If you're keen to get the children outdoors during the school holidays or simply looking for a new outdoor activity for the whole family to enjoy, geocaching may be just the thing!
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching is a treasure hunting game, where participants retrieve GPS coordinates from the internet and navigate to the outdoor location using a GPS device (Garmin, TomTom, smart phone).The basic idea is to locate hidden outdoor containers, called geocaches and then share your experiences online.
Those of us with techie kids, should have no trouble getting them hooked on the idea! Geocaching has been made more accessible in recent years as many people now own Smart phones. There are a variety of Apps available to download to your mobile phone (iPhone or Android) for as little as £5.99.
What is inside the Cache?
A cache is a waterproof box that contains a log book, pen and various small items for the children to swap. If you are lucky, you may find a cache that contains a trackable item.
Trackable items have a unique serial number that allows their travels to be logged and followed on geocaching.com. The most trackable items are 'Geocoins' or 'travel bugs'.
How to take part:
- Register for free at www.geocaching.com. There's a great video on the site showing you how to get started.
- Under 'Search for Geocaches' type your postcode, or the town you want to search in. This will display a list of caches. For example, if you're going on holiday, you may like to look on the website before you go, to see what caches are hidden near your holiday destination.
- Click on the cache name to display; coordinates of the cache's location, additional information about the location, difficulty rating, clues and hints.
- Print the page to take with you, and if you're unfamiliar with the area pack a map just in case.
- Tap the coordinates into your GPS device and follow the directions until your GPS device shows that you have reached the cache location. Or if you are using a Smartphone, you can just go to the App whilst you're out and about e.g. at the local park, and simply choose 'Find Nearby Caches' and the app will show you a list of caches hidden in the vicinity.
- Look around you and if necessary use the additional clues and hints to find the cache, you will usually be looking for a small plastic weatherproof container. Some caches can be tiny - like the size of a film canister!
- Be discreet - Geocaching etiquette says you shouldn't let non geo-cachers, see what you're doing. They're known as 'muggles.'
- Once you find the container, open it and enjoy your victory. All geocaches contain a log book but many contain prizes and other small objects. If you take something, leave something of the same value. It's worth keeping a little bag of swappable items in your rucksack eg keyrings, rubbers etc
- Once home, log your visit on www.geocaching.com or you can log it via the app whilst you're still out.
- Didn't find it? If you didn't find it, go online and log that too, try again or try a different cache.
Once you've got the bug, why not hide your own cache? It can be very exciting for children to track visits to their cache online. You could get your own personalised LEGO trackable, register it online and then hide it with your cache. Further details on getting started, what GPS device to use and on registering a trackable can be found at www.geocaching.com and here: https://montemlife.com/ultimate-guide-to-geocaching/
Feedback on Facebook:
'We love a visit to Wassell Woods, near Trimpley, Kidderminster where there are some really interesting and challenging geocaches that make us scratch our heads and then laugh out loud when we work it out! There's even a 'night cache' that led us through the woods by torchlight and rewarded us with an amazing interactive experience at the end - absolutely thrilling!' Heather Woodhams
'We love to go to Arley. My son likes the walk across the bridge to the station and enjoys looking at the steam trains whilst we tuck into a picnic.' Anna Houlihan
'Our family likes to go to Worcester Woods Country Park and hunt for the snake! There are lots of other carvings along the trails too and my 4-year-old has been trying out his reading on signs like f-o-x.' Anna Lee
'We love walking around the Clent Hills. Plenty of caches to search for, stunning views, and on a clear day, we can see the Welsh mountains close to where my mum lives!! A lovely little cafe by the car park offers warm drinks and snacks. Perfect' Lucy Stevens
'Severn Valley Country Park is a beautiful scenic place with kids play area, pools and lovely walks and a coffee shop. Perfect for a day out with the kids and the dog!' Rachel Smith
'We like to take the children to the Wyre Forest. There are different trails to follow around the forest for a nice walk. The kids also enjoy playing on the wooden play area and the grown ups can enjoy a drink and cake from the tea rooms!' Karen Hartland
"I stumbled on to Geocaching in 2011 looking for apps to download for my iPhone. A treasure hunt using my phones GPS.
We thought we would give it ago and to my surprise the were loads of caches nearby, so with my daughter in tow we headed off to Mary Stevens Park in Stourbridge, to try and find our first cache. The App helped by telling us where the cache is hidden and it also told us how far away we were from the cache. As we got closer and closer we could see where the map was taking us and we started looking we found a small magnetic key holder and inside that was a little log book to sign our names in to prove that we have found the cache. We also logged it on the geocaching website. Well that was 2,500 odd caches ago and we are now hooked!
The great thing about geocaching is that you can do it almost anywhere. We have found caches on the top of a volcano in Lanzarote, in a lake in Whitchurch ( I had to wade out into the lake and then duck under to get a water tight cache), in a disused nucular bunker in Nottingham, in a deep deep cave in Wales!
Some caches are very easy to find, simply hidden at the back of a tree, others are so hard you may have to come back to it several times. Sometimes caches have small items to swap which is great for kids, but they must only swap it with something of equal or greater value.
The thing you here people saying time and time again is that geocaching takes you to places you never knew existed, so give it a go! You probably walk past a cache every day on the way to work or school but you will never know unless you give it a try."
Gary (StourbridgeGaz is my geocaching name)