Sunday, 24 April 2016

Hardwick Hall - CLOK Summer League - 21 April 2016

Having planned the courses , Kate Hampshire Wright ran the long course on a non competitive basis - which explains why she is apparently not putting much effort in on the run to the line.

A good turnout from NN to round 2 of CLOK's summer league at Hardwick Hall close by Sedgefield. Probably one of the finest evenings of the year to date and a huge contrast from the frozen wastes of Whitby for CLOK's event on the preceding Saturday. T shirts and shorts weather for a frenzied run round Hardwick Hall Park on courses planned by our very own Kate Hampshire Wright .
Thanks to David Aspin of CLOK / New Marske Harriers for the excellent paparazzi work on show here - as well as to CLOK for a fine evening event which was deservedly  well supported.
A pensive Saskia Warren , speeds towards control 2.

Debbie Warren takes the long route round the pond to avoid being speared by the statue

A fumble at the first control costs seconds to add to the lacksadaisical start - things can only get better...

Captured in  athletic profile is Dougie Nisbet - using those  shades for extra streamlining to save a few more seconds

One of NN's squad of super fast girls , Yolanda Hampshire Wright provides a great running partner for Hannah.

An inauspicious start for our NN Chairman , Nigel Wright , who consults a bystander (Chris Clynes)  about where he is . He's probably only looking for the cafe anyway which doesn't need a map just a quick check of his surrounds.The sign reading 'start' may provide some assistance if he gets really stuck !

Is that it ? As NN coach , Julian Warren , comes to a crashing halt at the finish

It'll be getting dark soon , so Nigel Wright dispenses with the map and relies on instinct to speed to the finish.

This must be the right way - instinct tells me that  cameraman Dave Aspin surely has placed himself on the track to the next control. Now to hunt down Kate Hampshire Wright who must know the course....

Quite a treat for Michael Thompson to finish off a race with a sprint - as opposed to dragging his body weight in mud to the finish on his shoes as happened recently at the North eastern cross country champs

What most other competitors usually see of the famous NN shirt !

Monday, 23 August 2010

NATO - Bike O at Capheaton 24 July 2010

Now in it's 5 th year - the biggest event in the cycling calendar in July is not the Tour de France , but the NATO Bike O. This time Richard Field and his team were back at Capheaton - and just to complicate things even more for the competitors , Richard had timed it to coincide with a racing cycle event on the lanes in and round Ryal.
This was the best turn out for this event with about 30 competitors from across the local O clubs. Some had an unfair advantage - such as Alastair Wilson-Craw - who probably had hundreds of bikes to pick from at his organisation down at Byker. Alastair settled for a sprint cycle - and was able to get away with it ! Others turned up on the usual mixed bag of racers , hybrids and MTBs.
It's always great to have an orienteering event in the middle of another competition and our bike/orienteers were going so fast it was hard to tell us apart from the pros - although we were probably all a bit scruffier than the lycra legends and our bikes were just a bit cheaper.
For sure Alberto Contador would've struggled on this O course - without a big red car to follow. It would mix things up a bit on the TdF to slot in an O event for one of the days -and definitely catch anyone out who was on drugs!
Starting late is often an advantage at an O event as you can seek out elephant tracks when navigation fails - and the bike event is no exception as it gave the early riders the chance to knock back the nettles surrounding a couple of the controls for the late runners.
Next year's is slated for Mitford with Adrian Barnes as the controller scheduled to take the blame for any bad navigation !
Results are on the NATO web.
Here's some photos:

The NATO banner marking the start and finish.It would've been handy if they could have placed it on the top of that telgraph pole for the final run in!
This was the finish area for the 'real' cycle race - with the marshall asleep. Not too much activity here. It would've been good to have slotted in a control somewhere on this length of road.....

One of Richard's controls - and it's not that often that you get an O control at a phone box - in fact there aren't too many phone boxes left so this could be a final chance. Richard had helpfully left an emergency number with the map - and I was sorely tempted.... (In fact I was probably disqualified at this point - as the rules are that you should remain in physical contact with your bike at all times).

Here comes the peloton up Ryal bank - I guess they are looking for the control at the graveyard?? I just hope the organisers have enough pin punches - otherwise there could be a rumpus.

