“Not all who wonder are lost” is a well-known checking insaying by that hobbit fella. In orienteering, however, this is most certainly the case – especially if you’ve not held a compass in maybe forever. I had the opportunity to try out orienteering when staying with friends in Leeds recently. Rather enamoured by the hobby, they spend most Wednesday nights and Sundays through Winter sprinting through forests in spandex and peering at a map. Essential equipment – a compass and a fob; you can hire either of these for your first go. You set off in small groups a minute apart so as not to lazily follow each other, as it’s generally an individual sport unless you’re doing it as a family. Once you’ve tapped in and got your map, you get your bearings and head off in direction of the first check point, with a quick compass check if you’re not too confident. Along with your map you get a legend showing what geographical formations each check point is on – note these mean next to nothing to the (our) untrained eye. ‘The next one is sitting on a triangle apparently’ – which of course is a boulder. SiIMG_20150104_122609milar to Karate, routes are mapped by colours starting with white. The lighter colours generally start at 1.5kms with multiple check-in pots not far off a path and mostly visible, while the darker courses are up to 8kms with check points buried in cow pats and tied to eagles. We opted for the route just up from ‘children with gammy legs’ – an orange course of around 3 kilometres, excluding the doubling back. We got the hang of the map and compass pretty quickly, but it was the hieroglyphics for each check point that slowed us down. It’s a brilliant sport to keep fit and sharpen those essential zombie apocalypse skills. After all, no one wants to be stuck with a compass and map and no way of using either. Really good for family bonding, and a lot of old timers doing remarkably well, so good for keeping fitness into your grey years. IMG_20150104_122206It’s not every beginner who gets a beautiful crisp morning in Soltaire to pop their orienteering cherry. The club we joined for the day which I’d happily recommend was Leeds-based Airehttp://www.aire.org.uk/. For some with London as your base:

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