A Very ‘In-Tents’ Experience! - the 53rd Rodings Rally
The 53rd Rodings Rally - run entirely by the Epping Forest Outdoor Group - took place over the weekend of 14/15 November 2009. For those of you who have never come across it before, the Rally is an orienteering/map reading competition, over a short course of roughly 5 miles or a longer course of about 12 miles, through Epping Forest, using both forest tracks and going across country. It’s most unique feature, though, is that it is in the dark!
As new-ish members of EFOG, we had missed the Rally last year so this was to be our first time helping in any capacity. After weeks of plotting points, diving through bushes (see, competitors, we have to do it as well!) and triangulating our positions, it was time for the big event. EFOG is not a huge group, so it’s all hands to the pumps. Setting up the hall, getting people fed, marshalling paperwork and contestants - it’s all done by the members, new and old. By 6.30 on Saturday evening, with the starters already holding eager competitors at bay, we set off for the trees armed with stories of other marshals' previous nocturnal adventures.
Our tent, midway on the course, was in the lee of a large fallen tree, just below the brow of Staples Hill. Since the competitors are supposed to find us, we made it a bit less easy by adding some twigs to break up the outline of the tent, then zipped ourselves into sleeping bags to await out first customer. Owls hooted, animals scurried past. At about 11.45 a heavier grade of rustling produced our first customer, check point board thrust to our tent flap keenly. Then the rush hour began!
Between 12 and 1am the forest was alive with tramping feet, calling voices and rustling of bushes. With our tent flap ajar slightly we watched the less experienced competitors blundering about, circling close to us but not close enough. Soon we were able to sense those who had done this before – they all approached very quietly without the aid of torches, said very little then slipped away silently. One team, who had been up and down the hill passed us several times, eventually found us and produced the best comment of the night – “Why does your tent have to be green?”. Answer - it doesn’t, it just is, and it helps to make us harder to find!
In this group we also encountered our first incomplete board. In fact it had been signed only by tent 6, the checkpoint after ours. We pointed this out to the team who replied “oh, so you have to do them in the right order then?” Unfortunately yes, it’s in the rules. “Oh we’re from Down Under, we didn’t realise.” They did set off and we are happy to report completed the course, one and a half times!
They were the lucky ones. Shortly after 1am it began to rain fairly steadily. As this was a few days after the terrible storms, there had been some doubt about the Rally even taking place, so it was with some sympathy that we welcomed those who dripped past. Quite a number of people had by this time missed our predecessor checkpoint and feelings were quite strong about its position. Most folk, it turned out, were looking at the top of Yardley Hill, an area of dense vegetation. Had they but looked down the hill, the tent could be seen quite clearly in the open! We were even accused of cutting down the vegetation around it just to fool people. Now, we know EFOG does a lot of clearing projects for other groups, but really! Offered the opportunity to go back and fill in the missing checkpoint, the general response of the poor sodden competitors was along the lines of “not ***** likely!”
Poor brave souls continued to trickle through until shortly before 6am, though we remained on station till almost 8am, just in case. Packing the tent, we repaired to the pick-up point, then back to base for a hearty breakfast from the EFOG chefs. Boxes were packed up, floors washed and everyone went home on a sunny morning to get some proper sleep!! See you all next year, competitors!
Attracting New Members to Epping Forest Outdoor Group in 2009.
We are an active group with a core of regular members, plus a number of non-local members who attend and put on events from time to time. It was felt, however, that we needed to bring in more local people to keep our numbers up and to benefit from their ideas and interaction.
Part of the problem was that our principal publicity drive was in September, when the group was also gearing up for Rodings Rally (in November) and New Member initiatives got entwined with Rally work, and no one in particular was assigned to looking after the interests of potential recruits at this time.
We decided to experiment and hold a New Members' evening on 14th May and had a BBQ going outside in the hall grounds, with our photo display stands on view. We distributed literature at the gate and welcomed in several people.
As a follow-up, a New Members' Walk took place the following Saturday, following the River Roding as far as Buckhurst Hill. We had quite a few new faces amongst the 24 people who came. We returned by train to Snaresbrook. However, hardly anyone came along to join EFOG afterwards, which was disappointing.
Undeterred, it was decided that we should update our public image, beginning with the website. One of our computer-literate members revamped the site, now with its own domain address, and more photographs and brief event descriptions, together with an 'eblog' page were added to the existing items, which included past yearly programmes and Rodings Rally information.
It was decided that our group publicity literature needed updating, and this was done with scenic backgrounds to the wording, and an upbeat approach to our activities.
In the summer the Committee decided that the recruitment of new members should be the responsibility of a dedicated sub-committee, and 6 people agreed to serve, 2 of them being on the main Committee. It met several times and redesigned publicity leaflets were devised for distribution at 2 local public events - the Epping Forest Festival on 6th September and the Wanstead Fair on 13th September.
The following Thursday was our New Members' Evening at our HQ. Several of us took turns to give out leaflets to passing commuters and around 6 members of the public came in to enjoy cheese, wine and biscuits and peruse our photo albums and admire our large photo display. Each received a New Members' Pack.
The New Members' Pack.
- A member of the sub-committee had already devised her own version of a pack, which was impressive. The Welcome Pack envelope carried outdoor icons, and inside were photos, names and a brief description of the current officers and Committee.
- An A5 sheet gave a brief history of the group - founded in 1956 - and a summary of its varied activities.
- We needed to know what interests a new member might have, so there was a brief questionnaire on this, and also how they had heard about us.
- There were also details on how to contact the group, and finally a copy of the current programme, bearing our website address.
