The 2023 Ward Junior Home Internationals were hosted by England and the West Midlands at the start of October. Both the individual and relay took place at Sutton Park, which was familiar to many as it had recently been the location for the Peter Palmer Relays.

Teams stayed in accommodation at the Beaudesert Outdoor Activity Centre, which was about half an hour from Sutton Park, but better than a proposed alternative which was sleeping on the nearby sports hall floor. We were right on the edge of the embargo for the upcoming JK, so going for a short jog outside the centre was definitely not allowed! The facilities for large Scouting groups meant they were well prepared to serve us breakfast and a dinner of lasagne.

It was back to the original format of the JHIs, meaning we started with the individual race. This took place in the northern part of the area, featuring lots of paths and some green vegetation. There was some nervousness around the length of the courses: M18 was 11.3km and W18 was 8.3km. It was also deceptively tricky and very few athletes had completely clean runs. Despite this, it was a very fast area, and winning times were quicker than the planner had expected.

There was also a great opportunity to cheer on teammates as they passed through the spectator control. Overall, we had strong performances in all age classes, winning M16, W14, W16 and W18. This meant we won back the Individual trophy, with 77 points, ahead of Scotland’s 72. It was a reasonably convincing win, but still close enough that we knew we had to put together good runs in the relay to take the overall title.

Saturday afternoon was a fun one, and it stayed warm until the sun went down, so lots of juniors went over to the field to enjoy a massive game of football. After dinner was the customary ceilidh, and the decision was made to hold it outside, lit by the big lights that were last used at the Peter Palmers. The band were great and we had enough room outside – most juniors danced every dance and we managed to avoid any injuries too.

Sunday’s relay was on the southern part of the park – characterised by more open parts, gorse and again lots of paths. Once the red and white facepaint was donned, and we waited for Scotland to arrive after they had problems with their bus, it was a nervous wait to see how the teams got on.
Today, the athletes impressed us even more so, and the boys were 1st, 3rd, 4th and 7th. The girls did even better and convincingly took the top three spots. The relay points were 58 to England and 46 to Scotland, meaning we won both the relay trophy and the overall trophy by 135 points to Scotland’s 118. Ireland were in third on 65, so won the Judith Wingham Platter, and Wales scored 33 points.
A full set of results – individual, relay and team – can be found on the West Midlands OA web site at:

It was a great weekend of orienteering with a fantastic team atmosphere as usual. Katherine’s annoyed that she had to miss the celebrations in order to go and commentate on the European Champs. A special mention should go to those who made their England debuts, to those top year 18s who won’t be eligible next year, and to Emily Pieters and Kris Groom, who helped transport the juniors. A finally a big thanks to Ian Gamlen and his team for putting on a great event.

Katherine Bett and Will Heap, England Team Managers

(Click on any of the images to zoom)