Back in 2011, a year before we started geocaching, we walked, over a period of 6 months, the 100-mile long distance footpath – The South Downs Way. Since then, Mr Hg137 has been asked on numerous occasions to give a one hour talk on our walk and our photos have proved invaluable. However, we were aware those photos are 8 years old!
So this year we intend to revisit the South Downs Way, review our pictures and our knowledge and, of course, find some caches too!
The South Downs Way runs from the Roman/Saxon city of Winchester to the Seven Sisters at Eastbourne. Our first caching tour would take us around Winchester’s Centre and then a short 3 mile walk to Cheesefoot Head.
Winchester City Centre is relatively small but packed with treasures. At one end of the High Street is the Great Hall (hosting an imitation Arthurian Round Table). Halfway down the same street is St Swithun’s Cathedral and at the end furthest from the Great Hall, King Alfred’s Statue.
Our caching trip started on the outskirts of the City with elevated views along the High Street. Two simple caches (one under a seat, the other in tree roots). We also found in the general vicinity one of two puzzle caches we had solved. This puzzle consisted of three (straightforward-ish) logic puzzles to derive the final co-ordinates.. and then the fun started. The cache could only be opened by unscrewing the container revealing a hidden maze! Fortunately a nearby seat meant we could sit down during our 20 minute attempt!
Down at the High Street, we paused by the Museum/Mill where the South Downs Way officially starts. Back in 2011 we had been perturbed as there was no official start point, but this has since been rectified.
Nearby is King Alfred’s Statue. Erected in 1899 to mark the centenary of the warrior king’s death, the 17 foot statue stands on a two granite bases. The different types of granite form the basis of an Earthcache, which we managed to successfully answer.
We had a three more caches to find in the City Centre including another simple puzzle cache (found in a less-than-exciting car park) and a beautiful snail cache close to Winchester Cathedral.
This cache was a tribute to the Diver, William Walker. Between 1906 and 1911 he dived 20 feet every day in water under the sinking Cathedral foundations and laid 25,000 bags of concrete, 115,000 concrete blocks and 900.000 bricks. This enabled the excess water to the drained, and the Cathedral re-stabilised. Without his work the Cathedral would probably have fallen down during the 20th Century.
Our final City Centre cache was in the busy High Street. Full of shoppers and tourists. The cache was placed exceedingly high (only Mr Hg137 could reach it), so it was almost impossible to grab it in a nonchalant manner.
There are more caches in the City Centre, many of them puzzles, but 7 finds seemed a reasonable reward for a morning’s exploring the ancient City.
We lunched in a park near King Alfred before setting out on our re-walking of the South Downs Way. Ominously, the skies had become more overcast but we were confident we could walk the 3 miles before the forecast rain was due.
The South Downs Way leads away from the Museum/Mill following the banks of the River Itchen. A very pleasant river, bubbling along between gardens on one bank and ancient Roman walls and Wolvesey Castle on the other.
When we walked the path in 2011 we knew we went wrong on this part of the walk and today we understood why. A South Downs Way signpost, set slightly back from our path pointed us away from the river at a very subtle angle. No wonder we missed it before. We walked on, and took a slight diversion to a cunningly concealed cache on a bridge over the River Itchen.
Back on the South Downs Way we had a mile of street walking. A mile we were dreading.
By and large the South Downs way is a scenic route…but there is one mile along a residential street – and not the most attractive one either! (This is one of the reasons we recommend walking the South Downs Way from Winchester..it gets this road out of the way early on, rather than the last mile!)
The road leads to the M3, and a small bridge. But as we arrived, the rain started. Should we walk for 20 minutes to our car in Winchester or press on for 45 minutes to our car at Cheesefoot Head ? We choose the latter and regretted the decision for the rest of the walk.
What should have been views of light-rolling chalk downland was instead wet-slippery chalk shrouded in low cloud mist. To compound our misery, our final cache of the day – the first genuine South Downs Way cache – had gone missing.
The rain was so heavy we decided against visiting Chilcomb Church to attempt a 3 stage Church Micro, and also the cache hidden yards from our car at Cheesefoot Head. That cache will wait for our next expedition.
So our 2019 quest has started – revisiting a walk we undertook 8 years ago. As yet no South Downs Caches found, but we did enjoy the variety and history of Winchester before we left.
Some of the caches we found included :