June 20 : return to geocaching : Mattingley

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.


After thirteen cache-free weeks, we decided it was time to venture out. We set out, travelling the vast distance of … almost eight miles from home. It was the furthest we had ventured since the start of lockdown and it felt like a very long way away.

We went to Mattingley, a small village in north-east Hampshire, where we had cached exactly a year before https://sandhurstgeocachers.wordpress.com/2019/06/22/june-22-mattingley/ That time we did a circuit to the north. Today we were going south through West Green, then along the Brenda Parker Way to Murrell Green and returning via Dipley, on paths and quiet country roads, with just a few yards beside the busy A30 in the middle.

First cache for a while!

First cache for a while!



From the church (big, free car park) our walk started with a section along quiet country lanes, downhill to the River Whitewater and then on to the hamlet of Hazeley Bottom. Our first cache, Clapper Bridge, was at the bridge; we had a small celebration as we found our first cache for oh so long. (Editor’s note: it hasn’t been a ‘proper’ clapper bridge since 1838.) We continued on towards Hazeley Bottom, another small village. There wasn’t much traffic. Not strictly true; there wasn’t much motorised traffic, but there were LOTS of cyclists, almost all kitted out with bright Lycra and speedy bikes.

On the edge of Hazeley Bottom we turned off the road to follow footpaths south towards West Green. Our lack of caching practice began to show, as we only found one cache out of the next four we visited (one was marked as missing, two we couldn’t find, and a paltry single success). We arrived at West Green Common, a wooded area criss-crossed by paths. Looking for another cache, Message in a Bottle, we bumbled about in the woods for a bit before spotting the tell-tale pile of twigs, and there was the cache. While searching, three other people came wandering through the woods, also off the path; we thought they might be cachers (who else wanders around like this?) so we asked. But no, they were part of the Hampshire Dormouse Group https://hampshiredormousegroup.co.uk and they were checking their 40th box (of 50) for the day. You really never know who you’ll meet while out caching!
Hampshire Dormouse Group in action

Hampshire Dormouse Group in action


We carried on south from West Green, following the Brenda Parker Way towards the A30 https://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Brenda+Parker+Way We arrived at a cache called Defended 2, which is within sight of a pillbox. ‘Defended’ was a good name for this cache! We couldn’t get anywhere near it as two herds of cattle were gathered, surrounding the cache, one each side of the fence, plus the farmer checking on his livestock. We decided it was better not to try and walked on by.
Well defended pillbox

Well defended pillbox


And a hidden pillbox

And a hidden pillbox


The path squeezed alongside the fence around a gas offtake. This used to be my industry and I enthusiastically pointed out the places where 24” and 18” pipelines radiated from the site and the directions they took out into the country … Mr Hg137 was underwhelmed. Oh well.

Suddenly we were out on a pavement alongside the A30 and cars were whizzing by. The road wasn’t especially busy but it was much, much noisier than before. It was good to turn off the road a few yards later to start the return part of our walk. We found another pillbox and another cache, Defended, and wondered exactly what they were put there to defend – maybe the A30 itself, as it’s a major route to the west?

A short and nettle-strewn walk led to a country lane. We walked along this, climbing gently, dodging yet more cyclists. Caches were placed along the road at regular intervals, and we tried to find them all, but actually found about half. Perhaps they were all there and we simply couldn’t find them; but there are lots of logs for those caches and the consensus of opinion is that they are missing and that the cache series needs a little TLC (which might simply be that the cache owners have been unable to get out to do it). The road became a track, then a path, and we arrived at Dipley.


By now it was mid-afternoon, the cool morning had turned into a sunny weekend afternoon, and many a muggle had decided to go out in the sunshine. A large number of them were passing by our next cache, Bamboozled. This area was muggle central – at least three groups of people came by from each direction, plus a few more using the nearby road. Dogwalkers, cyclists, runners, walkers … after a bit we paused, leaned on a gate, opened a bottle of water and just waited for everyone to go away. Once alone, the cache was a quick and easy find – all we needed was a few seconds peace to grab it!
Bamboozled?

Bamboozled?


We left thronging Dipley behind, and took a footpath beside the River Whitewater through some beautiful gardens (but private, and fenced off). We came to a tiny, delightfully wonky bridge over a side stream and wanted to stop there to look for a cache.
Wonky little bridge

Wonky little bridge


But … we thought the last cache site was busy with muggles – it had nothing on this one! We waited and waited and waited, and had a very, very long chat with the plump Shetland ponies in the next field. Eventually, we had a couple of minutes to scour the bridge. And we used all our available time, only finding the cache as the next set of muggles hove into view.

And that left just one more cache, a simple find at another bridge over the Whitewater. A short way on, the path led through the churchyard of Mattingley Church (still closed, sadly) before emerging into the church car park and reaching our start point. The walk had been just under six miles, but it had seemed much, much further: we really are out of practice.

Well, that was it: an excellent trip that had everything: beautiful countryside, rivers, bridges, lanes, pillboxes, trees, nettles and cows (lots of cows!). What a great way to get back into geocaching!

And here are just some of the caches we found:

January 4 : Staines-upon-Thames

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

I had requested a route with “not too much mud” for our first caching trip of 2020. I was going off mud after our last few caching trips … Mr Hg137 came up with Staines, about a 30-minute drive away on the western edge of London. (Editor’s note: Staines changed its name from “Staines” to “Staines-upon-Thames” in May 2012, as the local council hoped it would boost the local economy by promoting its riverside location. Staines-upon-Thames day is celebrated each year on the last Sunday in June)

We’d walked through here before, in September 2015 when we were walking/caching the Thames Path, but new caches had sprung up since then, so we had a selection of new things to look for.

Staines Methodist Church

Staines Methodist Church


We parked close to the river and the bridge, amongst the caches we planned to find. Our first target was a Church Micro based on Staines Methodist Church, a modern church visible from where we had parked. We collected some numbers from a foundation stone (I’d say from an earlier incarnation of the church) and used them to work out the coordinates for the final cache. That led us away from the park and the river, not far but into a more urban area, and we located the cache tucked behind one of the many metal items in the area.

Next was Staines Bridge, not strictly the next nearest cache, but it was on our way to do a minor bit of shopping in the adjacent superstore. We crossed the bridge and were soon standing within a few feet of the cache. Where was it? Our first search yielded nothing. We read logs from other cachers. Aha! Bridges have more than one level – road level – river level – steps – under the bridge – and we hadn’t tried all of them. We tried several different heights, all within a few feet of the target according to the GPS, and struck lucky at about the third attempt.
The London Stone

The London Stone



Cache found, minor shopping done, we re-crossed the bridge and returned to the riverside and our next multicache, the London Stone https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Stone_(riparian)#Staines It’s one of several stones that mark the boundary of water rights between London and elsewhere, and also where the River Colne reaches the River Thames. The information we wanted was about the history of the stone. The lettering on the stone was very faded and we despaired. But nearby was a noticeboard – aha! – and we had the answers we wanted to generate the coordinates. We walked down the riverside, passing the geocar and dropping off our minor shopping, to find the cache a little way further on along the towpath.
Coal Post #87

Coal Post #87


Next up was a Coal Post, yet another post marking a point where taxes could be levied https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Stone_(riparian)#Staines The coal post was spotted quite easily – it’s not small! – and we were just surveying it when a passing muggle stopped to give us a potted history of the immediate area, including where the coal boats moored, the original name of the Mercure Hotel over the road (once The Packhorse, where loads were transferred and taxed) and all sorts of other interesting stuff. We thanked her – it’s good that people do care about their surroundings and do take the time to pass on the information to others. (Editor’s note: for those who are nerdy about these things, this post, No 87, is a Type 4 post, which is a stone or cast-iron obelisk, about 4.5 metres high, found beside railways.). The post was nestled between the railway line and an empty building looked after by property guardians. These are people who live in empty (often commercial) buildings for low rents in return for keeping an eye on the property https://liveinguardians.com/blog/170/the-ins-and-outs-of-being-a-property-guardian

We returned to the river and followed the Thames Path downstream. Seats were dotted here and there along the path for those who wanted to sit and watch river life. There was a biting wind, so it was too cold for that, but another cache, Staines by the River, was set close to one of these seats, so we sat on the seat, felt around, and tried to look as if we were relaxing, not freezing. After a bit we still hadn’t found the cache, so turned our attention to the area around the seat, and, after a few more minutes, spotted a tiny little bit of wire that just looked “wrong”. Sure enough, there was a cache on the other end of the piece of wire.
St Peter, Staines-upon-Thames

St Peter, Staines-upon-Thames


We were cold after all that sitting around, so we decided to do one more cache, then head home. Our final target was another Church Micro, based around the imposing brick church of St Peter which overlooks the river. The numbers we needed were easily found, one on a stone set into the church, and the other on a memorial plaque in the ground. We exited through the lychgate onto the towpath and were soon at GZ. And we couldn’t find the cache. We read the hint, applied cacher’s logic (“where would I hide it?”) and still came up with nothing. Mr Hg137 sped back to the church to check the numbers – they were correct – from stones with various dates on them, while I paced hopefully up and down, seeking inspiration but not finding a cache. Mr Hg137 returned and we renewed our search; we re-read the hint; magnetic, it said. We had assumed that it would mean the cache was stuck to some metal object, but a fingertip search revealed a protruding nail … and a cache. Mightily relieved, we signed the log and then had the harder job of replacing the cache so it wouldn’t fall off the nail, and would also be invisible to muggles.

That done, we returned to the nice cosy geocar. We had never been more than half a mile from it at any time, yet we had visited a wide variety of locations around the riverside in Staines, and had seen a good selection of life passing by on the towpath and on the river.

Here are some of the caches we found:

October 19: Sonning

Sonning is a small picturesque town by the River Thames.

The River Thames, near Sonning

A delightful church, olde-worlde cottages, shops and narrow streets. But it has one serious drawback. Its bridge. There is a bridge at Sonning over the River Thames, a narrow, single-carriageway, traffic-light-controlled bridge. As a result this beautiful village is choked with traffic trying to cross the river.

Picturesque Cottages


Unusual Street Furniture

Sonning also has a collection of caches and our intention was to find as many as we could. Many though were multis with several stages. The multis criss-crossed the town, so we would have to be exceedingly careful to record information as we went. (We remembered a bad day in Chester about 18 months ago, when we circumnavigated the City twice as we got thoroughly confused by the City Centre caches). We would be better prepared today. Each multi was printed out on its own separate sheet of paper; we had reviewed the ‘broad’ route the waypoints took so we knew when to stop one multi and start another.

Sonning does have some standard caches too (a series called ‘Swanning around Sonning’). Within minutes of parking the car we had found Swanning around Sonning #1, a lovely little cache hidden in plain view, and easily accessible by cachers and non-cachers alike.

An easy start, before we embarked on the first of the multis – Sonning Village Trail – a 12 stage multi.
At first the questions were simple as we counted reflectors, ‘pins’ and ascertained that Green Cottage isn’t green!

St Andrew’s Church, Sonning


As we approached the rear of the churchyard, we started the multi connected with the Church Micro. Here we had to find two memorial stones, extract some dates and also find the time of one of the Church Services. Relatively straightforward to calculate the final cache destination – once we realised we had entered the churchyard by a different gate from one we had planned ! The final was some way off, so we filed the Church Micro as ‘Calculated but not Found’.

Before we could continue with the 12 part multi, we found a Victorian Post Box. This was the start of another multi (and a series we were unfamiliar with). We peered at the letter box, extracting key information and soon we added the coordinates to the ‘Calculated but not Found’ pile.

Victorian Post Box


We were heading closer to the river, and the notorious bridge crossing. The roads were becoming more and more clogged and the stages in the 12 part town trail were becoming harder to spot. Spot them we did, including a blue plaque commemorating Terence Rattigan. We were lucky here, as a high-ish wall impeded the sight line to the plaque, but as we approached the property a gentleman left through a large gate and we could see the plaque quite clearly. We chatted with the gentleman (well, we had too, as we were peering far too indiscreetly over his shoulder), and discovered the property was owned by a famous, international celebrity. Opposite we were advised the property was owned by a well known Rock Musician. Sadly we saw neither of these famous celebrities on our travels.

The next waypoint involved a third well known public figure, Theresa May (she too lives in the village). Here, we were misled by the question ‘when did she turn on the lights?’ – expecting to find a plaque stating when she turned on the Christmas lights. However the lights she turned on, were far less ephemeral !

By now we were by the river. We had found one cache early on, 9 stages of a 12 stage multi and calculated the final coordinates for two other caches. We saw a seat on the South Eastern bank and sat there and drank some welcome coffee as we collated our notes. We discovered we were at the start of yet another multi, part of the Counting Vowels series.

The waypoints in this series, take you to noticeboards, plaques, memorials, and you count each of vowels, so that as you have reach the last waypoint you have a cumulative value for A, E, I, O and U.

Lots of vowels to count here…


… and here too – but don’t look at the sign!

Feeling refreshed from our coffee we started this 5 stage multi. A peaceful walk along the riverbank taking us further and further away from the traffic choked approach to Sonning Bridge. As we progressed the path became a bit more muddy, and a bit more slippery – we were grateful for our walking boots. We were a little surprised to discovered that the final co-ordinates we yet further on, as typically having found the last waypoint, we were expecting to turn round and head back from whence we had come. Instead a quick find further away from Sonning.

