Issue 4 – December 2022
Welcome to the 4th Edition of NNews – a quarterly newsletter from Northern Navigators. Apologies for the slight delay in publishing this edition – I hope everyone has had a great Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.
The newsletter contains details of upcoming events and contributions from our members. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this edition.
Please let us know ([email protected]) if you have any comments or wish to contribute to any future editions.
(Thanks to Dougie for taking the photo included above, it is from the North East Score Championships at Fontburn back in October)
Note: Some details are provisional, always look at the website of the organising club for final details.
Sunday 8th January 2023 – New Year Team Score Event; Cowpen Bewley, Billingham (CLOK, local)
Wednesday 11th January 2023 – Club Christmas Meal; Durham (NN)
Saturday 21st January 2023 – Mountain Bike Orienteering Score; Ripon (NYMBO, MBO)
Friday 27th to Sunday 29th January 2023 – Edinburgh Big Weekend; Edinburgh (EUOC, local/regional)
Sunday 29th January 2023 – Middle Distance Event; Birk Brow and Skelton Warren (CLOK, regional)
Sunday 5th February – Urban; Prudhoe (NATO, local)
Sunday 5th February – Cumbria Gallopen; Bethecar Moor (LOC, regional)
Sunday 12th February – Middle Distance; Watergate Park, Gateshead (NN, regional)
Saturday 18th February – Spring LOP No. 1; Doctor Pit, Bedlington (NATO, local)
Sunday 19th February – Parkland Urban Long; Thornaby Woods & Tees Wildlife Trust (CLOK, regional)
Sunday 26th February – Northern Championships & YHOA SuperLeague (UKOL); Burbage (SYO, national)
Sunday 12th March – CompassSport Trophy Heat; TBC, likely Beanley, Alnwick (NATO, national)
Sunday 19th March – Acorn National Event; Silton Forest (CLOK, National)
Saturday 25th March – Spring LOP No. 2; Nunsmoor North (NATO, local)
Sunday 2nd April – Cumbria Galoppen; Burnbanks, Haweswater (BL, regional)
Friday 7th to Monday 10th April – JK; Lancashire and South Lakes (NWOA, major)
Saturday 15th April – Spring LOP No. 3; Seaton Sluice (NATO, local)
Sunday 16th April – Middle Distance Event; Errington Woods (CLOK, regional)
Sunday 14th May – Urban; Fellgate (NN, regional)
TBC May – NN Local Summer Series (Come and Try It); TBC (NN, local)
TBC June– NN Local Summer Series (Come and Try It); TBC (NN, local)
TBC July – NN Local Summer Series (Come and Try It); TBC (NN, local)
Sunday 30th July to Friday 4th August – Scottish 5 Days; Moray (national)
We also have a weekly club night on Wednesdays at 6.30pm in the vicinity of Durham City. Contact [email protected] for further details.
Note: most of this was previously included in the last edition, but we thought it was worth including again due to the upcoming renewal deadline.
The sign up and renewal windows for 2023 Club and British Orienteering membership are open – current members, don’t forget to renew before the end of the year!
Annual membership cost comprises of a British Orienteering fee (£15 for seniors, £5 for juniors) and a NN Club fee (£3.50 for seniors, free for juniors and £4.50 for family membership which can include up to 2 seniors and unlimited juniors registered to the same address). Sign up can be done online on the British Orienteering website, by post or over the phone – if you need any more information then take a look at the club website, contact the club by email or in person at events or club nights.
As a club we encourage those who regularly attend our events to take up membership – without the support of our members we could not offer our events and club nights. Membership includes the following benefits:
- The option to participate in all Northern Navigators events, activities and social programme
- Reduced entry fees for some orienteering events
- Eligibility to compete in major competitions across the country such as the British Championships
- Inclusion in the National Rankings based on points from Regional, National and Major Events (if you are 16 or over)
- You will have Public Liability Insurance when participating in events and activities registered with British Orienteering
- You will have access to many resources in the members’ section of the website and the British Orienteering Newsletter
- You can vote at the British Orienteering and NN Annual General Meetings
- Your successes will be recognised through the ‘Navigational Challenge’ and ‘Racing Challenge’ incentive schemes
- Discounts from British Orienteering partners
- The right to compete in NN Club colours and represent the Club at events (i.e. you can buy a club top!)
