High-tech treasure hunt at Arboretum

21 July 2011

Harcourt Arboretum is hosting a high-tech treasure hunt over the summer which will see participants using co-ordinates and GPS to navigate around the beautiful130 acre site and find hidden boxes full of puzzles and activities.

Now in its third year, Quest, devised by the Institute of Physics (IOP), will be available for the duration of the school holidays, from 23 July until 5 September at the University of Oxford’s Harcourt Arboretum in Nuneham Courtenay, just outside Oxford.

As part of the Quest treasure trails, visitors to the Arboretum will use GPS units to guide them to hidden boxes, known as geocaches, containing fun, hands-on activities relating to both trees and physics, which visitors can try out before tracking down the next geocache.

There will be two separate trails available for visitors to choose from: Express Quest, aimed at families with children aged 6 -11; and Puzzle Quest, aimed at older children and adults.

Express Quest activities include decoding a secret message using coloured filters and making a paper helicopter; while Puzzle Quest involves measuring the UV index and finding out how astronauts grow plants in space.

Quest will provide both new and regular Arboretum visitors with a unique way to explore this beautiful site, with its range of trees, woods and meadows.  GPS units will be available to borrow free of charge in exchange for a refundable deposit, although there is an entrance fee for the Arboretum.

Quest takes its inspiration from geocaching, a craze started in the US but catching on rapidly in the UK. Treasure hunters look up the coordinates of hidden boxes, known as geocaches, online before navigating to them using their GPS units or smartphones.

Alex Cheung, Outreach Officer at the IOP, said “Geocaching has become a really popular activity.  It’s like a 21st Century Hide and Seek.  Quest offers a great opportunity for people to find out more about both trees and physics in a really beautiful setting at, hopefully, a pleasant time of year.”