August 12 : Petersfield Plod

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

It was the weekend after the UK Geocaching Mega, and it all seemed a bit flat after the hustle and bustle of Devon. But it would be good to go out and actually search for a cache, instead of being handed the cache container by the previous cacher in the queue! We settled on the Petersfield Plod series, which starts at the south east of the town, then circles clockwise up onto the South Downs Way and back down to the starting point. There are 37 caches in the series, plus a few others along the same route. We decided to do every other cache, to give us a chance to do the rest of the series another time, maybe going around in the opposite direction.

Heath Pond, Petersfield

Heath Pond, Petersfield


We set off from a free car park close to Heath Lake, on Petersfield Common. Finding our first cache, we reached the edge of the common, crossed the road, and set off into farmland. And the stiles started … there were lots of them, some were surrounded by nettles, some were quite tall (and I am NOT tall) and, worst, one crossed an electric fence, with an unprotected strand of barbed wire as the top rail. Oh dear! Mr Hg137 did some careful balancing, and I carefully deployed my geohat as protection.
Watch out for barbed wire!

Watch out for barbed wire!


On we went, across a mixture of fields and very narrow lanes, the sort with moss growing down the centre. We dodged nettles, hunted in trees and behind posts, collected caches, and dropped off the ‘What is the City’ trackable we had picked up the week before.
Setting a trackable free

Setting a trackable free


Suddenly it all got very busy. We were stood, signing a cache log, at the side of a country lane. We looked up. A pony and trap were approaching. We waved, and they waved back. We were about to step out into the road, and thought better of it. A peloton of about twenty cyclists was zooming up, faster than the horse ahead. We waited, and they all passed. We stepped out into the road, and set off towards the South Downs. A huge tractor came into view, travelling at speed and entirely filling the lane. We thought for about one second, then climbed the bank at the roadside to let it rush by. Busy around here!
Watch out for horses!   And cyclists!

Watch out for horses! And cyclists!


Watch out for tractors!

Watch out for tractors!


Crossing a more major road, we set off uphill along another narrow lane leading to the South Downs Way. Part way up the hill was a cache hidden up a tree. Mr Hg137 started upwards, but time passed with him some way up the tree, and with me spotting from the ground, but neither of us could see our target and eventually we gave up. (That was a shame, caches up trees are especially satisfying.)
Couldn't find the cache in here ...

Couldn’t find the cache in here …

We walked up the lane. Large tractors and trailers were still rushing past, hauling grain, for it was a sunny day in the middle of harvest time. Nearly at the top of the hill, we needed to step smartly off the road again, as the combine harvester came down the hill, having finished one field and heading for the next.
Watch out for combine harvesters!

Watch out for combine harvesters!


Eventually we reached the crest of the hill and the South Downs Way. We walked this back in 2011, in the other direction, but neither of us could remember this section very well. Having paused to chat to an ultrarunner, out training, we found another few caches, hidden in the hedgerow, while yet more cyclists sped by oblivious to us.
South Downs Way

South Downs Way


We walked along the SDW for only a mile or so, passing the spot which is the county boundary between Hampshire and West Sussex, which is where the SDW originally finished before it was extended to Winchester a few years later.
County boundary - Hampshire/West Sussex

County boundary – Hampshire/West Sussex


And then we turned away northwards, steeply downhill along a lane, then across more fields towards Buriton village. More caches nestled behind nettles, another was buried under a bridge, and others were hidden in hedgerows. Reaching cache 30 in the series, we were concealed in the foliage, signing the log, when a voice from outside said “Is this number 30?” Nice to meet you, DJ_23! We’ll add you to our ever-lengthening list of cachers met while out in the field.
Found it!

Found it!


We were returning to our start point now, and it was late afternoon. A few caches further on was one which had lots of ‘favourite’ point from other cachers, and included the following instructions:
Note: to retrieve the cache you will need a special tool. This can be made from a length of string or thread about a metre in length with a piece of ferrous metal attached to the end of it. A newi-sh bronze coin would do for this (attached with blutak) or a steel screw (or nail). Check to see that it is attracted by a fridge magnet. Alternatively you could use a gadget often sold in budget shops which is invaluable for picking up certain items from the floor for those with limited mobility. Please return the cache carefully (“sticky” end up) once you have signed the log.