Which way from here ? Nice to have some place names on an O event - would make things a bit easier on some of the moorland courses.

Whew ! At the finish - and a great cuppa tea and an apple slice at Capheaton Cafe. Over for another year !

And here is next year's machine - the Pink Pearl ! Let's hope it's a hot day - to enjoy the ices !

Monday, 18 January 2010

Hamsterley - Low Redford & Windy Bank - 18 October 2009

No - this was not an 'easy' control. Instead it was the rig set up by Boris to demonstrate his much loved EMIT system
All the great Autumn colours - including the red and white .

What a fine monument to finish with - and no problems here in setting up our banner!!
Weather - 14 deg C no wind - bright and sunny
A truly glorious golden Autumn day - with Hamsterley forest at its very best.
With the pleasant winding road to the start through the bright glades and swards it was like a movie set from New England in October. The type of movie where the actors' faces glow as much as the foliage - but 'behind closed doors' things aren't quite so rosy or a rabbit's boiling in a pot.
The night champs which preceded the day event had gone off well - with an unusually high number - 22 entrants. Well done to Boris and Rob for running the show.
Boris was back in the white command module for the day event - directing the organisation with military precision. Unusually for an NN event , the start was within quick march distance from registration. A shortage of our youngsters on the day meant that the start didn't have it's usual magic. Fortunately, the compact set up meant we didn't need as many junior couriers to ferry orders back and forth as we usually did.
It was a fine turn out with all the local clubs well represented. In fact it was the biggest turn out of the year at an NN event. For sure the weather helped.
Hamsterley in and round the river has very mixed deciduous woodland - it is not until you stray away from the main road that you hit the skin piercing pines. Rob's courses took the runners through some fine holly bushes (literally) and along that fine beech avenue. The courses were blessed with a lack of brambles - quite a nice change from some of the cloth wrenching forest runs in the north east.
While on the subject of brambles ( a subject close to the backside and legs of most orienteers) , I caught a quick snatch of a broadcast one evening on the R4 nature programme. A botanist from Kew Gardens was discusing hybridisation of plants ( mainly whitebeam trees ) - in respect of which (rather like gloom) , the Welsh seem to have a lot of. He then went on to brambles - mentioning that there are so many sub species of the genus , Rubus, through hybridisation - that it would take anyone a life time to study them. Of course that's probably true if you work at Kew Gardens - where I dare say there's not a bramble within caber tossing distance of the perimeter of the gardens. Not much scope for researching the Rebus there.
Brambles are probably a subject worth developing a little further - perhaps from a botanist. I'll look into that ! It may make an interesting diversion while trying to track down that triacky control.
Rob has many theories about brambles ( though like many of Rob's theories - they usually have no basis in fact and are based on suspicion). One of these is that brambles are not attracted to undisturbed deciduous forest. Maybe he's basing this on his treks around Hamsterley ( for sure not Chopwell) - I feel certain it was not on the syllabus of his electrical engineering course ( but who knows).
The day was to be enjoyed. Bob was the best runner from a diminished NN squad on the blue - and Barnaby took top honours among the youngsters on the light green. Jonny Malley (EBOR) was so terrified of the brown - he opted instead for the Durham Fell runners fell race ( about 10K or so) up towards Doctors' Gate. Unfortunately for Jonny - runners can follow you a lot more easily on a fell race and you can't take any short cuts ! Mind you the first 15 minutes of constant climbing was a lung buster on a warm day. At least with orienteering you can take a breather...........
DFR are well worth checking out - they run some good events out of Hamsterley ( as well as other areas) and do things in a very NN way - very relaxed and unfussed.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Cragg Estate & Chesterhope Common - NN - 7 June 09

One of Rob's more obvious controls : ' long grass tip'. One of the others was hidden behind a black Angus
Always nice to have the final control by a line feature - makes it easy. But this shot was taken from the 4 th to last control on Blue.....the 3 rd last was located about 800 m away in the middle of 4 re entrants.....
This was a good shot as I almost tripped up Patrick Smyth as he headed for this one - that would have made a better shot !
These were the only crags I could find on the Cragg estate ....
This was obviously the start. Saskia ran this like clockwork with her frozen looking deputy. Saskia - make sure your assistants colour co ordinate next time.

Cloudy but brighter later with southerly BF 4/5 Temp 15 deg C Brisk.

This is the somewhat delayed report of the last NN event.

Dave had booked a June date for this to avoid 'the bl**dy awful weather we get up there every time we run an event there in the Autumn'. Dave then breezed off on a cruise somewhere off the Balearics - swapping his compass for quoits.

Well, the weather at Cragg was good if you rolled in late as I did. Those lucky enough to be tasked with the organisation faced driving rain on an edgy wind. Heading west from a booking at an earlier triathlon event ( mainly dry - apart from the swim) - the wipers ground away on the SAAB as I cruised in.

It worked. By the time I got out the car . the sun then came out - and visibility was clear way up towards Scotland

Cragg is a really top area - with lots of old earth workings left over from mining - giving a huge area of finger like ridges. This is the left overs from the short lived Ridsdale Ironworks - see link below . Seems that the business failed due to its remote location - which is the reason usually given for closing any business these days in Wales.

It's big claim to fame was to have supplied the iron for the High level Bridge. The bridge has been shut the last few years and only recently re-opened. It seems the iron was pretty much ok - but the asbestos cladding ( not from Ridsdale ) caused a big headache for the renovators.

Anyway here's the link :

With the absence of our military supremo , Boris , we were reduced from the multi task white van to adopting CLOK style maroon tent for the operations centre with Phill Batts and Rob in charge. Rob had shoved a control on one of his longer courses in a depression outside the tent flaps - so he could time the approach of the long legged runners from the crest of the hill as they headed from the mine working section and through into the more rustic area with the beefy cattle.

The open area provided some fast running and it was good to have a river as a defined western boundary. It was quite an up and down affair but not of the nose bleed variety .

Attendance was a bit on the low side for one of the truly better areas in Northumberland.

Good results though from all the youngsters ( again ) wth Saskia, Jeneba and Maya on yellow. Barnaby flew in with the best l green time of the juniors - by a long way. Bob put in his steady blue run.

Very little now until the autumn - other than for those heading to Perth for the Scottish 6 days.

Have a good summer and back in the fall .

Monday, 1 June 2009


This is an article from Saturday 30 May's FT - in their 'pursuits' section. (The FT doesn't do sports or hobbies - and pursuits suggests something far more serious and worthy like maybe fox hunting or cribbage )

The FT's hard pressed readers (cover price £2) are also getting whacked by the recession . To ease the pain arising from Crash Gordon's tax hike and the collapse in their property portfolios - they've taken a look at few pursuits that have the beauty of being cheap.

O has done rather well on the cheapness scale - in the competition with running' table tennis or wiff waff,kite flying and something called capoeira ( Well they had to come up with something wacky just to show it's a serious paper ). The printed edition included an Action Man style compass - but they seem to have got a proper Silva one for the web page.

In fact for cheapness O tied with kite flying for first place on the cheap scale . I guess the only similarity between th 2 is that we also use kite on our events - but the ones used in kite flying are easier to find . Maybe we should combine O with kite flying to make it cheaper still by marrying their skills and their kites to a controller's.
FT even report of events costing £1 to enter. That should get Sir Fred to open his wallet . Although I can't ever recall a £1 event apart from the Chopwell CATI.

I'm a bit mystified about why running (three £ signs for cheapness) is worse than O ( one £ sign for cheapness) when both need running shoes ( the running bit grinds on about sports bras as being an additional cost for runners - but presumably only female ones) and running doesn't need a compass ,clothes that don't get ripped in brambles and a big petrol tank in the car to get you to the Lakes and back.
They refer to O as being 'cunning running' - so cunning obviously that it works out a lot cheaper than 'running' when it needs more and better equipment. Such financial wizard skills could be used at Crash's Treasury - or maybe they were and that's why we're in a mess now.
Caroline Povey at BOF is quoted merrily telling the FT that it is a mental challenge. So after the bright readers brush aside the FT crossword , ease by the Sudoko and the pages of company stats - the next challenge (for the Sunday morning) would be running round forest trying not to get lost and counting all those pennies saved.

Sunday, 17 May 2009


Bright with SE 4 /5 winds Temp 12 deg C

This is from the official Forestry Commission website's introduction to Sneaton :


Sneaton Forest combines the traditional diversity of old oak and ash forest with modern pine and spruce plantations.


The previous weekend, Chris Wright of CLOK had mentioned the event . He said it was a good area and had been renamd Parsley Wood - which sounds a bit cosier than Sneaton Forest - conjuring up an image of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall plucking bits of weed for his kitchen and pretending he knows how to cook it.

I didn't see Chris Wright on the day - but maybe he got confused by the name change.

Changes of name are usually associated with an attempt to erase a past negative history : Windscale to Sellafield; British Leyland to Austin Rover; Labour to New Labour; Conservative to David Cameroon's Conservatives; Gideon to George Osborn; Katie Price to Jordan . Some of them work ok - like Gideon to George. Others just continue to carry the same bad whiff associated with the old one. Which was it for CLOK - in an area (apparently notorious by the standards of Forestry Commission 'managed' sites ).

So It's Sneaton and Parsley.

Maybe CLOK have hit upon a good idea with this - so we can start renaming some of our areas to make them look new or as an ad man would say ( with a nose for cash but little else) to freshen them up a bit .

It looked bad on the way in . Th FC had cropped some areas with the usual post nuclear devastation (see photo) - and the only non pine I saw, were a couple of wind sown downy birches.

The CLOK personnel were cheerful in their blue tent with Alastair Mackenzie amazingly there at 11 am (1 1/2 hours before the starts closed) - which surely meant that the brown course was going to prove to be difficult. A few asked where I'd been - worryingly that was before I had set off.Lots of comment about how pleased the planner was with the area . The planner was unable to answer my immediate question - about whether he'd seen any parsley in Parsley's Wood when he was out 'planning'- or whether the Parsley was the herb surname of some way gone Yorkshire farmer . I said I'd keep my eyes open for the parsley and bring some back if I found any .

It was a leisurely start - grinding along drainage ditches in a dense claustrophobic spruce forest. As usual there was the occasional brutish patch of newly sown spruce just to mix things up. Things did get better as on the south side of a beck there was a good slice of open woodland which was good running. Presumably the FC couldn't squeeze in their regular geometric stands in this uneven broken area. Some bits looked as if they could get over run with brackenas the season wore on - but at least currently it was well down.

One of the classic controls was 'distinctive tree' - with that stylised outline of a Christmas tree as the IOF symbol. Not a frequent control on courses. But the conifer can also represent a distinctive deciduous tree - IOF not having sub categorised the disticntive tree symbol into coniferous, deciduous ( one of those candy floss on a stick would work ) and maybe something for larches - with maybe leaves dropping off a conifer. IOF seem to churn out any number of symbols for walls and fences that I'm sure this sub category of tree could work. Probably going a bit too far to sub categorise it even more .

The FC had achieved a super result with the distinctive tree. In a clearing in a block of spruce stood the blackened statue of an oak. It became apparent on closer inspetion that the FC had not yet worked out the difference between conseravtion and preservation. The original pioneer forresters as they laid out their grid iron had clearly deided that the tree was special . So to achieve the double objective of preserving it and making sure that no one but CLOK planners would ever find it - they had run their columns of spruce around it leaving the oak a bit of breathing space. So far so good . But 60 years later the spruce had outgrown the oak - at a fast rate. So high in fact that any light to the oak had been curtained out. No sunshine - no photosynthesis - and the tree left out to hang. Super management.

The rest of the run was mixture of some nice open strips , twisting through bits of pine and a nice gladey run through some sitka with the ditch mounds clothed in bilberry ( another name change now to blueberry just to satisfy our American friends who can just about cope with colours - but probably a retrograde name change)..

It was a decent area to run but with some hazards and one area of really rough pine forest. Overall times were a little slow and for our contingent it was again Barnaby and Bob who most impressed from our team.

On the name change , NATO seem to be adopting a reworking of the their brand name to N&TO - which looks a little like B&B - the bankrupt bank - or just b&b for a night's bed. Not sure the & works - ever. Not even the CLOK people bothered with it in the reworked name for Sneaton.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009


Bright sunny 11 deg C Light westerly

Day 2 of NATO'S Kielder experience :impenetrable low slung Norwegian spruce slashing needle cuts in arms ; bogs of treacle ; pesto marshes ; mud ; gulley ditches with uphill flowing frothy booze ; slippery fallen trees felled by the Jumblies whose heads are green and hands are blue and who went to sea in a sieve.

There was the added bonus of a hummocky , lumpy grassy area with dozy looking cows pondering oblivion . Then the finish at Leaplish on Dave's map etched in as a tiny footnote to Colin's masterpiece.

The event was planned by that most gentle of gentlemen Alastair Wilson- Craw of fame. He managed to come up with some physical brutes of controls but didn't seem too bothered about it.

Bob and I got there in fair time (usual 90 minute drive there) - only to find a 3 km stroll into the start - along the brand new bike track . Really fine job . It really is worth getting the mountain bikes up there. Quite a few of the gates had been left open ( and it couldn't have been us orienteers as we always jump over fences rather than take gates). This was down to the bike anti gate warrior that we came across heading north west who thought it was her job to object to the presence of gates on HER bike track. Probably more important things for her to worry about - with the Daily Mail going up in price next week which should really upset her even more. Bob was left to engage with her - as he's the diplomat.

At the start the NATO staff issued helpful warnings about NOT to cross the stream between 12-13 but to proceed down river to the bridge that was cunningly unmarked on Colin's map. Very tricky . It's always the bits off the map that are truly worth exploring. Unusual for NATO to give any warnings - other than to me for the time of course closure.

I took the brown course - and first run after having missed most of the winter with injuries , trips away and a month long bug. Thankfully Bob took blue and the first control was the same - so up and running ( but only on the tracks - forest as dense as ever). It was slow going in places with the real adventure trying to work out which ditches were mapped.You are left to wonder how the forestry people managed to plant only 1 species of pine and 1 of spruce - when there must be at least 50 of each with some really dramatic names.

The course exploited the sharp ridge to the north east to the full with planners having fun dragging runs up and across. The real hammer was a 40 metre ascent to the ridge with mud and loose ground giving way underfoot and my first and only swear word of the day. It was a real struggle but then - best bit of the course - a run through 250 metres of an open grassy larch glade ( isn't that the name of a toilet cleaner). Pity the rest of Kielder wasn't the same. I felt like running round it a few times to stretch the legs - normally I would but more down to a failure to consult the map.

Then the stream crossing . As my legs are longer than most then the good 'advice' could be ignored as it had to be quicker than the bridge . We all learnt a lot about river crossings/hydrography on Rob's course at Cong Burn in Feb this year . Rob reckons rivers should be crossed on one of his courses at least 5 times and usually only after there has been sustained snow upstream for 4 days . He usually reserves you the option of a motorway bridge 2 miles downstream or a handout on how to make a raft.He doesn't accept any refusal to cross a stream in flow.

Plenty of sticks around to dip the crossing - and looking a bit like a water diviner who has found water. Rule 1 of rivers is to cross up stream of rapids unless you are Harrison Ford ( good pun) which means you are very stupid and cross the rapids themselves. I come to rule 2 in a minute. So with about 25 m to cross - so far so good but quite wet already. Rule 2 says the water on an outer bank of a river bend is always deeper than the inner . Now the problem as the water sloshed around the upper thighs. Up on the bank and surely a few seconds gained . Surely worth it.

The other highlights were crossing paths with Debbie while running through a dense patch of forest - which meant I was surely near a control - and also got a warm cheer. Then the bad news - stab from some rusty barbed wire resulting in an early morning tetanus jab from a hefty nurse who also took my blood pressure 'as it could be that we can give you some dietary advice to reduce your weight if your blood pressure is high' . Yes sure. What advice are you taking on this?

( Incidentally, Debbie had no sympathy when she explained Julian's absence as due to a splinter at an event the previous month that had caused a blood infection - so maybe I was unusually cautious on this. At least I didn't have to update Julian on the Baltic Dry Index ).

Best day's performance by NN, was young Barnaby Warren who blazed his way to beat the biggest field of all on the day on the light greens and was rewarded with an ice cream.

My reward was standing in the reservoir trying to wash the mud off most of the lower half of my body . But then on a fine warm day who needs to rush these things.