Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Things Missing in 2020 and Things to Do Instead

 The Big Thing wot's disappeared from the list of events planned, and, even arranged, for 2020 is The Great Outdoors Challenge (TGO). For those who don't know, this is an annual event where walkers get the privilege of walking from the West Coast of Scotland to the East. Walkers have to be self-supporting and can do pretty much whatever they want, after first having their plans checked by a vetter who, when satisfied, signs-off the route.
 Most of the TGO is great fun (most!), and people come back year after year to do the walk, meet old friends, get wet, some get drunk a few times, some have outrageous numbers of Full Scottish breakfasts. Pretty much everybody (with a few exceptions) will have several wild camps on the way and will be eating dehydrated food....
 2020 would have been the sixteenth time I'd done the walk (assuming that I would have finished it!). Most of these have been solo. My three children , who aren't children anymore, have also completed it, and The Lad walked with me in 2019 on his fourth trip. The photos below are all from that trip. The three above are from training trips, which brings me to.... Training is very much an excuse to go backpacking. We've had just one gentle "training" trip this year - with JJ and Beryl who is not really called Beryl. This was a two-night, three day walk in the fog and gloom hills just a bit to the right of Barbon. It was fun. It was cold. And it was damp. Ideal conditions, in fact.

 The reason I went with these two was that we'd planned to do the TGO together next May. We had a route which our vetter described as "interesting" which went from Oban to Glen Etive to Bridge of Orchy to Loch Rannoch, round the back of Schiehallion, to Aberfeldy to Kirkmichael, Glen Isla, Forfar and Lunan Bay. It was a straightish and short route but a good one.
 Then somebody in China ate a mandolin or something and everything fell over. Our next training walk was to be to Lanarkshire. Companions dropped out early on, but I was determined to go and had stocked up on dehydrated scoff and gas and had briefed the dog. On the Friday I was buying trail food (I was going to try goats cheese and wraps) and was planning to do the packing on the Sunday for an early start. But the virus situation escalated and loads of people turned up at the usual places (Snowdon, Malham, Glencoe) and the A9 was chocablock with voluntary refugees seeking isolation in huge numbers together. There was a general consensus that this was daft. Boris mentioned it in a press briefing and I didn't pack my pack.

 Me and Beryl also had a trip planned to Cadair Idris, to attempt to complete  the route I'd tried with several others a few years ago but which was taken over by some "experienced"  people brought along by one of the group members. Basically, they, and a windy day, took off in the wrong direction together with the group. I determined never to organise another such walk with a group bigger than two or three others, and, mainly just me and Dawn, or just me and LTD.  The bigger the group, it seems to me and the more negotiation and compromise is involved. It starts with just one saying "can I come"  and they bring somebody else, and somebody else turns up who wants to alter the route to a better way in another direction and ... and.....  But that trip became a virus victim as well, so the route is incomplete.
Then, there's Robin Hood's Picking Rods. This is linked to the TGO challenge gathering which, this year was to be in Hayfield. Previous gatherings were at the Snake Pass Inn. One of these was cancelled due to snow.

 I managed a few more walks with Crook Ramblers and the March Long Walk in Northumberland, buy the writing was on the wall and , now we are limited to local walks.  This may not be too bad provided it doesn't go on too long. But it's made me plan and put some structure to my daily doggy walks with LTD.

 So, this is The Plan. I get to go out once a day "for exercise". Crook isn't so bad for getting out into the countryside. In fact, it's pretty easy, although the countryside is on the far, lower ends of North Pennine ridges. The North Pennines, being notoriously wild and a bit empty are, nevertheless quite gentle. The contours are mainly socially isolating and donl;t get too close to each other. And so with the local countryside.

And, it seems, that there's a brand-new constituency of walkers. These are well spread out and don't get too close to each other. There's lots of space. They're families, blokes with dogs. Girlfriends out together. Teenagers. Mums and Grannies. My impression is that they're making the best of it and that most of them haven't done much in the way of exploring the countryside before, or, at least, recently. There's always a silver lining innit?

 So, I'll be systematically working my way around Crook in a clockwise direction (widdershins is bad luck), doing doggy walks of 5 or so miles, maybe up to 7. There'll be a map and some pictures and, maybe, some locals will pick these up of That Interweb and, maybe it will inform about where it's possible to go. I think I'm stuck around Crook, but outlying villages will be included: Billy Row, Stanley Crook, Tow Law (maybe), Howden le Wear, Willington......  It's summat to do anyway.

Pic below is dinner at St Drostan's hostel at Tarfside - an establishment taken over by TGO peeps every year to provide refreshments, breakfasts, dinner, sympathy and hot showers before challengers make the final lurch towards the North Sea.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Love all of your posts, this one in particular, and your photos always add so much. 'Someone in China ate a mandolin or something' is such a great line and the mental imagery makes me smile each time I think about it.
I have blogged in the past and I know how long it takes, so thank you so much for taking the time to share and brightening up our lives with your humour and your photographs in these difficult days.
Take care and stay safe (Love to LTD)

According to the PDSA animal charity there are over a million dogs in the UK which are displaying frightening levels of ‘problem behaviour’. Nearly one-in-three dog owners has been attacked or bitten in their own home, more than half of them know another person who has been attacked and nearly two-thirds of children remember having been frightened by a dog on at least one occasion.
With best friends like these – who needs enemies!? It is only a surprise that dogs are so popular. (Gay Gary insisted that his wife (a portly middle-aged bloke called Frank) was more of a best friend to him than his dog. I suggested that he try locking them both in the boot of his car one evening – and see which one was happiest to see him when he let them out the following morning)
But wait a minute; there are probably more than a million people in the UK who are displaying frightening levels of problem behaviour. The majority of dog-owners will have been attacked by another person at some time, the majority of people will know someone else who has been attacked by another person and I doubt that there is a single child out there who hasn't been frightened by the antics of someone-who-was-a-bit-odd at some point.
One of my friends insists that he would never have a dog. Even though they are cute and occasionally fun, he says that they stink, they are expensive and they make a mess. But he does have children - who are cute, occasionally fun, often stink, are always expensive and permanently making a mess. Purists might say that there are some differences; you can’t leave a child chained up all day for example (not unless you run a Correction Centre anyway), children don’t normally chew your shoes (if they do – check their pockets for sweets which look like they may have originated in a would-be chemist’s back-garden shed) and I have never met a teenager who would even fetch a cup back to the kitchen - never mind a stick that you’d thrown halfway across the park. If you ask me, it seems that 21st century dogs are simply turning into people, and maybe it is time that we should start treating them as such.
Will you serve dogs in the bar I asked Tel (The Doorman). No he said - you will have to bring your own...