This page has been copied from the previous website and has not been reviewed for many years. There are plans to provide an interactive map with details of our areas and previous events held on them but until then:
Prepared and last up-dated by David Williams of HOC
What is this page all about?
The Orienteers dilemma: You are considering entering a race in a forest your have never visited before – there is an event on just down the road but you’ve run there a hundred times before – so what about a trip to the West Midlands?
Can you believe pre-event publicity? Is it worth travelling 100+ miles for? Will you enjoy it when you get there? Have you already been there before and the club has just ‘re-named’ the area (like certain west country clubs I could mention)?
Please treat the information on access as a guide only it is correct to the best of my knowledge – if you do visit an area which you believe has public access please don’t carry out any activity which might be regarded as ‘orienteering’ such as ‘running off the paths’ or carrying an O-map, except, of course, in areas with a Public Permanent Orienteering Course.
Some of these areas “belong” to the now or nearly defunct Wye Valley Orienteers (WYE) – if WYE are ever refounded then these may revert to WYE. Other areas are shared with City of Birmingham Orienteering Club (COBOC)
The descriptions, ratings and comments given are only my opinion. Please don’t sue me if you disagree – just E-mail me with your ‘corrections’!
Classification of Areas
Size: Rating from ‘Training only’, through ‘Colour Coded’ (C4) up to ‘International Event’ (C1)
Terrain: A short ‘pen portrait’
1 Very Simple e.g. Town Park – hard to exceed TD1 or TD2
2 Between 1 and 3
3 Typical West Midland Area – lots of paths, rolling terrain, mixed woodland, good when C3 event size allowing challenging route choice. Some TD4 and very few TD5 control sites. Nowhere too far from a path.
4 Between 4 and 5
5 “National Event” Terrain – with opportunity for lots of TD4 and TD5 navigation
5* Complex, top class Lake District or Scottish terrain or Coastal sand dunes – allowing lots of TD5 legs – E.g.. Eskdale Areas, Darnaway, Merthyr Mawr (We don’t have any 5* areas!)
1 All on paths or short grass – a town park
3 Typical West Midland Terrain – very mixed, mostly run or slow run with patches of brambles, and bracken in the summer. Short, sometimes steep climbs.
5 Exceptionally rough underfoot, lots of fight and walk vegetation, very long, steep slopes.
1 Industrial Wasteland
3 Typical West Midland mixed woodland
5 Superb views or exceptional vegetation, interesting natural features.
Obstacles: Measured in ‘Noreens’. Notes especially for people who would rather not spend all day climbing barbed wire fences, bum sliding down muddy slopes and lacerating legs in bramble patches. 1 Noreen is “Pushchairs and Sandals”, 5 is 10 fence climbs, vertical mud slide, 2m wide ditch jumps
All areas require written permission for orienteering. Some are open to the public for walking etc. Many are closed private woodlands. Several of the Forestry Commission areas are subject to access restrictions – don’t assume that you can wander where you like.
Terrain: Mainly parkland, lakes, streams. Rough grassland and patches of trees.
Physical: 1 – dead flat
Obstacles: 2 Noreens: I remember there were quite a few wooden fences and old hedge lines – lots of crossing points though. A number of ditches and one large fordable stream. Summer vegetation can be a problem.
Access: Public park
Personal Rating: Good fun for a summer evening event. Also suitable for SMILE, Schools Championship and C5 – might have a few controls nicked however.
Terrain: Formerly a coal mine and brickworks with associated spoil heaps. Now rather nicely reclaimed and returned to public use – 1/3 is ‘landscaped’ rough open grassland the rest is mixed deciduous woodland, mostly mature and runnable. A number of large tracks, lots of paths. One big hill with reclaimed spoil heap features. Connects with Himley Hall.
Technical: 2+ too many paths but you can get confused in some of the patches of forest.
Physical: 3 – mostly ‘rolling’ but one big climb
Pretty: 3- – some nice bluebell wood and there are views from the top of the hill
Obstacles: 3 Noreens: 2 wooden fences and one big muddy dump truck track. Some steep and slippy slopes. An impenetrable hawthorn hedge. Very good and very clean loos!
Access: Public park. There may still be a permanent orienteering course
Personal Rating: I quite like this one, good for a high speed chase round and for kids. Warden is keen on orienteering, very good visitor centre.
Terrain: A single BIG hill. Exceptionally steep sides, flat on the top. Mixed woodland – mainly mature conifers with wonderful oak woodland interspersed – mostly run. One large area suffers serious brambles. Areas of felling and replanting absolutely impenetrable. Lots of rides and paths. Area of park/farm land to East – very fast and quite interesting contours.
Physical 5 – like in one area the contours form solid brown, but good planning can avoid nasty climbs.
Pretty: 5 – if you are lucky to get over to the oak woodlands – a carpet of bilberry, heather and ‘pillows’ of moss and lichen – I’ve seen nothing else like it in the Midlands. The park has some nice specimen trees and babbling brooks.
Obstacles: 3 Noreens – Quite a few barbed wire fence crossings. Paths can get very muddy and of course it is steep (so have a look at who is planning the race before you decide to do the ‘L’)
Access: No public access. SSSI. Private woods and park. Working forest and lots of shooting.
