Friday, 28 September 2012

Two Days Down South

Our plan for this weekend was to head down South on Friday morning, stopping off just South of Marlborough in Wiltshire to do the Cocktail series and then continuing on to Cranborne in East Dorset, where we'd booked accommodation at the Sheaf of Arrows pub to enable us to make an early start on the Saturday morning to do the Cranborne Chase Series.

We've both had the cold bug that's doing the rounds and as we'd had Friday booked off work for quite some time we were hoping we'd both be well enough to still go for our weekend away.  Friday morning still feeling under the weather but determined to make the most of our planned visit we decided to go for it anyway.

We stopped off in Pewsey to do the Church Micro 2164 - Pewsey, St John the Baptist there which was a short but very pleasant walk around the village then it was on to Milton Lilbourne to do the series of caches all named after cocktails. 

Cocktail Series

Village of Milton Lilbourne

31 caches set on a 6 mile figure of 8 walk

The walk takes you on a gentle walk from the small village of Milton Lilbourne out to the even smaller village of Easton Royal and back again. 

Village of Easton Royal

We parked in the village of Milton Lilbourne to start this series at #17 for no other reason really than it was the first suitable parking we came to of the series.  A great walk all on good footpaths and most important of all no angry bulls to contend with or cows for that matter.

Wide Footpath

We met some other cachers on the way, Hawkeyelacock, Bloodsock and Stanthews - we already knew Stan from meeting him at some of his events in Devizes.  We enjoyed doing a few caches with them before going our separate ways - they'd started at #1 and had just completed the walk and were heading to the pub and we were only just getting started so as much as we'd loved to have stopped at the pub we decided to continue on with the walk.
Great views!
A thoroughly enjoyable walk.  All the caches were fairly straightforward to find with good hints.  

Cocktails series

We'd worked up an appetite by then so decided to head off to Salisbury to the Harvester for Steak and Chips, we'd highly recommend it there, nice atmosphere and good quality food, very popular place but luckily we arrived just in time to grab a table for two, after that they were adding names to a waiting list.

After that we continued on our journey south to our accommodation, we'd booked to stay at the Sheaf of Arrows, a family run pub in the village of Cranborne.

Cranborne Chase Circular

Sheaf of Arrows, Cranborne

Cranborne Chase Circular is a series of 94 caches set on a 15 mile walk starting from Cranborne in East Dorset.  The series has been set by a group of four cachers.

Look at that blue sky!!

After a very hearty full English breakfast at the Sheaf of Arrows we set off on the walk signing the first log at about 8.40am.  The sun was already shining and it looked like it was going to be a great caching day.

Even a trigpoint!
All the way round we were following another cacher but unfortunately we didn't catch them up.

Good Mooo-ning :)

The walk was fairly easy going, only a couple of hilly bits to contend with and luckily all the paths that went through cow fields were nicely fenced off, apart from just one which wasn't a problem, we didn't have our dogs with us so they weren't interested in us at all.

'Up yew go'

One of the caches involved a tree climb, luckily I had the hint and read it out - 'Up Yew Go' - so that was decided, Mark climbed the tree
Not far to go now

We completed the walk in a little under 8 hours then it was back to the car to boil the kettle for a well deserved cuppa and a slice of cake - we know how to live it up when we're out caching

A brilliant, brilliant, brilliant couple of days away, can't wait for our next trip!

Cranborne Chase Circular

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Geolympix Marathon series - D & E

Cobstone Mill
Geolympix Marathon Series - Rings D and E 

Rings D  in the village of Turville and Ring E starts in Fingest; together, they make an enjoyable  11 mile walk around the picturesque villages of Turville, Skirmett and Fingest close to the Buckinghamshire/Oxfordshire border.  The route is mostly on good footpaths and bridleways with a short section Ring D along a busy section of road.  The terrain is quite hilly with some fantastic views to be had along the way.

As the forecast was so good for today we thought it would be perfect for a trip to the Chilterns, one of our favourite areas for caching. The Geolympix Marathon Series was published in time for the Geolympix Mega event in July and is set out in 5 rings, covering a total distance of 26.2 miles.

We'd chosen to start with Ring D and detour for Ring E right near the end. We'd had a later than anticipated start to the day so we decided to just pick off two of the rings today and see what time we had left to do some more caches in the area.

We were both in need of some new boots as ours were no longer waterproof so decided to treat ourselves this week and today was the day to try them out.  Let's hope we manage to keep them clean.

Nice new boots, hope they stay clean!

The walk was one of the nicest we've done in a while, it had everything really, good paths, very well placed and easy to find caches, great views, lovely countryside, some pubs en route and one or two hilly bits.

For quite a bit of the walk we were following white arrows painted onto trees and gate posts which we really liked, not sure why, just thought they looked nice

Near the end of the walk we passed The Frog Pub at Skirmett so decided to stop off for a drink before completing the series and heading back to the car.

