Tag Archives: Charity Score Orienteering Event

Northern Navigators Charity Score Event, Houghall Woods, Monday, December 26, 2016


Patrick Hamill

Team Smitchard & Hamill braved the -3°C Boxing Day winds blowing 35 kph to conquer the steps of doom!

It was a windy, cold, horrible and foul day.  We parked at the top car park on the Science Site and could hardly stand in the wind.  After a while, we got a special gadget to check into the controls which were hidden in Houghall Woods.

There were lots of tricky places where the controls were hidden, with obstacles, slippery mud, hills and steps.  I also taught the grown ups a new technique to climb hills, “Climb like a tiger!”.

I was pretty pleased that I managed to run in my wellies alongside Captain Gareth – I think I’ll catch him at parkrun one day!

After a run along the top of the forest, we had to go into a gorge which was very deep.  We saw lots of other people, going in different directions, but luckily we had a compass and my Dad is good at reading maps.  We had to be back within an hour, or we would get penalties.  So, we decided to run up the steps of doom which were very tricky and tiring.

When we got to the top, we had to run fast across the car park towards the finish.  Then we queued up to get our scores and Gareth got me some chocolate!

Patrick Hamill (aged 7) #parkrunpat

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Charity Score Orienteering Event, Chopwell Wood, Saturday, December 26, 2015

1 hour

Dougie Nisbet

I should thank Paul, really. The forecast for today’s orienteering event was terrible and my ribs were a bit sore from an embarrassing 0mph bicycle falling-over-in-slow-motion mishap from Tuesday, and the cat was lying on my feet and the bed was nice and warm, so no point going to Chopwell and getting cold and wet, was there? Except that I’d promised Paul I’d pick him up at 0930, and the handy thing about offering to give someone a lift is that it means you cannot easily extract yourself from the arrangement with any sort of dignity when your excuse is you’d rather stay at home and drink tea.

The decision of my orienteering club to move the annual boxing day event from Durham back to Chopwell had not met with my approval and I fully expected to turn up and find a deserted swamp with people staying away rather than nip out to try their hand at a bit of orienteering. However a respectable 50 adventurers had turned out in the damp for a stomp around Chopwell so I was pleased to be proved wrong.

Paul and I were so early we sat in the car for a while and drank tea and coffee and watched the world go by until we were almost late and had to dash over and register before the 11AM start. Paul was wearing some pretty pitiful looking Fell Shoes ‘just one more wear’ that looked like they weren’t brought by Santa yesterday. He completed his attire by not wearing a watch. That could be tricky in a score event. This wasn’t for any reason of principle – he’d just forgotten to bring one. I feigned sympathy and pretended to look for a spare while realising that he’d have a very difficult time planning any sort of meaningful route when he didn’t know the time of day. For shame. I might make this two victories in a row!

16 controls foundThe 11AM start was that rare thing in an orienteering event, a mass start, which tends to only happen in Score events. Not dissimilar to the start of the Durham Three Peaks. We scattered to all points of the compass and I decided to go for a gentle clockwise sweep of the map picking up as many controls as I could. Route choice was interesting and tricky. All controls had the same value so there were no ‘high-value items’ to be had on the peripheries. Scrabble players would have found it no fun. With each minute late incurring a 10 point penalty, and each control being worth 10 points, the common mistake is to go over time and get a penalty. It’s rare in a score event that getting just one more control is worth the risk of an associated time penalty.

I nabbed 16 controls and got back with 24 seconds to spare, which I thought was pretty dandy. My route choice left a bit to be desired though, spending too much time chasing controls out on the periphery rather than mopping up easy ones close to the Finish. Camilla had struggled with the network of footpaths and the invariable confusion that arises when there are more footpaths on the ground than there are on the map. Judging when a trail is just a temporary trod or a permanent footpath is a difficult call, and it’s not every orienteering map that includes in its legend the rather ominous sounding powerline downhill bike track.

Paul takes his shoes out for a sole-destroying final outing

Paul got back with -13 seconds to spare, which cost him 10 points. Pretty good considering he wasn’t wearing a watch, or the correct number of shoes. He’d started wearing two shoes. And he’d finished wearing two shoes. More or less. Mostly less. His right shoe hadn’t held up well, or at all, and was now a shoe of two halves. As Peter Cook might once have said, I had nothing against his right shoe. Unfortunately, neither did Paul. He’d attempted a mid-race pit-stop to change shoes but sadly I’d taken the car-keys into the woods with me rather than leaving them at registration so that was more time lost for Paul. Still, Every cloud. Never one not to see the bright side of another’s misfortune I realised that this meant I got another victory. Two in a row!

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Charity Score Orienteering Event, Durham University, Friday, December 26, 2014

60 minutes score event

Oskar Määttä

Oskar at the finish. It was an early start being at Collingwood College car park by Durham University for 10:30, having been used to getting up for 12 every day of the holidays. Nevertheless I managed to haul myself out of bed for the orienteering event, gearing myself up with running clothes to complement the cold weather and a choice of trail shoes to combat the mud of Houghall forest. Although I have been a passionate runner for a few years now (at the age of sixteen) I have never exactly done orienteering, so it would be fun to try out and learn how different it actually is from regular cross country running.

Looking pensive.

I went down with my family, and we had agreed to split into two teams, composing of me and my brother Emil for one team and my parents Camilla and Arto forming the other. For my team, we had come to the agreement that Emil would do all the map-work and work out where to head next and I would run off to the controls to scan our E-tag when we spotted them. My parents had gone for a similar approach of tactics, with Arto mainly reading the map and Camilla mainly running to the controls.

Camilla keeping an eye on race winner Duncan Archer.

After having stood about at the car park for half an hour (and gotten somewhat chilly) it was time to set off, so everyone queued up to scan their E-tag and then grab a map and set off on their hunt – whether they be aiming for their fastest possible time or taking it as a relaxed walk. Emil and I weren’t taking it all too seriously, being it our first time properly orienteering, but we were still going to give our best efforts. Anyway, I scanned my E-tag to signal the start of our 1 hour time limit and then prepared to grab a map, but lo behold disaster had struck; they had ran out of maps! It may not have been the end of the world, but our 1 hour limit was already ticking down while we had no idea where to go, which is pretty near. We ended up admitting defeat and joining our parents to borrow their map (don’t tell them that this made it a defeat (only joking, it didn’t really make it a defeat)). However, before we got anywhere we found Scott and Dianne with their daughter, who had a spare map and were kind enough to give it to us, enabling us divide into our original groups again (they mustn’t have been aware that I am in fact from Jarrow & Hebburn AC rather than a fellow Strider, or they may not have given it to us!). We had lost a couple of minutes by this point, but it didn’t matter – we were just glad to be able to start properly.

My brother had plotted out a journey varying to that of our parents, as we had decided to trek out the furthermost control on the map in the edge of the forest, getting only a couple on the way, and working our way back collecting as many controls as we could in a steady loop, finishing with the ones around the colleges. This contrasted to Camilla’s and Arto’s plan as they started getting the nearby ones around the colleges first and slowly worked their way out to the forest, but with a longer run back at the end.

A good Strider turnout.

You could have said that we started well if we had not gone in the complete wrong direction and hit a dead end within a matter of 50 metres, and we hastily turned back to take a missed left turn up some steps. After a bit of prancing about like lost sheep, we did finally come to our first control which we later discovered was our longest split time of 5:40, despite not being particularly far from the start. We knew it was a slow start. However, we didn’t let it get in our way, and like true explorers we continued with a determination to do as well as we could.

Paul and Co.

The chemistry between me and Emil was a good one and our tactic was working out well: I would be running just out in front and he was running behind telling me which direction to go, and when a control was nearby he would tell me whereabouts it was. When I spotted it I would run off towards it and scan my E-tag on it, meanwhile he would plan out which direction to go next. Admittedly, I didn’t do any map-work whatsoever, but in retrospect this was probably for the best as judged by a knowledge of my navigation skills (a couple of years ago I was in the Lake District with the school and on one day we did an event that I wouldn’t call orienteering but it was similar. My friend and I misread a map and got lost for 20 minutes).

Dave Melanie and Jan.

