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New To Orienteering?

Virtual (MapRun) Courses in Parks (‘Find Your Way’ project)

In addition to the normal MapRun courses intended for experienced orienteers we have a number of MapRun courses in local parks which are intended mainly for newcomers and children. These are part of the Find Your Way project run by British Orienteering. Virtual orienteering is using your phone or your GPS smartwatch to complete a course of virtual checkpoints spread throughout an area such as a town, park or forest. The courses have no infrastructure on the ground and are open 24/7 so you can fit in a course any time you want! The beauty of the courses is deciding your own route between the checkpoints.

Maps of these courses are given on the Deeside section of the 'Find Your Way’ web site here. This website also gives instructions on how to use your phone.

To do these courses you will need to download the MapRun app on to your phone which is free on Android/iOS. You will then need to fill in some simple details to register. You will then download the desired map on to your phone by following the procedure: Select Event//UK/FYW Cheshire/…...

Course details are also given here.

So what is orienteering?

Orienteering is an exciting and challenging adventure sport that exercises both your body (running) and your mind (navigating). It's easy for anyone to start and fun to do. You learn to navigate, develop confidence and discover new places.

This video shows you how to start orienteering.

A Newcomer's Guide

And there's a whole lot of further videos here.

You can find a list of our coming events here. If you've never orienteered before, most of our events will have someone there who can explain to beginners what to do.

At some events your can just turn up and enter on the day (EOD). At others, you have to pre-enter via the internet - just follow the entry link in the events list; if that gets too complicated, send an email to the Event Organiser who will be happy to help you.

Types of Orienteering

Orienteering can take place in several forms:

  • on foot
  • on skis
  • on mountain bikes
  • on horseback

and there is another format, called Trail-O, that is designed to enable physically-disabled athletes to compete equally against the able-bodied.


In Britain, the most common form of orienteering is on foot. However, within this one discipline, there are several types of event:

Cross-country - the most common type
Here the aim is to find orange and white markers (called controls) in a set order. Each entrant is allocated a separate start time. The entrant is timed at the start and again at the finish. The person who completes the course in the shortest time wins.
This is a version of 'cross-country' orienteering for teams of 3 or more. In this form, all teams start at the same time. When the first runner gets back, the second starts and so on. Each runner in the team has a different course, and the different teams do these courses in a different order, so not everyone is looking for the same controls at the same time. The first team to finish wins.
Here the aim is to find as many controls as possible in a set time. Some controls may be worth more points because they are further away or harder to find. Points are deducted if you are late back. The person with the most points wins.
This is a version of 'cross-country' orienteering over very short distances. Everyone starts together, but does different loops of their course in a different order. It is fast and exciting for competitors and spectators alike.
This takes place in towns or cities. It's a good way to visit new places and discover hidden corners in those you think you know. Sprint and urban races can take place in unusual areas too e.g. parks, castles and even shopping centres!
This is orienteering - can be cross-country or urban - at night. Competitors carry torches to help them to see, but otherwise it is exactly like daytime orienteering.

'Cross-Country' Orienteering

'Cross-country' Orienteering is further split into different categories, ranging from informal to international competitions. The most common forms are local and regional events, and are described below. You are also likely to come across national events, which are like regional events, but are more prestigious and held on the best orienteering areas in the country.

Local and Regional Events

At the informal end are local and regional events which provide a good introduction to cross-country orienteering. At these events, the different courses on offer are described by colours which represent their length and difficulty. White is the easiest and black the hardest.

National Events

When you become more competitive, national events can provide competition against orienteers from all over the country. At these events, which usually have to be entered in advance, the courses on offer are described by 'age classes'. There are separate courses for men and women, and for different ages (split into five-year bands for adults and two-year bands for juniors). There are also long and short versions of each course. This allows the organisers to provide courses which are suitable for different levels of fitness and navigational skills.

Permanent Courses

If you want to try orienteering in your own time, rather than at an organised event, then permanent courses are for you. Deeside Orienteering Club manages several permanent courses.

Maps, Compasses and Control Descriptions


For all forms of orienteering, you must be able to read a map. The maps used for orienteering events are specially produced and are at a much larger scale and more detailed than most maps. They also use their own symbols for features such as boulders, fences, crags etc. These are all depicted on the map's legend. There are plenty of on-line quizzes to help you learn them.


As well as being able to read a map, it is useful (and in fact necessary for the harder courses) to be able to use a compass. This isn't too hard a skill to learn.

Control Descriptions

Orienteering is all about navigating to features on the ground, a coded red and white control marker being located at each feature on your course. Small red circles are marked on the map to show the positions of these control points. You will be given a control description sheet, on which the descriptions and codes of the control features are listed.

