Venues aim to capitalise on Pokémon's popularity

Characters from the augmented reality mobile device game Pokémon Go have been "appearing" in public gardens across the UK, with anecdotal evidence that it is attracting new visitors.

Pokémon Go: game being played in parks and gardens
Pokémon Go: game being played in parks and gardens

The RHS, National Trust, National Trust for Scotland and the Eden Project have all reported visitors playing the game in their parks and gardens since the game launched on 14 July and canny marketing teams have been quick to use the craze to promote their facilities.

A National Trust for Scotland spokeswoman said: "We think this is a really exciting way to encourage visitors to get out and discover the amazing heritage that's in our care. Culzean Castle & Country Park is a bit of a hot spot, St Abbs Head and the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. We also have plenty of 'PokeStops' and gyms too.

"We are hearing some anecdotal evidence that it's encouraging 20-somethings to head out with their parents to explore new places. Our main focus has been encouraging visits, so we've been promoting Pokémon sightings via social media."

Pokémon Go works by showing where the characters can be "found" and "caught" on a map. The gamer has to visit the physical location to catch each character, which can be seen on a device screen via the Pokémon Go app when it is pointing in the right direction, using augmented reality.

The RHS also decided to capitalise on the phenomenon by tweeting where staff have found Pokémon in RHS Garden Wisley - 15 so far. "We haven't noticed a specific upturn in visitors in relation to this but we have noticed people around the gardens in recent weeks who look as if they are playing the game. The garden is very popular with families and children already, especially at this time of year, and it is looking spectacular just now."

Ellie Jones, project manager for the Walled Gardens and Pleasure Grounds Project at National Trust property Berrington in Herefordshire, said: "It's been fantastic to see people of all ages exploring and enjoying our gardens and the Capability Brown-designed parkland while playing Pokémon Go. We're happy to see people out in the fresh air while getting plenty of exercise and exploring some of our more hidden areas. This is particularly true of the walled garden, which we've discovered is home to a PokeStop."

PokeStops are where players check in and can gather items useful to the game. The Eden Project has discovered 27 of them, three gyms and "an abundance of Pokemon".

A National Trust spokeswoman said: "While we can't say it's had an impact on memberships we have seen many visitors joining in the Pokemon craze at our places - and it's always good to see people outside and enjoying themselves." She added that the trust hopes gamers will take the opportunity to enjoy the real-world beauty of their surroundings while visiting sites.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh assistant visitor welcome manager Kathryn Herchell said a Pokemon-hunting local reported many other players visiting the gardens. "A nice touch would appear to be that some of the species we have draw attention to specific botanical landmarks as well, such as specific trees, that have interpretation signs. So there does seem to be some encouraging of engagement rather than simply playing the game. If it helps to attract new visitors, then that must be good."

The game has been praised for encouraging people to move about outside but it has also raised safety concerns. It was criticised after people were found playing in memorial museums including Auschwitz in Poland and Cambodia's Tuol Sleng museum, dedicated to those who suffered under the Khmer Rogue.

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