The New Forest, its really rather old. Theres around 34 sections of this area mapped for Orienteering, no one club owns the Forest, so its shared by 4 clubs, ask me at the end for the club info. Area includes some of the most ancient forests in the U.K, that thankfully have been preserved by decades of protection by Forestry commission work, which means we runners respect the areas as we would towns.It starts on the far east side of Bournemouth conurbation and goes nearly to the edge of Southampton water. Have lots of ideas and time to air them so listen up if you love the outdoors and the benefits of being in wild nature. First up respect to Roger Deakin author of “Wildwood” published posthumously in 2007. In this nature travelogue Deakin refers to some areas you may know, coming out of Brockenhurst over mill road and right into the main forest after about a mile making a left- you drop down over railway into Denny Lodge area- going east from here theres some of the most stunning mature Beech stands Ive seen anywhere in the U.K, massive tall beauties bigger than some in Ashridge on the Chilterns. Outside the stands of trees onto Beaulieu plain for glimpses of sand lizards on sunny days, lots of birdlife and the wild ponies at home in any weather. A good look around here leads to the Beaulieu Road station, where the annual pony sales are held, hotel and all. Catching a South West train to Beaulieu Rd station, you have to request stop the guard who lets you off the front most door as the platform is minute- wild place train fans will be familiar with this, adds to the fun. Deakin covers other areas in the book strongly recommended, he also did “Waterworld” about swimming in rivers which helped add to the resurgence of people doing what they always did swimming outdoors with new branding ‘wild swimming’, worth a read too. I love living near this place, being able to escape there to the silence as much as racing mates in an Orienteering event. There are remnants of earth works providing features on the maps like ‘Bishops dyke’ long since disused enclosure but with enquiry we can discover the whole forest has had its custodians who used it for gathering fuel, farming and more over the centuries, fascinating stuff. Nature has maintained its hold here, and long may it remain so, we need to connect with the wildness, to know that we are just passers by in a short look at an ever changing cycle of seasonal birth, death and regrowth.
Readers from running clubs and Orienteering backgrounds tune in to this. Imagine now we could link the New Forest mapped areas together, so for a WIM/WSX southern section from Burley south including Holmsley, Wilverley and Brownhill youd have a rectangle about 10 KM W-E and 5 KM N-S on one map, about 50 square Kilometres of running, in and out of three or four forests and over the big plains of Wilverley and Holmsley ridge. Sound good? It gets better, thats only using 6 of the thirty something maps I have of the whole new forest. Tune in, Imagine the whole New Forest mapped area could be combined into big 1:15000 scale sections. Fantastic. My idea would be get the 4 clubs to work together on this colab, with long term aim of running bigger distance events than usual weekend affairs. It would be simple to do Long- O days, using sections such as the above, allowing 15- 20 K.M courses, still navigation tests with control points, these sort of events are always found further away like on Dartmoor but theres no reason why we couldnt do this in the New Forest. Other ideas cramming my head at present are doing a New Forest Mountain Marathon, it wouldnt have the topography of the high hills of the U.K, but within the borders of the Forest, a 2 day event, similar distance to M.M’s with an overnight camp could be good. Anyone whos been up on Godshill and Hampton Ridges in the north knows how open and special these places are.
So whats Orienteering?
Before I even heard of it one favourite activity of mine was exploring the wild places of the U.K, having always been a complete map geek using an Ordnance Survey map of Dartmoor or the Peak district for adventurous days in the hills was my idea of a good time. Orienteering though? what is it, well imagine youre up on a hill, you know its a hill because it took effort to get up there, and theres one of those concrete blocks right at the apex, the TRIG points, that used to be used to measure distance before Google emerged and flew planes and drove trucks around taking pictures of everything for e-maps. So youre at a TRIG point right, and about a mile away you can see the next high point with a big valley in between it-right now put the map in your pocket and RUN there! dont worry about the tussocky grass, bracken, fallen logs, bogs, animals just go. Got that idea? Before anyone gave me an Orienteering map, pre- 2003 that was what I enjoyed doing for the challenge of setting out in a wild place, navigating around enjoying the nature, weather and solitudenous experience of it. South Midlands was my first club, and since moving to Bournemouth and Dorset have become heavily involved in competing, organising and promoting running sport to youth and schools plus adults. Navigation at speed in short. We are lucky to have such a great area in Dorset and the New Forest to compete in and I wouldnt want to live anywhere else. Every year the November Classic is run by Southampton and takes 500+ competitors through a new area of the Forest, the map above is this years course I ran. Thanks S.O.C. Cant wait for King Garn again in 2014….
O.K a watch for you, enough words for today:-
Heres a great recent vid made by a couple of the Elite athletes of our sport, quality introduction to forest racing:-
Orienteering Clubs in the area from West to East- Wessex, my club
Any readers from clubs wanting to progress my ideas lets get started. Drop me message on this blog.
Im the head coach with Wessex, looking forward to organising and running 2 after schools Orienteering clubs in Spring term 2014.
Enquire for your school involvement.