In which we cross into the Eastern Hemisphere and say goodbye to a dear friend…
Today’s section of the South Downs Way would take us from the A27, heading predominantly south-eastwards to the small village/hamlet at Southease. As the crow flies, a journey of just over 4 miles, but unusually for the South Downs Way, today’s route wasn’t straight. Instead it meandered sinuously, so that our journey length would be closer to 7 miles.
A smattering of caches awaited us, a long walk to the first, then a few together, another one or two caches with long gaps before another cluster at Southease.
Our walk started by heading West (!), adjacent to the busy A27, over a noisy footbridge before walking East alongside the A27 by the opposite carriageway. After 20 minutes we were level with the geocar, separated by only a fast dual carriageway. We continued on, and then under the Lewes-Brighton railway line where we then turned South-Westwards, crossing an imaginary (North-South) line emanating from our car for a second time.
Here the going got harder as we were slowly climbing through a tree-covered track, which shielded us from the mid-morning heat. We enjoyed the comfort of the shade, as we knew for the rest of the day we would be on the bare, shadeless tops of the South Downs.
Having left our wooded track, we emerged onto the grassy chalk slope we had come to expect, and climbed, steeper now, towards the first cache. The views across the valley were wonderful with green/brown farming crops being interspersed with colourful mid-summer wildflowers.
Our first cache, about halfway up the hill was secreted in the lower bole of a hawthorn bush. It wasn’t that well hidden but,because of the nature of the bush, it was only visible from a certain angle. As we retrieved the 12-year old cache, the contents spilled to the ground – the clip-lock container only had one working clip! Good job no-one walked by as we retrieved the cache contents from the ground.
The second cache was in a small patch of woodland, called Newmarket Plantation. Approaching uphill (as we were), the plantation was fully fenced off, so we assumed the cache would be on the plantation perimeter, and easily accessible. No! No! No! We searched the fence line, tree-by-tree, for likely places, all to no avail. The GPS signal consistently stating that we were 20 feet away.
Only after a few more minutes of fruitless searching did we notice a gate much further on, and entered the woodland. An easy find, once we were in the wood, just ages to get in!
Two other objects were spotted in the wood, a huge bird box (presumably intended for some bird of prey), and a memorial to a loved one. It had been recently visited judging from the state of the flowers left behind. It is not an easy walk to visit this woodland, so this plantation must have meant something special.
We had passed no-one on the walk to date, but before we reached the next cache, the path was busy with two groups of walkers, and a cyclist. We looked back at the plantation, to see if a cacher were amongst them, but no-one re-entered the plantation after us.
As the path made yet another large meander we went by a ‘wind pump’. The noisy wind turbine, placed by Southern Gas, is used to power some of their nearby pipework. Close by, well-protected by a thistle guard of honour was our third cache. As we left GZ, we were still only a mile South of the car, but we had been walking for 90 minutes, meandering to and fro ever upwards.
Our next attempted find, was a multi – based on one of three dewponds we were to pass. The multi required us to count wooden posts (surrounding the pond) and uprights at a gate entrance. Being a multi, we did not know where the final was, and we didn’t want to walk too far off route (or back on ourselves) to locate the final. We had seen pictures that the cache was in hawthorn bushes. Rather than walk to the multi, and count posts and uprights, we looked, quite intensely, at every hawthorn bush and thicket we went by. Sadly no cache was visible.
When we did arrive at the dewpond with the posts to count, we failed miserably in our counting! The dewpond was surrounded by well over 50 posts, many so overgrown with vegetation that we had to speculate on whether there was a post present. The gate uprights were damaged, and it was impossible to tell what was a gate, and what was an upright. We guessed at a few numbers, which luckily enough took us close to another large hawthorn thicket. We gave it a quick search, but as much of the calculation had been undertaken with guesswork, we decided not to linger too long.
Ahead a large party of walkers gathered. Where had they come from ? We checked the map, and realised a number of paths crossed the South Downs Way, all within an easy walk from Lewes. We speculated on their route as the party disappeared almost as quickly as they appeared minutes before.
Then a group of charity walkers went by – they had walked from Eastbourne (about 20+ miles away, and still had 10 to get to Brighton). The heat of the day combined with their 6:30 am start meant they were very tired indeed!
The path was stony, and flinty underfoot, which impeded Mrs Hg137’s still slightly injured leg. So, the next cache, just off the South Downs Way, Mr Hg137 undertook alone. Apparently the cache was near another dewpond, but the dense vegetation, including 3 foot high stinging nettles at Ground Zero, meant the pond was invisible.
The path was downhill for the rest of the day, much of it down a long, gently sloping concrete farmer’s track. The going was easy, but the Sun’s heat reflected back from the concrete make it unpleasant to walk along. Our spirits were lifted by the sight of the Seven Sisters in the distance, the end of the South Downs Way.
We were aiming for a key point on the walk.
Crossing the East-West Meridian!
When we walked the South Downs Way back in 2011, we didn’t have a GPS and ‘mutually agreed’ when we travelled from Western Hemisphere to the Eastern. Today, armed with a GPS we realised we were about half a mile out all those years ago. There is a cache placed exactly on the meridian line, which is more than can be said for a large cairn and plaque 60 feet away from the line!
The Eastern Hemisphere was not kind to our caching trip. Firstly a final zigzag of the day, circumnavigating a farmer’s field, and a herd of cows just close enough to a gate to cause us concern …
… and then the GPS wobbled and died.
Southease had three caches, and our technology failed us at the key moment.
For some, inexplicable reason, the GPS turned itself off when we attempted the Southease Church Micro multi. We did have the questions written down, so we could derive the final co-ordinates and the GPS behaved enough to guide us to a plausible GZ. But whenever we looked at the hint, or cache logs, the GPS turned itself off. Sadly we couldn’t find the cache without these aids. We each searched twice, while the other sat on a nearby seat, swallowing water from a handy water tap. As we searched a car drew up, and two ladies entered the church. We followed after some minutes and discovered that they were visiting every ‘old’ (pre-Victorian) church in East Sussex. Southease Church must be one of the oldest as it can be dated back to the 12th Century.
We walked away from the Church, annoyed at our DNF, and then, in trying to set the GPS for our final caches, the back button broke! The plastic button came away from the GPS! We had the compass pointing at the next GZ, but we couldn’t do anything else.
We arrived at GZ, and had a good look around. The cache was set by the South Downs Authority, near to a swing bridge over the River Ouse, and we were expecting a large container (as the other SDA caches have been). Sadly, the container had been lost, and replaced by something, much, much smaller, which we only found out when we re-checked the cache description at home!
We finished the walk, by ignoring the cache placed the station (we had no idea where it was !) and walking exhaustedly and dejectedly to our destination car.
Our GPS, bought back in 2012 to celebrate a key birthday of Mr Hg137, had died.
The GPS we had used to attempt over 3500 caches and waypoints had broken.
At least it failed at the end of the walk, rather than at the beginning so we got a good day’s caching on its final outing.
We had lost a great friend, one which had guided us through many travels (and all of this blog) from Edinburgh, to Blackpool, Chester, the Isle of Wight, the River Thames, Three Different Sandhursts and much, much more.
Thanks for the fun Etrex 10, you’ve been a great friend.
Here are some of the last caches you helped us find on your final day with us :