December 31 : Sulham (Reading)…including a First-to-Find and our 3000th cache!

Our previous caching trip had left us on 2996 caching finds, and we were wondering where to cache to claim our 3000th find before the year was out.

As we mused, some days previously, we noticed a brand new series published in the area of Sulham just West of Reading. It was an area we had not cached in, so we looked at the caches. They were all mystery caches…and all online jigsaws. 21 online jigsaws varying in size from 80 pieces to 440 pieces.

Here are the pieces…

Lovely pictures, but a little mono-chrome (a sunlit Autumn leaf path, a long view over farmers-fields to a folly). Many contained dogs, or possibly the same dog, so we guessed they celebrated the life of the owner’s dog(s). (One of the dog jigsaws was called ‘In Memoriam’). On completion of a jigsaw the co-ordinates of the associated cache would be displayed.

…. getting there!


These jigsaws were published on the 28th December. We saw them on the same evening and set about trying to solve the myriad of online jigsaws. If we could solve 4 jigsaws we would drive to Sulham, and find the caches needed to reach the 3000 milestone. We may even be the first-to-find (FTF) the caches!

We spent several hours looking at several jigsaws, honing our online skills late into the early hours of the following morning. We awoke, and discovered another cacher had solved many of the puzzles and had already claimed many of the first-to-finds (about 16 of the 21 on offer). We continued our solving realising we might need to solve 5 or 6 jigsaws to give us a couple of caches as contingency (to allow for a did-not-find) in order to reach the magic 3000 finds.

Over the 29th and 30th of December, we solved quite a few jigsaws, and focussed our attention on those where the FTF hadn’t been claimed. Of course as we solved a puzzle, the 5 remaining unfound caches were slowly being found (including the bonus 22nd cache). Until only one cache hadn’t been found….

..so early on the 31st December we drove to Sulham, parking up by 9am. We surveyed the other early morning visitors to the car park. Were they cachers ? Were they dog walkers ? We walked down a muddy, tree-lined path, checking our GPS making sure we were heading as quickly and as accurately as we could.

More people. More dog walkers. A couple of litter pickers. We arrived close to Ground Zero for the unfound cache (cache 19 in the series). We had passed no-one resembling a geocacher. Would we be the first to sign the log?

We headed to a likely looking host. No cache to see, then we espied another a better example … wandered over to see a tell-tale pile of sticks guarding a container.

With trepidation we opened the cache, a cute dog to reveal….


…a blank log! We were the first to find!!

Hooray!

(our last First-Find was way back in November 2017, and before that, spookily, exactly three years ago on 31st December 2016!)

We took copious photos and left the cache grinning. We now had 3 caches to find to reach 3000 caches.

Of the puzzles we had solved cache 17 was the next nearest. We had plotted the coordinates on a map (somewhere between two footpaths and a road) and headed there. Suddenly the path became very, very muddy and a field of 19 horses looked on as we slipped and slithered our way past. The cache was still not any closer so we walked along the road and then we turned around to walk back along the second muddy footpath..the cache was still 60 yards away. We gave up..we couldn’t see how to get to the Cache 17.

Good job we had a few caches in reserve!

Our next cache was number 5. (We’re quite sure if we had solved all the jigsaws our route to the caches would have been in a better sequence). We trudged through more muddy paths and arrived a large grassy field. Here a stile/gate guarded the entrance to a large wooded area, and the cache was quickly found. (Our only delay was caused by a dog walker with 4 dogs going by). That was cache 2998.

We were going to attempt cache 3 and cache 1 to reach 3000 finds, but as our contingency had disappeared looking for cache 17, we realised cache 14 was quite close. More mud. But a quick find. 2999.

So we headed for cache 3. In the middle of woodland, and probably where the GPS would wobble. We followed tracks as best we could, but eventually went ‘cross-country’ jumping minor water-courses until a very large hint item came into view. There a pile of sticks and piece of stone shielding a camouflaged bag. We undid the bag.. there was cache 3000! Hooray !

Then the fun started! It was a maze cache! To open the container we needed to slide the upper and lower part around a maze. It took us some time to do this but once opened we signed our names for the 3000th time!

We’ve encountered maze caches before, so we drew the maze out on a sheet of paper, and followed it in reverse to close the cache! A fantastic puzzle cache – first the jigsaw, then the cache container. What a way to reach 3000!

We didn’t try to find any other caches. We had achieved a First-to-Find (only the fourth time we had done this), and found four caches including a fabulous cache for 3000. Why find another? It would wait for another day!

PS If you are wondering why we went wrong at cache 17. we mis-transcribed the co-ordinates when we solved the associated jigsaw. We had to redo the jigsaw to get the correct coordinates!

December 21 : Wellesley Woodlands

Wellesley Woodlands are on the border of Farnborough and Aldershot on former Army land. Named after the 1st Duke of Wellington (Arthur Wellesley), the woods comprise 110 hectares of mixed woodland (https://thelandtrust.org.uk/space/wellesley-woodlands/?doing_wp_cron=1577458134.5638270378112792968750).

Welcome to Wellesley Woodlands

There are many woodland trails named after the various trees (Oak Trail, Sycamore Trail etc) and our route would follow these around the woods, passing a large monument to Wellington and returning to the car. The woods also extended to, and beyond, the Basingstoke Canal where after moving our car we would look for two more caches.

Various wood walks


That was the plan.

We got off to a very inauspicious start as we made a couple of navigational errors driving to the car park (‘We were never lost …just not sure of where we were”). We eventually booted up and strode away from the car, and headed for our first cache – a travel bug hotel. We had just entered the woodland when it started to rain. Now, common sense would have said..’head back to the car and wait for it to pass over’.

Nope. Let’s continue.

The rain stopped. Clearly we had made the right decision. Onwards.

Then the rain started again, heavier, colder this time. Almost hail. Aaargh! The bare winter trees provided no shelter at all! We got absolutely soaked.

No shelter here …


… or here !


The footpaths became quagmires, and the dog walkers we passed were all wrapped up and their dogs were more like bundles of fur covered in mud. They all had the right idea…head to the car. We seemingly had no sense whatsoever.

We arrived the travel bug hotel, and found the log almost too wet to sign – not due to the prevailing weather, but months previously the cache had let water in, and had still not dried out. We etched our signature and headed back to join our main target, the 5 cache Wellesley Woodlands series.

Travel Bug Hotel


Some distance away a few park runners/fun runners jogged by (how protective their Santa hats were we weren’t sure) and one lone dog walker passed us. The rain had eased slightly, but we were still very cold.

We joined the Wellesley Woodlands series at cache 4 and it should have been a simple find. The GPS took us the correct tree, but we decided to overthink the hint, and walk 10 yards further to examine a different, and better looking host. (What does ‘double tree’ mean ? Two adjacent trees or a twin-trunked tree ?)

Eventually we trusted the GPS and found the cache under its tell-tale pile of sticks.

We were cold, wet, and bordering on the irritable. The car was relatively close by so we adjourned for some coffee and took stock. After surveying different options, we decided on abandoning the Wellesley Woodlands series (we had numbers 1,2,3 and 5 left which formed a good discrete mini-series for another day) and drove the mile or so to another car park to find two caches by the canal.

Footbridge over the canal…


…and the peaceful canal underneath


The first of these caches was a Challenge/Mystery cache with a Beatles theme. Qualification for finding the cache was depending on finding 20 caches each with a word with a Beatles connection. (There were over 60 words to select from and we had spent some time the night before validating our 2950+ finds against this master list. We subsequently discovered there was a Challenge Checker on https://project-gc.com/ which would have saved us time.) The words we had in our cache finds included ‘John’, ‘George’, ‘Beatles’, ‘Liverpool’, ‘Help!’, ‘Lady’ (Madonna), ‘Yellow’ (Submarine), ‘Abbey’ (Road).

The cache was hidden next to the canal towpath next in, according to the hint, some silver birches. This is quite an old cache (January 2014), and since then various silver birches have been cut down. It took us some time to locate the correct location and then several prods of the geopole to find the superb, and apt, cache container.


We walked along the towpath to our final cache. As we did so, we saw a couple of geese, and couple of runners, and some speeding kayakers.

Graceful and slow…


…graceful and fast

The cache was called for some reason ‘Yesterdays Onions’ and was again hidden in a silver birch. We hadn’t learnt any lessons, as for the third time in as many caches, we looked at the most obvious location first, oblivious to a better host nearby.

Still find it we did, which brought our finds for the day to 4 out of 4. Although the weather had brightened, we were still damp and slightly cold, and had left a mini-series for better caching weather.

October 4 : Stretton, Warrington

A Wedding Guest Arrives at St Matthews Church, Stretton

Many readers of this blog may know that both of us, that is both Mr and Mrs Hg137, play Scrabble relatively competitively as well as geocaching.

During the weekend of the 5/6 October the National Scrabble Championships were being held in Stretton, just outside Warrington, and Mrs Hg137 had qualified for the main finals. (Mr Hg137 had only qualified for the more minor plate competition).

We travelled up to Warrington the day before which gave us time to settle into our hotel, locate the playing venue and find a couple of geocaches (whilst dodging the showers).

Our first cache was a puzzle cache we had solved before we left home. The start co-ordinates were based on/in/near St Matthews Church, Stretton. A large church (given the size of village) which had been rebuilt a couple of times since 1800. The latest structure was designed and built by George Gilbert Scott and the Gothic Revival style for which he was famous oozes from the building. Sadly we couldn’t go in the building as a wedding was due to start when we arrived…(we almost made it into the wedding photos as the official photographer was snapping anyone who approached the church!)

A pleasant walk to the cache


The cache was a short walk away hidden in a bush. This gives nothing away, as this cache hint alludes to this, but the number of bushes at GZ, were quite numerous and very prickly. We searched the bushes for a long time, impeded only by a muddy track surrounding each bush (had we brought walking boots to a Scrabble tournament?… no!). After 20 minutes we gave up. We couldn’t see the cache at all.

The Stretton Fox



We moved to what should have been an easier cache. Called ‘Foxy’ it celebrates the nearby pub called the Stretton Fox. The cache though was up a 10 foot wet, slippery, grassy slope with little space for manoeuvring, near to a busy roundabout. The cache was hidden under tree bark, but at GZ, there wasn’t one piece of bark there were a dozen! Each one was meticulously picked up, checked and replaced until the cache was found! They don’t make caches easy in these parts!

Thank goodness, we didn’t have to search for a magnetic nano here!


So we returned back to the hotel via the prickly hedges we surveyed earlier. We gave ourselves another 5 minutes. Of course this time we found the cache. Visible, but almost unapproachable. (Why hadn’t we brought the geo-pole ?!). So while Mr Hg137 found some long (over 6 foot) sticks, Mrs Hg137 took off her coat, folded it as a cushion and performed the yoga ‘child’ pose (or Balasana). Reaching further and further, she eventually grasped the box, and retrieved it from deep in the bush. Of course we still had to replace it back again…but those 6 foot sticks were useful for that!


So 2 caches found, in about an hour, we’d mixed with a wedding party, and got entangled in various hedges…lets hope its less trouble at the Scrabble tournament!

August 17 : South Downs Way : the final stage : Exceat to Eastbourne

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Time for the last section of the South Downs Way, a challenging one, down the Cuckmere Valley, then over the ridges of the Seven Sisters to Birling Gap, then up and over Beachy Head and down into Eastbourne. Challenging – yes – but a stunning walk.

But first, we needed to get from where the geocar was parked, close to the end of the South Downs Way at Eastbourne, back to the start of the walk. That meant an additional one-and-a half miles in the “wrong” direction back into central Eastbourne to catch the Coaster bus which would take us to Exceat. We set off along the seafront, stopping twice, briefly, to find caches. Eastbourne would be very busy indeed later on, as it was the third day of the Airbourne air show http://www.eastbourneairshow.com/ which takes place over the sea in front of the pier. Roads were closed, a funfair was set up, plus food stalls aplenty. And a steady and increasing stream of people were heading for the beach to get a good viewpoint.

Cuckmere Haven

Cuckmere Haven


We left all that behind and were at Exceat after a bumpy 20-minute bus ride. We exited the bus just where the South Downs Way sets off down the Cuckmere valley. Even a few steps away from the road, it was less busy. That was good: we wanted a second attempt at finding a cache, after failing last time. To quote our previous post:
…” This view has been immortalised over the years. … 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” …

Well, we failed again. Even with a hint from the cache owner, and some nimble scampering around likely places from Mr Hg137, we still couldn’t find the cache, though we were much closer than before to the correct location. Oh, well …
Continuing down the eastern side of the Cuckmere estuary, we found a cache which commemorated the location of the vanished Exceat Church, and one hidden close to a dewpond. This dewpond is unusual; most of these ponds are historic, built long ago for watering stock; this one was built in the 1990s using fees paid for using the beach at Cuckmere Haven for the location of the opening scene in “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves” https://www.reelstreets.com/films/robin-hood-prince-of-thieves/ Nevertheless, it looks as if it has been there for ever, and is well overgrown with vegetation.

Where's the pond?

Where’s the pond?


Then the climbing started, and we made our way up onto the top of the first of the Seven Sisters. We had a longish, *undulating* (aka hilly!) walk to the next cache, a multicache based on the monument on Flagstaff Brow, the fourth of the seven/eight Sisters. And having worked out the coordinates, we decided they were too far off route and continued to Birling Gap. (Editor’s note: there are actually eight, not seven Sisters; erosion has created an extra one after they were named. They are called Haven Brow, Short Brow, Rough Brow, Brass Point, Flagstaff Brow – Flat Hill, the extra one – Bailey’s Hill and Went Hill)
Birling Gap ...

Birling Gap …


... and the doomed coastguard cottages

… and the doomed coastguard cottages


There’s a car park and a tearoom at Birling Gap, access to the beach, and a row of ex-coastguard cottages. They are gradually being demolished, one by one, as the cliffs erode. There were five when we passed by in 2011. And now there are four … another was demolished in 2014. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2584571/Work-starts-demolish-former-coastguards-cottage-left-just-SIX-INCHES-cliff-edge-months-storms.html
Crumbling, cracking cliffs

Crumbling, cracking cliffs


Birling Gap was heaving with muggles. They were so busy with selfies / refreshments /climbing down the steps to the beach / watching aircraft fly by to the airshow that they didn’t notice us looking for four caches, finding two and adding the other two to the “too far away from the route, find another day” list. The aircraft were distracting for us, too; we were watched from above by a circling Spitfire while we found one cache, and a little earlier, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight passed by, and disappeared around Beachy Head, lower than clifftop height.
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight


The Seven Sisters were behind us, and we began the long climb up to Beachy Head. Birling Gap is 30 feet or so above sea level, and, two-and-a-bit miles later, the trig point at the top of Beachy Head is about 500 feet above sea level. Part way along, the route passes Belle Tout lighthouse; it can be seen for miles around, but it wasn’t very effective as it was often enveloped in cloud or fog, which is why the newer lighthouse was built at sea level. We found two caches along here, Belle Tout View and Beachy Head Earth Cache, both with big views and breeziness to match.
Belle Tout View

Belle Tout View



After walking south-east along the Seven Sisters, we had now “turned the corner” and were going north-east towards Eastbourne, which was just coming into view. We had a good view of the last few minutes of the airshow, watching a Dakota, some wingwalkers, and a grandstand view of the of the final aerobatics display by a team of jet aircraft.
We were now dropping, slowly at first, then steeply, down to the esplanade, and to the end of the South Downs Way. We waylaid several passing muggles and inveigled them into taking pictures of us on the final bit of the path, at the noticeboard at the end, and in front of the ‘end of trail’ sign: there – that proved we’d done it!

By now, it was quite cool and windy and getting rather dark. For the first time in a very long time, we needed the heater on as we drove home in the geocar.

And here are some of the geocaches we found:



***************************************************
Review of the South Downs Way
***************************************************

We’ve walked it twice now, first in 2011, and now in 2019: what has changed, and was it better the first time or the second time?

First, what has changed after eight years? A little, but not all that much.
– The signage is better, though it was pretty good before.
– The trail now has start/end markers, so there’s a sense of occasion to mark each end of the trail. (But we still think that the Winchester end of the trail should start at the cathedral, not at the City Mill.)
– The route has changed in a few places. The route through Queen Elizabeth Country Park has changed, separating it from other long-distance paths that also pass through. And the route out of Winchester has altered, there is a bit of going round and round before you head up and out of the city. One other blog I read speculated that this was to make the route up to 100 miles for cyclists?

Secondly, was it better the first time or the second time?
– I asked Mr Hg137 and we both thought the first time was better.
– It could have been the weather. Though we are both reasonably hardy, we are fair weather walkers, and don’t generally go out walking if it is pouring with rain. Our photos from 2011 show blue skies and sunshine and us clad in T-shirts, while this year we got wet a fair few times, and spent much of the walk clad in sweaters and waterproofs under grey skies, blown by strong winds.
– I walked the majority of the walk with a torn, or part-healed calf muscle. There were times when it was very, very bad, and I’ve never taken so many painkillers, ever, and it had to affect my view of the walk.
– But it wasn’t really pain, the weather, and the great views haven’t altered. It was that we knew what was coming, there is no AAH moment at discovering a new place, or a great view, such as the sudden surprise vista over the Cuckmere estuary.
– What other things might we have done? We’ve already been to some places just off the route, such as Uppark, West Dean gardens, and the Weald and Downland Museum, but it would be good to investigate some of the others, like Amberley, Bignor Roman villa, Charleston, and the Chantry House at Alfriston. (Or an opera at Glyndebourne???)
– Would we do the walk for a third time? Quite likely, yes, though we might walk in the other direction. It is in beautiful countryside with stunning views. A brilliant walk!

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 :

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 !