Tour of Britain

413No – I haven’t been reading Harry Potter all of this time. We’ve been away on holiday for the past couple of weeks and without network connectivity for most of that time. Our primary destination was the Scottish 6-Days orienteering event held on Speyside, up in the Highlands of Scotland. However, we decided to make the most of my being off work and have a fairly leisurely drive up there showing off Emma to various relatives on the way.

First stop was a couple of nights at my parents’ in Hertfordshire. From there we headed North to my Aunt in County Durham, stopping off at a family friend in Derby on the way. By now it was clear that, weather-wise, we were heading in the wrong direction: South of England = heatwave; Scotland = rain. Although I’ve visited Hadrian’s Wall a couple of times, I’ve always ended up Housesteads so, for a change, we had one of our many travel breaks at Chesters Roman Fort. The bathhouse, sited down by the river is in particularly good nick. A black mark for the visitors centre though who said that it was fine to take in a pushchair. Given each set of remains is surrounded by a fence with kissing gates, we’d have been better off with the baby carrier. As it was, we had to keep taking it in turns to parade Emma round the perimeter of each enclosure.

416Having crossed the border in to a rain soaked Scotland, our next port of call was Stirling. We met up with Christine’s parents at the Wallace Monument although declined to pay to go up. They had flown to Glasgow where they had picked up a rather snazzy camper van from Kira Rentals. The go-Pod was to be their home for the week but would also act as a nice dry crèche for Emma. Already toying with the idea of buying a camper van, the experience only seemed to leave them more enthusiastic about the idea.

We had rather grander accommodation planned, as were due to stay in Kellas House, one of the two large country houses booked by JOK for the week. Whilst slightly more out of the way than the other house (Glentromie Lodge) and without its model railway, the current Dutch owners have made it a very comfortable home (providing you don’t mind the assorted parts of dead animals liberally scattered around the walls). Emma certainly didn’t seem to have any trouble sleeping on the massive bed (or indeed, we’re glad to say, in her travel cot).

As for the orienteering, probably the least said the better. I have spent a not insignificant amount of time coaching and/or training on four of the areas (Alvie, Inshriach West, Culbin and Anagach) but this didn’t appear to help me in the slightest. Fitness wasn’t too much of a problem, although I’ll admit to struggling a bit on the long legs through the heather at Camerory and I enjoyed the lack of rocks underfoot at Culbin. No – twenty years of orienteering in the South of England has just left me with sloppy habits. Pretty much every day I wasted several minutes on two or three controls, wandering around in the general vicinity of the kite. Typically this was because I’d failed to navigate accurately enough to even find my attack point (if I had one) let alone the control site itself.

Things improved marginally on the last day when, having made my mistakes early on and been caught eight minutes by Ben Chesters, I decided not to just let him cruise past for the third time of the week. Instead we raced each round the second half of the course, taking turns in the lead. I had my best placing of the week (8th) and I like to think I helped Ben to first place. Sadly this still left my languishing in 24th place on M21L in the overall results. Even allowing for the large foreign contingent, I should have been at least in the top fifteen. Christine faired somewhat better, finishing a creditable 13th on W21S in her first orienteering since returning to running.

419Our journey back down South involved few stops: Dunblane, Gretna Green (parking is free but otherwise it doesn’t have much going for it!) and Blackburn/Ramsbottom. We did, however, have to contend with the M40 being closed whilst the police crawled up and down it on their hands and knees. Still, the detour via Coventy didn’t cost us too much time and when we rejoined the M40 at Banbury we had it pretty much to ourselves. With accommodation already being booked, now we just have to decide whether we are going to head North again to Tayside in 2009.

One Response to “Tour of Britain”

  1. Graeme says:

    Some nice photos, looks like a good trip.