or rather, Mr Hg137 did, with a scramble amongst the willow trees at the edge of the River Cale. This was another neat and tidy cache: they do seem to look after their caches in Wincanton! And it looks as if they are looking after the river too – there’s a busy Facebook community group devoted to its improvement and maintenance http://www.facebook.com/RiverCaleCleanUpCatch

Where's that cache?

Where’s that cache?

That little break over, and our cache target for the journey met, it was back into the geocar to continue the trek westwards.

August – Paddington Bear – part 5

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Paddington - Bear Humbug

Paddington – Bear Humbug at Fleet Library


This isn’t a post about geocaching – it’s about something we came across while in London on a geocaching / Paddington Bear statue spotting trip at Christmas 2014 and which we have followed ever since. (Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the Paddington story appeared in this blog in December 2014, January 2015 and April 2015, or can easily be found by clicking on the ‘Paddington’ tag associated with this post.)

Late in 2014 the excellent film ‘Paddington’ was released, and 50 statues of Paddington Bear were put on show around London to publicise the film. A few days after Christmas 2014 we went to find some of them (and of course a few geocaches too, but we’ve already blogged about that). The statues were collected up and auctioned to raise money for the NSPCC charity, producing almost a million pounds. One of them, Bear Humbug, was bought by a local town – Fleet – after money was raised via crowdfunding. His name comes from his humbug stripes, very like the colours of Newcastle United, and were devised by Ant and Dec (both from Newcastle). We originally saw him on display in Oxford Street, London, among the busy shoppers in the New Year sales.

In April 2015, he arrived at his new home, Fleet Library http://www.fleethants.com/homepagelinks/humbugbear.htm Bear Humbug has not been idle since then – he has a presence on Facebook ( @abearcalledhumbug ), Twitter and Instagram. He makes charitable and educational appearances, and when he’s not busy doing that, he can often be found in Fleet Library – he’s increased the footfall in there – and it’s a popular thing to pose with him and then upload the picture #‎humbugselfie‬

Some time had passed since all of the above, and we hadn’t been to see our old friend. One day we were in Fleet, buying new walking boots, rucksacks, and other essential geocaching kit. We had time to drop into Fleet library and make our re-acquaintance.

He looks really at home – right inside the entrance, stood on his packing crate signed by Ant and Dec. Great to see you again!

July 23 : A hot day in Guildford

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Guildford Lido - on a hot July day

Guildford Lido – on a hot July day


What to do on a very hot day? Spend hours in a traffic jam on the way to the beach, or visit Guildford Lido? The latter won.
Along with hundreds and hundreds of other people, we spent the morning and early afternoon swimming, going down the water slides, picnicking, swimming, going down the water slides, swimming … When we paid, the lady at the kiosk seemed surprised that we wanted to pay the small amount extra to use the water slides, but we were going to do it anyway, whatever strange looks we got. And most of the sliders were younger and shorter and often more elegant than us, but so what?

We got tired and left in mid-afternoon. We were actually quite sunburnt, but we would find that out later … A few caches were nearby, and it would have been churlish, wouldn’t it, to go straight home without looking for some of them? The first was a Church Micro, the church was right next to the lido, and the cache itself was within feet of our car! Mr Hg137 furtled around behind a tree, and I kept watch, “taking a mobile phone call”, and telling him to be still, and quiet, whenever a muggle came by.

Stoke-Next-Guilford

Stoke-Next-Guilford


First mission accomplished, we set off from the church in the general direction of Stoke Park. Along the way we found another cache, neatly hidden on a lamp-post in plain view just out of (my) reach. Once in Stoke Park http://www.guildford.gov.uk/stokepark , we had a good look around. This is a really large, multi-use / well used park, yet another place we would never have found without geocaching.
Spot the geocache!

Spot the geocache!


We hadn’t realised in advance, but the first cache we wanted to find in the park was between and under the fitness course and the Wild Wood rope and zipwire trail http://www.wildwood-adventure.com A scout troop were attacking the fitness obstacles, two plump muggles swung from some parallel bars, and overhead, muggle children hung from ropes in the trees. It all looked like jolly super fun, and we picked our way inconspicuously (we hoped) into the woods to retrieve a cache concealed at the foot of an old tree. We probably didn’t look inconspicuous at all, just slightly odd …
Wild Wood - Stoke Park, Guildford

Wild Wood – Stoke Park, Guildford


From there, we emerged into a more open area, onto a paved path/cycleway, to look for our final cache of the day, described as being ‘under stones’. We didn’t do too well here. We found quite a lot of stones of various sizes in various places, and looked under them all, but the cache was a little way away … under some more stones.
Found at last!

Found at last!


By now, the heat and the day’s exertions were beginning to tell – or that’s our excuse for taking so long to find just four caches, so it was time to stop, drive home and spend a tired evening over a barbecue in the garden. Just about then, too, we realised quite how sunburnt we were!