September 7: Starry Bug

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

On our final walk along the South Downs Way, we found FOUR trackables, two of them well travelled, and two, including this one, which had never travelled anywhere, anywhere at all.

It’s a glass starfish which sparkles in the light, attached to a trackable tag. I’ve tried to take a reasonable photo of it, which might or might not have succeeded. This is what it would like to do:

A star needs other stars, so can this trackable seek out other stars – drawn, made, discovered… it just wants to meet others on its journey.

We found it in the Farmer’s Crossing cache, where it had been placed a short while before. We will try to move it on to somewhere stellar, though we don’t know of many caches like that near us!

September 7 : Sussex Sole

Sussex Sole

During our walk from Alfriston to Eastbourne we found four trackables. This was the third. A thin fish-shaped piece of metal connected to a keyring. The metal fish and keyring were so small they fitted in a 35mm film container!

Unusually this trackable hadn’t been anywhere! The cache we found it in, just outside Jevington church, was where the owner, muddyboots111, had placed just it just 3 days previously. It is very rare to find a trackable with no mileage! It was up to us to start its journey!

The trackable was called ‘Sussex Sole’ – presumably because its flat nature suggests a flat-fish such as a sole, and of course because it started in Sussex. We will endeavour to place this trackable near water – fingers crossed we find an appropriate cache!

September 7: Mini 77

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Mini 77

Mini 77


On our final walk along the South Downs Way, we found not one, but FOUR, trackables, two of them cars, found in the same cache, a travel bug hotel near Alfriston. Mini 77 was one of these two cars. It had been ages since we found any trackables, and now, like buses, they all came along at once!

This trackable has a lot of history: it’s been around since March 2015, when its owner, mecabra, set it loose in North Carolina, United States, with the mission (repeated in English, German, French and Spanish)
This is Brandon of megcaBRA’s Mini 77 that is out to see the sights of the world. Please help Mini 77 travel the back roads of the world and explore new places.

And travel it certainly has. 1000 caches and 27688 miles has seen the little car leave America, reach Europe and journey through France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands, some of those several times. In 2018, the trackable made a very brief trip further afield, to the Phillipines, and then arrived in the United Kingdom, at Holyhead in Wales. It went to the Yorkshire Mega event in August 2018, where it was spotted by many a geocacher, travelled round Yorkshire and the Peak District in Derbyshire, then dived down to the south coast near Brighton, where we found it a short while later on the South Downs Way.

As you’d expect, the trackable has got more battered over the four and a half years it has been on the road, but it’s still solid and in good condition. We plan to move it on along its journey along the back roads, just as soon as we find a cache big enough to place it.

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 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: