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This was my first trip away with Belper Harriers. The race was harder than expected, but we had a cracking weekend!

Rachel organised this as a girls trip, and booked Alnwick Youth Hostel for about 20 of us – the early risers for the Marathon & Ultra races in one dorm and those for the Half and 10k in another couple of dorms.

northumberland-start

With Wendy, after Registration at Bamburgh Castle

It’s an A–B race, with everyone finishing at Bamburgh Castle early–mid afternoon. So the start times are staggered, the Ultra starting at 8:20, the Marathon at 9:30 – you get the idea. We had to drive to register at Bamburgh and get bussed back to the Start. Registration was in the old stables & we collected our number, dibber and whatever variety of Cliff Bar that took our fancy.

northumberland-map

Good thing we were allowed an extra layer for the bus as it was pelting it down during the pre-briefing … and when we got to the Start, one of the feather banners snapped in the wind!

northumberland-briefing

Briefing before the bus to the Start at Alnwick Castle. Fortunately this was the worse weather of the day!

I wished Wendy good luck and off we went. The first 6 miles or so were thru fields, tracks and minor roads down to the coast at Alnmouth – quite fiddly but well signed. From Lovers’ Lane there’s a lovely terrace of pastel coloured ‘Balamory’ houses, then you hit the coast. It’s a good feeling, as it’s here that you embark on the race proper.

Several sections were along the beach and I ran in the water every now and again to nip any blisters in the bud. The exits from each beach sections were marked with a feather banner – which  always seemed to be getting smaller rather than bigger  :O

The 2nd checkpoint (12.9 miles) was a mile so south of Craster and I got there in 1:59. Jelly Babies, bananas and crisps were the standard fayre – but you had to get the crisps opened for you otherwise it would be salty confetti, it was so windy!

Next highlight was spotting the Harriers bobble hats at the Half Marathon Start. They were just taking a group photo when I ran through! Soon they overtook me tho, on fresh legs.

northumberland-hats

Harriers Hat Half-marathon Start! Photo: Lizzy Nay

The romantically ruined Dunstanburgh Castle was next, then another long beach to Checkpoint 3 at 19 miles. The next miles to CP 4 at 25 miles were the worse and I was contemplating opting for the Marathon instead of the 35 mile Ultra, but when I got to the checkpoint, the thought that I only had 11 more miles to do gave me a second wind!

Seahouses was pretty. The last beach was long, and – worse – doing the Ultra you had to loop past Bamburg Castle and run along it twice. But at least I felt on the home straight by now & got a fantastic cheers from Rachel, Claire & other Harriers at the Finish.

northumberland-finish-from-air

The Finish at Bamburgh Castle. Photo: Lizzy Nay

The loop continued along the coast across a golf course with views of Lindisfarne Castle (apt: oldies will remember the band’s 1978 single, Run for Home), then turned inland on minor roads and finally repeating the last mile of beach. The thought of a sub-7 hour time kept me pushing, but in the end it was 7:02. I was pretty delighted with this, especially after finding the 2nd Female Vet 50 had done 7:04!

northumberland-finish

Happy to have stopped running! Photo (and duvet jacket): Claire Sheldon

Claire met me at the Finish with cake ‘n’ crisps and lent me her duvet jacket. I watched a few finishers climb up to the castle, then drove back to the YH for a shower ‘n’ chill before a great meal at Lilburns’ in Alnwick where the anti-inflammatory Pinot Grigio flowed!

Here’s a link to the EnduranceLife Coastal Trail Series events. My Women’s over 50 prize was a £10 voucher for entry into another race. I see this one scored 2/5 for difficulty and all the others are harder … so maybe not, but I’m glad I did it!

Come along to No 28 on January 2nd and try Urban orienteering! For those of you who’d like to know a little bit more about the Belper map, I’ve written this post. Read it, and I guarantee it’ll save you 5 or 10 minutes on Jan 2nd if you’re new to orienteering ; )

belper-simple-poster

Poster for the Belper Urban race – the course is just a made-up example to give an idea of how orienteering works in a town. The green is private land, which you cannot cross, so the distances on Urban courses are always 20-30% longer than advertised!

Orienteering came to the UK from Sweden in the 1960s, so the first thing to say about ‘O’ maps is that the symbols are international. Top-end orienteers compete world wide, and even recreational orienteers will often plan a holiday around a multi-day event in an exotic location. I’ve orienteered in the four Scandinavian countries, France, Hungary, Switzerland, Lithuania, the USA, Australia and New Zealand!

In O maps, use of colour is counter-intuitive, as we map runability, not what’s actually on the ground.  This helps orienteers make route-choice decisions: is it quicker to run though forest with brambles, or go three sides of a square, but along a path? So there’s a continuum from white through to dark green, with white being runable forest, light green denser forest (we call it ‘forest walk’) to dark green ‘forest fight’ – rhododendrons, gorse, holly or felled trees where you have to crawl under or climb over the trunks. Don’t go there if at all possible!

Open land (grass) is mapped as yellow and again there’s a continuum of this to white, so that a few scattered trees on grass is mapped as yellow with regular white spots, in something we call ROST (rough open with scattered trees). Are you enjoying the lingo so far?!

st-peters

St Peter’s Church Yard, showing the rough open scattered trees (ROST) symbol. The white round the edge is continuous trees.

You can see that there’s quite a lot here that’s open to interpretation, and although I’ve been orienteering for 27 years, I would find mapping a forest just too daunting.

In 2001 our club Derwent Valley Orienteers (and all 120 O clubs in the UK) were unable to hold competitions on many of our countryside areas due to sanctions to control the foot and mouth outbreak. So orienteers began mapping towns and cities to hold events there.

Urban orienteering offers the same challenges of planning and executing a route while running at speed that normal orienteering poses. Orienteering has been compared to playing chess while sprinting, and mistakes are made because oxygen debt builds up when you are running too fast and misinterpret the map.

This year I’ve done Urban races in Edinburgh, Whitby, Grimsby, Manchester, Liverpool and Todmorden. I’m quite evangelistic about the excitement of Urban, and got it in The Guardian Weekend Magazine’s Body: How I Work It column in September. The journalist did a great job, as did the photographer, who was jetting off to LA to shoot will.i.am two days after my photoshoot! Does anyone recognise where the photo was taken?

DVO has mapped Chesterfield, Matlock, Wirksworth, Ripley and Ashbourne for Urban orienteering. Our best non-urban areas are Eyam Moor, Birchen Edge, Stanton Moor, Chinley Churn (photos from our September event), Crich Chase and Shining Cliff Woods (we have an event there 29th January 2017). We have a lot more areas mapped, but these latter are of such a technical standard they would pull orienteers from all over the country. Lower down the scale we have a number of parks and grounds of National Trust properties, which are great for beginners.

2016-dvo-poster

This poster shows areas where DVO has held events in 2016. I’m working on one for 2017 now!

I’ve lived in Belper for 20 years and offered to map it for the club’s annual New Year Urban event (2nd January 2017). I find Urban racing much easier than forest running as buildings are either there, or not there. There’s nothing half-way about a building, whereas with contours we have a half-contour symbol called a form line, which looks like a contour, but is dashed. Contours are mapped at 5 metre intervals, and the form line is used for prominent features not big enough to merit a contour.

So Urban mapping is largely a case of tracing streets and buildings from a base map, using a CAD package called, yes, you’ve guessed it, O-CAD. The only skills needed are persistence and attention to detail, as even the curb edges are mapped, as well as things like islands at road crossings.

I started the map in January 2016 and had a couple of O-CAD lessons from Mike, DVO’s mapping supremo. The scale of an Urban orienteering map is 1:5000. Compare this to the OS Explorer maps at 1:25000 and you can see that it’s a lot more detailed. A square km on Explorer is 4cm x 4cm, but on an Urban O map it’s 20cm x 20cm. Every building is shown remarkably clearly. Grass verges are mapped, as are individual trees in town streets.

