South Ribble Orienteering Club
National Orienteering Event
Whitbarrow Scar

Competition date - 19th March 2006 / Cancelled 10.30am 17th March 2006

Does anybody read organiser’s reports these days? Do organisers still write them? Perhaps they only write them when the event fails to take place.

What to say? Everyone will want to know about the last week rather than the last 9 months, so I will start with last Sunday (12th March) when I was in Coniston and woke up to find a foot of snow. The South West part of the Lake District had had its biggest snowfall for nearly 10 years. As I returned home I could see Whitbarrow covered in snow, but I thought that, as usual in this part of the world, it would be gone soon. I maintained my confidence even following receipt of dramatic photos taken on the competition area that day by David and Miriam Rosen, and Malcolm and Liz Campbell.

The weather stayed cold at the beginning of the week and was forecast to stay that way. I heard that Whitbarrow had more snow on Monday. The event could be in jeopardy. We put a warning on the website on Wednesday. Also threatened was the JOK Sprints event nearby. They had even deeper snow. The weather was still set to continue cold with sleet and wintry showers as a bonus.

Dave Hargreaves visited the farmer and the field on Wednesday afternoon. The field still had 2” to 3” of snow covering it with pools of water on the exits to the track. No field means no event, regardless of the conditions on the paths to and from the start or on the open fell. Let’s not even think about the limestone pavement.

I know that I must make a decision well before the event. This is not the annual club handicap where we can decide the night before and ring round all competitors. Some people are travelling a long distance so we must make the decision by Friday lunch time. We this put out on the website. I arrange a site meeting for Friday morning at 9am. Miriam and David Rosen will be there together with John Bettinson the Controller. 

Steve McClean visits late in the afternoon on Thursday. The car park field is 80% covered with snow but the snow is only an inch or two deep and a few areas of grass are now showing. There is snow on the steep paths up to the start and down from the finish. Ian reports that the snow is ankle deep, or deeper on the competition area. The snow is not disappearing at the rate we need. Late Thursday night JOK cancel their event.

9am Friday – We meet at the car park field. John says that the snow cover has significantly reduced since 4pm the day before. About 25% had grass showing. I test it with my car – the only one with 2 wheel drive. Downhill and on the level I have no problems and I get onto the exit track. The snow is likely to have all gone by competition day, but will there be enough time to dry, or will sleet come and undo any drying? 500 cars will have an impact but we should be able to get them on and off. We also have the contingency of parking some cars on the road and at the school to take pressure of if some parts of the field are unusable. I reckon the car park will be all right, but the farmer may take some persuading before the snow has gone and we only have an hour or so.

We climb up the path to the start. This is steep and rocky and has snow over substantial stretches. Not good if the event were that day but it is likely to be clear by Sunday. The competition area is covered with snow. All paths are obliterated except where walkers had been. Even in summer junior courses are difficult enough to plan on limestone fell areas because the minor paths are so faint. Would this be fair for junior competitors? Would it be safe? We moved into the forest and inspect a control site. The marker was showing but finding the sites would be difficult and the plan was to put stakes and kites out that day. Just past the control is an area of classic limestone pavement. Today the clints and grykes were no longer a piece of academic learning from my schooldays. They were substantially covered and filled with snow. The limestone pavement had been a safety concern from when the event was in its early stages of development. John Bettinson had taken particular account of this and we had put into place some very thorough safety measures because of the potential injuries on limestone pavement and the remoteness of the assembly area from the start, finish and competition area. 

We all looked at the limestone and then went to try and stand on it. Immediately we all had the same thoughts. We could not hold an event in these conditions, and on the experience of the last 5 days and the weather forecast we did not have the confidence that the snow would disappear. I cancelled the event just after 10.30am. I had a mobile phone and to receive a better signal I moved a few feet back onto the limestone pavement and promptly fell through the snow into a two foot deep gryke. Just earlier the controller had just done a similar thing. A phone call to Dave Hargreaves put the cancellation on the website within 40 minutes. A call to BOF and all club secretaries were emailed. Toilets, water and St. Johns Ambulance were cancelled there and then. A call to Sue Denmark and she informed various junior groups and the traders.

The decision was made and I did not have to test the BOF rules about organisers having the responsibility to make the decision to cancel but controllers .......etc. Nine months work, and more if one thinks about getting permissions and slotting the event into fixtures. All gone and nothing to show for it. Inconvenience and disappointment for competitors. It is much worse for David and Miriam. I still have things to do. For them the process stops, an anti-climax. It comes upon me more slowly. Cancelling events is what organiser’s are responsible for and controllers are greatly involved in.

