LDWA – 2020 AGM

This was the first time that I’ve been to an LDWA AGM, one of those events that I’ve always meant to go to, but actually didn’t until this year. And, although it only took place a few days ago, it feels like an entirely different climate for the organisation today given the coronavirus situation. We stopped all walking and social activities within the organisation as from Monday, sadly meaning that there will be no LDWA 100 event this year and no Daffodil Dawdle for us Norfolk & Suffolk members. As this all goes, it’s as bad as the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001, and it’s clearly getting much worse. I’d like to think it’ll all be OK in a few weeks, but I can’t see this being something that’s over quickly.

But, all that aside, I intended to write a report of the weekend, so here it is. I was under strict instructions to show up Norfolk & Suffolk in a positive light, although that was a bit optimistic of them. I did though send frequent photos of food to the committee, so they knew that I was OK.

I had intended to get the bus from York to Easingwold, but the LDWA invited a very special guest to attend, in the form of Richard May from the Ramblers. And since he was driving through York, he kindly offered to drive me. I’m pleased to say that there were no incidents en route, although he did find an expensive shop at a petrol station and then spent 15 minutes selecting some artisan products from its shelves. I had a £1 cheese sandwich and two half price packs of Quavers from the Spar to talk on the Saturday walk. I think it’s clear he’s more middle-class than I am.

So, onto the main event, the food. Er, I mean, the evening’s activities. It was a rather lovely meal, many thanks for the volunteers who organised this whole event, as like everything else in the LDWA, it’s all arranged by volunteers. For anyone interested, and I doubt there are many (or indeed any, but I do like a reminder for myself at least), I had the salad and the cod.

And the cake selection, it was a hard choice to decide. I was going to just eat everything, but I suspected that someone might notice. And I remembered that I was meant to be on my best behaviour.

The LDWA had selected a grand location for the weekend’s AGM, the Hawkhills, which is also the Cabinet Office’s Emergency Planning College. The whole operation is managed by Serco and was previously used as a cold war civil defence establishment. There was certainly plenty of space, maybe not the largest bar area, but there were numerous nearby seating options, as well as an entire coffee room which was suitably supplied with biscuits. Could have been a better craft beer selection, but let’s not get into that, I’m just obsessed with the stuff.

I had opted for the 14-mile walk on the Saturday, one of four which visitors could choose to go on. We were delayed as Richard had lost his car in the car park, but I won’t tell anyone that.

He was modelling his luminous bag cover, which I had initially thought he was wearing for a bet, but it transpired that it was through free choice. I didn’t say anything…..

And here we all are on the short walk, ready for the off. This weekend is a wonderful way to meet people from other groups and find out how they do things in their areas. Some of the greatest ideas that I’ve had have been pinched from other groups. Namely the BBQ on challenge events if I’m being honest, but there are many others. Liam mentioned that a “Where’s Wally?” contest would be too easy given how Richard’s backpack stood out, but at least it meant that we didn’t get run over.

The walk went through Easingwold itself, a larger town that I had expected, with a population of nearly 5,000. I had thought it was a small village, but as a walker said “it’s even got its own Costa”. But not a Greggs. Not yet anyway.

Two very brave walkers ploughing on as a herd of sheep march across the field. I know it’s a flock of sheep, but they were stampeding like a herd. I walked close to the walkers in front in case the sheep all turned on me.

Always working.

The pub stop, which proved to be more difficult for me to write about than anticipated as I couldn’t remember where it was and I was confused by Google Streetview. The reason became apparent, this has been a substantial modernisation by the Tomahawk Steakhouse, with an extension added, a new porch and a large amount of decking. Certainly an expensive transformation, but a most impressive one. The pub had previously been known as the Plum & Partridge and the Orchard Inn, but it’s hard to see how this would have been viable just as a small pub.

The service in the pub was friendly, although they seemed just slightly overwhelmed with the size of our order, but there were no delays that were excessive. I say this, but I got my drink first, so I wasn’t too bothered about those who had ordered coffees. It was easy for the barman to remember my order though, I was the only one who had ordered beer. We didn’t order food, but it looked high quality, although I’m not really into steaks. Unless they’re cut up and shoved into a pastry and sold by Greggs.

