Having worked in the military zone of Salisbury plain for 15 years it has only just become apparent to me that every Wednesday lunchtime somewhere across the MoD belt there are 300+ taking part in the Military Orienteering League South (MLS) organised by BAOC. There are many regular club members who take part, most of whom are retired, but may explain their high levels of fitness come the weekend civilian events. Surprisingly there are also a number of “working age” regular club members from across the southern clubs. They either organise their working life better than I do, or take extremely long lunches. Just before Christmas I decided to take a long lunch break and ventured to Bulford ridge (close to work) but could only justify a shortish run on light green. The event was, as you can imagine, efficiently organised, with results and route gadget appearing within minutes of the closure of courses. Navigating in and amongst the WW1 practice trenches was a novelty.
This week my plans for two days with the kids in the Brecons during half term were thwarted by low mist and heavy rain. However this was perfect weather for a Wednesday MLS run at Blackwood, a largely deciduous woodland nestled between the junction of the A303 and M3. As I had no pressing engagements to return to, I ran the Blue, and joined the 100+ blue course runners hunting root stocks throughout every corner of the woodland, trying as best we could not to disturb the dwellers of the woodland holiday village who had paid a high price for a week of woodland solitude. Expert planning meant that 300+ runners circumnavigated the village without any of them knowing.
I imagine as a mapper, deciding which fallen trees constitute inclusion as a root stock on the map is challenging, as I’m sure there is a threshold size below which every fallen tree or felled stump makes the map simply unintelligible. 10 of my 21 controls were stocks, with the control flag located often on the far side, hidden behind a wall of roots and top soil. This makes accurate compass bearings and the use of contours crucial. There is little to be gained by running to a visible control way off in the woodland. Apart from veering off to inspect a Brown course control, and a momentary lapse in using my compass to exit one control, my run was fairly clean, with barely a bramble scratch to prove I’d even been out in the woods.
The forecasted downpours arrived just as I arrived at the finish, which was lucky for me as the map was starting to lose features on the creases. A fantastic way to spend a Wednesday lunchtime, but probably too long to cram into a normal working day. A very runnable woodland, organised with military fashion, superbly planned and highly recommended. An insight into retired life.