One day last week we asked a question on twitter: how to motivate a teenager to go for walks. The ideas came back thick and fast, but one of them stood out as something I'd been meaning to try for a while - geocaching.
I'd always been put off by the thought of having to buy a GPS kit, but these days a smart phone can help you navigate the exact co-ordinates in a clue. I searched on the Geocaching website for caches near me and was surprised to find quite a few within a short walking distance! Having watched a few youtube videos about what sort of things to look for, and having learnt some interesting acronyms like "BYOP" (Bring Your Own Pencil) - I went out after work one day.
There I was, in the corner of a woodland with a herd of inquisitive cows just the other side of a fence. It was starting to rain harder - this was the third cache I had tried to find - and failed! I can solve the clues and navigate to the right spot, no problem - as I love maps and co-ordinates. But then I couldn't find the hidden log book! Clearly I needed a teenager with me to help with the hunt!
Come the weekend I enlisted the help of my partner and off we went, this time with wellies on. It is much easier with a friend, and when it is not raining! We were excited to find the caches almost straight away. One of them even included a "travel bug" which has a mission to be moved from cache to cache, closer to its goal!
Ever since I have been spreading the word amongst my family, friends and colleagues about what fun it is.
My Dad was visiting my brother and his family this weekend - I found them an easy "starter" cache near their house to hunt for with my neices - and they really enjoyed it too. My nearly 6 year old neice is a new geocaching fan, eager now to find more treasures and even to hide a treasure of her own. And not even a teenager yet! And, now back home, my Dad is busy finding all the caches within walking distance - and he doesn't even have a smartphone!
I found that the geocaching website relies on maps like google maps or mapquest maps to show you a location - not so great if the location is down a bridleway perhaps and you don't know how you would walk to it. The great thing is that the walk4life website maps include the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 scale, with its footpaths and bridleways marked in reassuring green dashes. So you can use this website to plan a walk that takes in a number of caches!
- Here is the walk we did at the weekend - when we finally found our first ones! - still one cache yet to work out
- Here is another walk in Carlisle that takes in a cache as well as some hidden remains of Hadrian's Wall
- Here is one in Leeds - why not let us know about your own geocaching walks and fun!
- Stop Press! English Heritage have added this one at Rievaulx Abbey
- And a fun event - introduction to geocaching - in Hetton near Durham!