The 2017 Interland match on 2 April was hosted by the Belgian Fédération Régionale des Sports d’Orientation (FRSO) in the hilly Herbeumont Forest in the Ardennes region of southern Belgium. The English team ran well and recorded a convincing victory in terrain which suited them. The hosts were second and the French Ligue des Hauts de France de Course d’Orientation (LHFCO) were third. England also won the embedded Youth Cup (aggregate under 20 scores) comfortably.

Whilst the competition is a team effort, spanning age groups from 14 to 60+: teams of 42, individual wins were recorded by: Anna Harris in W14, Helen Ockenden in W20, Fiona Bunn in W21(!), Jackie Hallett in W50(!), Jane Anthony in W60, Adam Conway in M14, David Bunn in M17, Peter Bray in M21, Clive Hallett in M50 and James Crawford in M60. Joining them among the medals were Scarlet Heap, Rachael Duckworth, Sarah Duckworth, Alison Harding, Liz Phillips, Jim Bailey, Alistair Thomas, Nick Barrable, Rob Campbell and Andy Hemsted. The complete team and individual results are linked in this EOC post.

Steep sided re-entrants cut the Herbeumont terrain so while the mature deciduous woodland on most of the re-entrant sides and higher ground allowed fast running, there were some long, steep climbs. Other areas had very detailed vegetation, sometimes thick, which required precise navigation. There were numerous point features: cliffs, platforms, small knolls, rootstocks (did I mention the platforms?). Besides navigation and significant route choice opportunities, the terrain and courses demanded agility, endurance, climbing strength, determination and perseverance.

The team assembled near Beaconsfield at noon on the Friday and travelled by coach, crossing on the Dover-Calais ferry and stopping in the Oostduinkerke YH. On the Saturday, after a short stop en route to see Namur and its impressive Citadel, athletes took the opportunity to train on relevant Ardennes terrain in the woods around Grandvoir. Saturday’s accommodation was shared with the French and Dutch teams at the nearby ADEPS Chiny, an outdoor activities centre: very comfortable and plenty of excellent food. On Sunday, after the race and prizegiving the team headed north to the Channel and the time on the coach allowed the veteran and junior elements of the team to discuss the race and analyse their route choices as each course was shared by an over 40 and under 20 class: a thoroughly valuable exercise.

We were very well hosted by the Belgians who also laid on sunshine for Sunday. I’d also like to record the team’s thanks to Helen Gristwood for sorting out all the clothing and procuring the extra food, to Allan Farrington of EMIT(UK) for the loan of the team’s EMIT cards, to the managers of the Crowne Plaza Gerrards Cross and the Holiday Inn Maidstone hotels for parking, and to the many parents, both orienteers and not, who supported team members by helping with travel, some from a long way away.

The 2018 Interland match is to be hosted in the Netherlands on 11 March by the Nederlandse Oriënteringsloop Bond (NOLB) near Schadijk, in the east of the country, just north of the border town of Venlo. NOLB have published this bulletin. Athletes aspiring to selection should note this date and, in due course, see the selection policy which will be published on the EOC website.