Happy Herts – the beginnings

This article was written in 1980 by Alec Farmer..

The club appears to have been formed at the beginning of 1969 with a nucleus of 17 members from much the same geographical area as now, namely Luton, Harrow, Harpenden, Hatfield, St Albans & Stanmore. There is no record of the first members’ meeting but the second one was held on 2nd May 1969 when 10 members attended and Bernard Williams was elected Secretary / Treasurer. This was the start of business affairs and the Club name, colours and badge were decided upon. The balance in hand was only just over £3 so it was not surprising to read that a night event planned for November 1969 had to be postponed due to lack of funds.

The only currently familiar names from that first year were Monty Rosemary and David Rosen but by 1971 when the Secretary was Michael Fox, such names as Alan Rosen, Des Waite, Geoff Newton and Jim Prowting amongst our current membership could be seen. Club meetings had been informal social gatherings of members at the home of Monty and Rosemary Rosen in Stanmore. Club events had been unambitious until 3rd October 1972 when a Badge event was put on at Burnham Beeches.

A further change of secretary occurred when Alan Rosen took over and he reported that the club had 12 individual members and 8 families. In the 1972/73 season we had come 8th in the SE league and in the Galoppen we had the first two places in the M50, the first in M15, second in M21B and the fifth in W43. (Can anyone who’s been around long enough explain why age classes had strange divisions like W43?? – Ed). In that same season a decision was taken to remain in SEOA and not join the newly formed EAOA.

By 1974 the club was beginning to expand having about 50 units of membership. Cliff Birch became the Chairman and his daughter in law Carole was Secretary. Meetings were held fairly frequently and took place at the homes of various members. In 1975 Robin Smith became Secretary and produced the first (and last) club newsheet (what?? Ed) Events were planned at Bury Wood Epping, and at Whippendell Woods Watford. Our finances were improving and we started to build up our own stock of equipment when Don Nevell and Ray Vale made our first 40 plastic controls which are still in use. By hiring out this equipment we were able to increase our revenue by a modest amount.

In 1976 we saw the inauguration of the GLC Orienteering championships at Hampstead Heath when Happy Herts were invited to be the Organisers. Also in the same year the Whippendell Woods permanent course was set up as a cooperative venture between Happy Herts and Watford Corporation. An invitation from Luton Regional Sports Centre to do the same thing was received in 1977 and that course is at long. last expected to come into use during 1981. (Is it now? Ed) Business meetings were held in members homes on a rota basis and, with club membership still on the increase, these meeting places were coming to look like mosques with members removing shoes at the front door and sitting on the floor because there were not sufficient chairs. We were therefore fortunate that shortly after the 9th St Albans Scouts joined the club in 1976 their leader, Martin How, readily agreed to make the Scout Hall available to us for our meetings which have been held there ever since.

In September 1977 our membership stood at 15 full Seniors, 20 full Families, 8 Associate Seniors, 7 Associate Juniors, 3 Associate Families and 2 Groups. Counting families and groups as 3 units, this meant that Robin Smith had seen the magic barrier of 100 broken (up to 105) for the first time. When he found that pressure of work forced him to resign Alec Farmer took over as Secretary of a rapidly expanding club. A Club Captain was also appointed in 1977, the first incumbent being Jim Prowting.

The ever increasing membership brought its problems not least of which was that Happy Herts members could not be easily recognised at events and there was therefore a need to “get to know you”. This took various forms, the first being the HH badges that started to appear on cars at events so that members could gather and chat. A large club banner was made which served as a useful rallying point at big events, and members were also easily spotted wearing the distinctive club T shirt with its yellow rampant hart and the letters HH also in yellow. Social events were inaugurated, the first being the Christmas Party held in December 1977 whilst a dinner dance for adults was established in October 1980. It was in 1978 that the Club Championships came into being. All members ran a fairly short course (4.5 km) as this allowed the largest number of age groups to take part. The overall winner would be the Club Open Champion and, after applying a factor to everybody’s time, this would produce a handicap winner. Our first Open Champion was Jim Prowting (who repeated his performance 2 years later) whilst the first handicap winner was David Nevell. Although in the first year these championships were piggybacked onto a SLOW club event, we subsequently ran them as a separate event on a Saturday afternoon and combined them with a barbecue so that the social events could continue.

With membership still increasing this brought greater enthusiasm, and training events started up during the summer evenings. Two of our members David Nevell and Quentin Harding were selected for foreign tours and represented their country, whilst the combined efforts of the club members as a whole won us the South East League Trophy for the first time in the 1979/80 season.

The membership at the end of 1980 stands at 180 and, despite the large numbers, the club still takes after its name of HAPPY Herts. There is a sense of good humour and comradeship in the club which is evidenced by the way all members make some sort of personal contribution to the well being of the club during the season. The various contributions included helping out at events, instructing newcomers, surveying and mapping, checking that the controls at the permanent course are still in good condition and washing up at the Christmas Party (quite a job with 80 or 90 people attending!) The success of the club has therefore stemmed from its members as a whole and not from individuals and 1981 can be faced with enthusiasm and confidence.

Alec Farmer 1980.