June 15 : South Downs Way : Jack and Jill windmills to the A27

On our previous section of the South Downs Way we had many caches to find, today very few.
The day was cool, and heavy rain forecast for later, so the lack of caches would enable us to (hopefully) finish our walk in the dry.

We’ve walked all that way!

Jack and Jill Windmills, are partway up the hill, so much of the morning’s climb had been undertaken in the car. The car park was quite full as we parked. A group of ladies were preparing to leave on a half-day ramble.

“Excuse us ladies, can we come by ?”

As it turned out, our first half mile was spent overtaking a few of the ladies, they overtook us as we stopped to take pictures, we overtook them, they overtook us.. Eventually one of the slower ladies asked US, if THEY were coming back the same way. She thought we (including Mr Hg137, a man, was part of their ladies walking group!).

Coffee Spot..at a Dew Pond

We played the overtaking game several more times before we stopped for one of two caches in the morning. It was near a dew pond, and the shallow indentation was just enough for us to be out of the wind for a few minutes and drink some coffee. The cache was, we thought behind a long gorse bush and we couldn’t see a way in. Behind the gorse bush was a barbed wire fence, and that was the cache host. We used our coffee break to read more about the cache, and discovered there was only one way to get behind the gorse bush…using a gate half a mile away ! We would have a mile’s walk to get to within yards of where we sat! We remembered the weather forecast, and disappointingly left cacheless.

We walked on, and as we approached a gate, a cyclist approached from the other side. We walked quicker so we could open the gate for him, which would prevent him stopping. He did though slow down, and as he did so, a large black crow flew from his body.

Cyclist and Crow (left of picture)

The crow was hitching a lift on the cyclist! It turned out the crow was semi-tame, and had been rescued by a chimney-sweep. Although free to go, the crow enjoyed being chauffeured, and flew to the ground to eat some small undetectable insects. We chatted with the cyclist for a few minutes, and then watched as he cycled off with his feathered friend firmly perched on his shoulder once more.

Ditchling Beacon

Our highest point of the day was Ditchling Beacon, at 248 metres the equal highest point on the South Downs Way. Unlike the great pyramidal Butser Hill (the other 248er), Ditchling Beacon is more of a ‘bobble’ on the long undulating West-East ridge line, and there is little sense of height distinction between the top and surrounding area. It is possible to drive to the top of the Beacon as a road comes from both the North and South. The gradients on these roads average about 1:7 so it is very steep. Yet, at the top we saw a group of cyclists, tired but elated…they had just cycled to the top. Phew!

Ditchling Beacon Car Park – cyclists and ice cream van!

The London to Brighton Cycle Ride was due to take place a day later and it too goes up and over Ditchling Beacon. The cyclists we met were not taking part in that event, but it meant they had the roads to themselves, as the following day hundreds of cyclists collapse at the Beacon before the descent into Brighton.

Dew Pond near Ditchling Beacon

Planted near to the road, and very close to an oddly draining dew pond was a cache! Our first after 2 miles of walking! The cache was part of the ‘Ponds, Dew Ponds and Lakes in Sussex’ series – in fact it was the first one to be placed back in December 2006.

Distant Views of the Amex Community Stadium (Brighton and Hove FC)

It was getting close to lunchtime, and we were looking for a sheltered spot. We paused at various places, but eventually settled on a small patch of grass with trees either side, and a tarmac road leading to the village below. As we ate, we saw several orchids including (we think!) common spotted and bee orchids.

Bee Orchid

A couple approached just as finished taking photos of the flowers, the lady dressed in a ‘fifties-style dress’ and trainers. The man was more casually clothed. They checked the tarmac road, unsure of whether to descend or not. We chatted and discovered they were part of a wedding reception party. The group had been to the wedding, bussed (we assume) to Ditchling Beacon, and the guests then had to walk about half a mile across the South Downs and then descend to the reception !

Which way to the Wedding?

We walked on, but looked back every so often. Our couple had walked too far and were heading back towards Ditchling Beacon to re-join the rest of their group. So we never got to see what all the other guests were wearing!

