Day 3 Cancellation

Many people have commented on the cancellation of Day 3 and there has been a lively debate on Nopesport. Much of this is based on assumptions and a lack of understanding of the circumstances so this note is intended to outline the facts.

Whilst the Lakes 5 has been run by the North West Orienteering Association for some time at a four year interval, it is not wholeheartedly supported by all orienteers in the region. As a consequence negotiations over acquiring competition areas are not straightforward and compromises have had to be made. The Lake District may be full of high quality terrain but there are numerous restrictions on which areas can be made available in August – seasonal vegetation, landowner and tenant permission, interest groups, areas reserved by clubs for future events etc. Car parking was very much at the top of our list when selecting the areas. Harrop Tarn was available with a convenient car park in dry weather and we arranged a back up plan if the weather became very wet.

In late July the event came to the attention of the Cumbria Safety Advisory Group (SAG), a group which had been formed following the weather related problems with the Original Mountain Marathon a couple of years previously. Prior to this the police had been informed and had taken little interest. As coordinator, I was summoned to a meeting at Kendal Police Station to be questioned on all aspects of the event by a group representing the Cumbria Council, the highways authority, traffic management, mountain rescue, the police, the National Trust and a few others. The group felt that the safety plans were not sufficiently robust and all the risk assessments had to be re-done and a detailed rescue plan to recover injured competitors prepared. Traffic management came under close scrutiny. At Harrop there was concern about traffic backing up onto the A591 and we were asked to send all the vehicles around the lake to approach via the minor road. The back up plan to park vehicles on this road was mulled over but not vetoed. Soon after, most of the key Lakes 5 officials went off to Switzerland for the World Masters. With about ten days to go to the event, the police once again raised the back up plan for parking at Harrop Tarn and the day organiser (Ged Hagan) went into detailed negotiations with them and this culminated in the police vetoing the plan leaving the event vulnerable if the weather was exceptionally wet. As you now know, the heavy rain came in at just the wrong time.

At this late stage we knew that day 3 was vulnerable and warned competitors of this in the stop press notice. However, as the event started all was looking good and then on Monday the heavy rain set in. At this time the assembly for day 3 was being prepared but contact with Ged was not possible because there is no mobile coverage at the site. Under pressure to make a decision and with no word that there was a problem, I took a gamble and put up a notice to say that day 3 was on. That was a big mistake on my part because shortly after, Ged called to say there was a problem and a further inspection was to take place at 7pm. This was far too late to get the message out so we agreed to move the event to the rest day and set to, putting up signs, sending out 930 emails, 300 text messages and doing what we could to spread the word.

On Tuesday morning fine weather had returned and the outlook appeared to be good again. I set off to Thirlmere to meet Ged and on route he phoned to tell me that United Utilities (UU) had withdrawn their permission to use the car park field. I continued to Thirlmere and met the farmer who was quite happy for the field to be used but could not over-rule UU. I then went to the UU offices and met the centre manager to discuss options including swapping with one of the other days. He was adamant that the field would remain unusable for the rest of the week and would not change his decision. He did however suggest other possible parking locations which were outside the water catchment area but the logistics of a 7km walk to the start and finish or the last minute hiring of 30+ minibuses (coaches can not negotiate the minor road) made this impossible.

In my meeting with United Utilities it was explained that not only mud was likely to be washed into the reservoir but also animal waste which would no longer be held in place by the grass. An additional factor was that the parking field is scheduled to be used very soon to gather a large number of sheep off the fells and with no grass on the field, their waste deposits would be flushed into the reservoir at the first rain.

Hindsight tells me that we underestimated the risk on the day 3 parking plans and the chances that outside bodies would withdraw permission at a late stage. It also tells me that the plan for communicating a moved or cancelled event had not been thoroughly thought through and although we tried hard to get the message out, we could have done better.

I hope you enjoyed the rest of the event.

Trevor Roberts