Personal Rating: I did the OCAD – 200 hours tracing millions of contours but I still love this area – we only use it every other year and quite right too.
– similar to Breakneck Bank & Sturt – an extension of the same river valley – not available for use since early 80’s. A shame
Size: Badge Event with map exchange for longer courses. Brown and Blue may also require map exchange if Sturt extension is not available
Terrain: Gentle to steep stream valley sides with a flat plateau. Re-entrants and niches in valley sides. Mostly coniferous plantation – run or slow run – a lot of ‘gloomy’ western hemlock (###STOP PRESS### Alison says it may be dark but it is now nice and clear underfoot). The stream bank (20% of area) is an exceptional oak woodland with heather and bilberry ground cover. Very fast very pretty. Some large patches of brambles but the extensive path/forest road network means these can be avoided.
Technical 3+ some good route choices.
Physical Mostly 3 but the bank is a steep short 5+
Pretty: Most 3 but the Oak woodland (5+) is not to be missed in the spring.
Obstacles: 2 noreens: The main stream is very hard to cross – especially in winter. Even fit M21s may find it a struggle. Be prepared to detour to bridges or get wet. A couple of fences to cross. Contouring on “The Bank” can be a struggle when wet.
Access: Private Woodland – no public access – working forest and deer hunting preserve. There is a public footpath but I won’t go in unless I have checked with the forester that no shooting is taking place.
Personal Rating: My second favourite area in the West Midlands – but then I spend a year mapping it.
Size: Small – good only for SEE or SMILE
Terrain: A formal, ornamental town park – bandstand, roads and paths, short grass and flower borders. A couple of bits have gone wild though
Pretty: The Wyre Forest District Council must have a bit of money to spare because it still looks quite nice.
Obstacles: 0 noreens
Access: Public Park
Personal Rating: Good for an SEE – especially run as a “One–Man-Relay” with a mass start and all….
Size: Massive area – all of which can be used for orienteering – JK/BOC/National Events
Terrain: One large hill with two summits. Mixed plantation and fields on the lower slopes with a good path/ride network. Does not suffer from brambles, bracken not a serious problem before June. Exposed moorland on top – most straight forward fast run – old earthworks, parallel streams valleys and re-entrants but 2 heavily worked areas full of hazy vegetation changes, pits, marshes, spoil heaps – as technical as you can get in the midlands.
Technical Most 3+ but big areas of 5. Opportunity for very long legs/route choices.
Physical 4+ – longer courses will have a lot of climb – summit is close to 2000ft.
Pretty: 4 some nice views from the top, primroses and bluebells in season.
Obstacles: 3 Lots of fences on lower slopes.
Access: Private Woodland – working farms and forestry. Lots of shooting. No public access.
Personal Rating: For M/W18 to M/W50 – excellent. Shorter courses suffer from either very long walks to start/from finish or not getting into the best terrain. For big events walk to starts and assembly will be long. For colour coded events it is possible to drive right to the top of the hill where all the technical bits are. It all depends on how good the planner is.
Size: Small – C5
Terrain: Reclaimed industrial land, stabilised slag heaps, former rough pasture, several canals, lots of lakes and ponds. Little copses are maturing but still a bit green in places.
Technical 2 to 3 though finding some of the controls can be fun with all the summer vegetation up
Physical 2 – just a couple of hills, lots of paths so you are never running through the rough stuff for too long
Pretty: 150 years ago it would have been bedlam – blast funaces, steel mills, kilns, slag heaps – now it is really quite pretty – the canals have been spruced up and it is all rather green – a nice contrast to the depressing estates that border the park.
Obstacles: 2 Noreens: Canals – make sure you spot where the bridges are. There are a couple of wooden fences to cross, a hedge or two to penetrate and the summer vegetation can be very tall – make sure you are not first off. It is very heavily used by dogwalkers – so be careful when you kneel down at the master maps. Expect some abuse from the local “youth”.
Access: Its a public park
Personal Rating: Really lots of fun for an SEE – and you can do some industrial achaeology on the way round.
Size: Medium – could take a C4 but orienteering access is limited to Forest Visitor Centre and HOC Closed C5 only
Terrain:Steepsided stream valleys and flat plateaus in between – lots of reentrants. Mixed mature Beech, Oak and Coniferous plantation. Lots of paths. Some areas of bramble.
Pretty: 3 to 4 – The beech woodlands are nice.
Access: Forestry Commission land – General public access – there is a forest visitor centre with loos, museum, cafe and shop
Obstacles: 3 Noreens – no fences but slippy steep slopes and brambles.
Personal Rating: This area formed the southern 30% of the 1985 British Champs area – the building of the visitor centre and a deer sancutary combined with misunderstandings arising from BOC85 meant that we lost the area until Ca. 1997. It is great fun – A proper orienteering area – lots of cross country legs and runnable forest.
Size: Small – C5 only, can be linked with Highbury Park (0.75 to 1.2km roads and tracks)
Terrain: Northern part – ornamental town park with bandstand, arts centre, boating lake, flower beds…. Southern Part – rough grassland, old hedge lines, rugby pitches, small areas of run woodland. Flat and fast.