As we were walking back, we got a good bearing on where the solved Church Micro and Victorian Post Box were. We headed off in that direction but on our way we got very lucky.

A rare boat braves the Thames


Back in 2015 we walked the Thames Path and passed through Sonning during the July of that year. One of the caches we failed to find was hidden behind a noticeboard near the river. We were about to pass that same noticeboard on route to the two multi-finals. We hadn’t loaded this ‘unfound’ cache into our GPS, but we both thought we ought to give the noticeboard host a quick scan… and there was the cache! A brand new log too! Was this a brand new cache we had accidentally become the first-to-find ? Sadly no. We discovered on our return home, that the cache was disabled, as the previous cache had gone missing. A recent cacher (undertaking much the same route as we were taking), had noticed the cache was missing, and knowing who he thought the cache owner was, replaced a cache for him. Sadly the cache owner had changed so a relative stranger now has a new cache placed for them! And of course we got an unexpected find!

A new log, but sadly only a replacement cache


In our excitement of finding a cache we hadn’t even loaded into our GPS, we almost forgot about the two multis we had come to find. Both took a bit a bit of finding, as they we well hidden with differing types of camouflage!

We headed back to Sonning Bridge, the air was full of the Saturday lunch being cooked at The Mill Theatre (Roast Beef, Roast Chicken and some kind of fish).

The Mill at Sonning, Theatre and Restaurant Venue


As the day was going so well we decided to undertake another multi, another Victorian Post Box – this time in a very small village of Sonning Eye. Of all the multis we undertook, this was the quickest. A quick review of the postbox (counting vowels to generate the co-ordinates for the second time today) and a quick walk to GZ. We were grateful for two pairs of eyes for the vowel counting as it took some time for us to both agree the total for E and I !

Back over the river to complete the 12 stage multi, our only remaining unsolved multi of the day. We had to collect more dates – one connected with the adjacent Blue Coat school, the others at Sonning Lock.

Sonning Lock


Here we were lucky enough to see two boats passing through. We sat and performed the calculation for the final coordinates. Unsurprisingly it was back along the river, closer to the Bridge. We filed the coordinates, as we had two, simple, caches to find. Swanning Around Sonning #3 and #4.

We didn’t find #3. Apparently it was a ‘stick cache’ hidden at ground level behind some railings. We searched for some time, and noticed that the previous three cachers hadn’t found it either. Our search was hampered as GZ was a ‘turnround spot’ for a running race. We discovered afterwards, it was wasn’t a distance race, but an endurance race organised by Saturn Running. Runners were undertaking a 7 Hour event, running presumably from Reading to Sonning numerous times in a 7 hour period. No wonder they looked exhausted.

Swanning around Sonning #4 was a lengthy find (coordinates were slightly off) and then back to the lock and to find the final for the Sonning Village Trail. We had several large trees to search, and eventually found the cache in the third one! Phew ! All 5 multis undertaken, and all found successfully !

We had one last cache to find, Swanning around Sonning #2 – close to our car. A tricky find, but a great finish to quite a complicated day !

Caches we found :




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 17 : South Downs Way : the final stage : Exceat to Eastbourne

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Time for the last section of the South Downs Way, a challenging one, down the Cuckmere Valley, then over the ridges of the Seven Sisters to Birling Gap, then up and over Beachy Head and down into Eastbourne. Challenging – yes – but a stunning walk.

But first, we needed to get from where the geocar was parked, close to the end of the South Downs Way at Eastbourne, back to the start of the walk. That meant an additional one-and-a half miles in the “wrong” direction back into central Eastbourne to catch the Coaster bus which would take us to Exceat. We set off along the seafront, stopping twice, briefly, to find caches. Eastbourne would be very busy indeed later on, as it was the third day of the Airbourne air show http://www.eastbourneairshow.com/ which takes place over the sea in front of the pier. Roads were closed, a funfair was set up, plus food stalls aplenty. And a steady and increasing stream of people were heading for the beach to get a good viewpoint.

Cuckmere Haven

Cuckmere Haven


We left all that behind and were at Exceat after a bumpy 20-minute bus ride. We exited the bus just where the South Downs Way sets off down the Cuckmere valley. Even a few steps away from the road, it was less busy. That was good: we wanted a second attempt at finding a cache, after failing last time. To quote our previous post:
…” This view has been immortalised over the years. … 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” …

Well, we failed again. Even with a hint from the cache owner, and some nimble scampering around likely places from Mr Hg137, we still couldn’t find the cache, though we were much closer than before to the correct location. Oh, well …
Continuing down the eastern side of the Cuckmere estuary, we found a cache which commemorated the location of the vanished Exceat Church, and one hidden close to a dewpond. This dewpond is unusual; most of these ponds are historic, built long ago for watering stock; this one was built in the 1990s using fees paid for using the beach at Cuckmere Haven for the location of the opening scene in “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves” https://www.reelstreets.com/films/robin-hood-prince-of-thieves/ Nevertheless, it looks as if it has been there for ever, and is well overgrown with vegetation.

