Quality of Dartmoor Caches

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    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    As most of you will know, I’m not particularly a stickler for observing rules of any kind (I once quoted Douglas Bader on this site “Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.”) However, some of the geocaching guidelines do actually help us and really do offer useful guidance.

    Judy and I recently spent a week geocaching in Cornwall and we were immediately struck by the quality of the caches we found there. Not just some, but almost all. In particular, it was nice to see properly labelled caches stating clearly that the box was a geocache and containing some sort of stash card for those who found the cache by accident.

    The reason that this struck us was that we had become so used to the geocaches we had found on Dartmoor that were no more than boxes with a log book stuck under a rock. No indication at all what the box was. This is particularly important on Dartmoor as there are many genuine letterboxes around, but 10 times more rubbish boxes, pretending to be letterboxes, but containing no more than just a wet log book. Geocachers who live in and around Dartmoor can normal distinguish between a letterbox, a geocache and the rubbish box, because we have found so many of each. But those coming from elsewhere have probably not heard of letterboxing and assume that every ice-cream carton is a geocache!

    I have seen so many logs recently where a find has been logged on what has clearly been a rubbish box. I got dragged up to Bench Tor a couple of weeks ago because somebody had reported my cache as being smashed and soaking wet. When I got there it was obvious they had found one of these rubbish boxes which I immediately removed. Near to my cache at Cherrybrook Quarry is a genuine letterbox. Because so many geocachers logged this as my geocache, I’ve now stuck a label on it stating that it is not the geocache they are looking for.

    I’m sorry for this long rant. The point I am trying to make is that it would help everybody if all our caches were labelled correctly (as per the guidelines) as it may help to prevent these silly logs and should also prevent our caches being identified as rubbish by those who are not geocachers, and may earn us a little more respect from our letterboxing friends, some of whom do not think too kindly of geocachers and their little unlabelled boxes. After all, what is the difference between a piece of litter and a geocache?

    Avatar photoGoldenHaystack

    As some of you will know, I’m also not particularly a stickler for observing rules of any kind! GH.


    I’m afraid I would have to disagree with many of your comments here, Dave, but then I would say that, as I am clearly a repeat offender in your eyes.

    Firstly, I would not say that labelled and identified caches are in the majority anywhere you go. You may have been lucky in your trip, but containers with nothing but a log-book inside are far from rare, and I don’t think Dartmoor should be singled out in this regard.

    Also, I think the labelling is unnecessary anyway for a number of reasons: what an accidental finder does with your unlabelled geocache has, I suspect, more to do with their psychology and opinions than with the packaging of the box. On Dartmoor as well, I think that most cachers from here or elsewhere, and letterboxers too for that matter, will know when they have found what they are looking for. As long as somewhere the cache has its name on it, such as on the logbook, that should suffice.

    Finally, Dartmoor’s geocaches are indeed often just a container with a log book stuck under a rock, and I wouldn’t disagree with that, as that’s exactly what nearly all of mine are. However, I am just glad that some people have taken the time and effort to place caches around this beautiful location which I can then go and find. I think it matters rather less whether those caches have an official green sticker on them.

    And finally, I’m not going to line their pockets by buying their official stickers anyway. Setting caches is expensive enough as it is.

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    I have to admit that a lot of the caches I found in Cornwall were placed by only a handful of owners, but it was clear that they did take a pride in their caches and it was a noticeable difference to many of ours on Dartmoor and in my opinion made the experience more enjoyable. A bit like the difference between the thrown in the hedge micro and the carefully crafted cache. I am very pleased that we do see many of the latter type on Dartmoor and several of these placed by muddypuddles.

    The other reason I mentioned this was that I had just received the geocaching guidelines from the DNPA and near the top of the list is the requirement that all geocaches should be labelled as such. As this is such an easy requirement to meet I think that we should play our part in this agreement and ensure that we do label our geocaches. It doesn’t have to be an expensive green sticker, I’ve seen many just with the word “geocache” scribbled on the box with a permanent pen.

    Possibly I am in a small minority who think that we should take a pride in the caches we place and that their presentation is important. But whatever the general opinion, I shall continue to place caches that I would like to find, and that probably means a nice green sticker, a log book in a waterproof bag, a stash card, a pencil and in many cases a camouflaged bag as well!

    But I do echo muddypuddle’s sentiments when he says “However, I am just glad that some people have taken the time and effort to place caches around this beautiful location which I can then go and find.”

    Avatar photored.roaming

    Just thought I would add my thoughts on the quality of Dartmoor caches as this morning I went to check on 5 caches which I had recently adopted. These caches have been out for several years and are frequently found by visitors from outside Devon as well as outside England, which is great to see. However the negatives are that a couple of the caches which were larger than 35mm were full of scraps of paper and caching log strips only written on one side [?why?]. One of these caches had more than one log asking is this a geocache or a letterbox as it was far from obvious [the cache was named on the geocaching strips when eventually found amongst the paper] – it was very close to an icecream container again full of bits of paper which I removed as it was rubbish.
    This experience leads me to feel that we all should have a responsibility towards the maintenance of caches we found, and not leave this to “someone else”.
    Sorry, will now stop wingeing! [if that how it is spelt!]

    Avatar photodartymoor

    Yes, agree in theory…

    But what holds me and I’m sure others back is not knowing if the owner wants you to take scraps/logs/calling cards/crap toys and junk away – leaving nothing but a single log behind. If they ever do verify paper logs against website logs someone might have their smiley deleted. Is it ever “bad form” to take anything from a cache, unless it’s a swap?

    Dave has a nice aspiration there, and yes, for your own caches I think it would be a nice thing to do, provided no stigma was directed to the less blinged boxes.

    Also remember what it’s about as a cacher – why do people go caching, especially on Dartmoor? A nice walk, good views, interesting history, a bit of a challenge getting to GZ. I’m not sure an untidy cache is going to register much provided it’s dry and still there.

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    It’s good to see a sensible discussion and some interesting questions being asked.

    I believe that anybody who takes geocaching seriously should always endeavour to help the cache owners. I now always carry kitchen roll to dry out caches and spare logs to replace those that are beyond signing, because they are too wet. I would never take away a full dry log as the cache owner may want it but will always take away saturated logs as they will be a source of new moisture in the cache. I always log what I have done and ask the CO if they want the log I have removed. So far not one has wanted a saturated log back. If the cache is cracked or of really poor quality then there is little point of adding a new log as that too will become saturated.

    As I asked in my original post, what is the difference between a cache and litter? Dartmoor IS different because of the preponderance of cheap plastic boxes (ice-cream containers!) aspiring to be letterboxes, but we know they are not. Surely we need to differentiate our geocaches from this sort of litter and make it clear to the finder that they have actually found a geocache and what it means. I also believe that a properly labelled geocache will better protect travel bugs and geocoins from being stolen if the finder believes that this is a part of a bigger and properly organised activity. Without the label and possible stash card they will have no idea what they have found.

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    This is an interesting log which supports much of my argument about whether geocaches should be correctly labelled:

    Puzzling and frustrating – so many plastic boxes are hidden around here that they seem to outnumber the rocks themselves. Some have logs that have been signed by cachers, but none that we found seemed to actually be geocaches. So far as we could tell, all were leaky lunchboxes dumped by enthusiastic kids with no thought for their future maintenance.

    Realistically, it ought to have been possible to find the real cache – but the GPSr was being a little vague and we didn’t have the clue with us as we were paperless and without internet access, so after a long hunt and yet another lunchbox with pink butterflies and sparkly unicorns we decided to call it a day.

    Much as we’d like to log a find as pay-off for finding things in plausible locations, in all conscience we can’t. We’d suggest this one might be worth re-siting somewhere a little away from the tor, in some tricksy location that kids won’t think to go to and which lends itself to a specific clue.

    Avatar photodartymoor

    Another example to support your view; Lower and Middle Staple Tors. Both Hybrid boxes. GCT4CE

    Both had geocaches when I walked around there a couple of months ago. I tried both, one was obviously missing (clear clue), one I couldn’t find but could have been there. The owner admitted they weren’t able to do maint so archived the one that was definitely missing. End of a 6 year old cache 🙁 (They may be persuaded to unarchive if anyone wants to adopt it, sadly it’s the wrong side of the moor for me)

    In both cases, there have been a lot of DNF *AND* Found logs. The latter, almost certainly from people finding nearby letterboxes and not realising. Given how many rock solid finds there were earlier, I suspect it has gone but without the CO available to verify what is and what isn’t their cache – the only way to distinguish a Hybrid Geocache from a bog standard letterbox is some form of identification; such as the stash card you suggested.

    That said, I put out the Hennock series without them. I did mean to, and actually designed a special one, but I had a free day to lay it before I went back to work where the laminator was and put them out without. I’ll include them when I do a maint-circuit though. Most have “Geocache – Harmless” tz-labelled on the outside as per the guidelines though.

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