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Tweet Friday 4th December 2020

Resumption of Orienteering in England from 2 December 2020

British Orienteering updated it’s Return to Orienteering Guidance following the recent publication of additional Government and Sport England guidance.

The information has been produced based on the latest information available to us and applies to England only.

The key change to British Orienteering’s Guidance is around travel into and out of areas classified as Tier 3 which is:

“People should not travel into or out of a tier 3 (very high alert) area in order to participate in or volunteer at an orienteering competition or activity.

This does not apply to travel where it is necessary to enable supervised coaching sessions or competitions for under-18s or activities for disabled people, although in these cases travel should still be minimised and kept to short distances only.”

To support those clubs that are delivering competitions in Tier 1 or 2 areas who wish to restrict the entries to competitors living in the same tier we have amended 8.1:

“It is up to organisers to decide whether to allow open entry, whether to give priority to members of their own club or to members of British Orienteering, and whether to restrict entries so as to discourage travel into and out of tier 3 ("very high alert") areas”.

Tweet Thursday 3rd December 2020

The Lakes Warrior UK Elite Training - Who are the real Lakeland Warriors?

Report by Duncan Birtwistle, UK Elite Orienteering League Co-ordinator

Please note:  this event took place before the new lockdown measures came into force across the country. 

All competitors followed British Orienteering’s Participant Code of Conduct and considered the Alert level guidance.  

The Lakeland Warrior. Three training races in two days tested athletes on some lesser-used areas of the Lake District in a low-key weekend staged at short notice accordingly to national guidance and social distancing by Warrior Orienteering Club with the help of Lakeland Orienteering Club and Masterplan Adventure.

Due to travel restrictions in Wales and Scotland at the time the weekend did not score towards the League. The UK Elite League is sponsored by NVii Str8 UK and supported by Formline online shop.

Like at Lakes Reloaded in early October, then men’s races were a battle of old versus young with Graham Gristwood against junior Alastair Thomas, alongside 2020 debuts for William Gardner and Jonathan Crickmore. In the women’s Laura King and Cecilie Andersen were coming in favourites following a win each a month earlier.


The Intense One - Middle at Thwaite Head

For Saturday’s middle race athletes started in pairs, heading out onto two 2.5k loops with a run-through in between to gauge progress and ratchet up the pressure. Thwaite Head is a small area tucked at the south end of Graythwaite and a terrain very few had been in before. Athletes were heading into the unknown.

Former JWOC competitor Victoria Stevens (Aire) has been off the scene for some time but she set an early leading time of 42.05 in the womens. It was only the third-last pair of Fay Walsh (Mid Wales) and Helen Ockenden (Cambridge University) that managed to dislodge Stevens from the hot seat. Both competed at Lakes Reloaded so couldn’t pull the ‘out of practice’ card, with Ockenden coming back 18s ahead of Stevens.

Photo above (right):  Victoria Stevens (Aire)

Niamh Hunter (Edinburgh University) and Laura Robertson (Edinburgh Southern) started next with King (Edinburgh University) and Andersen (Bristol) last. The final pair passed each other on their first-loops even on time but heading onto the second loop Andersen was running away. King pushed on through some downhill mistakes, catching Hunter (who took fifth) and finishing 46s in front of Ockenden. Except Andersen hadn’t merely run away, she had flown away, stopping the clock five minutes before King and clipping a couple of top guys in the process.

In the mens the early lead was set by Rhys Findlay-Robinson before Lakes specialist Tom Fellbaum (Manchester & District) took a minute off and the fastest time down to 31.36. Joe Hudd (West Cumberland) and Will Rigg (Lakeland) failed to live up to the pre-race hype and finishing a couple of minutes adrift.

From the Octavian Droobers pairing on fifth-last start it was Matthew Elkington who finished first, 33s ahead of Fellbaum. Starting next, Graham Gristwood (Forth Valley) and Peter Bray (Southern Navigators) both finished in front with the leading time edging down a full two minutes to 29.03. None of the next four could do it and it was left to last-starters Alastair Thomas (Edinburgh University) and William Gardner (Octavian Droobers).

