I LOVE Autumn. I love Spring with the new growth and the promise of what is to come; I love Summer for the sun, sea and sand; I even like winter – the crisp cold days when everything is sparkling and long dark nights tucked up safe and sound indoors listening to the wind howling (don’t like the rain!) but Autumn is my very favourite time of year.
Can you honestly beat England on a dry Autumn day when the sun is out, the trees are all shades of red, orange, yellow and green and the smell – yes the smell of Autumn is wonderful. There is something very special about it. I know I’m a bit crazy but I just love Autumn and this Autumn is really good as we’ve had very little rain.
We went out geocaching, but I took so many photographs of the landscape, season, fruits that it was like Autumn Watch. Out of the blue we decided to attempt a series of caches around Finchampstead, FU Finchampstead Undulations – 19 caches along a roughly 5km walk along the footpaths around – you’ve guessed it – Finchampstead, which is under 5 miles away from our home.
I read quite a few blogs, my Twitter feed and Facebook and realize that many geocachers go out much more prepared than we do. They’ve checked the map, decided where to park, organized the route they are going to take, the caches they can attempt, where to cross fields, footpaths etc. and everything in-between whereas Cockrobbinn and I see a series of caches on the map and just head happily off in that direction – perhaps I should say I see them on the map, decide, and Cockrobbinn gamely follows. The only thing I do before we go is to download the area and caches to his Garmin and usually decide which cache to do first. I hate to admit it but we have sometimes gone out in a different direction and the caches are not on Cockrobbinn’s Garmin but I am teaching him to use his iPhone in emergencies! Personally, I love the iPhone as I don’t download anything – just tap the icon and all the nearby caches show up. Strangely enough, in everything else I am extremely organized. Nevermind, that is the beauty of geocaching – do it however you want to.
The nearest cache to our home was surprisingly not one of the FU series but Welcome to Wokingham which was only a few metres from where I decided to park, on a grass verge at the side of the road. I’d pulled up to see if we were close to the series as I guessed we should be, picked up this cache quickly and found a footpath which led to FUXtra2 An Alternative Start to the FU Series. It was an amazing spot to start our walk as it was right by a working quarry and I was fascinated watching the diggers and moving gravel and was really pleased when I saw that our route took us along the beautiful lakes created by the digging.
I am not going to bore everyone with list of all the caches we found but the majority of the containers were ‘specimen’ bottles mostly wrapped in black tape (unused, of course).
These little containers really kept the contents dry – well, I suppose they are ‘water’ tight !!!!! I’ve carried a full one in my handbag before now just praying that it didn’t leak……… and it never has done!
Following the route, we quickly found another FUXtra and then just a few hundred metres on came to FU7. It was here that we could choose either to turn left, or right. Either count up, or count down as the series was a loop. We decided to count up and headed left towards FU8. On seeing that FU7 was called Big Oak, and FU8 was Three Oaks it didn’t take us long to realize that we were surrounded by oak trees and many of the caches were placed in or around large oaks. As we walked on in the glorious sunshine we suddenly realized that it was getting quite difficult to avoid being hit by falling acorns. I don’t think I have ever seen so much autumn fruit as I have seen this year.
Finchampstead is a place we hadn’t visited before and we were pleasantly surprised to come across a wonderful horse farm very reminiscent of where my son lives in Kentucky, except they always have white fence posts. KY is real horse country with mile upon mile of rolling paddocks surrounded by white fencing as far as the eye can see and the most superb horses imaginable. Oh well, back to good old England.
Shortly after the horse farm we emerged onto a very small road looking for a beech tree of all things. It was here we decided we really needed hard hats as the acorns, conkers and sweet chestnuts were falling all around and the noise was something to hear. It was like gunfire. I think the heat of the sun (it really was warm) was the final touch to make all the fruit decide it was time to leave its parent tree.
This is a lovely easy series with caches placed between 250m and 350m all the way along. We were rattling around it and soon came to FU16.5. I was so pleased there was no-one around as I let rip with excitement when we eventually found the cache – to see it was an AMMO CAN. My very first Ammo Can and there was even a spade hidden with it. I danced a dance of sheer joy – how sad am I???
I am not unused to Ammo cans as I grew up with them but I have so often read about other geocachers finding one hidden in the woods that I have been quite envious.
At last I had found one and was only a tad disappointed that there was no travel bug inside. It was really well hidden and we left a badge that we had found on the ground earlier in the series.
A short while later, at a crossroads of footpaths we decided to take a very brief detour of about 50m to find Take a Seat which was located at nearly the highest point in Finchampstead. As you can probably guess from the name, this was a bench in the middle of a country footpath with the most lovely view, and it was here that we saw our first and only Muggle of the day. She was jogging along holding onto a long, long lead and a few seconds later a dog came into sight looking as if to say, hurry up.
Absolutely typical, the photograph I took of the view didn’t come out but the name-plate on the bench did. I thought it was a lovely inscription and we sat a while admiring the stunning views.
It really was a very warm and sunny day and perfect for this stroll.
By now I knew Cockrobbinn was starting to get hungry and I had left our flask and food in the car. I encouraged him along by mentioning that soon we would be finding a cache at the local church and very often there was a pub close by, and I wasn’t wrong. But before that, we had some more excitement.
As we walked along the footpath, which gave way to a small track we could see the Church in the distance and this beautiful tree in the drive up to the church.
We were looking for a cache called The Queens Oak and I kept looking at this tree saying it wasn’t an oak, which of course it wasn’t.
Then we looked at the hint ‘No Exit from Here’ and twigged (oh dear, with all the trees about – the joke just slipped in) that it was near an exit sign. Couldn’t find anything on the sign then Cockrobbinn scrambled about in the undergrowth and came up with our second enormous AMMO CAN. Our delight knew no bounds.
I grabbed the can and we sat in the sunshine to discover what treasures were within.
This time I was lucky and found a Hippy Van travel bug which wanted to get near to Swindon so we retrieved it and will help it on its way. Cockrobbinn was still hungry and so we replaced the cache carefully and strolled out of the churchyard to find what really was The Queens Oak.
It was about 2.30pm and we really hoped they were still serving food – which they were until 3pm – so Cockrobbinn and I enjoyed a really pleasant hour reviving ourselves on a rather nice cafetière of fresh coffee and a bowl of the best chips we have tasted in ages (naughty us). Delightful pub – almost empty except for one ‘old’ regular who was probably a bit deaf as he talked so loudly everyone could hear him, and every time his phone rang he jumped a mile.
Almost at the end of our route, we walked through the churchyard once again to find the cache at St. James’ Church which happened not to be on the church grounds but onwards down a little footpath heading towards the sports fields.
We collected up a further three in the FU series and were nearly back at our car when we saw that we could easily get Broadmoor Siren at Finchampstead Allotments. Strangely enough, this cache was the only one of the day which we nearly gave up on as we just couldn’t find it. Our GPS kept pointing us to a large oak tree overhanging a stream but we eventually found the cache some 20m away in a hollow branch.
Our car was now in sight and it wasn’t until we got home that we realized that we had MISSED two of the series. Perhaps, with planning, I would have known there were two more but we will collect these another day.
This little adventure took place on Tuesday, 20th October 2015 when we found a total of 24 caches.