Published on September 25th, 2015 | by nioa-coaching0
The History of Orienteering in Learmount
The Learmount Community Centre has recently asked NWOC to write an article about the history of orienteering in Learmount Forest. Below is Anthony’s article.
The Northwest Orienteering Club started using Learmount Forest about 1970. The large number of tracks and paths made the area very suitable for junior courses and the large areas of mature forest covered in lots of small features provided challenges for senior competitors. The small hills, valleys, streams, bridges and river provided good opportunities for route choice on long legs of the courses. The forest was not only used frequently for local events but wasone of the original great forests for many Northern Ireland competitions.
The forest was also a great base to use for training weekends. To have accommodation in the middle of a wood was a great facility for our club. Often we would have up to one hundred juniors staying in the old hostel. The accommodation was basic but the weekends were great fun. Activities would start early in the morning with a run about 6.00am and would continue throughout the day and late into the evening. The day would finish with a night event where the juniors would use basic head torches to navigate around a course. It would have been customary for the Monk who “haunted the Castle” to appear during the course and scare the wits out of some of the younger members. This all made for a good night’s sleep which lasted all of about six hours before the second days activities would begin.
During the day the juniors would take part in lots of short training activities with plenty of discussion and coaching in between. This basic grounding helped the club to produce some of the best juniors not only in Northern Ireland but throughout Ireland. Many of these runners went on to represent their country at the highest level. Often we would invite over coaches from some of the Scandinavian countries to coach the juniors and to train the coaches.
The hostel closed down in the 80’s and large parts of the forest were felled. Also many of the small paths and bridges which had been provided and maintained by the forestry service were allowed to fall into disrepair. Sadly, the club found that the forest was no longer of use for competitions and we were unable to use the forest for about 20 years.
About 10 years ago the sport started to develop electronic punching. This allowed us to zig zag across small areas of forest without us being worried about competitors visiting the controls out of order. The computer can now tell us the order of controls visited, the exact time between controls and the complete time taken for the course compared to all the other runners. At the same time some of the areas of forest that had been felled in Learmount forest in the 1980’s were just starting to mature again. So much to a lot of competitors delight, Learmount once again became a suitable venue for orienteering competitions and we have been using it regularly since.
The use of computers and printers in orienteering has made the need for a dependable electricity supply essential. The availability of the Learmount Community Centre for events has been a great help to our club. Not only do we have a power supply but we have parking and kitchen and toilet facilities available at the edge of the forest. We have not only been able to use the facility for events but we have been able to organise meetings and courses at the centre as well. We are indebted to Caroline and the community for the use of their facilities. This makes life so much easier for the organisers but also much more pleasant for the many competitors travelling from throughout Northern Ireland.