Where's the pond?

Where’s the pond?


Then the climbing started, and we made our way up onto the top of the first of the Seven Sisters. We had a longish, *undulating* (aka hilly!) walk to the next cache, a multicache based on the monument on Flagstaff Brow, the fourth of the seven/eight Sisters. And having worked out the coordinates, we decided they were too far off route and continued to Birling Gap. (Editor’s note: there are actually eight, not seven Sisters; erosion has created an extra one after they were named. They are called Haven Brow, Short Brow, Rough Brow, Brass Point, Flagstaff Brow – Flat Hill, the extra one – Bailey’s Hill and Went Hill)
Birling Gap ...

Birling Gap …


... and the doomed coastguard cottages

… and the doomed coastguard cottages


There’s a car park and a tearoom at Birling Gap, access to the beach, and a row of ex-coastguard cottages. They are gradually being demolished, one by one, as the cliffs erode. There were five when we passed by in 2011. And now there are four … another was demolished in 2014. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2584571/Work-starts-demolish-former-coastguards-cottage-left-just-SIX-INCHES-cliff-edge-months-storms.html
Crumbling, cracking cliffs

Crumbling, cracking cliffs


Birling Gap was heaving with muggles. They were so busy with selfies / refreshments /climbing down the steps to the beach / watching aircraft fly by to the airshow that they didn’t notice us looking for four caches, finding two and adding the other two to the “too far away from the route, find another day” list. The aircraft were distracting for us, too; we were watched from above by a circling Spitfire while we found one cache, and a little earlier, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight passed by, and disappeared around Beachy Head, lower than clifftop height.
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight


The Seven Sisters were behind us, and we began the long climb up to Beachy Head. Birling Gap is 30 feet or so above sea level, and, two-and-a-bit miles later, the trig point at the top of Beachy Head is about 500 feet above sea level. Part way along, the route passes Belle Tout lighthouse; it can be seen for miles around, but it wasn’t very effective as it was often enveloped in cloud or fog, which is why the newer lighthouse was built at sea level. We found two caches along here, Belle Tout View and Beachy Head Earth Cache, both with big views and breeziness to match.
Belle Tout View

Belle Tout View



After walking south-east along the Seven Sisters, we had now “turned the corner” and were going north-east towards Eastbourne, which was just coming into view. We had a good view of the last few minutes of the airshow, watching a Dakota, some wingwalkers, and a grandstand view of the of the final aerobatics display by a team of jet aircraft.
We were now dropping, slowly at first, then steeply, down to the esplanade, and to the end of the South Downs Way. We waylaid several passing muggles and inveigled them into taking pictures of us on the final bit of the path, at the noticeboard at the end, and in front of the ‘end of trail’ sign: there – that proved we’d done it!

By now, it was quite cool and windy and getting rather dark. For the first time in a very long time, we needed the heater on as we drove home in the geocar.

And here are some of the geocaches we found:



***************************************************
Review of the South Downs Way
***************************************************

We’ve walked it twice now, first in 2011, and now in 2019: what has changed, and was it better the first time or the second time?

First, what has changed after eight years? A little, but not all that much.
– The signage is better, though it was pretty good before.
– The trail now has start/end markers, so there’s a sense of occasion to mark each end of the trail. (But we still think that the Winchester end of the trail should start at the cathedral, not at the City Mill.)
– The route has changed in a few places. The route through Queen Elizabeth Country Park has changed, separating it from other long-distance paths that also pass through. And the route out of Winchester has altered, there is a bit of going round and round before you head up and out of the city. One other blog I read speculated that this was to make the route up to 100 miles for cyclists?

Secondly, was it better the first time or the second time?
– I asked Mr Hg137 and we both thought the first time was better.
– It could have been the weather. Though we are both reasonably hardy, we are fair weather walkers, and don’t generally go out walking if it is pouring with rain. Our photos from 2011 show blue skies and sunshine and us clad in T-shirts, while this year we got wet a fair few times, and spent much of the walk clad in sweaters and waterproofs under grey skies, blown by strong winds.
– I walked the majority of the walk with a torn, or part-healed calf muscle. There were times when it was very, very bad, and I’ve never taken so many painkillers, ever, and it had to affect my view of the walk.
– But it wasn’t really pain, the weather, and the great views haven’t altered. It was that we knew what was coming, there is no AAH moment at discovering a new place, or a great view, such as the sudden surprise vista over the Cuckmere estuary.
– What other things might we have done? We’ve already been to some places just off the route, such as Uppark, West Dean gardens, and the Weald and Downland Museum, but it would be good to investigate some of the others, like Amberley, Bignor Roman villa, Charleston, and the Chantry House at Alfriston. (Or an opera at Glyndebourne???)
– Would we do the walk for a third time? Quite likely, yes, though we might walk in the other direction. It is in beautiful countryside with stunning views. A brilliant walk!

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 :

July 13 : The South Bank, London

July 13th is a special day for us. (Our caching name is hg137). To celebrate this year, a trip to London was planned.

The Globe


We had tickets to see ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the Globe Theatre. The Globe is about 3/4 mile from Waterloo Station so it seemed a good excuse to find a couple of London caches too.

Welcome to the South Bank


On our last visit to London, way back in December 2016, we had started a multi-cache, but never finished it. The multi required finding a paving stone on the South Bank, near Waterloo, locating a particular engraved key word, and using it to convert to numerical co-ordinates.

We scoured our photos before we left, and worked out the co-ordinates and discovered the cache was hidden on our route to the Globe.

Great views across the Thames


The South Bank, on a hot Saturday in July is busy. Mainly tourists, but a good mixture of Londoners out and about.

A large second-hand book market, a group of morning joggers, another group of cyclists. An array of street performers, from singers, to bespoke poets, to a floating Yoda.

A Selection of Street Entertainers

Ordinarily caching is hard when people are watching, but with so many people around – all doing their own ‘unusual’ thing, leaning over a parapet to find a magnetic nano is natural.

Its Busy !


Our second cache, closer to the Tate Modern, was similarly easy. A well defined hint and cache title ‘Squeezed in at the Tate’ and we could see GZ well before we arrived. A quick swoop down (well an exaggerated shoe-lace tie), and we were soon signing the log.

The area around the Tate Modern was particularly busy as a new exhibition had opened days before https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/olafur-eliasson , and many people were crossing the Millennium Bridge and not walking along the South Bank.

A few yards further on, we arrived at the Globe. The Globe was opened in 1997, and founded and built by actor/director Sam Wanamaker. The names of many of the project’s contributors can be seen as paving stones around the theatre concourse. (Technically the theatre complex is known as Shakespeare’s Globe, to differentiate it from the original Shakespearean building pulled down by the Puritans in the 1640s.). We had a multi to complete which would take us between the two Globes.

The Original Globe was here!

While the modern building is busy with people, the older building, or rather a few information boards and a cobbled pavement was much, much quieter enabling a quick find.

We still had an hour before our matinee performance so we headed back to the Tate Modern. We ate lunch on one of the many seats, and wandered inside. We were expecting to see some artworks in the ‘hall’ area, but all the free/paid for exhibits are now on various different levels.

Turbine Hall, Tate Modern


Instead of heading back to the Globe, we hatched a plan. We would sit on a seat, near to, but not overlooking the cache ‘Squeezed in at the Tate’ which we found earlier. Would anyone visit it while we watched ? Typically this cache, especially on a Summer Saturday, has 5 or 6 finders so we might be lucky.

A person approached slowly…was he a cacher…nope, he was using a nearby rubbish bin.
Hang on.. what about these two. Clearly they are together, they are walking in unison, both looking at some electronic equipment and…what an elegant swoop (far better than Mr Hg137’s shoe-lace tying). We had waited probably 3 minutes and 2 cachers came by! We went over to introduce ourselves and we had a chat. Welcome to London Dombies and Topanga_ugh !

Dombies and Topanga_ugh


They were part of the crew from a Belgian ship moored near HMS Belfast, so we said goodbye to our new Belgian friends to have a look at their ship.

Can you see the Belgian Ship nestling behind HMS Belfast ?

The South Bank had got busier, and it took us longer to walk there than we imagined.. so we just had time to take a quick photo before rushing back to the Globe arriving minutes before the performance started. Unsurprisingly a well acted, very funny production and one that made our day very special.

We couldn’t take pictures while the play was on, so this was the band warming up, the three seating tiers (we were in one of them) and some of the ‘groundlings’ who stood for the whole performance.

