This weekend sees a rare opportunity to explore the barracks and parade grounds of RAF Halton and the stunning grounds of Halton House.
On Saturday 20th January, Thames Valley Orienteering Club is running an introductory orienteering event and no experience is necessary to take part.
Orienteering is one of the country’s fastest growing adventure sports. At an event, there are several courses of varying length and difficulty, suitable for families and children, from 1km to 8km. There are also longer courses for the more competitive and for runners looking for a new challenge.
It’s a race with a twist; the twist being that there is no set route to the courses. Each competitor receives a special orienteering map, showing a series of checkpoints. The challenge is to visit all the checkpoints around the RAF base, deciding the best route between each one. Each checkpoint is marked by a flag and an electronic timing chip is used to record progress at each one.
"Most people don’t realise that orienteering is a competitive running sport," says Mike Shires, from TVOC. “However, orienteering really is a sport for all. Our events attract keen runners as well as plenty of families who come along for a jog or walk around a course. It’s also a great opportunity for parents to have a run while the children tackle a junior course.”
TVOC is Clubmark accredited and has around 300 members from Buckinghamshire and the Thames Valley. The club was recently awarded Orienteering Club of the Year and organises around 35 events per annum, ranging from local events for 150 competitors to larger regional events with over 1,000 runners.
Club member Blanka Collis, 32, said, “It’s a good way of keeping fit and for me it is also more interesting than just jogging. It’s an extra mental challenge. Sometimes people think it’s like treasure hunting. They say: ‘I did that at school once-upon-a-time’ but it’s a running sport for all the family.”
To have a go this weekend at RAF Halton, just turn up between 09:45am and 11:30am. There will be plenty of help on hand for newcomers. The cost is £11.50 for adults and groups on the long courses or £6 on the shorter courses; and £3 for solo juniors, including a special waterproof map to keep as a souvenir, hire of an electronic timing chip and a print out of your result and splits at the finish. For more details visit TVOC’s website at www.tvoc.org.uk