November 30 : Woosehill/Sindlesham

For some reason, November is our lowest caching month by a distance. This year has been different, as we were on our fifth November caching trip, this time primarily in woodland which separates the Wokingham districts of Woosehill and Sindlesham. It was an area that both of us had some knowledge of, as Mr Hg137 used to live in Woosehill, and Mrs Hg137 worked in the Sindlesham area and often frequented the woodland paths on a lunchtime walk.

Welcome to the Woods!


Mr Hg137’s experience counted for nothing at our first cache. A DNF near to Woosehill’s supermarket and part of the ‘Off Yer Trolly’ series. We were looking for a cache in a bole of tree (of which there were surprisingly few) next to the pedestrian walkway known as Smith’s Walk. A busy thoroughfare, given its proximity to the supermarket and doctor’s surgery, and after a few minutes feeling freezing cold ivy leaves we abandoned.

We parked the geo-car at the furthest part of Woosehill next to a Tennis Court. We had parked here a few years ago, when we were the first to find (FTF) the very first Counting Vowels cache. On that occasion (see our blog entry https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2017/11/10/november-10-ftf-wokingham-chestnut-avenue/ ) we drove there twice as the cache owner had made a mistake with the coordinates, and we walked miles to register a DNF in our quest for the FTF.

What is it about that Tennis Court and our caching ability ? Our second cache of the today’s walk was at the Tennis Court (part of the ‘Anyone for Tennis’ series) and having studied the hint we believed we were looking for a magnetic bolt. We searched all ends of the tennis court, but our reward was nothing. Two caches attempted..two DNFs.

We were somewhat demoralised as we walked to ‘The Stones’ – we didn’t want three DNFs.
We didn’t get three DNFs as we found the cache quite easily as a large stone hid the cache.
Phew ! We were away!

Third attempt… first find of the day!

Our route around the woodland had been worked out before we left home. There were three parallel roads/tracks (Chestnut Avenue, a woodland path and Sadler’s End). Our route would weave its way from Chestnut Avenue through minor tracks to the main woodland path, a couple of caches on or near that path, before more minor tracks to reach Sadlers End. Here we would attempt a few caches on its length, before heading back via minor tracks to the main woodland path, then more tracks back to Chestnust Avenue. Of course the route wasn’t a perfect circle, so some backtracking was needed to find the outlier caches.

By and large the tracks were very good, if slightly muddy to walk on. The overnight frost had caused a fresh leaf-fall so many of the muddy bits were covered in leaves. It also meant there were times when we couldn’t see the footpath at all as the whole forest floor was covered in leaves.

Holly


Many of the caches or hints described the nearby foliage (‘Rhododendrons’, ‘Holly’. ‘The Gnarled Old Tree’) which narrowed down the search area considerably. Most of the caches were surviving well in the wet Autumn, with one exception, ‘Power Lines’. Here the cache lid had been broken and the log was only just dry enough to etch our name.

The majority of the caches were small, disappointingly so, as we had a trackable we wanted to drop off. It was at our third cache ‘Come and Disk Over Me’ that we were able to do so and pick up a new trackable in its place (Sawyer Koala Bear).

The woodland paths eventually came out close to Wokingham Tennis Club, and here we found our only seat of the morning – so we sat and drank coffee watching a junior coaching session. The trainer was lobbing balls over the net to about 4 children who had to forehand return the ball back. If they succeeded four times they could award themselves a ‘token’ and we saw differing piles of tokens mount up between the trainees.

Setting up for the training session


Next to the Tennis Court is Wokingham Cricket Club, the home of one of our longest searches. The previous cacher, Amberel, hadn’t found the cache and we were concerned we would get our third DNF of the morning. There really was only one structure to search given a hint of ‘magnetic’, but the cache was not in the obvious place. We then read the logs from previous finders, and these told us to look for a piece of wire. We found the wire..but no cache! It was only after a little more searching did we find a SECOND wire…and then the cache came to hand. Phew!

