Tag Archives: Geocaching

Ten Years of Geocaching

It’s now been over ten years since I started Geocaching, the worldwide game that started when the US government turned off selective availability on the worldwide GPS system giving the accuracy that we now rely on for satellite navigation systems in our cars, and that allowed Dave Ulmer to hide a plastic bucket, and Mike Teague to find it purely from the location details Dave posted on the sci.geo.satellite-nav newsgroup back in May 2000.

We got started back on Spring Bank Holiday in May 2001, finding GC171 – View from Coombe Hill which amazingly is still there a decade later – you can see proof of that in this collage of pictures from the camera in the cache. Many of our early finds are now gone, although another cache that is over a decade old now is our own GCBE3 – The Queens Oak which has been hidden in four different spots over the years around St James’ in Finchampstead – it’s had to move a couple of times due to maintenance work on the church grounds exposing the hiding place, and once because of safety concerns over a wall. It’s also been totally replaced with a new container following an incidence of cache trashing.

We’re certainly not high scoring cachers if you look at our stats – although it’s worth remembering that back when we were caching frequently the caches were a lot further apart – my nearest hundred caches covered about half the country, now I have one hundred caches within a few miles. Over the years we’ve tended to cache on holidays mostly, and to be honest after delving into cacher politics for a bit with approving caches, and being one of the founders of the Geocaching Association of Great Britain I’ve largely kept a low profile.

What is interesting though is looking at how the game has changed over ten years. Back at the beginning you needed what could be regarded as a pretty specialist bit of kit to play the game, now with millions of people across the country having a GPS enabled smartphone almost anybody can join in easily.

I’m also somewhat amused now at one of the biggest early rows, which related to a local cacher around here, a chap called Robin Lovelock. He owns a company producing GPS software and hid a lot of geocaches in the local area, but alongside the usual trinkets put a copy of his software and a business card in each cache. This caused uproar on the cache forums because it was commercialising the game, and because of the cache density – one person said to me that he didn’t want the game to be such that you were tripping over a cache on every corner. What is amusing now is firstly that Groundspeak are quite happily running a commercial business based around the game and were back then, but more importantly the cache density in our area is now way in advance of the number that Robin placed back then – indeed from St James’ there is a circuit of over twenty caches that can be completed in a couple of hours.

Beth with the UK Project A.P.E. Geocache Another change is the size of the caches.

I started to notice things were changing a couple of years back when people finding our Queens Oak cache started commenting on how big the box was. From my point of view, when I hid it most caches were ammo cans, and the tupperware container we used was a pretty average size. Certainly it wasn’t the biggest – that honour goes to the UK Project A.P.E. Cache, GC12AD – Mission 10b: Meridian Snake. As a side story, this cache I actually ended up making two trips to in order to be first to find. The first trip was about an hour after the location had been published, at which point I discovered that Groundspeak had screwed up the coordinates, having returned home, moaned online and had the correct coordinates I then drove back down and was first to find the next morning. The picture here shows Beth with the cache container – I guess you can see why I was surprised at people describing our little tupperware tub as big.

To be honest having a cache this big doesn’t exactly make the game difficult – you could see this one across the field from where it was, which is kind of why it didn’t last that long. Having the smaller caches does make the game more challenging, even if it does mean that the space for swaps is somewhat less.

Going along with the size change there are now more micro-caches, even in rural areas, which didn’t seem to be done when we started. Our micro-cache was placed in an urban area, but recently I’ve found micro-caches hidden in false rocks, magnetically attached to the top of a direction sign, and even a magnetic key container attached to the underside of a rural post box.

What hasn’t changed though is that it is still a relatively unknown activity – certainly with the recent geocache bomb scare it was pretty clear that nobody in the local police organisation knew anything about the game, and that is despite regular TV spots over the past ten years, including one featuring a somewhat younger Richard and Beth!

There is still a regular influx of new people starting the game, promotion from GPS manufacturers, and word of mouth promotion. I suspect we’ll be doing more caches as the children get older. Lucy has already come on a couple of cache hunts with me, and seemed to enjoy the treasure hunt, and with 1.3 million caches worldwide we’re not going to run out of things to find any time soon.

Diet and Lifestyle Changes

This post is one of a series about the ongoing health issues I have had recently beginning in February 2011.

Once the GP and Ear Nose and Throat specialist had established that there wasn’t really anything significant wrong, the general advice was that I needed to ride out the infections, but would benefit from some lifestyle changes.

Of course this is the same sort of general healthy living advice that I suspect most people get when they visit their GP – certainly a colleague at work said he gets much the same every visit to his GP, however like most people I wasn’t eating as healthily as I could, and certainly wasn’t getting enough exercise.

I’d already changed some things as a result of the effects of the post nasal drip. For two or three months I’d been getting morning nausea, which really wasn’t helped by having milk on cereal in the morning. For part of the time I’d just cut out the cereal, but that left me feeling decidedly hungry by lunchtime. Since the previous belief that too many eggs were bad for you had been changed recently I decided to try poached eggs for breakfast – Sam had already developed a bit of a liking for eggs for breakfast too, so it wasn’t too much of a problem to change. The change was also beneficial in cutting my sugar intake, as the muesli I was having had rather a lot of sugar I discovered when I was advised to cut down.

So why cut down on sugar? If you take a look at this WebMD list of immune system busters and boosters third on the list is sugar intake – apparently it can have a dramatic effect on the immune system and it’s ability to fight infection, indeed Sinus Survival, one of a number of deal with your sinus problem guides that are available recommends cutting refined sugar and dairy products totally when you are suffering from a sinus infection.

I’ve had not too much problem cutting out sugar as I’ve never been a great one for snacks, however when the birthday cakes come out at work I have to keep temptation under control. Having said that wanting to end months of being ill is a good way to keep it at bay!

Dairy wise again I’ve pretty well cut it out, but then I never had much dairy anyway, aside from milk on breakfast cereal I’ve just had to stop having cheese. Beth has also cut down on sugar and dairy, although going dairy free was something she was thinking about anyway having had a friend who had children who were lactose intolerant, and had gone dairy free as a family for convenience, and then ended up feeling better for it. In the case of sinus problems the reason for doing so is that dairy products are believed to cause an increase in mucus production, so by cutting it out it reduces the mucus.

The other recommendation from the GP was to start taking some multivitamins, so I’ve joined Beth and the children in taking my vitamins every morning – initially an immune building mix but subsequently myself and Beth are both having the same standard multivitamin.

Alongside this we’ve increased our fruit intake – so we’re certainly eating more than our five a day I’m sure. But the big change on my part is that I’m making time for a walk, often at lunchtime, but with a longer walk at weekends.

Although I work in a town centre, I’m lucky that five minutes drive up the road are the RMA Sandhurst training grounds. Although I have tried walking up there, in the limited time available in a lunchtime it means you end up spending 20-30 minutes walking alongside traffic choked roads, and only get a limited time out in the public parts of the training grounds. Driving up gives time for a 2-3km walk in the hour for lunch. There are plenty of paths to explore, and even a couple of geocaches that I’ve picked up. If I want a shorter walk, heading from the office up to the Camberley Obelisk is about 1km there and back, even if the Obelisk itself is in a bit of a sorry state nowadays and the view is mostly obscured by trees. (Saddleback Hill in the RMA Sandhurst training grounds gives a much better view.)

I’ve also done longer walks in and around Arborfield and Finchampstead. There is a nice circuit from St James’ down through the village and across to Fleet Hill and back, and there would be an equally nice circuit from home around to Arborfield village if it wasn’t for the fact that one key path from Langley Common Road to the village appears to end at a dead end at somebodies back fence! I’ve also picked up quite a few of the local geocaches over towards Farley Hill.

Certainly the diet changes and exercise are making me feel better, but until the hayfever season is over, it remains to be seen whether I’ll finally beat the sinus problems!


Roman Ruins

Following on from my hard drive troubles at the weekend I’ve uploaded a whole batch of scanned pictures I managed to salvage from the drive, all of which probably come under the category of archive material!

There are several group shots, including a picture of the class of ’91 from my school, most of my Computer Science course from 1994, the employee group shot from Flagg Ranch where I worked during summer 1993 and a shot of the development team at my first job. I’m a lot easier to spot in some of the pictures than others, but I am in all four.

There are also a couple of scans of cuttings relating to the Geocaching video I posted a couple of months back.

The biggest set is a whole load of pictures from our wedding back in 2001 – not the official shots but a mixed bag of pictures from the table cameras, and various other snapshots people took. You can also see the house Beth lived in when she first moved to the UK.

Alongside all of those are a kind of ‘best of’ selection of some of the pictures I took on my trips to Morocco, and to Syria and Jordan. This one of Petra will probably be familiar to anybody who has come to our house as an enlargement of it hangs in our hallway. The picture above is one from my Morocco trip, and is my being experimental with shooting pictures of the Roman ruins.

Another Geocaching Convert?

Found It!

You know those moments when someone thinks they’re telling you about some really great secret, but you, and a load of other people already know? Various of us at St James had that experience this morning listening to Rev Richard’s sermon.

On his day off, he and Penny his wife had headed off to the Bramshill Plantation, a large area of Forestry Commission land just over the border into Hampshire on the other side of Eversley. They went walking off into the forest, Rev Richard armed with a map and compass, and managed to get them thoroughly lost.

Luckily for them, they met someone else walking through the forest, and asked him if he knew where they were, he pulled out a handheld GPS unit – something Rev Richard hadn’t seen – and read off the co-ordinates. They then got talking about precisely why this man was wandering around the forest, and he said he was a Geocacher, and that he’d just done one of the caches that are hidden in the plantation.

At this point in telling the story, Rev Richard asked whether anybody knew about Geocaching, and I guess was slightly surprised at the people who knew. The reason of course that a lot of people around the Church know becomes clear when you watch our Geocaching video in which our segment is filmed around St James. Various people know about the game having seen us on the programme when it was originally shown, and various others, generally those involved with grounds maintenance know about the game having inadvertently found the cache – indeed the cache has moved twice following occasions when the regular maintenance rendered the previous location unsuitable. The interesting thing is that despite having been here several years, nobody had actually told Rev Richard about the cache. Not surprising really as it’s not usually the kind of thing that comes up in conversation…

Anyway, Rev Richard carried on, telling how the Geocacher had taken him back to the cache he had just found, and the story was used as an analogy – searching for treasure with the Christian search for ‘treasure’.

St Swithun's Nately Scures

After the service I told Richard quite how close he’s been to a geocache (our Queens Oak cache mentioned in the film) for the past few years, indeed the fact he’s walked past it every day. I also mentioned myself and Beth’s involvement, including us being one of the seven founder teams behind the Geocaching Association of Great Britain, and have since sent him the link to the video. I’ve also taken the opportunity to upload some of the older Geocaching snapshots I have on iPhoto – these ones are from back in 2003, including some shots of the preserved planes a Lasham Aerodrome which figure as clues in a cache, and another church with a cache close by, the almost totally unaltered St Swithun’s Nately Scures, which gives you an idea of what St James must once have looked like before the subsequent generations started knocking through bigger windows and adding bits.

So I guess the question is, has Rev Richard now got the Geocaching bug?

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

So since I have a nice little device that can play video, I’ve been trawling through all the old video clips I have sitting around to try them out. One item I came across was this, our fifteen minutes of fame from early 2003 back when Inside Out interviewed us about Geocaching (see their page about the show here) which went out originally in the Southern area, and in some other regions later on.

The clip sequence is especially notable for the fact that thanks to the BBC cutting everything I said it’s basically Chris Packham interviewing Beth and me holding the box… It’s also worth it for Dan and Pid, the infamous night cachers who appear after us. Enjoy.

Incidentally, the full set of pictures from the cache, up to the point the camera was removed can be seen online here. Where known the pictures include the names of the cachers.