Written by Andy Stott, North Gloucestershire Orienteering Club.
NGOC hosted the warm-up event for the Compass Sport Cup final at Highmeadow in the Forest of Dean. I volunteered as the planner/organiser for a NGOC league event at Highmeadow when our fixtures list was released at the end of last year and in March I started to think about the planning.
Although the event was scheduled for November, I wanted to get out in the terrain before the summer vegetation took over. At around the same time Richard Rossington (BOK), organiser of the Compass Sport Cup Final, received an enquiry from Norfolk Orienteering Club (NOR), asking if there were any other events planned to make a weekend of orienteering in the area. Highmeadow was just a few miles from the venue of CSC Final at Beechenhurst so we decided to schedule our league event as a warm-up. Thanks to NOR for the prompt!
Highmeadow is part of a larger, well-used orienteering area bordering the Wye Valley gorge near Symond’s Yat in the north of the Forest of Dean. Outline permission had already been agreed with the Forestry Commission. My event was due to be in the middle section centred around the campsite at Bracelands: an area that had not been used for some time. The campsite manager was very positive about using the site for orienteering, it seemed good business in the low season. We settled on a fee for use of facilities and agreed to promote the campsite as an overnight venue for participants in the CSC Final. With a venue secured, the prospect of good levels of interest from visiting clubs and higher than usual costs, we decided to upgrade the event to a Level C SW Regional Event.
Images: Leg 2-3 on the Blue course provided a wide range of route choices and room for navigational errors. Picture 2: Relaxed at the start!
We try to keep the planning and organising of our NGOC league events simple with well-defined roles. I had a great team to help me. Greg Best, fixtures secretary, organises the series and liaises with Forestry Commission and neighbouring clubs. Pat Macleod, so-called equipment officer helped me with so much more: last minute map updates, entries via Fabian4 and computing, publishing event details and in planning the parking. Joe Parkinson, controller, provided some great advice on courses and control sites. Gill, my wife, drew the string course map. Ian Phillips, mapping officer, was super helpful and efficient printing maps on demand when entries closed two days before the event. Ian Prowse, volunteer co-ordinator, runs a very slick operation reaching out to our club membership for volunteers on the day and fitting them into the roles and time slots that they want. John Fallows, computing, managing the stress of download and massaging the results when one SI unit failed. Paul Taunton, club chair (at the time), enabling the decision making in the committee and filling in on computing when one our volunteers was ill. And, of course, Alan Pucill, treasurer, paying the bills!
Images: The parking field was on a deer lawn and we were very fortunate with the weather. In a hurry on the Yellow Course.
The event attracted over 300 entries from 32 clubs, more than double the entries what we would expect for a usual league event. This was primarily because of the association with the CSC with orienteers coming from all over the country. Thanks to Andy McGregor and Richard Rossington for promoting the event in connection with the CSC final. The campsite also advertised the event through their social media. We made a special offer of £3 entry on the day for newcomers to the sport and we had quite a few takers. In addition we were very pleased to host a training day for the South West England and Welsh Junior Squads, organised by Peter Maliphant and Mark Saunders.
Storm Ciaran brought some very heavy rainfall at the beginning of November. At a site visit a few days before the event we found the parking field to be in remarkable good condition and finalised our plans on that basis. We then had another load of rain but still on Friday we confirmed with the campsite management that the field could be used for parking. Luckily the Friday and Saturday of the event were dry and sunny. We did have a problem with the string course set up because the campsite management were not happy with laying a string on the ground as they perceived it posed a hazard. We made do with some taped routes and I hope that was OK with our younger competitors! The campsite was quite a spread-out venue with the parking field at one end, the start and finish in other corners and toilets in the middle. Like true orienteers many people took the shortest route from A to B, missing the signage we had provided and getting lost. We should have put a map in the final details! I’d like to give a huge thanks to the twenty plus volunteers who helped out on the day with parking, registration, starts, string course, finish and download. And thanks to junior squads for collecting controls.
For our league events we usually have an informal ‘turn up and go’ start. We were worried that with the large number of entries we would not have enough start slots in the planned 90 minute start window, especially if most people came for late starts. We therefore brought the start window forward and got a good flow of starters without much queuing.
In terms of course planning I wanted to use the best technical terrain in the area and to moderate the climb which adds up on these steep slopes of the Wye Valley. The undergrowth has reduced in recent years due to the high numbers of deer and wild boar, but recent thinning has left a lot of brashings and disturbed areas. I used contour running on some legs to reduce climb and long legs to avoid trashed areas.
The results show a large spread of times and are available here.
The winners had the short times that I was planning for in advance of the CSC final. However some runners may have considered their time overlong and Routegadget shows that many experienced some navigational fun.
With the generally good feedback received we were overall very happy with the event and hopefully the campsite will be willing to host events in the future. This adds to a successful and busy year for NGOC having qualified for the CSC final and hosting the Veteran Home Internationals, SW Regional Champs and Caddihoe Chase a few weeks previously. Of course, none of this would be possible without the event officials and volunteers who work with skill and dedication to support the sport.
Leg 2-3 on the Blue course provided a wide range of route choices and room for navigational errors.
Learn more about North Gloucestershire Orienteering Club and their upcoming events on their website. Follow this link for a summary of the Compass Sport Final 2023, as written by organiser Richard Rossington.