The terrain was quite demanding in the forest. As if the slippy mud wasn’t enough, there were hills of all sorts of gradients that had to be ran up and down then up again. I daresay my brother enjoyed watching me struggling up a hill to get to a control whilst he got to stand at the bottom planning which hill to send me up next (at least it was fun to surf back down in a landslip of dirt). Although it would be exaggerating to call it a death trap, there were some well disguised sticks and logs amongst the mud that fooled me in the demanding terrain and it had me stumbling about several times. There was fortunately much more welcoming terrain in other areas, as you got the grassy fields and eventually the glorious concrete floor by the colleges as you get closer to the start/finish.

Time for a quick warm up.

There was a humorous time just 10 minutes before w had to be back where we were searching a specific control when going up the pathway parallel to the uphill road of the science site, separated only by a patch of forest. Somewhere amongst these trees was a control but we couldn’t seem to find it. As it turns out, Emil had somehow ended up turning the map upside down and so was looking at it from the wrong perspective. No wonder we couldn’t find it! After adjusting the map we did find it, and tried to start increasing our pace as we knew we didn’t have particularly long left. We knew we had already definitely missed out 4 controls, which we had decided to miss out knowing that we wouldn’t have the time, but we had two routes available for us to the finish: one which would leave out 2 of the remaining controls, and the other which would get all of what was left but obviously would take slightly longer.

We ended up taking the route with less controls as we only had a couple of minutes left at the point of this decision, and time started getting really tight and our pace was picking up. After getting all the speculated controls I saw that I had about 30-40 seconds to sprint up the hill and up to the finish. There wasn’t too much for my legs to give having constantly ran about the forest but I applied a boost of speed in this final sprint in attempt to get within an hour (as a 10 point penalty is given for every minute late, essentially subtracting the points worth of 1 control). I scanned my E-tag to make my wrist move faster than I could ever imagine it to and immediately checked the time on my watch. It showed to be out by 9 seconds. The exact time printed out for us was 60:07. If we were 7 seconds faster we wouldn’t have received the 10 point penalty, and to think that we lost at least a minute at the start while we didn’t have a map!

Bringing in the Controls.

We completed it with 24 controls out of 30 and scoring 230 points (although we were on the moral high-ground that it should’ve been 240 points), which we were still very proud of. We found Camilla and Arto and found that they had got 21 controls (even though Camilla’s watch died halfway through so they had to guess at what time to go back, by which they reckon they might’ve gotten a couple more). In any case we had won the friendly family battle, but most importantly of all we had lots of fun and look forward to going orienteering again some time!

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Boxing Day Charity Score Event, Durham University Estates, Sunday, December 26, 2010

30 controls in 60 minutes

Dougie Nisbet

If you want a bit of fartlek or a few intervals then you can’t do better than entering an orienteering competition. It takes care of all that for you. Set it in Houghall Woods and you’re guaranteed a few lung-busting hill reps too. Today I ran the Northern Navigators Annual Boxing Day Charity Score Event at Durham University Estates and it was great stuff. Very simple: you have to get as many ‘controls’ as you can in the 60 minutes. That’s it. Route choice is up to you. I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of an orienteer but I’m really not that good and I do have a tendency to get completely over-excited and run around like an eejit. They don’t call orienteering Cunning Running for nothing and on several occasions today I noticed I was being re-overtaken by competitors who’d engaged some brain cells, whereas in my case if a compass bearing says to go straight through a dense holly thicket, then through the thicket I go, only occasionally emerging from the other side. I discovered today how strong the red stringy bit is on a compass when I snagged it on a shrub while I was sliding down the hill. It held fast around the tree and my wrist and yanked me to an undignified halt. I must’ve looked ridiculous trying to reach up with my other hand to dislodge this tiny bit of string from the twig.

I managed to get 20 out of the 30 controls with 75 seconds to spare (you get heavy time penalties if you are out for more than an hour). I probably made a bad route choice in Houghall Woods and did a bit of steep energy-sapping zig-zagging when I should’ve been striding a longer route. But it was great fun and a great way to pass an hour and see lots of bits of Great High Wood that I didn’t know existed.

[Dougie finished in a very good 12th place. Ed]

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