Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.
The next section of the South Downs Way (SDW) was calling to us, and we set off from high up, walking up the gentle ascent leading to the summit of Butser Hill, and admiring the views to the west over the Meon Valley. It wasn’t far to the first cache of the day – Hill Bagging Series #7 – Butser Hill Marilyn. Sadly, a muggle was parked up almost on top of the cache, looking at the view while talking on his phone. What to do? We decided to ignore him and had soon found the cache.
(Editor’s note: A Marilyn is “a hill of any height with a drop of 150 metres (nearly 500 ft) or more on all sides”. So it is a hill which is relatively high compared to its surroundings. The Marilyns are so-called by the list’s compiler, Alan Dawson, after the more famous mountain list – the Munros.)
Soon we were out on the springy turf of Butser Hill, part of Queen Elizabeth Country Park https://www.hants.gov.uk/thingstodo/countryparks/qecp/explore It seems silly that the SDW bypasses one of the highest spots for miles and miles, so we left the official route to bag the hill-top. Skirting some bickering cattle (a dominance fight between two of them?), and we were soon at the top of the hill with views all round. A couple appeared from another direction, touched the trig point, as did we (you just have to, don’t you?). We stopped for a chat. They were on a short walk to break in their new walking boots before walking the entire SDW in the summer.
Chat finished, we assembled the information for the earthcache based upon the summit point (the are usually based around geological things), and stopped for a cup of coffee with a great view before rejoining the SDW and setting off down the hill. The way down the ‘nose’ of the hill towards the A3 is very steep indeed, and my walking pole came out as my knees began to protest. Just as the slope eased, we contoured around the hill to find another cache, on Oxenbourne Down. It was not strictly on our route, but we had been intrigued by the number of favourites given to the cache, so stopped for a look. On arrival, nothing was obvious at first, but another look – and think – suggested that there was something there that needn’t be there – and sure enough, it was the hiding place for the cache, almost invisibly integrated into part of the landscape.
(Editor’s note: The nearby stile and gate are a great viewpoint for photos of Butser Hill. We’ve tried and failed to take decent pictures of it in the past and this is a good spot.)
Returning to the SDW, we went under the noisy A3 and into the main car park for Queen Elizabeth Country Park. Our next cache was to be another earthcache, this one based upon an old milestone which is now at the entrance to the visitor centre. Or maybe not: we arrived at the appointed spot to find building work going on and no chance of getting anywhere near any milestones. After answering most questions, and a circuit of the building works, we went to the shop to question Beth, the ranger, about the milestone. She made a couple of phone calls and gave us some answers (which turned out to be wrong, but at least we tried). We were not the first to ask, it seems, so we explained why we were asking …
About now we checked our GPS and realised that we’d walked around four miles, but were still less than a mile from our geocar, parked on the other side of the A3. That was slightly dispiriting! We walked on through the park and turned away from the A3, going uphill through the woods towards the ridge of the SDW. And it became quiet; it was hard to believe that we were less than a mile from a major road.
There was one more cache to find in the park, hidden among a dark, forbidding grove of yew trees. Thick tree cover is bad news for geocachers as a GPS can’t get an exact fix if it can’t see the sky. We spent a while on a steep slope in the gloom searching tree after tree after tree, before finding the cache in a place we thought we had searched earlier. It happens like that quite often!
The eastern edge of the park is a major crossroads for long distance footpaths: at one point we were stood on the South Downs Way, and the Shipwrights Way, and the Hangers Way, and the Staunton Way. The Shipwrights Way is marked by sculptures relevant to the places they pass though and we passed two, a Hampshire Downs sheep and a Cheese Snail
Once out of Queen Elizabeth Country Park, we were back on the South Downs Way alone, walking along narrow lanes and chalk surfaced tracks, up on the ridge of the downs at last. We crossed the border from Hampshire into Sussex, the woods fell behind us and the views opened out, which gave us panoramas to admire.
After a long walk, we arrived at the next cache, part of the Petersfield Plod series. We had done some of the caches in this series before, and now we collected a few more. Then there was another cacheless gap before we neared Harting Down and reached the last three caches for our day’s walk. All were by the same setter, two of them placed for the local scout group, and the other, Badgers, a little way down a garlic-fringed side path. On finding this cache and signing the log, we spotted the signature of the last-but-one finder of the cache … the very same cacher we met three weeks earlier in Warwickshire … it’s a small caching world!
We found the remaining (scouts) caches, but both led us a merry dance. One was hidden in undergrowth by a stile which had been turned into a gate, and the other had been dislodged from its hiding place and was lying out in a field. But find them we did – eventually. And the day’s walk, and the caching, were over for the day, for the geocar was close by.