Friday, November 30, 2007

Hillswick Ness on a very dreich day (let's geocache!)

Got kids who would rather sit in front of a computer screen playing Guild Wars than go for a bracing stroll through bog and down marshland? Want to inspire in them an appreciation of the great outdoors, while catering for their gadget freakery? or for that matter, your own?

I have the solution. It is called Geocaching, and involves a combination of the internet, portable GPS satnav units, stout footwear, long walks and treasure hunting. Essentially, it IS a treasure hunt, using GPS. Boxes (hundreds in Scotland) are hidden. You have to find them, secretly. You can take one of the small 'treasures' contained therein, but you should exchange it for one of your own, and note your discovery both online, at the Geocaching site, and by recording your visit, usually in a notebook in the cache.

I look after two local caches (you find your nearest caches on the Geocaching site by typing in your locality postccode - ZE2 or Shetland will reveal Cairn No More and, now the UK's most northerly Geocache, Another Fine Ness. Sorry about the puns.

This morning I loaded up the Magellan GPS (£40 off eBay) and took a strenuous 45-minute hike out on the Hillswick Ness to make sure all was well with Another Fine Ness for winter. It's there and it's dry and clean, with a brand new notebook for St Andrew's Day. Congrats to 'Jersey Royals' for travelling from the UK's most southerly geocache (and an offshore islet,no less, near Jersey) to the most northerly. Hope you got the easterly and the westerly as well.

The pictures show the location of the cache, with stunning views out to the cathedral-like stacks called The Drongs, and what is either a sheep fank or a Pictish cairn. Or both. It was a dull, wet and windy day. I was grateful for my wonderful Raichle boots.

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