The first job was to trace the buildings, which took a couple of weeks. The next step required more thought. Remember I said that conventional orienteering map symbols represent runability? The Urban symbol set represents permissability. Private land (gardens etc.) are shown as olive green and public tarmac’d areas as pale brown. Grass is yellow, runable forest is white, as in forest O.

clusters

The Clusters, Christ Church, Belper Library, Green Lane and Mill Street

You can see Belper Library at the bottom left, above. Each tree at the front is shown, the grass behind is shown as yellow, with the trees as white. The single tree on the lawn is shown as a small green dot (trunk circumference less than 30cm). Of course it’s a bigger green dot for larger trees, like the oak just showing on the southern tip of The Triangle. You can see Long Row playground marked with the pink out-of-bounds symbol, rather than olive green. This is because it’s useful to show for navigation purposes, even tho you can’t cross it.

Walls and fences have two symbols depending on whether they are crossable or uncrossable. Not physically crossable, note, but whether or not you are allowed to cross them! Yes, it’s confusing and, yes, people do get disqualified (58 people were disqualified for crossing out-of-bounds wild-flower meadows at the British Sprint Championships at the Olympic Park this year; not me tho, I got 3rd place in my age group!). Anyway these are the rules and the sport must be fair.

So once all the buildings are traced onto the map, the next step is the boundaries of the private land, shown in olive. Technically this should be an uncrossable wall or fence, but because you’re not allowed to cross olive, adding a bold black line around it would be overkill (the map looks less cluttered if only essential or helpful symbols are used). So we use the thin black line that denotes a ‘step or edge of paved area’. The uncrossable wall symbol is used round the railway in the Clusters extract above, and uncrossable fence is used at the edge of the football pitch.

Next come the outlines of the roads and pavements, and this is done with Google Street View open on another laptop. It’s a very time consuming job to get the curves nice and smooth! Then there’s adding the colour, which can be done quickly if it’s simply a case of filling in a closed area, but often it isn’t that simple.

All told, I must have spent about 300 hours on the map, spread over 6 months. During the last 2 months I was checking the map on the ground, scrawling amendments onto a tracing paper overlay and taking photos, and then amending it on the computer. When I handed the file back to Mike in June, I felt like I’d got my life back, and I’m very grateful for all the hours he’s put in this autumn checking things.

Not all his changes are things I’ve missed, however! New features do appear, cases in point being the new B&M/Aldi store and the trim trail up on the Parks.

Once working version of the map is available, I started planning the seven courses that we’ll offer on January 2nd. The longest course, Men’s Open (for men age 21-34) will be 7.5 km with roughly 25 checkpoints, and the shortest will be for Juniors under 12, maybe 2 km, with about 15 checkpoints. We use a program called PurplePen for this, and I’ll discuss the courses in detail with the race controller, who will suggest improvements and advise on safety. For instance, the two longest courses will likely go into the River Gardens, so to avoid people running across the A6, I’ll have a timed-out crossing at some pedestrian lights, with checkpoints either side. Electronic timing means that the time taken to cross can easily be deducted.

The Belper event is on January 2nd from No 28 The Market Place, and everyone will start at 11am (this ‘mass start’ is quite unusual in orienteering, but we always use it at our New Year events because it means you have longer to put out all the checkpoints in the morning, and people are generally back by 12 or 1pm).

You can see what events we have coming up on our Facebook page (go on, have a look & give us a Like!), or on the Fixtures tab of the DVO website. British Orienteering have a great Guide for Newcomers and I love the fact that our sport needs its own dictionary! Do you know what a re-entrant is?!

Entry to the Belper Urban costs just £3.50 for Courses 6 and 7, which have been planned for Juniors, families and Adult Beginners.

The longer courses cost £8 to enter on the day (£7 if you enter online before Dec 28th, see link below), still £3.50 for Juniors/Students. The event is part of the UK Urban League, in which orienteers compete against others in their age group. We have an online entry system as there’ll be more competitors from further afield.

market-place

The Market Place area, from where the event will start. In the top right, the Nag’s Head kindly allowed me to map their beer garden! And I’ve got permission from Belper Town Council to put a checkpoint or two in the Memorial Gardens (bottom left). I’ve had to ask Mike to add the Prominent tree symbol for the Christmas tree!

