After unpegging the tents we headed off on Monday 29th July slightly east from PirateMania to prepare for the UK MEGA. We were staying for the whole week with most of the Team Essex crew who also attended PirateMania so that we could attend all of the side events as well as the main event.
As we couldn’t pitch up on the campsite until 4pm we all headed off to the first side event, Let’s Go Fly a Kite at Burton Dassett Hills Country Park. The country park is a very popular destination for kite flyers and there were many geocachers up on the hills having a go. I had bought a £2 rubbish kite to fly for the occasion and after SirCache1 kindly got it up in the air for me (On the first go as well!) I was able to fit in well with the rest of the attendees!
Whilst at the country park we took a stroll to All Saints church. It was a beautiful 12th Century Norman church with ongoing efforts inside to restore the medieval wall paintings. A bonus for our walk was a puzzle cache nearby which we didn’t know about until some Geocachers arrived just as we exited the church and told us where it was!
At 4pm we all rushed to the Motor Heritage Centre to get our tents pitched up as we were told that we weren’t allowed to arrive any earlier. This caused mass chaos as every other cacher moving from Pirates to the MEGA did exactly the same thing at exactly the same time. As the Heritage Centre were only letting people in one at a time at a leisurely pace it caused quite a back log and lots of horn beeping! Eventually we managed to get through the queue and pitch near our fellow Essex team mates ready for the evening event at the local pub, Welcome to Gaydon.
Once everyone had arrived who was camping the camp site looked fantastic from on top of the hill looking over all of the flags. The Team Essex camp was pitched right in the middle.
The following morning after a caching walk with some of Team Essex we headed off to the 3rd side event, Take Flight with your hat on.
This was situated at the beautiful Hatton Arms pub which had a massive beer garden and overlooked the Hatton Lock Flight. After stopping at the pub for a drink we went for a stroll down past some of the 21 Hatton locks and back to pick up the caches that had been placed along the stretch.
In the evening was the Something Wicked This Way Comes event in Warwick. The event was a meet at the pub with the option to go on a Ghost Tour around the town. I’d signed up for this along with the rest of Team Essex so at 8:15 we gathered around and met our tour guides. Yikes!!!
Our hosts took us around Warwick telling us about the torture, punishment, gruesome tales and ghost stories of the town. All of the time they stayed completely in character and quite often picked on us, or snuck up behind people and then made them jump. They were fabulous actors!
We followed them around Warwick past the library, museum, conservative club, Oken’s house, church and castle.
It was an amazing evening and the actors were so very genuine that they even collected their payment from the MEGA committee whilst still in character! We had a fantastic laugh as they didn’t fail to make someone jump every time they snuck up to them despite the fact that we were all on our guard and expecting it!
On Wednesday was the Cats and Dogs event. The main event was at the pub with the opportunity to go for a 2 hour tour around the guide dog centre. We didn’t make it on to the morning tour so opted to dash around the countryside with Yorkie63, MummaD and Natlie92 picking up some of the cache and dashes in the area before arriving at the event for a pub lunch.
After this event we made our way into Coventry city centre for the Hands Across the World in Coventry flash mob. The idea of this event was that you dressed up in your home country colours. There weren’t a huge amount of people who dressed up, but the winner was a guy who I think was meant to be Ginger spice. Perhaps more like scary spice!
The first side event on Thursday was the Teddy Bear’s Picnic event and we all assembled in Stratford-Upon-Avon again along the river. It was the perfect day for a picnic and we came equipped with blankets, teddy bears and picnic nibbles.
The Team Essex kids ran down the the river and enjoyed squirting each other with water pistols. Grace of Kris&Co learned the hard way that when Yorkie63 told her not to squirt him it really meant not to squirt him!!!!!
Thursday evening was the night caching event, Night time Hunting for Hobbits. We arrived at the pub at 8:30pm but it was still a bit too light for night caching. Nevertheless we headed off to the woods on mass and it thankfully started to get darker once we were in amongst the trees. After getting in to the heart of the woods we could hear voices. There was a fight between a big red winged creature and an ork…
After escaping past them we managed to get to the top of the hill and to the castle where we could see fantastic views ahead and bumped into another creature (You can tell I’m not very au fait with my Lord of the Rings character types! Lol!) who told the children which way to follow next.
On our trip downhill we came across another battle where an ork had been slayed and was dead on the ground. The hero pointed us on our way.
And then we were on our own to navigate to the cache which included several uphill climbs which were as close to vertical as you could get!!! It was quite an adventure getting up those hills, but we all made it in the end!
We got a little bit lost once at the top of the hill, but once we’d all adjusted to the extreme altitude we found our way and followed the reflectors to the cache. A big ammo can for the reward!
I absolutely loved the night caching event. The costumes that the actors were wearing were absolutely amazing and of the very best quality. The vertical hill climbs were such hard work and a great feature which reminded me of the dark, wet night caching expedition in Wales when we stayed there for the MEGA in 2011. As sadistic as it is for me to say it, I think the only thing that this night cache was missing was the pouring rain to make it even more difficult and menacing! I think this was definitely my favourite side event. Well done UK MEGA team!!!
During the day on Friday was the Ryton time for Biking and Barking event which we briefly attended at Ryton country park to grab a couple of caches. The Circus Camping event in the evening however was Friday’s main event and so we headed back to camp early so that we didn’t miss anything! There was first the matter of a battered up parrot who was a bit damaged after being kept in a car for a week so some of the Team Essex kiddies finished him off and grabbed the remaining sweeties from him.
After enjoying the famous Rawnsley paella that Yorkie63 and MummaD cooked up for our dinner, Team Essex headed down to the Camping Circus event which was slightly away from the camp site (0.25 miles to be exact, I know this because that’s how far we had to walk every blooming morning to get a shower!!!! Anyhow…) Down at the Circus there was a beer tent, hog roast, and a big activity area for kids to learn circus tricks. Several cachers dressed up for the event too and looked absolutely brilliant!
In the play area cachers were giving it their all to master the circus tricks and earlier on in the evening the main circus master walked around on stilts and made balloon animals for everyone. Our favourite carnie of all (hehe) however was Doggy (stilt) Walker who showed us how it was done whilst we stood around amazed that she still had energy left after the 500 caches she had found earlier on in the day! (Teeheehee)
The camping circus was so popular that it needed 2 canvases for everyone to sign their attendance rather than just the one that all of the other side events had. Absolutely fabulous to see so many attendees and myself and some of the other Team Essex crew stayed outside the beer tent chatting to other cachers until nearly midnight as we are so unsociable!
The Camping circus also marked the 10th and final side event. The MEGA committee had issued us with a passport to get stamped at the events and I had taken mine along to all of them and was rewarded with a 100% complete stamp and a small prize too.
Saturday – The MEGA
And so it was time for the main event at Heritage Motor Centre. I headed there a little early to help set up the GAGB stall although most was already done by the time I got there. There was a little time for me to have a quick look around at the stalls that were set up inside before the doors opened and a flood of cachers entered.
I helped out on the stall for a little while until I got the call from my Essex team mates and we began our epic mission: 11 icons in a day! This is the most icons that you can get in the UK in a single day so we headed off for the challenge. After logging the MEGA, we started off by combining finding a Traditional, Multi, Wherigo and CITO event around the village of Gaydon which was just down the road. It was a challenge in itself trying to find litter along the footpaths of what must be one of the most well kept places in the country. We managed a good effort and although our rubbish bags weren’t bulging they were respectably filled!
Our next stop was a bit of a walk to the Letterbox cache and then YOSM virtual cache that had stopped near by right next to an earth cache. Very convenient. We all assembled around the trig point and then the Warwickshire Feldon earthcache location for our photo to be taken.
Nearby we also grabbed a puzzle cache which gave us 9 of the 11 icons. We headed off to a local pub to grab some lunch, however very slow service and confusion with an order meant we spent a lot of time there and had to quickly dash back to the MEGA in the afternoon to arrive just in time for the closing ceremony. It certainly was a busy day, but great fun and a lovely little challenge!
The MEGA event was a very good one and outside were bouncy castles, mini golf, a food stall and a beer tent. There were lots of activities for the kids and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
After the MEGA event had finished around 5pm there were still two more of the precious icons that we needed to retrieve. Thankfully Sharant had arranged a 7pm Event at Banbury Cross web cam so that we could all claim those 2 icons at one. We all headed off down the road to the web cam where an overwhelming number of cachers were gathered around for their photo to be taken!
The photo uploaded to the cache page by Team R.A.L.F.J shows the true hoard of people that turned up for the event!!!!
I really enjoyed my week at the MEGA which was mainly due to the fantastic company of Team Essex. I was so pleased that Sharant had the idea of making an 11 icon challenge possible on MEGA day too as I had already planned to try to find 9 icons in the day so the extra 2 were the icing on the cake. I’m really looking forward to next year’s UK MEGA though which is being hosted in Scotland and sounds like there will be some fantastic locations to visit!