March 31 : Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud!

Is there anything worse than a wet Bank Holiday weekend? Easter 2018 will go down as one of those washout weekends. And yet we managed a short caching trip (almost) avoiding the rain.

Flooded Fields of Wokingham

Our targets were 8 caches in Wokingham (7 standard caches and one puzzle cache) on the footpaths in the Luckley area. The paths were close to, and at times crossed, the River Emmbrook, and its many streams and rivulets.

Our first target was the puzzle cache, relatively close to a large supermarket car park. (As we parked the car, the heavens opened so we waited patiently for clearing skies before we set off).

The puzzle cache had recently been replaced and moved, though the puzzle coordinates had remained unchanged. This was a little suspicious, but we looked anyway. After 10 minutes we gave up, as we still had the other 7 caches to find, and we wanted to find as many as we could before the next downpour.

River Emmbrook

We were familiar with the first part of our route as it followed a footpath we had walked several times previously. The path bisected some fields associated with some stables, but today the horses were all in the dry, and the company we had was a lady clearing the fields some distance away.

Our first find of the day was almost in the lady’s eye-line, but we think we found it without being spotted. We were expecting to find the cache near an oak tree, so we looked at the 10-15 year old oak close by. It was a few minutes later we saw an oak SAPLING, which provided the location for our first find of the day.

First cache of the day!

At this point the paths got muddier and muddier. We crossed the Emmbrook (on a slightly rickety bit of concrete), and walked uphill. Streams cascaded either side of the path, green fields were underwater.

A broken fence provided an easy escape from the mud. About half-way up the slope was our second find, a reasonable sized container which was big enough to hold a trackable. We had brought the Swiss Mountain Cow with us, and bade it farewell overlooking Berkshire’s green (and flooded) land.

Farewell Swiss Mountain Cow!

At the top of the hill we turned onto our final footpath of the day. Very straight, and of course from time to time, very muddy. Our last 5 caches of the day were all along this path.

Mr Hg137 straddles the mud…

… Mrs Hg137 goes for the log and tree approach

Each cache was differently hidden, sometimes under a log, other times behind some metal joints. The views looking across the Emmbrook (mini-valley) were surprisingly good given we were only a mile or two from the hustle and bustle of the supermarket car park.

We walked close to Ludgrove School, where Princes William and Harry were educated. Initially we saw the school buildings, later we saw the playing fields. We examined an odd structure in one of these fields – it turned out to be a covered coat rack! We also walked past a pheasant farm – noisy as the farmer was busy feeding the birds!

Ludgrove School

Partridge Farm

We had so far avoided any further rain, but just as we were signing the log at cache 8, the rain started again. Fortunately we were under a tree, and it gave us surprisingly good cover.

Former Lucas Hospital, Wokingham

Field of Rooks

We then had to journey back the way we came – through the muddy footpaths. We then remembered a slightly different and parallel route, which led us past the former Lucas Hospital and a field of rooks. This meant walking on a tarmac road for part of our return journey – but after the muddy quagmires we weren’t going to argue.

We gave a final check of the puzzle cache – again no joy – and left with 7 caches found out of 8 – not a bad return given the mud-fest.

Here are some of the caches we found :

Postscript :
We emailed the cache owner of the puzzle cache and told him/her of our difficulties in finding the cache. It transpired that although our co-ordinates were spot on, the cache had moved ‘some distance away’. Fortunately for us we were visiting Wokingham the next day, and we were able to find the puzzle in its new location. So 8 caches out of 8 (with a bit of cache owner assistance).

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November 10 : FTF – Wokingham – Chestnut Avenue

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

FTF - First To Find

FTF – First To Find

Unusually for a Friday, neither of us was working, and we (naturally) had some caching planned, on the North Downs south of Guildford. The GPS was loaded, a map was prepared, a thermos of coffee was made, and we were all set to leave.

Just before setting off, we paused to check emails, and … there was a new cache less than 10 miles away, that was still unfound, despite having been published for two days. We ditched our previous plans, loaded the new cache, and set off at speed for Woosehill, on the north-west edge of Wokingham. (Editor’s note: that is incredibly rare, new caches are usually snapped up within minutes or hours of publication. Some cachers make a point of searching out new caches to get that coveted FTF – first to find – and a signature on a blank logsheet. )

Both of us know the area very well, as Mr Hg137 used to live in Woosehill, and it’s close to where I work so I walk there at lunchtimes. (Editor’s note, again: this was what swayed our decision to attempt a FTF on this cache.) We parked close to the likely target, and set off into the woods. The coordinates of the cache could be determined by visiting three noticeboards, counting the vowels on them, and doing a little sum with the answers to get the final coordinates. We did that. We checked the answers, and double-checked just in case. It seemed quite a long way to the final location, over a mile, but hey-ho, sometimes you have to strive to be the first … we set a waypoint in the GPS and set off across Woosehill.

It's a noticeboard - but not the right one!

It’s a noticeboard – but not the right one!


It was a pleasant walk on a sunny late autumn day, and a trip through memory lane for Mr Hg137. We walked through streets, crossed the main road, through Morrison’s supermarket, past the takeaway and the surgery, across a green area, across the Emm Brook and on into Wokingham. We arrived at the given coordinates, by a household hedge, which bore no resemblance whatsoever to the hint on the cache. We checked our arithmetic again. We checked the derived coordinates on the GPS. It all matched. Something had gone wrong, but what? Chastened and disappointed, we trekked back to the geocar and went home.
On the way - to the wrong place

On the way – to the wrong place

Still going the wrong way ...

Still going the wrong way …


Once at home, we logged a note for the cache and sent a note to the cache owner, describing our travails. While doing this, we were thinking about our arithmetic and workings and we wondered if the coordinates in the cache description were maybe wrong. We played around with Google maps, typing in coordinates that were slightly different to the published ones. Eureka! There was a typo in the westings of the published coordinates, which should have read W000 52… instead of W000 51… And that led to a spot not very far away from the noticeboards we had visited earlier.

Back into the geocar, and back again at speed to Woosehill. This time we could park really close, and we scampered across to our destination. And there it was! A new cache and an empty log and we had achieved the coveted ‘First To Find’.

Back home, we reflected on our morning while eating a very, very late lunch. Forty miles, two visits, several miles of walking. Was it worth it … yes!

PS To round off the story, we sent another message to the cache owner explaining the above (or a summary of it, anyway). He was most apologetic and amended the mistake in the cache description almost instantly.

PPS We never did drink that flask of coffee that was made at the start of this post. By the time we rediscovered it, a day later, it had gone cold.

PPPS Here are some more pictures of the cache. They weren’t taken right at the final location, so they show what it looks like, but not where it is!

July 29 Simons Wood, Wokingham

This was week 3 of the Mary Hyde challenge. This week to gain the Mary Hyde souvenir one had to find or deposit a trackable. Finding trackables can often be tricky, as frequently caches are listed as ‘containing a trackable’ but due to various reasons, the trackable is missing. We were therefore grateful we had a trackable in our possession, Annerschter (aka Henry’s Cat). But where to place it ? The weather was forecast to very wet so a short caching trip was planned in Simons Wood on the border of Wokingham/Crowthorne/Finchampstead. Fingers crossed we would finish before it rains!

Simons Wood is owned the National Trust, and is a heavily wooded, and in places heavily rhododendron-ed. The National Trust are slowly removing many of these large invasive plants, but it will still take some time until Simons Wood loses its ‘jungle’ feel.

Is it a jungle or is it Simon’s Wood?


We’ve cached here before – way back in July 2014 when we found one the UK’s oldest geocaches, first hidden in 2003.
Today would be on the other side of the Wood and we would circumnavigate a property known as ‘The Heritage Club’.

Our first find, was well hidden under a fallen tree. We quickly discovered though, it was not a simple find. The cache had been procured from cache maker JJEF, and we had to work out how to open the cache! Like many of JJEF’s caches, it only takes a minute or two..but it gave our ‘little grey cells’ a light work out. As the cache was quite big, it was here placed Annerschter in.

No prizes for guessing where the cache is …

…here!

The second and third caches were harder to find. The hints were ‘near a circular clearing’ and ‘in the roots of a silver birch’. Well, woodland is always changing. Clearings are not clearings for long, silver birches tend to form a mini forest of their own.

For both caches we spent 10-15 minutes looking at a myriad of hiding places, and came close to DNFing both.

Amost a DNF !


Fortunately persistence paid off, and we were successful at each.

Our route back to the car passed the gates of ‘The Heritage Club’, a grandiose title which can easily be mistaken. It is not some 17th century building, or 19th century steam railway.. it is in fact a nudist holiday camp.

