Sat 6th: Daventry Country Park

and Coopers Hill, Gloucester

and Macclesfield

and Billa Barra, Markfield

and Frith Wood, Ledbury (night)

Sun 7th: Chasewater (West Midlands League)

and Forest of Dean enter online by 22/1/16

Thu 11th: Sence Valley, Ibstock

and Habberley Valley, Kidderminster (night)

Sat 13th: Apedale, Newcastle

Sun 14th: Wyre Forest (West Midlands League)

Wed 17th: Leek


British Night Championships 27th Feb, Charnwood Forest enter online by 21/2/16

Midlands Championships 28th Feb, Sherwood Forest enter online by 17/2/16

I hadn’t had much sleep so it probably wasn’t too surprising that when I opened the bag I saw it was Catherine’s shoes… Still, luckily I did have some trainers with me. Not ideal though when it’s muddy and a bit icy too.

But the shoe thing wasn’t my biggest mistake of the day. As I ran up the road towards the first control I realised I wasn’t carrying a compass. Now, that doesn’t make things impossible – I’ve tried it a couple of times before, at park and urban events, where it probably made me concentrate a bit more, and I probably saved some time by not looking at it – but on Highgate Common?? in the dark???

Sure enough, the first control, a 400-metre leg, took me 10 minutes. Thinking about it now, I must’ve run past it after about 5 minutes, but I wasn’t at all sure where I was (!), and I’m pleased that I somehow managed to slowly work out the pattern of slopes, paths and trees IN THE DARK and gradually home in on my prey. (If you look at the map, you can see that the contours show that the slope upwards is generally towards the northwest, so this info can be used to substitute for the lack of compass.)

After that, I didn’t really have much trouble. I went 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-14-15-16-18 for 12 controls in the hour allowed. To be honest, if I hadn’t been wearing my new headtorch I wouldn’t have risked this madcap compassless adventure. I got it off eBay for a tenner, and though it’s probably not as bright as the EIGHTEEN HUNDRED LUMENS advertised, it is pretty damn bright, and made me feel a lot more confident out there than I sometimes have been with my old headlamps.

Simplifying legs is a very important skill in orienteering. Most of us find it very hard to memorise the leg from the start so we have to check the map quite often (!), and this slows us down even if we’ve mastered the art of mobile map-reading. (And I haven’t, really.)

The most obvious means of simplifying a leg is by following a line feature, usually a track. WorldofO’s annual “Route to Christmas” series is a great chance to practice making route choice decisions. Often the choice is between going straight (in the terrain) and going round (using the paths) and the 24 exercises are a chance to learn about what can make one choice better than the other.

One of the clearest examples this year wasn’t really about paths though. On this leg from the Czech Republic, where the question was whether to run round the north or south side of the hill, the south side seemed to have better path options, but according to the results it was clearly much slower. To my mind the secret of this leg is the field east of control 2. It’s possible to run the first kilometre of the leg without checking the map at all, simply by running straight(ish) and fast till you hit the field. Then you pick up the paths towards the control from the southern edge of the field.

I suppose you could call the field a catching feature. We usually think of catching features as being beyond the control, stopping you from going too far past, but you can also use them to simplify long legs.


West Midlands League final tables
Brandon Wood

Coming up…

Sat 26th: Cannock Chase (charity score) online pre-entry recommended (by 25/12/15)
Sun 27th: Castle Hill, Leicester
Mon 28th: Rough Close, Coventry (relay)
Fri 1st January 2016: Telford Town Park (annual inter-club score championships) pre-entry recommended via your club captain (by 28/12/15)
Sun 3rd: Haywood Oaks, Mansfield
Thu 7th: Wombourne (night urban)
Sat 9th: Bathpool, Kidsgrove
Sun 10th: Lickey Hills (West Midlands League) online pre-entry recommended (by 3/1/16)
Thu 14th: Highgate Common, Wombourne (night)
Sat 16th: Kingsbury Water Park
and Bixslade, Forest of Dean
Sun 17th: Eyam Moor


Western Night League
Tuesdays & Thursdays at 7: WCH training
WYEVENT children’s training @ Hereford Leisure Centre
Saturdays at 9 am: Parkrun at 15 locations in the region

For major national events see the BOF list and Fabian4

Always check before travelling. Share transport where possible.

Happy Christmas!

Sat 28th: Blakeney Hill, Glos
and Brabyns Park, Marple

Sun 29th: Forest of Dean
and Birchen Edge, Bakewell (Level B) entries closed

Wed 2nd December: Hartlebury Common, Stourport

Thu 3rd: Hartlebury Common, Stourport (night)

Sat 5th: Arrow Valley, Redditch
and Reaseheath, Nantwich (sprint)
and Donisthorpe, Coalville
and Cherhill, Calne (night)

Sun 6th: Brandon Wood, Coventry (West Midlands League)
and Wharncliffe, Sheffield closing date: 26th Nov

Thu 10th: Whaley Bridge (night urban)

Sat 12th: Knockalls, Glos

Sun 13th: Cannock Chase (West Midlands League)
and Longstone Moor, Bakewell

Tue 15th: Swithland, Leicester (night)

Wed 16th: Sutton Park (Santa O)

Family Orienteering Sessions on Cannock Chase
Peak Raid 3
Wednesdays at 6.30: COBOC training @ Sutton Park
Tuesdays & Thursdays at 7: WCH training
WYEVENT children’s training @ Hereford Academy
Saturdays at 9 am: Parkrun at 15 locations in the region

For major national events see the BOF list and Fabian4

And we’re going!

WOC 2015 website

Brochure (pdf)

World of O guide

WOC Start times

Live results

Spectator races website

Start times

See you there!

West Midlands League Results



League table

Events coming up

Thu 25 June Habberley, Kidderminster

Sat 27 June Burbage, Hinckley

Sat/Sun 27/28 June Harvester Relays

Sun 28 June Ludlow

and Milton Keynes

Tue 30 June Fosse Meadows, Hinckley

Wed 1 July Brueton Park, Solihull

Thu 2 July Newhall Valley, Sutton Coldfield

Sat 4 July Brough Park, Leek

Sun 5 July Yvette Baker junior final, Nottingham

Tue 7 July Nesscliffe, Shrewsbury

and Bagworth, Coalville

Wed 8 July Pooley Fields, Polesworth

Thu 9 July Birmingham City Centre

and Hatherley, Cheltenham

Sat/Sun 11/12 July Sutton Coldfield Community Games

Sun 12 July West Midlands Relays, Nesscliffe, Shrewsbury (Register via your club)

and Newent

Tue 14 July Lyth Hill, Shrewbury

Wed 15 July Tudor Grange, Solihull

Thu 16 July Saltwells, Dudley

and Outwoods, Loughborough

Sat 18 July Festival Park, Stoke

Sun 19 July Rushcliffe, Nottingham

A lovely, crisp morning for a run around Crewe on Mike Hampton’s new map. Excellently organised by DEE, who found car parking and an event centre (at Crewe FC) a short walk from start and finish. I thought my course was a bit routine, but I think I’m getting hard to please now that I’ve done so many urban races.

The big controversy of the day was on course 4, where several people went the wrong way to the most difficult control but were still able to register that they’d been there because they could poke their hand through the fence. This was a shame because the planner had done a good job at other checkpoints of making sure this kind of cheating wasn’t possible. It was an even greater shame that certain competitors felt the need to get angry about this one oversight; as I’ve said before, every event involves thousands of actions on the part of the officials, and it’s only luck really if not a single one of them is wrong. If an event is spoiled by multiple cockups there is an excuse to get upset, but people need to be more forgiving of individual mistakes, and most of us are (albeit with a little friendly joshing). (Also, it should be pointed out that the real wrongdoers here were the “cheaters”, not the organisers.)

I did disagree with the solution to Sunday’s problem. Really the people who went the wrong way should be disqualified (since it must’ve been obvious to them that they’d made a mistake by the fact that they had to put their hand through the fence), but it was decided that that part of the race would be removed from everyone’s times.



Time flies – I noticed the other day that it’s been 5 years since I broke the record (still standing?) for the smallest orienteering event ever, and now I see that it was only few days later that Chasers held their now legendary Maize Challenge event. Doesn’t Catherine look sweet! Every now and then I remember it and wish we could do it again, so I jumped at the chance when it finally came. The event next Sunday in Sandwell Valley won’t be on the same scale (so to speak) as that glorious day in… wherever it was, but we’ll make it worth your while. The first round will be in the daylight (just) and be a “normal” time trial of about 2.5 km (actual optimum running distance) for adults and 1 km for children. Then there’ll be a chasing start (definitely in the dark) of about 2 km as soon as everyone’s ready, which should be at about quarter to six. So don’t forget your torch! Sorry we won’t have a £500 prize for first place – but I will get the winners something nice from Poundland.

See you at Forge Mill Farm at 4 o’clock on Sunday!