Memory Lane Cards is branching into Tube map birthday and wedding anniversary cards this year. I’ve only been Grazing for 4 years, and don’t have an unlimited supply of snack boxes. So I’ve concentrated on 17th to 24th birthdays (I think it’s a bit sad when your card no longer celebrates your age, apart from 18 and 21), and 16th to 25th wedding anniversaries.

22-22-card

These little cards are just 75p each, or £1.50 with p&p

The idea first came to me when making a card for my in-laws’ 54th anniversary, so do let me know if you’d like to order a card not in my range as I can easily make one (and personalise it with the date of the wedding).

anniv-cards

Wedding anniversary cards are £1.50, or £2.25 with p&p

It’s a tad awkward to get a lot of anniversaries into the Graze box format, so I decided to make panels for bottle bags, as these are longer (& double sided)! I considered selling the finished bags, but decided that upcycling was central to my mission, hence the DIY kits. Plus it’s cheaper.

wedding-kit

I’m not sure where Bingo Lingo came from, but it has that same nostalgic feel as the Tube map. And the 1 to 90 sequence has some interesting allusions. Some calls are obvious rhymes or references to life events, such as Dancing Queen and Old Age Pension (sadly no longer 65 these days). Others have more obscure origins; Doctor’s orders (9), for instance, refers to Pill Number 9 in the Army, which was for constipation. Wikipedia states that Dirty Gertie is a reference to Gertrude, the nickname for a bronze statue of a naked woman, installed in Finchley in 1927 by Daily Mail and Mirror founder Lord Rothermere.

bingo-lingo-kit

Most people have old bottle bags kicking around at home; if not, it’s a trip to Morrisons. The finished article looks like this:

anniversary-bottle-bag

And finally, here’s a Wordle card I made of some of my favourite places in Belper:

Belper Wordle.png

The Wordle card is 75p. Suggestions welcome for a Wordle card of your town!

 

This is a 20 mile linear race along most of the gritstone edges of the Peak District, organised by Edale Mountain Rescue Team. The route starts at Fairholmes (between Derwent and Ladybower Reservoirs) and finishes at the Robin Hood pub just east of Baslow.

Busses are arranged to get you back to your car at Fairholmes, but we’d had to travel in two cars as I needed to go to Manchester straight after the race, so I dropped my car at the Robin Hood and jumped in with Dave and Ned to go up the the start – all the time thinking “I’ve got to run all this to get back!”

After a midgey start, I realised my water bottle was leaking badly, so drank all I had before any more was lost! The 1000ft climb up to Derwent Edge wasn’t (quite) as bad as I expected, and I was up at Checkpoint 1 at 35 mins. This was the only significant climb in the race and it was great to run down along the slabs past all the tors. We then swung east towards the second checkpoint at Moscar Lodge, before crossing over onto Stanage.

nine-edges-map

Even this long section whizzed by (I’m quite seasoned to maintaining flat speed after my 2 Glasgow-Edinburgh canal races!) and I got to the Fiddler’s Elbow Checkpoint at exactly 2 hours into the race, stopping briefly to guzzle some jelly babies and water.

The track just below Burbage was another gentle descent, but I did start to tire going through Longshaw and along Froggatt and Curbar. At this point, the end was near, and it was nice to get a cheer from clubmates Paul and Roger near Wellington’s Monument. A final uphill push up to the bottom of Birchen, and then down through the bracken to the Robin Hood, where we were issued with our free drink voucher, and, more to the point, finished running!

nine-edges-beer

Post-race rehydration!

I met Dave and Ned and got my pint, happy with my time of 3 hours 38 – especially as this took the pressure off my airport trip later in the day. There was a great atmosphere at the end, as well as during the race, as it was nice to say ‘hi’ to all the walkers who had started before us. Dave was pretty impressed that some do a climb on all of the edges (adding distance and climb) and still finish before he did!

The locations for my ready-made cards (£2 each, plus £1 if postage is needed) are shown on the map. But – from Oban down to Bude – I’m always adding new places as I make more cards!

locations-map

Please click Order Form if you would like to order a customised card, based on a specific UK location (these are £5, but extra cards the same are £2 each – the main work is capturing the images of the old maps). Or, if you prefer, you can leave the typography and colour scheme to me and just email the post code or street address.

Just a quick preview of some of the reservoir cards. Others in this series are Rudyard Water, Kinder Reservoir (1899) and Fernilee Reservoir in the Goyt Valley (1938). Finished in 1798, Rudyard Water is one of the oldest reservoirs in the country. It was constructed to feed the Caldon Canal, which is a Staffordshire branch of the Trent-Mersey Canal. I couldn’t find any maps from before the reservoir, but it made a nice card anyway as the 1950s map has the working railway, which is now a footpath.

reservoir Carsington

Carsington (constructed 1980s) is our local reservoir and a favourite place to walk, run or cycle.

reservoir Ladybower.png

What a lot of us think of as Ladybower Reservoir in the Peak District is in fact three reservoirs: Howden (1901-12), Derwent (1902-14) and Ladybower (1935-43).

reservoir Haweswater.png

One problem with using my usual GrazeBox mounts for the reservoir maps is that they aren’t quite big enough to explore properly all the now-submerged hamlets on the 1890s maps, so I’ve upscaled on this card I made of Haweswater for my father who lives in the Lake District!

Dam construction began in 1929 and farms and houses were demolished. Bodies in the churchyard had to be exhumed and moved to Shap. The church was dismantled and the stone was used in the dam. There must be so many stories to tell with these reservoirs …

I’ve been saving the boxes from my Graze snacks for 4 years now, thinking of giving them to the local Scouts or Guides for crafts. But in August 2014, I had a eureka moment, when thinking what birthday card to make for my father-in-law, a retired Geography teacher and author!

I knew of the National Library of Scotland website as a source of old maps as I’d been researching my family tree and trying to locate addresses from nineteenth century census records. So I thought, four maps of the village of Corfe Castle, where my father-in-law now lives, and this was my first card.

Corfe

Each card takes about an hour to make and shows a 2km2 area of map across about 120 years. It’s often fascinating to watch farmland change into suburbs, as happened in this card, made for a friend who grew up in Sheffield!

sheffield

This card of Dawlish, in Devon, is the first one I’ve done of a coastal town…

Dawlish

Others in the coastal series are Blackpool, Lytham, Fleetwood, Southport and Formby (west coast), as well as Skegness, Whitby, Scarborough, Bridlington and Robin Hood’s Bay (east coast).

…and I’ve made lots centred on parts of Belper that are going to be stocked in the Belper North Mill Museum gift shop, selling at £2.

snowy belper

The cards will be plain, but there’s a small ‘Mappy Birthday!’ and ‘Mappy Christmas!’ tag included in the packaging so you can use them for either occasion!

A successful event on Birchen Edge was almost cancelled 24 hours earlier due to the Assembly field being inaccessible as a result of muddy conditions, so I thought I’d put down some thoughts on how this can be avoided:

  • Add “Loss of Parking field due to weather/landowner” to the Risk Assessment as this will prompt to consider alternatives.
  • Hold a site meeting with Parking Team Leader 2 or 3 weeks before the event, to allow alternatives to be investigated.

Having visited the area 5 weeks before the event I was confident about the parking arrangements. However, on reflection, this visit was on foot as it saves meeting the farmer to unlock the gate. Next time, go in the car!

My first trip in the immediate lead-up was 2 days before the event, with 6 straw bales for the Start stile. I was unable to get into Assembly as the uphill sloping field was quite wet. The farmer managed it no problem, but they always do. I raised concerns with Stuart about the parking that evening, as he was heading up the late parking shift & is also Club Chair.

Six of us were meeting at 10am on the Saturday to put up the Marquee, place the rubber track matting and set up the stile for the road crossing. Stuart joined us, and, fortunately for me, was able to collect a car load of equipment – including the large ladder stile.

We got the marquee up and placed three more straw bales (to speed passage on existing stiles), then reassessed the parking. The only alternative was to park at either side of the track, and the farmer had suggested we do this on two occasions. Still, with 417 pre-entries, it had to be carefully counted out.

Stuart and Lester investigated pay and display parking next to the Robin Hood pub and reported capacity at 30. This could be used for the 80 club members, most of whom were helping, so would arrive early, before the public.

So, now looking at capacity to park cars of 340 competitors from other clubs, say 300 with >10% drop out rate. Somebody came up with the figure of 130 cars and this turned out to be the case, as takings were £272 = 136 cars.

Looking at all the firm places to pull off the track, and a field to the east, we concluded it was just about possible. In the end we had a vote, and went ahead with the event, but were all a bit anxious.

I should have held a site meeting with the Parking Team 2 weeks before the event, as certain changes such as laying gravel or creating an exit by dismantling a ruined wall could have given us another field. Obviously 18 hours before the event is too late for this. On the day, however, two rows of cars were parked in this field, exiting by the entrance (photo).

parking 2017

Sawdust soaks up the mud and acts as an abrasive so tyres can get more traction. We hope to be able to use this field for parking at future event – the entrance is at the top and an exit could be created at the bottom, with the farmer’s permission

We agreed the wording for:

  • a web announcement to car share where possible, and
  • an email to be cascaded to the Helpers to use the pay and display.

These were posted/mailed at about 5pm by Mike and myself.

On event day, I arrived at 7:30 to be ready for Traders and toilets at 8am. Mike, Liz and Dave were 10 minutes behind me. Dave put out the road signs, a time consuming job that I try and delegate! Mike and Liz set up the marquee for Download and Registration.

Registration

Registration!

Stuart and Lester came prepared with a scythe to harvest bracken for putting in the mud and some big cubes of compressed sawdust. Both of these really helped! One competitor commented – rightly – that the DVO Parking Team were ‘absolutely 5 star!’

The track mats are good, but there are only 10 of them and they need to be laid in parallel. They are difficult to handle, so take a helper with you to load them.

track matting

Track mats in action

Ranald offered to act as Safety Officer, and I gratefully accepted! He had quite a bit to deal with – a head injury and any issues arising from parking, as well as liaising with the Start.

The person who was injured was also on the Jury, so I had to call the Reserve Juror and ask him not to go home until stood down. And sure enough, about an hour later, there was a complaint from an M18 who, after discussion with myself and the Controller, decided to make a written protest. In this circumstance, the Jury has to be called, so I had to go and sit in my car to make the calls, as the wind was such that I couldn’t hear outside!

The Prize Giving was scheduled for 2pm. Fortunately the Jury issue was so clear-cut that it didn’t impact the results.

prize giving

The winner on M10 collects his trophy

Packing up is a bit of a rush in November as it’s dark by 5pm, so you need to dismantle everything as soon as possible. And worse, the marquee was starting to blow free of the rocks we’d used to anchor it on the Saturday, so this was our priority. Then pushing and pulling the caterer’s van out of the mud, with the aid of the sawdust under his tyres!

We were off site by about 5pm, having left a car load of equipment including the stile to retrieve the following day. I couldn’t lift more than 3 track mats though, so another trip was scheduled with Stuart later in the week. We took the mats to Matlock car wash where they had a thorough pressure hosing – and so did my car!

It would have been more sensible to hire a van for the equipment and straw, but the requirement for 6 extra bales only came up about a week before the event – by which point, I’d written a timeline detailing when I would deliver all the equipment and it sort of worked so I stuck with it. I’ve included the Timeline and my safety folder contents page in a link as other organisers may find these helpful. The DVO Notes for Event Coordinators are very good and walk you through what to do in the months and weeks before the event.

We had 55 club members helping at the event, headed up by 7 Team Leaders. They know the detail of what they are doing because they do it at every DVO event and without them, the events couldn’t happen.

The bad weather (hurricane Clodagh) meant that about 70 of the pre-entered competitors stayed at home. This is about 15% of the 417 entries, so a higher no-show rate than usual. The weather was a little better than expected. It was windy and showery, but mild, so we didn’t enforce cagoules.

For the record, hay is a bit more expensive than straw at £3.50 a bale. And straw is a bit more robust for use in stiles, so quite a bargain at £2.50 a bale. If you do use hay, be careful farm animals can’t get at it – not an issue with straw!

 

 

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