ast weekend saw the premier UK orienteering festival of the year, the JK. This year it was in the South Lakes and it did not disappoint.
JK sprint – Lancaster University
The sprint was held on Good Friday at Lancaster University, just off the M6, so easy to get to, unless you got snarled up in the queues, which meant that many people had stressful journeys and late starts. It was warm and sunny and the assembly and finish were clustered around an amphitheatre. University campus orienteering is always fun and although there are more technical locations, like Bath University, Lancaster provided enough challenge and routechoice to make for a great start to the weekend.
Julie, a reluctant sprinter recalls her course and her excellent result:
Elsewhere in Wessex, there were podium positions, again for Lyra (gold), Andrew (gold) and Gavin (silver). It has to be said that achieving podium at any JK event is a huge feat, Gavin’s field was huge, and Lyra had a number of very fast UK and Norwegian juniors to race against, winning by the small margin of 12 seconds. As for Andrew, at 94 his sprint around the University was probably his easiest day. His fortitude over the weekend in very difficult terrain was quite incredible. It is always a joy to see Andrew in a WSX top, and we all cheered him on every day. Here he is finishing the middles at High Dam:
As for Lyra, securing first UK junior on the sprint course led to her selection for GB at the European Youth Orienteering Championships in Bulgaria in late June. Very well deserved. Here are some photos of the sprint (thanks to Wendy Carlyle for some of the photos)
JK Middle – High Dam
On to Saturday, and we all headed up to Finsthwaite, near Newby Bridge for an even warmer day on High Dam. This is an unusual area of mixed hillside and woodland, and except for areas of bare rock, is as close as we get (I think) in England to Swedish terrain. Keeping in map contact and on accurate bearings are crucial, but one can easily get confused with parallel errors among the low hills, marshes and crags. The final controls were down a steep hillside, in full view of the roaring crowd and the fast finish into a lofty assembly area. As far as finishes go, this was a great one. We all probably got too much sunshine, and although there was a temptation to depart early for the lake, the best place to be in the Lakes was to remain watching the finishers, surrounded by like-minded orienteers, and away from the Easter holidaymakers clogging up the roads and car parks elsewhere.
JK Long – Bigland
There was much talk about the prospect of the long at Bigland. It hadn’t been used since 2015 as a terrain, and so I hadn’t run there. Apparently it was the hardest terrain in the Lakes. It is in fact a number of mixed terrain areas all joined together, and in my case, along taped routes to protect the bluebells. The earlier sections of my course covered some lovely low-lying fell tops, runnable woodland with gentle topography and distinct crags. The final section, and the area where most people’s courses were, was a steep slope, with a multitude of crags, platforms, boulders and re-entrants. Running back into this area towards my control 20, it became obvious that a lot of people were lost. Again, maintaining map contact, using natural highways and ticking off every crag, platform and boulder were critical. There is no greater feeling that navigating carefully through this terrain to round a corner to find your control. No worse feeling than realising that you have convinced yourself you are somewhere else. The final control and finish was at the bottom of a steep hillside, just outside the woods, with the crowds flanked across the hill, cheering the finishers on. A great atmosphere.
JK relay – Dale Park
We went to bed as the rain and wind started. The prospect of a final wet day, in difficult terrain, with for some, wet and steamy glasses, and a complex map did not entice me. As we pulled on wet shoes in damp and gloomy conditions, with tired legs, we had to dig deep for the relays. As it happened the rain largely kept away. The gruelling climb from the start, the slippery, wet woodland, and the grandstand finish down a steep hill (remembering not to miss the last control, as many people did), through the stream and back to the changeover and finish, made for a fast and furious, challenging, yet fantastic finale to the weekend. Everyone enjoys the relays, there is usually less pressure, the navigation tends to be on the easier side, the courses shorter, but the added pressure of not letting your mates down.
Gavin had predicted (using his supercomputer in a quarry on Bodmin Moor) accurately that Jon would arrive in 19th position, 6 minutes down on the leader. Gavin then stormed up to 9th, and with my tired legs and a few lazy mistakes, Team Aethelbald finished in a respectable 11th in the M165+. Our juniors, Aethelwulf, came in 20 seconds down on the first leg (Lyra), holding third (Esk) on the second and, against the strongest runners, finished in a very impressive 7th (Agnes) on the final leg. For a senior course, this was probably the performance of the day. A third team, Aethelred, consisting of Rob, Nic and Rebecca finished in a very respectable 29th.
We all had a fantastic weekend, very sociable, a nice meal out at Rusland Pool. Thanks to Gavin for carrying and erecting the tent every morning so that WSX and WIM had a base. Next year the JK returns to Cannock Chase, the Peaks and Loughborough University.
This year the British champs were in the south for the 3rd year on the trot, with the British Long at Cold Ash and the relays at Hambleden. A good turnout of WSX attended both days with gold and silver medals for Lyra and Gavin in the long and a silver medal in the Junior Ad hoc relay for a combined WIM/WSX junior team including Lyra, Grace and Harry. We all had a fantastic weekend, here are a few photos of the weekend.
So much more to say, but will save that for another day. Don’t forget the Dorset MapRun week start in Ferndown Forest. Well done to James for winning week one