After our underground adventure for our 10,000th cache at Schrödinger’s Ghostly Wormhole Paradox we decided it would be fun to have a few more underground adventures. I searched the caches in the UK to try an identify a “Must do” underground cache. Instead I found a cluster of 6 in Wiltshire, just on the outskirts of Bath. The long weekend we had ahead of us gave us the perfect excuse to get away and do them, so we booked a campsite for 5 days and headed to Wiltshire. I was absolutely bowled over with the quality of caches around the area. I’m not talking about nice big circuits and long walks (Although there are loads of them too!), but single caches full of favourite points! As I had knackered my foot last weekend, we decided to take it easy on the walking and just focus on single high quality caches. It would have been easy to spend our trip walking grabbing 70+ caches a day, however instead we found just over 70 in total including easily the best cache that we have ever found…
Our trip down to Wiltshire started the way that we meant to continue with finding a few odd “Must do” caches. The first point of call was Woodhenge for a virtual cache of the same name. Woodhenge is a timber circle. It was discovered in 1925 after an aerial photograph was taken of the area. It’s thought to have been created around 2,000BC. There are 168 post holes around the henge with most of these once holding wooden posts and some possibly holding sarsen stones and a grave in the centre which was discovered to be that of a child. The original stones and logs are not at the site anymore, however concrete posts have been constructed in their original positions to show how the henge used to look.
At Woodhenge there is also a YOSM virtual cache. We’re used to finding trig points for the virtual, however this one is a surface block. It took us a few seconds to spot it at the coords and having never found one before we were quite surprised by what it was.
Next we stopped at the famous Stonehenge. despite driving past it a couple of times I’ve never stopped off for a closer look. By doing so we were able to grab a virtual, an earth cache, and a traditional. Stonehenge is a very famous monument in the UK with a construction date of between 3000BC and 2000BC. It’s believed that Stonehenge was once a burial ground as cremated remains have been found at the site. It was great to be able to see and appreciate the full size of the huge sarsens standing before us. The earthcache took us walking further away from Stonehenge where we learnt about “The Avenue” which was the ancient track approaching Stonehenge. As “The Avenue” extends from the River Avon, it’s thought that the bluestones used to create Stonehenge were dragged from the river along this track before reaching their final resting place.
Our final destination before heading back to the camp site was a virtual cache, Ghost Village (Wiltshire) at the little village of Imber. Imber is a very special and very unique village because despite there being buildings, there are no inhabitants of the village. In 1943 the people of Imber were called to a meeting and told that they would need to evacuate their homes within 47 days. Imber was to be used for training American troops in preparation for D-Day landings! Although the residents were told that they would be able to return to their homes this never happened and after the war was over it was used for training. It still is, and Imber is only accessible on a few days of the year making this virtual a very tricky one to get! It’s open on most special holidays, with this year’s Jubilee weekend being an exception meaning that we were able to visit.
There were no roads on our sat nav for Imber, but we were able to follow directions that we found on a website for Imber to navigate to it. Entry to Imber is through a barrier with a sign on that tells you if the village is open to the public or not. Even though the sign told us that we were allowed to access Imber we were cautious driving along the 2.5 miles of road into the centre of the village. There were many signs along the road alerting us to the dangers of visiting Imber and straying from the beaten track!
Once we got to the centre and saw other cars and people visiting the village we were relieved. There wasn’t a lot left in the village. A couple of the old buildings were still standing as just shells. In 1970 the MoD constructed some empty house-like buildings to aid training which could be seen at the side of the main track. Unlike the other buildings, St. Giles church looked untouched. This was because as it remained in the hands of Diocese of Salisbury rather than the War Office (Now MoD) and so it wasn’t subject to the shell fire that the other buildings were.
We headed to the church to start our exploration of the remains of the village. There was also another Geocache, Virtually a Church Micro…Imber, which required answers from a plaque at the church so that you could work out the coordinates. Although the answers could be found on a website we decided that we wanted to do it for real, as we were visiting. Inside, the church was very bare. There was an alter and a few benches, but very little else.
We learnt that a lot of the furnishings and fittings inside had been scattered among other churches in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire in the 1950′s. On our visit a few locals were inside the church serving tea, coffee, and cakes for visitors and we started talking to one who lives on the outskirts of Imber. He spoke to us about some of the history and we learnt that those who were born in Imber are allowed to be buried at St. Giles church. In fact, the only recent burial was the day before we visited. We later went and saw the grave in the church yard.
The gentleman also told us that there was a secret face painted in some of the circular decorations on the pillars inside the church. He teased us for a little bit until pointing it out to us!
After leaving the church we headed to the old buildings to have a look. There really wasn’t a lot left of them at all!
