Middleton Woods in Ilkley have long been recognised as testing terrain both physically and mentally for the navigational running sport of orienteering – and that’s in the daylight.

On Saturday it was the venue for this winter’s Northern Night Orienteering Championships.

It was organised by Airienteers, the Orienteering Club for Wharfedale and Airedale.

The event was kindly hosted by Bradford’s Outdoor Education Centre at Nell Bank where over one hundred hardy competitors of all ages were welcomed. Local orienteer, Tony Thornley of Ilkley, drew the detailed 1:7500 scale orienteering map and planned six courses of varying length and technical difficulty.

Inside the woods the highly irregular path network, slopes and vegetation combine with complex contour, rock and watercourse detail to challenge the navigator. The best orienteers combine physical strength and stamina with the ability to map-read accurately at speed and then make the best route choices.

As the race progresses and the body gets more fatigued, decision-making can be compromised leading to costly errors. Particularly in the dark!

The longer courses also visited Crabtree Gill to the west requiring a change of pace crossing the intervening field.

The climax to all courses involved sprint-orienteering in the grounds of Nell Bank using a highly detailed 1:4000 scale inset map.

Local club Airienteers celebrated three champions on the night. The men’s open class was won by Joe Woodley (Guiseley).

He ran the 6.5km course in just under 49 minutes – a highly respectable time even in daylight.

Lucy Needham (Shipley) claimed the women’s open title successfully completing her 4.9km course in 55 minutes.

Tackling the 3.4km course, Laura King (Ilkley) just pipped clubmate Helen Wood (Leathley) to claim the under-18 women’s title.

A particularly impressive perform- ance was that of Outi Kamarainen (Menston) who competed in the women’s open class having run the 23 mile Rombalds Stride earlier.

The event also saw the conclusion of the Yorkshire and Humber Night Orienteering League.

Representing Airienteers, top places were awarded to Outi Kamarainen (senior women, Menston), Al Powell (veteran men, Otley) and Peter Haines (super veteran men).

Airienteers’ next series of informal Saturday events commence on March 1 in Esholt Woods.

Northern Night Orienteering Championships – Main Results Men 18: 1 Rowan Capper (Ebor), 2 Matthew Fellbaum (MDOC), 3 Ruaridh Mon-Williams (Airienteers).

Men Open: 1 Joe Woodley (Airienteers), 2 Joe Taunton (NGOC), 3 Quentin Harding (SROC).

Men 40+: 1 James Logue (EPOC), 2 Steve Wilson (PFO), 3 Jonathan Emberton (EPOC).

Men 55+: 1 Steve Whitehead (Ebor), 2 Peter Haines (Airienteers), 3 Adrian Barnes (NATO).

Women 18-: 1 Laura King (Airienteers), 2 Helen Wood (Airienteers), 3 Louise Adams (SYO).

Women Open: 1 Lucy Needham (Airienteers), 2 Catherine Wilson (PFO), Outi Kamarainen (Airienteers).

Women 40+: 1 Emma Harrison (EPOC), 2 Sophie Brown (Airienteers), 3 Charlotte Somers-Cocks, (LOC).

Women 55+: 1 Helen Gardner (Ebor), 2 Marcia Bradbury (SYO), 3 Janet Leake (Ebor).