18. Mar, 2022

Darwin’s Down In Downe

Today I have decided to visit the more rural parts of Greater London to boost my numbers in them thar parts. My main goal was the village of Downe where Charles Darwin lived out the last forty years of his life. There was also a good looking series set by SkiCycle around the nearby High Elms Country Park. I was looking forward to a wide range of caches so here’s how it went.

Up nice and early to miss the traffic and was parking up in the empty High Elms car park just after six. I was juggling three caches immediately as there was the 01 Hew multi, the 02 HEW EC and the start of the High Elms AdLab series to organise. I was gathering bits of information in a short area but found the multi at 0637 and had the start of the EC and the AdLabs. I would be gathering the rest of the info as I traversed the series.

I picked up 03, a trad and then the Letterbox 04 Uphill. I carried on past 05, another trad but then deviated off route to visit the Dene Hole which was a part of the AdLab series. It wasn’t essential to visit the actual Dene Hole but I had heard about the Dene Holes near Grays for many years which are inaccessible to the public so I had to visit this one. These very deep holes were mined during the prehistoric ages.

Having peered down the hole which is now a sanctuary for rare bats, I made my way back to the series route and collected trads up to 09. I deviated again to look for Who’s Afraid of The Bogey Man! a very isolated trad. I also grabbed a TB that have been languishing here for over a year.🥴

I found another trad at 10 and between finding the 11 multi, collected a lot of data on chalk for the Earthcache. I struggled at 12 and eventually gave up on the trad, continuing along the ridge towards Farnborough. The multi at 13 Under the bar was quickly found and I had to drop down into the valley. I had found 14, a clever Wherigo a couple of years ago so I headed for 15.

On checking the map, I was surprised to see that Dark Side Of The Moon, a trad that I didn’t know existed that been re-enabled by SkiCycle the previous day. After a search, I was able to sign the virgin log sheet.

Adjacent to 15 was another part of the 02 HEW Chalk EC and this one was also about, guess what. At least there was a wide seam of the white stuff to form an opinion about. 🤔 I carried on down into the valley until I hit Shire Lane and quickly found the 16 trad, the info for the 17 Letterbox, carrying on along the bridle path adjacent to the lane. I added the Letterbox and then the 18 mystery to the list before ending up at the end of the series, the 19 trad.😀

I just had to cross the road to be back in the Country Park so I set off for the Green Roof cafe to give it a try. I was now ten to ten so time for brunch. I made short work of the Old English sausage  sarnie on granary and they also had English mustard 👏which is always sadly missing from the High Street chains.☹️ Would you like red or brown sauce, sir? No I want English mustard!!

I had only completed four stages in the AdLab series as the last one was a car drive away on High Elms common. I reached a parking spot adjacent to the last stage and quickly added that one to the list. I had enough to get the coords for the bonus but unfortunately I couldn’t find the cache so had to move on.

It was time to get on down to Downe. I parked up next to the village sign and quickly found the VS mystery which I had solved previously. I only had to cross the road to find the well hidden CM.. Downe ~ St Mary’s trad and then walked a couple of hundred yards down the road to collect the CM - Baptist multI. I was going to leave the visit to Downe House, Darwin’s gaff until later on so I headed south.

I parked up in the carpark of the Old Jail pub in Jail Lane as I was going to have a try at a circular series of trads set up by The Biggin Hill Flyers called Doris’s M.O.C. ie Motley Old Crew. I remember going to see Cheap Trick play in Shepherds Bush some years ago. They were brilliant but they were on first as Motley Crue were the headline act. Motley Crue just about summed them up. We gave them one number and left with our ears ringing like cathedral bells. We went over the road to a pub and watched Barry McGuigan beat Pedro Mendoza for the world featherweight title, that’s how long ago it was.🥴

I walked down and joined the Doris’s series of trads at 05 - SELBAC JJB. I checked the time and it was 1134. I walked south through the Cherry Lodge GC picking up caches until I got to 10. I was hoping to pick off a high D/T but it turned out to be a long term MIA. I carried on to 14 but this was another climber with mixed finds and DNFs. I couldn’t see it from the ground and my rule is - “if I can’t see it, I ain’t climbing.”😢

I didn’t realise that 15 was a Letterbox which a welcome change but I carried on along the tracks until I reached the Main Road and 23 the end of the series. However I still had a few to go and I set to the logical start of the series, 01 SkiCycle. I headed north, picking the remainder until I reached the 04 at 1354 but I had to end on a sad note as the cache was missing.🙁

Back at the car, I resisted going to Jail and headed back up to Downe where I parked where I had before. I had noted that there was nowhere to park between the village and Downe House so I walked back down the lane to start the Charles Darwin’s Downe AdLab series. I found the first stage and crossed the road to see if I could find the 4/2 Monster’s Mouth trad. It had been missing recently but I didn’t have better luck.🥴

I entered the gardens of Downe House and found one more of the AdLab series before having a look at the Darwin’s Wormstone EC. Evidently Darwin studied earthworms for over thirty years which would seem to be a monumental waste of time. However it turned out to be a very worthy study . I am reminded of Lord Katsumoto In The Last Samurai talking about his cherry tree garden saying that - “the perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.”

I set off to walk back to Downe for more of the AdLab series. There were no pavements and as I walked along the road, I could see a car slowing down and the driver winding the window down. I thought that if they want directions, they are out of luck. However it was Richard aka SkiCycle.😀 He drove into the car park and I followed for a chat. He knew that I was in the area as I had done his HEW series this morning.

He had come down to Downe to look for the AdLab Bonus but we chatted about my morning’s adventures. He gave me a further hint on the High Elms AdLab bonus which was handy. After a little while we parted and set off in different directions. I found two more bases in the AdLab series but decided to leave the final part until next week as I had run out of time.

3 Letterbox 3 Mystery 4 Multi 8 AdLab 31 Traditional