Inspired by what Ian Hopkins and Tony Callow have written, I put something in the latest West Midlander about park orienteering, and a plan for next year is beginning to take shape. The Black Country is a bit of an orienteering desert, and most of the places available for orienteering in the region are parks, so a park league seems like an ideal system for the area. Also, there are some big running clubs in the area and we know that most runners don’t like classic orienteering – but we also know that many of them are prepared to cross over to urban and park events, neither of which require much – if any – compass work. 

All the local clubs already organise park-O events, usually as part of their Saturday morning or weekday-evening series. LOK runs its Park Race series on Thursday evenings throughout the summer, getting 100 runners a time. Since rush-hour traffic is bad, and local clubs are already running Summer evening events anyway (and evenings are going to get even busier with advent of club nights in several new locations) I think that the Black Country Park-O series will have to take place on Saturday mornings.

Each event would have a short, medium and long race, about 1-1.5 km, 2.5-3 km and 4-5 km, though on some sites there might be score events instead. The short race would be a “Short Yellow” and the other two would be what used to be called Orange and Red, though the emphasis should be on route choice rather than fine navigation.

A programme could look something like this:

Easter: Sandwell Valley/Dartmouth Park mass start (same day as SLT Egg Hunt)
Apr (ii): Bumble Hole
May (i): Wolverhampton East Park
May (ii): Haden Hill
June (i): Baggeridge (HOC event)
June (ii): Warley Woods (COBOC event)
July: Walsall Arboretum

Most of these are HOC areas but I think the league should be open to assistance from all four local clubs.

The emphasis throughout is on running, not on navigation. There shouldn’t be any apology for this. All orienteers need the opportunity to pick their feet up and practise techniques at speed. And for non-orienteers it’s a great way to discover that running with a map isn’t as bad as they thought! In fact it can be, dare I say it, quite exciting.