I think the previous time I’d visited Hill End it was as a school kid on an educational camp type of thing. Not sure how old I was but I suspect less than 10. I remember the impression of a big sort of wilderness with these wooden building spread out here and there, big enough for a little kid to get lost if he’s not careful. I remember the boys dorm (it wasn’t a proper camp with tents, at least not for us) being away from the main building and I remember something about frogs though not quite sure what. Mostly I remember some sort of tuck shop and my parents having given me a bit more spending money than I really needed so lots of sweets. I think I had a good time despite being stuck with all the other kids!
So over 40 years later Jane and I rolled up for the first on the Oxford parks sequence of TVOC Saturday Series orienteering events. We got there good and early as Ben Green is offering training before the Oxford events and I reckoned I might well benefit from this. We met Ben and, along with about 5 others, jogged up towards the top of the hill on a dry but slightly foggy morning. Fortunately Ben noticed Jane had run out of steam so we walked the last bit.
Ben worked on two techniques with us. Map and compass alignment was particularly useful to me as I’d taught myself with a rather old book and the whole process of turning the compass on it’s baseplate etc seemed to be a right faff – it seems orienteers don’t really do this and just hold the map so the route is the way they are facing, lay the compass straight edge along the route then rotate their body (map, compass and all) till the north arrow aligns with the map vertical grid-lines then hold that position and run. We also did some work on pace counting to estimate distance covered, I already attempt this where there are long paths etc but it was useful to practice more.
I paid a bit too much attention to the map alignment and not enough to my feet and the wonky, muddy, terrain and went flying at one point. I crashed down on my right shoulder – held my breath waiting for the pain – and it never came. In fact no after effects at all, my shoulder may well still be stuck but doesn’t seem to be at all delicate now.
The actual event went pretty well though it took me a few controls to get used to the scale of the map, at 1:3500 instead of the more common 1:10000 I overshot a couple of the earlier legs. I managed 54:02 for the Green course with enough energy for a sprint to the finish but was not far from the back in 37th place of 43 starters (41 finishers). Saw Howard Waller while I was waiting for download and he had fallen foul of the brambles which laid thorny trip wires over many of the paths, he was filthy and looked more like he’d been doing one of those ‘tough mudder’ events than orienteering
It’s Thames Valley Orienteering Club‘s annual Chiltern Challenge this Sunday so Jane and I have volunteered to do a shift on one of the road crossing before our run. They are expecting 500 participants over 9 different courses so should be fun!