Copehill Down: New Year’s Day 2017

More family fun.
Family fun.
A military training village on Salisbury Plain is not be the kind of place you'd expect an orienteering race to take place.But for one day only. Salisbury Plain's Copehill Down was the unique and challenging location for the hosting of Sarum Orienteers’ New Year’s Day orienteering event. The event attracted nearly 200 orienteers who had to contend with cold winds, rain, mud and the clock in a score format race, in which they had one hour to visit as many of the control sites placed around the military vehicles, empty houses and bunkers in the complex village and surrounding open Plain countryside as they could.
Orienteers huddle like penguins.

Orienteers are generally dismissive of heavy rain and mud which was just as well as this is what greeted the 200 who congregated at the Army’s training facility at Copehill Down on Salisbury Plain for Sarum Orienteers’ 2017 New Years’ Day event

For the second year running the ghost village, abandoned military equipment and surrounding countryside were commandeered by Sarum for a challenging Score Competition with a twist planned by Andy Snell. Access was by kind permission of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation.

SARUM-Copehill Down-Jan17
Busy enough to be market day.
No Dad, we're here.
No Dad, we’re here.
Jeff navigates to the end of his finger.
Jeff navigates to the end of his finger.
Max and Charlotte hand out maps at the Start.
Max and Charlotte hand out maps at the Start.






Copehill proved to be as big an attraction as it did on its first use last year. We had runners aged from 4 to 80 and from as far afield as the Midlands, South Yorkshire and even Finland! In addition to the many regulars at Sarum events it was good to welcome Compass Sport Editor Nick Barrable – look out for a report in a future edition – and at least one local couple who were trying out orienteering for the first time; what a baptism.

Upstairs, Downstairs.
Upstairs, Downstairs.
Can't you read Sir?
Can’t you read Sir?
I knew we should have booked business class.
I knew we should have booked business class.
Hazel knows where she's going.
Hazel knows where she’s going.


Planner Andy Snell came up with an interesting twist to the score format. The control sites to be visited were scattered throughout the village and beyond and competitors had also to stick to the special rules. Runners had to visit as many of the 76 controls as they could within a one hour time limit but they were required to visit even-numbered controls before switching to the odd-numbered ones (or the other way round); switching back was not allowed. To add to the difficulty the controls were only marked by their scoring values, making it very easy to miss controls or mispunch.

What cocktail would you like Sir?

One in and one out.

And the same to you Sir!

Copehill action




As no-one managed to visit all the control sites within the hour time limit control selection was all important and this showed in the final results where the overall winner was Matthew Whipple (M21) of Bristol University, visiting 69 controls in 58.05 minutes and scoring 285 points. He just pipped second placed Nick Barrable  (M40; 70 controls, 273 points) who visited one more control but scored fewer points. In third place was Flying Finn Tommi Grover (65 controls, 259 points – in exactly 1 hour). Best placed Sarum runner was Adam Walker (M21; 58 controls, 235 points). Hazel Cutler (W20) of Sarum had an excellent run (47th; 55 controls, 214 points).

Thanks go to Planner Andy Snell, Organiser Liz Yeadon and Controller Ian Peirce for providing such good New Year entertainment.

The computer team stays dry.
The computer team stays dry.
Sarum's Standard flies over Copehill again.
Sarum’s Standard flies over Copehill again.


Full results are available here.

Shane Wilkinson has compiled photos from the event ina blockbuster movie video – with sound.

A version of this report was published in the Salisbury Journal 05/01/17.