Glen Strathfarrar is best known to Munro “baggers” as a quiet and rather secretive glen, with strict access controls and only 25 vehicles allowed into the area on any one day (when not closed). Coupled with the fact there was a 35 metre river running through it with frequent and alarming rises of water from the Culligran Power Station it seemed that this would be the least likely venue for an event attracting over 5,000 competitors.
The private road stretches out 14 miles and initially we scoped out parts of the glen with Caledonian Forest for the WOC Long Race. I made contact with Frank Spencer-Nairn and his wife Juliet at Culligran (his house was behind the race arena) and eventually managed to put over the positive aspects of the event and the good nature of orienteers and get the essential green light. The rough and tough birch forest to the north of the river was never going to support junior courses or the categories just a bit older than myself so an exploration was made to the south side, managed by Mike Spencer-Nairn.
As a former Royal Engineer, including time spent in an Amphibious Unit in Germany, the challenge of crossing the river not once but twice was too good to resist. Planner Martin Wilson wisely decided a “remote” finish on the south bank made sense, and all I had to do was bridge the gap. The costs of a 35 metre clear span bridge was astronomic so commercial options for floating bridges were explored. The end solution was not an Army bridge, but sections of floating walkways from a fish farm supplied by Marine Harvest (and facilitated by Akva). Getting the Army on board is a whole chapter in itself, but we were delighted to be supported by Royal Engineers from 71 Engineer Regiment (Reserve) and their American colleagues from the South Dakota National Guard. Throwing up a 10 metre bridge on gabion baskets further upstream was another simple but labour intensive task.
The whole exercise nearly came to a grinding halt with the issues of getting 2000 cars into a field made slick by continuous overnight rain. We are indebted to Erchless Estate represented by Peter Sinclair-Knipe and agricultural tenants Willie and Hilary Birnie (who we have to thank for Friday and Saturday). Maureen on the gate has seen more people today than she is used to in 6 months!
As to the orienteering – was it any good? It’s a hard one for me to answer as I didn’t get the chance to run out there. Comments I heard were all very positive and even the bracken, a cause for concern was perhaps not as bad as anticipated. Several bracken bashing sessions were held in early June to try and keep the fronds from developing and it is understood that this was partially successful. It would be a great venue earlier in the year. I have had the pleasure to see Strathfarrar in all seasons, and know for sure that ticks abound and midges can appear. Make sure you check yourself thoroughly before jumping into your beds.
At this stage it is appropriate to point out the hard work being done by Limelight Event Services – these are the crew who largely behind the scenes are putting together the impressive WOC arenas as well as Scottish 6 Day arenas to match. One innovation this year has been the quiet running generators – one for IT and one supplying all the power to the traders. The only thing to shout over now is the commentary!