New to Orienteering?

What is it?

Orienteering is an exciting, challenging sport. The aim is to navigate around a number of control points marked on a specially drawn map in the quickest time possible. The challenge involves picking the best route and successfully navigating it as quickly as possible.

Orienteering is a very flexible sport and is suitable for all levels of fitness and all ages – competitors at orienteering events range from age 6 to 90! There is absolutely no obligation to run whilst doing an orienteering course, and beginners usually find they are better off going fairly slowly to concentrate on reading the map accurately rather than rushing round.

Although the top orienteers are very physically fit, it is rarely the fastest runner who wins – rather the person who can combine running with map-reading and complex decision-making at speed.

At the top level, orienteering can be a highly competitive sport, and our elite class athletes compete at a very high level in world competitions. But the majority of people participate in the sport for fun, and there are events throughout the year catering for the very widest possible range of ages and ability levels. The social side of the sport is very important too, and you will soon meet many other like-minded people from all walks of life.

Here’s a short video which will give you a better idea of what it’s all about: 10 Elements of Orienteering

And here are some more short videos about orienteering from Manchester and District OC : Get out and Go

And another introductory video from South London Orienteers

Where does orienteering take place?

Most orienteering events are held in areas of natural beauty, usually forests or heathland. It is a superb way to get out into the countryside and into beautiful terrain which you would otherwise never have visited, whilst enjoying an adventurous sport at the same time. Smaller orienteering events can take place in country parks or even around the streets of Poole! Our orienteering events take place in the New Forest, on the Isle of Purbeck, across the Cranborne Chase and other parts of Dorset, as well as in Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch.

How can I get involved?

The best way to try the sport is to come along to an orienteering event and try a course. There is no need to have any coaching or practice beforehand – first-hand experience is the best way to try out the sport. There are various types of event on offer, but all will have courses suitable for beginners. Orienteering events are most commonly held on Sunday mornings, with the peak season being between September and May. However, there are also many other types of event, including evening events held midweek during the summer months, and urban street orienteering events held during the winter.

For details of upcoming events see the EVENTS pages. This includes details of forthcoming events organised by Wessex, as well as links to details of those organised by other local clubs as well as regional and national events.

Who are WESSEX? Should I join?

Any newcomers to the sport are welcome to come along to a few orienteering events before joining the club – come along and try out the sport and see if it is for you. If you enjoy your first few events you should look into club membership, which contains many benefits – full details about WESSEX and how to join the club can be found on the  JOIN THE CLUB page.

Click on these links for more information:

Clothing and equipment

What happens on the day of an event?

What does an orienteering map look like?

Choosing a route

What do the controls flags look like?


What next?

Hopefully you will enjoy your first orienteering experiences and be keen to come back for more. Look around in the car park for leaflets advertising forthcoming events and take any that look interesting. Keep checking the WESSEX events page (with its associated links) for details of forthcoming events.

A good way to become more involved in the sport and meet other club members is to join the club. Information about WESSEX and how to join the club can be found on our JOIN THE CLUB page.

Once you have completed a few orienteering events, you may be interested in working towards some of the orienteering award schemes that are available. These are a great way of gaining some recognition that your orienteering is improving.

We hope to see you in a forest soon!

Share this
Orienteering Club