Training 30th May (POR) in Ballydehob
After many months of being in our longest lockdown in Ireland due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lifting of some restrictions meant that outdoor sports training in groups of up to 15 people were permitted.
It was decided that our first outing for 2021 would be a POR training session, since there we would be able to time arrivals and departures to keep interactions between groups of riders down to a minimum level within any area at any one time.
With its many intersecting and quiet country lanes, the area between Schull and Ballydehob was a popular choice by the organisers. Once the venue was confirmed, the organising began. To reduce the number of journeys he would need to make to the area, Bastian enlisted help from local resident and fellow traceur Ian, who set about finding some off-road riding sections along a few farm lanes and securing permission from landowners to permit access to these routes. Bastian and Ian worked their magic and soon the tracing was finished, and the planned route was plotted ready for the day’s training session.
Sunday 30th May 2021 arrived, and the blue sky made the day seem even more special. Instead of our usual sign-in process, we instead ticked names off the attendance sheet, and the COVID officer scanned the temperature of all attendees to confirm that no-one attending had a fever. It was wonderful to see familiar faces again. One person said they loaded their horse that morning with such a grin on their face from the excitement and as they drove along the road towards Ballydehob it felt that they were coming home, such was the feeling of contentment and familiarity.
While Bastian took one group for training on compass bearings and other advanced POR techniques, the riders who had opted out of the compass training got their horses ready and presented themselves to the steward at CP1 (checkpoint 1) at the top of the yard. Maps in hand, the first pair of riders mounted up and rode out of the gate on their first stage. A short time later, a trio (two experienced treccies who were joined by a young rider on her first ever POR) followed suit. With the theory training over, the next pair of riders saddled up and departed the yard, followed by the only individual rider for the day, and lastly a trio of ladies from East Cork.
The route took the riders westward and along part of the Butter Road, then headed south towards CP2. The sea views were a treat for all the riders; the glistening blue sea dotted with numerous islands (part of the Carbery’s Hundred Isles) and also the Fastnet Rock. Leaving CP2, the riders continued south to Derreenatra, and then west to Rossbrin, before turning northward up a small farm track and on to the quiet country lanes around Ballycummisk, down into a small valley and up the far side. Continuing on the road northward, the riders found themselves back in the townland of Stouke. Their route not yet over, the riders had to ignore the turning that would take them towards the yard, and continue northward to CP3 where the horses were given a short breather. Leaving CP3, the riders continued in a northerly direction for about 300m where they found another off-road section. After successfully negotiating their way along this section, the riders ended up on a small lane where they first headed south a short distance before joining a farm track which brought them in a southwesterly direction, checking in at the last checkpoint CP4 stationed just before the yard. Not everyone had made it this far as three riders had had to retire at different stages along the route for a variety of reasons. It was about 4pm when the last group of riders arrived back at the yard, happy with their day’s excursion. One by one the horseboxes were loaded and riders began to disperse, and the CP stewards returned from their designated locations with their clocks, speed signs and entry/exit flags.
It was great to be out and about and and meeting old friends again (albeit at a distance of 2m or more), and many enthusiastic comments were made about the route, with so much of it being off-road, and the glorious sunshine that made the day’s event such a fantastic start to the year.
Results were emailed out to the riders during the week following the event as we were still not permitted to stay on site longer than necessary.
Our thanks to Bastian and Ian for their wonderful job tracing the route, to Bastian again for the theory training at the start, for Shirley, Megan, Ellie and Jill as CP stewards, to Billy for the use of his yard as the venue, to all the landowners who permitted us access across their land, and last (but not least) our thanks to all the riders (Richard, Mary, Judith, Jo, Adèle, Tara, Dave, Sheila, Elaine, Frances and Siobhán) for travelling from near and far.
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