Fell-O in Cumbria

Posted on Thu, 13th April 2017 by Jolyon Medlock
Event Reports

Whilst spending the week fell walking in the Lakes, we attended a couple of Lakeland Orienteering Club (LOC) events.

The Cumbrian galoppen event at Barrow Fell, near Ulpha, was a chance to test our navigation skills in an upland environment. Esk and Rebecca ran the yellow together (no white) and Lyra the Orange, I did Blue. The shorter courses were all within the dense and tangled upland woodland, with a complex system of spurs, thickets, transient hillside streams and ditches, liberally dotted with moss covered boulders, crags and fragments of defunct dry stone walls; all bounded by an uncrossable wall that demarcated the fell side. The orange course controls used a combination of these features, and with three of the 15 legs with taped routes, the planner and controller were clearly conscious of the difficulty of the area. Apart from Esk falling over at least once flat on her face having been caught on a snag in the tangled undergrowth, both girls got back safely and in good time. The jumbled upland woodland was good experience and Lyra wasn’t phased by the Orange coming in amongst the 14 yr olds.

My route left the woodland after the second control and hit the fell, before re-entering the woodland at control 13. Orienteering over the fells isn’t something I experience very often, except on OMM some years ago. Even in bright clear sunshine there is little time to relax and lose focus; navigating in mist or darkness must be even more taxing. Matching ring contours to rocky hillocks, black lines to crags, and locating marshes is critical to prevent disorientation. The advantage of open hills is that the 3D landscape ahead can be matched to the map from afar, but the legs require steep climbs. I reckon I traversed the fell top three times between 5-6, 7-8 and 10-11, although I noticed that others avoided such climb, preferring to take a circuitous route contouring the fell. In the case of 10-11 the chance to plan the route ahead by seeing a hillock and re-entrant 1km in the distance made a nice change to the wooded, flat landscape of the New Forest. The view on the approach to control 8 of the sun shining on the sea at Furness was tremendous. I managed to locate all controls on the fell without too much fuss, only to muck up control 16 (an odd form line) back in the woodland, and undo a good run. A great event, and really enjoyed navigating by contours, but annoyed by my 7 minute error so near the end.

Midweek, Lyra and I attended the Wednesday evening LOC “Tech race” TD5 event at Bishop Woods near Hawkshead. This upland ancient deciduous woodland lies adjacent to Beatrix Potter’s house at Near Sawrey, although there was no sign of Mr Tod nor Tommy Brock. As there were only technical courses we ran together. Again it was all navigation by contours, this time in woods, with the odd fragment of old stone wall, isolated boulders, knolls and re-entrants. The early rain had passed and the woodland was alight with evening sunshine. Lyra was pretty alarmed by the first control which immediately climbed 60 metres up a boulder strewn slope. The second leg was 1.75 km long to the other end of the wood without a path; a far cry from the average orange. From then on she loved the chance to use her compass, navigate between wooded hills and ticking off the broken fences, boulders, stone walls and crags along the way. It was a delight to run together on a technical course, and pleased I didn’t make any embarrassing mistakes. This wood was one of the best places I have orienteered; no bramble, great topography, and a stunning Lakeland location. By the time we finished Lyra was wide eyed to the world of the longer more technical courses, and hopefully filled with more confidence with her compass and contours. We came in 7th/27, which she was thrilled with. Hopefully we will get another chance to orienteer in the Lakes again and would recommend both locations to others.

Orienteering Club