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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


    Caching since 2001
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  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.


    Caching since 2001
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  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
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  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
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  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.

  16. #16

    Exclamation View from an ex-service man

    Many MOD training areas are open to the public, Sailsbury Plain, Breacon, Otterburn, Thetford to name a few. The worry is not live rounds but items used in "Dry Training", these include smoke grenades, flashbangs, blank ammo, ETC. Just as the top brass leave laptops with national security secrets on trains some items get dropped while carrying out training, the majority are found as a weeks wages for losing something that costs the MOD a couple of quid to purchase is harsh but happens.

    If you are walking along a footpath from A to B you will no doubt never see any dropped items, however if you are searching for a cache then you may find something with a tragic outcome. Plastic explosives will not harm you but the small detonator used to set the explosives off is a metal tube thinner and shorter than a cigarette but on its own can be set off by body heat and if held in the hand will result in the lose of the hand.

    As for physical caches on MOD land I agree they should not be allowed. If you have had to go through the inconvenience of roads/barracks being closed off for hours while awaiting bomb disposal squads you would not want to place something that may cause problems. Seeing someones shopping blown up in a controlled explosion may seem funny but when you want to go somewhere but are stopped due to the incident it can cause major problems.

    Many places do not allow placement on wildlife conservation, the MOD has a ban to ensure mankinds conservation.

  17. #17

    Wink

    Quote Originally Posted by Happy Humphrey View Post
    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...
    Anything that lands in an overshoot area is not going to cause harm as it is only the bullet head that leaves the barrel and goes down the range, the casing is ejected at the firing point and any propulsion agent is burnt off in order for the bullet tip to actually go down the range.

    The MOD do not use mines as we signed up to abolish the use of them as they kill more non-combatants than any other form of weapon.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Old Soldier View Post
    Anything that lands in an overshoot area is not going to cause harm as it is only the bullet head that leaves the barrel and goes down the range, the casing is ejected at the firing point and any propulsion agent is burnt off in order for the bullet tip to actually go down the range.
    Actually thats not strictly true. A good few years ago, on Ash Ranges, the MOD erected a miniature village, made of wood. From a distance it looked quite realistic. I was a child at the time, and went to investigate one day with my friends. Normally, the army would fire 7.62mm at the time, but the bullets they fired at this village were weird. They were made of a soft metal, about two inches thick, and they were all hollow.

    Well, all but one of them was. My brother found one that had a capped end. I was fascinated by it, but he, being older and more sensible, threw it as far as he could into the undergrowth, where it promptly exploded.

    Now, this area was within the red flag area (though the flags weren't up at the time), and it does highlight why putting caches in that area should be a complete nono, with or without an MOD ban. But my beef has always been that a lot of land around here is owned by the MOD but not used. It would be nice, in my opinion, if the MOD didn't treat all their land equally, but I do appreciate that they have more important things to deal with than catering for my hobby. And at least with virtual waypoints I can set caches that lead people on a beautiful walk through some lovely countryside.

  19. #19

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    The MOD did say in their letter that a 'small number' of ranges/training areas are not owned by them so the ban/archive won't apply. As the ranges shown on the OS maps are very extensive it would imply the 'larger number' of areas will have the ban/archive applied.
    I'm working with the GAGB team who are talking to the MOD to get their digital mapping. Once I have this and know what area is what I can begin the process of identifying caches and see how many will need archiving. Of course this would only apply to those caches listed on geocaching.com.

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  20. #20

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    The MOD have contacted Groundspeak already with a request that 4 caches in the Penally range in Pembrokeshire be archived. This has now been done.

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  21. #21

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    Any update on whether the MOD are going to supply maps as their letter implied they would?

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  22. #22

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    We've not received any maps so far, our contact will contact them next week with a reminder.


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  23. #23

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    Any news yet?

  24. #24

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    I've been keeping the committee updated on this. I'd forgotten there was this public thread. My apologies.

    To summarise. Towards the end of last year the whole thing appeared to have stalled with no information from the MOD. I then wrote a letter to the MOD Defence Geographic Center (DGC). They deal with all matters to do with maps. I was hoping they may be able to help. I included a copy of the letter of last year from the MOD Land Warfare Center about the ban (with the permission of the GAGB). I got a phone call from an officer at the DGC who it turns out is a geocacher so was very well informed about the whole issue. He then took up the cause with the Land Warfare Center and got a positive response. This was at the end of January. We then decided to leave it a month and if nothing happened I would contact the DGC again.

