I’m very pleased to introduce Jennifer of Jennifer’s Little World. For some time, I’ve been intrigued by geocaching but never quite knew what it was all about – so I’m excited about having her explain it all right here. Please have a look at her blog which is most definitely worth an extended read!
I’m Jennifer, Mum to Harry (3) and Mia (1). We live in West Sussex, England and I blog about parenting, arts and crafts and days out with the family at Jennifer’s Little World.
We live in a beautiful part of the English countryside, with open space and some beautiful, scenic walks right on our doorstep. But sometimes it’s difficult to take advantage of that with young children that don’t take quite the same enjoyment from the walk that you do, and then complain if they have to walk too far. What you need is some kind of motivation, and for us geocaching provides just that.
Geocaching turns an ordinary walk into a treasure hunt. Geocaches are containers, large or small, hidden all over the world, both out in the country and in urban areas. Those in the country tend to be larger and easier to find, while those hidden in a city are by necessity smaller and more carefully concealed. You find the cache using a GPS-enabled device. Whereas previously you needed to purchase a specific device, these days most smartphones have GPS capabilities, and so along with an internet connection you already have all the basic equipment that you need. To find a geocache you just need to know the co-ordinates of the cache.
The largest website which tracks geocaches is www.geocaching.com, where you can also find a wealth of information about the hobby. Just create a free account and enter your postcode to bring up a list of local caches – it’s almost certain that there are several within a few miles of your house. They are graded according to how well the cache is hidden and the terrain that must be covered to reach it. It’s probably worth looking for one that’s easy to get to at first, especially with small children. We try to choose ones that are not too far from a car park or main road, at least until those little legs have grown a bit.
If you organise yourself you might be able to plan a short walk that takes in two or three. Some caches are even set up as a trail, with the position of the next stored in the previous one. It is possible to enter the co-ordinates for a cache directly into Google maps, but we have found it much easier to purchase a smartphone app. We use the Groundspeak Geocaching Application (http://www.geocaching.com/live/), with other apps also available. They are a little pricey, but if you’re intending to visit several caches then I think it’s worth it. As you get closer to the specified location you will need to keep your eyes open, as the co-ordinates will often only take you within a few metres of the cache. That’s when you can send the children out searching for hollow tree trunks, under banks and behind rocks.
It’s always a thrill to find a box full of treasure, sometimes just metres away from other people (‘muggles” as the geocachers call them) out enjoying the countryside. Admittedly, most of what you find inside will probably be junk, but children are easily pleased.
Make sure to take some treasure of your own along to leave behind too – popular items are keyrings and small toys. Occasionally you might find a trackable item which has been registered with the website and should be moved from cache to cache, with its journey being logged on the website. There will also be a physical logbook inside the cache where you can record your visit and any other notes that you’d like to make about the find, and when you get home you can enter this information onto the website too.
It’s not until you enter a postcode into the website that you find out just how many geocaches there are hidden away. You have certainly walked past one many times, even if you aren’t one for countryside walks. We discovered that there is one tucked away in a hedge at the bottom of our road! Geocaching can also lead you to explore places in your local area and further afield that you’ve never noticed or even heard of before.
Have you tried geocaching? Do you have any tips to share?