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Thread: Landowner permission; where did we go wrong?

  1. #1

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    Default Landowner permission; where did we go wrong?

    Having recently read that there are 21000 letterboxes in the Dartmoor National Park, I wondered what would happen if we attempted to flood a similar area with 20000+ geocaches.

    I think that we'd have all sorts of issues with landowner permission, not to mention cache saturation complaints.

    I mean letterboxers no harm and I'm not trying to stir things, I'm just wondering how come we ended up in this position, where letterboxers seem to have such freedom but we're subject to a great deal of red tape. Urban letterboxing is similar; you prepare your letterbox, place it and post it on the web site. Essentially, letterboxing is virtually the same as geocaching; the couple I've found have been ammo boxes containing log books (and stamps).

    So where did we go wrong? Was it in attempting to "do the right thing", thus putting landowners on the spot and forcing them to make formal permission the norm? Is it that we have attracted too much publicity in the media? Is it because we're seen as a "high-tech treasure hunt", using the Internet; which always seems to attract suspicion? Perhaps it's because listing sites are too public whereas letterbox numbers and locations are hidden?

    Is it now too late to change policy and learn from the success of letterboxing? Discuss.

  2. #2

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    I think the primary difference (IMHO) is that letterboxing has been going on for a VERY long time. the first letterbox is marked on the OS map at Cranmer Pool, and was placed in the mid 1800s. geocaching simply cannot compete with that kind of historical precedence!

    I also think that Geocaching is more pubically accessible. As the thread on the other side shows, getting a convenient list of boxes isn't as easy as creating a login on geocaching.com. That together with the fact the site is american means it has to be more protected from any 'issues' (understandably I think) so there is more regulation.

    To me, they are very different activities. I almost never go looking for a specific letterbox, preferring instead to roam aimlessly across the moor seeing if I can spot them. That would be a rather foolish way of caching though!

  3. #3

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    But basically, from a land manager's POV, letterboxes are containers hidden on the land they're responsible for. The same as geocaches. And people go out and look for them, the same as caching. The search method doesn't really matter from an access / permission angle, so you'd think that the same restrictions and regulations would apply. You could argue that caches are lower-impact as you don't have to wander around the area turning over every likely-looking stone (in theory, anyway!).

    I'm not sure about the "historic" aspect either. If letterboxes have been there for over 100 years without problems, surely that means that geocaches, being essentially the same, should be fine as well.

  4. #4

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    I see what you mean. I was focussing my comments entirely on letterboxes on Dartmoor, and assume the regulatory authority for Dartmoor is fully aware of letterboxes, and is happy with them. Indeed, I woulnd't be surprised if it promotes the activity! By the same token, I would expect them to be more than happy with the placement of some caches as well, on Dartmoor.

    However letterboxing outside Dartmoor is much less common (I've never done it) and less well known. I strongly suspect that many such boxes don't have implicit or explicit permission (lets face it, much like the majority of caches) and are much more closely related to caches in that respect - and they too would probably have the same problems as caching does if anyone tried to obtain permission to place one. It may even be harder to get permission as there is less obvious regulation and no fancy website for landowners to reassure themselves that this is a reputable pasttime!

  5. #5

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    I don't know much about letterboxing but I understand it largely happens on large tracts of open land (e.g. Dartmoor), where it's not always obvious who owns the land and the land is openly accessible anyway, so a landowner is likely to take less of an interest in the fine detail of what's being put there. I also think that the historical aspect is significant and landowners are likely to see Letterboxing as something that was here before their great-grandad bought the farm so they'll let it go on.

    Geocaches are more likely to be placed on known owned & managed land such as farms, parks, nature reserves, Forestry Comission or National Trust land and those organisations are more likely to micro-manage what goes on on their property. So it's often necessary to have the buy-in of the landowner.

    The nature of our game also makes it relatively easy for landowners to track down and remove caches (as the FC did in the New Forest before the GAGB reached an agreement with them), it wouldn't be quite as easy to do that with letterboxes.

  6. #6
    nobbynobbs Guest

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    Just a thought. I wonder whether it's the bad practices of letterboxing that have irritated land owners over the years and has therefore caused our need to do so much negotiating?

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by nobbynobbs View Post
    Just a thought. I wonder whether it's the bad practices of letterboxing that have irritated land owners over the years and has therefore caused our need to do so much negotiating?
    I doubt it, or else surely many of the 21000 in Dartmoor NP would have been cleared by now. I think that Marty is nearer to the truth. Caches placed in open country without permission are unlikely to attract attention, just like letterboxes.

    But I suspect that once you write to the manager of the open country you set off alarm bells. Particularly if you mention certain words and phrases (like "internet", "GPS", "game","technology","treasure hunt").

    Even if permission for the first cache is given, once there are a few in place it might quickly look like it's getting out of hand. It's easy to imagine hordes of anorak-clad techno-freaks suddenly appearing in large teams, bleeping their way from point to point with little regard for the countryside, having been rallied by some whizzo internet site.

    My suspicion is that this is what alarms some people, rather than the actual cache hides.
    Somehow, the low-tech "letterbox" idea doesn't sound so threatening by comparison, and with no real internet presence it's easy to turn a blind eye and regard it as a quaint minority interest.

    Although it's nice to have the cache listings so accessible, it would have been better IMO to have kept them away from casual public view (no caches on Google, for instance, and nothing visible unless you have an account). Too late now, I suppose.

    But perhaps the emphasis on technology should be played down. After all, most cachers (in my experience) mainly play for the outdoors adventures and only enjoy the gadgets as a secondary aspect to the game. If at all. But it's easy to get the impression that it's an internet game using high-tech gadgetry which also happens to involve trampling someone's land and leaving boxes of junk everywhere. It's easy to see why we are misunderstood.

  8. #8

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    Maybe it's that letterboxing is more "under the rader" to quote the question over in the other forum:
    "It seems that the "official" organisation publish a guide to the locations of the letterboxes. Excellent! How do you get one? Well... first you have to prove you've found 100 letterboxes."
    Maybe Geocaching is too open and public?
    Maybe the word "Treasure" says that the cache will be buried and puts off landowners, without checking further?
    Last edited by Bear and Ragged; 13th January 2009 at 06:35 PM. Reason: spelin
    I have a Geocaching problem...
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  9. #9

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    The question assumes that we we went wrong.

    I place a Letterbox in your garden, you would probably be annoyed and rightly so. Could you do much about it, not really , throw it in the bin as you would be very unlikely to contact the owner.

    I place a geocache in your garden, again you may be angry, then you go on the website and discover there are lots of geocaches close to you and your friends have them "dumped" in their gardens. They too are rightly annoyed, they contact the listing site etc. It goes on from there.

    So did we go wrong starting to ask permission to place caches on land owned or managed by others. I don't think so.

  10. #10

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    It's more like, you place a letterbox in my huge garden with a footpath running through it, I never notice it and when anyone visits I'm never aware as it doesn't cause a problem.
    Someone places a cache and the same happens.

    Someone else knocks loudly on my door, tells me about the existing cache and asks to place another one. At the same time he explains that he'll put the details on t'internet where it will attract geeky treasure hunters from far and wide, all boffins with complicated electronic devices, and it may make the local papers too. But he will get me to sign some forms which will absolve me from responsibility, and my details will be stored in a database which will be really :socool:.

    hmy:hmy:

  11. #11

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    No, as you all ready know. People found caches on their land and complained.

  12. #12

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    Where did we go wrong? Did we go wrong?...........I don't think we did!

    Obtaining permission, and promoting geocaching in a positive light will only help geocaching in the UK. If we sneak about placing caches without permission, and being less than truthful with landowners/managers, then ultimately some pen pusher will snuff out caching in a huge area.......and that's where it will go wrong.

    I can't see how the use of certain words would cause alarm bells to ring with landowners, I think it's how you state your case that counts.
    I'm just going outside, and may be some time!

    www.jacobitecaching.co.uk

  13. #13

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    I'm not saying that one side is right and another wrong...I'm just comparing 21000 established and unproblematic caches (called "letterboxes") in a National Park, with the chances of the same number of official geocaches being placed in a similar area without causing an incident...nil!

    Perhaps all the letterboxes have permission.

    But who are the most successful at placing caches...the letterboxers. And I was wondering what they do right (or what we do wrong), as we know that we cause problems with our approach, but they don't.

  14. #14

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    HH, I do take your point that we seem to have created problems for ourselves.

    I think one big factor is that whereas letterboxing is a fairly unpublicized, one might almost say underground, activity, caching has been widely publicized by the media. I'm not saying that's a bad thing in itself, but it has created a much wider awareness of caching. The word treasure is often used in that publicity, and I think that to many people it conjures up the idea of buried treasure, which in turn suggests that we have no respect for people's land or for the environment.

    I don't think permission is an issue, or at least not a major one. GAGB's revised agreement with the Forestry Commission in the New Forest has been widely discussed recently, but I believe that letterboxers also have an agreement with them, which has been in place for some time.
    ​​Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light. (Dylan Thomas)​


  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Happy Humphrey View Post
    Perhaps all the letterboxes have permission.
    Probably not!
    I'm just going outside, and may be some time!

    www.jacobitecaching.co.uk

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