We had arrived at Sadlers End and we had a longish walk to our next cache. We passed a few houses, and nearly got run down by the parents driving their ‘tennis trainees’ home. Our next cache was called ‘Motorway View’. As our walk had progressed, the distant hum of the M4 had become more noticeable, but it was only as we approached the cache did we see the motorway. The hint for this cache was ‘Stand to right of drain cover. Five paces towards motorway, then look right’. There were two things wrong with this very explicit hint. Firstly we couldn’t see the drain cover! The whole path was covered in leaves – we eventually found the metal cover after some prodding with the geo-pole. Secondly ‘paces’. Our stride lengths are different. Was the cache setter long-strided, medium-strided or tiny-strided ? We both paced a distance and after a little search found the cache. And the view of the motorway.

Motorway View


After finding another cache in Sadlers End we made our way back to the woods. Our shortest, and probably less-legal route was to climb over two 5 bar gates, and walk around a farmer’s track. We were at the furthest point from our car, and felt quite cold. The weak winter sunshine had barely permeated the woodland, so we opted for the quick, over-the gate escape route and followed a series of very minor tracks arriving at our next cache hidden under a decaying log.

We had just a couple more caches to find – including a very old cache – originally hidden in 2004. Hidden under a fallen tree, we spent some time looking at the first fallen tree near Ground Zero, rather than walking on a little further to find a larger tree shielding the cache.

Our penultimate cache was hidden in the Woosehill Estate. Called ‘No Mans Land’ because all the roads in that particular part of the estate are named after battles. The pedestrian walkway which hosted the cache was between all these ‘battle’ roads, and hence was in No Mans Land.

After finding our last cache, ‘Chestnut Avenue’ we headed back to the car near the Tennis Court DNF. As Mrs Hg137 changed from her muddy walking boots to her driving shoes, Mr Hg137 had one final look for the elusive cache. Did he find it ? Of course not!

Still, despite the 2 DNFs we found 13 caches, a variety of cache containers some of which are shown here :

November 16 : Grazeley Gambol

The Grazeley Gambol is a series of 22 caches and a bonus cache starting from the small village of Grazeley.

Along the Footpath near Grazeley


There are few places to park in the village but we managed to squeeze the geo-car into the edge of a rutted lane adjacent to the school. The lane had many puddles – not surprising as there had been a lot of rain recently – and we hoped the full route wouldn’t be too muddy! This was quite an expectation as the geocaching route criss-crossed various tributaries of the River Kennet.

The first two finds of the day were within yards of the car, the first a very simple find, the second under a bridge. Here the cache owner had cleverly attached the cache to the bridge both with a simple clip and magnet! This cache definitely won’t get washed away by a flooded river.

Foudry Brook


We were congratulating ourselves on our speedy finds, when we failed to see a footpath sign which would have taken us across a farmer’s field. We retraced our steps and walked on a straight line between the two footpath signs, but when we reached the far end of the field it was obvious we were some way off the true route. Our progress across the field was not helped by the freshly ploughed ridges, and the slippery mud we walked through.

Across the Farmer’s Field to Grazeley

The destination footpath sign yielded another cache, and by now we were getting the hang of cache owner’s modus operandi. It was similar to the caches we had found the previous week at Jealott’s Hill. Many of the caches were small, very small, and had been drilled into a natural looking container.

The mud of the farmer’s field was forgotten as we headed south picking up a further 5 caches. (At least one we walked straight by, another was hidden by an ash tree which tested our arboreal skills, as we aren’t that clued up on what a leafless ash looks like!) We were able to place one of the trackables we had with us in one of these 5 caches and pick up another in return.

The path was pleasant with trees and hedges just holding onto their Autumn colours, and under our feet a carpet of fallen coloured leaves protected us from a wet path. The main gripe about this footpath was its proximity to the A33. A busy and noisy dual carriageway. Sometimes we were separated from it by a few trees, other times barely any at all.

Our route headed West for about half a mile without a cache, as it passed through several farm buildings. We noticed cars parked alongside the farm and several people nearby. We assumed they were connected with the farm, so we consulted our map, to walk confidently through on the right of way. But they weren’t farmers in the yard.

