Spring O in Sussex (in the 90s)

Posted on Thu, 30th March 2017 by Jolyon Medlock
Event Reports, Off-topic, Thinking aloud

Having recently bought a weekend tent, we plan to attend SO “Sunny Sussex” orienteering weekend in May with 2 days in woodland near Arundel, and the Chichester urban. The last time I attended a multi-day event in Sussex was as an M17 with SAX at a 3-day badge event in 1993 called “Spring in the South”. It was a hot May and, if I recall, I spent rather more time orienteering, driving to events in my dodgem-like automatic Mini City, and watching Test cricket, than I did revising for my impending A-level exams. There was, and remains, no contest between running through a bluebell wood in spring, and reading about the carbon-hydrogen structure of phenols and carboxylic acids for A-level Chemistry. Although I always enjoyed benzene as, in its simplified form, it depicted an IOF symbol (but which one?):

I still have a pile of old results, as in those days, you had to leave 20 pence in an SAE and wait three weeks for the results to be delivered. As I was showing Lyra these historical texts, the acronym “WSX” jumped out at her. It suddenly dawned on me that as a SAX junior, learning my navigation, usually by running around in circles, there were current senior members of WSX also in those woods, 24 years ago, competing in age categories that I now compete in: Ian and Kay Sayer running M40L and W45L, Bill and Chris Brown running M55L and W50S and Richard and Jean Arman running M60L and W60S. So I thought I would share with you an account of the weekend.

Day 1 was at Tilgate Forest, woodland near Crawley, straddling the M23, with each half connected by two footbridges. M17A was on two separate maps, and I remember running with both of them on the second leg, ensuring to check the right one. I laboured around my 7.4km in 86 minutes, and if you inspect my route from 8-9 you can see why (surely I wouldn’t make that mistake anymore!). I seemed to enjoy the paths in those days rather more than the direct route.

Day 2 was at Brede High woods; a mixed woodland surrounding the Powdermill reservoir, just north of Hastings. This was my favourite day, coming 3rd/8 which, by the look of my arrows, was a pretty clean run. I distinctly remember the welcome drinks stop at control 9 and the fantastically runnable beech woodland around controls 10-11. It’s remarkable that after 24 years it’s still possible to remember fragments of these events. Just to give you a flavour of the quality of WSX members on day 2, Kay came 4th on W45L, Chris 2nd on W50S, Jean 1st on W60S, Bill 5th on M55L and Richard 1st on M60L.  Interestingly there are familiar names littered throughout the results, with some notable consistencies and differences. For example, M21L was won by Clive Hallett, however a young Mole Valley junior called Graham Gristwood competed on the string course, aged 9.

Day 3 was at the National Pinetum at Bedgebury near Hawkhurst (Kent). It was controlled by Chris Brasher, then of SN. In his controller’s notes he described the undergrowth as one you might expect “in the garden of England, in which bracken grows ferociously and brambles extend their tentacles like octopii”. I seem to remember the undergrowth was rough going, but I’m not sure about his zoological terminology. My run was my fastest of the three days, but I don’t remember much of it, as I ran there several times, so my memory of Bedgebury has blurred. If anything I remember tedious path running (never my forté) in hot sunshine (not my strength).  Kay on the other hand clearly loved it as she came first on W45L.

Trawling through my other results from that pre-dibber, red pen in plastic bag era, there were other occasions when my life as a SAX junior crossed with other WSX members, mostly with the Sayers but also with Andrew and Sheila Beldowski. Notably at the GO ‘OO’ Trophy at Puttenham and Crooksbury Common in January 1993; at SLOW “OK Nuts Trophy” at Esher Common in December 1992; and at GO Badge at Chantries and St. Martha’s Down in April 1990. I remember all of these, does anyone else? Amazingly both Kay (4th on W40L) and Ian (17th/50 on M35L) also competed at my first O event, at SO Broadstone Warren in January 1990. Aged 15, I ran the orange with my older brother, coming a respectable 6th/29 – not that he let me read the map!

I’m sure “Sunny Sussex” will deliver another great 3-event weekend. My O-experience in 1993 will be more useful to me hopefully than my now diminishing memory of covalent bonding and Van der Waals force. Although I hope to attract controls and repel brambles.

Orienteering Club