I really am not sure whose idea the weekend was, but I basically agreed to co-ordinate it. We advertised the weekend and then . . . the responses came flooding in. I began to panic; where were we all going to stay? Could we possibly coach all these people, all fifty to sixty of them?
Warning – this is a l_o_o_o_o_n_g post!
EckO is a small orienteering club with a growing membership, especially in the Oban area. The committee decided that the time was right to think about a residential coaching weekend, based in the forests of Strathspey to give a contrast to the west coast environment we usually orienteer in.
So, a large number of people to accommodate, feed and coach for orienteering. Age range from six years to sixty-plus years. There were only three alternatives for accommodation; we could stay on a B&B basis at Loch Insh, go self catering at Lagganlia or self-catering at Badaguish. This last one was eliminated as it was booked. Would people prefer self-catering or B&B? An email survey revealed a slight preference for the former so Gill managed to book Lagganlia chalets. Kate volunteered her husband for the catering – Alan is a professional chef! I am sure that cooking for 50+ EckO was no different to his day job.
On the coaching side, Niall suggested we applied for a 2014 Communities grant. We were able to put together the application which resulted in a full award of £1000 for coaching/maps/Spring series publicity with the club contributing about £600. I got in touch with Fiona Berrow & Ross McLennan and they agreed to be the main coaches for weekend, Fiona mainly with the juniors and Ross with the TD5 group.
So, everything was looking good. I did the liaison with the National Centre regarding areas for the training exercises and I had a run around Ellan Wood at Carrbridge when I was in the area.
BUT . . . the best laid plans ground to a halt because of one of the snowiest winters for years. Ten days before the weekend I was wondering if we would do any orienteering training as the areas were still under a metre plus of snow. Then the weather gods relented and the big melt came. The snow disappeared from the areas, the branches weakened by the snow came tumbling down and the ground went from frozen to soggy.
This left about a week for the planning of the exercises. Gill volunteered to plan the exercises on the Saturday morning at Ellan Wood – thanks for this Gill. I would do Saturday afternoon at North Granish, Sunday morning would hopefully be a local ROMP and Sunday afternoon a TEAM event at Moor of Alvie.
BUT (again!) . . . I then had a gastric infection for five days! Paul’s Dad ended up in Inverclyde RH with an emergency hernia operation! Planning the exercises and printing off the maps was rather a rush in the end but it all was done.
Friday 19th March 2010
I set off on Friday morning, leaving Paul to collect his Dad from hospital and look after him. My plan was to go to North Granish and put out the controls for the Saturday afternoon exercise. I received a text from Gill when I was at Dalwhinnie – could I go to Lagganlia before putting out the controls? Yes, I replied and headed off there after a sandwich at Ralia, via Hilary’s to collect the Alvie maps. At Lagganlia I was shown the fire alarm system for each chalet.
Off to North Granish. Wow, this is just brilliant terrain. I love it – so do the seven sheep that came galloping over the horizon and then followed me around the northern part of the area! One word of note, if you have your mobile phone in a pocket, make sure it is well away from your compass! I did wonder why the compass was not working well.
I had planned to put out some of Moor of Alvie for the Sunday afternoon, but I had had enough and was feeling a bit drained. I did some shopping in Aviemore, important things like buying something to eat for dinner.
During Friday evening people arrived. The Taynuilt ‘posse’ rolled in, the kids rolled out and went to play. Loads of space for them to let off steam. By about 10pm most had arrived so we had a meeting in Hillend chalet, letting folks know what was in store for them on the Saturday. There were some interesting question “Who will be our coach?” was one I particularly remember!
Saturday 20th March 2010
Yes it was dry. We had a reasonable start, with everyone arriving at Ellan Wood, Carrbridge to start at 10:30am. Groups were established, a ‘cups & saucers’ warm-up and then the briefing for the exercise. Some eyes glazed over; what is an ‘attack point’, ‘aiming off’, catching feature’, collecting feature’ etc? This is a common problem with adults who have come into the sport but have not followed through the step system of skills. It took quite a long time to explain some techniques to people but then we let them go.
While folks were out on their course, there was an incident. Ross was walking back to the finish and met a woman, child and two dogs. The dogs were aggressive, little control from the woman and some sarcastic abuse to Ross when he asked her to control them. After a while the dog group came back through where Gill, Niall, Ross & I were standing. One of the dogs went for Niall and bit him. He requested her details but had a torrent of abuse from her. He followed her and was given details but he suspected they were false. That afternoon, Niall went to the Police in Aviemore and reported the incident. Gill & Ross went to give statements later as well. While Niall was in the Police station, (young) Niall MacL fell off the rocks he was ‘balancing’ on and had to have his ankle X-rayed with the diagnosis of ligament strain.
Landmark was adjacent to the morning exercise and many of us went there for either the bowl of soup lunch or the post lunch coffee. The rest of the complex was closed due to the damage caused by the heavy snow this winter. They will have a lot of work to do to sort it before Easter.
