Trek to Connect
Building on a community development project with unemployed men living in North Merthyr Tydfil, Trek to Connect uses ‘geocaching’ as a mechanism to engage communities in developing knowledge and skills relating to the cultural heritage of Merthyr Tydfil and Cardiff.
Geocaching is an outdoor physical activity using mobile GPS devices to track local ‘caches’ and has thousands of enthusiasts all over the world. Creating a site can encourage learning about historically significant sites and will also encourage visitors to take an interest and visit. It can also be a social activity that brings people together.
In its first months of activity, the Trek to Connect project engaged approximately 100 people, with the 3Gs men's group from Merthyr's Gurnos estate acting as the driving force. Having created their own geocaching trail in Merthyr Tydfil, the group were keen to learn more about the history of the wider region and to share the use of geocaching as a way to bring history alive and make it fun.
They have since connected with residents in Ely and Caerau in Cardiff, and have set up a trail around Caerau hillfort. Also involved with this trail were young people from Ely who had been identified as being at risk of exclusion from education.
The 3Gs group have continued to visit Caerau and Ely, and have also strengthened and developed social networks with residents living in Communities First areas in Cardiff (Butetown, Riverside, Grangetown, Ely and Caerau), and with a range of heritage organisations.
Participants in the project have benefited in terms of improved health and wellbeing, reduced social isolation, and access to new skills and training opportunities. Key to all these impacts is that they are experienced as inter-connected and as a by-product of an activity which has caught participants' imagination, engaging their bodies and minds.
- The project has enabled basic literacy and numeracy skills to be built into the project in a way that is interesting and avoids the potential stigma of traditional approaches to basic skills development.
- It has also been a way to increase skills in using digital technology, suggesting the project's wider potential to increase digital inclusion.
- The core volunteer force of 20 people (11 of whom are from Merthyr) has logged a combined total of 650 volunteer hours in Trek to Connect's first six months.
- Maintaining the caches has required significant physical activity, involving walks of up to 11 miles and including steep inclines.
- Participants have worked side by side with people from other communities, developing forms of social capital that are potentially productive for health and wellbeing, as well as creating new spaces for diversity to be positively acknowledged and understood.
- The project has contributed to building the confidence levels and skills of participants to move into employment. Several have accessed work placements or college courses, and one has secured employment.
- Young people in danger of exclusion from school have reported that it has been a positive and exciting way to learn.
- One core volunteer who has a progressive illness has reported that the project has benefited him immensely, giving him a sense of belonging, mental stimulation, and improved health and wellbeing. As he copes with a debilitating illness in an inspirational manner, he has become a role model to the group.
Cardiff University has played a key role in bringing partners together, and researchers are committed to further developing community archaeology and history activity in the region. The University and Public Health Wales are also discussing the value of scaling up and evaluating a larger intervention to provide a more extensive and robust quantitative and qualitative evaluation.
Find out more
For further information contact Dr Eva Elliott or Dr David Wyatt: