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The Miglia Quadrato is an annual car treasure hunt which takes place on the second or third weekend in May within the City of London (known as the 'Square Mile'). It is organised by the United Hospitals and University of London Motoring Club (UHULMC). The event has a long history - the fifty-second event took place on the evening/morning of 21/22 May 2011.
The event was originally conceived in 1957 in response to the fuel shortages from the Suez Crisis. This meant that traditional car rallying was less viable due to fuel shortages and so concentrating a competition in the City of London would reduce distances covered.
In the early 1990s the Ring of steel was introduced to the City of London. This added a degree of complexity to navigation of the event, as it resulted in a limited number of entry and exit points for areas bordering Liverpool Street Station.
The modern format is very simple. A team of up to six people in a car (or in the case of some teams, restored fire vehicles or carriages) drive around the city for five hours trying to find the answers to sixty clues. A point is scored for each clue answer correctly recorded. A point is lost for every minute the team is late at the end of the five hours.
A reduced scale map based on the 1:10 000 scale Ordnance Survey Landplan map of the City is provided, along with a sheet of the sixty clues. Each clue is an eight digit Ordnance Survey grid reference (which fixes a 10 m by 10 m area to search) and a quotation of some text or number that can be found at the location, with some parts missing, which need to be found and written down as the answer. There are no cryptic clues.
The hunt runs from midnight to 5am the following Sunday morning. With sixty clues to solve in five hours, there is an average of five minutes per clue, in which time the location must be plotted on the map, driven to, and the relevant text from the clue found. The clues can be visited in any order. There are 20 easy, 20 medium and 20 difficult clues. The easy ones are generally very obvious once the precise location has been reached. The difficult ones are hard enough to find in daylight, and even harder at night during the event, when one is relying on a torch for illumination. The light conditions at the start (midnight) are very different by the 5am finish which is typically 10 to 20 minutes before sunrise. This can mean conditions for some obscured clues are better towards the end of the event, and experienced teams make strategic use of this fact. Indeed, in recent years the scheduling of the event a week earlier in May has given those teams less light to use in this way as sunrise in May is around ten minutes later in the second weekend as it is in the third.
There are no prizes apart from some small engraved plaques awarded to the highest scoring teams.
Teams are expected to take part in the spirit of the hunt - for instance, all team members are expected to stay together and, as far as possible, with their vehicle at all times and not collude with other teams.
In a typical year, the winning score is in the mid-fifties, though in 2009 it was as low as 51 and in 2010 and 2011 as high as 59. Ties are separated by team-size (smallest wins) and then by relative scores for the difficult and medium clues respectively. In recent years, the theoretical maximum score of 60 has, in practice, been reduced by one or two points as circumstances on the night make some clues inaccessible, though in 2010 and 2011 clean sheets could have been achieved. Although the event has yet to see a team find correct answers to all of the available clues in the allotted five hours, 2010 and 2011 saw the winning team achieve 59 points out of a possible 60 and in 2007 one team achieved a winning score of 58 from a revised maximum of 59.
The City is unusual in that it has a very limited population, most of whom live in the Barbican, which has strictly separated pedestrian and vehicle circulation. The hunt avoids the Barbican and the hospitals and thus should not disturb many residents. It can be a slightly surreal event as the City has, typically been all-but deserted throughout the night. 2008 saw the event take place in a City with much more activity than had been usual - as the City of London's burgeoning night life scene became apparent and coincided with another all-night event in neighbouring boroughs - namely the annual MoonWalk (charity event).
The event's finishing point is normally Finsbury Circus, where occasionally, the veterans of the event get out portable stoves and start frying bacon once they've handed in their clue sheet for provisional marking.
A typical turnout in recent years has been sixty to seventy-five teams (there's a maximum of 120 teams). In the past there have been turnouts of up to 124 teams.
There is a sister event called the Londinium Pedo, which is a three hour event taking place on foot in September or October. Both events are run by the United Hospitals and University of London Motoring Club (UHULMC).
- 45th Miglia Quadrato - 2004 15 May
- 46th Miglia Quadrato - 2005 14 May
- 47th Miglia Quadrato - 2006 13 May
- 48th Miglia Quadrato - 2007 12 May
- 49th Miglia Quadrato - 2008 17 May
- 50th Miglia Quadrato - 2009 9 May
- 51st Miglia Quadrato - 2010 8 May
- 52nd Miglia Quadrato - 2011 21 May
- 53rd Miglia Quadrato - 2013 19 May
2001 The event was cancelled in recognition of the need to reduce population movement due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
2012 There was no Miglia Quadrato in 2012 due to the difficulty of travel in London resulting from preparations for the 2012 Olympic Games.