We completed the walk in a little under 6 hours, this included the stop at the pub.
Early autumn colour

Then there was just time for a very short series nearby, Stonor Circular, which took us about an hour, enjoyable walk up a steep hill then down again, no problems finding the caches but we had to miss out a couple of the series as they didn't seem to be connected to the circular walk.

Then it was off to McDonalds in Banbury for post-caching munch before heading home.  What a great day!  Looking forward to coming back to the area very soon.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Kempsey Common Circular

Kempsey Common Circular

A series of 12 cache set on a 3 mile circular walk on Kempsey Common in Worcestershire.

After our long walk yesterday we didn't think we'd be up to another walk today but as it was such a lovely morning we decided to go out again today and this walk looked ideal.   A bit stiff as we set off but soon got into the swing of it and thoroughly enjoyed the walk on a beautiful morning.

All the caches were easy to find and well hidden.  There are horses and sheep on the common but we didn't have any problems apart from the horses at the last field were over-friendly and wanted to make friends with Whisper.

Ever felt like you're being followed?

It was very nice to be back on the common again, we'd forgotten how lovely it is here.  We made the walk to be a little over 3 miles as we took in an extra cache, Five Trunk Tree, on the way round.  There's also a trigpoint to bag on the walk, we'd already found it back in 2007 but still had to touch it as we walked past

Trigpoint hiding behind the tree

Saturday, 8 September 2012

KT Power - Macclesfield Canal

KT Power

A series of 110 caches set on a linear walk of 17½ miles along the Macclesfield Canal.

We'd decided to head up to Cheshire today to tackle the KT Power series along the Macclesfield canal.  We parked at Macclesfield Station and paid for an all day ticket with the intention of walking down the canal to Kidsgrove where we'd catch a train back again.

The station car park is about ½ a mile from the start of the trail so after a short walk we were at the first cache and signed the log at 10.35am.  A beautiful sunny morning to be out caching..  This is how the summer should have been, seems crazy that we're now at the end of the summer and heading into autumn!

Most of the series has been disabled but as we'd already planned our trip to the area when we noticed the series was having problems we contacted the CO and asked if the caches were still doable, they were so we decided to go ahead.

The first cache was really straightforward to find so then we knew what we would be looking for from then on.  What a great way to hide the caches, none of that scrabbling around in the bushes and having the area trampled down by over-enthusiastic searchers, it was obvious (to a cacher) where the caches were hidden.

We noticed quite early on that we were following another cacher but didn't recognise the name, when we got to B52 (GC2B7QC)  we realised we were following caching friends AJIGeo and The Strangler, they had abbreviated their names in the micro log books for speed/save room, so a quick phone call and they weren't too far ahead so we hoped to catch them up.

On the way we met some really friendly cachers and stopped for quite a long chat, they were Haynes Pirates, ska face and birdwatchdave.  They had caught the train from Macclesfield down to Kidsgrove and were walking back to Macclesfield, they said that they had bought return tickets as they were only 10p more than single tickets but wouldn't now be needing them so very kindly gave them to us.  We really appreciated this as it saved us nearly £10.  Then we went our separate ways and we realised then we had a bit of time to make up if we wanted to catch up with our friends.

As we walked we could hear bagpipes, not just any old music but Auld Lang Syne er... in September?  We thought maybe someone on board a canal boat was playing music but as we continued we realised there was a man standing on the tow-path playing bagpipes!  We stopped for a chat and he explained that he's been practising his bagpipes every week for many years in the middle of nowhere on the tow-path.  He said he was trying to perfect Auld Lang Syne in time for New Year's Eve

We rang ahead and luckily Alan and Dave had stopped for a lunch break so now they were only 2 caches ahead of us so we soon caught them up.

Caught them up at last
It was great to finally meet up and we continued on for the rest of the walk together, caching and talking as we went.
Thirsty Sheep

We weren't sure how long the walk was going to take us but the train from Kidsgrove ran every hour at 5 past the hour so we had made a mental target to get to Kidsgrove for 18:05, with one eye on the time we hoped to make it, we got to KT #107 and realised we only had ½ an hour to go so we quickened our pace even though our feet were killing us - it's really time I got some new boots before the next long walk, with all the rain we've had I think mine have shrunk.  We got to the last cache, KT #110 and it was 17:50 so we said our speedy 'goodbyes' and then hurried off to the station as we still had 0.6 miles (in a straight line) to walk to get to the station.  It was along the pavement and really hardgoing on tired feet, we ran the last bit and got onto the platform with seconds to spare!  Then it was onto the train and we were so glad to sit down at last.  We love travelling on trains so this was just added even more to the fun of the day. Then can you believe it, after walking for nearly 8 hours it only took 15 mins to get back to Macclesfield!!!

The stretch of canal from Macclesfield to Kidsgrove has to be some of the prettiest we've seen, the one thing we noticed was there was hardly any litter and we met loads of people, all really friendly.

