The Washington to Botolphs section of the South Downs Way, is about 7 miles, of which the first mile or two is up quite a steep slope to Chanctonbury Ring, and then the remaining five miles is all down hill!
We were still staying just a few miles away with HF Holidays, which meant we were parking our destination car shortly after 9. The relatively spacious layby at Botolphs on the A283 was practically full at this time! Fortunately though we squeezed a car into the layby, and drove our other car back to the start at Washington.
A steep ascent up to Chanctonbury Ring awaited us, but partway up we had a cache to find. It was a multi, which we thought we had resolved before setting off. Part of the ‘Sussex Trig Point’ series, it involved working out the co-ordinates based on the metal numbered ‘base plate’ fixed to the trig point. These base plate numbers can be found using Google, and it was a good that we used that tool before we set off, as we wouldn’t have liked the long walk back downhill if we had attempted the cache without the aid of the internet.
Sadly for us, we didn’t find the cache. It was supposed to be an ammo can, hidden under sticks. There were lots of piles of sticks, logs and leaf litter for us to rummage around, but after 15 minutes we gave up. During that time we’d been asked by three separate SDW walkers what we were doing, and disturbed a tiny wren.
Near to the top of Chanctonbury Ring, and yards from the trig point is a Dew pond. This was also our first find of the day and part of the ‘Ponds, Dew Ponds and Lakes of Sussex’ series of caches. We paused for coffee – fully merited by the steep ascent – and attempted to dry out the wet log sheet on a nearby hawthorn bush.
As we stood drinking, various dog walkers passed by and each of the canines charged to the lip of the pond expecting to run into, and drink from, a pond full of water. Sadly the pond was dry, and we could see each of the dog’s faces droop when their anticipated water reward was not forthcoming.
The reason the Dew Pond was dry, was, we discovered from one of the dog walkers, that the South Downs Authority have established a few of the dew-ponds as ‘wildlife havens’ by planting bushes around the outside. A great idea, but the roots of the bushes extract what little water the Dew Pond holds. Meaning that there is little water to see at the surface.
Our highpoint, Chanctonbury Ring, was clearly visible. Although it is a few yards away from the SDW we walked inside the prominent tree feature. Planted as a series of concentric rings back in 1760, by the then land-owner Charles Goring, the rings are very dark and allegedly haunted.
Various legends abound about the ring … if you walk anti-clockwise around the ring 7 times on a moonless night, the Devil will appear and serve you porridge. Alternatively if you count all the trees Julius Caesar will appear or thirdly, if you run clockwise around the trees three times a lady on a white horse will appear and you can ride down! I know which I’d prefer!
Sadly the trees today are not the original trees. The Great Storm of October 1987 blew down every tree at the summit and for a few years the top was tree-less. Since then the Goring family have replanted, and the trees visible are the result of the planting 30 years ago.
A little further down the hill from Chanctonbury ring was another cache. This one tucked into a small, less-imposing copse which we took an age to find. The GPS wobbled, there were several hint items, but eventually we found the cache.
Our long downhill awaited, punctuated by many caches in very quick succession. These were all marked as ‘letter box’ caches and each contained a stamp and some ink as well as a log book. Most were relatively small in size, but all were part of a ‘Sealed with a Loving Kiss’ series. Each of the caches was named after a stamp from around the world. We found caches named after an 1852 25 centime Blue, Louis Napoleon from France, an 1871 Telegraph stamp from Brazil, a 1913 Albanian stamp and many more. It would fun to Google these stamps and see the differences across the world (but with over 150 caches in the full series, this could take some time!). We found 15 ‘stamp caches’ during the day so there are many more for us to find. (It should have been 16 but one of the stiles, used as a hiding place for one of the caches, was being used for a rambler’s lunch, so we didn’t even try finding the cache!)
We paused ourselves for lunch next to a cache. As we ate, a group of Duke of Edinburgh teenagers stopped. Paused for a drink and walked on. We chatted with them, they were aiming for Cissbury Ring (an ancient Iron Age hill-fort a few miles away). We wished them well…little did we know our paths would touch again later…
One of the few other non-stamp caches we found was another ‘Trig Series’ multi. Here, the Trig Point was no longer accessible to read the ‘base plate’ so the cache owner provided the final co-ordinates without us having to do any arithmetical calculations. The final cache was adjacent to a farmer’s field, where the farming team were busy penning, and sorting, sheep. It was a little distance from the South Downs Way and as we turned away a small animal – we guess a stoat – ran across our path. We were grateful of the diversion, as another stamp cache awaited us at a busy memorial ‘bench’ which we passed by, but minutes later as we returned, was free for us to pause for a welcome drink.
The next mile or so of our walk skirted around Steyning Bowl, a dry chalk bowl presumably gouged by the last Ice Age.
Part way along, we had an Earthcache to answer. Unusually the questions were not geared around the geology of the area, but of the agriculture (or lack of!), and industry. Besides the agriculture of crop growing, we were yards away from a large, noisy pig farm. Sty upon sty, sow upon sow, piglet upon piglet. Some running around, most lying down, resting. Never have we seen so many pigs!
We descended further until the track gave way to a tarmac road, and here we spotted several sheets of paper lying by the roadside. We picked them up, as they looked important. They were. Described over a number of sheets of paper was a Duke of Edinburgh expedition from Botolphs to Cissbury Ring. It belonged to the DoE party we saw earlier!
There was a contact number on the sheets, which we phoned. The organisers said that the group had just finished and admitted to their crime (!) and asked us to shred the sheets, which we did.
Our final mile was walking along the River Adur, and here we found our last ‘stamp’ cache, and a tiny nano hidden around the Adur footbridge.
A great 7 mile walk – with loads of caches, lots of myths, legends and… pigs! Oink ! Oink ! Oink !