Today we went for a walk, one of our usual little strolls – through Settle Market Place, past the Langlcliffe Caravan park to the beautiful mill pond, then to the weir on the Ribble, through Langcliffe village and along the old ‘High road’ that leads back into Settle, the perfect, tiny lane with several benches along it to sit and enjoy the views. The ideal little route for a boisterous 7 year old who dashes everywhere like an untrained sheepdog and a more laidback 5 year old who doesn’t like walking quite as much as her brother. Now, here’s the difference: Before we left, I logged onto the Geocache.uk website which I’d registered with a week before. I typed in our postcode, and lo and behold, a whole map of our area popped up, just littered with caches! Have you heard of it? , GEOCACHING? I bet you walked past more than one just today!
The idea is, you log on and seek out a cache you fancy finding, and using your GPS device to enter the co-ordinates, you drive/walk/cycle/scoot/sail/fly… move however you like, letting yourself be led to the cache! My mobile GPS refused to work, (I knew there was a reason I prefer reading a proper map!) but a 10 figure grid reference meant we could pinpoint the location quite easily on our map anyway. By reading the cryptic clue, which Oscar had had fun deciphering, and reading comments others had left, we managed to locate four geocaches in one little walk. The children had their rucksacks with them, to carry little trinkets and toys they were willing to swap, to place in the cache boxes: if you want to take a treasure out, you have to put a treasure of your own back in for the next geo-cacher. Then you sign the log and make sure you hide the cache just as it was, without anyone else (they call non-geocachers ‘muggles’!) seeing you!
I tell you, it was hilarious when a muggle approached. Kirsten would yell “MUGGLE!!!” at the top of her shrill voice, and we would all stop searching for the cache and pretend we were enjoying the view or looking in our rucksack for the next sandwich! Dodgy, loitering bunch! When people had passed by, we’d start hunting again. We found one cache with the clue ‘magnet’ stuck on a metal gate. It was a really amazing vessel (I am NOT giving it away!), with a tiny scroll of paper hidden inside to log your name on. We needed tweezers to get the scroll out! There were no treasures in there, but we were quite excited anyway – our first ever geocache, found! The second cache took a bit more hunting - a film canister under a rock at a rickety gate. There was only a 2 pence piece and another scroll of paper in there. We took the 2p and put in a marble and a fancy eraser, and signed the log of course before following the millpond path to the weir, admiring the family of ducks as we went. At the weir we had a fair idea where to look next, having read plenty of comments online to help us. The clue was ‘shoulder height and hidden by rocks’, and Kirsten was the first to spot the Tupperware box hidden in the dry stone wall. What fun! This one had a special pin in it, from the British Potholing Club, a coin from Iceland, (how cool!) a woven bracelet and a button in it! The children each put two items in, just because they had loads of stuff to give away and picked their treasures out! Kirsten hid the box carefully again, and off we went up the hill and over the railway bridge to find the last geocache, called Freda’s gate, so named after a 97-year old lady who used to walk to this gate frequently from Settle. Her daughter put this cache there in her memory, but boy will we remember how long it took us to find. We nearly gave up, looking for another gate, but returned for another try. After several funny moments ‘enjoying the view’ as muggles passed with their dogs, Jan finally spotted it – all I will say is, think ‘artificial/camouflage/disguise’ (it would be wrong to paint you a fuller picture) and remember to write down the clue, so as not to forget the exact wording! Well, I don’t think I would have spotted it! The cavity inside the vessel was about as big as a wine cork and had only a metal screw-up cylinder with a scroll of paper in it. We signed the paper and the children were rather grumpy at not finding any treasure this time, but still left some for the next people.
We can hardly wait for the next geocache - it was a great way to get the family out, and we just logged on to see what else we fancy searching for. Next on our list will be several caches on one of our favourite walks in Bremen, Germany that we’ve walked/run past many a time.
What can you find near you? Just log on to www.geocaching.com and once you’ve registered, which is quick, easy and free of charge, you can enter your postcode and click on ‘map this location’ and be prepared to be amazed. One of these days, I will be hiding a www.settlewolftracks cache of my own, so watch this space!
Top tips: only bring small treasures - think of film canisters and other such tiny vessels! Most of ours were far too big! Also pack a pen and tweezers. If you’re geo-caching with children, do the research carefully, the night before, so as to give yourselves the best chance of finding them. Some are defunct or damaged due to exposure to the elements, so read others’ reviews of the cache and check how recently they were written. Make sure your GPS device is working, or brush up on your map-reading – can you remember that little rule from those DoE days? ‘Go along the corridor and up the stairs…’ Pack plenty of snacks and full waterproofs if you’re leaving just at lunchtime with showers forecast like we did! Our two didn’t notice the rain at all, they were having too much fun! Good luck!
If you don’t have time to do all the preparation, let Settle Wolftracks do it for you, and book a geo-caching adventure as a family treat. You’ll soon be hooked, I guarantee it!