April 18 – 3 BALL

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

IMG_9447

This chunky little trackable was picked up at one of the entrances to North Meadow, the fritillary-strewn area just to the north of Cricklade.  Starting in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, in October 2012, it has travelled 2700 miles around the UK, from Tyndrum in Scotland to Camborne in Cornwall.  It has  a simple mission, to travel from cache to cache.  We can manage that!

April 18 – Being a Tourist near the Thames Path

We remarked in this blog recently we were approaching our 1000th cache milestone, and with a venue agreed for this auspicious cache we just needed to bolster our cache total a little bit. (We started the day on 991 caches and felt a target of 7 caches would get us close enough to 1000 that we could achieve the milestone in the pre-planned location).

So how to find those 7 caches ?

Well, we realised that as we walked (and cached) the Thames Path, there were locations we didn’t explore properly or indeed see at their best.  The first of these was North Meadow, Cricklade. (Readers may remember the very wet conditions we endured in January on our first visit to Cricklade).

As we noted in our January blog entry – North Meadow is renowned for its Spring Flowers and Snakes Head Fritillaries in particular ( http://www.crickladeinbloom.co.uk/north_meadow.html) and we were treated to a fantastic display on our visit today. Snakes Head Fritillaries are rare in Britain and 80% of them are in North Meadow, Cricklade.

North Meadow Full of Fritillaries

North Meadow Full of Fritillaries


There’s even a cache nearby too! Set by the Scouts it is marked as a ‘multi-stage’ cache.
First Cache of the Day!

First Cache of the Day!

We didn’t find the first part, but did find the cache and a trackable ‘3 Ball’. We’ll take this on our future travels..

Our next stop on our ‘Tourist Trail’ was to visit the village of Kelmscott. We had found 3 caches near to the village back in March and returned to find another 3. Kelmscott Manor was the Oxfordshire retreat of William Morris (of Arts and Crafts movement fame) and is open to the  public on many days during  the year. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelmscott_Manor

Kelmscott Manor

Kelmscott Manor

We’d arrived shortly after a large coach party, so we decided against going round the house, as they work on a timed-ticket policy and we were in for a long wait!

And so to the Kelmscott caches. We enjoyed the 3 Kelmscott caches we had found previously and were again pleased with the variety of containers today… including A RAT!

IT'S A RAT !!!!

IT’S A RAT !!!!

After a quick visit to the Church, paying our respects to the Morris clan buried there….

William Morris Gravestone

William Morris Gravestone

… we left for our third and final location, Bampton.

Bampton ? You’ve never heard of it ? But I’m sure you’ve seen it!

Bampton is where ITV film many of the outside shots for “Downton Abbey”. Just a small corner of Bampton is used for filming and this where the tourists head to. We saw the Church, Mrs Crawley’s Cottage, Downton’s Hospital (aka Bampton’s Library!). We failed to find the Downton pub, which was a necessary part of multi-cache, and despite our best endeavours of guessing an answer based on the missing pub sign, we didn’t find the “Downton Treasure Hunt” cache 🙂

Bampton Church (or maybe the Downton Church)

Bampton Church (or maybe the Downton Church)


With 3 caches still to find for the day, we opted for a multi starting at Downton’s / Bampton’s Church and then walking past gardens, fields and woodland before arriving at a small bridge under which the cache was hidden. We sat there, drinking coffee, thinking we were the only people for miles around. How wrong we were ! In the space of 10 minutes at least 3 groups of people squeezed past us, and one dog nearly ate our biscuits too!

We headed back to the village to complete our caching with 2 simple caches. Our searching at both GZs were impeded by muggles. At the first our diversionary activity meant diving into a butcher’s shop, the next we had to feed greenery to 20+ chickens while a game of Pooh Sticks was finished. (It was while feeding the chickens that Mrs HG137 took one for the team… a chicken peck!)

So our day of tourist activity was complete – Spring Flowers, British social history and TV drama all rolled into the 7 caches we needed to take us to 998 caches, and just a small step from number 1000.

Smallest Cache of the Day

Smallest Cache of the Day

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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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February 21 Hopkin Easter Bunny Geocoin mk II

As we remarked in our previous post, we found Hopkin the Easter Bunny at Inglesham Church.

Hopkin at Inglesham Church

Hopkin at Inglesham Church

Hopkin should have been one of a limited edition of 100 Easter Bunny Geocoins in Blue / Green measuring approx 45mm diameter and 3mm thick. However over time, it has been lost, and is now a thin piece of laminated card. -:(

On the reverse of the ‘geocoin’ is the message ‘Happy Easter’ which given it is currently Lent, is very apt.

Hopkin’s mission is to hop from cache to cache searching for chocolate eggs and hunting for furry relatives, Hopkin has had all his inoculations and can travel anywhere to meet the wonderful cachers, creatures and peoples of the world. With his goofy smile, Hopkin also loves having his photo taken too!

So where has Hopkin been ? Well since Easter 2012, when Hopkin was released into the wild, he has been to Holland, Germany, Bulgaria and Ibiza hopping a HARE-raising 8600 miles.

We could RABBIT on, about the aBUNdance of caches he has visited, but that list may be as long as “WARREN peace”, so we will TAIL it off there. We are HOPing to place it in a nEARby cache soon, FUR others to find.

February 21 Thames Path : Castle Eaton to Lechlade

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Only a few days after our last walk, we were back on the Thames Path. This time there would be quite a lot of “Path” and not very much “Thames” as this part of the walk is mostly several fields distance away from the river. The Thames Rangers are working with local landowners to fix that, but it’s not settled yet.

Blackford Lane, Castle Eaton

Blackford Lane, Castle Eaton


Setting off from the lychgate near Castle Eaton church, the first mile of the walk was along a quiet country lane, with not a single geocache. At the end of the lane, the geocaches started, as we had reached the Hannington Wick (HW) circuit. We had already decided to step away from the Thames Path, find some of the caches in the series, then head back to the Path, and then to diverge again a little further on to find the remaining HW caches. The first part of the plan worked well, though it was quite wet and muddy underfoot (was this a portent of things to come?) and we returned to the Thames Path with several caches safely found.

Finally we reached the Thames itself, which we last saw before we reached Castle Eaton, and arrived at the site of another cache. But where could it be? Some hedging and tree clearance had taken place and the cache site no longer looked like its description. We searched around unsuccessfully for some while, then paused for refreshment and reflection. Coffee works! Success at last! We found the misplaced cache after a little more searching.

For a short distance we followed the main course of the river, then a side channel, and then we doubled back along the a wooded track to complete the HW circuit. With just one cache left to find in the series, it got damper and damper beneath our feet, and then the track disappeared under some inches of flowing water; oh dear, this was so horribly reminiscent of our freezing paddle through the Cotswold Water Park a month earlier.

Watery Lane - now I wonder why it got that name?

Watery Lane – now I wonder why it got that name?

This time round we decided NOT to get wet and returned to the Thames Path. If only we had done the HW series in the correct order, we would have realised that the track, Watery Lane, is aptly named (isn’t hindsight wonderful?)
Thames Path near Upper Inglesham

Thames Path near Upper Inglesham


Back on the Thames Path, we collected more caches along an attractive but muddy bridleway leading to Upper Inglesham. We had found 17 caches out of 18 up to now, a good haul, and had one more cache to go. But first: the not so fun part of the walk. To get back to the river, just over a mile of the busy A361 needs to be travelled. The guidebooks strongly advise against walking this section, and suggest a bus or taxi instead. We had decided to walk, though we weren’t looking forward to it at all. After psyching ourselves up, we set off into the traffic. It turned out to be not as bad as we feared, as traffic was fairly light, the weather was dry, and the verges and hedges had been recently cut back, but we were still very glad indeed to step off the main road and head down the quiet, narrow lane to the hamlet of Inglesham.
'Quiet' moment on the A361

‘Quiet’ moment on the A361


Inglesham is the site of a lost village where only a farm and an 11th century church remain. The church is much as it was five, six, seven hundred years ago and is well, well worth a visit as it is like stepping back in time. And just outside is a Church Micro, our final cache of the day, where we found another trackable to move on its way – hello to “Hopkin the Bunny”.
Inglesham Church

Inglesham Church


Finally we got back to the River Thames, which had grown since we saw it briefly a few miles earlier. Across the river was Inglesham Roundhouse, once the lock-keeper’s cottage where the (currently derelict) Thames and Severn Canal ended. And, in the river itself, were … boats! We had reached the head of navigation on the Thames. From now on it will be boats, locks, weirs, and more boats all the way to the tidal river at Teddington.
Inglesham Roundhouse

Inglesham Roundhouse


Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 6.2 miles Total distance walked : 24 miles
Caches found : 18 Total caches found : 73

Someof the caches found on this walk:
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February 17 – National Trails Geocoin

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

National Trail geocoin

National Trail geocoin


While walking the Thames Path, we came across this geocoin. And what a striking trackable, in such an appropriate place! This is one of the National Trail geocoins which were released in the summer of 2013 to celebrate the national trails of England and Wales. There is a link to them, and a picture – maybe of this very coin! – on the National Trails website for the Thames Path http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/thames-path/geocaching

The National Trail geocoins have different missions. Some want to travel all of the National Trails, others want to stay on the trail where they were released, or to visit all the counties in the country, etc. This particular coin wants to visit as many trails as possible, and it has so far visited the Ridgeway, Thames Path, and parts of the South West Coast Path. We think we will move it to another location on the Thames Path, but we aren’t sure yet.

February 17 Thames Path : Cricklade to Castle Eaton

Back to the Thames Path!

After a few weeks away from our year-long project, we returned to the Thames Path. Various commitments had meant we hadn’t visited, as well waiting for the waterlogged fields and paths to dry out.

We have been taking 2 geo-cars on our Thames Path adventure parking one at the destination and the other at the start. Today we took just one for our short walk between Cricklade and Castle Eaton (about 3.5 miles). As there are no footpaths connecting the two habitations, we would retrace our steps along the Thames Path to Cricklade. This would give us the added comfort that if we didn’t find any of the caches on the way out, we could re-attempt them on the return leg.

Fortunately we found all the caches on our outward journey. The hides were in a variety of locations from gateposts, to hollow tree-trunks, under bridges, and in one case the other side of a barbed wire fence!

Cache location ?

Cache location ?

Cache location ?

Cache location ?

As before we have included a small subset (in random order) of these caches at the bottom of the blog.

One of the caches contained, as part of its swag, the book “Hideaway” (apt, eh?) which had been left there as part of the book crossing scheme http://www.bookcrossing.com – sort of like geocaching trackables – but for books!
The book is a little damp, so we will have to dry it out before we move it on.

Hideaway!

Hideaway!


We meticulously followed the many meanders, crossing footbridges and admiring the many reeds which formed the river banks.
Meandering River Thames and its Reedbeds

Meandering River Thames and its Reedbeds


Eventually we arrived in the small village of Castle Eaton, and visited St Mary’s church, where tucked behind the graveyard the Thames banks were covered with snowdrops and daffodils.
St Mary's Church, Castle Eaton

St Mary’s Church, Castle Eaton


The other notable building in Castle Easton is the pub, The Red Lion. It is the first pub by the side of the Thames. It looked closed when we went by, but we discovered it was open on our return journey. Here we chatted to four walkers who had just left the pub… they were walking the Thames Path but over a number of YEARS! (I think we might just beat them to London!)
First pub on the Thames

First pub on the Thames


Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 3.6 miles Total distance walked : 17.8 miles
Caches found : 11 Total caches found : 55

January 24 – West Yorkshire Flag

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

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We came across this trackable while walking along the Thames Path.  Though I knew of the white rose of Yorkshire, I’ll plead ignorance and say that I didn’t know that West Yorkshire had its own flag.

The mission for this trackable is to travel around from county to county … and we are planning a trip to the Isle of Wight soon.  This is one place that the trackable has not been, so it seems like a good, new location for it to visit.

January 24 Thames Path : Cricklade (revisited)

or perhaps subtitled :

A Snail, Two Socks, Four Wellingtons, and an Inability to use a GPS!

Last week we abandoned our walk along the Thames Path as our feet suffered as we waded through icy water. This week we were prepared … we took Wellington boots as well as Walking boots. Yay – no wet feet!

Of course the simplest thing to do, was to restart our caching adventures from where we had left off. This would have meant walking through the township of Cricklade and not undertaking any of the caches. Were we going to do that? Of course not !

And so we started with the St Sampson’s Church Micro. A quick walk around the churchyard, examining graves and benches, collecting dates and ages. We discovered a Second World War pilot who died aged 19, a prominent local High Bailiff and more besides. We worked out the final co-ordinates, and entered them into our GPS. The destination was some distance away, but we were expecting that. And knew we’d collect it later.

St Sampson's Church, Cricklade

St Sampson’s Church, Cricklade

Our next cache was called “Gary the Snail” and this was a really wonderful cache. Well hidden, and although we knew what we were expecting, it was very, very well created. We have not included a picture here as you really must find it for yourselves!

We then attempted three very urban caches. These three were connected unusually in that two were positioned in front gardens and two were contained in Walking Socks. Walking Socks ! Really ! We seriously thought if we had collected these caches last week, we’d have swapped our soaking cold wet socks for these cache containers!

"Sock it and See!"

“Sock it and See!”

And so to the Church Micro final destination.. we walked on… argued over how to get to GZ.. and then realised after 20 minutes we were walking out of Cricklade! Something was very wrong! We gave up and headed for the Thames Path.

