A COUNTRY park was put on lockdown after a dog walker stumbled across an unexploded hand grenade - which turned out to be a toy.

The suspicious device was dumped close to the marina, at Wat Tyler Park, in Pitsea.

After a member of the public raised the alarm at about 11.50pm on Wednesday , officers sealed off the area and stopped people leaving or entering the car park.

A cordon was set up around the grenade shaped object, while an officer with military experience approached it to investigate.

He soon established that it was not an explosive.

Det Supt Stuart Hooper, district commander for Southend, who was at the scene, said: “We found it pretty quickly thanks to the information from the member of the public.

“We examined the device with officers with previous military experience and established that it wasn’t a hand grenade “After investigations, we established that it was part of a treasure hunting game called geocaching, where articles are hidden in a location and people try and find them.

“It was a container and we opened it up on site. There were four pennies inside.”

He warned people who take part in the treasure hunting hobby to be careful with the objects used.

He added: “It might have been harmless but it had a significant impact as there was a police response, which impacted on people using that environment.

“If people are going to leave these objects lying around then it needs to be made clear that it is a toy or use a different shaped object.”

The team were at the scene for about half-an-hour.

GEOCACHING is an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants, known as geocachers, use a GPS receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers - called geocaches or caches - anywhere in the world.

A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and treasure, usually toys or trinkets of little value.

Currently millions of geocaches are registered on various websites devoted to the pastime.

Geocaches are currently placed in over 100 countries around the world and on all seven continents, including Antarctica.