Compass Sport Trophy
This annual inter-club competition is hosted by NATO on 12th March 2023 at Beanley, an area of woodland near Alnwick. Each club puts in a team, and each member must compete in their age class with the top 13 scores counting. It’s a really fun day and an opportunity for club members to get together and socialise. The event fees are covered by the club and we hope to have a good turn out so keep the date free in your diary.
Our weekly club training continues to be well-attended and a popular way to concentrate on technique or fitness. The venue changes each week but usually within a 5 mile radius of Durham and is operated via a WhatsApp group. If you would like to join, get in touch with me and I’ll add you to the group. Alternatively, the details are put on the website each week (usually by Monday). We have recently replaced one Wednesday evening each month with a Saturday morning to take advantage of daylight hours so if you can’t make an evening we hope to see you on a Saturday!
NN Chair/Fixtures Secretary
We have a busy year ahead of us in terms of events (see the provisional fixtures list) and with these challenges comes our constant search for event officials. I’ve done a bit of background research recently so I thought I’d share some of my findings. Hopefully our new members will find this useful.
Before we start and at the risk of patronising you – what are the main roles?
Organiser: makes sure everything runs smoothly on the day e.g. parking, registration, personnel, equipment, first aid procurement, risk assessment.
Planner: designs the courses, liaises with the controller and is responsible for putting out and collecting the controls
Controller: liaises with organiser re safety, ensures the courses comply with the relevant guidance, that they are safe and fair for competitors, checks the control sites are correctly described, that course lengths are suitable and on the day checks the placement of the controls.
In the past, NN has mainly organised “local” events. These require no controller although the risk assessment should be checked by another (experienced) member of the club. One of the disadvantages is that competitors do not get ranking points, but on the other hand the events tend to be low-key and in areas that are not very technical meaning potentially less competitors and so fewer helpers required on the day. Moving forward, we have decided to try to offer more “regional” events where a controller is required and where a range of courses must be offered according to BO guidelines. This year we are also hosting the October Odyssey which is a weekend of “national” events, requiring a Level B controller from outside the region.
(By the way, to become a Level C controller, you need to have organised 1 event and planned 3 events (one of which needs to be a regional event). For Level B controller status, you should have controlled 2 events (one regional), planned a national event and organised a regional event.) Every event official needs to have completed the British Orienteering Event Safety course available online, the cost of which would be covered by the club.
So the hunt for event officials is on! Looking at the previous 10 years, it’s the same names that come up time and again. We currently have about 10 people who have been involved in officiating roles, 4 at a regional level. When Julian had his bike accident recently, it brought home how vulnerable we are when one of us is out of circulation – we really need some fresh blood. If you would like to help out, then you can start by organising/planning a low-key event or even a club night activity. No previous experience is necessary and there will be somebody on hand to guide you through the process.
Caroline Mackenzie, CLOK Chair, has also passed on the following invitation:
Following discussion with NATO and Northern Navigators, we’d welcome anyone from our neighbouring clubs who’s interested in learning how we carry out [officials] roles. Quite a lot of the preps work can be done by email and/or Zoom, so it’s quite possible to get involved even if you live some distance away. (And we’re happy to pay reasonable travel expenses.)
Taking on these roles solo — particularly for the larger events — obviously requires a bit of experience. In order to enable new people to gain that experience in a supportive environment, we are very happy to arrange for you to either act as assistant to an experienced Organiser / Planner or to be supported by an experienced mentor. As well as helping to train up additional event officials, this helps to share the workload and is a sociable, fun way to get to know more about our club and other members.
If you’d like to have a chat about any of the above roles, please get in touch with me.
60 Seconds with…..Dougie Nisbet
Dougie Nisbet answering questions from the Warrens
What’s your role in the club? I don’t have a fixed role, although with the website migration to WordPress I can provide backup for Allen if he needs it. I’m generally quite content to be bossed around and told what to do and to muck in whenever something needs doing. I find having more than one idea floating round my head at any one time can be troublesome.
