Swapping heels and wine for crème eggs and cuppas for a very different Saturday night out…

By Katie Garner

The Badminton Brigade ready for action, and armed with tea!

At Wychelm, we are always up for an unexpected challenge, so when club regular and all round gent, Mike F started batting around the suggestion of taking part in the Roding Rally, an all-night orienteering competition in Epping Forest, we eagerly put our best walking boot forward to take on a chilly November Saturday evening, a map and the unknown.

Taking part was our undoubted team leader Mike, whose professionalism stretched to marking the map with detailed grids and laminating it against the elements, Jess and me from Wychelm and also Andy and Martin – regulars at Frances Bardsley’s Thursday club. Re-named ‘The Badminton Brigade’ and armed with Halloween crème eggs, LED torches and an iPhone 5 compass app we were ready to go.

The Roding Rally is an annual event that involves teams of enthusiasts taking part in either a 5 or 10 checkpoint course.  We opted for the 6 mile long 5 checkpoint challenge. Along with your map, you get given a sheet of cryptic clues along with three grid references for each clue. You then have to check the references against the clue to work out which of the three possible destinations actually houses the checkpoint – an impossibly small dark green tent hidden in the forest scrub. For example, Cheater’s Crossing was one clue, and one of the three grid references was on the exact spot of a place called Palmers Bridge, so we headed there. The checkpoint tents were in complete darkness, with the one ‘lit’ checkpoint still disappearing into the night with only a poxy candle as its indication.

Mid-way tea hut

We promptly worked out the first two clues and headed on our way, trudging through sloppy muddy forest undergrowth – namely numerous holly bushes – as well as tiny footpaths, main country lane roads and random clearings. Incredibly active contestants were jogging past us with head torches and high vis jackets while we munched contentedly on mars bars whilst bursting expletives whenever one of us fell in a puddle, or were unceremoniously whacked in the face by a battling branch.

We started on our way at 9.12pm and finished at exactly 1.30am, which Mike informed us was a very good time for a group of complete newbies (read useless map readers).  Enjoying our second cuppa of the night, we then headed to a very classy McDonalds drive through at about 2 in the morning, to get back home at about 3.40am.

It was an absolutely fantastic evening – we had such team spirit and banter, even though we hadn’t met either Martin or Andy before, they were brilliant and great fun to talk to. Mike and his map were ingenious, especially with Mike dishing out glow sticks so we could find each other easily – handy when more than one group were searching a clearing for a checkpoint tent. When we found one, we even turned all our torches off to lead the other teams in the wrong direction! We didn’t even feel the cold as we marched through the forest, and the hilarity continued all evening.

Thanks to Mike for getting the team together – can’t wait for next year’s attempt!