The juniors spent the afternoon in Aviemore swimming pool as we felt that they should not train all weekend. The adults (both the TD3/4 group and all the TD5 group) went to wrestle with the contours of North Granish. This star exercise (2 – 4 controls per loop) was mainly done in pairs, as a shadow exercise where feedback was given to one another. There was then a chance to practise relocation in the same area using the same controls.
I went to put out the Moor of Alvie controls for the Sunday afternoon exercise. Again I had a lovely time, wonderful terrain, birds singing, woodpeckers going for it and some deer as well. I had a quick shower when I returned and sampled some of the cake various people had brought along.
Next was the issue of the ‘Junior Incentive files’. These are promoted by the SOA, with each club adapting and putting their corporate image into them. The juniors received them well and spent time spotting who was in the various photos. It was interesting to see that, by the next day, they were putting their own mark on to the dividers.
Just in case there was not enough for people to do, we also had the EckO A.G.M. before dinner on Saturday afternoon. As you can imagine this event had a record attendance and was also over in less than an hour because dinner was at 7pm! As usual, the most hotly contested award was the wooden compass which this year went to Andy Dale as he had at least two things he wished he had not done.
Alan (helped by kitchen boy Trevor) cooked us a lovely meal of rice/chicken/lentil & spinach followed by fresh fruit salad, meringue and cheesecake. We all managed to squeeze into Hillend chalet and it soon became very warm. A steady stream of people, clutching a bowl/plate/KFS, was seen heading for the chalet at the allotted time. Dave organised our chalet and took a crate over.
After dinner, Julie & Kate made sure we were well occupied. Two teams were organised so we all wore a fluorescent green or pink headband. We also had a number and were then called up to answer questions, perform tasks or solve puzzles. The quiz finished after 10pm by which time it was not only the juniors who were hearing the call of their beds!
Sunday 21st March 2010
Strangely enough, the juniors were not up at 6am on the Sunday and life was very quiet until about 8:30am. At this time the TD5 participants appeared in small groups to receive advice about the controls they should attempt to visit on the Alvie ROMP course. Hilary had warned that it was tough going as the ground was wet or still had snow lying on the higher parts. This did not deter about 30 people heading for the exercise.
Fiona was taking the juniors for a map walk on the Lagganlia map; they were then going to split in to two groups, plan and put out a course before swopping over to do the course the other group planned.
I was with the TD3/4 group for the morning and Niall came along to help as well. This was great as it is so long since I had a chance to team teach. We also had a map walk to start with; the emphasis was on distance estimation and terrain visualisation. After that the participants planned their route around a set of ten controls I had put out before breakfast.
Stovies were made for us at lunchtime. It’s ages since I had stovies and they were great, both warming and filling. Then it was briefing time for the afternoon event. This was a TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More) event on Moor of Alvie (a great small area, some pine forest and some broadleaf woodland). This area splits neatly into three parts – two on the south side of the railway and one on the north side. Each team of four or five people would be given two maps and three SI dibbers. They had to record controls on a line course on two of the dibbers and then, between the three dibbers, record an ‘all control’ course of fifteen controls.
Once at Moor of Alvie they had five minutes planning time. Maps were getting ripped up, but one team were very neat and had scissors! It was great to see the pairings in the teams. Ellis (age six) went round the line course with Andy Dale – not sure if Ellis could actually see the map as there is a bit of height difference. The maps had also been adapted in parts, with the paths and fences removed as there is such a network it makes the navigation far too easy! The pressure of competition got to some; Ross Lilley went round the line course three times as the second time he did it he realised he had missed a control on the first visit so he got that dibber back again and went all the way round again! Andy Dale was seen to rip up a map and then run back to the team asking what the map scale was!
Once the team finished, they then each had to navigate round a ‘Naughty Numbers’ course. Juniors were able to be shadowed by an adult for this. The grid is very tight (about 2.5m between the controls which were SI units laid on the ground beside cones) and it is laid out in a random fashion. It is important to always keep the map set and thumb the map. Each competitor in the team visits the controls in a different order. It is very easy to get disorientated. One or two people folded their maps so that they could see the visit order - and then did not realise they actually had a map of the grid and they ran around ‘sweep searching’ for the controls!
People helped to collect all the controls; things were packed up, some headed for home while others went back to Lagganlia to tidy up, shower and then hit the road.
I went from Lagganlia to Forres to stay with a friend for a couple of days. This meant that I did not have a long drive after a busy weekend. I also had the opportunity to run round the ROMP controls in Roseisle on the Monday. Wonderful sand dune terrain. I loved it. On the Tuesday on my way home I ran round a short course at Alvie so I feel that I had my training as well over the weekend. It was good to get home to Paul but I felt really sorry that he had missed such a good weekend. However his Dad is recovering well which is good news.
All I have to do now is sort out the scores for the Moor of Alvie TEAM event. It could be a long day on Thursday!
Many thanks to all who contributed towards this successful weekend - coaching, cooking, being pleasant company.
I will add more photos to this once people send them to me.
Click the image for a larger version.