Friday, March 28, 2008

'O' where shall we stay this weekend!

Staying away from home for a night or two for a multi-day orienteering weekend can be as much a part of the overall 'experience' as the orienteering itself - particularly for the kids!

For week long events like the Scottish 6-days, Croeso in Wales and the Lakes-5, we usually go for a cottage. Done the camping thing - too much like hard work if the weather is poor!- though I do still try and camp at the White Rose with the kids, and by myself at the Capricorn and Phoenix Long-O's.

Our usual first choice is now a Youth Hostel - since eldest was born 15 years ago they have really become much more family friendly, though sometimes booking a family room can be quite difficult, as demand can often exceed supply - particularly if it's an 'O' weekend!

Looking back over 2007, it was quite a vintage year for Youth Hostel stays!

The year started off well with a two nights at Pitlochry with the NE Junior Squad - training on the Saturday and an FCC race on the Sunday.

Perhaps the highlight of the year was eventually securing a room for the full Easter weekend at St Briavel's Castle, on the edge of the forest of Dean. What a fantastic building for a hostel, spiral staircases et al. The wardens also arranged various activities over the weekend, like the medieval banquet on the Saturday night and the egg throwing competition on the Sunday morning.



A few weeks later, the North East and Yorkshire and Humberside Junior Squads combined for a weekend in the Lake District, training at High Rigg on the Saturday and a badge event on the Sunday at Harrop Tarn, staying overnight at Keswick youth hostel. It was really nice to sit out on the balcony over the river, quite late into the evening, admiring the views.


If there is a hostel building to rival St Briaval's Castle, then Langdale comes quite close. A fantastic Victorian country house with extensive grounds, and in late May, the rhododendrons and magnolias were pretty special. We stayed over here between a short race at Stickle Pike and the national event on Caw.



One of the things about staying away for the one night, is that we do tend to take the hostel evening meals. When the chance came up to stay at Arnside on the edge of both the Lakes and Morcambe Bay, Di was most enthusiastic - the food is great! The orienteering was the Twin Peak weekend on High Dam, great orienteering (and I had a good result, winning M45L overall!). The weather was tremendous, so before tea at the hostel we went for a walk along the shore, and then after tea, we went up Arnside Knott to watch the sunset over the Bay - and still in T-shirts!

After the Scottish 6-days, we decided to do either Edinburgh Zoo or the Burrell Collection in Glasgow, depending on the weather. To that end, I managed to get a room at Crianlarich youth hostel, being as close to midway between the two cities as we could get. The hostel was self catering only, so we drove back up to Tyndrum to an award winning fish and chip shop for tea. It was chucking it down with rain, the shop was heaving, but they were pretty good F&C! Earlier, I had walked up to the station to watch the joining of the trains arriving from Mallaig and from Oban, for their combined journey to Glasgow.

In September, Di had a weekend away with her friends, so I took the girls to the Aire Dales weekend for the national on Attermire and a badge at Langstrothdale. Although driveable each day, I decided to try out a new hostel for me at Ingleton. A good night, helped by the chidren's playground in the park adjacent to the hostel!


There can sometimes be bad nights at hostels, and a year or so ago, we had trouble with a bunch of teenage lads in the room next door and a thin connecting door - bad language and noise in the night. We managed to get a room move for the next night, but Di was reluctant to stay there again for the night between the ShUOC chasing Sprint in Eccleshall and the national on Longshaw in December. I managed to speak to a warden, and got a room on the old main building (with thick walls). Despite the atrocious weather (sleet in Sheffield and floods on the access road in) we did have a good night.


And so, full circle, we have just spent a good weekend at Truleigh Hill hostel for JK2008. A great location, right on the top of the South Downs overlooking Worthing and Shoreham, it must be one of the most isolated spots in southern England, only accessible by a 3 mile single track road. There were snow flurries which made me wonder whether we would make it down each day, but we did!

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