How long have you been orienteering? I started at school when our mountaineering biology teacher decided to take a few pupils out to the local events around Edinburgh. I was a bit of a dab-hand at the ‘red’ course (whatever that was in the late 1970s) and soon fancied myself as a bit of an expert. Fast forward two or three decades and on returning to Orienteering I was soon put right on that score.
How did you get into the sport? Miss Bibby, Biology teacher and mountaineer, Gracemount High School.
What’s your warm-up routine? Start Kite to Control 1.
What’s your best result? Probably NN’s night event in Durham, 24 Oct, 2015. Notable because a lot of clubmates from Elvet Striders were taking part. Much faster runners than me. But I had a good run and they mostly didn’t. It was a pleasantly disconcerting experience to see myself ahead on the results table of clubmates who were a lot faster than me.
What do you eat before your run? Porridge, which Roberta makes overnight in the slow cooker. With nuts or granola on top. And syrup, of course. Lots of squeezy syrup.
Thumb compass or base-plate? Thumb. Absolutely. I can’t imaging going back to a base-plate now.
Do you take compass bearings? Yes, but not very good ones. I like a compass with a rotating bezel so I can take the bearing and forget it. The Silva ones with the colourful outside don’t work with me because I’ve forgotten the colour combination within a second of looking away. A bit like recipes. I have to keep checking a recipe every 10 seconds otherwise it’s just a vague memory.
What’s your favourite orienteering area? I like woodland and trails, rocks and climbs. A sprinkling of bog and moor is acceptable. Simonside and Shaftoe Crags are two local areas that spring to mind.
Lycra or baggy? Somewhere in between. I’ve spent my life trying to make up my mind. Still undecided.
Moorland or forest? Forest
Urban or cross country? Cross Country
Do you pace count? Sometimes. A lot of my mistakes could be avoided by pace counting and I think I should be doing it more.
What’s your worst mistake? Gosh, so many to choose from. Aside from all the disasters I’ve no doubt suppressed my best three are:
At No. 3 The Sand Dunes of Druridge Bay. The October Odyssey of Oct 13th, 2013. I did actually quite enjoy this despite ending up looking like an extra for the Trouble with Tribbles (see photo at top of article). Standout memory for this event was searching for 20 minutes for Control 1 while continually being within earshot of the starting beep.
In at 2. is the Boltby Forest & Dale Town Moor night event from Nov 9th, 2013. On the drive down Nigel and Julian explained “negative features” to me. I abandoned less than half-way round. Good compass bearings and pace counting required.
But my best worst event has to be the Compass Sport at Gilling Wood, Feb 19, 2012. Reaching the Finish 199 minutes after starting I was walking back to the car when I saw Boris and Barry walking the other way. They were the search party. They were coming to look for me. Mortifying.
Are you a results nerd? Sometimes. Not as much as I used to be.
What do you think of Routegadget? I find it interesting for longer events when there are big route choices between controls, especially if the decisions are along the lines of direct with climbing, or long and flat. Nowadays I usually go for easier navigation and running even if it’s a long way round.
A Thank You…
Following many years as the main-stay of Northern Navigators, Rob McKenna has now retired from the club. Rob joined the club in the early 90s and has held many of the major roles within the committee. He has been an exceptionally enthusiastic and committed member of the club, highlighted by his commitment to bringing orienteering into local schools, which has been very successful with many schools now taking part in orienteering activities throughout Northumberland and County Durham.
Rob is a force of nature. His dedication, determination, enthusiasm and generosity has done so much to establish NN and orienteering generally in the North East of England. Over the years he has done everything on an entirely voluntary basis, despite a busy family life. He has been a wonderful ambassador, an inspirational leader, a brilliant mapper, organiser and planner, and a man of unstinting kindness and generosity. He richly deserves the respect in which he is held by club members and other orienteers in the North East. On behalf of the club, the committee wish to thank Rob for his long service and wish him the best for the future.
Boxing Day Charity Score 2022
The Boxing Day Charity Score this year took place in Houghall Woods and the University campus. We had a great turnout and at one point were worried we might run out of maps. In the end, after some rationing, everyone got a map and had a great run. Santa was on hand giving out his Christmas gift of a bonus 5 points which made a lot of people very happy!
The points system this year was based on visiting controls in odd/even order. Initial results without bonus points were published on the day but once we added the extra points for visiting controls in the odd/even sequence, it was very interesting to see who had gained and lost. The top 3 remained the same with a bit of points gain but no position change – it appears that gaining the Santa points helped to cement Duncan’s (Duncan Archer CLOK) top place! However, there was quite a lot of shifting in positions amongst the rest of the runners notably Clare Baker (NN) who moved up from 14th to 10th, Meg Baker (NN) from 31st to 18th, Chris Wright (CLOK) who ended up 15th from 23rd and Willard Wright (NATO) who moved from 24th to 13th. Congratulations to everyone!
The weather was stunning – clear blue sky, a bit of ice and some fantastic photos with backdrops of Durham Cathedral, courtesy of Dougie (see the website, and below). We were delighted to be able to donate £367.70 to Durham Food Bank.
Thanks must go to Boris, Allen, Roberta, Dougie, Dave, Tom, Meg, Michael, Mary and George (NATO), Richard Jones (who turned up on a bike and offered to collect some controls in!) and The Warrens who all helped out on the day [Editor – and also to Barney, Saskia and Julian Warren for being Organiser, Planner and Controller].
JEC (Junior European Cup)
Maya Hampshire Wright
In March, I was amazed to be selected to run for Team GB at JEC (Junior European Cup). It took place on the 1st-3rd of October in Germany, at the base of the Harz mountains. It was absolutely amazing!
We flew to Hannover airport early Friday morning, arriving at the accommodation in Wernigerode by midday. This allowed us to get established and do a model sprint course around the town to stretch our legs after the journey and to get our brains focused for the Saturday sprint race. It was great seeing all the other countries’ teams in the evenings and at the events. Although, compared to team GB, they all seemed quite intimidating. The non-orienteering guests at the hotel seemed surprised by what was going on!
On Saturday, there was the sprint event around Blankenburg, a lovely town on a hill with a castle at the top (which we went into). It was hilly for a sprint with 135m of climb. The area was too simple for an international orienteering event and due to the map-geeking we did the area seemed familiar, so they put in 7 extra blockages. The blockages made the area and courses really fun. I especially love the route choice they generated on #2 and #10. Unfortunately, it was a bit rainy, making the cobbles slippery, so I was unable to safely run my absolute fastest. To avoid people with later starts having an advantage because they could see the area for longer there was a quarantine. They used a primary school with two halls to stay in and the yard was used for warm-ups. You weren’t allowed to use your phones otherwise you would be able to hear from people who had finished about the course and area (especially about the extra blockages). When you went to the start you handed your bag in with a label saying your country and bib number. You were only allowed to head to the start 6mins beforehand. It didn’t feel too different from waiting for your start normally, but I had a middle start so there were plenty of people still around when I left.
I really really enjoyed the sprint- it was fast and technical!!!
Saturday afternoon, after the sprint, we did a model long course with 6 controls to help us know what to anticipate for the event on Sunday. It was fun jogging around with the other W18s, looking at how the area was mapped. However, the model area was mapped by a different person and on a different type of wood than the real long event. It was still a great way to spend the afternoon, which had come out sunny.
The area for the long was Regenstein- Heers, a fairly flat area below which then sloped steeply upwards to a rock castle, where the assembly was. There were great views of the forest below and the surrounding area but near the end of the course, we had to do the climb up to the castle. I was really nervous before this event, more so than for the sprint since there was a greater chance of getting completely lost. Despite all of the support from John Musgrave, I didn’t control my nerves enough at the start and made the really silly mistake of running off from the start with only a half-formed plan. After I messed up #1, I began enjoying it more as the pressure of needing to do really well was gone. The area was absolutely amazing- most of the course was in a fairly flat sand dune-like wood which reminded me of Culbin and Roseisle (without the spiders!). The beginning and end were rocky and steep, so it felt like a completely different area.
On Sunday evening, there was a buffet meal followed by the prize giving for the sprint and long events. After the prize giving, they put on some music to dance to, but people didn’t join in that much, instead staying at their tables and chatting.
