Brill Common

Jane and I have decided we rather enjoy this orienteering lark and after a chat with a member who also does the Oxford parkrun sometimes I thought why not join the club. So it was as new members of the Thames Valley Orienteering Club that we made our way to Brill (on the hill) on 12th April to experience the somewhat different terrain of scrub, bumps and hollows left by centuries of clay digging for the local brick industry.

Despite being somewhat sleep deprived and achy courteous of the blooming frozen shoulder I decided to go for light green again and necked an energy gel before the start so at least I’d have some sugar left in my brain if I ended up taking ages again. Jane decided to up the stakes and go for the orange course where she was more likely to encounter other grown-ups. There was a new IT system being experienced in the registration tent which resulted in a bit of a queue and a wait before we got going just after 11am.

My first control seemed to be somewhere behind me facing the start but remembering the 13 minutes I’d spend heading 180 degrees in the wrong direction at the start of Wendover I took a moment to check the compass properly – then I realised the thing in front of control number 1 on the map was the car park by Brill windmill so I got there in 3 minutes using the follow my nose approach.

I was going well till number 8 though number 5 had been tricky hidden by a little pool at the bottom of a steep, muddy drop as it was. 8 was just on the other side of an out of bounds area with buildings but I think I made the mistake of overestimating the distance and also failed to check direction so ended up behind the wrong group of houses. If there is one thing I failed to learn from years of audax riding it is that the best thing to do as soon as you realise you’ve gone the wrong way is to stop, work-out where you are, and make a cool headed plan to get back on route. Instead I tend to opt for the ‘it must be over there somewhere’ technique which is probably why number 8 took me nearly 16 minutes to find while the longest any of the earlier controls had taken was under 5 minutes.

Brill Orienteering April 20149 was a doddle but then a repeat performance for number 10 which took 13 minutes as I made some pretty basic mistakes such as following a road where the map showed a vehicle track etc. 13 was interesting as the thin but unbroken line of darkish green was indeed ‘impenetrable’ and, after going right to the bottom of Tramhill to find 12, I had to go most of the way back up again – huffing and puffing before I decided to walk instead – just to join a path that took me back down the other side of the dense hedgerow to where the control was.

The remaining controls were not too hard to find though non were what I’d call obvious. After 19 me and another chap could see the ‘Finish’ sign 100m away so without a glance at the map we just ran straight to it, I’m surprised I didn’t get a nasty rash from the ankle high stinging nettles on route! 1:11:18 was my eventual time with about 42 minutes actual running according to my Garmin. The 3.1km becoming 3.4 miles. I placed 16 out of 20 starters and 19 finishers so a marginal improvement over Wendover but still much room for improvement. I reckon if I’d got 8 and 10 right I’d have been 20 minutes quicker.

I couldn’t find Jane at first but it turned out she was in the loo in the pub when I’d looked for her there. She managed a more impressive 16th of 29 starters, 25 finishers on her debut orange course finishing in 46:28 and almost achieving the ‘Orange standard’ (whatever that is). Wittenham Clumps next for us if the weather looks good!

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