We had dutifully carried a piece of string and a nail around with us all day, and now it was time for some ‘fishing’. We were soon successful (we both tried it), and another cache joined our tally.

And then we had one final cache to find, and with a short walk along by the side of Heath Pond we were back at the geocar, having found nineteen of the twenty-one caches we had attempted, and collected clues for a bonus cache to be found another time, after a great walk and caching series on a lovely August day.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the many caches we found:

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September 3: South Downs: The Seven Sisters

Our final full day’s walking in the South Downs was over the Seven Sisters.

These are medium-sized hills/cliffs overlooking the sea between Eastbourne and the Cuckmere Estuary of predominantly grass and chalk. The iconic view of them is from the sea, but of course when you are on top of them you don’t get this view!

Our walk started in the tiny village of Friston, by its church and pond. The church is unusual as it has a Tapsell Gate – this type of gate swivels on a central spindle (rather than a fixed post to the side) – enabling easier access for bridal and funeral processions.

Friston Church

Friston Church

The pond, too, is unusual as it listed as an Historic Monument. To our eyes, it looked no different from any other village pond !

Friston Pond - An Ancient Monument

Friston Pond – An Ancient Monument

From the church we headed southwards to reach the top of the first of the Seven Sisters. Depending on which map you read the either the tops or  bottoms are named ranging from tops of Went Hill Brow and Baily’s Hill to bottoms of Short Bottom and Limekiln Bottom.

We had hopes of finding a couple of caches after the church, but our footpath went no closer than a quarter of a mile from a cache.. a bit to far to ‘cache and dash’ while out with a walking party!

The Seven Sisters are devoid of caches – predominantly because there is nowhere to hide a container. Just one field boundary, no trees, and very few scrubby bushes. The rest is well-clipped grass ! This meant we had a few cacheless miles and a lot of up and down! In fact, we had 8 ups and downs! This is because there are actually 8 sisters! Originally there were 7, but since they were named, erosion has taken place and an eighth is now as visible as the rest!

No where to hide a cache here!

No where to hide a cache here!

The Seven Sisters is part of the South Downs Way, and we fully expected to continue along the South Downs Way to our destination, Exceat. However our route took us gently down from the last top, to the Cuckmere Estuary. Here we admired the brackish water – where fresh and sea water combine – and the plants that survive there. Our nature investigations were marred by a large school trip excitedly passing by and the high jinks that happens on geography field trips!

Estuary Plants

Estuary Plants

Estuary Plants

Estuary Plants

The Cuckmere estuary has two parts. The first, a beautiful, slow-moving, meandering river, and a much faster straighter man-made channel. Both are retained, at the moment, by concrete/shingle flood defences. However with rising sea levels, these defences will soon be breached, and the decision has been made NOT to reinforce them. Thus, at some time in the future, the beautiful meanders will be lost forever.

Cuckmere Estuary

Cuckmere Estuary

The chalk cliffs form a great barrier for sea-invaders; the only weakness being the break in the chalk at the Cuckmere Estuary. For this reason, many fortifications were built in the estuary during WWII to provide some defence against an invasion.
The first object we came across was a ‘tank trap’ – whose fierce concrete teeth may well have slowed up a tank. It slowed us up, as we found a cache under one of the teeth!

Tank Trap / Dragon's Teeth (cache site!)

Tank Trap / Dragon’s Teeth (cache site!)

The second fortification we saw was a type 25 pillbox hidden behind some trees. There was a cache here too, but a very quick investigation yielded nothing apart from a bed of stinging nettles. However we were within half a mile of the walk’s conclusion, so while the rest of our party partook of the local tea shop and South Downs Museum, we walked back for a further investigation. This time after a little bit of a search we found the cache and more importantly did so without being stung!

Pill box.. but where's the cache ?

Pill box.. but where’s the cache ?

Our last cache was in a telephone box in Exceat.

We’ve had trouble finding caches in phone boxes before, but this time the useful hint meant we found it within seconds of squeezing into it.

One of the three caches we found

One of the three caches we found

This was the end of our 3 day walking holiday with http://www.hfholidays.co.uk, and with a bit of preparation, a bit of luck we were able to cache while being led round one of England’s more beautiful counties. Our cache per day ratio was small, but still very rewarding.

September 2: South Downs: Goodwood, the Trundle, and West Dean

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

West Dean Gardens

West Dean Gardens


On the second walking day of our mini-break in the South Downs National Park in Sussex, we were heading west, to the Trundle, for glorious views (we hoped) over Chichester and the Isle of Wight, then downhill to West Dean with maybe time for a look round the gardens there. And possibly a few caches too, after lunch. We were with a party of muggles, but had said to the walk leader – Lonica Vanclay (now, there’s an unusual name!) (she’s originally from Australia but came here, and stayed, some while since) – that we would not hold up the rest of the party with our caching efforts; and we did not.
A lovely spot for a picnic lunch

A lovely spot for a picnic lunch


We started with a walk across fields, woods and rolling hills to Singleton, where we stopped for a picnic lunch at the nicely appointed, well-kept village cricket ground (lots of seats / tables!) About this time Mr Hg137 started to explain the rules of cricket to a German lady in the party; he wasn’t too successful; I think he cut straight to the more esoteric points of field placement before explaining the basics …
Singleton

Singleton


(Editor’s note: apart from the pretty village, Singleton is also the home of the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum http://www.wealddown.co.uk – we’ve visited and it’s a fascinating place – many parts of it have appeared on film/TV and are very recognisable.)
Singleton Church

Singleton Church


Walking through the village, we passed by the Anglo-Saxon church, pausing for a moment, though not quite long enough to try for the Church Micro here (another time …). Then we were out in the country again and climbing steeply upwards, through fields of maize and sunflowers and up towards the grassy top of the ridge.
Goodwood racecourse

Goodwood racecourse


The Trundle is an ancient hillfort atop the ridge, with panoramic views over Chichester and its cathedral, and further to the sea and to the distant Isle of Wight. While we gazed, a single Spitfire climbed away from the airfield at Goodwood and sped away to the east (the shape and the sound were the giveaway). Much closer was Goodwood racecourse, looking clean and neat after the race meeting over the Bank Holiday. Here, too, our caching for the day started: a virtual cache, Trundle One (West Sussex), a very old cache, placed in 2002.
View from the Trundle

View from the Trundle


After a final look round over those expansive views, we turned away downhill, joining the Monarch’s Way to walk down into West Dean. This long distance path https://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Monarch%27s+Way is said to follow the escape route of Charles II after his defeat by Cromwell in the Civil War. Along this part of the cache is the geocache series ‘7 Points Ramble – Welcome to Westside’. We reckoned that we could get at least some of these caches as we walked downhill with our walking group. And so it was, though it was quite hard work (for us) at times, especially as the pace was increasing so that we would get to the gardens with some time to spare. As the group walked down the hill, we yomped along, pausing to collect a cache wherever possible, before rushing on to overtake some of the group and then to repeat the process (wow! Speed caching!). If we were falling behind the group we simply omitted the next cache and rushed on, and we eventually got 4 out of the 6 caches we passed. At one point we joined the walk leader, and most of the group, then dived into the undergrowth to retrieve a cache. We were asked ‘how do you know it’s there? I’ve wondered how you know?’, and we replied, after catching our breath, that the GPS coordinates were right, the location matched a hint, that there was a large and incongruous chunk of flint covering the cache, and you just sort of get an instinct as to where caches might be!
West Dean gardens

West Dean gardens


Once out on the road through the village, the caching was over, and we followed the road to West Dean Gardens (https://www.westdean.org.uk/gardens ), and spent a pleasant hour there before catching the coach back to our hotel. (OK, I’m lying slightly there – we spent another high-octane hour trying to see as much of the gardens as humanly possible in the time … )
West Dean gardens - again

West Dean gardens – again


Phew! Caching and garden visits at speed – ‘trundling’ we were not !!!

