Shortly after reporting on the impending demolition of Vicars Bridge, we were contacted by Marty Hopkirk who wanted to tell us about one of his hobbies. What’s this got to do with the bridge? Well, I’ll let Marty tell you….
I am a Geocacher.
There, I have said it. Obviously there will be some people reading this who know what geocaching is and will be one themselves and even do it. It was the news of the impending demolition of Vicars Bridge which brought about my pen hand on the subject as there is a cache hidden there. So for everyone else unfamiliar with the hobby I’ll attempt to explain…
Geocaching is an activity that can be done almost anywhere in the world and has it origins in the much older Letter-boxing game originally played just with clues and map co-ordinates.
It involves little more than a suitably GPS equipped smart phone, though the more you become involved in ‘caching the more likely you are to want to buy a dedicated hand held GPSr, or Global Positioning System Receiver which are far more accurate especially in built up areas. But what is it?
Well quite simply it’s a bit like a treasure hunt, though quite often the treasure at the end of the trail is often a small waterproof container containing a logbook where the geocacher enters the date they found it and signs it with their established code name. Larger containers such as plastic butty box storage containers or ammunition containers can also contain items for swapping, usually toys or nick knacks. There is a dedicated website (www.Geocaching.com) which contains details of the locations of caches and each cache has its own web page describing the location and what you are looking for.
This is where for me at least the hobby gets interesting. Quite often caches are placed near areas of local historical interest, but which anyone without a knowledge of the area may never otherwise have discovered or found out – Preston and the surrounding area is packed with caches and some are real gems. Sometimes the cache isn’t a straightforward “go to x,y,z, co-ordinates” and the co-ordinates themselves take some working out.
T-Total in Preston which takes its clues from the inscription on the Oblisk at the Flag Market in Preston and lets you know a little about the history of Joseph Livsey and the temperance movement. It surprised even me where it took me and the things I found out, in a town I thought I knew quite well.
For me though the fun is turning a walk into something extra which the children love and gives them an incentive to leave the house and television and go for some healthy exercise. Of course they love finding ones with “treasure” inside, but they also love the fun of finding a well hidden cache and competing to be the first one to discover it.
The hobby can be tried out for free, which is how my family started off, careful reading of the cache description page on Geocaching.com, looking at the photographs people have published and reading the “found” logs can often give enough clues to be able to find easy ones without using a smart phone or GPSr. Membership of the geocaching webite is free, though a “premium” membership unlocks many more hidden caches. My family started of this way for free and then progressed to buying a second hand GPSr off eBay and paying for premium membership, though all in we have not spent more than about £40 for the year and that includes the GPSr.
As an added bonus you may find either a brightly coloured coin or a “travel bug” these are items that travel from cache to cache all over the world, my wife has a coin which she released last year and is now in Hong Kong having first visited America and Arabia. There is also a vibrant social scene attached to caching (which isn’t compulsory) and a local North West web forum http://www.nwcaching.co.uk/forum/ offering support and help.
Try it sometime, it adds a twist to a day out and often takes you somewhere that you wouldn’t otherwise have visited or seen.
Text and pictures courtesy of Marty Hopkirk 2013