The Heritage Club

The Heritage Club

This accounts for the very high, prison-like fences surrounding the property. Given our struggles to find the last two caches we probably wouldn’t have seen anything if the fences weren’t so high!

Last cache of the day

The skies were darkening and cars had headlights on (at 11 am on a July morning!) we had a quarter of a mile yomp along a pavement back to the car. One cache to find – magnetic behind a road sign – and we would have finished. Yards from the car park, the first raindrops fell and we reached the car without getting too wet but having gained another Mary Hyde souvenir.

August 21 : Coombe Catastrophe!

Just to the South West of Wokingham is a heavily wooded area known as the Coombes. There are footpaths through the wood, but the main footpath forms the edge of the wood. The path adjoins some houses, and a golf course so on a warm Sunday afternoon it was quite busy.

Coombes Lane- Arborfield Ford

At the end of the Coombes – Arborfield Ford

We set off with 7 caches to attempt, all mainly within yards of the path.

In fact we parked within 20 yards of our first destination, a small tree climb. It only required a small 3-4 foot heave, a careful balance, a reach and the cache was ours. A very nice basket holding a film container. We undertook our normal arrangements of the climber throwing the cache down to the ground for the other to sign. All easy enough, but there was a car parked under the tree, making the tree climb just that little bit harder. Even so, an easy enough start… (Ed : We so cramped for space, the photo of the retrieval didn’t do it justice, so please paint your own picture)

Our next find was a little fortunate. As we arrived at GZ, the GPS swung wildly and pointed over the other side of the path to a youngish sapling. Surely its not there ? We dithered about and just as we were about to cross the path a horse and rider came by, followed by a family with a dog. This gave us a bit of time to check out the better looking tree on OUR side of the path. There the cache was! Never trust a GPS!

Our next cache, Liam and the Coombes was in a clearing, just off the path. We were looking for reasonably sized container somewhere near a dead tree. Guess what! There were loads of dead trees! We searched them all and found….nothing! However we consoled ourselves that today’s walk was linear so we would be passing this area on the way back. We could search again later on. (Ed: famous last words).

After a DNF it is always nice to find the next one. Here we made a quarter of a mile diversion from the main path to Lily and the Coombes. An easy find, mainly as the barkoflage wasn’t quite doing enough to hide the cache in a tree trunk – we did our best to hide it better. We dropped off the trackable (Estonia Mega) here, and signed one of the three log books inside. (Why three ?)

Back to the main Coombe track to look for At the Beech. An ammo can, hidden in tree roots. Or so we thought! Lots of fallen trees, lots of roots, few places for an ammo can. (The only real place we found was huge – so big we could both lie down in the space…no sign of the ammo can though!). That’s 5 caches attempted and 2 DNFs. Oh dear!

Our next cache we didn’t attempt. We only loaded into our GPS to admire the handiwork of setter, AmayaTom. He had climbed 20 feet up a tree to place a cache. We could see how to climb to the 12 foot mark, but the last 8 foot…no way!

Tree climb

20 feet up … but not for us!


And so we arrived at our terminus of the day, Arborfield Ford. The Coombes had now given way to farm land, and we were now much closer to the small town/village of Arborfield (no longer an Army Garrison town). The cache was hidden not too far away, but could we find it ?…. no!

Sheep at Arborfield

Baaa ! Baaa!

So our catastrophic caching trip ended with just 3 finds out of 6 real attempts. Time was pressing as we’d spent for too-long looking for each of the DNFs, and so we decided not to re-visit them on the return walk to the car. We could save those caches for another day…maybe…or maybe not!

May 7 : Cul-de-Sac Caching in Hurst…

… in which Mr Hg137 is befriended by Shetland ponies as well as a hen party… (good job Mrs Hg137 was with him!)

A fine, old oak tree

A fine, old oak tree


Hurst is a small Berkshire village between Wokingham and Twyford. The sort of village you drive through, take a passing look at the village pond, avoid the parked cars by the village shop and suddenly its gone! We’ve driven through it numerous times (well Mr Hg137 has) and never noticed the footpath signs either side of the road.

Today was the day to explore them! It was a gloriously hot day (probably THE DAY of Summer of 2016) and we chose caches off those footpaths. Our route wasn’t circular, and had three cul-de-sacs to walk both there and back. This had the one advantage we could attempt any DNF’s on our return trip !

Our first cache was the most innovative we have seen in a long while.

