No local orienteering yesterday so I accepted David Williams’ and Robert Vickers’ kind offer of a lift down to Newbury for an ARDF event. I got off to a bad start when I set the alarm clock for 8 o’clock by mistake, so I had no time to make sandwiches and I also forgot my O shoes in the rush…

But otherwise the day went fine. When we arrived David and Robert showed me how to use the 2-metre yagi (which is the gizmo the guy’s carrying at the top of the Wikipedia page), which is simple in theory but difficult in practice. The aim is to find five transmitters hidden in the forest, each of which sends out a signal for one minute every five minutes. You can tell (vaguely) where each transmitter (or beacon, or “fox”) is by the strength of the signal and the direction you point your aerial. The start was the road junction in the middle of the map. I had two hours to find four of the foxes…

There was quite a strong signal from #4 from the SE, so I headed that way, also drawing arrows on the map to show where I thought the other signals were coming from. #1 and #2 seemed to be north of the start, so I left them for the end. Now, because the signal only returns every five minutes, I ran past #4. A bit confused, I ran NW up a spur in the middle of the area and got very good signals from #4 (E), #5 (S) and #3 (W). I headed due east and was 😀 to find #4 by a little pond. It’d taken me 40 minutes but I now knew I could do it. #5 was definitely somewhere near the wide ride further south, and it made it easier that four of the others were hunting for it at the same time. It turned out it was in the thick green stuff.

My plan for #3 was to run some way N up the ride and then take stock – Robert had the same idea and I was following him at this point. Maybe I shouldn’t have – I kept contact with him but I lost contact with the map! In the end I found #3 before he did, and even though I had no idea where I was!

I had 40 minutes left so I ran N until I arrived at the house which is on the site of Grimsbury Castle. Now I knew where I was again, I ran NE through the start and over the little hill to have a listen to #1 and #2. I wasn’t sure which was closer, but I’d made my mind up to try #1 so I went for it. Eventually I arrived on the path NE of the out-of-bounds area and got a strong signal NE in the trees. Running out of time, I couldn’t wait for the signal to come round again so I ran on the bearing and there it was!

After all that, it was disappointing to arrive back at the finish just outside the allowed time, but it wasn’t too shabby, was it. By the way, carrying the aerial and the map and a pen and a compass is a tricky business!

Next on the agenda was the foxoring using the 80-metre yagi. That’s the littler gizmo: the one the girl’s holding halfway down the Wikipedia page. This was more like orienteering. I had two hours to navigate to the control circles A-H shown on the map, and find the transmitter hidden at each location. This time practice was easier than theory; Robert explained what I had to do but when I got to circle A I couldn’t hear a thing! I wandered around for ten minutes before the penny dropped and I realised it was quite simple really.

Thereafter it was mainly about navigation and I succeeded in getting most of the way round without using the compass. Unfortunately I got most of the way to control I before I remembered I didn’t have to do that one, so I ended up getting 9 out of 8! An hour and half, making 3.5 hours altogether and I was shattered. The foxoring was fun but the real challenge was the long-distance direction finding, and I’m looking forward to trying it again. See you, aerial in hand, at Sutton Park?

(Nice photo sets from this year’s US championships)


btw, BKO held a national (normal O) event here in 2006.