The trail of hidden treasures that brings communities together

In the woods, under a bench in the park, or even tucked away right outside your front door, geocaching is the hidden treasure hunt encouraging people to get out and explore.

In Kent alone, there are over 10,000 caches to discover, which is sure to keep the avid adventurer busy.

Geocaching swept across the county as communities rally to search for hidden gems

Geocaching is a GPS compatible scavenger hunt game. Explorers use smartphones or GPS devices to navigate to a specific set of coordinates. Once there, they must look for a hidden cache (container).

Each cache is categorized based on accessibility and content – many will include a logbook to write a name and date. Some more prestigious finds will even include a prize, although anything caught in the cache must be replaced with an item of equal or greater value.

Jo Hurcombe, 46, is an avid geocaching enthusiast from Dartford. She started this hobby in 2010 and has since explored the world for tiny boxes of tupperware, sometimes in the most extreme terrains.

She said: “I started looking for treasure in 2010 using my phone app. Slowly at first, then more and more attracted to gambling. It was a free hobby, apart from a small annual subscription. for the premium subscription.

“Over the years I have bought a VW camper van, a few inflatable kayaks, a climbing kit, knee pads, walking shoes and a good GPS.”

Jo Hurcombe met her best friends and fiance at geocaching events in Kent
Jo Hurcombe met her best friends and fiance at geocaching events in Kent

Jo was then introduced to a whole geocaching community in the county.

She added: “Gradually, I joined other like-minded people on organized walks and events, exploring the countryside and some of the pubs in the area and surrounding areas for a well-deserved drink at the end of the walk.

“I had no idea how much some of these friends would mean to me and how much friendships would form over the years to come.”

In the years that followed, she has since signed the logbook in caches across Europe as well as America, Canada, St. Lucia, Norway and the Channel Islands.

Her 1,000th cache was checked in Guernsey after local geocachers directed her on a difficult route through a dark cave.

Cave in Guernsey was Jo's 1,000th landmark find
Cave in Guernsey was Jo’s 1,000th landmark find

However, for Jo, the best memories are a little closer to home.

She continued, “I came to an age where I wanted to see how far I could push myself and you can still do that with geocaching.

“I first found myself crawling through tunnels, wading through murky waters and paddling my inflatable kayak along the River Medway.”

Thanks to the friendships formed, Jo met her late fiancé Rich. Their need for adventure and love for the outdoors created a strong partnership, and the couple continued to abseil and climb Kent in search of caches.

Recently, Rich passed away after a short battle with cancer and Jo needed invasive spine surgery, but their combined love of caching continued until the very end.

For ultimate explorers, caches can be hidden in rivers and require specialized equipment to reach
For ultimate explorers, caches can be hidden in rivers and require specialized equipment to reach

The Kent Geocachers Facebook group was started by Rich many years ago and is now taken over by Matt Faulkner Collins, 40, of Teynham.

He said: “Attending a geocaching event and meeting other people with the same hobby, although scary at first, led me to meet some very dear friends and a large group of people in communities in line.

“During the lockdown, weekly zoom meetings were held, and I continue to relay geocaching information to the community to keep them engaged in the game.”

Matt explained how the game served as a tour guide in foreign lands, but also took him to explore his home country and the beautiful landscapes of Kent.

He continued: “There are so many places in Kent. The one that struck me was in the Longfield area where a geocache takes you to a place where a downed warplane was not discovered. until 1980. Lots of geocaches are on rural walks, some are in towns, but walking to Wye’s Crown was amazing – even walking through fields and meeting cows and sheep. “

A “micro-cache” spotted in Twydall looks like a ladybug but includes a logbook to be signed by adventurers

Kent geocachers are now hoping those who started the hobby during the lockdown will continue to play for years to come.

Matt added, “It’s completely available for all abilities, obviously some are able to find more than others. There are caches designed to be found by all ages and abilities, and others where you can find more. must be able to climb trees or abseil down cliffs There are short walks for families and long walks for people who want to find 100 in a day.

“The hands-free version of the game is called Adventure Labs and it’s little tours that will take you to five locations and ask about something there.

“Labs are player-created and range from historical information to stories or tours. Some are entirely factual and others fancy.

“I have a few sets of labs, one being the completion of the pilgrimage to Canterbury from which Canterbury Tales ends, this was the saving grace for me during the pandemic.”

The logbook is signed by anyone who finds the cache and can be logged into the app to track progress
The logbook is signed by anyone who finds the cache and can be logged into the app to track progress

The Adventure Lab Caching Trails also encourage participants to spot important landmarks such as a giant shark’s head outside the Bedford pub in Tunbridge Wells, which has become a hot spot for hikers.

In May, a new coastal path was created by Turner Contemporary and Visit Kent, and funded by Arts Council England and Visit England.

This is the world’s first-ever Geotour of Art with seven new works of art along the South East Coast and secret sea-themed stories and rewards in every cache.

Deidre Wells, Managing Director of Visit Kent, said: “The project offers inspiring itineraries that encourage visitors to travel further, stay longer and explore our cultural heritage in innovative ways.

“Whether it’s exploring our wonderful galleries, spending time with and seeing an artist at work in their own home, or participating in our new geocaching experiences.

The shark's head at Tunbridge Wells has become a famous geocaching find
The shark’s head at Tunbridge Wells has become a famous geocaching find

She added: “This project will give our visitors a unique opportunity to enjoy great art, excellent cuisine and excellent hospitality.”

The trails provided a free family activity for young and old from across the country, while encouraging communities to come together and enjoy the outdoors.

While the weather may change, there is still plenty of time to go out and start hunting for the treasure that has been under our noses for decades.

To learn more about the Creative Coast trail, click here

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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