Happy New Year to you all. Hope you all had a great Christmas and enjoyed the Boxing Day Canter. I was away north so missed it, but having done a few, I can only imagine how good it was to see so many old O friends, and make new ones, as well as the desperate rush to find Santa, elves/fairies and the decorated tree, within a frantic mad hour in Moors Valley. I see the long-legged Crickmores were the highest point-scoring WSX on the day beating some very strong competition (including ex GB orienteers), but also some high places for Jason, Jon and Martin. Top WSX women were Agnes, Nicki and a combination of Tracy and Emma. Good to see Scott running for WSX too, and not to mention our multiple British Champion Andrew Beldowski, in the M90 category (92 years old, if I recall?), who was over from France.
Hopefully you have all been checking your Orienteering planner and will have seen that there are loads of events coming up. Here is a handy list for your perusal and contemplation:
Sun 9th Jan: QO Buckland Wood – lovely woodlands in the Blackdown Hills, this is a local event, but technical and tough. Not far from Wellington in Taunton
Thurs 13th Jan: SOC Night league event at Farley Mount, near Winchester – great chance to navigate in a dark forest
Sat 15th Jan: first closing date for JK in South Wales, after which prices go up
Mon 17th Jan: WSX Night event at Wareham – order your map through the website
Sat 22nd Jan: SARUM Day and Night event at Martin Down, near Blandford – great place for Night O [no details yet]
Sun 23rd Jan: WIM SW league event at Ocknell and Lucas Castle in the New Forest @ Fritham
Mon 24th Jan: WIM Night event at Alderholt [no details yet]
Sat/Sun 29th/30th Jan: Concorde Chase weekend with technical urban in Bracknell, followed by forest O at Hawley.
Don’t forget that on every Wednesday (for those who are retired/work part-time/flexibly) there are military events organised by the British Army, which are open to civilians. Always a fantastic way to spend a Wednesday afternoon. In January these are at Sidbury Hill, Barossa, Hankley Common and Alice Holt.
So, there is really no excuse to NOT be orienteering in January, and no need to get the winter blues.
As I said, my family were up north for the New Year, taking part in the Christmas Cup organised by Masterplan Adventure. Not content with getting cold and wet in Wessex, we decided to get freezing cold and drenched in Scotland instead, taking part in a four day O festival in the Trossachs and Edinburgh. The first day was in the woods and grounds of Callendar Park in Falkirk, a fast and furious middle distance style event on a heavily detailed map. Lyra described the terrain as:
“pretty hard underfoot with a lot of running over brambles and bracken [sound familiar]. It was hard to get up some good running speed”
Afterwards we explored the famous Kelpies horse sculptures and the Falkirk wheel. Without orienteering I don’t think I would have chosen to visit Falkirk, and so would have missed these feats of art and engineering.
Day 2 was, in the words of the organisers:
“No area in Central Scotland comes close to the quality that the Trossachs oozes. In fact for some this is Britain’s best orienteering area. Contours, rocks and marshes makes this Scandinavian-esque but the hill climbs makes this slower than the areas most common across the North Sea. But the sheer navigational challenge will make up for the strain you’ll put your body through!”
To add some spice, the forecast was atrocious, with heavy rain due all day. We four sat in the car park in full O kit and waterproofs watching a waterfall of rain down the window. In true O spirit, we headed off to the start, for perhaps some of the most technical and physical orienteering we have ever done.
“the second day was really physical and I don’t think the horrible weather helped. You could hardly see where your feet were going and I fell down too many holes.”
I have to say this was my favourite day, perhaps my Pennine youth makes me immune to wet weather, but this was like orienteering in a temperate rainforest. There were no paths, endless mosses, liverworts and ferns, ancient woodland; oaks and birch, treacherous bogs, crags, boulders. It had it all. The terrain was heavily contoured, adjacent to the lovely shores of Loch Katrine. This was a physical and mental workout that few others sports can achieve.
For the rest day we went for a “leisurely sun drenched bimble” up Ben Lomond (which is how I sold it), but again the promised 5 hours of sunshine turned into 5 minutes of sun, with more rain, plus wind. Another munro bagged 🙂
Day 3, and it was back to Aberfoyle in the Trossachs, for forest orienteering at South Achray. Again, it was raining, and it was very slippery and wet underfoot, but the orienteering was again fantastic, a mixture of New Forest and Scandinavia.
Day 4 was a double header sprint event in two housing estates in west Edinburgh, planned by the WOC sprint 2024 planner. As with many of the days, the GB team were out, and it was great to see them powering through the back streets, passageways and snick throughs. Routechoice required a lot of thought and there were many dead ends. It will be interesting to watch the world’s best orienteers navigate in this sort of urban terrain in 2024. On this occasion, the sun shone and it was remarkably warm, and it was the first chance to actually chat to our Scottish/Lakeland friends, without getting wet and cold.
The week was well worth it, and certainly character building. I am impressed by anyone who ventures out in such wet weather to navigate around a technical forest, but orienteers are a hardy bunch. To be honest, once you are wet, you don’t get wetter. As long as it’s not cold, the experience is invigorating, besides, once you’re navigating, you don’t notice the rain (do you?).
Check out the maps below: