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.


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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:

June 28 : South Downs Way : A27 to Southease

In which we cross into the Eastern Hemisphere and say goodbye to a dear friend…

Where East Meets West

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.

Watch out for Trains!

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!

Who lives here ?

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.

Distant View of the Amex Stadium

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.

Wind Turbine


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.

Kingston near Lewes (foreground), Lewes (background)


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.

A long way down…but in the far distance our final destination, the Seven Sisters!


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!

Meridian Cache

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 …

Poppies on the way to Southease

… 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.

Southease Church


Wall Paintings inside the Church

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.

Southease Swing Bridge


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 :

June 22 : Mattingley

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.


Today was a day off from walking the South Downs Way; it was the local gardening summer show, and we needed to stage our entries in the morning (photos, plus one token flower), then to return, late afternoon, to collect our winnings (we hoped). It was a glorious sunny summer’s day and we decided on a short, local caching trip to fill in the space in between.

There are lots of newish caches north of Hartley Wintney and Hook, which can be divided up into several circuits. We chose a set of fifteen caches starting and finishing at Mattingley church, looping out north and west to Hound Green. We parked outside the church, as it seemed to be the best (only) place to park in the whole village. Our first cache was the nearby Church Micro. The church is an interesting wooden-beamed, herringbone-bricked structure, which seems, Tardis-like, to be much bigger on the inside than on the outside. The clues to the actual cache can be answered by looking around in the churchyard and the final cache container is a short walk away under the gaze of many curious cows, both large and small.

Mattingley church

Mattingley church


Our next cache was a short walk along a lane, hidden behind a bus shelter. But not simply a bus stop, and not something we have seen elsewhere … it is also a war memorial, and some of the names mentioned in this shelter are the same as those also commemorated inside the church. https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/190775


Our walk continued with a short, noisy walk, and not much fun along the B3349, and we were very glad to leave the road and turn up a track, with another cache to mark the exit from the road. The track became a path, the path became narrower, and overgrown with brambles and head high nettles. We arrived at a broken stile and clambered over it with various amounts of elegance and grace (it was a bit high for me, so I managed neither!) And then we realised that the way to find the next cache was to balance on the top rail of the broken stile and reach far, far up. Mr Hg137 tried this – he is taller than me – but all the reaching and searching didn’t find us the cache. Our only failure of the day, as it happened ☹

Spot the stile!  In the middle of the 'path'!

Spot the stile! In the middle of the ‘path’!


We bushwhacked our way along, and the vegetation got less as we entered some woods. (Phew, it would have been very hard work if it had been like that last bit all the way round the route!) We found several more caches, swapped a trackable, and were just leaving the last of these when we espied a walker coming from the opposite direction. He asked if we were geocachers. It was pretty obvious that we were, so we fessed up. And, from the map he was carrying, it was also obvious that he was a cacher, too. Nice to meet you, Uncle E! It’s a while since we’ve bumped into any cachers except at meets. We swapped tales about the route, then went our way, leaving him to tackle the nettles and brambles.

Emerging onto a minor road at Hound Green, we admired the village noticeboard. A little way along a quiet lane, another cache marked the place where we were to turn back into the fields. We walked through head high barley, so much softer than stingers and thorns, then reached the edge of a cool, dark wood and plunged in, looking for yet another cache. Uncle E did not find this cache and we made very hard work of it, too. We left the path to search in the woods much too early, while we SHOULD have continued along the path till we were as close as possible before diving in. Every single tree looked alike, and had a pile of sticks at the base, but we got as close as the GPS would let us, then eventually found the cache under some weeny stickoflage. But we found it!

At the other end of the wood was another cache, much more easily found, then on, around field edges, towards a farm (a clue may have been the cache name – ‘farm view’ !). It was obvious where we were intended to go as there were ‘Private’ and ‘Keep Out’ signs stuck on every other possible turning; previous cache logs have said that the landowner isn’t friendly. On reaching the farm buildings, we were directed round a complex series of kissing gates, stiles, turnings, back and forth, round and round, till we reached the far side of the farm, just a few yards from where we had started. We felt we weren’t wanted here. (Editor’s note: we would have been away from that farm and out of the landowner’s way more quickly if we could simply have walked along the natural line of the path down the farm drive.)


It was now a straight walk of about a mile and a half back to Mattingley, along the edges of fields and across a little stream. The cache names describe it well – ‘Mossy’ – ‘Green Fields’ – Hawthorn Row’. Then we emerged into the lane that led to the church and arrived back at the geocar. We had left one final cache for the day, ‘Mattingley Church’, to provide a point to navigate back to if we had got lost, and it turned out that we had parked almost on top of the cache! The car provided cover while we searched, finding a tiny, tiny container unobtrusively concealed in a tree.

And what of our entries in the show? Our carefully chosen photographs won no prizes; the token flower, picked just before we set out – won its class!

And here are some of the caches and other items we found on our way:

A geocoin:

Wood geocoin

Wood geocoin

And some caches:

May 25 : Duck Racing in Sussex

Every year, since 2008, the UK has held an Mega event. These event are attended with hundreds of cachers attending. The events are held in different parts of the UK. Last year the Mega was held in Yorkshire, this year it will be held in Aberdeenshire and next year, 2020, it will be held in Sussex. (The Sussex Mega has its own website https://www.mega2020.org.uk/ )

Velosaurus Welcomes Us to the Duck Racing!