Pretty: 3 The park is quite nice when the flowers are out.
Access: General public access – there may still be a permanent orienteering course
Obstacles: 0 Noreens – None worth mentioning.
Personal Rating: Fun for a summer evening event.
Size: Just about big enough for a Badge Event – comes in 2 or 3 bits with some dead running in between. Longer courses with map exchange or 1.5 k walk to start.
Terrain: 2 hilltops with mixture of heath, plantation and low naturally seeded oak. 1 area of private plantation (Hagley Wood). Steep in places, lots of paths, lots of re-entrants. Generally runnable but suffers from bracken in summer.
Physical 4 – steep but short climbs.
Obstacles: 2 Noreens – 2 fences/gates on one of the links between the 2 hills. Can get very muddy and slippy
Pretty: 3 – Bluebells in spring. Very good views over Birmingham conurbation & Worcester/Shropshire Hills. Very heavily used by the public.
Access: Country Park with Permanent Course. General public access
Personal Rating: Not my favourite area but a good solid colour coded venue. Some interesting route choices.
a.k.a Norman Chamberlain Park
Size: Medium but chopped up into bits – usable area is small
Terrain: Public park – fields, rough grass, small patches of scrub and one nice bit of woodland – used to belong to the scouts but they were chased off when all the estates got built around the park. On the Cole floodplain in the eastern part of Birmingham.
Pretty: 1 -The old scout camp is nice mature broadleaf woodland, the rest is scrub and mown grass.
Access: General public access – there may still be a permanent course – the controls had to be upgraded to concreted in metal posts
Obstacles: 2 Noreens but not a nice place for runners = expect abuse from local youth
Personal Rating: I didn’t enjoy the area – bit of a combat zone. Vandals will steal controls or if they don’t they will attmept to obscure the control code with dog poo (yes really they did this).
Size: Small but can take a C4 with careful planning. There was once a proposal to link this Baggeridge, Sedgley hall Farm and Himley Hall for a ‘Black Country Long O’
Terrain: Derelict farmland and former industrial site. Very similar to Baggeridge. Black and Hawthorn scrub, old fence lines, lots of paths and quite a few brambles. A valley with moderately steep sides.
Pretty: 2 – not as nice as Baggeridge – on a sunny day in the Spring can be quite fetching.
Obstacles: Several barbed wire fences.
Access: Country Park/Nature Reserve – may still have a permanent course.
Personal Rating: Has been a long time since I ran here so memory is rather hazy. I didn’t really enjoy it but if there’s nothing else on…..
Size: Badge Event with map exchange for M21/M35
Terrain A ridge with very steep north facing scarp and gentle dip slopes. A large valley with medieval fish ponds. An iron age fort (earthbank north side). Open bracken on the scarp slope and mature run/slow run/walk conifers elsewhere (mostly run tho’). There is a large area of fast grassland – probably only crossed by longer courses. Area suffers from a lack of usable features – few point, few contour and restrictions due to environmental considerations. There is an extensive track and forest ride network.
Technical 3 – as long as you can use a compass in the large blocks of conifers.
Pretty: 4 – Parts of the common are very nice – dew ponds and lots of half timbered houses. Fish pool valley is interesting and there is of course a big castle. Some really ancient sweet chestnuts. The northern slope is Oak Woodland and the views from fort are excellent.
Obstacles: 3 – few fence crossings on longer courses. There are loos and tea rooms in the castle grounds
Access: Most of the land is owned by the National Trust I think, the Forestry Commission Lease part – so normal F.C. Rules apply – I don’t think they want you off the paths. The northen slope is in private ownership. There is a large area of common land – free public access.
Personal Rating: I did part of the map so I am biased – Good for a very fast, long H21 run. Not so interesting if you are going slower. 400 year old sweet chestnuts make it into several “notable tree” books
Size: C4 colour coded but suffers from being split in two by a busy A road. Longer courses require second mastermaps.
Terrain: Typical ‘country estate woods’ – ‘run’ plantation with rides & brambles, some areas of rhododendron, some park parkland/sheepwalks, small areas of light green as shelter for Pheasants – is on the east bank of the Severn and is remarkably similar to Eymore Woods.
Physical: 2 – not much climb, apart from parkland near river.
Obstacles: 2 Noreens – there may be a couple of easy fence crossings into and our of forest blocks. There is a National Trust “Big House” and all the usual facilities
Personal Rating: I have only run there once – and I did my mapping bit in the winter – I expect it to be pretty in the spring.
Normally combined with Malvern Hills – see entry for Malvern Hills and Eastnor Park
Size: Medium – C4 with 2nd master maps on the brown.
Terrain: Working forest, formerly managed for shooting. Gently slopes towards river Severn then drops steeply over a virtual cliff down to water level. A few big re-entrants. Mostly conifers, mostly run but, sadly, a lot of brambles – if it has been a mild winter you will suffer. Lots of big tracks, few small paths.
Physical: 3 unless the planner sends you over the edge (5+)
Pretty: 3 – can be quite nice on a crisp and sunny January morning.
Obstacles: 3 Paths can get very muddy in the winter. Walkers and those with short legs will not like the brambles. Good planning can avoid the worst.
