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Saturday, 30 August 2014

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On the trail of our hidden treasures

TREASURE is being uncovered all over the UK – and Cumbria is no exception.

For the past seven years, families up and down the country have been solving mysteries and murders and unearthing hidden gems thanks to Treasure Trails.

Starting out in Cornwall in 2005, the franchise has quickly spread to include more than 900 trails across 42 counties in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

They offer an imaginative way to explore somewhere new, with each guide offering an easy to follow route to enable families to crack the clues whilst taking in some of the most fascinating sights along the way.

Sean and Gill Eatherden took on the challenge of Treasure Trailing Cumbria around 18 months ago and have already got 20 guides under their belts.

Sean says: “They do take a long time to write and research and even just to work out the route you want to use, and then we need people to test them out to make sure they work and make sense.

“Every time I write a clue, I have to write it for a grown-up explaining it to a child.

“I think we’ve done 20 now and we’ve tried to spread them out throughout Cumbria, so they’re in places such as Kendal, Kirkby Lonsdale, Ulverston, Grange, Kirkby Stephen, Cockermouth, Ambleside and Keswick.”

Sean spent 16 years as the managing director of Catalyst Events, a company that organises team-building challenges based in Kendal.

A part-time audio guide writer too, he gave up the day job to concentrate on helping people discover the secrets that some of Europe’s most fascinating cities had to offer.

“I sold my share in that and started to concentrate on my own Head to Foot audio guides,” he says.

“They’re architectural guides really, in places such as Antwerp, Maastricht and London.

“I was also starting to write team-building games and I kept coming across Treasure Trails on Google and Twitter. When I discovered that nobody was doing Cumbria, I thought it would be something interesting to get involved with.

“The thing that sold it to me is that you can text in for an answer to help you solve the clues.

“The feedback has been great – mostly 10 out of 10 – and if somebody submits anything less than a seven, I contact them to find out what was wrong with it and I can update them.

“Another good thing about them is that I can tweak them to personalise them for a hotel’s guests and events.”

A Treasure Trail is a step-by-step guide around a town or village with a series of clues to uncover along the way, each of which helps you cross off a location on the map included.

At the end you are left with one place name, and that is the location of the hidden treasure.

There are also murder mystery-themed trails and spy missions in the series, with driving trails and team-building games also being carefully prepared.

Sean says: “There is a format that you have to follow, but it is up to you to make up the questions, usually about buildings and monuments – things that are permanent.

“On our Kirkby Lonsdale trail we had about seven people in a week saying they couldn’t find this particular clue, so when I went to investigate it turned out there was a big hanging basket in the way.

“There are a few more trails on the way, in Sedbergh and Hawkshead, and Treasure Trails also asked me to turn it into a team-building game, because of my background, and that’s something I’d like to do more of.

“Recently we met up with some of the other Treasure Trails teams and did one together in York, and we talked about doing some cross-border trails, so that would be good.

“I haven’t written a driving Treasure Trail yet, but I do have one in mind – anything is a possibility and it could keep going on and on, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.”

Treasure Trails are available from Made In Cumbria, in Kendal, and Paragon Gift Shop, in Grange, or online at www.treasuretrails.co.uk.

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