16 April 2015

"Boys, you have a choice... Football or "... 40 years of orienteering later...

"Boys, you have a choice... Football or "... 

Did we do selfies in the 70s?

It was always going to be “or” for me. Worst sportsman in my school year, picked last for football, head stuck in book so I have no idea why I went along to the orienteering meeting. I remember us crowding into that lower school classroom and Chris Middleditch explaining how orienteering was so much not football.  Fine by me.

A week later year 3 (old style) were on Bluebird (the school bus) heading for Nettleford Wood. Guided round our courses by 'experienced' sixth formers – my group rapidly realised we had more idea what to do than our mentor and the race was on.  I can remember several of the control  sites and a wee bit of dissent over the best way to get to 'Q'.

I have the results – and there are two “Williams” that could be me. So on the night, aged 13 I took 46:10 (47. D Williams N Stubbs) or 55:10 (55. Ferguson, Williams, Davies). I don't know why we were not credited with a full score – because I know we found them all – perhaps my scrappy writing (we were looking for tin-cans-hanging-on-string and no punches)

Nettleford Wood 16th April 1975 - Results - more than a 100 runners
Over the following weeks we trained in Delamere Forest and competed once a week in the DEE Summer Evening Event Series - Frodham Hill, Petty Pool, Forest Camp, Little Budworth Common, Primrose Hill... leading up to our first Sunday Event (Lyn Crafnant in Snowdonia - the drive up being so steep the coach could not make it and we were shuttled by minibus) and then in the autumn to a Badge Event at Tockholes, Northern Junior Champs at Ennerdale and leading up to the 1975 British Junior Championships at Whitedown.  At this last Queens Park High School put out more M10 to M18 runners than the entire West Midlands managed at this years BOC.

The point being that there was a lot of orienteering going on, most of it on really good terrain and school was able to run and fill a bus most weeks of the term.  No chance but for many of us to get hooked.

April 16th 2015, 18:00 - 40 years later, give or take a few minutes

The woodland is currently wonderfully runnable – there having been time for the conifer stand I encountered 15 years ago to mature (The owner of the house by the start has been there since the mid 80's and remembers the clear felling about that time). 

The Original Nettleford Wood Map (click to zoom in)
I ran the course in 20:57 – which would have had me beating Ron Williams on the night (24:15). The basic map ("we do both colours - black... and white") remains very usable and most of the control features are still in existence – just a couple of pits that have gone missing which cost me a minute or two total.

A glorious hot, sunny, spring evening - a contrast to 40 years ago - cold, damp and drizzle -  global warming?  However Nettleford has escaped the curse-of-the-bramble and would be ideal for a sprint race.

The Future is Now: Live download to my phone - not possible at any price in 1975
How the original map might look in ISOM format.  Today there would be more vegetation boundaries shown, a wee bit of "slow run" and some pitted areas.

Many Worlds?

I wonder what might be different if I had not run at Nettleford Wood or run but found it to be a miserable experience?

Certainly I would not have run the 5-days in Sweden - which led to my lifelong fascination with the country, culture and especially its cars, nor my sister's keen interest in Swedish boys (married to 6' 4" blond orienteer from Lidköping since 1991)

Nor is it likely I would have competed for Team GB in two disciplines - foot orienteering (1982) and radio orienteering (since 2003) and it really doubtful I would have made the podium in any world championships doing anything (Radio Orienteering, Kazakhstan, 2014)

Orienteering has taken me all over the UK and the world and, injury permitting, gets me out every Sunday to do battle in the Midland bramble-fields.

My first control - "M" - though it was tin cans and write the code down in 1975

Number "M" - it was a score event.

Reenactment - the O-Suit is only ~35 years old (please note that it still fits).  Why did we have such big kangaroo-pouch pockets on the front of the top?  What were we meant to put in them? Lunch, space laces, cagoule, bivvy bag?

This was fight in 1975

Which control was this?

and this?

and this - easy one for the hard-of-navigation
View from the start

Just under 21 minutes for 3km.  No wrist computer nor satellite navigation in 1975 - nor dual SIM smartphone (carried in case of accident)
My track using Quick Route

M17 in Sweden for the 5-days

So that would be the silver medal in Kazakhstan then...

21 December 2014

A tale of two solstices.

June 21 I made it to Clent Hills for the Northern Hemisphere Summer Solstice:

"20 strange souls all parked up at Clent Hills. Several rather sleepy kiddies and one teenager - dragged to the top of the hill by mummy at 01:30 - we discussed and agreed that might be embarrassed by parents now but will probably thank them in years to come"

Problem is  for the Winter Solstice Walton Hill will be in the way - and trees around the summit of this will prevent a clear view of the horizon (48 deg. Summer but 129 deg. Winter)  (http://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/uk/birmingham

The answer has been staring me in the face... Frankly Beeches - a memorial to George and Richard Cadbury and over which we get a Manhattan-Henge effect in the Autumn.  I don't think it is coincidence that all the streets of our main manufacturing site are perfectly aligned with the hill summit.

So here are the Summer Photos

and then 6 months later.  This time it was just me (and a curious farmer who paused to check me out) 

31 August 2014

Small World Networks, Kevin Bacon and all that

Today I am chatting to some folks at The Hereford Waterworks Museum - I mention where I am from - and it turns out that the small boy is the great grandson on Ron "As long as I get Cheltenham Gold Cup Day Off" Smith - lead operator on the Cadbury Wispa plant when I was shift manager of the same back in 1986

Ron's Smith's Daughter and Great Grandson

Half an hour later and one of the museum visitors is telling me that even though I am from the Roman Town of Chester I must go and see Caerleon.  The lady comes from Abergavenny  and, yes, her son went to school with my cousin's son (Ian Pountney is my cousin and runs/ran a tailors in Abergavenny).

Two weeks before in Shrewsbury a passing parkrunner says that my little old car looks nice - turns out she is also from Chester - and we went to the same school at the same time but not in the same class.
Amanda Baxter (née Pugh) - Queens Park High School Class of '79
Later I mention to the tea shop owner that the last time I was in Shrewsbury was more than 30 years earlier - I was the school coxed four - and it turns out we very possibly raced against each other that season.

That's me - boat nearest to us - bow position.  Typical - early finish, while Mark Hayes seems to be struggling

16 August 2014

Is Shrewsbury trying to tell me something?

A random walk around a historic town...

Sadly I already had my hair cut this week

Today's page in the memorial chapel St Chad's Church
St Chad's is nothing special on the outside - but the inside is very well worth a look. The current vicar is the Rev. Mark W A Chadwick.  Makes sense.
On the way toward traitors gate

The Parade Shopping Centre

Exit from the St Julian,s Fields car park

A light breakfast at "Cafe on the Cop"

...I have started to follow "The Fry-Up Inspector" BBC Article and facebook

Here is my contribution:

10:22 - all this and a cup of tea for under £7.  I don't normally go in the first café I see but it was the black-pudding (and not having eaten since yesterday) that made the decision for me.

10:35 - the bread was exceptional and nice to have the beans "constrained" in a little bowl

Café on the Cop
It is a weird triangular shape inside - the open plan kitchen is at the pointy (and far-end) - you get to see all the cooking being done.  There are only about 7 tables. All three folks in this picture went in for breakfast.

Its up for rent/sale : http://www.julianspencer.com/property/cafe-cop

 I hope it stays a café.

26 July 2014

V-Weekend Part 0

...out of 136

Montacute is a spectacular venue for parkrun. The house was featured in "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" and the grounds are full of lime-lined-avenues. Almost the whole course is on grass and a there lots of (potentially) muddly dips, tight turns and a sting-in-the-tail climb up to the finish - it is a slow course - no good for PBs but ideal for orienteers.

I am injured was going to take it easy but when you find yourself in this position after 1km... red mist


22 August 2013

Flying Ant Day - 2013

Hot, Humid and still...

This year in Bournville it is 22nd August - latest so far - was it the long winter?  I would have thought the alternately hot and wet spring and summer would have resulted in some catchup.

2012 No Record
2011 1st August
2010 12th August
2009 5th August

30 June 2013


Team Harlequins @ Harvester 2013
(click on the photos for a full size version)

7 leg night orienteering relay: I am on first leg @ 00:05, time to hydrate - what? The rest of my team are drinking wine!

...and sharing Sticky Toffee Pudding

Researching the final control - I got the fastest split on my gaffle/gaffel

Originally organised by friends who "combined to harvest trophies"

Cake-Of-Mortality Section

No captions - just observe the expressions 

Normal Service Resumed

Add caption

Padre Brian gestures a blessing to map and next leg runner

Another course, another deep and muddy marsh

Post title explained
I ran 11.5km (gps) for an 8.5km (nominal) course - when normally I would expect to only be about 10% over as measured by gps.  Explanation:

A) There was a lot of bracken - so I went round most of the time
B) There was a lot of bracken and the controls were hung very low indeed

This was mostly my fault - having crossed the ride, end of the spur and noted the pit I was mislead by what I think is an un-marked very shallow north-south ditch and then wallowed around in head high bracken for 5 further minutes (now absolutely last and did not see another competitor for 20 minutes

Careful bearing from the wide ride/path junction and then pace in... what no control?  Look up and down the re-entrant - nope - relocate off the path and marsh to the south.  The control kite was VERY low down in the vegetation.

Getting just a little miffed with the control visibility.  Relocated off the path to the west and then down the raised area.  Never saw the shallow gully at all.

 Here is the whole course (click for larger size)