Our day for “the Middles” was a foggy one, amidst days of blue autumnal skies. This was certainly true on the Friday, when a small team met at Piece Farm to place the eight temporary stiles on the moor, and on Saturday when the marquee arrived and we set up the arena, cheered by news of DVO medals at the Sprints in Loughborough. Again, the Monday and Tuesday after the event provided excellent drying days for the soggy assortment of kites and kit!
But on Sunday morning you couldn’t see the portaloos from the marquee – it was like being on another planet and I was relieved when the first non-DVO competitors emerged from the mists as I knew that others would surely follow.
Above: the Arena on Saturday. Piece Farm on the left, Lantern Pike on the right
The first brave spectators set up tents in the mists of Sunday morning!
And they did. Some 877 competed on the day, 859 of those on Championship courses. A shame that those who started in the first hour were disadvantaged by the mist, but give yourselves a pat on the back for finding the controls!
Ranald has covered the detail in his Planner’s Comments below, and it’s been great working with him and Chris. We had about 80 helpers from DVO, most of whom undertook an array of different jobs as the day progressed – thank you all! And thank you to Viv Macdonald who liaised with the DVO Teams and dealt with road signs, making my job so much easier. Mike Godfree handled entries, and reopened them for a few days after the closing date, enabling a good many more of you to enter. Viv secretly arranged for Mike, myself, Chris and Ranald to be presented with Peak District National Park “Chilly’s” vacuum flask bottles!
Above: event officials Mike, Sal, Chris and Ranald were presented with Chilly's vacuum bottles for their hard work
Thanks also to the Prize-giving Team of Val Johnson and the Duckworth and O’Donnell families who enabled the Hallam family from Piece Farm to be involved. Because I was busy for much of the time, I particularly appreciated the excellent commentary from Chis and Andy, and I’m still savouring the photos from Peter and Steve!
Unclaimed medals and maps will be available at DVO’s Regional event at Longshaw on Saturday October 26th. Longshaw is a beautiful National Trust area just 10 miles SW of Sheffield, and the event is part of the East Midlands League.
It’s been great to be part of an event of this scale, and it certainly makes you appreciate the efforts put on behind the scenes by other clubs and by staff at British Orienteering. We are privileged to be part of a sport in which there’s always room to learn, and where age is no barrier in participation, as borne out by our competitors, who ranged from 8 to 88!
Scheduling the British Middles in the first half of September is always going to limit the areas a club like DVO can use because the undergrowth is at its worst. However, we do have a couple of upland areas that are more suitable. The first we looked at was deemed unsuitable for the level of event and we have subsequently had significant access issues with that area. We had only used Chinley Churn a few times since its initial mapping in 2015 and, whilst it also has limitations, it seemed worthy of consideration.
The area comprises tiered quarry workings and steep scree/boulder fields on the eastern side, marshy moorland on the top and then fields sloping down to the west and the assembly area on Piece Farm. The area is divided up by uncrossable walls and fences meaning that we had to construct eight stiles to provide reasonable straight line routes or to avoid stiles on public rights of way that could be busy on an early autumn Sunday as it’s a very popular walking area.
I had never planned a championship/level A event before and was really only third or fourth choice as other potential planners were too busy in their work or were injured. The whole exercise was therefore a very steep learning curve for me, though greatly assisted by the ever-patient Chris Burden (AIRE), my Controller.
The Finish was largely determined by the area chosen for Assembly and car parking. It provided a good arena with visible final controls across the skyline and downhill to the Finish.
The Start was more problematic. I wanted to get as many courses as possible into the quarries for at least part of their run. However, the eastern side effectively comprises a number of relatively narrow corridors meaning that, to get in much change in direction could involve significant descent and climb. I would also have had to send the three short courses along paths on top of the crags which, given the weather conditions on the actual day of the event, would not have been a good idea. This meant having a Near Start for the M/W10, M/W12 and colour coded courses with the further constraint of largely following paths and walls – not the most exciting of courses and very short winning times.
Having settled on a location for the Far Start – and I hope some of you did get the wonderful view over to Kinder and the Downfall – I soon realised that I needed to think about ways of avoiding too many path options, which resulted in the two stiles low down on the eastern slope. For many this proved to be quite difficult going but provided a further contrast with the rest of their courses. I went for a fairly high density of controls throughout, as specified in the Competition Rules, to try and break up people’s rhythm and, particularly in the quarries, to remove some of the temptation of path runs. On the moor and in the fields I went for more changes in direction. We didn’t use the southern part of the map as there was dense and difficult to map gorse, or the northern part which had relatively little of value and even more climb.
What was the outcome? From the comments I received people liked the mix of areas and, for many, being in an area for the first time. On the day, we awoke in our campervan on site to very thick mist and light drizzle. This cleared at about 11.30 to provide much better visibility, though many competitors said the fog hadn’t affected their ability to navigate in the quarries; perhaps more so on the open moor and fields. The fog returned late on and controls and stiles were collected in light rain. It’s worth looking at the photos by Peter Cull and Steve Rush on the Event website to get a good sense of how the weather changed during the day.
Two issues with the terrain. Firstly, I was walking the area in the snow in February and met the ever-helpful farmer. However, he was having problems with pits and depressions in his tractor so, when the snow had cleared, he used the knolls and scrape from the final two fields to fill in many of them. Probably fifty percent of the controls I had intend to use were now no more! Some had become platforms or spurs but many just blended into the hillside. Secondly, and more problematically, after the maps had gone for printing we discovered that the farmer and been building dams, funded by grants from the Environment Agency, to reduce potential flooding lower down. Two of the dams were to the east of a control – 154, ditch junction – visited by courses 1 to 6 and potentially on a running line for other courses. To make matters worse he then constructed an uncrossable fence around these two dams. It was too late to change maps – hand drawing on 1,000 maps would have been unrealistic - so we put a map correction in the Start lanes which some thought inadequate, though many said they’d forgotten about it anyway. Apologies if you felt it did affect your run. I spoke to winners on some of the courses and they said they weren’t put off by it as they knew there was something different from the map and coped with it.
A difficult issue for planners is planning the courses as prescribed in the competition rules which combine different classes to meet their physical abilities, in particular, and still remaining within the recommended times. The most problematic was W70+ where the winning time for W70 was 25.18 (far too short), for W75 was 29.48 (almost spot on) and for W80 was 39.10 (too long). There was also a W85+ with a very long time. I also tried to avoid excessive climb on this course meaning that it spent less time in the quarries that other courses, for which I was roundly criticised by one competitor. It was a compromise but I hope that most competitors felt it was both a suitable TD5 course without being overly physical. It might be worth looking at combining W70 with W65 and perhaps W75+ with M80+.
I also apologise to the M70+ courses for the climb straight up the hillside. Looking at routegadget, some did take a long route around paths – always an option – whilst most went straight up, often on hands and knees. Again, if I’d not included the lower slopes these courses wouldn’t have got the full and varied experience of the area.
In general, virtually every course was within guidelines (in the range 30-35 minutes for the senior TD5 courses and 20-25 minutes for M/W 16/18/20). Getting the times right on a Middle Distance is not an exact science and I thank Dave Chaffey and Richard Parkin for test running a couple of courses in my early planning phase. They commented on the potential climb but also that it was worth getting into all the area.
There was an injury to one competitor on the far side of the area and he had to be recovered by Kinder Mountain Rescue Team. Particular thanks to Jenny Hammond (FVO) who stopped for a considerable time to help, to Val Johnson (DVO) who gave up her run to return to the Finish to seek help, and to Karen Quickfall (SROC) who loaned him her jacket. A reminder that the BOF Rule 9.10 states that “Competitors are required to give help to an injured competitor even if this means giving up their own race.”
Finally, some thank yous:
Post-event bathroom chaos chez Macdonald!