Hampstead Heath in north London boasts a permanent orienteering course. My husband Joe and I decided that we’d set ourselves a #GetOutside challenge to run to as many of the control points as we could in 45 minutes, turning a (potentially) boring jog into a fun game. We collected a map from the info kiosk that shows the locations of all the posts (you can also print the map off online). It’s a large 1:10,000 scale, with lots of detail to help you navigate.
Even though we were only racing against ourselves, I could still feel a buzz of adrenaline as we levelled the map and pressed ‘start’ on the stopwatch.
We knew we wouldn’t be able to get to all the 24 control points on the map so first off, we had to decide our tactics: aim for as many points as possible, but not so many that we’d get caught out and not get back to the finish point in the time allowed.
It was a Saturday afternoon and the paths were busy – it was exciting to go ‘off piste’ and gallop across the rough grassland and into the woods. We got a few looks from people wondering what we were up to, and if we hadn’t been against the clock we’d have stopped to tell them about it!
Checking off the paths and features marked on the map as we passed them, we made our way successfully to the first post – high fives and cheering! We didn’t get lost!
On an organised orienteering event, the control points are marked by red and white flags. This permanent course has natural wooden posts which can blend in to the undergrowth. It made the second post really hard to spot. On the map it showed that the post was on a mound within a wooded area. We were pretty certain we were in the right place, so split up to scour the area to find the pesky post. Then Joe saw the squared edges and the label at the top – Number 12! Yesssss. On to the next.