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California in England by Robin

Location: N 51 22.700 W 000 52.550 Difficulty: 3 Terrain: 1

This geocache is within the country park off the Nine Mile Ride once known as "California in England" - more of that later. This "Lovelock" cache is probably one of the most difficult ones, but perhaps one of the most rewarding. Try to choose at least a dry day to get the most of your visit. To reach the cache itself - a large tupperware box holding logbook, camera and the usual "goodies" - you must navigate through three waypoints, each having a hidden clue "ticket". Each ticket will give you the lat/lon and an important clue to the next waypoint. The first waypoint above should get you within sight of a large brick circle. Look for the ivy tree and then the ticket in the brickwork. You will probably recognise this first location as being part of the history of California.

Planting this cache was a bit of a "nostalgia trip" for me: fifty years ago these woods were part of our back garden. We lived in a small, rented bungalow on the Nine-Mile-Ride at 45, "Flowerbrook". Houses have been built in front, but the old derilict bungalow is still there. In the early 1950s the large lake - originating from a clay quarrey, I believe - was an extremely popular day trip location. The lake was used for swimming, paddle boats and even a pleasure steamer. On a sunny weekend the car park would be full of coaches, bringing day-trippers from afar. The picture on the right is from about 1960, and reproduced here courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection on www.francisfrith.co.uk and can be found in the book, "Wokingham & Bracknell" by Trevor Ottlewski ISBN1-85937-329-1. Of the buildings, it seems that only the old bandstand, centre, remains. Compare it with the picture above. I remember a small zoo with a gorilla, numerous slot machines and a fairground, complete with "big wheel". I'm told by my old mum that there was also a large, popular dance hall. The old narrow guage railway track, used for the earlier brick-making (?) industry, had been put into service as a train to give rides out through "the everglades" as they were known. You may see fragments of this rail track on your walks. I also remember a big, cinder speed-way riding track, and being able to hear the bikes at home near the Nine-Mile-Ride. I must have been 3 or 4 when Roy Gates, the boy next door and of similar age, and I, took a stroll down the garden to explore. I remember being told not to go beyond the sheds where we kept pigs (yes they are still there, unused of course) and into the woods. I believe the properties still extend down to the heath, which at that time I remember as a deeply furrowed ploughed field. From this spot we were alongside the big wheel, perhaps one or two hundred yards away. The woods had a lone old oak tree (yes, that's also still there), where my dad would wait for rabbits with his air pistol - but I don't think he ever got one. When we toddled back we were surprised to find lots of people searching for us. The old circular paddling pool is still there, at the end of the lake, but now it's a pond with weeds and trees. This is where my little sister Sally got wet when her push chair rolled down the bank. In later years "California in England" became less popular as a resort, but is still a nice place to take a walk round. There is a modern paddling pool and children's play area. It's all a "bit run down" at present - but perhaps that adds a little to its charm :-)

I did not see a copyright statement on this rather nice map of the park, seen on the wall near the toilets. I will be glad to give proper credit or remove it, as the author wishes. Thanks for drawing it :-)

You will find more Lovelock caches on www.gpss.co.uk/geocache If you wish to contact Robin and want a reply, please email him direct on gpss@compuserve.com If you do this through a geocaching web site, please make sure you include your email address. Robin regrets that he may not reply to those who seek to hide who they are. Please include at least your name and email address.