Access: Land use seems to have changed recently – was formerly shooting woodlands – no public access – but a large part is now open for public access with marked paths.
Personal Rating: I like this one and we always get a good turn out. Good solid colour coded terrain. Note is pronounced “Aymr” by the locals. You will here the steam locomotives of the Severn Valley Railway chuffing past…
Map still in preparation for a permanent course. Believed to be small areas of reclaimed industrial land & urban woodland, mostly grass and hawthorn/elder scrubland.
Size: Small – C5 only, longer courses Norwegian
Terrain: Mostly wooded valley floor and sides. Naturally seeded birch plus mature oak/sweet chestnut. Lots of unusual sandstone pillars, crags, spurs.
Technical: 3 (though some people seem to take a very long time getting round – shape makes it hard to plan proper white, yellow and orange courses.)
Pretty: 4 – especially in the spring. Lots of woodpeckers. Suffers from heavy public use = “A big dogs toilet”
Access: Public country park. Permanent Course – aimed mainly at schools.
Personal Rating: I am biased because I have mapped this twice – good for a summer evening race but probably not worth travelling more than 30 miles for a C5 – in the spring it can be very very pretty.
Size: This is a new one on me – entry will be updated when I have run there!!!
See ‘Clent‘. Permission to use Hagley Park obtained on a once only basis. Nice deer park with stately home. Not very technical though
Small area of coniferous plantation. An occasional extension of Clent. No public access.
Size: Small – just about fit in 5km without second master maps. Good C5 or low key C4
Terrain: As varied as they come: A sandy bluff which used to be the bank of the river Severn, flat former flood plain below, gently sloping plateau above. Mostly rough open heath with patches of windblown sand, broome and gorse. Large & small patches of naturally seeded birch and oak and 2 small conifer plantations – one the fastest ‘run’ you will ever see. Used to be a rabbit warren, then used for salt processing (hence some rather unusual plants), rifle ranges, practice trenches for WW1, clay pits and industrial tipping – leaving lots and lots a small brown line features!
Technical: 3+ (would be 4 but the tricky bits are too small)
Pretty: 3+ – very interesting natural history – some plants locally unique due to sandy soil and historical uses.
Obstacles: No fences but one very fast main road through middle of the area. Broome and gorse often impenetrable. Beware of gypsy ponies and dogs on western half.
Access: Country Park – general public access. Orienteering numbers limited for environmental reasons (they cannot stop the motor bikes and I saw the local athletic club eroding all the paths doing ‘resistance’ training in the sand)
Personal Rating: I mapped this one so I am biased – very good for a rapid 5km blast around – you will have to think! Slower runners will find parts rather tricky. Also good for beginners.
Size: C4 – Brown and Blue normally have second master maps. In the past we have extended to Skeys wood enlarging the area by 30%
Terrain: Typical mixed Wyre Forest terrain. Mostly conifers covering the whole range from run to fight – all planted in tiny little blocks – making mapping very difficult and navigation challenging. These blocks have now matured and the boundaries are much less clear. There has been a great deal of thining resulting in many parrallel extraction lanes with brashings. Nice bits of oak woodland between large areas of conifer. Mainly flat, sloping towards the River Severn, then dropping very steeply down to water level (opposite Eymore Woods). Some contour detail – lots of very deep parallel gullies and pitted areas. Lots of forest roads and tracks.
Technical: Mostly 3 but can be 4 in the complicated veg. boundary or gully areas.
Physical: Mostly 3 but is we ever get the SSSI back that that bit will be a 5. If Skeys Wood is being used part of that is 5.
Pretty: 4 – looking down into the SSSI the rest is a 3
Obstacles: None serious.
Access: Forestry Commission – lots of waymarked trails. Very popular with the public. There is a F.C. permanent course. No access to Skeys Wood – shooting and private forestry.
Personal Rating: I have controlled/planned 6 races here – very tricky to make sure you have the tape on the right veg. boundary. A very good colour coded area. I will always turn out for this one.
Terrain: Ornamental town park with large areas of grassland.
Access: General public access
Obstacles: None worth mentioning.
Personal Rating: OK for a training run.
Size: Colour coded – possible to fit a 6km course in without second maps
Terrain: Fast open heath combined with fast (outside of the bracken season) birch and areas of mixed deciduous woodland. Flat with lots of little paths but it is possible for good planners to get you off into the terrain. Suffers from a huge, fenced off, tree nursery right in the middle which makes planning hard. 90% bramble free but a couple of dire areas.
Obstacles: No fences but a lot of dogs
Access: Country Park – generally open to the public
Personal Rating: I like this area – even I can do 8.5km in 50 minutes – and you still have to think.
The Birmingham half of Sandwell Valley, not normally used on its own – derelict farmland, deep grass, old hedges, ditches.
Access: Public park and Permanent Orienteering Course.
Size: Very small – for summer evening training only except when linked with Baggeridge.
Terrain: Country park with boating lake (mostly grassland) and one wooded hill. (hazy mixture of light to dark green).
Technical: 2+ – park is easy, hill is hard because of very old map and indistinct vegetation changes.
