Davidsons Linn from Wedder Leap
Mon 21st April 2014
I usually write the walk blog the day after a walk before sending it off to Jon. This one is no different except that a chance observation in today’s Sunday Times (ST) caught my eye prompting a few thoughts. Two sentences highlighted in an article in the ST News Review read as follows “I’ve had trips to the Kremlin and the Smithsonian ruined by guides who didn’t realise I’m only there to say I’ve been. Not to learn anything.” It struck a chord, for several reasons, about the subconscious assumptions made about the purposes and motivations that both participants and guide make concerning a walk.
I assume that people want to know about the things they are seeing and prepare accordingly. For me the guiding bit is really only about relieving participants of the need to navigate in its broadest sense (detailed route selection, safety, places to stop, timing and pacing etc). The broader role is to explain and interpret what we see along the way for those who want to know. Realistically, and totally understandably, not everyone does, for example they use stops to get their breath back, commune with nature, play with their electronic gadgets (GPS, SLR camera, phone etc) use their binoculars, have an extra “snack” (Ian), have a chat etc. In a parallel life in mountain rescue it is axiomatic that you don’t make any assumptions but check and verify everything you can before embarking on a particular course of action and in an ideal world we do. Then of course there is reality and the restrictions of the limited information field that is available at the time. All of this suggests that, with normally distributed groups of walkers, it is impossible to please all of the people all of the time. Oh the guilt and depression.
However, it is unrealistic to assume that we all have the same interests and motivations, we don’t. Some of our number really did want to visit Davidson’s Linn and wouldn’t have gone alone for a host of reasons. Others took the opportunity to visit a beautiful and quiet corner of Northumberland in the company of like-minded people for an experience “in the round” whilst at least two of our number took the opportunity to hone their navigational skills en-route. The photographers came into their own at the waterfall itself where we had lunch in an idyllic warm and sunny spot. The incidentals, like seeing the bird of prey being mobbed near Murder Cleugh, talking to Ian Tait above his hayfields whilst climbing Barrow Law, or almost causing an international incident (well, at least a regional one) on the Border Fence by “discussing” the relative merits of Newcastle and Sunderland football teams with partisan mountain bikers, resulted in an experience which is hopefully more than the sum of its parts. Even the two dogs got a decent walk and provided some interest, not to say, hilarity throughout the walk. The weather was excellent too, high pressure, blue sky with the odd fair weather cumulus. The air temperature wasn’t great but the sun was strong, the wind was a “bit draughty” in places too, hence the importance of knowing where to stop. I really had to resist jumping-in for a quick seminar about clouds when someone made a throw-away remark about “fluffy cumulus” but 1 out of 10 for knowing the word cumulus. They were Cumulus Humilis actually but there is also Cu Mediocris, Cu Congestus, Cu Fractus and even a Radiatus variety too. Additionally there are all of the what, when, why, who, and how questions arising from atmospheric instability represented by cumuliform clouds but that will have to wait for another day – whatever do you mean obsessive compulsive disorder? The sky represents half of what we see, especially in the “Land of the Far Horizons” and particularly where we were but is frequently ignored except when we get things we don’t want from it like the various forms of precipitation, 8/8ths cloud, strong winds etc. Similarly the landscape, everyone can pick out some of the individual landscape elements and characteristics but linking them together into a working physical and human system needs a bit more knowledge and insight.
So where does that leave us? Simply that we are all motivated to walk by a myriad of different enthusiasms and that this very diversity is a major strength in itself. Oh, and I’ve found a cunning way to increase the pace of slower walkers too. I offer to “clarify” (quite a short tutorial usually as long as you don’t ask any questions) the different agri-environment environmental stewardship schemes available to farmers. Usually I only get as far as the broad outline of the scheme, not even onto the difference between the Organic and Upland Entry Level Schemes before the pace picks-up and they are off!
Alternatively it might just have been that they could see that we were only a few hundred yards from Ian Tait’s Tearoom at Barrowburn. There was a queue but I didn’t have the heart to continue the tutorial (monologue!), everyone looked so happy and comfortable and anyway nobody had left me a seat. Now you all know why Ian always walks at the rear of the group and is the happiest person on the walk! Sorry about the seven hours of continuous sunshine, don’t get too used to it. Ian and I hope that everyone enjoyed the day and that we will see you again soon.
Sunday, 20 April 2014