The New Forest is a place familiar to many of us as we drive through, zigzagging past disconsolate ponies, on our way to more a distant goal, but it is also is a place where, given the opportunity to get off the beaten path, you can still find that feeling of wilderness that is all too rare in this country. It is therefore no surprise that the Forest inclosure (not a spelling mistake but an area of land originally fenced off to grow trees) of King’s Garn Gutter near the village of Fritham made a superb venue for the British Army Orienteering Club (BAOC) this week (16th March).
This event was officially part of the series of events contributing towards the Military Relay Championship. Unfortunately, but perhaps not altogether surprisingly, the laid-back Island orienteers were not organised in time, and missed the entry deadline. However, given that the weather was set fair, the area was very promising, the highly respected Robin Smith from Southampton Orienteering Club (SOC) had planned the courses and it was a day off work, four Island orienteers took advantage of the one conventional course available for individuals entering on the day. This was a Short Blue course (maximum technical difficulty) of length 6.8km with 18 controls.
King’s Garn Gutter is a mixed area, including forest, marsh and open land. Although much of the marsh and open land was not available to the planner, owing to concerns for the impact on ground nesting birds at this time of year. This resulted in the Short Blue course being contained within a fine area of runnable forest. Refreshing news surely, a New Forest course without marsh or thigh high heather, perhaps loins need not be girded quite as firmly as usual!
The course fulfilled its promise, offering numerous subtle route choices and navigational dilemmas, although the open and undulating nature of the terrain was always likely to favour the stronger runners.
Dan Williams (M40), recovering from another epic run (read Dan’s race report here) at the weekend in the Larmer Tree Cross-country Marathon, pulled out all the stops and produced another fine run, finishing in 48:49 giving him 4th place from a field of 68 runners.
Anybody who has experience of Island events planned by Pete Bartlett (M60) will, without doubt, realise that he favours the challenges offered by judicious route choice and precise navigation over speed across the terrain. It was therefore no surprise, on his return to the finish, to hear the now familiar pronouncement: ‘it was a runner’s course’! Despite his protestations and competing in a longer course than perhaps he would normally prefer, Pete finished with the respectable time of 1:12:04 giving him 44th place.
Dan Cox started well, the split times showed him to be in third place at the first control. It was then that, as they say within Dan’s chosen discipline of Explosive Ordnance Disposal, things went tits-up! The early gains were thrown out of the window, and the splits showed him to be in 55th place at the second control. Remarkably, Dan kept his head and clawed his way back to finish in an 8th place with a time of 52:21.
Chris Pritchett completed the Island quartet and, despite the usual catalogue of errors, managed to sneak home in in 51:05 giving him 7th place.
Drone footage of the Kings Garn Gutter area and relay start
Go here for full results from the standard course, with splits, and the relay championships results.