Over the past two weekends we’ve spent a lot of time caching down south, 3 times in Kent and once in Surrey, so this blog post covers our adventures over those 4 trips.
Saturday 27th August
We’ve had our eye on a large series in Surrey for some time, Humble Hike. This is a series of 51 caches over 10 miles, plus extras, and plus the ability to add a few extra miles to the trip to incorporate the Polesden Lacey series to give us around 70 caches over a 13 mile walk. We teamed up with our good friends mel-ray and set off at 8am on a lovely sunny morning.
We started the series by all managing to find a cache each, from the 5th cache onwards however, it just got muddled and it was claimed by whoever got there first! 🙂 After finding and replacing cache #4 we spotted a rather interesting creature on the ground, a very large snail. He certainly wasn’t like any other snail we’ve encountered as he was much larger.
Once home I asked a friend about the snail. He’s a bit of an insect expert and told me that it’s a “Helix Pomatia” which is in fact the UK’s largest snail. It’s also edibe, however in England it is a protected species meaning it’s illegal to kill, injure, collect, or sell them! I imagine to stop restaurants collecting them all up!!! 😉 Aparently it’s most common in West and South England particularly in sothern areas where there is chalk. Throughout the series we found 3 more large snail shells that would have come from Helix Pomatias, so it’s obviously quite common around those parts.
Along the series there were a few National Trust areas. Polesden Lacey is a big Edwardian country estate with pretty gardens. We branched off and did the Polesden Lacey series near the beginning of the Humble Hike series and were treated with some very picturesque scenery. A lovely series, which we would all really recommend.
We then joined back on to the Humble Hike series and passed a youth hostel. A few caches along from here we stopped to let a muggle lady pass before searching for a cache. She asked us if we were from the Youth Hostel (Obviously because we look so youthful!). We told her that we weren’t and she said that she wasn’t either and so we just waited for her to pass before grabbing a cache that we could see waiting for us!
Further along the series we headed up through another National Trust area, ‘Chapel Farm Fields’ which was really no different to us than any other field full of cows 😉 However, aparently it’s connected to the Polesden Lacey estate and the farm supplies some fine produce. We were however more interested in the huge herd of cows that were scattered all over these fields. Fortunately for us they were all laying in the shade and despite having calves with them weren’t bothered by us and we were able to pass them several times without triggering too much interest. Good cows! 🙂
Just up from the cows we approached the sheep field, however to get to it there was a very narrow path that ran along a fence. There were a few naughty stray sheep that had escaped through the stile and to this path. There was nowhere for us to go and nowhere for them to go, so we just slowly followed them up the hill until we got to the stile and they narrowly squeezed through one-by-one. It was a bit of a tight fit!
It was then cows galore through the next stretch of the series, however thankfully they were all fenced off away from us. That didn’t stop them making rather loud, scary Moo-ing sounds as we passed by!
The series ended with a cache next to a memorial commemorating “50 years of peace” since WWII and we ended with some lovely homemade cakes and sausage rolls in the car park before heading off for some drive-by’s.
Our next stop was Box Hill Fort. This is a fort built in 1899 to protect London from invasion across the channel. It was also equipped with arms and ammunition to defend the trenches. Nowadays it’s not possible to enter the fort as bats have taken up home inside. Unfortunately the Geocache placed here was missing, and definitely missing as a previous log was a note from someone who had found the cache a few days earlier and said the cache was no longer there. Mel-ray had a spare film can so we replaced it. The CO was very grateful and left a note on the cache page thanking us. 🙂
Around the same area was the Box Hill trig point, which was also home to the moving cache, YSM 171. We visited the trig point to take a photo and were spoilt with some amazing views of Surrey!
There was also another cache in the surrounding woodland which passed a very interesting random grave stone which read “Major Peter Labelliere, Aged 75. An eccentric resident of Dorking was buried here head downwards 11th July 1800”. Certainly made us smile!
I was quite interested in Peter, and some research pulled up this: ‘He spent the end of his life at lodgings in South Street and died, as he had prophesied previously, in 1800. He was buried, at his request, upside down in a ten foot hole on the top of Box Hill. “As the world is turned upside down on Judgment Day,” he said, “only he, would be correct way up“.’
