We recently did a short family outing to the forest in Castlefreke just before the kids went back to school. Whilst the walk itself was fun and short enough to avoid the kids complaining too much, it brought up a ton of questions and ideas in my head, such as:
- Why is it so hard to find detailed information about walks/trails in West Cork and the rest of the country? The Irish Trails site is very poor indeed.
- Why is Coillte sticking to unreadable-by-normal-people Ordnance Survey type maps in PDF format in 2013?
- Why doesn’t Coillte have iPhone and Android Apps for all forest activities?
- Wouldn’t such an App be a perfect positive example of The Gathering in action?
- Wouldn’t Google Streetview tours of the walks/trails/forests be an amazing resource?
- Why can’t I tell from online info if a walk/trail is buggy-friendly or small-child friendly?
- Why is signage in Irish forests so utterly useless?
- Why are we talking about selling off our forests rather than turning them into strong tourism revenue generators?
In the case of Castlefreke, rather than just complaining, I turned on a GPS tracker on my phone during the walk and uploaded much improved data to Open Street Map afterwards. I’d do the same on Google Maps but they don’t have a Map Maker for Ireland yet. (Aside: Sign-up to be notified when it happens here)
On our next walk, my plan is to take a Contour GPS camera and video the whole thing with location info. So future walkers can see exactly what a trail is like rather than relying on vague text descriptions on web-sites.
So it was a real joy for me to read Margaret Jordan’s blogpost this morning about the new permanent Orienteering Trail in Ballincollig Regional Park. I did a bit of orienteering as a kid in the Scouts and absolutely loved it. It turned forest walks into an exciting adventure. It’s a sport that people of every age and ability can do. The one in Ballincollig sounds perfect for families.
And if you think about what’s involved, the cost to add this feature to any recreation space is very small. You could transform many barely used forests into hives of activity. But huge kudos to Cafe Chico for sponsoring the one in Ballincollig.
Given that Bandon is now an “Active Travel town” and funding has supposedly been allocated for walking and cycling routes, wouldn’t orienteering be an ideal and inexpensive way of achieving the aims of that initiative? I know we don’t have many forests locally. I once tried to go for a walk in Duke’s wood and failed miserably after a few yards. I wonder if Castlebernard would be amenable to such a thing? Or Manch? Are there other places, not necessarily forests where this could be done safely?
In the rest of West Cork there are plenty of areas where orienteering could slot right in. Imagine Lough Hyne or similar.
Thoughts? Problems? Suggestions?
UPDATE 1: I just noticed from the Cork Orienteering Club site that Farran has a permanent course too. That’s two weekends sorted for us now!
UPDATE 2 (20/01/2013): Today we had a go at the course in Ballincollig. We printed off 7 maps and the guide and got our warm clothes on. Overall we had good fun despite the usual kids complaints. But (big but!), you have to do it in wellies at this time of year. Most of the route is either off-path or on mud-filled paths. We did a short loop of the first 6 markers or so and were very mucky by the end. It’s not really suitable for people with buggies or very small children. Also if you want to split up into teams, there are a lot of rivers/streams/pools which means small kids must be accompanied by someone with sense. Highly recommended tho!