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ACTIVE OUTDOORS: North orienteers put skills to test at Tulliallan junior contest

By John Davidson

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The North junior team at Tulliallan.
The North junior team at Tulliallan.

Junior orienteers gathered in Clackmannanshire at the weekend for the annual inter areas competition, with our local North team up against others from the East and West.

With a forecast for heavy rain and a yellow weather warning in place for the Sunday, it had the potential to be a bit of a damp squib.

But it turned out to be a fantastic weekend, notwithstanding a bit of rain!

After a journey down the A9 in some serious downpours, it miraculously cleared up as we arrived at Tulliallan Castle where the first day of orienteering was taking place at the Scottish Police College.

This was the relay event, with youngsters running in teams over three different course levels for different age ranges and skill levels.

To an outsider, orienteering can seem a complex sport with a language all of its own! But it’s also an international language that means once you’ve learned what it’s all about, you can join in anywhere.

The relays involved an Orange course, followed by an easier Yellow course then a more advanced Light Green. The “controls” – the orange and white flags that are "dibbed" on the way round a course – were positioned throughout the gardens and the adjacent Tulliallan Forest.

With some unexpected sun, once the first runners had set off I ventured into the forest to get some photographs. It was a lovely peaceful spot, with formal gardens and forest walks open to the public.

Having found a spot close to a control – but without giving its location away – I enjoyed the peace and calm in the heart of the woods, taking a closer look at the impressive range of fungi and a mossy mat making up a healthy forest floor.

Then a focused runner would come darting by, clocking their control before checking the map and making off in another direction.

Some of the junior orienteers here are in the junior Scotland squad and are at the top of the game, with others just learning the ropes.

What I love about orienteering is that it is so open and accessible to all ages and abilities. That was clear at the local event at the adjacent Devilla Forest the next day, when I saw everyone from young tots to more mature and experienced competitors taking part.

Running from a control.
Running from a control.

The rain had made for an interesting challenge on the Sunday, which was an individual event for the juniors involved. The Yellow and Orange courses were changed due to the dangers presented to younger members by a burn crossing that was in spate.

It was crossable for older juniors and adults but was deemed unsafe for the younger age categories.

I unexpectedly got a chance to take part on the Sunday myself – although I hadn’t taken my running kit with me! It meant I took on the Short Green course in my hiking boots and full waterproofs, which wasn’t the most comfortable or speediest way, but I made my way around successfully, and only had trouble finding one of the controls – which I eventually traced.

The children performed excellently over the course of the weekend, but were pipped to top spot this year by the West team.

However, the weekend is more about friendly competition and development, with a fantastic social side that included a communal dinner at Stirling Youth Hostel, followed by a quiz.

It’s great to see the young orienteers develop their skills and friendships as they enjoy such a welcoming sport. In the north, there are three main clubs – Inverness Orienteering Club (INVOC), Moravian Orienteering Club (MOROC) and Badenoch and Strathspey Orienteering Club (BASOC) – all of which will welcome new people to the sport.

A fast run away from a hidden control in the depths of the forest.
A fast run away from a hidden control in the depths of the forest.

North results (top 3s) – Relays (https://fvo.org.uk/media/events/2023/oct/28/tulliallan-local-event/1fdsq/index.html):

Girls – North 10 (Hazel Cload, Julia Ross, Cat Chapman) 3rd

* North 15 (Rona Laird, Erica Cload, Charlotte Burton) were given special mention for entering as a non-competitive team despite finishing with the fastest overall time.

Open – North 3 (Douglas MacDonald, Jolyon Picton, Adam Barrie) 1st

A leap across the burn for the older competitors.
A leap across the burn for the older competitors.

North results (top 3s) – SOL5 Devilla (https://kfo.org.uk/latest-results/):

White – Harriet Ross, 1st

Yellow Boys – Matthew McManus 3rd

Light Green Boys – Douglas McDonald 1st; Toby Burton 3rd

Light Green Girls – Anna Howard 1st

Green Girls – Kate McLuckie 1st

Blue Boys – Finlay McLuckie 1st; Rory Black 3rd

Blue Girls – Ruth Gooch 1st; Iona Scott 3rd

Brown Boys – Adam Barrie, 1st; Ewan Bennet 2nd; Michael Bishenden 3rd

Approaching a control on the longer courses.
Approaching a control on the longer courses.

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