21st Century Hide-and-Seek in Oxfordshire arboretum

30 July 2012

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 beautiful 130 acre site and find hidden boxes full of puzzles and activities.

Rik tests a tin can on a string

Now in its fourth year, Quest, devised by the Institute of Physics (IOP), is available for the duration of the school holidays until 2 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 chatting over a tin can telephone 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.

Henry Lau, Outreach Officer at the IOP, said “Over the past couple of years, thousands of people have enjoyed taking part in Quest and we think that this year’s trails are the best yet.  We’ve updated the activities and hidden caches in new locations so there really is something for everyone.”

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