Geocaching is probably the most popular location-based game out there. For me, nothing could possibly take the place of the thrill of finding secret “treasure” hidden right under everybody’s noses. Although I’ll quite happily chat to muggles or friends about Caching, there is still the excitement of it not being a well-known thing and that you are on a little “secret mission” to unearth the treasure! But I thought I’d broaden my horizons and take a look at some of the other GPS games/location-based games out there and the other caching sites and see what I might be missing out on. This was going to be quite a brief post, but as I discovered so many different hobbies and games that I thought I’d expand it into a bit of a series. Are you tempted by any of these Geocaching alternatives? Or do you participate any others already? Drop a comment below!
Part 1 in the ‘Explore the Outdoors’ series looks at Benchmark hunting and Trigpointing.
If you log onto your Geocaching.com profile you will notice at the top right next to ‘Souvenirs‘ you have a ‘Benchmarks‘ link. Follow this and you will find your logged benchmarks and if you are a UK user you will probably find nothing. To start finding Benchmarks you need to navigate to the Benchmark Hunting page and if you are a UK user you will probably find…Wait for it…NOTHING! Search for somewhere in the US however and you’ll be much more successful
Unfortunately Benchmarking on the Geocaching.com website isn’t available in the UK due to the Benchmarks for Geocaching.com coming from a US database.
Fear not, however as we have Trigpointing and our own UK Benchmark database. The only slight hitch is that this isn’t liked to Groundspeak at all, so your logs and find numbers are completely independent. There is also Waymarking, which is linked to Groundspeak that I will look at in a different entry. I think it’s time to explore my options…
“Benchmark” is a surveyor’s term for horizontal chisel marks made in stone. Into these an angle-iron could be place to form a “bench” for a leveling rod so that they rod could be positioned in the same place in the future. There is usually an arrow chiseled below the line.
The UK Benchmark database is also available on a website. It seems that all Benchmarks are loggable except for trig points. I quickly joined up and did a search for a ‘Cut benchmark’ that I noticed in Trafalgar Square on a plinth for a statue at the Ostra Antigua earthcache. I couldn’t find it in the database however, so maybe it’s just not listed, or maybe I wasn’t using the right search terms.
There are quite a few different types of benchmarks in the UK database.
Along levelling lines between fundamental benchmarks are Flush Brackets. These are metal plates cememted flush to the face of a building. Each Flush Bracket is approximately 1 mile from another. Each bracket has a serial number on it. They are often fised to triangulation pillars, however the ones that aren’t are known as “Non-Pillar Flush Brackets (NPFB)”
Fundamental Benchmarks are highly accurate, stable height stations that are still in current use today. They are constructed approximately 25 miles apart and consist of a buried chamber with a brass bolt in the top of a granite pillar.
Projecting Benchmarks are metal brackets that were used briefly before flush brackets. They are all identical.
When it there wasn’t a convenient vertical to place a G-Series flush bracket on a building or wall, these domed 1″ diameter metal bolts were fixed to horizontal surfaces. They have OSBM engraved on them along with the benchmark symbol.
Similar in appearance to Rivets, however these are seen on horizontal services where inserting the rivet would cause the stone to break. e.g. Soft sandstone. They look like a normal benchmark, however at the top of the arrow there is a small hole or depression cut in to take the pivot. The pivot is then placed in the depression for measurements to be taken. These are fairly rare.
There are only 3 of these in the entire database, however they are very important. Newlyn Tidal Observatory was established to determine the mean sea level that is the starting point for levelling in the UK. This brass bolt is the benchmark for the whole of the United Kingdom, that is, all heights are referenced to this point.
Cut Benchmark with Bolt (1GL)
These are very old and rare and have a metal bolt screwed either alongside the horizontal line, or at the point of the arrowhead.
These are similar in appearance to Pivoting Bench marks, however there is a small metal brass rivet at the apex of the arrowheads.
Triangulation Pillar (Or Trig Point)
A concrete or stone pillar placed at intervals around the country. They were once used for map surveying, but are no longer needed. They were placed so as to be in sight of each other, so many are on hills or mountains. These are not loggable on this bench mark database, and have their own dedicated site where they can be logged.
Using the Benchmark UK database
It’s quite easy to find a benchmark using the website as there are quite a few options that you can search using. As I said I couldn’t find my Trafalgar Square one that I spotted, however I did find one on a milestone along a road that I’ve run along many times.
I checked my running diary and found a date when I would have run past it. After signing up to the website I was quickly able to log this as my first benchmark find!
And that’s it. It’s pretty easy to log a find and there are literally hundreds of benchmarks near you that you probably never would have even noticed.
Logging Trig Points can be done at TrigPointingUK.com! I had a quick think back to 3 caches. 2 of these were at trig points (I remember one very well as I extracted the film can from the hole and a huge nest of ants and ant eggs came with it!!!), and for 1 I remember passing it on the way back to the car recently. I tried searching for nearby Geocaches and towns using the search facility and yielded nothing so I whizzed on over the http://maps.the-hug.net and quickly located the trig points that I saw. It’s easy on the ordnance survey maps there to click on a trig point that you can see on the map and pop up the grid reference. You can then enter this into the trig point website search box and the closest trig points will appear.
I’m now feeling rather proud of myself as I have found 3 trig points and I can also reliably log the date that I found them because it is the same date that I found the caches!
My trig point finds are:
TP2048 – Catley Park
TP7125 – New Farm
TP4887 – Monkhams Hall
There’s a neat little map of the UK that shows you the blue dots of trig points, and the ones that you’ve found as red dots. Despite the colours of the website, I really like it.
It’s a neat idea and something that I think I could get into, but probably not quite in the way that I am in to Geocaching. It looks like quite a few people do it, and there are a few Geocacher usernames that I recognise in the logs for trig points. There’s also the ability to upload photos of the trig points and the pages for the ones that I visited did have quite a few photos on them.
For some more examples and photos of UK benchmarks check out the geograph website.
In my next post ‘Explore the Outdoors: Part 2 – Waymarking’ I shall look at Groundspeak’s Waymarking site, the site that is often referred to as the place where virtual caches belong…