Going to an event

What you'll need

You will need outdoor clothes and trainers. If you are going to walk, you could wear boots. Road running shoes are unlikely to be suitable for rough ground, and you can expect to get quite wet and muddy. Choose your clothes according to whether you expect to walk, jog or run. Wear full leg cover.

If you have a compass and know how to use it - even at the most basic level - take it. You might want to attach an elastic or string loop so you can keep it comfortably on your wrist.

Take along a whistle. This is an essential item of safety equipment that you can use to attract the attention of other Orienteers if you are in need of immediate medical assistance.

Take some food and drink to the event - not all events offer refreshments, and you can expect to be hungry and thirsty when you finish.

Events these days use electronic punching, which means you will probably have to pay a small charge to hire a SportIdent dibber or an EMIT brikke. Eventually you might choose to buy your own.

When are events held?

Most are on Sundays, usually with starts from 10:30 to 12:30, with Registration open from 10:00. (If the fixture list doesn't give a time, that's what you can expect.)

Getting there

Newcomers are always welcome at events, but you might feel a little wary of just going along on your own. If that's the case, contact your local club and arrange to go with someone. They will help you get started. Whether you go with someone else or go along on your own, you will probably prefer to know in advance what to expect.

The details will vary at different events, but the basics are the same:


Signs or a real person will show you where to park your car. There might be a small charge for this. Parking might be on forest tracks, in a public car park, or in a field.


The place to find a friendly club member who will help you with what you need to do to register, explain the map, and go to the start with you if you would like them to.


Usually a car or a tent, where you go to register for the event. The precise detail will vary at different events, but will usually be described on a board. There should also be a board describing the length and difficulty of the courses available. Choose your course carefully! You might have to fill in a little form, and you might have to join a queue, and/or there might be different people handling entries for different courses. Somewhere along the line (unless you have entered in advance), you will have to pay your entry fee, supply your name and age group, tell the organisers which course you want to do, and collect a map and control descriptions.

For events using electronic punching you will have to be given a numbered Emit brikke or SI dibber. You might also be given a start time or a 10-minute time range within which you should start.

Make sure you know how long it is going to take you to get to the start - ask if necessary. Check whether the event is using pre-printed maps or you have to copy down your course. If you have to copy it down - where? This might be at Registration, or at the Start. Ask. Before you copy down a course for the first time, ask for guidance from someone who knows. There will be plenty of people willing to share their wisdom.

If you have travelled alone, leave car keys with an official (ask at Registration), and make sure you put your car registration number on the slip you fill in. Make sure you know what a control will look like and how you "punch" at each control. There should be a sample near Registration.

Go to the start. Leave your spare clothing in your car (occasionally there might be a place to leave spare clothing near the start, particularly in winter). Allow plenty of time to get there, and use it as a warm-up. Remember to take with you:

  • map (and map bag)
  • control descriptions (preferably attached to map)
  • compass
  • Emit brikke or SI dibber (or control card if pin punches are being used)

Ask officials at the start what you should do. Sometimes, particularly at smaller local events, the start is unmanned. Ask another participant what to do.

Do your course

Visit each of the controls in the order specified, and punch at each. If you find you've missed one, go back to it, punch, then continue in the correct order. So for instance if you do numbers 1 and 2, then find yourself at number 4, go back to 3, then 4 again, and on to 5 etc. Even if you punched at number 4 the first time you were there, you should punch again when you do it in the right order - otherwise you will be disqualified. If you get seriously lost, you could ask another competitor where you are - strictly this is against the rules, but many beginners do it, and there's no point in getting disheartened. Don't come to rely on it though. Learn to navigate for yourself - get some coaching!

A few words about technique: orienteers continue to learn and improve their skills for many years - that's part of the fun of the sport. If there's just one thing that will stand you in good stead for your first attempts, it is this: set or orientate your map. Turn your map so that it matches the landmarks. You can do this simply by matching the map to the ground features - if you're on a path at the start and there's a wall on your left and a pond on your right, turn the map so that as you look at it, the wall is to the left of the path and the pond is to the right. Alternatively, you can line the map's North lines with north as indicated by your compass. Keep it aligned by turning it each time you change direction.


The last control on your course will be the Finish control. When you punch this, it stops the clock on your run. Now you walk - or jog if you feel like it - to Download.


For every event, whether or not you have successfully completed your course, you must go to Download. It's usually in a tent or car in the Registration area. The contents of your dibber will be read into the computer system for the event, and you will get a printout of your time at each control on your course.

This is how the organisers know that you have returned safely. It's absolutely essential to download, so that the organisers don't send out an unneccessary search party!

How did you do?

When you download, you will be given a printout of your time at each control on your course.

Results are usually displayed at the event and on the club website afterwards, so make sure you find out the website address before you leave.

Find out more and watch some videos here.

some orienteering stuff An Orienteering Control Night Orienteering providing a helping hand at the start - NOT!