(an article from Dudley Council for Voluntary Service’s “Sport Bulletin”)

Did you know that you’re part of a really diverse network of sports groups in the Dudley borough? This got us thinking that it would be great to turn the spotlight onto a different local sporting personality to help you get to know each other better!

Meet Robert Vickers, orienteering enthusiast and past secretary of Harlequins Orienteering Club. If you thought orienteering was about wandering around the country with a compass, then think again! The sport’s all about efficiency and speed – navigating between points as quickly and efficiently as possible. Imagine you need to get from one end of a forest to another; do you stick to the paths around it to avoid getting lost but take longer? Or do you go straight through the middle to be quicker at the risk of getting lost (and dirty)? No wonder it’s known as the ‘thought sport’! Add to that excitement the growing number of urban orienteering and night-time orienteering events springing up in towns and cities and you have a sport that anyone can get involved in. And Robert embraces the urban events as much as the more ‘traditional’ side of the sport: ‘The urban events have the same kind of excitement – they’ve opened my eyes to new areas. But we also get noticed by the public and asked what we’re doing, so it’s a great opportunity for more people to see our sport.’

Having always being interested in maps, Robert was introduced to the sport in 1975 by a friend who actually just wanted a lift to an event! But Robert was soon hooked and became a member of his local club in Oxfordshire before moving to Stourbridge in 1977 and joining Harlequins Orienteering Club where he’s been ever since.

Harlequins Orienteering Club is centred around Halesowen but has a much wider catchment area and although the club doesn’t have a meeting place, its virtual community meets on the club’s website and that more than makes up for it. And of course, participants meet at events across the Black Country and the West Midlands at weekday and weekend events.

Robert admits to being ‘captivated by orienteering,’ saying, ‘It fuels my interest in maps, lets me see places in a different light and anyone can do it, from families coming along, having fun and walking the dog in the process, to athletes who arrange their working lives so they can participate in Scandinavia where the best terrain is! Our youngest member is 5 years old and our oldest is over 80, so orienteering has something to offer people of any age.’

Robert fixing the signs to direct competitors to the Club's recent event at Kinver Edge.

Robert fixing the signs to direct competitors to the Club's recent event at Kinver Edge.

Orienteering has sent Robert to competitions across the world, from Europe, to Canada, to Tasmania. But the sport can suit any commitment and any pocket! Harlequins has modest club fees and an adult can typically enter an event for around £3. The main cost is the map that the club produces for each event. ‘We have special courses for very young children complete with cartoon characters marking the course. As people progress, the courses get a bit more taxing, so we can cater for absolutely anyone.’

The club’s next events are at Morton Stanley Park on Thursday 1st July and at Barr Beacon on Thursday 8th July. Anyone interested in more information about the event or Harlequins Orienteering Club can contact Robert on 01384 377008. Alternatively, pay the website a visit: www.harlequins.org.uk.