I’m sure most of us have a fond memory from childhood of a treasure or scavenger hunt, perhaps at a party or something we did at Brownies or Scouts. Our family has a small treasure chest that my father-in-law lovingly made and filled with our collection of money from 53 countries going back half a century or more. There are small plaques on the side reminding us of family holidays where adults enjoyed down time watching the children run around following clues, usually in the wrong direction. A parenting masterstroke! One occasion that I vividly remember was down on the Helford River in Cornwall. Everyone participated and got kitted out in pirate attire, complete with blow-up parrot and granny with a hook made from a sock and tin foil. We set off in boats, first to plant the treasure then hunt it down. It was a fantastic day’s fun.
The key to any good treasure hunt is obviously a map with a great big X indicating ‘ere be treasure! Well, since posting the Chalk Balls Walk which includes 2 out of the 14 Andy Goldsworthy balls up on the Downs, I have been hunting a map showing where to find the remaining ‘treasure’. Last week I finally found one, plotted a 5 mile walk and set out with a friend to hunt down the giant orbs. However, if you follow suit, keep in mind that the thrill of a treasure hunt is as much in the ‘chase’ as the actual discovery……so don’t be too disappointed if you don’t find them all!
From Cocking Down car park on the Midhurst to Lavant road, head straight up to its name-sake above. The most magnificent chalk ball of the whole trail staddles the junction at the top between the South Downs Way and a footpath off on the left. The combination of the stone, view over Heyshott Down, and the weald below is simply stunning.
Taking the lower path continue until you reach a triangle of grass between paths. Here lurks No.2. In contrast to the first, this one is very weathered and gently melting back into its natural chalky habitat, exactly as Goldsworthy planned. Continuing on the right-hand track and keeping straight at the crossroads a short distance ahead, No. 3 will soon appear. Like the previous one, it is doing a good job of blending in. The junction is a good landmark, but it is hidden under a tree and been de-capitated by the cruel elements.
Gone are the tall, airy pines on this next section, instead the woods take on an increasingly Hansel and Gretal feel, closing in on both you and an old ruin, in a somewhat spooky way. According to the map I found online, No. 4 should be visible at the next big, open junction. However, despite feverish hunting amongst the undergrowth, and quizzing local riders, it evaded us. One for the winter months once the foliage has died back. Perhaps you will have better luck.
Turning left at this large junction follow the track all the way down to the road passing balls 5 and 6 on your way. You might recognise these if you have done the Chalk Balls walk. At the road, walk up the hill to be greeted by No. 7. This is very solid-looking. There are only a few shards on top providing local woodlice with a comfy home. The onward path, direct to No.8, is to the right. This stone is nestled in the verge opposite where you join the tarmac.
The next part of the walk is along the road, but there is road walking and there is walking along THIS road. It is a magnificent tree-lined avenue, no doubt with some connection to West Dean Gardens and Estate, that idly and elegantly stretches into the distance. Walking in this direction you can easily pass No. 9 by. It is tucked into a slight recess on the left-hand-side and very overgrown. After exiting the avenue, but just before the road bends and dips towards a cottage below, No.10 is perched on top of the left-hand hedge.
After the cottage turn left into the woods and climb up the chalky track. Along here you will find small, green No.11, and large, white No. 12, illustrating what a difference location makes. After passing some terrifically twisted yew tree trunks the wood opens out into a wildflower meadow. At the bottom of the hill, No. 13’s location is clearly marked by the old railway bridge. Through the arch and across the A286 you will be in West Dean College, where No. 14 awaits you in parkland in front of the house. Hopefully, you will find it easier to spot than us – we had the challenge of locating a creamy object hidden amongst a field of sheep!
Enjoy having reached your destination, and hopefully finding all 14 chalk stones along the way. West Dean’s delightful gardens and café will keep you busy and refreshed while waiting for the No. 60 bus back to Cocking car park. If one or more stones eluded detection, I’m afraid it’s back to studying the treasure map for you!
STOP PRESS – it’s been found!
A winter walk has revealed not only the missing 14th chalk ball…..but a 15th too! At the very start of my chalk ball mission I noticed a lack of agreement online about how many there were in total. Wanting to get to the bottom of it, rather than chasing phantom balls across the Downs, I called Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. They were one of 3 local organisations who originally developed the trail back in 2002. The person I spoke to confirmed that there were 13 on the trail with a 14th in front of West Dean College. Well, their maths was clearly a bit out, because unless someone has decided to have some fun and sneak a rogue chalk ball onto the trail in the dead of night sometime over the last 20 years, there are definitely 15 in total. Numbers 4 and 5 on the final map below are tricky to find during the growing season, as they are very heavily disguised by plants, but this adds an extra level of challenge to your hunting! No. 5 is also much easier to spot if you are walking in a northerly direction. If you are heading out to the trail do remember that the numbering of ball photos above are now out by one number past no. 4. Happy hunting and do let me know if you spot any more!
Distance: 5 miles (linear)
Starting Location: This description starts from the small car park at the bottom of Cocking Down on the Midhurst to Chichester road (SU875166). However, you could also park at West Dean Gardens (SU863126).
Information: Click link for more information about West Dean Gardens; If you decide to do this walk in reverse there is a lovely cafe as you descend Cocking Down en route back to the car park – Flint Barn Cafe
Public Transport: The number 60 bus from Midhurst to Chichester connects Cocking Down car park and West Dean College see Route & Timetable The relevant stops are Cocking South Downs Way and West Dean Gardens.
© Malinka van der Gaauw 2021