Posted: 13 April 2009 21:05

The surreal title of this post describes the sort of day I've had; a series of unusual finds.

I was up on the Downs near Alfriston investigating the artillery range there; specifically the target area with the promise of an observation post up on the high ground.


The OP evaded me, but I had an enjoyable day nevertheless. Parking up, I began a long trek down a footpath through the middle of the target area; it wasn't long before I was seeing pieces of shrapnel lying loose on the surface amongst the stones as seen at right.

As there was so much visible, I decided to start collecting all I could find along the path, partly because of the child in me, but also because I was interested to get an idea of what sort of sizes and shapes shrapnel comes in.

Over a 300m stretch of path, I hoarded a staggering 5kg of scrap metal. Although the method of collection was 70 years after the event and completely non-scientific, the final sorting showed an average length of about 6cm. Of course, I was less likely to find very small pieces and mass might be a better indicator than size, but it was interesting nevertheless. The longest piece was 18cm, but you don't seem to see many really big pieces.

The circular piece at top right in the photo is the base of a shell; probably a 25-pounder. Below it are three pieces of copper driving band. Another small find was a solitary .303 case, unfortunately the headstamp was illegible even after a thorough clean.


Making my way along a path and up out of the target area towards the OP, I stopped to photograph this view. This really shows the nature of the landscape, and the fact that the ground has numerous subtle undulations and rivulets cutting across the hills and valleys.

The Downs

Having taken the photo and stopped to absorb the view, a weasel sudenly broke from cover just in front of me, stopped on the edge of the path, and stood up on its hind legs staring at me. It quickly decided it didn't like the look of me and 'flowed' downhill into some bushes. I've never seen a weasel so close before; an interesting experience.

Echinoid fossil

Reaching the high ground I had another encounter with unusual wildlife, though there was not much life in the fossilised echinoid (sea urchin) that I found just lying on the surface in a heap of spoil excavated by rabbits.

Having a GCSE in geology, I knew what it was and that the chalk dates back to the cretaceous period that ended 65 million years ago, but I was nevertheless quite surprised to find it!

I was now on the high ground and looking for any evidence of the OP; unfortunately the vegetation is now starting to grow and was already obscuring the sort of features that might indicate an earthwork. The nettles are particularly good at doing this; a return trip towards the end of the year may reveal something of interest.

However, I kept probing through the gorse bushes and long grass and uncovered the final unusual find of the day - a geocache.


Geocaching is an activity designed for people with GPS receivers; people set a trail of caches and post the GPS coordinates on the internet for others to find.

A cache might contain 'treasure' of some description and a logbook for visitors to enter their details.

Although I hadn't found the cache using GPS, I decided to enter into the spirit of things and added a small piece of shrapnel to the cache along with an entry in the logbook explaining how I found the cache and a couple of lines about the use of the area as an artillery target area.

I sealed up the cache and put it back in the bushes as I found it.

A day of strange and unexpected discoveries!

- Pete



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Hibbs, Peter Shrapnel, a weasel, an echinoid and a geocache (2018) Available at: Accessed: 19 June 2018

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