I had been looking forward to doing the series since it was published a few weeks ago, it is the first long distance trail I’ve done for quite a while and there is just enough daylight hours at this time of year to complete it in one go. For those who would prefer it can be split into 3 smaller loops. To complete in one go needed a bit of pre-planning if you are not going to end up with a 2 mile walk along a road at the end between Compton and Hampstead Norrey’s.
I decided my best bet was to park in Compton and get the Bus to Hampstead Norrey’s. A quick check of the time table showed that there was a bus a 07:46 so that’s what we would do. A few delays getting ready in the morning meant we (Pip & me) were late leaving Swindon, but my Sat Nav said we would arrive at 07:45, cutting it fine but we could still make it, and we did arriving with just 2 minutes to spare and fortunately there was parking in a lay-by opposite the bus stop. After our short bus ride we were handily dropped off right beside the footpath in Hampstead Norrey’s. Our days walking with a walk across a vegetable field, cabbage I think, to reach number 34 in the series and 08:15 we had found our first of 64 that we totalled for the day.
So, the first leg of the trail went north east from No. 34 at Hampstead Norrey’s up a steepish hill with good views at the top passing Beech Wood along the way. The trail soon flattened and we were treated so some good views. The morning was crisp but the sun was shining on the other side of the valley, the ground was still frozen so it was nice and firm to walk on. Along this section there were a couple of Old Hampstead RAF caches which we duly found and which helped us find the path that is unmarked on the maps.
After a short gap in the series for the old RAF caches and then a quick walk down the lane to pick up The Badger Series again at the top of Thorn Hill. At this point we turned north west walking back towards Compton where we caught the bus earlier.
There were several caches along this stretch as we descended the hill; looking across the landscape we could see the houses at Hampstead Norrey’s. The ground under foot was thawing here and Pips paws were getting a little clogged up with mud.
Once at the bottom of the hill we took a path through a very muddy and water logged paddock, the stream was frozen the solitary pony was looking quite sad. The footpath soon bought us out a Compton church where a cache was located. As I signed the cache, a black Labrador popped his head over the wall and barked, so Pip barked back.
A bit further up the path from the church there is the remains of an old railway and old station has been converted into a house but the owners have preserved the back as the old station would have looked with all its authentic posters and station masters office.
It took us a couple of hours to get back to Compton, Pip waited patiently outside the village store as I went in for supplies! Then passing our car which we had left in the village earlier, I picked up lunch and water before walking through the village to pick up the next section of the trail.
It was a long and smelly walk up the hill passing through a farm but it warmed us up nicely as it was beginning to get chilly and now back on the footpath Pip could run off lead again. We walked along byway know as Warnham Lane then picked up Hams Lane, some of the caches along here were a little tricky but we got them all.
It wasn’t until I got to number 10 that I realised that I was heading north when I should have turned off and been heading south! Somehow I had made a complete hash of my route and missed my turn. After a quick check on the map I decided that it was a choice between back tracking a mile or so, or continuing around the north circuit and ending the day earlier than planned. So I did what any sensible Geocacher would do and back tracked!!!!!
Some time later……………. I picked up the correct trail and began the walk back on the southern ring towards Hampstead Norrey’s, that’ll teach me to pay closer attention next time!! By the time we got back to the village we had completed about 8 miles and it was time for a quick bite to eat and a convenient bus shelter provide a bit of warmth for a few minutes break.
The next leg of the trail was roughly 5 miles to take us around the bottom of the southern ring and back to the Northern ring. This section had a couple of tricky bits. The first was passing through a field with cows. It wouldn’t have been so bad except one of them decided to wait in the middle of the path that we had to cross, Pip went through as quickly as she could whilst I negotiated the electrified fence, she was no bother and soon mooved on!!
This section also had the hardest part of the trail, soft wet mud clogging up paw and boot as we ploughed across the field from Trumpletts Farm to road. After the heavy going mud field I was actually pleased to see a road for a change. My legs were now starting to ache but we still had some way to go. However, soon afterwards we were rewarded with a brilliantly innovative cache, I won’t say any more.
We rejoined the northern ring, but due to the earlier route error we had 1 1/5 miles until the next cache. It is surprising how quickly you walk when not looking for caches so we soon back to Shrill Down and overlooking the A34 and East Ilsley. From here it was roughly 3 miles back to the car along a couple of long byways. The best of the day had almost gone and it was starting to get cold as the sun was slowly disappearing and to be honest at this point we were looking forward to finishing.
At 4.30pm we arrived back at the car in Compton, ready for a nice warm cup of coffee before heading back to Swindon. This is a wonderful series and we really enjoyed it and clearly a lot of time and effort has gone into setting it with the extra back tracking we totalled up 20 miles!
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