What if Whitbarrow did not have areas of limestone pavement? Would I have cancelled it because of the snow covering the paths? I think I would. I don’t know what the controller’s conclusion was but he expressed his concern on these points. 

The postscript is that Dave Hargreaves and I went up to the area this morning (19th March ) and put up cancellation signs. We stood at the Derby Arms crossroads from 8.45 to 11.30 and intercepted about 20 cars heading for the event. Everyone was disappointed but nobody was angry. We did well to get the message out to the other 480.

John Bettinson went up onto the competition area this afternoon and reported that most of the snow had receded on the open fell and footpaths were clear. In the forest there was about 50% snow cover and the same limestone pavement we had inspected on Friday still had a substantial covering of snow.

Organiser’s Usual Report

Here follows the usual sort of report.

I would like to thank many people for their support and hard work, and a lot of club members who volunteered to help on the day.

Thanks to the various landowners and particularly Brian Crowe who farms the car park field.

One advantage I had as organiser was the enthusiasm and expertise of all of the team leaders and assistant team leaders. Also within the club there are a lot of experienced people whose advice I sought and received regularly. This is vital in putting together an event of this size and complexity. I was fortunate to have Dave Hargreaves as the assistant organiser. Dave handled all the permission work and arrangements for the parking field.

David and Miriam deserve special thanks for the hard work they have put in which for them has meant travelling up many weekends to visit the area following busy working weeks in London. They maintain a tremendous enthusiasm for the sport and gave full and prompt help and answers to my many queries. They must be very disappointed that their courses have not seen the light of day – yet.

Thanks to John Bettinson our controller. John is always good to work with and from the beginning has been steadfast in making sure that event would be safe, fair and of the highest quality. He has also put an enormous amount of work into the event.

Thanks also to Ted Finch. Ted was the IOF adviser for the event who helpfully set out and explained the special requirements needed for a World Ranking Event and made sure we adhered to them.

Many thanks to team leaders and assistant team leaders, respectively:

Entries secretary - Dave Johnstone 
Webmaster – Dave Kesby
Safety Officer - Glenys Ferguson
Helpers co-ordinator – Mary Wheeler
Equipment Officer – John Denmark
Car park - Julian Lailey, Philip Gager
Assembly – Dave Hargreaves
Enquiries – Karen Quickfall, Sue Denmark
String Course - Jane Anthony
Start – Keith Hulme, Roy McGregor
Finish - Sarah Fulwood, Steve McClean 
Drink Points - Jon Carberry, Sarah Watkins
Computing/Results – Chris Roberts – (and a medal for sending an email to all web entries warning of possible cancellation)

Thanks to all SROC members who were going to help on the day and have already done work on the event 

A lot of orienteers outside of SROC need a big thank you:

Malcolm Campbell – surveyed and drew the map then was responsible for printing and bagging the map. He is also very disappointed in not seeing the full fruits of his hard work – yet.

Martin Bagness acted as a mapping adviser. 

Julie Cleary(LOK), Ronan Cleary (LOK), Paul Taylor (CLOK), Tony Thornley (Aire) and Andy Lewsley (BL) were prepared to sit on a jury if needed.

PFO who were to provide some helpers on the day and lent equipment.

Thanks to landowners and other outside bodies – 
Brian Crowe, Witherslack Estate, Crossthwaite & Lyth Commoners, Mr Farrer, Forestry Commission, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, English Nature and the Highways Agency

Villa Drinks (water) and Gibsons (toilets) have been very helpful over the cancellation.

A rearranged date?

We hope to re-arrange the event for another date and put to good use our plans and organisational structure. This will be decided shortly and information put on the SROC website. Until we run the event the maps will remain unpublished and in a secure place.

The Organiser has resigned. Long live the Organiser.

“Never again”? That old refrain from all organisers of big orienteering events. Certainly the words have passed my lips, particularly in the last week. After 240 outgoing phone calls, 245 outgoing emails and 493 incoming ones I feel like handing over to someone else. Otherwise, for me, it will feel like organising two national events back to back.

Fortunately, Dave Hargreaves has offered to take over. I have accepted and will take over assembly. He should have it cushy!

When the event does take place it will provide some excellent orienteering in wonderful terrain. We look forward to it and to seeing all of the competitors. I will miss my visits to the area. They have until this week been extremely enjoyable experiences.

On Tuesday morning I will be at Manchester airport taking the first flight to Almería before cycling into the Sierra Nevada. Now doesn’t that mean Snowy Mountains in Spanish?

Brian Jackson - Organiser

Last Updated : 19.03.06