Obstacles: A few fences – non barbed wire, most with stiles. The hill can get very slippy. Beware of nettles in summer.
Access: Public park with permanent course
Personal Rating: Don’t bother – OK for a training run or summer evening race.
Size: Small – only really for junior school beginners. Can be linked with Highbury Park (0.5km)
Terrain: Ornamental Town Park
Access: Public Park
Personal Rating: Only for running training
Is the southern and less steep half of Kinver Edge (0.5km)
Size: Is used for C3 badge events but needs map exchange on courses over about 6km
Terrain: Steep sandstone escarpment with lots of crags. Flat and fast plateau above escarpment, interesting spur and valley terrain below. Mixture of open naturally seeded birch, open heath and run/slow run conifers. Few brambles but bracken is a problem June to October.
Pretty: 4 – lots of nice craggy rock, views from ridge down onto birch woods very nice on a spring evening. Interesting houses carved into the cliffs – some still inhabited.
Obstacles: 2 No fences to climb, main slope can get rather slippy and is VERY steep.
Access: 1/2 country park and 1/2 national trust. Open to public. Some areas are environmentally sensitive.
Personal Rating: I love it . Is a very popular area – people keep on coming back. Can be quite tricky at speed.
Size: Mostly C4 but possible C3 badge Event with map exchange on longer courses.
Terrain: Gently undulating, mature & fast coniferous wood – a bit like ‘Star Posts’. Suffers from a well developed ride/path network. Some areas are getting increasing brambly. Not at its best until the bracken has been beaten down by winter snows. Very good for night ‘O’ but beware of bits of barbed wire, horse jumps and clay shooting equipment.
Access: No public access – formerly private shooting woodlands now just forestry. An area is used for dog training.
Personal Rating: Not very technical but great for a ‘eye-balls out’ charge around.
Size: Small – only good for Summer Evening Training or a C5
Terrain: Mostly steep parkland, some grass covered earthworkings, areas of run/slow run woodland and a golf course. Some interesting stream valleys. Suffers in part from nettles and brambles in the summer.
Obstacles: Apart from the nettles/brambles there is just one stream to jump.
Access: Public park – but the golf course is out of bounds.
Personal Rating: Only suitable for SEE and SMILE
The hills originally belonged to SOLOS then after a short time in the care of HOC have passed on to COBOC – we do however hold SEE on the hills.
Size: Medium – good C4 area, used for junior/vets badge event in past but has been so heavily used since has become ‘debased’. Blue and Brown usually with second master maps.
Terrain: 2 steep hills – heather, birch, mixed deciduous run and the worlds fastest plantation conifer. Includes a moderately sloping area of run/slow run oak/sweet chestnut with lots of paths, track ditches. Some areas of bracken and brambles and general undergrowth – it has got greener over the years. Northern area is similar but incorporates a golf course which limits its use.
Technical: 3 – if you’ve not been there before it can be quite confusing – too many paths for them to be helpful.
Physical: 4 though good planning can avoid excessive climb.
Obstacles: A dangerous road separates north and south areas. Normally only crossed by longer courses. Very nice loos if visitor centre is open.
Pretty: 4 – I love the mature pine woodland and the views of Birmingham are as good as you get.
Access: Country Park – general public access. Never really a HOC area but we have borrowed it from SOLOS/COBOC on a number of occasions. There is a permanent course. By-laws prevent use at night.
Personal Rating: My closest proper ‘O’ area – so I know it off by heart as do most Brummie orienteers – never play OD or HOC here for CompassSport Cup – still very enjoyable if you are fit. Is known as the “Little Switzerland of Birmingham” – amazing the imagination of some folks.
Size: Small and broken into bits – a C5, SEE or SMILE area
Terrain: Areas of rough grassland, park and copse. Paths, tracks and roads. Located on the eastern edge of the Malvern hills but gently sloping
Technical: 2 – easy except if the summer veg is up!
Pretty: 2 – it has its moments
Obstacles: Few – a number of fence crossings but there are gates and stiles
Access: Is called a ‘common’ – apparently open public access
Personal Rating: Very pleasant for an SEE – fast and fun on a hot and sunny summer evening.
Size: Large but oddly shaped – there is only one access point between the hills and the park. Can take a badge event without second master maps.
Terrain: A steep sided ridge, rising to 1000ft+, short open grass on the top, mature, run deciduous woodland on slopes plus areas of nasty blackthorn scrub. Quite a bit of bracken and large areas of maneating brambles. Lots of paths parallel to the ridge but not many crossing. Some rock outcrops and old quarries. Southern hill is all run woodland. Eastnor Park is gently sloping rough grassland, bracken and patches of run woodland.
Physical: 5+ – no way to avoid masses of climb.
Pretty: 5 – very spectacular views of and from the hills. Primroses and snowdrops in spring. 2 iron age forts. Elgar did his composing walking over these hills.
Obstacles: Apart from steepness and slippiness – none. Beware of old quarries and hidden crags.
Access: People are generally free to wander on the hills subject to the restrictions published by the conservators. Eastnor park is private land and in orienteering terms has been transferred’ to WYE.
