Over the last year I have increasingly heard that great woodlands and heathlands previously used for orienteering in our region are no longer accessible, either because of inappropriate nature conservation constraints, change of ownership or being over-run with brambles. Rushmore on the other hand, with the support from the estate, has proven an exception. That’s not to say it doesn’t have large areas dominated by bramble, which I tried to avoid. The woodland dates back to the days of King John who used to visit the Cranborne Chase for hunting. General Pitt-Rivers once owned it, and in recent times it has been run by the Rushmore estate. The wood has a great mix of ancient oaks, avenues of mature beech and a range of densely planted conifers, and in the space of less than 1km you can move between a range of woodland types. As well as being bisected by the traditional Dorset/Wiltshire county boundary Shire Rack (running east-west), it is intercepted by a grid network of paths, which makes planning tricky.
There are many compartments of the woodland that are fenced, and others that were runnable in the past are now overgrown. By far the nicest part is the central section of the woods, and the network of paths for the juniors, and the lack of steep ascent for the short green, largely dictated where much of the activity would be. For me I like starts and finishes close to the parking and this hopefully made for a very communal central circle assembly area.
Planning in landscapes with no complex contour detail, no re-entrants, very few gullies, practically no water features, I was forced to make use of the very limited number of obvious control sites. Maximising those that did exist, by incorporating very distinct isolated trees, making use of knolls and rootstocks, visiting archaeological earthwalls and pits, largely dictated where the courses should go. Julie’s repeated trips to update the map (thanks Julie) unearthed a few other glades that could be incorporated. I figured that paths would be used widely so I tried my best to keep you off them, or at least make them the least favourable route in distance, if not in time. Previous events at Rushmore had quick finish times, so I pushed the length of the longer courses so that winning times were not under an hour for Blue and Brown, and I just about managed that. I’d hate to think you were short changed, but conversely, I didn’t want the younger or older runners to be out too long!
Bracken and bramble growth throughout the wood didn’t advance as much as I feared it would. However, the profusion of wild garlic and bluebells softened the topographical features in an almost camouflage blanket in some cases and in one case almost filled in a large depression. This added a complexity and beauty to the occasion I hope. Hopefully this meant that compass work would be more important, rather than looking up and immediately seeing controls in a featureless woodland.
I must have visited Rushmore >10 times in planning this and in all that time I only saw 2 people, apart from Kevin the controller (thanks Kevin). I saw hundreds of deer, heard lots of cuckoos, and enjoyed the peace and solitude. Sorry I wasn’t there on the day (up in Yorkshire, thanks Rob) but by the look of the routes on routegadget you all certainly took a variety of routes around the courses, and the courses and terrain presented a challenge. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did planning it.