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The Audlem O-Ring - Get Lost!

Updated: Jun 3, 2023

I don't really know how popular orienteering has ever been with the general public. I'm sure most of us have childhood memories of it from school, scouts, guides or any other outdoorsy group but how many have done it since then and where would you go if you wanted to?

My experiences are very much rooted in cubs, scouts and then the cadets when most of us kids thought it was just a way of keeping us occupied for an hour or so and hopefully we'd learn how to use a map and compass whilst on the job.

However, to my surprise, I then chose to join the Orienteering Society when I was studying at the University of Glasgow. The real reason for this was because when I wanted to join the much more glamourous Mountaineering Soc, they were both oversubscribed and there was a kit list that detailed fancy stuff such as crampons, down jackets and ice axes that my meagre budget simply wouldn't stretch to. Joining the select group of people who run with maps and compass in hand was much easier: it certainly didn't suffer from overcrowding and the only kit that was essential was a pair of Ron Hill tracksters. I also realised it was a fast track to getting fit: turning up to my first event somewhere near Edinburgh, I was told to run the blue course as "only 3 others were doing it" and even if I finished last, I'd pick up points for the club. I nailed 4th position (or what others might call 'last') spending 4 hours looking for every single control point. Talk that they were about to send out the rescue team was over-exaggerated and I'm sure if they had been deployed they'd have been impressed with my tenacity.

I got fitter yet on my second event which was in Aviemore - just an 8 hour round trip from Glasgow this time. This time I had a new strategy: forget the map and compass, just follow the leaders, hang back far enough to note where they've gone, play it cool as I clip my card and then sprint off in pursuit of them again. It was here that I learnt that these runners were often track athletes who did orienteering as a kind of sprint interval session to keep fit during the winter.

Since my time in Scotland, I hadn't done any orienteering again until I saw the Egg-O Ring event over the Long Mynd and convinced a few friends from Audlem - thanks to Paul, Phil, Shaun and Kev - to try out the medium course of approximately 11km. A good few hours and almost 20km later, the group - containing an ex-orienteer and someone who used to teach navigation in the Armed Forces - returned scratched, battered and tired but having fully enjoyed it. Our merry band has since increased - Rachel, Pam, Emma, Sam and Graham - and we've also completed the Christmas Choc-O ring event over Church Stretton and its slopes all organised by the Wrekin Orienteers (https://wrekinorienteers.co.uk).

And this is the real inspiration behind setting up the orienteering courses in Audlem. An O-ring event a loop beginning at a start control point, where you are given an 8-figure grid reference and brief location description (e.g. fence junction, tumulus) of the next one. Here you get the grid reference and location description of the next.... and so on until you are looped back to the final point (or start point).

On each of the 2 occasions, I put out a short and long course to cover all abilities and varying difficulty (inclusivity and challenge are 2 of our values at Spokes and Laces). I ran the first Audlem event through Pau Run and Ride - where I worked at the time - and the feedback was so encouraging that I wanted to do it again. So Rachel and I have been carefully planning the routes, double-checking our route cards for the correct grid references and then putting the laminated markers out - hoping they stay there for the duration of the course.

We hope you have a great time on the course(s), and look forward to seeing your pictures and hearing your stories.

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