As they climbed to the common control (#11/22) at the end of the first lap Gardner drifted left, letting Thomas enter the run-through 10s ahead. The pressure was getting to Gardner who contoured when he should have dropped to #14, losing precious seconds. Lapping in the other direction however Thomas’ legs were tiring. On the return to the finish Gardner was ahead of Thomas this time, and ahead of everyone else, taking the win in 28.49, with Thomas 14s back on the exact same time as Gristwood.

Photo above (left):  Fay Walsh (Mid-Wales); Photo above (middle):  Matt Elkington (Octavian Droobers)

The Dark One - Night Middle at Bishops Wood

The lights flicked on and the forest lit-up for Saturday evening’s night race at Bishop Woods, with stronger fields than the British Night champs.

Bishops Woods has hosted the British Relay Champs and the JOK Chasing Sprint so is more than up for testing the country’s best. Deciduous forest in the north gives over to conifer in the south where green plantation has grown into mature white making racing even faster.

You would have been brave to bet against Graham Gristwood in the mens, with seven British Night Champion titles accrued.

Gristwood took the lead on the steep uphill leg to the first control, but Alastair Thomas was the one in first by number 3, a position he commanded for the next fifteen minutes of the race as it looped round the north end of the area via long legs requiring careful map-reading all the way.

The final few controls were easy to lose time on if you didn’t keep your compass when crossing the parallel spurs. They prised Thomas away from the lead and cost Gardner the third that Crickmore was to seize.

Photo above (right):  Laura Robertson (Edinburgh Southern) with Nathan Lawson (Octavian Droobers)

In the womens it was a very close start before legs five and six started to split the times. Helen Ockenden dropped from a 30s lead to sixth in just one control and King from fourth to sixth a checkpoint later where she was caught by Laura Robertson who was running strongly again.

King and Robertson were racing hard and matching the pace of Andersen for most of the course, with King opening a slight gap to Robertson as they approached the finish. Like it did to the guys, the last control caused upset, with Robertson’s lead over Andersen vanishing and King slipping out of third which went to Ockenden.

The Tough One - Classic at Breasty Haws

Another area with little use but many names: Blind Lane, Breasty Haw, Bogle Crag, Bowkerstead. These pockets at the southern end of Grizedale link up a steep slope at the top with a broad craggy hill at the bottom.

Courses started with a loop around the hill and then stepped onto the slope. The women’s course turned back a little sooner but they got to attack all the key long legs. These long legs, plus a couple of shorter ones, decided the race.

#5 - Careful in the green

With a downhill finish over a fairly flat slope, into green, this leg was asking for trouble.

Big time loss here which dropped Bray, Lawson and Gardner out of the fight for third whilst Smithard and Crickmore also missed.

Men #17 / Women #12 - Get to half-way, then you’re on your own

Even to the bottleneck, in the second half do you swing out left for the track or follow one of the broken walls closer to the line?

The round route proved to be faster in both womens and mens with the best executions leaving the track before the quarries to pass near the start on the way to the control.

Men #20 / Women #15 - Getting tired: take on the hill or smash the path?

Gristwood twisted from round to straight for the final long leg, but this was not the fastest route. Bray left #18 at the same time as Gristwood but headed north east to take the track and took a monster 30s out of the rest of the field.

Andersen stuck to her round strategy but King went straight this time and found her 45s deficit getting stretched out to two minutes.

At the finish

Throughout the race Cecilie Andersen and Laura King traded the lead but that final long leg cost King with who finished three minutes down on Andersen’s 56.46. Helen Ockenden added a consistent race to a consistent weekend picking up another third just 8s ahead of Victoria Stevens.

Graham Gristwood caught five competitors through the course of the race on his way to win in 58.14. His two minute man Jonathan Crickmore was a beneficiary of this from half-way but managed to hold on to second even as the elastic snapped at the end. Not known for his tough forest performances, Chris Smithard ran solo to third whilst Alastair Thomas unfortunately finished injured.

So who were the real Lakeland Warriors?

With an incredible win in every race Cecilie Andersen took the women’s with ease. Laura King and Helen Ockenden were second and third with Laura Robertson and Victoria Stevens also getting close.

