Wednesday, 27 June 2012

I’ve created a monster!

This time last year my town-dwelling nephew, Oli, came to stay with me in the Yorkshire Dales National Park for three weeks. My initial excitement quickly turned to horror when I realised I knew very little about keeping a sixteen-year-old boy entertained for very long.

Panic set in as I stared at my modest collection of console games and ‘girlie’ CDs, DVDs, and books. Then I looked out the window – “why was I trying to create a home from home for him, he’s coming to a national park,” I said to myself, “get out and help him discover this magical place for himself.”

Oli on the path next to Malham Tarn, GPS in hand
With gusto I grabbed my highlighter pen and a copy of The Visitor and got down to work, circling all the family-friendly events happening during his visit, as well as ideas for things to do and places to visit.

We climbed hills, played Pooh sticks (no one is ever too old or too young for Pooh sticks), skimmed stones, visited local attractions, and gave every last thing a go at the local agricultural shows and game fairs. We also went on a few of the events organised by the National Park Authority. 

As is par for the course with teenagers, the monosyllabic grunts that I was afforded during his stay turned to gushing enthusiasm once in different company.

Back at his home he couldn’t stop talking about the introduction to geocaching session we had attended near Malham Tarn. He had loved it - working with the GPS gadget, walking across a beautiful landscape, hunting for the cache box that contained prizes that he could swap – the challenge of this modern day treasure hunt had played right into his competitive and active nature.

Geocaching is a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices and then share their experiences online.

Intrigued, my sister Judith agreed to take Oli out geocaching again that summer. She bought a cheap ‘pre-loved’ GPS to get them started, and signed up to so they could find the co-ordinates of nearby caches and log the ones they find.  

Little did I know the impact that afternoon on the moors around Malham would have!

A year on and the pair have logged nearly 250 caches and hidden seven of their own. They have found them in phone boxes and by harbours, deep in forests and high on hills, and the whole family have even been out on mass caches with other enthusiasts. For my birthday last month they even sent me ‘Log My Dog’ tags so I can turn my two greyhounds into walking caches!

I truly have created two geocaching monsters. But this obsession does not seem too uncommon.

Geocaching – using multi-million dollar
satellites to find Tupperware in the
 woods/long grass/hedges...
Visit Aysgarth Falls National Park Centre and you may meet our Information Advisor Janet who has logged 444 geocaches in the past five years.

Calling themselves the ‘Dales Golden Girls’, Janet goes out with friends from work searching for caches. She said “It’s such a fascinating hobby. It keeps me active and I get to visit places I’ve never been to before. There are caches out there as small as your fingernail to the size of a crate, and they are everywhere - from cities to fields to mountains. It’s so exciting and fun.”

Her enthusiasm for the pastime spills over into her working life. On her recommendation a couple from Derby visiting the National Park Centre whilst on holiday, rented a GPS and found their first cache. A year later, remembering Janet’s pseudonym, they got back in contact to let her know that they had found over 800 caches since their holiday. The most recent was one that Janet herself had found only weeks earlier. 

Next time you visit, think about the behind-the-scenes guy, Stuart, who even had his own geocaching coins minted. He now tracks their progress across the world as geocachers collect them from one cache, deposit them in another, and record their finds on the internet.

A Dales Volunteer shows
the group a cache
You can try geocaching for yourself at the upcoming National Park event for beginners on 7 July or learn more about the craze, where to hire GPS equipment and National Park caches from our website

Saturday 7 July,11:00 to 15:00
National Park Event - Hidden GPS Treasure (Geocaching for Beginners)
Meet Street Gate parking area, south Malham Tarn (grid ref SD 9038 6567)
A moderate 6 mile (10 km) walk that introduces geocaching - a 'treasure' hunt using handheld GPS units - as a new outdoor activity. If you have a GPS please bring it along - we have a limited number to borrow, please reserve in advance.
call 01729 833200 email


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