We walked up an old railway line (used in former times to transport milk … hence its local name of “Milky Way”) collected a Puzzle cache we’d solved before we left and reached the Thames Path where we abandoned it last week.

The Flooded Fields from last week

The Flooded Fields from last week

The less Flooded Fields this week

The less Flooded Fields this week

The river looked less flooded and so we kept our walking boots on! Oh dear, oh dear! Within 10 minutes we were faced with a flooded footpath. On with the wellies! Then we were advised by other walkers, the water was 2 foot deep! Too deep for our wellies! The walkers told us of an alternative route, and how to reach the opposite bank. And so, with our Wellingtons we retraced our steps, and followed the Thames from the other bank. In all honesty we were trespassing, but given the well worn footpath, clearly we were not the first to do so!

The Thames Path is the "lake!" beyond the bush

The Thames Path is the “lake!” beyond the bush

Nor indeed were we the last! As we left the left the field we arrived at our first Thames Path cache of the day. It marked where the Berks(hire) and Wilts(hire) Canal connected the Thames to the Thames and Severn Canal many years ago. (It closed just after World War I). At the GZ, we met several people most of whom were struggling with the terrain or their maps. (One couple didn’t even realise they were standing on a bridge over the Thames!)

We did think about walking along the former Berks and Wilts canal, but time was pressing, and the path was really, really muddy. Another day perhaps.

Our remaining caches of the day followed the Thames through wettish and muddy-ish meadows including North Meadow famed for its Spring flowers (none of course in January!) until we arrived back on the outskirts of Cricklade at North Wall. This is where the Romans built their crossing across the Thames. We went past our geo-car, and collected a couple of other Thames caches, which will hopefully save us a few minutes on our next journey.

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Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 2.2 miles Total distance walked : 13.2 miles
Caches found : 12 Total caches found : 44

Some of the caches we found included (in no particular order) :

PS reverting back to the Church Micro, we noticed when we got home, we had mis-entered the co-ordinates into the GPS (what an idiot Mr HG137 is!).

January 17 Thames Path : Ashton Keynes to Cricklade

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Time for our second walk along the Thames Path. It was a crisp, frosty morning, there had been a little light snow, and it was a super morning for both walking and caching. We resumed our walk through Ashton Keynes, leaving the village via sports fields, then walking among a series of lakes, formed from old gravel workings. Much of the Thames Path until Cricklade, our destination, would be close to these lakes.

Cotswold Water Park

Cotswold Water Park


The path became wetter, and wetter, and then disappeared under water. Luckily there was a diversion a little way back that took us back to the Thames Path AND passed a puzzle cache that we had solved a few days previously; excellent! So far it was going well – we had found five caches and we were on course. Then … we came to another flooded part of the path. There was no easy diversion here, and the flooded area was longer and deeper than before, much deeper than our boots. What to do? If we couldn’t go round the flood, we had to go through it, and that meant paddling. Off came the boots and socks, trousers were rolled up, and we paddled through the water in bare feet. Oh crikey, was it cold! With boots replaced, we continued, only to arrive at another wet section. Off came the boots again. Handily, a nearby cache could only be reached by paddling, so it meant that another one could be added to our tally, one that we wouldn’t otherwise have attempted.
A rather wet Thames Path

A rather wet Thames Path


Eventually we came to a third flooded section, and off came the boots yet again. But this one turned out to be much longer than the others – about half a mile – and over a foot deep in icy water in places. We sploshed on; our feet and lower legs became numb; our trousers got wet, even though rolled up; at one point two fish swam by; it really was not fun, not at all. Oh, and somewhere in this section , we found our 900th cache. It was a fairly simple cache in a tree at the side of the path, but the horrendous paddle to reach it made it special, in entirely the wrong way! After this paddle, we replaced our boots, and didn’t take them off again, simply walking on regardless of the remaining floods; we were pretty soggy all over by then and we just couldn’t face another barefoot paddle. We decided to cut the walk short and head straight back to the geocar – the rest of the walk, around the old town walls of Cricklade, seemed to be flooded too – and we were cold and wet and unhappy cachers by now.
Paddling ...

Paddling …


We will be back when the water recedes. But, as far as caching goes, we had found every single cache we had attempted (although we did paddle past one while on that long, flooded section), finding 16 caches, taking our all-time total to 904, and passing on the trackable that we had found on our first walk.
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Here is a random selection of things encountered on our walk. Some are caches, or associated with caches, and some aren’t.

As before, they are in no particular order. Enjoy!

Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 3.8 miles Total distance walked : 11 miles
Caches found : 16 Total caches found : 32