Orienteering for Children

In an era where chilling out is regarded as ‘crucial’ and comfort is the key, where food is plentiful and where more and more people are following sedentary lifestyles, how can we help ourselves? We are reminded on a daily basis of the potentially harmful effects of an inactive lifestyle. And as the pace of life continues to accelerate, quality family time will inevitably be challenged. So, how can we pull together the needs of the family with fun, and the desirability of physical fitness? Thankfully, on an individual level there is plenty we can do. Of course, there are the more obvious choices, such as swimming and cycling together as a family, but if you want to try something a bit different, then orienteering may put you on course to future family health.

So, what is orienteering?

If you and your children like treasure hunts, you should enjoy orienteering. In a nutshell, orienteering is an exciting outdoor adventure sport that offers a mental and physical challenge. The aim of orienteering is to navigate, in sequence, to different control points that are located on a special course, using a specially-drawn map. The idea of the exercise is to decide on the best route to complete in the quickest time. Think of it as an advanced treasure hunt that anybody can do, or think of it as a cross-country race that you navigate using a map instead of following a set course.

What do I have to do?

As already mentioned, the aim is to navigate around a course as quickly as possible, using a specially drawn map. Orienteering maps are drawn to a large scale and provide a detailed ‘legend’ or key to help you read them better. Different features are highlighted: for example, contour lines, landform, buildings, and terrain. This helps to navigate the easiest route around the course avoiding areas such as dense woodland, or areas with thick brambles and nettles. The map also shows a course with a series of ‘control’ points marked. These control points are highlighted on the map with brightly coloured dots, whilst on the course itself they are signed by a control flag or sometimes a marked card. You use your map to find all the control flags on the course until you reach the finish.

Do I have to run?

You can if you want to. But you can also jog or walk.

How will I know what course to do?

Courses vary in length and technical difficulty and are distinguished using a colour-coded system. Local Events are the smallest type of event and usually only have 2 or 3 courses; Long, Medium and Short. They often take place in parks in city areas. Beginner’s courses are usually about 2-3km (1-2 miles) long, and the controls would all be displayed prominently near paths.

What will we need to wear?

Lightweight, breathable, comfortable clothes, that you don’t mind getting dirty and that are suitable for walking or running. A good pair of trainers or walking shoes, with good grip. A waterproof jacket – you can’t trust the Irish weather!

Why is orienteering so good for children & families?

It is a fun outdoor activity in which the whole family can get involved. There is a chance for healthy competition against other families at an event, where working well as a family unit will provide good results. It can really bring people together and tighten the bond within families. Plus there are boundless benefits to racing around a course in the fresh air and stunning countryside, not to mention the buzz the children get from finding the control flags. The sport also encourages decision-making, and builds map reading and navigational skills, which may prove useful in other areas of life. Essentially, it is a healthy exercise for the brain as well as body.

Where does orienteering take place?

The easiest way to start Orienteering is to go to an event organised by your local club. Orienteering can take place anywhere, but is usually in green spaces such as urban parks, forests and the countryside. For a list of clubs check the Irish Orienteering Association website at www.orienteering.ie. You can find a local course listed in the‘permanent courses’ section and organised club events are also listed on the website. Most events take place May-Sept on a Sunday morning and Tue/Thurs evenings in summer, and you will also find plenty of people who will help you get started.

Orienteering in schools

The Irish Schools Orienteering Association (ISOA) promote the sport of Orienteering in primary and secondary schools throughout Ireland. Check out http://sites.google.com/site/irishschoolsorienteering. Each Spring schoolchildren compete at the Irish Schools Orienteering Championships and these events events contribute towards the new Junior Cert. Geography Course (Map-reading skills, etc) and the PE Course Transition Year Programme.

Further information:

Irish Orienteering Association. Tel: 01-4509845 AVONDALE FOREST PARK Coillte in conjunction with orienteering clubs have built a new permanent orienteering courses (POC) in Avondale Forest Park. If you enjoy the outdoors, then this is for you. A sport for all, a sport for life whether you are eight or eighty, or somewhere in between. A ideal way to introduce children to orienteering and getting outdoors, go at your pace or with a group, spend as much time as you like figuring out the map and navigating to the controls. Enjoy the short, medium or long course in Avondale Forest Park. Download your map and see how to get started before you set out for Avondale Forest Park on www.coillteoutdoors.ie - Don’t forget to bring your map with you and wear suitable outdoor clothing. During the Wicklow Outdoor Festival Weekend, there will be an introduction to orienteering in Avondale on Saturday 17th April 2-4pm. Booking essential as numbers limited. Great fun and family day out. Check www.coillteoutdoors.ie for other Coillte Orienteering Courses. Avondale House and Forest Park, Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow. www.coillteoutdoors.ie

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