Here are some of the caches we found:
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September 1 : South Downs : Ditchling

As we mentioned on a previous post, we were having a mini-break holiday in the South Downs National Park (Sussex). We were staying with the walking holiday group http://www.hfholidays.co.uk.
Each day there were three guided walks to choose from, each with different lengths and difficulty.

On each day we opted for the easiest walk, for three main reasons.
The first was that Mr Hg137’s healed-but-not-quite-fully-recovered-broken-arm meant he occasionally struggled with a haversack.
Secondly Mr Hg137 visits local groups talking about the South Downs Way (SDW) , and he would learn more about the SDW on the easiest walks rather than the hardest walks.
Thirdly the pace would be slower enabling a few ‘cache and dashes’ !

Caching when in a muggle-walking party is difficult, so we agreed that we would not attempt multis unless there was a lot of time available, and also if the cache wasn’t in the first place we looked, we would pass it over. (Just finding a cache takes time : for example remove hiding camouflage, open container, remove log, find end of log, sign log, re-roll log, place back into container, re-hide).

The first walk started at the village of Clayton at the Northern foot of the South Downs. There are a couple of caches in Clayton – including a Church micro multi – which we didn’t have time to attempt.

Clayton Church

Clayton Church


Inside the church were fabulous wall paintings – the photo doesn’t really do it justice!

Wall paintings inside Clayton Church

Wall paintings inside Clayton Church

Our first real attempt at a cache ‘on the move’ was after the ascent onto the South Downs Way. At the top were the famous pair of windmills, Jack and Jill. Sadly for us, BOTH were undergoing sail renovation and both buildings looked like were triangular domes. Our first cache should have been alongside the SDW next to the windmills. We arrived at a post, overturned the likely stone and …. nothing there ! No time to search the immediate neighbourhood so we moved on! Not a great start!

Windmill under repair!

Windmill under repair!


Fortunately for us, another cache was within a short walk. Entitled ‘Windmill View’ – we should have been able to see Jack and Jill, but because they had no sails, we couldn’t see either! Anyway this was a quick find for which we were grateful.

The South Downs ridge has splendid views and we enjoyed these for the next mile or so. Our next likely cache was at a ‘dew-pond’ and after some mild arm-twisting we were able to convince the leader to have lunch at the pond. This gave us a few extra minutes to find the cache! An easy find with a dew-pond full of wildlife.

South Downs, dew-pond

Here’s the dew-pond, but where’s the cache?


Dew-ponds are a South Downs characteristic. The Downs are predominantly chalk, a very porous material, which means there are no natural lakes. Centuries ago, when shepherds kept sheep high on the hills, they needed water (for themselves and the sheep). Enterprising shepherds would excavate large depressions in the chalk and then fill the base of each depression with clay from the Weald below. The ponds would then hold water whenever it rained, enabling the shepherds to maintain their existence on the hill-tops. The Victorians labelled these water features as ‘dew-ponds’ as they believed they were filled by the overnight dew!

Our walk continued along the ridge, passing the trig point of Ditchling Beacon. (The third highest hill on the South Downs, and the equal highest on the South Downs Way long-distance path). Shortly we descended to the village of Ditchling to finish the walk.

South downs, Weald

Hill-top view of the Weald below


We had 30-45 minutes in Ditchling before our return coach journey which gave us time to attempt a multi based on its ‘Fine Pair’ of red letter box and red post box.
Ditchling's Fine Pair

Ditchling’s Fine Pair

We quickly worked out the final co-ordinates and discovered… it was at the coach pick-up point! Result! An easy win to end a great day’s walking.

August 31 – Farmtagz

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

While we were walking around the Pulborough Brooks Nature Reserve we found 2 trackables.

