Saturday, 12 January 2008

O-a-blog™ (SN, Ash South)

I was reflecting on the fact that 2008 is my fifth year of orienteering (though still my zeroth year of being any good at it, but hey).

I agonized over whether to go today - it seemed hard to fit in - but my word I am really pleased that I did. This was a local Southern Navigators event at Ash, down near Aldershot in Surrey. As you can see from the map this is a wooded area with army firing ranges next to it. The red flags were flying and there was indeed shooting going on, but not enough to spoil things. It's a lovely area with lots of interesting valleys and stuff. And it was yet another lovely sunny morning - very difficult to imagine a nicer day or place.

I did a course they called Light Blue. Not one I have encountered before but the only harder-than-Orange courses they had were Light Green and Light Blue. They reckoned their Light Blue was something like Green, indeed I am not quite sure why it wasn't. I orienteered quite well, but slowly. I hope I am not last but, as I have said before, the whole point is that even if it turns out I was, it will not detract even a touch from the enjoyment I've already had. This is one of the big features, for me, of this extraordinary sport.

When I say I did quite well - for example, I made one stupid navigational error of the Route Choice Oops variety. I took what looked like a sensible short route but forget about those little brown wiggly lines - contours I think they call them. Silly Vogel. So I went down a seriously steep descent into a pretty valley, along the bottom of the said valley for a hundred metres, then up out of its other side up another fairly nightmare climb. With just a few nanoseconds' thought I could have got to the same place going round the top end of the same valley with no change in level and maybe just a few metres further, arriving (almost) fresh as a daisy and minutes earlier. Oh well. (6 to 7 on the top map extract.)

At another control I overshot a fair bit, which was silly - I had been counting paces but must have just got a bit confused, and foolishly I did not use other cues which would have double-checked the pace-counting. I then backtracked to the control and found it gone - that is, it has been nicked. Rather annoying, and difficult to see the point - was it vandalism-for-fun, vandalism-to-make-a-point, theft in the hope of profit (do they sell a lot of these down the pub?) or what? Bizarre, and rather sad.

Update: Southern Navigators had three controls stolen that day - they lost a total of £200+ worth of equipment. As I say: bizarre.

On the other hand I was pleased that when the same route choice thing happened again I had wised up sufficiently to find a nice easy route along the contour rather than diving miles down and up again.

There was one control (13) that I found very hard - I got all mixed up coming out of 12 and although I thought I had a strategy it fell apart quite fast under pressure, leaving me quite disorientated. There was a fiddly little network of paths and I found it very hard to see where I was in it. I did then think of an approach which I felt sort of might work, and I ended up, well, not quite where I thought I should be, but in a recognizable and recoverable-from place (the open bit SE of 3) , and thus got it back together, in a way that I found quite pleasing given how clueless I often am in these sticky corners.

Tomorrow I may be going on some slightly more serious-sounding event in Kent. I should have registered for it ages ago but have been a bit out of things. It is possible that I will be able to EOD (enter on the day) if I get there early enough. Let's see if I make it.

Coffee note: I left in such a flap this morning that I had no time to make a flask of coffee, chiz. Afterwards I was gasping for one. I had already noted with some interest that I was driving along near the Basingstoke Canal so when I saw a sign to the Canal Authority's Visitor Centre I followed it hoping to find coffee there. No luck, in fact no luck two ways - it is open weekdays only in winter, plus the Tea Room is currently shut anyway! Oh well. It does, however, look a good place to drop in some time, and the little canal corner it occupies, accompanied by the railway, is very attractive. I drove on, but soon after that I followed a sign to The Quayside. This is a watersports place on an old gravel pit and has a very pleasant bar/restaurant/thing, so I had my coffee looking out over this lovely lake with birdies and what have you. Eleven out of ten.

Results note: I wasn't actually expecting to come first in this one so I find it quite acceptable that I came in the, er, top 90% of my course. Ahem. Yes.

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