Inside the Globe


Welcome to the Band!

A cracking day out…Shakespeare, the Globe, 3 caches and 2 Belgian cachers!

May 17 : South Downs Way : Bignor to Amberley

Our South Downs adventure continued with a short, and relatively cacheless section between Bignor and Amberley.
We had a mini-break planned staying at the HF Holidays property in Abingworth, 6 miles North of Amberley and we planned to use Friday/Saturday/Sunday/Monday to progress our long distance walk.

Nice, gentle start to the day

Bignor car park mid-morning on a Friday was quiet. We were grateful for this as there is a steep, winding road to the top from the village of Bignor in the valley. We took in the slightly misty view and set off. Bignor car park is just 50 feet from the top of Bignor Hill, and so after 15 minutes we had reached our high point of the day! Downhill the rest of the walk (… probably)!

Murky view of the Weald

Near the top is a mounting block, known on all maps, as Toby’s Stone. It is in memory of James Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, a former secretary of the local hunt. There is often a fine view here, but the day’s mist shortened the visibility considerably.

Toby’s Stone

The South Downs Way continued with open views over the Weald to the North, the Southern views were hampered by the large area of woodland known as Houghton Forest. We descended down a steep, sharply turning, rutted path, and as we tottered downhill, a couple of cyclists zoomed by. We then had another hill to climb (so much for downhill all the way, hope Mrs Hg137 doesn’t notice). Our first cache of the day was at the far end of Houghton Forest. What a contrast to the airy views…the dark forest. Being woodland our GPS wouldn’t settle, and we wandered on forest tracks for a few minutes trying to get the GPS lower than 20 feet.

Houghton Forest


We couldn’t! But as we looked around in exasperation, we saw a tell-tale pile of flint, and the cache underneath.

We returned back to the South Downs Way, and after a short distance crossed the A29 to oversee the town of Amberley. Amberley is exactly half-way on the 100 mile footpath, so it is a welcome sight. (Or it would be, in better weather!)

Somewhere..down in the valley .. is Amberley


Amberley lies on the tidal river Arun and we had to drop all the way down to the river. Fortunately the path zigzags in places, alleviating much of the slope. We crossed the river at large metal bridge, under which was our second cache of the day. There are lots of nooks and crannies in bridges, and we searched a few, before finding the cache. The mist was now turning to rain, so we hurried to Amberley. This was a shame, as the Arun river is pleasant to watch – an egret was picking through the mud as the tide swept in, a family of young coots bobbled from reed to reed.

Bridge over the Arun


Our destination, sheltering from the rain, was Amberley station. It was covered, had seats, and was ideal for lunch. The station mural and other station furniture provided clues to a side-tracked cache (we had solved the co-ordinates when we parked in the Amberley car park earlier). We knew the cache was nearby, so we found it, once the rain stopped.

Amberley Station

There was also another cache to find… in the ‘Fine Pair’ series (a red letter box, and red phone box near each other). It was marked as a ‘letter box’ cache, meaning there was a stamp inside for people to use. Sadly the ‘letter box’ designation meant we didn’t spot it was a multi-cache. Had we realised this earlier, we would have calculated the co-ordinates when we parked our destination car in Amberley car park. Instead we performed the calculation and discovered the cache was … back on the lower section of the South Downs Way. We had walked past the cache earlier in the day! Grr! Grr ! Grr !

The start of Amberley’s Fine Pair

We had finished in Amberley, and so drove back to Bignor using slightly different roads to the one we had planned. We managed to find a layby, close to the South Downs Way, and after a short walk, retrieved the letterbox ‘Fine Pair’ cache. However the stamp and, in particular its ink, had leaked. The inside of the cache was stained blue, the log sheet was blue, and after only a few seconds of handling the cache, Mr Hg137’s fingers were blue too! Yuk!

So four caches found between Bignor and Amberley, but we had two more caches on our radar.

Between Bignor and Amberley are two car parks. Both of these yielded caches – one a simple, straightforward find. The other required the solving of a puzzle and a short woodland walk.

On route to our final cache of the day

We finished our day with 6 cache finds, wet from the rain and covered in blue ink. Our spirits were lifted when we drove to our holiday base just in time for a very welcome, and warming, cream tea.

Five of the caches we found were :

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:




March 8 South Downs Way : Winchester to Cheesefoot Head

Back in 2011, a year before we started geocaching, we walked, over a period of 6 months, the 100-mile long distance footpath – The South Downs Way. Since then, Mr Hg137 has been asked on numerous occasions to give a one hour talk on our walk and our photos have proved invaluable. However, we were aware those photos are 8 years old!

Winchester Cathedral

So this year we intend to revisit the South Downs Way, review our pictures and our knowledge and, of course, find some caches too!

The South Downs Way runs from the Roman/Saxon city of Winchester to the Seven Sisters at Eastbourne. Our first caching tour would take us around Winchester’s Centre and then a short 3 mile walk to Cheesefoot Head.

Winchester City Centre is relatively small but packed with treasures. At one end of the High Street is the Great Hall (hosting an imitation Arthurian Round Table). Halfway down the same street is St Swithun’s Cathedral and at the end furthest from the Great Hall, King Alfred’s Statue.

Looking down on Winchester

Our caching trip started on the outskirts of the City with elevated views along the High Street. Two simple caches (one under a seat, the other in tree roots). We also found in the general vicinity one of two puzzle caches we had solved. This puzzle consisted of three (straightforward-ish) logic puzzles to derive the final co-ordinates.. and then the fun started. The cache could only be opened by unscrewing the container revealing a hidden maze! Fortunately a nearby seat meant we could sit down during our 20 minute attempt!

After 20 minutes the cache was open..now we have to put it back!


Down at the High Street, we paused by the Museum/Mill where the South Downs Way officially starts. Back in 2011 we had been perturbed as there was no official start point, but this has since been rectified.

Winchester Museum/Mill

Nearby is King Alfred’s Statue. Erected in 1899 to mark the centenary of the warrior king’s death, the 17 foot statue stands on a two granite bases. The different types of granite form the basis of an Earthcache, which we managed to successfully answer.

King Alfred

We had a three more caches to find in the City Centre including another simple puzzle cache (found in a less-than-exciting car park) and a beautiful snail cache close to Winchester Cathedral.

A Snail for a Diver!

This cache was a tribute to the Diver, William Walker. Between 1906 and 1911 he dived 20 feet every day in water under the sinking Cathedral foundations and laid 25,000 bags of concrete, 115,000 concrete blocks and 900.000 bricks. This enabled the excess water to the drained, and the Cathedral re-stabilised. Without his work the Cathedral would probably have fallen down during the 20th Century.

Our final City Centre cache was in the busy High Street. Full of shoppers and tourists. The cache was placed exceedingly high (only Mr Hg137 could reach it), so it was almost impossible to grab it in a nonchalant manner.

There are more caches in the City Centre, many of them puzzles, but 7 finds seemed a reasonable reward for a morning’s exploring the ancient City.

We lunched in a park near King Alfred before setting out on our re-walking of the South Downs Way. Ominously, the skies had become more overcast but we were confident we could walk the 3 miles before the forecast rain was due.

The Start of the South Downs Way


The South Downs Way leads away from the Museum/Mill following the banks of the River Itchen. A very pleasant river, bubbling along between gardens on one bank and ancient Roman walls and Wolvesey Castle on the other.

River Itchen


The remaining Roman Walls of Winchester

Wolvesey Castle, Home of Winchester Bishops

When we walked the path in 2011 we knew we went wrong on this part of the walk and today we understood why. A South Downs Way signpost, set slightly back from our path pointed us away from the river at a very subtle angle. No wonder we missed it before. We walked on, and took a slight diversion to a cunningly concealed cache on a bridge over the River Itchen.

Back on the South Downs Way we had a mile of street walking. A mile we were dreading.

Probably the least scenic mile on the South Downs Way !

By and large the South Downs way is a scenic route…but there is one mile along a residential street – and not the most attractive one either! (This is one of the reasons we recommend walking the South Downs Way from Winchester..it gets this road out of the way early on, rather than the last mile!)

The road leads to the M3, and a small bridge. But as we arrived, the rain started. Should we walk for 20 minutes to our car in Winchester or press on for 45 minutes to our car at Cheesefoot Head ? We choose the latter and regretted the decision for the rest of the walk.

At last ! Beautiful Countryside…in the Rain!


What should have been views of light-rolling chalk downland was instead wet-slippery chalk shrouded in low cloud mist. To compound our misery, our final cache of the day – the first genuine South Downs Way cache – had gone missing.

A rather wet Mr Hg137


The rain was so heavy we decided against visiting Chilcomb Church to attempt a 3 stage Church Micro, and also the cache hidden yards from our car at Cheesefoot Head. That cache will wait for our next expedition.

Last view of Winchester


So our 2019 quest has started – revisiting a walk we undertook 8 years ago. As yet no South Downs Caches found, but we did enjoy the variety and history of Winchester before we left.

Some of the caches we found included :