What is going on ?


Two girls, immaculately dressed in riding uniform dismounted from their horses, and chatted with their parents. A food van tempted us with aromas of beefburgers and coffee….and then we finally understood. There was a dressage arena and a competition was going on. We chatted quietly to a previous rider who had recently finished her round. She told us every rider had a fixed time slot…they took part and had coffee, and then went home.. It was 10am and we were aware of at least three competitors who had taken part, and a fourth was being scrutinised (‘trot to A…turn right to E … walk to G’ ) as we stood and watched.

Dressage in Progress


Eventually we walked on and found a couple more caches (one was so far off its co-ordinates we are sure it was in the wrong tree) until we reached a road. Our route should have continued Westwards, but just a short distance South was another cache on a bridge over Foudry Brook. A quick find in ivy, and another container that would take another trackable we had brought with us. The bridge provided us with an ideal place to stop for a coffee (our thoughts of coffee had of course been initiated by the burger van).

Throughout the Grazeley Gambol series a number of the caches would contain letters/numbers which help us find the final bonus cache. Up to this point, few of the containers had yielded a number, but the most of the remaining caches gave us all the information we needed. Our next two caches, using oak trees as hosts, provided welcome respite from a slightly muddy grassy field boundary.

And then we had a problem.

The footpath ahead us was closed. A bridge on the footpath ahead was in a state of disrepair and dangerous.
We decided to proceed anyway. However the closure sign had disrupted our caching skills and we failed to find cache 13 ! Unlucky for us! Cache 14 was straightforward and then we saw the rotten bridge.


We found the cache by its side, and then gingerly crossed. Fortunately the handrails were safe-ish and the central plank under the bridge was safe-ish.. so we made our way across.

Carefully does it!



Shortly after we had logged our caches, the cache owner visited the site, and temporarily discontinued the caches on the closed footpath. Fingers crossed it won’t be too long before the bridge is fixed!

Danger lurked at the next cache too as the footpath crossed the Reading Basingstoke/Southampton railway line. Passenger trains and goods trains seemed to go by every 5- 10 minutes so, and on every occasion we were in the wrong position to take a good photo!

The route resumed a familiar feel. Autumnal trees overhanging a leafy path with a stream nearby. The caches came quite quickly too, including a great fun cache hidden in a children’s toy (sorry no spoiler here…but maybe on our caches of the year post!).

We crossed the railway line again (this time under a bridge) and then a rarity – a multi-cache. A simple enough multi (in fact Googlemaps had been of great assistance before we left home) and an imaginary hide too.

Grazeley village was back in sight, the Church Spire beckoning us to the start. The final two caches took slightly longer than expected (the first was magnetic… (yes really! in the middle of a field too!) and the other was hidden amongst the leaf litter.

We could see the car from this final cache, but the bonus (a quick find) took us away from the school and nearer the Church. We discovered the Church was built in 1850 but in 2017 was converted as a holiday let and is listed on Airbnb ! https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/21676937?source_impression_id=p3_1574781488_tEwFjk7u05x8YoyT

Grazeley Church

An interesting end to a great walk and a wonderful selection of caches!

PS We discovered afterwards that the 24 caches was the highest number of caches we had attempted in a day this year, and one of few caching circuits we had completed too. (And we’ve found just under 400 caches in 2019).

Here are some of the caches we found :

November 3 : Lightwater

The 2019 Autumn is fast becoming a damp squib, every day seems to have rain forecast, or if not sullen grey skies. Planning a geocaching trip is like playing poker with the weather – and frequently being on the losing side.

Today though we were lucky. We were in Lightwater, a small town in Northern Surrey. It is surrounded by the M3 on one side, a busy dual-carriageway on a second side and a cut-through fast single carriage-way on a third. The fourth side is the edge of MOD Army Ranges. With all these outside influences, we were very surprised how quiet the village is.

We planned on attempting 9 caches, and we parked near the first – a Travel Bug Hotel. We were lucky with our parking, as there were spaces for just 6 cars – we were the fifth – and before we had even left the car two more cars arrived which overfilled the car park.