The South Downs Way up to this point had been following the Northern Edge of the South Downs. We had had views of the flat Weald to our left (the North) and hills (other parts of the South Downs) to the South. As the South Downs Way approached Lewes, our path would take a 90 degree south turn. We would be leaving views of the Weald and heading for the coast (albeit some miles away).

Heading South to the Coast

The official route down was relatively cacheless, but we espied a parallel path through a valley called Ashcombe Bottom which had a few caches on. We took the deviation and walked through wonderful woodland. We thought we would have the path to ourselves, but two groups of people passed us. The first, a Duke of Edinburgh instructor (who had temporarily lost his party !), said this valley was ‘a little magic kingdom’ – and we agreed with him. The second group were seemingly going up and over the South Downs on foot to visit a garden centre.

‘A Little Magic Kingdom’

More from the ‘Little Magic Kingdom’

The caches made a pleasant diversion. One was hidden in the hollow created by fallen tree roots, another couple in the roots and boles of tree. A fourth wedged in a nettle/bramble bush, which Mrs Hg137 acquired relatively painlessly.

Our path would though lead us back to the South Downs Way, but sadly for us our caching diversion meant we were no longer ahead of the forecast rain clouds. We were in them! We suddenly got drenched as we found another cache high in a tree, and another near another Dew Pond. The steep downhill chalk path was quite slippery, so we took our time as we got wetter and wetter. A small copse partway down proved some shelter (and another cache!) but after 30 minutes rain were sodden.

Fortunately our destination car was nearby and we hastened, as best we could, to it to dry out.

So a curious day, with a long cacheless section punctuated by ladies who thought Mr Hg137 was a woman, a cyclist carrying a crow and an odd wedding reception. Many of the caches we found were off the South Downs Way and probably our caching greed was the main reason we finished very, very wet!

June 1 : South Downs Way : Devil’s Dyke to Jack and Jill windmills

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

This post is a tale of straining and strained muscles: straining, because it was the day of the South Downs running relay: and strained, because I tore a muscle in my leg early on and limped the rest of the way.

Parking at the Devil’s Dyke car park ( £3 all day!), we saw paragliders preparing for take-off, admired the superb view in the sunshine, then turned away and went into the trees, to look for the first cache of the day. Mr Hg137, holding the GPS, surged ahead, while I followed. And here was where it all went wrong for me; I tripped on a tree root and tore a calf muscle. Meanwhile, Mr Hg137 ignored the pained cries and strode on to find the cache, hidden in a rather wet cleft in a tree.

We moved on to a cache from the SDGT (South Downs Geo Tour) series, placed at the remains of the top end of the funicular railway which carried Victorian folk up to the Dyke. Although we have both been here before – especially Mr Hg137, whose family comes from Brighton – neither of us have ever been to this spot with its brilliant view. Next, we found a multicache based on the trig point at Devil’s Dyke, with the final cache located at one of the less-visited areas around the Devil’s Dyke. After this, we stopped for a coffee (and painkillers for me!) before a look down the dry valley of the Dyke.

We had one cache to do before we left the Dyke, one which had been on our ‘to do’ list for some time. It’s Church Micro 666 … but where’s the church? … and the name of the place isn’t on the side of the angels, either. To overcome those deficiencies, the cache owner has set and described the cache as follows:
”The number 666 has many sinister connections and so was not really suitable for a normal church, it needed to be hidden somewhere a bit more devilish.
The Devils Dyke seemed such a place but as anyone with local knowledge will realise, there is one small but important flaw here, that is the lack of a church, although maybe there used to be as local folklore explains the valley as the work of the devil. The legend holds that the devil was digging a trench to allow the sea to flood the many churches in the Weald of Sussex. The digging disturbed an old woman who lit a candle, or angere causing a rooster to crow, making the devil believe the morning was fast approaching. The devil then fled, leaving his trench uncompleted.
To overcome this minor hiccup I have gone to the trouble of building a church myself, have fun.”

We found the cache, and, yes, it’s well worth it!

South Downs relay race

South Downs relay race

South Downs relay race, changeover point at Saddlescombe

South Downs relay race, changeover point at Saddlescombe

We now had a downhill section to a road crossing at Saddlescombe. There were no caches along here, but we had the South Downs Relay to watch as we walked http://www.southdownsrelay.com/rules/ This is a running event, usually held on the first Saturday in June; there are 18 legs covering almost the entire length of the South Downs Way, from Beachy Head, near Eastbourne to Chilcomb, near Winchester, and each of the team of 6 runners tackle 3 stages. It takes them 12-14 hours to run the whole 97 miles, including 13,500 feet of ascent and descent. Phew!

Several runners came by during our descent, and we stopped for a short while at the road crossing to watch the changeover point between legs 6 and 7. Having crossed the road, we started the climb back up the other side, keeping well out of the way of the runners charging down the hill. It was getting hot now, and it was good to be climbing the hill in the shade of trees; I didn’t envy those runners, pounding up the bare hillsides in the burning sun!

Along the next part of our route, we were looking for some of the caches from the TC (Treble Clef) series. These are a set of 35 puzzle caches, based just north of Brighton, and with a selection of music-themed puzzles, which we had solved before setting out – the final caches are in a variety of places, some of which were on, or close to, our route. We tackled nine of the caches from the series, finding five of them. (Editor’s note: Mr Hg137 tried all nine caches, while I wimped out of some of them, as my pulled leg muscle just wasn’t up to scrambling up banks and I was trying to minimise ‘extra’ walking, where possible.)

Apart from the runners and their support teams, there was also a steady stream of walkers and cyclists. It was, after all, a warm, sunny, summer weekend. We met two people doing a butterfly survey, and also came across a father and ten year old son resting in the shade of a tree. They had walked from Winchester in five days, and they planned to reach Eastbourne in two more days, which is pretty good going whatever your age.

Down to Pyecombe

Down to Pyecombe

After a few miles, we left the caches from the TC series behind us and started a long descent into Pyecombe. The police helicopter flew over, low and slow, which generally doesn’t bode well. We reached the A23, a very busy dual carriageway, and crossed it on a bridge. Quite a few people were there, watching the rather average-looking traffic. There must be more interesting things to do on a beautiful summer’s afternoon, so we asked why. Earlier that day, hundreds of Hell’s Angels had held a mass “ride out” down the A23 to Brighton to celebrate their 50th anniversary in the UK, under police escort and watched by the helicopter. All became clear … https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-48482042
Church of the Transfiguration, Pyecomber

Church of the Transfiguration, Pyecombe

Once over the A23, we were in Pyecombe, which is now a quiet little village sandwiched between the A23 and A283. The Church of the Transfiguration is in the centre of the village; it’s Grade-1 listed, dates back to 1170 and has a tapsel gate. But, for two hot, thirsty geocachers, it also has a kitchen inside, with water, fruit squash, and tea or coffee, all available for a donation; and it has a Church Micro geocache.
Tapsel gate, Pyecombe Church

Tapsel gate, Pyecombe Church

( Editor’s note: tapsel gates hinge in the middle, not the side, to make it easier to carry coffins through. They are only found in Sussex, and there are only six altogether. There’s another on the South Downs Way at Botolphs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapsel_gate )
Jack and Jill windmills

Jack and Jill windmills

Not far to go now, but it was all up. We crossed the A283, went through the car park of Pyecombe Golf Club, then yomped (or limped) straight up the hill, to retrieve the geocar, parked in the (free) car park next to the Jack and Jill windmills. (Editor’s note: Jill is the white windmill with the sails, Jack is the sail-less black windmill. ) It had been a beautiful summer’s day, with grand views, but my leg was hurting now and I was quite glad to finish. It was only later, as I went pink from sunburn, that I found out how patchy I had been at applying suncream …

Here are some of the caches we found:

May 20: Souris

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.



Almost all the geocaches on our walk along the South Downs Way between between Botolphs and Devil’s Dyke were small letterbox caches, just big enough to hold the cache log and a stamp for the letterbox. But one was larger – a clip lock box hidden under a water trough, and inside was a trackable, neatly tucked inside a small plastic bag. We had found Souris.

At the time we found Souris, we were unsure what species we had found: a hamster or a mouse? A girl, or a boy? (Editor’s note: we now know that Souris is a mouse but we are still unsure of the sex.)

