Orienteering gives you the opportunity the enjoy the fresh air, get outside, learn new skills, and discover new areas!

Orienteering markers come in all different shapes and sizes

I had never thought about doing an orienteering course until a couple of weeks ago. I was looking to do some preparation for my speed navigation test for the International Mountain Leader course, and it was recommended that I had a go with an orienteering course. It made me realise just how accessible these are for everyone – from doing it as a family as a fun activity, to practising navigation, to doing it competitively. If you enjoy exploring, having the opportunity to get off the beaten track and want some variety to your walks (or even runs!) then I recommend reading on!

What is Orienteering

Orienteering is a sport that requires navigational skills using a special orienteering map to navigate from point to point. This can be in unfamiliar terrain whilst moving at speed (that’s if you want to do it timed!). However, it is also a great activity to do to get out of the house, have some fun and enjoy your local scenery.  If you have children, then I’m certain they would love the challenge of finding each control point. Maybe with a little reward if they find them!

Where can you do Orienteering

A quick search on the British Orienteering website, will detail all the areas close to you that have a course. They have a lot of maps for permanent orienteering courses that are free to download. To find a course near you and to get a map click here.

Scuplture I found whilst orienteering

There are courses within all different types of landscapes from forests, countryside to even including urban areas, parks and sports fields.

The orienteering course I did was in Royal Victoria Country Park, near Southampton. It was a great course with 20 control points. These were in a mixture of woodland, open land, and even by the beach. It certainly got me exploring bits of the country park that were off the beaten track and that I didn’t know existed.  I found a lovely wooden walkway that went through some marshland, and was so peaceful.

If you are into technology, then you should have a look at the virtual courses.  These are permanent courses where you use your smartphone or GPS watch to direct you to each control point, and record when you have reached it. This is through an app called MapRun. An explanation of how it works can be found here.

If you are looking for activities to do in your own garden and at home, then check out this page. It has some great activities and games that you can do, which will keep children and adults alike entertained!

Who is it for?

Well as I have mentioned, it really is for anyone!! It doesn’t matter what your age or fitness level is, as there are courses to suit your own needs, pace and ability.  You could do it with a friend, individually or as a family. The permanent courses are generally categorised as one of the following:

  • White (very easy, up to 2.5km)
  • Yellow (easy, 2.6km to 5km)
  • Orange (medium, 5km to 7.5km)
  • Light green (hard, 2.6km to 5km)

There are some very hard courses (green, blue, brown, black) with each colour indicating an increase in length. However, these are often for those with navigational experience and are often not one of the permanent courses. If you don’t know how to use a compass, then don’t worry – you wouldn’t need one for one of the easier courses.

I completed a light green course at the country park, however, there was also a yellow and orange course available. I must admit I didn’t find it challenging. However, that was a relief for me as it reassured me my navigation was still up to scratch! But, it still enabled me to practise my skills and get used to what an orienteering marker looked like before my test! Despite it not being too challenging, I still got a sense of satisfaction with every checkpoint found.

There are also courses that are suitable for wheelchair users, called TrailO, so whatever your physical ability, it is accessible for all. To find out more about this click here.

So, if you are looking for a little challenge and something different, then I highly recommend downloading one of the orienteering maps and having a go. I certainly know I will be doing another one. And you never know, you may get so hooked that you join a local orienteering club!

Below is a video explaining how to get started on a Permanent Orienteering Course.

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