“That was nice to see”.
We were travelling on a bus, from Forest Row to Crawley Down to start our days walk. Two lads, both less than 10, had got on the bus, unaccompanied, paid their fare, placed their pedestrian scooters in the luggage rack and climbed to the top deck with no fuss at all.
Before Mrs Hg137 could reply, an elderly lady in front us replied “Did you see the Flying Scotsman then?”
We looked at her strangely, and marked her down as one of those weird, old, women of Sussex.
The bus dropped us at the centre of Crawley Down. Next to a small war memorial. Crawley Down appears to have two war memorials, one is a traditional six foot cross about half a mile away, but this smaller memorial has been used for the last 3 years to mark the centenary of each individual Crawley Down soldier’s death during WWI. Indeed a service had taken place, just the day before. A sobering thought that a 100 years previously there was much sadness in the village, and we, a hundred years later, were out in a bright Spring morning enjoying ourselves.
We initially climbed out of the village on a tarmacked private road. Lots of big houses, and occasional views of advancing new housing estates on the edge of village. We found a couple of caches on the road (double wrapped film pots) and then suddenly we were in open country. A wide vista of fields and downland opened up and we felt we had the countryside to ourselves. We retrieved the next cache (and unearthed a small one inch frog too) and no sooner than we were replacing the cache then we saw an approaching family.
We rushed the to the next cache (another double film pot, easily found) but let the family pass shortly after. They were on a mission.. to feed the ducks and swans at a nearby fishing lake. We overtook them as slice upon slice of bread was being inexpertly tossed into the water by the two young sons. Out of view of the family we approached our next cache. One that had been reported missing a few days earlier. We failed to find it either – our first fail of the day.
Our route then took us through woodland (with bluebells and wild garlic in abundance) and farmland, where we were able to find two more caches. One of these caches was part of the Sussex ABC Series – we found ‘K’ (Kingscote). As we approached this cache we became aware of lots of ‘Police No Parking’ signs. Most seemed centred on Kingscote Station (one of the stations on the vintage railway, the Bluebell Line.)
We took a slight route deviation to the Station Car Park to find out what was going on.. (we suspected a wedding, or charity cycle event), but we were told THE FLYING SCOTSMAN is coming through today!
So the weird, old woman of Sussex was not so weird after all. It all made sense. She knew about the train, and assumed the statement “That was nice to see” related to the train and not the two lads.
We enquired when the Flying Scotsman would be next passing. We had an hour to wait. Fortunately our route would take us parallel to the tracks for the next half-mile or so, and we would be in prime spotting position. This gave us time to find another cache (an ammo box, placed in March 2007), have our picnic lunch and wait. We waited, with 50 or so train fiends, each armed with various notebooks, cameras and air of expectation. We were not disappointed. At 1315 it came past. We took photos, we waved, we snapped some more! An unexpected bonus on our geocaching trip.
We had lots more caches to undertake, so we decided NOT to wait until the Flying Scotsman’s return journey at 1400. As we proceeded we passed various people waiting by the line, others rushing to the line to see the 1400 steam-by. As you can imagine the paths were unusually busy, and for once we were grateful we had a mile without caches, as it meant we didn’t have to play ‘dodge the muggle’.
The terrain suddenly changed from open countryside with clay soil to sandstone. Now Sussex is not renowned for sandstone, but suddenly sandstone abounded. Huge stacks were being assaulted by climbers, and our next cache was near the top of one such stack. We hadn’t bought our climbing boots with us, but we found a grassy pathway to the top avoiding a precarious climb. Here, a small cache had been wedged into a tree-trunk, and with a bright orange cap should have been easy to find. It wasn’t, and after about 10 minutes perched over a sandstone ‘cliff’ we saw the flash of orange, and the log was signed.
The sandstone was to provide us with another ‘cache’ too, an Earthcache. We had to visit 4 separate sandstone outcrops compare the colours, strata layers and in one case guess what animal the sandstone shape made! All very interesting, but as we went from outcrop to outcrop we were passing two other caches, and somehow we had to keep track of what we were actually doing (and in fairness, we didn’t do it that well, as we failed to take a single picture of a sandstone outcrop… whoops!)
The caches we attempted during the Earthcache were part of a ‘Trick or Treat’ series. Each one was themed on a ‘Halloween’ theme… we had flying witches, scary door knockers etc as well as a spider. The spider was scary in its own right, as it was in a grassy corridor between two fields. As we were replacing the cache, a herd of cows, including calves and a bull, decided they wanted to use the corridor and move from one field to the next. Some of the cows went by peacefully, others gave us the ‘hard look of doom’ and with nowhere for us to run to, it was all just a little unsettling. We are quite sure that cache owner didn’t mean that sort of scary when the caches were placed.
We were now walking along the banks of a reservoir, but with dense undergrowth between us and the water we barely got to see it. Our eyes though were watching the GPS very, very carefully. Somewhere soon we would cross the Greenwich Meridian and into the Eastern Hemisphere. We walked ever slower, waiting, watching and the finally all the Westerly (or was it Easterly) co-ordinates read zero!
We still had a couple of miles to reach Forest Row and another few caches to undertake. The first, an old ice cream container was hidden under a log in shortish undergrowth. In a few weeks this cache will be tricky to reach, so we were glad we arrived before the main Spring/Summer hedgerow growth.
We undertook a multi based on the ruins of Brambletye House (a Grade II* very ruined mansion built during the reign of James I) and finished the day with a series of double-wrapped film pots in exactly the same way as the day had started.
We walked about 10 miles, crossed into the Eastern Hemisphere, found 18 caches, including an Earthcache, a flying witch, a 10 year old Ammo can and of course… saw The Flying Scotsman! Phew!