Got the geocaching bug? Now the National Trust is cashing in on the outdoor treasure hunt for the digital age.
It wants to show how this tech-lovers' craze, which has been sweeping the country, is a fun and challenging way to explore the British countryside.
In partnership with satellite navigation company Garmin, the trust will be lending GPS devices preloaded with co-ordinates, and creating and concealing new geocaches at more than 40 of its estates, gardens and rural locations. And Garmin will be hosting taster sessions at NT sites across England, Wales and Northern Ireland during the next few months.
For those who don't know, geocaching uses a GPS-enabled hand-held device or smartphone to access clues, GPS co-ordinates and "waypoints" posted on the internet. You'll be guided towards hidden caches. Small, waterproof boxes contain a logbook and pen – so you can record your presence for posterity – as well as trinkets such as collectable coins, books, toys or jewellery. But there's etiquette to this, too. If you remove something from a cache, you should leave something in return – a pebble, a pine cone, or trinket. And always leave the cache in the same place for the next treasure hunter.
"Geocaching is a great way for families to get outdoors and discover hidden places," says Andrew Silver of Garmin. "You can have fun, get rewards, and also learn useful techniques such as how to read maps and co-ordinates."
Fancy giving it a go? You can already take up the challenge at selected NT sites, including Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire, Clent Hills near Birmingham and three locations in North Yorkshire and at Tyntesfield near Bristol.
Clent Hills has walks through woodland and meadows as you search for the four caches – with regularly changing contents. At Warsett Hill on the Yorkshire coast, the hunt for two caches reveals wildlife facts and the local industrial history, or take a stroll around the fishing village of Staithes.
One of the trust's first geocaching trails is at Tyntesfield, where the six boxes hidden in the wooded parkland are themed on wildlife, habitats and history – each box contains an interactive family activity.
Regular geocacher Caroline Boles says: "It's a good way to explore unfamiliar places and it's great to have something to pull out of the bag for those 'I'm bored' moments."
So, what are you waiting for? Charge that smartphone and happy hunting. Visit nationaltrust.org.uk/events and search for "geocaching", or go to opencaching.com for how to get started.
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