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Thread: MoD geocaching Policy update

  1. #1

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    Default MoD geocaching Policy update


    We have received a written statement from MoD following the recent GAGB/MoD meeting. In summary, Physical caches on MoD owned estate (freehold/leasehold) are NOT permitted and if currently in place then MoD request that these are removed. Virtual caches (including Earthcaches and virtual stages of multi-caches, Puzzle and Wherigos) are permitted on MoD estate where the public has access. Cache pages should give any appropriate safety messages.

    Where MoD is not the owner/leaseholder, then they advise that they have no control over geocaching or other recreational activities and that it remains the landowner’s decision to allow geocaching. Dartmoor is an example of such an area.

    We understand that MoD are intending to remove containers from their estate, whether geocaches, letterboxes or others. Therefore geocachers owning affected caches are requested to recover these where appropriate.


    If you have any questions about this or the letter from MoD then please ask them in this thread before the end of September so that we can collate them and pass them on to the relevant person.

    The detail of MoD’s letter follows:

    Ministry of Defence
    Building 97a
    Land Warfare Centre
    Warminster
    Wiltshire BA12 0DJ
    United Kingdom
    E-mail:

    19th August 2013

    Dear <GAGB Member>,

    Apologies for the delay in getting back to you following our meeting on the 24th July 2013. As promised, I am writing to confirm the position of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in respect of Geocaching and the placing of geocaches on our property.

    As discussed at the meeting, the MOD are unable to give permission for any physical geocache to be placed anywhere on the MOD freehold/leasehold estate (referred to here after as the owned estate). Whilst the MOD does operate a presumption in favour of public access on its estate, when compatible with military operations and training, we do not consider physical geocaches to be acceptable. Our main areas of concern centre on:

    a. National Security – It is not appropriate to encourage people to leave or conceal marked or unmarked packages on any part of the MOD owned estate as it contradicts all security procedures and could lead to false security alerts.

    b. Public Risk and MOD’s Duty of Care to all Users of the estate – The majority of the MOD training estate is a risk area where blank fire, pyrotechnics and smoke may be used even outside of the 'live fire' danger areas. The Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) danger is self evident in live ranges but also exists in dry training areas where individuals could inadvertently disturb, or harm themselves, on military debris whilst searching for or hiding geocaches.


    The MOD estate is extensive. It is fundamental that a consistent approach is applied across the owned estate to ensure there is no confusion amongst staff and military users in how sites are operated and to ensure overall clarity in how the public can safely use the military estate. Resources do not allow a site specific approach to geocaching and, more importantly, this would not support an over arching level of consistency.

    As you are aware the MOD often has to implement changes in levels of security associated with different sites and that each site must remain flexible in how it is used for training purposes. Such variations will ultimately affect the extent to which a site is publicly accessible. Clearly these changes may happen over night so further preclude a consistent approach to the management of geocaching.

    Turning to a legacy issue, despite the Geocaching Association of Great Britain’s (GAGB) guidance about ensuring landowners permission is granted prior to the locating of geocaches, we are aware that there are numerous examples located across our estate that have not received permission or that may have received mis-guided local permission. As discussed at our meeting the MOD has found, and disposed of, geocaches located in highly unsuitable locations such as against security fences on bases and within live-fire Impact Areas where public access is permanently denied.

    Whilst the MOD does acknowledge these may have been placed by geocachers associated with other listing sites, such as Terra Caching or Open Caching, it is unfortunate that the views expressed by some on GAGB (and other) online forums in relation to geo-caching on the MOD estate did little to build confidence that members would act in a responsible manner in the gaining of permission and/or placing of geo-caches.

    The MOD will be contacting other geocaching websites to ensure a consistent message is made apparent to all geocachers.

    It is for these reasons that physical caches on the MOD owned estate are not permitted.

    There are a small number of training areas that the MOD do not own or hold under leasehold arrangements. These are areas where the MOD is licensed to train but are not the primary occupier. In these circumstances the MOD has no control over geocaching or many other recreational activities and thus it still remains the landowner’s decision to allow the placing of geo-caches e.g. Dartmoor Training Area with the exception of Willsworthy Range which is owned by the MOD.

    You requested that we provide a dataset of our owned estate in order for your Reviewers to ensure that further caches are not approved on the MOD estate. I am still pursuing agreement to release this information to your organisation but in the meantime I would be grateful if you could publish a request on your website/forum for owners of geo-caches known to be on the MOD owned estate to remove them.

    In order for me to progress your mapping info request could you please let me know in what format the data would be acceptable.

    An internal protocol is now being drafted to ensure that it is understood that geocaches are not permissible on the estate. Should a geocache be found they will be removed. I am also continuing to ask MOD land managers to inform my office of any known geocaches that have received local permission with a similar view to removing them.

