by Megan Carter-Davies
For those of you who are studying A-levels and looking for a university where you can keep orienteering at a high level, you’ve probably got Edinburgh and Sheffield in your top 5, among others that you know have a good orienteering club. Hopefully the University of Bristol is in that list too! I want to give you an honest review of what’s on offer here.
There are three main areas of support for aspiring orienteers at this university: UBOC, the Sports Performance Squad and our local clubs.
Firstly, UBOC. As a club, we are pretty active with the schedule for committed orienteers generally being..
Monday: Steady hour evening run, mainly off road.
Tuesday: Intervals with UBACCC (athletics & cross country club) e.g. 8x4min (1min) on grass, I usually choose to do about 6 reps… UBACCC sessions are run with Bristol and West AC – the fastest guys run sub-15 min 5km so even if you’re that fast, there’ll be someone for you to keep up with.
Wednesday: Orienteering training locally. Given that we have to keep it within running/cycling distance, our training areas include parkland and sprint maps but we do have decent woods nearby! (Orienteering areas on a map here). Throughout Autumn, the sessions are tailored to beginners but as the nights draw in early over winter, we tend to do more night-o. In Spring, the training ups in technicality as much as possible (corridors, blank maps etc) and then the BOK Urban series begins in May for a weekly fast paced Wednesday night somewhere around Bristol. Across winter and Spring, there are also events held most Wednesdays by the Army in decent forests with ~10km courses, but they require a bit more travel (can get lifts from BOK members).
Thursday: Intervals/tempo as on Tuesday, otherwise an easy run.
Friday: Steady hour evening run, mainly off road.
Weekend: Occasional training weekend (e.g. Lake District, sand dunes on the Gower, New Forest). Otherwise there are local events literally every weekend, including the Western Night League from October to February, and BOK are always happy to give lifts. The Forest of Dean, the Cotswolds, the Mendips and loads of awesome sprint areas are all within about 45mins drive. On non-orienteering days, we go for a long run.
Summer trip: This summer, we went to the Scottish 6 days and, in 2018, we’re going to OOCup in France for some super technical forests.
We go to various fell races too, in the Brecon Beacons and in the Mendips. As for XC, the Gwent league is our closest league, with one race in Bristol, plus BUCS (if you’re in UBACCC).
Sports Performance Squad
Since starting uni, I have been on the Sports Performance Squad. It’s a group of athletes from a range ofsports all trying to reach a high level, and you get loads of support from the staff at the Sports Centre. You have to apply online and go to an interview with some of the main staff, but it is so worth it! I have a free all-access pass to any sports facilities in the uni, personalised gym programme, massage, nutrition and psychology advice. Most of the S&C related stuff I do comes through this programme with 2 gym sessions with the squad weekly, 2 injury prevention sessions (mobility and stability with a physio) and pilates. We do some fun things too like cooking sessions together, going for breakfast, frisbee golf, rowing. We’re all friends 😊
As for funding, you don’t get a specific grant, since all the above is given to you free, but if you need some funding for JWOC or World Uni’s for example, they can give you money towards that.
You can find the application form here (under How to Apply): http://www.bristol.ac.uk/sport/performance/scholarships/
Local Clubs: The most local club is BOK. BOK are so helpful for lifts – I don’t think there’s a single event in the past two years where I couldn’t get a lift with them! We put on at least one event per year for them and help out with other things too. Other local clubs are NGOC, NWO, QO, SWOC, SBOC - there’s plenty going on every weekend.
Training with UBOC and the Performance Squad covers most of my weekly training and outside of that, it’s GB squad or with my foreign club RR to get the most technical training in. For foreign camps, Bristol Airport is only 30mins on a bus, otherwise train links to Heathrow or Gatwick are easy.
Where to live and run:The best place to live in first year is probably any of the uni halls in Stoke Bishop. Avoid the halls in city centre if you like running off road… At Stoke Bishop, you’ll live by the Downs which is perfect for an easy, flat 5k jog on grass (great views too). From there, you can either create a loop to Blaise Castle and its woods which are just gorgeous(my fave!)! Otherwise you could head across the suspension bridge, dealing with a bit of road to get across the Suspension Bridge then off into Ashton Court (parkland with deer) or Leigh Woods and pretty much make a run as long as you want, all off road.
Bristol isn’t flat but the hills aren’t massive either. You can get a 100m climb in a single uphill easily but if you want serious climb, you’ll have to do various hills.
For 2nd+ years, Redland, between the Downs and uni, is probably the best place to live – loads of student houses, close to uni, close to the Downs (and all that off-road running) and Sainsbury’s nearby, perfect.
Bristol’s got great cycling routes to the Mendips or Bath for those inevitable injury-induced cross training periods, and also mountain biking in Leigh Woods and Ashton Court if you’re into it.
I think that’s most things covered. If you have any extra questions, feel free to ask us at any events, on our social media accounts or email firstname.lastname@example.org .