    Nothing happened! So I have since been in touch with the DGC and have been reassured that the Land Warfare Center are on the case and we can expect something this week (10th March).

    I have stressed to my contact (who in turn has stressed to the LWC) that without maps the ban and possible removal of caches is quite impossible. I have to say the delay has been caused entirely by the MOD LWC. I am not confident of anything happening. But, who knows I may be proved wrong.

    I will bring this up with my contact again at the end of this month if I hear nothing in the meantime.

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  25. #25

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    What do you mean by positive response? In that you are likely to get the maps you need or that we could maybe reopen communication?

  26. #26

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    Positive response means the Land Warfare people have told my contact they are working on getting the maps and the time scale was this Monday just gone. I have been copied in on the communication. This is more than has happened before. Despite the best efforts of the GAGB last year the MOD were just not forthcoming with any sort of help. My initial contact ended the same way. It's only since I made contact with the chap at the mapping centre who contacted the LWC internally that anything has actually happened. If this attempt comes to nothing I may write a final letter to the LWC informing them the ban and archival of caches is unenforceable and leave it at that. I will however need to run such an idea past Groundspeak first.

    If anyone else wanted to contact the MOD that's fine but it may just confuse things at this stage. I will wait until the end of this month before I chase this up again.

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  27. #27

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    Thanks for the update.

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    Another month has now gone by since my contact at the MOD 'chased up' the LWC but they have still not contacted me. So I have now emailed Groundspeak, explained the situation to them and asked for their advice on how to proceed with this. I'll update you further when I have received guidance from them.


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  29. #29

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    I should have an update to this ongoing issue in the next couple of days. I just need to ask my reviewing colleagues for their opinion on the next steps to take.
    I've also had difficulty getting hold of my contact at the MOD as he's changed jobs recently. I needed to speak to him to get his permission to quote the correspondence we have had when I write to the Land Warfare Center (the department who initiated the ban).

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  30. #30

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    After a lengthy discussion with my reviewing colleagues I have now written to the chap at the Land Warfare Unit who initiated the request to stop geocaching.

    In his original letter to the GAGB (see the start of this thread) he said not all land the MOD use is actually owned by them, some of it is leased and the geocaching ban would not apply to this land. The overlay I drew of MOD 'Training Areas' is from the OS maps and it doesn't show whether the land is owned or leased. I also don't think it is by any means the full extent of the land in question.

    In my letter I have said that without maps we cannot identify which land they own or lease and thus the ban and subsequent removal of geocaches cannot be complied with.* I have also said that if they won't supply us with maps then it will be up to geocachers who want to place caches on land that may or may not be MOD to contact the MOD to check first. We would not enforce the current blanket ban we imposed based on my hand drawn overlays.
    * This only applies to www.geocaching.com.

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  31. #31

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    My cynical side suggests that as long as the MoD can say that they've banned geocaching on all their land, they're covered. They have no need to actually make the ban practical.

    If there's an unfortunate incident which turns out to be regarded as on MoD territory they can quote the ban to the media, prove it with correspondence, and walk away seemingly blameless.

    I'd be inclined to send them a formal letter (with proof of delivery) saying that it's their fault that the ban cannot be enforced. Receipt of e-mails can be denied quite easily.

  32. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by Graculus View Post
    I have now written
    From my post above. I did write a letter, not an email. I have quoted what they said and told them quite clearly that without maps the ban is not enforceable.

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    South East Wales
    Posts
    277

    Default

    Heard nothing from the MOD. I'll be talking to my reviewing colleagues and Groundspeak this coming week to decide how to move forward. I'll provide an update hopefully by Friday.

    Chris
    Graculus
    Volunteer UK Reviewer for geocaching.com
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    Geocaching.com Help Center
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  34. #34

    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    South East Wales
    Posts
    277

    Default

    The MOD have said they do not want caches on their land but won't tell us where this land is. The only information we have is what is shown on the OS maps (mostly training areas and ranges) and we don't know if it's land the MOD own (banned) or they just lease (allowed). So we've decided that any caches placed in these areas* will not be refused but the CO placing the cache will have to contact the MOD directly and then provide the reviewer with written proof (letter or email) that the MOD are OK with the the location or not.

    *These areas are available to view in Google Maps. They are hand drawn from the OS maps. They are not guaranteed to be either accurate or to be all the MOD land in the country. They are the best we can do.
    UK Geoaching Wiki entry.

    Chris
    Graculus
    Volunteer UK Reviewer for geocaching.com
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
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    Geocaching.com Help Center
    UK Geocaching Information & Resources website

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