NATIONAL EVENT WHITE DOWNS
25 FEBRUARY 2007
Let's get the abject apologies out of the way first!
We ran out of maps on course 3. It seems that the official responsible for
ordering, and checking, the maps, convinced himself that the M18L class
was on course 2. So we had too many maps for course 2 and not enough for
course 3. It shouldn't have happened, and we can only say sorry.
We “mugged” a few course 3 finishers to get a supply
of maps, so everyone who waited did get their run on course 3. However,
it's not the ideal preparation, being all psyched up for a start at one
time, and eventually going off an indeterminate time later. I hope it
didn't spoil your day.
We also had a shortage of maps on the Red course.
This course did have an adequate number of maps printed, so it seems that
some got lost somewhere, or possibly a group entering as one took a map
On the subject of maps, I think we have all learnt
today that waterproof maps are not mudproof. We did provide bags at the
start, so at least you had the option of taking one.
One person on course 1 reported being challenged by
the gamekeeper while passing close to the out-of-bounds area. The 'keeper
had asked us to steer clear of his bird pen, hence the OOB, but it seems
that he has recently stocked a second pen of which I was not aware. Again,
I can only apologise, both to him and to you, and hope it didn't spoil
My final apology is to the more frail people on the
Light Green course, who had trouble with control 235. I thought very
carefully about which classes should be expected to cope with steep
slopes. My error was to think only in terms of National Event classes, so
I was thinking about what a young and bouncy W14A could manage, completely
forgetting Light Green, which is the favoured course of people who for
whatever reason find even the 'S' course for their age too tough. Clearly
not good people to send up a muddy re-entrant on the side of a quarry.
A thought for the guideline writers, now that we have
M/W21V (V for Very Short) courses, perhaps we should also have a veteran V
class? This could run the same course as W75, in other words the shortest
and physically easiest of the technical courses. This course is about the
same length as W14A/W16B/Light Green, but (if the terrain permits TD5)
technically harder, and more obviously needs to be physically easy. My
guess is that many of the present Light Green customers would prefer such
a course; I may be wrong of course, what do the people who ran Light Green
Apart from the things which went wrong, it seemed
that most of it was OK. Scant consolation if you were one of those
affected by problems, I'm sure. Still many of you were kind enough to say
how much you enjoyed my courses.
I was brought up on the edge of White Downs, and used
to walk in the woods as a child. So I've been wanting to plan there since
I got into orienteering. Unfortunately, we were denied access to a central
part of the forest, due to felling operations which actually finished
three months ago. This blocked us off from the areas closest to my
More importantly, it also prevented us from using the
bus stop in the middle of the area which was used for the 1999 National
Event. We had a long and fruitless search for a field in which we could
park you all adjacent to the map, followed by debates about exactly where
buses could get to and turn round. You have now visited the bus stop which
we eventually decided was the only practical option.
The drawback of this site is that it is on the fringe
of White Downs, indeed the previous round of mapping placed it on Ranmore
Common and not White Downs at all. It is linked to the main area by a
fairly narrow corridor of forest through which one would not ideally route
around 1,000 people in both directions.
However, with the uncertainties that bussing
introduces into your arrival in time for your start, and the possibility
of seasonal weather, I thought a large shelter close to the start was
essential. Since a large shelter is difficult to carry, that meant start
close to the bus stop. I also hate a significant walk back to a bus stop;
queuing for the bus in the rain is bad enough when you're still warm from
your run; if you've had time to cool off, it's really unpleasant, even if
re-clad from the clothing dump. So, finish close to the bus stop too.
The good thing about starting in the east of the area
is that it permitted almost all courses to visit what I believe to be the
most pleasant bit of the forest, the “white” bluebell wood each side of
the north/south road. I tried to make as much use of this as possible.
For the technical courses, my main aim was to keep
you off paths and tracks, while still providing some long legs with plenty
of route choice. Inevitably a track route must be an option on a long leg,
but I tried to make sure it was a slower one. Recent weather helped in
this, I think forest was much faster than quagmire today!
With both start and finish in a narrow corridor, and
another area being used as much as possible, parts of the forest saw a lot
of people. I tried to reduce processions by using relay-style “gaffling”,
so that if you got in with somebody on another course following broadly
the same route, at least you had to navigate to different control sites
We had some debate about course length. My original
target length was based on the results from the previous White Downs event
in 1999, but I felt the resulting courses were a little short. Controller
Dave however thought the lengths about right, so they stayed as they were.
We did agree that it is better to err on the short side in mid-winter.
Planning was just about complete when storms
flattened part of a plantation through which most courses passed on the
first or second leg. Had this been a few weeks earlier, we would have
moved the start or finish west of the windblow and made you suffer the
walk, but this would have meant substantial replanning of every course to
reinstate lost length. It was just too late to contemplate this, so I was
confined to re-jigging some of the early controls, and dropping one for
which the description changed from “clearing” to “pile of fallen trees,
middle”. I also sawed the tops (the trunk was too thick further down) off
some of the trees which had fallen over the track to the the south of the
plantation so that you could squeeze by.
Many people deserve my, and your, thanks, including
Michael White for coping with every problem thrown his way; Mike Elliot
for producing an excellent map; and Dave Stubbs for his helpful
suggestions, and patience in the face of a succession of missed deadlines.
And many others, apologies for not attempting to list you all here.
Most of all, I would like to thank the competitors. I
do enjoy planning, but it would be rather pointless if nobody ran the
courses. I'd like to know where you went, please use the Route Gadget link
from the event results page.
Right, got that out of the way, time to pick up on
the backlog of outstanding things from “normal” life – Oh drat, just
remembered that in a moment of weakness I agreed to plan a street-O in
Ian Ditchfield, MV
This was a major undertaking for a club of the size
of Mole Valley. It was only possible through the voluntary assistance
given by many members of the Mole Valley Orienteering Club. A big thank
you to all of them. I think our guests enjoyed their day. We handled a
large number of people efficiently and safely.
Thank you to the landowners for allowing us to use
their land – Wotton Estate, the National Trust, the Forestry Commission
and Tilhill Forestry Ltd. Thank you to Jim Storrar of Wotton Estate, Rob
Hewer of the National Trust and Nick Rudley of Tilhill Forestry. And
thanks also to Friends Provident for allowing us to use their facilities.
Thank you to Countryliner for providing an efficient
bus service. To Adrian Moir for the internet entry system which worked
well. 90% of the entries by internet. To Judith Powell for drawing up the
start list and making last minute changes efficiently. To the members of
the Dorking Division of the St John Ambulance Service who voluntarily gave
up their Sunday to assist us.
Finally a big thank you to Mike Elliot for drawing an
excellent new map for which many appreciative comments were received.
Michael White, MV
Firstly, the planner Ian Ditchfield was very organised and gave me
little to do except check sites in the wood. I thought he used the terrain
well and planned excellent courses. The times, in general, were as
expected, including M21L which at 66 minutes was quicker than the
guidelines and showed that the course could have been 1km longer. However,
due to possible adverse weather, the course was kept on the shorter side.
The organisation was slick and Michael White had already set in motion
everything I was concerned about before I asked the question. Well done
Michael and all of Mole Valley.
Although very late, I felt the map in general was excellent and
represented the terrain well. However it was still affected by ongoing
forestry work and January gales in some areas. Hopefully this did not
significantly affect competitors' enjoyment of the area.
I must thank Katy for giving up her run and assisting prior to and
during the weekend.
Dave Stubbs, BKO