On Monday was the relay at Spiegelsberge, an area that afforded both fast running with areas of fine navigation. I ran the third leg, so I watched the mass start from the side lines. The atmosphere was very intense. As the start time approached and the athletes lined up with their maps rolled up at their feet, they began loudly playing The Final Countdown, stopping abruptly when there were only five seconds until the race began, then there was the horn, and they were off! Both the men and the women started together, but the women were lined up behind the men.
Overall team GB came last by a significant margin as they had sent their second-tier athletes to gain experience while the other countries sent the same teams as they did to JWOC (Junior World Orienteering Champs). Across the whole event, there was great team spirit. I already knew the rest of the team and it was fun spending the weekend with them. I definitely learnt a lot: how I react under pressure and how much better I need to be to compete with athletes from the rest of Europe.
I was absolutely exhausted in my lectures on Tuesday, but it was absolutely worth it!!
Planning a Score Event
Score events are not everyone’s cup of tea but I love a score. So, I was happy to step in at the last minute to plan the North East Score at Fontburn.
Fontburn is quite a good area for score because it is generally runnable and has very few paths but the farm and out of bounds fields in the centre of the area adds a significant constraint.
For those unfamiliar with the format, you simply visit as many controls as you can in a fixed period of time, generally 60 minutes, sounds easy but in fact, I think it is one of the ultimate orienteering challenges. It’s literally a time trial ‘contre la montre’. You must know your own abilities and be able to reassess your plans always keeping one eye on the clock. Maximize your score and minimize your time, there is no time to switch off and coast.
Planning a score event sounds straightforward, just scatter a few controls over an area and let competitors choose their own route.
Generally, when planning linear courses it’s necessary to consider the length, climb and technical difficulty, route choice, attack points and control placement. A score event turns much of this on its head since the competitor has freedom to choose their own route.
Apart from control site choice the only influence that a planner has on the competitor’s decision-making is the value of each control. There are a number of approaches to this problem; either give each control 10 points and eliminate one element of choice or give them a range of values from 5 to 30 for example, thereby adding more choice. The second method allows the planner to entice the competitor to visit high value controls. Control values can be allocated by a simple rule/formula related to the distance from the start or on the perceived difficulty in finding/getting them.
The more controls, the more navigation required but if they are too close together then there is little route choice planning needed. As a planner it is important to try to get into the competitors mind, what strategy will they use to maximise their score? The faster runner will be optimistic and believe they can visit every control, however the average runner will have to be more selective and must feel they have a reasonable choice of controls.
After some consideration I opted to reduce the number of controls and have a spread of points. Rather than assign value to controls based on the distance from the start, I chose to distribute the points in a more random way. Most runners will attempt to plan a circular route with some zigzags taking in as many controls as possible. Faster runners hoping to get all the controls would be faced with a dilemma; should they go out of their way to get low scoring controls and risk being beaten by a competitor? I wanted to make runners pay attention to the values of controls rather than automatically assume that the most valuable controls were furthest away.
I was reasonably happy with the results and comments but in future I would probably allocate more points to some of the most distant controls to tempt people out and create more tension.
Introductory guide – which course should I choose…
A guide to choosing a course to run at an orienteering event.
Recent discussions about Edinburgh Big Weekend have reminded me how confusing signing up for a ‘big’ orienteering event can appear at first glance. Hopefully this guide will help! And if you are ever unsure, just ask someone within the club. Don’t ever be put off by the orienteering jargon…it does make sense, honest! And remember – the best course is one that you will complete safely and enjoy.
Using Edinburgh Big Weekend as an example, each of the three days describe the courses in a different way! On the Friday sprint it is Long, Short and Junior/Novice; on the Saturday Urban it is Course 1, Course 2 etc. with corresponding age categories; and on the Sunday classic long race it is Brown, Blue, Green, Short Green etc.
In a single weekend, this nicely covers the 4 main ways to describe courses… Below I detail these 4 ways…note that sometimes these ways are used in combination.
Option 1 – Colour Coded events. Probably the most common way to classify courses. The colour of the course determines the length and the technical difficulty (explained towards the bottom of this article). See the table below for a rough guide as to what you would expect for each colour for different event types.
Option 2 – Numbered/lettered courses. This is often used for urban events and sprint events (partly as the colour coded system is less suited since it often may not be possible to achieve technical difficulty greater than 3 in an urban setting). Also in large championships where there are many courses and they are usually in combination with age classes, see below. A single course number may be suitable for multiple age classes. The event details will give you information to choose the appropriate course such as course lengths/height gain, equivalent colour coding and/or age class.
Option 3 – Age Classes. This is often used for championships and may be in combination with colour coding or course numbers as described above. Classes are defined by age and gender. Note that competitors aged 20 or younger, leave an age class at the end of the calendar year in which they reach the given age (e.g. they remain in M/W14 until the end of the year in which they turn 14). They are eligible to compete in older classes up to and including 21. Competitors aged 21 and over, enter an age class at the start of the calendar year in which they reach the given age (e.g. they become M/W40 at the start of the year in which they turn 40). They are eligible to compete in younger classes down to and including 21. For some events an ‘Open’ category might be used to replace the categories running the longest course for that event (usually M18-M35 for men and W18-W35 for women).
Normally, you are able to run in non-eligible categories non-competitively. You may wish to run non-competitively if you wish to do a shorter course (and at age class events there are also often lower technical difficulty colour coded courses available too). If you run non-competitively you will still be given your time etc, but wont be eligible for any prizes or similar.
Option 4 – words! This way is generally used for smaller events such as the Friday Sprint at Edinburgh Big Weekend or our Come and Try it Events. It is probably the simplest to understand. The courses will usually be named helpfully – e.g. long and short or advanced, intermediate and beginner etc.. Often the distance/height gain or an equivalent colour coding (see above) will be given in the description.
Above the concept of technical difficulty (TD) is mentioned. A simple description of each of the ratings is given below:
TD 1 – Single obvious route which will follow paths with a control at every decision point.
TD 2 – Single obvious route which will follow obvious line features (paths, fences etc.) with at most two decision points per leg. Control can be on obvious point features clearly visible and close to the line feature.
TD 3 – Simple route choices required. Controls can be on any line feature or prominent point and contour features. All controls should be possible to find easily using an attack point from a line feature [note from the editor – an introductory guide to attack points and catching features would be great for the next edition if there are any volunteers!]
TD 4 – Should involve significant route choice with controls possible to be located on any features except those which require map reading through complex contour detail. There will be catching features on all controls so that errors should not result in significant loss of time.
TD 5 – Significant route choice, controls on any feature and may be located far from catching features so errors can result in significant time loss.
It is also worth noting that for standard orienteering events the course lengths given in the details are the shortest reasonably possible route between the controls – i.e. it is pretty much the straight line distance, avoiding uncrossable features. This means you will likely run an amount further to follow contours and paths. In contrast, for urban and sprint events the details should state the optimal distance that you would run to complete the course.
When choosing which course is most suitable for yourself, consider both the physical difficulty (taking into account that running over moorland terrain or similar will be a lot more effort than urban terrain) and the navigational difficulty. A course like the Long Orange is good for those who are new to the navigation, but have no issue with the running. On the other hand the short green may suit someone who is confident with the navigation, but maybe wishes to walk or simply run a shorter distance. Remember that urban events are often simpler navigationally – often those who are new to orienteering, but confident runners, may choose to run their suggested age category on an urban event, but run down a category or two on a classic long event.
General guidance suggests that a child would first try either the White or Yellow courses, whilst an adult beginner would try either the Yellow or Orange courses. For context, at the Come And Try It events last summer we aimed that the Novice course was Yellow, the intermediate Orange and the advanced Long Orange. Personally, I found that previous experience of navigation away from orienteering, attending activities such as club trainings and a willingness to take a slightly longer time than more experienced orienteers meant that I was happy to start with slightly more challenging courses. If going for this approach, consider choosing an early start to give yourself time to finish and choose an event in an area where you can safely relocate (our regional event in February should be good for this). As stated earlier the key is to choose a course which you can complete safely and enjoy!
Please send any contributions for the March newsletter to [email protected] by Wednesday 15th March.