Posted on Fri, 3rd February 2012 by Julie Astin


As we all know, vegetation comes in three different thicknesses.

  • Pale Green is – Slow Run;
  • Middle Green is – Walk;
  • Dark Green is – Fight, or Impenetrable, or Impassable.

Each description is normally preceded by the word “forest”. The ‘slow run’ and ‘walk’ colours may also be in stripes indicating that progress in the direction of the stripe is runnable. This is generally labelled ‘runnable in one direction’ and we all know how unreliable this one can be. It is occasionally found in ‘fight’ areas.

I’m not going to mention the various vertical green screens in this article as it’s really a separate subject.

Each of the three green type areas can have a dotted edge to it, or not, to indicate that it is a distinct vegetation boundary. Where there is no dotted edge, it is assumed that the vegetation boundary is indistinct. Distinct vegetation boundary dots may also go through solid areas of all three colours, generally depicting a distinct change of tree type within the block.

What use can we make of these markings to aid our orienteering passage? The dark green of ‘fight’ can be the most useful, especially when it is juxtapositioned alongside a ‘white’ RUN area. In the south, this is frequently rhododendrons or gorse and generally easily spotted. Dark green dots are usually bushes and can be very helpful. Even the edges of indistinct ‘fight’ against the ‘white’ are generally easy to spot and to run along. Too many ‘dot’ bushes are the reverse, as you can get lost amongst them when it becomes impossible to identify each one. In general terms, ‘fight’ is a very helpful navigational aid except perhaps where it adjoins a ‘walk’ area with indistinct joining.

‘Fight’ is always ‘fight’ in any surveyor’s depiction, but ‘slow run’ and ‘walk’ are very much a matter of individual judgement. One man’s ‘run’ is another man’s ‘walk’ and, as in marking an exam paper you have severe markers and lenient markers, we have surveyors who mark vegetation over-severely and those that understate it. One often hears ‘that green stuff was run all the way’, or ‘much of that white area should have damned well been green!’. Thus it is that runners should really check this out early on in their run, before deciding that they can use the coloured boundaries as navigational features, or of course decide whether they would wish to enter therein, in view of the surveyors interpretation of runability.

A ‘dotted’ vegetation boundary is almost always a good thing to navigate along, even where the dotted line is across a ‘white’, ‘run’ area as a change of tree type is pretty easy to see, unless of course its winter, where one deciduous tree may look much like any other without its leaves on.

Light green slow run areas rarely have dotted edges and are the most difficult to interpret and a surveyor’s attempt at defining the need to put it in is very varied. To many there is no significant difference between just running and ‘slow’ running, especially amongst the ageing competitors, so we (oops, there I said it!) scarcely notice the difference. In fact, very few will try to navigate along a pale green boundary unless it is ‘dotted’ against the white.

This leaves the middle green, ‘walk’ colouration. For me, the boundaries of ‘walk’ are normally just as good as fight and can be used to navigate along. The ‘going’ within the middle green area is, again for me, often just as fighty as the ‘fight’ areas.

The means of using these vegetation boundaries to aid navigation is very varied, but following the boundary in the lighter coloured area seems most sensible. Bends, especially sharp bends in a vegetation boundary, make good attack points, but as always when leaving a bend, be it a track or vegetation boundary, care is needed. The dotted boundary usually makes for a good strong catching feature to run onto without very great care and then to slide along it where quite often there are animal track type paths to aid runability.

So; don’t ignore the vegetation boundaries, as they are very useful navigational aids; beware the use of the pale green ‘undotted’ edges and remember to check early in your run on the surveyor’s interpretation of densities that he has given to the different shades of green.

Richard Arman


Orienteering Club