WSX Chat 25 Aug

Posted on Thu, 25th August 2022 by Jolyon Medlock
Club News, Event Reports

First of all a big congratulations to the following winners of WSX awards:

Chairman’s Trophy – Alan Hooper

Charlie Morton (best junior improved award) – Esk Medlock

Ian Horsey (best adult improved award) – Scott Elford

It has been a hot and busy summer of orienteering, with many of us spending a couple of sociable weeks in Scotland at the Coast and Islands Orienteering week and then at the Lakes 5 days orienteering festival. 


From Nicola Brooke:

We loved it so much last year, we didn’t hesitate to sign up again this year. The scenery perhaps wasn’t quite as stunning, but there was less moving around, with the first 4 events on Kintyre and the last 2 on Arran. Piling out of the car at Tarbert for the sprint, Arthur didn’t bother to get changed and so completed the course in Hawaiin shirt. Didn’t seem to affect his performance too badly coming in 21st out of 101 in a dead heat with Esk. He ended the week on a similar note, doing the event around Brodick Castle in the same shirt (it had been washed!) but doing even better and coming 6th on the medium course (Ag and I didn’t do so badly either coming 9th and 10th on the same course). It was a great week – most of you will have seen the photos we posted from our campsite at Port Ban, where every evening we watched the sun set over Jura. The last event was a bit of a disaster with many of us ending up looking for a control in a bit of woodland that seemed to fit all of the necessary criteria. After searching for a long while (!), and stressed that we were going to miss our ferry home and by the cruel number of midges about, I persuaded Ag and Rebecca that we had to bail but even that proved disastrous as bashing through to the nearest path proved impossible for us (although somehow Jolyon made his way through). In the end we had to retrace our path back up the hill and along, and in doing so made sense of exactly where we should have been but by now far too late to complete the course, though a final bit of hard running meant we did make the ferry.

It is rumoured that next year’s events are going to be based on Harris. Surely an event not to be missed?

From Jolyon Medlock:

In all the time I have been up to Scotland, mostly to climb munros, I have never felt the urge to go to Kintyre, except in passing, en route to Islay and Jura. Having had such a good time on the NW coast and Skye last year at C&I, and with Lyra deposited on Deeside camp, we decided that 4 days on Kintyre and 3 days on Arran, orienteering, would be something different. I chose a seashore campsite, dreaming of fires on the beach, eating sausages, with good friends, watching the sun set over the Paps of Jura, following a good, fulfilling and tricky day orienteering in some temperate rainforest.  I was not disappointed (except in Jon’s fried eggs, but you can’t have it all). The events were brilliant. Tricky maps, challenging courses, impressive simplicity in organisation. Apart from running off the map in the smallest urban area ever, on account of Dave Rollins distracting me with photos, and getting lost in an unmapped green section on the last day (see above), with time running out before the Arran ferry, it was all rather good. Torinturk will become legendary in again being able to orienteer on rocky shores. I could have spent the day taking photos. the control sites were that picturesque. Esk and I supplemented our running with some sea kayaking and one afternoon we enjoyed a visit to Gigha, where the locals were rather miserable. 


Day 1: Swinside by Gavin Clegg

One of the things I remember learning from my Father was to look up. When walking though a town or city – look up. Ignore all the mundane shop fronts and look at the first and second floors. Thats where you’ll find all the interesting stuff.
Swindale South was definitely a “look up” area. The whole area was rough open – yes the white is rough open not forest. As soon as possible it was a question of look up, use the compass to ensure you’re looking in the right direction, identify where you want to go. Then go there. Simples. 
I played safe to control 1, using the path and valley to hit the control. This gave me the time to look ahead. 2 was diagonally across the hill to the far end of the top. 3 was ensuring to identify the right crag. 4 was again on a hill top.
You should have heard the expression ‘red lining’. This is where you are trying to follow the red line exactly between each control. I can honestly say I’ve never run a course where I’ve ‘red lined’ so much. Although I hadn’t realised it until I saw my GPS trace. See the examples below. Funnily enough the couple of places I’m not red lining after control three, i.e. 8, 10 and 12 was where I lost a few seconds. 
We were incredibly lucky with the weather all week, something I was grateful for – it was even too hot for some particularly on the last day.  I’m sure Scott got entirely the wrong impression about the Lake District weather! This was fortunate as a number of days had long walk ins and out. Swindale was 2.2k both ways with an exposed start and finish – I hate to think what it would have been like in bad weather. A navigators and map readers paradise. Hard work but I really enjoyed it. A good start to the week.

Day 2: Threlkeld Knotts by Ian Sayer

Having got “misplaced” on a couple of controls on Day 1 I was determined to try and keep track of where I was. So after a hefty climb up to the Start and a sit in the sun with the rest of the Wessex contingent I was off on my course of 3.8km with 160m of climb.

Threlkeld Knotts is predominantly an open fell-side with lots of rock features and contours. My first control was obliquely uphill for around 700 metres so just a long slog trying to tick of the features as they came along. Mind you each rock looked much like any other. But I stuck to the compass and just over 12 minutes later found my first control. Result.

