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Finding your Feet in Orienteering - hear from a mother-daughter pair who are reasonably new to the world of Orienteering

Report by Juls Hanvey, Sporting Clubs Coordinator (Northern Ireland)


Starting anything new in life can be daunting but as the old saying goes “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”.

We chatted to Lesley and Chloe Grattan, a mother-daughter pair who are reasonably new to the world of Orienteering. We wanted to find out what motivated them to get involved and, more importantly, stay involved!

The duo has recently moved to Scotland to continue their Orienteering journey with another club so we thought now would be a great time to celebrate their time with us through this chat. They both have some important wisdom to share.

When did you first learn about Orienteering?

"I had been orienteering with Lagan Valley Orienteers (LVO) many years ago as part of my Duke of Edinburgh Award with the late Colin Henderson who helped demystify the sport and gave my friend and I plenty of help with the ‘strange' orienteering maps. We didn’t stay on after leaving school, but (many!) years later when my daughter Chloe said she wanted to start running to help with fitness, orienteering came to mind. I’m one of those people that finds pounding the footpaths very boring! I would much rather be out in the countryside, and most importantly, have some distraction to take my mind off the running!"

Where and when was your first event?

"Just at that time, LVO had a series of weekly score events running in the local parks around Belfast - perfect for us to try out. The first few events the two of us went round together, trying to figure out the map and the symbols - a bit daunting at first (I had forgotten all of it since school days!), but you learn a little more each time and it really isn’t long before you feel comfortable with the maps. Chloe has gone from complete novice to managing to complete Technical Difficulty 5 courses in 2 years."

What was it that made you keep coming back for more?

"Orienteering is perfect (so I think!) - you get exercise without really noticing it and you get to be out in the forests/mountains/parks. It combines physical, mental, and skill elements and there is always a challenge - no matter how often you do it, there is always something to improve. It’s a great buzz whenever you manage to execute your plan well and the control kite appears just where you expect it to be! Of course, this level of perfection can be fleeting, and sometimes it takes a lot of work to locate a control! You get to see some great places off the beaten track, and when you’re there the orienteering routes can take you quite literally off the beaten tracks into areas you wouldn’t normally see. There is a great variety of locations in NI from the stunning limestone karst country in Fermanagh to the sweeping views from the Mournes (on a good day!), from local parks to intricate urban landscapes. Orienteering is one of the few sports that all ages and abilities can take part in together and so both of us have made friends with people of all different ages in the club. People like to hang around after their run to share their stories of how it went and what awful mistakes they made. I realised very quickly that even the experienced orienteers were not immune from mistakes! It’s a good chance to get to meet people and ask for advice."

You are now involved in volunteering at events too, how have you found that?

"It is obvious that it takes a lot of people to stage an event and so we were happy to help out. Helping to man the starts is quite easy and it’s a good way to put names to faces when you’ve just joined the club. Chloe felt that the volunteering helped you feel part of things and meant you understood events a bit better."

Mum, Lesley says...

Lesley enjoying orienteering

Daughter, Chloe says...

Chloe enjoying orienteering at the same event

If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering giving Orienteering a go, what would it be?

Lesley’s advice is:
"Definitely give it a go!! There are so many ways to participate in the sport that you will find a way that works for you. Running fast or walking… complex navigation or straightforward routes… alone or as a family group… super-competitive or laid back… or anything in between! It’s whatever works for you."







Chloe’s advice is:
It can be hard sometimes, but you get outside and get to make new friends. It’s a good idea to go to a training session where you get useful tips and meet others in the club. In between events you can try the permanent courses or MapRun courses which you can do by yourself. They help you to get used to the maps.

We have really enjoyed our two years with LVO and will be sad to leave such a friendly and welcoming group of people. Chloe has really benefited from Stephanie’s coaching and encouragement over the 2 years. We are going to join a Scottish orienteering club and hopefully, we will bump into some LVO folks at orienteering events in the future.

Lagan Valley Orienteers Chair, Ric Gamble comments:  "It has been great having Lesley and Chloe as part of Lagan Valley Orienteers and I am so glad they settled into the club so quickly. It has been great to see them develop new skills and get stuck in with volunteering. We are sad to see them go and all of us at LVO wish them the very best with their move to Scotland. I am sure they will settle into a new club just as quickly as they did with us and have even more adventures. We look forward to seeing them again soon, competing against us, in the hills, forests or streets of Scotland or Ireland. We are already looking ahead to the World Orienteering Championships in Edinburgh!"