Friday, 11 January 2008

Butcombe Brunel 200 IPA

I am sitting on my settee (TSIMF) with a wonderful pint of beer on it's arm.

At 5%, this beer from Butcombe, the Butcombe Brunel 200 IPA, celebrates the 200th Birthday of one of Britain's finest Engineers. As excellent beer to mark the birthday of an excellent chap.

And speaking of excellent chaps I would like to celebrate the excellent chaps over on the TGO message board.

As I mentioned a few days ago there had been a fairly active debate over on the TGO Challenge Message Board about the way the message board is occasionally used by prospective Challengers.

Now one of the fundamental differences between doing the TGO Challenge and walking a National Trail is that on the Challenge, you design your own route across Scotland, whereas on a National Trail you are following a pre-determined route, designed by others - usually a committee.

The Message Board has been around for a number of years now and has in that time developed a culture all it's own. It is not like a conventional outdoors forum, because the walk was in existence before the board was created, and so there was a population in existence before the board was created.

The board is there to help all Challengers to discuss routes, gear, possible meets, transport to and from the event - a whole host of topics. Most years there will be a prospective Challenger who posts, asking for a route.

Now forgive me for standing back and scratching my head for a while, but what did I just say the difference was between walking a National Trail and doing the Challenge?

Yes. However some chaps still don't get it and ask away. They are then surprised that they get replies from the indigenous population of the message board explaining that perhaps they should persist in carrying on planning their own route. That way they will get far more satisfaction when they finally walk into the North Sea at the end of May, having designed and walked their own route across the vast swathe of Scotland.

That's when the real fun starts.

There are howls of protest from the 'injured' party: The usual complaint is that the indigenous population is being incredibly unfriendly in not giving the new guy a route across Scotland.

Most years this degenerates into a bit of a slagging match between the 'injured, rejected' new Challengers and the guys who suggested that they should be designing their own route.

However this year it has really developed into a corker! Quite a few supporters of the 'rejected' almost 'ganged up' to denigrate the chaps who had the temerity to suggest that he should design his own route.

A good friend of mine, Derek, in a bid to take some of the heat out of the message board, wrote a private email to Dave Smithers - this year's 'rejected questioner' explaining why he felt so strongly about his opinions - due to safety and the reputation of the Challenge, that he had supported for twenty years or so. A heartfelt reply.

Smithers, having lost the moral argument on the board, felt he could take a swipe at Derek and posted the email exchange on the board in its entirety, saying "personally it has simply given me a good laugh !"

Well, there we have the measure of the man. This is a man who says he has "a very demanding law enforcement role." I understand this to be within the Serious Organised Crime Squad. (A simple Google search throws this up)

If this is the sort of chap who is protecting us from the evils of society, God help us.


  1. Although not part of the TGOC fraternity yet, (I'm hoping for 2009), I do look at the message board on occasion and watched with bemusement the increasing fractiousness of the thread you refer to. I have to say that message boards/forums/e-mails have a tendency to descend into acrimony. Although I've not had the pleasure of meeting you, Alan, I've greatly enjoyed your blog and your interview with Bob the Pod. You strike me as a man with a twinkle in his eye. Unfortunately this is more difficult to convey in a the black and white world of cyberspace. I bet if you had the conversation down the pub you would have ended up having a good laugh and propping up the bar at closing time. I hope the Challenge gives you a chance to kiss and make up (well, perhaps not kiss!).

  2. Hi Al,
    One thing that never got covered on the forum has to do with ability. As you know I have checked routes for the Challenge for a number of years, something I take very seriously and try to do well. When I receive a route I have to assume the Challenger has done their own planning and research. The clarity and accuracy of the route sheet gives me a very good idea of the Challengers experience and ability. If they just include a route simply cribbed off the forum they maybe giving a false impression of their capabilities and the advice I give may not be as accurate or comprehensive as it could have been.

  3. Thank you Robin for your comment - I appreciate it. If you make it onto the Challenge in 2009 I am sure you will make an excellent recruit to this happy bunch of travellers. Please don't think this is the usual way that Challengers get along.

    The Message Board seems to attract a few newer members that want things to come easily, rather than having to do their own research and planning and there are quite a few of the more experienced Challengers who realise that this could have worrying implications, as Mr Grumpy points out.

    Quite apart from that they are only cheating themselves of the triumph of having overcome the Challenge they had set themselves when planning their own route!

  4. I've already mapped out 3 "challenge" routes using OS maps on Tracklogs! It's been a great help to read the trail diaries and the picture albums. I'm hoping to do a half challenge this year, probably Strathcarron to Dalwhinnie. Mr Grumpy's album amongst others has been useful to get an idea of what to expect. It's fascinating to try to piece together routes and investigate their feasibility. I'm not going near the Monadhliath until I get a bit more experience. Although I've been working out ways to get across, I'll save it for another time.

  5. The Monadhliath are really not that bad!!!!!! Its just the mass of stalkers tracks, etc which change the area from its natural state to a mass of bog and unmarked tracks which can be off-putting as not on the map!! I pencil them in when I remember but the map might look like lead if I continue to do so....


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