Most of our route was on pavements but the first half mile or so, was in a bridleway (get the mud out of the way at the beginning). Not unsurprisingly, given the cars in the car park, this bridleway was busy. Dog walkers and toddler walkers all out for a welcome walk in the sunshine. Three dog walkers stood and chatted near to the first cache. We swiftly picked the container from behind a tree and walked on to a side path.

Where have all the dog walkers gone ?


It was a travelbug hotel, but the geocaching website, said there were no trackables inside. This was borne out by an empty large plastic container, marked ‘TBs’ inside the cache. But there was something else in the cache that caught our eye – in fairness we couldn’t miss it. A giant morass of keys! Was this a ‘key cache’ where finders were expected to ‘add a key to the ring’ ? We mused on this for a minute or two, until we noticed that the giant key ring was a trackable!

Cache with keys!


We decided to remove it from the cache and take it on our travels. Unusually we didn’t have a haversack with us, so rather than carry the 1lb key ring on our 3 mile walk, Mr Hg137 returned to the car and left it there.

We continued on the bridlepath, the November sun picking out the Autumn leaf colours. At the far end of the path, there was another cache – part of the National Postcode series. This was cache 89, for the GU18 post area. A quick find, once we saw the hint object, and negotiated a holly tree sapling!

The rest of walk followed a clockwise pavement walk around Lightwater. Our next cache has been marked with a DNF by the previous cacher. We were therefore pleasantly surprised to see the cache in silhouette behind some street furniture yards before arriving at GZ. (We later discovered that the previous cacher had found just 1 cache, so presumably was expecting something more exciting that the magnetic nano).

One of the many copses in Lightwater


Up to now the caches had been easy, but the fourth cache led us a merry dance. Called ‘The Truth is a Lemon Meringue’ it was hidden in one of the many end-of-road corner copses we saw on our walk. The GPS wouldn’t settle and we assumed it would be in the middle of this copse. Fighting our way through branches and rubbish, we couldn’t see the hint item at all (‘Tri-Tree’). Mrs Hg137 left the copse and tried to get an accurate distance and bearing with Mr Hg137 battling his way trying to match Mrs Hg137’s outstretched hand. Still nothing. Then Mr Hg137 saw the tree, on the outside of the copse yards from where Mrs Hg137 was standing ! She managed to retrieve the cache before Mr Hg137 had left the copse! So much for believing it would be hidden deep in the woods!

We were deep in Lightwater’s housing estates now, and the bright Sunday morning had brought several people out busying themselves in their gardens. A surprising number were cutting and trimming trees and hedges.

Our next cache was in a tree – or so we thought. ‘Ivy covered tree’ as the hint, and two trees to search (one each). We groaned. Ivy hides are hard. Mr Hg137 got lucky as the cache was hidden not in the ivy, but close to his tree. Inside … our second trackable of the day – a Lego Man! Considerably smaller than the trackable keys, so we were able to place in a pocket.

Lightwater is criss-crossed by streams


We had a long-ish walk to the centre of the town. Or should that be village ? Because Lightwater has a beautiful village sign (number 1493 in the National Series). Nearby were two seats, and our next cache was under one of them. This should have taken no time at all, but somehow it took two circuits of the seats to find the cache!

All Saints Church, Lightwater


Our only failure of the day was at the nearby All Saints Church. Unusually for a cache in the Church Micro series, it was a standard cache, rather than a multi based on service times or gravestone dates. Yet, we couldn’t find the cache. We read that this cache does have a chequered history as it seems to got missing more often than it is available to be found. It has been replaced twice in the last 2 months ! Reluctantly we moved on to our final caches of the day.

As we did so, we noted that the brilliant sunshine of earlier had been replaced by ever-darkening clouds. Fortunately we were headed towards our car. Our penultimate cache was in another roadside copse. Lots of trees, and a familiar story, of taking far too long to find the tell-tale ‘stickoflage’. It was so well hidden Mr Hg137 stood within a yard of the cache and didn’t notice it!

Cache containing 3 Trackables


A pleasant surprise awaited us … there were three trackables inside. We had found 7 caches, and 5 trackables. What a haul!

The imminent threat of rain had eased slightly but even so we hurried to our last find of the morning – this time hidden behind a road sign. In fact it was so well wedged in the roadsign, Mrs Hg137 used her trusty penknife to release it, and remove the log from the tiny container.

A short walk back the car, laden with trackables, and we drove off. Not a moment too soon as raindrops appeared on the windscreen as we reached the centre of Lightwater. We looked at Village Sign one last time, and noticed by the roadside, waiting to cross the road, in broad daylight was a fox. Great to see …and so unusual to see in the middle of the day. A fantastic end to a morning’s caching in Lightwater.

Some of the caches we found :

October 19: Sonning

Sonning is a small picturesque town by the River Thames.

The River Thames, near Sonning

A delightful church, olde-worlde cottages, shops and narrow streets. But it has one serious drawback. Its bridge. There is a bridge at Sonning over the River Thames, a narrow, single-carriageway, traffic-light-controlled bridge. As a result this beautiful village is choked with traffic trying to cross the river.

Picturesque Cottages


Unusual Street Furniture

Sonning also has a collection of caches and our intention was to find as many as we could. Many though were multis with several stages. The multis criss-crossed the town, so we would have to be exceedingly careful to record information as we went. (We remembered a bad day in Chester about 18 months ago, when we circumnavigated the City twice as we got thoroughly confused by the City Centre caches). We would be better prepared today. Each multi was printed out on its own separate sheet of paper; we had reviewed the ‘broad’ route the waypoints took so we knew when to stop one multi and start another.

Sonning does have some standard caches too (a series called ‘Swanning around Sonning’). Within minutes of parking the car we had found Swanning around Sonning #1, a lovely little cache hidden in plain view, and easily accessible by cachers and non-cachers alike.

An easy start, before we embarked on the first of the multis – Sonning Village Trail – a 12 stage multi.
At first the questions were simple as we counted reflectors, ‘pins’ and ascertained that Green Cottage isn’t green!

St Andrew’s Church, Sonning


As we approached the rear of the churchyard, we started the multi connected with the Church Micro. Here we had to find two memorial stones, extract some dates and also find the time of one of the Church Services. Relatively straightforward to calculate the final cache destination – once we realised we had entered the churchyard by a different gate from one we had planned ! The final was some way off, so we filed the Church Micro as ‘Calculated but not Found’.

Before we could continue with the 12 part multi, we found a Victorian Post Box. This was the start of another multi (and a series we were unfamiliar with). We peered at the letter box, extracting key information and soon we added the coordinates to the ‘Calculated but not Found’ pile.

Victorian Post Box


We were heading closer to the river, and the notorious bridge crossing. The roads were becoming more and more clogged and the stages in the 12 part town trail were becoming harder to spot. Spot them we did, including a blue plaque commemorating Terence Rattigan. We were lucky here, as a high-ish wall impeded the sight line to the plaque, but as we approached the property a gentleman left through a large gate and we could see the plaque quite clearly. We chatted with the gentleman (well, we had too, as we were peering far too indiscreetly over his shoulder), and discovered the property was owned by a famous, international celebrity. Opposite we were advised the property was owned by a well known Rock Musician. Sadly we saw neither of these famous celebrities on our travels.

The next waypoint involved a third well known public figure, Theresa May (she too lives in the village). Here, we were misled by the question ‘when did she turn on the lights?’ – expecting to find a plaque stating when she turned on the Christmas lights. However the lights she turned on, were far less ephemeral !

By now we were by the river. We had found one cache early on, 9 stages of a 12 stage multi and calculated the final coordinates for two other caches. We saw a seat on the South Eastern bank and sat there and drank some welcome coffee as we collated our notes. We discovered we were at the start of yet another multi, part of the Counting Vowels series.

The waypoints in this series, take you to noticeboards, plaques, memorials, and you count each of vowels, so that as you have reach the last waypoint you have a cumulative value for A, E, I, O and U.

