Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.
I had finally been permitted a day off work. So, bright and early, we were heading down the A303 towards Devon, towards the 2017 UK Mega Geocaching event at Bicton College.
Close by Bicton College lies the River Otter, Otterton village and Ladram Bay, with its red cliffs and sandstone stacks. The bay is one of my favourite places – ever, ever – we last visited in May 2016 and posted about the caches then. But, for the Mega event, LOTS of new caches had been placed and we planned to do quite a few of them.
We parked in Otterton and switched on the GPS. Mr Hg137 had spent several hours loading up 76 caches for the weekend and we were fully prepared. The GPS fired up … and there were just two (yes, two) caches visible. Aargghh! Something had gone wrong, and we didn’t have a caching route for today, or the rest of the weekend. We thought … how to load some more caches … we had a GPS, we had a laptop, where to find some wifi? Aha! The village pub. We grabbed GPS, laptop and cable, and rushed to the village pub, the Kings Arms http://www.kingsarmsotterton.co.uk where we bought a drink, asked for the wifi password and sat outside, loading caches. The village seemed to be quite busy, and suspiciously many of the folk wandering around seemed to be carrying GPSs. Hmm, a lot of geocachers about!
Mission accomplished, we walked back to the start of our day’s caching route which would lead us out of Otterton, over tracks to Ladram Bay, then up Peak Hill for a view across to Sidmouth, then back along a green lane to the village. We would usually have parked at the car park at Ladram Bay, but the price for doing this has risen to a rip off price of £10, and that is way, way too much for an afternoon’s parking. Oh well, another customer lost forever.
Our first couple of caches were from the ‘Strolling around Otterton’ series which had been recently placed, ready for the Mega event. Mr Hg137 became confused when one of the hints read ‘behind TP’ and he spent a little while looking for a tepee rather than a telegraph pole. Never mind, he worked it out soon enough. Then we left the village and walked towards the coast along a muddy, sunken lane leading downhill towards the bay. We had joined the route of the ‘Mega Byways’ series and found some more caches as we slipped and slid and eventually emerged into Ladram Bay Holiday Park.
The South West Coast Path crosses here, and we joined it to walk up the hill to the east of the bay, pausing for lunch at a picnic bench overlooking the beach. Here’s a video of the super little bay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9e5nTQvGgY
As we set off uphill away from the bay, we stopped to read a noticeboard, and for a chat to two people coming from the other direction. Their GPS gave them away as geocachers. They were Lydford Locators, and we found more than 50 of their caches as we worked our way down the upper reaches of the Thames in early 2015. We were duly awed to meet them and they were … puzzled by us two fans.
We carried on up the hill on a path between the cliff edge and a cornfield, finding caches as we went. We recognised another geocacher, Simply Paul, who we had last seen at the 2016 Geolympix in Ashridge Forest. And we kept spotting people behaving oddly, stopping at regular intervals or disappearing into hedges and bushes. Cachers, cachers everywhere! (Goodness knows what the locals and muggles made of all this ….)
We reached the top edge of the field and went into woodland, then spent a little while searching around in ivy before finding our next cache. All the time a family were approaching up the hill, and we just managed to replace the cache before they arrived. Hello to caching family, BECKS RLLR plus geodog, and we kept on bumping into them for the next mile or so. Leaving them to look for the cache we had just re-hidden, we huffed and puffed our way to the very top of the hill, 157 metres above sea level, leaving the woods for heathland and for a fine view out to sea. A short way further on, the south-west coast path began to drop towards Sidmouth, and the view opened out.
Mr Hg137 suddenly realised that there was a cache, named ‘SWCP Panorama’, that he had omitted to load during our earlier, rushed episode at the pub. He cast around like a bloodhound on a scent, and the cache was soon found. It was under a pile of large pebbles that looked as if they had been regularly disturbed – that’s the thing about Mega events, the caches are found a lot in a short time, and there are usually signs of searching, or even a cacher holding the cache!
We turned back inland and down Bars Lane, a sunken tree-lines track which turned into a lane, and with a few stops for cache finding and a few diversions down side paths for more cache finding, we made our way back to Otterton. As we reached the cache where Mr Hg137 had searched earlier for a tepee, we bumped into yet another group of cachers – this group were clearly from Scotland and they were the organising committee for the 2019 Mega event, which is to be in Ayrshire. So many cachers!
Arriving back at the car, we decided to attempt one more cache. This one was called ‘Spoiler’. You get some coordinates as a start point, are told that the cache is within a two-mile radius, and are given a photo taken from the cache site. And that is all the information you get. We’d done one of these before, in London’s Docklands, and hours, days and weeks of research had gone on to find the right place. This one was a bit easier. We knew that the cache was inside a circle based on given coordinates – we drew a circle on the map. We perused likely places using every kind of online map – and got a few candidate places. We researched further – bingo! Mr Hg137 found some drone footage. We had found the place. We drove there, down some very narrow Devon lanes. Walking round the location, we found the cache at the third attempt, when we had finally managed to line up the photo and the view exactly. Phew! Success. We headed off to Honiton and our hotel, to rest up, load some more caches, and prepare for the rigours of the Mega Day on the morrow.
Here are just some of the many caches we found: