August 10 : South Downs Way : Alfriston to Exceat (circular)

Many walkers of the South Downs Way complete their journey to Eastbourne with a long day’s walk from Alfriston.

Alfriston – A Smuggling Town in years gone by

Indeed this is how we completed the South Downs Way back in 2011. It is a very long walk (approximately 12 miles consisting of 3 or 4 miles of river valley walking with some ascent, then 8 or so miles on the roller-coaster path up and down over each of the Seven Sisters.
The weather forecast was for high winds, so the thought of walking along the Seven Sisters cliffs was not appealing (not to mention dangerous), so we settled on breaking the extended route at the small village of Exceat and returning in a figure-of-eight manoeuvre via the lower reaches of the River Cuckmere and the village of Litlington.

A Bug Hotel, not a Travel Bug Hotel!

Our first cache of the day was as we crossed the River Cuckmere at Alfriston. A large white bridge spans the river and underneath is a bison hidden near some brickwork. Sadly in the height of summer the route to the bridge base was full of undergrowth, and it was difficult to see where it was safe to start our search from. We didn’t even start searching!

Alfriston’s White Bridge


After crossing the bridge we then followed the River Cuckmere downstream, facing the strong wind, to the village of Litlington. As we walked the reeds and rushes ‘bounced’ in the wind like waves on the sea, dog walkers coming towards us were being blown by as we greeted them, and every gate was an effort to open.

Final view of Alfriston, The Clergy House (foreground), Church behind


Litlington is a small village yet hosts three caches. We decided to find one of them on our outbound journey to Exceat, and leave the remaining two for our return leg. After the failure to even start searching for a cache at the White Bridge we were grateful for a quick find with a magnetic key safe. Inside, the log was well protected by a plastic bag, but the interior of the key safe was dripping with water.We left Litlington via a field where clearly the owners didn’t really want walkers going near their horses. A large sign told us about 10 things we mustn’t do! (‘No loitering’, ‘No feeding horses’, ‘No picnicking’ were just three of the taboos).
We arrived at a farmer’s field with views over the River Cuckmere and part of our return route. In the distance, marked on a hill was a white horse – we would be much closer to it later on.

White Horse, on the opposite banks of the River Cuckmere


At this point the South Downs Way crosses, for about 3/4 a mile, Friston Forest. Three caches lay on this part of our route, but they were part of a much larger series of 21 caches. We decided to make a diversion from the South Downs Way and undertake a circular mini-series of seven.

Our plan, to minimise backtracking was to undertake the Friston Forest caches in the order (Friston Forest 3,2,1,7,6,4 and 5).

Not far to the cache now


Number 3, the first one we reached, was at the top of about 50 woodland steps, a simple hint, and a simple find. We strode purposefully in the direction of cache 2. Sadly we missed the woodland path that would have taken us there, and ended up at cache 1 instead. Here the GPS coordinates seemed a little out, and the hint, although useful, did yield several places to search. We walked on to cache 2 (knowing we would have to unfortunately backtrack later). The GPS wouldn’t settle, but after it did so, it yielded a beautifully crafted ‘log cache’.

We returned via cache 1, to cache 7. Here the GPS was accurate, and the cache was our biggest of the day. It was nearing lunchtime and as had approached the cache we had espied a picnic table just outside the Forest. A great sturdy table, but more backtracking to resume our circuit!

Friston Forest


Cache 6 led us a merry dance. So exact were we at standing at GZ we failed to see the tell-tale pile of sticks! We searched every tree within 15 yards before searching where we stood 10 minutes before!

Just after cache 6 there should have been a path leading to cache 4. We somehow walked by it without realising and ending up at cache 5. So, another backtrack journey to cache 4.

All these caches were straightforward, subject to GPS wobbles, and provided us with a welcome break from the wind!
In the end the sequence we attempted the caches was 3,1,2,7,6,4,5 just a bit different from our planned route of 3,2,1,7,6,5,4 !

West Dean


Leaving the Forest we arrived at the tiny hamlet of West Dean. It boasts two caches. One is near to a church, but not part of the National Church Micro series.

The other was near to the Village Pond (and yet wasn’t part of the Sussex Ponds series). The Pond would have looked really scenic in late spring, but at the height of summer the pond was full of weed and no water was visible! Two relatively easy finds.

An even tougher set of steps


Then the one part of the walk we were dreading. An ascent of about 120 steep-ish woodland steps. When we walked the route in 2011, it was a hot day and we were burdened by super-heavy rucksacks as we were overnighting in Eastbourne. Today we had 2 light day sacks, the weather was cooler and the ascent seemed not quite as strenuous. We also knew the reward…a grandstand view of Cuckmere Haven.

Cuckmere Haven


This view has been immortalised over the years. The comedian Hugh Dennis was inspired to learn geology on seeing this view. The painter Eric Ravilious captured the scene in 1939 and his painting was the inspiration for our next attempted cache. All we had to do was work out where Eric stood to paint his scene in 1939 and we would find a cache! We’ve had success with these type of puzzles before, but all have used 21st century photos rather than an artist’s portrayal 80 years ago. We thought we had lined up Eric’s image with a couple of locations, but sadly didn’t find the cache. (We’ve subsequently been told our positioning was off…so we will have another attempt on next South Downs Way caching trip).

It is only a short walk down hill to Exceat, and a waiting ice-cream van. (We don’t often partake of an ice cream when out and about, but it seemed just reward for thirty minutes fruitless searching high above Cuckmere Haven.)

Somewhere on this bridge is a cache!


Exceat is quite busy. It is next to the Seven Sisters Country Park. It has two large car parks, and buses from both Brighton and Eastbourne were disgorging visitors on a regular basis. For us, it was the furthest point on today’s journey and we set off to return to Alfriston via the River Cuckmere. A short road walk to start, a cache to find on the windy Cuckmere Road Bridge, and then a grassy footpath following the Cuckmere as it meandered northwards.

We had hoped that the wind would be behind us heading back to Alfriston, but the River Cuckmere meanders wildly so several times we were walking into a cross-wind rather than with the wind at our backs.

The path was surprisingly busy and we passed several groups of walkers, but fortunately none at the next cache site. Again, based on a bridge. Our GPS pointed one side of the bridge, and we had a good look there. We descended bankside to look up and found nothing. We scoured the logs for information and realised the cache was ‘hanging’. We needed to look for a hanging device! After much searching, we were about to give up, when we decided on one more ‘tour of the bridge’. This time something caught Mr Hg137’s eye… and the cache was soon in hand. It was then we realised that this cache hadn’t been found for 16 months and was on an official list of caches needing ‘resuscitation’. We had performed this activity!

The Resus Cache


Time had somehow slipped by. We had spent a fair bit of time backtracking in Friston Forest, too much time trying to align the Eric Ravilious painting, and far too much time resuscitating a cache. We chose to abandon our figure of eight manoeuvre at Litlington and elected to find one more cache near a third bridge over the River Cuckmere.

Another bridge..and nearby…. another cache!


It was our 13th find of the day, a creditable haul considering how windy it had been, and with the wind finally at our backs, we finished the walk with an exhausted spring in our step.

Here are some of the caches we found :

Advertisements

August 2 : South Downs Way : Southease to Alfriston

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Five weeks had passed since we last walked the South Downs Way, and much had happened in that time. Early summer had turned to harvest-time: the freshly-shorn sheep had regrown their fleeces; we had replaced our trusty old GPS, which fell to pieces in our hands as we finished that last walk; we visited London for some caching along the Thames and a visit to the Globe Theatre; we spent a weekend in Cardiff with lots and lots of caching; and we had fitted in a few caches elsewhere too.

Back to the South Downs Way: we parked the geocar in the road next to the Youth Hostel https://www.yha.org.uk/hostel/yha-south-downs , and set off to the footbridge which crosses the busy A26 . There’s a cache here, Itford Bridge, easy enough to find once you had walked to the closest point suggested by the GPS , in the middle of the bridge deck, and that sort of suggested that the cache was below, which it was.

After that, there’s 150 metres of ascent, zigzagging up the hill, with views back along the crest of the downs towards Chanctonbury Ring, and out to sea past Newhaven towards Brighton. Very near the top of the hill we arrived at our next cache, ERB. We could see paragliders ahead, and, closer by, a young lady wandering about on the grass taking selfies with various expansive backgrounds, but quite close to where we wanted to search. Luckily, she was concentrating so hard on her photos that she didn’t notice us … Mrs Hg137 delved into the hint item, removed some camouflage, and came out, slightly scratched, with the cache. Once signed, it was replaced by Mr Hg137 – and we still hadn’t been spotted! And why the name for the cache, “ERB”?

"ERB"

“ERB”


Here’s an extract from the cache description:
“ERB”
Ernest Ronald Beale was born 2nd December 1939 in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. He passed away on 27th October 2014. … He loved the Downs, especially Firle Beacon, and this is one of his final resting places, what a view!

We skirted round a flock of sheep ...

We skirted round a flock of sheep …


Reaching the ridge, we passed the telecommunications masts on Beddingham Hill, and skirted the sheep who like the smallest amounts of shade cast by the towers and fences. There is very little shade and shelter up here, so those sheep must have been so, so hot during the recent heatwave! This section of the South Downs Way is one of the most open (bleak? bare?) of the whole 100-mile route, with no trees at all along the ridge between Southease and Alfriston, only a few hawthorn bushes.

We arrived at the ridge-top car park near Firle Beacon, where paragliders were taking off and landing, radio-controlled gliders were being flown, and real gliders soared overhead. There’s another cache near here, also the final locations of another two puzzle caches. We were successful with two of those, but the third was overwhelmed by nettles and brambles while the farmer was harvesting grain in a field not very far away. We felt exposed and a bit uncomfortable (having read logs about the farmer turning others away) so we gave up after a while and went on our way.
A Marvellous Place To Sit - for lunch!

A Marvellous Place To Sit – for lunch!


We circumnavigated a herd of cows crowded together on the path, giving them plenty of room (much more room than the sheep!), and gradually climbed up the ridge to the trig point at 217m at the summit of Firle Beacon. (Editor’s note: Firle Beacon is a Marilyn – “a hill of any height with a drop of 150 metres (nearly 500 ft) or more on all sides”, so it is relatively high compared to its surroundings)
... and we skirted round a herd of cows ...

… and we skirted round a herd of cows …


Like the car park, the trig point is a popular place, with folk queueing up to stand on the trig point, touch the trig point, admire the view from the trig point … we, too, touched the trig point (you have to, don’t you?) We sat down on the grass, had a cup of coffee, and waited for all those people to go away, because there was a cache concealed *in* the trig point and we needed to be unobserved while we found it. And find it we did; it was a cache from the SDGT (South Downs Geo Tour) series, placed by the National Park rangers. We’ve done a few of these caches in our walk and all of them have been inventively and unusually hidden and well worth finding. See more about the Tour here https://www.southdowns.gov.uk/enjoy/geocaching/
... and finally we skirted round some ponies

… and finally we skirted round some ponies


From here it was an airy walk along the treeless, open ridge, gradually turning south, with views towards the Seven Sisters, the final leg of the South Downs Way. We skirted a herd of ponies, grazing on the path – there seemed to be herds of all sorts of farm creatures in our way today! After a couple of miles, we reached the edge of the village of Alfriston. We took a diversion from the South Downs Way to find a cache, Alfriston Wander, which is down a chalky track into the village. But for us, there was a problem: there were two parallel chalky tracks: which one to choose? Reader, we inevitably chose the wrong one, and had an undignified scramble between chalky tracks, when Mr Hg137 pulled me up by my rucksack and I fell flat on my face, followed by a rootle around various fence posts before we found the correct place for the hidden cache.
Clergy House. Alfriston

Clergy House. Alfriston


We went back up the (other) chalky track, then followed the South Downs Way down a surfaced track into the village. We were quickly away from the bare downs and amongst houses, and then in the old centre of the village, filled with people. We crossed the main street, walked down an alley, and arrived at a green edged by the Clergy House, the first property ever bought by the National Trust https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/alfriston-clergy-house/features/history-of-alfriston-clergy-house
St Andrew's church, Alfriston

St Andrew’s church, Alfriston


The church is here, too, and we had come here to find the Church Micro based there. We examined a noticeboard, a gravestone in the churchyard, and had our coordinates. We stepped round the shingles being used to retile (re-shingle?) the spire – FYI, they work up from the bottom. It was not far to the final cache location, still in sight of the church; once there, there were several possibilities. Mr Hg137 went for feeling inside each location, while Mrs Hg137 opted for peering into each place, which worked because the cache was tucked back just over a finger-length from the opening. From there, it was a short walk back to the car park to retrieve the other geocar and make our way home.

Here are some of the caches we found:

July 21 : St Fagans Museum (and a bit of Cardiff too)

Our final full day in Cardiff was to be spent exploring the 2019 Museum of the Year, St Fagans National Museum of History.

St Fagans Gwalia Ironmongers


The Museum is in the village of St Fagans, a short bus ride from Cardiff. With an hourly bus service on a Sunday we left the hotel in good time so we didn’t miss the first bus!

This extra time gave us the opportunity to look for a puzzle cache we had solved before we left home. The puzzle required us to identify 12 famous Cardiff personalities (past and present) and convert different letters in their names to numbers and hence co-ordinates. They were a motley selection of people including musicians, broadcasters and sportspeople!
We arrived at GZ, and hunted around for the hint ‘X marks the spot’. A typical treasure map reference, but being in the middle of a city centre not much soil to dig up. We spend some time looking for Xs, and eventually found two or three…one of which yielded the cache.

At 930 on a Sunday morning, the roads and pavements were quiet, so little stealth was needed, a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the previous evening. A log signed, and then a short wait for the Museum bus just outside the Principality Stadium.

Principality Stadium, Cardiff


Lots of people were on that bus, including a party of 6 from Hemel Hempstead and three Museum volunteers. It was standing room only by the time we arrived at the Museum – we were in for a busy day.

St Fagans is a free museum. Yes, free. Parking though is £5 all day (or a bus fare in our case).

An Old Mill


Surprisingly St Fagans Museum was started back in 1948, and now hosts over 40 different historic buildings spread over 100 acres of parkland. These buildings have been rescued from all over Wales and painstakingly rebuilt at St Fagans. During our visit the Vulcan Hotel was being rebuilt from its former base, just a few miles away in Cardiff.

Unusually the Museum hosts a geocache. A 16 stage multi-cache.

One of the Many Farmhouses


Many of the buildings host objects, dates, numbers which the cache setter has used to yield a set of coordinates and a Welsh phrase.

So as well as exploring each of the 40 buildings we had to explore 16 in detail to yield some additional information. In many cases, the information was obvious to find (the number of wood carvings on an outer door), sometimes the information was difficult to read (a date above a fireplace in a dark room) other times, plain impossible without asking building/room volunteer.

The Roundhouse


Inside the Roundhouse (picture enhanced, yes really!)

Our search for all the clues was hampered as one of the buildings was off-limits, so our final calculation would be based on guesswork!

The Museum buildings varied from a roundhouse (interestingly connected to a neighbouring roundhouse by a small passage), a bread mill, two churches, a village square with a terrace of houses cleverly taking you through the ages from one house to the next, a post office, a toll booth, shops and of course various farmhouses. We went in them all, and searched high and low where appropriate.

St Teilo’s Church


Inside St Teilo’s Church

We found 15 of the 16 answers and arrived at reasonable set of Westings. But the Northings we could not get as the off-limit building was key to its calculation. So we guessed. Where would the cache be ?

A Toll House


We had been told that the staff knew of the cache, and if one went to ground zero, and asked, in Welsh (!) for the cache, they would give it to you. We were running out of time before the last bus home so we went to, where we thought, was the most obvious place, the museum reception. Sadly the cache wasn’t there. They did tell us where they thought the cache would be…but we didn’t have time to walk there and collect it. So having visited all of the buildings St Fagans had on offer and collecting 15 clues, we left emptyhanded.

Thank goodness these green objects have disappeared from our streets!


…but these Sweets could make a welcome return!

A fine day out exploring and well worth a visit. To all readers of this blog who want to attempt this cache, we recommend two things… visit midweek, when there will be less people and access into the buildings isn’t so cramped, and secondly buy a guide book (some of the answers we believe are in there!)

Since our visit we have been informed we made a couple of errors with the answers we did find…including the mis-counting of objects in a bible scene, and the mis-dating of one of the cottages. So even if all 16 buildings had been open to visit, we still would have left empty-handed!

Farewell St Fagans


The bus journey back to Cardiff was even fuller than our outbound journey (no surprise, as it was the last bus of the day). As well as the same 6 people from Hemel Hempstead, and the three volunteers we saw earlier, half the bus was taken up by overseas students from Argentina! How we all squeezed into the bus was an achievement in itself.

We left the bus at the entrance to Cardiff Castle. We had visited the Castle on Friday (no cache to find), but the heavens had opened just as we were leaving and we hadn’t visited the nearby Stone Circle. It was now late Sunday afternoon and Gorsedd Stone Circle was busy. The Circle, is not an ancient stone circle, as it was built in 1978 to mark the Welsh National Eisteddfod being held in Cardiff. We had to interpret the various stones in the circle. and answer a question on a nearby plaque. Both tasks were tricky as a yoga class was going on within the circle, and the plaque formed a convenient mound which four people sat on before we could read the inscription.

Gorsedd Stone Circle


Questions answered we returned back to the hotel passing Cardiff’s Animal Wall, built in late 19th century, but has had some renovations and re-placement since then. As we only found one physical cache container all day, please enjoy these Animals from the Wall! Farewell Cardiff! Ffarwel Caerdydd !

July 13 : The South Bank, London

July 13th is a special day for us. (Our caching name is hg137). To celebrate this year, a trip to London was planned.

The Globe


We had tickets to see ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the Globe Theatre. The Globe is about 3/4 mile from Waterloo Station so it seemed a good excuse to find a couple of London caches too.

Welcome to the South Bank


On our last visit to London, way back in December 2016, we had started a multi-cache, but never finished it. The multi required finding a paving stone on the South Bank, near Waterloo, locating a particular engraved key word, and using it to convert to numerical co-ordinates.

We scoured our photos before we left, and worked out the co-ordinates and discovered the cache was hidden on our route to the Globe.

Great views across the Thames


The South Bank, on a hot Saturday in July is busy. Mainly tourists, but a good mixture of Londoners out and about.

A large second-hand book market, a group of morning joggers, another group of cyclists. An array of street performers, from singers, to bespoke poets, to a floating Yoda.

A Selection of Street Entertainers

Ordinarily caching is hard when people are watching, but with so many people around – all doing their own ‘unusual’ thing, leaning over a parapet to find a magnetic nano is natural.

Its Busy !


Our second cache, closer to the Tate Modern, was similarly easy. A well defined hint and cache title ‘Squeezed in at the Tate’ and we could see GZ well before we arrived. A quick swoop down (well an exaggerated shoe-lace tie), and we were soon signing the log.

The area around the Tate Modern was particularly busy as a new exhibition had opened days before https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/olafur-eliasson , and many people were crossing the Millennium Bridge and not walking along the South Bank.

A few yards further on, we arrived at the Globe. The Globe was opened in 1997, and founded and built by actor/director Sam Wanamaker. The names of many of the project’s contributors can be seen as paving stones around the theatre concourse. (Technically the theatre complex is known as Shakespeare’s Globe, to differentiate it from the original Shakespearean building pulled down by the Puritans in the 1640s.). We had a multi to complete which would take us between the two Globes.

The Original Globe was here!

While the modern building is busy with people, the older building, or rather a few information boards and a cobbled pavement was much, much quieter enabling a quick find.

We still had an hour before our matinee performance so we headed back to the Tate Modern. We ate lunch on one of the many seats, and wandered inside. We were expecting to see some artworks in the ‘hall’ area, but all the free/paid for exhibits are now on various different levels.

Turbine Hall, Tate Modern


Instead of heading back to the Globe, we hatched a plan. We would sit on a seat, near to, but not overlooking the cache ‘Squeezed in at the Tate’ which we found earlier. Would anyone visit it while we watched ? Typically this cache, especially on a Summer Saturday, has 5 or 6 finders so we might be lucky.

A person approached slowly…was he a cacher…nope, he was using a nearby rubbish bin.
Hang on.. what about these two. Clearly they are together, they are walking in unison, both looking at some electronic equipment and…what an elegant swoop (far better than Mr Hg137’s shoe-lace tying). We had waited probably 3 minutes and 2 cachers came by! We went over to introduce ourselves and we had a chat. Welcome to London Dombies and Topanga_ugh !

Dombies and Topanga_ugh


They were part of the crew from a Belgian ship moored near HMS Belfast, so we said goodbye to our new Belgian friends to have a look at their ship.

Can you see the Belgian Ship nestling behind HMS Belfast ?

The South Bank had got busier, and it took us longer to walk there than we imagined.. so we just had time to take a quick photo before rushing back to the Globe arriving minutes before the performance started. Unsurprisingly a well acted, very funny production and one that made our day very special.

We couldn’t take pictures while the play was on, so this was the band warming up, the three seating tiers (we were in one of them) and some of the ‘groundlings’ who stood for the whole performance.

Inside the Globe


Welcome to the Band!

A cracking day out…Shakespeare, the Globe, 3 caches and 2 Belgian cachers!

June 28 : South Downs Way : A27 to Southease

In which we cross into the Eastern Hemisphere and say goodbye to a dear friend…

Where East Meets West

Today’s section of the South Downs Way would take us from the A27, heading predominantly south-eastwards to the small village/hamlet at Southease. As the crow flies, a journey of just over 4 miles, but unusually for the South Downs Way, today’s route wasn’t straight. Instead it meandered sinuously, so that our journey length would be closer to 7 miles.

A smattering of caches awaited us, a long walk to the first, then a few together, another one or two caches with long gaps before another cluster at Southease.

Our walk started by heading West (!), adjacent to the busy A27, over a noisy footbridge before walking East alongside the A27 by the opposite carriageway. After 20 minutes we were level with the geocar, separated by only a fast dual carriageway. We continued on, and then under the Lewes-Brighton railway line where we then turned South-Westwards, crossing an imaginary (North-South) line emanating from our car for a second time.

Watch out for Trains!

Here the going got harder as we were slowly climbing through a tree-covered track, which shielded us from the mid-morning heat. We enjoyed the comfort of the shade, as we knew for the rest of the day we would be on the bare, shadeless tops of the South Downs.

Having left our wooded track, we emerged onto the grassy chalk slope we had come to expect, and climbed, steeper now, towards the first cache. The views across the valley were wonderful with green/brown farming crops being interspersed with colourful mid-summer wildflowers.


Our first cache, about halfway up the hill was secreted in the lower bole of a hawthorn bush. It wasn’t that well hidden but,because of the nature of the bush, it was only visible from a certain angle. As we retrieved the 12-year old cache, the contents spilled to the ground – the clip-lock container only had one working clip! Good job no-one walked by as we retrieved the cache contents from the ground.

The second cache was in a small patch of woodland, called Newmarket Plantation. Approaching uphill (as we were), the plantation was fully fenced off, so we assumed the cache would be on the plantation perimeter, and easily accessible. No! No! No! We searched the fence line, tree-by-tree, for likely places, all to no avail. The GPS signal consistently stating that we were 20 feet away.

Only after a few more minutes of fruitless searching did we notice a gate much further on, and entered the woodland. An easy find, once we were in the wood, just ages to get in!

Who lives here ?

Two other objects were spotted in the wood, a huge bird box (presumably intended for some bird of prey), and a memorial to a loved one. It had been recently visited judging from the state of the flowers left behind. It is not an easy walk to visit this woodland, so this plantation must have meant something special.

We had passed no-one on the walk to date, but before we reached the next cache, the path was busy with two groups of walkers, and a cyclist. We looked back at the plantation, to see if a cacher were amongst them, but no-one re-entered the plantation after us.

Distant View of the Amex Stadium

As the path made yet another large meander we went by a ‘wind pump’. The noisy wind turbine, placed by Southern Gas, is used to power some of their nearby pipework. Close by, well-protected by a thistle guard of honour was our third cache. As we left GZ, we were still only a mile South of the car, but we had been walking for 90 minutes, meandering to and fro ever upwards.

Wind Turbine


Our next attempted find, was a multi – based on one of three dewponds we were to pass. The multi required us to count wooden posts (surrounding the pond) and uprights at a gate entrance. Being a multi, we did not know where the final was, and we didn’t want to walk too far off route (or back on ourselves) to locate the final. We had seen pictures that the cache was in hawthorn bushes. Rather than walk to the multi, and count posts and uprights, we looked, quite intensely, at every hawthorn bush and thicket we went by. Sadly no cache was visible.

When we did arrive at the dewpond with the posts to count, we failed miserably in our counting! The dewpond was surrounded by well over 50 posts, many so overgrown with vegetation that we had to speculate on whether there was a post present. The gate uprights were damaged, and it was impossible to tell what was a gate, and what was an upright. We guessed at a few numbers, which luckily enough took us close to another large hawthorn thicket. We gave it a quick search, but as much of the calculation had been undertaken with guesswork, we decided not to linger too long.

Ahead a large party of walkers gathered. Where had they come from ? We checked the map, and realised a number of paths crossed the South Downs Way, all within an easy walk from Lewes. We speculated on their route as the party disappeared almost as quickly as they appeared minutes before.

Kingston near Lewes (foreground), Lewes (background)


Then a group of charity walkers went by – they had walked from Eastbourne (about 20+ miles away, and still had 10 to get to Brighton). The heat of the day combined with their 6:30 am start meant they were very tired indeed!

The path was stony, and flinty underfoot, which impeded Mrs Hg137’s still slightly injured leg. So, the next cache, just off the South Downs Way, Mr Hg137 undertook alone. Apparently the cache was near another dewpond, but the dense vegetation, including 3 foot high stinging nettles at Ground Zero, meant the pond was invisible.

The path was downhill for the rest of the day, much of it down a long, gently sloping concrete farmer’s track. The going was easy, but the Sun’s heat reflected back from the concrete make it unpleasant to walk along. Our spirits were lifted by the sight of the Seven Sisters in the distance, the end of the South Downs Way.

A long way down…but in the far distance our final destination, the Seven Sisters!


We were aiming for a key point on the walk.

Crossing the East-West Meridian!

When we walked the South Downs Way back in 2011, we didn’t have a GPS and ‘mutually agreed’ when we travelled from Western Hemisphere to the Eastern. Today, armed with a GPS we realised we were about half a mile out all those years ago. There is a cache placed exactly on the meridian line, which is more than can be said for a large cairn and plaque 60 feet away from the line!

Meridian Cache

The Eastern Hemisphere was not kind to our caching trip. Firstly a final zigzag of the day, circumnavigating a farmer’s field, and a herd of cows just close enough to a gate to cause us concern …

Poppies on the way to Southease

… and then the GPS wobbled and died.

Southease had three caches, and our technology failed us at the key moment.

For some, inexplicable reason, the GPS turned itself off when we attempted the Southease Church Micro multi. We did have the questions written down, so we could derive the final co-ordinates and the GPS behaved enough to guide us to a plausible GZ. But whenever we looked at the hint, or cache logs, the GPS turned itself off. Sadly we couldn’t find the cache without these aids. We each searched twice, while the other sat on a nearby seat, swallowing water from a handy water tap. As we searched a car drew up, and two ladies entered the church. We followed after some minutes and discovered that they were visiting every ‘old’ (pre-Victorian) church in East Sussex. Southease Church must be one of the oldest as it can be dated back to the 12th Century.

Southease Church


Wall Paintings inside the Church

We walked away from the Church, annoyed at our DNF, and then, in trying to set the GPS for our final caches, the back button broke! The plastic button came away from the GPS! We had the compass pointing at the next GZ, but we couldn’t do anything else.

Southease Swing Bridge


We arrived at GZ, and had a good look around. The cache was set by the South Downs Authority, near to a swing bridge over the River Ouse, and we were expecting a large container (as the other SDA caches have been). Sadly, the container had been lost, and replaced by something, much, much smaller, which we only found out when we re-checked the cache description at home!

We finished the walk, by ignoring the cache placed the station (we had no idea where it was !) and walking exhaustedly and dejectedly to our destination car.

Our GPS, bought back in 2012 to celebrate a key birthday of Mr Hg137, had died.
The GPS we had used to attempt over 3500 caches and waypoints had broken.
At least it failed at the end of the walk, rather than at the beginning so we got a good day’s caching on its final outing.
We had lost a great friend, one which had guided us through many travels (and all of this blog) from Edinburgh, to Blackpool, Chester, the Isle of Wight, the River Thames, Three Different Sandhursts and much, much more.

Thanks for the fun Etrex 10, you’ve been a great friend.

Here are some of the last caches you helped us find on your final day with us :

June 22 : Mattingley

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.


Today was a day off from walking the South Downs Way; it was the local gardening summer show, and we needed to stage our entries in the morning (photos, plus one token flower), then to return, late afternoon, to collect our winnings (we hoped). It was a glorious sunny summer’s day and we decided on a short, local caching trip to fill in the space in between.

There are lots of newish caches north of Hartley Wintney and Hook, which can be divided up into several circuits. We chose a set of fifteen caches starting and finishing at Mattingley church, looping out north and west to Hound Green. We parked outside the church, as it seemed to be the best (only) place to park in the whole village. Our first cache was the nearby Church Micro. The church is an interesting wooden-beamed, herringbone-bricked structure, which seems, Tardis-like, to be much bigger on the inside than on the outside. The clues to the actual cache can be answered by looking around in the churchyard and the final cache container is a short walk away under the gaze of many curious cows, both large and small.

Mattingley church

Mattingley church


Our next cache was a short walk along a lane, hidden behind a bus shelter. But not simply a bus stop, and not something we have seen elsewhere … it is also a war memorial, and some of the names mentioned in this shelter are the same as those also commemorated inside the church. https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/190775


Our walk continued with a short, noisy walk, and not much fun along the B3349, and we were very glad to leave the road and turn up a track, with another cache to mark the exit from the road. The track became a path, the path became narrower, and overgrown with brambles and head high nettles. We arrived at a broken stile and clambered over it with various amounts of elegance and grace (it was a bit high for me, so I managed neither!) And then we realised that the way to find the next cache was to balance on the top rail of the broken stile and reach far, far up. Mr Hg137 tried this – he is taller than me – but all the reaching and searching didn’t find us the cache. Our only failure of the day, as it happened ☹

Spot the stile!  In the middle of the 'path'!

Spot the stile! In the middle of the ‘path’!


We bushwhacked our way along, and the vegetation got less as we entered some woods. (Phew, it would have been very hard work if it had been like that last bit all the way round the route!) We found several more caches, swapped a trackable, and were just leaving the last of these when we espied a walker coming from the opposite direction. He asked if we were geocachers. It was pretty obvious that we were, so we fessed up. And, from the map he was carrying, it was also obvious that he was a cacher, too. Nice to meet you, Uncle E! It’s a while since we’ve bumped into any cachers except at meets. We swapped tales about the route, then went our way, leaving him to tackle the nettles and brambles.

Emerging onto a minor road at Hound Green, we admired the village noticeboard. A little way along a quiet lane, another cache marked the place where we were to turn back into the fields. We walked through head high barley, so much softer than stingers and thorns, then reached the edge of a cool, dark wood and plunged in, looking for yet another cache. Uncle E did not find this cache and we made very hard work of it, too. We left the path to search in the woods much too early, while we SHOULD have continued along the path till we were as close as possible before diving in. Every single tree looked alike, and had a pile of sticks at the base, but we got as close as the GPS would let us, then eventually found the cache under some weeny stickoflage. But we found it!

At the other end of the wood was another cache, much more easily found, then on, around field edges, towards a farm (a clue may have been the cache name – ‘farm view’ !). It was obvious where we were intended to go as there were ‘Private’ and ‘Keep Out’ signs stuck on every other possible turning; previous cache logs have said that the landowner isn’t friendly. On reaching the farm buildings, we were directed round a complex series of kissing gates, stiles, turnings, back and forth, round and round, till we reached the far side of the farm, just a few yards from where we had started. We felt we weren’t wanted here. (Editor’s note: we would have been away from that farm and out of the landowner’s way more quickly if we could simply have walked along the natural line of the path down the farm drive.)


It was now a straight walk of about a mile and a half back to Mattingley, along the edges of fields and across a little stream. The cache names describe it well – ‘Mossy’ – ‘Green Fields’ – Hawthorn Row’. Then we emerged into the lane that led to the church and arrived back at the geocar. We had left one final cache for the day, ‘Mattingley Church’, to provide a point to navigate back to if we had got lost, and it turned out that we had parked almost on top of the cache! The car provided cover while we searched, finding a tiny, tiny container unobtrusively concealed in a tree.

And what of our entries in the show? Our carefully chosen photographs won no prizes; the token flower, picked just before we set out – won its class!

And here are some of the caches and other items we found on our way:

A geocoin:

Wood geocoin

Wood geocoin

And some caches:

May 11 : South Downs Way : Cocking to Duncton

Today’s South Downs Way section, although relatively short at 4.5 miles, was packed with caches.

Views looking East across the Weald

Several caching trails criss-crossed our path, and we would pick up caches from them all.

But, before we reached our first cache, and still within sight of a geo-car (just, with a bit of squinting) we arrived at a water-tap.

This water-tap was dedicated to Peter Wren, aged 14. We had seen his name before. Last summer, when the temperatures were at their hottest, we found another water-tap dedicated to Peter Wren, on the Ridgeway (https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2018/08/03/august-3-sandhurst-gloucs-to-sandhurst-uffington-to-sparsholt-firs-ridgeway/comment-page-1/).

So who was Peter Wren ? Apparently he was a 14 year old boy, who loved the countryside. He was also a choirboy at his local church. One Christmas Eve, he was cycling to midnight mass, and sadly was involved in a fatal accident. His family, notably his mother, set up the water taps, and also created a quiet garden in his memory.
We had not heard of quiet gardens, but they are gardens set up as places of tranquillity that anyone may visit. We may well visit Peter’s Peace Garden as we have passed two of his water-tap memorials. There are many quiet gardens not only in UK, but the World too – here is a link to their website. https://quietgarden.org/

The water-tap was opposite a shepherds hut/caravan which looked as it was a makeshift café. Sadly at 930, it wasn’t open! The custard-coloured window frames reminded us that the houses are tied to the Cowdray Estate.

We walked on, and just we rounded a bend in the track, some movement caught our eyes. About 150 yards ahead two fox cubs were playing on the track. We stopped and watched. They chased each other. They practised pouncing. They ran up and down the track, oblivious to the two humans watching from afar. We edged nearer, still they frolicked. It was only after we had edged closer a third time did they retreat at speed. We must have watched these juvenile cubs for 10, maybe 15 minutes. A true delight.

Foxes


Unlike our first cache attempt of the day.

This was cache 1 of the 13-cache ‘Jaceys Charlton’ series which would lead from the Cocking car park, onto the South Downs Way and then south towards the village of Charlton before returning to Cocking. Apparently hidden between a tree and an old post – we couldn’t find it amongst the nettles, brambles and logs positioned at Ground Zero.

Where’s the cache ?


We moved on with greater success at our second cache, number 2 in the same series. This was placed a few yards away from the South Downs Way and again led us a merry dance. However after a few minutes searching we had it in our hands.

Our success was short-lived as our third cache of the day was another DNF. This cache was part of the 70-cache ‘Sussex Amble’ series, and about a quarter had been placed on the South Downs Way. Each of the 70 caches would contain one of 10 bonus numbers which would help in finding cache 71. This cache was hidden in a tree, which had few hiding places, none of which yielded a cache! Sadly no bonus number for us!

‘Jacey’s Charlton 13’ was our next target. An easy find, but on a blind bend on the South Downs and hidden under an ants nest! Ouch!

The South Downs Way was unusually enclosed by hedges and trees, so when we had the opportunity to walk partway through a field to the trig point at Heyshott Down we did so and found a great place to admire the view and have coffee.

Heyshott Down Trig Point


The coffee certainly helped as we found the next few caches relatively quickly. These included the last ‘Jacey’s Charlton’ cache, some successful ‘Sussex Amble’ caches (sadly only yielding the same bonus number at each).

The hardest cache was part of another series ‘Graffham Down’, and all of which were very well hidden. There was also a common pattern, that the coordinates for each were just a little out, making our search more time-consuming.

Lunchtime approached, and some tumuli provided an excellent location in the sunshine for lunch.

Lovely lunch spot !


The sunshine didn’t last long, and the clouds rolled in quickly as we approached ‘Graffham Down 3’. We had considered not attempting this cache due to its distance from the South Downs Way, but we got cache greedy and went for it.

Big mistake!

The path to the cache twisted and turned, the clouds became angrier and angrier, and as we arrived at a potential Ground Zero, the heavens opened. At first, heavy rain, then heavy hail! We took cover in the trees and waited quite a few minutes for the hailstorm to pass. We abandoned our search of ‘Graffham Down 3’ shortly afterwards as we were wet and cold and wanted to walk to warm ourselves up.

As it turned out, this was our last DNF of the day, as we found 12 more caches (and a second ‘Sussex Amble’ bonus number) before reaching Littleton Farm, just outside Duncton.

The majority of these finds were small film canisters in the ‘Sussex Amble’ series, hidden under flint or by gate posts. The largest cache though was ‘BBC 12 Woody Walkabout 12’, the last remaining cache of a 12 cache series ‘BroyleBoxers Circuit’. One cache was hidden underneath one of the largest man-made bird-nests we have every seen. Some very large birds must live here!

Who lives here ?


The hailstorm had made the chalk paths slippery and somewhere Mrs Hg137 slipped and pulled a leg muscle which impeded our progress. But the sun shone in the afternoon and with lots of caches to find, she could focus on the next cache, rather than the 2 miles to walk to the car!

In the end we found 18 caches with 3 DNFs, not bad for a 4.5 mile section of the South Downs Way!