X Marks the spot! A fun way to introduce children to map reading
Map reading is a good skill to have in life; being able to find a grid reference, use a compass and read contour lines might even save your life one day. Ella (age 11) shows you how!
If you’re looking for something to get you out of the house and the kids away from their phones, tablets and game consoles, try geocaching in the Northumberland National Park.
Geocaching will get you outdoors, teach you about the landscape and history and you’ll walk further than you think, so you’ll get plenty of exercise. The Northumberland National Park is full of interesting wildlife, plants and trees and you’ll get the chance to discover new places while you search for caches.
It’s a lot like a treasure hunt, except that you follow co-ordinates, see clues previous hunters may have left, read a map, explore the countryside and find the hidden cache.
The caches always contain a log or register that you sign. You might also find small objects that other people have left, such as a pen, mini torch, magnifying glass, compass or toy cars, coins books or rubber balls. The idea is that you take an object out of the cache to keep, as long as you replace it with something that’s of the same value or more. What you find in the caches will normally depend on its size. Sometimes they are fairly large, but in some locations they might be in tubing or something that’s too small for additional objects.
The Northumberland National Park has geocaching trails in different parts of the park. Some of them are recommended for beginners and others are for people with more experience because the terrain might be challenging. Have a look at these seven trails and see what you can find.
This is south of Rothbury, a market town with the river Coquet running through its centre. There are more than 100 carved rocks to view here and the oldest date back to the Neolithic period. Have a look at the Iron Age fort before you try and find the cache. The terrain and difficulty level are rated as 1, so it’s ideal for beginners.
Steel Rig is one of three access points to Hadrian’s Wall, which became a World Heritage Site in 1987. The wall took six years to build and it is 73 miles long. While you’re hunting for the cache, you can imagine how the 1,000 soldiers lived who were once garrisoned here. Beginners might find this trail a challenge as the difficulty level and the terrain rate is a level 3.
Make your way to Holystone village in Coquetdale and then follow the signs to Lady’s Well. The cache is close to the stile, before you get to the well. The area can be muddy, so you’ll need sturdy shoes, but the terrain isn’t too challenging at a level 2.
The Pill Boxes on the Coquet line were built to defend the area from a German invasion in World War II. Each Pill Box has a number, but some aren’t visible now because of wear. You will need to find Pill Box P322, which is close to the road leading to Hepple. It is another good trail for beginners.
Shilla Hill is eight miles north-west of Bellingham on the Reivers Trail footpath, west of Combe. Park your car in the Black Middens Bastle car park and take a 5 to 10-minute walk. The terrain is level 3, so it might be a bit of a challenge.
Hareshaw Low Dam is near Bellingham. It was built to supply power for the ironworks blast furnace in 1839, but ten years later the ironworks were closed and the dam was no longer needed. The area around the dam is a site of special scientific interest. If you’re lucky you might spot a woodpecker or a red squirrel while you’re hunting for the cache. This trail has a terrain level of 2 and a difficulty level of 2, so it’s fine for beginners.
If you want to know more about geocaching in the Northumberland National Park, have a look at the official geocaching website, where you’ll find hints and tips and some information about the landscape and history.