NOY 7 Setter’s report (essay)

Thanks to the 80 odd people that ventured all the way out to Congewai. As I travelled through Ellalong the fog was pretty bad and I worried that I had suggested people should enjoy the drive and then a sit in the sun, both difficult to do if fogged in. On the last couple of kilometres of gravel road the sun shone through and I thought yes this is the valley I have enjoyed on previous trips. Thanks to all those that followed the lead and parked nose in to the fence and incurred a longer walk to the assembly area … sometimes we need to do as the landowner suggests! Sorry if I didn’t get involved much on the day, I figured my work was done, all the controls were in place. For those that don’t realise what is involved in setting an event in this type of area: it took 3 trips and 17 hours in the bush to hang the pink tapes that mark control sites. Given that it was more than an hour’s drive each way, that is equivalent to 3 work days. Given the lack of track access to the area, I started placing control stands on Saturday the week before the event, 4.5hrs to place 20 controls. By the way, 20 is the absolute maximum number of controls one can carry! Another 6.5hrs the day before the event to place the last 40 odd controls and they were all in the bush by 4:15pm, so with an hour to spare. Had tethers been required I would not have been able to get all controls out in time, I would have had to do some of the paddock ones on the morning of the event. So that is a week’s labour before anyone steps onto a course. My event work was not completely done, a couple of times I needed to fend of the cows that wanted in to the final control paddock. I figured a heard of cows and people running to the finish was not a good mix, so the cows had to wait. Apologies to those finishing towards 1pm that found the last couple of gates at the Finish closed, blame the cows!

As Geoff Peel pointed out, had this been a State League (SL) event, then ‘Start2’ for most Moderate and Hard courses would have been after the big climb. One of the features of this area is the climb, so I let many people ‘savour’ that on the way to their first couple of controls. The area to the west of the main North-South fence that separates private land from National Park is well grazed and reasonably flat, kind of the lull before taking people over to the other side! As everyone will now realise, the watercourses are a lot deeper than the contours and blue line suggest. On the original courses there were some crossings that were just too steep and ‘dangerous’ and that was in the dry, hate to think what they would be like in the wet. So if you still found the crossings difficult, my apologies, they were a lot easier than they could have been! You probably noticed the comment that gullies less than ½ a contour deep may not be mapped. As an ancient landslip area the contours are quite complex and we will need to wait until we have lidar data for this area before such subtle features as numerous gullies can be properly mapped; in the meantime, just worry about getting across the next ‘watercourse’ (read RAVINE).

I have been to some SL events where competitors could be viewed running down to the finish. This area offered the same opportunity, so that’s how courses were designed, to run people down across the last grassy hill, and then sprint across the cow paddock. I have never had so much orienteering fun as sitting at the finish desk watching people search for a control, especially control 155 where people could be observed standing right above it, seemingly unable to see it just below. At least 7 controls could be seen from the assembly area, I think that is a record. Another record seemed to be the number of family groups in attendance that enjoyed their first course, so went out on another one, sometimes a couple of times. So is 10 Sydney people competing a record for an NOY? Definitely a record was the number of control collectors that day: 9 !! (it was commented by someone that they had have never seen a queue for control collection). Big thanks to those that ‘volunteered’ to go up the hill again. Trust me, from a setter’s perspective, the last thing I wanted to do was climb that hill again to collect controls; I was more than happy to just repack the gear van. Apologies to Jock and RobB who each searched for a control that was culled from the course, there is a lot to remember when organising an event! A special thanks to Denis and David that manned the entry desk. Every time I turned around they seemed to be discussing new areas and access arrangements, so here’s looking forward to something new for upcoming events? Photos of people enjoying themselves can be viewed via the Events - Results – NOY6 photos link.

Younger club members have run around the fences in both directions now, so I think we need to try and get permission to map the big cow paddock to the East, so as to have somewhere new to run next time we take the long pleasant drive.

Directions: For those interested, it takes the same time to travel from Jesmond to the event whether one travels via Mount Vincent/Sandy Creek Road, or via Hunter Expressway /Kurri Kurri. Both take about 65 minutes, the Cessnock route being 4 km extra distance. 

For those taking the Sandy Creek Road route choice: keep travelling west through Ellalong. 2 km after the Ellalong Hotel take a left turn signposted to Congewai. For those going through Cessnock, keep travelling south-west towards Wollombi and after going under the railway line, take the second left towards Paxton. When you come to a stop sign, take the road directly opposite.

From this common intersection, follow the road past Congewai Public school. When the road turns to dirt there is 7.8 km to go. For those with children in the car, see if they can count off the RMB (road mailbox numbers) along the way, you are looking for 1523 (which is on the left, just behind 1529). From Ellalong to the event has to be the most pleasant drive to any orienteering map.

Half the map is private property and half National Park.

Parking: Will be along the owner’s driveway, so please only park on one side of the road. I suggest turn around at the assembly area gate and park on the right (open door to fence) on the drive back towards the gravel road. Please don’t park on the left past the assembly area as the owner has been working on the drainage and you could get bogged. UPDATE: early arrivals, and people with gear to carry, can park as above. For most competitors, the landowner has suggested parking nose in to the fence on the wide verge. It is only a 300m walk to the start.

Map: John Elm Creek (1:7500 for this event). Fieldwork and cartography by Ian Dempsey (2014), with a few additions by PN (2016).