    As we agreed at our meeting the MOD has no objection to “virtual” caches on the estate as this would be no different from any other recreational user taking access. I would be very grateful though if you could remind your members that any such point should be in an area accessible by the public and that appropriate safety messages are published with any within live fire areas. These areas will be very obvious to those setting the cache.

    Yours sincerely

  2. #2

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    Thanks for the update. Its a great shame, but at least they are allowing virtuals.

    Would this be a fair and accurate summary?

    1. All existing caches, letterboxes etc will be removed from MOD land.
    2. Virtual caches will be allowed.

    Can I presume that a non-physical waypoint is the same as a virtual cache? IE I could set a trail through MOD land with which would have the final physical cache location outside of MOD land?

    For instance, I could send somebody to the location of a sign on MOD land, get them to count the number of times the word "nature" appeared on it, and use that number to find a location outside of the MOD land where the cache would be located. Would that be ok?

  3. #3

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    All existing PHYSICAL caches and letterboxes will be removed. Non-physcial waypoints are permitted under the conditions stated (including counting the words on a sign), or as per my summary above:


    In summary, Physical caches on MoD owned estate (freehold/leasehold) are NOT permitted and if currently in place then MoD request that these are removed. Virtual caches (including Earthcaches and virtual stages of multi-caches, Puzzle and Wherigos) are permitted on MoD estate where the public has access. Cache pages should give any appropriate safety messages.

  4. #4

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    Thanks for the clarification.

    It will be interesting to see which areas of land are actually owned by the MOD.

  5. #5

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    Well, that reply raises more questions then it answers. Perhaps someone who attended the meeting could explain what they're getting at.

    Just out of interest, how many caches are there in "within live-fire Impact Areas"? I'm surprised that they get through the review procedure, but it sounds like a significant number have been found (and I imagine that only represents a tiny proportion of the caches actually placed). I agree with the MoD that such areas are unsuitable, but it's alarming that people are allowed in areas where it's too dangerous to even place a film container.

    I'd say that it's a good rule of thumb that if you can't place a cache then you shouldn't be allowed access at all, and I'm puzzled as to how the MoD gets away with this apparent recklessness.

    In the meantime nothing much can be done without the accurate maps.

  6. #6

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    "within live-fire Impact Areas"
    What is partially being referred to, are Over Shoot Areas, when a potential projectile impact can take place, in the event a Live Round, overshoots the intended target.

    Modern Military Long Arms, have a Designed effective range of 300m, but the actual range of the bullet, can be over a kilometre. As such behind all Ranges, are Live Fire Impact Zones, some of these are publicly accessible, during Non Range Days.


    The Longest Record Kill by a Military Sniper, is recorded at over 1.5miles. using a weapon, with a Designed effective range of 0.5 miles. So 66% further than the Designed effective range. Which is why all ranges, have designated overshoot areas. In the case of the Military, some of these Designated Overshoot Areas are open to the Public, and not marked on maps, as being part of the Range.

    The above comes from personal knowledge gained whilst in the Military, and as a Reviewer.

    So caches, could unwittingly be published, which were outside of the Range Areas, marked on OS Maps, but which are Designated Overshoot areas, not marked as part of the Range Area on OS maps. But are marked as MOD Access Land, giving the Public the right to roam. On Non Range Days, on Range Days the area being closed to the public. Even though it is not fenced off.


    Deci
    My post is my personal opinion and as such you do not have my permission to quote me outside of these forums!

    Dave
    Brenin Tegeingl
    Formerly known as Mancunian Pyrocacher on GC

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mancunian View Post
    But are marked as MOD Access Land, giving the Public the right to roam. On Non Range Days, on Range Days the area being closed to the public. Even though it is not fenced off.
    Tramp, tramp, tramp.....kerboom!
    Forget geocaching, I think I need to see these MoD maps so I can go for a walk without worrying about my imminent demise. Reckless! Could be worth a letter to the Telegraph...

  8. #8

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    Out of interest, does anybody know of any geocaches that have actually been placed in the overshoot areas?

    In Ash / Pirbright, the overshoot area is surrounded by red flags. Public access is granted when the flags aren't up, but no caches have ever been placed within the area. Incidently I also agree that it wouldn't be a good idea to place one there.

    Oddly, the overshoot area used to be called the Danger area, and the MOD placed signs with the word DANGER around the entire perimeter. There must have been hundreds of such signs in total. A few years ago, all these signs were removed, and where the signs had been combined with other signs, so couldn't be removed, the word DANGER was painted out. The ranges still remained, and the red flags, but the signs all went. Work that one out!

  9. #9

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    That is a puzzle. It infers that the overshoot area is no longer dangerous. Unless the MOD is extremely reckless, why would they open such an area to the public? This is one of the many questions that their reply encourages.

  10. #10

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    No new area was open to the public. The rights remained the same. All that changed was the DANGER signs were removed. I mentioned it as an idle observation, rather than a call to arms.

    Realistically, the only thing geocachers can now do in my opinion is to act like responsible geocachers. I don't think that the GAGB handled the situation well at all. That is my perception. There may have been behind the scenes activities, but from what I saw, I don't think the situation was well handled. However, the MOD have now made their decision, and rather than try and pick holes in it, I think geocachers have to live with it, and demonstrate by their actions (CITO etc) that there is a positive side to geocaching. Then perhaps at a later date, the MOD may revisit their position.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Puzbie View Post

    Realistically, the only thing geocachers can now do in my opinion is to act like responsible geocachers. I don't think that the GAGB handled the situation well at all. That is my perception. There may have been behind the scenes activities, but from what I saw, I don't think the situation was well handled. However, the MOD have now made their decision, and rather than try and pick holes in it, I think geocachers have to live with it, and demonstrate by their actions (CITO etc) that there is a positive side to geocaching. Then perhaps at a later date, the MOD may revisit their position.
    In my opinion not all cachers will act responsibly and therein lies a problem.
    I believe there will be more places stopped from having caches placed on them but we will accept and respect the wishes. I don't see the MOD changing their position in the current blame culture with solicitors hovering in case of accidents.
    Lilian

  12. #12

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    The blame culture you refer to is not restricted to the MOD. I can foresee that being a problem nationally.

    I was amazed to read that the people who run Swinley Forest keep getting claims by people who have injured themselves while mountain biking in the forest. This is just idiotic. If you partake in a dangerous sport, you should expect danger. Obviously, there are some instances where you would have a case. If you were on a parachuting course and pulled the cord only to find a picnic hamper emerge, you would be entitled to be somewhat aggrieved, albeit only briefly. But in the main, people need to take responsibility for their own actions. If you attempt a 5/5 cache, expect it to be dangerous.

    Going back to the MOD issue, I cannot see how a geocacher can behave irresponsibly without a reviewer noticing it. In my experience the reviewers are very observant. I recently placed a cache on what I thought was not MOD land (according to the map) but it was rejected because the reviewer spotted an MOD sign on the land using Google Street View. I was unaware of the signs existence, and was quite annoyed at the time. But I drove back to the location and sure enough the signs were there. So I am moving it to a non MOD location. Another cache I placed is in a contentious place. Its not in MOD land but surrounded by MOD land. I will be moving that once I find a place for it that fits in with the rest of the trail, as at the moment I can see it being removed by the MOD just because their land surrounds it. In their shoes I would do the same. So I am going to move it first, just to avoid any hassle.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Puzbie View Post

    Going back to the MOD issue, I cannot see how a geocacher can behave irresponsibly without a reviewer noticing it. In my experience the reviewers are very observant.
    The problem is... Not all the caching sites have the caches 'reviewed' by 'reviewers'

    Other site caches are 'reviewed' by your peers, or sponsors.
    If the cacher checking your new cache isn't in the UK/has no idea of the MOD stance on caches/doesn't know about the GAGB/ ...

    Some cachers can give ALL cachers a bad name.
    I have a Geocaching problem...
    Work gets in the way!

    * Cache Walker -Caching by byway, not highway! CacheWalker.co.uk
    Walking and Caching in Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire areas

  14. #14

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    Well, presumably, the MOD will amend the byelaws in due course so that geocaches are not allowed. Anybody then placing and publishing a cache would leave themselves open to prosecution, or worse.

    Its worth noting, for instance, that in our neck of the woods we have a recurring issue with travellers. if a park gate is left open by mistake, a posse of caravans will soon appear. However, very little of the MOD land is fenced off, yet the travellers always steer well clear.

    Rogue cachers may want to ponder on that point...

  15. #15

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    I am significantly affected by this ruling as I have 4 caches of my own within the free access part of the Otterburn range (they are actually on the Pennine Way), plus 3 adopted ones which go back to 2001. The MoD published a map of this range in conjunction with Northumberland National park which shows two distinct area - "MoD Training Area" and "MoD Training area covered by bye-laws". The former gives free access at all times, the latter only on specific days or with the Range Officer's permission. Unfortunately the map doesn't show either Grid Ref or Long/Lat lines so it is difficult to judge whether those caches near the edge of the MoD land are within or outside.

    I have already archived the 4 caches which are inside the MoD area but hope to place new ones just outside it. I have left the borderline caches until we can see more precise maps. So I hope the MoD appreciate that action on many caches awaits the promised maps.

    I can see their point about having things hidden on their land but, given that there is free access at all times and there are farms and houses within the free access areas, it does seem over-cautious.

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