We had the most amazing adventures on a long weekend in Wales for the UK MEGA event last weekend. It was hosted in an area where there weren’t many cache series or trails so caches were a bit sparse in comparison to something like a holiday in Sussex. Our approach was therefore to pick up a handful of really brilliant caches instead and focus on quality. And judging by the amount of photos I took during our trip, I think we really managed it…
We’d booked a long weekend at the campsite for the MEGA Wales event and headed down on Thursday. The route that we were taking into Wales went right past the ‘Cachebusters‘ challenge cache which about a month ago we completed. The idea is that you get across a Blockbuster-style board by filling in some Geocaching tasks. To participate you have to register your intention to join in and from the day that you do that, your slate is wiped clean and all previous finds do not count. I’m very grateful to Hannah of The QC’s who told me about the cache so that I could register my intent on 13th Feb 2011. At the time I did so I thought it’d be years before I got to the area to claim our find, looks like we got there a lot sooner than I thought. So if you haven’t registered, just get to the cache page and post a note letting the CO know that you want to play!
After crossing the bridge into Wales we headed off to start the Sidepoints series. We parked up and started off with the 5th cache in the series, but after 15 minutes couldn’t find the blasted thing! I figured it was a bad omen and that we should move on (We did return to the series on Sunday though!)
So instead of that we headed off to Margam Country park to pick up some of the caches in there. It was £3.70 to park there (ouch!) so we hoped that we would get our money’s worth. I can honestly say that it is the prettiest country park I have ever visited and so worth the parking fee. All of the caches were hidden with the country park’s permission, but were quite spread out around the park so we didn’t get them all. The paths around were also so confusing! There were loads of them and dead ends everywhere, so we did get a little bit lost going around!
We started off at ‘The Orangery’ which is exactly what it sounds like – a place where citrus fruit were grown and used to be stored! It was a fabulous place to start!
As well as this there were some fabulous wooden sculptures, and bendy trees. I wasn’t sure what type of trees they were, but there were many of them and they looked great fun to climb!
Around this section there was also an abbey with some fabulous architecture. It also lead into a pretty garden. It was just so fabulous and pretty! 🙂
We headed up to the second cache in the series. It was quite a trek, but we passed a beautiful waterfall running under a pretty little bridge, and a castle! This park had everything!
We got a bit lost trying to get to the 2nd cache and ended up following a path to a locked gate and couldn’t get any further! 😦 We changed our route a little bit and headed to the last caches in the series instead. This took us near to a little farm full of animals and we took a detour off to see some more. The goats and ponies were my favourites, and the big hay bear was also a good chuckle!!!
The next stretch took us towards a wood where in the distance we spotted some deer. There were about 10 of them standing there!
We only actually found 4 caches in the park. It was so massive and so well spaced out that by the time we’d finished it was getting close to the time we needed to head off to pitch the tent. We managed to walk in a small circle to pick up those four caches, and there is the larger circle (Which looked like it involved a big hill climb) left for another day. Even though we found so few caches, I was so pleased we’d headed to the park. It is definitely one of the most magical places we have cached!
There was one last cache I wanted to get before we headed to the camp site, and that was Margam Coastal Defence Station, just outside the park. Those who regularly read the blog know I have a fondness for the old war buildings and as this cache had 12 favourites on it, I highlighted it as a “must do”. As we drove to the area I actually spotted the station… right at the top of a hill! 🙂
We parked up and headed off in the direction of a footpath sign. There was a very pretty little stream running along the path and we continued up along it.
A quarter mile later and we realised that we were heading up the hill and the cache we needed to get was to the east. Hmm… It didn’t look like the path would loop around any time soon so we headed back down. At which point I read the description (In my defense I had read the top half, just not the bottom half which included instructions on how to get there!) which told us to ignore the footpath and carry on in a different direction. The actual footpath to the cache was unmarked. It was an EXTREMELY steep climb up some steps to get there and by this time it was very hot out. We were dying going up the hill, but what we saw at the top made it so worth it: Three open radar stations which we could explore, and a nice regular Geocache! We also had some fabulous views of Port Talbot and the Steel Works.
It was about an hour’s drive from there to the camp site and we pitched up our tent without too many problems. I then looked across the camp site and realised the name on one of the geoflags hanging from a tent, “Mel-Ray”! We had only pitched directly opposite our friends. A brilliant fluke and I think we surprised them when they returned home in the evening to see us sitting across from them!!!
On Friday we met up with a fellow Essex cacher, HappyCabbage, who was in Wales for the MEGA, but decided not to rough it and stayed in a nearby hotel instead. We wanted to head off and find something a bit “exciting” in the area. We’d both researched some good looking hides and decided to attempt a couple of caves. The first stop was Cat Hole Cave. We followed a path through a scout camp and finally found the entrance. It was a nice big one which we could all easily walk through.
The cache wasn’t hidden too far inside, so was quite easy for us to retrieve and HappyCabbage was the one who grabbed the cache. There’s definitely something exciting and secret about caches in caves and although we didn’t have to venture too far in it was still really fun to find.
The next stop was Guzzle Hole Cave This cache was hidden outside of the cave entrance. We had to clamber down quite a slippery, steep path to get it and once there it was a bit of a rummage in the undergrowth. About 5 minutes later and I revealed the box. Behind the cave we could hear the water rushing and crashing loudly, and it didn’t look like an easy cave to explore. We clambered up the slippery slope back, huffing and puffing as it was really, really steep. We reminded ourselves that it was good exercise!!!
We arrived just after 12pm for our first MEGA side event, Mollyjak’s Sand and Sarnies. This was at a pretty nice pub which had especially sorted out a little marquee with a BBQ and hot dogs and burgers for £1.50 each. It was just what we needed after our morning of exploring! There was also a darlek and tardis in the car park which had tracking numbers and could be discovered. Jeremy Irish, founder of Groundspeak was there too. He seemed to like the Dr. Who stuff! 🙂
Opposite the event was a pretty little spot called Kenfig Nature reserve. The Creature Comforts series was placed here and pretty much all of the cachers at the event headed off there afterwards. There was also a series placed along the coast further on from this, however we skipped this as it was really quite hot out and we wanted to just take it slowly and enjoy the day.
After the 5th cache there was a long stretch past the lake to meet up with the other half of the series. On the way there we bumped into a man with a little black dog. He asked us if we had seen a little white and brown patched dog whilst we were walking. Unfortunately we hadn’t, but I took his phone number in case we did. He thanked us and carried on walking to try and look for him. This made us a bit sad, and although we kept our eye out we didn’t see the lost doggy. 😦
The caches on the series were extremely inventive, cute and amusing and the CO really had put a lot of work into them. Despite this Andy wasn’t smiling! 😦 He had hit his head on a branch at a drive-by cache we had done earlier in the day and was complaining of a headache during the series. Half way around we took a rest on a bench near one of the caches and I noticed a black dot on the top of his head. On closer inspection it looked like there was something in it. Being cachers, we are always prepared and HappyCabbage had a small plastic needle and I had some metal tweezers. 10 minutes of prodding, poking, wiggling and pulling and I eventually removed the big black thorn from his head! His headache instantly disappeared and he was back to his usual, smiley self again!
We had done this series in reverse and finished with cache #1 at the information centre. We should have read the description better, but luckily other cachers pointed us inside and told us it was in there. We went to the counter and asked for the Geocache. A lovely lady behind pulled it out and we all chatted to her. It was also the perfect place to stop for an ice cream and we crashed on a bench outside whilst eating it.
We sat on the bench for about 10 minutes enjoying our ice creams when all of a sudden we saw the little black dog from earlier emerge, followed by the man that was looking for the lost dog, followed by his little white and brown patched dog that he had lost. We all cheered and he thanked us for looking out for him. He must have been wandering around looking for the doggy in the baking hot sunshine for a good 2 hours. He told us that the dog came wandering over to him as if nothing had happened. A happy ending. We were thrilled!
A few drive-by’s led us to another event, which was the Geolympix Launch Party. This again was at a pub, and there was also some nice food on offer so we were able to grab dinner whilst there. Whilst there I was really pleased to meet Hannah and Sophie of The QC’s (Although little Sophie has her own account) who read my blog and seemed to know who I was. So if you are reading, Hello and it was brilliant to meet you at long last! 🙂
After stopping for a few hours there we took a slow drive back to the camp site grabbing some caches on the way. We particularly enjoyed two at Oystermouth Castle as we wouldn’t have stopped off or realised there was a castle there without the cache guiding us!
Saturday – Daytime
On Saturday we headed to the coast with HappyCabbage to the Picnic at The Big Apple event at Mumbles. After grabbing some caches on the way there we parked up and took a stroll along the coast before the event started.
First we headed off for the Bracelet Bay cache, however on the way there I was approached by a waiter from the nearby cafe. He came up to me with a notebook and said “Are you one of the people here for the event?” I replied that I was and he told me that the notebook was left on a table in the cafe a few weeks ago. I thanked him and took it away. It turned out to be the logbook for the Bracelet Bay cache which had been recently muggled and replaced with a micro instead. The logbook obviously didn’t fit back in the cache so I took it away and passed it to the CO later at the camping event. I wonder where the old cache went!
It was just a short walk to Limelade bay so we headed off to get the cache there.
There was time for one more cache before the event, On a clear day as it was a half mile walk to it. We got there however and realised the cache was about 100ft away… STRAIGHT UP! I marched off to try and find a way up, got 1/3 of the way and realised that I wasn’t too comfortable doing it on my own and came back down to find the others only to find HappyCabbage racing up the hill. A few minutes later and he had found the cache! Brilliant!
After quickly signing the log, we headed off to the place that pretty much all of the other cachers were heading – Mumbles Lighthouse.
There were 3 caches along the stretch leading to the lighthouse, but with the access dependent on tide times we headed to the lighthouse first and worked our way back picking up the other closer caches. We took the easy route to the lighthouse (Which is unusual for me, I always pick the horrible, hard route!) and had a nice stroll along the beach spotting creatures.
I really liked our little wildlife tour along the beach and it wasn’t long before we joined the queue to sign the lighthouse cache. The lighthouse looked even more fabulous up close.
We made our way back via Seal View which involved a fair rock climb and resulted in a very pretty bruise on my knee! Worth it though!
And then finally we found the cache closest to the main land, Mumbles Head where I bumped into cacher HazelS signing the logbook, which was brilliant as I had her Chicken TB racer which I was bringing to the MEGA event to meet back up with her. She was pleased to have her chicken back ready for her next mission! We got back to the car and decided to all stop at the cafe for lunch, packed the bags in the car, locked the car… And you’ve guessed it, he locked his keys in the car… AGAIN! I managed not to swear too much this time and sent him off to get phone signal to call the RAC whilst HappyCabbage and I headed off and ordered lunch. At least the car park was visible from the cafe and we could sit and watch for the RAC man whilst having lunch. It only took him about 30 minutes to get there as well and very soon we were on our way again!
After that little mini event, which was possibly more eventful than the actual event we’d come for, we headed just down the road to get some more coastal caches. There were 4 to find and myself and HappyCabbage headed off to get them whilst Andy drove the car up the other end and waited for us (Saved on the walk back!) There were some fabulous views and by this time it was very sunny out. I actually got a bit sun burnt after our little expedition around the coast. I didn’t think that was meant to happen in Wales! 😉