Beacon Alley and Big Billy

The 5th May blog by SandhurstGeocachers who are local to us on the mainland, mentioned that they had spotted our logs on some of the Roke Mead series on the Isle of Wight.  They were also kind enough to let us have the information required to complete the bonus cache on this series as we had failed to obtain it when we started Roke Mead at the very beginning of our Geocaching career, and didn’t really know what we should have been collecting.

We can now say that we have turned the tables on them as we spotted their moniker on a few logs on our recent foray to the Island, which included some caches set by pilot03 from Beacon Alley to Bleakdown, back by Bagwich Lane, with views towards Godshill Church, Appuldurcombe and Stenbury Downs. On a clear day, the white Culver cliff near Bembridge and even the Sea Mark monument on Ashey Down are visible.  It was now our turn to follow them around.

One day I might meet a couple on the Isle of Wight and ask whether they are Mr. and Mrs. Hg137 – if not, I will probably get some very strange looks!

We started our day’s caching at the tiny crossroads at the bottom of Beacon Alley where there was just enough room to park our car off road.   Beacon Alley is a favourite road of many as it is very narrow and picturesque; the sort of road you really hope that you don’t meet anything coming in the opposite direction.  The crossroads are also rather special;  just four tiny roads leading off to some distant village or other with green fields, hedgerows and ploughed furrows as far as the eye can see.  Just the sort of place we like. We found the first cache quickly and easily, aptly named Beacon Alley and promptly set off to find 360°.  After walking up a very tiny quiet road we turned right on to  a narrow, twisting, slightly busy one which had no verge but thankfully a hidden stile soon came in sight and we were able to walk along the edge of a field thus avoiding being squashed by the oncoming cars which seemed to come at us at an astounding speed considering it was such a narrow lane.

There were two things that amazed us about cache 360°;  firstly the views which truly are 360° but secondly, as we approached GZ we were nearly knocked over by the most enormous bird of prey; we even felt the downdraft as he soared up, up and away.   We had walked up the side of a field, turned a very slight corner and as we saw where the cache probably was hidden, we noticed a fully grown rabbit  laying by the post of the gate.  Apparently lunch had just been served up but no wonder the bird was annoyed, he hadn’t yet tasted a morsel.   Because of our very bad route planning for the day, we passed by the same spot two more times and each time disturbed the bird who was trying to eat his meal.  He had moved the rabbit only about four or five feet away from the gate into some long grass and each time we approached he soared away, circling some trees in the distance; no doubt muttering to himself about bloody people disturbing his meal.

Our first job on returning home was to dig out the two bird books we had to try and identify the magnificent creature but even with these, we couldn’t confirm 100% what we had seen.  We thought that his/her wingspan was at least 24″ – we were extremely close to him the first time and both Cockrobbinn and I had judged him the same size;  distinctive ‘V’ shape to the wings and the breast was shades of brown.  He looked similar to a Marsh Harrier and one had been sighted at Bembridge recently (Google is an awesome tool) and as the crow (!) flies, that was only a few miles away.  He definitely wasn’t a buzzard or kestrel;  he also seemed similar to a Red Kite and again one had recently been spotted on the Island.  I just wished my knowledge of birds was better but it was a beautiful experience seeing one so close up.  The last time we passed the spot, we tried to get the better of him and sat down behind a hedge and hoped he might return for his fill, but he just lazily circled overhead a few times and had more patience than us.

Marsh Harrier

Marsh Harrier

Red Kite

Red Kite








As you can see from the pictures (not mine regrettably) these birds are very similar and Cockrobbinn and I are convinced it was one of these we saw.   Feel so privileged to have seen the bird (three times) in its natural habitat and in action.

Back to the geocache though!   Trying to ignore Big Billy circling overhead we tracked down 360° and quickly signed the log.  It was almost a comedown though, but without this cache we would never have seen the amazing views and Big Billy could have enjoyed his lunch in peace.


One of the views from 360°

My Green Valley was next on our list and to reach this cache all we had to do was cross over the road; walk a very short way along the edge to reach the opening in the hedge which led to the Worsley Trail.  This trail is fifteen miles long and runs from Brightstone Down through Godshill to Shanklin but we only had to walk along a very small part of it but the views were tremendous.  We found the cache exactly where the GPS put us and sat down to enjoy the tranquility.  We were sitting on the edge of an enormous field of corn (?) which backed on to yet another field of corn and the fields around just seemed to go on, and on, and on with a tiny miniature farmhouse in the distance.    I almost wanted to see smoke curling out of the chimney.  Absolute bliss.


Corn, wheat or barley ?

My knowledge of agricultural crops is so dire that I will definitely have to look out for a small reference book to carry in the Geobag.

zigNext cache Xylo-Zag was further along the Worsley Trail and as we neared GZ it soon became obvious that it was probably hiding in an extremely strangely shaped tree; and we weren’t wrong.   At one meter sixty five high we needed to unscrew it in situ, sign the log and carefully replace the cache where it was balanced.  A very good hiding place.  So far,  four finds and we hadn’t seen a soul except for Big Billy.

This is where our organizational skills came amiss as we probably could have sorted the caches in better order.  We backtracked to 360° disturbing Big Billy again and this time rather than turning left at the gate, we carried on through to find On The Way to Bleakdown.  It was a glorious walk down a steep grassy meadow with the footpath just visible among all the spring flowers; through another field avoiding the cow pats (thankfully no cows) until we found the entrance to the field and the cache hidden by the post.

Again we had to backtrack and it appears that we had walked passed Spring Moon without even realizing it.  I blame Big Billy taking up all our attention !!   This time the cache was hidden in a row of enormous trees; the sort of trees that have roots creeping along everywhere and the hint was ‘Eastern Root’.  There were so many roots, and our GPS was jumping about everywhere that it took us ages to find the cache but eventually we did and gratefully signed the log.

Now to head back to the car which meant passing 360° yet again.  We crept up the steep meadow and sure enough Big Billy took off as we neared the gate.  We did sit for quite a while (hopefully hidden from his sight) but the clever bird knew we were there and refused to return to his kill until we were walking away from it.  He had half devoured the rabbit by then but returned as soon as we were out of range.


Our favourite cache of the day

When we arrived back at the car there was just enough room to spread out our rug and enjoy the picnic we’d packed earlier.  A good few hours caching with no DNFs.  The Isle of Wight is a very small island but there are so many places where you can ‘get away from it all’.  We had seen no-one during our walk and very few cars.  Bliss !!

We did this walk on 26th May which brought our total of caches found to 297.

BodRobbinn, our portable Bod Charger had travelled 8232 miles





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This entry was posted in Bod Charger, Geocaching, Isle of Wight, Marsh Harrier, Red Kite, Shanklin and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Beacon Alley and Big Billy

  1. washknight says:

    I wondered whether you two had bumped into each other at all having noticed you both like to spend time on the island. Perhaps only a matter of time. Fantastic about the bird of prey. We are lucky to get a lot of Red Kites in Herts and Bucks, we quite often see them swooping around.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Muddy mum says:

    Living in the fens we aren’t strangers to marsh harriers. They are fairly distinctive so if you think you saw one, it likely was. 🙂
    Sounds like you certainly found more than caches 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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