Lots of vowels to count here…


… and here too – but don’t look at the sign!

Feeling refreshed from our coffee we started this 5 stage multi. A peaceful walk along the riverbank taking us further and further away from the traffic choked approach to Sonning Bridge. As we progressed the path became a bit more muddy, and a bit more slippery – we were grateful for our walking boots. We were a little surprised to discovered that the final co-ordinates we yet further on, as typically having found the last waypoint, we were expecting to turn round and head back from whence we had come. Instead a quick find further away from Sonning.

As we were walking back, we got a good bearing on where the solved Church Micro and Victorian Post Box were. We headed off in that direction but on our way we got very lucky.

A rare boat braves the Thames


Back in 2015 we walked the Thames Path and passed through Sonning during the July of that year. One of the caches we failed to find was hidden behind a noticeboard near the river. We were about to pass that same noticeboard on route to the two multi-finals. We hadn’t loaded this ‘unfound’ cache into our GPS, but we both thought we ought to give the noticeboard host a quick scan… and there was the cache! A brand new log too! Was this a brand new cache we had accidentally become the first-to-find ? Sadly no. We discovered on our return home, that the cache was disabled, as the previous cache had gone missing. A recent cacher (undertaking much the same route as we were taking), had noticed the cache was missing, and knowing who he thought the cache owner was, replaced a cache for him. Sadly the cache owner had changed so a relative stranger now has a new cache placed for them! And of course we got an unexpected find!

A new log, but sadly only a replacement cache


In our excitement of finding a cache we hadn’t even loaded into our GPS, we almost forgot about the two multis we had come to find. Both took a bit a bit of finding, as they we well hidden with differing types of camouflage!

We headed back to Sonning Bridge, the air was full of the Saturday lunch being cooked at The Mill Theatre (Roast Beef, Roast Chicken and some kind of fish).

The Mill at Sonning, Theatre and Restaurant Venue


As the day was going so well we decided to undertake another multi, another Victorian Post Box – this time in a very small village of Sonning Eye. Of all the multis we undertook, this was the quickest. A quick review of the postbox (counting vowels to generate the co-ordinates for the second time today) and a quick walk to GZ. We were grateful for two pairs of eyes for the vowel counting as it took some time for us to both agree the total for E and I !

Back over the river to complete the 12 stage multi, our only remaining unsolved multi of the day. We had to collect more dates – one connected with the adjacent Blue Coat school, the others at Sonning Lock.

Sonning Lock


Here we were lucky enough to see two boats passing through. We sat and performed the calculation for the final coordinates. Unsurprisingly it was back along the river, closer to the Bridge. We filed the coordinates, as we had two, simple, caches to find. Swanning Around Sonning #3 and #4.

We didn’t find #3. Apparently it was a ‘stick cache’ hidden at ground level behind some railings. We searched for some time, and noticed that the previous three cachers hadn’t found it either. Our search was hampered as GZ was a ‘turnround spot’ for a running race. We discovered afterwards, it was wasn’t a distance race, but an endurance race organised by Saturn Running. Runners were undertaking a 7 Hour event, running presumably from Reading to Sonning numerous times in a 7 hour period. No wonder they looked exhausted.

Swanning around Sonning #4 was a lengthy find (coordinates were slightly off) and then back to the lock and to find the final for the Sonning Village Trail. We had several large trees to search, and eventually found the cache in the third one! Phew ! All 5 multis undertaken, and all found successfully !

We had one last cache to find, Swanning around Sonning #2 – close to our car. A tricky find, but a great finish to quite a complicated day !

Caches we found :




September 7 : South Downs Way : the final stage (again): Alfriston to Eastbourne via Jevington

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

First of all, a disclaimer: if you are planning to find any caches along this route, just be aware that there are spoiler pictures in this blog post … especially of one particular puzzle cache that you mightn’t want to view if you are planning to tackle it yourself.