Before leaving Imber via the route we had entered we headed off in the opposite direction because we were told that there were tanks along that stretch of road and Boy! What a lot of tanks there were! Some were positioned very close to the track that we drove along. You couldn’t even walk along the footpaths on Salisbury Plains without being reminded that there might be a tank passing near by!
The views of Salisbury plains when heading in and out of Imber were stunning and the church looked very grand sitting on the hill. We enjoyed our trip to Imber and would really recommend checking the imber website for allowed visiting times and heading there to explore. We were so glad that we stopped off there!
I thought you said “Underground Adventure”…?
At this point I should be talking about our underground adventures on the following day. I’m leaving these for a separate blog entry as there are A LOT of photos to share… Click here to see that entry!
Time for a walk…
Our Jubilee weekend was unfortunately a very wet one with it raining every day. Determined not to let the rain end play on Tuesday we headed off to do a short circular walk, Westwood Wander. This was a series of 18 caches over 3.5 miles. We parked up at the church, yet another building decorated with GB flags to celebrate the Jubilee!
The start of the series passed through some lovely fields of Barley.
We had picked the series based on the fact that it was close to the camp site and not too long, the decision heavily based on the bad weather conditions! It was actually a really lovely series which passed along a river and to a couple of weirs. Along the river was a large metal frame with a rope attached to it. We went up for a closer look and were rather amused by the signs attached to it! We certainly weren’t going to test it out today! I realised later that the area was used as a Wild Swimming club.
Just a few meters from this was the loud, gushing weir. An absolutely fabulous site. We learnt that along this river they were constructing generators for “Hydro-power” to be produced to power the area. Something we haven’t seen before on our walks through the country.
Half way through the walk we were taken to Farleigh Hungerford Castle. We had a quick peek in before continuing.
It was then back up and over the river with a lovely double arch stone bridge over the top and a statue of Britannia (Who had a flag drooped over his shoulders) that looked over the river. A few meters up from the bridge was a stone wall with a big wooden door and a bronze statue peering over it!
On the final stretch of the series we walked up the lane. A car was parked on the side of the road and an elderly gentleman emerged from the bushes with a big pane of glass in his hand. “You want some honey from my hives?” He asked! On top of he glass was a chunk of honeycomb which he chiseled off for us with my pen! “You can eat it as you walk back” he suggested. He told us that he had 4 hives behind the bushes. We thanked him and moved on with a piece of honey comb each! We decided that we would get in a very sticky mess eating the honey as we walked up the lane so quickly found something to stash it in to take home. It took a while to get the sticky honey off of our hands though!!!
We were so glad that we picked this particular walk to do whilst in the area. The scenery was absolutely brilliant: A grand weir, a castle, and a lovely bridge. Unfortunately it seems like the series is desperately in need of some TLC with 2 of the caches being missing and having strings of DNFs as long as your arms with a few others needing maintenance too. We had packed light this weekend and hadn’t taken any replacements with us to fix missing caches as we normally would do so unfortunately we couldn’t help out. The rain ended walking for the day as by the time we got back to the car it was pouring down. Another walk was out of the question so we decided to head to Bath to grab a couple of caches and then back to the camp site. On our route however we noticed a series of drive-by caches that we hadn’t seen before and they were heading in the direction that we were! What luck! 18 wet stop-offs later and we ended up in Bath.
We wanted to find the Hot Springs earthcache and The First King virtual whilst in the city. We headed to the centre and were drawn to a street entertainer playing Misirlou (aka the theme from Pulp Fiction!) on a classical guitar. It was brilliant and really set the scene. I’ve tried to play that song on my guitar before and can appreciate how difficult it is!!! We then headed to find the roman baths and the stunning abbey which we did quite successfully.
Other than these big famous buildings in the centre I have to say we didn’t find Bath that impressive. We passed through quite a few times during our visit. My thoughts were of stunning architecture and beautiful buildings, but a lot of the buildings just looked old and dirty. I guess maybe we didn’t visit the right parts!
Some more great caches on the way home…
Cherhill White Horse
The following day we headed home. Typically as we were leaving the weather decided to improve! We didn’t mind this though as we were pleased for some better weather as I had a big list of nice caches to stop off for. We headed towards Avebury where there was a big cluster of virtuals and earthcaches with lots of favourite points on them. Our first stop was Cherhill and the White Horse. We hadn’t planned to stop off for this, but Andy said “Look, there’s a white horse in the hill” I looked at my GPS and said “STOP! There’s an earthcache!” Hehe! We were very glad that we stopped off to get a better look and learn about it from the information board at the site. We learnt that the white horse, which is the second oldest in Wiltshire and third oldest in the country, was cut into the hills in 1780. It’s 131ft long and 142ft high! The horse had many owners and in WW2 it was turfed over to prevent it becoming a target for the enemy. It was later restored by Cherhill Parish Council at the cost of £20,000 and many tonnes of chalk! Next to the horse is an obelisk called the Lansdowne Monument. This was was erected in 1845 by the 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne to commemorate his ancestor Sir William Petty.
Our first stop at the “Avebury World Heritage Site” was Silbury hill. The hill is Europe’s largest man-made prehistoric mound. It was constructed between 2400 and 2300BC. The reason for the hill being created is not known, but they do know that creating a mound his large was not the initial plan, it just grew bigger over generations. There were tales of rich burials inside the hill and there were 3 tunnels into it with the first starting in 1776 to try and find the central burial. None of the excavations revealed it.
West Kennet Long Barrow
Next we headed just down the road to West Kennet Long Barrow. The barrow, or burial chamber, was constructed around 3600BC from local sarsen and lime stone. It was used until 2500BC. Excavations revealed at least 46 people were buried there over a 1000 year period. Although the chamber was once completely filled it, it’s now open and accessible. We went in and explored. The construction was amazing! I hadn’t researched the barrow before hand so had no idea of what to expect when we got there, it could just have been earth works. I loved that we could go inside and see all of the rooms and this cache was definitely the highlight of the day.
Avebury stone circle
Our final virtual cache was at Avebury stone circle. This is a Neolithic henge monument with three stone circles which surround Avebury village. When we visited there was a man playing a pipe walking through the corridor of stones with a flock of people following behind him. We followed the stones up the road to see one of the other circles.
We finished our exploration around Avebury by visiting an earthcache at Lockeridge Dene where we saw smaller sarsen boulders scattered around a field. This earthcache was perhaps a bit of an anti-climax after seeing the magnificent stones making up the Avebury stone circle and West Kennet Long Barrow, but still a worthy sight to stop and see.
We headed towards Swindon and then on to Barbury Castle for a multi-cache. Barbury Castle is an Iron Age fort with a country park around it. We parked in the main car park and took the longer scenic route to the final cache. Unfortunately there’s not a lot left to see other than earthworks but the scenery made the visit worthwhile.
After I had pulled the Barbury Castle cache out of its hiding place we noticed that a muggle dog walker was on his way past. I quickly threw the camo bag on the ground and we huddled around the tub which obviously just had our lunch in it, nothing sinister! The dog, however, was very friendly and ran up to us to say Hello, spotted the camo bag, stole it and ran off with it! Hehe! I managed to chase the dog and get the bag back without the muggle wondering what the heck we were doing!
Uffington White Horse
Following on from here was Uffington White Horse, the oldest White Horse in the country. As it was so big, it was a little tricky to see from the view point, especially with it being just the outline. I think I perhaps enjoyed seeing the Cherhill white horse a little more.
Cold War Cache
Our last planned stop before home saw us going back underground for the Ashbury ROC post for Cold War Cache We’d been down 2 ROC posts prior to this one and don’t usually worry about going down old bunkers, but once we spotted the bunker we were a bit hesitant…
The farmer had covered the post with manure to stop visitors! From reading the logs now, we learnt that cache finders immediately before us had pushed the manure off of the top so thankfully we didn’t have quite such a big clearance job in order to get down there! Lol! We did wonder whether we should go down as there might be a load of mess inside the ROC post too, however we had a change of clothes with us so decided just to go for it with me entering the bunker first.
The bunker was in pretty good condition in comparison to the last that we visited which had been set alight inside. The white walls made it very light inside and easy to see. We probably didn’t even need a torch to find the cache in this bunker as it was just where we expected it to be in exactly the same place as the cache in the previous bunker we visited.
I was quite amused when I climbed out of the bunker to see that someone had written the LOST numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 on the lid! (For those that haven’t seen Lost, those numbers are entered into a computer by a chap down a hatch on the island)
We had planned for the Cold War Cache to be the last for the day, however stopped off at the Mansion House Harvester pub near Reading for dinner whilst passing near by. The pub was set in the lovely Prospect Park and there just so happened to be 3 geocaches within walking distance so we went for a stroll after dinner. The first was in fact placed for the Mansion House which is now a Harvester.
We spent a little while at the final cache, Heat-Shaped Pond, in the park, ??, dithering at a spot and just not being able to see the cache right in front of our noses. Whilst we were standing there, a family of Squirrels came rushing out of the trees and a couple started running along the fence towards us! They were more than happy to pose for a quick picture!
What a lovely end to quite possibly our most enjoyable caching trip ever!