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Landscape by Keith Ratcliffe  
© 2009

Search Engine

I have recently been dabbling in the sport of Geocaching. I had heard of it before but after reading about it in a magazine I went to the website to find out more.

I have a GPS which I bought as a way to get a position fix when walking (for 30 years a map & occasionally compass has seen me OK) so, imagine my joy when I discover that there is a cache only 100 metres from my house. First thing the following day I went out with the GPS to look for St Thomas's Well. I followed the GPS line to the cache and it led me unerringly to where I expected to find it. The clue suggested to me that the street sign might be the location but the GPS insisted on me going to a low stone wall nearby. I approached it from several directions and it consistently led me there. I could find nothing in any of the cracks nor the grit bin nor the lamppost nor the street sign nor the Royal Mail post safe. Imagine my disappointment at my first attempt at what looks like a great activity. Contact with the placer of this cache suggests that I have found the location but that it might not still be there. OK so I got it right but no cache – does it matter? No, herein lies the key attraction of this activity for me, finding the location is more important than solving the riddle.

I read on the website about Travel Bugs, Geocoins & swaps but that does not interest me as much as the locations that are listed. I learn about Nanos that are caches the size of fingernails and eventually with a little help I found one. l have visited some new places in old haunts and started to get inspired. This can expand my knowledge of the local area that I thought I knew quite well.

Secret Spring

Take my doorstep - Gillies Hill above Cambusbarron is a place that I have visited several times being only minutes from home, but did I know about the Secret Spring or the amazing Sequoia trees or the Dun? No I didn’t, so this is really helping me to explore this area in a way that I haven’t done so far. A few trips with successful finds build the confidence and add to the inspiration – it also hones my GPS skills – distance is more accurate than direction sinks in. But what is the attraction?

After the usual enthusiasm for a new concept there is a taking stock situation. What attracts me to this activity is that it makes me explore new areas or it adds to existing exploration in known areas – I discover that most of the Galloway peaks that I want to visit have caches so it can add to my mountain exploration. It can also inform my historical & environmental curiosity in my local patch. With selective use I can supplement existing interests – not a new fad but an enrichment of current activity. I’ll leave the cryptic caches marked with a question mark to the Times crossworders. 

So having achieved my first 14 finds after four days of Geocaching my hit rate is 77% and I am encouraged to continue in this pursuit. I have a list of about 60 caches to find that fit with my walking plans and add a few new strands to them so it must be good.  I also have plans to put out my first cache in a location that I visit regularly. I wrote about it in an earlier Landscape entitled 'My Patch'.

A revisit of the geocaching website reminds of the root source of interest in this activity. It is the search for knowledge & inspiration that is well summed up in the strap line – “You are the search engine”. 

© Keith Ratcliffe

November 2009

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