Time for the last section of the South Downs Way … though I said that before, back in August, when we reached Eastbourne. But we hadn’t walked every bit of it yet. The route splits into two sections at Alfriston; the footpath section goes south along the Cuckmere valley, then along the coast over the Seven Sisters. The bridleway section stays inland, passing through the village of Jevington before climbing onto the downs near Beachy Head and joining the footpath at Eastbourne. We walked the footpath part last time, so today we were going to walk the bridleway. So, once again, we set off from Alfriston, crossed the large white bridge over the small, tidal river, then continued ahead along the bridleway. A little way ahead was our first cache, Plonk Barn, hidden in trees behind a redundant barn, now converted into an upmarket house with a more upmarket name, Long Meadow Barn.

Up the hill ...

Up the hill …


Then it was a long and steady climb uphill, from virtually sea level at the River Cuckmere to 188 metres (617 feet) at the top, above the white figure of the Long Man of Wilmington. There were a couple of caches on the way up, one of them a travel bug hotel. Standing a little way from the cache site, looking at the two trackables we had picked up (both miniature cars) we were hailed by two muggles, walking up the hill after us …”You must be geocachers!”… Oh dear, we’d been rumbled. It turned out that the pair weren’t cachers themselves, but their daughter is, and they sometimes go out with her, so they knew exactly what we were doing!
... and on up the hill

… and on up the hill


A South Downs Rangers’ Landrover overtook us on our climb, and we caught up with it, parked, at the top of the hill. The rangers were taking customers on a day out, conducting a butterfly survey, followed by a picnic https://www.bn1magazine.co.uk/south-downs-national-park-ranger-experience-review/
View from Windover Hill

View from Windover Hill


Anyway, it meant they weren’t watching us, as we had an earthcache to solve, based on the Windover Hills Flint Mines and a with great view out across the Weald https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1014631

Then we went on over the grassy hills to Jevington, with great views out to the south and glimpses of the sea, finding more caches as we went, passing walkers, cyclists, and a group of DofE participants as we went – this group were well on time and knew where they needed to go to finish the day’s walk – other groups we have met this year have not been so organised – we have found misplaced paperwork and mislocated participants!

Descending a steep, wooded track into Jevington, we arrived at the church and the small car park by the church meant it was suddenly busy with cyclists, dog walkers parking cars, and a walking group, but all this activity meant that we could search for the cache nearby without being noticed – everyone else was just too busy. The cache (and trackable, third of the day) were quickly found, and then we had a look around the churchyard, a nice peaceful place. Two notable things about the church at Jevington: it has a tapsel gate – which is hinged in the middle, not at one side, and there are only six in Sussex/the world – and it is the burial place of Lord Hartley Shawcross, chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg war trials. http://wealdanddownlandchurches.co.uk/jevington-church/

Something else notable about Jevington: out on the main/only street is a blue plaque celebrating …Banoffi Pie, which was invented here in 1972 at the Hungry Monk restaurant (I bet you thought it originated in America, didn’t you?) Here’s the original recipe, which sound a bit dangerous if you get it wrong: http://scrumpdillyicious.blogspot.com/2012/09/banoffi-pie-original-hungry-monk-recipe.html

We were quickly out of the village, it’s not very big, and climbing back up onto the top of the downs. There were plenty of people around – charity walkers, walking groups, more charity walkers, these ones in training, dog walkers – the last time we did this walk, in late July 2011, we had seen one or two people, but today we had seen about a hundred and fifty, including a walking group of THIRTY-SIX! We found no caches on our climb – some we simply couldn’t find, and one because we surveyed the rampant, stingy, sticky, prickly vegetation in front of it and decided we simply weren’t up to it!
In there ??? No way !!!

In there ??? No way !!!


At the top of the hill we found a cache which put our failures on the climb into perspective. It was called South Downs Puzzle #2 and it was just that. The outer container wasn’t especially hard to find, but inside, protecting the log, was a puzzle, one involving a ball-bearing and a 3D maze. We both had a try at the maze and managed to get everything into the right place after a few minutes of twiddling and turning.

We found another three caches as we made our way across the downs, including another trackable, our fourth for the day (a record, we think), crossing a golf course and the road leading to Beachy Head. We reached the final dewpond of the day and for the route as a whole; this was where the South Downs bridleway used to go down the hill and end with a mile of roads in Eastbourne. But it’s been re-routed (good idea) and it now makes its way along the edge of the downs before turning steeply downhill to meet up with the footpath coming along the coast. We arrived in the early evening now, and the shadows were lengthening.
The final dewpond

The final dewpond


Nearly there!

Nearly there!


We’d finally finished the whole of the South Downs Way for the second time. Whoop, whoop! We had a brief celebration at the end marker, then returned to the geocars for the long drive home.

And here are some of the caches we found:

August 26 : Peak District : Dovedale and Tissington

Thorpe Cloud

We were having a week’s walking holiday staying with HF Holidays at their hotel near the River Dove. Every day we were on led walks, ranging from 6-13 miles. We have discovered, over the years, it is very difficult to find caches on these walks, as by the time we have searched for a cache, opened it, extracted the log, and replaced it, the group has walked some distance ahead.

Instead, on the day off from walking – the very hot Bank Holiday Monday – we went out to find a few caches.

Our first cache was the Earthcache at the top of Thorpe Cloud. Thorpe Cloud is 942ft high, but fortunately for us we didn’t have to climb all the way, as the HF Holidays Hotel had a back gate which led to a path halfway up the hill.

Mr Hg137 at the top of Thorpe Cloud

So immediately after breakfast we set off and climbed it fairly quickly. At the top we had to collect various pieces of information and take photos as proof we were there. Normally this is a straightforward exercise, but today, was ‘flying ant day’. The top was swarming with insects. Our white hats quickly turned black as insect upon insect decided we were a good place to land. Somehow we took the measurements, but the optional tasks of fossil hunting was far, far too arduous with the heat and the insects.

We descended the Cloud, taking a longer, and possibly less steep, route down arriving at a tourist hot-spot – the Dovedale Stepping Stones. The River Dove marks the boundary between Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Most people park in Staffordshire, walk a short distance to the stones, cross the river, and picnic in Derbyshire.

Stepping Stones over the River Dove


We waited ages for a gap to cross against the tourist flow. On the Staffordshire side, a cache called ‘Ye Olde Bung Hole’ awaited. It was hidden 60 feet up a steep grassy bank, in the roots of a hawthorn. Sadly we couldn’t find it. So our waiting at the Stepping Stones was in vain…and we had to do it all over again to get back into Derbyshire.

Somehow the morning had disappeared, and we retreated to the cool of our hotel for an early lunch. Suitably refreshed, we drove a couple of miles to another tourist hotspot, Tissington.

Tissington Hall and Gardens


Tissington is a small village, with a church, pond and grand Hall. The village is ‘owned’ by the hall, and all the inhabitants of the tied cottages are interviewed by the Hall owners who check for them suitability before they move in. Tissington has 4 caches within its boundary, but our initial focus was the Hall and its Garden.

Normally these are not open to the public, but today they were. We decided to just see the Garden, as it meant we could admire the flowers, find some shade, admire more flowers, find more shade..etc at our own pace.

The roses, considering it was late August, were spectacular. Dahlias jostled for attention too.

After a while we ventured back out into the blazing afternoon’s heat to find some caches.

The first, part of the Church Micro series, was hidden someway from the Church. Unusually we couldn’t see the Church from the cache site. A relatively quick find, though one had to be looking at just the right angle to see the cache behind its stinging nettle guard.

Hall Well, Tissington


Tissington is famous for its Well Dressings (it has at least 7 wells, all of which are ‘dressed’ during Ascension week in May/June). Tens of thousands of people visit the village that week, far fewer were there today. This meant our exit away from the village, over a cattle grid, went unnoticed. No-one saw us pick up the stone, hiding the cache and signing the log. This would be far harder to do during Well Dressing Week.

By now the heat of the day had broken us. Although Tissington still had two hidden caches, we were exhausted. We decided to head back to the Hotel to chill. We hadn’t walked far – but the blistering heat had beaten us.


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
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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!