- The pack was updated in the autumn of 2009.
As a result of the year's efforts we now have 6 people on our books, most of whom attend meetings and events regularly.
We hope we may repeat this success in 2010.
Seduced into joining EFOG
Seeing one of our new members' (Dave) recent blog-entries prompted me to recover a reminder of how I first joined the Group.
Some of you will have seen (or heard!) this before, but I thought it was fun when I wrote it, and hope that it is still! It might even act as a warning for any potential new members...
Unless Dave just hasn't mentioned the Rodings Rally, then he got off lightly when HE joined!
The Sirens of Epping Forest
It was the 2005 Forest Festival
And I went along to the EFOG stall;
To see what sort of things they done;
But walking and cycling seemed their idea of fun
At once accosted by a chap
Who told me about this and that.
I said "No - for I know what that entails -
I've done all that walking for miles and miles."
"But now I'm somewhat past all that.
Not age, nor am I none too fat -
Much as I'd like to join you all,
I've got creaking joints - and I tend to stall."
I said "I think I'd better go!"
But two girls came up and they both said "No!"
They grabbed an arm each up my back;
Said "We might provide the things you lack."
"Because we do lots of other things",
"Well, that sounds interesting," I grinned
"But you see, I'm not sociable, at all!"
But they said we don't believe you, and we meet in a local hall.
"We meet there every Thursday night -
And we think that you might be just right.
We really think you ought to come along."
Their talk was sweet - but their grip was strong.
So I found myself on that Thursday evening
Wondering if I'd lost my reasoning.
Wondering if I would be OK,
But the group encouraged me to stay.
That first quiz night was a clever ruse,
Because soon they had me paying dues.
Was I right in doubting what I'd done?
Because the harder stuff was yet to come!
For quite a few weeks what they had to say
Was about the Rodings Rally Day.
But what this was, they didn't quite let on;
Sort of, letting newcomers just tag along.
Then, weekends tracking through the trees
Mostly followed by aching knees;
With a compass, a map and surveyors measure -
This outdoor stuff is hardly leisure.
Checkpoint plotting is what they said
In trackless forest - they're sick in the head
But an indoor evening thinking up clues
Was a bit of a laugh and banished some blues.
And then the big night, in mid November,
The Rodings Rally was a night to remember,
It started quite easy with a tasty meal,
But got harder and harder - and I paid for my fill.
Setting out tables and putting out tents,
Most sane people at other events,
Choose a sunny day in the middle of summer...
This outdoor group just gets rummer and rummer.
The contestants are just as bad,
About three hundred people - and all of them mad.
In holly and bramble and freezing frost,
And all in the hope that they won't get lost.
And what about me, 'cos I went along,
I was one of them - have I got it wrong?
Well, it's too late now - I've been well and truly duped,
By the Sirens of the Epping Forest Outdoor Group.
Paul Ferris January 2006
EFOG's annual camping weekend
Each year, somewhere around the middle of June, we descend on the campsite at Debden House near Loughton, for our traditional local camping weekend. All are welcome, adults, children, cats, dogs - the lot.
The first few hours are spent in total chaos as we all try to pitch the tents and organise things in general for the mass BBQ to be held later that evening.
Around mid-day we are all so worn out that we have to tramp through Epping Forest to the nearest local watering hole for a bite to eat and some liquid refreshment. The round trip takes us some 3-4 hours. We have done this walk many times but never tire of the peace and beauty of the forest.
On return to the campsite we adults then return to our childhood and play Frisbee, rounders, or whatever the chosen game of the weekend is. Of course there is the occasional trip or crash in the process of the games but in general we all survive intact (even if a little exhausted).
Early evening finds us hungry from all our exertions so we set about the BBQ – this process can take the whole evening one way and another as we gather round eating and chatting and swapping tales of various past and present adventures at the club. This is all the more enjoyable when accompanied by a certain members homemade blackberry wine.
Slowly we drift off to our tents for a well-earned nights sleep under the stars.
Tomorrow is another day – Camp breakfast, another walk and then mid afternoon we pack up the tents and make for home which fortunately for most of us is not so far away as the campsite is quite local – one thing about the forest is that once surrounded by it you can in your mind be anywhere that you choose to be.
Canal-side Cycle Ride
Members have been out on their bikes several times this year. There are a few new people that don't like the traffic, so we decided to do an off-road ride along the canals.
We met at 10am in the café at Lea Bridge Road Nature Reserve. There is always a bit of a delay while everyone gets their bikes ready, buys cups of tea and catches up with friends, but we managed to get underway by about 10.30. We rode through the Lea Valley Park and joined the canal going towards Bow. This green and pleasant finger that extends from Ware right down to the Thames always amazes people.
We turned right at the Hertford Union Canal and rode to Victoria Park and then on to Broadway Market. This is a good place to get street food, buy organic produce, or just get a cup of tea. As soon as we were all reassembled at the canal we headed off down the Regents Canal towards Limehouse Basin to survey one of the riverside ale houses and sample the beer. Some of us sat outside in the sun to sup our pints and eat the food we had bought at the market; the rest had a pub lunch.
Back on the bikes we rode along the Limehouse Cut to Three Mills Island. The mill and café were closed, unfortunately, so we didn’t stop. There is no towpath under the Bow flyover but this was the only part of the ride that was not off road. The final leg took us back past the 2012 Olympic site to our final destination at the café at Lea Bridge Road Nature Reserve where we had started. Good ride, good food, good beer, and good weather; what more could anyone want?
The next canal ride will head for Camden Lock and Little Venice via the Regents Canal ...
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