Landowners: Thanks to Brad and Gen Bell for the assembly paddock and steep back block, Helen Jackson for the landslip cow paddock and National Parks for the area east of the main N- S fence.

Terrain: This map is like the other Cessnock/Kurri area maps ON STEROIDS. If Belford is known for subtlety in contour detail, this map is the extreme opposite. Everything is about 5 times normal scale e.g. if you are used to termite mounds being shin height, here they are shoulder height; e.g. if you are used to watercourses being 1 – 2m deep, then here they are 5 – 10m deep. You may find that a lot or gullies less than half a contour deep are simply not shown on the map. Deep watercourse crossings have been kept to a minimum by bringing courses down to the paddock fence below the major watercourse and around. Most courses need a fence crossing or two. Fences are 3 or 4 strand barbed wire, so the easiest way of getting past them is to find a spot to slide under the bottom wire. When you reach some watercourses it may take you several minutes just to scramble down and up the other side. I reckon a V in the contour does not do justice to these watercourses; the major ones could have major erosion gully lines along the entire watercourse! UPDATE: I can't stress how pleasant it is wandering through this area. It has features we don't really have on any of our other maps. It has lots of rock faces and boulders with ferns and rock orchids on top. The water courses are strewn with boulders, so it is interesting 'rock hoping' to get across. UPDATE: termite mounds: whilst they are tall and earth colour, some are covered in moss, so from a distance they can blend into the surrounds. However if you are navigating well, then they tend to 'pop up in front of you' when you are in the right spot.

Kids Activities: UPDATE - Sorry kids activities have been postponed until a later event. Keep an eye out for it appearing again in the future.

Stay a while: UPDATE: the landowner just slashed the assembly area paddock and it really is a pleasant spot. I suggest pack some chairs and some morning tea or lunch and stay a while for a picnic in the sun; it is a very pleasant outlook, with a view of competitors doing final legs. Whilst the area isn't quite suitable for people going back out on course once finished, the paddock is now an excellent venue for some soccer.

PlannerPeter Newton

Vetter: David Kitchener


Course       Length(km)       Climb(m)
Very Easy   1.5   70
Easy   1.7   50
Moderate Short   2.6   105
Moderate Long   3.7   170
Hard Short   3.2   155
Hard Medium   4.4   180
Hard Long   6.2   210

Note: Very Easy and Easy competitors will need to venture through more bush than they are used to. If people follow the fence, crossing through it where necessary, then the course is obvious. Parents may consider shadowing juniors that lack confidence to ‘go bush’. For some Easy course controls, people will need to be able to orient the map and venture to find the control not in plain sight.

UPDATE: Please don't be turned off by the climb. NOY6 was a runners course, these are navigator's courses. Most people will be moving at a similar pace, so depending on route choice, and navigating skill, it is a chance to close the gap on the runners who can really mess up here if they don't pay attention. So consider doing the course you normally do, don't run down a class, that way we shouldn't run out of maps. Long Hard has had 500m trimmed off it, competitors now get a 1.1km 'straight line' downhill run to compensate for climbing up to the top fence.

Gate: UPDATE: The steep back paddock now has some cute little black steers in it. They are a curious lot, they stand in the way and you get to within a couple of metres of them before they run away. I will need to tether the first control to the fence so they don't walk away with it. A rule in farming lands is you leave gates how you found them. So if they are closed when you get there, then they must be closed when you leave. So rolling under the bottom wire is the way to go, it is quicker than fiddling with the gate. We need to be mindful of keeping the land owner on side, in the hope he lets us return in a couple of years.

Entry Fees

Start times: 9:30 to 11:30am with course closure at 1pm. Please ensure you start your course with enough time to complete it prior to course closure

Start: The start for all courses is a 100m walk across a cow paddock. From the assembly area , lots of competitors will be able to be seen running along fence lines and sprinting to the finish.

Gate: a route choice to the first control for all courses is through the assembly area paddock back gate. Depending where the cattle are, this gate may be closed. If it is closed, then please slide under the fence. If you have to climb over the gate, please climb over the left side, hinged end, not the chained end. Both gates on the main track up the hill will also be closed. These ‘Queensland gates’ are strands of barbed wire stretched across the track. Medium and Hard course first control has been moved further west to make the track a far less desirable route choice.

Leeches: people are strongly advised to spray insect repellent on top of shoes and sock in ankle area to give the buggers a bad taste in the mouth. It is recommended to check pants legs and change shoes and socks before the drive home. There are more leeches in the paddock than out of the course. 

Water:  is available at a control about ¾ of the way through all Hard and Moderate courses. It would please the poor setter who had to cart it there if you had a quick drink before the sprint home. 

Course times: for good runners course time will be ok. For those less able, times will really blow out due the sheer physicality required to climb hills and cross gorges. Courses are correct standard but it can take some getting to the control. Contouring around is strongly recommended.

Control collection: any offers to collect some controls would be greatly appreciated. Can you start a bit later, stay for a chat, and then go for a nice stroll to see how you should have done that leg?

Entry Fees

Safety: Safety bearing is south to the grassy paddock and then look for the red finish banner. Emergency phone contact 0490057196. 

Search: the club aims to delay control collection until everyone has returned. Please take a whistle with you. If you become too injured to stumble far, then please stay put, and listen for people calling you. A search method is to walk the course backwards, so if you are somewhere near a logical route choice then you should be found. 




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