Friday, 12 December 2014

Family Activities - Orienteering

What could be better than spending time outside with your family, building new skills and getting active?  Whatever the weather, a family activity will bring you together, give you a sense of purpose, develop skills, a sense of togetherness, trust and teamwork and increase your level of activity.  Follow up with a cake-stop at a cafe and you've got everything you could want to make a perfect weekend activity.  Today we're going to look at Orienteering as a great family activity, and in the future we'll look at Geocache, climbing, cycling, hiking, canoeing and park runs.  If you can offer any other activities that are suitable for the whole family to do together, then please add them in the comments, I'd be delighted to include them.

What is orienteering?
Orienteering is an outdoor adventure sport.  You have a map, on which are marked topographical and other features, as well as a start, finish and a numbered series of controls.  You have to walk or run around the course, navigating from one point to the next, and choosing the best route.  There are many permanent orienteering courses set up around the country in parks and woodlands, so you can do it yourself, but the best way to get involved is to attend an orienteering event.  Courses are in urban parks, woodlands and open countryside and are graded by length and difficulty.  The shorter and easier courses are ideal for a family to tackle, with navigation being mostly on linear features such as paths, walls and streams.

If you find that you enjoy orienteering you can join a local club, which offer support progressing on to more challenging routes, and training in the skills of navigation and route finding.

You don't need any specialised equipment to enjoy orienteering.  You wear comfortable clothes and sensible footwear (walking boots, or trainers for those who find they travel faster), waterproofs/warm jackets if the weather demands it, a drink and a snack.  More challenging courses will require a compass and the knowledge to use it, but beginners courses probably won't.  As you travel around the course you check into each control with an electronic card (special USB stick), which records the order you've done each control and your time.  These come in at a minimum of £30, but I believe that you can hire them at an event.

If you're also interested in other outdoor activities as the kids get older, you'll be interested to know that there are also ski or mountain bike orienteering events!

Why do orienteering?
It's fun, you'll enjoy stimulating mental challenges and develop lifelong skills such as navigation.  You'll develop your confidence and team-skills and enjoy some great physical activity.

Where to find out more?
British Orienteering is the National Governing Body in the UK.  Their website is very comprehensive and includes a list of permanent courses and a searchable calendar of events.
Orienteering USA is the National Governing Body in the USA.  They also have a comprehensive website.

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