Spring is here, although the weather isn’t particularly warm or dry yet. Hope you are all enjoying the Dorset Summer MapRun league. So far there have been two completed events (each run over two weeks), firstly at Blandford Milldown, and secondly at Ferndown Forest, both organised by WIM. Results so far can be found here
The current event is at Broadstone, which you can find details of on our website (thanks to Bruno for planning), then we move to Corfe (thanks to Jon). Don’t forget you get an extra 5 points for turning up to the Find Your Way events, so the official Broadstone day (thanks to Jason) is on 13th May. This will also be the first of our three events for juniors as part of our Wessex juniors league. Do bring new folk along, and remember it’s a free day out for juniors.
Further afield, this last weekend was the British Sprint Championships in Armagh and the British Middle distance championships in the Mourne AONB in Drumkeeragh Forest. Only 4 members from WSX went, so here follows an account from the Medlocks:
Training at Hillsborough Forest
It’s 24 years since Rebecca and I lived in Belfast (briefly) when Rebecca was working as a scientist on fishing trawlers in the Irish Sea. This time we decided to revisit some old haunts after our Friday lunchtime flight, then head to Hillsborough Castle, which was gearing up for the Coronation weekend. An informal training event had been organised with the opportunity to run with path-free maps. Thus making a fairly straightforward area quite complicated. Rebecca and I decided to run around together to compare our navigational strategies, thus adding to the challenge and “enjoyment”!
Sprint heats at Armagh Astropark
Despite looking at the published maps of Armagh on routegadget, and relaying it to the notes in the final details, Lyra and I were no wiser as to where the heats or finals would be. The walk to the start was 1km into the centre of town. When I arrived there was nobody at -5 min, which was odd for a British champs. -4 min was across the road the other side of a zebra crossing, -3 min at an archway, -2 min in a tunnel. Where were we going????
The start kite was the other side of a narrow tunnel, and the first control, for me, was the most complicated leg (and most badly executed first urban leg) that I ever had. Having negotiated various private gardens, the courses proceeded through the grounds of the Armagh Masonic Hall, then the Royal Armagh School, before crossing the road into the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, including the Astropark (“The Hill of Infinity”). The complex gardens, the hilly terrain and the controls on telescopes were complicated and novel, with many mispunches. The final controls back to assembly for the grandstand finish at the local school made for one of the best sprint heats I have ever done. I don’t think anyone expected such varied terrain, privileged access as well as total bewilderment from the start kite. I admit that I was completely disorientated at the start kite (as were many others) and owing to the proximity of the first control to the start triangle, I failed to see a set of steps that would have saved me 80 seconds of running. Having finally arrived at control one after 1 min and 59 seconds, I then saw the steps down to the start kite, and in my hump, managed to take the same route to control 2, instead of retracing my steps. The rest of the way I ran as hard as I could, desperately trying to salvage the run and make the A final, which I did. Lyra (running the same course as me) and Esk clearly didn’t have such issues, coming 1st and 2nd on their heats.
Sprint finals in Armagh
As with all BOC sprints, there is the usual four hour wait between races. The promised rain didn’t arrive, so most lay on the grass in the sunshine recovering/preparing for the next race, catching up with old friends and listening to the local Irish band. It was all very relaxed, until…… Publication of the start times for the finals were a little late, and Lyra suddenly told me I had 10 mins to get to the start, which was 800 metres away. I ran as hard as I could, out of town, up a field, into the farmland to arrive at a farm/riding stables, to find…. nobody. All very relaxed. In the end, I waited for an hour for my start, but again, the sun was shining and plenty of people to chat to.
The location of the start, at a farm, again gave absolutely no indication of what was in store. It turned out that we were at the back of St. Luke’s hospital, the local psychiatric hospital and former location of the Armagh asylum. It included a number of complexes of buildings, many similar in structure, with the course planned to weave from one to another and back, on a double sided map. It was a much faster course from the heat but still required careful attention throughout.
On a personal level, I was very happy with 9th on M45, Esk managed 4th on W14 and Lyra took gold on W16 against some very rapid orienteers.
British Middle champs at Drumkerragh Forest
The middle champs had been billed as on the Mourne mountains, but checking the embargoed area, I noticed that it was confined to a forestry plantation on the lower eastern slope near Slieve Croob. The hour drive from Armagh to the forest through the endless lanes of Co Tyrone, Armagh and Down were very pleasant, with the gorse hedges all in the flower, and the apple blossom in the orchards all in bloom. The sun was out by the time we headed up to the foreboding dense forest on the horizon for our starts. Holly blue butterflies fluttered in the sunshine above the bilberries and under the pines, and the warm air and chorus of bird song was all rather pleasant. The forest seemed rather like many Scottish forests, and the terrain as tough as some of the Coast and Islands terrain we experienced in Kintyre last summer. As with all Middle distance events, it was fast and furious with rapid finishing times, with complex topography with many areas of dense green. Both girls came away with Bronze medals, one happy as she didn’t expect it and the other slightly annoyed with a 3 minute error at the penultimate control. I again managed 9th on M45 and Rebecca (clearly implementing my aforementioned training…) came 8th on W45 🙂
A truly wonderful weekend, with great organisation, fantastic terrain, friendly atmosphere, excellent facilities and generous freebies. A huge thank you to the community of Northern Irish orienteers for providing such warm and welcoming Irish hospitality. I am so glad we went.