A solicitor once gave me some very sound advice. As he leant back in his chair, he half closed his eyes and said, “Al. Don’t do it. People are trouble.”
This was running through my mind in the afternoon of the second day. I was the organiser of this year’s Daunder and had started out with eight Daunderers and now, there we were, waiting for the Blacksmiths to slide back the door-bolts, with a total of just three Daunderers.
There had been, as Phil had put it so neatly, a schism. But we need to rewind slightly to explain how we had so carelessly cast aside five eighths of our team…
Here we were on the Wednesday night, safe in the bosom of the Newfield Inn as the storm was lashing the Great Outdoors.
We had come from far and wide to be together: Surrey, Glasgow, Northumberland, Cheshire, Cambridgeshire and Berkshire. This was an event with a sodding great carbon footprint. And now beers were in order to toast the 19th Annual PreWalkDaunder.
We had managed to anchor the shelters down, which was no mean feat, with gale-force winds and rain lashing down on a pretty exposed site at Turner Hall Farm. In the struggle to pitch her, Wanda’s rear pole had sheared in two and so her hips had to be splinted together. My old girl and I are a right pair of geriatrics…
Still, the Daunderers were all in good form. The weather was bound to improve. The weather forecasters had promised. The first night sleeping out proved to be wild, with winds that were heralded by freight trains whooshing through the trees before slamming into the shelters. We all survived, but it was a bleary-eyed team that emerged into the cold gusty wet morning.
It was Andy who noticed that Denis was stumbling about like a sick crab – that is, stumbling about in a slightly more sickly crabby way than is normally his custom. He had pulled something in his back. Okay, he didn’t look too chipper, but on the other hand, no one else looked too chipper either, given our combined age of well over five hundred. All eight Daunderers set off up Walna Scar Road in very cold, strong South-Westerlies.
Denis was struggling a bit here. Well, he was struggling slightly more than the other seven who were grateful that the pace was set to “Dead Slow.” Then we turned into the wind to head south, deciding to skirt beneath White Pike. It was unpleasant halfway up the fell and no-one fancied the full strength unpleasantness of the top of the fell. Phil & I came up with a cunning plan. With a large group, motivation is key, and so we decided upon a little motivational reward of afternoon drinks at the Blacksmiths Arms for successfully negotiating Caw Moss and the River Lickle (yes, honestly!)
Perhaps the rot started at this point? The paths both ended up at the same point and so rather than looking like a German Crocodile, the team split into two. We re-joined happily enough for an early lunch on Caw Moss. There might even have been sunshine. It was still very cold.
The next shot is an “Action Picture.” You can tell the scent of beer was in their nostrils.
Here’s another shot of folk racing to the pub:
Here’s one of Ena Sharples tail-gating Phil, to try to hurry him to the pub:
And here’s a picture of the whole team, minus the photographer. I will dish out black magic markers in a moment, so you can cross out the ones who were to split off from the main party…
You will see that it is still quite chilly as all have their coats on, even though the sun is obviously shining. Andy has his sleeves rolled up because he is hard and from the Fens.
We arrived at the pub after going downhill for a frightfully long time. The frightful thing about going down this particular hill, as everyone understood, was that it was all lost height that would have to be made up again after the pub. But, a deal’s a deal and we had all signed up for a few beers and we could handle it…
It was 3:30 in the afternoon. The pub didn’t open until 5:00pm. The first quarter of an hour was spent peering through darkened windows, hoping to catch the eye of the inn-keeper. The second quarter of an hour was spent debating upon the various merits of nipping back up to the top of the hill to flip up the tents and then dash back down to the pub to catch opening time.
I did not fancy this option as it involved climbing a bloomin’ big hill twice, and I was pretty sure that more time could be gainfully spent inside the pub rather than outside it charging about like mad wilderbeest. It also meant pitching tents in the stormy afternoon rather than the supposedly quieter early evening. Besides, it was now ten past four and the pub would be open in fifty minutes time.
Phil can spot a schism from a thousand paces, and sure enough, Croydon, JJ, Morpeth, Gerry and Andy hefted their packs at this ridiculously late hour and set off up the hill, leaving the far wiser Denis, Phil and me to patiently wait out the fifty minutes. Bang on five o'clock the heavy bolts were slid back and we slid into the warm bar, a pretty barmaid serving fine pints and making up a crackling fire.
Just as our third pint arrived, so too did Andy and Gerry. They had had a torrid time in the fierce wind finding somewhere to flip up their shelters that was okay with the local shepherd, and had come back down, perhaps at last realising the folly of their ways? But they had lost Morpeth, Croydon and JJ “somewhere up there.”
We gave those losers not more than a second thought as we tucked into our third pint and ordered five Sweet Potato and Ginger soups. Michael, the landlord and Ace Chef, also made a telephone call to Hoses Farm to let them know that five jolly nice blokes were going to be on their way to his place to put up their tents. When a plan comes together it’s a jolly fine thing…
To be continued…