A fantastic example of partnership working demonstrated by the Potteries Orienteering Club as families are encouraged to search for posts around Hanley's Central Forest Park.
A new permanent orienteering course (POC) was launched at Central Forest Park, in Hanley, at the start of half-term and families now have the chance to try out Stoke-on-Trent’s first POC at a city park and anyone who wants to have a go can pick up a free course map from the snack bar at the park.
There are already other permanent courses at Bathpool Park, Ladderedge Country Park and Brough Park in Leek, Downs Banks, Apedale Country Park and Biddulph Grange Country Park, but the course at Central Forest Park is the first in the Potteries.
Lily Taylor, aged six, celebrates tackling the city's first permanent orienteering course with members of the Potteries Orienteering Club.
Lily Taylor, aged six, of Birches Head, tried out the course with her parents, Rachel, aged 37, and Steve, aged 43.
The schoolgirl said: “It was fun and I enjoyed finding all the posts with my mum and dad.”
Steve said: “We come to the park a lot because we live nearby. We like it because it’s somewhere green within the city to take Lily. It has a good play area and there are lots of places to explore.
“This was our first time orienteering and it was brilliant. We’ll definitely do it again.”
Peter Munn, of Potteries Orienteering Club, said: "The club had created the course with the help of a grant after Stoke-on-Trent was chosen as European City of Sport."
He said: “Orienteering is great for families to do. In fact, it’s good for all ages. You can do orienteering for fun or at speed. It can be taken up as a sport and can be done competitively. With the course at Central Forest Park, people are given a map and they then look out for the marker posts.”
Peter, who is semi-retired and lives in Porthill, took up orienteering about 10 years ago.
The 61-year-old added: “I do it competitively as a physical and mental challenge. I get to run because I’m trying to find the posts as quickly as I can. The challenge of finding them adds something extra.”
Fellow Potteries Orienteering Club member, Dave Sparks, aged 70, of Newcastle, said: “Orienteering gets me out in the open air and exercising, and I enjoy planning the courses.”
The Club’s Permanent Orienteering Course Manager, John Heaton, aged 65, of Sneyd Green, said: "There had been a good turnout for the event launch which was run on Saturday 21st October to coincide with the council organising a Festival of Walking (14th – 28th Oct)."
He said “People who took part at the first event weekend were given a map for the ‘O’ Challenge, which saw them track down as many marker posts as they could in an hour. We also ran helper sessions at 11am, midday and 1.30pm on the day to provide guided walks and extra help.
Despite being battered by Storm Brian. We had 40 participants including 30 new faces and one family requesting a membership form. The interest shown by these new faces has made me convinced that other similar projects in other parts of City would be a good idea”.
I asked all new face participants where they learned of this event - it was about two thirds from the Walking Festival publicity and the rest from our efforts in posting flyers through doors in surrounding streets. The power of publicity!”
The grant also included funding for an urban map of the adjoining city centre which will be great for juniors to compete on courses within the park and this is planned for autumn 2018.
With Xplorer events also being delivered by the council with 8 events happening locally between Oct half term and Christmas, as well as a new Get Out Get Active (GOGA) project planned for 2018 Kate Beer, City of Sport Theme lead at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said: “It is great to see a large compliment of orienteering projects happening and with Xplorer we are able to offer free sessions where younger children and their families can come along and have some fun. It meets our 5 ways to well-being community programme aims and young Beavers for example have also been using events to put hours towards their explorer badge."
Natalie, a mother from Stoke said: “Xplorer is great and we never knew this place existed. We now come along on a weekly basis. We’re much more active as a family unit, I’ve even bought a pair of walking boots. We’re already looking forward to more xploring more parks in the Spring.”
Natalie Weir British Orienteering Development Officer, said: “Challenging my husband and friend, I recently went along to one of clubs score events and they are a fantastically friendly and welcoming club. It is great to see such a menu of Orienteering opportunities being made available and planned for the next year or so. There is quite a good network of small towns in the locality so the addition of Urban O will hopefully add to what is on offer and hopefully with continued partnership, support and raising awareness of Orienteering in the area the Potteries Orienteering Club can attract new people and grow their membership”.