BOK SWOA Galoppen - Cannop Ponds, Forest of Dean - 15th January 2017
Car parking was obviously going to be a major consideration from the beginning. New Fancy Field is a great asset, but January is not a good month for weather. However, for a long time the long-range forecast seemed to be dry. It was just unfortunate that continuous rain on the Saturday night before the event produced the sort of greasy surface that I dreaded. Dave Urch came to the rescue with his 4x4 once again to get Tom Wilkinson’s equipage out of the field, and was good enough to remain behind until we had all managed to get out. Thankfully we had the hard surface track round the back of the field as a fallback. On a reconnaissance I estimated space for up to 80 cars around this track if parked closely, and certainly more than 50. It also has the advantage of allowing one-way working, with an exit at the southern end.
The problems had started long before, with extensive damage to the field surface by wild boar. A working party on the Friday repaired a considerable part of the less-damaged areas, and had it remained equally frosty on Sunday we would have been able to park most cars in the field.
The rest was comparatively easy. Well, it needed a bit of thinking and lots of lists to get all the equipment and signage ready for a Start and Finish remote from Assembly, but once engaged, our wonderful helper squads and their leaders worked it all with their customary efficiency. Controller Tom Mills asked me all sorts of pertinent questions, and I hope I was able to provide satisfactory answers. I know that Katy much appreciated his wise guidance on the planning and control positioning. With the Start and Finish some distance away, there was an issue of communications, given that mobile phone coverage over the area is poor. Experimentation with the First Aid radios, acquired for managing casualty emergencies in the forest, showed surprising coverage between the Assembly field and much of the competition area. A forward First Aid person at the Finish was therefore equipped with one of these radios, enabling contact which was absolutely essential just for running the event. We do hire similar radios for big events, but maybe we should consider buying a few more for regular use.
The Galoppen Planning Centre chez Dyer is now being wound down, pending repurposing for the BOK Blast Euro Tour and Bristol Urban race organisation in June. Entries now open: don’t miss this event of the year!
For this BOK Galoppen, it was good to be able to make good use of the relatively unused southern part of the Cannop Ponds woodland, which has been denied to us in the past. Overall the forest is a mixture of deciduous and coniferous plantation and both mature and young oak stands, with some deep stream beds and plentiful forest roads and foot paths. The land slopes steeply downwards at first from east to west then eases to a broad flat north/south lying plateau. Most of the forest roads run north to south and several popular bike trails cut through the map. Forestry works, including so called thinning, continued right into December 2016. Our aim was to have courses complete before Christmas.
From the start, my controller Tom Mills NGOC advised me to keep the runners off the path, to make the courses fair and of the correct technical difficulty (TD) and to avoid climb for the young and more senior competitors. After several versions, numerous forest visits and delightful days in the brilliant autumnal months, the final courses were agreed by mid December. The Blue and Brown courses involved the whole map with legs (both types) covering interesting terrain, although some rather vague mapping in places was the undoing of some. (Perhaps a review of the mapping is needed before the next big event.) As usua, the shorter courses required most thought in order to achieve the right TD with the right length. The deep leat in the west part of the map got wetter and wetter as the winter took hold and we had concerns over safe crossing of this obstacle.
It is unfortunate that the numerous wild boar have continued to ravage the forest floor and that it rained so much the night before Sunday, thus creating a slow and heavy run on some previously good areas. But despite the mud, happy runners abounded and I felt you had a good race for the distance you had to travel. We were so pleased to welcome 300 competitors including many youngsters and newcomers.
I have to thank the controller Tom Mills for all his invaluable and good humoured help and the organiser Mark Dyer for his great coordination work. But the greatest thanks go to all of the BOK volunteers who worked so hard to make the event happen both before and on the day. I make special mention of the long suffering control collectors – Tommi Grover, Ho Ching Chiu, Matt Pickering (apologies again, Matt, for the unforgiveable control error), Tom Dobra, Christian Saxtoft, Charles Daniels, Matthew Owen, Chris Johnson, Lucy and Ollie Tonge and Steve and Ella May Rush.
What a day!!