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Event Spotlight: The British Middle Championships 2024

Last weekend the British Middle Championships took place at Danefield, Otley. In this blog, organiser Chris Burden tells us more about the planning process for this year's event. 

Written by Organiser Chris Burden with contribution from planner David Williams.

The choice of areas seems to go back a long way; certainly several years before Covid disrupted the events schedule.

The original area we thought of using for the Middles, was discovered while a few of us were on a mountain bike ride deeper in the Dales.  Danefield was originally only the fallback if the Dales area didn’t prove viable.  As it turned out, Danefield, an old favourite, proved far the better area.  The Dales area was not, as a result pursued, but a new neighbouring area has proved excellent, and will be used for a Dales Weekend Classic Distance event in 2025.

Danefield is owned by Leeds City Council and access is managed through their Events in Park team who are always very supportive of orienteering.

David Williams, the planner, identified a possible field for the arena, which we had never used previously; the field just to the south of the one we eventually used.   This allowed him to use the best of the area. He structured the courses Jan–March 2023 at the same time coordinating with Tony Thornley producing the completely revised map off new LIDAR data. By this time a year ago to allow review in competition condition the courses were more or less fully planned and controlled. Having had input during April 2023 from David Bowman assistant planner and Mark Garside (WCH) controller. Subsequently courses and map were given constant minor amendments and updates to take account of the storms, wet conditions and middle distance RWT rule changes.

The parking field has become a regular for us over the past 15 years, when we hold Regional events at Danefield.  We knew it was well drained.  It has coped admirably with the cars for all previous events.  We’ve checked it regularly throughout this very wet winter, and never had any doubts about it coping, despite having to accommodate three times the number of vehicles we have previously.  It meant quite a long walk to the arena, but we knew it was 100% reliable.

Last year by March the original assembly field was in prime condition.  This year we did a final check three weeks before the event, just before the map proofs were ready to be printed.  There was a strong chance the field would never drain sufficiently to take vehicles and 900+ pairs of feet.  This was when our brilliant hosts, Sue and Howard Cliff really came into their own.  They suggested we use the paddock and agreed to build us the bridge across the ditch leading to it.  It proved the best of arenas.  The grass didn’t cut up, and it was more compact than the original field which doubtless helped create the splendid atmosphere of the event.

The change of assembly field resulted in a few slight last-minute adjustments to the map, but did not affect the planning of the courses apart from the run-in.

We were able to pull the event off just using Aire members, which made recruitment and organising a good deal simpler than is often the case for a Major event.  From what I saw and heard on the day, all the teams did a pretty seamless job. 

At Danefield we were delighted to hear so many compliments about the courses and the organisation.  The rain held off, although a little more sunshine and a warm wind from the south would have been appreciated. I guess you can’t have everything.

We were pleased to see that both Rob and Lindsey King’s String Course and Maze were well used.

Results from the British Middle Championships 2024

Aire’s next large-scale events are the Sprint and Urban events in Leeds on 6–7 July 2024.

And the Dales Weekend in the Malham area on 14–15 September 2024.