Number 2 was much more my cup of tea as I tend to go for path running wherever I can and there was actually a path which took me over a saddle towards number 2, handily passing quite close to 3 on the way so I knew where that was as well. Interestingly 3 was a cave, not a feature you come across very often.

After that it was back over the hill and down to 4 (a boulder) then a bearing downhill to another boulder amongst many. But the secret was certainly to follow the compass and it seemed to work. 6, 7 and 8 were effectively re-entrants so a bit easier to spot then from 8 there was an unmapped Quad bike track which led down to a definite path (actually used by the junior courses) which was going in the right direction. So running happily along there only to be passed by Gavin who had also spotted the path. Needless to say he beat me to the next control (he was on a different course but had the same control).

Then just a slog uphill before a run downhill to the last control and the run in to the finish. As we always have a contest to see who can get the fastest split for the run-in I did give it my all…..but I never did manage to beat Scott. Finished in 56 minutes 15 seconds which seems like an awfully long time for such a short course but it was the hills governor. 22nd out of 47 finishers so not unhappy with that.


Day 3: Dale Park by Julie

There were 3 reasons why I was dreading the Day 3 event in Dale Park:

1. I had not done well on Day 1, having walked around most of the course.

2. I had binned Day 2 too soon – a rash and foolish decision and was berating myself for doing so

3. I had had a nightmare event there at Dale Park a few years previously

But at the start I took several deep breaths and just told myself to go slow, navigate carefully and get all the controls.

I would normally take a path option to route 1 to keep things simple, but decided to follow the elephant track on a direct line. As a result, I failed to find my re-entrant straight away. Note to myself – get brain in gear.

Controls 2-5 were all in the light green forest – control 2, along a path and up a stream to a knoll (spot on); to 3 I took a bearing and paced to a group of crags in an open area. Not too bad. To 4, another bearing and ticked off some features (open areas, streams) until I hit an area of crags. Mine was one of those. Not too bad again (By the way, I was walking all this ducking beneath the low and spiky branches of the conifers) To 5 was contouring along the slope, again checking features like streams, open areas and crags and knowing that I had a catching feature behind my control (a re-entrant) which was comforting.

Gaining confidence, I hurried down the hill and back into the ‘white’ forest heading for control 6 (between hills) but I mis-judged how far I’d gone and started looking for the control far too soon. Eventually relocated on a path/stream junction and finally found my control. Note to self – calm down!

To 7 was a shorter leg and I was keeping in touch with the features much better, finding my crag without too much issue. 8 was a pit down a slope just before a marsh (spot on). 9 was trickier as it was near an area of long crags which, on the map, looked like a main path symbol. Plus there were small paths and walls also nearby. Easy to get confused! So not a straightforward control for me. 10 was a very short leg to a large boulder (spot on) then another short leg to 11, another large boulder – but this time involved a slog up the side of a stream and then right to go over the top past a control on a crag (tempted to check the control number just in case!). 12 was a crag but I dropped down too soon so had to clamber up to get it. 13 was pretty straightforward, using some nearby paths to attack the control, a crag on a large knoll. 14 should have been easy but I somehow messed up, finding a crag near a broken wall 127) whereas I wanted 126 on a wall end. I think a few people were thrown by the fences in this area so I’m going to use that as my excuse too! I actually ended up re-locating to 13 (where I met Scott) and then found it much easier. 15-17 were easy controls in the open area then on to the Finish. It was only a 2.4k course but I’d taken 93 minutes!! But I’d got all the controls, which was my main aim.

Further reflections on Day 3 by Rob Hick

Having run in Dale Park at the 2018 Lakes 5 day I was aware of the need to be accurate in this highly technical wood. Looking at the expanded map for this race it seemed even more so.

After my first control on a spur it was a steep climb into the new part of the map. This area consisted of very dark pine forest with many rocks and crags along with largely intact stone walls obviously from a time before the trees. While not fast I was pleased to stay in touch with the map using every bit of detail and yes 6 controls all found !

It was then back into the deciduous part of the wood which is more open but still very detailed. With only a small amount of track running I still managed to go knee deep in some mud while crossing a stream !

Going from 10to 11 I was just behind a fellow M60. I saw he was continuing up a marsh in a rather dark green re-entrant and thought he’s going to far up so turned the other way and yes control ! Lesson, don’t follow people you know are on the same course !

The last few controls really flowed which is a great feeling in a technically challenging area.

Day 4: Grizedale (Raven Crag) by Jolyon Medlock

I’ve been left with the day nobody else liked. As it happens it was my highest ranking event of the week. Anyone who knows Grizedale Forest will know that it is largely a plantation forest, which is usually a dense jungle of thickly planted conifers, with branches at heights that lacerate arms and poke out eyes (in my case anyway). The map is a good example of the Dulux testing card for light to dark green. Lay this verdant arboreal quilt over a complex Lakeland topography, with numerous knolls, re-entrants, crags and boulders and add to it an over generous smattering of marshes and ditches. Add in an unmapped network of mountain bike tracks, the remnants of bygone dry stone walled field systems and you pretty much have Grizedale. Place this at a couple of hundred metres up above a steep slope (on the way to the finish) cover it in loose boulders, interspersed with some largely indiscernible old charcoal burning platforms for added value, and you have your Lakeland challenge. The only solace for the weary orienteer were the main forest tracks, which didn’t really go where you wanted them to, but did increase your Strava mileage through increasing your circuitous routes. Having said that, this was the biggest of the navigation challenges of the week imho, and was bound to slow those fast runners down, hopefully. The courses were excellently planned.

