May 15 : South Downs Way : Duncton to Bignor

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

It was midweek, a beautiful, clear, bright May day, and we were setting off to do a short, there-and-back section of the South Downs Way. Those two qualifications, “short” and “there-and-back” were there because I had pulled a muscle in my leg part way through the previous walk, had spent a few days limping about, and wasn’t sure how far I would be able to go.

On our way to the start of the walk, we stopped at a farm shop, Ted’s at Heath End The original reason was to use it free parking in order to find two local caches (successfully found) but Mr Hg137 became seduced by the produce and we came away with a lovely jar of raspberry jam too. It’s a great little place, seems to be a local hub, lots of folk popping in and out.

Slightly further on, we parked in a lay-by and set off. We prepared for a hill climb; sections of the South Downs Way typically start from a road, have a steep climb of 100-150m up a hill, followed by a flat (flattish!) section at the top, then a steep descent to the next road.

We had barely started the climb when a tractor and trailer came by and we hid in a gateway till it was past. Then there were a series of short uphill walks, followed by pauses while we found a selection of caches from the Sussex Amble series. This was all good news for me and my pulled muscle, as I could walk along just fine, but couldn’t manage any great speed uphill (i.e. almost none) as I couldn’t push off from the injured leg. (Editor’s note: there are 70 caches in the complete Sussex Amble series, each with a number inside the log book. Collect enough numbers and you have the coordinates for the bonus cache. We had found some caches from the series a few days earlier, some close to the farm shop, and would find some more on this walk.)

After four or five caches, going uphill on a wooded track surrounded by birdsong, the path levelled out and the views to the south expanded. We could see the spire of Chichester Cathedral in the distance behind us, the sea, and the Isle of Wight in the far distance. It was lovely and warm, a gentle breeze and a truly glorious May day! And, after a mile of two on a hard chalk track, we were on grass, so much softer. There had been a steady stream of walkers on the path all morning, we had thought, being midweek, that it would be quiet, but not so. Our caching progress was often slowed by the need to wait for a muggle – or two, three, four or a whole group – to pass by.

We walked through the northern edge of the Slindon Estate, which sweeps southwards from the Downs toward the sea, nearing Bignor Hill. Ahead of us was Stane Street, a Roman road which runs from Noviomagus/Chichester to Londinium/London. We climbed up the bank and walked along the road for the short way it ran parallel with the South Downs Way, it’s rare to get an unchanged bit of road like this where you can walk just where Romans trod. (Editor’s note: here is a post from another blogger featuring a walk on Stane Street )

The raised route of Stane Street, Bignor Hill

The raised route of Stane Street, Bignor Hill

Up ahead was the small car park at the top of Bignor Hill. It’s isolated, with an “interesting” drive up the hill to reach it, so we assumed it would have one, maybe two parked vehicles, giving us ample time and space to look for cache no. 1 from the Sussex Amble series, and, maybe, if we’d got enough numbers from other caches, to have an educated guess at the location of the bonus cache. We were wrong. So, so wrong. A Land Rover was parked in the car park – and another, and another, and another – a gathering of maybe thirty split-screen, canvas-roofed, olive-green-painted Mark 1 Land Rovers, complete with massed owners and massed dogs. Crikey, we hadn’t expected that!

I engaged one of the owners in conversation (while Mr Hg137 sidled off to look for a cache) and he said that they meet once a year, today was the day, and they were going for a private tour of the Slindon Estate. After a few minutes, there was a cry of “Wagons roll!”, engines burst into life in a cloud of blue exhaust smoke, and they left in convoy along a track. Silence descended. It was as if they had never been there. Crikey, we hadn’t expected that!

"Wagons roll!"

“Wagons roll!”

We just had the return leg of our out-and-back walk to do, so we thought we’d have a guess at the location of the Sussex Amble bonus cache, based on the cache description and hint plus the incomplete set of numbers that we had, on the assumption that it could be near the beginning/end of the cache series, which is round about Bignor Hill. We tried; walked down Stane Street a bit, looked behind likely-looking trees; cast around for suitable locations; all without success, we need to find a few more numbers yet.

The rest of the walk was a retracing of our steps, another few miles walk through beautiful countryside on a gorgeous late spring morning. My leg was still OK, but I was glad we weren’t going much further, muscles were stiffening. It seemed less far on the way back, but maybe that was because it was mostly downhill, unlike the first half of the walk!

Here are some of the caches we found:


October 26 : Sandhurst (Gloucs) to Sandhurst : Silchester to Swallowfield

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The weather forecast said ‘rain early, dry later on’, which seemed a good omen for our walk from Silchester to Swallowfield, the latest stage of our walk from Sandhurst in Gloucestershire (just north of Gloucester, on the banks of the River Severn) back home to Sandhurst in Berkshire (home of the Royal Military Academy). The omens didn’t seem quite so good as we stood in the pouring rain at the English Heritage car park close to (Roman) Silchester, collecting clues for the ‘Calleva Atrebatum’ multicache. But the rain was easing by the time we parked in (modern) Silchester village. And it had stopped altogether by the time we had found the cache hidden at the adjacent bus stop; we had tried and failed to find it in the twilight at the end of our last walk, but it was easier when we could see what we were looking for!

We set off through the quiet back lanes of Silchester, then followed the Brenda Parker Way to reach the walls encircling the site of the Roman town. The BPW continues atop the walls, making for an atmospheric walk, and a chance to talk to the stonemasons who were clearing and repointing a section of the walls. Read about the history of Silchester here The sun came out and we made our way around to Silchester church, just inside the walls (and I bet the church was originally constructed from stone ‘liberated’ from those same walls) to find the Church Micro cache there, and stop for coffee. It’s worth a look inside the church, there are wall paintings, which you don’t often see

St Mary the Virgin, Silchester

St Mary the Virgin, Silchester

As we packed up to leave … WHERE’S MY GEOPOLE? … I’d left it behind, part way around the walls (doh!). We backtracked, then went forward again to visit the Roman amphitheatre, found another cache, and had an early lunch sitting where the spectators would have sat, looking down into the arena at some young children playing in the sun, throwing a rugby ball.

After our picnic, we finally left Silchester, walking east along a path which followed the line of the Devil’s Highway, the Roman road leading from Staines-on-Thames to Silchester In various places, this is a path across fields, or a wide straight track between ditches, or tarmacked road. We were stopped on one of the road sections by two council workers, who’d had a report of fly tipping. We found it, a burned-out van and a load of plumbing waste (yuk) and phoned them.
Devil's Highway

Devil’s Highway

... Devil's Highway misused

… Devil’s Highway misused

We made progress very steadily from here on, partially because the route was dead straight (no navigation to do) and partially because the caches thinned out once away from Silchester, and we only found three more in the next three miles. Then we turned slightly north, to cross the noisy, busy A33 – a big contrast to the quiet and peaceful miles we had just walked – and approached the end of our walk at Swallowfield. There was just one more cache to attempt, which was just off route, close to King’s Bridge over the River Loddon. Well, we spotted the cache, but that was as far as it went; it had fallen to the ground on the far side of a fearsome barbed wire fence and we couldn’t reach it. Slightly disappointed, we walked down into Swallowfield to reach our geocar parked at the village hall.
King's Bridge

King’s Bridge

... unreachable cache

… unreachable cache

Here are some of the caches we found: