Holmbury 1996: A badge too far?

Read on to find out how Helen overcame her fear of planning and ended up helping Simon plan the LOK Badge Event at Holmbury Hill in November 1996.

Dramatis personae

Richard (Blake): Organiser

Helen and Simon (Errington): Planners

Bill (Greep) : Controller

The first problem was always going to be car parking. Richard had driven round the area and failed to find anything suitable. He had provisionally arranged for us to park at Newlands Corner, and then use bussing. We were very keen to avoid this if possible, and suggested that we could approach SLOW about the use of the field they had for the National on Winterfold. There was also the possibility of Peaslake Rec which we had used in the past. Finally, if all else failed, we could try parking on rides on the area.

Deciding what courses to plan was simple. The SEOA guidelines list 16 courses. An analysis of previous 1996 SEOA badge events gave a rough estimate of the proportions of runners in each class. When combined with an estimated entry of 600 to 800 this gave an idea of the number of runners on each course. This showed that a two and a half hour start interval would easily accommodate all courses without the need to split any. It also showed that the predicted number of entries for course 11 was only four. The next question was how long the courses should be. Analysis of results from previous events showed that we only needed about 10 kilometres for M21L to give a winning time of around 65 minutes. The problem was in deciding how much faster the area now was, following the clear-up after the hurricane, and how would the bracken affect the times?

Saturday 27 July: First visit to the area: hot and sunny. Check out the possible car parks, and decide that the one kilometre walk from Peaslake Rec to the north west corner of the map would be acceptable. Identify a suitable start and finish, as close to the car park as possible, and tape about 15 sites around what would be the start. That afternoon we ran a four kilometre course, and visited most sections of the map to decide what was usable and what wasn’t. Bracken in the southern areas was much too high to contemplate putting controls there, and removed nearly a third of the map. The general impression after the visit was that the area was good, if we could avoid the bracken. The best part was the section around the youth hostel, so as many courses as possible should visit this.

Thursday 8 August : Spent most of the (honeymoon) flight from Gatwick to Boston planning courses. Somehow we never quite got around to finishing this on the rest of the honeymoon, but at least we had some ideas about the general shape of the courses..

Tuesday 27 August: Find that we can’t use Peaslake Rec (football match that day) so move to plan C. Car parking will now be on rides, the start and finish need to be somewhere near the reservoir, and all the courses we have need to be replanned again. Select promising-looking start and finish with a pin, and plan a full set of courses. The good news is that they all just about fit in. The bad news is that we will need to tape about 100m of courses 14, 15 and 16 to join up the path network.

Saturday 7 September: Spend a day on the area taping controls and test-running courses: hot and sunny. Manage to tape around 90 sites, which should be more than enough. The test run shows that there is a significant area of brashings around the start that we had somehow failed to notice on the first visit. We discover that the taped route is unnecessary, since there is a new path running exactly where we want it. This and various other minor map corrections go to Robin Thomas to incorporate in the final map.

Wednesday 11 September: Produce a provisional set of courses based on the taped sites, along with a full set of pictorial control descriptions. This all goes off to Bill. Various telephone debates take place about control placement and courses, but everything is agreed very quickly.

Saturday 12 October: Site visit: overcast but dry. The four main suspects meet in the forest to agree start, finish, car park, toilets etc. The Street-Browns also come, to map and plan the string course, led by Ralph. Final negotiations with Bill over some disputed sites, and we then set off to put stakes at as many sites as possible, to save effort on the weekend.

Sunday 13 October: Final visit to the area to finish putting out stakes, and for a test run of M21L and W35L: occasional sunshine. I do 83 minutes and Helen does just over 70 minutes,which seems about right.

Wednesday 16 October: Helen finished drawing up courses in OCAD, and they all go off to Bill for final checking.

Friday 18 October: Bill says go, and we send off the courses to the Map Works to be printed. Final total is 79 control sites: pretty close to what we’d expected from the start.

Sunday 3 November: Printed maps are collected at the November Classic. The normal LOK disaster with the heat sealer occurs. We miss David Thomas at the event, so call in at Bagshot on the way home. He has given it to Catherine Galvin, who now has it in Reading. Luckily she brings it to London on Monday.

Saturday 9 November: Most of day spent putting maps in bags, sticking on control descriptions where necessary, drawing courses which we haven’t overprinted (including course 11 as predicted: total pre-entry of two runners) and heat sealing. Make final arrangements with HH for the collection of flags and punches. Everything now finished and ready to go.

Saturday 16 November: Meet Mike Hughes in St Albans and drive to Holmbury with a car full of punches, controls, flags and miscellaneous O rubbish. Arrive to find Richard and the toilets. Start putting out controls in very pleasant but cold conditions. Meet Bill in the forest as he starts checking them. No real problems, and we finish as it begins to get dark, with a handful of controls on paths left to put out. Meet Helen at Dorking station, and travel to St Albans (again) to run HH SENILE. Then back to Addlestone for the night.

Sunday 17 November: Wake up to heavy rain, which continues nearly all day. Arrive at area by 8.00 and check all controls are still in place. Everything checked and controller happy by 9.30, with 30 minutes to go to first start. Graham Gristwood (MV) is first finisher, and explains all the mistakes he has made on the way to (as it turns out) winning M13A. Finishers start streaming in, with no real problems. Interesting debates about the exact positioning of a gully near the youth hostel (probably OK) and one near the start (probably not quite right). Day disappears, and it’s time to collect everything in. Lots of help available, and we manage to leave the area well before it gets dark: quite an achievement.