Geocaching, “the free outdoor ‘real world’ treasure hunt” and once the domain of the privileged few who were experienced in the use of GPS systems (from their backpacking or boating expeditions), but since the rapid evolution of technology, is now enjoyed by people in their hundreds – all you need is a GPS or an app for your phone.
Our first foray was in March 2004 when the whole thing was still a bit of a novelty; we went to the RSPB Reserve at Sandy Warren, Bedfordshire, taking our 4 year old and 3 month old sons with us. Since then, the number of caches have grown and the popularity of the activity increased ten-fold.
Our latest trip was an easy walk – just right for a lazy Sunday afternoon – in the Little Giant Wood near Stoke Abbott, Dorset. The first part of the walk was along a very straight but ‘lush’ path that almost enveloped us in its luxuriantly green foliage.
After our gentle amble we came to a sturdy wooden gate with a pedestrianized access point at the side.
I soon found the large information board welcoming us to Little Giant Wood. It was a Woodland Trust acquisition, part of their “Woods on your Doorstep” project to create 200 new community woods across England & Wales. This particular wood was started in 1998.
The area is also home to a huge array of wild flowers; thistle, yarrow, herb Robert and orchids to name but a few. And what I loved was the strength of these flowers, they weren’t at all ‘weedy’ but strong and beautiful and of course the insects loved them too!
The tree plantation was crowded to say the least, but working on the basis that a large percentage of them would likely die before they grew to full size, the wood will probably thin out. There was a mixture of native trees including oak, hazel and elm. All the saplings had their protective collar surround, but here and there was evidence of wild animal nibblings and sadly some of the trees were too badly gnawed to survive.
The wild grasses were just as numerous; cocksfoot, timothy, Yorkshire foot & reed sweet-grass perfect for “here’s a tree in summer”.
There was a dedicated beech tree area, not sure why, but it all added to the rich native variety of the tree reserve.
Having walked around the plantation, we continued along the path and our nostrils were assailed with that oh so pungent smell of wild garlic, all the stronger as it had been pummelled by the weather so its juices had been squeezed out. It’s not a smell I particularly enjoy.
Other sightings included a host of different coloured snails who were chomping on the plump leaves and a very soft fluffy tightly woven cocoon that doubtless homed several dozen spider offspring (what are young spiders called? Spiderlings?)
Walking back, we noticed there were various off shoots of other public footpaths, some of them very overgrown and we wondered at the difficulty of keeping them all in order and what an impossible task it must be during these days of austerity.
It was a pleasant walk with plenty to see and my two rather vocal sons could let off steam (sticks a-plenty), oh I almost forgot – the cache. It was a micro-cache which was a bit disappointing and my eldest son found it within minutes (I won’t tell you where it is), but without the cache being there, we might never have enjoyed the walk and been all the poorer for missing out!
Tips & Advice
- the routes can be a gentle walk or more strenuous so check the route beforehand & wear appropriate clothing;
- remember to take a small token to exchange (there will either be a box, canister or bag containing a number of items);
- if there is a notebook in the cache, put a comment about your experience;
- above all else, enjoy the walk!
If you want to know more about Geocaching, here is a useful site to get you started: http://www.geocaching.com/