On Facebook this morning has popped up a BOF plug for “Red Bull Robin Hood”. An orienteering event with a difference, with prizes. Let me take you through my part-positive, part-jaded reaction to this new thing.

1. Sponsorship/co-organisation: good.

2. Ooh PRIZES. I’m in favour of prizes, especially large cash ones.

3. Charity. Yay. (But prizes AND charity? Hmm.)

4. “Orienteering adventure race”: hmm. Who is this event aimed at? If I assume it’s kind of 50-50 orienteers and non-orienteers, I question the wisdom of mentioning the dread O-word in the first sentence, even if it is a “brand new concept”.

5. WHAT IS IT? “Those up for the challenge will require a combination of speed, stamina and navigational skills to find their way around the carefully mapped out course in Sherwood Pines forest, and there will also be a range of special tasks and challenges to overcome throughout the race. This will be a race to test both the body and the mind.” Yes, but WHAT IS IT? How far is it? Is it hard? Is it fun? How long will it take? Can you take part in teams? What do you have to do? WHAT IS IT?

6. “This serious orienteering event”: okay, so not fun. But what is this phrase doing here? If you’re trying to put non-orienteers off, you’ve just succeeded. If you’re trying to reassure orienteers, you must think we’re stupid.

7. Now comes the best bit:

“Red Bull Robin Hood is being held in Sherwood Pines, an area which is embargoed for orienteers who wish to compete in the Compass Sport Cup Heat on Sunday 15th March 2015. By registering for the event you recognise that by competing in Red Bull Robin Hood I will be breaching the embargo for the Compass Sport Cup Heat to be held at Sherwood Pines on Sunday 15th March 2015. As such will be declared as non-competitive at the Compass Sport Cup Heat.”

7a. So no local orienteers then. Ouch.

7b. Never mind the typos, what is this text doing on the Red Bull page? It’s important info, but it hardly needs to be on the general-public-facing page.

8. I notice that the blogpost went up on the Red Bull site on 9 September, for the event on 1 November. That’s pretty short notice. There’s a bit on the Men’s Running blog, but I doubt there can be much if anything in any of the running magazines.

9. As of this morning there are 7 entrants. After four weeks. I hadn’t heard of it before today, so although BOF may have been promoting it to orienteers they haven’t been doing it very effectively. Or maybe that was on purpose, since they want new people. Who knows.

10. “In Robin Hood’s hometown of Nottingham”: no. It’s about an hour away. Why not say it’s in Sherwood Forest? People have heard of Sherwood Forest. You know, Robin Hood…

11. Coming back to the prizes: the chances are that orienteers will win them, so they may also have a negative effect. A non-orienteer, a very good runner perhaps, might travel to the event in the hope of taking home the £500, but when they discover that they basically had no chance, they might be rather cheesed off. Hobby orienteers like me aren’t going to take the incentive seriously since we have no chance either, so that leaves a few good (non-EMOA) orienteers to roll up and roll off with the cash.

12. The Men’s Running article is pretty ugly. The tone is that orienteering is shit. Think about that: in order to promote the sport, the body that runs the sport is encouraging negative things to be written about the sport. Then think about it again, and cry.


I think most of us want to grow the sport** but BOF needs better advice. I’ve tried a few things over the years; most have failed, a few have succeeded. Maybe you could say the same about BOF, so what’s the problem? The problem is partly that BOF can potentially waste a lot more resources than I can, and whereas I might piss off a few people, BOF can lose the goodwill of its membership and make us a joke in the wider world.

To go back to those ominous words “orienteering adventure racing”. That isn’t a thing. Mixing things up creates novelty activities that are unlikely to interest anyone unless you have a big marketing budget. Orienteering is orienteering. Adventure racing is adventure racing. They’re very similar activities, but the value is in keeping them separate.

My belief these days is in Bleed. Put on or support adventure races, mountain marathons, MTBO, etc. Promote real orienteering events off the back of them. Some people will bleed into real orienteering from them. (Some, that is, as opposed to the very few who will bleed into orienteering from standard running/cycling activities.) This is not a question of not being proud of orienteering or dishonest. If it’s not an orienteering event as traditionally defined, there’s no shame in not calling it an orienteering event; rather, it’s pretty counter-productive to do so, knowing the prejudices that many people have against the word. BOF got this right with Xplorer.

My problem with Xplorer is different…


** I apologise if you don’t like the verb “grow” being used transitively like this; neither do I, really, but it seems appropriate here for some reason.