Monday 29th August
As it was a bank holiday weekend, we had planned to head off to find some caches at Kent Forts with HappyCabbage however I couldn’t get a dogsitter for Teddy so we took Teddy with us and found somewhere else to go instead. We still headed into Kent though and started with a drive-by series created by ‘The Chang Girls’. This very neatly took us to a series that we had planned to do, JJR6A – N This was an extension of the JJR series. The rest of the series looked a bit scatterd so we just did the extension which was a nice loop. I guess we probably should have known better though as we never have very nice experiences caching along the west edge of Kent. There is always just so much litter chucked everywhere . The cache that we started on, JJR6C was no exception and we rummaged amongst a lot of litter before the cache was finally spotted by me.
Surprisingly litter wasn’t the main problem for most of the caches after this, it was brambles and nettles! The undergrowth seemed to have latched on to all of the cache locations and swamped them! We spent 20 minutes searching amongst ferns, brambles, and nettles for JJR6N without finding it. The area was just covered in undergrowth!
The next fews caches weren’t easy either, however HappyCabbage dived in and ploughed through nettles to reach a few locations, including JJR6M which was attached to a piece of rubbish, down a ditch, in the middle of a nettle path! Oh the joys!!! The boys ended up with quite a lot of stings after this expedition. Me and Teddy were OK though as we stayed on the path and er, muggle watched! 😉
The next stop was further south around Biggin Hill, Doris ROM. The “ROM” in the series name stood for “Right Old Mixture” and they certainly weren’t kidding! We hadn’t expected much from the series, just a nice walk, however we were treated to plenty of custom containers to brighten up our walk. It was also quite reassuring to see in the logs that the CO had recently visited and checked up on all of the caches.
Saturday 3rd September
This Saturday seemed to be just one of those caching days where you plan a good todo list, with a decent number of caches, but for some strange reason it takes an absolute age to get through it. The caching mojo just wasn’t working. We planned to do a few drive-by caches on the way to a series, but by the time we had got there we seemed to have spent hours chasing just 7 caches. It felt like we should have found 20! The series that we had aimed for was Holly Hill Loop. We had heard some really great things about this series and were saving it for a sunny day.
Despite our earlier caching hiccups, this series really brightened up our day. There were so many colourful wild flowers and plants around the loop that it felt like quite a magical place. Because of this we didn’t get around the loop very quickly as I was preoccupied with taking photos!
We were really impressed with the layout of the series. A lot of it passed through shaded areas and woodland so we were rarely in direct sun. It was a very hot day, so this was most welcome. At cache #3 the series split off into an extension loop where we were able to pick up numbers for an extra bonus cache. This section of the series passed through the Woodland Trust’s “Tranquil Wood”.
Of course, one of the bad things about all the nice shade along the series was that the GPSr was a little unsettled at times. As a result we did a big circle around the extension bonus cache after bushwhacking through only to find that we could have simply stepped a few paces off of the path and found it! Typical!
The series looped around and into the little village of Harvel. There was a big tree on the green with plenty of fruit growing on it. We weren’t sure what fruit it was though, or if it was edible so we didn’t take any, however on the way home we drove past the green and noticed a local filling up a bag with the fruit so looks like we missed out on some freebies there!
The big advantage of having either the Open Street Maps, or Ordnance Survey maps on your device is that you can see where the pubs are! The hot weather meant we were in need of a nice, cold drink so stopped at “The Amazon and Tiger” which was only a short walk off of the series. We sat outside with our Cokes, tied Teddy up to the bench and enjoyed the rest. Teddy, however, was not happy as a man walked past us (Shock! Horror!) so this was Teddy’s cue to bark at him!!! Teddy got the fright of his life, when a little white dog ran out of the pub from out of nowhere and started barking at him! It was brilliant! The dog then vanished back into the pub leaving Teddy puzzled! Later on the little dog reappeared and we gave him a doggy treat, much to Teddy’s disgust!
After the well-needed rest it was onwards and upwards onto the next caches. Our way our of Harvel was over a stile and through a horse pasture, however the two horses in there had other ideas! As soon as they saw us they rushed to the gate and asked for some fuss. They were very interested in Teddy and kept looking at him. Despite this I climbed the stile with Teddy. The brown horse blocked the path in front of us, then the grey horse stood behind him to block the path to the left! We were sandwiched between horses and stile! The big brown horse put his nose down to Teddy and despite encouraging them to move he just wouldn’t. We couldn’t risk trying to push past as if the horse kicked Teddy he would have been seriously injured and when I picked Teddy up the horse brought his nose straight to Teddy’s! We were luckily able to pass through a gate next door and then under a fence to pass the nasty horses.
