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Settle Stories: The Geocacher And The Christmas Tale Trail
Steve Whitaker, Arts Correspondent
Until recently I couldn't have told you what Geocaching is. But I did learn, after a chance meeting with a couple in Madeira, that the scope of the activity has burgeoned hugely since it was rendered a technological possibility at the beginning of this century.

Apart from seeking a bit of autumn sun, they were on the Geocache trail: using a Global Positioning System (GPS) to locate hidden 'treasures' in selected areas. The treasures, or 'swag' in Geocaching vernacular, are incidental and subordinate to the thrill of the chase, leading the uninitiated to the conclusion that participants are unconsciously subscribing to Robert Louis Stevenson's maxim, that to travel hopefully is better than to arrive.

Also by Steve Whitaker...
Christmas Musicke - York Waits At Square Chapel
Seeing Africa After Dark: The Tilt By Jean Harrison
The Ghosts In The Machine: Seaside Terror At Square Chapel
Tom Twisleton And The Long Road To Ghana: Poetry In Settle
'Jam For The Psycho Boys': Paul Nash & The Uncanny Landscape
The fact of the couple's presence in Funchal is one indicator of the extraordinary geographical reach of the pursuit; such single-minded motivation would have pleased Stevenson. And, at a time when western health is becoming increasingly compromised by dietary excess and lack of exercise, any outdoor activity is to be welcomed.

In the wake of last year's hugely successful venture, Settle Stories will again be launching its own Geocaching Tale Trail on 1st December. Five strategically-placed boxes will be located in and around the lovely market town of Settle, each containing a letter. The five letters, retrievable in any order, will yield a word which may then be submitted online to yield the prize of a special story.

This year's Tale Trail is a timely prelude. Settle Stories 2018 Festival will be a celebration of the otherwise unlikely meeting of the idea of story as an organic form, and the scientific underpinnings of the digital age. The two are often not considered to be harmonious bedfellows - the hegemony of the cyber universe is sometimes seen as the nemesis of habits of reading and writing.

And to some degree, the naysayers have a point: substance may be compromised by the sheer volume of online text. But, used properly, the digital sphere is an indispensable adjunct to the act of creation through portals of research and reflection, to execution.

This article was conceived and written at a laptop, and you are reading it in digitised form on a laptop or some other device. But they are tools only; the free-running imagination remains the catalyst of invention and the arbiter of taste.

Which is why the Geocaching Tale Trail offers a wonderful synthesis of technology and words. Sarah Wiltshire, last year's organiser of a highly successful Trail, and wearer of the mantle for this year's Christmassy-flavoured event, is hoping for an even bigger turnout in 2017.

And judging by the volume of approving comments she collected from 2016's Geocaching boxes, and garnered online after the event, she may well be right.

....as to clues, well - that would be telling !

Geocaching Tale Trail: 1st December to 14th January.
Event participation free.
For more information: www.settlestories.org.uk/geocache

Settle Stories: The Geocacher And The Christmas Tale Trail, 27th November 2017, 16:59 PM