This is a brilliantly conceived, innovative, particularly well planned and well executed project that, as judges, we would have felt proud of having undertaken ourselves. The use of geocaching as a technique to encourage people to explore the Shropshire Hills and discover some of their secrets is well supported by interpretive principles and adherence to sound practice. The project deserves an Award for the concept and its execution alone.
Our concern in making this award is that the project’s continuing and future management needs to be prioritised if all the effort and great work that have been undertaken to date are not to be wasted. There appear to be some weaknesses which it would be well to address if the project’s full potential is to be fulfilled, and before the idea takes off and is replicated at other suitable sites around the country, as we are sure it will.
- Audience numbers. We are most concerned that the actual take up to date by visitors appears to be quite low for the effort involved. This, on the evidence of our visit, must in part be due to poor promotion on the ground and – possibly – elsewhere. Involving the local community was not seen by the applicant as an appropriate part of this project. We would disagree.
- As partners and eventual advocates (through word of mouth advertising, etc) in the project, the local community – especially owners of local hotels and guesthouses – might have helped ensure greater awareness, interest and take up. Was a special ‘Try it out’ day for them, for example, considered? The Centre manager thought that our entry voucher had been a prize for some competition, perhaps this idea could be a part of any projected promotion campaign.
- Linked to the above in some ways, the opening hours of the Centre appear restrictive in terms of being able to drop off the ‘Treasure Trackers’ at the end for those, for example, who want to extend their exploration into the hills into the evening on a hot summer’s day and not feel ‘time pressured’. A ‘Drop off’ point at the local hotel would be ideal – and save people having to worry about getting back in time.
- Other concerns about encouraging mainly car borne visitors and physical access issues should be addressed as part of the project’s future development, as is indeed mentioned by the applicant.