Published: 06:00, 05 September 2021
In the woods, under a bench at the park, or even hidden right outside your front door, geocaching is the hidden treasure hunt encouraging people to get outside and explore.
There are more than 10,000 caches waiting to be discovered in Kent alone, so will definitely keep the keen adventurer busy.
Geocaching is a GPS-enabled treasure hunt game. Explorers use smartphones or GPS devices to travel to a specific set of coordinates. Once there they have to hunt for a hidden cache (container).
Each cache is graded according to the 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 taken from the cache must be replaced with an item of equal or greater value.
Jo Hurcombe, 46, is an avid geocacher from Dartford. She took up the hobby in 2010 and has since been exploring the globe looking for tiny tupperware boxes, sometimes in the most extreme terrains.
She said: "I started looking for treasure back in 2010 using my phone app. Slowly at first, then becoming more drawn into the game. It was a free hobby, apart from a small yearly subscription for the premium membership.
"Over the years it saw me buy a VW Campervan, a few inflatable kayaks, climbing kit, knee pads, walking boots and a decent GPS."
Jo was then introduced to an entire geocaching community in the county.
She added: "Gradually I joined other like-minded people in organised walks and events, exploring the countryside and some of the pubs in and around the area for a well deserved drink at the end of the walk.
"Little did I know how much some of these friends would mean to me and how tightly the friendships would form over the coming years."
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 ticked off in Guernsey after local geocachers directed her towards a difficult route through a dark cave.
However, for Jo the best memories are a little closer to home.
She continued: "I got to an age where I wanted to see how far I could push myself and you can still do this with geocaching.
"First I found myself crawling through tunnels, wadding through murky water and paddling my inflatable kayak along the River Medway."
Through the friendships formed, Jo met her late fiancé Rich. Their need for adventure and love for the outdoors created a strong partnership and the pair went on to absail and climb their way across Kent in the search for caches.
Recently Rich passed away after a short fight with cancer, and Jo required an invasive spinal surgery but their combined love for caching continued until the very end.
The Kent Geocachers Facebook Group was set up by Rich many years ago and has now been taken over by 40-year-old Matt Faulkner Collins from Teynham.
He said: "Attending a geocaching event and meeting other people with the same hobby, although nerve wracking at first, led me to meet some very dear friends and a great group of people in the online communities.
"Over lockdown there were weekly zoom meetings arranged, and I continue to pass on geocaching information to the community to keep them engaged in the game."
Matt explained how the game acted as a tour guide in foreign countries, but also led him to explore his home county and the beautiful landscapes across Kent.
He continued: "There are so many locations in Kent. One that hit me was in the Longfield area where a geocache takes you to a location where a shot down war plane was left undiscovered until 1980. Many geocaches are on rural walks, some are in the towns, but walking up to the Wye Crown was amazing - even walking through fields and meeting cows and sheep."
Geocachers across Kent are now hoping that those who took up the hobby during lockdown will continue to play for years to come.
Matt added: "It’s completely available to 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 need to be able to climb trees or abseil cliffs. There are short walks for families and long walks for people that want to find 100 in a day.
"The version of the game that is hands-free is called Adventure Labs and they are small tours that will take you to five spots and ask questions about something there.
"Labs are created by players and range from historical information to stories or sightseeing. Some are entirely factual and some are whimsical.
"I have a couple of sets of Labs, one being completing the pilgrimage to Canterbury from where Canterbury Tales ends, this was the saving grace for me during the pandemic."
Adventure Lab caching trails also encourage those taking part to spot significant landmarks such as a giant shark head outside The Bedford pub in Tunbridge Wells which became a hotspot for ramblers.
In May a new coastal trail was created by Turner Contemporary and Visit Kent, and funded by Arts Council England and Visit England.
It is the world's first ever art Geotour with seven new artworks along the south east coast and secret seaside-themed stories and rewards in every cache.
Deidre Wells chief executive of Visit Kent said: "The project offers inspiring itineraries encouraging 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 taking part in our new geocaching experiences."
She added: "This project will give our visitors a unique opportunity to enjoy great art, great food and great hospitality."
The trails have provided both young and old across the country with a free family activity, as well as encouraging communities to come together and enjoy the great outdoors.
Although the weather may be turning, there is still plenty of time to get out and start hunting for the treasure that has been under our nose for decades.