CROESO 96 A report on the Welsh Six Day Orienteering Festival by James Head Unfortunately there were no suitable village

halls in the region of Wales that was to hold this years Welsh Six Day so Peter had managed to obtain two caravans and would be towing his own up behind the minibus for Devon contingent. On arriving at the camp site however we found that the bunk bed in Peters caravan had collapsed, so I spent the first night on the floor of the minibus and the rest of the week camping. At least the bed hadn’t waited until my brother was asleep on it before collapsing on myself! DAY 1; GWANAS & TYDDYN DU Consisting of many intricate contour and rock features this area provided a suitable challenge for day one. There was a good half hour walk to the start which was mainly up hill, but offered some exceptional views of southern half of the competition area and the Welsh hills. After starting I quickly made my way to the first control, then choose to contour around the hillside to control two where I spotted my brother, Andrew, just coming over the hill on the more direct route. Moving on to control three both Andrew and myself dropped down too low as we inadvertently ran into control six, and Andy Reynolds. The next three controls proved very elusive for everyone being in a particularly complicated area of the map, and despite already running through it once, control six was also 100 metres further on then I envisaged. A long slog uphill to control seven enabled Andrew to gain a good lead over me, and now that he was well out of sight I began to concentrate better on my technique. I made good use of contouring for the passage along the northern slopes though I was hampered once I had twisted my left ankle and knocked the bone of my right ankle on the rocks. I finished the course taking rather longer then normal but felt that I had “woken up” for the rest of the week. Andrew had of course finished much earlier and took much pleasure in reminding me of this for the rest of the day! During the afternoon those in the minibus went on a trip to the Centre for Alternative Technology where we were educated in the benefits of cleaner and more environmentally friendly power sources and living methods. DAY 2; CEFNDEUDDWR The guide book promised completely contrasting orienteering to the previous day, being mainly within a Forest Enterprise plantation, running along a north-south ridge, with a couple of small open moorland areas visited by the longer courses. Today saw Andrew starting six minutes before me which proved to be an advantage for myself as I did not have to worry about him catching me up! The first two controls were straight forward enough, and for the third, a knoll located within an area of forest walk, I decided to be clever and attack at the direction most people would be leaving for control 4. Although I found the control quickly I did not see any other orienteers! On the way to control four I caught sight of Andrew through the thick trees, and I could see by the way he was moving that he was complete oblivious to me as I overtook. There were one or two discrepancies in the mapping at this point which did create a few moments of confusion in places as I re-read the map to make certain I was correct. Andrew managed to catch up as I spent twenty minutes looking for control 8, a crag which proved very elusive for the twenty or so M21/M50’s looking around. There was a large amount of unmapped rock in the area including two unmapped walls. I thought at this stage that Andrew had created a large lead so was very surprised when he popped out of the forest behind me after control fourteen. There followed a rather boring

