Baggeridge winners

It’s a frustrating time. I had to miss the Brinton Park event because I had a parents’ evening, and then Catherine came down with chicken pox, so I couldn’t go to Callow Hill and we probably won’t be going to the Forest of Dean tomorrow either. I suppose I don’t mind too much – it’s giving my dodgy knee more time to recover, and I’ve got a bad back this weekend anyway!

I was able to go to the West Midlands Schools Championships this morning at Baggeridge, where I wandered around for a couple of hours in the sunshine in a dayglo vest that said “ASK ME” on it. I got the impression that a lot of the children were lost, and that a lot of them had poor skills and/or technique, and this seems to be borne out to some extent by the results: quite a few retirements, missed punches and poor times.

Baggeridge map (course 1)

My initial reaction upon seeing the maps was that the courses were too hard, but I’ve revised that opinion. Looking for example at the 10-year-old girls’ course, it’s less than a mile, entirely along main paths, with controls at every junction. There are problems: the course takes eight turns (plus the curve near the start), and Baggeridge is a complex area for a novice orienteer, but the planner couldn’t do much about either of those things. And then there’s the map. In my opinion, the map for the junior school courses should be 1:5000, and smaller (purple?) control circles should be used. Even if the children could understand the map above, it’s still crazy to expect them to.

As far as the senior school courses were concerned, a lot of runners appeared unable or unwilling to orient their map, use their compass, or read the terrain. Thus making a technical-difficulty-3 course a virtually impossible feat. Of course, one disadvantage of having helpers like me standing around is that it may have encouraged a reduction in self-reliance among the runners, so my judgement may be a little harsh.

I think I’m right in saying that there are fewer schools’ events than there used to be, so although I understand the argument that schools shouldn’t bring novice orienteers to a championships, it’s a shame to exclude them. Therefore my suggestion is that each age class be divided into E(experienced) and N(ovice) courses. I know that even the kids who got lost almost all had a good time, but they didn’t seem to learn much from getting lost, and if they aren’t able or willing to train much between competitions, they will surely get fed up of failure eventually.

Any road, congratulations to the Chambers for putting on a great event, and thanks to everyone who took part. Despite my concerns, lots of good runs were had and there was much fun in the sun. I’m very keen to encourage youngsters to get into (and stay in) orienteering, so hopefully in the next twelve months I’ll find some role in the organisation where I can do my bit.

at Baggeridge