Personal Rating: Good for a long ‘O’ by linking with the northern part of the hills (using 1:25,000 OS Map) – really very good for physical training. Worth running up to the top to watch the sun set over rural Herefordshire.
Size: Very small – only SEE and training
Terrain: Hilly and a bit green – some nice runnable mature forest though.
Pretty: Nice in the spring (only time I have been there)
Obstacles: There is an obstacle course!!!!
Access: Only for guests at the MOEC.
Personal Rating: Spent my 30th birthday here helping on a very successful HOC junior training weekend. I enjoed the night race – with Andy Hemsted hiding in a tree, with his twin beam halogen headlamps and pretending to be a bushbaby.
Size: Very small. Only for training. Sometimes incorporated in night street race.
Terrain: Standard, hilly parkland in the middle of Birmingham. Old hedge lines, stream, lake, lots of mown grass.
Obstacles: None bar stream – jumpable if you have the nerve and can do 7ft
Access: General public access.
Personal Rating: Fine for running training.
Size: Small but makes a really good SMILE, SEE or C5
Terrain: Rough grassland, scattered trees, gorse scrub, large area of mature woodland with undergrowth, fields and parkland, one large hill, rest gently sloping.
Obstacles: Fences have stiles or gates, nasty vegetation generally avoidable
Access: The main woodlands are private. General public access to the country park bit.
Personal Rating: A like this area – great fun for a SEE or a SMILE
Size: Just big enough for a C4 with 2nd and 3rd Map exchanges on the Brown. Part of an adjoining golf course is mapped and can be used for night races.
Terrain: Very mixed urban woodland. Cut into 2 by a dual carriageway. Conifers, mature deciduous woodland, large grassy clearings. Some parts are pretty thick or suffer from brambles but you are never too far from a good path. Can get very muddy in winter. Good night event terrain.
Obstacles: 2 No barbed wire fences, couple of wooden ones. Major road crossing is by bridge or underpass.
Access: Public park. Permanent Course. Free to wander, walk the dog, run round the paths.
Personal Rating: I’m sorry I don’t like this area – it always seems to rain. Located in the middle of Redditch New Town. I have been to Pitcher Oak 20 times but I still get lost on the way – people have been known to die of old age trying to find their way from one part of Redditch to another.
Size: Good badge event – M21 and M35 need a map exchange though.
Terrain: Mixed age coniferous plantation. Mostly run/slow run. Lots and lots of yew trees. Area is a drainage basin for river Severn hence lots and lots of stream valleys – undulating rather than steep. Lots of tracks and paths. Suffers from a huge out of bounds area in the middle – A W.W.II rocket testing station the inner sanctum if which is still in use. Most of the out of bounds is a safety buffer zone. Quite a lot of gloomy Western Hemlock (avec brashings) but very few brambles!
Technical 3+ with good route choice
Physical: 4 – lots of up and down. Good planner will keep you in the pretty and runnable bits – if you find yourself crawling through the undgergrowth – check your navigation and then ask for you £ back.
Pretty: 3 – some rare plants and wildlife but I am not telling you where they are – and a very nice Deer Museum. Also heaven if you have a ‘Yew’ fetish…..
Obstacles: A couple of fences and easy stream crossings. A lot of bracken in the eastern half – but few control sites here. Beware of agressive dogs around Adze Hall (small area of ‘olive settlement symbol’ in central North area of map) – I understand that they should now be fenced in but I was much bothered whilst mapping.
Access: Apart from enclosed farmland, a caravan park and the rocket testing station (beware sirens and loud bangs) the area is subject to normal Forestry Commission access rules. There are a number of cottages on the common – please stay well away to avoid problems for other orienteers.
Personal Rating: I mapped part of this area and did the OCAD – interesting valley/spur/re-entrant terrain and with good planning some really good long route choices. Good solid badge event area. Oh no – Alison took all the yew trees off the latest map!
Size: Small – only training or C5
Terrain: Town park – mainly open grassland, tennis courts, fences, isolated trees and old hedge lines. Flat or gently sloping.
Pretty: 2 Standard town park.
Access: General public access and permanent orienteering course.
Size: Tiny – too small for anything above 2.5km. Used only for training and SEE
Terrain: A scout camp – mapped at 1:2,500 at their request – visions of cubs being blown away clutching bathsheet size maps. Mixture of heath, conifers, sweet chestnut. Lots of paths, campgrounds and man-made features. Suffers a bit from brambles.
Technical: 2 (though I may have to revise this upwards following the length of time folks took on the last SEE)
Obstacles: No barbed wire fences.
Access: Closed to the public – usually full of scouts, guides etc. even in mid winter.
Personal Rating: I mapped this one, new map for 2003 – it would be great if it were 30 times bigger.
Size: Medium – good colour coded in size – used in 70’s once and again for a nostalgia race in the late 80’s on a B/W 1:25,000
Terrain: Steep, very steep – the west bank of the Severn Gorge. It has got much more runnable recently – the brambles are not that bad and the green is getting lighter.
Pretty: 3 – Nice views over the Severn
Obstacles: Some of the steep slopes can get very slippy. There are areas of brambles and still some dark green.
Access: Forestry Commission and some private woods. There is shooting – beware! We had a couple of races on the new map – avoiding areas where the very very very rare animal is living. However the nature warden discovered that the very very very rare animal is a wee bit less rare in *this* forest and we have currently lost access.
Personal Rating: I have run here three times – is much better now – even though it was steep, muddy, cold and raining I still enjoyed it. Has one of my favourite contour features – a spur with a lovely saddle and a knoll right at the end.
Size: Small – only just big enough for a C5. 50% of the area was lost as is now a SSSI. In the 70’s was used for C4.
Terrain: Mixed woodland, some steep slopes, some brambles. Good for training but very small. Only HOC area with a swimming pool in the forest – hence used for a quadrathon in the early 90’s
Technical: 3 – shame its so small, the area we lost had lots of little pits and gullies.
Pretty: 3 – typical Wyre Forest terrain.
Obstacles: A couple of fences.
Access: No public access. Believed to be now part nature reserve and part golf course. Belongs to an outdoor education centre. Access for schools and organised groups. Not used by HOC for over 10 years. Quadrathon was a one off – I don’t think the triathletes liked being beaten be Me and Andy Hemsted – last out of the pool, first out of the forest, I was riding by old school bike and Andy a fixed wheel old Butchers delivery bike that Deb Turnbull found in her coal cellar.
Size: Small – only just big enough for a C5. Mostly used for SEE
Terrain: Mixed and interesting. Comes in several bits separated by roads and a canal. The whole area is reclaimed industrial land. There is a huge quarry with marshes and more orchids than I have seen anywhere else. There is rough grassland, mature deciduous forest and large areas of pits, gullies and depressions. A babbling brook with naturally regenerated hawthorn and oak “light green”.
Technical: 3 with a couple of bits of 4.
Physical: 3 – some hills
Pretty: 2/4 Some bits are horrid, others really very pretty – worth a visit to see the orchids – check the date.
Obstacles: Fences – mostly wooden, roads, is heavily used by the public – lots of dogs.
Access: Is a country park and nature reserve. Is generally open to the public.
Size: Medium, C4 – brown needs second master maps
Terrain: 4 sections – Far Western part Dartmouth Park – formal ornamental gardens. West part – rough grassland, football pitches and small area of run woodland all flat or gently sloping. Middle part (separated by M5) run woodland with lots of small, ornamental lakes and lots of paths, open rough grassland with a hill made from spoil dug out from Swan Pool. Only contour features are on this hill and other former spoil heaps – micro depressions and niches. East Part (separated by dangerous rat run road) – derelict farmland, very deep grass, old hawthorn hedges (converting to woodland), gently sloping – also known as Hilltop and Manwood
Technical: 2+ – can get very confusing in places but you are never too far from a relocation spot. Northern middle part will get better as young trees grow up.
Physical: 2 except if the grass hasn’t been cut.
Obstacles: Wooden fences to climb, dangerous road.
Access: General public access with two permanent courses
Personal Rating: Fairly simple but OK for a blast round. Heavily used by public, some vandalism – only O-area I have been shot at while putting out controls (they were trying to hit the control with air gun pellets). Take great care in ‘Fairies Glen’ and by the old gun emplacements – especially collecting controls after a night event, unless you like that sort of thing. Dartmouth park has decayed greatly since the days when my grandma took me there – Sandwell council have really let things go. My father has a painting of the area – done in the 19th century – shows a milkmaid, yoke and pails, crossing a brook – right where the M5 is now.
A very small area of derelict farmland, partially converted to a public park, some recent tree planting. Mapped for a permanent course, only used for Summer Training Events
Sennelys Park – part of Woodgate Valley
Access: Permanent Orienteering Course
Size: A very small extension of Hawkbatch – cannot be used on its own
Terrain: As Hawkbatch
Technical: As Hawkbatch
Physical: 4 – a very steep slope into the Severn Gorge
Obstacles: No fences
Access: Private working woodlands – no public access. Permission was withdrawn some time ago but ownership has changed so there may be hope…
Personal Rating: Improves Hawkbatch giving planner many more options for longer courses.
Terrain: Mixed coniferous and deciduous woodland. Some excellent fast runnable beech in F.C. section. Moderate to steep river valley sides, with re-entrants and niches. Lots of paths and tracks. The western area – to which we currently are restricted is quite green and has lots of brambles and bracken.
Access: Half is private woodland with a numbers limit. Normal walking access to F.C. land but we can’t use it for orienteering.
Obstacles: One or two fences. Man eating brambles – if you have cross them – blame the planner.
Personal Rating: A bit too much ground vegetation for my liking but solid colour coded terrain.
Size: Large – badge event – only M21A may need a map exchange
Terrain: Next hill south from Brown Clee. A truncated cone. Open rough moorland – mainly grass with areas of bracken, tussocks and marsh. Much mined with large quarries, spoil heaps, old buildings etc. on the top. Load and loads of bell pits on lower slopes. Few paths. Underlying terrain is smooth with few spurs or re-entrants. Longer courses will have a fair bit of climb. Over 1200 feet – cold and exposed at any time of the year.
Technical: 4 if the planner keeps you off the paths. 5+ if it is foggy!
Pretty: 2 – a bit bleak and industrial. 4 for views from top.
Obstacles: Just a couple of barbed wire fences.
Access: It is all private land but very hard to find out which of 100’s of locals actually own which bits. Most of the hill is treated as ‘free access’ land by the public.
Personal Rating: A unique area for the Midlands – feels more like South Wales. The stone for “The Cob” at Lyme Regis was quarried here. Nice for an early Springtime in Shropshire, pretty dire on a cold late November afternoon. Rarely is this area planned well.
Size: Small – only good for Summer Evening Training or schools use.
Terrain: Mostly just one big field with some woods around the edges. Half the area is a 9 hole golf course
Obstacles: Flying golf balls
Access: Very heavily used public park – but the golf course is out of bounds.
Personal Rating: Nice for an SEE but really needs a new map – the current one must by 15+ years old.
Size: Huge – used for British Championships in 1985. Abuts or overlaps with several other areas. Can take a JK/BOC/National
Terrain: As Breakneck Bank but lots more of it – more opportunity for route choice. Southern areas were spoiled by lots of tracks and lots of brambles but getting much nice now (this part known as Callow Hill
Physical: 3+, 5 for river slopes
Pretty: 3+, some small areas 5
Obstacles: The similar river to Breakneck Bank. A few fences.
Access: Mixture of FC and Private Land. Any orienteering requires special permission. Forestry Commission Land – normal rules apply – South area (and north area near bounding road only) it is heavily used by the public, especially since construction of visitor centre. Much wildlife has left for the more remote parts of the forest. Western area incorporates Deer Sanctuary. Closed to orienteering since the British Champs in 1985 and probably never will be available again – a real shame – combination of factors – the busy bits are too busy and the quiet bits they want to keep quiet.
Personal Rating: Better than much recent JK/BOC/National Terrain. I have run though on the paths with tears in my eyes – due to the very heavy public use and perceived problems arising from the British Champs it will be very hard for Forest Enterprise officers to make this area available again. We are allowed to run in peripheral areas of the forest – e.g.. Hawkbatch & Postensplain. There are still some unused bits of the Wyre Forest we can map… watch this space.
Size: Medium – first use was a C3, subsequently C4
Terrain: The northernmost part of the Malvern Hills. Very Very Steep in places. Courses will have lots of climb. Vegetation varies: rabbit cropped sward, rough grassland, summer bracken, regenerating woodland, thorn scrub and mature forest. Lots of paths. Some nice rock features – the result of a thousand years of quarrying.
Technical: 2 – though the very steep slopes can make some controls 3
Physical: 5 – requires very careful planning
Pretty: Terrain is 2, views 5+
Access: Public access to most of the area.
Obstacles: Some slopes are very steep – not only hard to go up but so steep that contouring can be a problem and descending unpleasant for the unconfident. Some nasty areas of brambles and thorn thicket.
Personal Rating: The steep slopes, many paths and lack of interesting features would give the best of planners headaches. I have only orienteered here once – I am afraid the H35S course was rather dull and I gave up halfway round. Really does need creative planning. The second race was ‘blown away’ – gale force winds – and was abandoned before I got to the start. That said I have trained here many times and it is most spectacular in all seasons – If you have never been to the Malvern Hills I recommend you come and orienteer at least once.
Size: Medium – C4 – with a couple of outlying areas of parkland linked by paths/roads.
Terrain: Derelict farmland clutched between the jaws of two of the council estates in West Birmingham. Mostly open, un-mown grassland, boggy in places, gently sloping towards the small river which flows through the middle, crossed by a number of foot bridges. A lot derelict hedges, now lines of mature hawthorn trees, patches of young alder, willow, poplar. Some OOB paddocks. Lots of large tracks.
Pretty: 2 – Part reclaimed steel works, the rest wild overgrown fields. A lot of rubbish – in the first 15 days of May 1993 there were 14 burnt out cars deposited on the area. There is a surprising amount of wildlife and some interesting and rare plants. The Western End abuts the M5 at about junction 3 – but you would not know – there are some old oak trees and is quite pretty.
Access: Public ‘country park’ – general public access. Visitor Centre. Permanent Course.
Obstacles: A number of fences to cross, quite brambly in places. Avoid the water in Summer.
Personal Rating: Not one of my favourites – has been used for a couple of C4 events but we lost a lot of controls. Not a pleasant planning or controlling experience. Has a very long history – farming, industry – water powered powder mills, then farming again, then a steel works and now a country park.
Size: Small to Medium – C4 – but is so nice it still supports a good BLUE course.
Terrain: Former brushworks plantation (Harris? Bissell?) – now owned and very well managed by The Woodland Trust. Mixed deciduous woodland with stands of conifers. Dissected by steep sided stream valleys. Good path network but woods are mostly runnable.
Physical: 2 – 3
Pretty: 3+ – in the Spring is really lovely.
Access: Woodland Trust – open 365 days for quiet enjoyment
Obstacles: Can get rather muddy and slippy – but I have been told the Woodland Trust have upgraded many paths. A couple areas of thick forest.
Personal Rating: I like this area – really quite technical in places – shame it is too small – even though it is only 10 minutes west of the M5 we only get small numbers.