Farmtagz Moo Moo Merry Christmas

Farmtagz
Moo Moo Merry Christmas


The second, much smaller and lighter, is FarmtagZ. He/she is a cow – named Moo Moo Merry Christmas. I’m guessing this is because she/he was released on 31st December 2012. And that’s a special geocaching day for us because that’s the day we signed up as premium (aka paying) members of the geocaching community; up till then we had been (non-paying) members, but the geocaching bug had started to bite and I bought Mr Hg137 a present of a year’s premium membership as a Christmas present. And we thought it was worthwhile, and have renewed it ever since, as there is access to lots of extra information – and it saves us carrying around pesky bits of paper with assorted information on it – though, on second thoughts, we still do, but these days it’s likely to be a map of our planned route than scribbled list of cache hints.

Back to the trackable. It’s travelled just over 3000 miles so far, all in the British Isles, and wants to travel from field to field. That’s definitely been achieved, judging by the many photos on the trackable’s page on http://www.geocaching.com

One thing we’ve noticed, though, is that the little cow is just a smidge too big to fit into many caches – there’s a hoof stuck out, or a tail that won’t fit, etc. Since our first attempts at moving the small cow to a new field, we haven’t found a cache big enough to fit. But we will keep trying!

August 31 – Arizona Geocoin

While we were walking around the Pulborough Brooks Nature Reserve we found 2 trackables.

The first, a weighty coin, is the Arizona Geocoin.

Trackable

Arizona Coin Front

Trackable

Arizona Coin Back

What is surprising is that, given its name, the Geocoin started its journey in Europe and has never been to America! It has though been to Luxenbourg, Germany, Finland – but most of its journey has been in the UK.
The mission of the coin, is to visit places with RED, BLUE or YELLOW (the colours – or should that be colors? – of the Arizona Flag). We will endeavour to meet this criteria, but given our 2015 project of walking the Thames Path, we may put in a cache on route. (Tenuously, rivers are blue on maps).

August 31 : South Downs: Wiggonholt and Pulborough Brooks

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

We were off to the glorious South Downs for a few day’s walking, starting on a Bank Holiday … needless to say it was a cool, dark grey day, and raining hard. Our plan was to get to within a mile or two of our hotel in good time, and then fit in a little light geocaching. Mr Hg137 spotted a geocache series replete with favourite points, so that seemed a good place to choose.

Wiggonholt Church

Wiggonholt Church

But first … a Church Micro, at Wiggonholt, a tiny hamlet with a tiny church ( http://sussexchurchez.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/wiggonholt.html ). We parked right next to the sign which furnished the answers to the clues leading to the final location, and then ate our picnic in the nice dry geocar while doing the sums. We finished our lunch as the rain eased to a drizzle, and walked a short way along a grassy path through fields to find the final cache under an oak tree, and dropped off the geocoin that we found a few days earlier. Before leaving, we had a look inside the church, which is very simple and plain; it has two services per month, when it is lit by candles and oil lamps. (I really like tiny, ancient churches, though I’m not especially religious, they just seem to ooze age and calmness. There are similar ones, also with Church Micro, at Inglesham on the Thames Path, which we visited in the spring.)

Pulborough Brooks - heath

Pulborough Brooks – heath

Pulborough Brooks - heather

Pulborough Brooks – heather

The cache series we tackled next was at the next-door RSPB Pulborough Brooks reserve ( http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/reserves/guide/p/pulboroughbrooks/ ). The website says that all the following can be seen, and we saw some but not all: adders / archaeology / bluebells / butterflies / cattle / deer / ditches / dragonflies / ducks / flooding / heathland / lakes / meadows / nightingales / peregrines / pond / river / wetland / woodland / woodpeckers. There are seven caches in the series spread around a circuit of the heathland and woods around the reserve. The caches are each named, appropriately, after a bird – Lapwing, Buzzard, etc – and there is a variety of containers, from the frequently seen cylindrical screw-top containers and clip-lock boxes to a variety of creatures (yes, creatures), so all those favourite points awarded for this series are well justified. And, to top off the visit, there’s an additional challenge cache to be found near the entrance to the reserve. All in all, these nine caches made for an excellent, if damp, couple of hours caching, a good start to a short holiday.

Here are some of the caches we found:
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