Big weekend approaching, New Forest Park is an awesome piece of Britains wild places, but its contested, heavily. Here’s a precursor to what might turn out to be an important weekend in cycling and outdoor recreation history. My Orienteering club and 3 others all have rights to use around 28 different areas of the Forest, for events that have to be authorised sometimes a year in advance. There are sometimes up to twenty recreation events going on a weekend, the people taking part want to experience the wild outdoors, and feel that they are somewhere special, somewhere away for the cyber hive of every day life- with so many people wanting to re-create that’s why its sometimes harder than you would think. In regard to cycling events, there have been two large ones planned for at least a year which have also had to go through the process of application, consideration and approval. Up until a few days ago these two events would be traversing the area, in different directions to make their circuits. Last minute notice was put out by the Authorities to re route them in order to avoid any conflict on the narrow roads, amazingly the C.T.C. panel did decide to rewrite the route last minute, so as to avoid the groups of riders meeting each other head- on, the two big events will now travel in the same direction over some points. Residents of the Forest have included some saboteurs to past events, throwing tacks on to the road puncturing bike riders out for a good Sunday event. The number of residents compared to number of visitors to the area, is tiny. These visitors pay to keep local business open, everyone needs somewhere to stay, eat, refresh. Hopefully the visitors to the area will be able to enjoy the weekend without a minority spoiling their fun. The National Park Authority have also been tasked with making the cycling opportunities in the area better, but are heavily influenced by a small minority of objectors, perhaps those objectors own farms and work hard to preserve the landscape, and don’t want thousands of people coming to their area. Brings us back to the point at the beginning, what do our wild outdoors spaces in the U.K get used for now? Hill farmers in more remote areas are helped to keep sheep on the hills, maintaining the romantic landscape U.K is famed for. Dartmoor ponies exist like the New Forest Ponies, without any value in sale, they provide a semblance of wildness which people love, the people that make their way into those places to re-create. Ask yourself though whether thousands of people on bikes, or runners cause anywhere near the damage/ delay/ mess that motor vehicles do? I will be watching with interest what happens tomorrow and Sunday because as youll see theres another reason apart from me being a cycling promoter.
Orienteering- navigation at speed. More than a year ago my Orienteering club Wessex Orienteers looked at the locations for the 26th Dorset Delight event. Bisterne close was last used in 2008 by us, so has had a good break from use, it was decided that Bisterne on the edge of Burley would be the location. Chairman has to consult with the 3 other clubs to see where they are intending to use so that clashes don’t happen, then apply to the Forestry Commission who manage the area. Dialogue this year was protracted, there being some issues about a possible pony draft by the verderers nearby. Similarly to the cycling events, applications start way in advance but can be derailed by last minute changes by important people in the authorities. Verderers look after the ponies, who in turn are owned by groups, and a draft is when they are rounded up for checks and counts. It did look at one point as if we would be denied the use of the area, but persistence paid off and I began the planning. Theres always 3 main people in an Orienteering event:- Organiser, Planner and Controller. Planner has to select locations for the courses, in this instance 8 courses of different lengths, formulate the routes around them devising challenges for the most able and making an enjoyable shorter run for the younger family members there. Planner report to Controllers who monitor everything is in accordance with the rules of the International Orienteering federation. 5 visits to the area and lots of running and biking around allowed me to get the courses ready and fiendishly hard for the best. If you didn’t know the runners have to navigate around in sequential order, choosing best routes and finding control locations. It’s a sport brought the U.K by Chris Brasher in the 1970s and I love it. Online entries closed yesterday and we are at 162 entrants with another hundred or so entering on the day (weather permitting). I have a superb idea for October 2015 too, the ‘Castleman Challenge’ which is to be a long distance event- watch this space. We will be setting up Saturday for Sunday’s event as well as the others and hope to have a hassle free couple of days. Our sport is very low impact on the environment, a pair of running shoes impact. Elsewhere Ive written about Car free Orienteering, and encourage members to car share, the route to Bisterne for me is train from Bournemouth to Sway and then a 15 minute bike ride, other than tomorrow when Ill be in the car with kit to place out. Lets hope for another smooth weekend for everyone, the bogs, forests and valleys of the New Forest will be around a lot longer than any of us it would be good if we could get along. Do stop in to see what Orienteering is all about Sunday and ask for me, you could even have a go at one of the easier courses. Mention must be made of Roger Deakin here- his ‘Wildwood- a journey through trees’ 2008 is a fantastic read, a passionate lover of wild places, lots of details about the best areas of the New Forest.