At this time of year weather is always going to be a factor in organising any event. For some years events in this area have been based at Shorne Country Park which has the advantage of indoor accommodation for registration & download as well as hard standing for parking. At an early stage it was decided to try & get parking to the south of the area so that the Darnley estate could be more easily accessed especially by the shorter courses which was not possible from Shorne. We were lucky to get the use of Lodge Farm which not only was ideally suited for access to Darnley but also has a large expanse of concrete for parking. As it turned out concrete for parking was a vital feature, all the fields were awash with water & parking on them would have been impossible. Most of the cars were accommodated on the concrete & those who had to park outside were still OK as the ground was of a gravelly nature or had a thick layer of wood chips. No one got stuck which given the amount of rain that fell in the weeks preceding the event is remarkable. In addition to the parking Lodge Farm was also able to give us the use of a large barn with electricity which had it rained on the day would have been invaluable.
On the day two SI units failed despite all of them being tested before the event, apologies to those who were delayed at the North Start & anyone who came across a failed unit on their run but with electronics they can & do go wrong without warning. Red Cross had no customers which is good, clearly those who fell had a soft landing. The weather forecast was for rain & wind in the afternoon & we were prepared to collect the controls in a downpour as was the case when many of them were put out on Saturday. In the event the rain & wind held off until the evening by which time we were long gone, something for which we are all thankful.
Planning courses at Darnley has the challenge of the A2 and Channel Tunnel Rail link crossing the area. The shorter courses were designed to use the Darnley Estate, a new area for most of you. There is considerable variety of terrain and vague contour features, necessitating concentration throughout. The longer courses had a couple of fast warm up controls in the grounds of Cobham Hall school, before heading into Shorne Country Park. The 1km taped route to cross the A2 and Rail Link was difficult to avoid without a very long walk to the start but we adjusted my original course lengths to make some allowance for this. The area is not as technical as many other areas so it was stamina in coping with the mud and brambles that became especially important. Also being able to use such a large area meant that the nature of the terrain and vegetation encountered, particulatly on the longer courses, varied considerably requiring different techniques and strategies to make the best route choice between checkpoints.
A week ago we were evaluating whether the event could even go ahead at all, such was the state of Shorne Country Park on Boxing Day. The heavy rainfall just before Christmas, and subsequently, changed marshes into ponds and ponds into lakes. Two of my original control sites became impossible to use. When I resurveyed the area in September 2013 the ponds and marshes were so dry that they become the fastest routes to navigate by, even when the path network was rock hard. Difficult to believe it was the same area after a couple of months of hard rain. Consequently this required some changes to the longer courses in the post Christmas period and we are grateful to bml printers in particular who accommodated revisions to the previously agreed printing timetable and came in specially on 2nd January to enable us to have maps for today’s event. With everything that needed to be done in a very tight time period, one incorrect control description crept in; it was right initially then was changed in error. We apologise for this. As the description made no sense compared with the control feature on the map, hopefully most of you were little affected by this. Thanks to my assistant Andrew Evans, Phil Basford and Andy Elliott who assisted considerably in the final week before the event and special thanks to our Controller Simon Maytum for being willing and able to accommodate the late changes needed to the controls and courses. Without their hard effort over the past couple of weeks in particular, this event may not have been possible. Thank you and well done guys.
Thank you for competing at the Level B ranking event today on the Darnley Estate. As usual, I have enjoyed working with the dedicated team at DFOK. The weather leading up to the event had been a factor in delaying visits to Darnley and making some late changes to the courses and control sites used. In some parts of Shorne, Knolls became islands and pits transformed to ponds. However, this is not an excuse for the error in the description of control 87 and for those affected by this, I apologise. Fortunately, the control was visible on the approach and no thicket was mapped in the circle so hopefully, progress was not hampered.
The technology failed us on the north start SI box, so a replacement was quickly despatched from the event centre. Another SI box failed on the course and we have decided to keep the times as they are rather than void legs, as no-one reported this as presenting a significant disadvantage.
So the weather was kind on the day and I hope you enjoyed your runs on one of Kent's diverse areas.