This was an exciting post-lunch challenge that we hadn’t expected, a tree which had fallen across the path. Walkers had a choice, they could either climb under the tree and crawl through foliage, or go over the top. Another walker took my backpack whilst I did the former, but Richard ploughed on over the top and I won’t mention he nearly fell over.

It’s not easy to see (unless you click on the photo), but there’s a horse here which decided to follow walkers to the gate. I rushed through as I’m scared of any animal smaller than a mouse, others had more of a challenge. It wasn’t a scary horse, it just kept moving about quickly.

There’s the Kilburn white horse, vaguely visible in the background and I slightly regretted not bringing my camera as opposed to just using my phone. This was made in 1857 (the white horse, not my phone) and was created by Thomas Taylor, a businessman who was jealous of all the white horses down south. So, he made this one, which has to be artificially whitened on a regular basis to keep its colour.

Alpacas I think. They seemed friendly, but weren’t very good at posing for a photo.

Panda bear sheep. That’s not their formal or scientific name, but it’s the one that I’ve given them.

Aaaaah, how sweet.

And a happy Richard at the end of the 14 miles, he did very well indeed and was a wonderful representative for the Ramblers. Although he still doesn’t think that 14 miles should be referred to a short walk, which I’m afraid the LDWA think it is….. I had been looking forwards to Ramblers General Council (their equivalent of an AGM) being held in Bristol in early April, where I was representing Norfolk, with Richard being a trustee and David Morgan attending for the LDWA. Unfortunately, it has been cancelled due to the coronavirus. There’s always next year though.

This flyer from the Irregulars reminded me that I’d be walking the Afoot in Two Dales in a few weeks. Well, I won’t now unless things change, maybe next year though (there’s going to be a lot on next year at this rate). I’ve still only walked one 50-mile event, which I accept is a poor effort, but I’ll get round to more. I’m mostly inspired by Simon H, as anything he can do, I’m definitely positive that I can.

Evening meal on the second night, some soup as a starter then salmon for main for me. I asked a staff member how many pieces of bread I could have, he said as many as I wanted, which he probably regretted.

Actually, whilst I remember, I felt slightly under-dressed for the evening’s entertainment. I had made my usual lack of effort as I consider a t-shirt and jeans to be sufficient for most functions. Someone said “it’s the LDWA, they’re not going to judge”, which is true, and many others had made the equal lack of effort. Some though, including the accomplished David Morgan, swept in looking like they were on a catwalk. I felt a bit jealous at all this glamour, but I remembered I had beer, so I forgot that I hadn’t made an effort. Beer is great for distraction. I’d add here, it’s not required to look smart, before I put anyone off.

Back to the food, the highlight of the proceedings were the choice of desserts and cheese. What a time to be alive!

There was a talk in the evening by Colin Utting, a former submarine engineer who has changed his life to become a mountain walk leader. Colin’s talk was engaging and interesting, a story that I’m glad I got to hear. People should always follow their dream, although climbing up things with sheer drops isn’t mine, but well done to him. I heard others saying how much they’d enjoyed this talk, all very inspirational.

The formal part of the AGM took place on Sunday morning, with the current members of the NEC lined up ready to answer questions. There’s the formidable and well-respected David Morgan in the centre with the laptop, the current chair, who had already set the organisation the challenge of funding a new IT project, but is now faced with an external crisis that couldn’t have been predicted (the coronavirus, not me). He, and the other members of the NEC, will no doubt do a fine job. I’d add that I’ve now joined the LDWA NEC in the role of Publicity and Communications, but whether or not I do a fine job remains to be seen. If nothing else, there will be lots of mentions of food over the next year.

I would say (well, write) that any member who wants to find out more about the organisation, or wants to have a say in its future, should consider coming along to the 2021 event. The exact details haven’t been finalised, but as long as the restrictions on gatherings have been lightened by then, I’m sure that it’ll be another excellent event. I’m also fairly sure that more members from Norfolk & Suffolk will be coming along, just to check what I’ve been doing and saying…..