Head torches in the on position, glow sticks snapped on and maps gridded out – we take on Epping Forest once more

By Katie Garner

The Badminton Brigade l-r: Katie, Dan, Jess, Joel and Mike

The Badminton Brigade l-r: Katie, Dan, Jess, Joel and Mike

The November social has pretty much become one of a kind, and is completely different from anything else on Wychelm’s social event calendar. Initially introduced by Mike, who had competed in the evening during previous years, this was now our third year taking on the epic Epping Forest, in an overnight orienteering adventure. This year taking place on Saturday 15th November and finishing on Sunday 16th November, we were able to enter two teams.

The aim of the game is basically a five checkpoint orienteering course which takes place across the mud, trees, random footpaths and scrub of Epping Forest. Each team are armed with maps of the forest and then provided with a set of clues for each of the five checkpoints, which are basically low dark green tents, enveloped in the darkness of the night. The cryptic clue helps narrow down the choice of three co-ordinates for each checkpoint, and you would then head out to the winning destination in a bid to locate the tent and get your sheet signed by the rather chilly person waiting inside. Challenging, unique and solid outdoor fun, although it may be a rather strange way to spend your Saturday night, it is bags of fun.

In The Badminton Brigade team was myself, as well as sister Jess and fiancé Dan. We also had ringleader Mike to hand, usefully gridding his map out intricately as well as laminating it against the poor weather. Joel was the last member of our little squad, joining Mike and Dan as the key map readers. I have no idea what Jess and I were meant to be doing. Our second team, Nick’s Pick, was headed up by Wychelm treasurer Nick and his wife Sandra, who completed their team with a couple of friends from out of town.

l-r: Nick and Katie in the Duke of Wellington

l-r: Nick and Katie in the Duke of Wellington

With a later start time than usual, we were due to head out at 9.40pm ish, so we opted for a pre-drink at the nearby Duke of Wellington pub. Whilst sipping my warming red wine, we decided that next year we would eat dinner there too since the aromas of cooking were sensational and really had us licking our lips. When it got near our start time, we headed to the first co-ordinates to get underway.

Before I go any further, let me just say that although this year was probably the most fun I’ve had at the Roding Rally orienteering, this was actually our worst score to date. Perhaps if I detail a few of the highlights from the evening that will clarify our result…

  • Getting massively lost at the second checkpoint which cost us about 45 minutes
  • Losing Mike in the woods when we eventually came near-ish to the second checkpoint
  • Stumbling across and then in to a lake hidden by leaves and getting a very wet foot
  • Mike following me in to said lake
  • Losing Joel when hunting for the fourth checkpoint
  • Pausing for a cup of coffee and a Wispa
  • Using Jess to count out how many steps we needed to go when we have the littlest legs
l-r: Joel and Mike

l-r: Joel and Mike

Needless to say we hit a few problematic moments, but it was awesome fun and I laughed all night. With a vague drizzle of rain, we came up against the occasional rainy patch, although underneath the dense woodland, we didn’t actually get wet. The Badminton Brigade came in at 25th out of 35 with a shocking five hours, six minutes, when previously we have always been in the four hour remit! Nick’s Pick earned bragging rights completing the course in four hours, 11 minutes to be ranked 12th. Back at the hall which was the finish, we enjoyed a final hot drink and leftover cakes and nibbles before the trudge back home in Jess’s cramped Corsa – I don’t think I ended up snuggling down in bed until 4.00am.

It really is a fantastic event and I highly recommend it for active people who fancy trying their hand at a new challenge with friends. I look forward to seeing more teams out and about next year!