Can you hear the cache ?

Can you hear the cache ?

Entitled “Deaf as a Post and Thick as a Plank” it was a multi-cache. The first part involved finding a ‘sound device’ affixed to a post. We eventually found it, but it took several attempts to make it work! Eventually we generated an audible sound, and we had seconds to trace the object it was hidden in (hint.. read the cache title). Our job was not over then, as contained therein were various letters which needed unscrambling. Fortunately we noticed a pattern early on, and unscrambled the message quite quickly. Now we had to find the object alluded to in the message ! Phew! After all that hard work, the final container was just a money-bag with a log inside. Although the container was a disappointing one, the thrill and excitement of the multi parts made this cache very memorable.

Our first cul-de-sac was complete, so we returned to the geo-car and headed off in the opposite direction. Our next cache was a disaster! We failed to find it! We even found ourselves the wrong of a ditch and fence boundary which would have put us in a better Ground Zero! Still let’s park that for the journey back shall we ?

Onward to our first ‘normal’ find of the day. A simple container in the roots of a tree. But, and this is a big but, we had to clamber through barbed wire to reach it! Aargh! Fortunately while we finding this cache we noticed the footpath we should have taken to attempt our previous DNF.

Our third find of the day was the easiest – it was fully exposed at a footpath junction in the bole of a tree! We hid it better and then decided which of our remaining two cul-de-sacs we would attempt first.

We headed to a large copse and entered it though a small cacher’s path. Now, where was the cache! Our GPS went wild ! The tree cover played havoc with our signal. One minute we were 4 feet away, then 40 , then 20 then 25..and all without moving from a single spot. Perhaps the hot weather was causing the GPS to mis-behave. Anyway we couldn’t find it! Previous cachers had mentioned ‘magnetic’ and ‘found on the floor’ or ‘shoulder high’ … all too confusing.

We left the copse and re-joined the main path. We’d walked a few yards and we were aware of a large party behind us. Twenty young ladies!

Their leader asked us to confirm their whereabouts and we let them pass. (The path was just a wee bit muddy, and we could learn from their slipping and sliding!) In fact many of them didn’t have walking boots, some wore very light (ballet?) shoes. We asked the ‘Tail End Charley’ which group they were from. We were expecting answer like “The Berkshire Belles Walking Group’.. but no… it was a hen party and the ‘Tail End Charley’ was the bride-to-be. It was good to see so many young ladies enjoying the British countryside, rather than a raucous weekend in a foreign land!

Shetland Ponies and a Hen Party

Shetland Ponies and a Hen Party

Mr Hg137 has some new friends

Mr Hg137 has some new friends


We followed them and suddenly we were in a field with beautiful white Shetland Ponies. At last our target was in sight – a huge oak tree. This must have been over 300 years old and a really fine specimen and an easy find too! Back we went through the pony-field, to the small copse, to attempt the ‘magnetic tree’ cache again. This time, we took a good bearing of where we wanted to be before we entered the copse… and found the cache almost immediately. It was magnetic too!

A Magnetic Tree Cache

A Magnetic Tree Cache

And so we returned to one final cul-de-sac. Two caches to find, but the first one we failed to find! Our third DNF of the day… still there’s always the return journey to have another go! Our last cache was a simple cache by a stile, so what remained was the walk back to the car via two previous DNFs. Could we find them ? No ! Searching high and low we found neither!

We don’t like to finish on 2 DNF’s so we made a quick diversion to one of Hurst’s pubs – “The Elephant and Castle”. Sadly it was lunchtime and the pub garden was full, and every customer was staring at where we believed GZ to be. We had a quick look, but with so many muggle-eyes, we had to pass. So we walked to another cache… we really must find one more cache to finish on a high! Overlooked by gardens, we were a little concerned about access again, but we found it quickly! Phew!

A rather hot, bitty morning – a few too many DNFs but some interesting moments.. its not every day you HEAR a cache, find a magnetic in a tree, see a Hen Party and Shetland Ponies!

February 7 : A ford, a pub, and a giant strawberry

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

We are wimpy fair-weather folk who don’t really like getting wet if there is an alternative. On yet another weekend with rain forecast, we spotted a few hours on Sunday morning when it was both dry and sunny, and rushed out to do some local caching. Our plan was to collect some puzzle caches that we had solved over the winter, and to accompany that with other nearby caches.

The world's biggest strawberry - resting for the winter

The world’s biggest strawberry – resting for the winter


First was ‘Eleven’, a puzzle cache, which involved investigating a mixture of postcodes and coordinates and deriving an answer which led to the coordinates. We duly turned up at the likely location and found the cache within seconds; it was a rather weatherworn ceramic teddy bear. Next was ‘World’s Biggest Strawberry?’, a traditional (non-puzzle) cache on the fringes of Grays Farm http://www.graysfarm.co.uk/ This is an award winning pick your own fruit and veg business; we’ve been there often (to buy or pick) and the quality and value is brilliant. We wanted to find the cache here while it’s still there, as the farm will be turned into sports fields in 2018 and the cache and all those lovely fruit and veg will be gone http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-28582670 For now, the PYO business has two seasons left to run, and its trademark – the giant strawberry – is resting for the winter.
Ford at Gardener's Green

Ford at Gardener’s Green


Our early confidence became dented as we failed to find our next two caches, but had a pleasant few minutes pottering around the ford at Gardener’s Green – quite deep at this time of year – and sniffing at the delicious Sunday roast smells coming from the Crooked Billet pub http://www.crookedbilletwokingham.co.uk/index.php
We moved on a little way to Barkham for the next part of our little caching trip. We set off down Doles Lane, a muddy and puddle filled track, popular with muggle dogs, walkers and cyclists. All of these meant we took longer than planned to retrieve the first cache we found, amid much diversionary activity (from us) of shoelaces tying, map reading, and answering of imaginary phone calls. Turning off the track onto a quieter path, we quickly found two more puzzle caches – more of those we had solved over Christmas. The next cache, ‘Going to California’, was found even more easily as it was right out in the open and visible to anyone passing. Oops – but it might have been exposed by recent high winds. We signed the log and hid it more carefully.
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One more cache to go, and its description suggested that it was teensy tiny. It turned out to be pretty small, but not quite as tiny as that. But still small enough for the geo-penknife to be needed! Final total for the morning: seven caches found out of nine: much more successful than our recent caching efforts: perhaps our searching skills are improving again after a not-especially successful January.

Here, as ever, are some of the caches we found:

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April 18 – Sindlesham (part 2)

You may remember ago we attempted a fairly short trail around Sindlesham set by JJEF.

The trail is short, but the caches are devious! Each one is a work of engineering, each one was a multi of two 2 parts, where the first part gave the co-ordinates to the second.

You may also remember we had some trouble finding the various caches and clues! We vowed we would return, and return we did!

Our first target was where we failed to put the co-ordinates into our GPS correctly. Once we did this, the GZ was easy to find.. finding the cache a bit harder… and opening it harder still! To open the cache (and indeed retrieve it from its hiding place), a tool was needed which JJEF had conveniently placed nearby. Even then life wasn’t easy, as there was little room for manoeuvre on a muddy bank, above a stream with stinging nettles and barbed wire nearby. This proved to be the hardest physical challenge of the afternoon.

Our next GZ to visit was where we had found ‘the wrong cache’. JJEF caches are engineered, and all we found was an old cache container from a previous series. We marked it as ‘found’ but we weren’t happy – there was a niggling feeling of ‘this isn’t right’. And we were right to revisit the GZ here. After much searching we were again drawing a blank. Then a farmer came to feed his horses (which we thought was going to scupper our searching time). So we walked away from GZ and found the cache from this new direction! (Thank you farmer!) The cache was padlocked and could only be opened by using a 4 digit code. JJEF also provided a cryptic method of solving the 4 digit code, which we solved easily. Mentally our toughest challenge of the afternoon.

Then we returned the GZ of where a first part was hidden. We failed to find this on our previous visit, and so were unable to find the resultant final cache. We’d read the logs on http://www.geocaching.com since our previous visit and realised that co-ordinates were not quite right. We extended our search…. to no avail. We were beginning to think we were never going to find the cache when we re-read the logs (for at least the fourth or fifth time)… and saw one phrase a previous cacher had left. This gave us an idea as to the approximate height … but it still took us five minutes to find what we were looking for. From there the final cache was a very easy find indeed! This was our most frustrating cache of the afternoon.

We completed our walk round some footpaths, finding one more, much simpler, non JJEF cache with the satisfied feeling that we should have got from our first expedition. Thanks JJEF – a great set of caches even though we had two goes at them!

Rather than provide too much about the caches… here are few pictures of GZs … or are they ?


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