City Hunt: pretty cool!

Adapted from "Between Blackfriars bridges, with train, from south" by Alethe - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Between_Blackfriars_bridges,_with_train,_from_south.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Between_Blackfriars_bridges,_with_train,_from_south.jpg(Photo between Blackfriars bridges, adapted from a file licensed under Creative Commons; mouseover for specifics.)

A loyal friend and Puzzled Pint teammate, Richard, accompanied me on an attempt at the City Hunt treasure hunt around the Blackfriars area of Southwark last night, as previewed earlier in the week. Recommended; good times, and many thanks to 4749 Tanner Street, the people behind it.

There are thirty clues to find in a box a little bigger than a square kilometre. They are detailed on an optional printed map, distributed for a few hours daily at two locations, or they can be found by using the online map on the City Hunt web site. This seemed to work well for us on both Safari on iOS and Chrome on Android, bearing a distinct resemblance to Google Maps architecture under the hood. Wander to the approximate location of any of the thirty pins on the map, click on the pin, find a question with four multiple-choice answers. Find the answer in real life, click the appropriate answer online and earn the point for that location.

Many of the locations are slightly quirkier and lower-key than you might find on a typical Blackfriars attractions guide, but you’d hope to find them on a really good local guide. (To say more would be to spoil the event.) The hunt has sponsored prizes and some of the locations relate to the sponsors, but this is done reasonably tastefully in practice. We started the hunt at around twenty past eight at night, giving the endeavour an enjoyably intimate undercurrent of adventure – and yet it felt less likely to get arouse police attention than, say, going geocaching.

We attempted to solve fifteen of the clues and found fourteen answers by streetlight. This took us a little over two hours, though there may have been a stop for liquid refreshment along the way. (We stopped due to the late hour, an early start the next day and phones running out of battery. Consider this a recommendation for bringing a spare.) A few of the clues might have been found by Wikipedia or Google Maps, or by intersecting the wrong answers to leave an obvious right answer; however, most of them couldn’t, and enough of the locations we found put smiles on our face to make it well worth our time and effort.

Earlier, reader Dean has pointed to Quest Coventry, which bears some similarities but might be technologically more complex. (There’s no telling how the end results compare, not least because of the delights on offer on the two locations.) Well done to any local tourism groups far-sighted and fun enough to promote such events. Be warned that they often tend to have restricted lifespans, or at least their central competitions have finite closing dates; Quest Coventry’s current round has finished, and City Hunt is only accepting entries towards the prize until 10pm on Sunday 21st September.

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