September 7: Starry Bug

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

On our final walk along the South Downs Way, we found FOUR trackables, two of them well travelled, and two, including this one, which had never travelled anywhere, anywhere at all.

It’s a glass starfish which sparkles in the light, attached to a trackable tag. I’ve tried to take a reasonable photo of it, which might or might not have succeeded. This is what it would like to do:

A star needs other stars, so can this trackable seek out other stars – drawn, made, discovered… it just wants to meet others on its journey.

We found it in the Farmer’s Crossing cache, where it had been placed a short while before. We will try to move it on to somewhere stellar, though we don’t know of many caches like that near us!

September 7 : Sussex Sole

Sussex Sole

During our walk from Alfriston to Eastbourne we found four trackables. This was the third. A thin fish-shaped piece of metal connected to a keyring. The metal fish and keyring were so small they fitted in a 35mm film container!

Unusually this trackable hadn’t been anywhere! The cache we found it in, just outside Jevington church, was where the owner, muddyboots111, had placed just it just 3 days previously. It is very rare to find a trackable with no mileage! It was up to us to start its journey!

The trackable was called ‘Sussex Sole’ – presumably because its flat nature suggests a flat-fish such as a sole, and of course because it started in Sussex. We will endeavour to place this trackable near water – fingers crossed we find an appropriate cache!

September 7: Mini 77

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Mini 77

Mini 77


On our final walk along the South Downs Way, we found not one, but FOUR, trackables, two of them cars, found in the same cache, a travel bug hotel near Alfriston. Mini 77 was one of these two cars. It had been ages since we found any trackables, and now, like buses, they all came along at once!

This trackable has a lot of history: it’s been around since March 2015, when its owner, mecabra, set it loose in North Carolina, United States, with the mission (repeated in English, German, French and Spanish)
This is Brandon of megcaBRA’s Mini 77 that is out to see the sights of the world. Please help Mini 77 travel the back roads of the world and explore new places.

And travel it certainly has. 1000 caches and 27688 miles has seen the little car leave America, reach Europe and journey through France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands, some of those several times. In 2018, the trackable made a very brief trip further afield, to the Phillipines, and then arrived in the United Kingdom, at Holyhead in Wales. It went to the Yorkshire Mega event in August 2018, where it was spotted by many a geocacher, travelled round Yorkshire and the Peak District in Derbyshire, then dived down to the south coast near Brighton, where we found it a short while later on the South Downs Way.

As you’d expect, the trackable has got more battered over the four and a half years it has been on the road, but it’s still solid and in good condition. We plan to move it on along its journey along the back roads, just as soon as we find a cache big enough to place it.

September 7 : Trackable GC Tags – GeoWoodstock XVI – Midnight Madness

During our walk over the South Downs Way bridleway to Eastbourne we found 4 trackables. The Geo Woodstock XVI was the first.

The trackable has two distinct parts – one of which is a metal car, stamped Hot Wheels underneath (though my recollection of Hot Wheels cars is that they were larger, more plasticky vehicles).

The second part, the tag, is a metal square which has the trackable number on it. The tag commemorates the Geocaching Giga event held in Woodstock, NY, USA in May 2018. The event was themed as a Roman Festival and many of the photos show cachers dressed in togas. This was just, JUST(!), a side event to a larger event happening in Woodstock; this smaller event lasted 4 hours (8-12pm) with over 2000 attendees and culminated in a large bonfire as the night got darker!

Surprisingly though, this trackable didn’t start its journey at the Woodstock event. It was first placed in a Colorado cache in August 2018, by a cacher who wasn’t at the Midnight Madness event. After visiting a few Colorado caches, it went into the neighbouring state of Arizona, before one final American cache in Florida. It then travelled across to Europe where it has spent most time in the UK.

The exception was a brief visit to Holland to visit the Keukenhof Gardens, and seeing the spectacular Spring colours.

In its journeys in the UK, the trackable has visited several caches in Bristol area, the Greenwich area of London and the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway on the Kent/Sussex border (visiting the giant gravel spithead at Dungeness too).

So quite a varied set of locations for a trackable in its first year of travel nearly 8500 miles and 120 caches. Perhaps it does have hot wheels after all!

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 :