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Back to lovely Highgate Common for the club championships. Since Barry H has adopted it as his area it almost seems like visiting him in his (large and overgrown) back garden. 🙂 Perfect running weather, and considering that I’d forgotten my bramble bashers, the area seemed mercifully free of the stuff that tears my legs in most Midlands woods.

And I had a near-perfect run, something which is as elusive in 2016 as it was in 1996, despite 20 years of practice! I got 24 controls in the hour (well, 60:00:30), which I’m sure must be the most I’ve ever managed at a club champs.

I hardly used my watch at all, just three times I think, which I think is a good strategy. On the way to #53 I checked and saw I had about 12 minutes left, and knew more or less that if I had a clean run home I could get six more, and I nearly did. (I also notice that I did 12 from the front and 12 from the back, and turned the map over almost exactly on 30 minutes, but that’s a fluke.)

Afterwards there was the club Christmas social, and considering the club has been doing some soul-searching of late because of the slide in membership, it was as ever one of the most joyous occasions of the year.


Another thing to add to the list of things we ought to be getting right by now…

There was a generally excellent HOC club championships at Stourport on Sunday. At the post-match do, Barry Houghton was poring over the map, trying to find the controls he’d missed. What made it harder for Barry, then and during the race, is that he’s colourblind. Put a red number on a green background (e.g. #75 on the race map) and he’s got very little chance of spotting its existence. Obviously this is something that the rest of us need to be reminded about, so it needs to go in the controller’s checklist if it isn’t there already:

1. Put control numbers clear of map details that they will obscure and/or be obscured by.

2. Check the overprint colour. Condes appears to be the worst offender, with the default (?) colour containing too much red. The correct colour should be darker and purpler.

Here’s some photos from the event. Congratulations to Ashley Ford, Alex Morgan and Rachel Dearden on being this year’s “main” champions. Alex beat last year’s men’s open champion, Romualdas Stupelis, by one second!


What’s happening to the common (e.g. cattle grazing, tree felling) is quite controversial locally.

To mark his 40th anniversary as an orienteer, John Bennison put on a great little event on Kinver Edge: 40 controls to find in 75 minutes. To give it a retro feel, we had clock timing and pin punching, though thankfully the maps were pre-marked! The good weather and the mass-start format made for a sociable occasion. I did pretty well, though I made the mistake (points-scoring-wise) of trying to get too many of the earlier lower-scoring controls.

Results (pdf)

Although it’s a shame that so many Midlands woods are so rough – covered in brambles and other nasty undergrowth – it doesn’t matter that much really. I don’t mind picking my way slowly through, and I think a lot of orienteers don’t mind either. Whatever the conditions, it is (as they say) a level playing field, and even leveller when the sprinters have got nowhere to sprint…  Of course I ought to wear gaiters or bramble-bashers – then I wouldn’t get massive scratches on my shins that take a couple of months to heal – but even without them it’s still possible to get around in one piece, and it’s all part of the adventure.

Rough Wood itself, scene of Thursday’s night O event, is a typical Midlands area, with lots of green on the map signifying unrunnable woods. The map is unfortunately rather idiosyncratic but I still found my way round okay, finding 17 controls in 75 minutes. (All the penalty points I earned mean I ended up in last place – we were only supposed to stay out for 60 minutes but I was enjoying it too much.)

All good practice for the British Night Championships on the 5th of Feb. I wouldn’t normally enter, but this year they’re only up the road (Bentley Woods, North Warwickshire) so it seems daft not to have a go. The atmosphere will be excellent, I’m sure.

Last night was round 6 of this season’s Night Street League and the venue was Redditch, considered by some to be the region’s best area for this particular variety of the sport, because the paths between the streets on the housing estates give loads of route choice.

Another good night for running: cool and damp, and I’m running well, but not well enough: third in 49:30, just 5 seconds behind Andy White. I didn’t make any mistakes, but I need to stop less often to consult the map!

Last week I was out at Highgate Common for the normal night version of the sport. I think I’ve done about half a dozen night races of this type now and I’m getting used to it, though it helped that it’s an area I know relatively well. (I ran past #17 because I started late and didn’t want to make Barry and Peter wait too long for me at the end.)

Well done to everyone involved with organising today’s event in Willenhall, especially Barry McGowan and Chris McCartney. It was cold but the sun shone, so no-one seemed to mind the long communal walk along the canal. The start was a tad chaotic but I reckoned I wouldn’t be the only one to head off north-east across the canal, and I was with a small but select group through the first few controls. 🙂 I planned to get all the part-one controls but when I finished I realised I’d missed #14. Probably a wise mistake; maybe I shouldn’t’ve bothered with #1 or #9 either, but since there were only five “easy” part-2 controls it didn’t make much difference in the end. I was quite pleased with my run today, especially that first section north of the canal: 12 controls in 21:20.


Club scores

…compete in a score event. Leaving the start, I decided to run off on my own to control 53. When I got down to the track I noticed I could/should do #63 first. That change of plan cost me over 10 minutes. Then, after hoovering up lots of controls in the south-east I decided to go north-west, where the controls were so close together I couldn’t resist the temptation to  nick another, and another… until I ended up at #45, 8 minutes from the finish with only 6 minutes to get there…

Well planned, John, well done. Sorry I had to dash off, there was a Christmas tree that needed buying… See you all again on New Years Day.

Harlequins won the Score Championships in Sutton Park this afternoon. 🙂

I had a reasonable (and mostly enjoyable) run but nothing special: 17 controls in the hour, minus 1 for being a minute late back. But who cares? We won!

btw, well done to OD for the excellent organisation. What with a couple of hundred mad runners (a very good turnout leading to (orderly) queues at most of the controls), another couple of hundred astonished dog-walkers, and a few military types showing off some vintage vehicles, the frost soon cracked under the collective weight!

Did I mention that we won?

(Since I was standing west of the start when we were released, I went with the smallish group heading towards #21. Then 16, 15, 18, 19… On reflection, I think I should’ve either started with #13, or omitted #16 and gone 21, 13, 15…)

This was a mass-start score event using the permanent orienteering course at Severn Valley Country Park. I was late for the start but the organisers kindly allowed me a full allowance of time. I have a slight dislike of score events but my brain seems to cope reasonably okay with the challenge of working out the running order… in this case I got round all the controls without any difficulty (apart from a bit of knee gyp) in 45 minutes.



I raved back in August about the sprint event I went to in Hungary, and this country park would make a good location for a Midlands Sprint Championships. The first round in the morning, the second (and the prizegiving) in the afternoon.

Andy and Marian White very kindly lent me a headlamp again (I’m hoping that Santa will bring me my own next month!) and I travelled down to Stourport with Andy Hemsted and Barry McGowan for the first night score event of the season. This was my first time on this area and it’s certainly very varied: grass, trees, bracken, heather, sand… The planner was Alison Sloman and she’d included some nice and simple controls so it wasn’t too hard for me to sweep up 13 altogether.

Hartlebury Common

After 45 minutes (I was midway between the “18” and the “20” on the map) my lamp suddenly went out; I discovered that the wires had come adrift at the connector and I couldn’t reconnect them. So I had to navigate more than a kilometre in the dark to the finish… Luckily it was full moon, but I couldn’t really see the map so I was pleased with myself that I didn’t get lost!


These events are a lot of fun so don’t be scared (Halloween’s long gone!) – come and have a go in the Lickey Hills on December 4th.




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