These are not just one day events. The focus, and best attended, is the Saturday event but throughout the preceding week, many activities – caching and non-caching related – take place. All of these events cost money, and the Mega team have to acquire the money in the run-up their event.

The 2020 Sussex Mega team are no different. They have been selling merchandise, running raffles, and holding events for many months. The event on May 25th caught our eye. Duck racing!

Attendees of the event could buy (for £2) a numbered duck that would race with 99 other ducks down a river. The winning ducks, and last place (!) would win a small prize. The rest of the money would help the Mega fund!

We said we would attend a few days before the event…but all the ducks had been pre-sold. We decided to attend anyway, and hoped there would be a second race.

Before we arrived at the event, we stopped at the nearest town, Forest Row. We had cached here before on our Sandhurst to Sandhurst walk (April 2017) so knew the road layout and free parking. We had time to undertake a couple of caches which had been placed since 2017.

Forest Row Village Hall…


…. and its cache


The first cache was part of the Village Hall series, a short walk from the car. The Village Hall was surrounded by seats and it was one of those that hosted the cache. Being a Saturday, there was a constant procession of people going in and out of the Hall – we managed to pick a quiet couple of seconds to grab the cache.

Forest Row Church

Our next, was a Church Micro, and in typical style, we had locate a date or two from a plaque and calculate the final coordinates. We knew from the cache description it would be a little walk away, and a very pleasant one it was too.
We were expecting to find a film canister tucked under a pile of logs or stones, so we quite amused to find this.. a great diversion.

Onto the duck race!

We were greeted by a large inflatable duck aka cacher, Velosaurus who did much of the orchestrating throughout the day!

Mrs Hg137 signs the unusual log book

The final log book

There were about 50 other people present, and lots to do beside the duck racing. A tombola, ‘guess the number of ducks in a box’, cakes, home made caches etc.. All good fun! And an unusual shaped log-book to sign!

How many ducks were in the box ? Really ?

A couple of cachers had brought their dogs along, and two cachers had even brought their cats along on a lead too! Good job it wasn’t real ducks being raced!

One of the two very well behaved cats!

There were two races and we got two ducks in the second race. Sadly we didn’t win, probably because we didn’t roar and cheer our ducks as vociferously as other duck owners. Or maybe our ducks were caught up in some minor river debris and lost pace with the leaders! Either way.. great fun !

The Sussex Mega 2020 Team may well run this event again… so look out for it! It was a great way to raise money!

Here are photos from the races ! Well done to the winners!

They’re off!

The Finishing Line

Well done to the Winners!

April 10 : Farnborough cacher’s meet

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Plough and Horses, Cove, Farnborough

Plough and Horses, Cove, Farnborough


When did we last attend a geocacher’s meet? We thought about it, and it had been a while, years, Leap Year Day 2016. We’d noticed that there was a meet coming to a place near us, the Plough and Horses at Cove, Farnborough. A little bit of research showed us that there were two Church Micro multicaches very close to the pub. As we didn’t fancy an extended search of a graveyard later on, in failing light, and so we didn’t get lost, searching fruitlessly in the dark, we also did a daytime recce of the area, spotted the pub, and collected all the information we needed to find the caches later.

Early in the evening, we returned to Cove, and stopped a little way short of the pub, to look for the Church Micro based on St. John the Baptist. We parked near a parade of shops, then walked off a little way to wait for a gap in the dog walkers and joggers to dive, hopefully unsuspiciously, behind a tree to find the cache: our research was correct.

St John the Baptist, Cove, Farnbourough

St John the Baptist, Cove, Farnbourough


From there it wasn’t far to the pub. There were no spaces in the car park: that was a good sign. We went in, past the group of people watching football on a big screen in the bar, to a dining area at the rear. It was FULL of cachers, some we recognised, and some new to us. We were greeted by the organiser, Reggiecat, and signed the attendance log to claim our cache find. After getting drinks and a bowl of chips to share, we joined a table, to have a chat to Woking Wonders (we’ve done lots of their caches, many of them Church Micros) and DTJM (we’d done one of their caches earlier that evening). JJEF was there, to showcase his fiendishly clever wooden caches (take a look at them here https://www.quirkycaches.co.uk/apps/webstore/products )

Buzio, a cacher new to us, stood up and gave a short talk on caching in Myanmar. Those at our table joined in with tales of derring do, including, I think, a story about setting sail on the Thames dressed as a pirate to find a cache on an island. The pirate costume was a disguise as it was ‘Children in Need’ weekend – at least I think that’s the excuse that was given! Adam Redshaw turned up, accompanied by Tabzcake and Barry the very well-behaved geodog. Adam publishes a geocaching magazine and does loads of other caching related stuff http://www.ukcachemag.com/

Anyway, enough caching name-dropping, we still had one more cache to find, so we said our goodbyes and left. It was pretty dark now, a good cover to find our second Church Micro of the day (Cove – Baptist), hidden in some street furniture. … No-one spotted us …

A good evening – pleasant company – great stories.

Here are two Church Micro caches, against bland backgrounds, for anonymity.

March 23 : South Downs Way : Cheesefoot Head to Exton

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

River Meon at Exton

River Meon at Exton


On a cool grey Saturday morning, we set off to walk our second leg of the South Downs Way (SDW), starting high on the downs at Cheesefoot Head, near Winchester, and finishing at Exton in the valley of the River Meon.
Cheesefoot Head

Cheesefoot Head


We could hear the sound of revving engines as we parked at Cheesefoot Head and found our first cache of the day in the copse next to the car park. This was ‘Hill Bagging Series #5 – Cheesefoot Head TUMP’. The cache description defines a tump thus:
…” A TUMP is a hill in Scotland, England, Wales or the Isle of Man which is separated from adjacent tops by a height difference of at least 30 metres on all sides. This rather odd name is a corruption of HUMP, another hill bagging term that refers to hills with one HUndred Meters of Prominence.” …

The path went along the edge of the natural amphitheatre of Cheesefoot Head, marked by our next cache, ‘Talking to the Troops (Hampshire)’ which commemorates Eisenhower’s address to Allied troops just before D-Day during World War II https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheesefoot_Head We continued, and stopped to talk to a runner. She was from Sweden, there to support her son at the World Motocross Championships, being held at the nearby Matterley Basin. Aha ! that was the source of the noise. https://www.mxgp.com/

Misty view of Matterley

Misty view of Matterley


We followed the SDW as it skirted the Motocross event, passing between the car park and the campsite. Here there was a block of portable toilets: I was once told by a very, very experienced walker that one should never, ever pass up the opportunity of a toilet while out walking … so I didn’t, and these were of a pretty good standard. We walked on, and passed the throng of people, cars, tents, caravans, and then it was peaceful countryside once more. We passed other walkers and cyclists coming the other way. And told them all about the motocross – and the toilets. Most brightened up noticeably at the mention of those toilets!
Not just us out walking!

Not just us out walking!


There followed a pleasant, but cacheless walk of a few miles, across the downs, then over the A272 and along a track past a farm. The noise of motorbikes gradually faded. It got brighter, and warmer. There were shadows! It had turned into a lovely spring day.

A little later, we reached at the Milburys pub http://themilburyspub.synthasite.com/ We’ve visited it before (for research, obviously!) and it’s a friendly place with good food, and good beer, too. One thing of interest inside is a 100 metre (300 foot) well down through the chalk to the water table, where water can be raised using a treadmill. If you ask the bar staff, they’ll supply an ice cube that you can drop down the well, to wait for the splash. One other thing of interest is that this is one of the very, very few pubs you’ll pass on the SDW, so make the most of it!
The Milburys

The Milburys


Somewhere around the Milburys, we had found three more caches, two of them multicaches, (with a start point somewhere else), but we’d worked out the coordinates earlier on, so we didn’t have to backtrack to find them, and the third a puzzle cache, based on codebreaking, which I had great fun working out. Editor’s note: the locations are deliberately vague – if you want to find the caches, you need to solve the puzzles yourself ….
Sculpture at Lomer Farm

Sculpture at Lomer Farm


Further on, we came to Lomer, which was a village in the 1500s, but is now a single farm, with a few lumps and bumps in a field where the village once was. From there, it wasn’t far to Beacon Hill; there had been a gentle ascent of about 50 metres from the Milburys to Beacon Hill and then a steep, steep descent of more than 100 metres into Exton, in the Meon valley. There were some caches to find along here, which was good, they gave my knees a few chances to rest on that descent!
Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill


Steep descent!

Steep descent!


Exton is a pretty village, with thatched cottages, a flint-walled church, a village pub and shop, and the River Meon flowing through. But we were blind to that, we had more caches to find. Two were from nationwide cache series: one, a Church Micro, the other, from the Fine Pair series (a red phone box and post box within sight of each other).
A Fine Pair

A Fine Pair


For one of these, a parked van shielded us from the drinkers at the Shoe Inn while we did the searching, and for the other, we waited for the local lads to finish their football game in the street before making a quick grab for the cache.
St Peter & St Paul, Exton

St Peter & St Paul, Exton


Almost finished now, we had a short walk alongside the river, stopping for one final cache, a large old ammo can, before returning to the geocar and heading homewards.

Editor’s note: we walked the SDW back in 2011, before we were cachers, and remember that there was a dearth of water taps. We found three ! on this walk alone, though one of them wasn’t working.
Water station near Cheesefoot Head

Water station near Cheesefoot Head

Holden Farm, near the water tap

Holden Farm, near the water tap

Lomer Farm water tap

Lomer Farm water tap


There was one near Cheesefoot Head, at a sort of service station for cyclists, one at Holden Farm near a milestone erected by the farmer (we saw him and asked about it), and one at Lomer Farm, near Beacon Hill.

Here’s a recent blog post about this precise subject: https://threepointsofthecompass.com/2019/03/10/the-south-downs-way-in-winter-water-sources/

To finish, as usual, here are some of the caches we found: