You may have forgotten but the British Long distance champs at Golden Valley and Cognor Woods in 2020 was planned for 21st March, two days before the UK went into lockdown. In the week preceeding, the JK was cancelled, as was the BOC, and thereafter much of life (including orienteering) was cancelled. We seem to have lived the last two years not getting too excited in case events were cancelled. It’s hard to believe that the last day of any JK was that hot and sunny relays day at Minley nearly three years ago.
So this last weekend was the culmination of at least 3 years of planning by the organisers, and it showed. Although the assembly field (and probably courses) had to be changed, it was a fantastically organised and executed weekend. The weather was stunning, the woodlands were challenging and runnable (mostly free of brambles), the hills were testing, and the atmosphere, particularly for the relays, was worth bottling. This was the sort of festival orienteering we have all been missing. Covid or restrictions barely got a mention, and we were able to hang around club tents, chat with friends, form relay teams and (some of us could) stand next to people on podiums, all free of restrictions.
On to the orienteering, the long distance championships on the Saturday was long and challenging, with some very long distances and even longer times. The area was largely two large tracts of woodland, separated by a valley of fields and a road. The longer courses had two long legs with plenty of routechoice, out towards Cognor woods. The shorter courses were based around the main eastward escarpment of coppice, and most of us climbed this steep slope at least two or three times over the weekend, and that run up the hill into the finish arena didn’t get any easier.
The small band of 12 WSX members had a fun weekend with our WIM friends. Only 5 of us managed to complete our courses in under 100 minutes and both our juniors were out for about an hour. Some notable results were Gavin finishing 7th on M65L, Ian finishing 16th on M70L, Esk in 7th on W14A, Julie 15th on W65L and Lyra winning Gold on W16A, although everyone did brilliantly in the tough terrain and warm weather. Between us we ran 78.2km and 3285m climb.
On to the relays and we assembled four mixed ad hoc teams. After the first leg Lyra of WSX Raiders came in first out of 39 teams, with a 4 minute lead. Next placed for WSX Wonderboys was Roger in 13th. On the second leg, WSX Raider Gavin recorded the fastest leg, extending the Raiders’ lead over a Saxons team to 9 minutes. Ian, running for WSX Wonderboys had climbed into 10th place. Esk, running with Liz and Tina, had a storming second leg, with the 5th fastest time. With a 9 minute lead (although I didn’t know it), I headed out for the Raiders knowing I just needed to keep it clean and steady to win the relay. I also knew that fast runners, including James were pursuing me on the last leg. In fact James, for the Wonderboys, had a storming run, claiming 5th place over all. The Raiders in the end won by 11 minutes, and WSX claimed their second Mixed Ad hoc title, having won it in 2008. WSX Wanderers (Scott, Michael and Rob) finished in 17th, and the WSX Worms (Liz, Esk and Tina) in 27th. Well done to all runners. Michael also was well placed in the Trail O on the Sunday, with Michael winning the British Trail O league event on the Saturday, which is a very impressive result considering the competition. It was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend, and attention now moves to the JK at Easter.
However, prior to the BOC weekend, WSX members were at Fonthill and in the Lakes. Fonthill is a tough, hilly woodland with lots of brambles and brash. The top half results were Gavin 7th and James 9th on Blue, Alan 3rd on Orange. Meanwhile at Duddon Spring weekend at Seathwaite in the Lakes, my clan were taking part in three events: a middle distance event at Mesopotamia, a “sprint” event on a rocky hillside at Ash Bank, followed by a classic long event at Caw, a stunning craggy and rocky hillside. The weather was glorious, the terrain was challenging, the setting stunning and the topography technical; check out some of the maps. Lyra won her course on the middles, and finished 5th/73 on the blue on the Sunday. Esk and Rebecca had fun together on the middle and sprint, with Esk finishing 4th/14 on a tricky light green on the Sunday. I had a whale of a time, and every day in the Lake District is one to cherish.
Coming up soon is the Poundbury urban event, organised by WIM on 9th April, and the first Find Your Way event at Sturminster Newton on 23rd April, led by WIM. Some of us are off to the Northern Champs near Newcastle for Northumberland Spring this weekend. See you all at the JK in South Wales.