Geocaching with kids: treasure hunting in a digital age

5 Feb Found it!

 

I had heard of the term geocaching, but to be honest, had no idea what it was. It conjured up in my mind images of shivering computer geeks meeting up in a forest somewhere for a purpose I couldn’t imagine…

So I was intrigued when a friend told me they had tried it with their kids  -and were hooked.

Once I “googled it,” I couldn’t understand why I had not discovered this before. I am constantly trying to come up with ways to bribe/trick my kids into “going for a walk.” I learned long ago that this was one phrase you never said. Instead, there has to be a purpose, eg. “let’s go collect shells on the beach,” “let’s go and see if there is any snow at the top of this hill,” or usually “look at this massive cookie you can have once we get to the top.”

But now I had geocaching up my sleeve, or basically treasure hunting in the digital age.

It originates from an original “stash” that was placed in a wood in 2000 by Dave Ulmer, an IT expert from Oregon, who then posted the coordinates on the internet.

The public GPS signals we enjoy today were limited due to security fears until May 2000, when, Bill Clinton, decided that GPS could be made more useful to people and organisations across the globe.

The Ordnance Survey explain the basics:

What is Geocaching? 

Geocaching can be described in simple terms as treasure hunting for the digital generation. Instead of using the conventional compasses and printed maps more commonly associated with orienteering, participants rely on global positioning system (GPS) technology to find their way to certain points around the globe. These spots are found using coordinates published online by other forum members who have hidden boxes or containers (caches) there.

These boxes – often airtight Tupperware-style containers – can contain pretty much anything. In their most basic form, they’ll usually have a log book for hunters to record their names and the dates on which they find the stash. Much of the excitement, however, lies in seeing what other trinkets and souvenirs have been left. If the finder decides to take anything away, they’re required to leave something of equal or greater value for the next person to discover – and the chain begins!

– read all about it from the experts here

To the test: 

We went to geocaching.com where you can sign in for free or log in with facebook.

We then put in our postcode and it brought up a surprisingly high number nearby.

They are rated by difficulty, and being our first time, we went for the easiest.

Even though you have the coordinates – there is still quite a bit of searching involved, and I wasn’t even really sure what I was trying to find.

Thankfully there are extra hints to help. Ours was this:

Face the roundabout and choose the seat on the right. Sit on the left hand side and look down to the left. This will crack you up!

As we wandered round and round and fumbled through leaves, I was starting to think this was a bad idea – if I couldn’t produce a winning result on our first attempt – this plan of mine was doomed.

Thankfully, in the spirit of all things digital, previous treasure hunters can leave further hints and tips to help you on your way and soon I spotted the green tube in a crack in the wall and jackpot – relief all round.

The girls enjoyed unravelling the log role and writing in our name – there was no trinket left behind, which was a bit disappointing, but as we hadn’t come prepared with our own gift to leave behind it was probably for the best.

Sign up for geocaching and you also enter into a worldwide community, which is centered around sharing information and also respect for the environment  – our clue urged us to pick up any litter we found lying around too.

Gaining in confidence, we headed on a second mission. This one completely brought out my inner geek, combining a mini history lesson and code breaking…

geocacheemily

In memory of Emily Wilding Davison, a prominent member of the Suffragette Movement, who died a few days after she walked in front of the King’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby. This incident was one of the first sports disasters caught on film and shows the horrific impact and aftermath of the collision.

St. Mary’s Churchyard in Morpeth is very old and its residents diverse. It has a Lychgate at the entrance from the A197 and somewhere within it is a watchtower used to protect the fresh graves from the resurrection men (yuk).

The coordinates will take you to Emily’s grave in St. Mary’s churchyard. Use the inscriptions on the grave to find the missing numbers in the coordinates to the cache.

N 55° 09.abc
W001° 41.def

a = age of Ethel at death
b = numeral of month of Alfred’s death
c = second numeral of Charles’ age at death
d = half the number of fenceposts at the grave
e = number of letters in the word describing ‘princess’
f = day of the month on which Charles died

 

The verdict? 

Yes, so OK, perhaps the other half and I did get slightly more excited about it than the kids… and yes, I think I will still need that emergency massive cookie in my bag. But they did enjoy ‘the hunt’ and opening the little barrel, especially when there was a bit of ‘treasure’ left inside. So I am preparing our ‘geoswag’ and am looking forward to our next family geocaching adventure (and maybe even one without the kids too…)

What do you need to get started?

A GPS device or smartphone

An account with http://www.geocaching.com

Geoswag – trinkets to swap eg keyrings, loombands, shopkins, matchbox cars

A pen and paper for any extra note taking/code cracking

**a hand held mirror for looking under things once you get super advanced!

Find out more:

  • Read more expert advice from experienced family geocachers here
  • A list of what to take with you here
  • advice from netmums here

 

 

New Year’s Eve

3 Jan img_20151231_181526.jpg

img_20151231_161627.jpg

 

Tonight we went to Newcastle to see the fireworks.

img_20151231_180602.jpg

 

The parade was amazing! There was a cauldron of fire  and a dancing stag.

 

 

img_20151231_181526.jpg

 

Our Poem:

Beautiful fireworks filled the night

Thrilling everyone who watched the sight

 

 

Charlotte’s Day Trip to Whitby

27 Dec IMG_20151227_144505

Charlotte’s holiday homework is to keep a diary, so she’s been helping me out on the blog this week. We tried to find out some facts I never knew about Whitby, including snakes and monkey puzzle trees…

 

IMG_20151227_144505

 

IMG_20151227_123004

IMG_20151227_141159

Whitby facts:

  • A monastery was built in AD657 by King Oswy of Northumbria. It became one of the most important religious centres in the Anglo-Saxon world under the Abbess Hild. She ruled over both men and women in a double monastery called Streaneshalch.
  • It is said that sea birds flying over the ruins of the abbey tip their wings in honour of Hilda while the presence of ammonite fossils on the shore at Whitby is explained as the remains of a plaque of snakes which Hilda turned to stone.
  • Whitby Abbey was the inspiration for a famous scary book called Dracula by Bram Stoker that was written 1897. Lots of people come to Whitby at Halloween.
  • Some people say there are 199 steps, some say 198 and others 200. so they say you have to try and count them for yourself!

 

IMG_20151227_141303

 

 

IMG_20151227_141725

IMG_20151227_141831

 

 

Things we want to try next time we go back:

  • Mummy would like a necklace made of Jet

Jet Shop W. Hamond says: Unlike most gemstones, Whitby Jet is actually fossilised wood, similar to our present day Monkey Puzzle or Araucaria Tree, which has been compressed over millions of years.

The colour of Whitby Jet is unique; its blackness is so intense that the expression ‘as black as jet’ has been a commonly used phrase for hundreds of years.

Queen Victoria had a necklace made of Whitby Jet

Read more about it here: Whitby Jet

  • Katherine and I want to bring our buckets and spades and go down to the beach and ride on a donkey in the summer.

Other facts we found out about Whitby:

  • By 1795 Whitby had become a major whaling port. The most successful year was 1814 when eight ships caught 172 whales.
  • The famous explorer Captain Cook learned how to be a sailor in Whitby and his ship the HMS Endeavor that he sailed to Australia and New Zealand was built in Whitby.

Sunday Lunch and a Play in the Snow at Beamish Hall

15 Dec

I must be getting soft in my old age, but with the chilly icy weather I didn’t quite fancy taking the usual picnic on our trip to Beamish Museum at the weekend and so took the executive decision to book a table for a hearty Sunday Lunch.

I had heard good things about Beamish Hall and booked us a table for 6 at The Stables that promised a winning combination of log fires and real ales. But I wasn’t expecting to be quite so, well, lovely.

thestables

Driving up through the snowy grounds the Hall itself looked picture perfect and The Stables a warming winter wonderland.

The Stables is a bar, restaurant and micro-brewery is at the back of Best Western Beamish Hall, in the converted 18th century stable block.

It was a bit too frosty for the outdoor courtyard… but I bet that it is fantastic on a milder day or evening.

wp-1450026445710.jpg

The inside was really welcoming, had a great atmosphere and lots of space – which is always a relief to me, as I still get slightly anxious about expecting my two young’uns to sit still for any prolonged period of time.

There was some tasty ales on tap. Continuing the Beamish theme I sampled Old Miner Tommy.

We didn’t try a starter – going straight for the Sunday Roast and its giant Yorkshires. We all really enjoyed the meal – with particular praise being heaped on the tasty spread of veg.

wp-1450026476870.jpg

The menu was wide-ranging, with a good selection of kids options too.

The beautiful grounds meant we could also work off our meal with a snowball fight in the snow…

wp-1450026420761.jpg

Definitely a place I would like to return.

For more information visit The Stables at Beamish Hall

 

A Snowy Trip to Beamish

15 Dec

wp-1450026393246.jpg Our toes may be numb but what a lovely day we had in the snow at Beamish. While I think the unexpected snowfall and the trip to the traditional sweetshop may have been pretty influential – according to my daughter this was “the best time I’ve had while I’ve been six…”

wp-1450026413441.jpgMy gran was born in one of the Francis Street terraces, which were moved to the Beamish “Pit Village” from Hetton-le-Hole. Sadly my daughters didn’t get chance to visit with her, as she passed away last year. But we thought her birthday, this weekend, would be a nice way to keep her memory alive.

wp-1450026387909.jpg

And it did just that as, as soon as you step out through the entrance at Beamish, you enter into times past, wandering in and out of homes, shops and community buildings, all wonderfully recreated and helping my children to imagine what life was like for their great gran when she was a young child too.

wp-1450026383950.jpg

The site is vast and the kids loved the trams to take you from place to place.

wp-1450026398516.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a bit breezy on the open top mind!

wp-1450026405070.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wp-1450026372317.jpg

 

This was our first trip, but thanks to the ticket lasting a year it was nice to feel you didn’t have to cram everything into one day to get your money’s worth.

 

Armed with my guidebook I have already started swatting up on my history and the remarkable collections on display all ready for our return visit.

 

 

A family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children costs £48.50. If we go four times in a year that works out as £3 each a visit, which I think is pretty good value for money.

 

To find out more and plan your trip visit Beamish

 

Family Days Out Offers This Week

13 Nov

Family Pass to Kirkley Hall Zoo

Blue Reef Aquarium – Kids Go Free

Washington Wetland Centre – buy one get one free on admission

Whitehouse Farm: two for one entry

National Trust 3 months free membership discount with code NT15066M1

Soft Play offer at The Splat Centre Whitley Bay

South lakes Safari Park

Cakes and Candle Stick Making

30 Sep

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

wpid-img_20150503_192415.jpgIf you ever happen to be passing by Chester I can recommend a detour to the wonderful Cheshire Workshops.

Just a short drive into the countryside from Chester it’s a crafter’s paradise for kids and adults alike – plus they serve up some mean cakes too.

It all started with a local villager who became a candle maker, hand-carving candles to sell at the local market. Now they are the North West’s leading candle makers and the Candle Factory, Craft Workshop and Visitor Centre attracts more than 100,000 visitors every year.

There are a number of different activity packages you can buy on arrival depending on how creative you want to be – a bit over excited and thinking this might be the only time we ever visited – we went for one that included a triple twist candle, decorating a candle holder, model painting and filling a sand bottle.

wpid-img_20150503_114954.jpgThe candle making was fantastic – even though my children were four and six, they had no problem following the instructions and were mesmerized dipping the wick into the different coloured wax and watching it get bigger and bigger. I loved it too and even dad, not usually one for crafting had a go,

 

 

 

wpid-img_20150512_124250.jpgWhile they hung to dry we went upstairs to get on with the other activities – it was like a spell had been cast – a room full of children all sitting quietly working away in concentration!

 

 

 

wpid-img_20150512_124349.jpgTo top it all off, the workshops also has a lovely cafe, where we had scones and cakes and we were able to enjoy a cup of coffee while the children had a run around in the outdoor play area, that looks out across the open fields.

 

 

 

Looking for a spot to have our picnic we then  drove just a little further to The Ice Cream Farm at Cheshire Farm. Here we found picnic areas, a fantastic playground and one of the biggest ice cream parlours I have ever seen…. and all free (apart from the ice cream).

It was under redevelopment when we called in – but now as well as award-winning ice cream and playground has Europe’s largest indoor sand and water play area, animals, an indoor soft play barn, adventure golf and a magical garden…

I just wish we lived closer, but hopefully will be back soon!

 

a day without OJ - A comms, digital & PR blog by Ross Wigham

"A day without orange juice is a helluva long day."

North East With Kids

A few words and pictures of places we like to go in the North East of England

Great North Mum

Multitasking mummy on a mission

The Alpha Parent

A few words and pictures of places we like to go in the North East of England

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 783 other followers