Geocaching: a new idea to get people out walking

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Looking for a new idea for Spring walks? Geocaching might be your answer. One of our walkers, Bert, from the Plodders Walking group in Glasgow, has found that hiding caches along his routes on the canal path can be a great encouragement.

Geocaching (pronounced geocashing) provides an added interest for walkers, especially the younger ones –  a walk becomes a bit like hide and seek!

Geocaching has been around now for several years. It is often described as a hi-tech game of hide and seek. In order to play, cachers need to log onto the Geocaching website and set up an account which is free for basic membership. On the website, download or copy the co-ordinates for a number of worldwide containers which have been hidden. The containers or caches, as they are known, are normally little plastic waterproof boxes (like those used for sandwiches) which contain small inexpensive trinkets. The finders copy the coordinates for the box they want to find onto a GPS (Global Positioning System) enabled device. These can be dedicated walkers' hand held GPS units or a GPS enabled phone. Finders then go to the co-ordinates and try to find the hidden box of treasure.

There are a couple of rules:

1. If you take something from the box, leave something of equal or greater value to keep the game going.

2. The caches will contain a log book or log sheet which should be signed but not taken away.

3. Finders can then log their find on the Geocaching website. Not all caches are big enough to have trinkets for swapping and common caches are in the form of 35mm film canisters. These will normally contain at least a log sheet and you sign that with a pencil or pen that you carry. These cartridges are small but may contain badges, trolley tokens, or other small toys. The bigger caches may contain toy racing cars, games or bouncy balls.

From a personal point of view, there is an added advantage of hiding such boxes. I prepare a box, hide it and post the co-ordinates on the Geocaching website. An example of this is: GC22J2G, Plodders 10K Part 01. This is start of a series of caches along the canal path from Clydebank to Glasgow. The caches are spaced out approximately 500m apart. This has proved helpful with my Plodders walking group as they can walk 500m to find a cache, then 500m back with an overall walking distance of 1km. As some of the Plodders walking group bring small children, they look for the hidden treasure the 'pirates' have left during the night. Depending on the group's ability, extra caches are placed at more frequent intervals although these are private caches and not listed on the website. Our less fit members cannot walk as far and stop regularly for breaks. This gives time for the youngsters to find the treasure. It prevents boredom and there are always treats to be found. I normally check routes prior to taking walkers out so it is easy to hide extra boxes along the way. So Mum or Dad get a break and the children's interest is maintained and they look forward to going out again.

As walkers gain fitness, they cover longer distances and often go for an extra walk on their own. Those with i-phones or GPS devices often check to see if the treasure caches are still there (which is good for me too). Caches are often nearer to where you walk or drive each day than you think. I have put several series online, for example, Maryhill to Bishopbriggs, Paisley to Bellahouston Park, Dalmuir to Balloch and, for more advanced walkers, Lanark to Tinto Hill, Dunbarton’s Overtoun House and surrounding areas. One very keen walker spent a Saturday finding all the caches between Clydebankand Bishopbriggs with his children - getting the train back home of course. As the trails and routes are added to, it means any other groups can enjoy different parts of the trail as they pass. For example, the Maryhill group could incorporate some of the caches in their area as they walk along the canal.

Leaders who are interested can hide their own boxes just for their walking group and collect them as they go along. As they will probably check the route they are going to walk anyway, it is no extra work. For those without GPS facilities, a good landmark along the way can be used and hints and clues can be added as necessary. They should, however, be easy to find as a walk could potentially come to a standstill if the hiding place is too difficult to find. I have found that as an add-on to walks I run, this has been a good selling point and so far has not had any detrimental effects. Safety must come first so a keen eye should be kept on toddlers if they are near water or nettles.

Check out the Clydebank Plodders geocache group

For more information email Bert 


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