I was on the start line with Lyra, she sped off to her first control, which happened to be mine. An easy crag not far from the path. We met Scott there, complete with go-pro. This was our chance to look athletic and purposeful in the wood. The terrain was too thick to lose him, but dart away we must like professionals, as we wouldn’t want to appear on the daily video as bimbling and dithering orienteers. Needless to say, by the time we had outrun Scott’s filming I (and I understand she) had no idea where I (we) was (were). The second control for me was the long leg. I picked out a series of linear features of dry stone walls, ditches and re-entrants to safely navigate my way to the top end of the map, avoiding the calamitous navigation error I had made in the light green in Dale Park the day before. Looking back, I could have run around the forest track, but I can do that at home, so entered Mirkwood (without the spiders) with some trepidation, and some success. From there on, I hugged closely to the linear features, along open areas, walls and paths largely through to control 8, which worked well. The final part of the course was into a fantastic steep Lakeland oakwood, where navigation relied upon ticking off small hills and knolls, navigating by crags to find hidden re-entrants and platforms, on steep slopes. The stuff of nightmares for some. After 5 days in Sweden, I knew it was better to walk down steep hills slowly on a bearing and search for key features. Nothing comes from hurtling down slopes except broken limbs and disorientation, and there is the danger of ending up below a control, looking up in vain, before an annoying and hopeful re-ascent. The run in to the finish in the heat was met by a number of orienteers wallowing in thigh high water in the nearby ditch, desperate to find any way of cooling off. After having finally cooled off, removed ticks from my legs, and consumed large quantities of fluid, we all headed off the Loughrigg Tarn for a refreshing swim, ready to do it all again the next day.

Day 5 Helsington Barrows by Rob Hick

The last day of what had been a great time in the Lakes and probably the hottest of a completely dry week. Helsington Barrows being a largely open area offered little protection from the sun compared to the forests of the previous two days. The first part of my course formed a loop of 6 controls on the North West corner of the map before a long leg South to 7 by a small clump of trees. The course then crossed one of the walls into an area with small bits of wood and rough open ground. I think the heat was now slowing my running as well as my brain as I missed what should have been an easy attack point off a path junction which meant going up the wrong re-entrant. Confused ! run back find a control, not mine but luckily Jolyon was there who kindly told me I was too high. I then realized I was actually directly in line with a control I had just been to on the other side of a large re-entrant !

I long leg back North to 12 on a large knoll before the relief of a downhill leg to 13 in a thicket. The last uphill to 14 in a re-entrant was hard before a final down to a finish.

To say I was pleased to be handed a frozen electrolyte drink by Carolyn would be something of an understatement !!

Overall results compiled by Gavin

Esk             8/20    2nd on last day beating the overall winner.Lyra            1/26            4 wins!Rebecca      4/11            2nd on last dayNicki           25/52Tina            25/30   from 2 racesJulie            31/41   from 2 racesScott           22/35   16th on last dayJolyon        10/38Jon             8/77Rob             26/67    Better result every day – 45/36/30/25/21Gavin          26/65   from 3 racesIan             17/56

Final reflections from Nicola Brooke

It was odd not to have the children with us at the Lakes this year, the first time we have been away without them. They had come to the Coasts and Islands with us, but opted to return home at the end of the week to work and earn money. Having done well at the C&I, I think they were a little sad to be going home. I certainly missed Ag as we had been running the courses in Scotland together (Tbh, Ag made the decisions and I tried to keep up) but it was lovely to meet up with some more members of the WSX family. That is one of the best bits of the week long events. Every day, start times are organized so that runners from the same club start together. This makes for a social beginning to the day and, if Jolyon or Ian are around, it means at least someone will have read the pre-race information and know how far the start is from assembly. Obviously we all finish at very different times but there is usually someone to cheer you in on the finish and always lots of chat about the terrible terrain/map/route choices/weather etc.

Seriously, I find this opportunity to discuss the map with others is really valuable; sometimes it even confirms that I did know what to do, I just needed to execute my plan less hesitantly. At other times, you can see so clearly in retrospect what you should have done and that you might remember to do next time.

There are also people from other clubs to get to know – we still catch up with a family that we met in Aberystwyth in 2012 – and Jon meets people he knows from his LAMM and OMM days. Over the week, you invariably also get to know other people on your course as well – for me this is because at some point we will have all been searching for the same control in some impenetrable bit of forest.

Socializing doesn’t stop at the event. This year, there was also , eating, drinking, swimming and just meeting up in outdoor shops in Ambleside. It really does make for the best kind of holiday.

Only one small criticism – despite staying up v late to be the first to enter, Jon was disappointed not to have 1 on his race label. Apparently this is because the numbers were allocated alphabetically. Hmph.


Orienteering Club