I have a bit of a love/dislike thing with geocaching – which I’m sure you will know is following GPS coordinates to find a box (varying in size) somewhere unusual. On finding the box you log your find, sometimes taking and leaving a small gift inside.
On the one hand it can be great fun. We did a cracking trail in Bakewell once where the caches all had something to do with cake, including one being a plastic lemon. There was another which included a rubber duck bobbing about under a bridge in Ecclesall woods and one hidden in a fake rock. A trail in Edale included a cache which was actually a bird feeder, and in the wilds of Lincolnshire we had the thrill of finding a micro cache magnetically attached to the back of a road sign – well it was exciting at the time. If you find a big tub cache then you have the added excitement of taking something from the box and leaving something else behind. You usually end up with yet another bouncy ball, some colouring pens that don’t work or a balloon that you wouldn’t want to blow because it’s been inside a box in a tree stump but it all adds to the excitement.
So geocaching can make a walk a lot more fun and the sense of achievement can be fantastic.
On the down side, God can geocaching be annoying. The website is pretty difficult to use and unless you have an all singing all dancing GPS with colour screen and full maps, it can be downright frustrating. Downloading the caches onto the handset is a pain to be honest. Every time I suggest it as an activity my tech savvy other half gives out a deep sigh – so irritating is the functionality. Plus you can’t just download the app and hope for the best because the best places for geocaching are usually the worst for Wifi…
Nevertheless, last night my other half sighed his way through wrestling with the website for me, and this morning the girls and I had a lovely time with friends in Norfolk Heritage Park in Sheffield seeking caches. We came home muddy and happy.
Some were great – difficult enough to retrieve that you felt a sense of satisfaction (anything involving crossing a small stream is popular), or easy enough to find that the kids were thrilled. Unfortunately we failed to find two out of four caches which was pretty annoying. It’s not helpful that the GPS handset disagreed somewhat with the app by several feet (and in one case metres), leading to the children searching different trees at the same time and none of us having a clue if we were in the right place. Add to that the clue stated one was allegedly near a Silver Birch tree – we are pretty sure of our tree knowledge and couldn’t find one at all – and it led to a bit of irritation and some quite bramble scratched knees. Overall though we had fun and once you have the gear it’s free which is always a bonus.
I really wish the website was easier to use. If you haven’t tried before I wouldn’t recommend investing in a GPS straightaway. Perhaps try and use the app first for a couple of urban caches, or try National Trust sites that often have more straightforward routes – Longshaw is a good one if you are local to Sheffield. If you like it you might want to splash out on a good handset.
This is definitely an activity that works with all ages, provided they can put in a bit of leg work for a good walk.