Back home, we have had chance to research more about the trackable. Souris started off from Namur, in Belgium, in the first few days of 2019, and has travelled 1100 miles since then. From Belgium, there was a brief foray into France, and another visit to Germany, all in the company of Airhic1, the owner. Finally, in mid-April, Souris was placed where we found him/her, with the touching farewell log:

Please take care of my TB.
Farewell little mouse.

And we were the next people to collect Souris, and intend to honour that request, and also the mission of the trackable, which is …”to walk and rest”…

May 20 : South Downs Way : Botolphs to Devil’s Dyke

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

On the fourth and last day of our 4-day walking mini-break, we had a short (well, shortish) walk planned, from Botolphs, by the River Adur, up to the Devil’s Dyke, just north of Brighton.

Crossing the A283, we set off up the hill towards masts close to Truleigh Hill Youth Hostel. It was a steady climb out of the valley and the views became bigger and more distant as we went up. Turning round, we could see almost all of the previous day’s route outlined behind us in the hazy sunshine, as far back as Chanctonbury Ring and beyond.

There were geocaches to find as we climbed, all letterbox caches (containing an ink stamp) from the SWALK series. (Editor’s note: these give a handy reason for a ‘short rest’ every so often while climbing the hill). We emerged onto a lane, still climbing, more gently now, with views out over the Weald to the north, and continued on and up, with more short pauses to find caches, now from the accurately named Truleigh Beautiful series hidden (mostly) under little piles of flints by fence posts, or (once) magnetically attached to a metal gate amongst sprays of brambles and thickets of nettles. (Editor’s note: I think you can guess that it was me who was chosen to find the last cache described!)

Part way up the lane, we came to a section where the road had been lifted and re-laid. The reason became obvious when we saw the sign saying that the 150Kv cable from the Rampion windfarm passes through here; it’s out at sea to the south. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rampion_Wind_Farm

Just before the top of the hill was Truleigh Hill Youth Hostel, hidden amongst trees. https://www.yha.org.uk/hostel/yha-truleigh-hill We sat on a bench for a rest, had a quick look inside one of the two yurts outside, and checked the water tap (as of May 2019 it’s working, not so with all taps on the South Downs Way). Memories play tricks – both of us had thought the hostel was to be nearer the start of the walk, neither of us recalled the walk up the lane, but we both remembered the water tap.

We continued along the lane, which became a chalky track, very reflective and bright in the sunshine. Spotting a handy bench, we decided on an early lunch and sitting, basking in the hot sunshine and looking out at the view and watching the ponies in the field over the track. We’re still not sure if that bench was in someone’s front garden!
Lunch completed, it was time to start our third geocache series of the day, the Tottington Totter. These, too, came at regular intervals, were generally easy to find, and punctuated the walk nicely.

Geocaching is interesting to cows, too!

Geocaching is interesting to cows, too!

One particular cache was slightly different, hidden under a concrete block at the path’s edge: on problem was that there were quite a few such blocks, hidden on both sides of the track, and the GPS wasn’t being exact enough to decide which one: a second problem was the farmer whizzing back and forth along the track on a very large tractor: and a third problem was the large, male cow in an adjacent field which took an increasing interest in Mr Hg137’s searches from just the other side of the fence: but the cache was found and all was well in the end.
Yet more cows!

Yet more cows!

(Editor’s note: the Tottington Totter series was archived a few days after our visit and has now been replaced with a new cache series, so we were the very last people to record finds for these caches.)
Trouble ahead!

Trouble ahead!

We could just see the end of our route, about two miles away, high on the top of the ridge at Devil’s Dyke, but something about the view ahead was beginning to concern us. Black, black clouds were massing ahead. The sunshine became weaker, then vanished altogether and it was immediately much cooler. As we stopped to sign a cache log, a few spots of rain began to fall. The spots became larger and more frequent as we walked to the next cache, where we put on our waterproofs as we signed the log. Hoods went up, zips were closed and the last cache of the day was a very quick find indeed, followed by a very wet and dispiriting walk across the grass to the Devil’s Dyke car park in heavy rain and increasing wind.

Ah well, a downbeat note to end with, but a four-day break of walking in great countryside, (mixed weather), interesting people and places, and a chance to be out on the beautiful South Downs at one of the best times of the year.

Here, as usual, are some of the caches we found (there are quite a number of them!):

May 19 : South Downs Way : Washington to Botolphs

The Washington to Botolphs section of the South Downs Way, is about 7 miles, of which the first mile or two is up quite a steep slope to Chanctonbury Ring, and then the remaining five miles is all down hill!
We were still staying just a few miles away with HF Holidays, which meant we were parking our destination car shortly after 9. The relatively spacious layby at Botolphs on the A283 was practically full at this time! Fortunately though we squeezed a car into the layby, and drove our other car back to the start at Washington.

Our target… Chanctonbury Ring

A steep ascent up to Chanctonbury Ring awaited us, but partway up we had a cache to find. It was a multi, which we thought we had resolved before setting off. Part of the ‘Sussex Trig Point’ series, it involved working out the co-ordinates based on the metal numbered ‘base plate’ fixed to the trig point. These base plate numbers can be found using Google, and it was a good that we used that tool before we set off, as we wouldn’t have liked the long walk back downhill if we had attempted the cache without the aid of the internet.

Sadly for us, we didn’t find the cache. It was supposed to be an ammo can, hidden under sticks. There were lots of piles of sticks, logs and leaf litter for us to rummage around, but after 15 minutes we gave up. During that time we’d been asked by three separate SDW walkers what we were doing, and disturbed a tiny wren.

Near to the top of Chanctonbury Ring, and yards from the trig point is a Dew pond. This was also our first find of the day and part of the ‘Ponds, Dew Ponds and Lakes of Sussex’ series of caches. We paused for coffee – fully merited by the steep ascent – and attempted to dry out the wet log sheet on a nearby hawthorn bush.
As we stood drinking, various dog walkers passed by and each of the canines charged to the lip of the pond expecting to run into, and drink from, a pond full of water. Sadly the pond was dry, and we could see each of the dog’s faces droop when their anticipated water reward was not forthcoming.

A cache.. and a dry dew pond!

The reason the Dew Pond was dry, was, we discovered from one of the dog walkers, that the South Downs Authority have established a few of the dew-ponds as ‘wildlife havens’ by planting bushes around the outside. A great idea, but the roots of the bushes extract what little water the Dew Pond holds. Meaning that there is little water to see at the surface.

Chanctonbury Ring Trig Point

Our highpoint, Chanctonbury Ring, was clearly visible. Although it is a few yards away from the SDW we walked inside the prominent tree feature. Planted as a series of concentric rings back in 1760, by the then land-owner Charles Goring, the rings are very dark and allegedly haunted.

Inside Chanctonbury Ring

Various legends abound about the ring … if you walk anti-clockwise around the ring 7 times on a moonless night, the Devil will appear and serve you porridge. Alternatively if you count all the trees Julius Caesar will appear or thirdly, if you run clockwise around the trees three times a lady on a white horse will appear and you can ride down! I know which I’d prefer!

Sadly the trees today are not the original trees. The Great Storm of October 1987 blew down every tree at the summit and for a few years the top was tree-less. Since then the Goring family have replanted, and the trees visible are the result of the planting 30 years ago.

Farewell Chanctonbury Ring

A little further down the hill from Chanctonbury ring was another cache. This one tucked into a small, less-imposing copse which we took an age to find. The GPS wobbled, there were several hint items, but eventually we found the cache.

Our long downhill awaited, punctuated by many caches in very quick succession. These were all marked as ‘letter box’ caches and each contained a stamp and some ink as well as a log book. Most were relatively small in size, but all were part of a ‘Sealed with a Loving Kiss’ series. Each of the caches was named after a stamp from around the world. We found caches named after an 1852 25 centime Blue, Louis Napoleon from France, an 1871 Telegraph stamp from Brazil, a 1913 Albanian stamp and many more. It would fun to Google these stamps and see the differences across the world (but with over 150 caches in the full series, this could take some time!). We found 15 ‘stamp caches’ during the day so there are many more for us to find. (It should have been 16 but one of the stiles, used as a hiding place for one of the caches, was being used for a rambler’s lunch, so we didn’t even try finding the cache!)

A Rocket Stamp

We paused ourselves for lunch next to a cache. As we ate, a group of Duke of Edinburgh teenagers stopped. Paused for a drink and walked on. We chatted with them, they were aiming for Cissbury Ring (an ancient Iron Age hill-fort a few miles away). We wished them well…little did we know our paths would touch again later…

Duke of Edinburgh Group heading to Cissbury Ring
(we have deliberately blanked a face).

One of the few other non-stamp caches we found was another ‘Trig Series’ multi. Here, the Trig Point was no longer accessible to read the ‘base plate’ so the cache owner provided the final co-ordinates without us having to do any arithmetical calculations. The final cache was adjacent to a farmer’s field, where the farming team were busy penning, and sorting, sheep. It was a little distance from the South Downs Way and as we turned away a small animal – we guess a stoat – ran across our path. We were grateful of the diversion, as another stamp cache awaited us at a busy memorial ‘bench’ which we passed by, but minutes later as we returned, was free for us to pause for a welcome drink.

Memorial to Walter and Mollie Langmead

The next mile or so of our walk skirted around Steyning Bowl, a dry chalk bowl presumably gouged by the last Ice Age.

Looking across Steyning Bowl…

… and the top of the bowl in the other direction

Part way along, we had an Earthcache to answer. Unusually the questions were not geared around the geology of the area, but of the agriculture (or lack of!), and industry. Besides the agriculture of crop growing, we were yards away from a large, noisy pig farm. Sty upon sty, sow upon sow, piglet upon piglet. Some running around, most lying down, resting. Never have we seen so many pigs!

We descended further until the track gave way to a tarmac road, and here we spotted several sheets of paper lying by the roadside. We picked them up, as they looked important. They were. Described over a number of sheets of paper was a Duke of Edinburgh expedition from Botolphs to Cissbury Ring. It belonged to the DoE party we saw earlier!

There was a contact number on the sheets, which we phoned. The organisers said that the group had just finished and admitted to their crime (!) and asked us to shred the sheets, which we did.

Peaceful River Adur

Our final mile was walking along the River Adur, and here we found our last ‘stamp’ cache, and a tiny nano hidden around the Adur footbridge.

A great 7 mile walk – with loads of caches, lots of myths, legends and… pigs! Oink ! Oink ! Oink !

May 18: 7 Deadly Ducks Tag – LUST

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

7 Deadly Ducks Tag - LUST

7 Deadly Ducks Tag – LUST

Back in the summer of 2016, Geocaching HQ in Seattle ran a trackable race called the HQ Duck Dash. For this, duck shaped trackables (and others) needed to travel as far as possible within a month, between July 20th and August 20th 2016. This one took part, then carried on afterwards.

This one, Lust, took part in the race, with the official goal:
Official goal: to be found and moved to another location.

But it has continued since, with another goal:
Unofficial sub-goal: to be photographed with other ducks.

Starting in Nebraska, it journeyed around the USA for a while, but had reached Iceland a year later. Then it moved to Germany, where it spent some while, had a brief holiday in Egypt, returned to Germany, and was dropped off in Krakow, Poland, in late 2018. It was collected from there and taken to England in early 2019. Since then, it has journeyed around the southern and eastern part of England, never (yet) going north of Birmingham or west of Southampton. We found it high on the ridge of the South Downs in Sussex, just east of Amberley.

We’ll take the duck further on its travels, and we have something duck-themed in mind that will suit it perfectly! More of that in a future post …

May 18 : South Downs Way : Amberley to Washington

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

On the second day of our 4-day walking mini-break, we planned to walk from Amberley, the halfway point of the South Downs Way, eastwards to Washington. We were staying just a few miles away at HF Holidays in Abingworth, so we set off from Amberley nice and early, complete with ready-prepared picnic lunch.

Amberley museum http://www.amberleymuseum.co.uk/ was not yet open for the day, but a World War II weekend was about to start and the extras were arriving, in costume – among others, we saw a charlady, a man with a gasmask, and a suspicious-looking cove wearing a fez.

Amberley museum - setting up for World War II weekend

Amberley museum – setting up for World War II weekend

Leaving the village behind us, we started up a steep lane, High Titten (good name for a street!), being overtaken by several groups of South Downs Way walkers, leaving their overnight stops in the village, but we let them go, so we could stop for the first cache of the day. This was the aptly named ‘Museum View’, where there is just a glimpse down into the museum; there would be a better view in winter, when the trees are leafless, and not much view at all in high summer.

Up and up we went, from pretty much sea level at Amberley to pretty much 200m on the top of the ridge. One especially steep section is known locally as “Cardiac Hill” ! At the top, we paused on the top of one of the many earthworks that cross the downs, turned about, and took in the expansive view that had opened behind us, stretching back to a misty view of Bignor Hill in the distance. We could just hear air raid sirens being sounded at the museum, and, soon after, a World War II aircraft flew low over the ridge, waggling its wings.
Cardiac Hill

Cardiac Hill

... and a nifty geocache hide

… and a nifty geocache hide

We found another two caches, one artfully hidden in a signpost, another well hidden in some woods. At Kithurst Hill, and took a short diversion south from the South Downs Way. We were (of course) looking for a cache, but this particular one is hidden in a most unusual place – a World War II Churchill tank https://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/south-downs-way/attractions/wwii-churchill-mk11-tank Well, we arrived, searched everywhere, searched again, got dispirited, sat on the tank to eat our nice picnic lunch, and finally, finally, found the cache in a last, despairing search before giving up.
Kithurst Hill - Churchill tank

Kithurst Hill – Churchill tank

Back on the South Downs Way, we reached a dried up dewpond, and then the Chantry Post, which was shiny and new back in 2011, when we first walked the South Downs Way. Time and weather have not been kind to it and it’s looking rather gnarled now.
Not so dewy dewpond

Not so dewy dewpond

Chantry Post

Chantry Post

We began the long downhill to Washington and the A29 crossing. The South Downs Way splits here: there’s a shorter footpath which crosses the dual carriageway, and there’s a longer bridleway which crosses the A29 on a bridge. We’d tried the bridleway before, and it is fine, but this time we thought we would simply cross the road, as it’s about a mile shorter. Mmm, possibly not a great choice: the A29 is a dual carriageway with not much visibility in either direction. We chose a moment, and crossed: a yellow Ferrari appeared, at speed, just missed us, and continued, still accelerating.

Returning to the geocar in the nearby walker’s car park, most of the other spaces were filled by cars from an organised ramble which had just finished. The walkers were helping themselves to tea and coffee in yellow mugs, served from an urn on a portable table. Crikey, they’re very well organised round here!

St Mary's church, Washington

St Mary’s church, Washington

We set off to collect our other geocar, driving down the route of the old A29 into Washington, and stopping to look for the Church Micro based on Washington Church on our way. We parked neatly in a line with other cars at the church, only to be firmly told off by a local resident for not parking diagonally in the fairly wide lane (everyone does, you know). We didn’t know, and no-one else had parked that way. Oh well … not such a good end to the day … but not to worry, we went on to find the cache regardless.

Here are some of the caches we found:

May17 : Trackable – GTR1400 1

During our walk from Bignor to Amberley we found a trackable at the bridge cache over the River Arun.

Curiously named GTR1400 1, it comprises the geotag (the unique reference number) with the Belgian flag. The main item, connected by a small leather strap, is an ‘E’ with Mickey Mouse running through it. Indeed the copyright ‘Disney’ is in the reverse of the E.

In it is unclear why the trackable is called ‘GTR1400 1’ and how it connects to Mickey Mouse. If you know any reason do let us know!

The trackable, has a goal (written in French) – to travel and discover the world with photos.

We are not sure our little jaunt along the South Downs Way is ‘the world’ but it is scenic.

The trackable, released in November 2017 has only travelled 1500 miles. Principally in Belgium but a couple of forays into France and Holland before arriving in the UK April 2018. It has visited Rye in East Sussex and much of Southern England including Cornwall. The furthest North is has been in the UK is Birmingham.

So the objective of ‘travelling the world’ has hardly been met, yet, so maybe the next cacher will take it to a new country! Or is that a Mickey Mouse idea ?

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 :

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 http://tedsatheathend.com/ 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 https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/slindon-estate, 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 https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/114558898/posts/4783 )

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: