This years Geocaching Mega event was held about an hour away from home, right in the heart of the Essex badlands, Billericay and last minute we decided to make the journey down and see what all the fuss was about.
A ‘mega’ is an official Geocaching event that has more than 500 people attending and offers a whole series of events over the week preceding the ‘mega day’ itself. I have attended a few local events, where you have the chance to socialise with people whose names you may recognise from caches you either own, or are in your area but a mega allows you to meet and have fun with the wider UK caching community. They are very popular. The UK Annual Geocaching Mega event has been held each year since 2008 and has been held in North Yorkshire (Harrogate), Somerset (Weston-Super-Mare), Central Scotland (Perth), South Wales (Swansea), North West England (Cumbria), West Midlands (Warwickshire) and Ayryshire. This year (August 2015) the Mega event is being held in Billericay, Essex.
So we toddle off to Barleylands, just off the A127, the weather is glorious and I am looking forward to being in the company of other Tupperware hunters.
The first thing that we see when we arrive is a huge sign saying NO PARKING FOR MEGA. Ok, fair enough, we pass by the entrance and find a smaller car park a little way up. This too is signposted as no parking but I like to bend the rules when I can, so we stop and jump out. This is where the fun starts. No signposts telling us where to go, so we walk to the car park and have a look around. We soon spy the familiar red banner and logo of the Mega event telling us where the camping is and also the entrance to Barleylands itself, and it is there we head.
Cutting a long story short, we spend thirty minutes walking around the centre, where you will find lots of small independent shops, selling all sorts of things that you would not dream of actually purchasing, unless you come to a place like this. You know the kind of things I mean. We grab some food and spend a ten minutes walking around the ‘mega hall’ where lots of Geocaching related companies have set up shop to sell their wares. Its at that point I am struggling to work out where the rest of the activities are. There were no signposts or people showing us the way. I must point out that we arrived at 13:30 where the event was due to be held between 12:00 and 16:00 (I’m told that if you arrived close to midday there were people pointing you in the right direction which happened to be a good walk away over the other side of the car park in a huge field), so we are certainly not late.
No problem I think, I will look out for one of the committee in their usual red shirts, or perhaps a volunteer and they can help me out. No such luck. No red shirts to be seen. (it was not until returning home that I then found out, for some reason, the committee had decided to wear green on the day and the volunteers blue, not sure why) Getting a bit hungry at this stage and the place not having enough on offer to keep my son occupied, we decided quite happily to call it a day and retire to a nearby pub for some lunch. It was at the pub that we met up with 3 families who had all visited the mega event and had run into the same problem as us, namely, where was everyone?
All in all it was a bit of a disappointment. I thought as we left that I was the only geocacher in the UK that cant find a Marquee and a Mega event 🙂 but I felt better after meeting the others in the same boat. I had not bought my GPS with me to the event as I had no desire to do any caching that day but I am told this would have helped me find the registration desk and the main event itself. Perhaps something I will learn for next time. Others have shared their thoughts on the fact that there was no-one meeting and greeting at the entrance and that did strike me as a little odd.
Anyway, I am in a minority. I am told that the event was a resounding success and everyone had a great time. Hopefully the signage will be better in Wales and I can join in the fun.