run along forest road to reach the final two controls. It appeared that this was necessary to get everyone coming in the same way though the forest roads that had been used for some of the event car parking. I didn’t manage to beat Andrew to the finish line but had achieved a faster time. In the evening we went to the event centre where we enjoyed a dinner of Welsh lamb and entered a team for the quiz, in which we came second by virtue of knowing such arcane facts as the number of players in a Gaelic football team. DAY 3; PEN-Y-STRYD TO BWLCH-Y-FFORDD The weather up to now had been particularly hot, “what we need is a big thunder storm to clear the air” was one of the comments offered by Dave Livsy who was not to be disappointed as the heavens opened on Tuesday morning. Running in the middle of a thunderstorm was a new experience for myself, one which I found I had enjoyed, though this was when sitting in the dry minibus afterwards! Unlike the previous two days I had found the course rather “straight forward” and didn’t make enough use of the more technical area in the south-west part of the map. There was one leg which involved going 400m without any line features through a technical area in poor visibility. I managed to miss all my attack points but continued on anyway in the rough direction of the control, relocating by walking into a large marsh. It had really started to come down now as we ran northwards. The remaining controls were again not particularly challenging which made the course seem more like a fell race then an orienteering competition. Arriving back at the campsite we found that the electricity had been cut off and we were unable to use the showers or the laundry. REST DAY Unfortunately the bad weather decided to linger around for awhile - though being better then the previous day - this meant that any plans to hill walking in Snowdonia were abandoned. Instead the group spent the morning visiting the Gloddfa Ganol slate mine at Blaenau Ffestiniog where we were able to journey right into the heart of the Welsh mountains where it was not surprisingly very cool. In the afternoon we were treated to a tour around the Hydro-electric power station which was very educational. The mist however descended as we drove up to the top reservoir, where the final car chase for the Italian Job had been filmed. Michael Cain had obviously been there on a good day. DAY 4; CRAIG GARTH BWLCH & PANT-Y-FFYNON The air was still damp as we arrived at the bottom of the dam holding back the waters of the idyllic Lake Vyrnwy, this meant a long uphill walk to the assembly area which left some people in a tired condition before they had even run! The first half of the courses were spent navigating around the extensive moorland. The height of the bracken and heather did slow you down in some places but the navigation was straight forward, in fact I could see one of my controls on a boulder from 100m away, but this had been anticipated by the planner who had also placed an extra control within the same area. Rosemary had an earlier start time then the rest of us and so gave us a rough idea of what to expect, this meant I took extra care when entering the forest. There were a couple of controls where I could have gone off but the extra care paid off and I was soon back on the tracks for the final four controls. After finishing I learnt that Andrew had just beaten my time by seven minutes which meant I had only lost thirty seconds per control.

DAY 5; HAFREN FOREST This forest located just a few hundred metres from the source of the River Severn looked very promising on the Ordnance Survey map and provided a very good assembly and finish area in a large green meadow located in the middle of the forest, although the car parking was stretched out along forest roads which meant some very long walks to the start for most courses. The course was not particularly challenging enough though the forest was pleasant to run through, involving some steep climbs in places. It was at the start of one of these climbs that Noel spotted me coming the other way, “you’re not going to get up there!” he cheerfully commented as I struggled to get up the bank. Meanwhile Andrew had just jumped down on the path in front of me. I finished the course in a particularly good time, but this was because of the lack of technical controls rather then any improvement by myself, in fact I was only thirty seconds from the bronze badge standard. DAY 6; CROES Y FORWYN TO WAEN LLESTRI The pressures of organising a week of orienteering were noticeable on the last day when on driving up to the assembly area we were stopped and told to park along the forest roads instead of the fields that had been advertised in the event details. It was clear that no one was prepared for this, which now involved an hour walk to the start, so all start times were put back an hour. The reason for this, we were told, was due to there being a particularly large hump in the parking area which some orienteers where experiencing difficulty driving over. After discussing this it was agreed that those wishing to run would drive back with Paul and meet up with Peter at his house, but by the time we had sorted this out the obstruction had apparently been cleared so we all continued to the assembly area. When we got there we were astounded at the large steep bank we had to drive up. Peter put the minibus in second gear and literally put his foot down whilst Pauls car nearly came unstuck at one point. We managed to persuade the controller to let us go off as soon as possible so that we could arrive back in Devon at a sensible time. It didn’t take long for the weather to ‘wake me up’, it was pelting down at times. Running across open moor land I was quickly impressed with myself as I had no major faults all the way round, and every control was located easily, although it would have been quite easy to make a few mistakes in some places. One or two controls at the end had elephant tracks leading to them but the rest of the controls provided a challenging course. I had found I had made an improvement in running across this type of terrain, particularly when compared to day 1! In conclusion the Welsh Six day provided some entertaining events, most notably days one and two, across some very picturesque terrain. So some of the courses were slightly easier then normal and the maps weren’t quite perfect in places, well that’s life, and orienteering. At the end of the day we had a very enjoyable time in Wales this year.

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