Veteran Home International 4 & 5 December 2021
Winterfold and Pitch Hill Individual and Glovers Wood Relay Race

As someone very closely involved with the VHI for many years I felt a huge sense of disappointment in September when SCOA reported that they would be unable to hold the VHI competition due to “on-going uncertainty over whether the November Classic would take place.” There was frustration too in that this decision was not made until 7 September which meant that SLOW, who were already working hard to run the JHI in Hindhead did not have time to ‘piggyback’ the VHI on to that event. So with great reluctance I wrote to the other team managers and the England selectors to announce that the competition was cancelled for 2021.

It was only at the JHI competition on 9/10 October when the other nations had a chance to chat that it became clear that how deep the disappointment was that the VHI would not take place. It was probably more acute as, due to all the Covid restrictions, we had been starved of the competitive side of orienteering as well as the social aspects and sharing of experiences.

Gordon Parker (SLOW) who was running all the IT and Equipment provision for the JHI immediately offered to run the two days of competition. He suggested asking Charlie Turner who has great links with both Woodland Trust Rangers on Winterfold and Glovers Wood to get a quick agreement on land permission. I got in touch with SLOW chairman Alan Leakey to see if he felt we could take it on, identified a date and by the following day when I was at the JHI relays asked a couple of people if they would control, Paul Street to take on the relays and Andy Jones to plan the individual. So by 19 October, a team was up and running with land permission for the events. With a lot of work from this small core, the VHI took place 7 weeks later and seems from all the comments to have been an unqualified success.

As for England, the team triumphed with some exceptional performances and a comprehensive win.

It is fair to report that the team differed quite a bit from the original selections (and apologies for anyone reading this who noticed the selections were published quite late in the day but I expect seeing the speed at which the event came together, it’s clear that something might get overlooked. When I contacted the selectors on 12th October to say we were trying to reschedule the VHI, two of them were out of the country on holiday). It was also true that there were a lot of injury problems, several last minute, and last minute Covid issues so that two new team members were pulled in with only a couple of days to go and one on the Friday before the competition.

The individual race took place on Winterfold and Pitch Hill, undeniably one of the best areas in the South East. Using a remote start meant that there was a good navigational challenge from the start going into a technical area and plenty of physical challenge too with the hurtleberry (blueberry) that grows prolifically in the terrain. Many England runners had excellent runs with winners in 6 of the 7 men’s classes, and 5 of the 7 women’s classes, plus max points (ie first and second) in both M55 and W45 plus lots of second and third places. Overall it gave us a very good lead over the other nations going into the relay day. It should be noted that all the other teams were short of a runner or two with some very late drop outs due to injury and the new Covid restrictions which meant someone couldn’t come from France but I still feel the solid performances from England would have given us a win.

The relay was held in a small woodland adjacent to Gatwick Airport. It is managed mainly by the Woodland Trust, but there are several small plots now owned by individuals which does make getting land access harder. More problematic is when a land owner does something last minute as was the case here. A new (and in my opinion, completely ghastly home-made one strand wire fence appeared in the last couple of weeks in a northern block of the wood meaning a large change on several courses.) It still all worked well and certainly comments from competitors showed they appreciated the good use of gaffling to keep everyone of their toes. In the WMW race England won comprehensively with 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places. In the MWM, there was a very close race for 1st place, with England and Scotland coming through the run through together, but with Scotland just pipping England on that last loop by 4 seconds. England teams were 2nd and 3rd and then 5th and 6th so we won both ‘halves’ of the relay and the trophy.
1st team back and 1st overall WMW:
    – Jackie Hallett, Jon Cross, Sarah Rollins

1st team back and 2nd overall MWM:
    – Keith Masson, Lucy Wiegand, Richard Robinson

Overall we had a huge and decisive win.

I’m delighted that the whole team contributed strong runs in either the relay or the individual competition and in many case both. We have retained the Micklegate Bar for the overall competition.
Overall points:
    – England 286, Scotland 200 Wales 133 Ireland 101

Our thanks go to the SLOW core team: Alan and Diane Leakey for organising the Individual day, being mainstay helpers at the relay and for coordinating the weekend, Gordon Parker for all the IT, entries, results and all the equipment on both days, Charlie Turner for land permission on both days and for organising the relays, Andy Jones for planning the Individual with Paul Todd (LOK) as controller, Paul Street for planning the relays with David Dawson (DFOK) as controller, and of course to SLOW members who helped.

We look forward to the competition in Wales next year.

Sarah Brown and Amanda Crawshaw
England Team Managers

Note from Sarah

This will be my last report as TM as Amanda Crawshaw has shadowed me this year in the short run up to the competition and took over during the weekend. I wish her well and England too in the future.