We were really glad to see the car but what a fantastic day we've had, then it was off to Maccys for a cachers' tea

Letting the train take the strain

A lot of work has gone into setting this series and we'd highly recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of a challenge, a long walk, finding lots of caches, beautiful countryside.... oh and trains

Macclesfield Canal

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Isle of Wight & Brownsea Island

The Needles, Isle of Wight

For some time now, our UK county map has had a very obvious white blob on it just off the South Coast. This is, of course, the Isle of Wight so we decided it was about time that we rectified the situation. We arrived home from France on the Tuesday night, checked the weather forecast for the rest of the week and it looked pretty good so we booked ferry tickets for 09:25 Thursday morning and a Premier Inn for Thursday night in Southampton.


Once again, got up at some unearthly hour and headed down to Lymington arriving some two and a half hours later just in time to get an earlier ferry. Super!  After the short crossing we got off the ferry at Yarmouth and drove round to Alum Bay with a slight detour for the cache Fort Victoria on the way.  Alum Bay has a former military base which is now owned by the National Trust and an EarthCache by The Wombles which has quite a few favourite points; both of which we were keen to visit.

Alum Bay also has a ghastly amusement park for the masses and a cluster of tacky touristy shops. We have no interest whatsoever in the shops or amusements but it meant that it cost £4 to park the car as there was no where else to park for free.

Alum Bay Earthcache

Being able-bodied (and tight-fisted ) we took the steps down to the beach rather than the very popular chair lift and made our way to GZ. The sands were pretty much what we expected but Beth said that she was expecting it all to be far more stripey.  I think her imagination had run wild.
Alum Bay
Old and New Batteries

Somewhat unusually, there is an old Geocache actually inside one of the rooms of The Old Battery. We found it after exploring the rest of the site and reading all about its history.  Although also owned by the National Trust, the New Battery just up the hill is free to enter for non-NT members. The New Battery was built after the Old Battery when the guns got too large.  It was also the testing site for Cold-War rockets.  After the site had been decommissioned it was due to be demolished but luckily the National Trust stepped in and stopped the demolition and were finally able to restore some of the rooms.

Searchlight at Old Battery

The Garlic Farm

Our son, Steven, had been on holiday to the island with his girlfriend in July and told us about a garlic farm they'd visited. The free magazine which we picked up from the ferry also mentioned it so we decided to go and take a look.  The owners have been growing garlic there for about fifty years and they make and sell a vast array of garlic produce.

The Taste Experience
Any visitor should go to the tasting room first. Yum!  We stocked up on plenty of garlic pickles in the shop and some seed garlic to plant at home .

Garlic galore!
 Many years ago back in 1972, I visited the Isle of Wight for a holiday with my family, I remember visiting a pub that on the outside looked just like a ship, one day when looking through some old photos with my children I found the photo of the pub and decided that if I ever visited the IOW again I'd find the pub and see if it still looked the same - and it did

2012 on the left 1972 on the right - Pilot Boat Inn, IOW
Then after a quick stop at a trigpoint then at Maccys it was time to head back to Yarmouth for the ferry back to Lymington.

Sunsetting over Yarmouth harbour


Our plan for today was to visit Brownsea Island.  Back in 2006 I had visited the island with Steven and Beth and Mark had to stay in Poole with the dogs as they weren't allowed across to the island so Mark has been keen to return ever since.  We had quite a few reasons for wanting to visit the island, one of them was to find GC23AD BP's Brownsea Island which was placed on 16th August 2001 - this cache is the 14th oldest active cache in the UK and,  apart from a virtual in the Scottish Islands, is the oldest one which we hadn’t found.

Visiting the island isn't cheap, first of all you have to park in Poole - roadside parking is possibly available for free if you're prepared to drive around looking for it but we couldn't find any spaces so parked in the main pay and display car park in Poole which cost £1.50 per hour!! ... bearing in mind you'll need to allow a good 6 or 7 hours for your visit - we were gone 7 hours.  Then it's a short walk to the Brownsea Ferry and crossings are every ½ hour, this cost £16 for 2 x adults and 1 teen, but I think it was 2 adults 2 children for £16.  Luckily we are National Trust members but if you're not then you'll need to cough up a further £6.20 per adult or if you're a family I think it's around £15.  If you're planning on visiting a few NT properties throughout the year, as we have, it's well worth joining (no I'm not on commission ).

Another reason for our visit is that we love red squirrels and have been lucky to see them when visiting Cumbria but on our last visit to Brownsea it was too hot and they were all fast asleep during the day, it was quite hot today and we'd almost given up hope of seeing any but just as we were reaching the end of our walk around the island I spotted one then we started seeing a few more, a really lovely sight to see - the sightings coincided with us completing the Brownsea Red Squirrel Hunt multicache.

Red Squirrel Hunt
Beth, our daughter, was pleased to revisit as she's a keen Explorer Scout and is hoping to arrange a camp on the island so had a long chat with a couple of very enthusiastic leaders in the Outdoor Centre.

Baden Powell Commemorative Stone

The time just flew, we had a fantastic day on the island, a beautiful haven of tranquillity that we'd highly recommend to anyone