Along the final stretch of the series we found what the “Hill” part in the series name was all about! 😉 As a reward we were treated to some very nice scenery.
We then re-entered the woodland to pick up the bonus. A very successful series with only 1 DNF. We were also able to find the Holly Hill trig point in the woods near the car. There was an information board here telling us what the items in the distance were, however unfortunately the area was overgrown with ferns so we couldn’t see a lot, other than the QE2 bridge.
We did have some other caches planned for our trip, however decided to call it a day and headed home. Teddy looked quite worn out, but I did remind him that if he hadn’t pulled on his lead for the majority of the trip then he might feel a bit more awake! 😉
Sunday 4th September
On Sunday we decided to be brave and headed to Grain, in Kent to attempt a slightly extreme cache, Fort Micro’s #8 (Grain Tower Battery). To retrieve this cache you had to visit a derelict fort and climb to the top. Sounds easy enough, but couple that with the fact that you can’t get to it with the tide in and that the access up it is slightly falling apart and you have yourself quite an adventure!
We teamed up with HappyCabbage again to conquer the fort and arrived on the beach at 9:30am. I’d checked tide times and low tide was 10:30am, however it was far out enough for us to easily access it. The main access to the fort was via a stone causeway which has worn away throughout the years. A surprising amount of it is still intact, but in parts we had to rock hop across stepping stones and squelch through mud.
It was at least a quarter mile along the causeway, but it was quite fun. We could gradually see the fort getting closer, and closer. Suddenly it started looking a little daunting as we realised the real size of it!
The route up was via an old aluminium ladder. Perched very wonky at the bottom of the fort, and tied to the side with a bit of old blue rope. It didn’t look stable and it didn’t look in the least bit safe. I had a sudden flash of “This is a really bad idea!” but as soon as I started to think that, HappyCabbage was on his way up!!! No turning back now then! He held the top and Andy held the bottom and I managed to get up. Phew! That was actually the worst bit of it. Once up we were able to explore the lower floor of the fort.
The hint seemed to indicate that we needed to ascend quite high to be in with a chance of finding the cache. We did just that and were soon at a spot that felt right for a cache. The boys immediately grabbed the best positions for hunting and I just poodled around at the bottom trying to find the cache. After 5 minutes of searching, HappyCabbage announced victory and the cache was ours for the signing! 🙂
There were some lovely views from the top, however looking down did seem a bit scary as you could see the narrow stretch that we had walked across to get to this section of the building. Once we were down, the top of the tower also looked a little scary, I couldn’t quite believe that we all climbed it whilst being quite unphased by it all!
After exploring the fort some more, all that was left was the trip down the scary ladder again and we were done!
An absolutely brilliant cache, that is one of our most favourites of all time. A very satisfying find!
Next we headed just up the road to Fort Micro #6 (Grain Fort ). Again, there were the remains of an old fort, however it didn’t require any effort to get to the cache, so wasn’t a patch on our previous find!
Next we headed to Cooling Crawl, a series of 14 caches over 3.5 miles. Not being able to get a parking place for the series, due to muggle traffic at the castle meant that we did the series in dribs and drabs. A lot of the caches were along roads so we picked up those by car, and then walked little sections to pick up the others. It was a pretty average series. As a lot of it was along the road there wasn’t that much scenery, although Cooling castle – the main attraction of the muggles was pretty impressive!
After completing the series, our plan was the head up to ‘Earth Engine’, a cache which required another climb, however we drove to the parking spot and unfortunately a trail of black clouds followed us and chucked it down with rain! Suddenly it didn’t seem like such a good idea, but we’ve vowed to come back another day to claim it. With the weather deteriorating there was really only one thing for it – Drivebys! So we chose the route home via a route that would yield a few caches.
Windmill Hill View was an enjoyable cache to stop off for, as there were some amazing views for miles and the hill wasn’t too demanding either! 😉
We finished our busy weekend by heading to the Basildon area and grabbing a few quick caches to finish our day. After the past couple of weeks we’ve had a lovely time Geocaching with our friends so owe them a big thank you for some lovely times out and about. Can’t wait until next time! 🙂