Club History

As documented in the archive material, the EAOA was set up in 1971 by Richard Raynsford, with the individual clubs of NOR, SuffOC and WAOC developing over the following twelve months. Two SuffOC members, John and June Webb, have been orienteering with SuffOC almost from the beginning and have put together some notes on their own involvement with the club.

In 1986 the JK was hosted by EAOA, with events at Brandon and at Pretty Corner near Sheringham. June handled the entries and SuffOC members spent time at the Webb’s house putting everything together.  It was the first time the JK had had over 3000 entries – and this was in the days before electronic punching and almost-instantaneous online results, so the task involved preparing individually numbered punchcards for the event and labelled results envelopes for subsequent mailing to competitors.

John wrote software for his Osborne computer so that June could compile the entry lists and the data was transmitted to HAVOC’s Keith Ryder’s BBC computer so he could produce computerised results.  Keith’s son David later produced the Splits Browser which is nowadays included with the results.

The EAOA was later given an award by the Eastern Region Sports Council for the contribution made to sport by the staging of the JK. June was invited to the official presentation in Norwich and has fond memories of shaking hands with, and being photographed alongside, Sebastian Coe.

How did the Webbs become involved in orienteering?

John remembers reading an article about Orienteering in the Daily Telegraph in 1970/71. The article, by Gordon Pirie, one of the UK’s top athletes of the time, inspired him to write off for more information but he was informed that there was no orienteering in his neighbourhood. Towards the end of 1972 he received a letter notifying him of an event to take place in the Tangham area of Rendlesham Forest, so he decided to give it a go.  This was the first event held by the newly formed Suffolk Orienteering Club and John joined the club soon afterwards.

June, on the other hand, became interested in the sport through her son, a pupil at St Joseph’s College in Ipswich, where Brother William, a keen orienteer, was a member of staff. On an open day June’s family took part in a course which Brother William had set up in the school grounds. June was already running a Girl Guide company and Brother William agreed to instruct them in the basics of orienteering, starting with a slide show and later holding training sessions at the school for several weeks. The bus trips to the boys’ school proved to be very popular with the Guides!

June’s first husband died suddenly when their family was still relatively young, but June continued to foster an interest in orienteering in her children and in her Guide company. It was at a training event which June arranged for a group of Guides at a Youth Hostel that June first met John, who, together with Denis Arnold, had volunteered to coach the session.

Maps in the early days were very simple black and white affairs; the Rendlesham Forest map was relatively complicated. John produced the first 5 colour SuffOC map (Bentley Woods), drawn upon a multitude of superimposed sheets of tracing film.  Unfortunately, the person looking after the tracings decided that they were no longer of interest as Bentley Woods had changed hands and disposed of them, much to John’s disappointment. Goff Hill was one of the first people in the country to produce computer drawn pre-marked maps, printed on the professionally-printed blank map.  Otherwise pre-marked maps were produced with much swearing and inky fingers on an overprinting “machine” (a supersized John Bull printing outfit).  The EAOA overprinter still resides in the Webb’s loft.

John and June competed on a regular basis, attending not only the local events but the multi-day events such as the JK, the White Rose and the Karrimor. June remembers attending a Swedish 5-day orienteering event with 20,000 competitors. “Amazing experience. One boulder looked like another”. She developed an allergy to peppers but still ran her courses despite being sick. Asked in a radio interview whether she would return to Sweden, June had to admit that it was unlikely due to the high cost of living.

Both John and June have served on the SuffOC committee: June wrote the Punch newsletter for a while and was club treasurer for many years while John supplied much technical expertise.  As for publicity, June remembers spending many days delivering posters to libraries and schools before the days of websites and Facebook.

June also became a coach for the club and in this capacity, with a friend, a teacher from Barnardiston Hall School, hired Santon Downham Village Hall and ran a course for the pupils. In the morning they played “O” games and then the children (in pairs & with helpers) went out into the forest to try real orienteering.  The school set up its own basic orienteering course in the grounds of the Hall and has been successfully involved in orienteering ever since.

John and June, together with John and Jenny Collyer from SOS, also instigated the Essex & Suffolk Schools Orienteering League and are justifiably proud of its continuing success.