Photo (middle):  Jonathan Crickmore (Southern Navigators); Photo (right):  Will Gardner (Octavian Droobers) and Cecilie Andersen (Bristol OK).

With a night race and a rough long this was classic Graham Gristwood terrain, who took the overall win. Jonathan Crickmore made his return to elite orienteering for second with William Gardner taking third.

The lead sponsor NVii Str8 UK were in attendance demonstrating their high performance shoes and compasses. NVii and Str8 products are available direct by email at or online from

Big thank you to Warrior OC, Lakeland OC and Masterplan Adventure for staging and assisting. Maps copyright Warrior OC and Lakeland OC.

Tweet Wednesday 2nd December 2020

The Early Years of Hertfordshire Orienteering Club aged 52 and a bit

Report by Alan Rosen who has been a member of Happy Herts since 1969

The club was founded in 1968 by a handful of orienteers in a part of the country which was not and is not well-endowed with lots of high-quality forests, and it would not have been surprising if Happy Herts (HH) had gone the way of so many of the earliest clubs which folded or merged within a few years of starting up – we are slightly amused to be the longest-lasting alliteratively-named orienteering club in the country!

As with other clubs, our history is punctuated by the events we’ve organised and the events we’ve taken part in, set against the evolution of the sport over the years – from ink stamps to pin-punches to dibbing (and now MapRunF/G), from master maps to overprinting machines to digital printing, from course planning with a pencil, piece of string and ruler to OCAD, Condes and Purple Pen. 

For a club which always thought it was constrained by its limited terrain, we have somehow produced maps of over forty woods and parks, plus around forty street areas and twenty schools, and in a normal year typically run over thirty events ranging from informal and street events to British Championships. 

The club has grown from 30 members in 1969 to 274 at the end of 2019 and it was a nice accolade to be highlighted by British Orienteering as having the highest percentage of junior members in their 2019 Annual Report. 

HH’s first magazine, Pacemaker, started in 1982, followed by the club newsletter which is now up to edition 275, so from that point onwards the club’s progress has been reasonably well documented, but the early days are stored in a couple of large boxes and in the memories of those who can recall orienteering in the sixties and seventies.

So, it seemed like a good idea to mark over half a century of Hertfordshire orienteering by going through the club archives and writing a history which also looks at the development of the sport nationally at the same time. 

Of course, it’s not the dry facts that make history interesting, it’s the unexpected snippets, so to find out the answers to these questions and learn about the club’s evolution, have a look at

  • What did the Victorians ever do for orienteers in Epping Forest, Burnham Beeches and Hampstead Heath?
  • On which piece of HH land was the original Harry Potter’s Whomping Willow, and what type of tree was it? (hint: not a willow!)
  • Which orienteer has an unrivalled record at HH Burnham Beeches events, winning at least twelve times over 48 years?
  • Which pieces of HH land have been used for James Bond/Harry Potter/Carry On films?
  • Why did Chris Brasher (one of the founders of orienteering in the UK) get in touch with Harold Abrahams (1924 Olympic 100m champion, Chariots of Fire) about orienteering?

There are also lots of extracts of HH maps over the years, from the earliest OS photocopies to the hand-coloured map of Bentley Priory to the many editions of maps of Ashridge, Burnham Beeches and Whippendell.

The history is dedicated to everyone who has contributed to the success of the club over 50+ years, with special thanks to all the club members and those from other clubs who have been invaluable in collating the material. 

The sport today is both very similar and very different to the late sixties’ version but what is unchanged is the commitment and determination of members to put on enjoyable events – and I’m sure that will also apply to the next 50 years!

Jennie Taylor Communications Officer at British Orienteering asked Alan Rosen from Happy Herts:  

"In your view, what do you think is the key thing that remains still relevant today 52 years on within your club?"

Alan commented:  "The importance of doing the simple things well at events - controls in the right place etc."








Clive Allen, British Orienteering Archivist, comments: “Several clubs have researched and written up their histories, but nothing has been published quite like the fascinating publication about the first 15 years of Happy Herts, written by Alan Rosen. Lavishly illustrated with photos, maps, event comments and paper cuttings, the 80-page book covers far more than plain history, documenting in lively detail some of the huge developments in mapping, event procedures and even British orienteering policy from the 60s to the 80s and in some cases to the present. A great read!”

The full report is available to read on the Happy Herts website here.  

Tweet Sunday 13th September 2020

South Yorkshire Orienteers enjoy second event in Graves Park, Sheffield

Report by Pauline Tryner (Organiser) and Dom Dakin both who are members of South Yorkshire Orienteers

Graves Park was our second local evening event run under the new COVID guidelines, but the first on council-owned land. The first was an urban sprint held at Sheffield University’s currently empty student halls – The Edge. Permission took a while to sort out, but Sheffield City Council were very helpful and were primarily concerned with ensuring we were following the British Orienteering Guidance. Hopefully it will now be easier to sort future permissions, as we hold lots of events on areas owned by Sheffield City Council.

From an Organiser’s perspective, Graves Park was a very easy place to organise an event under the new guidance. A wide-open space adjacent to a convenient car park allowed plenty of room to socially distance at the two Starts, Finish and Download.

Following the COVID guidance was very straight forward. It takes more work in advance than would normally be required for a local event, but on the night itself I had very little to do. A small team of very willing and capable volunteers helped to run the event, with two on each start (one being a junior to deal with the map boxes), one on download, one ‘meeter & greeter’, and a few helping the planner to control collect.

One of the things that struck me most about both events was how pleased people were to be back orienteering. The grateful comments made by participants certainly made the extra effort involved in organising events now worthwhile.

At the two events we’ve consciously tried out different methods for entries and starts to see what work best. At our first event we used Fabian4, utilising the new feature where competitors can select specific start times. On the day, we had a normal taped ‘box start’. 134 competitors started in a two-hour window - the more challenging orienteering area appealed to more experienced orienteers. For the Graves Park event we tried using our own SYO Entry system that we’ve built on Square Online, a standard free e-commerce site designed for small businesses, and instead asked competitors to select start blocks. We had 94 competitors over two hours from two starts and used a start system where participants queued at stakes spaced 2m apart. Both events were open to British Orienteering members only, so the majority were very used to using Fabian4, but we wanted to test our new system that may be preferable if we start to invite newcomers/non-British Orienteering members back to future events. Both systems worked fine and had their pros and cons.

For both events we had a ‘meeter & greeter’ who gave out information, reminded people of the guidance and provided directions.  This worked very well. We had four large (5 litres from PHS) pump-action hand sanitisers available so that people could sanitise their hands before collecting hire dibbers, immediately before the two starts, and after finishing before downloading. This also meant all helpers were never far from a hand sanitiser. One of the things we learnt from the first event was the need to ensure we didn’t have any bunching at download so at Graves Park we put out stakes 2m apart for people to queue at. Most of the time they weren’t needed but there are always occasions when groups of people happen to all finish at once!  Due to people hand sanitising immediately before downloading, we did provide printed splits.

The planner, Karl, made a few adjustments to the way he planned; thinking very carefully about the start and finish locations. He also tried to make sure people went the same way round the area so that they didn’t need to pass each other on narrow footpaths.

South Yorkshire Orienteers (SYO) were very keen to hold a couple of low-key events in August to see how they went under the new guidance. Having successfully held these two events we now feel confident we can hold larger events safely once the guidance allows, and have 3 further events planned in September.

Photo credits:  Mark Dakin (SYO)


Celebrating the re-start of orienteering.  
What activities or events has your club organised? Have you recently attended a re-start event?  Was it your second or third?  How did you find it?
Maybe you have downloaded a Permanent Orienteering and/or Virtual Orienteering Course and enjoyed it with your family?  Or you have recently enjoyed taking part in a local MapRun course or even designed your own MapRun course for members of your club to take part in?  
However, you have been taking part in orienteering, share your experiences with others who may not have re-started orienteering at their club yet.

Share your orienteering news and send your snippets, and photos to Jennie Taylor Communications Officer. 


To view the current British Orienteering Guidance visit: